Isadore

Dora’s Voice Recorder

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It is a simple, rectangular contraction that appears to be of goblin make. There are two buttons along a thin side of the little gadget. On one broad, flat plane, there is a screen which takes up a quarter of the face. When the largest of the buttons on that face of the device is pressed, the screen displays a horizon line that spikes with every sound emitted by the speaker.

*static* ….

“The small pup gnawed a hole in the sock.”

*static*....

“The salt breeze came across from the sea.”

*static*....

“March the soldiers past the next hill.”

*static*...

“The name which was given to me in my native timeline is Isadore Arath’dorei. In the timeline which I currently occupy, I call myself Dora. I am the daughter of Sinlanna Arath’dorei and Naheal Malastar. I have a younger brother, Phyruss Arath’dorei. This is my audio log, which I will attempt to keep current to the best of my ability. This is intended to be a more...stream of consciousness log than anything else. It has been two-hundred and fifteen days since my exile.”

“I’m not really sure where to start. It’s been so long since I kept a journal. Dad would be disappointed. He’s not here now, though.” There is a sigh. “So Uncle is running Borrowed Time since dad has been declared KIA and I’ve been given a leadership position as head of my own group. Call it the Legacy Corps.”

A pause in the audio.

“This would be so much easier if I was talking to someone. I just have to get used to it, though. Just feels...weird, knowing that everything I say gets recorded. Like. Every uhm and such. There’s no erase button. Should I work on that? Probably not. Okay, right, getting distracted.”

“Serinar is dead. He’s also the reason me and my company are stranded. We’re adapting the best we can and there’s plenty of action to go around. A Dreadlord got me in a choke hold not too long ago, and that’s…” A scrape of a chair. “I mean, that’s just the beginning. The machine that Nok discovered, and all these relics we’re uncovering...and now we know there isn’t just one dreadlord pulling the strings behind all this craziness.”

“I said-- I told myself I’d try to keep this first entry short. I dunno how I can, though! There’s still so much I’m trying to wrap my head around. There’s a range of it too, from the battles against the Legion to the auctions that everyone has been enjoying and all that stuff in between.”

“Out of all of my company, I’m probably the most worried about Tsuyi. Her dad...uncle Tao, he lost the most from the last fight. Chopped legs off. Spirits. Of course, he made a work-around. He’s so clever- it’s one of the thing I admire most about him. But besides helping him recover, she went and poked the hornet’s nest. Now the Grim know she exists, and that she’s easy to rile up. She went and painted a big ‘ol target on her back. I...crap, I don’t know what I’m going to do about it.”

“Shokkra does the same thing, but she’s one of the few people I’ve seen go up against them with real confidence. She antagonizes the fel outta them, they antagonize her back-- she gets bitten by an imp and just cuts out the wound. I mean, that was an ineffective way to sterilize…” Laughter. “...but, what impresses me is that it just flows off her back like water off a hawkstrider. She deals with her shit and moves on. She’s kinda crass, and loud, and she curses worse than Uncle Cobrak ever did. I like her. She doesn’t like my dad...that’s a pretty popular opinion to have around here. That’s okay. I still think she’s interesting.”

“It was funny- when I saw her at the tavern, I was kinda distracted. I was thinking about the hunt I just went on with Magister Frostwhisper. With Vathelan. He actually killed something on his own! The guy who I think only read about the outdoors before he showed up to Sholazar Basin for his first hunt.” Laughter. “But the part that I was thinking about was his questions for me. He asked: ‘Which would you consider worse... the consequences of your actions or the consequences of your inaction?’ We were talking about the price you pay to save the world, at the risk of having no support because no one would listen to you.”

“Mmmm. I’m my own person. But I can’t help thinking that my answer is just what people would expect, being Naheal Malastar’s daughter. Of course I’m going regret the inaction more. That’s just...duh! Hah! But, okay, no, it isn’t that simple! I told him as much, that there are no real heroes, just people who are put into situations where they have to make tough choices. Lots of moral ambiguous gray area.”

“I had a really good conversation with the magister. It felt like...someone cared what I thought. Like. They cared about my actual opinion on things, and didn’t ask the question just to fill a void or to use that information against me. Or, I don’t know. Maybe he just cared because my parents were a part of the Order of Everson back when it was active and he’s sort of their biggest fanboy. Memorabilia? That’s so interesting that he collects those things. And he still has to show me how that glass scroll works.”

There is the sound of a chair scraping a wooden floor. A wet ‘glick’ noise, like she was swallowing, maybe drinking water. A hollow thunk noise follows.

“It's so weird to see Syreena Shadowblade in the flesh. It’s even weirder to think that...I mean, my mom turned her into my personal boogeyman. Out of all the Grim...I think she’s the scariest. She was in a lot of my nightmares growing up. I can’t stop thinking about the fact that she asked me a question. She asked: ‘Did you break up with Saelyx because he broke a glass?’ and I told her: ‘That’s a silly reason to break up with someone.’ which she agreed with. She probably wants to make me feel safe around her, at least a little bit. Or...who knows. I just know that her motivations come from a dark place, and that giving her any hint that you’re weak is invitation for her to play with you. I don’t want to draw her attention to me. I want her to ignore me. I’m just another elf. Please, please just think I’m just another elf. I’m not interesting at all.”

“I talked way more than I meant to for this first entry. Oh well...I dunno. I had a lot on my mind. I had so much to stay. I still have more to say! About the new recruit in my company, about...well. About stuff I’m pretty ashamed to talk about, honestly. But I need to talk about it, and face my shame, or I won’t get past it and grow. Maybe that will be for my next entry.”

“End log.”

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“The boy was there when the sun rose.”

“Kick the ball straight and follow through.”

“Smoky fires lack flame and heat.”

There is a thump, like furniture heavily hitting a wooden floor. “Okay, so...right, journal! Journal journal journal...talk talk talkedy-talk. This thing that I promised myself I would do for my own mental health. Right? Or did I do this for my dad?”

A heavy sigh, and silence.

“Phryuss drives me crazy. My damn brother.”

More silence.

“It’s been two hundred and thirty five days since my exile.”

“Mom made us all go on a vacation. Not Balthier though, ‘cause he’s only a few months old if even that. I guess I needed it. I know she did. She told me, about the chimera problem. Breaking the staff, and finding Caldrien in it? I mean, that was sort of the jist of it. She solved one problem and then suddenly the...I guess the scope of it got bigger? Or at least now she could see just how big ithad always been.”

“She was telling me all this after a few rum shots, and then she got quiet about it the rest of the trip. Not, not- you know- sad quiet, or depressed quiet. Just like, like she dumped the weight of everything she’d been feeling since these mysterious artifacts started showing up and was reveling in the settling dust of the aftermath."

“She’s ...I mean, my timeline-native version of her...that’s such a damn mouthful. I mean that version of her was always so careful to keep Phyruss and I in the dark about stuff she thought we didn’t need to know, she would never open up to me like that. It caused a big fight once and then she started telling me more about her work.”

“I think this one has no qualms about sharing because...uhm. She didn’t raise me. But, even still, we can’t help seeing reflections of each other in ourselves. That’s just sort of a given. Kinda...fascinating, actually.” Her tone becomes more excited, words stringing together closely. “I mean, I was raised by a version of her and seeing all the similarities...or the things that we share. The traits, the quirks, the moments, it almost makes the whole farce of it feel real for a minute. But then I get tripped up when I want to talk to her about a memory we don’t share, one that I share with the woman that raised me…it all disappears. Whoosh. Smoke clears.”

Silence. The glck sound, and a scraping sound of a mug sliding across a table top.

“I think her talking to me about the staff... that was catharsis, maybe. Or she didn’t have anyone else she trusted enough to talk to about this stuff.”

Her voice becomes quiet, and strained.

“We built sandcastles on the trip. Phryuss and Isa and me, I mean.” Laughter, restrained. “He built a dragon that she destroyed, being a mighty hero. It was pretty great.”

“When I got back, I found out that Rhyze had ammo she crafted with her rune forge. She’s looking happier these days, I think. I mean, I’ve only gotten to know her these past few weeks.”

“She sings, but I’ve only heard her sing the lullaby her mother sang to her as a child. It’s pretty, though, and full of...something, I dunno, like longing? Mourning, maybe?”

“She heavily implied that she’s had bad experiences with males. They scare her. I think people in general scare her, which has been crippling her.” There’s a hint of agitation in her tone. “How do I help her? I just- I hate seeing a friend who can’t explore everything that the world has to offer, as twisted as it’s become. There’s STILL beautiful things in the universe, things to be celebrated, and part of that celebration is LOVING people and KNOWING people, because the world is full of these, these vibrant personalities that have so much to offer and I just…hate thinking that she can’t open herself up to that because of her past.”

“Is. Is this just me overstepping my boundaries, again? Is this me sticking my nose into a situation that doesn’t need me? I don’t want to be. To be presumptuous, you know?”

Silence. A sigh, a groan. The recording is like this for several long moments, interrupted only with the creak of wood, presumably floor boards.

“Speaking of, of sticking my nose where it doesn’t belong...I think I really upset Phyruss last night. We were having such a good time, too. Talking about a group of us going to the Faire together, and hanging out. He was explaining the glyphed bullets that Rhyze gifted me, which was great.” Excitement, a breathless rush of words. “They’re so many different glyphs on the bottom of the bullets, trees of runes all arcane-infused. I was reading about how people can be scribes, but it not be the same thing as those who can empower them, like the difference between someone who draws a stick figure and someone who can bring a figure of a person to life, make them seem animated on the page.”

Her enthusiasm dampens. “So, Phy was telling me about it. And then the kids rushed into his dormitory, with Coaldrin tagging along. And we had a fight about him.”

“...is it right to hate something because of where it comes from? I just, I mean I understand why Phryuss hates him. Coaldrin’s entire kind, we fought them in our timeline for almost all our lives. But, those drakes were insane. They’d succumbed to Madness. Coaldrin and his clutch haven’t been tainted. So...I don’t think it’s right. To condemn a creature for mistakes it hasn’t made yet.”

“I have to figure out how to make Phyruss see that. I wonder if we’re still going to the Faire together? I gave him last night to cool off, and I haven’t seen him yet. I wonder if he still wants my help finding the other half of his runic blade set he’s looking for. Hope and Sorrow.”

Silence. A series of tsking sounds, then pops. “Is this what I should be doing? I feel like...I have an obligation to the Legacy Corps that I’ve been ignoring. Well, I mean, not on PURPOSE, cause I wasn’t really asked about taking a vacation and then suddenly, bam, I’m on a boat hoping my brother doesn’t try to take the wheel and crash us in the middle of the ocean. SO. Yeah, not really my fault.”

“I just wish I felt like I had a clear direction. I mean, helping my friends is important. But...something big is coming. I don’t have a pulse on what’s been happening in the various guilds, or with Sanctuary. I know that Borrowed Time gained a member from Sanctuary. Crappy timing, considering that it seemed like Dreadlords just are popping up everywhere and tension is really high as it is. Trust is a scarce commodity. But I heard about Faelenor as a kid. He was part of the Order. Maybe he has funny stories about mom.”

“Maybe I’ll go bug Shokkra and have her help me with my training. She might tell me what’s happening in Sanct.” Reluctance. “I have to find a high profile Grim to tag and pray that they don’t find me.”

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“Wipe the grease off his dirty face.”

“The meal was cooked before the bell rang.”

“What joy there is in living.”

“Okay.” Noisy exhalation. “I’m an idiot. Idiot idiot idiot. Freakin’-” BAM! “Freakin’ idiot!She groans. There is silence.

“This is the two-hundred and forty third day of my exile.”

“Saelystraz and- uh. Saelystraz and Lin are in the infirmary. Lin isn’t a patient. She’s being a nurse for him. Honestly though, she looks like she needs a bed for herself, considering how she looks like she could fall over with a good gust of wind.”

“Saelystraz looks like death.” Silence. “I thought I’d seen the worst of it before. When he came from the void.” Her voice cracks. “This is way worse.”

“Fel poison is- it’s really ugly. Spirits, he’s so pale.” Silence. “Mister Rayfeather is looking for the source. At least that’s what it says on his chart. Ama is tag-teaming the healing process with Lin now, which is good.”

“Oh. Yeah, so some of the old Order members are joining Borrowed Time. It’s a little odd to see them like this. I guess about the same feeling I got when I first figured out dad was the same guy from the stories my mom told me as a kid. A little awe-inspiring, you know? I even saw Selash Gustblade in Warspear. Like watching characters come right out of a book and into the real world. Freaky awesome.”

“Anyway, Mister Rayfeather is going to find answers to Saelystraz’s problem. Apparently it's more than just fel poisoning, as if that weren’t bad enough on it’s own.”

Silence.

“I’m glad Sae has Lin. I think Lin hates me, which- yeah. It’s hard to accept that some people are just not going to like you, and it makes it hard to help them when they really need it. She -did-accept some of my help though, so hey, hope! I’m sad that the last conversation Sae and I had was...well, it wasn’t even a freakin’ conversation.” She speaks louder, and faster. “He just talked at me and made decisions on his own and then I raised my voice at him. It’s like we don’t even share the same reality or something.” An exhale.

“And now because of a dreadlord, he’s- he’s dying.” Her voice grows quieter. “It doesn’t get easier. They die, and it never gets easier.”

A clearing of the throat. “Everyone else is trying to gather resources and prepare for that Big Looming Thing on the horizon. I talked to mom for, like, a minute the other day. She mentioned Shadowmoon Valley. I sort just...let her get on with whatever she’s doing and ended up going to the faire with my brother and his girlfriend afterall.”

“He kicked my ass at pretty much every event, which was not on! But, but, it was fine, he got to impress Saralis and that’s sorta. Well. He needs all the help he can get. I guess.”

“I talked with Aaren the other day.” Frustrated, grumbling noises, building up into a growl of irritation. “DUDE. She is so freakin’ suspicious-looking now! Her hair is changed, she doesn’t have scars, she can hide her scales! Seriously! It’s like she painted “Hi, I’m a dreadlord,” in all capital letters with arcane and left it glowing above her head! GAH!”

Grumbling. “I’ll just keep a close eye on her. Honestly, it actually kind of fits that she would decide NOW to do stuff that is super suspicious, almost like she wants to spit in people’s faces. That’s totally her. It’s almost reassuring? Gods, how messed up is that!” Her laugh is real, warm.

A pause. “So, Aaren didn’t even know Sae was sick until Syreena asked about him. Why does she even care? What does she want? Seriously...maybe I should warn Lin, actually. I’ll do that after this log.”

A pause. “Phy, Sara, Rhyze, and I went to the faire. We played games. Phy kicked my butt.”

“Apparently, this was a double date and no one thought to let me know.”

“I didn’t want- I just didn’t want-” Another noisy exhale. “...I’m the leader of a company. People die around me on a regular basis. My life goal, for almost the entirety of my existence, has been to protect and serve by whatever means I have available to me. I have a responsibility to my company, as a leader.” Almost like a forced addition. “Aaand I have wanderlust something bad, and I’m the first person to leap in blind which gets me in big trouble sometimes but someone has to do it, right?...what was the point of this...oh, right.”

“So I’m not just me, even though who I am is important and I don’t compromise it. I’m also a figurehead who is responsible for the lives of my company. For morale, for structure. But when I want something for myself, I mess it up. Hurt my friends. Why do I keep doing this?”

“...I don’t-” A sigh. “Aaren told me guys are super simple, but girls want to imply everything and expect you to do what they want.”

There is a long pause in the audio. It nearly lasts ten minutes, and one would assume there was nothing left to follow.

“I- I keep wanting to make excuses for myself. It’s not my fault, I’m young, I don’t know any better. But that isn’t true. I -do- know the consequences of my actions...”

“I’m so sorry, Rhyze. You needed me to be strong for you, and I failed.”

“But admitting your mistake is the first step to fixing it.”

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“It’s easy to tell the depth of a well.”

“The source of a huge river is the clear spring.”

“The wide road simmered in the hot sun.”

“So, the big bad thing went down like I figured it would. Mom and uncle came back from it looking like a mess. They killed the thing that wanted to destroy the world, so hey! Big win! Uh. But we lost Glasiera and her mate. Which. Well. Apparently they had a funeral pyre for them, which makes sense. Drakes shouldn’t be buried. ”

Silence.

“I talked to Shokkra! She went on that hunt she was so excited about!” The enthusiasm in her voice begins to mount. “They went to Shadowmoon for the hunt, apparently. They found an Alpha of a pack, freakin’...at the den. They tracked it together, her and Lohd. Apparently she had to try and fight it alone. But then she’s swarmed by some of the pack! But she was fighting near the den, so yeah, of course she probably had to deal with the juveniles first, the ones left to guard.”

“Anyway, she succeeds in taking them down, and she tracks the alpha to an island, I think she said. I wonder what that must have been like, wading through the teal grass, stomping through the sand, ducking under the branches of the willows with the smell of the beast in your nose. Knowing that you’re not alone as a predator and feeling that tension run through your body as you both circle each other…. AUGH!” A cry of frustration. “I’d just kill to have been there and seen it all!”

“She said ten of ‘em showed up at the island! Including the Alpha. She and Lohd took them down together. I wonder how big the Alpha must have been, to throw down Lohd and ruin his back like the way Shokkra described. Lohd’s a big dude...she must have been enormous by comparison. Half the size of those wandering Ancients or something. But Shokkra got in the killing blow, which is what mattered.” Giggling, with a snort at the end. “She said she ‘murdered the fuck out of it.’ Heh!”

“Then Shokkra got to eat the heart. She said she could feel the natural world. That the blood was different...that it smelled and tasted different. She became the wolf.”

“I wonder what she could hear. I wonder how long it lasted. I wish...I wish for a second I could have seen the world the way she did. I just...wanna know what it’s like to feel the natural world surround you and accept you wholly. Like, I don’t know...as if you’d been born in it, nurtured by it. That you could have your senses be the only thing you experience, and that they reach out to extend over your entire territory. To know what it’s like to smell the forest, to speak without a voice and be understood by your packmates. To belong to the forest as much as it belongs to you. For the hunt to be between just you and your prey, where you fight with your body, you use teeth and claws. There’s no gun, there’s no calculation. Just instinct.”

“Right.”

“So Lohd helped her through it. And she told him she loved him in the end. It sounded like...it would take time, but he was on the way towards accepting her. Or at least, get a bearing on his own feelings.”

“Lohd’s a better story teller than I could ever be. I wonder what it would be like to hear about this from his experience. I kinda hope he can explain the ritual to me. Where it came from. Everything about it, really. What does it mean to basically sponsor someone as they go through this trial? How did that make him feel? Did it deepen his connectedness with the Wild as well? I gotta ask. I gotta know.”

“And Shokk gets a tattoo outta it, so that’s neat.”

Silence.

“I’ve been thinking about starting up a school for all the kids in the company. It’s just, we have so damn many of these kids running around and no structure for them. There’s, you know, timeline-native me….Isa. And there’s little Anock, and Freah...er. Mit, Haremond, Saturna, Daliah, Slade, Coal, mister Gustblade’s little girl- lots and lots of kids. And they don’t really have any structure. I’ll take some of them hunting, but not all of them want to do that. And I’m sure they don’t all want to become hunters anyway. So...someone needs to figure out how to get them prepared for the world. Give them classes, have the veterans of Borrowed Time become instructors for them. Maybe dedicate some of their time to lessons once a week, just...just something. I’ll poll everyone and see what they think.”

Silence. There’s a tone of reluctance to what follows after.

“Okay. So I’ve been avoiding talking about this next part. Right. Here we go.”

“...so that stuff with Rhyze. That stuff with romance. I think, on the whole, I don’t like romance very much. I wish I could just love people without making it more complicated than it needs to be.”

“I don’t like what romance does to people. I really don’t. It...along with lust, I guess. It clouds my judgement. I do...really FUCKING stupid things because of it. I don’t want to be like my mom. I don’t.”

“....I tried.” A sob. “...I...I’ve been trying. To be a strong person.”

“...how do I be strong if I don’t know what the right thing to do is?”

“...I’m so scared. I saw my best friend living a life without me. Making friends. Lora was so bright and friendly at him.”

“I want the guilt to go away. I thought talking to her last night would help, but I think she just assumes I’m insane.”

“I keep thinking...Nok and I promised forever, and I broke it. That seemed like the end of it. We were fine.”

“I got jealous.”

More silence, and an exhale.

“...huh, I actually feel a lot better after saying that out loud. I got jealous. I was jealous. Maybe greedy. I feel greedy.”

“I also am terrified. I was trying so hard. When I realized I didn’t have direction in my life...I wanted to make it a mission to do whatever I thought was most important. I thought about how Nok’s lifespan is a third of mine. I didn’t want my best friend to live a life without regret, so. I made a vow. To find out what it is that would give his life meaning, and help him.”

“A part of me MUST have known that all he wanted was a family, and a partner to give that to him. I thought about Loranah when he said that. And it...my heart just felt so ugly, and heavy. But I was ready, really. I wanted...a lot of things.”

“I learned so much from being apart from him, stuff that I wouldn’t have learned without building relationships with other people. I can’t help feeling like I went in and stomped all over his opportunities just by...being weak-willed.”

“He says I’m his happiness. After talking with Lora...damn. Her name even sounds like mine, one letter off. Anyway. Talking with her made me ask myself a lot of questions. About conviction and love.”

“I keep...thinking I should talk to him. And. Maybe convince him that giving her a chance would be worthwhile. Because if they work out, then...that’s great. They both get to be happy. And if it doesn’t, then...that guilt won’t hang over my head anymore if we’re together again. Big if. Hearing it out loud, makes it sound like he's a sack of potatoes to be tossed around or something. But that's not...it's not at all how I see it.”

“I-” A tsking sound. “I know he’s a damn adult and made his own decisions. I -KNOW- that. But...as someone who’s had more experiences than him, it just feels...like I was being manipulative. That I’m just like my mom, who can’t stand to lose her friends or become less important to someone in favor of someone else. It’s just so UGLY. It’s UGLY, and it makes me sick to think that’s the case. So I guess I’m not so much like my mom if it bothers me, right?”

"And I love him. In a lot of ways, not just...romance. The kind of love that doesn't depend on lust to be real. The kind that ties two people together, that doesn't make you think twice about taking a bullet...or stray bomb experiment...just to make sure they survive."

A sigh. “I’ll talk to him.”

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“Four hours of steady work faced us.”

“The young girl gave no clear response.”

“A pot of tea helps to pass the evening.”

“This is the two-hundred and seventieth day of my exile.”

Silence

“Turns out that suggesting to your partner to date someone else because you over-think yourself into a hole is a good way to just generally piss everyone off. Who coulda guessed? Hee.”

“Thank the Light for his patience.”

“I feel like if he had patted me on the head and offered me a sweet, I would have deserved it. Maybe one day I will stop sabotaging my own life and be happy with my orc boyfriend. Hee! Maybe. He just talked my stupid butt down from the proverbial ledge. Then we fished for a while. I caught them all, which made him kinda grumpy. It was fun.”

“So I went to the Cantina last night. That’s a big gathering that the Coldstar company holds where we try to set aside our differences and just enjoy the afternoon with drinks and stuff. I mean, there’s dueling and occasionally people get called into the field while it’s going on, but there’s a lot of chatting that happens. It’s a good way to keep a pulse on what’s going on within the guilds.”

“Looks like we recruited another person to Borrowed Time! Pretty neat. He’s a big Taunka from Icemist Village. He said his name was...I think it was Uwenko? Froststrider. Something like that. I need to ask him for the pronunciation again, I only heard it once. He has this huge ice hammer. Like. An actual hammer of ice. I wonder what kind of magic it’s reinforced with if it didn’t even sweat out there in Durotar. Anyway, he didn’t understand our comm system and I spent a while explaining how it worked. Felt good to be useful, even if it’s for something as minor as showing him what buttons to press. Or what buttons even are!”

There is a hesitation, as if debating how to proceed. A glick sound.

“...Syreena and Lilliana were there. I think...no, I know Syreena was looking at my ears. I could feel her eyes on me sometimes through the night. I- uh. Managed to ignore her, for the most part. They were passing around these sketchbooks. One belonged to this...I don’t know...servant, he said? Uh, wait, okay- so there was this big Amani troll who had an elf servant. He said she was a gift. Her name is September. Anyway, she had this sketchbook. Syreena and Lilliana swiped it, but Lilliana had one too. So they started sharing, which...well, I didn’t want to question the motivations too much because it was Cantina night and everyone was behaving more or less. And I got a chance to look at the sketchbooks, both of ‘em.”

“September drew a lot of the folk on the ship. She likes people-watching, I guess. Lilliana’s book had beasts in it! The excitement returns. There were foxes, birds, all kinds of animals. And she did a pretty good job with anatomy. I liked the fur. She told me foxes were her favorite.”

“...it was interesting, listening to an Amani and a Sandfury talking to each other. Though Lilliana is a pretty...non-standard Sandfury. The Amani troll was as traditional as can be, which...yeah, listening to him was fascinating. He was like...a fossil, or a relic. It was like getting a history lesson, hearing his viewpoints on the political climate. And hearing Lilliana call Syreena a pet was..”

Guilty giggling follows.

“...so. Shokkra. We were having a lot of fun. We wrestled some after her duel against Ty. Tylissus. Ty something. She kept threatening me with dresses. Then she talked with that Anami troll for a while. I wish I’d been paying closer attention, because she was talking about how she forged that huge halberd on her back. She called it Drokognir. Forged in Magnaron, I think she said. I think I snuck too much of her liquor at this point. They talked about the Second war for a while. And the need for war, there was debate about that. Torjusk- that’s the Amani- he seemed impressed by Shokk despite himself. Similar political minds or something, and he liked her demon-slaying weapon of doom.”

“He even offered her to tutor under him and teach her ambush techniques! First the hunt and now that? I’m about as excited for her as I am desperate to tag along! Doubt he’d let a ‘littah elf’ like me join them, but I can probably stalk behind them while they have their lessons. I didn’t want to do that with her ritual because that thing is sacred, no matter how curious I was. But this is just technique training, so yeah! Gonna be all over that. Sounds dangerous. Sounds fun!”

“Then they mentioned Dinomancy, which I was all about. And Torjusk has a pterrorwing he named Bwa'chech that I got to see. Which was just-” There is a chuff of a laugh. “- those teeth! The talons! That thing was in a constant state of aggression that Torjusk handled like a pro! I wish I could watch it fight. I bet it’s like a freakin’ work of art.”

“...I wish the night could have ended like that. With Shokk and I goofin’ around with the troll. But nah, there was this undead woman. She came up and called Shokkra a child-killer. Not that Shokkra killed a kid, apparently. Just that she would have, if it had been a half-breed.”

A loud, singular exhale.

“I don’t know how I feel about half-breeds. I- I mean. Nok and I talked about it before. Having kids. But...back then, I don’t think we really considered the consequences. I just sort of figured that, hey, they’d be OUR kids, which makes them super strong!”

“...She said...any parent who thinks that having a half-breed is good parenting is an idiot. I don’t think she even considered that I might be one of those idiots. The ones that want kids. She said the kid would be weak and sickly.”

The tone that follows is flat, resigned.

“...you know, I don’t have any evidence to disprove her. So.”

Silence.

“They might be sickly. It might not even be POSSIBLE for an Orc and an Elf to breed. Ogres and Orcs can breed, we know that much. But and orc and an elf? Our physiology might be too dissimilar. If I COULD carry a kid, it might be huge. Might kill me, actually. That’s- yeah. A real possibility. Maybe if I had a lot of support...you know. Shamanistic help, or- I don’t know, potions. A priest.”

“...but regardless. No one chooses where they come from, and killing them for that reason alone is wrong. I know that much.”

“She said it was stupid that Cobrak and Djara are having a baby. I told her it’s not. Then she just. Walked away. And I let her, because if I didn’t--”

Silence.

“Kex’ti found me later. He talked to me. He even made dinner, out there in the hills outside of the city. It was actually all...really tranquil. I needed the meditation that comes with doing something as simple as cooking a meal. He even packed up all the food for me in a box...a really special box, I don’t know why he trusts me with it, but I won’t let that trust be misplaced...And just talking with him really helped me sort through the fight she and I had.”

“He thanked me for being her friend. It felt strange to be thanked for something that I went out of my way to do. I became her friend because I -wanted- it.”

“He said Shokkra might’ve been hurt in the past, something to do with racial mixing. And he said that…’didn’t excuse her disdain’. But hearing that helped me think a little more clearly.”

“...Shokkra, you don't get to toss me aside because my opinions are inconvenient. I might be stupid about a lot of things, but not this. You’re stuck with me, you dumb orc. Deal with it.”

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“The colt reared and threw the tall rider.”

...

“It snowed, rained, and hailed the same morning.”

“Hoist the load on your left shoulder.”

“This is the two hundred and seventy-fourth day of my exile.”

“This is gonna be a weird entry, I can feel it. But, like, a good kind of weird. Maybe weird isn’t a sufficient description. Kinda vague.” A snort. "Maybe is should start with the freakin’ entry already! Haha!”

“So Shokkra showed up to the base. I almost wasn’t sure she was gonna reply at all, but then she surprised me by being there with her own work hammer. We talked while we replaced a barrel on Greula, and it...was not what I expected either.” Thoughtful exhale. “She’s rough and tumble. She doesn’t take crap from people, and I always got the sense that if you disagreed with her about something, she’d just punch your lights out and call it day. But not with me. We had a pretty frank discussion, but it never got ugly even when emotions started peaking. She listened to me when I talked. I got her to agree to at least one point of mine. And...I knew I understood some of what she was telling me. I don’t agree with a lot of it...but some of it, sure. It gave me a lotta hope, at any rate.”

“Then we went to Warspear. The Shadowblade was there.”

“...she spoke with one of the Sanctuary Pandarens. Took her outside the tavern and everything to have a private chat. I didn’t really have a choice but to follow them. I had backup with me -Tsuyi was there- so...I wasn’t sure what was gonna happen, but it didn’t really matter. I just hoped it would be simple to navigate, but with her...of course it never is.”

“As soon as Shokkra got involved, I knew I shouldn’t have left her side. She was the only real authority to talk to Shun at the moment...dammit! I should have called Kex’ti, or Julilee- I don’t know what I was thinking! Or why the thought just occured to me now! Well. Learn and move on, I guess?”

“Anyway, Shokkra calls out Shun, they get into an argument, and it seems like the Shadowblade leaves. I should have known better. I should have stayed RIGHT THERE at Shokk’s side, especially with her unarmed, but when Syreena disappeared I thought she might have run off. I didn’t expect her to put a knife at Shokkra’s back, for some dumb reason I can’t fathom right now.”

“I don’t really have the luxury of regretting sending Tsuyi in to defend Shokk. The whole thing exploded. Weapons…-my- weapon, was drawn up against a Grim. And the rotter...a different member of the Grim who I didn’t recognize...he reminded me of just how insane I was being.”

A growl. “But not as...bull-headed...no, -stupid- it was stupid what he did! Shooting her in the kneecap like that! Just when Kex’ti had gotten there and there was an attempt at bringing in something that almost looked like diplomacy into the whole mess, ...he freakin’ shoots her.”

“When he raised his rifle to Syreena, I couldn’t believe it. When he raised it to Shokkra because of one off-color joke, I was furious. And lost a lot of respect for him right quick, which hurt.”

“I’m used to taking orders from him. … The tone softens, reluctant. C-Cobrak was always there for me as an authority figure. In my true timeline. He basically raised me.” The tone goes agitated, voice rising in volume “But that doesn’t give him the right to boss me around like I’m a kid. He tells me I can’t have Shokkra at the base again. That he has his reasons, which, you know, maybe I would be more keen on understanding if he hadn’t stomped all over all the progress we were making like a mad clefter!”

“... At least Kex’ti was there to mitigate. And...he thanked me again for my friendship. Not a bad way to end the night, actually. He told me to keep the box.”

“Shokkra and I hung out later at the Faire. We went around the zoo, chatting. I told her about Rhyze and that strangeness. And then...she reminded me that the way we think about sex and romance are totally different. She’s a lot like my mom, in that sex seems to be almost just...a friendly way to say hello or something. But, uhm. Yeah, I don’t...it’s just not me. So. I think we breached a line where things...it didn’t get strange or anything, but I learned that when she’s flirting with me, it had more meaning than I thought. At least we agreed that people need to be up front about that sort of thing. Feelings and such. And I know her invitations don’t mean what that same invitation would mean coming from me.”

“Though, honestly, it’s sort of strangely flattering that she would even consider it? But first it was Saelyx, then Rhyze, now her...I’m starting to think maybe I give off pheromones or something without realizing it. It’s all so strange and I don’t really know how to handle it other than to be honest, I guess. I haven’t talked to Nok about it yet- not sure what he’ll think. He’ll laugh, hopefully.”

“But anyway. Shokkra is still my friend. C...the Boss and I need to have a talk. And hopefully Syreena won’t gut me in my sleep. As if I didn’t already have nightmares about that as it is.”

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An addendum to the log of the 274th day.

“She didn’t gut me. She busted my knee instead and cut up my face. The knee was for Shokk and Cobrak, she said. The face was for something my dad did. Poetic justice I guess.”

“Karthok found me. He set the brace for my leg. He even stitched up the cut on my face.”

“So...as Nok put it, I survived two encounters with mad assassins! Feels pretty good.”

“I can’t let Shokk or Uncle see me like this. It would start a war that we don’t need, and hurt them way more than it hurts me.”

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There is no log date or added information to this recording. It simply exists as an isolated soundbite.

“CAN PEOPLE JUST STOP ATTACKING ME WITH THEIR LIPS, PLEASE?!”

“...augh. I wish I didn’t know what charred human tastes like.”

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“Pheeeew….okay. Here we go. Real entry. Oh, shit- I messed up the order…"Laughter bordering on the edge of hysterical. "Holy SHIT. Feling fuckery IS THIS MY LIFE? AHHAhaha...!”

More laughing, just as close to insane as before, until it slowly dies off with an exhale.

“Right, okay. Uhm.”

“ Hop over the fence and plunge in.”

“Use a pencil to write the first draft.”

“The heart beat strongly and with firm strokes.”

“This is the...two hundred and seventy-ninth day of my exile.”

“...shit. Where do I start? I mean, I had so much to say already before tonight. I talked to Uncle and told him I could handle Syreena. Mister Rayfea--er. Faelenor and Paiyuna came up to me to talk about what happened, because they heard something from Kex’ti.”

“I really thought Kex’ti would keep his silence when he saw me with my wounds. I didn’t think that I had to explain to him that I wanted to keep what happened to me under wraps, since, you know, I wouldn’t even explain to him where I got the injuries in the first place. I hinted that I’d tell him later, but I guess he didn’t get it. I’m a little confused. Maybe a little hurt. I should talk to him and find out why he did that.”

“So anyway, it seemed like everybody was waiting for Uncle to explode once he found out. But I talked to him, and made him see just what Syreena was trying to accomplish by doing this. And that we couldn’t let her incite us into a war. We had to take the high road.”

“I actually managed it. I talked Uncle out of shooting Syreena in the face. I’m still not sure how I did it, but I did. Everyone was so proud of me! Especially Faelenor and Nok. It was...really nice, to feel appreciated like that.”

“Then I did miracle number two and calmed Shokkra down after I explained to her what happened. Freakin’- A startled laugh. “- we even wore civilian clothes to Cantina with Syreena right there! I got Shokkra in a dress, and I was in a suit.”

“I was scared, though, honestly. Like, I think if anyone got close enough, they could see me shaking. But screw that! If I want to go to the Cantina, I will, and not even the Shadowblade is going to stop me. Maybe I should thank her, actually. She made some of my fears become real and I -survived-. Yeah. I lived. I lived.”

“Surprises and living. Had ANOTHER encounter where, at one point, I was dead sure that I was going to have to pull out Broden’s rifle and shoot a troll in the face. What actually happened was way, way better.”

“So Torjusk, that Amani from a few Cantinas ago, invited Shokkra out for ambush training. She was allowed to bring her ‘pet’.” Derisive snort. “I’d make us matching collars for kicks, but...probably send the wrong message. ANYWAY.”

“We get there, and there’s what looks like the corpse of a Northwatch Footguard turning on a spit above the fire. It was our guest feast.”

“...so with the little time I had to think about it, I found only two choices. Offend the huge Amani troll and start a fight, or...”

“...I might still kill Shokkra for that alone.”

Throat clearing. “Anyway. So we’re eating, and drinking. I talk to September a bit, and notice all their animals. Lots of big, toothy beasts that could make a meal of us with a snap of their jaws. It was awesome. Then Torjusk starts explaining that he wants to train her in the ways of the Zandalari, that she’d be his orc champion and that she’d be an example of their strength. But he wouldn’t do if she associated herself with Sanctuary. Because he thinks they’re weak.”

“I thought we were gonna fight. With the bat, the cat, the bird, the troll, and September. I mean, five against two isn't terrible odds. And the fact that they were mostly animals, well. I don't carry my rifle around because it's pretty. Maybe throw down a few traps, untie our wolves...it didn't get that far. Commander Julilee woulda been so thrilled. Shokkra just talked to him without being insulting or threatening. She laid everything out there. Like a Light-blessed champion. Freakin’ BOSS.”

“I always figured that a person like Shokkra had her reasons for being in Sanctuary. I believed in that with all my heart.”

“I know what she's done. Parts of her past. I know one of her futures, too. Where she wasn't with Sanctuary.”

Silence.

“She's really earning her second chance, though. Like I told Uncle, she’s trying so hard. And I just...I see so much potential for this timeline, and I believe that Shokkra’s future will be different. I wanna watch her grow instead of being cut at the knees.”

“She said she was their soldier. That the Kor’kron molded her, but she is stronger now because Sanctuary gave her a reason to fight. I wanted to -scream-! I wanted to throw her a damn parade and shoot off fireworks in the sky and make her a statue outta fucking GOLD because DAMN if that wasn't one if the most inspiring things I have ever heard in my life! Feldamned maw of the BEAST! WOOOOOO!”

There is an excited clattering, like she had leapt from her chair. Her tone is like a chant. One can imagine she is dancing to it, as the scuffling noises continue. “Go Shokkra, go Shokkra, you’re a boss, uh-huh, you told that troll, in his face, screw you! But was suuuper cool~!”

A laugh, the a creak sound followed with a grunt, like she threw herself back in her chair.

“Hah! Anyway! The Amani didn't slay us on the spot. Said she had two souls, and would wait to see which of the stringer would survive. Then we got on our animals and got the fel outta there.”

“It was a tough ride back to Orgrimmar- Shokkra was outpacing me, and she wouldn't slow down until we got to a cliff edge in the middle of the city.”

“Then she grabbed me. She was SCARED. Shokkra Deathrage was holding me and admitting she was TERRIFIED of what just happened. I...never thought she'd open up to me like that. It was just...so amazing. I felt so honored. Totally floored. Like… How did I earn the trust of this girl? Why did she think I deserved a gift like that? I mean. I know why. We have each other's back, always. I’d take on anyone who tries to get between us. She's worth the fight. I know it- I KNOW it. I...I just FEEL it in my gut that she is worth way more than anyone gives her credit for, because she had to go against so much judgement and hate for who she is and STILL she is able to stand up against the people she respects and own these values that she's adopted with her whole heart. War took her family from her, but she will NEVER be alone again, not if I can help it.”

Silence. The tone changes to unsure.

“...uh. So. She was shaking, you know. Like, she was so shocked from surviving what just happened that she hugged me and started admitting just how fucking -scared- she was that I tried to squeeze as much of my reassurance to her as I could. I...grabbed her face. Foreheads together, like my mom would do, and forced her to look at me. She was amazing. She needed to know that. I wanted to make her feel safe, calm her down.”

“Then she kissed me. I mean. Emotions were pretty high. I know -I- was still flying from that entire exchange.”

“...so, I said before that Shokkra and I had and understanding about sex and romance. That we see them differently and that's okay. This kiss had nothing to do with that conversation. I was so fucking proud of her. Proud to call her my friend.”

“It was fine. That she kissed me. It didn't feel like...It was almost like telling each other that we survived, that shit is okay and we made it. And she was super embarrassed afterwards, which was cute and hilarious.”

“Shokkra and cute in the same sentence. So strange. Super strange. Shokkra and scared! Never thought I would see that, ever. Shokkra and brave.”

“She was awesome….Inspiring. I'm so glad we're friends. Genuinely, just...so. So glad.”

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Flustered shuffling of papers.

"..."

“I can’t find my phrase book for the audio testing, so I’m just going to skip that part.”

“This is the two hundred and eightieth day of my exile.”

".."

“So I talked to Nok about everything. I got to the part where I mentioned I ate people...that is so much worse when you say it out loud! Blaugh! But. But I explained my reasoning, and maybe it wasn’t, you know, the best choice but it was the one I made because I wanted to bolster race relations. Misguided, I guess?”

“He looked at me like I was a monster.”

Silence

“I’m not PROUD of it. It’s not like I think I made the right kind of sacrifice for race relations. But his disgust with me wasn’t...what I expected. He told me not to do it again, like he caught me with my hand in the cookie jar. As if I WANT to...to eat human! I have human friends, dammit! You think I WANTED to- just. Just...damnit, Nok. I depend on you to be there for me. You’re supposed to be my safe place, where judgement doesn’t exist.”

“Maybe I’m expecting too much. Just..how is that any different from Uncle eating gnome stew? Their both sentient creatures, and yet he doesn’t shame Cobrak for what he does.”

“He apologized later, after I explained how it hurt. We were supposed to have dinner together, but I missed it.”

“I complained to Shokkra about it...I’ll talk more about her in a minute.”

“Anyway. After talking with Nok, I went to go see Uncle. He needed to have a meeting with me...uhm.”

Silence

“He showed me his will. And the documentation for Borrowed Time’s registry. Leadership reverts to me if he...is otherwise unable to perform his duties.”

“Shit. Shit shit shit. I can barely keep Legacy Corps running as a cohesive unit and he trusts me to act as leader for the entirety of Borrowed Time?”

“He said I earned it with everything I’ve been doing lately. That my determination...my courage...that my level-headedness are all qualities that a Boss needs. What our family needs.”

A sniffle, then her voice wavers. “He told me he was proud of me. I won’t let him down. I swear I won’t.”

A long stretch of silence. A clearing of the throat.

“Hah. Anyway. After that invited Shokkra out to Pandaria for drinks and food, ‘cause I needed someone to talk to and I was still...kinda sore at Nok. It was easier to just go find Shokkra and complain than having to explain what happened with Torjusk to a new person all over again and possibly have them look at me like I was a monster too. So we had drinks and stuff. She called him a dick. Hee!”

“Then I asked her about the dress I lent her. Freakin’-” A snort. “-she told me that Pai wanted her to...to ride her bareback, which, Spirits, coming from her, you know, I assumed one meaning because its HER and she’s an awful person but- no, actually, she meant that Pai turned into an elk or something and so she rode on her back around the Cantina. She totally meant for me to think it was something different though, the stupid jerk.”

“So I asked her about a replacement. She had, like, five different dresses. I asked her why...she said she just wanted them. I think I created a monster with all this dress talk. Ugh, she’s gonna drag me shopping like Geryal does! I did not expect this.”

A pause. “The dress was so bad. I opened it, and it was one of those awful Silvermoon specials with no back, and barely any sides, and hardly much front at all. It was even red, which- I never wear red. Unless it’s the blood of my kill, blah blah, listen to me I’m such a mighty hunter.” A giggle. “Of COURSE she’d buy me something like that. Then she begged me to wear it. She said I owed her, which...yeah, I remember that I sorta did, so.”

Hesitation.

“So I went upstairs to go change into it. Then...all of a sudden, I remembered why I HATE dresses.”

“I was so vulnerable in it. I didn’t have any armor, any weapons, no protection. It was just me...in this thing that is silky and meant to highlight all the things about my sexuality. My femininity. I hated it. Spirits, but I wanted to burn it. Just- I was so ashamed in it. Maybe that’s a problem with me that I need to figure out, because something as simple as a dress shouldn’t make me feel shame. I don’t really understand it.”

“So I was feeling vulnerable..and then Shokkra...joked around like she normally does. And I took it a little too seriously, I think.”

“...”

“The truth is, I don’t have a girlfriend to talk to about the insecurities I have over my sexuality. I mean, talking to Rhyze...would bring up awkwardness, since she’s sort of one of the reasons I’m confused about parts of it in the first place. And she doesn’t know any better than me anyway. So I wanted to talk to someone with experience. Not my mom! Because, you know, she’s my mom and we don’t have that frank of a relationship between us. She’s- Spirits, she is ABSOLUTELY one of the biggest reasons I have any hang-ups at all, with how often she tried to force me into dressy clothes as a kid. So no, I don’t trust her to have this discussion. Tsuyi..I don’t think she knows what sexuality even is.”

“I have plenty of friends who are girls, but...I was vulnerable right then and there, and I trust Shokkra. So I- just started talking about it. About her approach to sex and mine. It was...actually really nice, to address something I go out of my way to ignore. I mean, I don’t ignore sex- like...Nok and I, we have a lot of fun together, but...that’s about as close as I get to recognizing that I’m a woman. When we’re intimate. The rest of my life, who cares what gender I am or how I handle sexual attraction? But maybe this is important for me. To be able to talk about it with another woman. I shouldn’t be scared of a natural part of myself.”

“So we talked, and Shokkra made a joke...I dunno. It got tense. I don’t even remember what we were talking about. Something about candles and wine in the skulls of our enemies. I was trying to joke back, I think. I must have messed up somehow because she got very strange.”

“Well. It was my first try at having a conversation like that. Maybe it won’t be so bad next time.”

“We went back downstairs after I changed and just ate more food. We tried to talk about it more, but. I think we just decided we’re both idiots and I smushed pie in her mohawk, so that’s fine.”

“I found Kex’ti later in the evening, when I was passing through Orgrimmar to get some beef jerky. He apologized for ‘drawing undue attention’ to me. He said he did it because he was pushed to anger. It makes me wonder what kind of conversation he was having where talking about my injuries was the natural response to anger, but...I don’t really care. It’s over, I’m nearly at a hundred percent anyway, so as far as I’m concerned I got the apology that I wanted and we’re friends.”

“I told him about what Shokkra did the other night, with Torjusk. How she was super cool and stood up for Sanctuary even though it scared her to do so. He looked so happy! And proud. He was definitely proud. He thanked me again. I thanked him for not giving up on her. Then he gave me mango ice that was tasty, but a little too sweet for me. I called Shokkra over the private channel to have her come share it with me and I told her about the conversation I had with Kex’ti.”

“He offered me a place under the Sanctuary banner. That he and Shokk would be honored with my presence. I think...if my family wasn’t Borrowed Time, I’d be a good fit for Sanctuary. But as it is, I have my obligations to my organization. Even more responsibilities, now that I’m vice boss or whatever title they’d give me.”

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A sigh.

"Still can't find my phrasebook. Oh well. This is day two hundred and eighty-four of my exile."

Silence.

“People say life is a series of ups and downs. Yesterday must have been one of those perfect examples. The kind of thing that you use as a case to show just how true that is.”

“I talked to Saelystrasz. We had the first full, civil conversation that I can remember before everything fell apart. I told him about the Boss’ decision. I’m starting to take on more bureaucratic silliness as a result, for the purposes of training, but that’s not such a burden. It’s just a little tedious. Anyway, I talk to him and he asks me for help and advice. Basically on how to be trusted with a leadership role in the company again, that he and Faelenor are working on it together but that he needs some more guidance. I told him I would help him out.”

“Everything after that felt so promising. Like I could run the length of the continents without stopping. I’ve had so many people come up to me and express their faith in my abilities to take on the role as a leader. Though, after Cantina tonight, I have my reservations.”

The scuffing sound of footsteps across floorboards.

“Phyruss was there. He hung out with me, and we talked. When the bar was getting too noisy, I asked if he wanted to take a walk. So we go down the stretch of the beach and chat.”

“He told me he had to use the runeblade Sorrow in combat because he didn’t have any other weapon at the time. That it saved his life. I gave him a direct order to lock it down. I didn’t want to see or hear about it again until we found it’s partner, Hope.”

“How can he not...spirits, how can he not understand that Sorrow is dangerous? We saw the damn proof of it! In the forest, with the original wielder, Tarra Shadeweave. I still remember when she found us. Singing her song. Circling us, demanding that we be quiet. What were we interrupting? It didn’t matter, she wanted to kill us in the end. Ride the high. Then she staked herself on her own blade.”

“He PROMISED he’d not use Sorrow without Hope, but he broke his word. And then when I gave him the order, he lashed out at me. And during his rant...I could see a weird magic in his eyes. The blade has already begun to corrupt him. We can’t wait to search for Hope anymore. As soon as...as he recovers, we’re heading out to find it first thing. Everything else can wait. Including Shokkra.”

“I’m so angry. Just..thinking about what happened makes me want to vomit or stab something.”

“I know our friendship is going to keep getting tested. But...Shokkra. You hurt literally the only thing in this universe that keeps me going. My little brother is my entire world. I love Nok and the rest of my company, but...they’re not Phyruss.”

“I’ve known him from day one of his life. He was tiny, but he already had hair on his head in a tuft. His hands were so small that he could barely wrap them around one of my fingers. He’s your brother, my mom told me. He’s our family. You’re his big sister, which means you protect him and teach him everything you know.”

Laughter. “I was so excited to have a baby brother. I wanted to show him everything. How to fish, how to swim. How to hold a sword. When he started learning to run, I chased him through mom’s gardens. One time he got a bad gash on his leg from tripping on one of the pots and landing on this thorny plant, I can’t remember which one it was now. It’s been decades. Oh wow. I completely forgot about that. But...I think that was the first time I felt real panic over him. I grabbed him up in my arms- I think I was crying -and I took him to mom screaming that he was bleeding. She took care of him, it wasn’t that big a deal, but...that was the first time I felt like I failed him. It was terrible. Not even close to the sorts of scrapes we get into now, but that was a moment of realization for me. That this little elf I loved with my whole heart could get hurt and there was nothing I could do to stop it.”

“The worst was when Aunt Pythral died. I watched his innocence die with her. At least I was there. I could hold him. But I couldn’t protect him.” In a softer voice. “It’s the heaviest feeling I carry with me, all the time. Knowing that I have to let him get hurt and make his own mistakes. I can’t baby him forever. But if I could? I would. It’s a little scary, thinking of what I would give up if it meant that he’d be safe.”

“I know he asks to get beaten up all the time. He has something to prove, you know. He’s always been chasing me and Nok, trying to catch up ever since he was little. He throws himself into fights recklessly, and I know...I know I can’t teach him restraint. That life has to kick his ass a little bit before he learns his boundaries.”

“But...DAMNIT Shokkra! You’re just as guilty! You’re even worse than him about boundaries! You see one, and you go out of way to destroy it because anything that suggests a limitation to you offends you. It’s one of the reasons I admire you, but it’s also one of your worst traits because you don’t consider the consequences of your actions. You don’t THINK, you just do what you want without even taking a moment to consider the people around who CARE about you.”

“I’m so angry. So...incredibly angry. You guys want to rough-house? Fine. I don’t care. But you don’t SHOW that kind of brutality towards one of your own! You don’t just go in and hurt them because you’re feeling slighted and then SPIT on them as you leave, like a fucking child. Gods, even after the shit you’ve gone through and even after everything that you say about Sanctuary, all you’ve done is prove that you’re a hypocrite! You- you’re SUCH a...a fucking CHILD!”

“Inconsiderate, self-centered, OBNOXIOUS…”

Silence, with the occasional hiccup. A ragged, wet sniffle. More silence.

“I’m going to learn eventually, and kick your ass, and then I’ll teach Phyruss how to kick your ass so you NEVER hurt him like that again.”

“...but not now. Not when I’m angry at you, because the anger doesn’t do anything but breed hate. Being your friend...has provided me a lot of new challenges in my life. Not without it’s rewards. Like sharing secrets in Nagrand while we look at the stars.”

“I’ll talk with her later. Right now, what matters is Phyruss and finding Hope.”

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An entry made a little while later, attached to the same recording of day 284.

“Addendum to entry marked day two hundred and eighty-four.”

“I went to go fly a few laps with Galika around the base. It gave me some more time to think, after I got all the anger out of me.”

“I recognize that Phyruss was the one who drew out the weapons on the top deck. He disrespected Tahz’ one rule, which...yeah. My brother is a hot-head, and I get overly defensive over him. He doesn’t get to escape blame because he got his ass handed to him over a fight he provoked in the first place.”

“I need to send Tahz an apology. Maybe offer to replace some of his stock. I’ll find a way.”

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“Victory! Victory! Determination can see anyone through ANYTHING!”

Giggling, uncontainable and bubbly.

“Team Arath’dorei! When two siblings like us enter the fight, you’re finished! We’re UNSTOPPABLE!”

Another giggle. “I should probably give this celebration a little context, huh?”

“So like I mentioned in my last log, Phyruss was being corrupted by the runeblade Sorrow. We needed to find Hope, and fast. We go back to the Plaguelands, where everything started.”

“Phyruss and I, we make a good team. Not only do we know each other’s silent cues better than our own, we balance each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Where one person’s knowledge is limited, we can usually count on the other to be able to fill in the gaps. And Phyruss is a clever elf! Much more clever with the different magic schools than myself, without question. He’d figured out a method of psychometry and rune magic that I’ve never seen before...thinking on it, I bet he doesn’t even know the value of what he’s done.”

“He takes up Sorrow into the point of highest traffic in the town...and this part I didn’t really understand. He didn’t bother explaining it to me- we didn’t really have time to stop and chit-chat about his methods, you know?- but he turned the surface of the blade into a mirror. In the reflection? Tarra Shadeweave, that human woman who was the last wielder of the joined pair of runeblades.”

“So, this is my theory...I’ll have Phyruss explain to me later to see if I’m right, but here it goes. I think whatever he’d done to his runeblade was able to display the history from a place’s energies. The kind of energy that people leave behind and imprint on a location. He must have realized that she would have crossed the path dozens of times in her life, so starting from the center of town was a good place to start. He might have pulled up the energy of Tarra specifically, watching every moment she crossed this area, right up until she no longer had Hope. He tracked back the history until she had both blades, just before she lost them, and we followed her energy trail from that moment, through the woods and at the foot of the Scarlet ruins.”

“We’re not really...the subtle pair. He’s busy watching the image of Tarra teariing- Tarra tearing. Tarratearing tarratearing tarna terning-” A tsk. “- uhm. Ha! Right, where was I? Tarra! So he was following Tarra’s image on his blade, and Ava ‘n I are making rotter heads roll, then finally we’re inside one of the smaller chapels. The blade shows Tarra fighting an undead male. But not really fighting, because the word implies that she was even a challenge for him. She wasn’t- but she was scrappy. She managed to plunge Hope into his back, and Sorrow about to finish him off...then she said his name.”

“The last time we were here, in the town, I was looking at Tarra’s family registry. She left behind her parents. But she followed her brother, Beras, who died when Havenshire fell.”

“Beras, or at least the animated corpse of him, backhands her into a pillar. She still had Sorrow, and was able to escape. She left the job unfinished. When Phyruss lowered the blade, in front of us was Beras, with Hope still plunged in his back.”

“We went in there hoping the advantage of surprise would have been enough to take him down. Ava, my wolf, goes for his ankle. Phyruss sweeps in on the front. I duck behind a pillar to fire. It should have been easy.”

“He kicks Ava away like she was a plush toy, all two hundred pounds of her. I haven’t heard her yelp like that in years. Then, when I thought my heart had already bottomed out into my stomach, he grabs Phyruss’ head and slams him into the ground.”

“The fight was a blur after that. I just remembered that I wanted to make him pay for what he did to Phy. But that made me careless. I’m thrown onto the floor, Beras’ magic stunning me into place, then suddenly the black ichor from his neck sprays the front of my tunic and Phyruss is standing above him with Sorrow in his hand.”

A large inhale, followed with a long, shuddery exhale.

“I didn’t know what my worst nightmare was until it was happening in front of me. Phyruss was fighting the call of the blade...it demanded blood. And when he refused to cut me down, it-it forced him to stab himself in the foot. To satiate it.’

“And then...he said my name...and begged me. He begged me to help. My baby brother. He NEVER asks for help, even when he needs it. He’s got too much pride. But he was begging me. It was like being thirteen all over again, watching him cry while he was bleeding and realizing that this little elf I loved so much could bleed and die like everyone else.”

“But I realized that I wasn’t useless and thirteen anymore. I knew exactly what to do. So I ran to Beras’ corpse, pulled out Hope.”

“I’ve never felt anything like holding hope before. It was light, perfect, like it was always meant to be wielded in my hand. All of my doubts washed away...like there was nothing to be afraid of anymore. I was determined. We fought. This part I don’t remember too clearly either, except for the moment when I lost the blade, when I fell. I lost Hope, in multiple meanings of the word. My brother and the runeblade Sorrow were what stood between me and it’s partner blade.”

“Even though I was terrified all over again of losing my brother, it didn’t matter.”

“I leapt for it, hefted it up, and aimed for his arm. He pinned me to the floor by shoulder by the tip of Sorrow’s blade.”

“If Hope was resolve, Sorrow was...complete despair. I could feel Tarra’s sadness at failing her brother. It felt like mine. For what felt like forever, I was forced to feel all of my insecurities, all my worries. My paranoia. I’ll never be enough to protect Phryuss. He’ll be...I’ll be the reason he dies. My carelessness. I’ll never be enough.”

Silence.

“But that’s...none of that is true. With Hope, Phyruss was able to recover himself enough to throw the blades away. Then he was crying, really sobbing, and he was holding me. He said...no blade is worth you.”

“He..called me his Hope. He. He said…’You always made me want to be a hero.’ ”

Silence.

“Phyruss isn’t perfect. He’s stubborn, and irrational, and sometimes his dramatic playacts grate on my nerves. But I love him so much.”

Another shuddery exhale.

“...hah. Hah! But, we DID it! We put Beras to rest, we found Hope, and...I trust Phyruss with the twin blades. He’s earned the right to wield them, after all that.”

“So, you’re thinking to yourself ‘gosh, that’s a lot of victory right there Dora!’ and I would respond ‘why yes, imaginary audience, it IS a lot of victory! BUT WAIT! There’s MORE!’ ”

“Part of why I wanted to help Phyruss with all this stuff in the first place was to better help him out against Shokkra. So that if those two fought again, he wouldn’t be beaten within an inch of his life. So I was still...trying to figure out how to approach Shokkra. But it wasn’t hard, afterall. I found her in Warspear- turns out she’d just earned a new title. Stone Guard. I decided...I’m sure there will be a good time to talk about Phyruss with her, but in the meantime, we needed to celebrate her achievement!”

“I made her this present. I’ll attach a physical copy of my notes with this log later. But it was a pendant that I crafted out of leftover casing from the first shot I took that put down big game. I’d been carrying around that thing as a piece of luck...but I wanted to pass it on.”

pV5OLpN.jpg

“So she loved it! Hugged me and everything, and then we went on a booze run.”

“Uhm. And then she uhm. Showed me this dress that she commissioned from Tahz. It was blue, and...it looked like something a shaman would wear. She almost...kind of looked like...this is going to sound stupid. No. No, it won’t. It’s coming from the heart, so it isn’t stupid. It just...feels odd, because I haven’t. Noticed. Stuff like this before.”

“But she looked like the elements had wrapped her up. Or more like...she was this physical embodiment of the elements themselves. The blue of her dress was...shimmering, almost. Like the sea. And her skin was alive, really vivid green like Nagrand grass. I think I was staring. Gaping. Coulda probably caught flies. And then she just smiled at me. “You were saying about ogre brew?” And I think I started….babbling, like an idiot.”

“Uhm. Anyway. We went dress shopping with Geryal later. Then we went to Wyrven’s Tail. And of course at some point Shokkra says something crude about Geryal’s mom then called Phyruss a bitch. But Geryal set Shokkra’s bottle of beer on fire after that and left. Which. You know. I was angry at her for doing that at the time because that is NOT the way we solve conflict, but in hindsight it’s actually a little funny. I just can’t tell her I think so.”

“Shokkra dropped her bottle of beer so that it all smashed and fell at her feet. She stomped it out and tried to hide her wounds under her dress, but I’m not an idiot. I made her sit at a table, and started cleaning out her cuts.”

“I yelled at her, and apologized. Then she said it was alright...that it was really good for her to know that someone cares about her.”

“At that point, I almost wanted to pelt her with the bandages I was holding. Of COURSE people care about her. I care about her, a lot. I told her...that I wish I knew she cared back. The words she says can be hurtful, especially when it comes to Phyruss. I basically said as much.”

“Then the most magical thing happened. She offered to apologize to Phyruss, without me even asking. She said that if would help make things easier for me, she would do it.”

“She probably has no idea what that meant to me. I mean...I was just so happy to see what my friendship means. That, even when it probably stabs at her pride, she’d be willing to apologize to Phyruss just to help me out. Just thinking about it right now makes me want to float, or fly away, or go cliff diving! I hugged her instead and we made plans to go see the hot springs soon, so that’s great. I just have to bring the booze!”

“I...think that’s enough! This has to be my longest entry to date or something, geez. But there was just so much love, and victory! I had to make sure I recorded every super important moment! Hah! Alright, alright, end log!”

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“I feel like the days have been running in a kinda blur lately. I haven’t really been keeping up with this log the way I should. I’m not sure why, beyond the fact that it seems like I’m always busy. I..gotta try harder, I guess.”

Exhale.

“I’m weirdly tired. Like, I think I could faceplant onto this desk and nap through the whole day. No...can’t...gotta. You know. Do this journal. I’m going to have to go back and edit in the...the markers...right.”

“Nero lost one of the hatchlings. He screamed over the body. I could feel his screaming, literally. I was hugging his back, and he just let it all go. It was...you know, not unexpected. I wasn’t about to believe that they would all survive. He took it so hard though. At least I was there. At least...at least I could help him. I took the boys to the workshop. Coaldrin and Slade. They got to hold their new baby sister, Noiria. She’s already a little spitfire, which is exciting. After that...yeah. When I came back, that was when he broke down. I know Coaldrin was suspicious. Now the boys have an idea about how fragile life can be. At least I was there when they learned it. I could help guide them through it and undertand.”

“Speaking of..” A yawn. “...speaking of learning, the school is already being built. Nearly done, and I’ve got a full roster of students. Still need to talk to Kex’ti and see if he wants Rylie to participate. I just feel like everyone would benefit from Rylie’s presence. She’d teach them as much as they would teach her. I’ll head out to the Sanctuary base and prod him about it.”

“Faelenor offered to handle the reading and writing. He’s been such a huge help lately, really. I feel like I can depend on him for so much, the way I can’t with a lot of others. I love Uncle, but I can’t approach him about some things in my life that are important. Like Shokkra. Faelenor is easier to talk to about stuff like that...and he sort of reminds me of mom, weirdly enough. My mom, my real mom. The Sinlanna of this timeline...I can’t help feeling an obligation to her, and I love her in a weird way that I can’t explain, but it hurts to look at her sometimes because she doesn’t have my mom’s memories. There’s an entire twenty years of interaction missing. So it’s a little less painful to talk to Faelenor and...I dunno. I hate to say look up to him like a parent, but he treats me the way my mom treated me in my timeline. With patience, and lots of love.

“He’s gonna teach me a lot of things, he said. Go hunting with me, teach me about diplomacy. I’m really excited, honestly! And he even let me and Shaelie escape the base when I wanted to spend time with her and get to know her without the paranoia of eyes watching our every move. She's under survellince, cause people don't trust her since she's ex-Grim.”

“Oh right, Shaelie. So she left Grim and she’s hanging out with us now. She likes my modifications on Galika, so that’s awesome. I instantly liked her. I hope she and I hang out more, but she seems like she has a lot on her plate.”

“...crud. I meant to invite her out to the hunt with Shokkra. It might have been helpful to have another ranger out there to take down that damn proto-drake, but we managed alright. Shokkra...I think she had more blood on the outside than on the inside by the time that fight finished. I didn’t do too badly, just some burns and a cut down my back. Wrecked my leather tunic, gonna have to make a new one.”

Another yawn, sleepy and long. “So….hmmmm….so yeah. We…....we took down the dragon...gonna teach her...how to tame it….ride it…”

“Grizzly hills is pretty at night. Her arms were warm.”

Silence.

“She’s a Maw. Feldamned Maw. I wanna be something cool. Maybe the Wings, cause I wanna fly. I wanna carry the world on my back and fly on hope. Can I do that? I always believed it before. Never really questioned it. Shouldn’t bother starting now, don’t think.”

“I think I can, if I have Shokkra.” A soft mumble. “Stupid orc.”

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“Day three hundred eighteen of my exile.”

 

“...”

 

Silence.

 

“...”

 

A clearing of the throat.

 

“...I went training with Faelenor. He’s a really patient teacher. He’s also the kind of teacher that lets you pay for your mistakes. I appreciate that he lets me mess up. He understands...you know. What I need. I mean, I forgot my trap bag somehow when we went out into the field. I was at a big disadvantage. But he didn’t mock me- he just...taught me what he could with what I had. I’m almost never this sloppy, but...I’m not sure what it is with me right now. I feel like I’m getting sloppier all the time. But this is why I’m training. And training with a member of the Order of Eversong...I mean, that’s pretty cool. More than cool.”

 

“I wonder about magister Vathelan. I haven’t heard or spoken with him in a while. I haven’t seen Tsu, or Rhyze, or Phy in a few weeks.”

 

“...I looked at the logs, trying to figure out where the past days have gone. I keep the journal for a few reasons. One of them is because, as a Time Walker, you wanna keep a count of your days. You need your own personal calendar. There’s no other way to keep track of your hours. The years of the timeline calendar and the years of my body’s existence...none of it will ever match up nicely.”

 

“There’s been time sunk into the school. Time with my projects. I’ve had a lot of freedom to order imports for parts, so I can tinker with stuff. I want the schematic for the wolf Shaelie uses.”


 

Silence. An exhale.

 

“So I looked at the logs. I kept noticing that...there are all these days when I just talk about Shokkra.”

 

Silence. Tapping.

 

“I think Mit tried to explain this to me once. That I tend to latch onto things that interest me until the shiny wears off.”

 

“There’s still so much stuff we’re planning to do, like getting Fury trained and I’m still not sure what is going on with her brother. She needed her stitches taken out, and then she wants us to get matching tattoos.”

 

“She wants Pai to do them. Wings and jaws on our backs. They’re mates now, I think. She said Pai said so, and she’s rolling with it.”

 

More tapping.

 

“We were talking about her eulogy after her stitches. That I’d make sure she’d get a great one, that they’d do her justice.”

 

“There’s a lot of pain that comes with shorter-lived races. I’ve already made as much peace as I can considering that each death is different and hurts just as much as the first one. I know that I’m going to put a lot of them in the ground. Or, at least, the likelihood is a lot higher. I know that. I accept it. They’re still worth loving anyway.”

 

“So. I took out her stitches. It’s dusk out, on the mesa we found in the Barrens. The fire’s giving us the only light around for miles. I was still able to take out the stitches anyway, and clean her up. She reminded me of how short her life is. I think she saw it in my face. The way it hurt. She started crying, and…”

 

Quiet sobbing. It lasts for minutes. There’s a ragged snifle. When she speaks again, her voice is hoarse.

 

“I just hugged her. She-” A cough. “-she messed up her fucking bandage crying.”

 

“I don’t regret- don’t regret having her in my life. I had no idea that when I met her, she’d become so important to me.”

 

Silence. When she speaks again, she’s composed.

 

“It seems like...everything is centered around her right now. It’s all so intense. We’ve had our difference. We’ve fought but we still find ways to reach an agreement. Even when things seem like they’re constantly trying to test us, we’ve managed. Like with my uncle and with Syreena. That stuff between her and my brother. She says she still wants to apologize to him, which- fel, that still means so much to me, that she’d do that. I was there to watch her fight her way out of corners against trolls and drakes.” Her voice goes uneven. “I’ve seen her when the rage hits; she looks so alive when it happens and I’ve seen her looks feminine and vulnerable in her dress. She can be all these things at once; she can be womanly and a fighter and she has these cigars that smell like tar. She doesn’t care. She doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her but she cares about me. I’m her best friend, I’ve seen all this stuff that no one else has seen, I’ve seen her fucking fall apart, I’ve seen her look so completely lost and crying and - and- I want her to be happy-”

 

Something clatters, like the sound of several pounds of nuts and bolts hitting a wooden floor.

 

Silence.


“...I don’t know what I’m doing.”

"I don't know what I'm doing."

Edited by Isadore
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“Day three hundred thirty three of my exile. Three three three. Is that special? Series of numbers…”

 

Pause. A tapping sound, like fingers drumming against wood.

 

“Shokkra-”

 

A pause. A huff of annoyance, a bark of laughter.

 

“...damnit...”

 

Silence.

 

“...so I went to go help her with Fury. I tried to teach her how to tame him the way that I know, which is to earn an animal’s trust slowly over time. I gave her some ground up firebloom mixed with something extra, kinda like catnip for drakes. I convinced her to take him out of the sewers finally, ‘cause there’s no way there’d be any trust built between them if she kept him locked up somewhere dark and dank. But then he had an adverse reaction to what we fed him, so he went a little wild. She hopped on his back as he flew out of the sewers, with me and Galika tailing after them. He struggled for a while until he finally crashed into the trees. Friggin’ idiot gave me a thumbs up before she slid off his back and fell into a snowbank.”

 

“She told me she’s leaving for a long training mission. She promised to send letters.”

 

“Training. Phy and I had our first training session together with Faelenor and Amalyn. It was a lot of fun, honestly. He had to protect a coin from me while I had to try and shoot it off a dummy. Of course he was really clever about it and chopped up the dummy so that he could move the coin around. Still technically on the dummy...and then he won ‘cause I couldn’t shoot the coin off in time.”

 

“It was a little tense. Phy doesn’t like Faelenor at all, but I guess I get it. Phyruss doesn’t do well with listening to authority, and Faelenor expects complete respect if you’re going to train under him. Otherwise, it’s a waste of his time. I deferred to Faelenor because I feel like he has a lot to teach me and he was kind enough to take me on as a student. And I really wanted...you know, to spend time with Phy. It feels like we don’t do enough together. Team building exercises, I mean. And I think he could use some discipline, honestly. He’s bull-headedness has gotten him into a lot of trouble and he needs to learn some restraint. He’s coming to the lessons to appease me for now, but soon he has to decide to come because he sees the training as worthwhile. Otherwise it’s just a big slap in the face to Faelenor and the time he’s willing to give us. But...I think Phy had fun, so I’ll just cross my fingers and hope that they can resolve their differences.”

 

“Uncle assigned me my first team and my first mission under the Borrowed Time banner. We’re supposed to protect the bordello’s new location in Dalaran while Lazhio is running loose. He gave me a handful of people I’ve never worked with before and not a single healer or medic. It’s okay though, because-”

 

A beat.

 

“...gah....BECAUSE. Because Shokkra helped me come up with a plan. She was my tactician. We talked about it while I was walking the streets, getting myself familiar with the faces that pass by outside the bordello. Also I was babysitting Isa’s cat, but that’s- you know, not really important.”

 

“...why didn’t I ask Nok what he thought of the team I was given? I used to go to him for everything.”

 

“...I’ve never heard him yell at me like that before except for when I pull stunts that nearly get me killed. Even then, it’s not like...it wasn’t the same. This wasn’t him yelling at me for being dumb. Or maybe it was.”

 

“And then I yelled back. I felt like I was possessed, like there was just...this angry, ugly thing in my chest and I just- just wanted to lash out. I think I was frustrated? But I don’t...I don’t act that way when I’m frustrated. I can keep my cool. Maybe I was reacting weirdly because I’d never seen Nok act like that towards me. Weird for weird.”

 

“He said it was a Saelyx thing all over again. I’m still trying to understand what that means. But I at least get a part of it. I was never around, and I don’t know why. I was hurting him without even realizing it.”

 

“So now I don’t get to have him at all, cause he- left. Me.”

 

Silence.

 

“I’m...looking for the silver lining. But I just hurt. Maybe later. I’ll find it later.”

Edited by Isadore

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Beep.

 

Beep.

 

Beep.

 

“...the fel?”

 

Beep.

 

Beep.

 

Flash!

 

kJpAEOU.png

 

“...huh.”

 

The padding of feet. A whirring sound. A click.

 

“Weird.”

 

Tapping.

 

The hollow sound of wood scraping against wood.

 

“...I have NO idea what is wrong with you….”

 

A muffled voice, as if from a far distance.

 

“No, I’m talking to one of my projects. The one that records stuff. It started acting up.”

 

Unintelligible speaking.

 

“Mom, if you wanna talk to me you have to come in here.”

 

Silence. Creaking.

 

“Are you almost finished? It’s nearly time for dinner.”

 

“I have a lot of boxes, mom. It’s gonna take a while before I get it all organized.”

 

“Hmm. It doesn’t have to be tonight that you get everything put away, Dora.”

 

 

“I-” A sigh. “I realize that. The unpacking helps, though. Keeps my hands busy.”

 

Silence.

 

“...what is that blinking light?”

 

“Oh- it’s that recorder I was just telling you about. I need to take it apart later. It just started recording on it’s own.”

 

“How curious.”

 

Silence.

 

“I’ll leave you to-”

 

“Did you wanna-”

 

Silence. A little laugh.

 

“Uhm. Thanks again for letting me use this room for a temp workshop.”

 

“This is your home, child. If you are in need of more space, we’ll make arrangements.”

 

“Right.”

 

Silence.

 

“I’ll be in the dining room in a few minutes.”

 

“Oh good. The honeyed yogurt won’t go to waste, then.”

 

“What! You’re bribing me to head to the dining room with my favorite dessert?”

 

“Is it working?”

 

“Yes!”

 

“Then I am. I’ll meet you there, Dora.”

 

“Okay mom. Thanks again.”

 

A hum, the sound of breath released after giving something a squeeze, or a hug. Clattering sounds for several minutes, then shuffled steps. The creak of hinges. A door snapping shut.

 
Edited by Isadore

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“So, it’s been a while. A lot has happened since I last put in an audio log...too much to sift through really. Day five hundred and thirty two of my exile.”

 

“I haven’t kept up with this thing...it’s been a hundred and ninety nine days since my last entry. Gosh, maybe I should have waited until tomorrow! But...there’s something kind of interesting about a number that’s so close to a completion of a set. It’s got potential, right?”

 

“...uhm. Okay. So! Let’s see...I guess, since then, we’ve been working non-stop on taking Lazhio down. I led a few more missions. Found Vyzelok’s old house abandoned out in Stranglethorn with a bunker and a bunch of cool artifacts from all the different schools of magic. There was even a talking head! Phyruss and I went on that mission together. We weren’t alone, though.”

 

“Morinth was there, or some approximation of her. She had Vyzelok’s reconstructed corpse under her control. I fought her...the details are a little fuzzy...but in the end she escaped and Vyzelok was pinned to the wall with Phyruss’ runesabers. We learned what Lazhio plans to do with the stones.”

 

“Then we cut Vyzelok’s throat. Phy’s hand was on mine when I ripped the blade through the skin. Phyruss never lets me carry my burdens alone if he can help it.”

 

“...but...so we got the stone! We were one step closer to a plan! Woo!”

 

“...theeeeen Uncle Cobrak and Faelenor had to go and get kidnapped, and Amalyn is in the infirmary recovering. Sooo...that’s the boss gone. Second in command gone. According to Uncle’s wishes, that puts me in charge of Borrowed Time.”

 

“I’ve been interim leader of Borrowed Time for a while now. A few weeks, at least. I’ve held my first meeting in the war room...I’ve been delegating tasks to as many trusted hands as I get. Thankfully, I haven’t had any shortage of those. Though uh, that’s also causing some problems.”

 

“So many people from Sanctuary are in our walls. I know it’s causing...uhm...a lot of tension. It’s like in the books my dad made me read about the influence of power. If an entity...like our company, if it- if it relies on outside sources for it’s defenses then it demonstrates weakness to our members. Makes them feel less secure, like- it destroys morale.”

 

“The problem is that we are weak. We’re missing our lead tactician, our commander. If we want them back, our best odds are throwing our lot in with Sanctuary and”- a laugh - “only one or two are here on orders from Julilee. The rest are here for the same reasons that are, like. The cornerstones of what makes up Borrowed Time. Cat has family here! She’s marrying my cousin Kreyen. Well, first cousin once removed, but that’s- uhm, kind of a mouthful so just cousin Krey is fine I think?”

 

“Anyway, so Cat is here compiling numbers for the defenses. Shokkra is here...cause of me and Julilee. I’m her best friend. She acted as my tactician before. Back during the first mission to take down Lazhio at the bordello. She’s the reason I have a plan at all when we go up against Lazhio again.”

 

“Now there’s a woman named Lady Bloodstone who is talking to Ophinnia about fel magic. Plus there’s Zanas...er, Lord Autumnvale? He’s come back, acting as her bodyguard.”

 

“Vathelan has a bodyguard too, because of Shokkra.”

Silence.

 

“So. I’ve been trained all my life to be a leader. That part isn’t actually so hard. I can handle the meetings, and I’ve got the trust of my company. There’s a lot of communication...I like listening to their ideas. I’m so lucky to have so many talented people who buoy me up. Without them...without my family, I’m nothing. I’m thankful every. day. that I have so much trust from so many people who are way passionate about their crafts and that they give me the privilege of directing them.”

 

“...but even with all that said...it’s not an easy job. I have to stay firm to my convictions while keeping an open mind to suggestions. It's a balance of being as available as I can while having the confidence to...to stick with the plan. No one needs a teetering leadership, and I don’t want to let them down, not any of them.”

 

Silence.

 

“I’ve not really been sleeping all that much. My brother worries I’m running myself into the ground, and he’s not alone in that concern. Mom is actually popping her head up every once in awhile to tell me to eat, which...yeah, that says a lot. It’s harder...to sleep. When I feel like I can be doing more.”

 

“...my uncle...not my real uncle. The closest...person I have to him. Uhm. His life depends on this working. Shan’do too. I’m making calls that are going to kill people no matter what I choose. This is the least I can do for them. This is all I can do.”

 

“Vathelan came to offer his help. Last I heard from him was months ago. I wasn’t even sure he remembered who I was? But then he was there at the door with this body guard. I mentioned that, right? He has a bodyguard because of Shokkra. Well,” a laugh “he did say he was good at making enemies and Shokkra is pretty easy to rile up. You can get on the wrong side of her in a heartbeat if you don’t get her or why she acts the way she does. I’m sure that there’s stuff even I don’t know about Shokkra that defines her or how she acts.”

 

“Anyway. So Vathelan comes and he offers his help. He quotes something I said to him, like...almost a year ago. That the...uhm. ‘The price of inaction is worse than the price of a mistake.’ Or something like that at least. It was one part of the conversation, but not all of it.”

 

Silence. A ‘glik’ of swallowed water.

 

“He calls me the hero. That I’m all these things he seems certain about...what, like...courageous, I think. Smart, brave, stuff like that. But it’s like he forgot the rest of what I had said being a hero meant to me. That being a hero is about luck and being put in a position to make difficult decisions and then a lot about the aftermath.”

“Those people who get the title ‘hero’...they coulda just as easily become the villain, or they are the villain in someone else’s book. It depends on which side you're on or who tells your story. The only person I’m accountable for at the end of the day is myself, and if I’ve done everything I could reasonably do to protect my family, then...I mean, I’m not gonna ask more out of myself.”

 

“...still. When you’re staring down at the end of an unpredictable tunnel and someone is there to tell you that you’re all the things you need to be in order to save everyone that you love and care about...?”

Silence.

“So. I’m not as big of an idiot as I used to be. I know that there’s this...person who has talked to me maybe a total of three times in the span of a year puts me on a pedestal. Maybe a year ago I wouldn’t have given it much thought, except I’ve had plenty of people in my life put me in that same spot on a high shelf and then I, uhm. I disappoint them when I don’t live up to their standards.”

“That’s. You know, okay by me. Now it is, anyway. I figure I have my own standard to live by, and as long as it’s enough to protect my family then I’m alright.”

“Looking back on that conversation between Vath and I...Erm. Hmmm. I’ve been trying to tear that apart ‘cause it bothers me so much! I just- uhm, recently learned to read the cues! You know, when someone is interested? Normally by the time I figure it out, it's already too late and the friendship is falling apart or changing and I don’t- uh, have a clue how to handle it. And I don’t think anything that Vath and I said between us made very much sense. Little to no sleep and a day between meals does that, I guess.”

“So, okay, I’m improving in reading people at least. Step two is a little more complicated, I guess. Handling that information afterwards, I mean. Be nice if I coulda practice it when the world wasn’t on fire, but that’s okay. I have a chance to try again and talk to him. To...erm. I guess clear up whatever confusion is between us and set some boundaries.”

 

“...the battle is still on the horizon. I still have so many assignments left to go through. New Sanctuary people filtering in, I need to put them somewhere. I’m sure I can talk to Shokkra and figure it out. I’ve talked long enough, I think.”

 

“End log.”

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