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Cerestal

The Thaw (Open)

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He noticed the rings as he said his farewells and left the camp.

The twin moons were out in full force tonight, so Cerestal didn't even need his night sight to see them. Rings in the snow, where the stunted plants had kept the snow at bay. The sounds of fire, feasting and energetic cubs dwindled behind him as he followed the small valley back home, wrapped in his furs. This was a corner of Winterspring few knew of and fewer ventured into.

Up ahead was a hunter - a sentry for the camp he had passed on his way in. Cerestal did the same routine again of stopping and trading a glance with the hunter. The night elf had it easy - his right eye glowed a dull orange instead of amber, which let anybody within twenty paces identify him without much trouble. When the sentry relaxed, he approached.

The sentry was scarcely more than an adolescent, as most of the Winterfall's fighting age male furbolgs were now. Most of the adults had been slaughtered with the rest of the tribe over the past decade. Naturally, they kept to far-flung alcoves like this now and trusted strangers even less than before. They only let Cerestal trade with them because they remembered him from before the demons came.

"Do you see those rings?" the night elf inquired in Ursine as he approached. The furbolg looked at him questioningly and he pointed at the circles on the valley floor.

"Those?" he asked blankly. "What are those?"

Cerestal balked at the young hunter. "The snowmelt rings! You've not seen those rings before?"

The bear shook his head. Cerestal guessed this one might be even younger than he thought.

"...never mind. Asha falah."

He set off home, leaving the furbolg to his vigil. He trekked through the inch or so of snow, the rings here and there more obvious now that he was aware of them. It was still early evening and he was eager as usual to get on with his night of training. He thought over the night ahead as he passed through the mouth of the valley and turned west toward home. What strength exercises he would do tonight, what combat practice, etc. His partner Meia was still away on duty so he was free to be nocturnal again.

He passed over a ridgeline and was interrupted by the sight of a small basin of water. Had that been there earlier? Of course it would have. He must not have noticed. On his way home, more signs availed themselves to him.

He wondered if it would happen this year.

He reached his cabin, ate and changed into his training armor (he had no real armor to call his own). When was the last time this had happened? Twenty-five years ago? He counted on his fingers. He was fairly sure the last one was twelve or thirteen years before the demons came. Before the orcs and humans and Everlook.

His poor math soon got the better of him and he gave up with a curse. He instead decided on a route for his evening run. He decided he would head far south to the gorge and check on it. He stepped back out feeling excited. Perhaps Winterspring would thaw this summer.

"Damn it." he muttered. "If it happens, Meia won't be here to see it."

(( I've been wanting to do this for a couple of years now, having Winterspring thaw out for a just-above-freezing summer. It's an entirely natural event and not magic/Old God related. Anybody who has an idea for a mini-plot is free to jump in and post away. Some changes to the landscape you can play around with will include:

The north will be a mixture of rocky outcrop and tundra while the south will become greener. More lakes and basins will appear, particularly Frostwhisper Gorge filling up. Kel'Theril melting, revealing that waterfall and a lot of greenery growing around it.

Two stories I'll be entertaining on my toons:

- New thorium nodes breathing life into the depleted area (and Everlook's economy) after years of overmining and on Winterfall territory. Everlook miners and mercs will clash with the furbolgs and Cerestal.

- Ancient Night elf ruins and other things lost to the snow re-emerging. My rogue Anavea will be combing the area for lost knowledge.

It'll refreeze around September-ish so there's plenty of time. And I'd rather not create a two-person story by myself over this, so if this draws no interest from anyone, I'll likely let it fade away to oblivion. ))

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As the days went on, the ice at Kel'theril became more and more treacherous, as the goblins at Everlook learned when a prospecting miner fell through early one morning. During the day the sheet broke up and at night reformed. The same pattern now occurred a hundred feet below in Frostwhisper Gorge, where several inches of water coated the floor. The snow became slushy during the day, particularly in the south, partly melting and refreezing over and over.

Cerestal had changed his sleep patterns to be up during the day again to see it. While these things weren't uncommon, particularly at the height of summer, it was too early to be overlooked. Today he was at Everlook, watching the bruisers train. He idly kicked at a patch of slushy snow, distracted by it.

"Hey!" he heard, rousing him from his distractions. "I ain't payin' ya to kick snow!"

"You're not paying me at all." the night elf replied. "And your recovery is too slow. Every swing you just threw could have a shortsword or smaller gutting you before you're ready again."

The bruiser grumbled something and the two combatants training began trading swings again. This was one of his hobbies when not training a few select pupils or training himself. That and offer advice with bodybuilding techniques. The goblins loved their beach bodies.

"Say." the night elf tried. "Have either of you two noticed the snow."

"I ain't got time to think about snow." the other bruiser huffed as he swung. "Time is money and I can't turn a profit looking at that crap all day."

Cerestal chuckled and left them to their training. Watching the bruisers was putting him in a fighting mood. Problem was, there was nobody his size and strength left to train with around here. Everlook was shrinking. Between the thorium drying up as well as the local game, many goblins had left for greener pastures. If the town up and died, Cerestal wouldn't miss them. Nobody here would.

He decided to head home. But about halfway toward the gate, he was stopped by yet another goblin.

"Hey you!" one moved to intercept Cerestal. "You been here long?"

"Who's asking?" he challenged.

"Woah, woah. I was just gonna ask is all, about the snow. Some people are saying its a hot summer ahead and all this'll melt."

"And?"

"Well I was askin', has this, y'know, happened before?"

Cerestal glanced at the sky.

"Sometimes."

"Oh, goodie. You think it'll melt then?"

"We'll find out, I guess." Cerestal stepped past the goblin and headed home. Once he cleared the walls, he ran. He'd run home, grab his training axe and smash his training dummy into oblivion again. He felt good, though spoiling for a fight.

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