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Grolish

The End of the Year...((Very open))

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((I have to give credit to Ashagga for starting this in the Grim boards. I thought it was such a great idea, I decided to start it here as well.))

Grolish sits alone atop a bluff in Mulgore using his gifts of Far Sight to observe his family home off in the distance. He sees his brother Altamar talking with his mother as she tends the half dozen boars roasting over an open fire. He can almost smell the aroma of his mother's roast boar. He knows that soon the entire family will gather to feast and celebrate the Winter's Vale...except for him.

He loves them dearly and wishes desperately that he could join them in their celebration, but he knows that he can not. Just being this close to them is risky. His rise to leadership within The Grim, and the methods he and The Grim use to eradicate the alliance filth from our lands has resulted in a number of powerful enemies. Should his family be known to his enemies, they would surely exact their revenge on them. He cannot allow this to happen. He cannot walk among them until the last of his enemies have fallen.

He wonders how his brother's Druidic training is progressing, and how his father fares in Thralls army. He notices an occasional hint of sadness in his mother's eyes as she scans the bluffs around their home. Perhaps she senses his presence...she always did have close ties with the Earthmother and the spirits.

He wills his thoughts through the spirits to his mother..."Yes mother, I am here. I am well and strong. Celebrate as if I were there."

He sees a smile, and a tear, form on his mother's face and he knows his message reached her.

He mounts his Frostwolf and rides off, knowing that many enemies stand between him and his family. They will not stand long.

((I submit a challenge: tell us about your character's holiday! Is (s)he alone? With friends or family? Does your character celebrate the festival? If so, how? Give us all an insight to your character's thoughts, feelings, and behavior!))

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She made a promise.

Vilmah made her way to the Rest In Peace with two books. One for her, and one in case Niethan would like something new. She thought he probably had never read any of the orcish tales that she'd been told as a child, and that it might make a nice surprise. Making her way to his room, she closed the door quietly behind her and set the books down on his bed. First things first, she decided.. she cleaned. She dusted, swept, and wiped the windows clear.

When the room was up to it's usual standard, she pulled off her boots and sat in his bed. Vilmah was wearing a pair of leather pants and a sweater, because Winterveil just didn't seem like the time for armor. She sat crosslegged, and opened her book.

"Kral'gosh And The Battle of Flaming Skull" was written boltly on the cover. Vilmah giggled, wondering if his ghost would appear, or if she would spend the holiday alone with her thoughts and prayers. Either way, she was happy inside. Someone loved her, and she loved him too. Even if he was dead, nothing would change the way she felt. Looking at the picture of an orc decapitating another inside of her book, she smiled and sighed. "My favorite bedtime story.."

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Laughter and voices rang through the inn in Brill as many forsaken enjoyed the holiday they had adopted upon inclusion into the horde.

Alcohol of all kinds flowed freely, almost too freely for the trio of orcs singing tavern songs by the bar and the pair of troll females dancing on top a nearby table. Attention was drawn to them accompanied by cheers as bits of plate and mail were flung off to the peril of those around them.

Thalevia herself simply sat with a glass of wine, absorbing the cheer around her, not interacting, simply observing. Her felhound lay beside her chair, growling at any who came near. A smile crossed her face as one young rogue stumbbled back, spilled his drink and found himself missing half a thigh as her demon struck in annoyance.

There would be no sadness or refections of memories lost on this night.

'I will enjoy the holiday.' she said to herself as she ran her fingers lightly over Maadom's head, causing him to growl contently. She smiled and raised her glass to a pair of young mages shooting her demon uneasy looks.

She rose and left, demon trotting close behind. Maybe she would bring some green and red to Goldshire in the shape of her infernal. It was afterall, a time for excitement and good cheer and bringing her own brand of holiday merriment to the fine inhabitents of that hovel would go far in bringing cheer. Everyone liked a little warmth during the holidays.

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Winterveil. She didn't know much about the holiday, but it seemed nice enough. Khiskiva had been escorted to some sort of Winterveil party days before, by Malakim no less. He promised not to hurt her, and she trusted him because deep down, she knew him. She remembered something of him, something that reminded her of home.

Tonight, though.. tonight she was in her new home. Deep within the Burning Steppes, curled up beside a fireplace that really didn't need to be there, the Sandfury wore a red linen outfit that didn't cover much, but made it fairly obvious that she was pregnant. It was, in fact, the outfit's intention. She put a hand over her growing belly, wondering how soon it would be. Trolls gestation periods were fairly short, by the standards of other creatures, and she was glad for it. All of that kicking and strange heat was becoming a pain to deal with.

But she was patient. She swore to keep her baby safe, even if it meant being bored. Luckilly for her, Sulajin would not let her be bored. As his legs grew back, so did his old self renew. She knew now that he loved her, that he had almost died for her. If people were supposed to exchange gifts this time of year, she supposed that was his to her.

Khiskiva smiled and thought of her gift to him. Unfortunately, she'd only be able to give it to him once the baby was born. She hoped he wouldn't mind.

"Camon, chil'," she whispered. "Dwonchoo tink issabout tahm swoon?"

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Once again the visage of the now Blasted Lands scarred the Warlock's eyes. There was no joyous fluff upon the ground as in Winterspring, Dun Morogh, or other such places. The Winter's Veil was not celebrated by the lonely dezens of these lands, Demons, Demon Worshipers, and Lost Ones. It had been ages since Lupen had visited this place again, ever since his previous visit with Diao... Suprisingly enough, the Warlock still failed to call a Doomguard to his command.

Lupen looked toward the sky, snow did not fall, only black ash. Lightning constantly struck the weakened and dead dirt below. Dreadsteed idling beside, not questioning, nor opposing, merely obeying. The Warlock's eyes narrowed, he squinted as the ash and sand obscured sight. There was no mistaking it, the Nether cannot lie, the nightmarish visions were yet true again... Outland will be the next for The Grim to conquer.

None of this seemed to phase the now Arch-Dread Mage... Runes had not been added to his body since his encounter with the Third Dark. The Rune of the Nether upon his palm began to glow faintly and faulter. Lupen knelt and reflected upon the passing year... It was impossible to believe, so much had gone by since his awakening... The Grim, Xoroth, Demonic Possession, Supression, The Third Dark, the Firelord, and now this... Now a new war is to be waged... New enemies, new allies... It mattered not.

Lupen eyed his surroundings, the stench of decay was clear in the air. Posessed vultures swooped overhead, swooping in and violently assaulting the necrotic bodice of a fallen Dwarf warrior. Lupen never felt pity, remorse, pain... But he could feel hatred, desire, true power. His mind became numb... The once violent mood swings Lupen had experienced were now all but erradicated. The concept of mood was soon to be dead to the Warlock. Dreadlords do not feel, they act, they are. Lupen became less mortal by the day, slipping into true power, while forsaking his comrades. It was too late, the choice was made, and he had no will to turn back.

Ash continued to fall from the heavens, for now, and forever.

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The rain fell in Elwynn Forest, just hard enough, that most creatures were safe and warm in their homes, be it animal or man. Not that many would be out today, as today was the celebration of Winter Veil. Food, dancing, presents, family, love... And yet, one lone figure with her Felhunter stood at the bank of the river that seperated the bright woods of Elwynn and the tainted dark trees of Duskwood.

The Dreadsteed held his Warlock rider quietly and with complete loyalty, yet tried to show a bit of dissatisfaction of having to stand in the pouring rain by pawing at the ground with his firey hooves and shaking his great head from time to time. Absentmindedly, his rider placed a slendar ivory hand against his neck and stroked him gently. "We'll leave soon..." the woman's voice whispered.

Khirsa gazed across the river at this unfamiliar Duskwood. From her actions the day before, when she had been rather unceremoniously dropped here in this strange new alternate land, so similar and yet to different from her own, it would be best if she stayed away from Darkshire for a while...the Night Watch guards would surely be looking for her. In the rain the gnarled trees and spider's webs looked even more menacing than they had before.

Closing her eyes, Khirsa could see her Duskwood and Darkshire in her mind. Bright and beautiful, it was the only place she made a pilgrimage to each year no matter where she was in the world. Every Winter Veil, she would return here and spend one night in the inn to drink and to spend time with her brother, who also made the journey each and every year.

But that was all changed. And now she knew that this Winter Veil started a new journey for her...either she found a way to go back to her own world...or she learned to live here in this new one for the rest of her days.

Reopening her eyes, she took one last look at the ghostly trees, before urging her Dreadsteed in the opposite direction, back towards Stormwind, Felhunter following obediently just behind. She would be strong, brave, and would never give up on her quest. Yet thoughts of being stuck in this place festered in the back of her mind and the rain ran down her face like tears...

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Some of the Grims had left for a while, to visit their families over Winter's Veil. Syreena had no family to go visit. The Grim was the only family she knew.

The little Forsaken sat on the bank roof in Orgrimmar, admiring the decorated tree and watching people come and go as they prepared for battle and conducted other business, including a snowball fight between two orcs and a troll. Bear, her worg pup, pawed at her leg. He stared intently at her as she took a bite of a tree shaped cookie. She grinned at him, broke off a small piece of the cookie, and offered him the larger piece. He swallowed it in one gulp. She handed the smaller piece up to Gilly, the parrot on her shoulder. Syreena smiled as the bird dropped crumbs on her leather tunic.

As her gaze returned to the decorated tree, she realized that it had been nearly a year since she had started her training. The time had gone by so quickly, and yet, at the same time, it seemed it must have been much longer for all that had happened in the span of such a short time.

In only a year, she had changed from a frightened girl to a well-trained killer. When once she had to carefully memorize every potion recipe she learned as she learned it, she now, thanks to Grolish's lessons, could read and write. A year ago, she had no family or friends or even acquaintances, and now she had The Grim. "You are Grim, through and through," someone had told her a few months ago. She took it as a compliment.

As she ate another cookie, ignoring Bear while he shifted position as if to get more comfortable, but obviously trying to get her attention, she pondered what the new year might bring. Rumors had spread about great changes coming to Azeroth. There was also that other mystery that she'd only told one person about. She expected it would be a very interesting year for her.

Syreena finished her cookie and looked down to make sure Bones was still standing where she left him. She jumped down from the roof onto the boney steed's back and turned him toward the Drag to carry her to the battlemasters. Gilly spread his wings and took to the air when she jumped.

"Come on, Bear. Let's go kill some Alliance."

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The wind whipped through the heights and chasms of the Thousand Needles, screaming the lives of the Spirits into being again. Yichimet listened to this voice, and the voices of the many Spirits, mumbling, wailing, talking through the air.

His owl was perched on his shoulder, preening itself, and Yichimet looked out over the landscape. On the horizon clouds gathered, big and gray, building up for a snowstorm. He made the trip to the Needles to talk with his elders often enough now that he did not miss the landscape so much when he left, but it was still food for his heart when he saw the stone and scrub of southern Kalimdor.

Much weighed on his mind at this, the end of the year. First, his own story, the loss of his teacher Hidua and his position as Sorcerer to his Tribe. But that was older, and he dealt with it often so the cracks it caused in his heart were healing swiftly. He worried for many of his friends now:

Mohan, who had been growing distant each day. Yichimet had visited the gravesite of Mohan's family and saw in his brother shu'halo's eyes an uncovered pain and rage; Yichimet was afraid his friend was lost, and would wander down a dark path.

And Ashagga, the young, scarred orc, one of the few who saw the world as he did: full of Spirits, full of life and death. Her promise to Chingaso before those very Spirits would be a problem, Yichimet knew it. Sometimes his own role in that ceremony made him think he felt the cold grip of something's hand at night. And what did this young orc have to do with that voice he heard weeks ago, a dead voice he thought long gone? That voice that had saved him in Darkshore at the pit of the Old God--why was she back?

Chingaso, too, would need to keep his eyes open. The hunter was good with his bow, and had keen eyes for the world, but what would trouble him would come from his Heart or beyond.

Syreena had confessed a secret to him, something he did not fault her. Ashagga had done so too, for fear of the Grim who would use its knowledge to their advantage. Syreena was the reason for his trip home to the elders' circle again, to ask their advice on her illness. Yichimet remembered the scales on Vuudu's skin and thought of the bony flesh under Syreena's armor.

His owl gave a soft hoot as Hidua's owl flew down to rest on a scrub brush beside them. Yichimet felt the three small items Magatha had given him to help Ashagga in a pouch under his cloak--another unsolved problem.

Yichimet remembered past Winter's Veils and the celebrations that went with them. Even now his tribe was readying a feast, but he would not join them. His new year would be filled with trouble, he felt deep in his bones, and he wanted no false starts. His friends needed him.

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Greyfang padded up to the top of the snowy bluff.

Atop him sat his master, Bloodscream. From here, he could see the dogs approach. He hoped they would be elves.

The scouts reported an alliance war band headed their way.

Bloodscream tucked the reigns under the saddle and drew his massive shield and sword. His blade burst into flame in the cool morning air.

He saw the first of them, a druid in jaguar form, an elf. He smiled.

Winter's Veil was about family Malstrom had told him before returning home. Malstrom had agreed and Bloodscream hoped his friend had not been vexed by his desire to be alone for the season.

Winter's Veil was about family.

Bloodscream remembered well the tale Malstrom's father told him, of the night he was found. ((See TN gazette, Origins, part I.))

Winter's Veil was about family.

His eyes narrowed, the druid was in striking range, his dozen friends a hundred yards behind. He knew the ragtag band of assembled Horde were waiting his charge. Soon they would all be in range.

Winter's Veil was about family.

Now.

He kicked Greyfang and the wolf, who'd been staring holes into the jaguar, launched itself forward. Bloodscream raised his flaming blade high and roared. The snowdrifts burst into a cloud of snow as Forsaken, Trolls, Taurens and Orcs, sprung their ambush.

Winter's Veil was about family.

The alliance looked up in horror as a barrage of magic and arrows slammed into their ranks. The Horde forces charged down the frozen hillside, at their head, vaulting from his wolf, Bloodscream roared his fury, his eyes wide, spittle flying.

He drove his blade deep into the druid as he shifted forms, screaming into the elf's face.

"YOU MISSED ONE!" He roared at the elf who understood nothing but his impending death.

Winter's Veil was about family.

Bloodscream spent the day drenched in sweat and blood, elven blood. It was the only present he had to give.

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Vironyal hadn't left his office all day. He was getting better at making up essays and profiles to send back to Silvermoon; he hadn't had an actual patient in weeks. But without results, he'd lose his funding. And the letters from the halfway home his brother was in didn't relent, demanding bills and debts be paid. From their reports, his brother was getting worse as the holidays approached. Refusing to eat, inviting unauthorized persons into the halfway home, skipping support group meetings, stealing money and mana potions...

Today, Vironyal was writing about a Tauren druid, alias Grasshoof, who never left his bear form. It was, as Vironyal's other reports were, based in truth; he had seen a Tauren druid-bear roaming around, ignored by the goblins and merchants of Ratchet. The bear seemed elderly, and depressed, but snarled any time anyone got near. So Vironyal constructed "Alias Grasshoof", and held imaginary sessions with him.

The good thing about his research was he had to respect his patients' privacy, and so didn't have to worry about being exposed as a fraud.

A fraud.

Vironyal frowned at the report on Grasshoof. He had never been a fraud before. He stood, pushing back his cheap wicker chair, and went out into the bright, muggy Ratchet air. To check his mail. See if any more bills had arrived.

There was a lot of mail from a suspicious-sounding syndicate that promised to give him lots of gold for no work, and a package from the halfway home. Vironyal took it back inside his office, and closed the door. It was a small package. He opened the brown paper with a letter opener, and took out the contents.

A letter, from the staff at the halfway home, wishing him a happy Winter's Veil, wondering what the weather was like there, and a warning not to send any mana-containing item to his brother. The bulk of the package was a carefully-wrapped gift from Thenyar, his addict brother. Vironyal tore the brightly colored paper off.

Into his hands fell a tiny stuffed doll, of an androgynous elf child. Its wrists and throat had been slashed open, and a note was pinned to its chest.

Plz come home.

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She sat in the Endless Dark, on the shores of a dark lake.

Celine looked up, at the stars, the galaxies, the great wonders that Rayeth had created, and felt alone. She looked down at her reflection in the water, tears dripping into the glassy lake. She had heard the scream, saw in a single horrifying moment the demonic flames took away from her the only thing she ever loved. She watched as the once lovley woman burned away into a cackling flaming banshee. She saw it wrap around the small little girl with the jade eyes and flame red hair....saw the little girl scream, crying out, "Mommy, why?!", before being consumed by the cackling flames. She felt the wrenching in her heart....and the emptiness that was left.

Her mind floated back to the words of the Locke the other day, "Nothing is kept here...it just chooses to be here." She pondered on it a moment, looking in her reflection.

Nothing is kept.....

She looked up as a wind started picking up, and as she reached up to a star, the wind caught her form, it blowing away to dust, spiraling into the night sky

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"That's what you get for not bringing me any presents!" said Kittsu, as she looked down at the lifeless form of Great Father Winter.

((And now I have a new sig. <3 Kittsu))

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Snow drifted gently past the figure in the Dun Morough hills, overlooking Kharanos. In the distance, the looming mountain of Ironforge cast an imposing shadow over the snow-covered valley below. The figure, wrapped tightly in a blowing cloak, watched with only mild interest as the gnomes and dwarves scurried about below, exchanging gifts and well-wishes.

Ashagga watched the young Alliance celebrating the season of happiness and togetherness and felt a pang of loneliness. She wanted to rush down from her vantage, draw her blades, and leave the younglings face down in their own blood and viscera, but she couldn't bring herself to move. In this time, even her most hated enemies deserved a few moments of celebration. In the end, what would it matter?

The season was one of happiness and joy throughout Azeroth, but for some individuals, it was one of regret and hindsight. So much had happened, so much had changed over the last year, Ashagga could hardly believe she was the same person. The orcling that had joined the Grim was gone. She had felt so jaded, so cynical when she became one of the Grim. She didn't know what cynical meant. She'd learned that lesson this last year.

Ashagga was alone. While young orcs and trolls were awaiting the coming of Greatfather Winter, Ashagga had long since outgrown such childish concepts. And yet, a part of her longed for her younger days. She had spent many cold winters with her mother in Orgrimmar, reading letters from her father, reading about how he missed them and would be home soon. All his letters said the same... "I miss you. I'll be home soon."

Her father was dead, murdered by elves in Ashenvale. Her mother was dead, taken by a sickness. Chingaso, the orc she loved, was spending the holiday in the arms of another woman, sworn by duty, and yet Ashagga did not doubt that he was not so terribly sorry. The other woman would make him a much better wife, and they all knew it.

She did not feel the urge to slay Alliance this holiday. The Valley was overrun, the Basin was losing ground daily, and the Gulch was a neverending see-saw of control, and yet, Ashagga could not care. The rest of the Grim would happily fight the Alliance. Ashagga would spend the holiday alone.

And yet, while she was regretful, while she was melancholy, she was not sad. It was more a lingering, omnipresent sense of opportunities missed. Rather than be crushed by their weight, Ashagga was determined to improve her lot over the next year. She was not sad to be alone. She was using the opportunity to meditate and consider her mistakes and to improve.

The end of the year only meant a chance to make the next that much better.

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The sun shone hot and humid on the little island, despite the season. It had a name, but one only the inhabitants would recognize. The settlement was small, but very old and so far off the beaten trail that they rarely saw any outsiders at all.

Malstrom could see the settlement from far off, over the waves. It was a long run, but it would be worth it, the waves surging under his feet, sending him home.

The packs on his back were loaded with the meat he had collected in Alterac Valley and cured himself. It would be a merry Winter's Veil this year.

At first no one recognized him. His time in the Grim had changed him so much. Not just the clothes, but his thirst for war. He forgot how peaceful island life was.

He smiled and dropped his packs. Then proceeded to peel off layer after layer of armor until he stood there as he had left, wearing just a loincloth.

His brother Tiktok was the first one to approach, and almost immediately started making fun of his uneven tan. Soon the rest of his family had piled around, then the village.

He presented the packs of meat to the village chieftain, who smiled as he took them. He felt like a returning hero.

When she found out he was Grim, his mother cried with pride and his father beamed. The Chief gave his entire family a place of honor for the feast. He felt good.

He told tales. Tales of the Molten Core and Zul Gurub. Of battling Ragnaros, and defeating Hakkar. Of the bravery of the Grim. Of those he met in the ranks. Of the heroes and legends he fought alongside. Of his best friend Bloodscream. All ears listened intently. Eyes wide. Disbelieving if not for the Grim tabard he wore.

He forgot how far they were from the world and for a time, he joined them. He laughed with his friends and loved with his family. A few of the village lasses also eagerly let him know what they thought of the Grim and in some ways, of the warmth that Winter's Veil brings to this part of the world.

Next year he would have to bring Bloodscream. Even if he refused to eat anything but the gnome.

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((Hm.. can't believe I didn't notice this when it was first put up.))

The lab seemed colder than usual as though the snowy land outside we bringing in its chill, though Jobolg knew this to be impossible. To him, the lab seemed to be filled with an overwhelming silence, all his machines but the one he currently tinkered with shut off, leaving only a soft hum and a dim grayish light pervading the room.

His fingers worked half-heartedly with the tools in his grip as his eyes stared off into a metal frame containing a single picture. Within it he stood at the docks of Ratchet beside a a female orc, his arm around her shoulders, and his imp on the wooden surface, pinned down by hers. He couldn't help but notice the broad, happy smile upon his own expression in the picture and how it contrasted with the reflection of his currently dejected grimace.

The device sparked at his touch, sending a burst of electricity through his arm, but he didn't even notice. He just stared at the photo, readjusted his tools and sighed. She had been smart; she had been witty, she had been funny; she had been caring and shy, and she had a more significant impact upon the gray orc than she probably ever knew. She had been the one orc he thought he cared for past his typical flirting, and she had also disappeared before he could truly find out how he felt. She simply vanished; stopped being around.

He felt something nudging against his hand as it dangled off the side of his chair. Slowly he averted his gaze from the image and stared down at the smiling, eyeless grin of his felhunter Rhuulum. The demon gave a sympathetic grunt and rubbed its nose against the orc's hand. Jobolg scritched at it softly, a smile slowly pulling back onto his lips. A new year was coming on. It was a time of renewal, and it wasn't the time to be caught in the past.

There were other fish in the sea, even for a codger like him.

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