Delirium

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She walked Semyaza out to the sands, and smiled as he departed.  Then she doubled back to complete Lord Felscythe’s request.  She was last to leave, after all.

She took the long way home.

When she arrived she did not enter through the front door.  She went instead around the house, out through the back, down the trail to the lonely structure that was her personal sanctum.  All the way she barely heard her feet on the cobbles and the dirt paths, so near was she to floating.

She entered.  She closed the door.  She knelt, and opened her bag, and withdrew the candles, slamming them with uncanny precision into the silver holders still bejeweled with spent wax.  She lit them all with a wave of her hand, summoning the flames higher with a conductor’s flair, and she smiled, and she set to work.

 

Hours later Westel was startled awake by something – someone – landing atop him as he slept.  Slender hands seized his nightshirt and hauled him to sitting, even as his legs were pinned.  He opened his mouth but before he could cry out her lips were on his, kissing him so fiercely he thought her teeth might cut him.  She shoved him back hard onto the bed, and for all his blinking all he could see was her silhouette in the moonlight, her fel eyes blazing and the faint outline of a mad grin on her face.

I’ve got the bitch,” she hissed gleefully.

Then Astoreth fell over, and passed out.

[OOC] Milestone

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March 29, 2009.  My friend K heard that I’d bought a new computer, and completely unsolicited came by with a new game for me.  We sat on the bed together (the room was too small to allow for a proper chair before the desk) and chatted while it installed, and then she looked over my shoulder while I logged in for the first time and pondered what kind of character to make.  There were a LOT of options, and they all seemed good!  K helped by directing me to a server and eliminating half the race options (“All of these guys are on the same team as my characters; you should pick one of them so we can play together”) but I still had trouble making a final selection.  “Even in a video game, I feel like I have to know who my character is and what her motivation is, you know?” I told her, skipping through the slides.

“Well,” she said, “why not just remake your character from A’s World of Darkness game?”

This was the best idea ever.

Given that I had a faction, race and class were quickly clear, and after a little fiddling with hair and skintone I was happy.  Her name was available — I’d find out later how unusual that was.  I clicked okay and waited for the screen to load.  “Oh, I should warn you,” K mentioned, almost as an afterthought.  “You’re playing a female blood elf on Moon Guard.  Guys are going to hit on you.”

I kinda laughed, as my new little blood elf appeared on the screen next to another elf with yellow punctuation over her head.  A male blood elf appeared a second later, and as K was still explaining how the controls worked I got my first whisper.

“Hey baby,” said the new elf next to mine.  “Nice hair.”

*****

March 29, 2014.  Today marks five years since Astoreth and I first set foot in Azeroth.  She was my first character and is still my main.  I’ve been actively roleplaying her for four and a half years, making her one of my longest-lasting RP characters in any medium (longer than her WoD incarnation — who she’s no longer much like at all — and shorter than only a particular werewolf and the D&D paladin who inspired Ast’s sister).  We’ve each made a lot of friends, and a few enemies, and found a couple of people we can’t quite make up our minds about. She’s faced down the Lich King and Deathwing and Garrosh Hellscream, and I’ve gone from sucking at warlock to not sucking to sucking again.  I’m still proud that I was able to beat Thyrinar when he was hard (and he was hard for ‘locks; eff mages), even if I had to mad overgear Kanrethad to even squeak by.

I don’t know where we’re going in future, or if I’ll still be playing her in another five.  It’s weird to think about that, because I don’t feel like I’m at the end of her story… but I’m pretty impressed we made it this far.  Soon I’ll be making my 100th character post on Dark Intent, and I’m pretty proud of that too… well, I will be when I finally get it done.

When I started writing I thought “And here’s where I’ll list everyone who I’ve really enjoyed playing with the last five years” but I hit seventy people and realized I was going to miss a bunch and feel bad about that no matter what I did so please, just know that if we’ve roleplayed or raided together or mutually stalked each others’ blogs or admired each other once from across the Shrine that I appreciate you.  And if you’re new here today I look forward to getting to know you better.

Thanks for sticking around.

Chaperones

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No one in the bright ballroom noticed the two slim shadows slipping out the side door to the gardens, despite the giggling and shushing that accompanied their escape.  Down the short path they went to the small orchard at the edge of the estate, where the night air was warm, the lights from the party became dim in the distance and the music provided only the faintest backdrop for their whispering.  Still snickering nervously, the taller of the two elven shadows pressed the smaller up against an apple tree, and for a moment the sounds of giggling gave way to silence enhanced by the chirping of crickets and a faraway waltz.

“Are you sure about this?” the boy asked breathlessly when the kiss was finally broken.  “You’re sure your father won’t be angry?”

“Oh, he’ll be livid if he finds out,” the girl replied bluntly, stifling another giggle.  “My mother moreso.  But they’re not going to find out.  Kiss me.”

The boy readily complied, and this time did something with his hand that elicited a small gasp from his companion.  He paused at that, his long ears flickering.  “Are you all right?”

“Yes,” she replied quickly.  “Do that again.”

He nuzzled her forehead softly with his as his hands played around her waist.  “You’re certain no one will find out?”

Positive,” she insisted.  “Mother is playing hostess, Father is playing politics – no one was paying attention to us, no one saw us leave, and we’ll be back before anyone knows we were gone – but only if we hurry!”

“I don’t want to hurry,” he grinned, bringing his lips close to hers again.

She chuckled, pulling him close eagerly.  “Just quit wasting time worrying about my father.”

“Agreed,” came a deeper voice. “Her father’s not the one you need to worry about.”

The boy snapped his head up at the sound, and in the next second a flaming arrow zipped past his nose to take root in the tree inches from his young lady’s head, and they both screamed and scrambled away.  The arrow’s flame died out quickly, but not before its light illuminated its distinctive fletching, as well as two forms in the nearby trees, with two more arrows trained on the young would-be Casanova.  Even after the light was gone, two pairs of faintly glowing blue eyes could be seen among the leaves, and one set briefly jerked up and away towards the manor house where the party carried on.  “Go on, son,” came the voice again.  “Get out of here now, and we pretend nothing happened.  Deal?”

The boy puffed up his chest.  “If you think I’m leaving Astoreth out here alone–“

“She’s not alone,” said the other shadow.  “She’s going to have a nice chat with her brothers.  Right, Asty?”

The girl folded her arms and glared.  “You’re both jerks.”

One of the arrows nodded, catching a bit of moonlight.  “Looks like your boyfriend’s belt needs adjusting, Asty.  Better tell him to scram before we punch a few more holes in it for him.”

The boy paled, and Astoreth sighed.  “You’d better go,” she told the boy, and despite his earlier bravado she didn’t have to ask him twice.

Once he was well on his way the two forms unstrung their arrows, dropped from their trees and strolled over to her with equal strides and matching expressions of smug self-satisfaction on their near-identical faces.  “You’re both jerks,” Astoreth told them again.  “You could have shot me.”

“No we couldn’t,” said the twin on the right.  “And we wouldn’t.  Have a little faith!  We just wanted the boy to know we meant business.”

“We’re just looking out for our little sis, sis,” the left one grinned.

“You are not!” she snapped at them.  “You just enjoy tormenting me.  Rioghan was looking out for me; he’s the one who told mother Balor Redgaze was here to get her out of my hair.”

“Of course Rioghan is looking out for you,” said the right twin with a chuckle.  “Who do you think told us you were out here?”

Astoreth scowled.  The left-hand brother grinned again, and poked at the skirt of her gown with the tip of his longbow.  “Nice dress,” he said.  “Looks like something Lady Burnhart would wear.  No wonder that boy was drooling all over it.  I’m shocked Mother allowed it.”

“Mother had nothing to do with it,” Astoreth said shortly, yanking her skirts away.  “I made it myself.  And I like it, so you can fuck off, Beirgin.”

“Language, young lady,” Beirgin replied, wagging his finger, and then he heaved a sigh.  “Well!  Our work is done here, Carragan.  And I do believe I still owe Elliani Larkspur a turn on the dance floor.”  He turned, taking step back towards the manor, and stopped to glance back at his brother.  “Coming?”

“In a minute,” Carragan replied, his eyes still on Astoreth.  “I need to talk to our sister.”

Beirgin shrugged and started to walk back towards the house.  Astoreth scowled and folded her arms, waiting.  Her brother looked her over, and pursed his lips.

“You really made that yourself?” Carragan asked, and Astoreth nodded.  “It looks… nice,” he said.  “Really nice.”  He frowned a bit, to match her expression.  “You’re… growing up, I guess.”

“You just noticed?” Astoreth sneered.

“Yeah,” he said.  “Yeah, I guess I just did.”  He sniffed.  “So, uh… that boy.  First?”

Astoreth nodded, still flustered.  “And probably last,” she grumbled.

Carragan smirked.  “There will be others,” he told her gently.

“Last from him, anyway.”

He nodded.  “It better be the last.  At least until he breaks up with the two other girls he’s dating.”  Astoreth blinked at her brother, and he raised an eyebrow back at her.  “What?” he asked innocently.  “We told you we were looking out for you.”

Astoreth frowned, and started toward the house.  “You’re still jerks,” she grumbled as she strode past her brother.

“Beirgin’s the jerk,” Carragan replied cheerfully, falling into step behind her.  “I, on the other hand, am charming and witty, and always have my little sister’s best interests at heart.”

“You are the biggest jerk, Carragan Duskflame.”

“And proud of it.”

 

Figures

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“So what you’re telling me,” Astoreth said very slowly, “is that I’m broke.”

Balthamlazar blinked at the woman across the table from him. “No,” he said incredulously. “No. I’m not saying that at all. You’re rich as Croesus, woman.”

She frowned. “What’s a Croesus?”

He sighed and rubbed at his temple. “It’s not a what, it’s a who. Croesus is a figure in — no, you know what, never mind. The point is that with the current trends in the raw netherweave and windwool supplies we’re able to buy up stock at amazing discounts — and with demand still high, if we could just find a way to increase production you could quadruple your investment by the end of the fiscal year and with all due respect how the hell did you get ‘I’m going broke’ out of this?”

“I just don’t get it, Balth.” Astoreth continued to frown as she peered over her financial advisor’s charts. Slowly she reached out and turned one around so that she could read it easier, only to find that it made even less sense. “Red ink is negative, isn’t it?”

“I do everything in red ink,” Balth huffed, snatching his chart back from her. “For one thing –” He cut off and winced. “Fel take it all,” he muttered, rubbing his forehead.

Astoreth watched him for a long moment. “They’re getting more frequent, aren’t they?” she asked softly. He nodded. “Do you know the source yet?”

“No,” he grumbled, sighing as the pain began to abate. “I’m probably dying.”

She smirked. “You’re not dying.”

“No,” he admitted. “I’m not. But I think the other option is that I’m getting it all back, and I’m not ready to think about that.”

Astoreth watched him. “You don’t want your memories back?”

Balth sighed. “Of course I want them back, Lady Astoreth. I want my life back — or at least, I want to know what it was, so I can know if I want it back. Could you imagine living day to day with no recollection of who you were before five years ago, beyond your own name? Did I have a lover – a spouse? Children?   Was I an accountant then as well, or something else? Something greater? Something lesser?”  He frowned, taking his pen and drawing small, precise figures in the margin of one of the charts. “But when I start thinking too much about that… eventually it becomes too much. Better to focus on the here and now.” Balth looked back up and forced a smile for his employer, which she returned. “So. I shall assume I am dying until I find otherwise, and if it turns out that my memories are returning then I shall be pleasantly surprised.”

She smiled back at him, warmly.  “You know, if you need anything…”

He shook his head.  “You’ve been more than generous.  I still owe you for taking me in and giving me a job in the first place.  I really don’t know how I’ll ever repay you.”

“Well, if your boss would only give you a raise…” Astoreth teased, and he grinned back at her.  “Seriously, though, I was glad to do it then, and I’m glad I did it now.  You’ve proven a good investment.”  She rose and patted the man’s shoulder.  “I’m afraid I’ve other business to attend to.  But thank you for bringing these by.  It’s been an informative afternoon.”

Balth frowned as he rose as well, gathering up his charts.  “But what plans should I make regarding the textile markets…?”

Astoreth waved a hand.  “Do what you think is best.  You’ve a wicked sense for business, Balth, and I trust your judgment.”

She walked with him to the door, and saw him out.  Balthamlazar waved as he walked down the path away from the house, and she nodded back with a friendly smile.

As soon as he rounded the corner, however, she frowned, and opened her hand to glare at the pair of long hairs she’d palmed from her accountant as he sat at her table.  “Remembering.  Of course he’s remembering,” she cursed as she swept off towards her sanctum.  “Damn it all.  This day could not possibly get worse.”

If At First You Don’t Succeed

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Dear Lady Sorrelon,

I hope this letter finds you well.  I realized just this morning that it has been nearly a year since we met, and thus far I have utterly failed in my intentions to establish and maintain friendly contact.  I write today in hopes of correcting this travesty… or at least taking the first steps.

Westel is well; healthy and stubborn as ever.  He has overcome most of the wounds he suffered last year and returned to his previous post with the Farstriders, where he appears to be most content.  Some wounds of course will be longer in healing than others, as I know you well know… but he is strong, and I have faith in him.  He has never let me down.

Our eldest daughter Anais is growing tall and willowy like her father, with the same eyes and smile.  She gets high marks in school and is quite the athlete.  It is difficult to keep her from climbing every tree on the property!  I imagine that Westel must have been much the same when he was young.  Yet for all her recklessness, she is very responsible, and always looking out for her little sister.

Our little boys are also healthy and strong, and growing bigger every day.  It seems so strange – I only learned Westel and I were expecting a few days after my visit to you, and as I write this they are both squirming in their little crib and chattering away.  Kieran succeeded in rolling over for the first time yesterday, and I believe Atheran cannot be far behind. 

I would be delighted for you to meet them – all of them.  I know such things are easier said than done, Lady Sorrelon, and this time of year may be difficult for such outings… but if you would care to select a Saturday in March, I should be honored to have you to our home in Eversong for lunch.  Perhaps Hadrian could accompany you; he is a bright young man, and I would be interested to hear how his studies have progressed since last we spoke.  Of course, if no Saturday suits, a Sunday would do just as well.

I look forward eagerly to your affirmative reply. 

Your most sincere daughter-in-law,

Astoreth Duskflame

Hubris and Haste

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A. –

Hubris is the downfall of every bad warlock.  Most of the good ones, as well.

You claimed to come to the circle seeking a teacher.  And yet I must say that from where I stood, you seemed utterly uninterested in learning.  You did not listen before speaking up, you did not observe and analyze before throwing yourself into the middle of the fray.  You jumped on the first opportunity which presented itself, ignoring the interest of others.  You closed your eyes to the behavior of the rest of the group, and closed your ears to their mutters – and then you sought to blame the group for your poor choice, choosing instead of discussing the matter further to merely stalk away and let those who wished a student chase you.  None of these are behaviors desirable in an apprentice – and the attitude is deplorable, besides.

Let me make something clear, darling: even if you had not told us that you were new to the Art, it would have been apparent.  You need the wisdom of the circle – and you need it far more than the circle needs you.  There is no shame in this; it is true of us all.  But recognizing this truth is essential to growing past it.

My advice to you is to decline the goblin’s offer – unless you fancy being the fuel for his next explosive experiment.  Ask Z. what that was like when you return to the circle next week.  For I do advise you to return to the circle – and to listen, and to learn.  From all of us.  And then, after you have listened to each in the circle, and formed your own opinions of our skills and intellects and ethics, approach the one or two you admire most and ask them personally to take you on, instead of merely casting out a line and seeing what manner of trash bites.

You never did answer my question, regarding what drew you to the Art.  I wonder if the response you would have given might have changed the response you received?

I expect to see you next week.

- A.D.F.

Bizarre Love Triangle

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I don’t even have to ask why you left a note instead of telling me directly.  Some things are easier in writing.  Some things are easier when you know you won’t have to face a direct response, even from someone you love.  Sometimes especially from someone you love.

It’s hard, Westel.  For once – possibly the first time since we have started on this journey together – I finally understand what you feel when you ask me why you cannot be enough for me.  And I understand the pain of being told that you are enough, that your lover… just wants this other too.  Don’t be hurt.  Don’t take it personally.  How can one not?  It may sound odd that these feelings are so new to me – of course my lovers have had other lovers before; sometimes for good, some for ill – but strange as it sounds, this is perhaps the first time I’ve actually felt the pain of being the other woman.  The one being left behind. 

I believe you when you say you love me most – we have a family and a life together, after all, and she cannot give you what I do.  But try as I do, I cannot give you what she does either.  And through all this, I have no right nor place to complain – she was there first, after all.  And even if she is not your truest love today, she will never be far from your mind nor your heart.

I don’t mind that you go hunting, Westel.  I understand that you need time to yourself.  I do not worry or fear when you seek the peace of the forest.  What I mind is the way you pack angrily at three am, when you shove your clothing into that bag you never let me patch so hard I expect you will punch right through.  I worry when you are snarling and growling as you prepare to depart.  I am shamed and hurt when you remind me that I am the reason you are leaving – me and my cities, and my finery, and my vocation, and my friends, and my choices.  And perhaps I deserve at least a fraction of that shame.  I believe you when you tell me you love me; I can do naught but trust you when you tell me of your intentions to return when the fire in your blood has cooled.  But it does not lessen my fear that when you find that peace, you will not want to return to the whirlwind of strife that is your life with me. 

It is such a strange position I find myself in.  Were your mistress a woman I should have no fear at all; there is none on Azeroth whom I could not outshine, outwit and outmatch.  But I cannot be trees and deer and crickets in the night; I cannot be green ferns and cool rivers and great boulders by the falls. Please understand that I do not begrudge the love you hold for your other Lady and I would not come between you.  When you seek her in happy times it bothers me not at all – I am happy for you, in fact, and content to busy myself with other matters until your return.  But when you run to her to escape from me… how can I be content with this? How can I expect that you will not one day chose she who brings you peace over she who brings you pain?  I trust that you are truthful when you say that the joy I bring you outweighs the sorrow.  But these words are a fragile lifeline when you are cursing the four walls that form our home.

And yet, when all is said and done… Westel, I don’t know if you know how much peace you bring me.  I don’t know if it matters.  I try to bring you the same… but in the end I know I cannot do for you what the earth and air of Ashenvale can do.  And I love you.  And so I let you go.  And I trust you will return.  Love means letting go, is that not what they say?

…well.  Maybe I won’t entirely let you go.  But I will learn to live with your Lady.  Perhaps not directly in her trees and meadows… but with her, nonetheless.  Alongside her.  I will try to remember, when you fly to her in anger, that I have nothing to fear from her, any more than I do from you.  That you love us both.  And that no matter how often you run to her, you will always come home to me.

I love you, Westel.  Come home soon.

A Moment’s Peace

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As much as Astoreth enjoyed the rainy climate of the Jade Forest, her two little girls did not.  All morning Laurelia and Anais had sat with noses pressed against the living room window, occasionally sighing forlornly and asking again if they could please please pretty please go outside even for a minute, before flopping back with dramatic moans when the answer once again turned out to be no.  Just before eleven the drizzle finally stopped, and the girls’ hopes brightened like the sun as it began filtering through the leaves, only to be dashed again by their mother’s insistence that they eat lunch before venturing outside.

With lunch finished at a record pace, Astoreth finally relented and sent the girls to go put on their boots while she dressed Kieran and Atheran for their first venture outside the home.  She was really itching for a trip to the Shrine, but Anetho’s warning about the recent incursion of Kor’kron there still rang in her ears, so a brief sojourn in the late morning sun and rain-fresh air would have to do for now.  Although Astoreth doubted they could legally do anything to her in Pandaria, she was not at all confident that they’d let a little thing like legality stop them, and she had zero interest in finding out.

“Can I carry one of the babies?” Anais asked.  She’d already held each of them a dozen times – with her parents’ help, of course – and was quite enamored of her new brothers.

Astoreth shook her head as she finished tying off Atheran’s tiny hat and placed him in his carrier next to his brother.  “Not today, love.  I need you to hold Laurelia’s hand.”

The path to the little brook near their house was mostly dry by the time mother and children set out, Laurelia and Anais running excitedly ahead, Astoreth moving more slowly lest she slip on a still-damp cobble with her precious cargo.  Transporting two infants at once even for short distances presented something of a logistical quandary, but as Westel was currently away arranging the family’s move back to Quel’thalas she was on her own.  By the time she caught up to the girls they were already perched on one of their favorite rocks overlooking a small pool, giggling and pointing at the carp swimming around in the clear water.  “Careful, darlings!” Astoreth called.  “I don’t want to have to fish you two out of there.”

Astoreth spread out a blanket on the grass, then took her twins out of their little carrier and laid them down on it.  Both boys looked around in silent baby wonder.  “Welcome to the forest, little ones,” Astoreth cooed at them, brushing her fingers over Kieran’s shock of impossibly fine black hair.  “It’s your father’s favorite place, so trust me, you’ll be seeing a lot of it.”

“Mom, me an’ Lala are gonna go pick some flowers!” Anais called.

“Okay, dear,” Astoreth yawned back, stretching out on the blanket by the boys.  Gods, that sun felt good.  “Don’t go too far.”

“We won’t!” both girls chimed back.

This is bliss, Astoreth thought idly.  If Westel were here, this would be perfect.  Despite all the war and turmoil elsewhere in the world… here it’s just us.  A peaceful glade, a warm afternoon, my children’s laughter – my own little sanctuary.  Perfect.  She curled up around the boys, cradling them gently, and idly wondered if they might let her catch a quick nap.

A sharp crack of thunder rent the sky, and Astoreth’s eyes snapped open.  Immediately she looked to where she had last seen the little girls going – there they both stood, eyes wide and staring at the western horizon.  She turned to follow their gaze… but instead of the darkening sky she expected to herald the return of the morning’s rain, Astoreth saw a pillar of pitch black and blinding white something rising from behind the distant mountains to the sky.  Both boys abruptly let out wails of surprise and unhappiness, and with a sudden horror Astoreth realized she had seen that type of energy before – and now it seemed to be spreading in a canopy over where she knew the Vale of Eternal Blossoms to be.  Where Hellscream was supposed to be.

We waited too long.

“Mom?” Anais asked in a small voice, and Laurelia started to cry as well.  “Mommy Ast?  What’s that?”

“I don’t know,” Astoreth lied, scooping up the babies in both arms.  “Take Lala’s hand.  We need to get out of here.”

Projects and Protégés

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For all that Westel decries my tendency to pick up promising ‘projects’ and give them a boost, it seems that he has no less a generous spirit.  Granted that young Avelryn was a bit more polished and put-together than darling Kuvasei when we met, but his need was not much less, and despite his gruff demeanor regarding the situation I noticed that Westel did not hesitate to provide for the young man.

So many projects.  Kuvasei and I have been discussing school, lately, and I think if she can be released from her contract with the Farstriders (even on a temporary basis) it might be the best thing for her.  Then there’s the outstanding invitation to have Ashien for dinner, which must be followed up on… and I must do something about Westel’s estrangement from his blood nephew and niece as well.  Hadrian at least is a very intelligent young man, and it would do well for him to be reacquainted with his only remaining uncle.

One thing at a time, Astoreth.  One at a time.

[OOC] Note to new followers

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Dear darling people,

Please know that like a cold starving puppy I am grateful for every scrap of love and attention that gets shown to me.  But I feel like I should let you know, all you lovely tens of people who’ve followed me in the last half-hour, that if you picked up on my “art” or “character art” tags and think you’ve found a new source of pretty pictures here you are most likely going to be terribly disappointed, and you should really go follow http://tennine.tumblr.com or another worthy art blog instead.

However if your interests include passably mediocre fanfiction about magical elves and the telenovela-worthy drama of their personal lives, WELL! I am glad to have you.

Much love,
“Astoreth”

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