Monday, February 3, 2014

Writing Challenge: Garrosh's Trial

 
Written for the fanfiction Challenge on 2/3/2014, posted by CM Nethaera. The prompt was to write about your character being present at the trial for Garrosh Hellscream. My response was originally posted here: http://us.battle.net/wow/en/forum/topic/11581188323?page=1#9

If these prompts become a regular thing, I may try to participate as much as I can. Practice makes perfect, even for writing!

If any of you post something for this, or future challenges, let me know! I'd love to read your responses as well. ^^

Enjoy!



The scene was an intimidating one. Cerylia Dawnwing had to admit, despite all she had seen in her life, being in the presence of so many powerful individuals, leaders and heroes and adversaries alike… it was enough to make her feel like a little girl again. Vague flashbacks of hiding behind her father as she attended magus meetings with him in Silvermoon came to mind, though the scenario now was certainly not the same. 

No… rather than a simple meeting, this was to be a trial. And not just any trial involving a common criminal. This was the trial of Garrosh Hellscream. The former warchief of the Horde who had committed numerous atrocities against not only the Alliance, but his own supposed “allies” in the Horde and everyone else who got in his way—which included the Pandarian populace. Cerylia’s fel-green eyes narrowed as she stepped closer to the edge of the balcony, peering down at the scene below her. She had been granted a seat in the gallery of Garrosh’s trial and she wanted to take it all in. 

The leaders of both the Horde and Alliance were assembled, as expected. A number of the Shado-Pan were there as well. Cerylia caught a glimpse of Taran Zhu as he spoke quietly to the two burly Pandaren on either side of Garrosh. Powerful as the orc might be, he wouldn’t be escaping his bodyguards anytime soon. 

Good, she thought, with more than a touch of grim satisfaction. Feel helpless as those around you discuss your fate. That weakness you hated so much… I hope you drown in it now.

Cerylia always thought she was not given to fits of vengeance and hatred. While other sin’dorei reveled in it in the wake of Quel’Thalas’s destruction years ago, Cerylia clung to a beautiful hope of peace. That maybe one day, there would be no more pain. No war. The world would surely see that she and her people just wanted to live like everyone else did. And how could that be wrong? It wasn’t. It couldn’t be.

But no, she thought, glaring down at the brown-skinned orc. There was no room for peace in your world. You wanted to burn our world and everyone with it. You in a long line of betrayers. To you, our sin was existing. And so you threw us under the wheels of your war machine and laughed. 

Her anger wasn’t confined to Garrosh, though. Cerylia’s sharp gaze flickered briefly to a slender figure hidden just behind Varian Wrynn, seeming dwarfed by the human king’s intimidating stature. The shock of white hair made it clear who she was—Jaina Proudmoore, former leader of a ruined Theramore, and now leader of the Kirin Tor. Perhaps in months past Cerylia would have sympathized with the mage, for she had been horrified by news of the mana bomb also. But after what she did in Dalaran…

Watch the path you tread, Lady Proudmoore, Cerylia thought coldly, digging her nails into the wooden railing before her. For it is the same as the one my prince walked years ago. The same that your precious Arthas chose. Shall we meet in battle the same way as we did Garrosh, I wonder? Will the history books mourn such a paragon of peace and her fall to vengeance?
 
Perhaps Garrosh really had brought out the worst in everyone. 

Cerylia sucked in a deep breath and held it, briefly. She could feel her heart pounding in her chest and realized it was wreathed in hatred too. She remembered the sha and she shuddered. Even if these war crimes were punished, it would not save the survivors. 

Garrosh suddenly shifted his gaze, lifting his head towards her as if noticing the blood elf for the first time. Their eyes met, but Cerylia did not look away from the orc she once called warchief.

It’s too late to apologize, and it’s too late to forgive.

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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Smile


Also can be read on fanfiction.net. Please leave a review if you check it out!

A bit of a short story in honor of WoW's patch 5.4: Siege of Orgrimmar!

Minor spoilers ahead if you have not already seen up to at least the second boss fight of Siege of Orgrimmar (not to mention you may not understand the story's significance). But nothing too terrible, I think.

A bit of background: Cerylia is the only character I ever was able to do the full Golden Lotus storyline with before most of the quests were removed with the patch. Because of this, she—and I—have an emotional attachment to the members of the Golden Lotus, and thus this story is a tribute to them and the wonderful story experience this expansion has given me so far.

Please enjoy!



Rogues were typically known to be silent and deadly. Cerylia Dawnwing had never took that to be literal, though, until she first met He Softfoot of the Golden Lotus.

She had to look up to see him—not unexpected, as his large Pandaren frame dwarfed her tiny sin'dorei self. At first she expected him to speak, in the typical deep, friendly tone most male Pandaren possessed, but he only smiled politely and bowed. At her side, his brother Lao Softfoot explained. "Oh. He does not talk. But that's all right, isn't it? You don't need words to get things done."

Cerylia came to understand this meant He was mute. She, at first, thought he was just a quiet person, but through all the deciphering of his pictures and hand gestures, she realized he really couldn't talk. But as Lao said, that was all right. Unlike the loud, inelegant Lao who was skilled in battle but made for a most un-stealthy rogue, He moved like water through enemies. They never noticed this giant bear tiptoeing amongst them until he put a dagger in their ribs, and even then they might not notice before they died. Even Cerylia, small and graceful and accustomed to sneaking around as she tracked her quarry, felt clumsy at times beside the rogue. But He always smiled at her, and she took that to mean he thought she was doing a good job.

Cerylia liked the Golden Lotus. They were dedicated Pandaren, devoted to protecting the Vale of Eternal Blossoms, and so she devoted herself to helping them whenever she could. Whether it was shooting down several mogu, or retrieving supplies, or saving those who had been captured, she did her best to show her respect for their efforts. In a land where outsiders had dragged the inhabitants into a messy conflict, she wanted to show that she was sorry for all the commotion, and understood their pain. Quel'Thalas had been peaceful and idyllic too, until Arthas had dragged his Scourge in and ruined everything. She understood this helpless feeling as well as the Pandaren did.

Yet the Golden Lotus never complained. They never muttered about the Horde or Alliance behind their backs, although they would firmly remind those getting too aggressive that there would be no fighting in their presence. They never made snide remarks to Cerylia as she asked questions, though it was probably something Cerylia would have done were their positions reversed. And most importantly, they never made her feel like she wasn't welcome among them. The opposite, in fact. Every time Cerylia showed up at the Golden Pagoda for another day of work, she felt like she was being welcomed by family.

He Softfoot never spoke to her, but it was in his subtle actions that she came to understand him. And every interaction they had made her like him all the more. When they had investigated the Guo-Lai Halls together, a mogu statue had suddenly seized He by the throat, attempting to crush the life from him. Cerylia had screamed loud enough to make him stare at her, wincing in pain but genuinely looking surprised to see her fighting tooth and nail to free him. Afterwards, when he rescued her from a mogu cage, he had not pulled away when she touched his throat gently, checking to see if he was injured. His grateful smile seemed to convey everything, and she liked it better than words.

From that point forward, He always looked a little worried himself when he sent her to slay saurok, or fog beasts, or mogu scouts. When she returned he would look her over carefully, shake his head when he saw any fresh blood on her, then touch her dainty shoulder with a paw before pointing in the direction of the Pagoda.

"All right, all right," she laughed, gently batting his paw away. "I will go to see Sun and get healed. Don't worry, I'm not that delicate."

You look delicate to me, his crinkled brow seemed to say, and she would giggle as she went off.

Then she remembered the time Lao had been captured. Leven Dawnblade had rolled his eyes and remarked that he really was a lousy rogue sometimes, trying to make light of the situation, but Cerylia had glanced briefly at He and saw a sad frown on his face. It was so adorably sad—like some bear who wanted honey but the bee's nest was too difficult to reach, no matter how he tried to climb the tree—that afterwards, before going off to dutifully search for Lao, she had come up to He's side and patted his arm. He looked down at her blankly.

"Don't worry about your brother. I'm sure he's fine," she said, sounding upbeat and happy despite what she knew he had to be worried about. Those mogu regularly ripped the souls out of their Golden Lotus prisoners to animate new statue soldiers. "I'll go rescue him, and then I will even scold him for you."

He shook his head quickly.

"Very well, I will not scold him. You're right; being a mogu prisoner is probably punishment enough."

With a shrug, He pointed at Leven standing several yards away with his back turned. Cerylia looked at him, before giggling.

"Oh yes. I'm sure whatever Leven will say to him will be punishment enough as well."

At last, He gave her a rare grin, toothy and genuinely happy. She took that to mean that he was pleased she understood him completely. Perhaps she did.

Later, while Lao was getting the expected scolding from Leven, Cerylia had come to He and bowed graciously to him when he bowed to her. His thanks was enough for her, but as she straightened from the bow he suddenly came to her and hugged her. She found herself smothered in bear arms.

"Oh… you are welcome," she said, into his armor. "I know you're happy to see Lao safe again. Just keep him out of trouble."

He let go of her and held her at arm's length. His smile spoke volumes. Just as it had when she and Leven returned victoriously from slaying the mogu warlord Zhao-Jin.

Cerylia spent that night feasting between the Softfoot brothers, her left ear deafened slightly from listening to Lao chatter endlessly for hours, and the other relieved, for He of course said nothing. She leaned against his furry arm and whispered playfully to him, tipsy from the brew she'd been drinking.

"Hey. We should do this again in the future," she giggled, cheeks warm with the liquor. He gave her a wide-eyed, perplexed stare. "Maybe just you and me instead? Maybe you should visit my home. It's really pretty like the Vale, so maybe you'd like it too."

Looking back on it was a bit embarrassing; perhaps it was rude to be flirting with her brother-in-arms? All the same, He seemed taken aback by her attentions. His small ears flattened back on his head, and he looked down at his mug in front of him. If he had been a Pandaren of words, he would have been at a loss for them in that moment.

Cerylia had paused, thinking better of the situation, before sitting up and patting his paw. He looked at her intently. "You and your friends are wonderful. It's wonderful being like this with all of you."

A smile lit up his face, and he moved his paw to envelop her tiny hand. His free hand reached out, to delicately poke the necklace she wore. She had told him of how it possessed the water of the Sunwell within it. It was a piece of home. He nodded vigorously, and pointed into the distance.

"Yes," Cerylia agreed, smiling. "When this is all over, you can come visit my home. Quel'Thalas will welcome my friend."

In that moment, she had already been planning the occasion. He would come, probably with Lao and even others of the Golden Lotus. Once this war was over and peace returned to Pandaria, maybe it would be ok for them to leave home and visit. It would only be polite to host them after they hosted her for so long, right? She would show them the streams and the forests. She would explain the story of the Dead Scar. She would show them the Sunwell, and maybe they would think of the Vale and smile.

But as Cerylia stared forward now, into the empty, anguished eyes of an ethereal He Softfoot, she knew it would never happen now. Garrosh had taken more from them. From her. And now He was dead.

"Forgive me," she whispered, as his ghost stared up at her. Where he had been enveloped in grey anguish, now gave way to a golden light. In defeating the souls of the fallen Golden Lotus, Cerylia and her companions had finally laid them to rest. "I guess we won't get to go visit my home after all. But that's all right, isn't it? We never had to travel. We were already there. Home is… where my heart is."

He reached up to her and placed what felt like a tangible paw on her chest, over her heart. A smile lit up his face.

Thank you for being you. Your friendship. Your love. Your smile.

She understood, and cried happily, even as He and his friends faded into light and found peace at last.



A bit of final explanation: He Softfoot, along with Rook Stonetoe and Sun Tenderheart, make up the second boss encounter in Siege of Orgrimmar. Killed by the blast when Garrosh threw Y'saarj's heart into the pool in the Vale of Eternal Blossoms, they and many of their Golden Lotus companions are trapped as anguished spirits, unable to move on and forced to relive their failure. They must be defeated to put them to rest at last. I think every Pandaren I mention in this story is part of that boss encounter.

My goal in writing was to capture the tragedy of losing a friend, one you have grown close to and loved dearly only to lose them unexpectedly. I did grow attached to some of these NPCs and was saddened to see what happened to them. The events of the patch were quite shocking, but at the same time so beautifully sad. I really love the story so far.

Reviews, of course, are very much appreciated. Please only discuss this story, and DO NOT spoil any of the details of the rest of the raid, as I have not gotten much further than this encounter. I really want to play through it myself, and really do not want the story to be ruined.

Thanks for understanding, and thank you for reading!
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Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Sorrow and the Fury

Can also be read on fanfiction.net. Please leave a review if you check it out!

One of the most interesting characters to come out of Cataclysm—introduced in the Fangs of the Father rogue legendary quest chain—was Wrathion, the Black Prince. Players who do the quest chain in the Badlands can learn of his origin, and everyone can work with him in Pandaria at level 90. His story is ongoing, but I've found him to be a very unique and intriguing character. You like him, but are wary of what he isn't telling you.

It's easy to sort of let it slip your mind that he's probably only about a year old, maybe less. He's obviously an extraordinary individual, but that doesn't change the fact that he's still young (especially for a dragon), and he's been through a lot. This story I've written is both for this aspect of Wrathion, as well as many of the feelings I've had to deal with in the last couple years of my personal life.

Please enjoy!


The journey had been a long one, and he suspected he overestimated his own strength when he first embarked on the journey. After slipping aboard a few ships to make it back to the Eastern Kingdoms, he opted to fly the remaining distance to the Badlands. But his wings were not so big or so strong yet. He all but collapsed onto a still-smoldering plateau to catch his breath, his tiny body heaving with labored gasps for many minutes.

When at last he felt a bit more rested, he rolled over onto his tummy, and peered down at the scarred earth under his feet. Father, he thought, and a mixture of fury and loneliness rushed over him. He wanted a parent now. To cuddle up to, to feel safe with, to trust with his safety. But no—he had been doomed from his very conception to never have that. The unfairness of it all prompted a helpless roar of anguish, squeaky and small at first, that continued even as he changed. As he morphed, his body growing in size and form, so too did his cry, ending in a raw, pained sob, the voice of a young man.

His eyes, piercing red but tearless, looked blearily ahead.

The landscape was as dry and bleak as his heart, in that moment.

Now in the guise of a human, Wrathion pushed himself up into a standing position, and absently dusted the grit and sand from his gloves and knees. The scorching heat might have been unbearable to most, but black dragons were not affected by such things. Indeed, Wrathion had learned there had been an Obsidian Dragonshrine in Dragonblight, located at the base of a volcano whose lava still churned. Under the earth, nestled by the lava… this was where black dragons liked it best. And here was Wrathion, the only remaining black dragon, and he had never curled up in the warmth of a volcano before.

He clenched his fists, a small growl escaping his lips, before he composed himself. He knew this would be an emotional journey; it was why he dismissed his many guards before leaving. He could not let them see him like this. Still, Wrathion had hoped he was above all this. He didn’t love his father, or anyone else in his family. That was why they all had to die… right?

But there was a thin line between the mind and the heart, the logic and the instinct, that Wrathion could not overcome, and that was why he was here, instead of Pandaria. He rather preferred Pandaria to the rest of Azeroth. What he’d seen of Azeroth was war-torn, or—as the case was here—ravaged by Deathwing. The scars of the Cataclysm would not heal quickly. Even now he saw ugly, molten, black-and-red lines across the landscape, as if Deathwing had vomited his hate onto the land, destroying everything he happened to touch. It was not how the Earthwarder began, but it was how he had died, and how he would forever be remembered.

My legacy will be better than this.

Wrathion transformed again, and in his true form—a tiny black whelpling—he fluttered off, down to where his instinct tugged him. He saw a Horde settlement and opted to give it a wide berth as he flew past. His real destination lay northwest… in the Ruins of Kargath. It did not take long to arrive, and Wrathion changed back into his human form once more as he landed, surveying the scene.

Kargath had been rebuilt not too far away, but the original town had been devastated in the Cataclysm. The ruins now were a cemetery. Wrathion stepped carefully around the many tiny skeletons of whelps that littered the ground as he walked… skeletons that could easily have been his own, the skeletons of his numerous brothers and sisters he never knew. There were so many, making the path difficult, and as Wrathion spied one hidden in the sand too late, he stumbled to avoid crushing it under his feet. He put out a hand to catch his fall on what looked, out of the corner of his eye, like a ruined building.

He gasped.

The first thing he felt was her presence, warm and comforting, even from within the confines of his egg. Everything was dark, but so long as he felt her close he knew everything would be all right. She spoke to him frequently, alternating between soft coos of how she would protect him… to angry snarls of rage, against the red dragons, the world, everything. She swore her captors would pay, and that is how he was named.

“My little Wrathion—that is to be your name,” she hissed, and he trembled within his egg at the fury and love with which she said it. “You are stronger than all the others! Those red dragons will one day know your wrath, and you will lead our kin to slaughter them for what they have done to us!”

At the time, he didn’t completely understand what she meant. He didn’t yet know what wrath was.

Not, at least, until she died.

Wrathion staggered a little at the memory, and looked up wildly. What he initially thought was a beam from some destroyed building was, in fact, a bone. A giant rib, arching towards the sky. He had to step back a few feet to take it all in, and his breathing quickened in realization. Time and scavengers had easily stripped the corpse clean, leaving the skeleton of the black dragon Nyxondra to bleach in the scorching sun. In death, his mother was pristine. Pure. Free.

Picking his way towards her head, Wrathion carefully sat in front of the enormous skull and tried to peer into her eye sockets. He tried to imagine her alive, in his mind, but he realized he never saw his mother alive. He had been in an egg the whole time. All he could imagine was what other adult black dragons looked like.

“Well, Mother,” he said, somewhat awkward, but not knowing what else to do, “I’m here, now. I wonder if you can hear me, wherever you are.”

Wrathion wasn’t sure what he thought happened after death. Many of the mortal races spoke of an afterlife. The Pandaren spoke of a bridge that spirits had to cross to go into such a realm. He kind of liked that idea, that there was a bridge of no return that separated this cruel world from the other, untainted one. Maybe now, his mother sat on the other side of that bridge to watch her only remaining child, and see what he was doing now.

But then he recalled his mother, his siblings, his father… and realized they were far from untainted. The Old Gods had corrupted Deathwing, and thus every single one of them, down to the blood. Even newborn black whelps had come into the world plagued with fury and evil in their hearts. Wrathion would have been one of them, if it had not been for a certain red dragon and her efforts…

He bit his lip, unsure. Maybe in death, the corruption goes away…?

“Mother, I… came to visit you,” he continued. “I thought I could hear you calling me. Maybe it was just me, though. Maybe I wanted to imagine you still wanted me. But I wasn’t born the child you were hoping for, I imagine. You wanted to fill me with your wrath… but I’m not that angry. Not like you were.”

Even within his egg, Wrathion knew what had happened to him and his mother. Nyxondra had been captured by the red dragon, Rheastrasza, and forced to lay eggs for an experiment. Wrathion and his siblings were experimented on, in a desperate attempt to create a black dragon free from the Old God taint that Deathwing had passed to every member of his dragonflight. Wrathion had felt the pain his siblings went through, and writhed in sadness when he felt them die. His mother’s agonized roars shook his eggshell when another one of his siblings was taken from her side, and another one died to the experiment.

Wrathion had been the only egg to successfully become purified, by some ancient titan device. In the meantime, Nyxondra had escaped, rousing her remaining children to her side and attempting to roost in the ruins here. But Rhea had her killed… and as soon as she breathed her last, Wrathion knew he was alone.

With a trembling hand, Wrathion reached out to touch the skull’s nose, petting it carefully. “Your captor is slain, Mother,” he said softly. As if somehow that would be a comfort to the skeletal dragon. Deathwing had sought out Wrathion’s egg, but Rhea had kept it hidden, sacrificing herself in the process. “Rhea was killed by Father. But I’m still here. And I don’t have to do Father’s bidding anymore.”

In a way, Wrathion was grateful to Rhea, for freeing him of taint. If she had not, Wrathion would be dead like all the other black dragons, or even out still causing pain and suffering to the mortals of the world. But her actions… enslaving his mother, tormenting her and her children before killing them… was it worth it? He couldn’t say yes, but he couldn’t say no either.

“I’m free, Mother. And so are you. It’s better to sleep like this than to suffer, isn’t it?” He continued to stroke the skeleton as he pondered the course of his short life. “I’ve had to take care of myself. I’ve had to do terrible things to remain free. But I want the world to be a better place, too. I don’t want to live in a world where war destroys everything. I saw what Father did. This world deserves better.”

He finally let his gloved hand drop, and pushed himself back up to his feet. He realized he was trembling, even though the air was blistering hot, and he stared at his quaking hands. “I-I’m better than Father. I’m better than you,” he whispered. “You would have made me hate this world. I thought you loved me, Mother. Why would you want a life like that for me?”

The question made him pause. Wrathion blinked slowly, staring at Nyxondra’s lifeless eye sockets. Maybe… that was why she had to die, too. If she had somehow survived, she would have treated Wrathion cruelly, raising him to be a servant of Deathwing. Who knows, the black dragonflight itself might have experimented on him also. He’d heard stories of the atrocities the black dragons and their allies committed. If things didn’t happen the way they had happened, Wrathion would not be who he was today.

The hopelessness of the situation suddenly dawned upon him, overwhelming. He had to be born an orphan, the only one of his kind left, in order to be free. He had to kill the rest of his family to ensure they wouldn’t harm him or anyone else.

But worst of all… he had to spend the rest of his life never knowing that feeling of warmth and security ever again. He would never know what it was like to look into his mother’s eyes, to touch noses with her and cuddle close to her, and know he was loved. Even if Nyxondra was tainted, she was still his mother, and in her maternal instinct knew how to curl around her eggs and keep them near. Even in her insanity, she still knew how to love her eggs.

How to love him.

A scream of grief tore its way from his throat, taking even him by surprise, and in his fury he brought his clenched fist down at Nyxondra’s skull. He wanted so badly to hit her, but as his fist drew near, it slowed and simply rested to a gentle stop against the bleached bone. Tears filled his eyes, despite his best efforts to keep them back. Tears were for mortals, weren’t they?

No… tears, grief… they were for the living.

Wrathion sank to his knees again, and in doing so transformed. He shrank into his whelp form, and like a baby to its mother curled into the shade of Nyxondra’s skeleton, nuzzling close.

“I’m sorry, Mother,” he whispered, closing his eyes and pretending she was still alive, and could still hear him. “It’s better this way, isn’t it? I miss you, though. It’d be easier if I didn’t… but I do.”

His weakness appalled him, but in the end, he was still a child. An extraordinary and intelligent child, a prince of the black dragonflight… but a child nonetheless.

Surely there was no shame in a child wanting to say goodbye to his mother.


Final notes:

This story was written in memory of my own mother, who passed away 3 years ago. While I certainly did not have the same relationship with her as Wrathion did with Nyxondra in the story, I think my feelings about losing a mother were able to be expressed through the story well, even while I explored the character of Wrathion himself. The title of the story is taken from the quest of the same name in the Badlands, where you are asked by Rhea to slay Nyxondra.

Missing and loving you, Mommy. May all my real life achievements continue to make you proud.
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