An angel of shadow

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Dearest Vassannah, little did you know you would grow into one of the most important virtual characters of my life (a position shared with heros such as “Shepard”, out there among the stars, and your sister, the troubled paladin). Once upon a time you were nothing but an alt. Once upon a time you would have opened an inn, come level 20.

But heroes prevail.

You’ve come a long way since those first careful steps out of a pod on Azuremyst. Little did neither you nor me know you would become – a hero. You grew on me, like moss on a stone. The class that I never could master. The class that always went OOM. The priest of darkness. The priest of despair. The shadow priest.

Then Deathwing came. In more ways than any of you can imagine.

Dearest Vassannah, it was, in truth, not just your ass or your waist or your boobs that turned me. Sometimes what’s inside is more important than the sex appeal.

You were an object, once. Eyecandy. A paperdoll of pixels. A wet dream. But then you grew on me. You ventured far beyond Ashenvale (where most of my priests start their careers as innkeepers). You turned my head.

You came alive.

As the Mists of Pandaria parted and the schlaraffenland of ghost iron and green tea leaves opened up to bloodthirsty orcs, curious gnomes and wayward draenei – YOU were my guide. As your sisters struggled through mercenary missions and terrible hardship – YOU prevailed. YOU achieved what not one else could achieve. YOU achieved what I will never achieve. YOU are the hero.

YOU. Are. Legendary (as of 30-04-14).

Me? Well, you know, Vass … I’m a failure, more or less. I’m raid trash. But you know what? YOU gave me this peculiar thought that maybe … I am wrong.

In a way you became a life saver. Therapy. If I could come this far with you, a bunch of pixels kept alive in my own imagination, then what can stop me but the Sha that lives within us all?

Dearest Vassannah, my troubled shadow priest with dubious morale. In a way, you are a reflection of myself. I can’t sport a legendary cape, far from it. So I let you carry the wings of an angel. And carry them well you do. You know what, Vass?

You saved my life.

Almost a year ago during one of my long walks I came to the conclusion I had failed the legendary quest of life. Maybe it was time to delete. Un-sub. I had failed at life. I had failed my partner. My family. My friends – those I have. I had failed almost everything. It’s a very melodramatic thing to say, I know, but … I had not failed you.

You are a patient draenei. Should you ever be a human you would likely by the partner I have (a wonderful lone wolf woman with a patience akin to that of the Old Gods). You and her – both of you. Both of you saved my life (though she still doesn’t know it), that terrible day as I watched the speeding cars and trucks and …

walked into traffic.

They missed. By Gods grace or an unsually lucky RNG – they missed. I reached the sidewalk on the other side of the road and that’s when it occured to me: You’re not done.

Strange that, isn’t it? A virtual spacegoat held more sway, at that very moment of despair, than the very real human I do love. Allthough it might not be obvious.

Dearest Vassannah. You have earned your wings.

Thank you.

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The long talk, part 5

Do you suppose yourself advancing on real ground toward a real heroic man?
Have you no thought O dreamer that it may be all maya, illusion?

– Walt Whitman, “Are You the Person Drawn Toward Me?”

(Caveat: This short story contains a lot of swearing.)

– – – – –

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“The bitch must die.”
People around the table nodded in agreeement.
“All of them must die. All of them! All of the sisters! ALL!!!”
Some people looked around, worried. What if someone outside their close-knit circle had heard?
“Quiet, you fool!” a voice said. “Keep a lid on it!”
“They must die!” the first voice said in a hushed tone. “Death to them all! A slow, painful death … we will destroy their very souls! They will know pain! I – we! – will have fun with them! We will … rape them! Ah, yes! We will ravish them! All of them! Even the dead one! Yes! Yes! They Will! Die! Begging for mercy! Soiled, ravaged … by me.”
“By us you mean.”
“Whatever! that bitch … scorned me in Dalaran. Oooh but you know, she’ll get what’s coming. Trust me. All of them. They will … they will beg us for mercy when we’re done with them! And y’all know what!? They. Will. Have. NONE!!!”

Then a voice said from the shadows:

“No.” There was a pause. “Let them live.” There was a snicker. “Sometimes you destroy a person with death and pain. Sometimes … you destroy their character. Gossip, people. A far greater weapon than lord Dicks wanker-pole. Tell me … lord. When was the last time you didn’t pay for it?” The gnome chuckled. “What greater punishment for a fallen vindicator than to live in shame? She have a dead sister, you know, Zavannah. Yes? Well then – did none of you hear of Arthas Menethil?”
“Fuck off, gnome.” The human with the moustache snorted. “you’re not a paladin. You never were. You can not be! DEATH is righteous! fuck all that smart stuff! You warlocks, yo–”
“MALCOLM!!!” The female human smacked her fist on the table. “Control yourself!”
“So is pain,” the gnome said, not losing a beat of his thought. “Everlasting pain.” He chuckled. “Ever seen the face of a goat when you show them what happened to their precious Karabor? That, my friends. That.”
“That what?” the female human said.

The gnome smiled. After almost a full minute of silence he tossed back a Sulfuron shot, shook his head and wheezed:
“That! Is! Pain!”

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Meanwhile, far away from the Brawlers Guild, the evening crept across the waters of Menethil and shrouded the cabin in cozy twilight. The fireplace roared as seasoned scents of halibut on fresh rye filled the room. Little did neither Shuanna nor Maraad know that far away completely different scents and senses plotted, twisted, whispered. As Shuanna leaned back and, laughing, listened to a joke told by Maraad, in the depths of Stormwind City a tired dark iron dwarf refugee served another round of beer. She couldn’t get any work in Ironforge. Stormwind didn’t mind the skin of your dwarf (as long as you stayed out of the dwarven quarter … and tried your best to avoid guard Smithers in other parts).

Myrna was used to people of non-dwarven origin coming to the Brawlers Guild (allthough most of them came to start a fight). Myrna the maid didn’t think twice about them. Brawling, as people called it, was the home of the forgotten Fallen paladins, death knights, warlocks, people who just wanted to watch the world burn. And of course – the “mysterious” human in a wide brimmed hat. Over there in the corner, smoking a pipe … nauseous scents of dried felweed hung like a mist around her.

They called her the Whisperer.

Still, Myrna felt a bit disconcerted by the tidbits of gossip she had picked up from that particular table. They were on their seventh round of beer. Not your typical Blackrock beer either, but the expensive kind. The kind of beer that secretive pale humans delivered in the dead of night. The kind of beer she used to serve absolutely insane nihilists, once when she was a maid at a local pub in the remote mountain areas of Silithus and later in Twilight Highlands … long before a fortress of twisted steel rose from the ground. Myrna wasn’t particularly fond of people like that; those who wanted to kill everything, including themselves (and her kid). Of course, perhaps they were a lot smarter than she; all she knew was she wanted to kill her former lover right after knocking her up.

It was a job. She didn’t enjoy it. But it paid her bills. A single mother was no vacation. So she listened to gossip, she remembered it, and sometimes … somewhere … deep within her … there was the thought: ‘Maybe my kid will be better off if the world doesn’t burn’.

She lingered, close by at a vacant table, wiping it clean over and over with a rag. Listening but not “listening”. Myrna picked up some interesting things … stuff someone no doubt would pay for. She was a popular maid (even among those who came to fight). She knew many names, all of them hidden in her head. One of them was a dwarf called “Flint”.

It wasn’t his real name, of course. It was a nickname. How it had come to be she didn’t know. She did know he had come to the pub looking for a fight. Besides – he owed her. Anyone who don’t use a mages protective spell while “doin yer nat’ral!” stands to owe a great deal. Women, no matter what race, knows this. Men, no matter the race, do their damned hardest to forget. The Goldshire children can attest to that.

She didn’t care much for whoever it was the strange posse around the table talked about. What she knew was that Flint would undoubtedly pay handsomely for the strange information. She knew he was some sort of high ranking officer in the Argent Crusade. She knew that, for whatever reasons, the Argent Crusade spied on pretty much everyone. Sometimes openly, sometimes through long, winding, secretive chains of whispering mouths and listening ears. He had tried to explain it once – she didn’t get it then and wouldn’t ever get it. Myrna didn’t care. Politics rarely touched base with the common folk. All she knew was that her kid would soon need another set of clothes. He grew like magic sprout, he did. She wasn’t a proud woman but she was proud of her son. He would need new clothes … so she listened.

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“Fucking bitch scorned me,” the moustache said, slamming his fist on the table so hard pewter mugs skittered all over the table. Some fell off, spraying the floor with beer. “I am not a man to be trifled with y’all know! I was once an honored hero and then … then that blueskin freak came along. All of them. They. Stole. Our. Jobs! Or honor!”
“Just like the pandaren did,” the woman muttered, stuffing chunks of tobacco into a meershaum pipe and lit it. “Honest human people are getting poorer by the day while these damned … foreigners …”
“Can’t even get a decent meal around this city anymore,” the gnome said and sighed. He tossed back another sulfuron, wheezing. “All noodles now, y’know. I swear, honest to Gnomer I do, if I have to eat that filth one more time I’ll torch the fucking place selling it!”
“That Jack in the Box, right? Corner of Canal and Cathedral?”
“Yahuh.”
“They used to have these really good ribs you know … ”
“Fucking hunter’s union, jacked up the price on boar meat. Fucking trehugging fucking nightelf scum fucking aorund who knows the fuck about what …” the moustache clenched his fists. At a loss of words he just growled, so furious small gobs of froth strted to seep out the corners of his mouth. He glared at no one in particular, wild-eyed, red-faced. Then he stood up and stormed off. He took a flying jump across a railing, landed in the pit and screamed at the top of his lungs: “LETS GET SOME CARMINE FLOWING BOYS!!!”

The crowd cheered as he ripped off his shirt, grabbed an iron pipe from the floor and waited. No one answered his call for quite some time. Then a wayward vrykul mercenary stepped into the ring, grinning.
“I’LL EAT YOUR HEART!!!”

Twenty seconds later the crowd went “ooooh!” as the moustached maniac was sent flying across the pit. He slammed into the wall, knocked out before he even had had time to throw a punch.
“MALCOLM THE MAD PALADIN HITS THE WALL SCREAMING!!!” the goblin conferencier shouted. “GUNNAR THE MISER IS VICTORIOUS ONCE AGAIN!!!”

Myrna stifled a chuckle. She headed towards another table. She let one of the busboys take care of the mess around the crowded table. She didn’t like them, the gnome was glaring at everything and everyone. Ashen-faced, veins pulsing in his neck and temples. He was a bomb waiting to go off, she knew the kind of face. She had seen it all too often in different pubs of the world. She also knew it wasn’t men like that one should fear. Rage can be handled, however silent it may be. Brooding on the other hand …

Myrna took a deep breath, wen up to the shady corner with it’s clinging greenish smokey mist and said:
“Care for a drink, miss?”

“Fill it … ” a whisper. A slow, pale hand creeping out of the darkness of the corner. Whoever she was, the one called the Whisperer, she hid herself well; a shady velvet cape and a wide brimmed crimson hat. “Caraway … Please … ” Her voice was coarse, a mere whisper. “That paladin? Who is he?”
“The one Gunnar just messed up? Oh, just some sport itching for a fight.”
“You lie.”

The words was as sharp as the crack of a whip, whispered by that cold voice … it sent a shiver down Myrnas spine. She could handle cultists, sure, no problem. She could handle crazed world destroyers as well. She could even handle black dragons (her first job was as a maid in Nefarians palace; a time she desperately tried to forget). But whisperers. The whisperers always got to her.

“I … I’ll get you your drink, miss!”. Myrna scurried off, dreading her return. A minute later she did return. She failed convincing the other maids to get the order; everyone feared the whisperer.
“Who is he?” the whisperer said.
“He … ”
“Do not. Lie.”
“He’s a former paladin,” Myrna said, sighing. “Look, I … Things like this … I could get in trouble and I got a kid to take care …” She swallowed, hard. “I’m scared, allright?”
“Information is never free. I understand.” There was a small ‘clink’. Then the whisperers pale hand came forth, palm down. When the hand was pulled back a small pile of gold coins glimmered on the table. “Twenty sovereigns.”
“That’s … ” Myrna could stop herself from smiling. “By Thaurissans beard!”
“Now … Tell me … Myrna. Who is he? And who are his friends?” The whisperer didn’t raise her voice, not for a second. Harsh syllables, like cold gravel on rough metal. “Sit for a spell. Talk … “

Myrna hesitated. The gold coins – they looked well worn, badly handled, roughly minted. Maybe she shouldn’t? But twenty gold … she could afford moving to a place without rats with that sum! She grabbed the coins, flinching. Cold gold, cold as the black ice of some long forgotten glacier. A thin mist hung around them, she noticed it too late. The portrait on the coins was not the portrait of Wrynn.

It was the portrait of a Lich King.

The long talk, part 4

I am there, I help, I came stretch’d atop of the load,
I felt its soft jolts, one leg reclined on the other,
I jump from the cross-beams and seize the clover and timothy,
And roll head over heels and tangle my hair full of wisps.

Walt Whitman, “Song to myself”

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Sometimes a few words is all it takes. As morning broke she turned to Maraad and said:
“I’m scared.”
He nodded through the smoke.
“I know you are,” he said, picking through the smoldering charcoal with a twig. The smoke from the cooking fire shifted its direction, enveloping him in a faint mist. “I am too.” Then he smiled, dropped the twig and grabbed a pewter plate. “Ah! The fish is done!”
“You sure about that?”
“You dare question my cooking skills!?” He laughed, taking the edge off his well-played anger in an instant.
“I dunno,” Shuanna said, smiling. She grabbed a plate, served herself half the fish and some bread. “You never quite struck me as someone who knows his fish is all.”
“Oh please,” Maraad chuckled. “You should try my spinefish. Delicious!”
“Uh-huh. So how about that Zul’Drak maggot stew you tried forcing me to eat couple o’ years ago?”
“That was an experiment! But I agree, those troll pictogram recipies … they were quite hard to decipher.”

She couldn’t help but laughing. The feeling of dread, pressing on like an unseen darkness all around her, dissipated. Perhaps it was morning feelings; she was always grumpy before breakfast. Even though she felt rested after deep sleep, so deep it almost reminded her of unconsciousness, she still felt tired. It was a tiredness of her soul, not her body. Her muscles felt strong and agile. Her blood flowed warm. Her breathing was calm. But her soul … her soul was screaming. She felt her heartbeats in her temples, like never ending drums.

The halibut was quite delicious. They sat on a small knoll not far from Menethil Bay, looking out across the water as they ate. The smells around them felt homely, comforting. The cooked fish and coffee mixed with the campfire smoke weaving strands of wiffs from the shoreline; seaweed, an old rotting log. She noticed a movement behind that log – just a quick flash of sunshine on slick, shiny skin.

“Is that reason for concern?” Maraad said. He didn’t seem to have noticed anything but his eyes didn’t leave the log. Peering at it over his breakfast plate. Quickly narrowing his eyes to penetrate the faint vapors from a steaming tin cup of coffee. “I left my mace up by the cabin.”
“That’s Merle,” Shuanna said. She chuckled. “It’s hard to pronounce. G’mmrlll. I call him Merle.”
“Is it dangerous?”
“He’s a friend.” she put the plate away and stood up, saying: “He’s probably the one that left the fish.” She cupped her hands around her mouth and called out, a long flowing guttural sound.
“Amazing … ” Maraad slowly put his plate away, looking at her with astonished eyes. “I’ve never heard anyone able to speak with them.”
“Just loosen your tongue and pretend you’re a fish.”

A pale murloc with faint blue tatooed streaks across his forehead very carefully stepped out from behind the driftwood log. He held a crude javelin made from wood and crustacean barbs in one hand. As he took a few steps forward his webbed feet made sploshing sounds on the damp ground close to the water. He waved, cautiosly. Then his thick lips broke up in something that was, probably, a big smile. He had some trouble speaking but even though his voice was thick and bubbly he managed a few words:
“Shiny! Horn Creature! Fish! Gmmmrlll many babies! New babies! Horny creature! Fun! Yes?”

Shuanna nodded. She gave “Merle” a thumbs up, bent down, grabbed the plate and straightened up. She showed the murloc with sign language that the fish indeed was tasty. “Merle” made a backwards flip of joy, smacking down on the ground on steady feet and called in a thick voice: “Shiny!”

Shuanna laughed. She nodded, raised a fist in the air and mumbled a short prayer. With a dancing, jingling sound as of crystal bells a shining shield sprang out of thin air around her. It stayed for just a few moments but “Merle” appeared more than pleased. He made a gurgling sound, turned around and dived into the water, disappearing.

“I hope you don’t mind fish for lunch as well?” she said and sat down by the fire. “Or dinner. And supper. I think Merle is a bit sweet on me. Trouble is – he knows no other fish than halibut.”
“This is the first decent, homecooked meal I’ve had in weeks,” Maraad said, smiling. “One should never scorn the simple gifts of simple folks. Even if they’re murlocs.”
“Is that your sentiment or Almonens?”
“To tell the truth – I’m not sure.” Maraad chuckled. “He appeared to … thank you?”
“I helped deliver his spawn not long ago,” Shuanna said. “A shark, ten or twelve feet long, had taken up reisdence close to the place the murlocs lay their eggs. They couldn’t fight such a monster. The shark must have ate half their tribe before I ended it’s existence.”
“They are in you debt,” Maraad said.
“They think I’m their godess.”
“It’s not hard to see why.”

She laughed, lit a clay pipe and smoked in silence for quite some time. Eventually she said:
“I’m not sure where to start.” She peered at Maraad out of the corner of her eye. “You know most of it anyway.”
“How did you end up in the Crusade?,” he said, looking at her.
“Oh boy, you sure want me to start from the beginning, don’tcha?”
“Well, starting at the beginning – isn’t that what all stories do?”
“Sometimes you have to start at the end and work your way back.” She puffed her pipe, nodding. “How else would you excorcise your inner demon?”

Mists of Pandaria summed up

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Let me sum up Mists of Pandaria as it played out for my posse of quirky draenei sisters. Well allright, the expansion isn’t exactly “over”. There’s still plenty of months left before Warlords of Draeenor. But even so there is this feeling of “overness” about it all, now, this late in the expansions life. All patches have been implemented, all bosses have been downed. So I thought I should sum it up – from my point of view of course. I’m not your typical WoW player I guess, I’m still too busy with old content to really pay attention to the cries of injustice about no flying or sucky PvP or whatever.

Personal objectives:
I did set out on the grand adventure of Mists of Pandaria with a few personal goals in mind. Much to my chagrin – and suprise! – I reached only one of them. In part because of a computer failure; I was unable to play World of Warcraft for the period between 5.1 to 5.3, pretty much the entirety of “relevant” latest end game patches. I guess I was lucky I’m not in a progression guild! So I’ve been taking it slow. I’m still working my way through Operation Shieldwall dailies by the way. I did manage to snag the title “the Hordebreaker” with a few days left of the now removed patch 5.3. That was pretty cool.

WoWScrnShot_081812_214258Cahanna: The first sister to hit the beach of Jade Forrest was Cahanna the Mage. Right from the start I realised that Cahannas days as a main was over. My plan of building up reputations on her was shot down early on, wich was a bit troubling. She was the one I had 40 exalted reputations on. But the very thought of running around and pew pewing mogu for 10 minutes per kill wasn’t very inviting. Cahanna the Wet Noodle was benched once I got her to 90. I dinged end level in Towlong Steppes, handing in the Ruthers Harness quest, after 5 days of rincewind-esque gaming. She certainly ran a lot!

Kitty2Kittyanna: Up until my old computer said “splonk!” and turned into a heater whenever I tried anything but Chrome or Word Kittyanna the Monk was off to a flying start. I deleted Kittyanna the Shaman to make room for the monk. As a monk she kicked her way through 1-85 in no time; I remember pulling almost 90K DPS in Stonecore once, effectively tanking the instance. It was a godmode class. MoP ramped up the resistance but I had no trouble downing either corrupted shado pan-monks or mogu. Then my computer died. Upon my return at the end of 5.3 I had forgotten about the multitude of buttons a monk has to press. My plan – earning the title Shado Master on Kittyanna – failed. She was benched right upon my return to Azeroth, the in-house scribe. A few days ago I deleted her – and turned yet again into a shaman.

WoWScrnShot_010114_150402Zavannah: Zavannah the Death Knight turned out to be a real honey. I had my doubts about DK’s, I had attempted the class several times before but never made it out of the starter zone. Then the name popped into my head one late night while trying to figure out what to do. Everything just seemed to click. She was born in late Cataclysm. I managed to snag Treacherous Bite (x2, she’s DW frost) before MoP hit. Once in Pandaria she carved her way into history, a killing machine, unstoppable! Then she inherited a farm and got all cosy with carrots instead. My plan of making her my new main didn’t work out as I had planned, but that’s ok. She’s a good farmer.

WoWScrnShot_120313_155726Savenna: Savenna the Shaman, well … As Kittyanna (who used to be my main shaman) was turned into a monk Savenna took up the totems. Getting her to 90 was a run of the mill-thing; after all, I have a certain routine with leveling. I was actually going to bench her once she had maxed out engineering (a prof I lacked). But she was persistant. Upon my return in late 5.3 she started to turn “main”. She could very well have ended up as that had not Shuanna happened.

WoWScrnShot_120813_155410Vassannah: Vassannah the Shadow Priest was an experiment at first. But oh boy was the class fun! She quickly won my heart and mind and is now my Main Cloth Class. I had dabbled with priests before but never gotten anyone past level 20. Now? Well, all of a sudden I’m sitting there with a beutiful but deadly (and slightly crazy) shadow priest rocking an iLvl of 537 with just a few more final steps before the legendary cloak. Vassie was a big suprise and nothing went according to plan (I hadn’t planned on a priest to start with!).

WoWScrnShot_112112_012250Sharenne: Sharenne the Warlock was a calculated progression character with the intention of becoming my main cloth. It almost worked out as well – then Vassannah showed up and stole Sharennes Maker away in an air of Mind Flays and ass-waggle. Tough luck, Sha, I still love you but you’re just too … quirky. Still, warlock is a walking howitzer and Sharenne will continue being my second cloth main. I didn’t reach the goal of a legendary cloak though. It’s doubtful I’ll have the patience with the amount of LFR needed to get it. But at least I got a lady of darkness. And a blue cloud.

WoWScrnShot_042214_010414Shuanna: The circle is complete. It happened very quickly, once she got her hands on a mace. She did “work” as a shadow priest for some time but then she turned vindicator again. Of all my characters Shuanna IS the MAIN. this was in no way expected or planned. It was an extremely nice suprise – even more so when I the other day realised she’s now rocking an iLvl of 539. For some it might not seem much but for me it’s a tremendous success. I do plan on a legendary cloak, if only I can get into LFR-mode again. I was a bit put off by the boosted 90’s distaster, but maybe things have changed.

After all, if we’re going back to Draenor we might just as well go there well dressed.

A Lone Wolf at Gothcon XXXVIII

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I haven’t paid Azeroth a visit for a few days – a much needed break. A vacation from the routine of rep farming. A chance to do something completely different. In my case, the different was a games convention, held anually in Gothenburg, Sweden.

I’m still a bit in both shock and awe, to tell the truth. I’m not a very social person. But as chance have it and fate decree off I went. By train. And taxi. Since I’m also a very comfortable guy I even had an hotel room (the conventions own dorms didn’t appeal to neither me nor anyone else in my posse).

It was actually a “working trip”. The very reason I even went there in the first place was the chance to finally meet the person behind the words wich I’ve spent a good deal of time translating from english to swedish: Joe Dever, the author of the immensely popular game books about the solitaire hero, the kai monk Lone Wolf in the fantasy world of Magnamund. These days it’s also a digital game, you should totally check it out – http://lonewolfthegame.com/.

For the first time since the late 1980’s Lone Wolf is coming back to Sweden in a brand new edition (illustrated by, among others, the fantastic swedish illustrator Lukas Thelin).

I’ve been working with translating an abundance of material for quite some time now and meeting the creator was fantastic fun.

Parallell to my work on the Lone Wolf series – including a roleplaying game – I’ve been keeping up with some older projects; writing virtually all the texts to expansions for the leading swedish roleplaying game, Western (Western: New Orleans, and Western: New York). On top of that I’m still fiddling around with a novel, occasional short stories and trying to keep up an appearance on at least Twitter. Social media is not my forte. I’m probably lacking in a number of social areas (I do have Facebook but I honestly can’t remember when I last checked it).

Mr Devers swedish translator, yours truly, is a lone wolf (that’s a pun!).

The swedish version of the first installments in the Lone Wolf saga is scheduled for release this summer.

As for Gothcon, it turned out to be a suprisingly inspiring convention. I spent most of the time at the Western sales booth of course but managed to snag some peeks on other stuff as well.

Most of the time was spent talking to people (I guess that’s the true reason for conventions; using your voice, not your fingertips) but in the lull between “stuff” I ended up with a rough draft of, erhm … a “thing”. 60 thousand characters in 48 hours – I think that’s pretty good. Especially when you consider the surroundings; balancing a laptop on a table filled with magazines and books and coffee cups, people milling around everywhere.

All in all it was a much needed break from the daily routines.

The Lich Kings pet draenei

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Oops.

Yep, that’s “me” by his feet. The reason I’m there is because of an idea. Likely the most crazy idea I’ve ever had in my history of World of Warcraft.

I’m rep farming, inching my way to 60 exalted reputations and the title “the Beloved” (I allready have “the Exalted” on my mage, btw). Because, well, what better title than “the Beloved” for my oldest Alliance love interest, my oldest character, dating back all the way to 2007?

Shuannas reputation adventures began in earnest about three weeks ago. I had a flying start with more than 40 reputations at revered. I couldn’t even remember where and when I got so many.

It’s interesting going through the list of reputations. It’s sort of a historical document of her career. With a quick glance I suddenly remember how the early days of Shuanna actually were. There was a lot of questing involved – and, once I hit level 80, a whole lot of nothing.

Wrath of the Lich King offered one end game experience and one alone – raiding. Since I still don’t like the concept (I’ve never been much of a “team player”) you can imagine what happened. It was the lack of things to do other than rolling an alt that eventually led to Shuanna being benched for … gosh, it must be four or five years now. I haven’t played Shuanna, the troubled paladin, since about the Ulduar patch. Back in the days I was so far from any raids it never ever occured to me that I might, one day, also become a Kingslayer. I’m still working on it, by the way. But as you can see I have come a long way since the early days. Yes, I’m late to the party but I don’t care. I’m in no hurry. Besides, there is always a Lich King.

What better way to prove it to myself (and the guildies) that “Shu” is back than snagging a much coveted title, the Kingslayer? It even goes well with the evolving backstory of hers. Shuannas adventures – and misadventures – in Northrend is the very reason she’s a bit crazy. When all is said and done the Kingslayer is left with only nightmares and the terrors within.

Sunwell
Wohoo! I saved the world!

Following a few weeks of running really old content I eventually ended up in a pretty good reputation place. Almost all Burning Crusade reputations save the raid rep’s, like Ashtongue, are done. I still have the really long grinds left – Consortium, Netherwing, Kurenai etc. Apparently I didtched Outland as soon as the Lich King appeared. Most of those old reps were at friendly or honored. With all Northrend reps save Ashen Verdict, Kaluak and the Oracles done I’ve started on the Cataclysm ones. Those are a bit tricky.

Shuanna was a banker throughout Cataclysm and only leveled to 85 through fast questing, skipping enormous chunks of content. As such I didn’t have any reputation above Friendly. The same goes for Mists of Pandaria reps, by the way. So right now I’m grind up reps through Pandaria dailies and running Cataclysm heroics on my lonesome. While farming reputation for various Cataclysm factions the other day I found myself in a tight spot. I had run out of dungeons for the night. All Cataclysm dungeons except Throne of the Tides was on cooldown. Bugrit!

I made a list of the reputation list. A spreadsheet of reputations still needed. It’s a lot easier to see what I need than scrolling through the somewhat cumbersome list in my characters window. That’s when I realised I had completely missed out on a Northrend faction – the Ashen Verdict. A quick research trip to Wowhead later – I knew it was raid rep but couldn’t remember wich raid – I took a deep breath and …

Dread_Citadel

Entering the Dread Citadel.

Marrowgar went down in a cloud of frozen bonedust. Lady Deathwhisper barely had time to whisper. Kor’Kron troops and undead ghouls was cut down without remorse. I was starting to get into a nice flow there – when the Gunship Battle happened. “To think you have come so far only to perish here!”, to quote the Scarlet Monastery boss … I was actually annoyed enough to stick through it. Seven times. It was with a tremendous sigh of relief I finally pulled it off after som digging through Wowhead comments and Youtube videos (the music of choice for those videos … urgh).

Deathbringer Saurfang hit the dust. So did Festergut and Rotface. The vampires of Northrend was due for a stake and proved to be a lot less scary than they looked. I did run into some trouble on Valithria, but with some inventive healing and silent curses I got through the roadblock with only two wipes. I really hope they nerf that boss. I’m lucky with heals and all but for DK’s, or warriors … I honestly feel sorry for the “no heal but self-heal”-classes.

I avenged the fallen in Pit of Saron with a quick strike to the neck of Rimefang and did the same to Sindragosa. then I spent an hour getting lost. As it turned out I had forgotten to open a few valves and completely bypassed Professor Putricide. Once I made my way back to the mad scientist Professor Putricides good news turne sour. I trod back through the empty castle, feeling a bit like Titus in Gormenghast. Eventually I found a portal and …

Unfortunately it was almost 4 a.m in the morning. Ahem. I accidentally positioned myself way wrong and had quite an interesting, albeit deadly, trip through the skybox around Icecrown. But, alas, if I had come so far I wouldn’t stop because of a silly mistake. So – first thing I did before work was to finish off Arthas.

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Much ice. So cold. Wow.

Or so I thought. Everything was just fine and dandy. Green lights across the board. In nice new transmog* armor straight from the forge of Icecrown Citadel itself I ventured out of Dalaran, into the citadel. A few quick portals later I ended up side by side with Fordring again – and commenced the dance. This time I was prepared of the nasty knockback and positioned myself in a perfect spot.

The fight started. Arthas the Lich King must have been quite annoyed at the perky paladin, back from the future. Adds came and went, ground was defiled but the king was hard pressed. Wich is when I started to notice how the green connection bar started to turn yellow. Then red. Then, just as I was knocked back sent sailing up the stairs to the Frozen Throne, lag reached almost 4000 MS followed by a very unfortunate disconnect. When I logged in again I found myself in a most troublesome position.

The Lich King had a pet draenei**.

Edit: But not for long … After some troublesome wipes – trial runs, lets call it that – I finally got what I ventured out to get. Now Shuanna of the Exodar is truly a Kingslayer.

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– – – – –
* I snagged both Blade Scored Carapace and Deathforged Legplates from Deathbringer’s Cache. For once I actually found some Wrath of the Lich King-armor I actually liked. It will be the base for my second version of the Dark Paladin, eventually. Stay tuned for future transmog post.

**If you, during your adventures in Northrend, come across a ghoul with horns, that’s probably Shuanna. I doubt she’s good enough to become a death knight.

The Long Talk, part 3

It is not upon you alone the dark patches fall,
The dark threw its patches down upon me also,
— Walt Whitman, Crossing Brooklyn Ferry

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“A darkness pressing down on her, as the dark of Icecrown itself”

The night outside grew quiet as the rain abated. The thrum-thrum-thrum of droplets on clay and stone stopped in a strange staccato of mismatched rythm. A far away final boom of thunder rolled sluggishly across the plains. It brought with it the sound of an avalanche, hig up in the mountains. A muted, vibrant crashing sound. Hundreds of tons of snow and ice careening down the sides of some nameless mountain. Eventually the trees that broke would wash up on the shores of the wetlands marsh. Life would sprout from the dead.

Inside the cabin something completely different happened. Maraad had just finished his closing sentence – “Oh it’s nothing, really. I got gouged by a thorny wine summoned by a dark shaman, who later was eaten alive by virmen“. Then Shuanna made a mess. She couldn’t help herself. Hearing his matter-of-fact eplanation how a thorny wine had almost skewered him shocked her with disbelief. A pity her mouth was full of tea and bread.

Breadcrumbs and droplets of tea sprayed the table. Maraad stared in suprise at her for a moment – then he burst out laughing. He stood up, careful to not collide with the lavish chandelier, and got a piece of cloth from a small kitchen counter. He sat down and as he wiped the table clean he said, smiling:

“So, what have you been up to since our last talk? I gather the Aldor didn’t convince you to hang your mace on the wall for good?”
“Well … Kind of.”
“Explain, please?”

Shuanna sighed. She took her time answering, ate her food, lit a claypipe, puffed it. With smoke trailing out her nose and mouth she finally said:
“The Aldor they … They knew I wasn’t a priest. Not in my heart. There’s too much dread inside me. I can’t ever quite reach the light, you know. Too much … Well.”
“Dread?”
“Dread. Yeah.” She sighed. “Oh boy.” She blinked. “Sorry, I … uh … ” She sobbed, just once. Silent tears started to roll down her face.

Maraad grabbed her hand in his. He squeezed, not hard, but comforting. With a worried look on his face he leaned closer, almost staring at her. Then he frowned, ever so little.
“You’re having that dream again, don’t you?”

Shuanna nodded. She leaned back, a little uncomfortable with his bright, penetrating eyes upon her. She tried to laugh bu instead she made a slightly choked sound. Then she leaned forward, grabbed him around his neck with one hand and moaned:

“I’m so scared, Maraad! Oh light, please help me! I’m trying to keep it under control but the hate, it’s … I’m breaking. I thought I could survive but I’m dying inside!”
“The dream never happened, Shuanna,” he hugged her. “You know this.”
“It WILL happen! I know it! Ooh I was so fucking stupid …”
“What did you do?” He chuckled. “Stupidity is nothing we should fear. Trust me. I’ve done my fair share of stupid things. Like, well, jumping off the Skybreaker and forgetting a parachute.”
“Bubble up?” she laughed, wich felt weird given the circumstances. She couldn’t help it. She leaned back, sighing, calming down.”
“Bubble up,” he said. “The damned thing almost lasted till I hit the ground too!”

Tears turned to laughter, again. For a while she listened to his more comic stories of past mistakes, feeling a sense of calm spreading inside her. A tiny speck of joy slowly spread from somehwere inside her heart … at least it felt that way. That’s when she stared at him with a short, suprised gasp.

“Almonen, he … He says ‘It manifests itself as a feeling, small at first and easily ignored, that confirms truths and subtly prods one to do good.’. Isn’t that so?”
“Well, I believe it is.” Maraad smiled, a faint, friendly smile. “You’re not lost, friend. You have grievances with the light, but so do we all. But you are not lost.”
“Then what am I?”
“You … you’re angry. You’re afraid. You dream of things that never were, not in your life at least. It is understandable why you dream. Few people came out of that dread pit alive …”

Shuanna shuddered. She hugged herself, as if reliving the piercing cold not even hard labor could disperse. She said, looking down on the table, for an instant lost in old, terrible memories:
“I spent two days in there. At the end of the day they rounded us up, all of us. Orcs, trolls, humans. I was the only draenei. At least then. They … they knew I was a vindicator, a paladin. I had been … chosen.” She looked up at him. “We resisted. We fought, tooth and nail! They all died, all of them! They saved me for the last and then …”
“I remember the gnome pilot having troubles with the updraft,” Maraad said. “That’s why I had to jump out early. That’s why the ghouls on lookout didn’t see me.”
“What was his name? The other paladin? The one with you? He held me in his arms while you led us out of there. The Pit of Saron.”
“Eadric,” Maraad said. He chuckled. “A lot of people didn’t think he amount to much, what with his shining armor and all. But I have yet to find a more solemn, purehearted soul anywhere on this world. If he wasn’t human one could suspect him for being, well – draenei.”
“They were going to kill me, you know that, no?”
“They were going to … raise you.”
“Oh, this family has enough death knights!”
“There’s only one reason they would have spared your life. You know why.”

She nodded. Some things were best left unspoken. She didn’t want to be reminded of the horrors of the pit but once the gates had opened it was hard to shut them. The first thing she remembered was the cold. The memory of it was so intense that she started to shiver even though the room was warm and cosy. The rest of the memories was the stuff of nightmares. A darkness pressing down on her, as the dark of Icecrown itself.

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“Then they shaved our heads, all of us.”

“I was stripped naked,” she said in a low voice. “All the prisoners were stripped naked. Man, woman – all of us. They sorted out textiles in one pile, metal in another. Then they shaved our heads, all of us, crewcut they called it. Barely enough hair left to keep our head warm. We were issued left-over tunics, Alliance ones. Bloodstained, dirty. We got a pickaxe and …. Just so we wouldn’t get any ideas, they showed us what would happen. Should we try to use the pick as a weapon. There was a night elf, he … ”
“You don’t have to speak of it, friend. If it pains you.” Maraad sighed. “I thought I had seen horrors before but Northrend, well.”
“I think I need to speak of it,” Shuanna said. Then she hugged herself, hard. She tried to keep her teeth from clicking but the memory of that cold, cold place … She forced herself to speak: “But maybe I should speak of it in sunlight, no? Speak of darkness in the dark and you will break.”
“I never believed in that saying.” Maraad hid an involuntary yawn behind his hand. “I’m sorry, you don’t bore me, far from it. I just had quite a journey here.” He chuckled. “I am sometimes he biggest fool alive, as you know. Always eager to try new, unusual things. Well now, if you ever encounter a gnome in Ironforge, Millicent Millhouse? Don’t agree to try her ‘new, improved faster travel arrangement’.”

Shuanna smiled. Yet again the simple joy of listening to something stupid – in the sense of stupidly funny – lit up inside her. Almonen was right, she knew that now. Time and time again Maraad lured her away from the terror inside her with just a few, simple words.
“Tell me then, vindicator of stupidity,” she said.

“Sledding!” Maraad said and laughed. “I was just about to mount a gryphon when this gnome approached me. I agree, I’m a sucker for unsual deals. Ask anyone in Shattrath. I have probably made Griftah rich by now. Because, you know … All the wonders of the world, how can we be sure a rabbits foot isn’t just as magical as the sword of A’Dal? Anyone of their right senses should play it safe – especially with unknown magics. Now, engineering on the other hand … ” He chuckled.

“Yes, she had a sledge, a rocket propelled sledge. I sat down on it just outside the city gates and she lit the fuse. Now I know it takes exactly twentysix seconds to reach Menethil Harbor from the top of Bronzebeards Cliff. Most of the travel is airborne. You will land in the sea. I dare say miss Millhouse need to improve her aim.”

It was impossible not to laugh. She did laugh, loud and clear. She laughed so hard she had to lean forward, holding her arms against her chest. She cramped up, gasping for air, tears streaming down her face – but she kept laughing. Meanwhile Maraad just sat there, a faint smile on his face, a mischievous look in his eyes. She stood up, bent over like a mad beggar. She almost slid to the floor when Maraad stood up, walked a few steps around the table and reached out with a gentle embrace. He held her close for a long time. Her laughter turned to crying and then went full circle, ending with a long, drawn-out scream. A wail. Then, as fatigue crept into her muscles, she almost slumped in his arms. Her tears had dried on his scarred shoulders.

“I need sleep,” she said in a whisper and yawned.
“There’s just one bed,” he said.
“The floor is clean, dude.”
“Ah,” he chuckled. “I wasn’t implying … I mean, I … ”
“Silly.”
“Agreed.”
“Right, you might get a good night kiss, but nothing more.”
“I wouldn’t mind, honestly.”

She gave him a quick peck on the cheek and went to bed. She fell asleep almost instantly, exhausted. She didn’t see Maraad sit down on the floor, lean against the wall, and watch over her with half closed eyes for the rest of the night.

Morning broke with chirping birds and a halibut left on the doorstep.

The long talk, part 2

Fancying how happy you were if I could be with you and become your comrade;
Be it as if I were with you. (Be not too certain but I am now with you.)
— Walt Whitman, Full of Life Now

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She looks up at the faces of doom and … 

The air smelled of thunder. The stormclouds rolled in from the sea, spraying the land with a hammering rain not even the murlocs enjoyed. Dense clouds slithered down the mountainsides from Dun Morogh. Crackling lightning turned the snowy cliffs a pale blue and white. Thunder echoed between the mountains, rolling down with a dull boom towards the Wetland plains.

Shuanna tossed in her bed. The stone cabin was warm, the fire crackled in the fireplace and the faint smell of wax candles still hung in the air. She dreamed, a dream she had dreamt so many times. Always the same. Always.

Cold.
(“That one! Kill the rest, spare the bitch!”)
Dark.
(“Mmmaaahaaa haaaa!”)
Death.
(“Incoming! Damned ghouls I will flay you alive! I TOLD you to look out for him! I to–“)
Light.
(“Is she alive? Maraad?”)
Salvation.

Shuanna woke up with a faint gasp. For quite some time she stared at the ceiling, watching the shadows dance in the dying firelight. It wasn’t the thunder that scared her. It was the dream, short as it were – fragments, really. Just a few minutes of crystal clear images in her head, mixed with recollections of war and sometimes unknown phantasms of the mind. By now she was quite used to the dream. It didn’t exactly scare her, not anymore. It worried her. That’s why she always woke up whenever it appeared.

She had never even been to that part of the dread citadel. Others had fought the horrors inside, not her. Not until the bridgehead had been established and the lower levels of Icecrown was in the crusades hands had she been ordered to go inside. It was some sort of preparation; how to motivate the troops that would take part in the final assault. She had followed in the footsteps of half a dozen grim crusaders, all cross the rickety iron bridges. Then, as they stopped in the archway to the inner chamber, her legs froze. She couldn’t move. The … thing!

She’s almost naked. The cold is making her skin crawl. She’s not afraid, not scared. She’s resigned, knowing what will happen. It’s that last moment when you know all hope is gone, that only death awaits. There’s no reason to be scared. There’s no strength left inside you to fuel the fright. She looks up at the faces of doom and … That’s where she always woke up. Those dead eyes staring into her soul. Ready to rip it apart.

She sighed, closed her eyes, tried to go back to sleep. It didn’t work. Instead she swung her legs over the side of the bed, annoyed. She sighed, yawned, stretched and stood up. With the blanket over her shoulders she stoked the fire and swung the sooty kettle into place.
“Tea, girl,” she said. “Gonna perk you up. Tea and a smoke.” She chuckled. “Or two.”

That’s when a sudden sound made her scream. A sharp knock. A voice, calling out:
“‘ullo? Yer in dere, lass!?”

She didn’t scream long. It as more of a frightened yelp. Instinct took over in a split second. Her hand grabbed the iron poker as she pushed the blanket off her shoulders and held the poker as a mace in front of her. As she carefully moved towards the thick oak door she called out:
“Who’s there!?”
“’tis me, ye stoopid! Murgun!” A short pause, then: “Yer neighbur, daftie!”
“What’cha doing out there in a storm like this!?” She lowered the poker, placed it against the wall and opened the door just as Murgun called out:
“Gott’a mate fer ye! Foun’ ‘im wand’rin’ lookin’ like a wet cat!”

Shuanna was about to say something witty in response but her words froze. With mouth half open, eyes wide with suprise and fear, she saw the tall looming dark shadow behind the dwarf. A thick coat made from well-oiled skin covered most of the apparition. Water was gushing down the wide shoulders as he – it was clearly a man – moved closer. He let his sturdy quarterstaff rest against his shoulder as he bowed. Water spilled out from his wide brimmed leather hat.

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We go a long way back, her and me.

“The weather could certainly need bit of an improvement,” he said, and looked up. The firelight from inside the cabin lit up half his face. “Wouldn’t you agree, vindicator?”
“M… ” Shuanna swallowed. “Ma … ” She took a deep breath, steadying herself. “What the flying fuck are you doing here!?” She clapped her hand to her mouth, looking horrified. Then she said through her fingers, in a small, almost childish voice: “Sorry!”
“Ye know each one?” Murgun said, looking from Shuanna to Maraad.
“Indeed.” Maraad nodded, a faint smile on his lips. “We go a long way back, her and me. It’s good to know she still curse like a sailor.”
“I said I was sorry!” Shuanna lowered her hands. Then she twitched, realising she wore nothing but her underwear. “Oh shit, I … Come in, both of you before you freeze to death!”
“We gunna drown first I reckon,” Murgun said and chuckled. “But no me, lass. Me gunna git home, missus worried sick she is.” He looked up at Maraad as the tall draenei almost bent double to fit into the doorway as he entered the cabin. It was a lot roomier inside, if he moved carefully he wouldn’t have to collide with the chande– “Watcher dere!”
“Ouw!”

Shuanna burst out laughing.
“Yer be aight in dere I reckon, night.” Murgun chuckled, shaking his head he flipped the well-oiled canvas hood over his head and soon disappeared into the dark. She closed the door and turned to Maraad.
“Your noggin allright there?” she said.
“Fine, fine,” he said, smiling. “Mind if I sit down?” He gave the brass chandelier a worried look. “I’m afraid I’ll bounce into that … whatever it is. Again. It’s a lamp?”
“Uh-huh.” She gave a cursory look of the chandelier. It was almost 3 feet wide, roughly 200 pounds. It could hold up to twelve candles in each ring. There were seven rings in total, each adorned with a skull carved from ivory and plenty of other details. “Murgun brought it here a couple of days ago. He … ‘found’ it, he says, in an abandoned castle up north. Scholomance.”
“The necromancy school?”
“Used to be. No one’s sure where the bastards scurried after Andorhal.” She went over to the fireplace, pulled down two pewter mugs and filled them with hot, steaming tea. “Tea?”
“Please.” Maraad slowly pulled off his heavy raincoat. Not sure where to put it he ended up simply dropping it on the floor beside him. “I don’t suppose you got something stronger? Just to, you know, chase the chill out of these old bones of mine.”

A few minutes later the sat on opposite ends of the stone table, tea, tobacco and a jug of Caraway Burnwine on the table. They didn’t talk much. Instead the were simply watching each other, carefully. Shuanna had dressed herself, just a simple farmers outit — blue overalls made rom sturdy linen. At length, the silence between them started to bother her. She knew of his tricks, how he sometimes (involuntarily as he claimed) “probed” a mind. She didn’t want him to find her dream. As terrible as it was it was her dream. So she said:

“I got your note. At least I think it was yours. M?”
“Oh, I almost forgot about that one,” he said, smiling. “I sent it … must have been four months ago.”
“Mail’s slow in these parts.”
“Uh-huh.”
“So …”
“Yes?”
“Why did you come?”
“Why do you think I came?”
“I dunno. To get laid?”
“Really now!” He burst out laughing. “I have that covered, thank you very much!”
“Oooh, secret girlfriend?”
“Bah!”
“Come on!”
“Not in a thousand years and ten thousand more, dear friend. Some secrets are worth protecting.”
“Fine then.”
“Good!”
“Idiot.”
“Hey!”
“What?”
“There are three people in this world that may call me that. Me, the prophet and the bartender at a small hole in the wall in Lower City.”
“That blind orc? He who claims he used to be a blademaster before he took an arrow to the knee?”
“That’s the one.”
“Huh. He usually calls me honey.”
“He’s probably sweet on you. I can see why.”
“My my, vindicator … are you flirting with me?”
“I wouldn’t know how.”

Shuanna laughed. Maraad joined in. They laughed together for a long time. Then the laughter ebbed, replaced by a cosy, friendly silence. The finished off their tea and rum. As Shuanna got to her feet to find some bread and cheese, Maraad said:
“I wanted to see how you were doing, friend. Nothing more. I’m not sure how long I can stay, or if I can return another day. Thing’s … are happening. I can’t tell you more than that, I’m sure you understand.”

She put out bread, Dalaran Sharp and Darkmoon Faire spiced sausage on a platter and sat down. As she made herself a sandwich she nodded, careful not to ask even though she was curious.
“Why the mystery?” she said.
“You know why.”
“Legion business?”
“Perhaps. Perhaps not. Suffice to say – my … informants. Speak of a person of interest.”
“I’m sure I don’t want to know.” She sighed. “And even if I did you wouldn’t tell me.” She took a bite out of her sandwich and spoke while chewing. “Beshidesh, shit’sh gonna hit the fan I’m shure n’ people go shtir crashy again, yeah?”
“That’s likely to happen, yes.” He sighed. “Still, I got enough time to give myself a much needed vacation. Last thing I did was a bit … troubling.”
“Like wha’?” She swallowed, hard, and poured herself a new mug of tea and rum.
“Oh it’s nothing, really. I got gouged by a thorny wine summoned by a dark shaman, who later was eaten alive by virmen.”

Shuanna almost choked on her tea.