One breath away

WoWScrnShot_021816_150627

“Breathe!” Thump! “Breathe, dammit!” Thump! Thump! “Come on, girl … “

Thump! Thump!

Sheela felt his small fists pounding her chest. She couldn’t breathe. Seaweed and water clogged her throat. The Light was fading, fast. Her eyes were open but she saw almost nothing in the gathering dark. She could only feel the thump, thump, thump of the gnomes tiny fists. She could only hear the sobbing and the prayers and the muttered words of “Breathe, come on, breathe. Don’t go away, beutiful. Breathe!”

“She’s with Elune now, Bixx,” a voice said. Then a face, pale as the moon, appeared in front on Sheelas eyes. “There’s nothing you can do. She is gone.”

“NO!!!” Thump. “I WILL not!” Thump. “Let this one!” Thump. “GO!!!” Thump.

Sheela coughed. It started as a faint gasp, then racked her chest until she spewed water and weeds in a steady stream. She was flat on her back. For a few seconds she feared she would drown anyway, but then everyone started screaming and yelling and someone rolled her over on her side. She puked water and seaweed, half digested hardtack and beer. The smell of putrid vomit blanketed everything around her. She didn’t know if it was sweat or tears or salt water running down her face. It was so cold. There were screams from down by the shipwreck. Then a tremendous crash as the wooden hull caught a wave and lifted off the rocks. She tried to stand up, but couldn’t find the strength. Still on her knees, she watched the ship roll first to one side, then the other.

“Mother of all!” The gnome gasped. “Look at that!”
“It’s finished … “the night elf said. “No one could survive that.”

Elune of the Seas lurched to the side, the main mast broke in two. Then the hull burst open as the cargo of copper- and iron bars crashed through the wood. It only took a minute for the ship to go down. Dozens of people were still trapped – less than a hundred feet from Westfall. The water boiled with air bubbles. The ship went down with a thundering, slurping sound, echoing across the stormlashed sea. Some sailors tried to swim against the backdraft but the currents pulled them down.

Then everything turned still. No screams, no crashing timber. The waves kept sloshing against the shoreline. The wind kept howling. The rain, heavy as a waterfall, kep pelting the sand, the rocks, the flotsam and the sea. Bodies kept popping up like corks, flung across the angry waves.

“It’s … “the gnome shook his head in disbelief. “It’s just us, now … ”
“Look over there! Torches!” The night elf stood up, shielding her eyes from the rain and wind with her hands. “Over there!”
“Praise the Light!” The gnome started jumping up and down, screaming “HEY!!! OVER HERE!!!” He stopped jumping, turned to the night elf and grinned. “It’s the bloody militia!”
“Aren’t they rather short for militia troopers?”

The eerie sound of a snicker rolled down the sandbank. Then the gnolls stormed the beach.

****

Shu_sash

Glass shattering on stone woke Shuanna up. The walls of Lunarfall was eight feet thick, but the town hall was nothing more than a shack. Stone piled upon stone with mortar in between, wooden boards on wooden beams. Her bedroom was one floor above the main hall. Even small sounds echoed up through the wooden floor, reverberating against stone and plaster.

Years in the field had tempered her. Even the slightest sound could wake her up. She would wake up with her heart racing, reach out and grab the mace that always rested against the wall close to her bed. Most of the times there was nothing to attack but shadows. Or an inquisitive mouse, pit-patting across the floor. Sometimes there was nothing at all, the room was dark but she still heard the screams in her head. Sometimes there were ghosts in the darkness. Sometimes she raged against them, swinging her mace – only to stop mid-motion and wonder if she was going crazy.

She was used to waking up, several times every night, from all the small sounds. Even peaceful sounds, like the tick-tock of the chronometer far up in the tower, could send her into near panic. Every time cold sweat trickled down her spine, her armpits felt ablaze. Then sometimes, other sounds woke her up, sounds no one would expect in a town hall.

Like the sound of sorrow … one early morning she woke up hearing lieutenant Thorn sobbing downstairs. When Shuanna came down, still half asleep and almost naked but armed with a glowing crystal mace, she found Thorn bent double over a ledger. The lieutenant clutched a rose with one hand and a gun with the other. They stared at each other, knowing that both of them had their own nightmares, their own pain. None of them ever spoke of it. Secrets amongst friends.

Once, she woke up to muffled moans. Mace ready in her hands, she stormed down the stair and into the main hall … only to find rangari Erdanii on all four with VaanDaam behind her. It took all three of them a few seconds to react to the embarassment. Then Shuanna simply backed out of the room, trying not to laugh. None of them ever spoke of it. Secrets amongst friends.

Once, she woke up to the rumble of books, falling from a bookshelf. Mace ready in her hands, she dashed into the hall but stopped dead in her tracks. Zaliss, the feral druid, was desperately clinging to a bookshelf full of ledgers, trying to catch a moth. Both stared at each other, then Zaliss made a giant leap and snuck out of the town hall keeping low to the ground, full of shame and embarassment. None of them ever spoke of it. Secrets amongst friends.

Now, the crash of glass against stone, followed by a shout that sounded muffled through the mortar and glass of walls and windows.
“Fuck ALL of you, dammit!”

There was another crash, followed by distant yells of “Oi!” and “Hey, stop that!”. Shuanna gripped her mace even before she was completely awake. She forced herself to focus as she ran down the stairs and out the main door to the Town Hall. Dressed in nothing but underwear, she stopped halfway down the slope, mace resting by her side.

“Commander!” A guard shouted. “She gone crazy she has!”
“You stay away from me!” Sashanna screamed, then flung another empty clay bottle at the walls. “Fuck off!”
“I will handle this, guardsmen,” Shuanna said. She sent an angry glare at her sister. “Sash! Stop that!”
“No!” Sashanna picked up another bottle, but then most of the strength left her. She sank down on her knees, sobbing and crying. Shards from a broken bottle of Caraway Burnwine twinkled in the starlight around her. There was a dagger in her right hand.

“Sash?” Shuanna said, her voice low and careful. After some thought, she lowered her mace. “You behave now, you hear?”
“I hate all of you!” Sashanna screamed. Then she thought it over, and added: “Well, not Blook … ”
“You calm down now, you hear?” Shuanna took a few steps towards her. “Come on, sis. Let’s get you inside. We’ll talk inside. Okay?”

Sashanna sighed. Then she hugged herself, trying not to shiver. Early mornings in Shadowmoon could be quite chilly. Burnwine and rage had kept her warm so far, but as the adrenaline faded away she felt cold and vulnerable. She mumbled an “okay then … ” and followed Shuanna inside the Town Hall. Slouching, resisting almost every step, she finally slumped down in front of the fireplace.

Shuanna walked her all the way back. With a sigh of relief she closed the door to the main hall and let the mace rest against a wall. She walked down the length of the room, pulling a coat from a rack near the door, covering herself up. It was better than nothing. Early morning and the main hall was damp and cold until she entered the halfcircle of warmth from the fireplace. More glass in front of the fireplace. Even as Sashanna was sitting down, she was leaning first to one side, then another.

“You alright?” Shuanna said as she hunched down. “Hey, Sash?” She carefully put a hand on her sisters head and gave the hair a little ruffle. “What got into you!? you’re drunk as a skunk, girl!”

“I’m fine,” Sashanna said. She swallowed a sob, wiping tears and snot from her face with the sleave of her dress. “I’m jush … I dunno.” She glanced at the broken bottle. “Shorry ’bout that … me a bit d’unk, I think.” She stared at the dagger in her hand. Then, with a frightened yelp, she tossed to the side and looked up at Shuanna. “I mish Kam … ”
“Ah.” Shuanna sat down, careful to avoid the glass shards. She pushed the dagger away with one of her hooves. When she spoke, she tried to keep her usual haggard, slightly angry tone, in check. “You didn’t think about doing something with that dagger, I hope.”
“Couldn’t get the she… sh… ” A deep breath. “Seal. Off da bottle. Shorry … It kinda shlipped my handsh.”
“Uh-huh.” Shuanna nodded. To her own suprised she smiled. It felt good, smiling. She suddenly realised she had almost never smiled from pure joy. Malice, yes. Threatening hate, oh sure. Love or joy? not so much. There were another bottle close by, already empty. “Party hard, eh?”

Sashanna giggled, slumped back on the bearskin and rested her head against the furs stuffed bearhead. After a while, she reached out with a hand and pulled Shuanna down beside her.
“I hash da shadsh … shads.” Deep breath. “Sad.”
“I know honey.” Shuanna sat up. There was a quilt next to her. She brought it up and draped it over Sashanna. “I know … ” She sighed, deeply.

“How can you?” Sashanna wiped tears from her face, trying to stiffle a sob. It failed. “How can you know?” I mean … Fuck. “She sighed, deeply, trying not to cry but failed. Almost wailing, she clung to Shuanna. “I love her sho mush! Why mush … mush deshe fucking politicsh … I mish her too!”
“We very nearly couldn’t get you out of Silvermoon, kid.” Shuanna shrugged. “I know what love is, but dammit, girl. A blood elf? I had to cash in on a shitload of favors just to keep you out of the gallows.”
“Pleashe don’t be mad … ”
“I’m not mad!” Shuanna sighed, closed her eyes and forced her voice into a low, almost monotone sound. “It’s just the way I sound. You know it … ”
“I don’t want you to be mad at me.”
“I’m no–” Deep breath. “I’m not mad. You had us all worried, that’s all. Running away like that, eh? The High King himself yelled at me, you know. I’ve killed men for doing that.”
“Shorry … ” Sashanna leaned back, wiping her face with a corner of the quilt. “WEll they do call you the Kingshlayer …”

Shuanna laughed. Very gently, she patted Sashannas head, stroking her hair. It somehow calmed both of them down.
“Eh, it doesn’t matter.” Shuanna smiled, she hoped it would be a warm smile but from Sashannas worried expression it probably came out as a sneer. “Laveria, the fucking bitch, she’s dealing with Kam. I’m stuck with you, silly girl.”
“You’re mad at me.”
“No.” Shuanna sighed. “Well, ok, a bit. Look … Blood elves, the Horde … It’s just not possible, Sash. Sorry. Not yet, anyway.”
“I love her!”
“I know. I know …”
“You do?”
“I was young too, once.”
“I find that hard to believe.”

Shuanna burst out laughing. It was not a very pleasant laugh. Everytime she laughed, there was that mean, haggard edge to it. She saw Sashanna cringe a little. Instead of saying anything, Shuanna leaned over and started to tickle her sister.

“You little vixen!”
“No! Pleashe! Shtop it!” Sashanna shrieked with laughter. “Pleashe!”
“Right.” Shuanna chuckled, leaned back on her elbows and bumbed her hip against Sashannas. “It’s true. I used to be in love.”
“I didn’t know that.”
“Sheela.” Shuanna smiled, closed her eyes and nodded. “We used to chase moths down on the plains. We ran away once.”
“You did?”
“Yeah … ” Shuanna rolled over on her side, pulling Sashanna into a gentle hug. “Maraad found us all the way up in Nagrand. We were trying to build a raft, ’cause we were going to hide in Frostfire. It was so stupid … ”
“She an orc?”
“Oh no. She was a beutiful draenei. She … touched my soul.”
“Why didn’t you, you know, go together? Be a couple, kinda?”
“Mother didn’t like her. Sheela was the daughter of an elekk breeder.”
“Oh.”
“Yeah … Like you said. These fucking politics …”
“Did she come to Azeroth? With the rest of us?”

Shuanna hesitated for quite some time. Then she rolled over on her side, put an arm around Sashanna and whispered:

“She died in Shattrath, Sash.” Shuanna sighed, forcing herself to smile. She stood up, pulled Sashanna up and said: “Now, let’s get you too bed. You’ll have one hell of a headache tomorrow.”
“Shu?” Sashanna said, stopping Shuannas first step with a tight tug on her hand.
“Yes?”
“Do you miss her?”
“Every day.” Shuanna nodded, then she blinked, hard. The tears was kept back with sheer willpower. “Every single day, Sash. With every breath.” She nodded at the dagger on the floor. “You weren’t using that for the seal, did you?”

Sashanna shrugged, embarassed. She looked up at Shuanna, then pulled her into a hard, long comforting hug.

“I’m shorry, Shu … ”
“We’ll be allright, sis. We’re survivors.”
“I love Kam … ”
“I know.”
“Some people say, know what they say?” Sashanna yawned, stumbling. Shuanna steadied her with firm hand.
“What do people say, my drunken little kitten, mmm?”
Sashanna smiled. Then she giggled. She wrapped herself around Shuanna in a close hug, burbing caraway fumes and stale frostweed breath. Almost with no voice at all, she said, before almost falling asleep:
“Some people … say … that eternal love … is only one breath away.”

– – – – – –
Backstory for Sashanna here and here.)

The Selfie (Booty Bay Passion)

Sash_Kam

By now it’s probably all over the news. You know, how Kamelia and Sashanna, the youngest sisters of a celebrated Horde hero and an Alliance general went AWOL. I hear both Alliance and Horde are hunting them. I hear that the Argent Crusade is doing damage control. Rumor has it, even the Scarlet Crusade are hoping to cash in on a potential “hostage situation”.

Oh don’t worry. Uncle’s got it covered. Uncle Speedy always got it covered. That’s why I was sent to Silvermoon, to babysit the young lovers. I don’t mind. Comfy beds, good food and bowls of Bloodthistle I don’t even need to pay for. Oh, and you know – a lot of blood elves have a thing for goblin darlings. I just keep an eye out for any bounty hunters … and if someone shows up. Well.

People know me as “the Dispatcher”.

(It’s my uncle who thought of it. I haven’t actually killed that many. By the time I’ve been able to fumble out a dagger in each hand the bad guy is already venting his, or hers, brain through the skull. I don’t know how it happens. Or who puts the hole in them. I don’t care. Uncle is probably paying some elf assassin pretty decent money to keep the “darling duo” safe. Me? Well, I’m getting cred. That’s cool – ’cause a goblin needs cred.)

I knew they needed help the very second I saw them. What can I say? I’m a nice gal, alright? “Kam and Sash” is the thing that happens once in a lifetime that makes your lonely romantic heart skip a beat. Straight out of a novel but in real life! Sure, my third cousin Bixby would probably have sold them out. Not me, though. Uh-uh. Uncle knows I’m a softie. I’m not like other goblins, you know. Me, I’ve got a beating heart for Love, dollface.

You won’t believe what happened next.

you know, I’ve always said this, I have. I read a lot. Well ok, mostly it’s those romantic novels on cheap paper because they don’t contain too complic.. compu… hard. Words. But I read a lot. I know this, ok?

Even the dead know that Love is All (“Icecold Passion”, a story about a ghoul). There are stories of night elves, in long forgotten Auberdine, desperately trying to hold on to Love (I read that in a history book and cried for several seconds). There are stories of orcs, in Aszhara, desperately trying to rekindle what was lost in their own peculiar way. Yeah, well, that was told to me by a crying grunt who said he had been there. I don’t know if it’s true or not. It happened before the Cataclysm, up in Aszhara. Word of advice: Hiring mercenaries to kill the woman that scorned you don’t improve your chances for a future relationship.

Love. Aaah, if I only knew what it was … but I’m kinda the third wheel, you know. Sure I sold “love”, but that was not the love I saw in those eyes. So there I was, a rather experienced lovemaker if I say so myself, seated next to the darlings. So I watched their eyes – uncle always says “watch the eyes, kid. When one pulls, it’s always in the eyes before the bullets start flying.”

The blood elf was so infatuated she didn’t even see me. The draenei was so shiny I swear her forehead came to light – and she didn’t even notice! Then they touched, just fingertips, and I damned near gasped like they did. That breath. It was so … it was so beutiful. I kinda wanna know what it would be like, you know. Getting all “haa-aaah!” on that first touch. Yeah I saw it all. It’s because of me those dolls eloped. Sorry!

Just, you know. A gals gotta do what a gals gotta do.

Few people are as open to the prospect of love as goblins. No it’s true! We’re a very romantic race. It’s a simple matter of economics: If you feel the love, find someone that loves you back and you can kick up your feet and smoke cigars while others work. Like my uncle and his Trixxie. Once, when he kinda did a bad and poisoned a whole town – just a fiscal mistake, ok!? – there was that cake. Anyway.

Aww, don’t make that face! That’s how it is! You know it. I know it. Everyone with knees made of jelly and a stomach full of

(could it be beans?)

butterflies knows it. Gals know it, you know where. Gents know it where – yeah, you can probably figure it out. I never felt it as such, but I have “high standards”. Look, I like diamonds, ok?

Gonna cost you to make me wet, partner. I mean, uh … I mean – to love you. See, I’m a bit the black sheep. I kinda want to land on my feet before I put them up and smoke cigars. Afterwards. I’m not like my cousin.

My cousin Vinnie had to wear baggy pants for six weeks because he couldn’t find the courage to ask Arkok the Butcher out on a date. Sure, Vinnie was a slum guy and Arkok was a Kor’Kron (he switched sides when Vol’Jin offered better pay and six days vacation a month). They met in a bar, hiding from the Alliance Rampage. Truth be told Arkok was a butcher – he just kinda got drafted into the army. Anyway. Let’s just say that his polearm made Vinnie’s mouth water.

(Mum can’t get over it, but she’s “traditional”. It’s goblin or bust. Vin and Ark are pretty cool. They run a “antique weapons” store in Dalaran these days.)

“Uncle” Speedy knows everything about love. More importantly, he knows what young lovers need. Wanna know what young lovers need? Uh-huh, thought ya would.

They need selfie cameras.

Right. So here’s how it happened: A blood elf in inherited armor walks into my uncles place in Booty Bay to get out of the rain. A draenei, carrying an Ironforge Mk II .50 cal shotgun loaded with buckshot and a sixth solid cartridge, like the way you do if you know your way around automatics and walks into a bar filled with goblin and tauren pirates … oh wow. I lost myself.

Guns make me giddy with excitement. I once met a human who was packing almost twenty inche… anyway!

Yeah ok, so the horney girl was a real looker. I would have gone up to her myself if her raptor hadn’t been whispering “do you feel lucky, punk” as soon as a pirate came three feet from her booty. Lemme tell ya, a mighty fine booty it was too! no wonder the raptor was protective of it. I could have pinched that all night long. Yeah, I’m a draenei in spirit. It’s just my body that’s small, green and greedy.

So things got weird. The blood elf just ruffled the raptors feathers and called it “a good boy”. The raptor said “I like your hair”. Raptor are real charmers. Then the blood elf glanced at horney girl … and then time stopped.

Fucking Chromie.

She came out of my uncles office right that second – and time stopped. I have no idea how long it lasted. I couldn’t move, but I could see and breath. I remember everyone frozen in place except Kamelia, the blood elf, and Sashanna, the draenei. They could still move. And Chromie, of course.

“You two will do stuff for me,” Chromie said.
“Like what?” Kamelia said.
“Oh, you know … ” Then Chromie giggled.

Ugh. I really hate gnomes giggling! Especially when they’re not gnomes at all!

Like seriously? I reallt wish uncle could do business with anyone but the Chromes. Heck, I’d take Cult of the Damned over the Chromes any day! Like, you know, you ever fucked a Timewalker? Uh-huh, thought not. It feels like three minutes but it was monday when you got paid and sixtynine positions later it’s friday and the asshole still grunts “I’m so close, so close!”. It’s a good thing I keep a mechanical (gnome constructed) meter going. Otherwise I would be pretty poor.

(Uncle don’t like my sideshow but a girl has needs. It’s not my fault no one in Booty Bay can keep up with my … wassaword … libido!)

Next thing I know, everything comes back. I’m seated at a table with the darlings and Love is in the Air. Then they touch – and Chromie, warming her hands at the fireplace, says:
“I think you should ask your uncle for one of the cameras. And the file we agreed on.”

I hate dragons.

Diary of a warlock: Homo homini lupus

“A Man is a wolf to other men”
– Plautus

WoWScrnShot_082014_213437

My first memory of father involves a wolf. I called her Skippy. When she came into my life, Skippy was no more than a pup. This was a very long time ago. I was still happy then. Father was still happy.

Mother Daisy was alive.

He was a young man back then, probably no more than fifteen, maybe seventeen. He once told me that my grandparents were farmers not far from Sunnyglade. They fled when the undead came and eventually he and his brother Valence ended up in Redridge. Camden, my father, who everyone called Cakewalk, grew up there, but then work made him move to Darkshire and that’s where he met Daisy. She was twelve but already a woman (young people mature fast in Duskwood, no one knows why).

Mother Daisy was alive.

Father was my hero and mother was my saint. On the morning that father took me to the woods, I was four years old. I had walked for three years and six months. I had spoken, written and read real words for a year. Back then, people came all the way from Goldshire on Market Day to hear me sing. I was unusual. Once, a mage showed up and tried to buy me! Father said: “This child is not for sale. I will protect her myself from all of the shadows. Even when the wolves … “ I oogled the mage with the curiousity of a child, perched on the shoulder of father. Then mother took me, gave me a sweet … and growled.

Mother Daisy was alive.

Back then, father was still earning almost fifty silver a week as a logger. I once saw him cleave the head of a man with a thick-bladed axe when the man tried to touch That. The thing I have. The thing all women have, be they young or old. (Oh, so many men, women and succubii have touched it ever since. I once tried to romance Metaril the Void Lord. He scoffed and told me “I don’t like your kind”. I guess it’s just my luck: I summoned a gay Void Lord.) He buried the man, with some help from mother.

Mother Daisy was alive.

Much later, when fathers soul started to rot, he became a monster. It’s one of the mysteries of Duskwood, you see. Everything rots. It takes time, but everything rots. Trees, men, women. Your soul. The wolves don’t rot. The wolves stay wolves. Some people say that the feral worgen are no better than wolves but those people think that wolves are monsters. Ask any of the old loggers, those who are still sane, if they ever found a monster wolf. They will say no. “It’s their nature,” they will say. “The wolf is a wolf. Man is a wolf to other men, but a wolf is always a wolf to man and wolf.”

Mother Daisy was alive.

We used to wake up early, back when father was a Real Man. Before dawn, as dawn can be in Duskwood. The dark of night changed color. Blue crept into the shadows, the black slowly retreated and then the glow of luminiscent fungii and moss turned the morning to a dull yellow with streaks of green. Sometimes the sun broke through the clouds and you could see the moss and lichen move. It crept, as fast as moss can creep, towards the light. Then it became still, drinking the sunshine. A few beams could sustain it for years. I dare say there was always a lot more moss and lichen around on those rare, clear days. Mother came out with a wicker basket filled with pumpkin pies and beer and apples and cheese and we ate and laughed, all three of us. Because back in those days, you see …

Mother Daisy was alive.

People in Duskwood were like the lichen. No matter what important tasks we had back then, we would always stop and then sit in the rays of light until they were gone. We were always a lot happier, for days afterwards Duskwood was a place of love. During those days, some people would always find a New Hope and move north, or south. They never came back. Like Mother …

Mother Daisy is alive.

Some went to Goldshire and Elwynn. Some went to Stranglethorn. Those who stayed would drink the Light and then, days later, the hangover would be so bad that they even went to the Old Temple. There, Preacher Morbent, even though everyone knew he was crazy, would speak. Preach. Sing. Gargle. He wouldn’t stop talking until we all sang to his tune – and such a wonderous tune it was! We all sang it, except mother. Because …

Mother Daisy is the Wolf.

“The Twilight …” Morbent would say. “We must embrace the Twilight, for ooh ia! OOOH IA!!! OOOH IA!!! IA!!! AND YOU KNOW IT IN YOUR SOUL!!! Hey poor! Hey poor! YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE POOR ANYMORE!!! I tell you know, I tell you know that, I TELL YOU that The Hammer of Twilight Is Our Salvation! SALVATION! The Hammer of Twilight Is Our Salvation! Ia! Ia! The Hammer of Twilight Is Our Salvation! Ooh Ia! YES FOR IT IS SO SPOKEN IN THE CRYPTS!!! Where is your precious light NOW!!? Do not be afraid to die! LIFE is a prison! Beyound the Black Wood where even Death may die, the Black Goat will protect her young!” Here he would pause, and then say: “Death … is a … release. Am I telling you to kill yourself?” Here he would wait for all of us to listen. Then he would say: “No. NO!!! I Say to you NOW!!! THE GODS will claim you, but before they do, you need to LIVE!!! SPREAD!!! FORNICATE!!! CURSE!!! Ia! IA! The children. The children!” Here he would pause, wipe his brow, and then whisper so low you had to listen“The children. I want your children. Beware the wolf!”

Mother Daisy.

“IA IA IA!!!” the congregation would shout. Some would panic and flee. Some would scream and rave incoherent things and thoughts. Some would be so gripped by power that they would fornicate, right there, screaming and shaking as the oldest magic of all ripped through their bodies. Sex. The Curse of Flesh. I once saw a mother throw her newborn at Morbent, who threw it back and yelled  “Too young!”. Everybody laughed, except father. Then all fell silent, because there was a growl outside …

Mother Daisy.

Salandria Dement, a milliner married to a pumpkin farmer, later killed herself, her family and all of the cattle. She used a mallet for the newborn, a butcher knife for her husband and five sons and a rope for her oldest daugther. It’s said she tied the girl in such a fashion that she broke her hips. Imagine the strength to do that – and “Sally” was no taller than five feet. No on is quite sure what she used to rip the cattle to shreds … or why they found her body perfectly white, whithered, drained, deep in the woods not far from Lady Celestes old Raven Hill summer villa (now ruined). It’s said the people who found the dead later on talked in hushed whispers about the word that Sally had painted on the bedroom wall, right above the head of her dead husband: SANLAYN.

Mother Wolf knew.

During the Morbent sermons, most of us shouted “Ia!” because that was the way it had always been. Kids like me thought it was pretty fun. We could scream all kinds of words but no adult would slap us or spank us. It was total anarchy. When Morbent screamed and shouted, all of us could do what we wanted to. Adults never interfered, they were to busy being feared. Some screamed and then started to shake. I remember Erinne Durant, the village whore, once started yelling “Gul’kafh an’shel. Yoq’al shn ky ywaq nuul!” and then faint. Several young men found their way into her, both then and later (they had to pay for later, but that is the way of Duskwood). I was three years old then. The first word I ever uttered was not “papa”. The first word, on the eve of Morbents last sermon, was …

“Mother Wolf …”

(Here’s the first installment of “Diary of a warlock“, in which Sharenne Gawry reveals a terrible secret … )