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Did you know there are mods for RPing? I must have known this, once upon a time, but had either completely forgotten or honestly never realized it. I consider myself educated on the subject now, and can confirm that yes, there are indeed mods for RPing.
How many, I don’t know. I only played with two of them (recommended by the lovely folks at Single Abstract Noun (EU). The first, Gryphonheart Items, let’s you make fake items you can link in chat windows. It was fun right up until it started spamming me with enough LUA errors to prompt the game to politely inquire as to whether I would like to disable it. I pouted a bit, but clicked yes and have not yet had a chance to play with it again.
The other was FlagRSP (I believe that was the name…going from memory here). It’s actually a very simple mod – you click a button and enter in any prefixes to your character’s name (Ms., Lady, Sister, etc.), your last name, any titles you may have (King of Urmum, Lord of the Dance, Starbucks Barista, etc.), and a “physical description”. From that point forward, as you run around the inexplicably populated Silvermoon, you will be assaulted by windows providing you all of the above information for anyone you mouse over who also has the mod installed.
It is, if nothing else, entertaining to read some of them.
So my patient guildies gave me a crash course in the dos and don’ts of FlagRSP descriptions (DO: have a scar, or state very strongly that you do not. DON’T: hesitate to include a six page dissertation on your character’s history and background. Half-vampire, half-dragon, lesbian daughters of Thrall are strongly encouraged), and I must have spent a good thirty minutes just staring at the interface and filling in the fields:
Last Name: du Soleil (with apologies to those who wanted me to go with Poire. My tongue has trouble saying Poivre Poire – plus, most BEs tend to have sun-based last names and I’m assuming RPers are picky about their canon)
Physical Description: Poivre appears to be the cheerful, dependable sort, though she wears her sword and shield uncomfortably, as though the weight is unfamiliar to her.
Boom. That’s it. 30 minutes for that – not even counting translation time on the physical description so I can continue to justify using my “Time To Learn French Account” on an English server (though I’m doing more actual conversing in French, ironically, on the English server than the French one (with un grand merci to Mihiel for the help and patience)).
Understand that I’ve sort of been fascinated by the RP side of WoW for some time. I have a character or two sitting somewhere around level 7 on a couple different RP servers, but was never able to commit to them, and they never saw any RP action.
The extent of my RPing to date has been a single run-in with somebody obviously taking it very srsly:
Poivre was stopped by a very polite Tauren just sort of meandering along the road in Eversong. He inquired as to where he might find Lor’Thremar, and Poivre replied “follow the road south until you reach the city of Silvermoon. Ask any guard where the priests and the mages reside – he can usually be found in their company.”
With copious backspacing of pesky things like acronyms and emoticons and other various grammatical idiosyncrasies that I assumed were inappropriate under the circumstances. The first cut of my response was: “Back of SM near the port to UC. :)”
“Thank you, young elf,” replied the Tauren, gravely I believe, and wandered once more on his slow, ponderous way.
And all of this took place in the Say, which just boggles the mind really. The Say is a place for newbies and for conspirators out of range of the rest of their party. It’s not the place for civilized talking – except, apparently, on an RP server, where it’s the only place for civilized talking. I would imagine the Yell and the Whisper channels are only used to actually yell or whisper.
Crazy RPers! Next thing you know they’re going to try to tell me that Trade is for actual trading!
But then where would we LFG and tell [Anal] jokes, hmmm?
Anyway, I had a point, I’m sure I did. Daylight Savings Time has robbed me of two hours of sleep (if you count me going to bed at the old usual time, which is now an hour later than it used to be, and getting up at the new get-up time, which is an hour earlier), along with a good deal of what little sense I had.
Oh yes! FlagRSP and my curiosity about actually, you know, getting in on some of the RP fun.
So I filled out my entry as described above, and came to the bottom of the form where there are two little sliders – one to indicate whether you’re in character, out of character, or “looking for contact” (which frightens me more than a little bit, given some of the stories I’ve been hearing from people wandering through Goldshire on the US side). The other to say whether you’re not interested in RPing, a beginner RPer, a casual RPer, or a veteran RPer. The options may be worded slightly differently than that, but you get the idea.
Each of these sliders also has an option to hide your status.
Up until this point, I had been having a good deal of fun. I like creating unnecessarily detailed back stories for my characters regardless of what kind of server they’re on. Finding a last name for Poivre (cheap though it wound up being in the end!) and deciding enough about her personality and background to be able to fill the fields with something at least minorly useful was an enjoyable diversion. She may not be a half-vampire, half-dragon lesbian daughter of Thrall, but I like her anyway. And I swear to God I was all set to actually, you know, try the RP thing out.
But then I stared at those sliders. There were a lot more options than I’d thought there were. And unless I picked the “Do Not Want” options (in which case, why did I even fill out the fields?), it would be the equivalent of flagging myself for PvP – sooner or later, someone else would see me and try to strike up a conversation. Maybe I’d be doing something innocuous, like checking my mail, or AH surfing. Maybe I’d be fighting a zombie. I don’t know. But they’d saunter on up to me and ask me what I think of the latest political maneuverings in Silvermoon’s royal court. Or where they could find Deathholme because they are on an Urgent Quest To Save The World And Would I Like To Join Them But We Have To Walk Very Slowly All The Way There. Or why am I wearing a sword and shield I’m so obviously uncomfortable with?
It dawned on my slowly that for no apparent reason I was terrified.
I stared with no small amount of trepidation and pushed the sliders up one notch…
…then threw them all the way back to “hide” and closed the interface.
This is going to be harder than I thought.
Right, so, I stared at a blank Word page for – no joke – thirty minutes this morning trying to remember my super-awesome-idea-for-a-post that occurred to me at ten o’clock or so last night. Obviously it can’t have been that super-awesome. So instead, since my brain has been on Gnomeregan since it was announced that we will finally complete the only quest I ever cared personally about in the five years I’ve played this game, you get an RP post! Because…I suck like that.
Also, as a heads up, I had my first few French conversations without help last week. I’ll post about these once I can get my screenies up and ready.
Sword to the back; twist. Follow up with a shield to the back of the head, hard enough that something gives. Sword out and in again, right through the heart, just to be safe. Step gingerly around the growing puddle of trogg blood – never know if it’s radioactive or not – and take up a position in the old watch tower. Only instead of watching the road leading to Gnomeregan, I turn my eyes on the city instead. Threats don’t come from without anymore. Only from within.
It was probably a mistake…not asking for help in the early days. But our allies had their own wars to fight. They wouldn’t have been able to help us in the end, anyway. Still, though…I wonder if it wasn’t pride.
I know the taller races look at us and see a silly people, full of energy and ideas, too much enthusiasm, not enough forethought. And to some extent that may be true. But they don’t see the rest of it. They don’t see the pride. Gnomeregan is ours, has always been ours. We believed we could save it, on our own. We were wrong. We made it worse. It’s not just our city we’ve lost, either. We’re standing on the brink of losing our entire race. So many dead, or mutated and addled and little more than animals.
The rest of us…it’ll be a long time before we fully understand the long-term implications radiation exposure may have had on us as a whole. But if we can’t find a way to fix it, we’re looking at chronically low fertility rates, eventually leading to the dying out of the Gnomish race.
We’re a strong people, stronger than we’re given credit for. Whatever part pride played in our decision to fight the troggs alone, it wasn’t our only motivation. As I’ve said, our allies had other concerns. It would have been irresponsible to call on them; to ask them to dedicate resources to us when they were needed for the defense of their own lands and peoples. And even now…staring at the remains of our homeland, watching it defiled every day by the troggs and our addled kin and the usurper king on his cancerous throne, knowing there may come a day soon when the Gnomes no longer grace Azeroth with their spirit and creativity and inventiveness…we stand strong. We fight. We fight hard.
We’ve lost more than anyone can know. Family, friends, material goods, plans and schematics, our safety, our history, our trust, maybe even our future generations. There’s not one of us that’s whole anymore – my brother died flying over Loch Modan on a recon mission. All of us lost someone to Thermaplugg’s machinations. The troggs haven’t stopped taking from us since they bubbled up out of the depths.
But our spirit is not lost.
Our hope is not lost.
Gnomeregan is not lost.
Not while there’s even one of us left.
I sheathe my bloody sword and pull the radio from my belt.
“Togglevolt, this is P. F. Blastenheimer. I’m in position and things are looking rosy for a strike at the coordinates we talked about. Big group of troggs ripe for the picking.”
“Copy that, Blastenheimer,” he responds, squeaky voice staticy over the communication device. He hesitates though, and I know what he’s going to ask before he does. “Are there…are there any leper gnomes?”
I take a moment to think through my answer. “There are,” I tell him at last. “A few.” There always are. I don’t know if they’re smart enough, but sometimes I could swear the troggs keep them around knowing we’ll be slower to strike, more reluctant to kill if they’re there. “It’s a kindness we’re doing them, Togglevolt,” I tell him gently. “If it was me, I’d want you to.”
“Right,” he says, but there’s no disguising the catch in his voice, not even with the static. “Flying in hot. Over and out.”
I shake my head sympathetically and switch the channel on the radio. I can already hear the buzz of the bombers coming in from the north. They’ll be flying low to try to avoid the city’s anti-aircraft defences. Sometimes I think it hurts worse to have our own inventions turned on us than it does our kin. A gnome is a thing of flesh and blood, which has a value unto itself. But a machine is an idea, a concept. It’s a philosophy. Our philosophy. A product of all the collected knowledge of us and our ancestors, all the way back to the first gnomes. It’s our link to the past and our gift to the future.
A gift we will reclaim for the future, no matter how uncertain that may be.
“Sparkbolts, this is P. F. Blastenheimer. Togglevolt’s flying in hot right now. Be ready to get your unit in through the hole he blows. Get what you need and get out again.”
“I know, I know,” she snaps impatiently at me. “This is reconnaissance not a battle. I know already.”
“You’ll get your chance to fight,” I assure her. “The High Tinker’s been locked up in the war room with the humans and the dwarves for weeks. I think I even saw an elf in there. It’s going to happen, okay? It’s really going to happen. But we need that info to make it happen.”
“Fine,” it’s grudging, but it’s real. “But you’d better not try to hold me back when the battle really does start!”
“I’ll be right there with you, Pepper,” I say with a laugh. “We all will be. We’re going to take back our home, okay? I promise. We’re going home.”
The bombers fly overhead and suddenly their roar is deafening. I can barely make out the relay of voices over the radio screaming “For Gnomeregan!” as the planes drop their loads and the recon team charges in through the smoke and the screaming troggs and we put one more screw into the finishing touches of the dream we’ve all been living and breathing since we were driven out of our home years ago.
I rub awkwardly at my eyes, and tell myself the sudden sting is just smoke from the airstrike even though I know it’s not.
A chorus of cheers erupts from the radio as the planes peel away again, disappearing into the clouds to return to Ironforge, and I throw my head back and laugh like an angel on Judgement Day.
“For Gnomeregan!” I shout into the roar of their engines.
Home. After all these years…we’re finally going home.
So, I didn’t want to do another RP post so soon after the last, but the post I wrote up this morning is currently stuck on my laptop because I suck and have apparently lost my USB stick, which is the only means I currently have for transferring the file…. And this is the only back-written post I have. So…sucks to be you! ^^
There’s something unique about the smell of rotten flesh burning. It’s not really the smell that makes my stomach turn, though. It’s the realization that I’ve smelled it enough now to recognize it; to pick it out of the miasma of odour that pervades these once happy streets. I can smell the plague still. It’s been so long since it swept through the city, but it’s there – I know it because it smells like the Dead Scar back home. The creatures that have replaced the people and wagons and horses here have marinated in it for years. In this city that burns but never falls. Dies but is never dead.
Stratholme will burn and die forever. Nothing could put these fires out. Nothing can settle its dead.
Betrayal leaves a scar deeper than any blade.
At least, I think to myself, Arthas came to us as an enemy. Not as our friend. Not as our Prince. That makes it worse, somehow. It’s true. The corpses that wander the Dead Scar amble and meander. They’re violent, certainly, but not like here. The ghouls and abominations that wander here are angry like nowhere else in this world. There’s something more behind their attacks. Something deeper in their fighting. My group is no stranger to combat, no stranger to the walking dead, but here they give us a run for our money. Here…
“We’ll stop here,” says the woman who is the equivalent of our Commander. She used to be a part of Loarderon’s military. She served under Prince Arthas in her career, and was slain by him for defending her city. This place was her home. She died here. She rose again here.
We’re not exactly a military, not by a long shot, but we’re loyal to her, and we’ll follow her anywhere. Even here. We wouldn’t let her go alone. Not one of us.
“Yes, oh Supreme Leader,” says one of the priests at the back, but his voice is gentle, the nick name a term of endearment – something he normally takes great pains to conceal. He knows what she’s going through. He didn’t die here, he fell in Tirisfal, but he’s been to his own grave and he knows probably better than the rest of us what she must be going through.
She doesn’t notice in either case, choosing instead to take a seat from which she can survey the path before us and stare blankly ahead. We’ll rest for a few hours. Some of us will sleep. Some of us won’t. The healers will need to deal with everyone, the mages will need to discuss their spells, the elves haven’t had a chance to deal with their addiction in almost a day, myself included. We need a break, and this is a tactically sound spot to do it. Hidden, defensible, with a good view of any approaching enemies.
But that’s not all it has a good view of. And our Supreme Leader has a bad habit of putting her own needs to the side sometimes.
Meditation can wait.
I move over to where she sits, shifting my weight awkwardly at what I know is likely to be interpreted as an intrusion and can’t quite find my voice.
“You may as well sit,” she says heavily, “until you decide how you want to put it.”
I wince, but take a seat beside her, following her gaze to the city beyond. A row of townhouses burns across the street from where we are. The second-one from the left I recognize from a description given to me by her daughter. It’s the house the little girl died in while her parents fought to secure the city elsewhere. It’s the house the Scourge took her in, the house in which they denied her peace in death. She’s the youngest Forsaken I know and my heart breaks every time I see her. I can’t imagine what her mother must feel…
“Why here?” I ask finally.
She mechanically runs down a list of tactical reasons; cool, precise, and accurate. I deny none of them. This really is the best spot for us to set up camp. But that’s not the issue.
“We could have gone somewhere else,” I say softly. “You don’t have to…we wouldn’t ask this of you. You don’t have to…to stare at…to look at it for the rest of the night. We can still pick up and go.” It’s true. The rest of the group, sensing the decision is not yet as final as it might otherwise have been, are delaying the set up of the camp. Finding excuses to do other things until they can tell whether we’re actually staying.
She says nothing for a long moment, unable to tear her eyes away from the second house from the left. “There comes a point,” she says slowly, and I’m not immediately sure she’s talking to me, “when you need to put things behind you. When other priorities have to take precedence. You are correct in your assumption. I have no desire to sit here and watch my old home burn. To imagine what happened in it while I was somewhere else. But to be honest, there hasn’t been a day since when I haven’t done exactly that. This,” and she gestures, taking in the fiery street, the shambling undead, the stench of rotten meat burning, “is a pantomime. He leaves it here as a symbol. He lets it burn to remind us of what he did, to us and to everyone else. What he’ll do again if we let him. It’s an illusion, you see? That’s not my house, and my daughter’s not in there dying. My house burned down long ago, and my daughter is dead, but safe with friends in Tarren Mill. I can’t give her life again, and I can’t restore my house, and I can’t save this city. It was damned ages ago and all we’re seeing now is its corpse. I can put it to rest, and I can deal a blow to the Lich King by taking down one of his lieutenants. I can finish what I died trying to do. And that’s more important than hiding from a memory I couldn’t escape even if I wasn’t staring it in the face.” Her face sets into an expression that tells me I lost whatever argument it was I hoped to win. “Tactically this is the best spot to rest. We rest.”
I nod smartly, unable to think of anything to say, and get to my feet again. The rest of the group stares enquiringly at me as I return. I shrug and grab a hammer to start helping with the building of temporary barricades. A few people throw concerned glances at our Supreme Leader, but a collective sigh is heaved and we all set about establishing camp.
She joins us after a time, gesturing for me and a few others to come to her. “Tomorrow,” she says, all business, “we’ll push through the market. Intel has Rivendare holed up at the back of the city, deep in. We need to get into him without—”
“You can’t be serious,” interrupts the young man who leads our small contingent of healers. “You’re discussing tactics? Here? With—” his voice dies immediately when she looks at him, angry at his interruption and his questioning.
I clear my throat to rescue him from her stare. “We don’t have enough people to leave a path open behind us,” I note. “The Scourge will close up around us. We’re going to have to find another way out once we drop Rivendare.”
“Half the city is held by the Crusade,” she says. “Once Rivendare’s down, we can make a break for their half. They won’t be happy to see us, but unlike the Scourge we might be able to reason with them. And if not, well, we’re no worse off. Plus, we know Crusade tactics. They’re an easier target than the scourge.”
“But,” says the young man, stubborn despite the icy glare from our Supreme Leader, “isn’t your husband Crusade? What if…what if he’s over there?”
“Then he’s over there,” she says flatly. “And if he chooses to fight us we kill him. He’s not my husband anymore. ‘Till death do us part, I believe was the vow.”
“Okay,” says the young man, taking a deep breath, shifting his weight awkwardly. “All right, as long as you’re okay with it.”
“I will be okay with it,” she responds, “when we are out of this city and on our way back to Undercity. Until then, we do what we have to.”
He nods – we all nod – and the conversation about tactics continues, uninterrupted.
When we finally break I move over to my bedroll and lay back on the cobblestone street, staring up at what I can see of the sky through the acrid smoke and the fire’s glow. I don’t sleep for a long time.
I don’t understand how she can put anything behind her, when the universe seems to conspire to keep throwing it in front of her again. The same goes for all of us, I suppose. Stratholme isn’t the only place destroyed by the Scourge. Quel’thelas and the Sun Well were violated as well, and we all still suffer the effects of that. It’s in our blood, in our memories, in our hunger. How do we put it behind us, when we have to live with the effects every day?
There’s no faction, no race, no person the Scourge hasn’t touched, hasn’t wounded. And in that, I think I can almost understand where our Supreme Leader is coming from. As long as the Scourge exists, there can be no person it doesn’t touch. As long as it ravages the world and our homes and our lives, there will be no putting it behind us, not in the usual sense.
But if we focus on the future – a future free of the scourge; a future where little girls aren’t turned into undead, and entire cities aren’t murdered and burned and denied any peace in death – it puts it in perspective. It puts it all behind us – even as we live it – because we have that image to hold on to, to fight for.
You can’t fight for what’s gone, because you’ll never bring it back.
You can only fight for what’s to come. You can fight to make sure it does come, that the future is brighter than the present. The past is immutable – like this city. Our past burns without falling, and dies without dying, forever and ever, amen.
But our future…
Our future is different. Our future is better. Because we believe to be so. Because it has to be so.
Because we’ll make it so.
The sky falls away, and I sleep peacefully at last.
So…when you decide you want an alt…what do you do? What prompts the decision? How do you pick your race/class/hair combo?
For me, the prompting could be absolutely nothing. I’m serious. I could hear someone say “Hunter” on the bus. He’s probably talking to his friend, you know? But all of a sudden, I’ve got in my head that I need to be a hunter and I start crawling all over http://www.babynames.com and the mobile armory to find a name that isn’t taken so when I get home I can make an alt.
Alternatively, maybe I find myself completely, obsessively engrossed in a trilogy about heroic assassins while simultaneously playing an extremely popular game about the same. Well, quite frankly, I’m screwed. I paid an obscene amount of money to server-transfer and faction-change an old rogue alt after I’d finally finished the books (still working through the game, but I’m getting there. I hear there’s a second? I live under a rock, you see…single-player games are hard to find time for since WoW came around).
So, as you can see, it could be nothing, or it could be a lot. Usually it’s a piece I wind up attracted to, and then build a character around. A class, a personality type, a hair style, even a name I like. Sometimes I see a really, really impressive looking character of a given race or class and I must have one. It’s like fucking Pokémon.
So once I’ve got this piece, the building process begins. Names – which, in my general writing, tend to get the lowest priority of any other piece of a character – take on a certain kind of urgency in WoW. Not only can you not actually create your character until you have a name, it has to be a name no one else has. Finding a name that meets the following criteria is next to impossible:
- I like it and all of its possible meanings, short-forms and spellings;
- I’m the first person who’s thought of it.
Accents are my friend – but accent abuse is a good excuse to kick someone in the head. I’m talking maybe an accent egu over the e, or in place of the dot on an i (one because I can actually use that sound appropriately, the other because it’s subtle and hardly noticeable). I see far too many people wandering around Stormwind with a freaking riot of dots and squiggles over every letter of their name and I just want to shake them, screaming: do you even know what an umlaut is for?!
But the name-finding process takes place simultaneously with everything else. Obviously. It’s the hardest part.
So I’ve got a piece, and the search for a name has commenced. Time to start building a character in my head. The fleshing out process is easier, obviously, with certain pieces than others. If I start with a class, well, each class has a set of assumed circumstances and standard archetypes that you can play with – either by accepting them or reversing them, but they give you a starting place. The same goes for race.
Perhaps the easiest way to describe this is to sort of run down an example (which, of course, means I’m going to have to actually make this alt and play it now. Thanks a lot, guys. Like I don’t have enough alts. Geez).
So let’s say the piece I get stuck on is a fervently religious character. Maybe I’ve seen one in a book or another game or I’ve been running ToC just a little too much lately, and the concept kind of stuck. This is a blissfully easy character concept to run with, because it lends itself to certain class choices very strongly:
These are the obvious ones, so we’ll stick to them for this example, but note that pallies and priests don’t have a monopoly on religion. A Death Knight, for example, who remains (or has (re)discovered that he can be) devout despite the whole hungering for flesh thing could be an interesting character. Maybe a rogue for a possible ethical-gray-zone feel with a holy assassin. A hunter could become a justicar, hunting down those the Silver Hand has marked for justice. It doesn’t have to be a priest or a pally.
But let’s say that I’m actually looking for a man or woman of the cloth(plate).
So I briefly consider each class. I’ve played them both into Northrend, so there’s no preference in terms of newness or experience, but right off the bat the Paladin has an advantage – it has a prot spec. That is like candy to me. Sure, maybe I’ll level Ret, but I know what’s going to happen by Outland. Also, I’m more likely to maintain interest in a pally than a priest. Also, I have heirlooms for a pally. Also, wearing cloth armour scares me.
So pally it is!
Okay, so I know I’m a pally who takes his religion very seriously. Okay, let’s work with that. Gender next. Is it a boy or a girl? Pink or blue cigars, here? The decision comes down to a long list of questions. Am I making this character as part of a matched set with someone else? Do we intend to create some kind of romance between the characters (I used to create romances between my dinky cars, so it’s kind of inevitable really)? Does either party have a preference for a same- or opposite-sex relationship between them? What are my race options for the class, and are there any models therein that I really can’t stand or know I’ll lose interest in? What do I feel like staring at for the next 80 levels? Does either gender dress up in plate better than the other for a given race? Which starting area do I want to do?
My race options are as simple as the class options:
- Blood Elf
Okay, well, most of my alts right now are on the Alliance, so let’s go Horde. That means BE. I’m not creating this character as part of a matched set, so I don’t need to account for anyone’s preferences but my own. So…ultimately, BE females are so small they kill the effect of plate armour. Let’s go with a male.
So we have a male, blood elf, paladin who’s serious about his religion.
Okay, now we have a bit of a conflict. Are we a pre-Kael-fucking-his-own-people-for-some-reason-I-still-don’t-understand, or post-Kael-fucking-his-own-people-for-some-reason-I-still-don’t understand? Pre-KFHOPFSRISDU, the BE pallies are stealing power from a captive Naaru and sort of being all “bad-ass” about it. I put that in quotes because it belongs there. I never really thought they were bad-ass about it, but I got the impression they did. Post-KFHOPFSRISDU, Liandra goes to Shatt, throws herself on the mercy of the Naaru, and the BEs become Pallies For Realz, Yo (TM) – as long as you don’t look too closely at the names of any of their abilities or the text of some of the lower-level quests. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!
They are Pallies, now! For Realz! …yo…
Okay, so if this guy’s going to be serious about his religion, it’s almost gotta be Post-KFHOPFSRISDU, because prior to that it wasn’t a religion. It was just general BE douchebaggery.
So let’s proselytize the fucker. Maybe he, like so many BEs, was some kind of low-ranking noble – too much money, not enough sense in his head. Liked to party. Kept his hours full of wine, women, and song so he wouldn’t realize how empty it all was. Then, one day, Kael came to town and he FHOPFSRISDU and ran away with their Naaru and a bunch of citizens and turned them all into Wretched and was the King of Mount Douche (why though?! I liked him in Warcraft III…).
So my little dude was all like, “OMG noes! WTF? How could this happen?”
And then Liandra goes to Shatt and is all: “i is sry” and Adaal is all, “sokay, i luv u”. And Liandra brings that message of hope and light and redemption back to Silvermoon and my guy – who has been waiting for something to galvanize him into action his whole life – buys into the whole thing hook line and sinker. He joins the Blood Knights (or…whatever they’re called now. Are they still Blood Knights?) and discovers the awesomeness that is the Holy Light. And finally finds some kind of purpose in his life.
His people, by this point, are shattered for about the millionth time in their history. They practically worshipped Kael, and his betrayal wasn’t exactly an easy pill to swallow. Their race is in decline, they’re all still fucked by the magic addiction, and they’re not exactly popular outside of Silvermoon. So he spends most of his leveling time helping them, trying to protect and encourage them, to prop up his own race before it falls apart completely. He turns to the Holy Light to combat his own addiction. He stops partying. He starts going to Church (or…whatever the paladins have). He probably sings in the choir. He may even help the Blood Knights establish and build up their own version of the Holy Light religion, working with their priests (who were…somehow…okay with stealing from the Naaru…even though they had the real Holy Light all along? Were they stealing it too?). Blah, blah, blah levels 1-78.
Because free Exorcism crits are made of win, my little guy packs his bags and trucks it out to Northrend where he is going to have to compete for the title of Mr. Religion 2010 with people like Tirion Fondring and Eadric the Pure (I think he’s probably screwed, but don’t tell him I said so). In terms of storylines, this is the Pally Expansion. For Pallies. There is almost more for a pally to do in the context of Wrath than I know what to do with. There’s undead. There’s a HUGE Argent presence. There’s Scarlet Crusade. Every third NPC says something about the Light. There is, for all intents and purposes, a pally tournament going on in Icecrown. Argent Idol or something.
Perhaps as he moves through Icecrown, my little pally starts to realize his focus has been limited. Maybe he thinks part of what fucked his race so bad is how internalized they were. How reclusive. They didn’t engage the other races enough – not when they were part of the Alliance, and not now that they’re part of the Horde. Sure there are amabassadors and diplomats, but the people themselves stay in Silvermoon or other BE outposts and don’t really interact fully. They don’t integrate. So he thinks to himself that maybe it’s time to lead by example.
He tenders his resignation from the Blood Knights and joins the Argent Crusade. Ultimately maybe even the Ashen Verdict, putting aside his distrust of undead to work with the Death Knights for the Greater Good.
Obviously this is all very high level – it needs a lot more details. It needs other characters, and better defined motivations, and some kind of actual plot, like with events and stuff. But it provides a workable background sketch to start building this guy up in more detail from once I hit the “Create Character” button. It’s enough to make him, have a general picture in my brain of what I’m going for, and I can make up the rest as I go.
All that’s left is to play him.
*The other possible “ending” here is that I get bored of playing a pally, delete the character and reroll him as a DK. Instead of joining the Argent Crusade, he winds up falling (heroically or otherwise) and joins the Ebon Blade. See? Lots of possibilities.
She glares at me from across the fire, and I’m torn between being deeply wounded at the hatred I see in her eyes or sobbing with relief that she’s alive and free of that damned citadel, if not its hold on her. I shift guiltily on the hard ground. “You know I can’t untie you,” I tell her for the thousandth time. “I want to, but you’ll just try to kill me again, and then you’ll run right back to Kargath and I’ll never get another chance to get you help. So stop looking at me like that.”
She twists her mouth into an impressive scowl, despite the gag, and I grunt at her. “Promise you won’t start howling and bring the whole Peninsula down on us?” I demand, trying (and failing) to keep my irritation from my voice. She snorts in answer and I decide that was an affirmative. Probably. I hope so. I get up and move over to her, loosening the knot at the back of her head enough to pull the gag free of her mouth and drop it down around her neck, then move back to my spot.
“What makes you think I want help?!” she demands, and in her voice I can hear the red haze that clouds her eyes even now. They used to be so beautiful, her eyes. The same pale gray as a cloud’s shadowed underside. Now they’re just red. Red and angry. They used to dance, in joy or rage or mischief. Now they just burn.
“The Blood Haze doesn’t want help,” I note with a shrug. “My sister does. You’ll thank me when it’s done.”
“I’ll kill you,” she hisses, and means it. This time there’s no fending off the hurt, but I don’t let it show. No sense feeding her when she’s like this. She’s not herself and I know it. It hasn’t been so long since I was there myself.
“No you won’t,” I say with a growl. “You’ll thank me.”
“I want to go home,” she snarls. “Take me back!”
“There’s a creature in Shattrath,” I tell her, ignoring her outburst – Draenor isn’t our home. Not anymore. I take a swig from one of the bottles I swiped from Kargath’s room at the same time as I swiped my sister. “I’ve never been there, but I’ve heard of it. They say it’s like a crystal, or a bell. It’s made of light.”
“Take me back or I swear by the Betrayer’s lost sight I will have your head!”
“It’s supposed to have incredible power. Healing powers, magic powers, I don’t know. It’s the opposite of what you’ve come to understand as power.”
“And what would you know of power?” she sneers. “You and your brothers traded it for a barren hunk of land in another world.”
I ignore this with a supreme effort. There are too many sarcastic, useless responses. Too many smart-ass comebacks. She’s baiting me. “I’m taking you to Shattrath,” I snap impatiently, gesturing violently. “I’m taking you there, and I’m going to find that creature, and I’m going to get on my knees and beg it to break you of the haze.”
She laughs, then, and it’s an ugly sound. “What’s it going to do?” she demands. “Kill Magtheridon?! It’s his blood I drink, you know. His power I take. You’ll never get to him. You’ll never get through the Citadel! The Shattered Hand will destroy you!” She sniffs contemptuously. “The true Shattered Hand. Not your false Warchief’s lapdogs.” And she laughs again, like she’s said something funny.
I give up. I get up again and replace her gag, holding her by the hair to keep her from trying to bite me. Kargath took her heart and her soul and her innocence, but at least I know he didn’t touch her fire. “Listen to me,” I tell her, leaving my face close enough to hers to kiss her and peeling my lips back from my teeth angrily, “Thrall is the first real Warchief in a long time. He saved our clan when Kargath would have doomed us all. He’s given us the chance to serve something greater than ourselves. A real Shattered Hand would recognize that opportunity and take it.” I drop her back onto the ground and return to my spot and my drink once more. I stare, broodingly, at her. “Mannaroth is dead, sister. And if one pit fiend can die, they all can. The blood haze was lifted once. I will see it lifted again. At least from your eyes. If I can save no other, I will save you.” I discard the empty bottle and roll over to sleep, trying to ignore the sounds of her thrashing against her bonds.
Hellfire Peninsula stretches out before my tired eyes. The Citadel is little more than a speck on the horizon – still far too close for comfort, but I have to sleep or we’ll never make it all the way to Shattrath. That pile of bent iron and twisted rage is just one scar on a blighted land. Too many others to ever hope to cure it. Its face has been ruined forever by the greed and foolishness of my own race.
And those of us who stayed have come to reflect it.
There are those who say we need to distance ourselves from the Fel Orcs. We need to draw a line between them and us. And I suppose, on a purely logical level, I can understand that.
But how true would such a line be?
We were all Fel Orcs once. Why should we condemn our lost brothers and sisters for making the same choice we did, once? For not being so lucky as to live in a world still whole, its elements intact, its lands wide and open. The Fel Orcs are a product of our own devising. Of demon blood and a broken world, and we bear culpability in both. Should we damn them simply because we, ourselves, were saved?
The last thought I have before letting sleep take me is that no line could be thick enough.
She’s not a Fel Orc. She’s my sister.
And she will be whole again.
Beneath me the city of Thunder Bluff rises up from the ground, as if from nothing. The land around it is flat and green and unbroken but for the three solemn pillars on which sits the primitive city of the Tauren; the jewel in a crown of twigs; the home of a simple race.
I sniff contemptuously.
It’s certainly not Silvermoon.
“Why are we here again?” I demand of the woman in front of me on our mount. It’s more of a whine than I intended, but I don’t know if she can tell. It’s been months since Light’s Hope…longer since I died…and I’m still not used to the hollow echo in my voice. I asked Amal’thazad once, why the echo exists for some, but not all, of those taken by the scourge – the Lichs and the Death Knights, but not the ghouls or ghasts.
“Ghouls,” he told me, “are broken once. So they speak with one voice. The Lich King’s, or their own, but never both. But you, and me, and those like us…we are broken twice. Once in life, when we willingly chose a path forced on the lesser undead, and again in death, when the Lich King takes our will and makes it his own. So we speak with two voices. Our own, and his – even now, free of him at last, his voice echoes in our words. A reminder, I think. That free or chained, we cannot change what we are, or how we came to be.
“We are twice broken, Death Knight, and we will never be whole again.”
“We need a representative in Thunder Bluff,” he said, looking us over with an intense stare. His gaze rested longest on the Tauren among our number, knowing that, tactically, they were the best choice; knowing, too, that none of them would volunteer. I remember thinking how pathetic we looked. Once upon a few weeks ago we were one of the most feared and fearless organizations in Azeroth and beyond. But there we stood, the Ebon Blade’s chosen diplomats, not so far from the days when we could face down a dragon without fear or care, but terrified by something as ephemeral as the look in an old friend’s eyes, the pursed lips of an ex-lover, the turned back of your old family.
They should count themselves lucky, I thought contemptuously. I took my family with me.
And I stepped forward to volunteer with a sneer that clearly called them cowards.
I told myself it would be a simple posting, and give me more time to spend with my lovely new friend. An easy decision – perhaps too easy.
No one mentioned the fact that I had remained silent when they called for volunteers for Silvermoon.
I walk the market openly, with a good deal more nonchalance than I feel. I’m used to being watched with a combination of fear and respect. Among the scourge – the dead, I should say, as we are no longer scourge – there is little that compares to a Death Knight. We are rage and strength made manifest; we are ice and disease and fear, and everything that ever ended a life, given flesh and will and sent forth into the world. We are more than men and women, more than simply undead. We are gods among ghouls, how could they not respect us?
But that’s not what these people see. There is fear, to be sure, in their furtive glances and unsubtle gestures. They pull their children tighter, cover their valuables – they shiver as I walk by, and stiffen if we happen to touch. Oh, they fear me all right. But respect? I see nothing of respect. In the bovine eyes of those few who show more than bald fear I see sadness, and anger, and derision. Derision. These people – these savages! – deride me. They think me weak!
I am stronger than they could ever hope to be, eight feet of bull or not. Smarter, faster, better. I could kill any of them before they knew what was happening.
The arrogance is reflexive, but comforting. I draw it around me like a shroud and move through the market with a face of ice.
I sit in the tent that apparently passes for some kind of Tauren war room – it has a table, at least. I suppose I should be grateful for that – and listen without interest. All I hear around the room is Alliance this and Alliance that. You’d think it was the Alliance leading the scourge on a killing spree around Azeroth and Kalimdor. You’d think it was King Whatever-His-Name-Is that sent necropoli to the gates of Orgrimmar and Thunder Bluff and wherever else.
Idiots and fools and children, the lot of them.
“And what,” says an old crone of a cow at the back of the room, “does our esteemed guest think, hmmm?”
I arch a pale brow at her and draw on every inch of self-control and diplomacy in my body to keep from sneering. “Your esteemed guest,” I say dully, “is wondering why we are still discussing the Alliance when scourge run roughshod over Northrend, displacing the indigenous folk that live there and killing everything else.”
“Oh,” scoffs a large bull to my right, “and I suppose this Ebon Blade of yours cares deeply for the plight of indigenous people in Northrend.”
“To be honest,” I reply with a sigh, “I don’t give a kobold’s frozen ass about the indigenous people of Northrend, and I sincerely doubt my fellows do. I thought you might, having, as you do, a reputation as a compassionate and spiritual people, to say nothing of your close kinship with one of said displaced peoples. But I can see I was wrong on that, in much the same way you are wrong in your continued focus on an obsolete war with a people who should be your allies in this, not your enemies.” I get to my feet and turn toward the door. “Send for me if you decide you wish to discuss Arthas and the Scourge. I am bored with these trivialities.”
“No,” says the large bull as one of the older Tauren moves as though to stop me, “let him go. His advice is worthless anyway. Everyone knows he sold out to the scourge already. No reason to believe he wouldn’t do so again. We’re better off without him.”
So many things I could say in reply. Most of them petty or immature, all of them cutting and acidic. Yes, I sold out to the scourge. Yes, I could do so again. Arthas miscalculated when he let us go. He would take us back in a non-existent heart beat, rather than have us band with his enemies as we have, divulging his secrets and aiding their efforts.
And to be honest, if these idiots don’t open their fool eyes to the very real danger the Lich King presents…I may as well sell my soul again. It’ll be the same in the end anyway when he overruns us all.
But I say nothing and exit the tent. They will not send for me again.
I should have stayed at Archerus.
“You’re brooding,” she notes, flipping a page in her book.
“Am I?” I ask reflexively, and mentally check myself. Slouching in my chair, staring blankly out my glassless window at the rain, bitterly hoping it’s actually the start of a monsoon that will flood Mulgore in its entirety and drown this whole, stupid, bovine race. I grunt unattractively. “Yes, I suppose I am.”
“What are you brooding about?” she asks without looking up.
The wisest thing to do would be to not answer, because if I answer I’m sure she will feel compelled to talk some sense into me, and then she’ll stop reading, but I like it when she reads. She just looks so…I don’t know. I just like it.
But while I’ve always thought of myself as intelligent, wisdom isn’t a virtue I feel I can fairly claim. “I should have gone to Orgrimmar,” I say instead of remaining silent. I’m being petulant. “At least with Orcs you can play on their fire and their tempers and make them move. You can’t…you can’t move a cow. They just…stand there and glare at you, with their huge, wet eyes, and this look, like…like…they’re wilfully stupid. It’s the damndest thing. They’re stupid, but on purpose. I hate it.”
She looks up from her book and peers at me over the edge of her glasses, then sighs and closes the cover. She takes the spectacles from her face and sets them gently to the side. “Listen,” she says, getting to her feet and crossing over to me, “you’re coming at this from the wrong angle. Stop thinking like you’re in Silvermoon.” She folds her hands around mine and as always I am startled by how warm she is. I forget, sometimes, that the living are creatures of light and heat and the sun. I’ve been ice on the inside for so long now…. “You need to befriend these people, not bully them or frighten them into submission. You need to make them trust you.”
“Well how am I supposed to do that?” I demand. “I sold out to the scourge, remember? I’m a Death Knight, for love of the Light. One of Arthas’ elite soldiers. I mean, the things we’ve done…how could I ever get them to trust me?”
“Remind them,” she says slowly, “that you fell once, it’s true. But you got back up again.”
“It’s not that simple,” I argue, and pull my hands from hers, stubbornly returning my gaze to the rain. “Getting back up again isn’t enough.”
She sits where she is for a time and watches me. “Not enough for who, I wonder?” she says at last, then gets to her feet and returns to her chair. She places her glasses on her nose once more and opens her book.
Silence descends, broken only by the falling rain, and the sound of her breathing.
I wonder if she’s mad at me.
The morning dawns clear and bright, the sun glinting in the puddles and droplets left behind by the night’s rain. A deep voice calls hello from beyond the door of the inn and I step out, squinting into the light. It’s the large Tauren from the previous day’s conference. He gives me his typical, friendly expression – a unique mix of fear and loathing and mistrust. Warms my bitter little heart – and shrugs at me.
“So, we’re done discussing the—”
“Listen,” I interrupt him impulsively, “about yesterday. I didn’t mean to trivialize your war with the Alliance. I understand the threat they represent, and I understand they’re just as gung-ho about going to war with you as you are with them and you can’t not take them into account. They’re a factor, here and in Northrend, and they need to be considered.”
He blinks at me, too startled to say anything. I consider letting it drop there. Light knows the apology is burning at me on the inside, like I’ve swallowed bile and sulphur and something cooked up in an apothecary’s lab. But something my lady said to me last night has been stuck in my craw ever since. She’s right, as she usually is. This isn’t Silvermoon, or Orgrimmar, and I’ll get nowhere unless I stop pretending it is.
“But I need you to understand just what the scourge means to me. You…yesterday, you…noted that I had, in effect, sold my soul to the scourge once already, and that was true. Unfair perhaps,” and he at least has the grace to look embarrassed, “but true. But that’s exactly why I’m here. Because…because I fell once, and I’ve seen the other side. I know what’s over there. I know what the scourge intends and is capable of and it…is truly terrifying. And I say that as one of the creatures mothers tell stories about to frighten their children into behaving.” This admission earns me a startled laugh from the man, little more than a sudden snort, but it’s something, and it gives me the push I need to continue.
“So what,” he says, and his tone is belligerent, as though to make up for allowing himself to be amused by me, “this is redemption? Is that what you and your people are after?”
“No,” I tell him, and shake my head sadly. “We are beyond redemption. We know that. We know we chose our path, and that’s not something that can be forgiven. We are…twice broken,” I say softly, Amal’thazad’s words returning to me, unbidden, “and can never be whole again. Redemption is not possible. But salvation – for everyone else – that is within reach. We feel…well…,” I hesitate. If the others knew I was saying this; knew I was admitting it…. “We feel that we…owe the world we chose to leave behind. That if we can somehow help stop Arthas – if we can save the world from him and his legions – we will have repaid the debt we incurred when we fell – when we let Arthas break us the first time. It won’t redeem us, but at least…we will have righted the wrong that lays heavy on us now. We could breathe a little easier.” I offer him a crooked grin. “No pun intended,” I add, and earn myself another startled chuckle.
“Hmmm,” he says slowly, considering my words. “Fair enough, I suppose.” And that’s that. “At any rate, I came by to tell you that we actually finished discussing the Alliance yesterday and we’ve made our plans in that regard. We’d like to discuss Arthas and his friends today. Evidently you’d be a useful member of that discussion if you’re willing to join us.”
“I would indeed,” I say easily. “Let me just say goodbye to my friend. I can meet you there if you like.”
“I’ll wait,” he says with a negligent wave and his tail flicks from side to side. I raise an eyebrow at him, but nod and head inside. I give my lady a quick kiss and tell her I’m off for the day. She tells me to be nice and I don’t reply. True to his word, my large compatriot is still outside when I return.
“You know,” he says thoughtfully as we walk by the smithy on our way to Elder Rise, “I had this shield once. It was a huge thing, been in my family for generations. I let my son play with it one day, just because it was funny to see him try to lift it. He dropped it of course, and, just my luck, it rolled off down the bluff, and right over the side. Don’t know if you’ve ever peeked over the edge, but it’s a long way down. We found it in two pieces at the bottom, but Karn over there, he patched it right up for me. When I came to pay him he laughed and tossed it to me…but I missed the catch.”
It’s my turn to give a startled laugh. “Tell me it didn’t go over the edge again.”
“Oh it did,” he says, and his tail twitches with amusement. “We watched it go sailing over and Karn couldn’t stop apologizing, the whole wav down the elevator to go retrieve it. So we find it, and again it’s in two pieces, broke the other way this time. So Karn swears up and down he can fix it. We take it back up to his forge and he fixes it again and hands it back over to me, carefully this time. It’s up on my wall now, bolted there, too, so the boy can’t get at it. But every now and then I’m tempted to take it and throw it over the side, just to see if it would break again.”
“Why would you do that?” I demand, frowning at him. “Of course it’ll break again. It must be weaker now than before.”
“I’m not so sure,” he says with a massive shrug. “In order to fix it – in order to keep it from breaking again – Karn had to reinforce it. Make it sturdier, harder. It’s scarred and dented and ugly, but stronger for all of that. I’d wager it’s probably one of the best shields in Thunder Bluff.”
“But would it survive combat?” I ask him pointedly, and he offers me an honest-to-goodness grin as he holds the tent flap open for me. A map of Northrend adorns one side of the wall, and a collection of coloured pins representing the various factions are stuck all over it. There’s a smattering of dark blue ones pinned to the Shadow Vault in Icecrown, and a few others are mixed in with the other factions. For a moment we pause in the door and survey those little pins, considering all they stand for.
The Ebon Blade and our hopes and fears, and our only shot at repaying the debt that defines us.
“Only time will tell,” my large friend says, and I realize at last that he wasn’t really talking about shields.
Twice broken, I think to myself as we head to the table, never taking my eyes off the map.
But never again.