Living Story Excerpt(s)
While in the city, Seryth helped a child catch wayward balloons, bought himself a hat that was too big for him, and met a gnome with a pet bear named “Mangeclaw” that Seryth swore he had seen before, though it wasn’t clear to him why that’d be so, bears being a rare sight in Westfall.
Throughout it all, the calico cat continued to follow him.
As night fell, Seryth returned to the dwarf smith. Despite running errands for the local shopkeepers, he still hadn’t managed to make enough money for his foster father to be happy. The dwarf gave him a heavy package, and Seryth entered the Deeprun Tram. He had been on the strange underground train years ago, when his father once took him to Ironforge to sell the tusks of a particularly large boar that had been digging in their fields.
dwarves = Little Folk
Though this isn’t the first time I’ve mentioned Little Folk, this is the first time I’ve converted the dwarves from the Living Story excerpts into Little Folk. In Talmenor, Little Folk are a human-like race that, while having many subraces, all have the characteristic of being under four feet in height. The Little Folk in Timberfalls are more closely related to halflings or hobbits in other settings, which World of Warcraft doesn’t have, which is why they didn’t get a mention then. In this section, Sirith finally meets the ones who more closely resemble Warcraft dwarves.
Loch Modan = Tarithian Mountains, Thelsamar = Stonefield
This was another tricky one. Loch Modan is a dwarven zone beset by kobolds and other beast races in World of Warcraft. In Talmenor, the only places run by dwarves are in the north, and due to certain events happening in Talmenor’s northern countries in this era, I didn’t want to send Sirith there so soon. I knew I also wanted a location that had a lot of rukh-shami, to stand in for the kobolds, and those only exist in great numbers in places much further away than Sirith could travel to in a matter of days, as the story indicates.
Finally, the issue of the Deeprun Tram came up again. I decided against using any kind of Deeprun Tram device in Sirith’s story, instead skipping ahead again to where Sirith rents out a ram. Rams would only make sense to take over a horse if someone is going up into the mountains in Talmenor, but Castellea sits in the middle of plains. Clearly, Sirith’s destination had to be in mountains somewhere.
Finally, I decided on creating a new town in the Tarithian Mountains named Stonefield. The Tarithian Mountains border Yeniden, so it makes sense a few rukh-shami have made their way up there, and the mountainous terrain also gives plenty of options for some sort of Loch, dam, and lowlands for Sirith’s later adventures in the Wetlands. As for the dwarven archetype, the town is a mining town, mostly staffed by Little Folk who fit better inside the mine’s tunnels, and named Stonefield as a play on words for how the Little Folk take stones from the mines like a farmer takes crops from their fields.
Nope, this isn’t a mirage. As I mentioned in the conversion of Chapter 3, I had to rearrange some of the events in Sirith’s story. Now that he has made it to Castellea, this setting’s translation for Stormwind, he has to go back and have those Chapter 3 adventures in the marketplace.
Flipping cities around like this led me to another problem. While describing the differences between Castellea and Timberfalls, I realized that I had given Timberfalls patrolling town guards when really, Timberfalls shouldn’t have these. In small medieval towns, not all places had guards like so many video games like to portray: that is, patrolling, standing at the gates, handling crime, going about in full plate armor, and so on. They might instead have soldiers stationed at a fort, who only come out when there’s an honest-to-goodness invasion by another country, or they might have a night-watch for calling out the hours and watching for fires (a much bigger danger to medieval cities than we give credit to), or individual lords might hire a guard or two to watch their manor, who would further double as manservants unless in a very bad part of town. City guards that functioned as they do in video games was something you would probably only find in large cities, and even there, they probably wouldn’t carry around full battle gear everywhere they went (for that stuff is heavy and hot!)
And so, I will have to go back and edit Part 4 of Chapter 1 to reflect this, probably renaming the Timberfalls guards into “constables” or similar, to better give the image that they are not like miniature knights patrolling the streets, but something along the lines of a militia or a local lawman who helps mediate domestic disputes.
Meanwhile, Castellea, being one of the largest cities in this part of Tarith, does have town guards. They are still not as heavily armored as the guards of Stormwind, but they have a much more noticeable presence than they do in Timberfalls.
It was evening by the time the slowly drifting ferry made its way across Lake Bright. It was about this time Sirith began to regret taking off without so much as collecting his things or his horse from the inn in Timberfalls. He supposed the innkeepers would keep or sell the horse, but he did regret the loss of his sword.
It also brought up a new dilemma. He had no supplies. Again. Only the coins he had kept in the pouch around his neck.
He begged his way onto a caravan that was travelling in the same direction. The caravan master, a traveler from Yeniden, didn’t recognize him and so didn’t give him any of the respect the citizens of Timberfalls had. Sirith managed to convince the man he wouldn’t take up any extra room in the back of the wagon, and now he sat hunched, arms hugged around his growling stomach, as the wagon made its shambling way to Castellea.
He wasn’t sure how or when he slept, as the wagon jolted over every rut in the road, but the next time Sirith opened his eyes, it was to see the shadows of the towering gates of Castellea passing over him. In awe, he slipped off the wagon and gawked. More fortifications had been added since the last time he had come to Castellea, nearly a year ago. He had never seen so much stone and so white a stone. Had it been quarried and hauled from far away, and if so, from where?
The city was beginning to awaken as the morning sun dragged itself into the sky. Sirith pulled up his hood, just as much to keep the light out of his eyes as to hide his akor’mar-gray skin from the rest of the world.
He was buffeted and shoved as the streets grew thicker with all kinds of races. Along with humans and Little Folk, he also saw the slender forms of mari, though of course, these were ilph’mari and wuyon’mari, the latter with skins as white as a baby’s first tooth. Sirith made especially certain to keep his head down when he passed them; the wuyon’mari’s ancestral hatred for his akor’mar kin outstripped even the ilph’mari’s.
The humans were also of all colors: pale pinks and ochres like the darkest of the wuyon’mari, the even browns of the Yeni tribes, right up to a polished black of the peoples from the far off Isles of Nulst. Sirith had seen all such peoples before, this not being his first time to a Castellean market day, but he still liked to look at them, at their colorful clothing and their colorful skins, like all shades of the natural earth. It never occurred to him the appreciative staring would have made him uncomfortable, too, if the roles had been reversed.
The Little Folk differed in clothing and stature, too. Though most of them were the tanned, rounded, jovial sorts he had met in Timberfalls, there were also some with squarer shoulders and more chiseled faces, each sporting thick beards that they wore, plaited, down to their beltlines. Some of them carried one-headed battleaxes, and Sirith gave these a wide berth out of distrust. There was no law against openly carrying weapons in Castellea, but it was still rare to see anyone with a blade longer and sharper than a hatchet, unless you counted the swords of the city guards.
The guards, too, were an unusual addition. Timberfalls had had some men patrolling the fort and the roads, as Sirith had discovered, but Castellea had actual guards. They stood on most street corners, relaxed with their hands resting on their sword pommels, their breastplate and tabard shined and washed with proud Tarithian colors. There were so many of them — more than Sirith had seen in past years –and a growing unease curled in his belly. Was their presence related to the rukh-shami he had found on the outskirts of the Bataklik forest? Was Castellea in danger?
If it was, the guards didn’t seem to be worrying about it. A couple chatted with one of the merchants displaying his wares in the market square, and with another little twist in his gut, Sirith recognized the merchant for the man he usually sold Daelin’s furs to. He hesitated, wondering if he should tell the man about his loss of his goods in the woods, when the man looked up, saw him, and politely pushed his way between the guards to greet him.
“Sirith, is it? Man, you’re late! Where’s your pa?”
“I, uh…” Sirith’s thoughts raced. He tugged his hood down, the better to see the merchant’s face. One of the guards scowled at him, and they both moved on, muttering about akor’mari. Sirith swallowed and ignored them.
“I had a buyer in Stormvale all lined up for your furs this year,” the merchant was saying. “I was afraid she’d get impatient enough to go buy from my competitor if you didn’t show up any sooner. Well? What have you got for me this season? Any more lion pelts?”
“Ah…no,” said Sirith. Then, seeing no way out of this one but the truth, he went on, his tone respectful, “I have no furs, ser. Or horns or bones or…any of it. I was attacked on the road by rukh-sham bandits.”
The merchant frowned, but he wasn’t as upset as Sirith had expected. “Aye, they got my deliverer of cloth from the Bay, too. I see you’re all in one piece, though, so that’s a relief. Was Daelin with you?”
“Not this year,” said Sirith. “He’s safe in Hillet. And he’ll probably box my ears for losing your furs.” He smirked slightly.
“Mm,” said the merchant, giving Sirith another look-over. “Well, if compensation is what you’re looking for, I’ve got nothing for you. I won’t hold Daelin responsible for this shipment, on account of it being an accident and due to bandits no less, but I can’t give you something for nothing.”
“I know, ser.”
The merchant eyed him again, tapping his chin. “Tell you what. Why don’t you go talk to the Little Folk? Over there, the ones with the axes. They’ve come down out of Firesdeep, if you can believe it, but they’re not heading back up that way, not for months, not with the rukh-sham crisis. They’re needing a courier to run to Stonefield. I can give you a recommendation, like, and you can get my cut of the finder’s fee.”
“I…beg your pardon, ser? Stonefield?”
“You’re fast enough — I’ve seen you playing those magic tricks on the children before. Yes. They need a courier to go to Stonefield. Just letters to their relatives, I believe, but they’re willing to pay. I reckon it’d more than cover for your lost shipment, and only a couple days out of your way, if you’re quick.”
“I know a few spells, but I’m no mage,” said Sirith quickly. “How do you reckon only a couple days? On foot, that mountain road takes weeks.”
“On foot, but not on a ram’s back,” said the merchant with a grin. “You mar types are small enough for a Sheyn goat to carry you, and you’re smart enough to adjust your sprinting spells to it, I’m sure. This is a favor to you, boy. So, what will it be? I can give you my signet now, if you like.”
Sirith was overwhelmed and not a little bit suspicious. It was a long journey to foist on a farmboy like him, and this merchant liked him no better than any of the other farmers when it came down to it. “What are you getting out of this?”
The merchant grunted. “Let’s just say I’m trying to expand my trade routes, and you fit the job.”
“I’ll think about it,” said Sirith. “Is it urgent?”
The merchant shrugged. “Not particularly.”
Sirith nodded, drawing up his hood again. “It’s a long way. I doubt my father would approve. Thanks, but I think I’ll try my luck with some of the laborers. I got a little bit of money from the docks in Timberfalls; I could probably find similar work here.”
The merchant shrugged again. “I think your father would be more approving than you think, but…oh, I’m saying too much. I’ll be here until around dusk. If you’re still interested, come on by.”
The man waved and returned to his stall. “Enjoy the market, Sirith.”
Sirith took a deep breath and meandered his way back into the market proper. He should be excited to be here, his first time at the market all by himself, but he wasn’t. The reminder of his responsibility for the stolen goods brought him low, as did the reminder of the encroaching rukh-shami and his lack of coin to spend on the attractions.
He tried to put it out of his mind as he focused instead on just taking in the sights. There were jewelers from the Bay of Stars, tinkers from Stormvale, lots and lots of farmers from the plains of Tarith all around, and even one book seller from Durrock, though Sirith couldn’t read the script on half of her more exotic books. A pair of magi in star-adorned robes and carrying astrolobes strode past, murmuring about prophecies of Seri-Jon. A Nulst warrior, carrying his ceremonial spear over one shoulder, quietly stalked the stalls, fingering the lambskins on sale like he’d never felt a skin so soft before.
There was also an ilph’mar teaching a great white bear to dance, to the delight of the surrounding children; unlike the human-tamed dancing bears, this one had no harness or muzzle to speak of, and some of the human mothers clutched their babies close out of fear. Sirith could have told them the bear was perfectly under control; he had seen Daelin speak the Beast Tongue before himself many times, though his father rarely bothered with anything wilder than a yearling colt.
He also stopped to watch the Little Folk who supposedly needed a courier. They had nothing to sell that Sirith could see, though he did see them exchanging pouches of coin with some farmers who owned fields on the outskirts of the plains. He grew more certain the Little Folk were soldiers, though it still mystified him as to why they were here in Castellea when their homeland was so far in the north.
Despite what he had told the merchant, Sirith found no other job that day. The prospect of an adventure, even greater than that of the Castellean market, was a tempting offer. Stonefield was nestled up in the Tarithian Mountains, which Sirith had never seen up close before. He had also never ridden a Sheyn ram, though he had seen the Little Folk sometimes racing them along the brush-choked creek outside Castellea, leaping from bank to bank like hircine dancers. It didn’t look hard. Well. Not too hard.
Sundown found him returning to the merchant and accepting his signet. With the merchant’s recommendation, the Little Folk made arrangements for Sirith to loan one of their rams for the journey in the morning. Sirith also coaxed a bed and meal out of them, and he fell asleep that night curled up in a cramped cot, more suited for a human child than a half-blooded akor’mar. He didn’t care, the thought of a new adventure sustaining him.