Conversion: Chapter 4, Part 3

Living Story Excerpts

The cat continued to follow him like a silent shadow as he walked through Ironforge. The tunnels seemed considerably smaller now than they had when he was a kid.

The gryphon master was uninterested in lending him a gryphon, and so Seryth hired out a dwarven riding ram instead. The beast snorted as he stepped it down onto the snowy cobbles of Dun Morogh. He looked back and saw the cat still standing behind him, watching.

Seryth sighed. “Oh, fine! Come along if you want, but don’t cause any trouble for me.”

The cat bared its fangs, and leaped onto the ram’s hind end, changing into an imp in midair. The ram bawled and bucked and bolted, and for a while, it was all Seryth could do to hang on.

Setting Translations

Dun Morogh = Tarithian Mountains

This translation doesn’t have much bearing on this passage, as it’s established Sirith is still in Castellea. However, as his destination is in the Tarithian Mountains, it makes since that Dun Morogh translates to these mountains as well.

Ironforge = ?

Since Seryth never returned to Ironforge, and Sirith’s never left the Talmenor equivalent of Stormwind, this translation is unimportant. If I had to chose a city like Ironforge in Talmenor, it would probably be Steinheim or Firesdeep in the north. Those two cities we will (likely) never see in Sirith’s novel though, so I’ll leave this one blank.

Writing Process

First, I needed to do some thinking, as my earlier choice to shift locations for the scenes in Chapters 3 and 4 has thrown the plotline out of order. There were a few story elements in the Living Story for these chapters that haven’t yet been covered, as listed (no particular order) here:

  1. The imp convinces Seryth to help a gnome catch rats.
  2. The claw-mark the imp had left in Seryth’s chest starts to bleed and burn.
  3. Seryth notices Ironforge feels smaller than he last remembered it.
  4. The cat/imp insists on coming with Seryth to his next destination.
  5. A gryphon keeper turns Seryth down on hiring a gryphon instead of a ram.

I was able to weed out #1 pretty quickly as being irrelevant to Conversion, since the gnome catching rats is an iconic World of Warcraft quest, not easily converted. It perhaps could’ve been a scene in the market day, where Seryth gets some coin for helping out an exterminator. If I need more word count or a slower pace in this part of the novel, I could consider adding this scene back in in the future.

#3 is an off-handed observation. I like this observation because it demonstrates how Sirith has grown and how often he’s come to Castellea in the past, so this element could stand to have another mention. It somewhat comes out already when Sirith observes how the fortifications of Castellea have expanded since he last visited the city, so this is perhaps something to expound on more in that part of the chapter with a later edit.

#5 could similarly demonstrate that Tarithians frequently use gryphon riders as couriers, and Castellea, being a large city, probably keeps a gryphon mews or three. However, we’ve already established that Sirith has chosen to hire out a ram, so this is a detail to add in somewhere else in the plot, if it gets added in at all.

That leaves me with #2 and #4. These two elements can probably go together, in another encounter with the imp. This is probably going to be the bulk of my writing today.

The Prose

Sirith found himself coming to before dawn, as a gnawing crick in his shoulders intruded into his dreams. He moaned and stretched, then came fully awake as he almost fell off the too-small cot. He muzzily sat up and stared at the moonlight casting a square across the floor from the window. The whorls in the window’s glass twisted the light into faint sheens of rainbow color, almost like he was seeing it from underwater.

As he stared, a feline form crossed the square as a long, black shadow. The calico cat lifted its head and blinked at him with two yellow eyes, glowing in its dark face like flames. Sirith recoiled, and the cat jumped onto the foot of the cot.

“Have you reconsidered my offer?” it said, its mouth not seeming to move near enough to form the words.

“Have you reconsidered that I want nothing to do with you?” Sirith hissed back.

One of the Little Folk sleeping in the room turned over with a drowsy grumble, and Sirith fell silent. The cat said nothing and began calmly washing its fur.

Sirith continued rubbing his shoulders. The crick had extended down into his chest, and he felt a tickly sensation right above his breastbone. He rubbed at it, and he was surprised when his fingers came away wet. The little nick the ympe had given him was bleeding.

Sirith glared at the cat and rummaged for a handkerchief to press against the cut as a makeshift bandage. The wound burned for a few more minutes before the pain subsided.

“I’ll wait,” said the cat, and it leapt off the cot and into darkness, disappearing into the gloom.

In the morning, Sirith followed the Little Folk out to the nearest boarding stables. The place was built for workhorses, not Sheyn rams, and the goat-like creature seemed as out of place as the Little Folk, its bearded chin just barely clearing the stall’s half door. The Little Folk snapped a halter around its face and led it out. What was a decent sized mount to the Little Folk was like a pony to Sirith. Its shoulder came even with Sirith’s, only its twin curving horns giving it height over him.

The Little Folk quickly tacked the ram for him, chattering over the finer points of grooming and buckling that he insisted would be important for Sirith out on the road. Sirith tried to follow, but it seemed little different to a horse, down to that pulling back meant stop and a slap or bump with the heels meant go. Then the Little Folk boosted him up into the saddle, handed him the satchel of letters for Stonefield, and stood back, clearly expecting him to take off like the wind.

Instead, Sirith gave the ram a kick, and in an aggravated way, it started out into a short-stepping trot. It wasn’t even fast enough for the ram to outpace a cat that detached itself from the wall and ran along at its feet. If the ram kept up this pace, Sirith expected the journey to Stonefield to take several weeks.

He tugged the ram down into a walk, trying to concentrate amid its bouncy stride. The speed spell the hedge-wizard had taught him was Formal Magic, or magic controlled by chanted words and gestures, with only one possible outcome (if it was successful), dictated by the grammar of the chant. Sirith didn’t well know the language of magic, having just wanted to learn spells that were useful to him and not the full lexicon the hedge-wizard had wanted to teach. He muttered the only chant he knew under his breath, feeling the tell-tale rush along his veins as the magic reacted to him, but all that happened was a lightening of his limbs, not the ram’s.

The cat twisted its head around to watch him, seeming to sense he was up to something. Sirith ignored it, trying to splice in words that went to the other spells he knew, like the ones that conjured fire or split rock. When he felt a sharp pain in his chest, he abruptly stopped, giving it up as a bad job.

“I know that spell,” said the cat.

“You don’t even know what I’m trying to do.”

“It’s obvious enough, bud,” retorted the cat. “As I told ya before, I could help.”

Sirith went quiet, just as much to not admit his cluelessness about the magic as it was he didn’t want anyone to notice he was talking to a cat.

The cat was patient, trailing them as the agile ram dodged around the crowds of the market place. Sirith thought he had lost it twice as they pushed through thick knots of people, the ram giving little challenging snorts to encourage humans out of its way, but then the cat would jump down off of a merchant stall up ahead or dodge around some barrels back into view, and Sirith soon resigned himself to having a follower.

He coaxed the ram to lengthen its stride as they passed outside the walls. The road was now busy, with wagons trundling along it almost as far as Sirith could see. He led the ram into the grass by the side of the track to get out of their way, and the ram snatched mouthfuls of seed heads as they trotted along.

“Well, if you’re not going to take up my offer on the magic, at least let me speed up the journey,” said the cat.

“I don’t want any help from you,” growled Sirith.

“You really would prefer to be stuck out here for weeks?”

“If it suits me,” Sirith replied airily.

“And what will you do if you run into a pack of rukh-shami, huh?”

“Well, that would speed up the ram,” Sirith replied sarcastically. “What do you know about these rukh-shami anyway?”

The cat, unexpectedly, said nothing.

“Oh, so that shut you up!” Sirith taunted. “I wonder why?”

The cat’s tail curled and waved in the air, not quite irritated and not quite coy. “If you are ever going to get out from under the thumb of your daddy, it’d be to your benefit to learn more magic.”

“Hmph,” growled Sirith, not having a comeback for that one, for the cat was right.

Another hour passed. The road humped up in the middle, legacy of the old Road-Builders, and Sirith coaxed the ram up out of the increasingly-weedy ditch on the side so it could trot more easily on the cobbles. They passed wagons and travelers heading for Castellea less frequently now.

“There’s the mountains,” said the cat, nodding towards the blue smudge in the distance. “You can barely see them from here. How long do you think it’ll take you to get there?”

“You are beginning to annoy,” growled Sirith.

“Well, good!” said the cat. “Maybe you’ll start seeing sense.”

“You said you could speed up the journey without using magic,” said Sirith after a pause. “How do you reckon that?”

“Eh, I could show you.”

“I’d rather you just tell me.”

“Nah, it’s always better shown than told!”

“Right,” muttered Sirith. “Maybe I’ll let you, if you can promise to me there’s no magic in what you’re about to do.” That, at least, would keep the ympe’s mischief to a minimum, he thought.

“I promise,” declared the cat.

“You swear?”

“Didn’t I just say that?”

“No magic, cat.”

“None whatsoever!”

“Fine… Show me.”

The cat looked up at him, then took off in a wide, running circle. It bounced off the wheel of a passing wagon, the farmgirl driving it looking up with a smile to see the cat’s antics, and then it leapt at the ram.

Sirith threw up his arms, expecting to feel a ball of spitting fur and claws at any moment, but instead the cat landed on the ram’s rump. The riding goat bellowed and bucked, and Sirith almost found himself thrown onto its horns. He thumped back into the saddle with a grunt, casting a glare over his shoulder at the cat. He saw just the start of a grin on the feline face, and then the cat smacked a paw against the ram like a horseman smacking the rear of a bronco.

The ram exploded just like a colt, and Sirith closed his legs around it reflexively to hold on. In heart-stopping hops that more mimicked a deer’s leap than a horse’s gallop, the ram took off fast a jackrabbit.

“No magic!” said the cat.

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