On the back was written a byline: SHIFT YOUR FATE WITH FATESHIFTER INDUSTRIES (TM)!
Doryn squinted at the add tacked haphazardly onto the bulletin board by the farthest table in the inn. Stormwind alternated these days between nearly empty and overflowing- it all depended on the ships coming back and forth from the Broken Isles. She knew what was happening there. It was war after all, and she remembered doomsayers and the demons in the streets and hearing that the king was dead and the world would soon follow. (Again.)
She knocked back the brew in her mug and stared moodily at nothing at all.
Twenty two, and I ain't got shit to show for it. No job, no money after I pay for this drink, and no home. The landlord threatened to throw her out if she didn't find some way to pay…. and she just plain didn't have one. How is it that in a city where most everyone is off fighting there's no damn JOBS? It was a trick question. The jobs followed the war, of course, and the soldiers, to Dalaran. The new location of Dalaran, anyways. All the boarded up shop windows were evidence of that. Even if she tried to do like all the other businesses here in Old Town, the trip there involved money and time and she didn't have either, again.
Trapped. I'm trapped. Like the rabbits in one of Mum's snares.
She grit her teeth.
How could hurt nearly six years old still feel so fresh? Like an arrow in the chest, with no quick blessing of death, just festering. They didn't survive the evacuation of the city. Darlene and David Greenly died on the boat to Teldrassil, mortally wounded by the Horde.
Sometimes she could still feel grit and salt in her mouth and smell blood and iron and the pitch-tar of the deck, and hear herself begging. Please, please don't go, Mum, Dad, please, please, I need you, I can't do this alone, I- I need you, please, no, no, don't leave me, don't leave me please! Mum? Mum? Dad, Mum's not- Dad? DAD! MUM! WAKE UP! WAKE UP PLEASE! PLEASE DON'T GO!
A hard shake brought her back here- someone jostled the back of her stool as he shoved by- to the inn and pisspoor beer and unwashed sapients. She wasn't the only person wailing her grief as the boat pulled away, and the sound of the ocean couldn't drown out the cries of a broken hearted young girl. May as well get over it. I wasn't the only one who lost people, right? It's a bitter thought, like someone told her that before, and unkindly. No sense in wallowing. But… it's not fair!
At sixteen, orphaned, alone, and with nothing but the shirt on her back, the rest of her life went about as well as one could expect- that is to say, nowhere fast. As a refugee, her options were limited. And some things were absolutely off the table, even if they were more accepted in Stormwind than Teldrassil, and Doryn herself remained a moderately decent looking young woman- all freckles and ginger hair and hazel eyes. But at least Stormwind has Elwynn. I like Elwynn. There's always a few rabbits and quail around to catch, and humans are way less, um, tetchy than elves about that sorta thing…. as long as no one catches me poaching. But dammit I'm hungry! And about to be homeless. What the fuck am I supposed to do? I look for a job for months and months, I finally find one, I fail for whatever reason. I get fired. I look for another. Repeat, repeat, repeat. No money means no school or education or whatever which means no good job which means I have no money.
A lovely vicious cycle.
…I am so tired.
A bone-deep weariness, it went beyond need of sleep and sank into her bones. Just…. so tired. Of everything. I fail at everything. What's even the point anymore? I guess none of it probably even matters if the Legion has thier way and by all accounts they're pushing hard. I can't be an adventurer! People DIE there. A LOT. In horrible ways!! That dragon and then the thing with the orcs and now this- I'm not cut out for it! I'm not strong. The only reason I haven't been caught poaching is that I overheard the guards say they're shortstaffed and they're not patrolling Elwynn like they oughta so much anymore.
I miss the Blackwald. I miss Gilneas. I miss Mum and Dad. I miss feeling excited about things and being good at things and tinkering and being something other than tired and sad and worn out at twenty fucking two. How the fel am I supposed to have any hope at all when it's been one global catastrophe after another? I hardly see people my age anymore and I bet it's cause they've all gone off to war- to fight dragons or the Horde in Pandaria or in Other-Draenor, whatever THAT is about, or now in the Broken Isles, and they're all probably dead or crippled or so scarred they're like Harry who comes and drinks for free because it's the only way to stop him from screaming.
I am so tired.
She thumped a freckled forehead against the old oaken table, first once, then repeatedly, until it hurt enough to make her stop. Dizzy, she buried her head in her arms. …That was stupid. Why did I do that? No more drink for me. Not in this mood. Doryn rose, a bit unsteady, and pulled her threadbare cloak around her with a deep, weary sigh as she rose from the table and stepped outside.
The ad caught her eye again as she walked out the door. Shaking her head (nonsense, honestly, clearly some sort of super sketchy thing she probably wasn't even qualified for) she turned, and walked out of the inn.
She slept in the forest that night. When she woke, grubby and gritty-eyed, she washed her face in the fountain when no one was looking and checked her snares. A skinny quail was better than nothing at all even if pulling the feathers and preparing it was a pain in the ass. Naturally, the fire wouldn't start, and in her frustration she kicked the stack of kindling, promptly slipped on the dewy leaves underfoot, and went crashing down. The quail went flying into the dirt. Dorryn fought the urge to just plain cry, grinding her teeth together and picking it up. The bird was covered in leaves and debris now.
Two hours later, stomach only half full and a little queasy-feeling (something was better than nothing, but she determinedly didn't think of what she might have ingested, even if she did rinse it in the stream) she entered the city again. Early morning bustle and the arrival of ships today would pack the streets, loading and offloading. Maybe the docks could use a hand?
She passed that odd flyer again, posted outside the market. She almost paused.
No, that has to be some kind of trick. Nobody wants that little and is willing to pay for it. Must like squirrels? What the fel? Granted, they're industrious, fearless little shits; I've seen a mum leap and try to mangle a forester trying to cut down thier tree. But still… what kind of nutter is this Fateshifter fellow, anyways?
She found her way to the docks blocked as a group of clergy on horses thundered by- priests, and by the look of the latest cargo they were offloading, they'd be needed. It was a cargo of stretchers and species, bloodstained even from her vantage point on top of the barrel she'd scaled to see. The sailors began laying them out under a tented awning in neat little rows, the canvas sheilding them from the summer heat.
Doryn swallowed, despite herself. Some of them were missing entire limbs, and she could hear the tinny screaming and begging from all the way over here… How bad WAS this war?
Turning, she hurried away. It was no business of hers. I'm just a useless layabout with no job and no future. Nothing I can do about it, for sure. Best to leave it to people who actually have talents at something. Keep my nose out of trouble and no trouble will come to me, right? Right. There was nothing she could do.
(Something in her pointed out that the nose thing worked ever so well for Gilneas. She ignored it.)
I would just get killed.
She turned away.
And that was the theme, turning away, for the day, as her offers and inquiries were politely declined. "We've already got a potential candidate for that position," said the shopkeeper elf. "Ach, yer a wee bit late, lassie, hired a lad last week, now stop blockin' me stall!" snapped the baker with his stand. "Thank you, but we're looking for someone with more experience," the older human mage told her with a judging little smirk.
By the end of the day, exhausted, broke, and still bloody jobless, Doryn made her way out of the gates of Stormwind and back into Elwynn forest. Her snares were empty when she checked. Of course they are, she thought, disgusted with herself and her life in general.
Thunder rumbled overhead, making her glance skyward in dismay. But her fingers remembered how to weave willow withes into a makeshift roof that she propped up onto the fork of a branch overhead. It reduced the torrential downpour to unpredictable drizzling as the skies opened up above her and the rain began.
Doryn looked to her left and blinked. Someone had put that flyer in this tree, the assistant wanted one.
…What the fel. It can't be worse than this, right? And maybe it will be better. I feel like- like I should be LIVING life! Not just existing. And I feel very existence only right now. Mum and Dad didn't want this. Not for me. I was supposed to be something good, you know? Take over the family business, hunting and fishing in the Gilnean forests, keepin ght peace there, even hunting for ferals if needed- protecting people. Like they did.
And I've become what, instead? I was better than this. I could be better than this.
Tomorrow. First thing. I'll beg a parchment and a quill off…. someone. And I'll send in my bloody resume and cover letter.
Maybe this was just the shift in fates she needed.
Or it's a trap and I'm going to be, I dunno, eaten by mutant squirrels.
Well, that's just silly, probably not. Still. I'm going to try this time. The worst they can do is say no, right?
Buoyed by her newfound optimism even with the rain turning her chilly and miserable, she tucked her cloak around her as makeshift blanket and umbrella both and tried to sleep, stretched out on the thick solid branch in Elwynn forest. Night rolled in with the coming thunder, and war beat a tattoo drum inside her dreams, things of fel and darkness, like she hadn't had in a long time.
(Little did she know what she was really getting into, and that the next day she would wish she had not only ignored the ad, but set it and the tree and everything Fateshifter on fire.)