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Just getting into her head space. I’ve spent a long time away from journal writing and it’s my goal heading into this year to change that. Referenced characters are in the journal tags. ))

With a final snip of her scissors, Idella finished her needlework. She briefly admired her handiwork with a small smile, a pattern of golds and purples threaded together into the patriotic emblem of Gnomeregan. With a gesture of her hand, the piece gently floated down to a waiting center space on a tiny quilt, threads rising, falling, and sewing it into place with no seen hand to guide them.

“There,” she said aloud. “Ready for Winter’s Veil,” another wave of her hand and the quilt tucked itself into a gift box, adorned with a festive red bow.

She relished in such use of magic, something that seemed so simple to an outsider to watch, yet took years to perfect. Her Duskwood home welcomed many kinds of magic, even the darker variety. Necromantic arts were a necessity in a forest where undead walked without a shepard. It was only a tainted few that sullied the dark arts’ otherwise necessary craft. Magic was pragmatic, not to be feared, for there were greater dangers to fear in the woods. Boralus was altogether different — it rejected magic wholly, at times violently, especially for those claimed to be a witch. All magic was shunned save the craft of its native tide sages, whose secrets were kept locked and guarded in a monastery where no outsiders could set foot.

The isolation made her miserable. Only in closed quarters with black-out curtains or clammy cellars with no windows could she truly be herself. As months drew on, she found herself loving and hating Boralus, its refusal to change, and the cages it shoved her in.

Sighing, Idella drew herself to her window and drew back the curtain. How things had changed. The glass was cloudy, thin, and chilly air seeped from its seams, So different from her Uptown apartments. Everything on Mariner’s Row seemed colder, wetter, and tinged with the smell of fish. The abrupt change of lifestyle had stunned her, though it felt selfish to raise any complaint. After all, most of her present company lived in Mariner’s Row, or with no roof at all. It occurred to Idella that she never asked Ryml of his current living situation. It then occurred to her that it currently was none of her business at all.

“Stop it,” she muttered to herself, tapping a hand to her head. “Stop it. Don’t do it. Don’t overthink. It’s over. Stop thinking about it. Stop it.”

With another sigh, she busied herself with a hunt for a blanket. Boralus nights were getting colder closer to Winter’s Veil. The large hearth in her previous apartments kept everything warm. Now she lived at the behest of her landlord and when he’d dein to light his own fires and allow the warmth to seep through the floorboards. He worked opposite hours to hers, often out late into the night. She was half-tempted to fashion a spell to make her own hearth in her one-room quarters, but decided against it. There was no telling who could peep into her rooms while she was asleep or otherwise unaware of watchful eyes. Unattended spells were foolish openings.

Idella smiled to herself, musing. How strange, for a girl to fear her landlord sneaking into her rooms at night not for her virtue, but for him to find she was a witch. In civilized society, it would be the man, not the witch, who would be burned.

“But what if…” eyeing the door, she made a few calculations. A hearth spell could be tied to an unseen ward in the hallway. Something that when triggered by an outsider, cease the spell and give her a warning before they entered her room as she slept. That could — no, no. That was simple enough, but how could she explain away her room being toasty warm with no apparent heat source at all? She was many things, but a good liar wasn’t one of them.

“It’s all temporary,” she reminded herself, wrapping a blanket around her shoulders.

A few more days then it was back to the mainland and far north to Caer Darrow. Another place that didn’t shun the darker sources of magic, but to the point of destroying itself. The tainted ones overtook it and greedy mindsets prevailed, as the stories went. Scholomance — a deal with the devil to prolong lives that should have perished along with their opulence. Perhaps if the fortress hadn’t suffered so greatly in the Second War…

“No,” she stopped herself. “Don’t make excuses for them. That’s not what you’re supposed to do. Stop it.”

She regretted selling the book she obtained from Scholomance to Brembal. His immediate interest in it should have cued her to investigate, but she once again proved too trusting. And her unexplained need to impress him had caused trouble in many places, including sowing strife among friends. His very presence at the bar was the source of much anger, some of it rectified. The man did little to ingratiate himself among the patrons. In fact, he seemed to delight in purposefully needling every brief conversation he was in, even the most cordial. He also outwardly introduced himself as a necromancer, with no hesitation or shame. It vexed her, but also gave her hope. Perhaps he was one of the good ones. Why else would he not fear outing himself as he does? He would not do it if he had something to hide, would he?

Groaning, Idella rose to stew some tea.

Her fretful semi-allegiance also cost her Ryml. Brembal had been the first inform her of the rumors of Ryml’s infidelity, and it, along with the barest circumstantial evidence, ate at her for weeks, and she had let it. Surely, she’d be the gullible type to choose someone who could deceive her so thoroughly — after all, she had little dating experience and thus far had managed to end what little experience she had in disaster. Her fear of herself drove Ryml away. The old man apologized directly for begetting the rumors and even paid off the bounty to ensure Ryml could return to a normal life in the city. It seemed genuine. But he also never liked Ryml, he said so, himself. What was the game here?

“Stop it. You’re doing it again,” she chastised herself.

Her hands stopped preparing the tea and she pressed her palms flat on the tabletop, taking a moment to pause her thoughts and breathe. Her apartment only afforded her a kitchenette of sorts — or rather, a small row shelf along the wall with a candle she could use to heat a kettle. She never used the candle. Her summoned flame was more effective.

Breathe. In, out. Stop it. Don’t overthink, don’t fret into oblivion. Review the facts, what you know. Act on that. Breathe, in the moment, in, out. Act on the facts. Like Lena said, only what you know right now. Find out more information. Protect your friends. Protect the pack.

The pack. She hardly understood the concept yet she was somehow surrounded by it. More than half of her close friends were worgen, yet she had lived completely oblivious to the social construct that apparently governed them all till she was bludgeoned over the head. Apparently, she had been regarded as a bit of a wayward pup by them: To be protected and regarded with patience, though not immune to a metaphorical nip now and then. Humans were a tentative addon to the pack, deaf to its subtleties but not to its protection. And it wasn’t like the worgen weren’t once human — well, all but one, and Elli was older than time — but each carried themselves with a duality that expressed itself differently. Elli’s beast-like nature seamlessly wove through every form she was in. Lena seemed more wolf than human, and Ryml ran from his wolf like a pup from its first glance of its shadow.

“But not me,” Idella sighed to herself.

It felt warm somehow, to be regarded as something to be protected. To be acknowledged by a construct that was so foriegn yet so close. She understood the barest needs of the pack but knew she didn’t wholly belong. Being worgen herself didn’t repulse her, but no one she knew ever invited such a change. It was always forced upon them, the wolf overtaking them, and horrid memories of their feral months forever haunting them. Lena also flatly pointed out there was only a bare chance at survival. No — a sense of belonging shouldn’t be sought after by forcing herself into the pack. She didn’t need to wear a wolf’s skin to be regarded by them. Elli was kind but firm, at times frightening. Lena insisted she was not a good person, yet Idella felt immediately at ease in her presence. She was a guiding force, a steadying one. Ryml was more human than wolf, though she saw him more often as a wolf than human lately. She should ask him about that.

“No,” she muttered to herself. Not her business. Not currently. Stop it. Leave it be. In, out. Focus on the now.

She gave up making tea altogether and sank into bed in a blanket heap. It was a sagging mattress once stuffed presumably to the brim with goosefeathers, now carved with a wake in the middle where the previous tenant once slept. The sheets, at least, were clean, though wholly by her efforts and not that of her landlord’s.

The bar was closed now. Holidays, maybe? Maybe. But Idella couldn’t help but entertain the notion that Brembal’s last visit was the last straw. She couldn’t help but hear Malien’s voice as she challenged him, Sorizen’s face as he intervened. Once again, she invited darkness into his bar, distracting from the revelry they all should be enjoying this time of year. It was her, she was always the source, the human who doesn’t belong. Her need to be approved by Brembal brought him there, the moment she sent her letter. He said he came immediately. What was it about her that drew him so close? Why did she feel the need to impress him? Some fatherly approval, or perhaps wanting someone, anyone in magic-forsaken Boralus to recognize what she was and so badly what she wanted to be?

“Stop it!” She screamed at herself. She flew from the bed and threw off the blanket, the wild gesture summoning an arc of flame brought on by her burst of emotion. It caught on the fabric, eager to race up its fibers and spread. Idella stared, stunned, then finally caught up to herself. A carefully controlled sweep of her hand put the flames to rest. The blanket smoldered, stinking of burnt wool.

“Damn,” she ran a hand over her face, her fingers coming back wet. Tears. When did those start? No — in, out. Make sure no one heard, first. If someone did and they come up, blame the candle. You were making tea, didn’t notice the blanket strayed close to the flames. She was distracted, maybe reading a book about some girlish frivolities when the incident happened…

Yes, that. Perfect cover story. Now, wait. Boots would thud upstairs any moment. Breathing in, she listened.


He wasn’t home yet. No need for a cover story. Just a witch losing herself and her control close to midnight in a damp room with no heat and —

“Stop it,” she whispered, sitting down and stilling herself. Focus on her hands, arms, shoulders. One piece at a time. Just like the facts. Focus on those, one at a time.

“No,” she snapped, standing up. “I won’t.”

With a snap of her fingers, a small, contained flame flickered to life in the middle of the room. It floated above the floor, casting a pale orange glow and deep, elongated shadows on the walls. The warmth was immediate, the glow of the fire inviting, and it immediately cheered the room in spite its unnaturally red hue.

“There,” Idella said. Spending no time on wards, no mind to the wide-open window curtain, she tucked herself in bed with her singed wool blanket, drifting contentedly to sleep.

Author Ari
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