What’s Going On

Warning: this is an emotional post about my real life. If you’re not interested, you can close the window right now. Thanks!

I’m basically at the end of my emotional rope right, now so I’m going to do the only thing I know to do about it, and that is write.

On May 21st Rayn rushed me to the emergency room at UCSF Medical Center for anaphylactic shock. I was covered in a bright red rash from head to toe, my face and hands were swollen, I was wheezing and struggling to breathe, and my heart rate was over 140 beats per minute (normal for an adult is between 60 and 100). I was given epinephrine, lots of benadryl and prednisone, breathing treatments, and then monitored for seven hours until my assigned doctor considered it safe to release me. I was prescribed prednisone and benadryl for the next week to help ensure that my body would not relapse into shock. On the 26th I had to return to the ER for trouble breathing, wherein I received further epinephrine, benadryl, and prednisone. I’m scheduled to see an allergist on June 6th to hopefully determine the cause of my allergic reaction.

There’s one big problem with this, and it’s that my insurance expired as of May 1st. As some people may know I’ve had some ongoing problems with my left knee, and the amount my insurance would not cover from doctor’s visits and physical therapy is close to $1000. My knee is still having problems. I haven’t received my bill yet from the UCSF Medical Center or the hospital in my hometown of Ashland, but I’m guessing the total will be at least a few thousand dollars, possibly a lot more. Because I’m not a resident of California, I’m ineligible for UCSF Medical Center’s charity write off. I’m currently unemployed because my last boss was having family trouble and failed to pay me for six weeks. I’m not expecting to receive any more work from her at this time. I’m returning to college in September at which point I’m expecting a FAFSA loan to help cover basic living expenses while I’m in school.

Truthfully, there are a few things that are helping me keep on going right now. First, I think I still matter to God even if it feels like everything has gone to shit right now. Second, I try to see Rayn as often as possible because just being around him makes me feel a lot happier. For those that don’t know, we have a long distance relationship; he lives approximately five and a half hours driving distance from me. I am so incredibly thankful I am dating such an amazing person; the only time Rayn left my side at the hospital was to call and let people know how I was doing. He helped me get my prescriptions, took care of me all weekend, and was an overall trooper. Third, I want to get back to Aikido as soon as I am physically able because getting tossed around on the mat does good things for my peace of mind.

It could be the prednisone (thank God I get to stop taking it in a couple of days), but I’ve broken down crying at least a couple times per day for the last week thinking about all of this. I don’t have the money to pay my hospital and my knee bills, and I’m not expecting to rake in the bucks as a full time student. I don’t want to have to stop visiting my boyfriend or stop going to Aikido because – as much of a shitty place I’m in emotionally right now – I think it would be a lot worse without either of those things.

If you feel at all inclined to help, I’m setting up an Etsy shop and things should start going on sale there within the next week or two. You can find my profile here: http://www.etsy.com/people/hammaryn. All sales from this shop will help me pay my bills. If you can’t help financially, words of encouragement are always appreciated, and so are prayers. You may or may not believe anyone is listening to them, but I do.

I love you all, and I’m going to make it through this.


Ambika asked Fenniel to do something, and hilarity didn’t ensue. What is the world coming to?

Authors: Ambika and me.

Ambika watched Fenniel from the tavern loft for a long time. She didn’t move, eat, or even drink from the water glass at her elbow. Gravy didn’t much care for her. She was icy to his friendly advances and only ordered water or tea… a few coppers worth of business for a priestess who demanded a clean cup, every time.

Tonight, though, the bartender had his hands full at the bar with a slightly-rounded customer who came in almost every day for supper. Ol’ Four-Eyes liked the punch Gravy kept behind the bar for kids and sissies. It tasted like pineapple and cherries, and Fenniel liked to drink at least three glasses of it every time he came in for one of Gravy’s daily specials. Mostly Gravy made sandwiches with fiery hot sauce that stripped your tongue of taste or feeling if you ate more than one spoonful in a sitting, but he also had a hotpot full of boiling broth into which he dropped whatever groceries were about to spoil, then dumped over steamed rice.

Fenniel loved that crap.

Blending into shadows was Bika’s forte. From her perch she could watch undetected as the lanky trollish bartender scooped out three helpings, one after the other, of what he openly called Boiled Garbage in his native Zandalari tongue. She watched with growing nausea as the hunter ate each bowl eagerly, pouring toxic quantities of hot sauce over each serving, and washed them down with girly punch.

Please, for the love of the loa, finish already so I can do this, she thought fiercely at him. Maybe a little too fiercely.

Fenniel stopped mid-bite three quarters of the way through his third bowl. He frowned, looked over his shoulder, then took another tentative bite.

Ambika closed her eyes and used every ounce of patience at her disposal to keep the tiny flame of irritation burning in her chest from blossoming into outright anger. Keenly aware that her temper was her greatest barrier to the discipline she craved, she was determined to wait.

Fenniel polished off the last of his Boiled Garbage. Gravy asked if he’d like another. The troll bartender looked surprised when Fenn shook his head and said “No, thanks,” pushing the bowl away. He picked up his shotgun from where it rested against the bar and slung it over his back to leave.

Like a shadow, Bika followed.

Once they were out of the bar proper and there was no one nearby to eavesdrop, Ambika took a carefully measured breath. It was time.


Fenn jumped nearly a foot in the air, tripping over his own feet as he turned around to face the priestess. “H-hi.”

“Follow me, please.” She passed him and descended the stairs, aiming for a copse of shrubby palms beside the warrior’s training hall. There they would have privacy without having to hide. She didn’t look to see if he was following her. The elf was nothing if not obedient.

Sure enough Fenniel followed behind, staring ahead at Ambika. “Ma’am? Am I in trouble? Are…are you going to kill me? I’m really sorry about your ribs.”

Once the troll reached a suitable place among the trees, she stopped abruptly and stood on the hard red dirt, looking up at him. She resisted the urge to levitate the few inches off the ground that would allow her to be at his eye level. There were so many tiny steps toward humility, but she was learning. Unprepared in spite of weeks of rehearsal, she was silent a few moments, gripping the pearl in her right hand and looking at a pebble near her feet.

“I…um. Why are we alone? Is everything alright?” Fenn asked.

“Almost,” she said, and smiled faintly. When she opened her palm to show him, the pearl was still cold to the touch in spite of being held in her hand for hours. It lacked the luster of an ordinary pearl, devouring light instead of reflecting it. “I am a prideful wretch, Fenniel Dusksinger, and I seek absolution.”

The hunter frowned. “I’m um, definitely not a priest, Miss Ambika. I don’t think I can help you.”

She took his hand gently and held it next to hers, where the dark gem rested in the cup of her palm. If his after-dinner breath bothered her, she made no sign. “You needn’t be a priest to help me. You have a pure heart, and love even for the undeserving. I ask you to lift this burden from me. I cannot do it alone.”

Fenn looked from Ambika’s face to the pearl, then back again. He blushed. “I’m not sure I understand, Ma’am. I mean, it’s real nice of you to say all that, and well, I’m sure you’re a nice person too, but I don’t know what I can do to help you?”

“This pearl is imbued with my sin of pride. I cannot remove it myself. I must swallow that bitter draught and seek assistance freely given. It can be cleansed by one who does not carry pride in his heart.”

Fenniel just shrugged, and blushed even darker. “I dunno what I’d have to be prideful of after this week.”

Ambika just looked up at him, her fingers cool on his wrist. The pearl was a black spot in the rapidly descending twilight.

“Um, so all I have to do is take this pearl?” he asked.

She nodded.

“What do I do with it? Just keep it?”

“That is all. It will cleanse itself over time.”

He nodded in assent and took it from her hand. “Okay.”

The relief that washed over her was so overwhelming that she burst into tears.

The chubby hunter sputtered, closing his hand tightly around the pearl. “Oh, n-no Ma’am, I really didn’t mean to upset you. I’m sorry. Please don’t cry, I’m sorry.”

It took several minutes for the troll to compose herself while he looked on, horrified. Eventually she produced a delicate handkerchief and wiped her face. “Thank you. I am in your debt; take these blessings and be well.” She murmured a prayer over him and fled.

He opened his hand, staring incredulously at the pearl as she ran off. “I’m…sure it was nothing?”

Zana’zua’s Dream

Ambika gave Zana’zua a pearl bound with one of her sins. Afterwards, he had a dream.

Zana’zua stood on the shores of the Echo Isles. The sun was setting low, a red and hazy orb suspended over the water. It was cool, and the breeze traced across his face. Zana’zua felt the water lap over the sand and brush his toes. He looked down; his feet lacked the black spots he’d become used to, which meant this was a dream, like every other dream he’d had since he died. He wore his death knight’s armor. He wished he could take the armor off, but that had never worked in any of the dreams. It was a part of him, even here.

His wife stood not far from him, looking out over the ocean. Her arms wrapped around her sides and her robes flapped in the wind.

“Rini’alai.” His voice was hoarse and low, and his breath felt as if it scraped against his throat.

This isn’t real.
My breath isn’t real.

She turned around, and a smile spread across her face. “Zana’zua. You came home.”

He went towards her and cupped a hand around her shoulder. “I meant to come home much sooner.”

She frowned and wrapped her hands around his. “You’re cold,” she said. “Ice cold. Are you sick?”

He shook his head. “I’m not sick anymore. Rini, I don’t have long, but there’s something I need to tell you.”

“Why do you have to go?” She held onto his hands more tightly. “You’ve just come back from the war.”

“I’m sorry.” He felt tears well up behind his eyes, but they refused to come out. “I’m so sorry.”

She put a hand on his face to wipe away his imaginary tears. “Zana, you know you never need to say sorry to your Rini. I love you.”

“I should have never gone. I was wrong,” he said. “The witch doctor told me you died because I broke your heart.”

She laughed. “That old fool. My heart was broken because I did not wish to mend it. I waited for you to return, and when I became sick I gave up. I knew you had died too.”

“I did terrible things, Rini.” His voice cracked. “I killed women and children that stood there and watched me. They did not know what I was, and so they stared.”

“And yet your heart never belonged to that dead prince, did it? It was always mine, Zana’zua. Still mine. Don’t you forget that,” she said.

“Is this still a dream?”

“It is, and it isn’t.” She tilted her head to one side. “I don’t suffer, and neither should you.”

“I want to die,” he said. “I wish I had died.”

“Not yet.” She shook her head, then grabbed the edge of his shoulder guards. “Some day you will take this armor off, but not yet. You have more left to do. I think you ought to be there for it, don’t you?”

“I don’t understand.”

She stood on her tip toes to kiss him on the forehead. “No, you don’t, but you will.” A single tear slipped from Zana’zua’s eye to roll down his cheek, and she wiped it off with a thumb. “You’re still a good man.”

“I love you, Rini. I love you so much.”

“I know you do. Now wake up, Zana.”

And he did.

Kaja Cola

Fenniel recently discovered the wonders of Kaja Cola.

Fenniel’s favorite place in new Orgrimmar was the Valley of Wisdom. The totems and the Tauren that occupied it reminded him of a nicer, simpler time. Before Libby died. When he could, he came to it in late afternoon, sitting by the water and watching the sun set.

He’d finished his work in Deepholm early that day, and hunkered down on the bridge in the middle of the Valley, letting his bare feet dangle over and nearly skim the water. The sun was still high in the sky, and he closed his eyes, and listened.

A hoarse and high-pitched voice on his left side snapped him out of his reverie. “Hey Long Ears.”

Fenniel opened his eyes, quickly scooting away from the direction of the voice. A goblin female sat next to him, smiling widely. She had dark blue hair in three little buns, and wore black leather from head to toe. On her back was a small brown pack dragging from the weight of its contents.

“C-can I um. Help you?” He stammered, and instantly mentally chided himself for it. Good job.

She scooted after him, oblivious to his nervousness. “You seem down, Long Ears. I watch you sit here all the time, and you never talk to or smile at nobody. What’s brought you down, chum?”

He shook his head. “It’s a long story. Did you uh, need something? Or anything?”

“Can’t a lady just wanna talk to a fella? I got lots of time, plenty of time for a story.”

He looked down at the water, pushing his glasses up on his nose. “I don’t really want to talk about it. I’m sorry.”

The goblin patted him on the back. “That’s alright Long Ears, you don’t have to tell me. Pinin’ after a girl, right?”

One side of his lip turned up in a joyless smile. “Something like that, yeah.”

She pointed at his eyes. “I like your glasses, they’re different. You make ‘em?”

Fenniel blinked, a bit put off by the sudden change in topic. “Yeah, I did,” he nodded.

“So, this girl you’re pinin’ after, you need a way to impress her?”

The lopsided smile faded. “Not anymore, no.”

She smiled, scooting in closer to him again. “But you must be kind of a creative type, to make your own glasses.”

“I haven’t had any ideas in a long time. Honestly, Miss, I’m not meaning to be rude. But um, there’s really nothing I can do for the girl anymore.”

“Wait.” She held out a hand. “Did you just say you haven’t had any ideas in a long time?”

“I think so.”

She grinned from ear to ear. “This I can handle! No prob Bob, we’re gonna straighten you out quick as a samophlange in a zeppelin engine. I got what you need.”

“I…uh…excuse me?”

She set the brown pack onto the ground beside her, pulling a can out from it. She handed it to Fenniel. “Drink this.”

He took the can tentatively, holding it up in front of his eyes. “What is it?”

“It’s Kaja Cola. Soda, Long Ears. Just try it.”

“Are you sure it’s safe?”

“Look, I’ll take the first sip.” She snatched the can out of his hand, cracked open the top, and took a dainty sip from it. She passed the soda back to Fenniel.

He shrugged. “Here goes nothing.” He took a sip, then stared at the can a moment. “This is really good!” He put it back to his lips, chugging the soda in one long gulp.

“I told you, Long Ears! Man, you can really drink fast. How do you feel?”

He set the empty can on the ground next to him. “You know, I actually feel really good. Wait. WAIT.”

The goblin’s eyes widened. “For the love of money, don’t tell me it has side effects on elves.”

“I just had the most amazing idea! You won’t believe it!”

She breathed a sigh of relief. “Good. Tell me about it!”

“Edible rocket fuel! It could be packaged as soda, just like this!”

“Oh, I like that! You’re onto something. So Long Ears, I’ll tell you something about this soda. Kaja Cola is special. It gives you ideas.”

Fenn picked up the empty can again. “Really?”

“That it does! And if you want some in the future, I can supply you with it, completely street legal. Name’s Kitzie the Shiv.”

Fenn held out a hand. “It’s nice to meet you, Miss Kitzie the Shiv. I’m Fenn Dusksinger.”

She shook his hand with a bemused smile. “You can just call me Kitzie. The Shiv is really more of a title than a last name.”

“Oh, okay.”

She reached into the chestpiece of her black leathers, pulling out a business card. “If you want more Kaja Cola, you can find me using this card. I also deal in non-laundered gems, finest quality.”

Fenn smiled, taking the business card. “Thanks Miss Kitzie.”

She got to her feet, then leaned in and kissed Fenn on the cheek. “My work here is done.” Kitzie flung the pack over her shoulder, waved, and started on her way back out of the Valley of Spirits.

Fenn turned a bright shade of red, calling after her. “B-b-bye Miss Kitzie. Um. Thanks for the soda!”


Have some drabble! Things have been developing with Hammaryn and Veldarin for some time now, and mostly it’s making me laugh. Enjoy!

Surprisingly, Hammaryn had enjoyed her time off of work. She’d read wheelbarrows full of books, spent time working in the chapter house garden, spent more time training than she had in years, and had even come to find the priest she’d been meeting with not altogether irritating.

Hammaryn padded down the hall of the chapter house, her footsteps light without plate armor. She’d just finished reading yet another book the Father had loaned her, and decided to spend the afternoon rehabilitating the rose bushes in the courtyard. Making her way down the hall, sounds of combat came into range; the chunk of swords against wood, the clanging of metal, and a loud cry of effort from a familiar voice.

She took a few more steps forward, stopping in front of a window that gave full view of the courtyard.

Veldarin was dripping with sweat, his body practically radiating heat. He wore a light undershirt that was nearly soaked through, a pair of loose pants, and boots. He stood in the middle of the courtyard, swinging two metal practice swords. He moved in slow and graceful forms, and then in quick blows against a makeshift target dummy.

Hammaryn was transfixed, the rose bushes completely forgotten. She leaned into the window, propping her arms up on the sill.

The sound of tuneless but cheerful humming preceded Ysani down the hall. The redhead called out a cheerful “Hi Hammaryn!” and waved as she walked past in her beaded flipflops and tight leather top, ready for a casual evening out. Ysani got most of the way down the corridor, then stopped in her tracks. Stepping backwards several paces, Ysani stood next to Hammaryn and stared out the window. “Oh, wow.”

Hammaryn blushed all the way up to the tips of her ears, stumbling back from the window. “I was looking at the rose bushes.”

“You’re missing out, then. Holy crap, he’s hot.”

Hammaryn frowned at the red-headed girl. “Don’t be ridiculous. And why are you looking at him anyways?! Don’t you already have a lot to juggle?”

Ysani sighed and rolled her eyes, just a little. “There’s nothing that says a girl can’t look, it’s just window-shopping if you don’t plan to buy. Besides, I was only making an observation. Do you have dibs on him or something?”

“Of course not.” Hammaryn stole another glance out the window, then looked back to Ysani before storming back down the hall towards her room.


Fenn rarely slept through the night anymore.

Most nights he’d wake up several times, suddenly opening his eyes in the middle of a deep sleep. His left arm would fly out to his side, his body unconsciously searching for who ought to be next to him. His palm would find nothing but air, and Fenn would realize he was sleeping on his sister’s couch, and he would always be sleeping on his sister’s couch. He’d never reach out in the middle of the night and find her soft black fur, or hear her quiet Shu’halo dreaming whispers.

He let his arm fall off the side of the couch, slumping back onto the cushions. He closed his eyes, trying to will himself to sleep again; his heart was pounding so hard in his chest he felt like any moment it would burst. He opened his eyes again, then slid off of his makeshift bed onto the floor, propping his back against the ancient piece of furniture.

He reached underneath the couch, fumbling in the dark. Finally he felt soft feathers tickle his hand, the familiar curve of the sharp and pointed beak, a strap of leather dangling down from one side. He pulled Libby’s bird mask out from underneath the couch, cradling it in his arms for a few seconds before setting it squarely on his head. Inside the hat it smelled like peppermint oil and peacebloom. He took a deep breath, inhaling until it felt like the air was made of nothing but that scent.

Some nights it felt like the crying took him by surprise. He’d feel fine one moment and the next be a sobbing wreck, his eyes bloodshot and burning as his chest heaved with the force of his grief. Others it was an eventual and slow trickle, welling up until he could no longer ignore the lump in his throat. It felt like it could have all been a dream, and he’d never really known what it felt like to have someone love him. Except for the bird mask, lurking under the couch to remind him of what he lost; he didn’t have the heart to get rid of it.

He took off the mask, rubbing at his eyes with the back of a hand, smearing tears across his cheeks. He shoved it back under the couch, climbed back up onto the cushions and curled into a ball as best he could. Fenn closed his eyes, and tried to sleep.


Hammaryn has been a train wreck for the last six months, or a year, or some indefinite snowballing amount of time. It’s been awhile, I forgot. She finally decided to seek out some help and take some time off of work. I wrote this with the super awesome Bika.

Hammaryn was sure that there were worse things than asking someone for help. The only problem was at that moment, she couldn’t think of a single one. Her left hand shook on the doorknob to the priest’s study. She put her other hand over the delinquent wrist, attempting to still it, and when that didn’t work she pulled both away in disgust. She folded her arms over her chest, sucked in a sharp breath of air, and started pacing in circles.

After all, it wasn’t too late to go home. Thinking back on it, she didn’t know what had even gotten into her the other day. Of course she didn’t need re-education; aside from her numerous reprimands and suspensions, she’d always done well at work. She was often complimented on her skills in combat, and she was one of the few Argents that had fought in Icecrown. She decided that really, she was an exemplary soldier. There was nothing to worry about.

Except for the nagging feeling in the back of her mind that she hadn’t been happy in years. She stopped in the middle of her pacing, and stared at the door again. Veldarin had told her the priest would have a code of privacy, and he was sworn not to repeat the things she said. That didn’t mean she needed to see him. Lots of people were unhappy, why should she be any different?

“Excuse me miss, I wonder if you might be able to help me,” came a voice from behind her. She whirled around, startled to find a somewhat pale elf in priestly garb standing in the doorway of the study. He smiled gently. “You see, I’ve made all this tea and I can’t possibly drink it by myself. Come to think of it, I have far too many biscuits as well. Won’t you come in?”

“I…” Hammaryn stammered. “What? I mean, I was just about to go. I wasn’t waiting here, or anything.”

A fat, fluffy cat appeared in the doorway, wound itself about the priest’s legs, and stared expectantly at the visitor. “That’s quite a pity. You see, Frances here was expecting company and she’ll be quite put out if I don’t find someone. She gets very tired of having only me for company, for I am old and rather dull.” He opened the door even wider and stepped aside slightly.

The cat meowed.

Hammaryn frowned, talking to no one in particular. “I think I might be hallucinating. This feels like the mushrooms.”

“My dear, this room is a magnet for wandering souls. Would it surprise you to know that you are not the first, nor the second or third visitor I have found pacing this floor today?” His small bemused smile grew to a big merry one, as though he might laugh at any moment. He took a step toward her, but no more. The cat followed and plopped its fat behind on the tiles. Meow.

Hammaryn took a slow and deep breath, letting it out in one big sigh. “Fine. I’ll come in. But you should know before I do, that I am a trained member of the military, and if your intent is to try anything unscrupulous it’ll go badly for you.”

“Oh, I don’t doubt it for an instant. I believe you could rip my arms right off without hardly trying. Now, let’s not dawdle, the tea is getting cold. Come in!” He ushered her over the threshold into a cozy, extremely tidy little room. It was circular and every wall was completely lined with shelves, all of which were filled with scrupulously dusted books and assorted knickknacks. A fire burned in the stone fireplace across from the front door, a modest table set before it flanked by two simple chairs with worn cushions on the seats.

Hammaryn sat down, sitting stiffly upright in the chair. Her eyes wandered over to the shelves of books, scanning the titles.

“Do you see something you’d like to read? Come to think of it, I believe I’ve seen you at the library. With Veldarin, is that right? He’s a good lad, if a bit on the mischievous side.” Two teacups nested near the steaming pot, beside a plate of chocolate-dipped biscuits. He set one on Hammaryn’s side of the table and filled it with tea, then filled his own before sitting down, adjusting his robes beneath him.

She took a sip of tea, blowing on it to cool it off. “How do you know Veldarin? From the library?”

“He is my cousin, though I suppose it’s so many times removed it may as well be nothing. His father and mine were dear friends, though. I’ve known the lad since he was yea high to a grasshopper.” He held his thumb and forefinger an inch apart, then took a cookie from the plate and pushed it over to her.

She helped herself and took a large bite. “He doesn’t talk much about his family.”

“And why doesn’t that come as a surprise,” he said, chewing a fastidious bite of the chocolate half of his biscuit. “He never has gotten on with his mother. Our fathers, well. They fell to the scourge years ago. It was quite a blow. I don’t know that he’s over it yet, he certainly doesn’t discuss it with me! Not anymore, that is.”

“That’s odd.” Hammaryn frowned, still chewing on the cookie. “He never said anything about his father.”

“His father was a nobleman, quite the magister in his time. Veldarin took his love of reading from him, you could hardly find either of them anywhere without his nose stuck in a book.” Frances hopped with surprising grace into the priest’s lap and curled up there, regarding Hammaryn with her bright green eyes.

“He’s training to be a soldier now.”

“So I hear! He came to me not long ago asking about the priesthood. I was sorry to turn him away, but I do believe a priest’s life would never satisfy his nature. He is an adventurer at heart, and lacks certain qualities one desires in a priest. For example, a priest ought to be meek. Do you know what that entails, miss–?”

“Hammaryn Dawnsorrow.”

“Miss Hammaryn. Do you know Veldarin well enough to say whether he is meek?”

She snorted at this. “I don’t believe that he is, no.”

He smiled at her. “So you see how I could not in good conscience advise him to follow his aspirations to priesthood. It’s been a while since I heard any news of him stirring up trouble, so I can only assume that his new aspirations are challenging enough to keep him occupied.” The cat meowed at him, and he broke off a piece of biscuit to feed her. “Now tell me, my dear, what brings you to my humble home?”

“I think – “ she set the cookie down on the table. “Let me start that again. I’ve been a member of the military since I was old enough to swing a sword. I don’t have a problem with my job. I think I like it actually.” She swept a few crumbs off of the table onto the floor. The cat hopped down to eat them off the threadbare rug, leaving it clean. “Several members of my order claim it’s all that I do, but it’s not. I also read, and train, and get drunk every night.” She leaned back in her chair, relaxing her posture. Her hands dropped into her lap. “The problem is…I don’t know if it’s normal to be unhappy.”

“That is a weighty thought to have on one’s mind, Hammaryn. It’s the sort of thought, I think, that leads to sleepless nights and to pacing in front of odd priest’s doorways. Let me ask you a question. Do we speak of active unhappiness? Or simple contentment without particular joy?”

“I guess the latter.” She shrugged.

“In my experience, contentment is often quite enough, and readily attainable if one knows where to find it. Is there anything that makes you feel more than content?”

“I’m not saying that I dislike everything. But I am different from my peers.” She shook her head. “I don’t know what they expect of me. I don’t know what it is that I’m supposed to do aside from my work.”

“Hammaryn. Are you saying, then, that there is nothing which makes you happy?”

“Is that wrong?”

He looked somewhat taken aback. “Oh, heavens no. There is no right or wrong associated with happiness, my dear.” Filling her cup from the still-steaming pot, he continued. “I would like to pose a question to you, Hammaryn. Do you know anything of small children, babies even?”

“Yes. I lived in the orphanage after the destruction of Silvermoon.”

“Can infants be happy, Hammaryn?”

“Of course they can. They start smiling within a matter of months.”

“Do you suppose they learn how to be happy? Or does it just happen?”

She picked up the cookie again. “People smile at babies all the time.”

“What makes a baby unhappy?”

“A lot of things. Being tired, being hungry, taking a piss.”

Unperturbed by her crude language, the priest forged ahead. “So it seems that any person, at his or her basic level, must have their basic needs met first before they can be happy. Beyond that, it is a matter of something that can be as simple as receiving a smile. Do you agree?”

She frowned at this. “I guess so.”

He pushed another cookie across the table at her with a solemn half-smile. “In this world, Hammaryn, being happy can be as simple as choosing to be happy with what one is given beyond the mere necessities of life.”

She picked up the cookie. “So you’re saying that everything is fine? There’s nothing wrong with just having my work.”

“There’s nothing inherently wrong with it, my dear. But I suspect that you will find yourself in the unpleasant position of wondering whether there’s any point to living.”

She set down the cookie, nodding thoughtfully. “I…I told Veldarin I thought I’d rather be re-educated than be myself. That’s why he sent me here.”

“So it has already crossed your mind.” The priest set down his cup and folded his hands in his lap, staring thoughtfully into the fire. “I must ask–and please be assured, nothing you say in my confidence will ever leave this room, or be shared with anyone–what has happened to make you feel as though you are undeserving of life?”

“I don’t feel undeserving. I just don’t see the point to all the stupid things that everyone else does. They lose sight of what’s important.”

“What is important, my dear?”

She stared at the priest as if he’d lost his mind. “Having a goal.”

“Has it occurred to you that perhaps happiness in itself can be a goal? Perhaps you mean something very specific.”

“I’d like to see the elimination of the scourge, within my lifetime.”

“Is that the only worthy goal in life? For that matter, what happens when the scourge is gone, and your goal attained?”

Hammaryn’s hands fidgeted in her lap. “I don’t know. I guess I’ll just…go fight for someone else.”

“And assume someone else’s goals? Can it be acceptable to set a goal of your very own, to aim for something you want for yourself?”

“I do have a goal for myself.” She cleared her throat.

“After the scourge is gone, what will you do?”

She scowled at the kindly priest. “I just told you, I’ll enlist with someone else.”

“Your goal is to serve? Or to gain military rank and prowess?”

She shook her head. “I just want to fight.”

“Does fighting make you happy?”

“I wouldn’t say it’s a feeling of happy, it’s more like…” Her forehead wrinkled in thought. “Forgetting.”

“And getting drunk every night; would you say it’s for the same reason?” He broke the chocolate part off of a cookie and dropped the rest on the floor for Frances.

She nodded. “Probably.”

The priest set down his half of the cookie and stared into the fire for several minutes, thinking. “And Veldarin, do you enjoy his company?”

She shrugged. “He’s not too bad.”

“I’m quite glad to hear it. Tell me, do you have any plans next week at this time? I have a lot of tea and never enough visitors to help me drink it.”

“I’m not working right now.”

“Wonderful! You should be sure to drop by, then. Would you care to borrow a book? You can bring it back next week when you come.” He got to his feet, stepping around the fat white cat, and went to one of the many bookshelves as though he knew precisely what to choose. The book he showed her was worn and bound in faded blue leather, not very thick but with a very fine print on the yellowed pages inside.

“This one is called Through the Portal. It’s a very old, but very fine story about an adventurous young elf in the time of Azshara,” he said, putting it firmly into her hands and settling back into his chair. Frances leaped onto his knee. He patted the scruff of her neck.

She turned the book over in her hands. “When should I have it finished by?”

“That depends entirely on how easily it reads to you, my dear. If you are finished in a day, or a month, it matters not to me. Only read it, and bring it to me once a week to tell me what you think of what you’ve read.”

She stood up, tucking the book under her arm. “Fine. I’ll see you next week.”

“Do take another biscuit with you. And tell Veldarin he ought to come visit soon.” He followed her to the door and waved as she went. “It was lovely meeting you, Hammaryn.”

She nodded. “You as well.”

Frances yowled loudly after her as she walked away.


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