Saturday, 1 May 2010

Eleventh Hour Challenge - Azshara

Azshara, the land clad forever in the colours of autumn is somewhere I rarely visit. The overwhelming sadness of its history seems to permeate the very air that I breathe and fills me with a deep sense of sorrow; even when I try to banish these thoughts from my head, they reappear around every chunk of fallen marble, every rise, every incline, every chasm; the restless, eternally damned spirits of the Highborne and the Naga - a reminder to us all of the devastation that is wrought by addiction, lust for power, selfishness and greed. If one ventures too far off the beaten track one becomes entangled with the Blue Dragonflight, and dragonkin are fiercely territorial and the High Elves - my heartbreakingly depraved and ruined kin. There are demons also, the Haldaar and the Legashi - both best avoided, along with the hippogryph that swoop mercilessly with their strong talons out.

However, the land is rarely visited, and there are precious herbs to be harvested, and as I had found myself (briefly) in the uncouth city of the Orcs it seemed ridiculous to not journey a little farther down the river and spend an hour or two picking and cutting; although my gold reserves remain healthy I had a restlessness about me that I was sure could be assuaged by a few hours in tiring, physical labour. As I wandered, carefully cutting, picking and occasionally digging, I realised that the land felt even eerier than usual. I tried to ignore it, telling myself that I was feeling unsettled in myself and because of this I was over-sensitive to external stimuli, but as I wandered further and further into the heartland the feeling became something that I could not shake off. I paused for a moment in the Ruins of Eldarath and sat down with my back to a marble pillar. The Ruins are so saddening, such art, craftsmanship, such work left to the mercy of the elements, and with plants sinking their roots into the cracks. The only living beings are the Naga, vicious, ruined creatures.

The wind carried voices towards me, a language that I could not recognise immediately - such things are often hard to perceive from a distance, but after some moments I realised it was unmistakeably Darnassian. How could this possibly be though? The Kaldorei hate this land, they believe it cursed, and understandably so - surrounded as they would be by remnants of their once glorious capital? I hastened into the shadow of a large pillar, one of the few that are miraculously still standing, and hoped that my pale robes would blend in sufficiently that I would remain unnoticed. As the voices neared I realised that there were not just one or two Kaldorei but many - a procession of some sort was making its way slowly up the path to the entrance of the Temple of Zin Azshari. The mood appeared sombre - the voices not sounding joyful, but sad, and I assumed that it was this that had made me feel unsettled - snatches of sound must have been carrying though the air for sometime, and it was only now, with proximity that I had been able to identify the sound for what it actually was. As the group made their way closer I began to realise what I was seeing. This appeared to be... something similar to a burial procession - but how was this possible? Then I caught myself - the Kaldorei had been immortal for so long it was deeply unsettling to realise that now, like the rest of the elves, they were mortal. And it would, in some way, make sense for them to be here, after all this was the original Temple of Elune. If the deceased had asked to be carried here, the kin would have honoured his or her last wishes...

I felt deeply uncomfortable, I was now an unseen spectator at something that no-one should be party to. Even worse, centuries before, these people were my kin. My confusion rose as did my sadness, but what to do? I wanted, with an overwhelming sense of urgency, to flee, but how to do this without making my presence known? I kept silent and still, hoping that they would enter the Temple and allow me to flee without calling attention to myself, but I was foolish to think that this would work. The Kaldorei are highly sensitive and attuned beings, I was fortunate that I had escaped their notice thus far. As I was desperately casting around for alternative solutions my skin pricked and I realised that I was no longer unnoticed. I looked up and met the eyes of one of the women. I dropped my eyes to the floor quickly and raised my hands to waist level, palms up, in what I hoped was a universal gesture of hopelessness and uncertainty. When I raised my eyes briefly it was to see her shake her her head once, sharply and draw her brows together. My only choice was to turn my back to the procession and run, stumbling over marble as I fled, ashamed, tears that I did not understand coursing down my cheeks, my breath catching in my throat, my lungs bursting as I ran faster and faster, heedless of the threat of the Naga. I was not surprised then, when I stopped running, to find my feet buried in the sand and the sound of the sea washing over me. I stood, panting on the shore, getting my breath back and stemming the tears. I realised that it would be folly to remain here though, the beach and surrounding seas swarm with Makrinni and Arkkoran, with both deadly pincers and magics - better to compose myself and be gone. Once I had composed myself sufficiently I summoned my hawkstrider and made my way back slowly to Orgrimmar, taking a very circuitous route through Azshara. It is an indicator of how troubled I was that when the bridge over the Southfury River rose up before me I was delighted and that the first thing I did in the city was to find an inn and, regardless of the other uncouth patrons, have a large glass of ale to calm my shredded nerves.

[In response to the Eleventh Hour Blogger Challenge posed here. Thank you for the muse!]

4 comments:

  1. So terribly beautiful and poignant. I was so glad this was the challenge that you drew- I knew you would do it justice! Absolutely as clever as anything, as always.

    I'll never look at those nagas the same way again...

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  2. Thank you - it was quite a challenge as I knew little of the lore of the zone! But I _really_ enjoyed writing it - I love muses (musi?) as they give me new stuff to wrap my head around, so thank you again for the inspiration.

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  3. Lovely and so sad. I always imagined that when I finally get around to quitting WoW, I'd log my Night Elf Priest for the final time in Azshara. There is a graveyard down by the seashore where I thought I'd leave her lying. So this struck a real cord with me.

    Those evil goblin types better not bulldoze my graveyard :(

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  4. It's _such_ a sad place - I had no idea until I started reading about it's history. One of the things that has renewed WoW for me, is _finally_ taking an interest in the lore, which I had discarded (in my PvE days) as being something that explained (at best) raid bosses and not much more.

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