Monday, January 25, 2010

A Drift on a Bay

[Names of places and denizens of Azeroth are the property of Blizzard, Inc. This work is intended merely as a writing exercise placed within the wonderful universe they have created.]

South of the verdant forests of Ashenvale rise the craggy Stonetalon Mountains, whose jagged heights tower above western Kalimdor like a brooding giant. A range of lesser ridges cuts east across the continent, dividing the well-watered northern lands from the drier savannas that stretch on to the horizon like an ocean of grass, wavelike hills rolling gently up and down not unlike the shoulders of a loping Tauren, whose nomadic people wander the savannas, ranging out from the green hills of Mulgore in the west, forcing the Quillboar to carve out their thorny communes in the drier lands to the east, their spiky backs pressed up against the Great Sea and the Southfury River.

The great river, swelled from its final pass through Ashenvale, its banks lined with basking crocolisks, flows with power and danger in its mad rush to complete the final leg of its journey and embrace the Great Sea. Its waters divide an expansive, red-burnt peninsula from the savannas. Here boulders pile on top of one another, and cliffsides crumble down into wadis and twisting gullies. No grass grows in these harsh lands, where even the red dirt is baked by the sun into hard-chipped stone, though patches of cactus crop up in shallow depressions of sand. Even the savage Quillboar rarely traverse this rocky land, though their animal counterparts grunt and root amongst the rust-colored soil.

Along the peninsula’s eastern coast, where the waters of the Great Sea wash up against the rocky cliffs, lonely palm trees rise intermittently in the dull brown sand. The waves drift languidly in and out, quiet and unhurried, their motion smoothing the sand flat like glass until it becomes difficult to discern exactly where the land ends and the sea begins.

At this shore’s northernmost extreme, where the arm of the Stonetalons plunges into the Great Sea, a curved promontory juts out like a splayed claw, cutting a shallow bay from the peaceful waters.

A tall ridge forms the chine of this scythe-like cape, but along its inner edge lies a wide, flat swathe of muddy brown sand that reaps the detritus of the sea. The Great Sea, in accordance with its own unfathomable reasons, casts its currents so that its trash slowly, inevitably drifts into this shallow bay.

Shalaria could have chosen to hermit herself in the crags of Stonetalon, or even the mossy reaches of Feralas, but it was here that she settled, in a cave overlooking the reef-filled bay teeming with fish she often caught and roasted over a fire, and it was to the hot and salty sea air that she inevitably returned at the end of a her months-long forays. It was quiet enough: Easily bypassed on the west by land, and circumnavigated for its useless shallowness by those in ships. Nevertheless, it brought her nothing but trouble.

Driftwood, battered pieces of ships, and seaweed all washed up on her shore, tangling her feet and stubbing her toes. Once, the carcass of a great threshadon beached upon her doorstep, stinking for weeks as the crabs and seabirds slowly whittled away at the mountain of flesh, until only bleached bones and a faint odor of decay remained.

She called the bay Trash Heap, a place where the Great Sea swept its garbage to hide it from the world. And so she also called it home.

[End Friday Challenge Submission]

In the evenings Shalaria would rise and clear a circle of sand, piling the driftwood and seaweed into an unlit bonfire, and begin her training. The night air floating over the bay cooled her and tugged at the edges of her wraps, fluttering them in the wind. The sand flattened beneath her feet, feeling more like a single spongy entity than a multitude of tiny grits, though the perpetually presence of grains in her hair and between her toes reminded her of the sand’s true nature.

After training, she would check her lines, and then prepare a meal. Then a swim in the dark bay, replacing the salt of her sweat with that of the sea. Afterward whatever task arrested her attention she completed, finishing the midnight meal shortly before retiring as the seabirds called to daybreak.

That night, as she strode onto the sands, magic burned her eyes amidst the faded backdrop of the dusk-darkened shore. Her first thought was that the bay had yet again brought her trouble. It was not demonic, but it was not normal, either, to affect her vision so. It glimmered from amidst a pile of wreckage that had washed up onto her shore.

Shalaria approached the pile of jetsam cautiously, then bent over to inspect it closely. A girl lay atop the wreckage, her body slight and small for a night elf. Shalaria touched the girl’s skin and found it still warm from the day’s sun; she was not dead.

Shalaria ground her teeth. Trouble.

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