The hasp of the door clicked softly. A dagger of amber light pierced the blackness of the room. The light grew slowly, by inches, behind the panels of the oaken door. It dimmed suddenly as if covered by a thick cloth. The soft rumor of sin whispered through the chasm of light. The door paused, as if waiting for some response from inside, and then continued its arc into the room. It creaked slightly on its hinges.
She opened her eyes to the sound.
The light coming from the doorway, now diffuse as the door opened, was blocked suddenly. A figure glided into the small room, and as it spun though the door its shadows danced across the walls. The door began to inch closed.
Her heart began to race.
The door clicked shut. The shadows sprang forth as the figure turned to face the small bed in the corner. The scent of warm metal permeated the room. The figure remained motionless, a malevolent spirit watching from the edge of the room.
She tried to stay still under the blanket. She squeezed her eyes closed.
It began to move towards the bed, the rustle of heavy fabric hissing softly against the stone floor. The sound of footfalls grew nearer and nearer to the bed and the whisper of low breathing seethed from the dark figure.
She mouthed a silent prayer.
The light dipped low, coming to rest on a small table near the head of the cot. The pinholes of amber that seeped from the shuttered lantern cast an eerie glow on soft red hair and a delicate face; both ghostly in the lamplight. The thin blanket moved.
Carasel bolted up right in the bed, her heart pounding in her ears. She was drenched in sweat and her chest heaved violently. Her eyes flashed to the door of her small room. It was closed. A small stool stood propped against it. A red stone pitcher balanced precariously on the footstool. She stared at the pitcher. The mouth had a large chip on one side. She continued to tremble, overcome with adrenaline. Large tears began to well in her eyes and roll down her cheeks. They ran from her face, making dark blotches on her sleeping gown and her blanket. After a minute she brushed the tears away from her eyes.
She tossed the thin linen blanket aside and swung her feet to the floor. She sat for a moment, her head in her hands, and calmed her nerves. After a few moments the shaking had subsided and she got out of bed. The hem of her sleeping gown brushed the ground as she walked. It was nearly three inches too long and the bottom was a drab and dirty brown. It was long sleeved, and was laced to the top. She crossed to the stool at the door and picked up the red pitcher. It was still halfway full of water. She turned and moved to a low, make shift dressing table that sat along the wall, dragging the stool along with her toe.
Carasel sat at the low table and poured the water from the pitcher into an unblemished red stone bowl. She dipped her hands into the water and lifted them to her mouth. She drank, and made a face. The water was near stale, but she drank again. She splashed some water on her face. It felt good to wash the tears from her cheeks, and she reached for a rag and began to scrub under her eyes. Then she stood, untied the laces at her neck, and pulled the sleeping gown up over her head. She tossed it at the bed. She returned to the bowl and quickly washed the perspiration from her body.
She finished bathing and grabbed a robe from a peg on the wall. It was white with a straight collar and short sleeves. She donned the clean robe, running her hands down it and pressing it flat in a futile attempt to rid it of wrinkles. She reached under the cot and grabbed for her sandals, and in the doing so bumped her hand on the hilt of a small knife. It spun slowly on its axis, and she snatched her hand away before the blade could nick her. She waited for it to stop spinning, and then passed her fingers lightly over the blade. The cold steel was little comfort. She replaced it near the head of the bed. She sat down on the bed and laced the sandals, then stood again and tidied up the room. She waited a moment and stared intently at the door. She listened, and when she was sure it was still, she opened it and stepped out into the semi darkness.
The stone halls of Northshire Abby were still and quiet as Carasel padded silently down the long dormitory hallway. The other students would not wake until dawn, so she knew she would have some time to herself before the day began. As she moved in the pre-dawn light she stopped occasionally to stare at the tapestries that decorated the walls. She loved to look at them, and she imagined herself as part of the stories they told. She alternated between wishing she were a valiant warrior or a fair maiden. She had never before seen anything so beautiful as the embroidered canvases of fabric. She reveled in her moments of peace like this.
Dawn brought activity to the Abby. The morning bells sounded, and life seemed to be breathed into the stone edifice. Carasel left her reverie with the tapestries and went with the rest of the students to the chapel for morning song, then off to breakfast. As she stood in line with the rest of the students she tried to picture the scenes from the tapestries in her head. She closed her eyes, imagining herself on the deck of a sailing ship in one of her favorites.
"Hey, wake up," whispered a student behind her.
"Huh?" Carasel replied, opening her eyes.
'What's the damn hold up!" another voice grumbled. A large boy of about seventeen years pushed ahead towards her. Carasel bowed her head down and shuffled forward, but now the people in line ahead of her had stopped to see what the commotion was. She was stuck. The large boy sneered when he saw Carasel.
"Had to be you. Can't you even understand how to get breakfast?" he said. He was a head taller than her, and loomed over her. Carasel seemed to shrink before him.
"S-s-s-sorry," she replied quietly.
"Suh suh suh sorry? Get out of the way, retard," he retorted. He pushed past her, taking a place in front of her. She heard giggles all around her in line.
Carasel grabbed the first thing on the serving table, a bowl of cereal grains, and left the line. She looked around and, as usual, saw no friendly faces. She felt eyes on her and lowered her head. She sat alone at the empty end of a long table, whispered a prayer, and ate her simple meal.
She ate quickly, and then hurried off to the kitchen to return her bowl and cup. Priestess Anetta smiled at her as she dashed in. She looked the girl over.
"You need to put some meat on those bones girl," she said to Carasel. "You're skinny as a boy." Carasel flushed a bit.
"You sure she isn't?" a cruel voice teased from behind the two of them. Carasel frowned, recognizing the voice instantly. Thomas swaggered up behind her and blocked her path to the door. Another boy and three girls stood behind him watching. Not again she thought. Then he stepped forward and reached for the front of Carasel's dress. He pulled the collar forward and tried to look down it.
"Now Thomas..." Anetta chided lightly. She shook her head, smiled and then turned back towards a large table.
"Shut up," Carasel hissed at him, her eyes frantic. She slapped at his hand as she jerked away, her face and neck turning red. Thomas' eyes widened in surprise at the slap. Carasel stepped around him and headed for the door. The girls covered their mouths and giggled as she pushed past them and out into the hallway.
"Sure looks like a boy to me!" Thomas called loudly after her. They all laughed.
Carasel ran down the long hallway that led away from the kitchens. She could hear the laughing, and it stung her. She passed the corridor that went to the classrooms and instead mounted the stairs. Halfway to the top she realized where she was going. She kept going.
In the long hallway of the dormitory she stopped once more in front of the tapestries. She stared for long moments at each one, lingering the longest in front of the one with the sailing ships. She tried to memorize every thread, every color. So beautiful she thought.
It was quiet in the dormitory; all of the students would be expected in their classrooms in a matter of minutes. Carasel entered her room and moved to the bed. She reached underneath, near the pillow, and drew out the knife. She stared at it, and then wrapped it in an old hand towel and slid it under her dress. She grabbed a light cape from a peg and secured it around her neck.
"Now or never," she said out loud.
She retraced her steps out of her room, but instead of going back down the long hallway she walked the other way towards the rear staircase. The backstairs led down to the ground floor. They opened to the far end of the classroom hallway, but all of the classroom doors would be closed by now. Carasel made for a small window at the bottom of the stairwell. She risked one quick look into the main floor hallway. It was empty. She sighed. She climbed into the window and dropped to the ground below.
"Be quick," she whispered to herself as she ran. She moved back along the outer wall of the Abby and tried to listen for any commotion. She wondered how long it would take before anyone knew she was gone. Probably never she thought ruefully.
The mid-morning was a busy time at the Abby and it made her escape easy. Everyone had tasks to complete and they hurried about with little or no notice of anyone else. She dashed out away from the Abby wall and ran for the road that led out of the secluded glen. She made it to the road without incident and began to jog south. She wanted to reach the main road quickly, and she hoped to be able to get home before the end of midday.
She turned back only once to look at the Abby. The building was now only partially visible in the distance. She did not look long.
The main road was dusty. Carasel kicked at stones as she walked along. She saw travelers quite often, most of them running along the route. Most paid her little or no notice. One elderly man asked her the way to Northshire Abby and she dutifully pointed the way. He smiled and thanked her. She smiled.
As the sun reached its apex Carasel fell in line with a group of soldiers walking the road. She marched in line with them for a quarter of a mile before a gruff looking soldier shooed her away. She stuck her tongue out at him, and to her surprise he stuck his out at her. She giggled, and then laughed as he cracked a smile.
As mid-day began to pass Carasel reached the edges of the forest that surrounded her house. She left the road and ventured into the familiar woods. She began to run, picking her way through the paths she had walked so many times in years past. She heard the padding of animal feet in the forest around her but knew she was safe here. She was scant minutes away from her parents. She could see the large two-story house in the near distance. Home She quickened her pace.
Carasel burst in through the front door and turned immediately towards the kitchen. "Mother?" she called.
"Care?" a soft voice responded. "Care, is that you?"
"Mother?" she called again. A tall woman with reddish blonde hair walked out into the kitchen doorway. She stared at her daughter.
"Care, what on Azeroth are you doing here?" she asked. Carasel stood for a moment, unable to move. Tears began trailing from her eyes. She ran to her mother and hugged her tightly. "Why aren't you at the Abby?"
"Please, d-don’t make me go b-b-back," she cried. "I hate it there!" She sobbed violently, her shoulders heaving.
"Carasel," her mother pleaded, "don’t cry my darling." Her voice was calm, with dulcet tones that seemed to calm her daughter. "It can’t be that bad" she continued, "You seemed happy enough when you left in the spring."
"Dammit girl! Stop this nonsense this instant!" a new voice boomed. A brusque man thundered into the small kitchen. He stared at the young girl, then at his wife. He sighed loudly. The crying had clearly been going on too long for his liking.
Carasel cowered under his gaze. Her sobbing, which had moments before been reduced to a whimper, returned full force again. She laid her head on the simple wood table and cried, hiding her head in her folded arms. She would not look at them.
"Stop this I said. I will not tolerate this foolishness!" her father continued. Her mother reached out to pat her daughter’s head, smoothing the light red tangle of knots as she did so.
"Care, please talk to me," her mother cooed. "You can tell us what the problem is. Did something happen while you were at the Abby? Something that made you not like it anymore?"
"N-n-no, nothing happened. I just don’t like it anymore. I want to stay home" the girl replied weakly. She did not raise her head from the table.
"But why dear? Please tell me. I’m sure I can help if you would just tell me the reason," her mother said. Her voice had the same calming effect as before.
Carasel raised her head, her eyes filled with large tears and her nose running. She looked to her parents, one and then the other. She seemed to be considering something; trying to decide what to say next. They all waited in silence for a long moment.
"Speak girl!" her father rumbled.
Carasel began sobbing again, the tears rolling down her cheeks.
"And stop that crying, or I’ll give you somethi…"
"Armand!" The voice cut the air and ended the sentence before it could be finished.
Armand Childermass swallowed, looked for a moment at his wife, and nodded. "Yes Sarah, I’m sorry." He turned on his heel and left the room, muttering "baby’s that girl…" under his breath.
"You father is right, Care. It’s time to stop the tears. You’re fifteen years old. You can talk about things like an adult."
"But he c-c-can’t!" Carasel shot back, still crying.
"Now, now girl. He is still your father and you need to be mindful of your tone," her mother replied in a stern voice. "You try is patience is all. Now, tell me about the Abby. What makes it so terrible?"
Carasel stopped crying and looked into her other’s eyes. She always felt safe in those eyes. "Mother, when I..." She burst into tears again, shaking violently.
"There now, my darling. It's all right. Whatever it is, it's all right," Sarah said as she rubbed her daughter's back. She lifted her head and cradled her daughter in her arms, gently rocking her back and forth. Then she stood, and Carasel stood with her. Sarah led her back to her bedroom and made her lay down on the bed. She hummed a lullaby and softly patted her hair until Carasel lapsed into sleep. Then she stood and walked out into the kitchen.
"Well?" Armand said. He stood with his arms folded across his chest.
"Well what?" she replied.
"You know damn well what. Why is she back? I've told you Sarah, no more coddling. That girl needs to grow up, needs to be educated. She can't hide around here the rest of her life," he fumed.
"Something happened, Armand. I know my daughter well enough to know that," Sarah said to her husband.
"Something?" he replied, his tone softening instantly. "Tell me Sarah. By the Gods if someone... my little girl..."
"I don't know yet. She's too upset right now. She's asleep in our bed. I'll talk to her later." Sarah replied. She walked to her husband and rested an arm on his shoulder, calming him. "She is still so young, Armand. And children can be cruel." He held her in his arms.
Carasel woke to hear voices coming from the kitchen. She was unsure how long she had been asleep, but a look out the window showed twilight was fast approaching. She strained to hear, but could not make out any words. She rolled to the side of the bed and stood. She crept to the wall nearest the doorway and edged towards the doorway. Then she heard a voice come for the kitchen, and she was frozen in fear.
"...noticed she was missing before mid-day, Magus Childermass. Of course, we made a thorough search of the Abby. It only occurred to us later in the day that she may have ran away," the man was saying. He was tall and wore a dark chestnut robe.
"Well, Brother Paxton, she is here. She arrived near the end of mid-day," Armand replied.
Carasel spied through the crack between the door and the frame, and could see Brother Paxton facing her parents. They were seated with their backs facing the bedroom.
"She was quite upset. Do you have any ideas about that?" Sarah asked.
"What has the girl told you?" he asked, shifting slightly in his chair. "Because she has been a bit of a handful..."
"Really?" Armand said. He frowned at the man in disbelief.
Carasel turned away from the door and ran back towards the bed. Can't go back her mind screamed. She grabbed her cape from the foot of the bed, and then opened the large armoire that sat against the far wall. She lifted a dark silk backpack from the bottom of the cabinet, and then fished in one of the drawers for any money her father may have left lying around. She came up with seven silver pieces and she tucked them into a hidden gap in the seam of the pack.
"Because that does not sound like my daughter," Armand continued.
"Carasel is a quiet girl, and very shy," Sarah picked up where Armand had left off. "I can't imagine her being a behavior problem."
Carasel sneaked back to the doorway to look into the kitchen again.
"Well, parents are sometimes the last to know," Brother Paxton was saying. "Why just today, I understand she got into an altercation and hit an upperclassman boy," he said with a pretentious frown.
Armand snorted. "If she did, I'll deal with that..."
Carasel swallowed. Won't go back She turned her back on the kitchen and ran for the window.
"...but I seriously doubt that my daughter would strike anyone," Armand finished.
"Yes, she is gentle," Sarah concurred.
The window led to the backyard. She slid it open and dropped the sack out the window, then turned back to the bedside table. The journal her mother kept was sitting there, as always.
"I can only tell you what I know," Brother Paxton replied.
Carasel picked up the leather-bound book and tore a page from the back. She found the quill and scratched a note. I'm sorry. I love you. She dropped the note on the pillow and climbed out of the window into the moonlight.
"Well, lets get Carasel out here and see what she has to say," Sarah said. She turned to Armand. "I'll go get her dear, it's time we clear this up." They missed the look of concern on Paxton's face. Sarah stood, and walked back to the bedroom. Paxton stiffened.
"Something wrong, Brother?" Armand asked.
Carasel ran north along the fence line towards the road. She had no idea where she would go, then she thought of the tapestries at the Abby. She hit the road at a full run and turned to follow it towards Stormwind City.
"Ahh, no. I..."
"Armand!" Sarah yelled from the bedroom. He stood up, knocking the chair over as he did so, and ran towards the bedroom. Sarah met him in the doorway with concern in her eyes. She was holding a piece of paper. He took it and read. He spun and faced the monk again.
"Tell me, scribbler. Tell me what is going on," he raged.
"I cannot tell you what I do not know. Your child seems to have run away... again. It's a habit of hers," Brother Paxton retorted.
"Bah! Sarah, don't worry. I'll find her." Armand reached for his staff and strode towards the door.
"I'm coming with you," Sarah replied, already hoisting a lantern in one hand. A steel mace swung from her belt. "I'm sure you can find your way out, brother," she said to Paxton.
"Nonsense. I will help you find the girl. Whatever her problems, we do not want to see her harmed," he replied. Sarah nodded. They walked out into the twilight.
Carasel's cape fluttered behind her as she ran. She reached the town of Goldshire easily and stopped for a moment outside the Inn. It was busy, and there were people everywhere. She cinched the pack tight against her back, making sure it lay underneath her cape. A man with a cart was selling fruit outside the Inn. She was hungry, and she thought this would a good a place to get some. She gave the man two silver pieces for some of his fruit. She put the food in her bag, then approached a sentry standing in the night air.
"Excuse me..." she said to the sentry. "C-can you t-tell me where St-st-st"
"Stormwind?" he smiled down at her. She nodded. "You just follow this road north." She dashed off. "Hey! Aren't you a bit young to be..." he trailed off as she sped out of sight. He shrugged and went back to watching the revelers outside the tavern.
The road to Stormwind City was paved in perfect flat stones and was dotted with lanterns. Carasel ran as fast as she could. The turrets of the outer gate rose out of the semi-darkness and she stopped for a moment to stare at them. She had been here before with her Father, but the sight of the turrets and of the glorious statues inside always gave her pause. She had never been here at night, and found the city was illuminated with torches and lanterns everywhere.
In Goldshire Armand quickly began interrogating the local sentries. Sarah walked into the tavern and began asking the patrons if they had seen a little girl. Paxton wandered around the backside of the blacksmith; then checked under the carriages that were parked in the road. Paxton and Sarah both heard Armand calling and they ran to meet him in the center of the town.
"Stormwind?" Sarah gasped. "Are you sure. Why would she.."
"I don't know dear, but a guard remembers talking to a girl with a stutter. He said she asked about Stormwind," he replied.
"We should hurry," Paxton chimed in. They all ran north.
The soldiers in Stormwind were much less helpful, Carasel thought. They all talked about bridges and quarters; none of it made any sense to her. She wandered the streets and happened upon a small square crowded with people. There were Humans, Gnomes, Dwarves and Night Elves. All were talking to one another. Carasel understood some of the words, but most of it was a mess of sounds. She was being pushed from all sides so she decided to try and get to the perimeter of the square. As she walked she overheard two gnomes talking to a human man. They were speaking in Common and she thought she heard one of them say "ship".
The searchers entered Stormwind City. They stopped at the gates to the city proper to question the guards. None remembered seeing Carasel. They looked at each other and tried to decide what to do.
"We should split up," Brother Paxton said. "We will have a better chance of finding her that way."
"Agreed," Armand replied. "I'll look around the central city. Sarah, you head to the Park. Paxton, you try the Old Town. We meet back here in forty-five minutes. With that settled, they went their separate ways. They all began calling her name as they walked away. Brother Paxton stopped calling as soon as the others were out of sight.
Carasel inched closed to the three men and tried to hear what they were saying. She climbed up onto a stone planter to get a better view.
"..yes, I was just come in from Ironforge. The Tram ride sure makes it an easy trip," one of the gnomes was saying.
"Where had you been, Vivian?" the other gnome asked.
"I was at Menethil Harbour. Took that ship from Auberdine. Then a short hop to Ironforge," the gnome called Vivian responded. "And, I have the order from the Elves right here. They love gizmos, you know." He laughed, and then produced a manifest. He handed it to the human man.
"Wonderful work, Vivian. I've no doubt you'll want to get home. I'll not delay you. Here is your fee," the man said as he handed a pouch over to the Gnome. They all smiled, shook hands and then parted.
Ironforge...Menethil...Ships Carasel thought. She jumped off the stone planter she had been perched on and followed the gnome called Vivian. She hoped he would lead her to the Tram. He said something to the other gnome in what Carasel assumed was gnomish, then walked out of the small square. She followed. She did not see the tall form of Brother Paxton enter the square.
"Damn," Paxton cursed. "Get out of the way. You there, make way," he said as he tried to push through the crowd. He thought he had seen the girl round a corner following a gnome. She was headed towards the Dwarven District.
Carasel tried to follow as surreptitiously as she could. The gnome stopped suddenly, and turned his head slightly.
"If you plan on following me around..." he said over his shoulder "...you may as well come up here next to me." He turned and gave her a grin that made his eyes twinkle.
Carasel stopped for a moment, then trotted up along side the gnome.
"And you're headed for the Harbour?"
"Figured, the way you perked up when I mentioned it before." He laughed at Carasel's wide eyes. "Yeah, I spotted you eavesdropping. Best be careful of that in a town like this. Could make trouble for yourself if you overhear the wrong thing."
He smiled again. "Don't worry, I'm not angry. I've overheard many a conversation in my day as well. Anyway, you're in luck. I'm headed to the Tram station. You can walk with me." As he spoke, he looked over her shoulder and frowned briefly. Then the twinkle returned to his eyes and he started off with Carasel walking close to his side. They walked over a few bridges and entered the Dwarven District. The sights and sounds overwhelmed Carasel. There was loud laughter and the pounding of metal against metal rang through the alleyways. There were people everywhere and Carasel grabbed hold of Vivian's sleeve as they walked.
As they approached the Tram station Vivian slowed for an instant and whistled at two young gnomes standing near an open doorway. They looked at him and he ran his finger along the brim of his hat, and then tapped it once. The two gnomes nodded at him and wandered into the street after they had passed. They began to follow Vivian and Carasel as they walked down the stairs into the station.
"So, are you meeting friends in Ironforge?" Vivian asked as they walked down the last flight of stairs. Carasel nodded. He humphed in disbelief. "Yeah, well when you get to Ironforge you ask a guard for help, okay. By the looks of things, you need it."
A klaxon began to sound from the opposite side of the platform and red lights began to flash. In the distance a low hum echoed out from the tunnel.
"Carasel?" a voice sounded behind them. Carasel stopped and began to shiver. Vivian turned to face Brother Paxton.
"What you want with this girl, fella?" Vivian asked.
"Carasel. Come with me. It's time to go home," Paxton continued, ignoring the gnome. Carasel did not speak.
"S'pose you'll tell me she's your daughter... or your neice. The family resemblance is striking," Vivian quipped.
"Stay out of this, gnome. It's none of your business. Come Carasel." Paxton closed his eyes and pointed a long finger at the girl.
The thrumming of the Deeprun Tram grew louder as it entered the station. It hissed and popped at it came to rest in front of their platform.
Carasel felt something touch her mind. It felt like ink being poured over a page of script. She could feel the malign presence of Brother Paxton flowing over her thoughts. She could feel him commanding her. She began to walk to him. Vivian grabbed her arm, holding her back.
"Leave her be, bastard!" Vivian shouted.
"Be still gnome," Carasel intoned. "Give her to me or I will throw her off this platform."
The Tram continued to hiss and pop as the gates opened. All of the cars were empty.
"I don't think so..." Vivian responded.
From the shadows of the upper stairs two small figures leapt out and crashed headlong into the legs of Brother Paxton. The three bodies crashed to the floor in a jumble. Paxton gasped, and then screamed as his eyes opened.
Carasel slumped to the floor the instant Paxton fell, his concentration broken. Vivian knelt at her side and tried to lift her up. He looked back towards Paxton and the two gnomes. "I've dealt with your kind before priest," he shouted. He stood and positioned himself between Paxton and Carasel. The gnomes sprang to their feet and stood at opposite sides to Paxton, forming a triangle around him.
Lights began flashing again throughout the station.
Paxton stared at Vivian with venomous eyes. "You'll regret this, midget." He threw his head back and loosed a scream filled with psychic energy. The two young gnomes began howling, their eyes wide with fear, as they ran uncontrollably up the stairs. Carasel just rolled into a ball on the floor at Vivian's feet. He blinked for a moment, and then the twinkle returned to his eyes. He grinned.
"You'll need more than that to scare me. I'm no little girl," Vivian taunted. He drew a long knife from under his tunic, and then knelt again. "Get up girl. Run for the train. Remember what I said." He winked at her, and then he sprinted towards Paxton.
Carasel staggered to her feet, the intense fear leaving her. She moved towards the train. She could hear scuffling behind her, but dared not turn to look. She heard a scream, and then the hissing of the train drowned out all noise.
She lurched over the gap and collapsed onto the floor of the car as the Deeprun Tram pulled out of the station.
If you miss the train I'm on, You will know that I am gone. You can hear the whistle blow a hundred miles.