1. (Continued from here)

    It was something of a relief to feel the familiar bite of Northrend’s winds on my face as my company and I met with Thrall within the confines of a bleak ice canyon. We guarded him closely as elementals bound within the remains of ancient dragons sprang their ambushes; the shaman himself guarded the Dragon Soul myself and so many iterations of others had carefully extracted from the depths of the timeways.

    As we passed under Galakrond’s massive skeleton, waylaid by yet more forces of the Twilight’s Hammer, I could see and hear Deathwing in the skies ahead, already battering the walls of Wyrmrest Temple alongside the twilight dragonkin he commanded. The Aspects’ own flights gave plenty resistance, and my ears filled with roaring, shrieking, death cries, and insidious whispers. The tentacles of the Old Gods had veined themselves into the earth around the temple, a great maw of teeth and darkness spewing creatures not of this world onto the path leading to the temple.

    All that remained was the Archbishop - once a man of the Light, now of murmuring twilight, quickly dispensed of the madness Deathwing had infected him with via a swift death. Thrall was safe, and would take his place standing in as the Aspect of Earth in the coming final confrontation against Deathwing.

    (Part 3 of 3)

  2. (Continued from here)

    As a child of Elune myself, stepping through the time device to the palace of Queen Azshara felt both alien and utterly familiar. Artifacts and ruins of my peoples’ once continent-sprawling ancient civilization have been present throughout most of my life’s travels, but this felt as though I had not only restored a relic of archaeology, but stepped into it at the moment of its creation.

    With the aid of Illidan Stormrage, my company advanced through the palace, sabotaging demonic portals and dispatching warlock lieutenants. Everywhere I looked, beautiful stonework, living buildings, and the forest surrounding the Well of Eternity were being destroyed and set ablaze by agents of the Burning Legion. I had to remind myself several times that the major events of what had already come to pass, were immutable in Time. Nozdormu had enlisted my help to retrieve the Soul, not to martyr myself in the distant past in a futile attempt to stop the advance of the Burning Crusade.

    After the corrupt Azshara was dealt with for the time being, Alexstrasza, Ysera, and Nozdormu attempted to break the barrier of magical spells surrounding the Dragon Soul, but this outpouring of energy attracted Neltharion - now Deathwing - who coveted the power of the Soul he had created purely for himself. A dark, immense power forced him to retreat as it threatened to tear his body asunder, and the Aspects gave chase, leaving their various dragonflights behind to battle the demonic forces and Azshara’s scattered armies of soldiers and mages.

    A long, weary battle with Mannoroth, the monstrously gargantuan pit lord directly subservient to Sargeras the Destroyer, ensued on the shores of the Well; as the demon was finally defeated, the spellwork surrounding the Dragon Soul - which had been feeding the growth of the portal that would have gave Sargeras access to Azeroth - gave in to its precarious volatility. The Well of Enternity began to implode upon itself. Nozdormu seized the Soul before Malfurion Stormrage would have hidden it for ten thousand years. It was now crucial to go back - forward more than ten millenia - to meet Thrall in my present time.

    (Part 2 of 3)

  3. When the Dragon Aspects decided to seek out the powerful artifact known as the Dragon Soul for use against their corrupted brother Neltharion, the Bronze leader Nozdormu began to search the timeways for an access point from which to retrieve it, and he found the Ways blocked. Somehow, something in the distant future was preventing the Timeless One from probing that point in time.

    After summoning a band of adventurous champions for assistance, Nozdormu waited in this distant Future known to him as “the End Time”. When the maddened Neltharion - now known as Deathwing - could not be defeated, he brought about the Cataclysm and collapsed in ‘victory’ atop Wyrmrest Temple. The frigidity of Dragonblight long since burned away, all that remained in this desolate land were ruins. After defeating the warped, time-lost echoes of four mortals’ lingering essences in the Ruby, Emerald, Azure, and Obsidian dragonshrines, Nozdormu brought the group of mercenary heroes to his own shrine, where the anomaly blocking his access to the Timeways waited.

    Murozond was once the Bronze leader himself, but the titan who blessed him with power over time, also showed him the moment of his own demise. At some point, whispers of the Old Gods tricked Nozdormu into attempting to subvert his own death. The only creature who could thus interfere with Nozdormu, was Murozond, who stole away the Hourglass of Time from the Caverns in which it rested. With the aid of this tool, once again under the blessing of Nozdormu, its rightful master, the heroes defeated the anomalous Infinite Dragonflight, and continued on - back in time - to the Sundering.

    (Part 1 of 3)

  4. We frighten and awe guests and trespassers with them; honor our gods and ancestors; remind ourselves of the valor of heroes lost on the battlefield; and raise them in memory of fallen friends, teachers, and leaders.

    Some statues have more practiced sculptors, but almost every statue I pass bears an expression of determination, focus, or reverence that seems so vivid as to have been the sculptor’s own reflection. Whatever the story, whomever the immortalized champion, these stone and metal faces give me reason to pause and sober my thoughts.

    They are icons and reminders of our passions and inspirations, but also our mortality.

  5. The festival associated with love has never been one of my favorites. In my youth, to be sure, I had paramours and summer flings, learning and .. practicing this important step to adulthood as most do. But I am a warrior. A heroine of battles told and untold. I am a Cenarion Guardian, a great cat in the shadows; I too often prowl alone, and have had no one stay at my side for very long.

    When the cities fill with rose petals, sickly-sweet perfumes, candies and chocolates too rich for my palate, I tend to take to forgotten coastlines shortly after nightfall, riding breezes that tang of sea spray. The White Lady brightens the darkest sky with Elune’s smile, and occasionally the Blue Child makes its appearance as well.

    I have no real desire for such passing affections. I am certain I am not alone in this way, and so I share these images. Perhaps another soul like me will learn to stargaze instead.

  6. Of the many native races of Azeroth, one of the most overlooked (or perhaps avoided) by both the Alliance and Horde is the Nerubian Empire. Most of the sentient races look roughly humanoid, and a sizable portion attack us largely because, as with most creatures, we are not like them. Differences make all mindful creatures wary; we fear what is unlike to what we understand, and it is much easier to empathize when we look and act similar to each other.

    On the surface, the Nerubians are heavily arachnid in their shape compared to their sister races, the Qiraji and Mantid. Of course the Mantid and Qiraji both look very unlike to most of us as well, but the large .. posteriors, and very long spined legs, clicking fanged mouthparts, and overabundance of eyes compared to our own, send chills down many spines. Even their habitual swaying motions make us uneasy.

    The Nerubians, however, seem to delight in their evolved spider-shape. It adorns nearly every inch of their architecture in some form; ceilings, floors, pillars, statues, monoliths, ziggurats, light fixtures and windows. Before their near-annihilation by the forces of the Lich King, they were a complex species, highly intelligent wielders of arcane magic and enthralled with philosophy. They once made jewelry, and demonstrated their own written language and literature.

    As the small pockets of Nerubians who evaded the forces of the Lich King dug ever-deeper tunnels to make their escape, they encountered a tendril of the Old God Yogg-Saron’s reach, culminating in a second, just as perilous, faceless enemy. This two-front battle led to the death of most of their race, and most contact we have is through their undead-raised brethren, whom we are biased to remember more vividly through inevitable combat. If there are any Nerubian queens left hiding deep, secluded and protected beneath the surface of Northrend, I would hope that someday this culture may retake its delicately crafted cities. They deserve another chance to live in peace.

    (Azjol-Nerub, Ahn’kahet: the Old Kingdom [Instances], Dragonblight, Northrend, Azeroth)

  7. Azeroth was once a world of gargantuan creatures. As the well-preserved nature of Un’Goro Crater demonstrates, under the correct conditions the vast majority of animals had the potential to grow to tremendous size.

    The kodo, bulky as they are in vast herds, still travel to a communal ‘graveyard’ of sorts to die in peace, dwarfed by just the skulls of their forefathers. Magnataur chieftains of old, their tusks tipped with crudely shaped, armor-piercing caps, were easily twice the size of the largest tribal patriarchs today. Hydra and kraken of enormous caliber once were common along the southeastern shores of the Eastern Kingdoms, as recorded through map illustrations and beer-fueled stories in seaside taverns.

    Dragons are always rather large in their natural forms, as the Anubisath’s sacred preservation of Grakkarond the bronze displays, but Galakrond - a positively massive proto-drake who lorded evilly over all of what would later be known as the Northrend continent - put even his “offspring” the Dragon Aspects to shame in terms of sheer bulk. If ever you should feel the need to check your growing ego, go find his immutable resting place and stand near his jaws.

    In southern Desolace lie two naga warriors known as the Dead Goliaths. Nowhere else on this world have the naga ever reached such proportions. It is a mystery lost to the ages how they attained such size, being a race cursed into existence from similarly small elven bodies; perhaps they were short-lived vessels of some twisted magic.

    Although not all that much larger than some very old tortoises today, the empty turtle shells strewn about the eastern shore of the Swamps of Sorrow seem like the possible offspring of a millenia-old entity known as Shen-zin Su. The decaying houdah-style seats on a few of these forlorn skeletons remind me very much of the pandaren, and the history of Shen-zin Su’s former master and friend, Liu Lang.

  8. Producing light without heat or magic is a remarkable feat of nature. It is common enough to be around us in many places, but also easily overlooked, literally outshined by brighter sources of illumination.

    Insects were very likely among the first creatures to be seen this way. Glowworms are everywhere in caverns and cave systems, and the simple-minded silithid and mantid larvae produce ample light for their size, providing a natural and unharmful light source for the dry, winding tunnels of their respective hives. Bioluminescent plants do exist but are difficult to find; fungi and toadstools in particular seem to be the most familiar forms in non-animals. The primitive trogg tribes in Deepholm have learned to plant “gardens” of the brighter varieties in the places they most often congregate.

    Similarly, anyone who has spent more than a day lurking around naga camps may have noticed their affinity for flashy fish kept in aquatic “torches”, and almost every furbolg tribe in existence today has its own combination of food source and light source in the carefully-tended beehives they treasure both for honey and a warm-seeming amber glow.

    My favorites over the years have been the variously-colored deep-sea cousins of the murlocs we know and love (or despise) on shore. Long ago they evolved unique brightly-tipped appendages and body patterns used to attract their prey species within the similarly colorful corals and kelp forests they inhabit. This predatory method clearly still works; if you cross one of their hunters, he will usually try to hit you with a freshly dead fish held in his webbed hand.

  9. The eternal vale has been scarred and broken by Garrosh Hellscream’s pride, and the last hateful breaths of a buried Old God. Unquestionably, the Horde has changed - will continue to change - because of him, as has the Alliance, if more subtly.

    I can only hope that in the years, the decades, the generations to come, these shifts in our reigning racial and factional powers lead to a better world for all its peoples.

    Mod note:
    The past couple weeks for me have been incredibly, overwhelmingly stressful in a number of ways. I haven’t gone away, just gone quiet. I’m lucky enough to be going to BlizzCon next week though which I am wholeheartedly looking forward to experiencing!
    Consider this a notice of temporary hiatus until I return from my vacation.
    Thank you all very much for appreciating this blog. ♥

  10. In the days of my youth, I spent many weeks apprenticed to several different trades, most of which .. did not end well. Blacksmithing required more muscle than I was able to muster; I did not have the stomach to learn the anatomy of the animals I was learning to emulate in order to bereave them of their hides; and though I am told I showed an eye for the design of jewelry, I did not have the patience for such delicate work.

    I instead found my calling studying under an elderly botanist. Thanks to her, I learned to see the forest floor as more than simple foliage and am well-learned in alchemy. My tools are the herbs which can strengthen the body, empower the mind and mana reaches, to make a flask of crushed, carefully simmered lotus petals which grant power that persists during the few precious moments of near-death, provided that the nearest combat healer can retrieve your soul quickly enough. Even a hero untrained in herbal lore, if he survives many battles, will sometimes learn to distinguish precious sungrass from the vastly more common wheatgrasses, if he knows an alchemist can heal him with the juice.

    However, in my studies and travels I have come to appreciate the simplicity of a wheatgrass field, especially on a warm, breezy day in my elk shift, lounging on a hillock. I have discovered a great many unknown and unnamed plants and fungi which though generally inedible and noted neither for their hidden venom nor untapped healing power, are simply … enjoyable to experience.

    Personally I have learned that while quite efficient for zones of conflict, it can be distracting to go herb-gathering in certain areas as a great cat. A few select varieties of mint, while not comparable in potency to the bloodthistle addiction, are simply irresistible when encountered as a panther. Thankfully they typically only flourish in very large patches within thick forest growth so that I may indulge in cheek-rubbing and some unladylike rolling away from curious eyes.

    The pandaren share my love for red, orange, and golden plants and flowers, and often have gardens near their homes full of well-trimmed miniature trees in bloom. There is one species of low brush which I have thus far only found on a single island near the Temple of Niuzao which I particularly like. Perhaps there is an elderly pandaren master of zen botany somewhere with whom I need to make acquaintance in order to learn its name, but until then I have chosen to call it after its hefty seeded fruits - the “appleheart fenim”.