1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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)

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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. ♥

  7. 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”.

  8. Many places have I traveled. Many meals did I share, and many lives did I touch upon, if only for a day. Many allies, and many enemies, did I collect, and many tales could I tell of their bravery, or their betrayal.

    I try not to cast judgment. I try to remember that in most cases, even those who would do me harm had good intentions, or had families to support, duties to honor. Surely most had friends, brethren, loved ones … who perhaps do not even know of their passing.

    All of us fight, and eventually all of us will cease fighting, willingly or not. New leaders with new ideas may lead us to an era with fewer among us rushing headlong into bloody battles. Mayhap there will come a time when I may spend more than a day with a new ally, and collect instead, a new companion.

    To those I missed such an opportunity with, to those I had to bury or to burn, I kneel, and silently vow that when the time is right, to lay down my weapon in memory of you.


  9. When I was very young, I adopted the form of the nightsabers with whom I was raised in Teldrassil with ease and vigor. In time, I learned to shift between several animal forms to suit the need at hand - but the first day I acquired feathers, my heart soared as high as my wings could take me.

    Much of the time, I use my own wings to fly about instead of that of a summoned mount, in most part because their wings are larger than mine, and I quite enjoy the views I get to enjoy unhindered. There are few skies on Azeroth I have not loved at first look.

    Thus noted, when I first stepped foot onto the Outland, it was well that I had to relearn how to fly, same as any other adventurer. In addition to the air itself being of a somehow different make, the currents of this broken world were unpredictable and violent in many areas. I attempted to take wing but simply could not bear the oppressive feeling of such intensely unfamilar vastness.

    Once the mists surrounding the southern continent parted, I quickly explored every area upon it with an interest I had not felt since that first sensation of updraft over feathers. Such unique forests! Such refreshing breezes! The only sky I could not love was that over the Dread Wastes. The Sha of Fear had so thoroughly rotted both land and sky, that to this day I cannot overcome the trembling shudders which threaten my wings; it is the only region in Pandaria to which I summon my serpent drake.

    (Assorted skies of Azeroth and Outland)

  10. Hellfire Citadel was once the stronghold of the fel orcs - those willing or coerced into drinking the blood of the demonic pit lord held captive beneath it, Magtheridon. These orcs, calling themselves the “true Horde”, are centered within the bastion of the Shattered Halls.

    There are supplies, weapons, and armor in nearly every room, as well as rows of hammocks in the sleeping quarters, although little time was spent there. Once Magtheridon was defeated, subdued, and imprisoned by Illidan  the Betrayer, the resulting blood curse granted its victims demon-tinged strength, stamina, and a near-constant lust for blood and combat. Most of the Halls’ occupants sparred constantly, either amongst themselves under direction of a commanding officer, or chipping away at sturdy training dummies.

    Although every orc that entered the Citadel was changed by the consumption of demonic lifeblood, it is clear that orcish traditions have not been entirely lost. Statues of ancestors and forefathers line these halls, and battle banners remind all wandering eyes why they train. Strength. Honor. Valor! Blood and thunder! Lok’tar ogar!

    The Shattered Halls (instance), Hellfire Citadel, Hellfire Peninsula, the Outland