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Artemiss

of Edema Ruh
#1
| Chapter 1: Into the Wild Green Yonder |

My eyes were closed.

I felt a light breeze loft across my face, the chill making me shiver slightly. The wind pressed the strands of grass gently across the left side of my body, as some strands tickled the tips of my ears. The earth beneath me was cool and damp, the soil rich with nutrients and life. I inhaled slowly and deeply, smelling the sweet fragrance of nature in it’s spring prime. The intoxicating aroma of lavender mixed with the earthy texture of pine wood and intertwined itself with the smell of the softly swaying grass around me. By all definitions and descriptions, this was a wonderfully peaceful way to awake. There was only one problem… I didn’t fall asleep in a field or a forest.

In fact, I don’t remember falling asleep at all. I strained my mind to think of what I last remembered. Let’s see… I was at my computer desk… what was I trying to do? That’s not a hard question, I was trying to play a video game. The question is what video game was I playing? Oh, that’s right, I was logging into World of Warcraft. I was trying to play the new Classic servers, something that I had been anticipating for years. I remember selecting my character, and pressing create… My mind began to hurt from the strain of my thinking. No matter how much I tried, I couldn’t remember anything after that point. I frowned, crossing my arms. The first alarming thing I noticed, was that my arms collided against two objects on my chest which I had not previously realized were there. The other alarming incident in that motion is that my arms felt much longer and heavier than I expected. I chose to deal with the first problem. Using both of my arms, I pressed upwards against the soft mounds of flesh that rested on my chest. I felt the skin of my breasts move slightly as the warmth of my forearms pressed them towards my neck. I stopped, letting the rest back against my arms lightly. My frown deepened as I tried to grasp the implications of this. I reasoned that this alarming physical change merited the time to open my eyes, even though I wasn’t fully sure I was ready to.

The light was almost blinding as first, as though I had been in a dark room staring at my computer screen for too long, and someone opened the blinds to a bright and sunny day outside.

“Agh!” I exclaimed, immediately covering my face with my hands.

This was yet another alarming action, as I felt my long and slender fingers covering my eyes. My skin was soft and smooth, and undeniably of fairer quality than it had been previously. So I had both boobs and nice skin, and woke up in the middle nature. I frowned again. I shifted my right hand to cover both of my still hurting eyes as I used my left to feel around my body. After a thorough blind inspection, I came to three conclusions. First, this was no longer my own body. This was confirmed from the fact that my body was now much longer, harder, and simultaneously smoother than I had expected. Additionally, the inclusion of certain female physical body parts seemed to have replaced what I expect to find when inspecting between my legs. My chest felt heavy with the weight of my new found breasts as I began to breathe faster. The second conclusion I came to is that I, in fact, was no longer in the comfortable confines of my room anymore. This may seem an obvious fact to look upon now as I tell this, but it is much harder to accept waking up in a new place than one might expect. A line of sweat beaded down my forehead as I gulped, silently accepting the third conclusion I drew. That was, of course, that I was in an unknown place, in an unknown situation, with an unknown body.

I opened my eyes to see the palm of my hand. Small beams of light seeped through the cracks in my fingers, creating a dull violet illumination within my small field of vision. Slowly I raised my right hand, turning my palm upwards away from my face. Looking down, the first thing I was greeted with was the new set of breasts adorning my body. The were firm and round, held in place by a linen bra and some sort of low quality linen shirt that looked more like a rag than an article of clothing. Next was my skin color. It was not the pasty peach colored skin I had expected to see, but rather a luminous violet with a slight pink tone to it. I continued raising my hand and eyes, moving my field of vision onto my legs. Clothed by thick worn leather leggings that stretched and held fast against me skin, my legs stretched out along the grass, ending with my unclad purple colored feet resting lightly against one another. I wiggled my toes and moved my feet around, feeling disoriented as I struggled mentally with the situation. They responded and acted as if they were my own, but the length and weight felt off. It was a strange sensation, moving limbs and body parts that were undeniably not my own, almost as if I was possessing another person’s body. The feeling was nauseating.

With reluctant determination, I continued looking upward to the scene of nature around me. In the distance was a massive tree, looming over the rest of the forest. It’s branches extended outward, enveloping the rest of the forest in the shadows of its massive limbs and leaves. In my previous world, this would have been a phenomenon alike any miracle or indescribable mystery. The sheer size of the tree was something to behold as it eclipsed any sort of sun that might be hiding behind it’s massive figure. Rays of sunlight acted like spot lights between the breaks of its leaves, leaving small pockets of sunlight forested area below. One such spot seemed to be where I was laying, nestled between a cluster of trees and foliage. The massive tree rested gently in the middle of a giant valley, which was surrounded by behemoth-like walls, seemingly miles off in the distance. But no, upon further inspection, it wasn’t a wall, it was a collection of gargantuan tree limbs, wrapping around the valley. Looking past them, I could see the tips of massive leaves the size of skyscrapers flowing ever so slightly in the breeze. I looked between the massive oak before me, and then back to the leaves. They were of equal size. I felt my world spin as I tried to grip the proportions in my head. If the leaves were the size of the largest buildings my world had to offer, just how massive was the tree upon which they grew?



A deer lazily walked into the clearing, looking at me briefly before returning slowly continuing to walk across the grotto. I watched the deer with baited breath, expecting it to dart away at the slightest noise or movement I made. However, it didn’t seem to mind me whatsoever as it continued to move a few paces, graze, and then continue walk a few paces more. I gulped, slowly rising to my feet as to not startle it. As I began to move, it’s ears flickered and it raised its head, watching me with intelligent eyes. But it did not move or run, it simply watched me. After I got all the way to my feet, I was surprised to find that I was looking down on this fully grown doe by more than two feet of height. My center of balance felt awkward and incorrect, causing me to sway back and forth unsteadily. A few strands of hair fell from behind my ear as I looked down at the equally curious and confused doe. I raised my hand to finger the snow white strands that reached my stomach. Using both my hands, I pulled all of my hair from behind my neck, letting it fall across my left shoulder. For lack of a better term, I would say that I almost had a mane of thick, blindingly ashen white hair. I stared at it for a long while before I noticed the deer had slowly begun to walk closer to me, it’s head tilted slightly as it no doubt was trying to make sense of me. I let my hair rest across my chest as I extended an unfamiliar violet hand to the gentle creature before me. It drew closer, cautiously smelling my fingers. After a few moments, it seemed to reach a conclusion and found me to not be a threat. It walked a half step closer and began to nuzzle it’s head against my palm, almost petting itself. Unsure of what to make of the situation, I followed the deer’s lead, bending slightly as I pet it softly. I felt a smile break across my face as I enjoyed a peaceful moment alone with the doe in this unfamiliar land.

As I absentmindedly began to stroke behind its ear, I tried to mentally evaluate the situation. The last thing I remembered was creating a new character on the WoW: Classic servers, only to awake in an unknown field in an unknown body. My limbs are much longer than a human’s should be and my skin is a wholly inhuman color tone. Compounding my woes further, I was now a woman, and for some reason I wasn’t feeling any alarm or emotional reaction to the revelation. To top it all off, there’s a massive tree in the distance, and the creatures of the forest, or at least, this doe, seem to be friendly towards me and trust me. I felt my smile growing wider as I started to realize that all signs pointed to one thing: That I had, in fact, somehow found myself in Teldrassil, and somehow had become a Night Elf. What other explanation could there be? I figured that maybe it was all a coincidence, and that I had ended up in a strikingly similar world, but the chances seemed unlikely. Then again, this entire situation seemed extremely unlikely, and I still wasn’t convinced that it wasn’t just another dream of a desperate gamer.

I snapped back to reality as I realized it had been a long while since I last pet the doe. It looked at me with curious eyes as it turned away and went back to foraging for food. I stood dumbly for a minute, breathing in the surrounding nature as I closed my eyes and came to grips with this new reality. The air smelled, well, wonderful. There was no trace or stench of pollution, and the only fragrances were those of the berries, trees, and flowers around the clearing. The breeze picked up again, sending the harmonious sounds of leaves colliding with one another through the forest. The wind swept my hair as well, swaying the long ashen strands across my face, alarming me. I tugged and flailed at the hair that had entered my mouth. Having never before had hair long enough for this to be an issue, it took me a long minute to finally collect all of my loose hair. I gathered my hair in both hands, feeling a momentary victory against myself, and then threw it back across my shoulder, letting it flow freely behind me. The weight and length of it felt like wearing a cape as the wind made it sway across my back. For a moment I felt heroic as I stood there with my eyes closed in the middle of the open clearing, enjoying the moment.

Reopening my eyes, I looked up to the massively looming tree above me and smiled. If I was indeed in Azeroth now, I supposed the only rational thing to do was to follow what I had grown up learning, and that was to level up. I would likely find no answers as to how or why I ended up in the middle of the Teldrassilian forest just by standing here. If this truly was the Azeroth that I knew, then my first destination was at the bottom of that tree. To level up, one must quest, after all. With an unbridled smirk and a sweltering headache of confusion, I began to walk forward, shoeless and slightly off balance, towards the massively looming oak.

Some thirty minutes later, I emerged from the shrubbery surrounding the clearing. The base of the massive looming Oak tree stood about half a mile away from me, and from here I could notice details I had previously missed. First and foremost was the temple-like structure built into the side of it, with Romanesque statues holding the ceiling aloof. The next was a massively spiraling ramp encircling and wrapping around one side of the tree, leading to another building nestled between the thick branches at the top of the tree. Along the road between the base of the ramp and the mouth of the temple-like structure, two tall, slender elves clad in mail and steel, patrolled slowly. Upon my exiting of the forest, one of their games darted toward me. I froze.

The one who noticed me leaned over to the other, pointing in my direction. After a short moment, both began to walk towards me, straying off of the path they had previously been patrolling. Not sure what to make of the approaching sentinels, I simply waved, hoping to look appropriately harmless. Neither waved back, of course. As they drew closer, I noticed two things. First, that they were beautiful. The one in the lead had long silver hair pulled back into an elaborate braid that reached the small of her back. Her lavender skin paled in the sunlight, giving her a luminous glow that seemed almost angelic. The other sentinel was much the opposite. Her hair was wild and unkempt, with an emerald green color that reflected off the light of the sun in every direction. Her complexion was of dark magenta, which seemed only to darken with her hair blocking the sunlight from her face. Through it, her pupiless white eyes shown in a bright, silent gaze. The second thing I noticed of the two were the infamous weapons adorned on their backs. I eyed the infamous Night Elf moonglaives that they wore, but had graciously chose to not draw against me. They were circular disks of what seemed to be steel with three extensions of spiraling prongs of razor sharp steel, looking almost like oversized chakrams. I wondered idly how they didn't cut themselves while keeping them on their backs without any form of sheathe. Before I could wonder for too long, the silver haired beauty that had seen me spoke up.

“Fandu dath belore?” She asked politely, but somewhat cautiously.

I froze again. Of course they would be speaking their native tongue of Darnassian. As a gamer, I had knowledge of the languages existence within the game, but I had no recollection of ever actually needing to know it. Everyone had always spoken the common tongue of humans within game. Did I know any phrases? C'mon, think, dammit! I knew I had heard the NPC's say things thousands of times before, but what specifically did they say? Belore means there, I think? So maybe they were asking who goes there, or who am I? How do I respond to that with my limited vocabulary? I stopped, realizing that a sizable gap of silence had passed in the conversation. Without thinking I replied:

“Elune Adore, sisters.” I said the last somewhat awkwardly as I changed back to the common tongue I was familiar with.

The sentinels seemed to relax a bit, finally hearing a response. The one who had spoken to me previously continued.

“Eluna Adore to you as well, sister. I am Alarransha Oaksworn of the sentinels. Do you prefer the speaking of the human tongue?” She tilted her head to the side, slightly curious.

“I would prefer the human tongue, as I have been raised around the many humans of Stormwind for most of my life. Their language comes easily to me.” I lied, hoping to sound convincingly naïve.

Alarransha smiled easily, while the sentinel next to her looked surprised.

“I can hear this in your voice, sister. Your dialect and voice reflects that of a human's, not to say that is necessarily a bad thing. For what reason has a sister raised by the humans come to Shadowglen this day? And from the trees rather than the road, no less.”

Alarransha's smiled continued, but I could tell that my being raised by humans had put her back on her guard. I hurried to try to correct my mistake.

“I had received word from a sister within the walls of Stormwind that war with the Horde seems inevitable. I did not know how I might be of service, and so she directed me towards seeking training from our kinsman in Shadowglen. Along the way, I may have accidentally wander off the road to take a short rest among the trees and lost my way…” I finished lamely, hoping that I sounded more like an ignorant child than a human spy.

The two sentinels looked at one another for a moment, and then began to laugh. It was a delightful sound that flowed through the air like a thick honey and sounded like the songs of birds. It was so lovely, I almost forgot to look properly embarrassed. After a short moment, Alarransha stopped and smiled warmly towards me again.

“Oh the pleasure of youth. How I miss the days of having the freedom to sleep beneath the shadows of the forest in Darkshore. Your teacher was wise to send you here and not to a human instructor. There is much a sister can learn here that is lost to the world of humans. Come-” She paused momentarily, then continued. “I do not know your name, sister. It will be hard to introduce you to your instructor without a name to give.”

I paused, thinking of how best to approach this. It would be easiest to simply use my own name, as it would fit with my story of having been raised by humans, after all. But I was somehow now apart of Azeroth, and it seemed like a shame to not play the part. In that case, it seemed only fair to use the name I would have bestowed upon my character. If I was to make a name for myself and be an adventurer, I might as well have a name befitting one. I smiled.

“Forgive my rudeness, sister Alarransha. I am called Artemis.” I said with a respectful half bow.

“And your family name?” The other sentinel asked, crossing her arms.

I straightened my back, coming to my full height.

“I do not know it, sister. I was told only that my parents died in the third war. The human who took care of me said only that I appeared on her doorsteps.” I frowned. “Where could I find the answer to a question such as that? I had hoped one in Darnassus might know more.”

The sentinel froze, clearly understanding that she had touched upon a sensitive subject. It wasn't, of course, but that's how I needed to play with as to avoid suspicion.

“My apologies, sister. Ishnu dal dieb, I meant no disrespect.” She said with a slight bow.

I bowed in return to her.

“Ishnu alah, to you, sister. There is no harm done.”

Alarransha, who had been silently watching the exchange, nodded twice and patted her companion on the shoulder.

“I, for one, believe it to be a beautiful name, if not entirely Darnassian in root. Come, sister Artemis. Let me show you to your ‘Do’. Sister Orilla, I leave the patrolling of Shadowglen in your capable hands.” She said the last with a slight taunt in her voice.

Orilla raised her head and rolled her eyes at Alarransha before heading back toward the path in which they came. Alarransha beckoned for me to follow, as she headed toward the temple-like structure built into the side of the massive tree. I followed close behind her.

“Tell me, sister, why do you wish to fight the Horde? You said that you came here to learn the ways of war, but you will find no war here in this valley.” She said smiling, looking up at the sun through a break in the leaves above.

“I do not wish to fight anyone, sister. But is it not wiser to know how to defend oneself than to be caught unprepared if fighting finds itself on one's doorstep?” I said, hoping to properly imitate her dialect.

Alarransha turned her face back to me, smiling still.

“You speak true, sister. You may learn such skills here, though whether they will save your life or not if a filthy Orc finds itself upon your lands is up to you. Forgive my asking, but what skills do you possess? It would be unwise of me to present you to a Do of the magical arts if you prefer to swing about a sword.”

I thought for a moment, and then settled on what I had already decided in my previous life, which seemed so long ago.

“There is nothing to forgive, sister. While I have a great respect for both the sword and magics, I have always found an affinity with the bow and nature. Is there something that would benefit one with talents such as my own?” I asked, hoping to steer her in the right direction.

She laughed again, the beautiful sound mixing with the breeze.

“Yes, sister. I shall give you to Ayanna Everstride. She will properly train you where another could not. Follow.”

The two of us arrived at the large stone steps of the building, which I could now see spanned nearly a hundred feet across. Alarransha began to ascend the steps with studied practice, as I followed suit, marvelling at the architecture of the building. Held aloft partially by the conjunction of the pillars and support beams, and partially due to being built into the tree itself, I marvelled at the ingenuity of its creation. I had seen this building hundreds of times in game, of course, but the sheer beauty of it's craftsmanship simply couldn't be compared when seeing it in person. Alarransha stopped, noticing my gaze fixed upwards.


“Do you take interest in our ceiling, sister?” She said, with a mocking tone and a wry smile.

“I do.” I said in full earnesty. “Where I come from, no buildings are made with such care or detail. Your ceiling is a work of art.” I lowered my gaze to meet her eyes, smiling.

Alarransha returned her smile in earnest as well.

“When next I see Brother Ishar, I shall give him your regards, sister.”

My brow furrowed, as I looked at her questioningly.

“Was this not made thousands of years ago? Is he really still alive?”

I realized the impropriety of the question only after it left my mouth, however Alarransha didn't seem to take offense to it.

“He is quite alive.” she replied, turning to continue walking into the building. “I was him last at the annual lunar festival held within Darnassus. I believe he was speaking to the young ruler of Gnomes. Such funny little creatures they are.”

I followed behind Alarransha silently through the rest of the building. Along each wall to my left and right were various collections of boxes, armor stands, and Night Elves to accompany them. It was plain to see what school of combat each of them hailed from. The warrior trained was a broad shouldered female, adorned in a light plate harness. She had luminous magenta skin, accented with hundreds of small silver scars along her bare arms. She held two swords in each of her hands and performed an elaborate dance, switching between various combat poses. She eyed myself and Alarransha momentarily before continuing on as if she hadn't seen us. Next we passed a male night elf sitting at a desk, frowning pensively at the words on a scroll whilst idly flipping a dagger between his fingers. He wore a thin, practical suit of boiled leather armor that did nothing to protect his long, thick arms. Even from more than twenty feet away, I could see his toned muscles flexing with every spin and flip of the dagger. Despite him not looking up from what he was reading, I could tell he was watching me from the corner of his eye. Frankly speaking, I was more than a little intimidated by his nonchalance while playing with a razor sharp dagger. I hurried along behind Alarransha. Next we passed a night elven woman in a beautiful green line dress. Her long curling purple hair embellished the outline of her smooth, fair skinned violet face. Around her were a few other night elves in various states of injury and undress, lying on top of bedrolls made of hide. As we walked past, she knelt down to a man who began to breathe abnormally, as if his lungs were filled with ichor. She placed her hand on his chest and whispering a few words as she closed her eyes. To my amazement, light began to emanate from the hand on the man's chest, and his vapid breathing began to subside. His breathing normalized, and he drifted back into a peaceful slumber. The woman looked up at me, her lovely pupiless eyes bearing into my very soul. After a moment, she smiled, bowing her head slightly and mouthing the words “Elune Adore”. I bowed slightly and returned the gesture before continuing behind Alarransha.

As we made our way past the priestess, the passage narrowed, and we entered into a section of carved out tree. Within the room stood two Night Elves, one female and one male. The woman was slender and fair in every aspect. Her face was long and slender, filled with light blue tattoos that curved up her neck and behind her ears, intertwining with her long azure hair which she had braided and let rest upon her right shoulder and chest. She wore green-tinted leathers from head the foot, making her likely the most fully-clothed person I had yet seen since exiting the forest. She sat atop a crate, idly stringing a thick oak bow, and testing its flexibility.
The male was he complete antithesis, being a broad chested tower of a man, wearing various brown leathers atop green linen cloths. On his back was a massive mallet, which in my old world would have only been used for the building of railroad or the breaking of kneecaps. As we entered the room, he eyed us both warily through narrowed eyes as he crossed his massive bear-like arms. His lime green hair fell to each side of his broad face and along his back, making him look like he had a mane. I knew in the back of my mind that he was the druid class trainer and had no logical reason to attack me, but all the same I felt wholly intimidated by this truly bear-like man staring me down. Alarransha walked directly up to him, and despite being a full head taller and at least a hundred pounds, he faltered at her gaze.

“Listen here, Mardant Strongoak, it is unbecoming of one such as yourself to try to scare away the newbloods.” Alarransha said, radiating displeasure.

Mardant took a step back, his entire intimidating facade falling away as he radiated an equal amount of embarrassment. After half a second he stopped, tilting his head curiously and eying Alarransha.

“For what reason do you speak the tongue of humans, sister?”

It was Alarransha who took a step back now, he face flushing a furious shade of red. She cleared her throat and gestured to me, who had been standing awkwardly in the doorway watching the exchange unfold. She continued in the common tongue:

“Sister Ayanna, I give you sister Artemis. She was raised by the humans and has found her way back home. I speak this harsh language on her behalf. I must return to my duties, so please take care of her.”

With a stiff bow and a playfully menacing glance toward Mardant, she turned to exit. Before doing so, she bowed to me and placed her hand on my shoulder. She smiled warmly at me.

“Ande’thoras Ethil, sister. Welcome home.”

And with that, she began to walk back through the building, striding with the casual grace I had come to expect of the Night Elves. I turned back to the two trainers ahead of me, unsure of how to proceed. For lack of a better idea, I bowed to Ayanna. She bowed back.

“I greet you, Thero'shan. Do you not know of our language?” She asked politely.

“Not nearly enough, my teacher.” I admitted, slightly embarrassed.

She gave a brief laugh, but it was Mardant who spoke up first.

“A student addressed their teacher as Shan'do in Shadowglen. Are the customs different in the world of humans?” He asked through a thick, burly voice.

“Quite different!” I said, turning to him. “In most cases the human teachers with to be addressed as master, or by their given name.”

Mardant frowned and furrowed his brow, seemingly struggling with the implications of the concept. Ayanna spoke up in the wake of his silence.

“Shan'do is what is right here, no matter how it was in the realm of humans. Why have you come to me this day, Thero'shan Artemis?”

“I have come to learn, Shan'do.” I said, walking closer to her and kneeling down. “I have been told that war is on our shores, and I believe there is wisdom in knowing how to defend myself.”

I bowed my head, letting my ashen hair fall around my face and lightly brush against the oaken floor.

“There is wisdom in your logic.” Ayanna agreed. “But why have you come to me?” She stressed. “One could learn to defend themselves with a stick or with wand. One could even learn from this bear next to me.” She said, with a jaunting tone.

I heard Mardan huff in response. I raised my head, my eyes meeting Ayanna's. She had the same pupiless white eyes that all the other night elves seemed to possess. Strangely beautiful, yet innately wise and knowing. I smiled.

“I find it easier to defend myself if I deal with my adversaries before they have a chance to do me harm. In the realm of humans, I received small amounts of training with the bow and felt an affinity towards it.”

Ayanna raised an eyebrow.

“Is this so?” She said, letting a way smile grow across her beautiful violet face. “If you wish to compare the training of the humans to that of the Shal'dorei, then perhaps you will show us this skill. Come.”

Ayanna grabbed a nearby quiver that had been leaning against one of the crates in the room, and gripped the oaken bow she had been stringing. She began striding out of the room into the main hall at a much faster pace than Alarransha had been walking. I nearly jumped to my feet to follow her, pausing only briefly to bow to Mardant who had a huge bear-like grin across his face. Ayanna and I strode past the other trainers, who all stopped what they were doing to watch us exit the training hall. As we reached the bottom of the stone steps, Ayanna turned left, leading me through a small patch of shrubbery. Coming out the other side, I saw three training dummies set up, with an open clearing of about 50 feet between them and the road which I had seen the sentinels patrolling earlier. Ayanna beckoned for me to follow her, stopping about 40 feet away from the targets. She turned to me, quiver and bow extended.

“Show me now the teachings of the humans, Thero'shan. Hit all three targets in the head and I shall forget what I know about the human realms and will seek to learn from you.” She said the last with a grin.

I know a mocking challenge when I see one, and Ayanna was clearly looking down on me. I took the bow and quiver from her, taking a moment to fix the quiver upon my hip, tightening the straps of the leather belt. After seeing I was properly adorned, she stepped back with a slight hop, smiling as I awkwardly took a shooting stance. This was, of course, my first time ever holding a bow in Azeroth. But it was not my first time holding a bow. Although not the same, due to weight, feeling, and wind, I had previously experience with archery in the world of virtual reality. In my old world, there existed a simulation where one could practice such things with convenience from the confined of their domicile. Albeit not the same as true archery, I immediately felt familiar with the similarities. The angle of the bow, my stance, the muscles used to draw the arrow back, all of it was familiar. As I drew the first arrow back to my lips, I aimed for the right-most target. Closing one eye, I took a moment to line up the shot… and then let loose my arrow. It went flying towards the practice dummy and landed squarely in shoulder. I frowned, but continued on. Following the same steps, I refreshed my stance, knocked my arrow, and drew it back to my lips, keeping my bow arm straight as the arrow. Aiming at the center target, I tried to mentally account for what I had lacked last time, which was the gravitational pull on the arrow. One thing which my VR experience had lacked was true gravity, and I could immediately tell as much off of the first arrow I shot. I resolved myself to not make the same mistake twice. I let it loose after a moment of aiming. This time, it burrowed deeply into the neck of the dummy. Exhilarated off of being so close to hitting the mark, I readied my third arrow, nocking, drawing, and aiming towards the head of the leftmost target. After deliberating a moment, I let loose my arrow, watching it plant directly into the right eye of the dummy.

I jumped, cheering and exclaiming in happiness as it hit. I heard a light, sarcastic clap from behind me. I turned to see Ayanna walking towards me.

“Not bad, Thero'shan.” She said, placing a hand on her hip, and letting her weight lean to one side. “Although, it is unlikely your enemies will let you take so long to aim, and they will of course be moving when in combat.” She smiled wickedly. “It appears I will not be learning from the realms of humans this day.”

She gestured for the bow as I flushed red.

“Watch now, Thero'shan.” She said, taking three arrows out of my quiver as I handed her the bow.

Without any visible strain or thought, she turned to the dummies, nocked all three arrows, drew the string back, and shot them, landing all three arrows in the center of the face, directly on target. I openly gaped. Turning back to me and seeing my expression, she giggled.

“Did you master in the realm of humans not show you this, Thero'shan?” She asked, still giggling.

“I… no. Where I come from, this would be seen as a masterful feat, Shan'do.” I said, still staring at the training dummies.

“It is nothing of the sort,” Ayanna said casually. “However it does take practice. These are the things in which all sisters of the hunt learn within the walls of Teldrassil. Things which are lost upon the realms of humans and orc. Do you wish to learn these things, Thero'shan?”

I didn't need to think about my answer to that question. I turned to Ayanna, nodding.

“Yes, Shan'do, I do.”

“This is good. Follow me, young one.”

Ayanna walked over to the training dummies. Once there, she grabbed the arrows and pulled them out tenderly. After she collected all six, she handed them to me. As I held then in my hand, I realized something I hadn't before. I was holding, real, sharp arrows that could kill a man in my hand, and I had been using them like a toy. It was a sobering thought. With much more careful reverence than I would have exerted previously, I placed them back in my hip-fastened quiver, looking back up to Ayanna expectedly. She looked at me with a knowing look.

“Have you ever taken a life before, Thero'shan?”

“Perhaps.” I answered immediately.

She raised one long azure eyebrow to this.

“Perhaps?” She asked back to me.

I couldn't very well explain to her that I had taken hundreds of thousands of lives in a video game, but it also seemed unfair to say that all that killing meant nothing when I had been so invested into gaming for so long. I shook my head.

“I have never killed a living being, Shan'do, but I have taken the lives of beings without true life.”

I had hoped my statement would be vague enough to be passed off as cryptic wisdom, but I was surprised to see Ayanna nodding.

“I see. You must be referring to the unholy undead which plagues the realms of the humans. This is true. It is neither alive nor dead.”

I silently exhaled. She had misinterpreted my words, but this may work out better for me. Ayanna looked back up at me.

“The killing of a living being is different than that of the undead. There is an indescribable feeling of the taking of a life. It breaks some, and emboldens others. We will not know how it affects you until you have done so yourself. This is why I shall send you to Conservator Ilthalaine. The balance of life and death must be maintained, and he will start you on this journey. Come to me again when you have gained some experience in the taking of lives, so that you may yet better understand my teachings. May this bow and those arrows help you in this journey.”

I bowed my head, my ashen hair bouncing around from the sudden motion.

“I thank you for your wisdom, Shan'do. Where would I go to find this Conservator?”

Ayanna casually pointed over over shoulder with her thumb.

“He is near the end of the path towards the west. You will know it is him when you see his azure beard. He is..” she smiled. “A wise man. Treat him with respect and do not dishonor the name of your Shan'do. Go now, Thero'shan.”

“Thank you, Shan'do.” I said with another slight bow. “I will bring honor to your name.”

Ayanna placed her hand on my shoulder, smiling warmly for a moment, and then turned to head back towards the training hall. I stood for a moment, looking at the bow in my hand, and the quiver at my side.

‘I’m a level 1 Night Elf hunter.’ I thought to myself.

With that, I felt my smile return to my face. I gripped my new oak bow in my right hand, and began to walk back towards the path, heading westward.

| Chapter 2: The Difference Between Virtual and True |

The walk to the end of the westward pass was a pleasant one, despite the time it took. Along each side of the path way were the twisting, magically warped oak trees I had come to be accustomed to being around. As I casually walked along the dirt path, I noticed the abnormally abundant amount of deer roaming the landscape. Herds of over thirty grazed and jaunted about together, seemingly unphased by the presence of myself and the few other Night Elves that I saw along the path. Each gave me a polite bow, and a somewhat curious look as they inspected my tattered garb. I simply attempted to pay no heed to the glances, and tried to mimic any courtesies they presented to me. If they bowed, I bowed. If they smiled and waved, I did the same. In truth, the customs weren’t very different from those I was accustomed to. The only differences is that I actually had to perform the action in person, rather than command my character to do so, and the feeling of genuine satisfaction that I felt after the interaction. It seemed that what was lost most in my time spent playing video games was the face to face interaction. I could hear another person’s voice, and I could see them perform and sort of greeting action within a game, but to actually face another person and feel the warmth of their smile, or the reverence of their bowing was a different feeling entirely.

As I pondered these thoughts, I arrived at the end of my path, and at my desired destination. A small circular clearing formed, with two benches resting upon either side of the circle. One just to the right of where I had entered the clearing, and the other opposite to me. It was at this second bench where Conservator Ilthalaine sat peacefully, inspecting the surrounding treeline. Clad in a homemade spun of grey and red weave, he wore two large leather boots to match his outfit, and rested a longstaff of incredibly firm looking wood against his right shoulder. As described by Ayanna, he had short, tightly trimmed hair and a short beard of azure colored hair that refracted in the sunlight, giving his face the shining glow that seemed almost heredity to the Night Elves I had encountered. He looked every bit the wise sage that I had expected him to be, and as he stared off into the dim underbrush, a wistful smile formed upon his lips. Without looking at me, he spoke.

“Greetings, Thero’shan Artemis. I have been expecting you.”

I was caught off guard, but the dialect of the Night Elves came more easily to me now.

“I greet you, Conservator. How did you know of my coming? I am not yet twenty minutes away from my Shan’do.”

Ilthalaine continued smiling, turning his gaze towards me now. His eyes were unlike the others i had seen, with a radiant yellow glow that seemed almost primal in nature. It was with these eyes that he looked into me; no, past me. Seeing something far away that I couldn’t hope to gaze upon.

“It is easy to know such things… If one knows how to listen to the whispers of the forest and it’s creatures.” He said slowly, while extending his right arm even slower into the air.

A flock of birds fluttered into the clearing, darting between myself and Ilthalaine. Two of the many broke away from the flock and landed on his outstretched arm, all the while chirping peacefully. He turned his gaze to look upon the small birds, smiling and listening to the two happily chirping away. After a few moments, the two small grey birds decided to take their leave, bounding off of his lavender toned arm, and back into the surrounding forest after their flock. The conservator watched them leave, and then turned back to me.

“Come, walk with me, Artemis.” He said, with a slight beckon of his head. “I wish to show you something.”

Following his lead, the two of us headed into the forest, stepping over the roots of the massive trees that surrounded us, and to the side of the many patches of shrubbery that littered the underbrush. After a few minutes of this, Ilthalaine stopped, crouching down behind the roots of a particularly massive oak.

“Look now, young one. See what lies before us.” He said in almost a whisper.

Peering past the shrubbery and roots, I saw what he was indicating. Before us, a young Nightsaber rolled around on the ground. Almost three feet long and fully toned, I could see each of it’s lean muscles ripple as it flopped from one side to the other, rolling in the grass. The Nightsaber looked like a disproportionate tiger cub, with massive fangs and claws that made them look like a saber tooth cat. Fully black with magenta stripes, the nightsaber continued rolling back and forth in the small patch of sunlight that inhabited the clearing. Ilthalaine leaned in towards me, now whispering.

“My purpose in Shadowglen is to train young hunters like you and to ensure that the balance of nature is maintained. The spring rains were particularly heavy this year, causing some of the forest’s beasts to flourish, while others suffered.” He indicated to the nightsaber before us. “Unfortunately, the nightsaber numbers grew too large will devastate the other populations if they are not culled.”

I swallowed, understanding the his meaning. I had to kill these young, beautiful animals to preserve the Night Elf way of life. I unconsciously gripped my bow tighter.

“Any advice?” I asked, feeling the dryness of my throat.

Ilthalaine turned to me, his soft, gentle smile returning.

“Do not think of this as murder, young one. This is a necessary way of life for all things, and these creatures understand the cycle of life and death just as well as we do. It will not scorn you or hate you for pertaining to the natural order of things.”

Somehow, this actually did make me feel better. Looking at the situation in terms I could understand did wonders for my mental fortitude. I slowly drew and arrow from my quiver, and nocked it against my bowstring. I positioned myself to have a better drawing position as I drew the string back to my lip. Looking down the tip of my arrow, I placed it just above the temple of the nightsaber, who had stopped rolling and now lied peacefully in the sunny grass of the grotto. I took a deep breath and let loose the arrow.

I watched it fly through two hedges and past the trunk of a tree, enter the sunny grotto, and land directly into the sabertooth’s thick neck muscles. The creature’s eyes darted open, and it let out a whimpering screech. I grimaced at the sound as I drew another arrow back, straightening my back and taking aim once more. The sabertooth writhed in pain, frantically struggling for air as I felt a tear begin to roll down my cheek. I lined up the shot, and closed my eyes as I let the arrow loose. A moment later, I heard a soft ‘thud’ as the sabertooth’s body fell to the ground, lifeless. It took me a long minute before I reopened my eyes, shivering from the echoing sound of the helpless screeches of pain within my mind. I stared at the motionless corpse some forty yard away, trying to come to grips with the fact that I had just killed a sleeping animal. Something about my expression must have invoked pity within Ilthalaine, because I felt his hand rest on my shoulder. He spoke to me softly, kneeling behind me.

“You should take pride in the knowing that you do not revel in the death of another, young Artemis. But all the same, this is a task you alone must face if you wish to achieve the goals you have set forth for yourself.”

Ilthalaine rose to his feet, his index finger lightly lifting my chin up to match his gaze. Once our eyes met, his finger instead wiped the tear off of my cheek. He continued:

“Journey forth, young hunter, and thin the saver populations so that nature’s harmony will be preserved. No more than six deaths will be necessary in this regard. Seek me out where we first met once you have steeled yourself through this task.”

With a final pat on the shoulder and a consoling look, Ilthalaine began to stride back through the underbrush from whence we came. I sat crying silently and helplessly as he left, huddled up into the roots of the oak.

A few more minutes later, I felt the tears drying on my cheeks. I sat, staring at the ground, thinking to myself. If I was this much of a wreck over kill a level 1 monster, how could I ever hope to conquer this world in earnest? There was only one solution, of course. I needed to take the Conservator's advice. I can't keep viewing this as killing an innocent animal s taking a nap in the woods, I look upon the situation as the hunter and prey. This is the the natural order of things, both in my world and this one; the cycle of life and death must be maintained, and if I am to be a part of this world, then I have joined this cycle. With this thought in mind, I finally stood up, pushing the dry tears away from my cheeks. I gripped the worn handle of the oak bow in my right hand, feeling the years of worn use. That’s right, I always knew that I was just another cog in the great machine that is the system of life, but now I was a contributing member, not just another gamer living the another life from behind a screen.

I turned around to see the motionless corpse of the nightsaber, with both of my arrows still protruding from it. Slowly pushing through the bushes between us, I found myself entering the clearing, which had now dimmed slightly as the sun had began to set in the distance. The first arrow was lodged deep into its thick, meaty neck. A small trail of blood matted the fur between the puncture and the grass, which had been dyed a pale red color. The second arrow had landed just above it’s temple, splintering the arrow upon impact. With only half of the shaft remaining, I gave up any hopes of salvaging it. Stepping within reach of the body, I smelled the pungent odor of death that was starting to escape from the wounds. Crinkling my nose slightly, I attempted to dislodge the arrow from the sabertooth’s neck, placing one hand on its torso and pulling with the other. After straining for a moment, I realized it was firmly lodged in and would require a more brute force approach. I straightened and placed one barefoot on it’s chest, then attempted to heave the arrow out with both hands. With a sickening tear of flesh, the arrow came free, covered halfway with blood. I turned it around in my hand, inspecting it as if it were an enigmatic magical item as I took a few steps back. I had next to no knowledge of archery or the proper handling of equipment, but I did know that if left alone, the blood would cause the arrow to rust.

I walked over to one of the many nearby ferns that littered the forest floor and began to thoroughly wipe all of the accumulated blood off of the arrow head. As I absentmindedly cleaned, I began to think to myself. All signs and indications pointed towards this being a parallel world to the one I had grown up playing in, despite the obvious state of affairs. Wouldn’t that mean that I would know, or could at least predict what would be to come and what was ahead of me? And if this were true, would I not be in a perfect position to shape and change the world as I see fit? I looked down at the now mostly clean arrowhead that retained a dull red shimmer. I frowned. Even if I did have knowledge that no one else in this world could possibly know, there’s no way I could be taken seriously in my current state. A rag-tag hunter in peasants clothes who cries at the death of an animal isn’t likely to be received seriously by anyone of importance. I looked up at the quickly darkening sky, only to realize that I had no troubles seeing the surrounding features of the forest. Observing the scenery around me, all of the color was washed out, but instead replaced with a monochromatic greyscale. The dimly lit shadows and coves within the forest were a deep shade of grey, while the still sunlit peaks of the trees were an almost blinding white. I was now a Night Elf, indeed. I looked back down at the arrow still held in my hand, and placed it back in my hip-fastened quiver with meticulous care. If I was to change or shape or discover anything, I needed to be more than what I was. I turned back to the still body of the nightsaber and gave a deep and respectful bow. I silently thanked it for being the first step of my journey, and for being the first to teach me what it meant to be a hunter. Then, without hesitation, I began to journey through the monochromatic forest.

Several hours later, I emerged from the treeline; covered in scratches, bruises, and with pine needles and twigs caught in my long, unruly hair. While I hadn’t received any life threatening wounds, in one encounter I had missed my second arrow and allowed a nightsaber to get close enough to tear at my leg, leaving three distinct claw marks. They stung with every shift of my thigh muscles. Conservator Ilthalaine sat motionless on the bench where I had found him with his eyes closed. Had his back not been perfectly rigid and his chin tilted upward, I would have otherwise thought him in a deep slumber. As I neared him, he spoke up.

“I sense change within you, young one.” He said, with a voice of that resounded with deep, ancient wisdom.

“I have changed” I admittedly easily. “My clothing is much worse for wear and my quiver is far lighter than when you last saw me.”

Ilthalaine smiled, his eyes remaining closed.

“You jest, young one, but I can feel it within you. The forest has whispered to me and told me much.”
I raised an eyebrow, despite knowing he couldn’t see me do so.

“And what how does the forest speak of me?” I asked with a guarded caution that bordered on sarcasm.

Ilthalaine turned his head to me, his radiant yellow eyes fixing squarely on my dirtied face.

“It speaks fondly of you. I will let you decide what to make of such knowledge, young Artemis. Would I be right in assuming you have completed your task?”

“I have, Conservator, though it was not the simple task I had expected it to be.” I said with a weary sigh as I sat on the bench next to him.

“Any task that requires the death of another cannot be easily described as simple” Ilthalaine said, nodding in agreement. “However, you performed your duties well, Artemis, and for this you are owed your due reward.”

Ilthalaine reached to his side, unclasping the buckle on a small pouch I had not seen previously seen. He pulled out a pair of thin leather gloves with steel buckles in the visage of a nightsaber’s head, placing them on my lap. After rebuckling his satchel, he turned to me, eyes looking down fondly at the gloves.

“Those once belonged to Ayanna Everstride, when she was no more than a youngling in the same position as you are. She placed them in my care not long after I arrived back here, hoping they would serve you as well as they did for her those many years ago.” He gave a wistful smile, looking off into the distance. “Even after all these years, I find it oddly endearing to see a Shan’do worry over their Thero’shan. It reminds me that there is an order and a synergy to all things.”

I looked down at the gloves, feeling the smooth, worn leather between my fingers. After a moment, I slipped them on, feeling the pull and strain of the old material wrap around my long, slender fingers. I flexed my hands, wiggling my fingers around and rolling my wrists. I heard Ilthalaine laugh politely next to me.

“Do they fit?” He asked with a smile touching the corners of his mouth.

“Like they were made for me” I replied, a smile of my own forming. “I must thank Ayanna for this wonderful gift when next I see her. I am honored by her consideration of me.”

Ilthalaine rose to his feet slowly, extending a hand to help me up. I graciously accepted, but as I rose, I felt my muscles begin to tense after they had already begun to relax. I silently grimaced. Once I stood shoulder to shoulder with him, he began to speak, now in a more somber tone.

“Thinning the younger population of creatures here in Shadowglen was a good start, Artemis, but there is more work to be done.” He looked me up and down, his eyes stopping briefly on my half filled quiver. “However, this is a task that does not require your immediate attention, and I believe you would benefit more from a night of good rest. The first kill is hard on one’s body and mind, and if not properly addressed, may pose an unseen harm in the future. Come to me in the morning, and I will continue teaching you the ways of the hunter.”

I began to protest, then felt uncharacteristically exhausted. Ilthalaine watched me with a knowing smile.

“Do not argue, young one. While it gives me no pleasure, there will be more death to follow, and it is never wise to challenge a beast when exhausted. Go now.”

I reluctantly nodded my head, feeling some twigs and pine needles fall loose from my hair. Throwing my bow over my shoulder, I began to slowly walk down the path towards the training hall, feeling the ache of a day of combat with every step I took. A long half hour later, I arrived at the stone steps of the training hall, forcing myself to trudge up each massive hurdle. When I arrived at the top, I faltered slightly, almost tumbling forward from fatigue. But I felt myself get caught by two firm and practiced hands. I looked up to see the beautiful priest I had seen before. She looked down at me with a heart warming smile, throwing one of my arms over her shoulder as she helped me walk into the torchlit hall.

“Thank you,” I said, slightly embarrassed I needed to be carried. “To who do I owe the pleasure?”

“I am called Shanda” She replied, beginning to walk forward slowly. “I had heard from Ayanna that you may be in need of a place to sleep tonight and to have your wounds tended to.”

“Both would be most appreciated” I admittedly easily. “Is Ayanna here? I wish to thank her for her gift” I said, gesturing with my leather clad hands.

We arrived at the linen cots that littered one side of the training hall. The other injured Night Elves that I had seen earlier in the day lay upon them, silent and asleep. Shanda helped me down into an unoccupied one, taking care to handle me softly. Once I was prone, she replied with a whisper.

“Ayanna left to patrol the forest in the East. She mentioned that there have been troubles with the wildlife in that part of the forest. When you awake in the morning, I expect she will be where you first found her. Rest now, sister.” She placed her hand gently on the claw marks in my thigh, her hand beginning to fill with a soft, white glow. “I will tend to your wounds while you rest.”

My eyelids began to feel very heavy as my thigh radiated with an unfamiliar warmth. The dull heat spread throughout my body as I felt all of my muscles begin to relax, causing me to sink into the cot. Very quietly, only loud enough for me to hear, Shanda began to sing in Darnassian, speaking words I couldn’t understand the meanings to. The serenade of the harmonious music intertwined with the warmth of the light that filled my body, causing me to fall into a deep, peaceful slumber.
 

Artemiss

of Edema Ruh
#2
For context, this is the culmination of about 3-4 hours of writing, with no editing or revisions. If there are grammatical errors, I would appreciate them being pointed out c:
 

Longinus

Iconoclast Trooper
#3
I've skimmed through it and it definitely seems interesting—the accompanying illustrations are a nice touch as well.

I will give it a more concerted read later and, as audience, will give my verdict.
 

Artemiss

of Edema Ruh
#4
I've skimmed through it and it definitely seems interesting—the accompanying illustrations are a nice touch as well.

I will give it a more concerted read later and, as audience, will give my verdict.
Thank you for your time! I plan to do 2-3 illustrations per chapter if I decide to continue on this story, so I'm glad they are appreciated. c:
 

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