It had been more than two hundred years since the coastal waters of Darkshore were last frozen solid and only the eldest Night Elves could remember it as children…if they chose to. The snows from Winterspring rarely came down into Central Kalimdor, but never with such ferocity as it did this year. Auberdine was locked down tight and the few elven villages that skirted the borders between the Veiled Sea and Felwood were left to fend for themselves. One such village wedged between The Masters Glaive and Northern Ashenvale not only had to deal with a record snowfall that literally buried everything surrounding them, but something worse... much worse.
An illness that had spread quickly from the sickly deer of the region to their own stock of winter supplies overtook the children without warning and what started as a dilemma immediately became a deadly problem. It was twelve days until Winter Veil and the Night Elves of this buried village had less than that to save their little ones. The constant blizzards battered back any attempt to contact Maestras Post and helplessness bordered outright panic. Early that morning a banged-up sled clawed its way into their lives, seemingly from nowhere.
The first to see this wreck was a whisper of a girl named Bethlamae. Sneezes from the previous night had her alarmed parents confine her to bed that day and since playing in the snow had grown old fast she wasn’t going to argue with a warm blanket and hot coco. But Beth was terribly bored and terribly worried; her letter to the Great-Father was still on her bedside and the driver of this shambling sleigh was her only hope to get the letter out in time for Winter Veil. With wide eyes, she watched it pull right up to her window and of all people, a goblin jumped from his seat and fell through the snow, disappearing from sight.
“Father!” she cried “A sled is outside and I think he needs…”
As she spoke a small bronze bomb lofted up then down into the snow, exploding with a muffled boom and leaving a small circle around the slightly-blackened goblin.
Bethlamae’s father soon appeared speaking to the goblin in hurried tones that she only caught parts of. This goblin had been holed-up in Nighthaven but was now on a forced mission to deliver several crates of crystal vial to Ratchet since theirs were the closest waters not frozen over. In exchange for enough drink and food to get him to Astranaar he’d be happy to take whatever mail they needed to go in route and be back through here before Winter Veil. By now a crowd of elves had surrounded this fellow and they nearly wept with hope that their plea could reach someone in time. His name was Atnas and though the village didn’t know it, he was about the most warm-hearted goblin there was to be had if not the most accident-prone. Regardless, he was their only hope…and Beth’s.
When the group of villagers had quickly dispersed to get Atnas’ supplies, the little Night Elf child opened her window a sliver and tapped the glass, drawing his attention.
“What can I do ya for Wee One?” he said with a toothy grin.
“Um, will you please give this to the Great-Papa?” she said holding her letter out in one tiny hand.
Taking the crudely scrawled envelope to his chest, he then squared up to her.
“The Big Guy will have this lovely letter before Winter Veil or else strike me down a sheep" ...which he actually was once.
Thankfully no mages were about to take him up on that because that letter would never see its destination. Bethlamae thanked him and closed her window with a rattled cough just as the goblin’s food arrived with the village’s urgent request for medicinal supplies. Climbing into his sleigh, the squat savior drove off with the driving storm on one side and the village’s blessing on the other. The weakened child lay back under her blankets and dreamed only as the little ones can…of dreams that will happen.
Slowly, oh so slowly, after countless map-checks and beating back of starving wolves, Atnas came upon Astranaar with barely the strength to beg refuge. There were no emergency supplies to be had, but the weather had slackened just enough to open a window for the desperate goblin to make for the Barrens. Unwisely, the for-hire mail carrier sampled several Giant Eggnogs before continuing on and managed to spill a flagon or two into his bag of mail brought in from the elements.
Mercifully, the weather improved somewhat as he passed Fallen Sky Lake into the Barren a couple days later. Atnas made wonderful time even though, amazingly, the snow continued to fall as he drove into the Crossroads. A skeleton crew there warned him to head back as the raptors were as savage as they’ve ever seen them, but the haunting image of that wasted Darkshore village meant only a ticking clock to Atnas. On he went, certain his prayers had a play in the slop of frozen snow and mud slowing down the screeching raptors that constantly hounded his sleigh. The small hut on a seemingly smaller plot of land before cresting the hill down into Ratchet meant Atnas had reached his other “side” delivery; a box of baubles for a disagreeable troll family by the name of Rooge.
“Two minutes and no more” he swore "and then all speed to Ratchet…they must have healing salves of some sort for those lost elves to get by on!”
A young troll boy greeted the deliverer with a snarl. He had been practicing these lately and with the holiday coming knew that one stray goblin victim wouldn’t put him on the Great-Father's bad side.
“Oy! What kind of fisherman barks at a package this time of year” returned the smiling goblin, handing it to Schuh, who was, actually as well-mannered as troll children get these days. Then the mail express was gone, down over the hill into Rachet. Saddened that he hadn’t a reply from the letter he sent to the Great-Father, the child turned to take the box back into their hut for further inspection…and saw a letter stuck underneath his package, both smelling of Eggnog.
“Great-Papa” is what the little boy read and dropped the package almost in the same instant. Tearing open the letter and certain his Flats Blood Racer was included, his hopes were dashed. A letter it was and only that, reading:
Dear Papa Winter,
I love you because you made me happy for Winter Veil last year. Since I’m already happy this year could I please just have a doll.
Schuh thought for a moment and then realized that someone, a kid like himself, sent this letter and it wasn’t going to get there in time (it was only five days away.) He was pretty certain that he was going to get something since he stopped being bad a couple months ago, but was she? This Beth didn’t sound like she was bad. Sitting in the quiet hut he recalled his older sister’s chest full of stuff she saved. Safely distanced with her alchemy apprenticeship in Grom’ Gol he decided to investigate it’s contents. After several handfuls of girly junk had been removed he saw what he was looking for…a beautiful though battered human priest doll. She was in decent enough condition but could use some stuffing and Schuh knew he had little time before the goblin would pass back through from Ratchet so he got to work .
In Ratchet, the news was bad; Un Goro and Azshara’s supply of healing herbs was depleted to nothing, without question. Whatever was available from Eastern Plaguelands and the Steppes was so far away it made no difference regardless. Every ship that docked answered the same and Atnas began to feel the dread creep in as to what this amounted to.
“Those people are lost…and that poor little girl” he thought with a heavy heart. Purchasing a small crate of Major Troll’s Blood with the entire funds he made off the crystal vial delivery he sadly made his way back up into the Barrens.
“These potions won’t save them, but it might… might ease... their children’s suffering.”
To top it off he had lost Beth's letter. With that thought the miserable carrier raced back up the hill into the Barrens.
Schuh was not standing idle either. Eyes peeled for any movement on the horizon through the constantly drifting snows, he started as a sleigh came into view. Rushing down to meet the downcast goblin who barely glanced his way, the little troll held up his gift... a present for the little elf he neither met nor knew.
“Eh?” the goblin blurted as the child thrust the package upon him.
“This is for someone who's letter YOU lost.” he replied with an enormous smile. “It’s what she asked for so I think it will make her very happy.”
The weary deliverer smiled back the best he could; devastated that he couldn’t even get Bethlamae’s simple letter to one old man.
“If happiness was all I could take back to that village I’d crawl back to them with it on my back” he said, taking the small box with a simple ribbon and setting it down beside him in the sleigh. And crawling back is just what it felt like, the poor fellow.
The next couple of days became increasingly nightmarish for Atnas. He drove his horses without rest; the thought of the Night Elf village emptied of life before he could even get there. The weather eased considerably as he passed briefly through Astranaar but word was that Darkshore was at it’s darkest. It was said that nothing was to be heard but Onu’s mournful chant. The sleigh sped on into that darkness and eventually stopped before the dwelling of that tried village. It was as he had feared…everyone, child and adult alike were deathly ill. The goblin did his best to see to it the Troll’s Blood was given to everyone, but within his heart he wept.
“Can I but comfort them more? Anything for that and I ask nothing else.”
Bethlamae lay still in her bed, her shallow breathing the only sound in the room as her parents, feverish themselves, stood vigilant. The goblin, quietly knelt down beside her.
“Hey Wee One. I have something here I’m betting you might be interested in.” was all he could manage, but it was enough to open her eyes.
“Papa Winter was here?” she whispered clutching the box.
“He might still be here…I don’t know” he answered. “Maybe we’ll find out after you see what’s inside.”
With the help of her mother, Beth pulled the battered ribbon and lifted the lid of the box. The child’s eyes flashed with such life it took the breath of the goblin from him and replaced it with joy. She held the doll up for her parents to see until her strength ebbed and then happily hugged it close and drifted off into sleep. The goblin turned with eyes shimmering.
“I’m so sorry… I… nothing from Ratchet could be…” Bethlamae’s mother just smiled, touching his cheek to still his tears.
“You brought happiness with you…it’s Winter Veil morning. We are forever thankful.”
She drew the weary deliverer out of the room so he may rest. Beth’s father tucked his daughter in and something so simple but so wonderful happened. Schuh’s poor stitching of the doll gave way and it’s stuffing spilled onto the bed. He held it up to candlelight so he could confirm what his bleary eyes couldn’t believe. It took everything he had to quietly take the doll from the room. It took even more to share what he discovered.
“Sansam…Golden Sansam and Silversage! Beth’s doll is bursting with it! There’s some Dreamfoil too! Some others…I…” was all he could manage before bolting out the door to their amazement. He returned shortly with a neighbor who was a seasoned alchemist. He poured out the blessed petals from Beth’s doll and calculated their power.
“Strong ingredients, incredibly strong…but not nearly enough for a whole village. It could be diluted into a vaccine but I would need a load of firebloom for that.” he determined and then shook his head. “But there isn’t a sprout of it in the pile.”
From the corner of the room came a very tired but very relieved voice, “I have stacks of the stuff in my sleigh. And here I thought they were just good for my sinus'.” By the time the stunned elves realized what the goblin had said he was already asleep.
Late that Winter Veil night Atnas awoke only briefly, so it seemed, to confirm his hopes. Elves were all about Bethlamae’s home, working their magic with the herbs and even the air itself seemed to breathe new life into the village.
“Like the Big Guy's workshop I’m betting” he murmured distantly.
He was drifting off again, but took back into that blissful sleep something to dream all night on; Beth standing at his side, her hand in his and in her other, a healthy and very loved doll.
I wrote this several years ago after I made my first nervous run from Darkshore to Ratchet so it's all pre-Cata. Hope you all have a Happy Christmas.