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"A Doll in the Snow"Follow

#1 Dec 14 2013 at 7:23 AM Rating: Good
Sequel Note! – Read “The Goblin’s Winter Veil Doll” FIRST or else this will not make sense to you. The following events take place during a cataclysmic period…

Part I

Even the harsh valley winds of Alterac couldn’t drown out the anguished cries rattling around the dark cave. Several chalk-white rams, their coats hanging with icicles, replied with angry snorts but would not enter. Inside, a poorly calibrated boomstick stood sheathed in ice. Its owner, a troll, lay gasping for air. Feverish and unconscious, he is no longer lost and dying in the Valley, but laughing with his sister by the warm waters of Booty Bay. His nightmare loops and begins once again.

Twelve years his elder, Shessuna seemed younger by comparison; beautiful, with eyes that smoldered red under masses of hair that appeared to shift from one kind of blue to another. When people took her hand they were relieved she was not some vision. Her laugh was infectious and here, one month before their first Winter Veil together in years, she held her brother in a grip of joy that vacated his life long ago. They lost both parents in their youth; making a living on The Barrens plains meant surviving long enough to give your offspring a chance before the toil cut you down. Shoo awaited the return of his sister from her alchemy studies in Stranglethorn and, bonded by blood, they left Kalimdor behind them.

Now deep into middle age, his eyes were coal-black and skin a gnarled cobalt; years of self-doubt and unhappiness as a second-rate hunter seeming to tattoo over him again and again. Nothing plagued him today though: Not the unexplained swarm of elementals, not the odd tremors that thrummed underfoot almost constantly now. Not his miserable two-bit slide into obscurity. Today he had stolen Shessuna from her elite party of priests gathered on the other side of the Salty Sailor. He squeezed her hand when he caught her staring out the filthy window over his shoulder.

"Whatchu lookin' at sis?" he said, following her gaze but seeing nothing.

"Da Maiden's Fancy, tippin' over like her bilge had just eaten a cannonball. Don’cha see? And folks mullin' around starin' at da water."

She was right. The anchored vessel was steadily listing which meant she was taking on water. That is until Shessuna pointed out the barnacle-covered pier pillars lying exposed hours before low tide. She bolted from their table to her friends. Her quick words were all business and even as she spoke they fled from the room as one. She rushed back to Shoo, spinning him from the window, her face dipping him into a cold bath of fear. Something bad was happening, but what?

"Dat water is gonna come back here all at once Shoo... you git me?" He looked out over the bay and where there was once water, mud shimmered with dying fish. The Maiden now lay on her side. He couldn't process it. His sister shook him violently and he shot his attention back to her, frightened beyond measure.

"We are cut off from everyone. There are children here who are gonna need food and water or else they'll die. You must save them Shoo!" She leapt from the tavern balcony. Stopping at it’s railing, he watched the entire population steadily pour into the cave leading out of town. Behind him, high upon a cliff ledge, stood a crowd of travelers with their children. Their expressions were pure terror. He turned with a dreadful slow-motion, following the pointing fingers. A sick green wall of sea water had silently painted itself along the horizon. Its lip foamed white and its body was spotted with boats, trees and other debris. Shoo felt the stroke of Death for a different reason...

Shessuna, levitating her way across the muck, was heading straight for it. Her colleagues awaited her on Janeiro's Point. The hunter was the only one left in Booty.

"What are ya doin'?!" he roared over the screams behind him, his mind reeling with confusion. She turned, backpedaling, and he saw sorrow on her face.

"I love ya bro! Remember da Little Teacup?!” she shouted, voice wavering, “Go on, Shoo!" His mind flicked over the day she first shared her parlor trick. They held a fragile cup between them and she firmly cascaded him with fortitude spells. It wasn't the first time she stamina-slapped him; so powerful in the art, it sometimes knocked him off his feet, much to her delight. This time it was the cup getting most of the juice, their grip on it immediately becoming a clear pulsing ball between them, binding them. Shessuna batted it to the ground where it landed solidly and undamaged before the sphere extinguished itself. Now on the island, she and the others stood tightly braced around the statue of Baron Revilgaz.

Booty Bay was lost in ominous shadows as the tidal wave blotted out the sun. Buried in concentration, the priests knew nothing of this, their bubble around the statue ballooning at an incredible rate. Shoo watched as their power words swiftly pushed them into a widening circle over the mud. Like a predator, the towering wave seemed to charge faster, mist and foliage pushed before it to spatter off the now-huge screen that nearly spanned the inlet to Booty Bay. And still the holy order anchored a steady unbroken circuit of fortitude around the statue. Shessuna was facing town when the ocean struck her with all its might and for one eternal moment, Shoo saw her dazzling red eyes flash white from within the wall.

The collision pulverized everything around the shield. Water exploded over its pinnacle like some engorged poisoned rainbow and then Shessuna, her friends and the dome were no more. The tamed sea rolled in, flooding the top buildings and firing Shoo into a doorway where he held on desperately. He collapsed to the deck as the deluge backed its way out and people began shouting from everywhere, but the only voice he heard was his own, weeping for his lost sister.

"Suna..." the dying troll wept miserably. She stood before him now, a faint blur, but her compassion filled the cave.

"Shh, I’m here now," she murmured and he fell back into a fitful sleep.


PART II

"Alterac Valley? You’ve lost your mind,” Bethlamae sniffed sharply, turning with arms crossed towards the havoc in the distance that was once Southshore. Even from Corrahn's Dagger it was an ugly sight to behold. She appeared as a season in change - light brown skin set off by bright green hair. She gave the impression of dormant grass taking its first breath of spring. Her eyes were twin suns and they were hot this day.

"It's not a request, brat and keep your voice down… every time I close my eyes I hear rogues these days,” Sergeant Durgen Stormpike whispered, “Only a handful knows the mission yer sneaking in there: ourselves, my personal watch, and he who authorized it… yer father." Defeated, the priestess angrily hoisted one large satchel over her shoulder.

"Our entrance is destroyed and, to my knowledge, the Horde or Frostwolf Clan aren’t taking invites. Please, enlighten me.”

"Head east to the river till you see the signal. The Clan will be focused on our men out here," the punished-looking dwarf chuckled, "and it seems the Forsaken have let the worgen out of their cages. One of the aftershocks made a bloody small hole straight toward Dun Baldar that you should be able to pinch through with the goods. Now get on with it and keep out of this. You'll have yer hands full up there until after Winter Veil."

"AFTER Winter Veil?" the young night elf hissed. The sergeant spun her toward the menacing walls of Alterac and gave her a convincing shove. Fuming, Beth made her way to the rendezvous point. Awaiting the last minute details, her self-pity quickly defused as it usually did. She cherished her duty as a healer and rarely disappointed her demanding father. Only forty seasons old, she just had to fight authority some as all young people are wont to do.

Poking through her satchel, she half-smiled a sigh. Her only friend beyond Lor'danel looked up at her. It was a doll, no longer than her willowy forearm, with warm hazel eyes and tawny hair combed so often it would float with a flick of her hand. Decades ago, using enchanted scarlet thread, Beth's mother had tenderly restitched every seam. From that day forward the doll pulsed with a deep emotional warmth, like that of a newborn child.

"Watch over me big sister," she whispered. Beth nudged her way to the fissure where the guards were preparing the freight bound for Dun Baldar. She stared at the insanity before her. Southshores destruction, the fall of Darkshore into elemental dementia, even the Alliance teetering on collapse all just seemed a part of some twisted game, but this… this was a task of sheer folly.

The short trek, as it were, was strangely uneventful: As if Elune herself was strolling peacefully ahead. As she crossed the ice-encrusted Stormpike Bridge, a storm closed in from behind like a door slamming shut and she breathed a sigh of relief. The days passed, each worse than the last. Rations consisted of dwindling salted meat and filthy, boiled snow water. She and three paranoid dwarves took turns hiking out to Icewing Bunker for status reports. The only news of note was that the fissure had sealed itself, trapping them here until their rescue from outside. Leaving Icewing one snowy morning, she came across a curious sight; several rams had gathered about the entrance to one of the many pock-marked caves north of the bunker. She slowly made her way down to them where they eyeballed her nervously.

"Go on! Shoo!" she shouted, backing them off. A cry of despair from inside the cave answered and in she went. A shadowy figure lie prone on the rock floor, mumbling. It was a troll, sick from exposure and softly ranting. Upon deciphering his jumbled words she had to kneel for fear of fainting. Swiftly regaining her senses, Beth fed him incantations until he stabilized and grew still. A couple of hours and many spells later, the troll awoke groggily to a crackling fire and a depleted night elf sitting warily on the other side. Motionless, the hunter peered about for Yupes, his pet worg, but she was gone. A good girl and deadly tracker: she would not have left unless it was to feed. Best play that card after he read the dealer.


PART III

"Whatchu doin' here, girl?"

"I could ask you the same thing," she snapped back, "One Horde soldier, a hunter I'm guessing, in Alterac. Unconscious in sub zero temperatures wearing... what is that… a chest thong?"

"A chest harness,” he snarled, “and again, why'm I still breathin' in your elf chatter?"

"Your life is still in doubt, Darkspear, if I don’t get you to proper shelter," she said, standing to kick out the fire, "and I could drag you one-handed as weak as you are but please don't make me. The elements in Alterac are being unnaturally manipulated. Fog is pouring down from the north so it will be slow going. You're my responsibility once we reach Dun Baldar; a spy if you like, to be interrogated. Trust me; you do not want them doing it. Oh, and leave the gun... your ram friends are conferencing about your intent."

Shoo cooperated, but only just. She kept pushing him about his presence here and the only way to keep conscious was talking. Still fighting a pounding headache, it was all quite fuzzy. He entered the valley, as ordered, two weeks after his sister died. Plainly in no condition to fight, Huntress Kuzari in Orgrimmar gave him a simple but vital task: See what the Stormpike were up to. Confirm rumors the dwarves had vacated their stronghold in exchange for Hillsbad. If true, they would divert resources at Frostwolf Keep for the growing conflict in the Foothills. Shoo's failure to report would say otherwise and the Clan, as usual, would hit the dwarves with everything they got: Deathwing was a mere formality between these factions. Up until he and Yupes left the Keep it was business-as-usual.

Still in mourning, Shoo came unprepared for the harsh climate and his misery intensified it. He succumbed frighteningly fast, plummeting from chills to a crippling loss of his keen senses. Everything became twisted that second day off the paths. Drenched in wet snow, he roamed aimlessly with Yupes trying to lead him. At what point did she leave… or die protecting him? He became increasingly uncertain as each hour passed. The next thing he knew he awoke to this child’s medicinal chants, eerily like Shessuna’s. He shared little of all this with the night elf; focusing on a stray, sick troll who lost his sister to the wave and was now confessing to a possible attack… a subtle bluff in a lousy hand.

- continued -
#2 Dec 14 2013 at 7:24 AM Rating: Good
As he spoke of the impending assault on Dun Baldar her face paled considerably. He knew a rookie when he saw one.

A couple hours later, the bridge materialized before them through the soupy air, floating above a place that seemed to no longer exist and Shoo steeled himself for a barrage of seething dwarves.

"Do not worry, Shoo," said Beth, reading his mind, “Only three are stationed here and a handful at Icewing." So it was true, he thought, they emptied their stronghold for battle beyond the mountains.

"It's not da Beards that worry me," he replied, looking over his shoulder. It was so quiet in Dun Baldar. The North and South Bunkers, silhouetted before them, were abandoned. Detecting no bowmen or fires, claustrophobia weaved a noose around Shoo’s throat. Out of the mist stomped a burly figure, moving with purpose.

"Rosemary Hillsmoke," Beth whispered, "She and her brothers are temporarily in charge of Dun Baldar until the skirmishes of Hillsbad subside. Choose your words carefully..." The dwarf, never once looking at the priestess, approached Shoo and with a grunt, lifted him over her head. The troll flailed wildly as they neared one side of the bridge. Shifting her weight, she held her grip.

"Right, over ye go now."

"Wait, Rose! He has crucial information! Hear him out." Hillsmoke didn't turn around, but peered over her shoulder at Shoo, exhausted and no longer struggling.

"De Frostwolves be marchin' on ya! Dey could be here anytime now. Dey tink ya heavily fortified and a threat to em." As if on cue, a single hollow Boom could be heard miles to the southeast. Icewing Bunker, the Stormpike Guard’s last line of defense, was under attack. Normally the commotion of war drowned out distant combat. Today the deathly silence of current events made it sound like it was within a stone’s throw. Five soldiers manned that station and gave their lives to buy Hillsmoke enough time to still somehow complete Beth’s mission. She dropped the troll unceremoniously.

"Don’t think the Eve of the Veil has saved ye, troll. Yey just borrowed yer life. Bethlamae, take him to the Hall and prep him for the road to Icewing. He's gonna talk 'em down or die trying!” The priestess did as she was told, helping a weakened Shoo to stand. The troll shook the cobwebs from his head; her name was tangled in his memory but he shook that off too.

"If dat be an Icewing fight it'll only confirm da Clan's suspicion dat Dun Baldar is itchin’ for trouble. Ya gotta retreat down into da gorge and let 'em have their way with dis place."

"That's not an option Shoo," she growled as they neared the Hall of the Stormpike, "we stay and fight. To the death if need be. And if I know you, you'll help it not come to that." Her words left Shoo disconcerted.

He stopped dead in his tracks. Standing there, just inside the doorway, was a scrawny human girl who looked him square in the eye then fled into the shadows. An illusion, Shoo thought, a sick mind playing tricks. But he shrugged off the priestess' arm and followed. There, inside the main hall with only a very small fire centered to warm it, were perhaps two dozen children. Some were playing, but most just stared up at him. Several couldn’t even lift their heads from where they lay. Two stocky dwarves barely noticed the intrusion, Hillsmoke's brothers; one tucking in a pale fragile-looking boy, the other measuring out tin cups of boiled water. Shoo felt sick.

"See?! I told you Greatfather sent one of his helpers!" the little girl cried, "Hurray for Winter Veil!" Beth quickly went to her and the others who began to get excited. She spoke softly, calming them somewhat. Stunned, Shoo stumbled outside, his mind unable to grasp the situation. The two women approached him hesitantly from either side, allowing him take it in.

"Been seein' bad mojo for some days now, but dis be straight up madness. We be in a warzone and ya bring babies here..."

"Have you been around Azeroth? The whole world is a warzone. Those children are the survivors, many of them orphans. Reminders of what Southshore and Menethil once were. Don't tell me it's any different with the Darkspear," Beth said, "You must convince the Clan that we are no threat." The three looked south; somewhere a small army was on the move.

"You ain't listenin' girl. In dis fog smoke the Frostwolves will soak us in arrows with a cough. And when dey get here, ya tink dey gonna charge an enemy fortress with NO field-a-vision? Dey gonna burn dis place to da ground from da safety of dat bridge. We need ta barricade dat path long enough for dem to hear reason."

"Was that a ‘we’ I heard?” Hillsmoke snorted and then shook her head, “Anyhow, even if we did have something to bar their way we haven’t the manpower to do it." Beth meekly suggested blowing the bridge, but the two Valley veterans stood by its construction, agreeing only the end of days could break it. But she wasn’t finished.

"How is it the whole of the region is under two or three feet of snow except Dun Baldar?" Hillsmoke thought for a moment then answered.

"The winds from the north and east ranges send it over our heads. What we do get blows off those nearby cliffs...“ she snapped her fingers and pointed at Beth, “Go on…”
Beth nodded, “That's what I thought. If the condensation from the fog pouring in from the outside has been shoring up snow, then those nearby slopes must be pregnant with it." A woozy Shoo followed little of this darting exchange until now.

"Ya sayin' an avalanche would bury da bridge’s path?" He was greeted with nods. "Den who’s gonna climb up there and make it happen? We got an hour, maybe." Hillsmoke let out a shrill whistle, moved quickly to a nearby tent and started pawing through carefully-stacked crates. Her brothers came running.

"Along with these two, I ran ammo tests up there regular-like before Deathwing peed himself. Half an hour gets us there blind-folded," she calculated, filling backpacks with what appeared to be powerful seaforium charges… armloads actually. "Five minutes for placement and another for rigging. Before those Horde dogs can lay down an attack, I’ll wager. You steer clear of the bridge, ya hear; what debris doesn't spill down into the gorge will turn it into a death trap... I don't have to mention, anyone in its path is snuffed, do I?”

Another muffled explosion, a touch closer this time, impressive even through the thickly-buried landscape.

"Well done, lads!" Rosemary cried, "Icewing’s strategic retreat will give us enemy updates. Blast it all if they get caught in the fall-out, but that can’t be helped." She and her brothers jogged across the bridge, into the swallowing fog.

"Come with me, Shoo," the night elf sighed, "the children who aren't seriously ill have a difficult time falling asleep unless one of us is there to be with them." The fire was mostly embers and the pressing gloom outside made it dark enough for the troll to enter without causing a stir. Beth flitted about, tending to each nodding child as Shoo worked the fire and listened to her soft voice.

"When I met this tiny ragtag group two weeks ago I wanted to walk away, it seemed too profane a task. Think about it, they're not much younger than me really. Coming here, I was pressing as close to them as they were to me. We could hardly move at first, we were so scared."

"None were starving or fallen ill yet. Just tired, confused little people," she continued, Shoo hearing her sob in the bleak glow, "but en route they grew to trust me and I fell in love with each one. They all had stories to tell, each more heart-breaking than the last. What good is living a two… three thousand years if one has to burden such grief?"

"Ya don't shackle des kinda memories. Ya pass 'em on. Dey be legendary by da time you a granma with babies, trippin' you feet. Dey be sayin’ ‘Tell us again how you and da troll hero beat the wolves Grams!'" He saw Beth smile before she turned away and for the first time since his sister died he did as well. After whiling away the minutes, trying not to think what the next hour would bring, they looked up at each other.

A low, almost imperceptible rumble rose up from their boots. They felt it then heard it.

"That can't be Hillsmoke's avalanche, there was no explosion," Beth said, "Oh no... No, no, no." Shoo cleared half the room with one tremendous lunge.

"Psst!" He looked down. It was the gaunt child from the doorway, now curled in a ball under her blanket. "You ARE one of Greatpapa's helpers, aren't you?" The troll knelt down as Beth swiftly passed by. A nod was all she needed before drifting off with the others.

He joined Beth in front of the North Bunker. Through the failing light, past the frozen graveyard, torchlight turned the fog an angry orange. Shoo motioned for Beth to stay then he moved onto the archway. Where the **** was Hillsmoke's avalanche? The mist began swirling to the mass movement of quick marching and siege carts. Boots pounded across the bridge in beat with Shoo's heart. Beth appeared by his side, ready to die for the precious oath she swore to protect.

Out of the gloom ran five dwarves. They stopped once they saw the terrified night elf with a troll at her side. Then, from behind them materialized the Frostwolf Clan, a frightening number slowly filling the bridge. As if in warning, a child cried out in his sleep from the Hall as one of the dwarves raised his hands.

"Stand down! Hold yer fire! The Frostwolves are here on a mission of mercy! I say, hold yer arms!" Shoo stared hard at the emerging soldiers; their weapons were sheathed... No war cries…

Travelers save us!

He charged across the bridge. Past orcs and taurens and oxen carts filled with food, blankets and medicine. He drove it all from his mind and took one mighty breath until he thought his lungs would crack.

"Hillsmoke!! Stop!!" But no one heard him. At that precise moment, the world above them, high to the northeast, erupted into a deafening fireball.

- contined -
#3 Dec 14 2013 at 7:25 AM Rating: Good
PART IV

"I said further back, you gits!" Rosemary roared at her brothers, "I don't know how much of this ledge is going to give way." It was a miracle they made it here at all, she thought, burying the last of the seaforium chain. They were late, the stacked drifts constantly threatening to give out beneath their tread. But now, with her homemade cable leads unspooled about fifty yards, all was ready. One brother pleaded to set off the charge.

"Sod off, this is my baby,” she returned, smiling and flattened the plunger. The result was staggering. The dwarves were blown off their feet and the entire ledge dropped away like a lift that had its cable severed. The incredible suction of the avalanche dragged Rosemary to the edge. Through the vacuum she blinked; a couple feet of jagged rock trembled between her and oblivion. Even as the roaring noise vanished with its lethal cargo she was crawling backwards, heart racing.

"Lads, if ye gotta ****, put a cork in it."

Far below, things happened fast. The explosion caused immediate confusion. Weapons were drawn and totems started dropping everywhere. The ebbing fog now rushed into the gorge. One ox had actually charged off the platform and was held dangling over the precipice by its cart and bellowing partner’s thick leather reins. However, it was the approaching sound that had everyone on the crowded bridge wild-eyed with fear. It was hungry, coming to feed. The troll hunter wanted to shout an order to flee but knew it was too late.

"Shoo! Grab hold of the bridge!"

Shoo, grab hold of the teacup.

He wanted to look toward the fierce cry but was afraid the last thing he'd ever see was the spirit of his dead sister. Instead, he stepped off the bridge opposite the onrushing avalanche and white-knuckled the eastern abutment. He was struck so hard with Bethlamae's fortitude spell a screaming whine cut through his skull. Instantly, the entire bridge and everyone on it was encased in a tight clear shell, strengthening every instant. Everyone except Beth and Shoo.

The hunter fell to his back onto a small ledge, held fast to the stamina coursing through him, its bubble driving him into the ground. Shotgun blasts overlapped as trees in the path of the avalanche were snapped at the trunk then the sky turned black. Shoo closed his eyes as the collapsed cliff rolled past. The bridge groaned under the awesome force of the blow, actually causing the carts to drift. Brackets below screamed like swords jerked from plated armor. But it held, ton after ton of rock, ice and snow crashing into Beth's shield and spilling out over into the chasm. Shoo was slowly being crushed into his wedge.

The night elf saw none of this, her head bent and mana draining like a sieve as she roared her chants. She was shoved evenly backwards, feet skating across the icy path, as her invisible bubble held quivering. One monstrous boulder rocketed crazily along the length of the shield, nearly killing her and flattening the empty stables fifty yards further on. The terrifying ordeal took a mere twenty seconds. Beth and shield collapsed simultaneously, but a trio of nearby shaman, watching in disbelief, was quick to revive her. Both Shoo and an unhappy ox were dragged back onto the bridge, shaken but unharmed.

Deservedly spent, Shoo began explaining the bizarre circumstances to Captain Galvangar, acting leader of the Frostwolves, while Beth led the caravan to the bewildered children. As genuine darkness fell, the Hillsmokes returned from above and were caught up to speed. Needless to say, Rosemary pondered the whole affair in mystified silence. The little ones thought they were in a dream; resilient as ever, they absorbed, accepted and absolutely loved all that was going on about them. Shoo’s little believer brought him cookies. She then raced about, cheering and grasping the amused rescuers and was, predictably, the first to fall back to sleep. The emergency care station was firmly rolling. Galvangar motioned to Shoo and Beth to join him outside. He stared at them with intense, savage eyes.

"I'm not going to pretend to understand what happened today. Be it known elf, if we see anyone wandering around our valley we will assume those children are gone from this blessed land and act accordingly. Thank your gods Durotan dozes this time of the season. The same cannot be said for the starved harpies that constantly hounded us between here and Icewing. Your idiotic guards threw us down a challenge; that is until I mentioned the youngsters in Shoo’s message. When I saw the horror in their eyes, I knew it wasn't some Pikers' ambush ploy."

"Message?" Beth asked. Galvangar frowned at her, then at Shoo. He withdrew a carefully folded parchment.

"Three days ago, Shoo, your pet crawled into the Keep; crippled beyond imagining but we staved off her final calling. A leather sleeve was strapped to her leg with this. Your signature, hunter, is it not? Regardless, I knew there was no place in all of Alterac that a worg could survive these conditions other than here or the Keep." Two orcs began arguing loudly over a makeshift path traversing the one now buried and the captain left to bang heads. Shoo hunkered to the ground after handing the message to Beth. Perplexed, she opened it and read aloud.

"We are cut off from everyone. There are children here who are… gonna need food and water or else they'll die. You must save them - Shoo."

"You told me these were your sister's words… her exact words before you lost her to the wave, am I right?" Beth asked, stunned. Shoo said nothing, his face buried in his hands. Beth knelt down and put her arm around him. "Everything is going to be okay now."

"Ya don't understand!" he burst, “I never hooked up with Shessuna in Booty! I was waitin' on her when that **** wave came. Everyone was freakin', den I saw her out on the Point weavin’ her magic with the others. Den… den she was gone. I never got ta hold her or say goodbye... nothin'! Keepin' dos families alive for two weeks was da only ting keepin' me from..." He bit his tongue and scraped at the tears freezing to his face.

"Dos fever dreams were the only time I spent with Suna in Booty, but it always ended badly. I musta seen dos babies with ya when I was bottoming-out. Tried to reach da Keep and got dat message out with da last sane notion in my head. Words Suna would have told me."

“Or what you learned from her… maybe.”

In that instant, miraculously, the torment of years broke free like a March thaw; this stranger had somehow just eased him into salvaging his own value. He looked at Beth in fear and wonderment, like a child seeing Great-father Winter for the first time.

"Ya said my name when we got here. And dat bridge stunt ya pulled." She only smiled, but he would have none of it. "Before I saw dat girl in da Hall ya said, ‘If I know ya...’ Who ARE you exactly Bethlamae?"

"Wait here a moment, please Shoo," the priestess whispered. She returned from the Hall with a tightly-held satchel. She appeared to be in no rush. Beth sat down next to him, unlatching the straps.

"You've been waiting for this, haven't you big sister?" She smiled sadly into the pack then gently pulled the small toy out. Shoo burst into tears as Beth handed it to him and she waited patiently as he held the doll and as Winter Veil morning embraced them all. At length, Shoo took a deep breath, looked at the tired night elf and laughed in disbelief.

"Would you like to hear my side of things after she found me?" Beth asked. For several years, on the night before Winter Veil, Bethlamae would lie in bed as she heard the story about how two trolls, a doll and her friend Atnas saved her little elf village. As years passed, she grew entranced with the tale and while Shoo was always a mystery she discovered much about his sister. She was a renowned healer, her ground-breaking work available to any Alliance priest who looked hard enough. Once the "Booty Bay Bubble" rumors found Darkshore Beth connected it to Shessuna's Little Teacup research. Her time with Shoo these past two days was the key that fit the lock. Snowflakes filled the sky as her story ended and they sat in easy silence.

She gave both the doll and troll a soulful look.

"You have a great heart, little brother. Every time that doll made me laugh or patted my tears dry I felt that deep from within. You gave when you had nothing. Sick or not, you saved these children’s lives. It was you and your sister who rescued my village AND those families in Booty Bay. Whenever you think about her and start hurting, you hold that little doll close. I hear she's a wonderful healer.” She held his hand in hers. “Goodbye Shoo."

Beth drifted away toward the sleeping and healing children who would soon have a Winter Veil to nurture their innocence a bit longer. He sat there unmoving until the caravan finished packing then climbed into a cart and as one they vanished into the snow.

Epilogue
Two weeks later, Shoo found himself on the boat in Ratchet with only his duffel bag. He had followed the Southfury River from his childhood, basking in the heat between here and Orgrimmar and could now barely keep his head up. Upon arrival, he had received an anonymous letter that simply said, “The supplies have been safely delivered.” It was news worthy of a couple ales. He heard laughter from the ship’s hold and decided to snuggle up against a warm crate on deck where it was quiet. But he was being watched...

He opened his bag and brought his sister's doll to eye level.

"I told ya, I can't play with ya on da boat. It makes me sick in da belly." From the darkness of the hold came a soft gasp and a tiny Draenei girl peeped out. Her skin was the exact shade as Shessuna's. He yawned at the doll.

"I'll play with you... I mean, her,” the child said in a conspirator's whisper.

"Oh, you don't know how happy she’d be if ya would," he yawned again, “I'm Shoo and you are..."

"Olivia Jayne, I'm on my way back to Stormwind. Are you going home too? What's her name?" she blurted, shy ways to the wind.

"I'm going home too," he said drowsily and placing the toy in her hands, "to say bye to my sister. Dis be Beth..." For luck, Olivia put a finger to his lips as he started to snore.
The ship made it safely to Stranglethorn. Festive passengers boarding didn't have the heart to wake the sleeping troll. The much-loved doll wrapped in his embrace seemed too delightful to disturb.

--- THE END ---
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