Aggra Drabbles

Today, twitter treated me to a lovely, calm response to the post-Blizzcon push for some female representation, courtesy of Bigbearbutt: http://thebigbearbutt.com/2013/11/14/massive-offensive-rant-the-story-belongs-to-blizzard/ .

… Yeah. If you haven’t read that already, I’d recommend that you go do so.

I’m not going to get into tearing apart of posts or ranting, since I’m fairly certain that’s been done already. What I will say, is that anyone who hasn’t should also go look at the extended conversation several of us had with US Community Manager Nethaera on twitter (@Nethaera) about the representation of women within the upcoming expansion. While there were obviously no details, it is good to know that we can open dialogue if we need reassurance, and while the verdict will be out until the beta, it’s clear that Blizzard is willing to discuss things.

Now, I do have one thing to say about the post from Big Bear Butt. And it was this quote specifically:

‘You want more awesome stories with these characters? You think there is a way it SHOULD have been written, characters that SHOULD have been created?

WRITE THEM YOURSELF, IF YOU KNOW SO DAMN MUCH.

Fanfic goes anywhere and everywhere. Post links to it on all those social media sites you’ve used to rant about how much Blizzard sucks, okay?

Please do, I’d love to see it and tell YOU what YOU need to change to satisfy MY prejudices.’

My response to this is as follows:

You’re on.

~~~

‘Take our child into a warzone? Are you mad?’

‘Mad enough to follow you into hell. You are not a footsoldier, Go’el. You have the right to go to Draenor. As do I. As does our child. As do all of our people. All I ask is that for once you stop and think before charging in and trying to play the hero.’

‘Who else will, Aggra? Do you see anyone else volunteering to go and save our people?’

‘Go’el, listen to me. We are orcs. We do not need heroes. We have ourselves. We have always had ourselves. If you go alone, then you are surely outnumbered. What if you are captured? Who would return to let us know? Where would we look? How many would we be up against?’

‘I will not risk you, Aggra-

‘And I shall not lose you either! I have almost lost you once already to your heroism, or have you forgotten?’

Silence fell, the deep auburn sunset filling the room separating the two orcs.

‘I…’ The shaman fell silent, looking to the floor.

‘Go’el.’ The woman moved towards her mate, intertwining her fingers with his. ‘They are your people. They are my people. And together, we are stronger. Garrosh may be on Draenor, but there is no Fel Horde. And I think that for all the war in our lives, both of us turned out alright. I would rather our child had both parents for as long as possible, whatever happens.’

~~~

Aggra could feel the arrow pointed at her back, even if the ranger was invisible in the thick snow.

‘Who goes there? State your clan, interlopers.’

Standing at full height, she declared: ‘Frostwolf.’

The voice gave a snort. ‘Nice try. The entire clan’s been six leagues north of here for the last year. Keep moving. Chieftain Durotan will see that you are punished for impersonating the honourable wolves of the north. And you, Stormreaver – I’m sure he’ll come up with a special punishment for a beast such as you.’

Thrall tensed next to her.

‘Don’t. If you kill him you will only make it worse. Gul’dan’s clan are the only ones who drank the blood. We are not from this time. They know nothing of us.’ Aggra wrapped the baby tighter as they trudged through the snow.

‘So long as we are together, it does not matter.’

~~~

‘My son a shaman and a fel-beast? Preposterous!’ The hulking chieftain stalked around the hut, pausing every so often to glare at Thrall. ‘I thought it too good to be true when that prophet came to us. Still, I saw that not one of my clan drank that demon-broth. You are a liar, no doubt, but we Frostwolves alone resist the ‘Iron Horde’. If you are here to help, then I will-‘

‘By the Broken Fang of Lo’Gosh, Durotan, you shall open this door or I shall conjure such a rage that Drek’thar himself will see it.’ Durotan was cut off by a threat from outside. The voice varied between anger and concern. Durotan glanced briefly backwards. ‘This does not concern you, Dra-‘

The door burst open, and Durotan’s mate stalked in. ‘A stranger arrived claiming to be OUR CHILD, and you see fit not to consult me, but to let me overhear the grunts gossiping of it? We agreed to lead this clan together!’

‘You said you wished to spend your evening with Go’el. I was not going to disturb you.’

‘Oh, I will deal with you later.’ Laying her hand briefly on her mate’s, Draka turned towards Thrall and Aggra.

‘By the eyes of the raven-lord…’ Draka rushed forth, cupping Thrall’s face in her own. ‘I defy you, Durotan, tell me that this is not the face of Chieftain Garad looking at me.’

From where she stood, Aggra could see the Frostwolf Chieftain’s shoulders drop. ‘My own Skysong, I dared not believe it. How is it possible?’

Draka embraced her son tightly, and from there, her eyes glanced over the bundle held in Aggra’s arms, and widened.

~~~

‘Clanless?’

‘I was left in Garadar with only the names of my parents. Most mag’har knew only the legacy of the Horde and the orphans around them as their clan.’

‘I won’t stand for such a thing.’ Draka passed Aggra a terocone.

‘Where did you get these?’ Aggra mused, considering the distance between Frostfire Ridge and Talador.

‘Draenei traders gave us them months ago. Ordinarily we save them for feast-days in Oshu’gun, but we will not be attending one soon. Here we are.’ Draka pulled a thin scrap of cloth from a knapsack, deftly maneuvering it onto the blanket and attaching it before showing it to Aggra. It was the emblem of the clan, a wolf caught in mid-howl.

‘The sigil of the Frostwolf chief. Garad gave it to us on our mating day, but… you need it more than we. I am proud of my son’s future. Now, come whatever storm, both of you are Frostwolves. Both of you have family.’

~~~

I hope that was not intensely boring. Shockingly, constructive criticism is welcome.

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Warlords of Draenor drabble 1

(Should preface this by saying that this is purely to do with my own characters. Ideas and suchlike. Read if you wish!)

1) Sidenia

‘Turned red? You mean it actually turned red?’

‘The reports all match, milady. Lady Proudmoore has sent reinforcements for Nethergarde in case the situation changes.’

The messenger paused for breath, a flush lighting her cheeks. She couldn’t have been more than sixteen.

Are they really recruiting so young?

Well, I suppose I have no right to contradict that.

‘Very well. If I’m needed, I’ll be in the Library this afternoon.’

With a nod, the chirpy messenger left the room, her footsteps falling silent in the grass outside. Birdsong filled the ensuing moments. Pacing around her table, the noblewoman murmured to herself. The message had distracted her entirely from breakfast, her copper hair left unkempt.

‘How can it really be red? The portal was green, and blue when deactivated… What does red mean?’

Finding no answers, she hurried upstairs, throwing the windows open to the morning air before she forgot. Green eyes glimmering slightly in the early sunlight, she moved to her chambers. Her armour rested in its case, momentarily unused. I really ought to take that to the blacksmith before something more drastic happens.

She sat down on the bed. I should never have left Pandaria. Hellscream escapes and then this happens. There’s no way this is a coincidence.

But the Dark Portal. How can Hellscream have the power to alter that? Can we still access Outland?

Looks like the war isn’t quite over yet.

~~~

‘They’re awaitin’ you in the War Room, yer ladyship.’ The dwarf moved aside to allow her passage, nodding as the Death Knight passed by.

She’d elected to visit the library that lunchtime, when everyone else was out. To say that the knowledge was useless would be an understatement. She couldn’t find anything that had even been written since the Third War, never mind the Outland campaign. Any knowledge that had existed of Draenor was lost in a mire of fanciful calligraphy and falsified anecdotes.

Walking into the War Room of Alliance High Command would never not feel a little weird. It was quite easy to feel out-of-place in a room filled with the most adept tactical and strategical minds within the Alliance. It was weirder still to be counted as one of those minds.

For the most part, her arrival was not noticed. Preparations went on, the likes of which she had not seen since the build-up to Operation Shieldwall. The Alliance was already kicking itself over Hellscream’s mysterious escape. That they would not allow him any chance of a headstart, regardless of what he had planned, was pretty clear. Messengers ran about from table to table, and portals flashed as representatives came and went from the capitals of the world. Orgrimmar, Booty Bay, Gadgetzan, Nethergarde, Ironforge, Darnassus, Dalaran… The world, it seemed, was not content to let Hellscream go unpunished after so much effort.

Sidenia shook her head, coming out of her thought bubble. This was a time for duty.

‘Ah, Lady Lightdawn.’ The carefully-measured tones of Grand-Admiral Jes-Tereth floated over.

‘One day you shall remember my ranking here, Admiral.’

The two smirked at each other. ‘My little joke, Brigadier-General. Still, for now we’re on casual terms. There are no ground trees yet. We’re trying to collate information.’

‘So I’ve heard. The Library is useless. I assume you have people working with the Explorer’s Guild – and obviously, the Draenei.’

‘Yes. Though neither have had especially much to do with the Dark Portal.’ The Admiral’s gaze darkened for a moment.

‘Is something the matter?’

Jes-Tereth drew her into the corner.

‘We have incredibly little to go on. The guards can’t remember a thing. It’s utterly absurd. We had the Temple of the White Tiger locked up tight. Xuen himself didn’t see Garrosh leave. He only – he only felt it, or so he says.’

‘Teleportation?’

‘Impossible. That cage had more protective encasements than the one those renegades put Thrall in. Somehow, Hellscream had outside aid. This thing with the Dark Portal – all our regular portals to Shattrath City are functioning perfectly well. And there have been no reports of Hellscream on Outland either. Even the mag’har left there distanced themselves from his regime months ago.’

‘But then how is the Dark Portal being affected?’

The two moved over to the map table. An immense circular globe hung above it, while massive composite maps of Azeroth had countless pins and figures moved across them, each map marked with the neat blue-and-gold compass of the Waypoint Cartographers’ Union. Jes-Tereth moved to one such map, a heavily-edited version with sections scribbled out, landmarks written in, and no moving figures.

‘Is this… Draenor?’

‘Nethergarde had been reporting temporal disturbances for almost a week prior to the Dark Portal’s sudden mood swing. We believe that wherever Garrosh may be, he is exerting some force on Draenor through the Dark Portal.’

‘Have you contacted the Timewalkers?’

‘We’ve tried. It seems they’re dealing with a lot at the moment.’

‘Exactly what are to we expect, Grand Admiral?

‘… The resounding theory is that we’re going to – somehow – see a repeat of the First War. So, we’re trying to pull together as much knowledge of both the Dark Portal and the planet of Draenor as we can. Garrosh may think he has the element of surprise. We are going to be ready, whether those orcs come through the portal an hour or a century from now.’

Sidenia went quiet at the information, quietly processing it.

‘The Dark Portal.’

‘Mm? What of it?’

‘It was created by Medivh, yes?’

‘No one actually witnessed it, but in his final words he did indeed claim responsibility. There was no other Mage alive at the time with the power to activate such a thing.’

Sidenia moved around the table, finding an unused blue pin and neatly sliding it onto an expanded map of the Kingdom of Azeroth.

‘Then perhaps our answer lies in Karazhan.’

~~~

Following on from a successful role as an advisor during the campaign against the Horde during the last two years, Sidenia is included in the high-activity emergency planning for a sudden mission through the new Dark Portal. Despite her rank, Sidenia is a death knight, so no one really questions sending a disposable harbinger of death to kick some Garrosh butt.

Uprising: The Chase

The trail of the Crimson Hand stretched distantly across the savage wilds of western Pandaria, most of them having escaped via the Gate of the Setting Sun long prior to our skirmish with Lareen. It was several days before we were fit to travel, and none too soon. Everyone was feeling on-edge from the intense concentration of nearby Sha, yet it was all we could do to stop the slow boil of emotions. I was intensely angry at Taleberaite, who (it seemed) was nigh-constantly commenting on my apparent sluggishness during the battle. Tuning people out is not as easy as you could hope when the Sha are constantly whispering at you.

Who is he to question you? He was not there.

After a couple of last-minute preparations, our motley crew set off on our way to the Townlong Steppes, where we had been called to reinforce and retrieve a straggler’s group of Sunreavers who had been caught in the southern Steppes by a sudden surge in the activity of the previously-waning Mantid swarm.

The Steppes, though not altogether peaceful, were a quaint getaway. Despite this, it seemed to exist within a time bubble, and the Shado-pan we met (themselves rather drained both in terms of strength and numbers) seemed to act as though we were still members of the Horde. Which, given the Regent Lord’s activity on the Thunder Isle prior to the Rebellion, could be forgiven. A stray mantid attack gained us both passage and the knowledge that the mantid were under some kind of forced control similar to the Swarm. The Shado-pan, however, informed us that due to the pivotal role of the Empress (who was, by this point, totally dead) it could not be a Swarm – and that someone must be meddling.

It did not take us long to decipher that Sorlain had gotten very involved with the mantid, and several further attacks as well as the kidnap of the Sunreaver platoon by mantid confirmed this entirely. Despite our speed, we recovered only a handful of intact Sunreavers, most of whom were suffering from an all-too-familiar remnant of Amaran’s reign over the Convocation. Mind-wipes.

The Sunreavers we recovered had little to no memories of their families, their history, the history of Quel’thalas or indeed the colours of Silvermoon City. They rolled off impeccably the lists of spiels about fighting for honor, glory, the Horde, the Hand, but they could not quantify any of what they were proclaiming as easily as breathing. Thus began a long struggle among our number to attempt to reverse these wipes, which led to the conclusion that Sorlain’s methods had significantly developed in the time between the battle against the Eclipse and now. The Eclipse whose methods Sorlain seemed to have picked up rather well.

We’re doomed. How can we hope to survive? We’re unorganised, split down the middle and weaker than them.

We still have ourselves.

We pushed further in, liberating what we could from the Mantid camps, and after a rather worrying episode where I ended up pointing a fireball at him in my anger, Taleberaite took a leave of absence to go purchase a cloud serpent. After that, my own troubled emotions seemed to relent for a while.

~~~

Around a week passed between the Sunreaver capture and our arrival on the northern hem of the Dread Wastes, poised to head inwards and find Sorlain.

We were merely a few minutes in when a figure appeared from out of the sickly undergrowth. Soon enough, the rather familiar poise of the camouflaged master archer Thialen became apparent.

As it turned out, we were both on-course to try and confront/apprehend/kill Sorlain, so Thialen accompanied us as we travelled to the only Pandaren encampment in the northern Wastes, the Sunset Brewgarden. From there, things became a blur of experimental sonic technology, tracking the movements of the Hand, warding ourselves against the Sha and pinpointing the location of the mantid.

The Hand left before we could catch them, but at the very least, we managed to eliminate the sonic transmitter within Klaxxi’vess that the Hand had repurposed to draw the mantid to Garrosh’s cause.

~~~

Our escapades in Pandaria over for the foreseeable future, we gained passage back to Kalimdor from a servant of Edanna’s household named Banthomil and his crew. A brief and interesting stop on a mid-ocean island inhabited by remnants of the Darkspear tribe (whom we managed to convince to join Vol’jin’s cause) followed, and we eventually arrived back in Durotar.

Intelligence suggested that the Crimson Hand had set up its headquarters in northern Azshara, yet neither the Rebellion nor the Alliance currently had a foothold there due to Bilgewater’s support for the Horde and the focus of the Kaldorei on Ashenvale. Thus, to find Sorlain, we would have to enter Azshara ourselves.

I am not quite sure where our resultant plan to avoid the Kor’kron came from, but suffice it to say that it involved sailing up the Southfury River in some illusion-disguised canoes.

All things considered, it went remarkably well until the Kor’kron noticed us, caused our boats to capsize with gunfire, and made us lose some supplies and several troops.

I called upon my own stored mana, dispelling our illusion by pulling a rather large water elemental into being in order to save our journey. Unfortunately, we were then set upon by a group of Crimson Hand soldiers and a construct, all of whom quite literally teleported out of nowhere. As a bombardment began against the others, I quickly teleported to the eastern shore, scrabbling up into the abandoned base of Talrendis. Empty. Except for…

‘A bloodcrystal.’ The sound of arrowfire mirrored by own realisation and I ducked, rolling to my right and turning to see a single raven-haired elf, a slight sneer on her face. Others were undoubtedly in the shadows.

‘Surrender and I will give you a clean death.’ Obviously one of Sorlain’s commanders. I judged, quickly, and shot a bolt of arcane energy at the bloodcrystal fragment. It shattered into useless red shards, and Boughstrider loosed an arrow, piercing my arm before Edanna teleported me back.

BlizzCon, Aggra, and Representation

Over the course of this weekend, I’ve had the pleasure of participating in the #RiseofAggra tag on Twitter. If you’ve not already seen it, I heartily recommend that you go take a look. The premise was quite simple – exploring ways in which Aggra could both be a central, fleshed-out character and be a parent at the same time. I’m not a parent myself, but I’ve seen several people expressing their views on this. Warcraft itself is 20 years old, so it’s not a surprise that many of the people who play or have played the series have children by this point.

There are several factors that led up to the creation of this tag. I was part of a consensus, however large it may be, that there was incredibly little representation of women in Warlords of Draenor. Blizzard have already stated that the dwarves won’t be making an appearance, so Moira is out of the question, as are many of the other non-orc/draenei faction leaders. Furthermore, within these races, there has been a very limited conscious effort to actually show women – not necessarily as leaders, but in the story. Zaela and Aggra for the orcs compare to Thrall, Saurfang, Eitrigg, Garrosh, and Malkorok in terms of notable orcs shown within Mists of Pandaria, and the numbers for Draenor look to be even more heavily skewed.

Seven chieftains. Grommash, Kilrogg, Durotan, Ner’zhul, Gul’dan, Kargath and Blackhand.

No women.

WoD characters

This image, taken from the Warlords of Draenor official site (property of Blizzard) is a fine indicator of exactly how many women Blizzard seems to have thought about putting in.

Getting back on topic, when these concerns were raised, Aggra was mentioned. As Thrall’s partner, a mag’har orc, a mother, a shaman and a native of Draenor, there are oodles of reasons why Aggra would want to go to Draenor. It’s her home planet. The chance to see it once more – even in a false timeline – would be too good a chance to pass up, especially if she could pass that knowledge on to her child. Speaking of this child, why would Aggra not also take them to Draenor? She’d be able to meet her own parents, Greatmother Geyah, Thrall’s parents. If the timeline isn’t real, then why wouldn’t she introduce them to their own grandchild? It could well be the push needed to break apart the Iron Horde and save the timeline.

Additionally, I doubt Aggra is even old enough to remember the Orcish race before it was corrupted by the blood of Mannoroth. Again, a major historical opportunity. Aggra is also a shaman. The chance to speak with the elements of Draenor, to know what they were like before it was destroyed – another major opportunity, and as a native of Draenor, Aggra should be more adept at speaking with them than Thrall. Thrall is used to Azeroth. Azeroth is his home planet more than Draenor. But it is Aggra’s home planet. Why shouldn’t she get to go there?

Well, all of this in mind, those questions were asked. And we were informed that no, Aggra would not be coming.

This is highly disappointing, because it means that the only confirmed female character from the present who will be involved is Zaela – whose story so far has included nothing but rabid fanaticism over Garrosh. While Draka and Geyah are also both slated to make an appearance within the expansion, we must bear in mind that it will be in an alternate timeline. Neither are important characters in the present narrative, so while their being included is a bonus, they aren’t going to be sticking around afterwards or experiencing much in the way of character development.

Oh, and there are the draenei. As his second-in-command, I would expect Ishanah to play a role alongside Velen, but there is no guarantee. For the most part, we’ll have to keep an eye out.

The fact that Warlords of Draenor’s ‘boy trip’ adheres to the male-only conventions of many a fantasy story is intensely disappointing, because on other occasions Blizzard have proven at least slightly proactive in pushing for change. Their fast responses to the Razor Hill rating-dude-orcs and the inappropriate dialogue of Ji Firepaw shows that Blizzard do not want bad publicity – so why avoid the good press that would result from a wide range of fleshed-out characters that aren’t just one gender?

The problem is that until we see beta, we can’t get a grasp on how what we’ve seen at BlizzCon will or will not be mirrored in the expansion’s quests, zones, and dungeons. And for the most part, the first impressions have been quite poor.