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The wooden flute
Zlinka slammed the crate shut.  She drew a nail from her pocket and hammered it in with two sharp, straight bangs -- bang BANG.  The shaft sank smoothly into the wood until the round head rested flush with the surface. Zlinka eyed it with satisfaction.

Only a thousand more to go.

She took a narrow paintbrush and a cup of black paint from a nearby shelf and wrote the new address on the side:  Dalaran.  Northrend.

She stood up.  She stood in a sea of wooden crates, burlap bags, boxes of nails, lengths of rope, and leather straps.  The hired kodo caravan would be here in a few days to take them from their little hut in Orgrimmar to their new home in the north.

As she folded their lives into crates, the qualities that made this place their home were stripped away. Stark walls emerged as she pulled down tabards and children's drawings. She peeled layers of memory away, and underneath them all she remembered walking into the hut for the very first time, wondering what kind of life she would live within its walls.

She would miss this place.  They had been very happy here.  She would miss the view down into the center of town.  She would miss the warm colors and the gentle flapping of the hide ceiling on warm summer evenings.  They had lived so much life here.  By the table over there Luna had taken her first steps.  Zora had slept in that corner by the window on her first night home.

And yet...  the little hut was much too small for them now.  Everyone was underfoot all the time.  There was no place to play safely outside because the hut opened onto a bustling street. Little Luna barely knew what to do with grass.  Luna was always indoors, or taking walks with Zlinka on the streets of Orgrimmar, or strapped into her child's saddle on the back of Zlinka's netherdrake in the Outlands.

Little Zora was one year old this month.  She had no bedroom.  She slept in an open trunk squeezed between their bed and the wall of the hut.  In the past few weeks she had learned to pull herself up to a stand. She could peek over the edge of the trunk now, and the previous night she had reached out with one little hand to pull Oryx's tail while he slept.   It was funny the first time.  It was less funny the twenty-second time.  Oryx spent the rest of the night on the floor, and Zlinka watched the baby strain her entire body towards Zlinka's shoulder, inching her fingers along the pillow, lifting one knee dangerously towards the edge of the trunk.

In a few days she'll be crawling out of that trunk at 2 a.m. and she'll fall and crack her head on the floor.  We have nowhere else to put her.  We have to leave this place.  Now.

Oryx had a lead on a larger place in Dalaran.  It was a house with room for the children to run and explore, and room for everyone to sleep comfortably.  They would land there for a while, then find a nice place to settle down.

Zlinka hauled a dusty stack of baby clothing from under the bed and got ready to shove it into another crate.  A flash of polished wood caught her eye.  She picked it up.

My flute...

She held the instrument in her hands, stunned.  She had not thought about her flute in...  years?  It lay pleasantly heavy in her hand, a single tube of honey-colored wood with seven simple holes drilled in one side and an eighth underneath.

I used to play this all the time, she thought.  When did the music stop?

She remembered.

She had put the flute down next to the bed one evening three years before.  The next morning she had tried to pull a too-small outfit over infant Luna's head.  Luna squealed in protest, Zlinka threw the outfit aside and grabbed a larger one from a pile of clean laundry.  Later that day, when Luna was asleep, Zlinka went though all of Luna's clothing in a frenzy of organizing energy. She retired all the items that were too small, folded them and placed them by the bed... on top of her flute.  Then she had scooped up the whole lot, flute and all, and shoved it under the bed.

I never noticed my flute was missing.

Life had crowded in, a tidal wave of new life.  It had flooded every corner.  It had swept away everything that wasn't nailed down. It had brought profound joy and an aching, infinite love.  It had brought future, fulfillment, and a tribe of her very own.  But it had taken with it pieces of herself that Zlinka had never thought would ever be stripped away.

She lifted the flute to her lips.  The notes of an ancient Darkspear melody sang through the hut, beautiful and haunting. Her breath became the wind in the palm fronds at her childhood home on Echo Isles.  She heard the break of the waves on the sand.  She saw the white foam rush up the beach towards her.  It splashed against her legs and engulfed her in a surge of memory.

She saw herself, a young Troll, sitting on a ruin not far from their island village.  She was too old to play make-believe in the ancient vine-covered chambers, but not too old to sit on a fallen, mossy column and make up a ballad about the Trolls who might have lived there.

She saw herself, a young adult, trudging from the Valley of Trials after her apprenticeship.  She was painfully lonely with the loneliness of one who is utterly unknown to anyone around her.  Hot and tired, she had stopped for a rest by the side of the road.  She had pulled out her flute, one of the few things she had brought with her when she had left home.  As travelers passed her by, kicking up clouds of red dust, she had played a plaintive melody, the song of a small person on her own, a song of tentative freedom and uncertainty.  A passing orc had thrown a few coppers into her lap, but when she had looked up, he was gone.

She saw herself a few months later atop a mountain in Thousand Needles, keeping watch over new traveling companions, two Tauren brothers, a red warrior and a white shaman.  She sat on the edge of the mountain with her feet dangling into the void, with a clear view of the switchback trail leading up to their aerie. The campfire behind her began to hiss and sputter with a light rain.  Zlinka lifted her face to the warm drops.  She loved water.  Tiny droplets dewed on her hair, then soaked through and ran down her arms and back.  She drew out her flute and softly played a tune for the quiet evening.  It was a song of fulfilling tiredness after a long, interesting day, a song about rain washing the dust away, and the anticipation of sleep.

A noise made her turn, and she saw the shaman watching her from his sleeping spot by the fire.  He got up, throwing back the warm blankets, and came towards her, offering his dry cloak.  She smiled up at him.  "I don't mind the wet," she said.  He stood awkwardly, holding the rejected cloak, and she patted the ground beside her.  "Come sit in the rain with me," she said.  And so he did.  And they talked...  and talked...  and talked.  Water soaked through his long, thick mane and ran in rivulets down to a pool beneath him, but he did not appear to notice.  They talked until the clouds glowed pale grey in the east and their voices were rough and hoarse.  They fell silent to watch the sunrise, but as the color crept back into the world Zlinka lifted her flute and played a few notes of a soft, simple melody.  The melody quavered. Her fingers were so cold by then that she could hardly play.  Without saying a word the shaman reached out and took one of her hands in his.  He blew warm air onto her palm, the steam rising in wisps between their fingers.

How could I have ever forgotten...

The sound of little hoofbeats brought her back to the present.  Luna galloped into the room, alarmed by the unfamiliar sound.  She jumped over bundles of rope and crate lids and bounced over to Zlinka.

"What's that?  Is it for me?" she asked, pointing at the flute.

Zlinka shook her head. "This is a flute.  It belongs to Mommy."

"Can I try it?  I need to try it!"  Luna asked, jumping up and down.

Zlinka paused.  Must I give everything that is mine to my children?  Can I not keep anything just for me?

But then...  she remembered a still earlier memory of herself as a child, pulling on her mother's arm while her mother played this very same flute.  "Let me play it," she had demanded. "Can I try it?"   And, over many years, her mother had taught her how.  When the time came for Zlinka to leave home, her mother had handed her the little wooden flute.  It is yours now, she had said.  Play it well.

And then...  Zlinka saw Luna as a grown Tauren woman, poised and beautiful. Her face was painted with intricate markings, and her hands were strong and steady. She was traveling alone, mounted on a great grey kodo, leading her own life.  But in her pack she carried her mother's flute, and so she was not quite alone.  When she stopped for the night and made camp, she drew out her flute and played a song of wistfulness, and hope, and possibility.

Zlinka looked at her toddler daughter and nodded slowly.  She knelt down and helped the little Tauren put her small fingers over the holes.  She showed her where to blow, and the flute emitted a surprised squeak.  Luna's face lit up with a delighted smile.

"It'll take a while to be able to play it well," Zlinka said, retrieving the flute from the tiny hands, "but if you like, some day when you're a little older I'll teach you how.

Zlinka wrapped the flute in a soft cloth and tucked it into an inner pocket of her backpack, smiling.

She would carry it to Northrend herself.

Thank you.
"She is a soothsayer. She’s a mystic. She is a witch doctor, able to see into people’s hearts and minds. She’s also touched by the elements." -Naomie Harris
Awww, that's such a nice story :cry:
You always have the best stories Zlinka Big Grin
"Passion and shame torment him, and rage is mingled with his grief."

[Image: playerfeed_1902018_bigsig.gif]
Efluvious Wrote:You always have the best stories Zlinka Big Grin

I so envy the ease with which your words capture atmosphere, evoke imagery. It's beautiful. <3
If you wrote a book based on the life of Zlinka, and her adventures I'd buy it.
Shantow the Bear
The Ironsong Tribe

"The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed." King

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