‘Twas the night before Winter Veil
And all through Orgrimmar
Adventurers have gathered
From near and far…
Toriah leaned back in her chair, a mug of hot spiced cider in hand. She gazed around the room, lit by the millions of candles and lanterns and fires roaring in their hearths. Her friends— and those more like to family than friends— had all come together for the annual Winter Veil feast. Members of every Horde race filled the dining hall, their laughter and merriment echoing in the city beyond. It made the elf ranger smile.
This is the Horde I remember, Toriah said to herself. This is the Horde I know.
She and her friends had all unanimously decided to return to Orgrimmar for their feast, rather than gathering in some inn, near wherever they happened to be adventuring. Pandaria, while beautiful and enchanting in its own right, just wasn’t the right setting. Everything with a Horde banner in Pandaria reeked of Garrosh’s increasingly destructive appetites and greed.
At least, in Orgrimmar, they could still remember a time when their most urgent errand was getting another drink before setting off to help save the world. Again. And their presence was symbolic more than anything: a sign that the true Horde— a family of people banded together, regardless of race— was still alive and thriving despite these strange, desperate times.
“The party is that way, you know,” a gruff but jocund voice interjected.
Toriah looked up from her mug and thoughts to see the grinning visage of her old friend Smorcus. The orc’s name was coined after a particularly rowdy night during the Midsummer Fire Festival some years back, and had stuck ever since. He also had a way of reprimanding people without actually highlighting their misdeeds. It was one of his many talents as the leader of their little band of adventurers.
“Yeah, yeah,” Toriah said, waving a hand at him dismissively. “I seem to have misplaced my holiday cheer somewhere, though.”
“Well, I can help with that!”
The elf and orc both looked around for the owner of the voice, though he was nowhere to be seen. A shadow shifted and suddenly Will “Necropoke” Bradley was sitting cross-legged on the table before them. The rogue’s nickname was a combination of his undead state and the time someone referred to his daggers as “pig-stickers.” His partially decayed lips quirked into a smile.
“Hey, Jay,” he called out toward the crowd behind him, “you still have that banjo?”
Jayric Pollero strode up in his priestly robes, musical instrument in one thin, bony hand. “Of course, Master Necro,” he said, bowing low. “Do you require my talents?”
“You promised us songs of our battles and victories when we agreed to let you haul that thing around,” Necropoke said. “I haven’t heard a single song, yet, though. Have any of you fine folks?”
Others started to gather around, shouting, “NO!” in response. The priest suddenly looked very uncomfortable, his glowing eyes shifting in their hollowed sockets. He recovered quickly, sat astride a chair, and strummed the strings of his banjo, grinning mischievously.
“What shall I sing of, then, friends?” Jayric asked. “Our battle with Arthas? The day we triumphed over Deathwing?”
“How about the time you disenchanted your staff into a pile of dust?” said Sein and Jo, the symbiotic death knight pair. Firelight glinted off of the trolls’ tusks as they laughed along with the others.
“Why, if we’re going to go that route,” the priest said, “we can revisit your many deaths to the elevator in Nefarion’s latest lair.”
“Or the time I put an arrow in Aran’s ass while we were still strategerizing all quiet-like!” exclaimed Bremmer, the hulking tauren Longwalker, who sat with his cat Scatz.
“Don’t forget you did the same thing when we encountered the Maiden of Virtue,” Toriah said.
“And I’m likely to do it again, little elf,” said Bremmer. “It’s not like I’ve gone and launched a trap into the chandeliers like a certain ranger I know.”
Toriah blushed with embarrassment and laughed.
“That light fixture sure was dangerous, eh, Tori?” piped up Ossarian, the druid who was often second-in-command on their adventures.
“Oh, like you’re one to talk,” she retorted. “I’m sure if ever need to find a shadow trap, we can count on you.”
“Speaking of traps,” said Anna the shaman as she walked around the table, “remember the time someone sprang a trap in Icecrown Citadel and unleashed a million geists? And Smorcus yells, ‘Help! I need an adult!’ while running to us, the geists on his heels!”
“At least I knew where my axe was that time,” the orc said, chortling. “The trap we walked into at the Eye of Eternity was a near-disaster. What was that Twilight shaman’s name? Hag-something or another?”
“Yeah, Hagara,” said Clawez. “Good thing Doolin was there to put up his bubble and run away screaming when her small army showed up!”
The paladin in question looked up from his ale. His long, pale blonde hair fell over his shoulders as he leaned forward. “I can’t help kill things if I’m dead, you know. Survival tactics. It’s not like I go running for the first shiny feather I see. Or forget to apply poisons to my weapons. Or get caught on the wrong side of the door to a boss’s room. Or— HEY, WATCH THE HAIR!”
Together, the gathered friends all reached over to muss his the elven paladin’s shiny locks. The tauren hunter looked to the thin figure at his side and nudged him, nearly knocking the forsaken mage over. “Say, Fleshie, when are you ever going to step into a battleground with me and slay some Alliance?”
“Never!” was the reply, and the others laughed anew.
As the friends settled into their seats with their drinks again, they noticed the empty seats at the table, and sobered. Solemnly, Toriah raised her mug.
“To the memory of those who are no longer with us,” she said. “And for our friends who couldn’t make it here tonight, I hope they’re celebrating somewhere warm and cheerful.”
The others met the elf’s mug with their own, roaring, “Hear hear!”
Merry Christmas and happy holidays, everyone!
This little Winter Veil side-tale is dedicated to my guild family, both old and present;
And to Jim “Piles” Phillips, whom we lost one year ago this winter. We still miss you.