Pumpkins Among Friends

Congratulations to Makayla for getting third place in our Hallow’s End competition! Here is the story she requested with her character Atramedes Sunhawk. Enjoy!

 

Atramedes stood in the middle of the clearing where tables and chairs had been brought in. Pumpkins sat on the tabletops, waiting for the carving to begin. The blood elf’s green eyes widened as he realized his friends weren’t at the tables.

“Atramedes Sunhawk?”

He smiled up at the Highmountain tauren woman. “I am.”

“We received a message from Kalec that he and Miss Stellagosa had an emergency to attend. He said you should enjoy the competition without them.”

Before he could walk away, she pushed him to an empty spot at a table with two other elves and a hooded figure he actually recognized. He fiddled with his red robes, picking at the fabric as he eyed the others nervously.

“Are you joining us?” the white-haired woman asked. She grinned at him as all the hope in the world filled her snow-flurry eyes.

“Um, I-I, uh—”

“Please,” a female voice said behind the mask.

Atramedes smiled. “You are Anarchaia!”

The mage physically flinched. “Yeees?”

“Sorry, just…a familiar face—er—”

“Speaking of blithering fools,” a man’s voice said behind the elf. “Look who I found.”

The demon hunter shoved forward a scrawny, pale high elf, whose hay-color hair kept falling into his lavender eyes. He clutched at the satchel over his shoulder and grinned in a painfully shy manner.

“He was playing with rocks. Figured he’d benefit from some fun.”

“Heh. I wasn’t actually playing with rocks. I was classifying sedimentary deposits within fossilized—”

“You were playing with rocks, Taveth,” the demon hunter grunted. He shoved the high elf into a seat, then looked over Atramedes. “Hi.” He didn’t wait for a reply, just dropped onto a stool at the head of the table.

“Come sit by me!”

Atramedes jumped at the sudden appearance of the female death knight at his shoulder. “Um, sure?”

She dragged him over and shoved him onto the bench. “I’m Alisbeth, that’s Koltira, Taveth, Gumdrop, and Angakok.” She pointed at each as she took her seat beside him.

“Actually I’m Grimory,” the demon hunter growled.

“And I’ve seen Anarchaia in the Hall,” Atramedes said.

She lifted her mask to smile kindly at him. “And I, you.”

“Get ready!” a male tauren’s voice boomed through the idle chatter surrounding the tables.

Alisbeth lifted her dagger from the table and grinned at the elf beside her. “I normally only stab people with this!”

Koltira set a gentle and on the blade. “Ali.”

“Right. Hey, forget I said that. I’m not a murderer, okay? People just happen to die when I stab them.”

“Not better.”

Atramedes shrank away and grinned carefully. “That sounds…so fun…”

“Get set!” the tauren boomed out.

Grimory took a rolled leather pouch from his bag and unfurled it on the table, revealing a large array of carving tools and knives.

“Seriously?” Anarchaia gaped at him.

The demon hunter cracked his knuckles and gave the mage a charming, fang-filled grin. “In it to win it. You scared?”

“Isn’t the reward a flying broom?” Atramedes asked.

“Yep. I need it.”

Anarchaia rolled her eye, though no one could see. “Grim, you can already fly.”

“Yep. I can. Thanks for noticing. It’s nice to know that you really, truly care.”

She batted at his chest, as though waving his comment away, as he chuckled.

“Three!” the tauren shouted. “Two! One! Begin!

Each competitor gave their pumpkin their undivided attention, knowing that they only had an hour to finish. Alisbeth’s facial expressions ranged through nearly every one possible as she stared at the squash on the table in front of her.

“Ali, what are you doing?” Koltira asked as he cut the top open on his, then sneered inside.

“You know how stump carvers wait for the wood to tell them what the wood is supposed to be? Well, I’m doing that.”

Anarchaia tittered into her fingertips as she conjured a scoop to get the seeds out of her own and keep her gloves clean. “You don’t carve the pumpkin, per se. You cut a design into it. A scary face, a monster.”

“But first, you need to cut the top off and scoop the seeds,” Koltira said, his nose wrinkling at the stringy innards in his fist. He glanced at Atramedes, whose attention was drawn the death knight’s way. “Your first time, too?”

Atramedes gave a nervous smile. “Yeah. My friends were supposed to tell me how to do this, but…”

“They’re not here,” Alisbeth said, growling as her dagger slipped around the top.

“Right.”

“Because they’re jerks!”

“Right. Wait, no! They had an emergency.” He lifted his own knife and began working a circle around the stem.

“So did master. I wonder if it’s the same emergency?” Anarchaia mused.

Taveth’s lips turned up in a wry smile. “It is. Kel’ori told me.”

Anarchaia grumbled. “Why would she know anything when I don’t?”

“Because Kalec knows his inept apprentice will stay put when told, but Khadgar has become accustomed to you finding a way to get into trouble anyway?” Grimory gave her a falsely charming grin.

The mage kicked his shin under the table. “Rude. But not entirely wrong. But still rude.”

Just then a huge ball of stringy pumpkin innards sailed across the table. It splattered against the mage’s chest, flinging seeds everywhere. She didn’t even look down as her lips pulled into a disgusted frown and she made a small gagging noise of horror. The mess detached and splattered into her lap. She screamed out and leapt from the bench, knocking her knees on the table. Grimory grabbed his pumpkin and held it like a precious object as he shot her an impatient look. Across the table, Alisbeth burst out laughing so hard that she doubled over and fell backward off the bench.

You,” Anarchaia fumed. “You…heathen!

Alisbeth hopped to her feet to scoop more out and lob it at the mage. Anarchaia hopped to the side, then stood to glare at her. The blob landed on the back of an orc’s head. He spun around to glare.

“It was for her,” Alisbeth said with a sweet grin.

His eyes narrowed at the death knight as his hand wrapped around the pile of innards beside him. He wadded up more than Alisbeth could have hoped with her own small hands, then lobbed it. The elf eep!ed and ducked. The wad hit squarely against the back of the mage’s head, its extra bulk flopping over her shoulders, some on Taveth.

“Oh, come on!” He undid his vest and flicked seeds from it.

Anarchaia didn’t move for a long time, her shoulders shrugged up in surprise. She shook herself off and pushed up her sleeves. The innards of every pumpkin rose into the air with the mage’s hands. It balled together, then split in half. She dumped one half over the orc, who laughed and started an innards fight with his table mates, the other she aimed at the death knight. But Alisbeth was already running away, laughing. The ball chased her down, tripped her, then splattered across her fallen figure.

Atramedes laughed. “The famous Anarchaia wastes her time with pumpkin guts?”

The mage took her seat and returned to her work as though nothing had happened. “I wouldn’t call that a waste.”

Alisbeth bounced onto the bench beside Atramedes, causing him to jump. She grinned across the table. “We’re doing this every year.”

“Only so you can throw more seeds at Ana,” Taveth mumbled as he concentrated on drawing out a design on his pumpkin.

“Mmmaybe?”

A growl of frustration came from the end of the table as Koltira threw his knife. “This is stupid!”

In a flash, Grimory’s arm mutated and reached around to protect his pumpkin. He glared at the death knight. “If you harm one bit of my fucking pumpkin—”

“How are you keeping a straight face through that threat?” Anarchaia asked.

He raised a claw to point at Anarchaia. “You, too.”

“What about me? Can I touch it?” Alisbeth leapt across the table and poked the orange flesh with her fingertip. “Touch!”

Grimory grabbed her hand and yanked her across the tabletop until they were nose-to-nose. “Don’t tou—”

Alisbeth’s tongue flicked out to get the tip of his nose. “Touch.”

He narrowed his eyes, but let her go. “I’ll let it slide…this time.”

Atramedes set his pumpkin back on the table as the death knight returned to her seat. “So, what do all of you do?” he asked, hoping to start an actual conversation, rather than food fights and insanity.

“Follow orders,” Grimory responded absently, as most of his attention was on the careful work of his pumpkin.

“You already know I’m Khadgar’s apprentice,” Anarchaia said, smiling over the top of her squash. She elbowed Taveth when he didn’t respond next.

The high elf jumped. “Oh. Heh. I’m a scholar, on assignment here as a researcher on behalf of— Oh, darn.” He licked his thumb and rubbed away a spot of ink.

“Who?” Atramedes asked.

“Hmm?” He looked over the top of his spectacles at the blood elf. “Oh, just a friend.”

“If you don’t start carving, you’re not going to finish,” Anarchaia said.

“I’m…getting there.”

Koltira stabbed haphazardly at the pumpkin in front of him. “I’m just a simple death knight who does what he’s told by the Deathlord. Or Mograine. Or Anarchaia.”

“Or me?” Alisbeth asked.

He blinked at her. “Uh…sure.” He caught Atramedes’s attention as the other death knight looked away, and he shook his head and mouthed an urgent no. “Ali, your turn.”

“Okay, well, Koltira is my—”

“Ali.”

“And I spend most of my days locked up because I—”

“Alisbeth!”

“And one day they found all the—”

Ali!

“And now I get to adventure with all of my friends, even though Gromgol and I—”

“Ali!” Grimory shouted from the head of the table.

“And today we’re carving pumpkins! What do you do?”

Atramedes forced his nose to unwrinkle, then consciously blinked his eyes as though going through a processing error. “I’m a mage. I don’t know what I was before that.”

“Why don’t you know?” Anarchaia asked.

“I…don’t really remember my life prior to about twenty-three years ago.”

“I have memory problems, too,” Alisbeth said, pointing her dagger at him. “Know what I do?”

“I wouldn’t even know,” he said cautiously.

“What I do is… Kolty, what do I do?”

His brow lowered. “You ask me.”

“That. See? Just ask Koltira if you can’t remember. He’s good at remembering.”

The others paused as though waiting for realization to hit the death knight, but she just continued to dig at her pumpkin with the tip of her dagger. Atramedes met Koltira’s eye; the latter just shook his head and rolled his eyes.

“Okay, that’s it, give me your pen,” Anarchaia growled at Taveth.

“What? Why? I’m drawing—”

She yanked the pen away and screwed the cap on, then shoved the knife handle into his palm. “Carve. Now.”

He stared at the pumpkin, then the knife, as though somewhere along the way the instructions got lost. “But my drawing is so nice and—”

“Now!” Alisbeth shouted across the table.

Atramedes pursed his lips. <<These people have issues,>> he whispered to himself in draconic.

<<You have no idea,>> Taveth responded. He gave the blood elf a knowing smile across the table as Atramedes looked up in shock.

“You speak draconic?”

“I speak everything,” Taveth replied as though it was no big deal.

“He also tries to negotiate his way out of fights that way. So, there is a downside to it,” Grimory said absently.

“You never know who might lay down their arms in favor of peaceful resolution.”

“Yeah, how many times has that worked?” Grimory waited, but when the high elf gave no reply, he scoffed. “My point exactly.”

Taveth pursed his lips at Atramedes and seemed to shrink behind his pumpkin.

“I’m sure it’ll pay off one day,” Atramedes said.

Taveth smiled, the tips of his ears turning pink, but he didn’t look up at the other man.

As the sun set, the tauren shouted that the carving time was done and to get ready to light their lanterns. All of them were lined up along the ground with numbers, so everyone could walk past and vote on the best. Anarchaia grimaced at one.

“They didn’t take their seeds all the way out…”

“Yes I did! I put those ones back in!” Alisbeth said. “Now he’s vomiting.”

The others thought for a response, but all came up empty.

“Oh! That one’s Kolty’s!” Alisbeth pointed at one that had been stabbed and hacked into more of a mess than anything.

“Pumpkin carving is stupid,” Koltira grumbled, folding his arms.

The votes were cast and everyone stood in anticipation. Third place went to the orc Alisbeth had hit with the innards. Second place went to a goblin rogue, who gave everyone a threatening glare over not being first. Finally, they lifted a pumpkin from the ground to put on the first place crate.

“Oh my gods, it’s us!” Alisbeth squealed.

“No it’s not,” Anarchaia said. “It’s just…” She caught sight of the carving of her and smiled as she bit her lower lip.

Along the circumference of the pumpkin were depictions of each of the people who had been at that table. Atramedes smiled, deciding not to tell the others how wonderful it felt to have been included.

“Who did that?” Koltira asked.

“Excuse me, I have a broom to collect,” Grimory said with a grin.

What do you even need a flying broom for?” Anarchaia demanded.

“For my flying partner, of course.” He took Alisbeth’s hand and yanked her away from the others.

“I’ve always wanted to fly!” she squealed and jumped up and down. She hopped back to hug Atramedes, who blushed as he returned the embrace. “I was so nice meeting you, Attumen!” She ran to catch up with the demon hunter.

“That’s not my name,” he called after her.

“Don’t take it personally,” Anarchaia said, patting his shoulder. “She does it to me and Gumbo, too.” She tittered into her fingertips and opened a portal. “Expressway to Dalaran! Step right up!”

Koltira gave an absent wave, then stepped through.

Taveth stopped as he slipped his glasses back into his bag. “It was very nice meeting you, Atramedes. I hope you get some answers about your past.”

“Why don’t you help him?” Anarchaia suggested. “You’re an historian.”

“Ruins. Not people, heh.” He shook the man’s hand, then was gone through the portal to Dalaran.

“After you,” Atramedes said to the other mage.

“I was actually headed to the Hall to see if master is back.”

“Oh. I’ll see you around, then.”

“Of course!” Anarchaia disappeared into a flash of purple smoke and sparkles.

Atramedes sighed and stared up at the sky. A strange squealing filled the air before two figures streaked across the full moon—one on a broom and one with tattered wings. He chuckled, shaking off his own desire to fly, then teleported himself to the Hall of the Guardians.

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