Nathanos and Sylvanas cook up a sticky treat for Darkshire! This is an AU piece of fan-fiction set in World of Warcraft that I wrote for the hell of it. It is not canon, and my employer had no idea I did it.
“This cat…is made of jelly.”
Sylvanas gave Nathanos an annoyed look. “I see that,” she said, as he stuffed the dripping, sticky purple beast back into the jar. “What do you expect me to do with it? Spread it on toast?”
Her champion hesitated, as if uncertain if he should continue, then seemed to come to a conclusion. He snapped his fingers, and a Forsaken foot soldier approached with a second jar. He dipped his fingers in, and from it emerged a bright orange tabby – also composed largely of jelly, within which floated a skull and bones. Its eye sockets glowed faintly.
“Jelly,” Nathanos said. “Apricot, I believe.”
Sylvanas let loose a sound that oscillated between vexed sigh, guttural growl, and the beginnings of an eardrum-shattering banshee wail.
“Why are you wasting my time,” she asked, “with jelly-cats?”
“There is a saying, a Human one,” he said. “You catch more flies with honey than vinegar.”
Sylvanas picked at a chip of spine on her throne, wiggling it free. “I’m familiar with it. In Quel’Thalas we would say….” She flicked the bonechip across the gloomy expanse of her throne room, where it skittered off into the shadows and vanished. “Well, nevermind what those idiots would say. Go on.”
“Somehow, these things are alive, like us. Just…made of…jelly. Most of our efforts to spread the Forsaken plague have been through barrels and bombardments.” Nathanos rubbed his fingers together, where some of the jam had stuck, squishing it. “What if….”
Sylvanas narrowed her eyes. “Yes?”
He shrugged. “We made it edible?”
Claren Ridgely had been making goldenbark apple butter for twenty-five years in the copper kettle her mother had handed down to her from her grandmother. That kettle had been more than a jam-boiling vessel. On at least one occasion, Claren had used it to hide from the Horde when they’d rolled into Darkshire hooting and hollering and looking for whatever blood and thunder the Horde were always looking for. She had even beaten some dings out of it the last time they’d showed up, using her daddy’s hammer – after she’d employed said hammer to crush some skulls, of course.
But she always came back to the apple butter. Apple butter she knew. Apple butter she could control. You put apples and cider and honey in the kettle, you got tasty jam back out. And everyone in Darkshire came calling for it.
Claren stood with fists planted on her hips, eyeing the cart that had rolled into town last night, an uneasy feeling in her belly. Oh, it looked on the up-and-up. Plenty shiny – glossy brown and blue paint, and two pure white horses to pull the big cart. When the traveling salesman – a silent type with a big floppy hat and a heavy coat – had pulled open the shutters on the side, there, gleaming in the lanternlight, had been row upon row of jam jars. Crystal clear glass all the better to show off the jewel-toned contents. And so many different flavors! Her head spun with them all. She saw rosy peach, and deep purple skethyl-berry. A hazy, straw-colored grape, and a faintly blue snowplum.
And the prices! A mere two copper per jar. You couldn’t pay for the labels and lids with that!
This ain’t right! Claren thought as she watched her fellow townsfolk cluster around the cart. Something stinks, and it ain’t the jam.
Steven Black approached her and gave her a nudge, bits of straw in his hair from his job as stablemaster, and two jars of peach jam cradled in his arms. “You gonna buy some jars, Claren?” he asked.
“I’m good,” she said, not able to get past that funny feeling in her tummy. Maybe it was pride. She watched as the jars vanished off the shelves. She made good money off her apple butter. Very likely she wouldn’t make even a quarter of her profit this season.
“How about you, Althea?” Steven asked the severe-looking woman standing a few feet away in riding leathers.
The leader of the Night’s Watch regarded him with hooded eyes. “I despise sweets,” Commander Ebonlocke said. “Claren knows that.”
“’Strewth,” Claren said. “You always said the only good use for my apple butter was heating it up and throwing it in the Horde’s face.”
“Hmph.” Althea smirked, then turned to go. “I have better things to do than watch this spectacle. There are monsters to hunt. Good day.”
Claren watched her go. “What a stick,” she muttered, when she was certain Althea couldn’t hear.
“No fun at all,” Steven agreed. “I’m gonna eat half a jar tonight for dessert, you just watch me!”
“I’d rather not,” Claren said, gamely.
Best scale back production of my own product, she thought, or take the risk, go up the road, and sell it in Goldshire. She scratched her head as she eyed her rival, handing out the last of – his? – jars.
“Ho there,” she said, approaching – him? She still couldn’t see his face, but had to guess.
“Hmph,” the figure said, hunched, the brim of his hat pulled down.
“Doing good business,” she said.
“Never seen y’here before.”
She dug in her pocket, found a couple coppers, and held them out. The stranger took them with his gloved hand, and she in turn took the last jar – skethyl-berry.
“Well, thanks,” she said.
In answer, the stranger pulled the shutters on the wagon, hopped into the rider’s seat, and pulled away.
Nightfall in Darkshire looked an awful lot like daytime, just a little bit darker and gloomier. Claren sat with her jam jar, unopened, in her tiny one-room cottage.
She had to grudgingly admit she admired the jar itself. A fine, clear glass, no bubbles. The lids were of good, hammered metal. The labels were thick paper, sealed with proper glue and flawlessly written ink. She never even labeled her jars. Everyone knew all she made was apple butter anyway.
And as for lids – hah. She “sealed” her jars with a wax plug and paper. You had to remelt it on if you wanted to seal it again.
But two copper? She couldn’t get over that price! How?
It reminds me of those peculiar Darkmoon Faire people, she thought. Something about it….
The time, however, had come to taste. With a sigh and a spoon in hand, she reached for the jar.
A scream cut through the night and knocked her out of her seat.
Her first and natural assumption was that Stitches had arrived. Everyone always assumed Stitches when someone started screaming. Claren grabbed her hammer, swinging it over her shoulder. She ran outside as fast as she could, and when she emerged in the street, she found – not the familiar shape of the abomination, but something new and horrible altogether.
It slumped about in the middle of the town square and looked, for all the world, like a four-foot-tall pile of transparent goo. It glowed faintly bioluminescent in the moonlight. A skull floated within the jam, along with arm bones, a spine, a hipbone. It had a faint rosy tinge, and an overwhelmingly sweet smell of peaches accompanied it.
“What in the name of the Light –” Claren shouted as she raced toward it.
A door to her right burst open, and out oozed a blob of something – almost the same size as what she saw in the town square, this one purple-tinged, smelling of berries. It gurgled as it rolled toward her, flopping over a wayward rat as it went. The rat gave a startled squeak before being absorbed by the monster, and then dissolving into its body. Moments later, all that remained was a neat collection of rat bones.
And it was at that moment Claren realized the terrible jam Darkshire was in.
At first, Nathanos was pleased.
He watched from a safe vantage in the trees as chaos reigned in Darkshire. But when he saw what emerged from the houses, his joy turned to discouragement. No matter what way he tried to turn it, he couldn’t think of a way to spin this as a success except that it got rid of a few of the living. Though if he were honest, not nearly enough.
And then the Night’s Watch showed up.
Claren started running into houses, and where she saw a jar of jam, she grabbed it.
“My jam!” Mabel Solaj yelled at her, but Claren darted away and out the door, and then she threw the jar on the ground and brought her hammer down on top of it.
It shattered with an evil hiss. A small poof of glowing smoke came out of the jar, and dissipated.
“Claren, have you gone ma – by the Light! What is going on out here!”
“Get back inside, Mabel!” Claren yelled at her. “Get inside and lock your doors!”
By now, most of the jelly-people – for that, it seemed, was what they were – had slurped awkwardly toward the town center. Lohgan Eva had tried to hug his poor jelly-spouse and gotten a chemical burn in the process. None of the jelly-people seemed to be trying to hurt anyone. They just glooped about in circles, aimlessly. Eight in total.
Claren figured she’d broken a good fifty jars – breaking into homes, scooping up armfuls of jars, shattering them with her good hammer — when she heard the pounding of horses hooves and saw Althea and her riders approaching, torches in hand.
The jelly-people couldn’t make much in the way of noises, but they managed to make alarmed popping and snapping sounds as Althea rode up.
“What are you doing?” Claren asked, running alongside her.
“What am I doing?” Althea asked. “I’m dispatching some sort of Forsaken monstrosity. What do you think I’m doing?”
“These are Darkshire denizens!” Claren cried out. “You can’t just –”
“I can’t?” Althea looked down at her, her lip lifting. “I’m sorry, are you the mayor’s daughter? Do you command the Night’s Watch?”
“I – no – but these are people –”
“These are piles of goo, Claren! They’re jelly. Ant bait. Step aside so I can burn them to the ground.”
Claren stepped in front of them and spread her arms. “You can’t just forsake them like this!”
Althea narrowed her eyes. “What did you say?”
“I mean – you can’t –”
With a roar – a weird sort of noise made by smacking their jelly-parts together – the jelly-people suddenly seemed to decide they had had enough of all this. They all flowed together into one giant collective, uniting to form an unwieldy glob. Althea reared her horse and leapt from the saddle – too bad for the horse, though, as it was consumed fully. The entirety of the blob could have easily enveloped an entire house at this point, and it occurred to Claren that at this rate, if it gained more mass, it would eat all of Darkshire, possibly all of the Duskwood.
“Burn it!” Althea yelled, pointing at the thing. One of the Night’s Watch flung her torch at the monstrosity –
And it hit with a slurp, sizzled, and promptly extinguished. The torch handle floated serenely within the jewel-toned goo.
You morons, Claren thought. Not fire. That’s not how you ruin a jelly. “Over here!” she yelled at the glob. She picked up her hammer, and pulled one of the jam jars she hadn’t yet shattered from her apron pouch. “This is what I’d do to you if I could!” She tossed the jar on the ground, and brought the hammer down on it.
The monstrosity flopped pseudopods wildly in anguish, and then flung itself at her.
And Claren – ran.
She could hear it behind her, moving with alarming speed and alacrity. If this hadn’t been the forest of her home, she’d have been dead so many times over, as the thing rushed to consume her. She felt little spits of hot, caustic jam hitting her ankles and arms. Not all that different from making apple butter, to be honest – so often toward the end, as it thickened, it tended to splatter. But this hurt in a new way. She’d have scars from this.
And then she saw it: the great and winding river that divided Duskwood and Elwynn Forest. Her heart felt like it would burst. Her ribs rippled with fire. She stumbled and a lash of jelly melted her right boot off. And then she ran over an embankment, down a sandy hill, and into the waters.
With an evil hiss and an enormous splash, the vast body of the jelly followed her in.
It bubbled as it sank into the waters. Pseudopods flopped and reached for her, but she swam hard upstream and watched as the whole of the creature slowly slipped away. As it drifted, it seemed to peel apart, diluting. She saw bones surface in the water. A miasma rose up into the air. She heard a faint screeching as the monster vanished around a bend, and was gone.
Claren paddled back to shore, and climbed up a bank. She threw herself on the grass, panting.
I made it, she thought, wet but grateful, smiling. I survived. Darkshire is saved.
From his vantage, Nathanos snapped his fingers, and dispelled Eagle Eye.
The gargantuan jelly-blob had dissolved utterly in the river. A creature conquered so easily had no place in the Horde, much less in servitude to his Dark Lady.
Taking out a charcoal nib, he scowled down at a slip of paper Chief Apothecary Faranell had handed him before sending him on his mission.
PLAGUE ADMINISTRATION ASSESSMENT SCORECARD
DEAD? YES / NO
IS SUBJECT: Corporeal | Non-corporeal
LIQUIFIED? Somewhat? What is jelly anyway?
CONTAGIOUS? YES / NO
“CURED”? YES / NO
ARE THEY FORSAKEN? YES / NO
For the last question, Nathanos scowled long and hard before finally circling NO, stuffing the paper into his coat, and slipping off again.
Back home, Claren got a bath at the inn and then got into a pair of comfy clothes. She’d lost her hammer in her run, but tomorrow she’d go looking for it in the forest. The village had gone quiet. Some would be in mourning. Some would no doubt be trying to sleep.
The mayor had called a quick meeting to make sure no one had any more jars of the cursed jam. A few more jars had gotten shattered in the grass.
Which meant Claren had the last one.
She sat in a chair, gazing at it silently. This must be some sort of Forsaken horror, probably cooked up by that monster Abercrombie.
But at the same time, she couldn’t help but think of the jelly-people, burbling in terror of Althea’s riders and their torches.
“I should smash it,” she muttered. “Or pour it in the river. Or –”
Whatever the last “or” was to be never came out of her mouth, as the lid abruptly popped off, and a head poked out of the jar.
A set of feline eyes blinked at her. It cocked its head. She smelled, overwhelmingly, the fragrance of berries.
“By the Light,” she whispered.
“Mew?” the jelly-cat replied, and purred.