The Juniper Tree: An Azerothian Fairy Tale

A World of Warcraft centered retelling of the Grimm Brothers' classic, the Juniper Tree is a Forsaken fairy tale for the discerning undead.

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Once upon a time, not very long ago, there lived a farmer and his wife.  Together they kept a small farm in Tirisfal Glades, where they kept sheep and pigs and cows.  For many years, they longed for children, but for all their wanting, the rooms of their small house remained empty.  Until one day, when the wife went into the fields where stood a tall, bright and bushy juniper tree.

Now, the wife was no witch or mage, but she knew a bit of hedge magic.  She pricked her finger and let the blood swell.  As she let the drop fall to the ground she said, "I wish for children as red as blood and as white as snow."

What spell she wove that day was never revealed.  Many moons passed and as the winter settled a blanket of fresh frost over the ground, the wife gave birth to twins.  The boy had a lusty cry.  His face was flushed and his hair was red as blood.  The girl was quiet and thoughtful, pale and blonde, with hair so light it was like snow.  The farmer and his wife were overjoyed.  They named the boy Marley and the girl was Juniper in honor of the tree.

Several years went by.  The pigs and sheep and cows were all raised to make bacon and wool and milk.  Juniper would often go to the market with her father to sell their goods.  Marley would stay at home with their mother and help tend the stock that hadn't been sold or butchered.  They were all very happy.

One day, the farmer went to the market at the castle while Juniper stayed home with her mother and brother.  It was a festival day and she was disappointed, but she was not feeling well.  Prince Arthas was coming home from a land very far away and everyone in the kingdom was coming to see him.  She wanted to see the crowds and costumes and taste the sweet pastries and treats only reserved for such special occasions.

The day was very warm and the animals were restless.  The pigs snorted in their pens, sheep baaed in their fields and the cows mooed in the barn.

Some merchants drove by the farm on their way to the market and stopped for a rest at the farm.  There had been rumors of a sickness in the east, they said.  Some had even claimed to have even seen smoke rising from Stratholme in the north and frightening monsters in the forests, but no one thought those things could reach them here.  Not this close to the castle.  Not with Prince Arthas home at last.

When the sun had set, the farmer had still not come home and his family began to worry, but the mother put on a brave face and tucked the children into bed.  She told them that their father would be home in the morning. It took a very long time for the children to fall asleep.  When the moon was full in the sky the livestock became very noisy.  The cows were screaming in the barn and the sheep were tromping the earth and braying and the pigs were squealing.  Something was very wrong.  Juniper got down out of bed and woke her brother, who was very afraid and started to cry.  She told him to hide in the closet while she went to check on their mother.

Juniper went into the front room and found her mother standing by the window, but the farmer's wife was not standing up straight, and her foot was turned around the wrong way.

"O Mother," said Juniper.  "What is happening?  The cows are screaming and the sheep are braying and the pigs are squealing.  Why are they so afraid?"

The mother said nothing, but turned around and smiled.  Juniper at once saw that her mother's eyes glowed yellow and her skin was torn and gray and bleeding.  She tried to scream and started to run, but her mother was too fast for her.  She grabbed Juniper around the throat and took the little girl's head right off.

While Juniper lay dead on the floor of the house, the mother shambled out into the night.

The farmer had been at the castle that day.  When Arthas came home, he raised his dreaded sword, Frostmourne, and slaughtered the king and his people, including the farmer.

In the closet, Marley was very afraid and could not move until the first light of the morning peeked through the crack between the doors.  He had not heard the scuffle the night before, but his sister had not come back for him and he was worried for her.  So he summoned his courage and opened the door.

The house was silent and in the front room he found Juniper and her head.  He cried and cried and cried until he had no more tears.  He knew he could not stay.  His father had still not come home and he did not know what his mother had done or where she had gone.

Before he left, he knew he had to take care of his sister.  He gathered up her body and tied one of the silk ribbons she used to tie up her hair around her neck to hold her head on.  He buried her beneath the juniper tree and set a small wooden stake to mark her grave.  Around the stake he tied her other silk ribbon.  Then and only then did he run.

He was found by refugees who were fleeing south.  They said that the dead had begun to rise and kill the living.  Marley was very afraid now for his sister, because she was dead, but what if she rose too?  But he could not go back to her.  He fled with the refugees to the south.

The years passed and the kingdom of Lordaeron became the home of the Forsaken.

The mother had disappeared into the mass of mindless undead.  When the Forsaken broke free of the Lich King's grasp, she was released as well.  But while she was no longer compelled to follow the Scourge, neither did she turn to the Forsaken.  She wandered the forests of Tirisfal, stumbling over branches and eating squirrels.

The farmer was no longer a farmer.  He was raised and fought for Arthas for a time, and then for Lady Sylvannas as a Forsaken.  He learned the dark arts and became a warlock - powerful and mad and skilled in the arts of necromancy.

One day, he was riding through Tirisfal Glades and came upon the husk of his former farmhouse and in the back, found the juniper tree.  He had not wept since becoming undead, but now he cried when he saw the tattered remains of his daughter's ribbon tied to a stake and left as a marker for her grave, for he had loved her very much in life.

He dug her body up from the ground and sewed her head back on with silken thread.  He worked dark magics and spells well into the night, but to no avail.  His daughter Juniper lay still and would not rise, no matter what incantation he tried.

When the sun came up, he sighed and left her there, still and cold, beneath the tree.  He had tried, but it seemed that he had failed.  His studies had not come far enough.  Thus he resolved to return to the Undercity and fetch a grimoire that might hold the key to the ritual he needed.

After he was gone, Juniper sat up and looked around.  Her ribbon lay by her side and she took it and tied it back around her neck to hide the stitches.  Feeling much prettier, she stood and began walking until she found a road.  As she wandered, wondering where she should go first, she sang a song:

 

My mother she killed me

My father he raised me

My brother he buried me 'neath the juniper tree

He tied a ribbon around my neck

And fled down south away from the wreck

O my!  O my!  What a beautiful bird am I!

 

Eventually she came upon a blood elf riding a beautiful blue bird and wearing a enchanted gold chain around his neck.  He heard her song and thought it was so beautiful that he stopped and said, "Little Forsaken, how beautifully you sing.  Please, sing your song again for me."

But Juniper smiled and said, "O no, Mister Elf, I do not sing twice for nothing.  Give me the golden chain around your neck and I shall sing again for you."

The blood elf nodded and said, "Here is the chain then.  Now, sing that song again for me."

Juniper took the chain from him and placed it around her own neck.  Only then did she sing:

 

My mother she killed me

My father he raised me

My brother he buried me 'neath the juniper tree

He tied a ribbon around my neck

And fled down south away from the wreck

O my!  O my!  What a beautiful bird am I!

 

Then she went away down the road again until she came upon a small town.  The sign on the post told her she'd reached Brill.  She went to the smithy and looked in to see a fierce orcish blacksmith hard at work putting the finishing touches on a pair of shining red plate boots.

Juniper stood on the stoop outside the smithy and sang:

 

My mother she killed me

My father he raised me

My brother he buried me 'neath the juniper tree

He tied a ribbon around my neck

And fled down south away from the wreck

O my!  O my!  What a beautiful bird am I!

 

The orc stopped working and came outside.  He looked down at Juniper and said, "Lok tar little one!  You honor me with your song.  Please sing once more for me."

"O no, Mister Orc," said Juniper.  "I do not sing twice for nothing.  Give me those shining red boots on your anvil and I shall sing for you again."

The orc nodded and went to fetch the boots.  When he returned he gave them to her and said, "Here are the boots.  Now, sing again!"

Juniper slipped the boots over her feet and sang:

 

My mother she killed me

My father he raised me

My brother he buried me 'neath the juniper tree

He tied a ribbon around my neck

And fled down south away from the wreck

O my!  O my!  What a beautiful bird am I!

 

Then she clanked away in the boots, for they were made of metal and far too big for her tiny feet. Outside of the town she found a mill.  There was a large, gruff and fuzzy tauren carving a new millstone.  She stopped and sang:

 

My mother she killed me

My father he raised me

My brother he buried me 'neath the juniper tree

He tied a ribbon around my neck

And fled down south away from the wreck

O my!  O my!  What a beautiful bird am I!

 

The tauren could not help but stop what he was doing and say, "You are no bird, little girl, but you sing a beautiful song.  I must hear it again!"

"O Mister Tauren, I will not sing twice for free.  If you promise me that on the next full moon, you will bring that millstone to the top of the tallest hill in the glades, set it on its side and place a rock to keep it from rolling down the hill too soon, then yes, I shall sing again for you."

The tauren nodded.  "I will do as you ask if only you will sing your song for me once more."

So Juniper sang:

 

My mother she killed me

My father he raised me

My brother he buried me 'neath the juniper tree

He tied a ribbon around my neck

And fled down south away from the wreck

O my!  O my!  What a beautiful bird am I!

 

She left the tauren to finish carving the stone and set out again.

In the Undercity, the farmer (now warlock) was crossing a bridge with his grimoire in hand when he heard someone above him singing a pretty little melody:

 

My mother she killed me

My father he raised me

My brother he buried me 'neath the juniper tree

He tied a ribbon around my neck

And fled down south away from the wreck

O my!  O my!  What a beautiful bird am I!

 

He stopped and looked around, but could not find the singer.  While he was looking, someone dropped something onto his head.  It caught on the pointy part and spiraled down until it came to rest upon the brim.  When he reached up to see what it was he found a golden chain.  "Oh my," said the warlock.  "What a pretty little trinket this is.  It is magic, I can tell.  I wonder what it does.  Perhaps - yes!  Perhaps I can use this."  He fixed the chain around his neck and went on his way.  His steps where lighter and under his breath, he hummed the melody that had so captivated him just a few short moments before.

Now Marley had grown tall and strong by this time.  He returned to his homeland and lived in a monastery in the Glades.  He stood guard outside in the still of the night, trying very hard not to yawn.  He sighed and shifted his weight when he heard someone singing just out of sight around the corner:

 

My mother she killed me

My father he raised me

My brother he buried me 'neath the juniper tree

He tied a ribbon around my neck

And fled down south away from the wreck

O my!  O my!  What a beautiful bird am I!

 

"How odd," he said to himself.  "The voice is so familiar."  He thought perhaps he was hearing things, but to be sure he peeked around the side of the building.  Seeing nothing, he frowned and went back to his post.  When he arrived he very nearly tripped over a pair of fine, beautiful red boots.  "My goodness, what a princely gift!" he said.  Unable to resist, he tried the boots on and found that they fit perfectly.  Again, he looked around, thinking that perhaps there had been some sort of mistake.  Again, he found no one, but he did catch the barest whisper of a girlish laugh, disappearing down the hill and into the forest.  Perhaps it was real.  Perhaps it was just his imagination.

Juniper laughed all the way through the forest, dancing and twirling under the full moon, until she came to the hill where the tauren had set the millstone, just as she'd asked.  She tapped at the stone to make sure it was solid and found that it was.  "O thank you mister tauren," she said even though the tauren was far away by now and could not hear her.

Then she waited.

And waited.

(She was very patient.)

And waited some more.

After four days and five nights of waiting she heard the crashing and bashing of a shambling corpse making its way through the woods with all the grace of a boar.  "O good," she said.  Then she stood and waited for the crashing to grow louder.

When the undead zombie was close enough, she kicked the small rock out from under the millstone and watched it roll, over and over again, down the hill.  It crashed through the underbrush at the bottom and rolled over the mindless undead that was once the farmer's wife.  It crushed her skull and ended her days of wandering the forests and eating squirrels.

Juniper smiled and dusted off her moldy dress.  She went down the hill and through the woods towards the Undercity.  She found her father, who picked her up and hugged her and kissed her rotting cheeks.  They lived there together and he taught her the dark arts.  She wandered the caverns in the Undercity and sang her song:

 

My mother she killed me

My father he raised me

My brother he buried me 'neath the juniper tree

He tied a ribbon around my neck

And fled down south away from the wreck

O my!  O my!  And now you shall see--

What a vengeful little bird am I!

 

And they (un)lived happily ever after.

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