Right-o, it's been a while since I've posted anything up here, frankly because nobody reviews my stories, leading me to believe that people don't read them, which would be very sad. If you play WoW, then I ask you to immediately cast out all images which are set in your head, because a lot of that stuff is inaccurate (because Stormwind is supposed to have 25,000 people in it). Basically, if anything I write conflicts with the stuff ingame, I don't want any comments saying "zomg u got it wrong u n00b". Here we go.

His mouth moved, but no words came out. This had been happening to me increasingly lately. It was a bad habit, if you could really call it a habit. It wasn't something I was doing, it just… happened. It had to be stopped somehow. Better sooner than later, I thought.

Once again I regretted agreeing to have come to this "hearing". My… "lover"… dragged me into it, saying it would be an interesting experience. As it turned out, it was practically anti-Horde propaganda, every last thing. More than one person spoke, but by the time three were done I could practically mouth what the next person was going to say. Halfway through I left in disgust.

Things had not been going smooth between my lover and I. He had been scarce, fighting the Horde all the time. His motives were questionable when he did more bizarre things. I heard that he went into the Undercity and pestered the Forsaken out of boredom. While on the outside I refused to believe it, deep down I knew that it is true, although I desperately wanted the relationship to work out.

Whenever I did see him, it was brief. A hello, short conversation, "Oh I have to go fight the Horde in Warsong Gulch", quick hugs, goodbye Tarania. Occasionally he would kiss me on the cheek. As he left I silently called out to him, pleading that he might be able to stay longer. It was with a heavy heart that I continually told myself that he was too involved in his work.

I determined that I needed a break from the continual wear and tear of life in Stormwind, even with regular visits to the taverns. The rowdy, wild spirit of a swashbuckler was fighting to get to the surface, and a little Darkmoon ale wasn't going to solve it.

Ratchet seemed a good way to at least temporarily solve my problems. A goblin port, with lights on day and night, and both Horde and Alliance brushing shoulders, it seemed a good place to vent for at least a few nights. Plenty to do there, lots of eager duelists, and good places to have a drink when the need aroused all made this an ideal place to stay for a while.

I simply packed my bags one day and headed for the gryphon master. When he asked me where I wanted to get to, and I replied, "South." He didn't ask any questions, he just nodded and found a gryphon for me. "This is Swiftclaw," he said, "He is strong, and he will take you to Booty Bay." I nodded and mounted the gryphon. His feathers were soft, and well groomed.

The gryphon ride was long and uneventful. I thought little as I rode through the clouds. When I finally did arrive, I went immediately to the boat that would take me to Kalimdor. Customs were short, as usual for goblin settlements. All they cared about was the tax that I paid for leaving the continent.

The boat journey was even longer than the gryphon ride, and it took over a week to get to Ratchet, but it was worth it to feel the Barrens sun beating down on my shoulders, and to smell the salty sea next to the city before I ventured within. People around me brushed shoulders, Horde and Alliance alike, not caring about cultural differences or racial hatreds. If only my lover could have seen it…

The inn that I decided to stay in was called the Rusty Nail. The goblin innkeeper seemed a little too interested in my money as I handed it to him. He even took the time to take out a scale and make sure that my gold weighed the appropriate amount. As soon as all the money dealing was over, however, he was quite friendly, and he even took the time to show me to my room and give me the key. I wasn't sure whether his kindness was because of how much I paid or because he was genuinely kind.

I was more than happy to be able to open my window and stare outside. My window had a good view of the sea, and the sun was setting over the water, complementing the landscape around it. I let the wind blow across my face and closed my eyes. I had fun times ahead of me, I could tell.

That very night I headed for a tavern. Ratchet was just as busy during the night as it was during the day, with people dealing in business everywhere I looked. I ignored most of it as I walked down the street. I was not interested in what goblins told me about their wares, no matter how legitimate their dealings actually were.

A wave of noise hit me as I opened the door. I closed it gently behind me and looked around. This was not a formal tavern, like the Blue Recluse or anything similar in Stormwind. People were socializing, dancing, drinking or even having arguments, although by the looks of the goblin bouncers, anything that escalated to a full-scale fight would be quickly dispersed. There were some players in the corner, playing some lively music. I smiled to myself and went to get a drink.

The bartender himself was not a goblin. He was an orc, likely come from Durotar or the Crossroads in search of work. He looked at up me from wiping off a mug with a rag. "What do you want?" he asked.

"Ale," I replied. He laughed and put the mug he was wiping under a keg and filled it up for me. I gave him the silver he needed and took a drink. Compared with what I could normally find, it was almost like I was drinking wine after years of only drinking water. I thanked the barkeep and found myself a table to sit at.

I was already drawing looks. Most, if not all, of the people here were regulars at the tavern. I also appeared to be one of the few night elves present. There was a group of three males at a nearby table, but that seemed to be it. Finally, I was one of the only women in the entire tavern. I tried not to show discomfort from everyone looking at me.

It wasn't long before the novelty of a female night elf being in the tavern wore off, and people gradually stopped looking in my direction. The only people who didn't seem to stop were the three other elves. They kept stealing glances in my direction, and they seemed to be having some sort of a hushed conversation with lots of laughing. I looked away. The last think I needed was for one of them to think I was looking at them for some other reason.

I heard a noise and looked over. They had gotten up out of their chairs and walking in my direction. They stopped on the opposite side of the table from me. I eyed the front one.

"Hey, beautiful," he said. I guess one thing never changes.

"Hello," I said, not entirely impressed.

"My friends and I were wondering if you are in the mood for a little fun," he said, smirking.

"What kind of fun?" I asked. I noticed that he was eying my breasts. I folded my arms over them.

He looked to his friends. "Well, you know what happens when a man and a woman get together," he said. He and one of his other friends grinned, but the one in the back didn't seem so amused by it.

"Well, that's fun and everything, but I don't think that you're my type," I said. The leader's two friends gasped mockingly and his grin faded.

"A feisty one," he noted. "I didn't think I was going to give you a choice."

"Amorous and arrogant," I retorted.

"Come on, Rethian, she's not worth it," the nearer of his two friends said.

"No, she's mine," Rethian said determinedly.

"Alright," I grinned. "I'll go with you on one condition. You have to beat me in a duel."

This made him light up again. He smiled confidently. "You better hope you have some pretty dresses, girl," he said.

"Oh, and I do," I said, standing up. "Meet me outside in half an hour and I'll show you why I'm not sleeping with you tonight."

As I walked out of the tavern I heard Rethian boasting to his fellows about how assured he was that he'd win. I smiled to myself and headed for the inn. Once I arrived I looked at the weapons I had to choose from. There was my bow, my broadsword, and my rapier. I picked up the rapier delicately. I wasn't going to cheat by using a bow, and my broadsword was too heavy to allow me the speed I needed. I headed back to the Rusty Nail.

When I arrived, Rethian was waiting for me, holding a sword in his hand. He was unarmored, like me. I stepped up to him.

"We'll fight in the alley," I said. "There are a couple of rules that I will establish before we begin."

"Oh?" he asked. "What kind of rules?"

"Don't kill each other, no shadow-melding, no ranged weapons, no armor, and three hits until you are out of the fight. We'll have your friends be the judges," I said.

Rethian's two friends looked at each other. "What is there to judge?" the larger one asked.

"Just rule whether a hit counts or not. If there is any bias, though, then I'll just refuse to go with Rethian when the duel is over," I said.

"Let's fight," Rethian said.

We walked into the alley and set up roughly twenty feet away from each other. I drew my rapier lightly. Rethian set himself in a dramatic pose.

"This sword is made of thorium," he said. "It hasn't lost me a battle yet, and you won't be the first to win."

I smirked to myself. "Judges, tell us when," I said.

"Uh… fighters ready?" the larger one said. We told him we were ready. "Go."

I stood in a relaxed guard position. Rethian didn't charge me immediately, as I had thought he would. He studied me for a moment before he ran to me with his sword raised high. I rolled to the side as he tried to slash me and lunged, grazing his sleeve.

"No hit," the smaller one said. Rethian turned so that his back was away from me. I crouched on the ground. I had the advantage of reach and speed, which was what was going to make me win. He realized this, but he didn't seem the type to give up so easily.

It was a few seconds before either of us moved. He didn't charge me, this time. Rather, I took a few quick steps forward and lunged for him. He moved to parry, but I whipped my blade to the side, across his sword arm. He winced a little.

"A hit," the smaller one said.

"Damn it!" Rethian breathed. He swung his sword in an attempt to hit me, but I quickly rolled out of the way.

"A hit for Rethian!" the larger one said. I was surprised. He must have gotten a superficial cut on me while I was rolling. I collected myself and faced Rethian. I relaxed myself and let my guard ease up just a little. He took the chance and charged, like any normal person would. As he neared me, though, I fluidly stepped out of the way and tripped him up. As he was falling I slashed him across his back. By the time he had hit the ground, I had my sword point on the back of his neck.

"Rethian loses," his smaller comrade said.

"That's impossible!" the other said. "Rethian has never lost a fight, and I never thought he'd lose one to a sleazy vagabond like you!"

"That's enough," Rethian mumbled from underneath my rapier. I raised my sword and he stood. "This girl has won against me, and I accept it."

I smiled. "It was fun fighting you," I said. I extended my hand to shake, but Rethian turned away.

"Come on," he said. He walked away with one of his companions, but the other one stayed behind. This was the one who had been relatively quiet up until now, the shorter one.

"Aren't you going to go with Rethian?" I asked him.

He shook his head. "I wanted to ask you some questions," he said.

"These aren't questions like the others would ask, right?" I said. I had no time for him if they were.

"No, not at all," he said, looking a little embarrassed.

I smiled. "Well, then, go ahead and ask."

"What is your name?" he asked hesitantly.

"Tarania Moonrise," I said.

"I see," he said. "You'll have to forgive Rethian, he's sort of a sore loser. He'll cheer up after a little while."

"He's not really the kind I like to worry about for very long," I said.

"Lots of people think the same way, I assure you," he said. "Rethian might think he's a good fighter, but he's only really fought people who have provoked him without knowing how to fight."

I laughed. "It shows."

"You, on the other hand, are an excellent fighter. Who taught you how to fight like that?"

"I picked up little things here and there," I said.

He grinned. "All of the best fighters do," he said. "Tell me, are you busy this weekend?"

"No, why?" I asked.

"There's a wedding going on near Astranaar in a couple of weeks that Rethian, my brother and I are going to attend. I was wondering if perhaps you would be interested in attending? There's probably no one there that you would know, but I've heard that it's going to be an interesting event," he said. "If you are interested in coming, tell them that you're a friend of Sakeran's."

I nodded. "That's you, right?" I asked.

"Yes," he said. "I hope you'll decide to attend."

And then he left. I didn't even have time to say goodbye to him.