GONE TO BOOTY BAY ON BUSINESS.
DINNER ON TABLE. OR POSSIBLY IN WOLF.
Eselred sighed and dropped his backpack on the floor. Then he began work on unstrapping his armour. He was a large Paladin with a penchant for plate mail, so this was a complicated process that took him a long time. Despite the fact that a blow rarely reached his flesh, his hands and arms were a mesh of scars due to injuries related to putting his armour on or taking it off.
He glared at the large brown riding wolf who lay under the table, a self-satisfied grin on her face. The Kodo Pie he was supposed to be having for dinner was nowhere to be found. A long hard day in Warsong Gulch and he didn't even have a meal to go home to. Sometimes he wished he had a normal girlfriend. But then, there was no way he would have had such a unique bond with a normal Blood Elf girl. He wouldn't have spent a year carefully healing her from the depths of near-death and insanity, resurrected her five times from successful suicide attempts. And a normal girl wouldn't have understood his own faults - such as his soul being welded together down the middle, or his best friends being a psychotic mage and a Fel Reaver.
Still... he wished at least she didn't suck at writing notes. What business would she possibly have in Booty Bay? She HATED Goblins! And how late was 'later'?
Doan Lagbringer did indeed hate Goblins. They were depraved, ugly, squinty-eyed, avaricious little bastards who would sell their own grandmother if Goblin grandmothers were actually worth anything. Her experience of working under a Goblin was even worse. After only a few weeks, he had murdered her - shot her in the back - during an argument about something that was clearly his fault. Goblins were neutral. She would have been perfectly happy if the Horde was at war with them. In fact, she might even turn up to a battle occasionally if she got to hit Goblins. But no, they were too useful to do without. Too necessary for the economy. Too ingenious. Too good at making bombs.
Doan Lagbringer hated Goblins. And she hated Spanner Fizzlewrench most of all.
Which made her very confused about the letter that she found in the mailbox this morning.
Dear Mrs. Legbringer (They can't even spell my name right, she thought sullenly. And since when was I married?),
My sincerest condolences for the death of your business partner, Mr. Spanner Fizzlewrench. However, your presence is required immediately at the Steamwheedle Cartel Office in Booty Bay to organise the transferral of the Fizzlewrench family fortune to your person. We hope this news comes as some consolation to you in your time of grief.
As she stared out at the vast, peaceful ocean, its waves gently rolling from side to side, she pondered the words carefully. These were Goblins. There had to be a catch. There was something she was missing, something in very, very small print. Goblins didn't just give you money, especially not Fizzlewrench, who was considered unethical even by Goblin standards, and who personally hated her.
Besides which, she wasn't aware that Fizzlewrench even had any money for her to inherit.
Whatever these Goblins were after, they wouldn't let her get any peace and quiet until they had at least tried to rip her off. She decided to go to Booty Bay now and get it over with. However, she was on her guard. She kept two elementals summoned at all times.
She had made real progress with her powers. Her sanity had stabilised a lot since she met Eselred and she could more or less control what she summoned. She had progressed from cursors to full-sized elementals of latency. They looked a little like voidwalkers, except a furiously scintillating spectrum of every shade of grey imaginable, with chains of bright red light. The elementals weren't very good at keeping up with her. Their slow, jerky gait meant that she had to summon them a few metres in front of her if she wanted them to end up standing next to her. But they were dangerous in battle. She had tested them out already on a few raptors in the Barrens. They also looked impressive. She felt like a proper shaman now, with her elemental entourage.
There was a Goblin in a rather fancy suit waiting for her when the boat moored at the docks of Booty Bay. He urged her to follow him. She did so, but kept one elemental in front of her and one behind her.
"To tell you the truth, I was surprised about this whole thing as you were!" said the Goblin at the expensive-looking desk in his shrill, high-pitched voice. This was apparently Mr. Nutcase Screwloose. Doan realised that he was actually relieved that she wasn't actually a friend of Fizzlewrench. The Cartel hated him as much as she did. In fact, she remembered hearing that they had banished him. There were five guards in the room, all heavily armed and armoured, just in case. One of them looked very nervously at the elementals.
"However," he continued, "It looks like you're the only person with legal claim to ownership of the Fizzlewrench fortune, what with you being the only living person with whom he had any relation whatsoever."
"If I may ask... what exactly am I being given?"
"Oh, I couldn't possibly open the package!" he said, "It would highly illegal! I'd be sued out of house and home!"
"How do you know its not a bomb?"
A bead of sweat formed on the Goblin's forehead.
"Well... its not ticking, is it? And it hasn't exploded! So it can't be a bomb! See?"
"If you say so." Doan sighed, "Well, I guess I'll just take it and be on my way."
"That'll be five gold, please!" he said, grabbing the box under one arm and stretching his palm out. Doan fixed him a glare but gave him the gold anyway. She didn't have time to argue prices with a Goblin. He surrendered the box and she walked out with it.
She did not see the four pairs of glowing red eyes that followed her through the gloom of a back alley parallel to the street she walked down. But they were watching her.
"I'm sorry, the boat's not going anywhere!" shrieked the Captain, who stood in front of the gangplank, barring her entry with a cutlass that looked far too large for such a small creature to wield, "Maintenance hits in six hours! We'll never reach Kalimdor in time and you don't want to be on board a boat where the entire crew is asleep, do you?"
"I... suppose not." Doan sighed.
This would have appeared reasonable to anyone else. Everything stopped for Maintenance. It was a kind of universal hibernation. Not just Goblins - every living thing on Azeroth - even things that weren't thought of as 'alive', like elementals - slept a deep sleep from which they could not be awakened.
Doan sat on the pier and watched the busy Goblin sailors unpacking crates, tying and untying ropes, yelling at each other and hoping that none of the cargo exploded. She wasn't sure whether to look forward to it or not. It was an odd feeling, being awake when everyone else was asleep. Somehow peaceful. A profound freedom, being able to do whatever you want with nobody in the entire world watching you. Yet incredibly eerie. Other things walked the world, things that weren't quite alive. There were stories of people who were kept awake at Maintenance for some reason and went horribly insane, ranting about things that made the six foot, plate-clad Paladins who guarded Stormwind Sanitorium shiver in fright. They always died in the end. Doan had spent several Maintenances awake and hadn't seen anything of the sort.
But she wasn't from Azeroth. And she wasn't all that sane to start off with.
She decided to try and take her mind off the problem by opening her package. It didn't explode as soon as she opened it. This was a good start. Inside the wooden box were three objects: a large spanner, a fancy hat and a note. The hat was red and had several large Raptor feathers sticking out of it. The spanner caught her eye - not only was it made of dark iron, an unusual choice of metal for an object as mundane as a simple work tool, it also had several runes engraved on it. Doan had no idea what the runes said but she knew from experience of helping Revoemag that they contained at least some magic. Who on Azeroth would want a magic spanner? She put the hat on and hooked the spanner in her belt before reading the note.
It was written in Dwarven, unhelpfully. She understood enough Dwarven to read the words 'Two Thousand Gold Debt', the possibility of something bad happening to her kneecaps and something about Thorium.
If he hadn't actually been banned entirely from the world by a being of demigodlike powers for crimes too terrible to name, she would have dug up his grave and paid a priest a lot of money in order to resurrect him just so she could bleed him slowly to death from papercuts with his stupid note. It was just like him, she thought, to make her life hell even after he couldn't be restored to existence.
"Is everything in position?" said a gruff voice.
The other man nodded. His glowing red eyes bobbed up and down.
"Then we need to move now." said the voice, "Once Maintenance begins, we won't get another chance."
"Let's see what this thing can do." came the reply, "Unleash the panthers!"
Doan was still imagining terrible fates for Fizzlewrench when it happened. She was alerted by the frenzied screaming, running and bestial growling. It was best to be aware of your surroundings in a Goblin town. Grabbing her staff, she stood up and ran across the wooden pathway back into the town square. There she saw for herself what had happened.
A merchant had been transporting several extremely vicious panthers in a cage. The lock on the cage had broken and the panthers were now running free around the streets of Booty Bay, chasing the townsfolk, pouncing on them and savaging them to death. Occasionally they found someone that looked tasty, i.e. not a Goblin, and ate them. Being Goblins, the civilians had mostly retreated into their homes, locked and barred the doors. A band of adventurers and a couple of the braver town guards were attacking the huge cats. It was a well balanced battle. The adventurers were struggling to avoid the sharp fangs and slashing claws, even as the panthers sprang out of reach of swords and fireballs. There would be a few heroic deaths tonight, mused Doan. She wondered whether she should help or not. She had to admit that she felt sorry for the panthers. They were probably scared and angry at being locked in such a small cage, hungry, maybe in pain from the merchant's ill-treatment. She doubted it was legal to export wild animals. The Goblins were getting what they deserved.
Then she heard a guttural growl from behind her.
Brandishing her staff, she sent a mental command to her elementals and summoned an extra cursor. This was all she had time to do before the great cat was upon her, knocking her to the ground. She struggled to throw it off but it was much stronger than a small human like her. It grabbed her staff in its mouth and wrenched it out of her grasp. Then its jaws lunged for her throat.
Muttering an epithet in Orcish, her hand wrapped around the spanner. With surprising ease, she swung her arm around and belted the panther in the eye with it. It mewled in surprise, sounding rather like a kitten. Then there was a whoosh like a fire suddenly being whipped up into a conflagration. Monochrome flames seared her vision. The panther was bodily thrown off her by the sudden blast of energy. She looked up and saw the two elementals chasing after it. She gasped. They had grown to twice the size.
The two elementals eventually caught up with the jungle cat. Grabbing it in-between two enormous fists, they literally tore it in two. Doan closed her eyes, slightly sickened. She could hear the terrified screams of the adventurers and the howling of the panthers as the elementals jumped off the platform onto the floor below, looking for more vengeance to wreak on their master's assailants.
Clutching her skull, she screamed a mental command to retreat with all the force she could muster. The elementals sped to her side. They looked almost disappointed. A stern inflection in her inner voice, she banished them back to the technology elemental plane. The sheer energy being channelled, even as it left the world, made her head spin. Monochrome light filled her vision. For moment, everything looked that kaleidoscopic rainbow of grey, aflame with the energy of the elements.
"Are you alright, Miss?"
The voice brought her back into the world. She looked up. A nervous-looking Undead adventurer - a novice, she reckoned - stared down at her. There were other people staring at her as she lay on the floor. Both balconies were ruined, full of holes. Charred planks of wood lay everywhere. The occasional dead panther or adventurer lay in a heap. She felt nauseous. Reaching for her staff, she used it to balance on. Then she walked over to the water, reasoning that it was the least embarrassing place to throw up.
When she saw her face reflected in the water, she understood why everyone was so terrified.
Her eyes were now glowing with pulsating black and white energy.
"Get me a Windrider." she demanded, "I need to reach Undercity. Fast."
"B... but, Lady, the Windriders aren't flying until after Maintenance!" said the Forsaken would-be warrior, "The Flightmaster's worried they'll fall asleep halfway there."
"I need the services of a very good Shaman NOW!" she snapped. The man backed away from her.
"Wait." said a high-pitched voice. She turned around. It was a Goblin.
"I'm the Flightmaster around here. I'm sure I can provide an... emergency service under these... circumstances!" said the Goblin, his eyes lighting up with a crazed gleam as he rubbed his hands together.
"Alright, who bribed you and how much?"
"My... patrons are very... concerned about your health," said the Goblin, "And they only want you to arrive safely at... where it is you need to go!"
"HOW MUCH?" she yelled. The Goblin jumped.
"That's a trade secret!" he snapped.
"Just... tell... me... if... you're... dumping... me... in... Alliance... territory... or... not!" she snapped, her eyes burning a furious greyscale.
"No! No! Definitely not!" he shook his head vigorously, "I wouldn't do that to such a beautiful... er... girl?"
She sighed and shook her head. Wherever it was, it had to be closer to Undercity than here. It would be a shorter walk. The last thing she needed when her elemental powers were going crazy was a long, dangerous walk.
And besides, when Maintenance hit, nothing in the entire damn world would be awake to harm her.