Sespi Fizzlepop had never before chugged the warm, gooey dew scraped off the back of a speckled cave basilisk - but there was a first time for everything. He pinched his nose, closed his eyes and threw back the small cup of the syrupy liquid.

The dew tasted like the rancid inner thigh of a week-dead zhevra, broiled in the eye crust of a two-headed ogre baby. Then it sludged in the back of his mouth for a brief moment, as if it couldn't fit down his throat. When it finally did, the dew slithered down his throat like a slug with nowhere in particular to go, then settled in his stomach.

It was the worst thing Sespi had ever tasted in his life.

And he had no idea what he was going to do with half a dozen canteens of the stuff.

The canteens were too large to fit into his rickety wooden cart, at least not without displacing half a dozen other items he needed to sell to make quota. The barren plains of Desolace were no place to be without a fully stocked cart, a fact to which Sespi could repeatedly attest. One did not last long beneath dreary, gray clouds without provisions, even if he hoped to sell most of them. His pack kodo, Nori, looked at him with a disinterested grimace; she was no help at all. Of course, large canteens were not giant pieces of fruit. But as with most trinkets collected by adventurers, Sespi was bound to take them and offer a few copper at least.

Besides, as an honest goblin, he never liked to turn down a transaction.

"It's rubbish, but 80 copper for the whole lot," Sespi named his price, tweaking his pointed nose. He set a firm frown and crossed his arms as he looked up at the human, not wanting to betray any sort of familiarity. His high-throated voice punctured the dead air of Desolace like popping a balloon.

"My bad knee, 80 copper! A piddling amount!" protested the roguish Dackard, shaking his head as he looked down at the much shorter goblin. He had spent most of the day collecting the dew off the backs of slain basilisks, practically carving it off their scales with a knife"You'll never find a richer and more filling drink than warm basilisk dew."

"Does it have to be warm?" asked Sespi.

"Put it on ice."

"What will that do?"

"Bring out the flavor...or completely hide it. Either one, you can't lose."

"I'll lose money."

"Sespi, friend, you're too negative. Have I ever done you wrong?" Dackard charmed, spreading his arms. "I spent all day scouring some ruddy cave, and all I have to show for it is this goop. Let me unload this stuff now, and you know I'll be back within a week to do you right. I'll buy up your whole supply of throwing daggers in three days time, I promise.."

Traditional goblin wisdom told Sespi to spit on the human's dirty leather boots and tell him to take a hike. It wasn't good business to do favors for customers, especially if you risked losing coin. But when your route took you day in and day out from Nijel's Point to Shadowprey Village - basically the drearier parts of Desolace - you didn't tend to have a wide clientèle. Dackard was a smooth-talker, Sespi had learned, but he was a human good on his word - at least for something so minor. And as a regular customer, he'd done Sespi a few favors in the past.

"Two silver," Sespi finally relented, letting his arms fall to his sides. Sespi wore an off-white tunic with a deep blue vest; the logo of the Steamwheedle Cartel on the back. He was a company goblin through and through. He slipped his thumbs into his thin belt, and added, "If you help me carry some of these canteens."

"How far?"

Sespi shrugged, "Thattaway," he pointed a pointy thumb over his little green shoulder.

The two looked down the beaten road, which essentially amounted to a set of worn tracks used over and over by anyone passing through Desolace. It was not wise to head out into the wilderness, so for years, passersby had simply continued to use the same tracks originally set long ago. The pair then looked in the opposite direction, and neither goblin nor human could discern any real difference either way.

That's why it was called Desolace, they assumed.

"Three silver, and I'll throw in this thing," Dackard pulled from his belt sack a dull, lifeless looking orb. The sphere-shape was mostly orange, with flecks of a wispy white splattered throughout like a marble. The orb sat in the claw of a somewhat ornamental golden handle, though Sespi's discerning goblin eye told him it wasn't real gold. It looked painted on. A few smaller baubles were pressed into the handle, but none looked particularly valuable.

"Looks old," he mentioned as he accepted the treasure, looking it over.

"Can't put anything past a goblin. It's an antique."

"Where'd you find such an...enigmatic piece of...antique?"

"Same cave as the basilisks," Dackard shrugged. The rogue wore a simple, dark brown leather coat and pointed hat. The coat was clasped all the way down the front, hiding whatever weapons the human wore on the inside. His hands had slipped into the large, coat pockets. Sespi assumed he had something hidden in those pockets, but then Sespi always assumed the worst. Never trust a customer, his merchant father had always told him, especially when they're eager to unload.

"You got a deal," Sespi nodded, ignoring the pained cry of his late goblin dad in the back of his mind. Buying random junk off an adventurer was bad for business, but with a little polish, the orb could perhaps be resold for a higher price. Sespi needed the money.

"Lucky me," Dackard replied, not bothering to hide his sarcasm.

"Dad always said, 'the wheel was invented out of necessity, and the faster wheel was invented to make money'," Sespi told him. "That's innovation Taking a chance on something new. You never know, this thing could be worth something later."

"Let's hope not. I'm giving it to you for a steal."

It was the same reason he never backed out on a transaction: money. Trudging from village to village through the trade lanes in Desolace was just his job at the moment, just a means to an end. Work enough years, save up enough money, and Sespi knew he could someday own his own shop. He didn't know what he'd sell, but he'd already picked out the perfect little storefront in Orgrimmar. Ever since he'd first visited the orc capital years ago, when he'd been starting out, Sespi knew he had to be a part of the big city. The sights, the sounds, the smells; the young goblin wanted that life. But he'd come from a small town family, the latest in a long line of traveling goblin merchants. His parents were poor, and he'd been put to work for the Cartel as soon as he was old enough. The fact that he was stuck with the Desolace route was most likely due to some bad karma he'd inherited from some ancient ancestor, or at least that's what he liked to tell himself.

Confident in his purchase, Sespi turned to the cart and found an out of the way hole to stuff it in. Pulled by his kodo runt, Sespi's cart was basically an over-stuffed wooden box without a top. It was filled beyond the brim with weapons, food, drinks, gadgets, gizmos, thingamabobs, whoozits, doodads, treasures and the occasional whatchamacallit. Messy to the untrained eye, Sespi had a very rigid mental inventory, and he knew right where to find almost anything on his cart. Such was the life of a general goods merchant for the Cartel: making quota on whatever the bosses could pass along to you, being able to provide for any number of diverse clients and always willing to take on whatever scraps an adventurer managed to pull out of a dank cave. For years, Sespi Fizzlepop had survived by keeping his head down and just doing business. It was a long, lonely road, but the rewards would be worth it...

"What's that?" Dackard asked, pointing to a jewel-encrusted green box perched precariously on the edge of the cart. It was, by far, the richest looking item in Sespi's inventory, and therefore drew the rogue's attention.

"Special order," Sespi replied, carefully counting out the silvers from the money pouch on his belt. Sespi always kept his coin close. He glanced at the box as he handed over the money. "A rather mean looking voodoo mage requested it awhile ago, some magical doohickey. Had to order it all the way in from Quel'Thalas for her. Of course, she was none specific on how, when or where she'd pick it up. Been gathering dust for weeks now.

"I could take it off your hands," Dackard offered, jiggling his own coin pouch.

"Pass," Sespi cut the air with his hand. "I don't back out on a deal. Besides, this babe was really mean looking. Never seen a blood elf dressed in voodoo before. Lotta skulls."

"Obviously you don't get out enough," the human replied with a tip of his hat. "But I didn't think trolls taught voodoo to other races."

"And I didn't think cave basilisks could be milked."

"Not 'milked', dewed. Big difference," Dackard pointed out, holding up his hands. "With one, I'm a farmer. With the other...I'm slightly less creepy."

"According to you."

Dackard lifted two of the canteens off the ground, each one fitting nicely into the crook of his arms. Much easier to carry when there were only two. Sespi loaded the other four into the back of his cart. He had to stand his weapons case vertically to make room, but they wedged in so tightly there was no fear of the case falling over and opening, spilling blades all over the place. The new arrangement left his cart overstuffed, but Sespi decided to just go slow for awhile. He'd find somebody to make a few sales with eventually. There was always some random stranger prowling Desolace. Maybe the Gizleton Caravan would pick up some of his slack. Once loaded, Sespi climbed onto Nori's small saddle at the crest of her back, a rather uncomfortable seating arrangement. He took the reigns and gave a whip, waking Nori from her groggy status quo. They started down the path together, with Dackard walking by their side.

"Lovely day we're having," the human smirked, glancing upward. Like every day, the skies of Desolace were a shifting mix of gray and more gray.

"Speak for yourself," Sespi sighed, shaking his green head from side-to-side. "I stubbed my toe when I woke up, the right wheel on my cart near about busted this morning and you're the first useful customer I've had today. My ancestors must've really annoyed someone on this day."

"That's the spirit, blame somebody dead."

"Slow down, will you?" Sespi called out to the human, who was several steps ahead. "I told you I'm pulling a bad wheel here. Had to patch it up with old string."

"You know, basilisk dew makes a great adhesive," the rogue offered with a smirk.

"Quit selling, I already bought the stuff. Whole lot of good it'll do me though."

"What'd I tell you about being so negative?"

"I'm a pessimist," Sespi replied.

"And yet an idealist."

"How do you figure?"

"What'd you tell me last time we spoke? About those big dreams of yours, getting a shop of your own in the big city."

"Just dreams, fantasies really. Everybody's got dreams."

"They sure don't," Dackard shook his head with a sigh. "Take it from a guy who's been around this world a few times. The only thing everybody's got is work. The difference is how much they let that work rule their lives. Some Westfall goat farmer who's come from a long line of goat-farmers will be more than happy to spend the rest of his life farming goats. But you - you got dreams little friend."

"And I've got work," Sespi pointed out.

"And now you've got a ton of basilisk dew!"

"Would you be quiet about the..." Sespi cut himself off in mid-sentence as he looked down the road. His eyes, tinged a slight yellow, widened with a mixture of fear and panic at what he saw.

Uthek the Wise, second-in-command of the Gelkis Centaur Clan, was strolling towards them with two burly bodyguards on either side. Centaurs were a familiar sight in Desolace, but it wasn't every day that one crossed paths with royalty. The creatures stood taller than either human or especially goblin, their horse-like hindquarters clip-clopping along with a forceful strength. Their upper bodies, humanoid, were thick and muscular, covered with patches of hair and fur. They were dark in color, wearing vestments of the Gelkis. Uthek was smaller than her bodyguards, of course, but no less aggressive-looking. She was adorned in sheer, silk-like materials draped over her body. Her face was covered by a similar veil and head-wrap, hiding her features from sight. The three centaurs took up the entire path, and Sespi quickly yanked the reigns to get Nori off to the side. Even Dackard was smart enough not to cause a ruckus when centaur royalty passed. They were a very arrogant and violent race, especially when it came to territory. One did not idly wander through centaur lands, even a humble merchant. Stepping anywhere near their land usually resulted in an immediate death sentence.

There was no hope in hiding, as it was quite obvious that the wise woman had spotted them and was heading in their direction. The bodyguards raised their spears towards Sespi and Dackard as Uthek approached them. The first thing Sespi noticed, as always, was the smell. Centaurs always smelled like wet fur, even when they weren't damp. They just...gave off that odor. The flies buzzing around their hindquarters were also rather pronounced, so much so that he could see the centaurs actively swiping at them as they approached. Sespi always imagined the two creatures, centaur and fly, lived in some sort of symbiotic bond, each species beneficial to the other. But centaur hygiene was the least of his worries.

"A human and a goblin? On my land?" Uthek's voice rasped like a slap across the face. She stood tall, her large, dark eyes narrowing from above her veiled nose..

Sespi hopped down off Nori's back and stood beside Dackard, as if they were accomplices to this crime. Of course, Uthek didn't have it exactly right.

"Your highness, this is Magram territory," Sespi weakly replied, his eyes on the dusty ground.

"Silence!" Uthek scoffed, her disdain evident in her voice at the little goblin's insolence. "You think Uthek does not know her own lands?"

Sespi noticed that the bodyguards seemed to heed his words, their eyes suddenly darting back and forth at the surrounding area.

"No, your majesty, of course not," Sespi eeped, then quickly added, "And I mean: 'no', I don't think that. Not that you, 'no', don't know your own-"

"He meant no disrespect, your highness," Dackard cleared his throat, looking up at her. "He's just a traveling merchant, walking the dreary path."

Uthek studied the two of them, well-protected behind the spears still aimed directly at Sespi and Dackard. She seemed to consider his words for a moment, with a look that said she was doing them both a great favor for not immediately killing them. Perhaps she was just in a good mood.

Sespi wanted to tell her to just leave them alone, but he had learned long ago not to cross the centaurs in Desolace. They were the at the top of the food chain, and he was just a lonely little goblin. Dackard, however, was a rather bold sort of man with a lifetime of experience behind him. It made him one of the craftier creatures on the plains, and Dackard had also learned long ago how to slide through the wilderness just above the heads of the slower-thinking creatures.

"Perhaps a gift, to pay for our passage?" Dackard offered. Centaurs prized flattery, and they didn't have a very good value system. Sespi's entire cart was just one big pile of bribes, even the crummy stuff. Centaurs weren't too hard to fool.

Sespi looked at him sideways with a suspiciously raised eyebrow.

"A gift? How excellent," Uthek nodded.

"Maybe something for the flies?" Dackard suggested.

Centaurs weren't too hard to insult either.

The moment after the words left Dackard's lips, the two spears were pointed at the human's jugular. The centaurs, though poor groomers, were not oblivious to the insulting words of cleaner species. Uthek's eyes burned with vain rage at the rogue.

"You dare...!"

"Wait, your majesty, he only meant that we had a way to deal with those pesky bugs," Sespi interrupted to prevent any skewerings. All eyes turned towards the goblin as he quickly turned to his cart. "I know the flies bother my kodo as well," he explained as he began frantically shifting through the various items he had for sale. "What we need is some sugar water..."

"Did you say sugar water?" Uthek stroked her chin, the anger evaporating as Sespi went about the task of getting her gift. "What will that do?"

"Attract the flies," Sespi explained as he reached deeper into his pile, his head and shoulders disappearing for a brief moment until he came out with a small pouch of white sugar. "They love the stuff, but I don't seem to have any..."

"Use the dew," Dackard suggested, his neck still precariously close to the pointed spears.

Sespi winced at the idea, having just paid several silver for the relatively useless goo. "Maybe we could try the..." he tried to hedge.

"Sugar dew? I like it!" Uthek announced with glee. Sespi was stuck.

"Of course, your majesty," Sespi grinned up at her. He didn't want to suffer the loss, but the goblin's natural salesmanship helped him to put on a happy face.

Looking into his cart, Sespi pulled a small basin out of the back. He opened the lid to reveal a white liquid, which he promptly dumped out on the ground.

"What was that?" Dackard asked.

"Giraffe milk," Sespi replied as he took two of the basilisk dew canteens and started emptying them into the basin. "Potent, but nobody really drinks it...small loss." Once the dew was emptied into the tub, Sespi dumped the entire pouch of sugar in as well. He grabbed a spoon-like stick off the back of his cart and started quickly stirring, creating a very sweet, syrupy concoction - though he assumed it still tasted terrible.

Once he had enough of the brew ready, Sespi ladled it out into three small bell-shaped cups, which he attached with string and gave to each of the centaurs. They tied the cups around their necks, and it didn't take long for the flies to catch the scent and start diving into the cups.

"Amazing!" Uthek declared, stamping her hooves victoriously on the path. "You have earned your passage, young goblin!"

"Thank you, your highness," Sespi bowed his head, and the spears were pulled away from Dackard.

"It's my pleasure to, uh, serve you."

"Indeed," Uthek nodded at the two of them, before motioning with her hand that it was time for her and her bodyguards to leave.

The two burly centaurs held their spears at the ready again as they returned to the path, though it seemed as if they were a bit more cautious. They were not about to admit to Uthek that they had led her into enemy territory. Sespi and Dackard stood on the side of the road until they were far away, not wanting to risk any more trouble.

"Brilliant choice of words," Sespi finally scoffed as he put the lid on the tub, then pushed it back into his cart. "Why didn't you point out the smell too?"

"It worked, did it not? Like you said: innovation; trying something new," Dackard smirked, rather proud of himself. He picked up the two canteens he'd been carrying and added them to Sespi's cart, now that there was room. "And my plan to get rid of some of those canteens. Looks like you don't need me to help carry anymore."

Sespi glanced over and saw that he had only four canteens left of the dew, which was just enough to fit on his cart. The extra coin to hire the bodyguard/pack mule human had gone to waste.

"Goodbye then," Sespi nodded to the human, then pointed a particularly sharp finger at him. "And don't forget about those throwing daggers."

"You stock them, I'll buy them out," Dackard waved as he headed off the path, trudging out across the plains. "Stay healthy!" he called over his shoulder.

"I'll see what I can do!" Sespi called back, a final farewell before the human was gone.

Alone at last, Sespi glanced to his cart and kodo and sighed. It had been one of the least productive days on memory. With the exception of that greenhorn priest he'd sold an old wand to earlier in the day, the most Sespi had done was buy too much disgusting goo from Dackard - some of which he either gave away to appease the centaurs or left in the tub. Sespi knew he had no chance of selling the rest, not unless Uthek decided to suddenly tell all the centaurs in Desolace about the new fly-catching necklaces. Sespi smirked at the thought of randomly creating the hot new item as he climbed back into Nori's saddle, only to laugh at the idea that Uthek had probably just eaten the flies and washed them down with a nice swig of sugar goo. Tasty.

Flicking the reigns, Sespi and Nori continued on their way. Glancing to the sky, and ignoring the shallow feeling in his stomach at the sight of the ever-depressing clouds, Sespi judged that he was making good time, and would be in Nijel's Point before nightfall. At least something was going right for him. Sespi took to the road with a slower speed, not in a rush and not wanting to jostle his goods. But speed was not a problem. The plains of Desolace may have been desolate, but they were familiar nonetheless. The young goblin couldn't even begin to count the number of times he'd crossed that very route, or eyeballed those same craggy, rocks.

"It's not going to be rocks forever, Nori," Sespi told his critter as they rode together. The kodo gave an exhale of breath in response, and Sespi simply assumed she was listening. Nori was a good friend like that. "A few more years trudging these lands and I'll have enough for my own shop, and to think you doubted me." The goblin smirked at his imaginary conversation, not the first one he'd had when alone on the job.

The kodo grunted, a model of sheer ambivalence.

"The big city is calling Nori!" Sespi grinned, doing a fair job of getting his spirits up. The slow rocking of the kodo's back kept him from nodding off, and it helped to speak out loud - even if nobody was listening. But then if nobody knew he spoke to himself, nobody would be able to think he was crazy. "Gonna have it all one day. My own shop, dedicated employees, a nice location in Orgrimmar. Maybe I'll sell weapons, or have my own gadget store...heck, the city itself will tell me what it needs. That's why they have cities like that: for us dreamers."

A puff of kodo nostril.

"Fine, just me then," Sespi scoffed. "You can stay here and grow as old and as gray as the dirt." Sespi thought it was funny, but he didn't expect so much sudden laughter.
It started quietly from somewhere behind him, a high-pitched shriek of a laugh. It sounded as if someone were rapidly popping the bubbles belched by a drunken choir, then the laugher grew into a stumbling, rolling sound as more voices joined in. The young goblin looked over his shoulder with a frantic glance.

A pack of five dark-colored gnolls were charging down the road towards him. Large, bi-pedal hyenas cackling like a clanky dwarf steam tank, their paws nearly a blur in the dust they kicked up. They were still several lengths back, but Sespi could see their gnashing jaws and beady yellow eyes from such a distance. He'd never met many gnolls, especially not in Eastern Kalimdor, but none of them had ever been kind - and a pack of five sounded downright blood-thirsty. They had spotted him, Sespi knew, there was no doubt about that.

With panicked reluctance, the young goblin reached into a small pocket on his saddle and pulled out a hand-whip, slapping it against his kodo's hide. He never liked to use the whip on Nori, but gaining speed was the only recourse his worried mind could think up. Maybe he could escape, maybe he could get away somehow, but the slow lurch of his beast of burden filled Sespi with dread. Nori managed to quicken her pace, but that wasn't promising for a kodo runt.

"C'mon girl," Sespi wheezed through a voice on the verge of cracking. "We gotta get out of here..." Sespi's pleas fells on hopeful ears, and Nori used the sting of the whip to propel herself faster. Her lumbering legs stomped into the dirt road with strained energy, gaining speed with each laborious step. She wasn't used to such a pace, but even a kodo knew how to run from a predator. The whip cracked in the dead air, and Sespi's hopes began to rise as the two of them sped up. But he had forgotten the reason why Nori had been going so slow in the first place.

The strain on the right wheel became too much after only a few seconds of increased speed. The morning's cobbled repairs came apart, and the wheel broke away from the cart.

"GAH!" Sespi cried out as his cart tipped over.

The overstuffed pile of goods and gadgets that Sespi Fizzlepop carried with him day in and day out spilled onto the harsh dirt of Desolace. Out poured the shields, sewing threads, hand tools, day-old bread and a set of fine forks imported from Darnassus. The weapon box flipped onto its side, breaking the latch and sending swords, daggers, arrows and some sort of poison gas wand into the dust. Everything he'd collected from years of walking the trade route spilled out, dragging the young goblin with it.

Spinning around in his seat, Sespi grabbed one of the straps that attached his cart to Nori. But his weak goblin arms weren't enough to stop the spill. The twisting, snapping strap took him with it, throwing Sespi off Nori's back onto the ground. Sespi loosed a high-pitched gasp as the air was knocked from his lungs, followed by a troubling cough as the dust hit his mouth. The taste was like adding salt to a wound, his body aching and his mouth disgustingly dry.

Lying on his stomach, Sespi couldn't bring himself to look at the spill. He pushed off the ground and found his feet beneath him, wincing slightly from some unknown bruise. The dust brushed easily enough off his tunic.. After a few seconds, he realized he couldn't hear the laughter anymore. But that was only because the gnolls were close enough to speak.

"Lookee what we have here, boys," a dark gray gnoll dropped a paw onto Sespi's shoulder. "Poor little gobby had a spill."

The laughter returned when the other four found great enjoyment in their leader's gag. Sespi turned his head to look up at the gnoll, standing a good three feet taller. His fur was dark gray, with flecks of mottled green spread throughout, like the fuzz that grows on the top of a stagnant bog. His teeth, grinning down at Sespi, were sharp and brilliant white - uncommon for a gnoll to put so much care into dental work. The leader wore a black leather outfit adorned with sharp, star-shaped weapons pinned around his waist and across his chest. His head and ears were flattened beneath a matching black leather cap.

"R-really, it's n-nothing..." Sespi croaked, fully aware that the gnoll's hand had not moved.

"Course it somethin'!" the leader replied, giving Sespi's shoulder a pat. His grasp of the Common tongue was sharp, but tinged with some unknown accent. "Poor fella lost all his junk. Real sad. Boys, lets us help da gobby clean up."

The gnoll gang laughed and began to pick through Sespi's goods. They were each dressed in various leather outfits, favoring black. In his terror, Sespi couldn't tell them apart. They were just big, hulking, furry monsters, and they were touching his merchandise.

"No, no, really, I can get it," Sespi tried to insist. He turned to look at the gnolls as they started poking at his items. He tried to walk over to them, but the leader's hand was a bit too heavy on his shoulder.

"Dey do good job," the leader grinned down at Sespi. "Maybe we even buy from you. Have any giraffe milk?"

"Uh, no, but...Really? You want to buy?" Sespi's eyes widened, a faint trace of hope passing in them. Then he watched the gnolls just start tossing whatever they happened to pick up into their bags. "Oh...no..."

"Hey Sharpteef, lookee dis!"

The leader turned at the sound of his name, a predatory giggle erupting from his throat. A gnoll with a grizzled beard and eye-patch was holding the jewel-encrusted green box that Dackard had noticed earlier, the special order from Quel'Thalas.

"No, that's not-!" Sespi yelped and tried to rush forward, but Sharpteef's claws dug into his shoulder. The gnoll reached down with both hands and wrapped his talons in the front of Sespi's tunic. He lifted the much smaller goblin off the dirt, and held him up. "—for sale." Sespi finished meekly.

"Sure it be," Sharpteef replied, his teeth particularly sharp at that distance. "You be a shop-keeper, you sell." His hyena-like giggle bounced around the back of his throat as he spoke. "Oy, Dodger!"

A wild-eyed gnoll with a lop-sided grin turned to look at the two of them. Sespi noticed that this gnoll, whose fur was more brown than gray, had found the basin of sugared-basilisk dew. It had tumbled out of the cart, but did not spill thanks to the lid. Dodger had been sniffing inside, and was holding the lid in his paw.

"Yeah boss?"

"Pay da gobby."

The gaggle of gnolls laughed again, the bobbing sound defying all meaning of the words 'in unison'. Sespi could only watch from Sharpteef's clutches as Dodger reached into a thick pouch on his belt and pulled out what appeared to be a large, golden rock - only it was darker in color, and Sespi was pretty sure it was oozing. The gnolls found it particularly hilarious.

"What is that?" he managed to ask as Dodger held the goo aloft.

"Rich gold..." Sharpteef replied with a dastardly grin. "Gold...caramel."

More laughter, quickly becoming unbearable to the poor goblin.

"Caramel?"

"From elf lands," Sharpteef explained. "Far too gooey, far too sticky for gnoll teefs. We pay you." He nodded to Dodger.

"But it's all melty—"

The gnoll dropped the wad of caramel into the dew basin. Then he grabbed a nearby stick and started swirling the concoction around, mixing in the melting caramel. Sespi wanted to protest further, but the sharp claws digging into his chest were a strong deterrent.

"See gobby? People know Sharpteef, and dey know Sharpteef ain't no thief..." the gnoll grinned at Sespi, his yellow eyes burning with mischievous glee.

Unable to do anything but stare back into those eyes, Sespi felt his skin curdle into goose flesh. He could see the hunger and madness behind the yellow of Sharpteef's eyes, and the beady little pupils betrayed just enough intelligence to be dangerous. Even without seeing them, Sespi could feel the other four gnolls moving in behind him, circling around and closing off any possible escape.

"...Dey know Sharpteef is a killer."

Sespi closed his eyes tightly against his coming doom. Flecks of spit and warm, gamy breath passed onto his face from the gnoll's jowls, a sticky, unsavory feeling. The sound of the hyena laughter echoed in his ears, the last sound he was ever likely to hear...

But death didn't come for Sespi Fizzlepop. After a few seconds, the hot breath disappeared and the gnoll dropped him, letting Sespi fall back to the ground. He opened his eyes to see the pack of gnolls fleeing as fast as their feet could carry them. They had been scared off - and Sespi assumed it had something to do with the swirling, darkening clouds above his head.

Looking straight up at the sky, the goblin pushed himself back onto his feet. The already dark clouds of Desolace seemed to take on a more ebony sheen, as if all life and energy had been drained from them. The clouds had also begun to spin in place, creating a spiraling effect. Sespi was mesmerized by the sight, especially as the spiral began to extend towards the ground, as if a tornado was about to touch down. But there was no wind, Sespi noticed. The air of Desolace was as still as ever, but a sudden electricity filled the air. He could feel the hairs standing up on the back of his little green neck, an uneasy feeling that scuttled the bottom of his stomach.

With a sudden crack of lightning, the spiral zapped downward like a whip. It hit the ground once and immediately returned to the heavens, leaving behind a darkly cloaked woman: the feared Voodoo priestess 'Lyssa'Raye, come to collect what was hers.

Sespi watched as the blood elf started moving swiftly towards him, her cloak dragging so that it appeared she was floating. He was rooted in place behind his now empty weapon box, clutching the edges with his thin fingers. He'd only ever seen the woman once before, months earlier, when she'd placed a special order for a small, mystical item he had to have shipped in from Quel'Thalas. An item locked in a green box, which he'd held onto for weeks, and which Sespi knew had just been stolen by the gnolls.

"Curse you ancestors..." Sespi whispered quietly to himself as the woman drew closer.

Her cloak was dark black with green and red patterns woven in to create a bat-wing design. The bottom of the cloak, which dragged across the Desolace ground, had a variety of bones and multi-colored feathers attached. The cloak covered the woman's head with a hood, hiding her face in shadow. Sticking out the front of the hood, however, was an animal skull worn like a mask. The sharp, white muzzle of the skull was painted with red and orange swirls, so intricate that Sespi had no idea they were a long lost language - he just knew they looked terrifying.

The woman stopped when she reached the edge of Sespi's cart catastrophe, her head glancing slowly from side-to-side at the wreckage. With a shrug of her nimble shoulders, she cast the cloak over her back, revealing the voodoo-regalia adorning her thin, cream-colored body. Sespi couldn't help but stare at the bone and feather decorations that covered her wrists, elbows, knees and long, red leather boots. The blood elf wore a small black tunic, which stopped just above the knees and rose just beyond the bust. Her exposed skin revealed another intricate rune design tattooed into her flesh. A large, jeweled necklace hung from her neck, framed by the shockingly red hair that burst down from underneath the skull-mask.

When she pushed the hood back, Sespi could see that the skull was from a jungle cat, large enough to fit over the woman's head. The lower jaw was removed, leaving the fangs to hang dangerously over the blood elf's own mouth. Her large, elven ears stuck out from the skull, each pierced with bone-jewelry. She looked every bit the voodoo priestess, chilling Sespi to the bone.

Eyes hidden by the skull's orbital sockets scanned the area for a moment before she called out, "Young goblin, where are you?" Her voice was sharp like a blade, slicing through the air. The very sound seemed to make Sespi's knees straighten and reveal himself.

"H-here..." he eeped, standing up straight behind the weapon box. He tried to keep the fear out of his voice, but that failed.

The blood elf spotted him and moved closer, seemingly unconcerned for his trouble. Her arrival had scared off the gnolls, Sespi knew, but it seemed he was out of the frying pan and into the fire. 'Lyssa'Raye stood over Sespi and bent her head forward, the skull pointed down at him.

"My box. Where is it among this...garbage?" she asked him, a faint red glow evident behind the skull's eye sockets. The blood elf's voice curled with arrogance against his ears, but her lips remained impassive beneath the skeletal fangs.

"I, uh, I don't...have it anymore..." Sespi replied, tapping his fingertips together. His eyes were darting around the ground, as if the box would magically appear and save him.

She made no response, save for one of her hands slowly reaching to her back.

"That is to say...it was stolen!" Sespi blurted the truth, unable to think of any better lies to tell. The goblin's frazzled mind could barely piece together a sentence after a day spent at the pointed end of several threats. He glanced around looking for help, but the only other living thing in the area was Nori - who had wandered away to munch on a patch of crab grass. He was alone. The day had gone from bad to worse for the poor little goblin. The weight of several barely escaped dangerous hung heavily on Sespi's tiny frame, and now an elf of unfathomable darkness was threatening him anew. Sespi could barely stand it. "So it's, uh, it's not my fault. There were...gnolls...you scared them off! I just didn't..."

"Silence," the blood elf hissed, her voice soft and menacing. From beneath her cloak, 'Lyssa'Raye withdrew a long, leg bone carved with various glowing red symbols. On one end of the bone was a small gnome-like skull, and on the other were a batch of bright red, green and yellow feathers She held it in the middle, a baton-like wand. "I payed in advance," she said.

"Yes...yes you did..." Sespi swallowed, his eyes glued to the bone wand.

"It was unwise of you to let me down, little goblin."

"It wasn't my fault," Sespi squeaked.

"Then if I feel a glimmer of remorse, I shall blame it on you."

'Lyssa'Raye began slowly spinning the bone-wand in her hand, her voice turning into a melodic chant as she summoned the voodoo spirits. Sespi was frozen. He knew little about the ways of voodoo, but bringing anger to those who wore bones as decorations was clearly unwise.

"Now wait just a m-minute..." Sespi held up his hands, taking a few steps back. "I didn't do anything to you..."

"I'm going to suck the air from your lungs," 'Lyssa'Raye hissed between her chants as she pointed the bone at the goblin. It seemed to follow him no matter how far back he stepped. "That item was one of a kind, and you let it slip through your sticky little fingers! You were supposed to be trustworthy. You gave me your word! You will pay for failing me!"

The woman's chanting suddenly grew to a shriek, and a wave of warm energy burst from the spinning wand towards Sespi. At the last second, he dove behind the nearest large object - which turned out to be the tub of recently-caramelized basilisk dew. The spell hit the tub full-on, using the power of nature to turn all of the oxygen in the area to its byproduct carbon dioxide. Caught in the residual effects of the spell, Sespi's lungs were voided of oxygen in an instant.

The little goblin stumbled forward, away from the suddenly bubbling tub. His fingers tightened around the chest of his tunic as he coughed for air.

"That looks painful," 'Lyssa'Raye told him. "How unfortunate for you."

Another splurge of chant, and her bone wand sent another blast at Sespi. This hit him directly, changing what little oxygen he had left in his lungs into unusable gas. All of the breathable air around him was gone as well, leaving the goblin a gasping, coughing mess. Sespi couldn't see straight, his vision blurring and his knees weakening. He stumbled for a moment, his arms flailing as he tried to find something to hold onto. He reached the tipped over remains of his cart, and his hands reached for a plank of wood. When he grabbed it, however, the plank gave out and a pile of metal gadgets and goods tumbled out onto the ground. Sespi fell with them, unable to hold his balance any longer.

Among the items that rolled out of the cart was a worn-looking orange orb set in an off-golden handle.

'Lyssa'Raye aimed her bone-wand at Sespi, readying a final blast; but her eyes caught the orb and widened behind her skull mask.

"What is that?" she asked sharply.

Coughing and sputtering on his back, Sespi drew in a gasp of air and tried to see what she was looking at. His eyes were watering, so he couldn't be sure. "Wh-wh-what?" he coughed.

Swooping down like a vampire bat descending on a delicious neck, the blood elf grabbed the orb and held it up to get a better look. The dull light from the sun glinted effortlessly off the bauble for a brief moment, revealing a few wisps of white splattered amongst the orange. 'Lyssa'Raye's free hand returned the wand to her belt, then it reached up and pulled the cat-skull off her head. A beautiful blood elf face greeted the weary goblin, scarred by more tattoos and a circular piercing in her nostril.

"The Orange Eye of Zha-Rha-Ta!" she gasped.

"Sha...sha...swah...bah?" Sespi coughed curiously. He tried to pick himself up, but his head was spinning. At least he could breath again.

"Where did you get this?" 'Lyssa'Raye asked as she crouched down over Sespi, holding out the item. He finally recognized it, the treasure he had bought off of Dackard earlier.

"B-bought it...off'a...guy..." he sputtered, looking up. "Antique..."

"How perceptive of you. Give me the Eye, and I will spare your life, goblin."

"G-g-gold..."

'Lyssa'Raye rolled her red eyes before reaching to her belt and pulling out a single gold coin. She flipped it with her thumb onto Sespi's stomach before rising and turning away.

"W-water?" Sespi begged, turning to look after her.

But the voodoo blood elf was already gone, the clouds and single bolt of lightning sucking her back up to the heavens. She had no more use for the poor little creature.

Coughing from the pain in his lungs, Sespi managed to roll over onto his stomach in the dirt. His mouth was so dry it hurt to open it, his green lips cracking and his throat tasting like used socks. It didn't help that the dust of Desolace had started caking the insides. His breath was slowly returning, but he'd nearly passed out from the spell. Hand over hand, Sespi started crawling across the ground in search of something to drink. All of his goods had spilled out in the crash, so he hoped to find a bottle of milk or a flask of melon juice perhaps. When his fingers hit something wet in the dirt, he crawled in that direction, his hopes rising.

But all he found was the tub of basilisk dew, suddenly overflowing for some reason. Sespi crawled towards it, his fingers clutching around the rim so that he could pull himself up. The brown liquid inside was spilling over, bubbling and fizzing like no drink he'd ever seen. Sespi dipped in a finger and swirled it for a moment, feeling the bubbles bursting against his hand. What had once been a clear, syrupy dew that smelled like old wombats was now a watery substance with a rich, caramel color and a misting fizz collecting on the surface. Something the blood elf had done with her spell, hitting the drink with a blast of carbonation, had made it start to bubble.

"F-fizzy?" Sespi mumbled, recounting his own name for a moment as he dipped his hand into the drink. He brought it cupped to his lips and drank the transformed dew, flinching for a moment at the sudden strength of it. The previous zhevra-taste was gone, replaced by a sugary, caramel flavor, and the bubbles tickled down his throat. Sespi mumbled a pleasant surprise as the dirt washed out of his mouth, and he dipped his chin into the brew for a deeper drink.

It was good.

It was very good!

Sespi was so content to lap at his newfound drink that he didn't hear help arrive.

"Sespi! Sespi! Are you here?"

He eventually felt two large hands on his shoulders, pulling him out of the drink. Sespi blinked a few times, looking up at the human Dackard, who had started shaking him.

"What happened, Sespi?" Dackard asked, planting Sespi onto his feet. The rogue knelt down in front of him, keeping hands on the goblin's tiny shoulders. "I saw the clouds and the bolt of lightning and came running, looked to come down where I left you. It hit you hard, huh?"

"Just a little touch of the voodoo," Sespi replied, smiling slightly. His tongue snaked out to catch a little dribble of his new drink out of the corner of his mouth.

"What?"

"Nevermind," Sespi pushed Dackard's hands off his shoulders. "You have to try this." Sespi hurried over to a pile of his old merchandise, and started digging through until he found a cup.

"This place is a mess, Sespi," Dackard stood up, rubbing the back of his head as he glanced around. He waved to Nori several yards away, but she pretended to ignore him. "I'm sorry I didn't stick around to help you, probably could have used a bodyguard..."

But Sespi wasn't listening. He quickly brought the cup to the tub of brown liquid and scooped it full. He started tugging on Dackard's coat, holding it up for it. "Come on, drink it!"

"What is it?" Dackard accepted the cup and peered into it. He even gave it a little sniff. "Considering my work with poisons, I tend to make it a rule not to drink anything that's bubbling..."

"I drank it, and I'm fine," Sespi pointed out, balling his fists on his hips as he looked up at the much taller human. Despite his cart in shambles, and his life threatened three times in the span of an hour, the goblin seemed to be a bit cheerier than Dackard remembered him. "I just need you to try it. Please?"

"Is this the dew-?"

"Just drink!"

Dackard tossed back the cup of fluid in one swig, and let the bubbly, sweet drink pour down his throat. He immediately hissed when the fizz hit the back of his throat, but that didn't stop him from finishing off the rest. The human smacked his lips together, and went back for second cup. Sespi stopped him at the third.

"No, no more, we can't drink it all!" the little goblin grinned, practically dancing around the tub. "This stuff is great!"

"I'll say. I've never had anything like it," Dackard marveled, licking his lips. He tipped his cup completely over his head to get the last drops. "Sweet and sugary, and yet sharp and bubbly down the throat. But there's no alcohol."

"Imagine if we put it on ice."

"What will that do?"

"I'm going to find out," Sespi hurried back to the tub and put the lid on it. He started pondering where the closest place to get ice would be...He also need more of that basilisk dew. "Can you get back to that cave with the basilisks?"

"Yeah, I marked it on my map," Dackard told him, pulling the thing out of his coat. "I can show you where."

"And I'll need more sugar...and caramel..." Sespi started counting off the best markets in the area on his fingers.

His cart was destroyed, and his goods and merchandise were strewn out in the dirt of Desolace. It would take weeks to gather replacement supplies and get his cart repaired. Sespi Fizzlepop was out of the merchant business. But standing there above the tub of delicious drink, the young goblin's mind was seizing on a new opportunity. By sheer bad luck, he'd stumbled upon a drink unlike any other in Azeroth. It was sweet and delicious like juice, but with a kick like alcohol. Not a hard drink, but a soft drink; and some ice would make it cold and refreshing. Sell it by the bottle, a few coin apiece - Sespi would be rich!

His father had always said, 'the wheel was invented out of necessity, the faster wheel was built to make money.' Sespi had found his faster wheel, or in his case, a tastier drink.

"How'd you make it bubble like that?" Dackard asked.

"Trade secret," the goblin smirked.

"So..." Dackard smacked his lips for a moment, savoring the last of the flavor. "What are you going to call it?"

Six months later...

Sespi Fizzlepop stood on the docks at Ratchet, dressed in a deep blue, collared suit, a red, silk neckerchief and black shoes so well-polished they were practically glowing. He adjusted his cuffs and checked his time-piece; Sespi was a few minutes early for the shipment, but that's how he liked to run business. It never hurt to be a few minutes early. The wharfmaster had become a trusted friend, and he didn't mind Sespi on the dock. It was a bright, sunny day with a slight breeze coming off the sea. Sespi could taste the salt on the air, and felt a bit of sweat building at the back of his neck - the perfect weather for a cool, refreshing soft drink.

Back on the land, four large, horse-drawn carts waited to collect the shipment, and each with the name 'Sespi's Fizzy Pop' painted on the side. All of Sespi's employees wore bright blue uniforms and caps, because he'd quickly picked up the art of marketing and branding. Nearly everyone in the world recognized the familiar blue logo of Sespi's Fizzy Pop, and there were drink stands in all of the major cities across Azeroth. Goblin neutrality had paid off in a big way.

Within the first month, Sespi's drink was tickling the throats of hundreds of orcs throughout Orgrimmar from his little stand in the Valley of Strength. The stand turned into a shop, and his shop quickly grew into a factory. The pop spread across Durotar and the Barrens after Sespi had the grand idea - going against all goblin logic - to give out free samples to every new customer. It wasn't long before his logo was plastered all over the Mirage Raceway in the Salt Flats.

With Dackard's help, the drink was also smuggled into Theramore, then sent across the ocean into Alliance lands. Once it reached the gnomes in Iron Forge, there was no stopping it. They loved the drink so much that they'd even tried to make their own brand, but Coca's Bubbly Cola wasn't nearly as popular. The goblins won again, much to Sespi's delight. His ancestors would be proud.

"And there's the boat now, sir, rounding the corner," the delightfully squeaky voice of his personal assistant, Sixby Vizgeiser, announced. She was wearing a bright blue dress with a logo button pinned to her top. A clipboard was always in her crisply manicured hands, and she made a check in the 'arrival' box as she stood next to Sespi on the dock.

"So it is, so it is," Sespi nodded, smiling. He rolled up his sleeves as he watched the boat sail in.

"While we're waiting, I have the latest numbers from Stormwind, sir."

"Give me the short version, Six."

"It's looking good, sir."

"That's what I like to hear," Sespi grinned, rubbing his hands together. The rest of the goblin wharf crew moved ahead of him once the ship was docked, and the crates started unloading. Sespi liked to help out, especially since this was an important order. He passed along some of the crates to his workers. "I want one of the new stand-alone dispenser machines shipped to Stormwind on the double. Consider it a launching ground."

"I will get word to the engineers immediately. Though, they are reporting some trouble with the bottling. Something about too much gunpowder."

"Well that's easy, tell them no gunpowder."

"Brilliant, sir."

"What about that deal with Nazz Steamboil? Have we signed him yet?" Sespi asked. His eyes scanned every label as the crates came down, but he kept passing them along. He was looking for a certain set in particular.

"Negotiations are ongoing, sir," Sixby replied hesitantly, then added. "But word from the racing crew is that we might not want to 'blow' so much gold on signing just one racer, if you catch my meaning."

"Ah, good point," Sespi nodded. "Sign the whole team."

"Right away, sir." Sixby noted it on her clipboard. A few other goblin employees moved around her, counting off and taking stock of the new inventory before it was brought back to the carts.

"Ah, there they are!" Sespi grinned when two medium-sized crates came off the ship. One was slapped with a yellow label, the other green. Sespi waved them over, then asked, "Hand me the pry bar?"

"If I may be so curious, sir..." Sixby cleared her throat, looking over Sespi's shoulder. "Is this what you needed to come down to the docks for personally?"

"Yep," Sespi cracked open the lids on both crates, each one filled to the brim with two different kinds of fruit, one was yellow and the other green. The two fruits looked very similar to the untrained eye. Sespi grabbed one of each kind in his hands, weighing them for a moment before taking a satisfied sniff.

"Lemons and limes, sir?" Sixby inquired, her cute goblin brow furrowing. "What are they for?"

Sespi grinned, "Innovation."