[Closed] Bumps in the Night

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Thess
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Piero's voice dropped to a seething whisper. "There is a difference with wanting to not let events run away with your life causing distress and abandoning your duty.  And who are you to judge which is which?" It would be such sweet pleasure when he could finally close his jaws around this buffoon's throat.  He would have liked to follow the worgen home after they parted ways and do the deed but he was such a useful tool.  Patience.. patience would make that moment so much the sweeter.

[A]: Thess, Fahbrez Starshadow, Mihbrez Starshadow, Diccionario, Piero Consilio, Marcus Duccan, Lau Tze

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Raze simply smiled back at Piero, chuckling to himself at the question.  "It is my job to judge which is which.  Quite literally.  And what, pray tell, would your 'duty' be in this situation?"

What do you mean dumplings DON'T solve everything?

[H] Mok'rogg, Claxle

[A] Razahir, Denryk

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Piero did not skip a beat. "My duty is to assist the victim of this crime in any way she requires. I am here at her request but if you know better.." He left the statement hanging, hoping his feigned anger was strengthening Raze's opinion of him.

[A]: Thess, Fahbrez Starshadow, Mihbrez Starshadow, Diccionario, Piero Consilio, Marcus Duccan, Lau Tze

Artwork by Vorrick

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Raze suppressed the urge to simply grab Piero by the head and slam his head against the cold stones of the guardhouse until his fragile skull shattered like an egg, burying his animalistic urges deep within him.  Balance, he reminded himself, Keep the balance.  He took a deep breath and smiled at Piero, bowing his head lightly, "Of course, I apologize.  Lead on."  He gestured to the inside of the guardhouse.  

What do you mean dumplings DON'T solve everything?

[H] Mok'rogg, Claxle

[A] Razahir, Denryk

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Slivers of pale daylight were beginning to show around the curtains in the window as Shaatnez gave the youngling a concerned frown. "Hate you? Why would they hate you?"

And who are 'they'? the draenei thought to himself. This situation was getting more inexplicable by the minute. At least the immediate danger seemed to have passed.

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Dicco fought back his sniffling snobs and pulled away slightly. "I.. I told Tammar that I would be moving to Dalaran and she basically told me not to come back and.. and then the robber came and held a knife to me and I.. told them where the cash box was.  It's my fault, it's all my fault."  Tears started welling in the young lad's eyes again. "And then Heiros came and said... and said.. if I didn't go down there I was betraying my friends" Dicco broke off his story as he fought to get control over his tears, finally looking up at his friend with wide eyes before blushing and looking away. "And.. I wet the bed."

[A]: Thess, Fahbrez Starshadow, Mihbrez Starshadow, Diccionario, Piero Consilio, Marcus Duccan, Lau Tze

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Shaatnez listened carefully. After Dicco had finished, he paused, then said gently, "So let me get this straight. A robber came in here and threatened you with a knife, asking you where the cash box was, and you told them." He laid a warm hand on Dicco's shoulder before continuing. "You did the right thing, Dicco. Okay? That was a very frightening circumstance and any of us would have done exactly the same thing. Your life is worth infinitely more than a box of silver coins."

The older draenei chuckled. "And about wetting the bed...well. Suffice to say that grown men have done worse when confronted with danger. It's something the body does. Do you know why?" he asked with a smile, as if sharing a secret.

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Dicco raised his head with a curious expression on his face.

[A]: Thess, Fahbrez Starshadow, Mihbrez Starshadow, Diccionario, Piero Consilio, Marcus Duccan, Lau Tze

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Shaatnez leaned in conspiratorially. "Because if your body gets rid of the extra weight it's carrying, you can run faster! Or so body logic goes, anyway." He sat up and gave the younger draenei a grin.

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Dicco looked at Shaatnez in complete bafflement, he was about to argue that such little loss of weight would not make that much difference when he noticed the draenei's grin.  Blushing again at the realization he missed the point he looked down but couldn't stifle the giggle that wormed its way through his distress.

[A]: Thess, Fahbrez Starshadow, Mihbrez Starshadow, Diccionario, Piero Consilio, Marcus Duccan, Lau Tze

Artwork by Vorrick

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"It's true!" Shaatnez proclaimed, still grinning. "A human physician told it to me once. He even had spectacles on."

Sobering a little, the draenei gave Dicco a smile. "How are you feeling? 'Not alright' is an allowable answer, so you know."

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Dicco relaxed and slumped his shoulders, "I think not alright would have to be my answer.  I... I want to get out of here, but I really don't want to go downstairs."

 

[A]: Thess, Fahbrez Starshadow, Mihbrez Starshadow, Diccionario, Piero Consilio, Marcus Duccan, Lau Tze

Artwork by Vorrick

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"That's understandable, though I think you'll have to talk to people eventually. But you can use your crystal for that if you have to, so there's no need to stay here physically. In fact, I'm a bit surprised that you are still here. Do you feel that you can concentrate enough to create a portal, or do I need to go downstairs and create a diversion?" Shaatnez gave Dicco another grin.

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Dicco sniffed loudly and drew a sleeve across his eyes to wipe the last of his tears away, "I.. I think I can make a portal.  I will need the last of my tools and my clothes, I don't think I'll ever come back here."  He grinned sheepishly at Shaatnez. "Perhaps I should get you to create a distraction anyway, not that I think we'll need it I just want to see what you come up with."  He pushed himself off his bed and pulled the blankets, he spare tool box and his spare clothes from the closet.  "I'll have to get these blankets back to Tammar somehow."

[A]: Thess, Fahbrez Starshadow, Mihbrez Starshadow, Diccionario, Piero Consilio, Marcus Duccan, Lau Tze

Artwork by Vorrick

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A look of concern flashed over Shaatnez' face as the youngling mentioned his intention not to return. Best to let that lie for now, he thought to himself. Plenty of time to sort that out later.

"Honestly, Dicco, I hadn't even thought that far ahead," Shaatnez said with a chuckle. "But given the look on everybody's face when I came in, maybe it's better not to push it. Once we go through, though, I'm going to tell Tammar so she doesn't worry."

Safety first, the older draenei thought with an inward grimace. Then maybe I can figure out what happened here. There was no real reason to stay put, and if Dicco was too terrified to talk, it would hardly do anybody any good to keep him in Stormwind right now...especially if the boy had seen the robber.

"Can I hold some of those for you?" he said to Dicco, gesturing at the bundles he was creating.

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Dicco didn't speak, he handed his parcels to Shaatnez, and placed the soiled blankets on the floor at his feet.  He took a deep breath and focused as he had been tought.  He felt the ley line running beneath Stormwind and drew on its power.  Muttering the incantations he waved his arms as the sound of rushing wind filled the small room and spilled down the stairs.  The air shimmered in front of the draenei and swirled into a vortex revealing The Violet Gate in Dalaran.  The air in the room still stirred and blew across Dicco's face, "You first please Mr Shaatnez."

[A]: Thess, Fahbrez Starshadow, Mihbrez Starshadow, Diccionario, Piero Consilio, Marcus Duccan, Lau Tze

Artwork by Vorrick

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Shaatnez nodded and hefted the bundles, then stepped through with Dicco close behind him.

Stepping down the stairs from the Gate, the pair made their way through the early-morning bustle of the city of mages, discussing where Dicco would be staying and what he wanted to do next. The youngling was firm: he was starting a new life on his own -- so Shaatnez left him at the Legerdemain with a promise to visit later that evening. The young man had enough funds for now to be able to start looking for more permanent lodging, and had made it clear that he did not want to rely on his friend any further.

Relieved to have the situation resolved for the time being, Shaatnez sent over the crystals as he headed back to his workshop, Tammar, I have gone with Dicco back to Dalaran. He is not hurt and will be staying here for now. Please let me know if you need anything.

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Piero saw the worgen take a breath and knew his words had impacted.  He smiled wryly. "Shall we get this over with then?"

Raze nodded and gestured inside. "Let’s."  He kept his smile on as he waited for Piero to head in.

Piero slipped around the door to come face to face with a guardsman sporting a neatly-groomed moustache and sitting behind a long desk.

Corporal Rob Gulliman -- the chalkboard on the wall indicated that this was the name of the man at the desk, as well as informing all comers that the Patrolling Deputy was one Sr. Guardsman Dominic J. Callison -- neatened the piles of reports on his desk and carefully withdrew a sheet of paper from the drawer. Positioning it precisely on the blotter, he picked up his quill and --- as Piero walked in, he looked up, pen frozen above the paper. He put it back in its holder and folded his hands, smiling politely. "Yessir?"

Piero glanced over his shoulder at the hulking worgen behind him. "I would like to report a robbery goodman."

The corporal straightened his uniform and nodded sharply, fishing a form out of a side drawer. "A robbery?" The man's crisp movements contrasted strangely with his polite smile. "Please give me the details as best you remember them."

Peiro nodded his head solidly. "Perhaps two hours ago I was taking a walk through the city before heading to the construction at the gates of the city. I am a humble day labourer, you see, and if I don't get there early... well, I might not get work for the day. Anyways, I was walking around the canals in the Cathedral District, when I noticed a figure climb from a window at the ice cream parlour."

"Mmhm?" the guardsman prompted, scratching down notes on the form.

Brushing a hand through his hair, Piero continued. "As they dropped to street level I called out, and figuring they were up to no good, I gave chase. They ran towards the bridge to the trade district. I closed in and noticed that the person was a female, about my shoulder height with coppery ringlets. She was carrying a box about so big,” he said, holding his hands about a foot apart. "As I reached out to grab her I felt a sting on my neck and found myself paralyzed. Apparently she had an accomplice."

"A sting on your neck, mmhm, interesting," Corporal Gulliman said, still writing. "And then what happened?"

"My muscles froze... I was completely paralyzed. They dragged back between two buildings. There the two villains beat me while I could not fight back, the woman standing in front of me and her accomplice remaining hidden from my view. They left me bruised and limping, the woman having stomped on my knee."

Gulliman flinched at the description of the beating, but kept writing dutifully.

Razahir cleared his throat. "Pardon me for interrupting, but if you were paralyzed, was one of them holding you upright while the other beat you?"

The guardsman’s pen paused above the paper. "Excuse me, sir,” he said to Razahir, “but please do not interrupt this gentleman's testimony. If you would like to give your own, you are welcome to do so once he has finished." He gave the worgen a warm smile.

Piero glared over his shoulder. He couldn't abide interruption. "No, they laid me flat on the ground."

Raze only nodded, folding his arms across his chest. "I see.  Carry on.”

"I lay there bruised and aching for almost an hour until I slowly regained my faculties. Figuring the assailants long gone by this stage, I thought I should make my way to the shop and see if I could wake the folk within. I encountered Mr Good-- I'm sorry, Mr Godwyn here on the steps of the shop. He assisted me in waking the inhabitants and getting me inside."

Raze nodded. "Indeed.  Some of the inhabitants saw to his injuries and ensured he was well enough to travel here."

Corporal Gulliman nodded, carefully writing down what was said. He shot Razahir a warning look before saying to Piero, "And then what happened?"

Not looking back at Raze, Peiro gave the watchman a pained expression. "A gnome, the proprietor, called Tammar opened the door and let us inside. A draenei by the name of Heiros and a pandaren lass by the name of Kwu all came downstairs. There was one other in the building called Dicco, I think, but he stayed upstairs while we were there."

This prompted more nodding and writing from the guardsman. "Mmhm. We will have to have to speak to them as well, of course. Were any of your belongings taken?"

Piero shook his head. "No... but after I had explained to the good folk what I had seen and encountered, they searched the store and discovered a cashbox, the week’s takings I believe, had been removed. After that Mr Heiros gave me some healing so I would be able to walk here and make this report." Piero moved in closer and dropped his voice. "If I may sir, please be gentle in your questioning of Tammar. She seemed... well... seemed greatly distressed by the circumstances, but tried very hard not to let it show... if you know what I mean?"

The guardsman gave Piero a reassuring smile. "Yessir, I certainly do. I will talk to her myself, don't you worry." He glanced down at his pages of notes. "Does that conclude your account? If so, please read over it to ensure that everything is accurate."

Piero quickly glanced over the transcript. "That looks correct, sir, thank you." He handed the notes back across the desk. "Sir, might I ask... things seemed... very tense inside the shop when we left, and while I would never think to tell you your job. Could I request that they all be given a little time.. perhaps a day to let them calm themselves before you question them?”

"I'm sorry, sir, but while I understand your concern, that will not be possible. It is better to have witnesses give their accounts as soon as possible after the event to avoid lapses of memory and the like. We will be sending someone over as soon as we can to gather evidence."

Concern flashed across Piero's face. "I thought you were going to question them yourself sir?"

"Yes, but we are required to go in pairs."

Piero nodded perfunctorily in reply.

"Furthermore," the corporal intoned, "I am required to man the office this morning."

Piero nodded once again. "Do you need anything further from me sir?"

"Yessir, just a few last details..." The corporal listed off a series of details he needed: name, time of the incident, precise location of the incident, contact information, and so forth -- each having its own precise space on the form.

Piero handed over the details of the inn he was staying at, his name, and the work site he frequented, along with the name of the shop and a description of how to reach it. "Thank you, sir,” he said to the guardsman.

"Yessir, thank you for bringing this to our attention," Corporal Gulliman said in return. He put the last details on the forms and blotted them, then stood and extended his hand to Piero.

Taken aback somewhat, Piero extended his hand to the watchman. Corporal Gulliman gave him a firm handshake and a friendly nod, then sat back down.

"Now, sir," Gulliman said to Razahir, "I can take your account as well. Thank you for not interrupting a third time; I was worried that I would have to ask you to leave." Piero stifled a smirk as he stepped back from the desk to stand by the door.

Razahir nodded as he came up to the desk, inclining his head to the seated guardsman.  "Of course, my apologies.  I was unaware the process was so formal."

Piero rolled his eyes behind the worgen's back, making sure that Gulliman could see. Not seeming to notice, Corporal Gulliman folded his hands and gave the worgen a polite smile. "Not a problem, sir. I'm sure you are used to much more free-form means of doing things," he said, clearing his throat a touch nervously, "but we like to keep things nice and civilized here in the King's city."

The worgen folded his arms over his chest and fixed the guardsman with a hard stare.  "What do you require of me?"

Corporal Gulliman pulled out another form and calmly readied his pen. "Please tell me everything you know about the situation, starting from the beginning."

Raze cleared his throat before speaking. "I arrived on the scene shortly before dawn, on my way back to the Gilded Rose from Pandaria when I heard Mr. Consilio shouting an alarm to wake the shop.  When I arrived, he could barely stand and appeared to be in some measure of pain.  Tammar, the shop owner, allowed us into the store when she woke, and as Mr. Consilio had stated, we all discovered that the cash box with approximately one week's profits inside had been stolen."

Gulliman nodded, writing everything down carefully. "Then what?"

"Then there was some discussion as to what course of action to be taken.  Tammar, being the owner of the shop in question, asked me to assist Mr. Consilio down to the guardhouse to file a report."

The guardsman nodded crisply. "Very well. If you could please look this over and tell me if it all is accurate?" he said, turning the form around for Razahir to see.

Razahir bent down, scrutinizing the report before he nodded once.  "Yes, sir."

Corporal Gulliman repeated the same procedure to obtain Razahir’s details, filling out each of the remaining spaces on the form in its turn. "Sign here, please," he said when he was done, handing the worgen a second pen from the stand on the desk. "You too, please, Mr. Consilio."

Raze deftly took the pen and signed his name before handing it back.  "Is that all?"

Piero stepped forward taking up the pen and signing his name with a large flourish and smiled at the watchman. "Thank you again.  Will that be all, sir?"

Gulliman nodded absently, busying himself with checking over the neatly filled-out forms. “That was all we needed, unless your report is missing something?" The corporal blotted the signatures carefully and then stacked the two sets of forms into a neat pile. "Very good. Thank you for bringing this matter to the Guard's attention, gentlemen; it will be handled promptly."

"Can I go now?” Piero asked abruptly.

Razahir glanced over his shoulder at Piero, an eyebrow raised, while Corporal Gulliman looked up at Piero in puzzlement.

"Oh. Yessir. You may go,” the guardsman said with another friendly smile.

“Well, I shall take my leave of you both here.  I will be at the inn today if you need anything further." Piero made his way through the door and onto the street, heading directly for his room at the inn without waiting to say goodbye to the worgen.

Raze nodded, then turned and walked out of the guardhouse.

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After Razahir and Piero had left for the guardhouse, the three who remained in the shop gradually sorted themselves out, since they were not due to be open again for another few hours.

Heiros had gone to bed early the night before, so he announced quietly that he would stay downstairs for the time being, while Tammar sat at the bar with her head still buried in her arms, trying to pull herself together.

Kwu shuffled upstairs, dragging her feet in a mix of weariness and emotional exhaustion over the entire robbery and everything following.

She stopped a moment at the sound coming from Dicco's room. Or rather, the lack thereof... Shaatnez and Dicco had been in there some time, so why was it simply... silent?

Kwu glanced back and forth a moment and bit her lip. She didn't want to interrupt the two, but.... Shuffling to the door she gave it a soft rapping, pausing a moment for a response. As empty air continued to taunt her, she cautiously reached out and turned the handle, opening it just the smallest sliver and whispering, "D-d-dicco, S-shaatnez?"

Far off in Dalaran, Dicco had said goodbye to Shaatnez and bundled himself upstairs to his room in the Legerdemain Lounge. He quickly dropped his pack and huddled on the bed, drawing the covers around his shoulders; the youngling shuddered as he remembered the copper-haired woman and the feel of the knife pushing against his skin.

Another pause and more of nothing. Her tail twitching furiously behind her, Kwu was at a loss. Either they were very quietly distracted by each other and she was being very, very nosy, or... or something else. A shiver rippled up her back as dark thoughts clouded her mind. Was the robber back? Had they come to silence Dicco? Had Shaatnez been incapacitated, haplessly falling prey to murder while simply trying to come to a friend's aid?

No... no, that didn't seem plausible; fear and anguish were getting the best of her. Steeling herself, she risked pushing the door open enough to poke her head through, glancing about the dim room, her goggles glowing faintly as they scanned each corner and crevice, and yet... nothing.

Kwu blinked.

Then again, there was simply an empty room: no draenei, no bodies, no bloody mess or intruding figures wrapped in darkness.

She let out a ragged breath and quietly scolded herself. Dicco was an aspiring mage and a genius engineer -- between him and Shaatnez she couldn't think of any two more likely to have something that would allow them to slip out unseen. She shuffled into the room, closing the door behind her and going to look over her things.

Aside from a mess of blanket that had followed her across the room when she woke, everything was as she had left it the previous night: bags stuffed neatly into one corner, books stacked carefully next to those, and her staff leaning against the wall. She made sure to check into every fold, pocket and hidden compartment she could pull out, but everything was as mostly-organized as it had been before. Nodding in satisfaction, she plopped onto the bed with a sigh, tapping a finger against her knee a moment.

Dicco must have been alright if Shaatnez hadn't bothered letting anyone know they were leaving -- that was at least a good thought -- but...Dicco leaving without saying so much as a goodbye?

She shook her head. Dicco was a friend -- and a Keeper. He would not get away so easily without some explanation. She reached up and poked at the crystal still loosely tied into the strap of her goggles. Her last experience with the crystal had been somewhat mixed, so hopefully she could better manage focusing this time, despite the morning's events.

U-u-uhm.... D-dicco... are you there? It’s...it's Kwu... I guess that was k-k-kinda obvious. I-I just wanted to make sure you w-w-were alright. Even over the crystals she couldn’t quite keep her tongue untangled.

Dicco leaped with a small yelp and tried to dig himself further against the wall. Shaking, he realised what he had heard and dug his spanner with the embedded crystal from his back pocket. Focusing on the crystal, he tried to exude a feeling of calm and ended up failing miserably.

K...Kwu? What? Oh.

Not realising he hadn’t actually answered the pandaren's question, he let the crystal grow dark.

Kwu quietly began tapping with her other hand to prevent from chewing on her lip. I-it's good to hear your voice. C-c-could you m-maybe tell me exactly h-how and where you've gone t-t-to?

Clutching the spanner to his chest, Dicco continued, Portal.  In Dalaran now, am okay. His voice was small and the words quivered even though they were sent over the crystal and not spoken aloud.

Kwu let her hand drop a moment and breathed a sigh of relief. He could still be trying to convince them he was okay, but if he was in Dalaran then at least Shaatnez would be nearby to watch over him. She quickly reached back up and pressed against the crystal. I s-see. Y-you gave us s-s-something of a slip, c-clever thinking with that portal. She forced out a light chuckle, trying to lighten the mood in whatever way she could manage. Poor Dicco sounded like he needed it.

W-well...I just w-w-wanted to be sure you hadn't busted a window o-o-or something. I just... Kwu trailed off, swirling her free hand about and trying to choose her words carefully. I’ll...I'll keep my crystal on me. If you...if you w-wanna talk, or have me relay anything to Tammar, just...say the word. I-i-I'm always willing to l-l-lend a hand if you w-want one.

Dicco shook as Kwu implied that he might ever break a window. Hadn't he done enough already to destroy his friendships with the people in the shop? He was surprised to feel the tears welling again -- why couldn't he stop crying? He was just stupid and useless and didn't know what to say, how to make it right. How to fix things. He squeezed a small Thank you over the stones to Kwu before dropping his crystal on the bed and pulling out the elliptical crank he had been trying to devise. Tears flooding his cheeks, he began to work. He could at least get this one thing right.

Kwu nodded, sitting in silence for several seconds before letting her hand drop to her lap. She sighed and let her head droop, resting her chin on her hands as she floated through a mental fog.

Eventually she pulled herself to her feet with a breath. Calm, centered, and somewhat focused. Dicco was gone, Shaatnez was gone, Raze and Piero had left. She should tell Tammar where Dicco had slipped off to before she found out on her own. That was not a scenario Kwu could imagine having a good outcome. Not that her announcing it would be much better, the pandaren thought with a grimace.

Kwu shuffled out and back down the stairs, peeking out from around the corner and clearing her throat slightly. "I j-just had a word with D-dicco over the crystals,” she stammered softly. “H-h-he's out in Dalaran a-at the moment. He m-m-made a portal for him and Shaatnez."

Tammar raised her head from the counter and looked at Kwu blankly for a long moment, then nodded. "Okay. Good. Fine." She sat up and raked her fingers through her thoroughly mussed bangs. "I need sleep, Kwu. I'm going upstairs." With a nod to Heiros, she did just that.

Kwu stepped to the side to allow Tammar to pass, glancing at the gnome as she went up the stairs, then back to Heiros a moment. She gave the draenei a shrug and quietly headed upstairs herself, slipping back into her room and sitting cross-legged on the bed, meditating for the first time in days.

Back in her bed, Tammar tossed and turned for a long time, unable to get comfortable and, worse yet, unable to get her heart to stop pounding in her ears. A little more than an hour before the shop was scheduled to open, she finally drifted into shallow sleep.

*****

Then, not fifteen minutes later, the guards showed up on the shop's front porch.

Corporal Gulliman, a kindly-looking man of indeterminate age, knocked politely on the door to the soda shop, then waited, idly shifting his clipboard to his other hand so he could straighten his tabard. He was impeccably dressed in the uniform worn by the City Guard for desk duty – knee boots, tunic, and riding pants, finished off with boiled leather shoulderguards and a metal-clad truncheon strapped to his belt. The weapon looked to be more ceremonial than anything, given that it was perfectly polished and unscratched.

Beside him, Guardsman Callison, clad in the heavier armor, sword, and shield of a street patroller, frowned behind his helmet. "That's no good, Corporal. How're they supposed to hear that upstairs?" Reaching past Gulliman, he pounded on the door with a gauntleted fist. "OPEN UP!"

Kwu managed not to jump at the sounds of pounding at the door for yet another time that day. Carefully unfolding her legs and pushing herself to her feet, she dusted herself off and descended the stairs.

Heiros had hesitated to answer the door, having no real connection with the business.  Since the second knock, or pounding, had brought Kwu downstairs, he remained seated in the back of the shop.

Hearing the shout, she hustled enough to reach the door before a second pounding could occur, pulling open the door and offering a quick bow to the officers. "A-ah, sorry, c-c-can I help you?"

Corporal Gulliman offered the pandaren woman a soft smile, but as he opened his mouth to explain the reason for their visit, his colleague butted in. "We received a report of a robbery that took place at this location last night, and we need to ask you some questions," he said gruffly.

"Yes," Gulliman added, "we're from the City Guard. I'm Corporal Gulliman, and this—" he said, indicating the armor-clad guardsman accompanying him "—is Senior Guardsman Callison. We need to speak with any witnesses to the crime, please. It won't take very long."

Blinking Kwu nodded, stepping to the side to allow the officers inside. "O-oh, yes of c-c-course, uhm, please come in."

Gulliman gave her another smile, then walked into the shop, Callison's plate-clad boots clomping in behind him. The armored guardsman took up a post on the back wall, standing with arms folded.

"May I sit?" the corporal asked, indicating the stools in front of the counter.

Out of habit Kwu stepped behind the counter, tapping her fingers together a moment before Corporal Gulliman approached. With a smile she managed to nod. "A-ah yes of course. Can I g-get you something to d-d-drink, either of you?"

Callison snorted, but Gulliman waved him silent. Miraculously, it actually worked.

"No, thank you," the corporal said to Kwu as he took a seat. "I just need to get some information. Can you tell me about what happened? Everything you remember -- large or small details." He set his clipboard down on the counter, his pencil held ready.

Kwu bit her lip lightly and managed a curt nod, drifting into thinking a moment. "E-ehm... Well T-this morning there w-w-was a pounding at the d-d-door. Miss T-tammar was f-first down the stairs followed by H-heiros and then myself. Tammar o-opened the door to a m-man with a w-w-worgen helping him s-stand."

Heiros focused on his crystal.  "Tammar, are you awake?  You are needed."  He waited for a response, but none was forthcoming; Tammar's haircomb was still sitting on her nightstand, not having been touched since she took it off the night before when she was getting ready for bed. Its owner, meanwhile, was still curled up under her blankets.

Gulliman nodded and scratched down some notes. "And who are Heiros and Tammar, please?"

Speaking from his chair, Heiros responded,  "I am Heiros, but have nothing to add.  I will go up and wake Tammar."  Not giving time for other questions, he rose and headed up the stairs.

When he arrived at Tammar's door, he knocked lightly.  "Tammar?  Some guards are here with questions about the robbery.  Would you come down?"

Callison moved to follow him, one hand resting casually on his sword's pommel. Upstairs, he stood in the hallway.

Tammar stirred, rubbing her eyes blearily. Had she slept at all? Frowning, she sat up in bed. "Heiros? Guards?" she called confusedly. "Just a moment..." She got up and put on her dressing-gown again.

Satisfied that she was up and would be along, Heiros squeezed past the guard and returned to his seat below.

Callison gave the draenei a hard look as he pushed past, but remained upstairs to ensure that this "Tammar" woman would indeed be forthcoming.

Kwu silently breathed a thanks, half frozen a moment ago and doing her best to remain as calm as she could appear. "A-a-ah T-tammar runs the s-s-shop and Heiros is a friend... She w-w-went upstairs to t-t-try and get some r-rest before we opened a while a-a-after everyone l-l-left." After a pause, she added, her voice still quavering, "Everyone being the w-wounded m-man and the w-w-worgen ass-s-sisting him."

Corporal Gulliman smiled again, nodding as he wrote everything down. "Go ahead?"

Kwu took something of a breath and continued. "T-the two came in and the w-wounded man explained his story, that he had seen a thief in the night escape through a window and gave chase, where he was paralyzed by a second assailant and then dragged into an alley and b... beaten."

Tammar emerged from her bedroom with hastily-brushed hair, wrapped in her dressing-gown for the second time that morning. She jumped as she caught sight of the armored guard standing at the head of the stairs, taking an unconscious step backwards before she caught herself.

Callison gave the gnome a long look, then nodded curtly. "After you, miss," he said impatiently, gesturing at the stairs.

Tammar gave him a wary look, but carefully made her way down into the shop.

Gulliman nodded at the pandaren shop assistant. "The worgen...is he someone you know?"

Kwu shook her head lightly. "I h-have not s-seen him before. I b-believe he introduced himself as Mr. Good... no Mr. Godwyn when he entered."

Catching Kwu's reply, Tammar said wearily, "I know him. Razahir Godwyn is a regular customer of ours."

Corporal Gulliman smiled at the gnome. "Sorry to have woken you, ma'am. I am just trying to get an account of what happened last night for the report." He turned to Heiros and asked, "Do you know this Mr. Godwyn, sir?"

Heiros frowned. "I believe I have seen him here before, but I am not here all the time."

Tammar climbed up behind the counter and took her seat on the stool there, her expression flat. "Are all of these questions really necessary, guardsman?" she asked impatiently, stifling a yawn. "I thought that Mr. Godwyn and Mr. Consilio had already gone to give their reports, and I have a long day ahead of me on little sleep."

Callison stepped up to the end of the counter, planting his boots on the floorboards. "Necessary?" he said quietly. "I should think so, Miss Warpweave. Unless you have a reason why we shouldn't be asking questions around your little shop here?"

Kwu cleared her throat, hoping to draw a degree of attention. "W-w-we just o-open in n-n-not t-to long, and it w-would b-b-be nice to f-f-finish this as s-s-soon as p-p-possible, is all."

Heiros looked back and forth between the two guards. "Asking questions is fine. You are just wasting our time and your own. The only person that had any interaction with the intruder refused to talk much and left. We believe he is in Dalaran now."

Collison gruffly answered, "That is highly suspicious behaviour.  Do you know why he would leave?"

Heiros shook his head.  "I don't know what words passed, but he was scared.  He was threatened in some way by the intruder – the female human that was seen outside, I believe."

Gulliman frowned and wrote down some notes. "Who is this person and what, precisely, is his connection with the shop?"

"His name is Diccionario, and he is a young draenei who is training as a mage and an engineer.  He designed or assembled most of what you see in the shop," Heiros said.

Gulliman nodded, looking about the shop and its collection of unusual machinery, some of which was apparently hidden from view, judging by the sounds emanating from the floorboards. "I see...very interesting." He flipped through some papers. "Ah, yes. There's a report here about some cryogenics needing a permit, but it seems that was resolved."

Collison leaned over and whispered loudly, "Should we check on that while we are here sir?  I could have these floorboards up in a jiffy."

Gulliman gave the other guardsman a blank look, gesturing with the paper he had found. "But it was resolved. Says right here, signed and dated. So that's not necessary."

Callison looked away slightly dejectedly, muttering behind his helmet about how easy it would be.

Tammar let out an unconsciously-held breath. "No," she said acerbically, "that certainly -won't- be necessary." Standing, she re-tied the sash of her dressing gown. "What Heiros says is correct. None of us saw anything directly, other than confirming that the cash box was missing. You do have that in your report, correct, Guardsman?"

Gulliman nodded, giving the gnome another smile. "Yes ma'am. Messrs. Consilio and Godwyn were quite helpful. But I need to ask you these questions anyway, if you please. For thoroughness, ma'am, and to be sure we haven't missed any important details."

Tammar snorted, but quickly gave an abbreviated account of her experience from earlier in the morning. "That is all," she said when she had finished, crossing her arms over her chest. "I was not an eyewitness to anything except for Mr. Consilio's kindness in alerting us."

"Do you have any suspects from what information you have so far?" Heiros asked.

"Enquiries are proceeding," Callison said, then harrumphed, "but looking at the security measures you have taken, anyone could have waltzed in here taken what they liked and moved off.  I would say you are fortunate that anyone saw anything."

Gulliman nodded, confirming his colleague's stiff reply. "Yessir, we are working on that as best we can. We have a description of the female perpetrator, but not of her accomplice. It is very important that we speak to this Dicco fellow, however. He's in Dalaran, you said?"

"As far as we know.  All I know for sure is that he did not leave by the door," Heiros replied.

Gulliman's eyebrows climbed toward his hairline. "Is that so?" He scribbled furiously.

"Very suspicious indeed, sir," Callison, said, rounding on the draenei.

Heiros raised an eyebrow of his own.  "I did mention he was training as a mage, yes?"

Gulliman nodded, mouthing to himself as he wrote again. "Ah, yes, yes, so I suppose that would have been a teleportation spell. That makes sense."

Callison continued, "I would very much like to speak with this 'Dicco' character personally.  Do you know how we could get in touch with him?"

Heiros sighed.  "I don't know who he is seeing for magic training, but I know his engineering studies are with a draenei named Shaatnez.  I have never been to his shop to know where it is in Dalaran."

Callison chuckled under his breath and whispered something to Gulliman. "Mr. Shaatnez is, uhh… known to us."

The corporal gave the other guardsman a puzzled look. "He is? Who is he?"

Callison blushed deeply enough that it could be seen through his helm. "Well he err, is a creator or maker of, er, devices... Yes, devices... that, er, have certain – uhhh – effects. Yes, that's it. Effects. He visits Stormwind occaisionally for... for… deliveries. We could – umm – write to him, at his er, workshop."

"Oh! Oh good, that makes things a lot simpler," Gulliman said with a pleased smile. "I'll get that address from you later, Callison."

Callison sighed deeply.

Tammar put her hands on her hips. "Is that all, then, guardsman?" she said to Gulliman, ignoring the other human entirely.

"Unless you can produce this... Dicco, if that is his real name," Callison said with a snort. "Come on Gulliman, these people don't have anything more to tell and there is a lovely little gelato place on the way home."

Heiros stood up from his seat.  "May your inquiries proceed productively."

Kwu quirked a brow but remained silent, pointedly perhaps, ears twitching just slightly she merely waited, calmly, for the guards to proceed with their day.

Gulliman nodded and stood as well, giving the two shopkeepers and the draenei a polite smile. "Yes, I think that is all we will be needing from you for now. Thank you very much for your cooperation." With that, he executed a crisp right-face and let himself out of the shop with Callison tromping out behind him.

Thess
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Piero returned to his room at the inn and waited for nightfall.  He would have like more time before approaching little miss ringlet’s employer, but if he had judged that pestering idiot correctly, he would have to move quickly before he was being watched too closely to get away.  As dusk fell on the city and it slipped into night, he once again dressed in his plain workmanlike clothes and carefully chipped away the plaster at his wall.  The hole in the wall revealed a box akin to the size of the cashbox taken from that dithering gnome’s shop.  Where the cashbox was plain and utilitarian, this one was stained an almost red colour and had intricate carvings of wavelike patterning on the lid.

 

Reverentially, he opened the lid and sitting in amongst plush velvets was a diamond the size of Peiro’s fist.  Expertly cut, the facets

seemed to trap the light and set the gem glowing.  Proudmoore’s Tear had gone missing from Kul Tiras during the second war and had been thought lost.  Piero was shocked when it had first turned up in the belongings of a priest he and the pack had encountered on a lonely road outside Darkshire.  The uncultured fools in his pack just thought if another pretty gem.  They did not know the history of how it was taken by a trading vessel lost off the coast of Stranglethorn Vale, how Martiene Descartes had been captured by the Amani and how his crew, ragged and lost as they were, fought through to rescue their captain from a troll cook pot.  How he then led a group to one of the Amani temples dotting the vale and won the large uncut diamond from their priests.  The tales of the ridiculous curse that followed Descartes for desecrating the temple.  His eventual rescue by none other than a young Daelin Proudmoore and the gift of the diamond for the rescue of the lost crew.  Proudmoore returned to Kul Tiras and on the day he was named Admiral, he was presented with the final cut of the diamond.

 

He of course recognised the stone on sight, and the night he took it he left eight of his supposed brothers dead; another would not walk again, he was sure.  He could not leave the stone in the hands of the uncouth and rough Gilnean dogs.  It would be a shame to see it leave his possession, but if it would buy him his place again it was a small price to pay.  Besides he could always retrieve it at some time in the future.

 

He closed the lid of the box and wrapped it in plain canvas before slipping it under his arm and stalking out into the night.  He approached the manor house cautiously, there were a few lights scattered but the window to the study where he had eavesdropped a few nights before lay dark.  He slipped into worgen form tucking the box into the front of his jerkin and slipped silently across the grounds.  Once settled beneath the window, he reverted back to human shape. He wanted to startle the folk inside not send them screaming for the guards.

 

He reached up and popped the latch on the window, he clambered over the sill and took a seat in the owner’s high back leather chair.  He placed the box carefully and opened it towards the door he was hoping the first thing his unintentional host would notice would be the Tear, and that he would recognise the stone.  After he was content that the box was placed just so he leaned back in the chair and put his feet up on the desk.  He waited, he was good at waiting.

 

It was a maidservant that found him.  She bustled in to lay the fire, stopping short at the sight of Piero, dropping one of the brushes she used to clean the hearth.

 

Piero grinned at the girl. “Good evening,” he said in a level tone.

 

“M-My pardon, Sir!”  The girl bobbed a curtsy and stooped to pick up the fallen brush, dropping two more in her fluster.  Scooping up all of her tools, she bobbed again, her face pale, before backing out of the room, closing the office door with a quiet ‘click.’

 

He did not have much longer to wait; a quarter, perhaps half hour.  Evening had truly fallen, the shadows gathering thickly in the room.  Masculine voices moved down the hallway, muffled by the thick carpets and closed door.  They paused outside the door, becoming more audible.

 

“... next Tuesday.  Lean on Hanover if needed, you have her dossier.  There must be something useful in there.  Has there been any word from Felstone?”  The knob turned and the door swung open soundlessly, the silver-haired Samuel preceding his employer into the room.

 

“The fuck is this?  Why has the lazy bitch not lit the lights?”  Graham Fensworth swore, threatening more than loss of employment to his household staff.

 

“Sir.”  Samuel’s arm snapped out, blocking his employer’s entrance.  He had noticed the open box with the diamond, then the shadowed form sitting in the chair.

 

“Who the hell are you, and what the fuck are you doing in my house?”  Fensworth’s bluster died away to a deadly calm, cold blue eyes locked on Piero.  He stepped around Samuel’s outstretched arm, taking in every detail of the man before him as if memorizing his features.

 

“Now, is that anyway to speak to a guest?”  Piero returned the stare.  The man had no finesse, no style.  Well the best way to deal with that would be to not let him stare Piero down. Eyes fixed on the man, he dropped his feet from the table and rose, scooping up the diamond from his box.  “As to what I am doing here, let’s call it a demonstration. Just so you know I do have the skill to follow through on what I offer, because that is what I bring tonight.. an offer.. an opportunity if you will.” He moved closer to the man and held the diamond up, and slowly turned it in his fingers.

 

“It seems to me that you have... well.. have developed a taste for ice cream.  I could imagine no other reason for sending a sneak thief into that store, and I am guessing that the cash box was not what you were after.  You are fortunate that I too have a taste for something.  Something you may be in a position to offer, and I, well.. within a week I could very well have the run of that shop.  I could get you anything you need.”

 

Samuel started forward, but subsided at a sharp gesture from his employer.  Graham’s eyes glittered as he stared at the diamond, then a veil dropped over his eyes, his face losing all expression.  He exchanged a long look with Samuel, who nodded then left the room, closing the doors behind him.

 

“You have my attention.”  He paced slowly over to the sideboard and held up a decanter of amber liquid.  “Whiskey?”

 

Piero’s gave the barest of nods, “Please.”

 

Graham nodded, the amber liquid purling into two glasses.  He made no further protest that Piero was in his chair, or in his office, simply setting one of the glasses down near the worgen’s elbow and taking one of the chairs in front of the desk.  

 

“So.  If I am not mistaken, that is Proudmoore’s Tear.  And you wish to offer it as a trade.  I am interested in your terms.”

 

Leaving the glass untouched, Piero placed the diamond back in its box and closed the lid with a firm snap. “Now let’s not be hasty.  I brought the Tear with me to let you know I am very much not a sneak thief.  To let know you I have the means and the skills to get you what you want.  It may form a part of what I am prepared to offer you, but first I need to know what it is about that ridiculous little shop that has your interest.”

 

Graham sipped at his glass, leaning back in his chair and propping an ankle up on his knee.  “I am quite certain I have no idea what shop you’re referring to.  If I did, however, have a need for a thief... I would certainly be impressed by someone that stole the Tear.  However.”  He straightened, leaning forward.  “I know for a fact that the Tear vanished in a conflict that was resolved before you were born.  Now. Perhaps you stole it.  Perhaps you merely got lucky. I am a cautious man, sir.  I am also a busy one.”  He set the glass down on the desk with a soft thump, then pulled out a pocket watch, consulting it.  “You have... mmm. I’d say five more minutes before my man returns with the Guard to arrest the thief I found in my home.  So.  What do you have to offer me?”

 

How dare this bull-head ruffian dressed in lordly clothes threaten him,with the Guard no less. Piero was fast losing his patience.  He chuckled viciously, “You think me a thief?  My dear fellow, I am so much more than that and why the pretense?  There is no one here seeking to entrap you.” He picked up the glass taking a small sip before placing it down and easing a knife from its sheath concealed in his voluminous sleeve.  “Perhaps I should tell you what I know.  I know that a week ago your man engaged a woman to retrieve certain items from a property owned by Miss Felstone, Ol’ Emma as the folks in the neighbourhood call her.  I know that the property in question is currently leased and is running as a ice cream and soda shop known as Short and Sweet.  I know last night your hire broke into said shop but only made it out with a cash box, nothing more.  I know that it is more than likely that nothing of interest or value a man such as yourself would desire exists in that shop.”  He sighed theatrically and paused, “I also know that you mentioned to your man the names Felstone and Hanover not two minutes ago.  Hanover, I presume, is the name of your hire.”

 

Without warning he flung the knife from his sleeve aiming to miss the man’s head by less than an inch.  He took two strides towards the man until he stood before him. “I also know that no guard would make it three steps into this room still breathing.  I also know that if you threaten me again or I smell one sniff of a guard, no resident of this house would survive the night. Now drop the fucking charade and tell me what you want from the shop so I can make you my offer and we can keep things civil.”

 

Graham didn’t move, even when the knife whipped past his face.  Slowly, he got to his feet, his voice even and low.  “I am impressed by intelligence and competence.  You are bright, I have no doubt of that.  But if you think,” he took a step forward, his tread heavy with menace, “That you can march into my house and make demands of me, you have another think coming.”   

 

He stood over Piero, his face impassive.  “The difference between you and Mistress Hanover isn’t that she’s less than you.  It’s that she understands how this works.  She is a tool.  She remains in my employ because she understands her place as a tool.  I don’t explain myself... to tools.”  He casually lifted his foot and slammed it into the side of Piero’s knee.  

 

A jolt of pain shot up his leg, and all the frustration that Piero felt welled over as he felt the change come upon him. With a deep growl rising in his throat he stumbled backwards, placing his hand on the ground.  Muscles stretched then filled out and thick black fur sprouted from his body.  His face elongated into a snout filled with vicious teeth.  He then rose and let forth a deep, primal growl as he stood before Graham, standing a full head taller than his adversary.  “Give me a reason not to take your fucking head.” Piero threatened in a snarling voice.

 

“Now.  I admire that you are smart enough to put the pieces together.  But if you are going to work with me,”  He picked up his glass from the desk and began moving back to the decanter.  “You must understand that I have not gotten where I am now by rolling over and baring my throat for every dog that wanted a piece of the action.”  

 

His hand moved lightning fast, whipping around to slap Piero hard enough to snap his head to the side.  “You also must understand that if we are to work together, I am in charge, and if you cannot hold your temper, then you are no longer of use to me, and will be dealt with thusly.”  He looked up at the worgen with an impassive gaze, just as the door opened to reveal Samuel with three men dressed in the tabards of the City Guard.

 

“Now.  We can sit down and have a civilized discussion like gentlemen, or I can have you arrested.  What is your choice?”  Graham ignored the newcomers, his head cocked to the side.

 

Graham’s strike set Piero’s ears ringing, and a memory welled up unbidden.

 

The coach jostled them both from side to side as they travelled to meet Madam Sara’s contact.

“You know I am grooming Marissa to take over the Blue Cat.  You two make a good couple and she has mentioned that you would make a fine husband,” she said conversationally.

 

Piero glanced out the window with a sigh. “You know that could never be, Madame. After all she is a --”  He cut himself short, and yet Madame Sara’s hand still lashed out, slapping him across the face.

 

“Still he is there.  Still that little lordling I found in the gutter so many years ago.”  Madame Sara sighed heavily.  “Piero, I have given up ever teaching you that no man is better than another.  But perhaps you need to realise there are times when your arrogance needs to be kept in check.”  She shifted in her seat, taking both hands in his. “Sometimes folk such as ourselves need to walk quietly, need to accept the slights and insults of those in power.  Accept them, but, my dear Piero, never forget them.  And when the time is right, even the poorest among us could have an opportunity to hold a knife in the dark.” Her hands curled, squeezing to emphasise her words. “However, at this meeting I expect you to keep yourself under control.”

 

Piero snapped back to the present.  He had overreached, the day of bowing and scraping for that pompous guardsman, over gently guiding the stupidity of the folk from the shop and, worst of all,  allowing the malformed touch of that draenei against his skin had driven him precisely to what Madame Sara had tried to teach him.  Once again Piero stuffed down his pride and turned his head to face Graham as he shifted back to his human form.  He sucked momentarily on his stinging lip and said, “My apologies sir.”  How this sickened him. “There is no need for the guard.”

 

Graham studied him for several long moments, then jerked his head toward Samuel.  The aide murmured something in an undertone to the guards, then slipped out of the room, closing the door behind him.

 

The bulky man moved again to the sideboard, pouring a glass of something blue this time.  He passed it to Piero, then crossed behind his desk, sitting down with a creak of leather.  “I can only assume that you know who I am, since you know I have an interest in the Felstone property.  My interest lays with the property itself, not the tenants or whatever pitiful baubles they might have.  I have attempted to purchase the property on several occasions. “   He leans forward, studying Piero intently.

 

“Your assignment is to drive out the tenants.  Make the place uninhabitable.  You will find that I am a reasonable and generous man, when my employees please me.   But make no mistake- betray me, and there will not be enough left to feed the pigeons.”    He stared at Piero with implacable green eyes, the threat delivered in a matter-of-fact tone, as if he was discussing the weather.  The contrast between his cool, calculated promise and Piero’s flamboyant threats was difficult to miss.

 

“Samuel is waiting in the hall.  He will see to the arrangements.”   Dismissing Piero from his mind, he picked up a leather folio from the desk and began looking through it, making notations on a scrap of parchment in a scribbly messy hand.

 

Piero took the glass from Graham with a wry grin.  When the time was right he would be back here.  Taking a small sip from the curious blue drink, he scooped up the box from the table and followed Samuel into the hall.  Their discussions were brief, Samuel asked about Piero’s fee and Piero asked for a small manor house in the eastern edge of Elwynn Forest with holdings large enough to sustain himself and three staff as well as an introduction to the King’s Court for both delivering the shop and the diamond.  With the small property behind him and the introduction, Piero was sure he could maneuver his way into a strong political position.  Samuel had eyed him suspiciously for several moments before acquiescing with the proviso that the land would not change hands until Graham held title on the shop.  Piero countered that by insisting he would keep possession of the diamond until that time.  Their deal was concluded with a gentlemanly handshake and the agreement they would not meet again until the work was complete. Piero was ushered out quickly by means of a hidden passage opening via a one way door to one of the cisterns attached to the canal.

 

As Piero climbed back to the quiet street, surprisingly not far from the shop itself, he smiled.  He was extremely pleased with the outcome of tonight’s events.  He would soon regain what was taken from him so many years ago; and once their business was concluded he could once again visit Graham and address the insults offered to him.  Whistling pleasantly to himself he returned to his room at the inn to once again conceal Proudmore’s Tear.

[A]: Thess, Fahbrez Starshadow, Mihbrez Starshadow, Diccionario, Piero Consilio, Marcus Duccan, Lau Tze

Artwork by Vorrick

Nebet
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Robert Gulliman, corporal in the Stormwind City Guard, sat down heavily at the table in his kitchen that doubled as his desk. Resting his head on one hand, he closed his eyes for a moment. It had been a very frustrating day. Earlier that afternoon, he had gone to make his daily report to his superior.

"Why are you wasting my time with this, Gulliman?" the sergeant had barked after he had explained the findings from the robbery of that ice cream shop. "No suspects, only cash taken, and less than a hundred gold at that? The Guard doesn't have time to go chasin' petty thieves, sonny."

Gulliman frowned as he remembered the sergeant's upheld hand, forestalling his objections.

"I know, I know, Gulliman. The book says. Well, the book don't say half the things it oughta, and it says too many things elsewise. File your report if you want, for all the good it'll do. You know the captain will say the same thing I just said, and you're just wastin' good ink, but I know I can't stop ya."

And with that, the sergeant had sent him home. And here he was.

Gulliman sat up and reached for a sheet of paper, his mouth set in a grim line. It wasn't right. That report had to be filed; it was the correct thing to do. He began laboriously composing his thoughts, sending neatly-formed letters marching across the page in pursuit of justice.

=====

Samuel rubbed his face. It had been a long day, and he had three more places to visit before he could return to the townhouse and his own rest. He consulted a leather folio in his arms, then checked the address again. Ah yes, Daniel Gulliman. He remembered this case. He mounted the steps outside the home, noting that while it was not in the best part of town, the house was well maintained. The paint was not fresh, but nor was it patchy, and the shutters were neatly hung. He knocked crisply, and then tried the door without waiting for a response.

The guardsman looked up as the door rattled gently, then frowned. He hadn't heard the knock, and he hadn't been expecting visitors. "Who is it?" he called.

"Samuel Childers. I need to speak with Mr. Gulliman, please." Samuel's voice had the tonal drone of someone making a delivery, or some other menial, mindless task. He shifted his weight, scowling to himself. With all the trouble Gulliman was in... He mentally mapped out the neighborhood. There was an alley in back, but it opened onto the street a few houses down. He took a step back, just in case the quarry was going to try to run for it.

Gulliman frowned again. The name sounded slightly familiar, but he couldn't quite place it. He rose and opened the door, then paled as he saw who was standing on his doorstep.

"Danny isn't here," he said truthfully, swallowing hard. His brother had promised that he would go looking for work today, and hadn't yet returned.

Samuel smiled -- it did not reach his eyes. "His debt with us continues to grow. We will be forced to take measures, if he does not honor his obligations." He opened the folio and flipped through several sheets of paper before finding the one he wanted. He presented it to Gulliman. "This is the scope of his debt. We would be very sorry if misfortune happened to his family."

Gulliman leaned forward to read the summary, then swallowed again as he straightened. "Danny told me he had stopped visiting your...establishment," he said hoarsely. The number on the page was more than he made in a year. More than his sergeant made in a year.

"Daniel is a frequent visitor of many of our establishments."

Samuel sorted through his papers, producing another. "You would be his brother, I take it? Robert Gulliman, age 34. You live with Daniel, alone. Your mother passed... oh my. Two years ago? My condolences." He looked up from the paper coolly. "You have three mortgages on this house. It was your mother's, I believe? My my. Danny has been naughty, hasn't he?" He closed the folio with a soft thump. "Do you want to conduct the rest of our business on the doorstep? I do not mind if your neighbors know how much difficulty you are in, if you don't."

Rob glanced down the street in both directions, sweat beginning to bead on his forehead despite the declining sun. He grimaced, then pushed the door open behind him and stiffly gestured the silver-haired visitor inside.

Samuel pushed past him, surveying the tiny foyer and threadbare parlor beyond. He stared at Rob with disdain, holding the folio tucked under an arm, his stance that of a man mincing through a sewer. "I am certain that Danny will not be able to come up with the money owed to us within the allotted time. So perhaps we might come to an arrangement."

Gulliman's mind raced as he latched the front door shut. Three mortgages. He had known about one...it had gone to repairing the house after it had been nearly shaken off of its foundation when that blasted dragon had torn through the city, and it was paid every month, neat and tidy, from his first paycheck. But the others? Not one, but two. It almost defied belief, but there it was in black and white.

Clearly his younger brother had been less than truthful...what else had Danny been hiding from him? Rob just hoped that he didn't happen to come home before his visitor left. He had seen already what cruelty this man and the organization he represented were capable of.

He turned to Samuel defeatedly. "What kind of arrangement?"

Samuel inclined his head, acknowledging Rob's willingness to work off his brother's debt. "You are a guardsman, I understand. We have a number of your colleagues in our employ already, but we are particularly interested in the matter of the..." He opened his folio, pretending to read. "Ice cream shop. Short and Sweet, I believe it is called. We wish the investigation to go nowhere." The folio slapped closed. "How you do that, is up to you."

Gulliman balked, and he opened his mouth to object -- but caught Samuel's casual stare and closed it again, lowering his hands to his sides. He glanced furtively toward the kitchen, where the half-finished report still sat on the table.

It isn't right, part of him wailed plaintively. You have to do your job, and do it correctly, no matter what. You have to do the right thing. Otherwise, what is the point of having laws and regulations to begin with, if they can be cast aside?

But Rob remembered the last time his younger brother had gotten a visit from this particular gentleman -- that Rob knew of, at least. He was beginning to suspect that there was a lot he didn't know about. The next day he had come home to find Danny sprawled in the kitchen, unconscious. Danny had been laid up in bed for a week, promising contritely as Rob had tended his injuries that he would find a way to pay, that it wouldn't happen again, that all would be well.

And yet here Samuel was, with his leather folio and his numbers and his bored, business-as-usual demeanor as he made promises of violence. Could he subject his brother to that again, when he had been trying so hard to turn around?

And the shop investigation, a little voice said, echoing his sergeant's impatient dismissal from earlier, was it going anywhere to begin with? Gulliman grimaced. His report would be dutifully filed, and dutifully forgotten by everyone but him.

...but did Samuel know that?

He looked the silver-haired man straight in the face. "And what will you do for me, if I ensure it?"

Samuel gave him a flat stare. "If you decline our offer, one of our associates will be back in three day's time to collect Daniel's debt. If he is unable to pay it, a lesson will be administered. To Daniel, to you, to any other family members or associates you might have, until the debt is satisfied. This is a one time offer, I will not make it again." He turned to leave, pulling in his arms as if afraid the mundane middle-class-ness of Rob's home would rub off on him.

The guardsman squeezed his eyes shut, steeling himself. As the visitor reached the door, he spoke through gritted teeth. "Okay. I'll...I'll do it." He looked up and let out a long breath. "The investigation will stop in its tracks. I can guarantee you that."

Interfering with what should be done was unconscionable, but letting his little brother get hurt by these thugs again over a measly amount of money stolen from people he didn't know...well. His sergeant had practically made that decision for him already. Rob would do what he had to now to keep Danny safe until his brother could get his feet under him again.

Maybe once the debt is paid, and Danny is safe again, I can file the report, he thought, a glimmer of hope flashing over his features.

Samuel stopped, then turned his head, speaking over his shoulder without turning around. "We may come to you in the future with other requests. Your colleagues have not found their employment onerous." His hand touched the doorknob. "Of course, I would recommend that you rein in Daniel's... predilections. It would not do for him to incur fresh debt with Mr. Fensworth."

Gulliman swallowed again and nodded, a lump of lead settling itself in the pit of his stomach. He didn't much like the sound of these "other requests," but now was not the time to negotiate. His glance flicked toward the leather folio tucked under Samuel's arm as another bead of sweat trickled slowly down into his mustache. Not that he was in a position to do anything of the sort -- not with numbers like that staring him in the face.

"I bid you good evening, then. Until we meet again." Samuel opened the door and slipped out, closing it behind him with a quiet click. On the doorstep, he allowed himself a small smile. Coercing an honest guardsman into cooperation was always a special treat. The ones that were corrupt to begin with were far less valuable; once a man had been bought voluntarily... well. There was always someone with more money. Those bought with leverage... they had a tendency to stay bought.

He stepped down into the street and consulted the sun. Just enough time to go to his next appointment. Excellent. His heels clicked quietly on the cobblestones as he went to leave a signal for Mistress Hanover. He needed to have a chat with their thief.

=====

Gulliman stood in the foyer until the last light of evening faded from the windows.

Lighting a candle, he returned to the kitchen and sat down on the stool. He plucked up his quill and began carefully completing the report he had started before Samuel's visit had interrupted him, neatly recording every detail he had collected.

Half an hour later, he methodically blotted the ink. Gathering the pages into a pile, he stood, carried them over to the kitchen fireplace, and dropped them into the flames.

Nebet
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Joined: 2011/11/30

[This is a cleaned-up chat log. As such, it is still in present tense because yeah.]


It is Saturday night at the soda shop, a bare few days after the cash box was stolen. Razahir nods at Tammar as he steps onto the shop's front porch; she has been busily sweeping the flagstones in preparation for the evening shift.

“Good evening, Tammar," he says. "How are you holding up?”

Tammar shakes her head, leaning on her broom; her face is a bit pale. "Alright, I suppose. We've been busy today, at least." She gestures the worgen inside. "I just finished out here; would you like to come in?"

Razahir nods, glancing over at the large crowd forming over to the left. "Yes, thank you."

As the gnome takes her place behind the long wooden counter, the worgen asks, “Did you find out what exactly the thieves took? Was anything else missing?”

Tammar picks up a towel from the counter and begins folding it to hang it back up. "Just the money box," she replies, her voice flat.

Razahir frowns and scratches his neck with a clawed finger, "They went through all that just for what was in the money box?  Something about that doesn't add up.  They wouldn't make any money off of just that.  Unless your money box was made of solid gold and inlaid with precious stones."  He pauses.  "It wasn't, was it?"

Tammar cracks a smile in spite of herself. "No...but it was most of a week's worth of revenue."

Razahir strokes his chin-braid thoughtfully, "Hmmm...a fair amount, but still...it was at least a two-person job -- they used a paralytic poison, which isn't cheap to come by.  It seems like a lot of effort and risk just for a cash box."

Tammar shakes her head again. "I'm going to talk to Ms. Emma and see about having the door latch upgraded. We're lucky they didn't damage any of the equipment."

“Yes, yes.  They were very specific.  I've seen homes and businesses burglarized before.  I must say, this was the cleanest job I'd ever seen.  In fact, if I didn't know, I wouldn't have even noticed.”

Tammar looks distinctly uncomfortable at the idea, her hand slipping into her apron pocket. "We don't really have anything much of value here. Maybe they were being quiet so as not to wake anyone? But I am surprised they went upstairs at all." She reaches up to pat the comb nestled into her braids.

Razahir shakes his head. "No, that Piero fellow said he saw the burglar leave from the upstairs window.  It's probably how she got in, too.  Although she'd have to be quite the skilled acrobat to do it."

“Upstairs...?” Tammar glances quickly toward the living quarters, frowning. "But all of the windows upstairs are in bedrooms..."

“I don't think that was their intent, but most people don't look up much.  Easier to slip in unnoticed.”

Tammar nods, a perturbed expression on her face. "But I don't think someone could have gone through my bedroom or Kwu's without waking one of us."

Kelvin Evangeline Flashcog enters, removing her hat and accompanying mask to see Tammar looking somewhat discontent. "... Apologies. Is this a bad time?"

Tammar straightens as the woman walks into the shop. "Oh! Kelvin! I'm so sorry, I only saw your letter this morning and I haven't had a chance to reply."

“Please, don't worry about it. Have I interrupted something? I can come back another time,” the gnome priest says.

Tammar shakes her head quickly. "No, no, come in. I'd welcome an interruption at this point," she says, giving Razahir an apologetic nod.

Razahir smiles and nods, "No, it's quite alright.  I agree that an interruption would be a nice change of pace."

Kelvin nods a respectful greeting to the worgen gentleman present, stepping up to the counter. "...If you're certain. How are things going?"

Tammar glances to the side. "Ah...not so well, actually. Business has picked up a little, fortunately, but we are going to need a new cashbox."

Flashcog pauses. "I'm afraid I don't follo-- oh. Oh! Oh, my goodness. I-is everyone alright? Was anyone hurt?"

Kwu shuffles in the door with a groan, stretching her arms and glancing about. After a pause she glances back to the ground and gives a half hearted wave to Tammar.

Tammar reaches up to rub her forehead. "Dicco got a bump on the head, apparently. He was staying overnight...he's gone back to Dalaran, though. But, let me get you your drink!” she said, smiling apologetically.

“Oh, I'm so sorry, Miss Warpwea-- oh. ... Well, certainly, cherry-cola-vanilla with the vanilla scoop as usual, of course -- but your shop! I'm so very sorry. Are you doing alright?”

Tammar shakes her head, but smiles. "I'm sure we'll be fine," she says as she moves over to scoop ice cream into a glass. As she does so, she subtly reaches over to touch Kwu on the elbow, leaning over to whisper, "Could you at least push your goggles up onto your head? They're...unnerving." The pandaren is wearing a new set, exposed gears on the side whirring and clicking as a spark occasionally arced between two antenna-like projections over her forehead.

“If you need any help, anything at all, please let me know,” Kelvin says.

Tammar dispenses dark maroon soda over the ice cream and hands the drink across to the other gnome, giving her a genuine smile. "I appreciate it. Maybe we can talk again later," she says with a glance at the two new customers who had just walked through the door. Kelvin simply nods and takes her drink, stepping aside.

Tammar smiles at the two women as they discuss the menu. "I can help you, ladies."

Kelvin sips her drink quietly, and surreptitiously glances this way and that around the shop. She seems to be assessing the state of affairs. While the two humans are placing their orders with Tammar, another gnome dressed in green and white walks in. Soon after, a tall worgen steps through the door.

Kelvin spies Ziggy at the end of the line and smiles. She has a spoonful of floating ice cream while waiting for him to join her.

Razahir looks over at the begoggled pandaren as she steps around him to stand behind the counter. "You're....Kwu, correct?  You work here?"

Kwu observes the new customers a moment before looking to the worgen. After a deep breath she summons a smile and pushes on with her work. "Ah yes, how can I help you?"

Razahir smiles reassuringly at the pandaren, "One sasparilla and vanilla scoop, please."

Kwu nods. "Coming right up." Without another sound she glanced about under the counter and snatched up a scoop and a glass, filling the appropriate one with liquid and topping it off with a hefty scoop of vanilla ice cream. She sticks in a spoon and slides it across the counter carefully to the awaiting worgen. "Here you are, enjoy."

Razahir smiles and places payment for the drink on the counter, along with a generous tip.  "Ah, thank you very much." Razahir takes the glass with a smile before walking over to the nearest corner, quietly enjoying his drink.

Tammar finishes assembling the floats the humans have ordered and pushes the two drinks across to the women, along with a pair of spoons and some napkins. "Here you are, ladies. Please sit wherever you like,” she says, then leans to one side to give the green-haired gnome a wave. "Sorry for keeping you waiting, sir. What can I get for you?"

“A cola please!” Ziggleton announces.

Tammar nods and scoops ice into a glass, then fills it with a dark soda from one of the taps. “Here you are, sir."

Ziggleton pays and then goes to sit next to the other gnome; they are soon engaged in friendly conversation about his unusual ice cream flavor inventions and “synthesized protein alloy” -- airquotes and all.

Tammar carefully scoops up the coins and almost drops them under the counter before catching herself, frowning frustratedly as she puts them into her apron's other pocket. She grumbles, "This is going to wreak havoc with my books."

Kwu turns slightly at Tammar's grumbling and nods. "Hmm... I could... could always try and make a... perhaps some kind of safe or locking mechanism for the counter?"

The pandaren starts running numbers in her head, looking over imagined materials and schematics. "O-or... or maybe we could cut some sort of false door into the closet... Perhaps ah..." She trailed off into mumbling something abouts scanners and crystals.

A sharp interjection cuts through the hum of conversation in the shop. “... Ziggleton!”

“You can't tell the difference,” the green-haired gnome protests in response. “The test monkeys are just fine!”

Tammar glances sideways at Kwu, shaking her head at the technical "mumbo-jumbo." "I'd rather keep it simple. Like I mentioned before, I'm going to talk to Ms. Emma about getting a better lock for the front door. But I do think that a better cashbox might not be out of order."

“I'd recommend getting locks on your windows as well,” Razahir adds, nodding at the two shopkeepers.

Tammar looks up at Raze, a bit of a deer-in-the-headlights look on her face. Her expression flattens. "Yes. Maybe that too."

Kwu glances up at Razahir and over to Tammar, snapping out of her engineering driven fantasy... before gears began turning again. "Ah... I wonder if I could make some kind of... system. An alarm of sorts that's automatic if someone unwelcome comes into the shop while we're closed or out."

Kwu nearly opens her mouth in an answer to Razahir, but is swiftly distracted as the two gnomes try to get Tammar’s attention.

“Miss Warpweave!” Kelvin calls out.

Tammar shakes herself a little bit and smiles at the priest. "Yes ma'am?"

“I'd like to introduce you to my brother, Ziggleton,” Kelvin says. “He runs the engineering shop I mentioned to you a whiles back. If you require any help with alarm systems, surveillance, or a new automatically-secured cashbox, he's the man to see.” She smiles. “We're happy to assist in any way we can.”

“That's not a bad idea, if you can get something like that working,” Razahir muses. “How would you turn it on and off, though?”

Tammar 's smile freezes on her face. "Ah. Wow. Pleased to meet you, sir. Kelvin is one of our favorite customers." She sketches a little curtsey atop her platform.

“Nice to meet you too!” Ziggleton says cheerily. “So what exactly are you looking for?”

“How did you like the ice cream?” Tammar says to Kelvin, not quite deliberately ignoring Ziggleton’s question.

The priest is still holding the ice cream, half-consumed. "It's very good-- but yes! Our shop more-frequently-than-not leaves intruders and would-be robbers with unpleasant surprises, you understand. Prevention is key." She smiles brilliantly.

“Like unleashing a mob of small, angry bots!” her brother enthuses. “With steamsaw hands and laser eyes!”

Tammar shoves one hand into her apron pocket, the other going up to pat the comb in her braid.

“That might be a little TOO preventative,” Razahir says with a chuckle.

Ziggleton thinks for a brief moment. “How about a really really loud alarm?”

Kwu grimaces at the idea and glances over to Tammar. She quickly clears her throat and shakes her head.

“I have some pretty eleaborate locks you could buy,” Ziggleton suggests helpfully.

Kelvin gives Ziggleton a look.

He looks at his sister. “I'm not going to charge them up the butt.  The parts aren't cheap!”

“Ziggleton.” Kelvin just gives Ziggleton the scolding mom look.

“Well I suppose I could use some of the ‘special’ stuff,” he says, looking chagrined.

Tammar looks back and forth between the two gnomes, her posture rigid as she slowly smooths the front of her apron.

Kelvin looks at Ziggleton and covers her face with her palm, muttering something about "Cassie" and donations and tax breaks.

As the two gnomes’ conversation begins flying back and forth from one technological horror to another, Piero Consilio walks in and leans back against the bookshelf. As soon as he sees an opening, he slides up to the counter, giving Kwu a quick nod. "It seems to be a busy night, Miss Warpweave."

Tammar summons a rigid smile as Piero approaches the counter. "Good to see you again."

Razahir continues nonchalantly eating his ice cream, but his eyes remain fixed on Piero, studying him intently.

A third human woman slips into the soda shop, smiling wide as she clutches onto her coin purse.  Her eyes briefly pass over a familiar face, taking a look around befo--... wait, a familiar face?!  "Kaliendra?" she says, going over to greet her.

Piero smiles, "I was passing and in addition to wanting another of your fabulous drinks, I wanted to see how you were faring."

Kelvin looks around the shop. It is starting to get crowded. “... Let's get out of the way,” she says to Ziggleton. “More people are coming.”

Ziggleton stands, continuing his reply to her last question. “No, that was for the smelly pack of Worgen who was trying to ‘mark’ their territory outside my shop.”

Piero glances briefly at the gnomes behind him upon hearing the word worgen.

“Eww.” Kelvin makes a disgusted face, then leans in to whisper harshly.

Tammar glances over at the gnomes before looking back at Piero. "Yes, certainly. What can I get for you?"

“Just a soda water with some lemon, if you please.”

Tammar nods and prepares the drink -- ice and plain soda water with a squeeze of lemon juice. She seems glad to have something to do with her hands, and she slides the glass to him with a smile. "On the house, sir."

Kwu glances up as two more customers enter the shop and summons an inviting smile. "Welcome to the Short and Sweet! Can I help you?" She waits as they discuss who should order first, one of them going to sit in a chair.

Piero climbs up on the stool at the counter, near the gnome who served him. "How have things been since.. well.. since the other day?"

Tammar gives him a sideways glance, picking up a clean towel from under the counter and wiping down the well-polished wood. "Busy, as you can see. Lots of people offering help," she says, shooting a glance at the two gnomes in conversation.

Piero steps out of the way, "As to that, I thought I would offer my own assistance. But we can talk on that once things quiet down.  I had better let the folks behind me through." Tammar gives him a nod, then he  moves off to the chairs.

Ziggleton smiles at Tammar. “See you later, Miss Warpweave!  I have to head back to my shop for set up a few things!” He appears to have a slight gleam in his eye.

She returns the smile politely. “Thank you for coming by.”

Kelvin turns from the doorway, tension evident in her expression. Her seat now taken, she merely leans against the wall to finish her partially-melted drink.

Tammar looks over at Kelvin for a moment, her expression unreadable as she smooths her apron again.

The other gnome doesn't notice being looked at. Her gaze is firmly fixed on the melted white swirls of vanilla ice cream in her carbonated cola beverage.

Tammar’s attention is drawn away as one of the customers from earlier steps up to the counter - the draenei who had come in with the night elf woman. It seems he is finally ready to order.

“What's good around here?” he asks.

Piero calls out across the shop, "It is all good sir.  I have yet to try something not fantastic."

Tammar lists off some of their most popular items, highlighting the floats; she notably doesn't mention the fruit slushes listed on the menu. The human orders two floats, Tammar nods at the human customer. "One sasparilla with vanilla ice cream, and one vanilla cola with strawberry ice cream coming right up." She bustles about making the two confections, and Razahir, having finished his drink, deposits his glass on the counter with a smile and a nod at both Kwu and Tammar before returning to his corner.

Kwu glances up a moment and notices Razahir, after a blink hidden behind her goggles she quickly smiles. Before she could say much he had returned to his position so she simply picked up his deposited glass and began cleaning it out.

Piero growls quietly under his breath, staring at the worgen diagonally opposite him, earning a curious look and a glare from the elf sitting beside him.

Razahir stares back, giving him a slight wave -- a small, but taunting gesture.

Tammar pushes the two drinks across the counter to the draenei with a smile, along with two spoons and some napkins. "Here you are, sir. Take a seat wherever you like." He pays, then goes to sit with his night elf companion.

Piero changes expression as the worgen looks his way, smiling innocently and raising his glass in greeting.

Kelvin eventually lets out a barely-perceptible sigh, and up-ends the glass to finish the last of its contents. Steps forward to place the empty glass on the counter, along with appropriate payment, with a polite nod of thanks in Tammar's direction.

Tammar gives Kelvin a little wave and a half-hearted smile, thinking she was on her way out the door, but to Tammar’s surprise the priest goes right back to her spot. She pulls out a small leather-bound text, which has a string of prayer beads down its middle acting as a bookmark. Opening the book at the bookmark, she begins to read. Sweet time taken.

The third human woman breaks away from their little group and orders a berry slush. Piero coughs gently, attempting to gain Kwu's attention.

Tammar looks over at Kwu. "Would you mind getting that for her, please?" The shopkeeper clears her throat and steps down from her platform behind the counter, grabbing a towel and heading over to straighten some of the tables.

Kwu quickly nods and snatches up a glass from under the counter, as well as depositing some ice in the small blender and glancing to Tammar a moment before sighing and crushing it down.

Foiled! Piero sighs and sits on the small table behind him.

Tammar says to Piero, "Let me just scoot in here and wipe down this booth. We had some kids in here earlier..." He lightly drops from the table and steps aside, and she suits actions to words, wiping down the seats and the tabletop.

“There we go,” she says with a smile, then walks over to the two groups of customers and asks them how they are enjoying their various concoctions.

Kwu fishes up the rest of the required ingredients and throws those into the blender as well over a few moments to blend it all together before finally pouring the concoction into the glass and sliding it across to the waiting woman.

Piero goes to say something but the gnome has already scooted away. He mutters a brief curse under his breath.

The draenei glances over his shoulder at the man behind him. "Problem, sir?"

Tammar listens as the various customers assure her that everything is delicious, of course, then curtsies to the two tables with a perfect customer-service smile. "Glad to hear you're enjoying it." Hearing the blender stop, she goes back to the counter.

Razahir runs a finger across the spines of the books on the bookshelf, picking one on the history of Lordaeron and begins flipping through it.  He reaches into one of his pouches on his belt, scratching an itch, it would seem, before resuming browsing the book.

Kelvin lowers her forehead to the pages of the book, and seems to pray quietly with her eyes closed.

Razahir continues to seemingly peruse the book with his claws, going back and forth between several pages intently. Once Tammar is once again standing on her platform, he approaches the counter, putting the book down on it and smiling over at the gnome. "This is mildly embarrassing, but, I'm having problems with a few words in here.  Well, names, really.  Could you tell me the proper pronunciation of...this one?"  He spins the book around and points to a page.

Tammar pulls her pince-nez glasses out of the pocket of her waistcoat and perches them across her nose, leaning down to peer at the lettering. "Of course. Which one were you having trouble with?"

Razahir points to the name "Terenas Menethil" before giving Tammar a pointed look. There is something lightly scratched into the surface of the paper off to one side.

Don’t trust Piero.

Tammar glances over the page and catches the bit of marginalia. She looks up at him with a frown, but quickly smooths it over. "Ah, that one is --" She pronounces the name carefully, giving the worgen a smile.

Razahir smiles and takes the book back, nodding as he repeats the name, "Of course, thank you very much."

Tammar looks after Raze as he turns to move away, her frown returning.

The draenei and the night elf return their glasses with a polite “thank you” and depart. As they leave, Kelvin spies her seat open, and shuffles over to reclaim it. Kwu picks up the dishes without a second thought and immediately sets about to cleaning things up.

Tammar smiles, wiping her hands on a towel, as the three human women stand; one is leaving, it seems, so she pays and returns her glass. Kwu smiles and bows to the departing woman, righting herself and setting to the dishes afterwards. The other two humans sit down again and continue chatting.

Flashcog shifts uncomfortably in her chair, bespectacled eyes scanning dutifully over the zeroes and ones of her book. A bronze pocket watch rests on her lap, ticking away.

Tammar slides the coins on the counter into her pocket with a grumble...under her breath, of course...then looks up as the bell chimes the hour. She moves over to flip around the sign in the window, showing "CLOSED" to the street.

Flashcog smiles faintly. She snaps shut the book in her hand, glancing at the pocket watch for confirmation: It is indeed closing time, and she must go. She stands.

One of the women blinks, looking up at the door.  "O-oh... I suppose... that means we should leave?"

“Take your time, finish your drinks, ladies,” Tammar says with a pleasant smile.

“Miss Warpweave. Another time, then? I don't want to keep you all night.” Kelvin approaches the counter and offers a polite smile.

Tammar smiles at the other gnome. "Yes, unfortunately. Weekends are always a big rush time. But maybe tomorrow?"

“The afternoon is no good; I've a wedding to attend and I actually get to be a guest as opposed to the officiant, for once. But the evening is alright, if that works for you.”

“Ah--” Tammar says suddenly. The two women have stood to go and are heading for the door, one of them with her cup still in hand.

Tammar raises a hand in a "hang on a second please" gesture. "...I'm afraid I'll have to get that glass back from you. Perhaps I can give you an ice cream cone to go?" She says quietly to the other gnome, "Sorry, Kelvin, just a minute."

The would-be accidental glass walker-offer flushes. "...R-right. I uhm.." She walks over to the counter. "...It's okay. Here. I uhm... Th-there isn't really any ice cream left..."

Tammar dips a curtsey to the human woman, taking the glass.

Piero slips over to the counter, placing his cup carefully infront of Tammar, "Miss Warpweave, may I have a private word once things have... settled down." He glances briefly over his shoulder at Razahir, then outside and leans against the wall.

Tammar spares a quick glance at Piero, her brow creasing in confusion.

Flashcog glances this way and that. It would seem she's in a queue for private words with the proprietor tonight. No matter! With an understanding nod and smile, she makes her way out the door, quietly.

Tammar grimaces, shoving her hands into her apron pockets. Too many things demanding her attention, and she's been rude to everyone, she thinks to herself. The two humans reiterate their polite goodbyes, and Tammar gives them a smile and a nod. "Come back and see us again!" Kwu bows to the departing patrons and waves them off.

Razahir smiles and nods at both women behind the counter, "Ladies, I must bid you good evening.  And Tammar, if you need anything, you can leave a message for me at the Gilded Rose.  If not, then I'll see you next week."

The women are heading down the street when Piero notices that one of them is still carrying her spoon from the shop. He gives chase, calling out after her.

Tammar gives the worgen a weary nod. “Thank you, Raze,” she says, sounding a bit stiff.”

“You're welcome,” he replies, stepping out on the porch just as Piero is returning with the errant utensil.

Razahir nods at Piero. “Good evening.”

Piero nods in reply. "Good evening to you.  I don't believe I had the opportunity to thank you for helping me the other night."

"Of course.  Thank you for raising the alarm so quickly.  Your wounds have all healed, I take it?"

"Still a little stiff in the knee, but Heiros' healing certainly seems to be effective." Piero holds up his spoon, "Excuse me but I have a mission."

Razahir smiles. "Excellent!  Of course, I wouldn't want to keep you.  Good evening, sir." He bows and makes his way into the evening.

Piero glares over his shoulder at the departing worgen, then pokes his head through the door, "May I come in?"

Tammar looks up from her wiping down and polishing. "Of course."

Piero places the spoon on the counter, "I rescued this from one of your customers who accidently walked off with it."

Tammar takes the spoon and gives Piero a smile. "Thank you. That's very helpful of you."

Piero smiles in return, "It was only a small thing, but I am glad you are both here.  Do you mind if we sit? I promise not to take up too much of your time.”

Tammar shakes her head. "I don't mind -- if you don't mind if we keep cleaning." She stifles a small yawn behind her hand.

Kwu spares a glance at Tammar before sighing and smiling lightly. "If you'd like to sit, Tammar, I can clean things up."

Tammar looks over at Kwu for a moment, then cracks a wry smile. "Okay, if you insist. Thank you." She pulls her stool up to the counter and sits down heavily.

Piero eases himself up on one of the stools at the counter. "I still feel bad about the incident the other day, and well..." He dips his head slightly. "I can't help feeling that I should have been able to do more to stop... to stop... " He takes a deep breath. "...the thieves."

Kwu flinches at the mention of the incident, more so at the mention of the intruders more than anything, but stays vigilant in her cleaning duties, setting some dishes to soak while grabbing Tammar's usual broom and setting to sweeping about.

Tammar listens solemnly as Piero speaks, her expression growing rigid again. "Now, now, I don't think there's much more you could have done, from what you told us."

Piero blushes. "You are kind to say so, but I still feel like I should have.. and still could do more."

Tammar shakes her head. "You've done plenty already, dealing with those guards and everything." She pats his hand reassuringly. "And I've had so many offers of...ah...assistance today, it's really been quite overwhelming."

He nods. "I understand... I just thought it would put my own mind at ease if I were to.. well, offer you my services acting as a night guard. I think I mentioned the other day that I rise early so I can find day labor with the reconstruction. It would not bea stretch for me to watch the street after your closing until I need to line up for work."

Tammar frowns. "But when would you sleep?"

Piero smiles. "At the moment I only sleep a few hours at a time, and you generally close about now, yes? Well, I finish the construction work around two in the afternoon, so I can sleep the afternoon and evening. Truth be told, you would be doing me a favour, I have... the incident still upsets me slightly and well... I need to feel like I am doing something, something to make me less helpless. I know that this might not happen again, but if I could be here and on guard against it, well... it would put my mind at ease."

Tammar looks thoughtful, resting her chin in her hand.

“Well...as I told Kwu and Mr. Godwyn, I'd like to keep things simple if I can. All of these...complicated solutions seem like a bit much.” Tammar shudders subtly, remembering the killer bots Kelvin's brother had so enthusiastically suggested.

Piero sighs with relief. " I guessed you'd have people more skilled at this sort of thing, machines and spells and all that.  I guess I feel a little ridiculous thinking a simple man like me could be of much use."

Tammar shakes her head vigorously. "No, I think your suggestion is a very good one, now that I think about it. If we have someone on guard, then I don't think all those machines will prove necessary. Though I do also think some better locks are in order, just in case."

Piero smiles broadly. "Would you like me to start tonight?  I had a nap this afternoon and don't mind being out on a fine night like tonight.”

Tammar smiles in return. "Yes, that would work out well. You can take one of the chairs out on the porch if you like, maybe a book from the shelf there. And you'll have to let me get you a hot meal when you come back from your construction work."

Piero smiles again. "That sounds excellent. I might pass on the book though, reading isn't one of my stronger skills.  I'll have to leave as soon as it gets light though.  I will definitely appreciate a hot meal in the afternoon."

Tammar gets up from her stool and stands on the platform behind the counter. She nods firmly to Piero. "Very well, then. Consider yourself engaged as our night guard, sir."

Piero nods his head. "I'll step outside then and let you close up.  Rest well and I will stop by after work tomorrow.  Sleep well Miss Warpweave, Miss Tenderpaw."

He slips out the door and takes up his station leaning on a railing.  Everything was falling into place for him and he grinned evilly into the night.

Tammar turns to Kwu with a smile of grim satisfaction, putting her hands on her hips. "Well. I feel better about all this now, don't you?"

Kwu glances over to Tammar a moment and sets down the dishes she had been wiping dry. A quick pause and she was all smiles. "It is... good, we have reached an outcome, I'm glad we can have this all settled."

Tammar nods again, then starts rolling up her sleeves. "Why don't you let me finish those up?"

Kwu nods, stepping aside and stretching lightly, and Tammar plunges her hands into the soapy water. She begins scrubbing vigorously, seeming more sure of herself than she has been since the robbery two days ago -- she even starts humming to herself as she rinses off the glasses and puts them on the rack.

Kwu smiles wryly at Tammar's back before glancing down to her own empty, half-soaked paws. Her mouth twists into something of a grimace and a snarl, quickly dropping them to her sides and resuming a neutral expression.

Tammar's tune -- a hymn often sung in the Cathedral, actually -- slowly drops off as she starts drying the last of the dishes. "Are we all locked up and straightened, Kwu?" she asks.

Kwu turns and nods. "I'll double check the door, but I believe that is everything."

Thess
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Maayan sat up slowly, reaching out to pull her woolen wrap free of the tangle it had landed in. Smiling to herself, the pale draenei woman stood and shook out the garment, deciding after a moment that she would wear it loose and functional this time, rather than her usual elaborate pattern. She was feeling too relaxed to bother digging all of her fasteners out of the pile, and she knew from experience that Marcus hardly cared. Just a belt would serve, for now. She wound the supple white cloth high around her waist, pleating the front so as not to restrict her legs, then threw the remainder across her chest from hip to shoulder. A girdle tied over her ribs kept the draped cloth securely in place. Smoothing her hair, she glanced back at at the human still sprawled languidly on the bed. "So. You wanted to cook dinner?"

Marcus Duccan grinned as he rolled from the mattress with a reluctant sigh. As he rose, he dragged the sheet off the bed to kilt it loosely around his slightly paunched waist. "I had planned something elaborate,” he said as he retrieved a black silk tunic from its landing-place on the chair. "Since we were interrupted, though, I think something simple. How does some grilled fish sound?" He pulled the shirt on over his head, tugging it down past broad shoulders before messily tying back his dark hair.

She nodded, giving him a wry smile. "Maybe I should apologize, but I don't really feel inclined to." She stepped around the foot of the bed and bent down to kiss his cheek. Marcus was tall for a human, but standing next to the nearly seven-foot-tall draenei woman, he still only came up to her shoulder. "Grilled fish sounds just fine."

He slipped his arms around her waist, her curves fitting snugly in his arms; her body yielded pleasantly as he gave her a reassuring squeeze. "That was much more comment than complaint. This evening has already been spectacular."

He broke the brief embrace with a smile. "Now, if you would be so kind, I am feeling a little bashful. Perhaps you could clear a space on the table in the other room while I finish dressing?"

Maayan shook her head, chuckling. "I never will understand why you are bashful now when you were not five minutes ago, but <<when in Mac'Aree>>..." The beginning of the familiar phrase in Draenei rolled easily off of her tongue -- unlike her speech in Common, which usually gave the impression of someone trying to walk in shoes that were too big. Slipping out from his encircling arm at her hips, she headed for the small dining room.

Marcus sighed at the closing door and mumbled, "I guess you never will."

He quickly dipped his fingers in the ewer of water by the bedside and ran his fingers through his hair, then washed his flushed face, droplets of water clinging to his moustache and beard. Glancing in the mirror over the basin, he bound his pony tail more carefully so it sat comfortably between his shoulder blades. After that, it was quick work to retrieve the rest of his clothing and dress. Feeling refreshed, he slipped through the doorway to the other room.

Maayan was standing at the dining room table, just picking up the last of the items strewn across it from his unpacking. A cool, gentle breeze was blowing in through the open window, stirring the leaves in the terrace garden outside.

He glanced at the flowering vines and smiled. The planters lining the balcony served a dual purpose -- both aesthetic and functional -- as they shielded the apartment from the noise of the Dalaran streets below. The sun had set hours ago -- despite their intentions of an early dinner -- but Duccan had learned that Dalaran, more than any other city, stayed busy well into the evening. It seemed that plenty of mages, like many academics, preferred to sleep well past dawn and continue working well past dusk.

"I returned via Moa’ki Harbor,” he commented as headed for the kitchen and began rummaging through the spice cupboard. “Can you believe the Kalu'ak have hired a mage to enchant some boxes so their fish fillets stay cold?”

"That is clever of them,” Maayan replied, moving a leather satchel to one of the chairs. “I wonder how much the mage was required to convince them?”

He shrugged indifferently. “I must say it makes it more convenient to buy if you are travelling; I have never enjoyed salted fish."

As the draenei picked up a couple of leather folders – one stuffed full of papers, the other much thinner -- she made a little noise of surprise. "Hm! Razahir Godwyn. If it is the same person, I owe that one dinner."

Marcus quirked an eyebrow. "Oh?"

"Yes. When I had broken my foot at the Darkmoon Faire, he was one of the three people who helped me." She chuckled. "I am curious now -- to know why you have started a folder for him," she said teasingly. "Ought I revoke that dinner invitation?" In Maayan’s experience, chances were good that if Marcus was “investigating” someone, they were probably one to avoid.

Marcus pulled a pan from a cupboard, setting it on the stove to heat and adding a drizzle of cooking oil. "Oh, I don't think so,” he replied, bending to retrieve some vegetables from the storage bin. Drawing a wickedly sharp knife from the block on the counter, he began slicing some small, fragrant onions. “I bumped into him at the faire as well. He seemed content to walk around in worgen form, which is usually a bit of a red flag when it comes to ferreting out those who use their gift for ill purposes. I engaged him in a little light conversation and did a little bit of background digging on him.”

Marcus dropped the sliced onion into the pan, then continued. “He chose to stay behind when everyone else fled Gilneas, and perhaps he is a little more aggressive in his thinking than I would like, but I believe him to be a fairly upstanding citizen.”

Maayan nodded thoughtfully, turning to set the stack of papers down on the sideboard. "He seemed so to me, as well. He went out of his way to assist me, anyway, and I appreciated it." She grimaced, remembering her embarrassment.

She smoothed flat the top of the thinner folder -- the one labeled as pertaining to Godwyn. "There is not much here for him," she noted. "Is that good?"

Duccan reached over for a small box; as he opened the lid, frosty air spilled over the sides. He produced two fillets of fish from within the container and nestled them carefully among the onions, sprinkling a blend of spices over the top. "That tends to suggest that there is little of note, which could mean either he is very good at hiding himself, or he is trustworthy.”

Taking a cast iron container from the cupboard, he clipped it to the top of the pan, and, using a small shovel, he piled some coals from the stove into the container and closed the lid. He shrugged. “Call me an optimist, but when I can't find much to file on a subject, I tend to believe the latter."

Nodding, she eyed the much thicker folder beneath it. "I should not even ask about this one, then, maybe?" she said, taking a seat and crossing one long leg over the other, the two folders resting in her lap. She was trying to decide if she wanted to leaf through them.

He sighed heavily, picking up his knife once more. "That one. That one is the reason I was gone much longer than I expected. You will recall I went off to investigate a group of my former countrymen who had turned brigand in Darkshire?"

She nodded in the affirmative, frowning lightly. "Much longer than expected" had been something on the order of a month, and -- though Maayan was reluctant to admit it to herself -- was part of the reason why the earlier "interruption" hadn't been left for after the meal.

His reply was punctuated by the staccato of knife against cutting board as he sliced the carrots into paper-thin wafers. "Well, the group had been waylaying travellers and the like and blaming it on the local Nightbane worgen population. The gentleman whose file you are holding was a member of that pack."

She looked at the two leather folders for a moment. Though her face was still, there was something in the draenei woman's posture reminiscent of handling a venomous snake. Perversely, the urge to rifle through the papers intensified.

Marcus turned to face her, leaning on the counter. "Mr Consilio there is definitely not someone you would want to have a dinner date with. From what I have seen, he is quite dangerous -- and to be quite honest, I am a little nervous about meeting him myself. In the next few days I think I will be leaving for Gilneas. I want to find out some more about him.”

He crossed to the table and gently took the two leather bound folders, setting them aside. "But let’s not talk business at the dinner table. Can I interest you in some wine?"

She raised an eyebrow and snorted softly, but didn’t resist as he lifted the dossiers from her hands. What else did one talk about at the dinner table besides business? "As it please you. And yes, to the wine."

Marcus smiled softly and withdrew a bottle from the rack under the sideboard. Smoothly pulling out the cork, he poured a measure of the wine for each of them into two crystal wine goblets. Handing one to the draenei, he continued, "If you would like to talk about it more, that's alright. I just had the impression that you didn’t like the subject."

Maayan took a small sip from her wine, delaying. It was a clean, crisp white, with delicate undertones that she had to concentrate in order to tease out -- a pleasant change of pace in a city that seemed to favor bold, invariably sweet reds. No subtlety.

She smirked to herself, reaching out to run her hand down Marcus' side. A pleasant change indeed. Not that she considered herself an expert on either subject. Yet.

Setting her glass on the table, she re-crossed her legs and tugged her wrap back into place. "Curiosity has got the better of me, maybe,” she said, ink-blue lips quirked in a smile. "I do like hearing about your work, usually. This..." She glanced behind her at the folder. "...Consilio fellow -- he sounds like a long-term project, to have that much information accumulated, yes?"

He took her hand and gave it a quick squeeze before crossing back to the stove and the pan. "I think he will become one. Truth be told, for all the information I have, there isn't much that is useful. If it wasn't for the pack in Darkshire, his file would be slimmer than Mr Godwyn's."

Wrapping his hand in a cloth, Marcus used the back of the knife to flick the clips from the side of the pot and lifted the container off, setting it on the back of the stove. Using the blade as an impromptu spatula, he deftly slipped the fish onto two plates sitting on the counter.

Finally, he slid the carrot into the pan with the now-sizzling onions, then drizzled in some oil and vinegar, followed by a large splash of wine. After making sure the sauce was simmering nicely, he turned to Maayan, his expression shifting from seriousness to a small grin. Walking back over to the draenei, he placed his hands on her pale shoulders and leaned down to kiss her.

“That was nice,” he said as he drew back a few long moments later, grinning once again. “I am not quite used to leaning upward when I want a kiss,” he quipped.

She snorted, taking another sip of her wine as she waited for the color in her cheeks to return to normal. “You are stalling,” she prodded. “What was the pack in Darkshire telling you?”

He flashed another cheeky smile in reply before crossing to the sideboard, taking knives, forks and napkins from a drawer. "The pack started with twelve members, but when I found them there were only three left. They weren't really prepared to talk much, but I eventually convinced them to change their minds.”

As he laid out the table, he continued, "The worgen told me that Mr Consilio had betrayed them, but the three left didn't know why. He was brutal in the treatment of the other eight members of the pack, though. So I decided to investigate. Curiously, I found he wasn't a Gilneas native, but born in Kul Tiras, which provided a wealth of information."

She tilted her head, resting her goblet on her knee and turning the cut-crystal stem between her fingers. "From Kul Tiras, and yet a worgen? Unusual."

"Mmhmm. I found that there was a child that went missing by the name of Piero Consilio some years ago. The son of a wealthy trader, somewhat akin to middling nobility. It was presumed he was lost at sea,” he explained, going back to the stove to tend to the sauce. “Whether or not this is the same person or someone who has affected the identity, I don't know. Personally, I believe it is the former."

Maayan shook her head and took up her wine glass again. "From middling nobility to highway robber?” What a fall that was. “What of his family in Kul Tiras?"

"As far as I can determine, his father died attempting to attack the orcs in Durotar around the time of the founding of Theramore, and his mother died from a plague a few years before. Neither knew that their son perhaps still lived. I have found a little about his time in Gilneas -- mostly from a prostitute called Modest Sally who has set up shop in Sentinel Hill."

The draenei listened attentively, sipping at her wine while he lifted the pan from the stove, giving it a shake to stir the contents before setting it back down.

"Well, Modest Sally, while not the brightest of sparks, worked in an establishment in Gilneas known as the Blue Cat, run by a Madame Sara. She remembered that Madame Sara had found a young street rat by the name of Piero Consilio and taken him under her wing, so to speak,” he explained, carefully scooping up the onions and carrot and plating them alongside the fish.

"Sally described Piero as being aloof, not consenting to consort with many of the girls, but she said that sometimes he was prone to rages if Madame Sara couldn't keep his ego in check, and he was fiercely protective of anything he considered as belonging to him, particularly one of the girls, called -- ahhh...Marissa."

Maayan frowned. This notion of possessiveness in love -- or its relatives -- was another human cultural characteristic which she had trouble wrapping her mind around. It seemed...inefficient.

Marcus noticed the frown and gave her a small, sympathetic smile. "I know."

He lifted the pan and drizzled the now well-reduced sauce over the two servings of fish as he continued his account. "Consilio’s time at the Blue Cat coincided with a rise in its popularity, and the establishment faced little competition up until the time just before the fall of the wall. The only club that ever proved to be a real challenge to them mysteriously burned down, summarily bringing an end to the rivalry. Sixteen people died in the fire, including the owners."

He crossed to the table with the plates, setting one in front of Maayan before taking a seat across from her. "Perhaps significantly, it also seems that a number of the Blue Cat's clients went missing or were found rather disturbingly murdered during the years that Piero was associated with Madame Sara. Modest Sally didn't come out and say so, but I get the impression she believed that Piero was responsible."

The draenei's frown deepened as Marcus recounted his rather unsettling findings. She pulled her chair closer to the table and set her still half-full wine glass down next to her plate.

"That smells delicious, Marcus," she said, spreading her napkin carefully in her lap. She glanced up and gave him a smile, then became serious again, asking, "Did this woman have any idea why the clients might have been murdered?"

Marcus carefully lifted his knife and fork from the napkin and unfolded it into his lap. "No, she said they seemed random. Nothing to connect any of them. This is a fact that I find disturbing, and it makes me rather cautious of Mr Consilio if my suspicions are correct."

"Hm." It was a noncommittal noise, made to cover the concern blooming in Maayan's chest. She picked up her fork and slowly gathered a few slices of carrot onto its tines.

"If he has remained actively killing for this long without being of interest to authorities he is extremely dangerous indeed,” Marcus said, his face sober. “The fact that his victims have no known connection besides their exposure to Mr Consilio also means he chooses his targets carefully and doesn't kill without caution or cause -- and, finally, he was able to dispatch eight worgen with little apparent difficulty, suggesting he has a very vicious nature, as well." He carefully cut a small slice of the fish and speared a slice of carrot on his fork as well before taking a bite.

She swirled the carrots through the wine sauce pooled on her plate. "A challenge, then?" she said, glancing up at Marcus, her expression cool.

He nodded in reply. "I am hoping to scout around the ruins of Gilneas, maybe make contact with some of those still fighting there to see if I can find out more. If I can confirm my suspicions in any way -- and assuming I can find him -- I won't be confronting him directly. As it stands, I think I would be much safer if he never finds out I am looking into his activities."

She chewed thoughtfully, cutting a square from her portion of fish. "What is needing to be done?" she said once she had finished chewing. "Or, maybe, best to do? Give him away to the authorities?" That was not, from what she had gathered, Marcus Duccan's usual way of operating. But then, she had been wrong before.

Marcus arched an eyebrow, unsure if he should share how far he would go in his personal quest. He sighed heavily before looking up to catch Maayan's eye. "Frankly, I will most likely poison the evil bastard."

She laughed merrily around a mouthful of fish, covering her mouth with her hand. Duccan flushed a little, chuckling uncomfortably before taking another bite.

Maayan waved a hand as she swallowed. "I mean only that -- well -- so direct. I like it." She smiled at him. "That is all."

He nodded, taking the last of his fish on his fork and sliding it through the last of the sauce before lifting it to his lips.

Meanwhile, the draenei methodically finished the last of her vegetables. "This food was good. Thank you for the cookery."

Marcus smiled as he stood and lifted his plate from the table, then moved around to kiss Maayan's cheek. "You are more than welcome." He took her dish as well, then crossed back to the counter, depositing the plates in the basin.

"Would you like another glass of wine?" he asked, picking up the bottle and turning to face the draenei. Nodding toward the comfortable, quel'dorei-style seating in one corner of the other room, he added with a grin, “Perhaps in the bedroom?”

She patted her lips with her napkin, smiling impishly. "I have some yet," she said, gesturing to the remaining wine in her glass. "But if you think it might be better enjoyed elseways, I will be pleased to find out."

The mage unfolded herself from the chair, setting down the napkin and taking up her glass for another sip. Stepping forward, she gently lifted his chin with her fingers for a moment before resting her hand on his shoulder.

He leaned upward to give her a brief but passionate kiss, then eased back onto his heels, muttering breathlessly, "I'll bring the bottle."

 

[A]: Thess, Fahbrez Starshadow, Mihbrez Starshadow, Diccionario, Piero Consilio, Marcus Duccan, Lau Tze

Artwork by Vorrick

Nebet
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Miss Warpweave:

Success! You may well have already been contacted by the time this letter reaches you, but one felt the need to write all the same. I've spoken with Miss Brilliantine Buzzbrew (of the Hummingbird Coffee business!) and, by all appearances, she seems extremely eager to open up some manner of trade between the companies. "Coffee and cream are allies regardless of temperature," she assured, and encouraged me to further pursue this line of inquiry that you both might benefit from it.To that effect, I have enclosed her business card with contact information. It's all set up for you.

I hope business improves! You seemed worried the last time I visited.

~ Kelvin

Tammar settled her pince-nez glasses on her nose once again, frowning as she smoothed the letter flat. It had somehow ended up stuck between the pages of the primer on the Light that she had been working through in her spare time. Unfortunately, with all of the excitement -- Now there’s a euphemism, Tammar thought sourly -- she had barely had time to tidy the upstairs rooms, nevermind sit down to study. She had found the letter again (still tucked in an envelope bearing her address in Kelvin’s impeccably precise handwriting) last Saturday, only to have the other gnome come by the shop that afternoon. Tammar had promised to reply as soon as she could -- and here it was, already Thursday.

In fact, it had been so long since the letter had been written that it had taken Tammar a few minutes to remember what the other gnome was referring to: a conversation they had had, almost a month previous, about using coffee to flavor ice cream. Tammar had never had reason to try the “espresso” made from exotic roasted beans, but it had been all the rage a few seasons before. If she could have a concentrated syrup ready-made, then getting the ratios right would be a simple matter of methodical trials...

Tammar’s shoulders slumped, and the possibilities bubbling in her head fizzled out before they could buoy her hopes too high. Do you really have the energy for this right now? she asked herself flatly. And with such a tardy reply, no less -- you will be lucky if she thinks you were actually interested in the first place.

Well. She could try to salvage it, maybe. Make excuses, make apologies. It felt like she was always off-balance lately. Thank the Light she wasn’t running the shop alone...hopefully, Kelvin would understand.

...even if Tammar had pretty well ignored her the last time she came into the shop. The gnome sighed heavily, then dipped her pen into the bottle of blue ink and began to write.

Dear Kelvin,

I hope this finds you well. I must apologize profusely for taking so long (nearly two weeks, I think) to reply to you, but as you may remember from our brief conversation the last time you came by the shop, we had our cashbox stolen, so our routine has been thrown into chaos while I am having a new one made.

As I may have told you already, Dicco has also left for the foreseeable future; he is in Dalaran to study under another mage. As a result, we are short-staffed; your letter was lost in the shuffle. Likewise, I have been meaning to come visit you at the Cathedral, but simply haven't had the time. My studies have been suffering, as well, but at least business has picked up significantly. Kwu has been a Light-sent blessing for the shop, for certain.

I am writing to Ms. Buzzbrew as well. It may be some time before things settle enough for me to experiment with new flavors, but I appreciate the suggestion and the introduction. Perhaps you would be willing to help me test the new recipe?

I look forward to speaking with you again sometime soon.

Warm regards,

She was just dipping her pen again when Heiros softly knocked on the doorframe to her bedroom.

Tammar looked up from the nearly-completed letter and gave him a tired smile. The draenei always had such a comforting sense of calm about him. "Come in if you'd like; I am just catching up on some correspondence," she said, then gestured at the much larger chair next to the desk. "Would you like to sit?"

"If I am not interrupting anything, yes, I would." Heiros entered and lowered himself into the chair.

The gnome nodded to indicate the neatly-printed letter she was replying to. "Kelvin Flashcog -- have you met her? -- sent me this almost two weeks ago and I am just now getting to replying. She has some intriguing ideas, but I'm not sure I will be able to follow through on them, short-staffed as we are," she explained with a sigh.

Heiros searched his memory. "I think I may have heard someone introduce themselves by that name once in the shop. I do not actually know that person, however. What was hoped for in the letter?"

Her brow furrowed, and she resettled her spectacles on her nose. "Coffee-flavored ice cream, apparently. Kelvin knows a woman who runs a coffee company -- Hummingbird Coffee, I believe? -- a Miss Buzzbrew."

"I have heard the business name, I think. They have a portable shop or cart they operate, or am I confused with someone else?”

"I'm not sure, myself," Tammar said with a shrug. "I'll be writing a letter to the proprietor at the address Kelvin gave me, but to be honest, I'm not sure if I'm feeling up to any more upheaval."

Heiros shifted uneasily in his chair. "I wanted to ask... Did the guards ever return? Not that I think it likely the rough one would do anything useful, but I thought perhaps the other would have done more of an investigation, or given you an update... Any sign of them?"

Taking up her pen again, Tammar shook her head curtly. "Not a word, and I can't say I'm terribly concerned about it." She glanced sidelong at the draenei, then pushed her glasses up her nose again. "I've never seen a guardsman prove himself worthy of his title in anything involving the common citizenry." And more than one like that clomping Callison who think we are the ones to be guarded against, she thought bitterly, remembering several run-ins with such guardsmen from before her tenure at the fabric shop. Best not to bring that up.

She signed her name neatly at the bottom of the page, then blotted the ink. "I suppose they do well enough patrolling the walls and the harbor, but for us?" She shook her head again, making a moue of distaste.

Heiros frowned. "I have no experience with that guardsmen of this city. What a disappointment if that is normal."

The gnome sniffed derisively. "Even if they were doing their jobs, would that give us the money back? It's gone -- disappeared. Better to just pick up and keep going."

With a small smile, Heiros stood. "True enough. I will leave you so you may enjoy your time before re-opening the shop."

Tammar nodded, not looking up from addressing one of the two envelopes. "If you would like to stay for dinner, there is soup on the stove in the kitchen. Piero will be coming in soon." For almost a past week, the routine had been that Mr. Consilio would return from his labors, eat a quick meal, and then retire to a pallet in the office to sleep until the shop was closing for the night. She was grateful for his assistance, too...it made her feel better just to know that she had someone on her side who understood. Briefly, she considered adding that to her letter to Kelvin, but quickly decided against it. Too much effort.

Heiros bowed slightly. "Thanks for the offer, but I am off to Old Town. Until later..." The last was said over his shoulder as he headed out the door to the stairs.

"Have a good evening," she called after him.

After the draenei left, Tammar sank heavily against the back of her chair, reading and re-reading the coffee shop owner’s business card. Another gnome, judging by the name. Icy dread trickled into her stomach. Would she expect Tammar to enthuse with her over her...contraptions? What would the woman think, receiving a letter written in Common rather than in Gnomish, and from a prospective business partner, no less?

The very thought had Tammar wanting to sink into the floor in shame and embarrassment. Kelvin had proven a rare exception to the rule, and she had always been kind enough not to press the language issue. It helped that Tammar had always found plenty of other things to talk about with the priest, their studies chief among them. But maybe not for long, if you don’t keep up with your work, she thought with a wince, squeezing her eyes shut.

Tammar moved to reseat her spectacles on her nose, only to mutter a curse under her breath as she instead ended up knocking them off of her face. They landed on her pile of papers, and as she went to pick them up, she realized that her hands were shaking. Taking a deep breath, she reached across her desk to open the lid of the music box Kwu had given her.

Laying her head down on her arms, she closed her eyes and forced herself to breathe in time with the gentle melody. At first she tried to remember the prayer for peace from her primer, but soon gave up. All too often, the Light seemed like a distant sun -- easily seen and achingly beautiful, but granting no warmth, its nourishment intended for another world. Still, her breathing gradually slowed. It almost always did, with the music box playing.

Feeling steadier, she propped her chin on her arm and looked up at the velvet-lined box. We are not all the sum of our parts, the inscription inside it read. How many nights had she gone to sleep turning that cryptic phrase over in her mind? She had come up with a dozen interpretations, each as plausible as the last. Maybe it has no meaning, she thought with a wistful smile. Maybe it’s just supposed to sound comforting.

Tammar jumped as the clock tower chimed the hour. Piero would be here in a few minutes, and it always made her feel better to have his dinner set out for him before she had to go downstairs. Shaking her head, she sat up and pulled out another sheet of paper to write the promised letter to Brilliantine Buzzbrew. She didn’t hold out much hope for a reply, but she owed Kelvin the courtesy of a follow-through, at least.

Dear Ms. Buzzbrew,

I apologize that it has taken me so long to write to you. Kelvin Flashcog said that she spoke to you about the possibility of collaborating on a coffee flavor for ice cream. Unfortunately, the soda shop was robbed two weeks ago and we have been in minor chaos since. I would definitely be interested in talking with you, however. Please feel free to come by anytime or let me know when would be best for me to visit.

Regards,

Tammar Warpweave
Proprietor, Short and Sweet

Kylerkyler
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Kwu held tightly the little rectangular card, like some kind of barrier between her and the bodies going about their regular business around her. Stepping along with eyes downcast, forging onwards through the Dwarven District, pretending like she was fine, just heading to the tram like anyone else. She hardly felt like just anyone however. The Brawlpub was a subject rarely talked of, few peopled murmured much about it other than its suspiciously pre-existing reputation of hardcore entertainment.

She entered the spinning tunnel, so far so good, no awkward stares, no shouting or glaring, just a regular day. Yet why did she feel so off... Like she was entering into the seediest of legal border activities. It was a running establishment, was it not; would it not have been shut down by enforcement if it was breaking any rules? She took a deep breath and veered to the side, taking the ramp under the tram tracks. See, no one yelling for the guards, in fact she didn't really see anyone passing by, perhaps the tram had been by recently. After a moments more descent she came upon the entrance, and the bouncers that guarded it. One was a worgen, weathered and displaying a lifetime of scars. The other was a draenei, a patch covering one eye and dark tattoos accenting his muscular physique, both wore nothing above the waist. The two males exchanged a glance, the barest movement of their heads before the worgen extended a massive open paw, gesturing for the card in Kwu's hands.

The pandaren stood tall, delivering the invitation with all the presence and bluster she could fake, shaking on the inside, waiting for the snarling. The worgen took the small rectangle and looked it over, eyeing every detail critically, as if the most minute detail could ruin her chances and send her home. She could feel his claws wrapping around her arms now, pushing her back up the ramp and tossing her into the tram common, humiliated and bruised. His hand reached out and she winced, eyes shut tight for a second before she realized she was fine, standing just as she was, untouched. The worgen’s open claw lay before her face as she blinked, handing back the invitation without a word. Kwu quickly snatched it up and the draenei flicked his head, motioning her inside. See... No problem at all, she had every right to be there, that's what the card she held meant... right?

She shuffled her way inside and in moments her insecurity gave way to a curiosity and wonder. True to its name the Brawlpub was not simply some bloody arena, the floors were clean, the lighting was dim yet animated by the spinning cogs and contraptions in the walls and floor, and a low din of cheering onlookers to the floor arena slowly burned in her ears. There was a long bar, with stools all along, tables placed all around the floor and next to the arena fencing, even booths around the corner. There were just as many bodies around the arena enclosure as just sitting about or leaning against the walls, laughing or drinking or yelling to be heard over the sounds of combat and other patrons. Wide eyed her shuffle slowed, glancing about from one thing to the next, all sorts of bodies from fighters to bouncers to nobles to the more reclusive. Sitting at the bar next to a man with a set of notepads and books next to him was her contact, already smiling and waving her over in his top hat and dark robes.

The pandaren approached. Excellent, she hadn't been scared off like he half expected. Perhaps he should have escorted her in the first time, but done was done, besides the experience would be good, facing a fear alone and surpassing gave much courage, now there would be little to prevent her from returning. Provided the next day or so went over well of course. Daritus rose off his seat, giving that low sweeping bow that was one of a few traits that paralleled between his many covers. The pandaren bent slightly, about to bow in return but stopped half through the motion and straightened. Also good, he needed to be seen as more of a friend and less of a superior if he was going to see any long term results.

“I’m glad to see you’ve come; I trust the two at the door gave you no trouble?” he asked with a warming smile. The pandaren gave a half glance back but at a nod he continued on. “Excellent, don’t pay them or the others wandering about any mind. They get paid to seem dour and brutish, but it’s just to discourage any rowdy behavior and occasionally toss out anyone causing a scene, not something that happens all that often.” He motioned for her to follow as he took a few steps off to the side, leaning on the small enclosure to keep onlookers from accidentally slipping into the arena itself.

The pandaren followed, glancing down to the current struggle taking place. Something of a mage was flinging great blasts of flames at a strange bull like creature, kind of like a yak but with odd wide horns and tusks. The beast suddenly rushed, slamming the mage so brutally with its plated skull the spellcaster flew through the air several feet before crumpling near the back wall. Several gnomes and a few bruisers quickly rushed in and grabbed his limp and bleeding form, while the beast was distracted by something unseen and disappeared into some other side compartment hidden in the wall. As the arena cleared some cheers were heard, some hisses of defeat and grumbling over coin paid and coin lost.

Ebonspell heard the pandaren quietly wringing her leather wrapped fingers. He glanced over then back as Bizmo shouted out something of the upcoming challenger and high hopes for a less bloody outcome. “As you can see it’s not the safest game. Sometimes the beasts hit harder than expected, hands and weapons slip, mistakes happen. I can’t guarantee you’ll come out of every fight unscathed, but isn’t that what the fight is all about? Proving your strength, not just what you can deal out, but what you can take, how you can cope?” Kwu remained silent at his side a moment, nodding slightly, but he could see the touch of uncertainty in her eye. Was it the risk of death, or worry of the legal nature, he didn’t have the time or opening to pursue that investigation.

“There are benefits to having a benefactor of course, fighters that come in without a manager are tossed to the wolves, and they get some of the worst odds and often tend to be the ones that keep coming back until they don’t leave the ring alive. That’s where I come in. I can keep a medical team on standby, and a damned good one. I arrange the fights, make the odds challenging, but reasonable for the fighter, I may take some of the coin but I also guarantee you get another fight and another day to spend it.”

Kwu found herself chewing lightly on her lip. She could run into creatures like that odd yak she had never heard of, she could find herself against multiple foes, she could trip, or come back scarred and burnt and scraped and Tammar would question how and why… Then she thought about the money missing from the shop. She thought about dark things skulking in the shadows, sticking knives against skin. She could feel the cold bite of steel brushing through her fur, gliding across skin. She glared lightly. No, they would have to get past her staff first, and if the staff was not enough her own paws would beat back and beat down anyone who dared raise a weapon at her, who dared to hide in the darkness and prey upon the innocent.

“How much? Per fight. For me and for you.”

Ebonspell looked the pandaren over a moment, a grim look of determination locked into her features. She hadn’t looked back to him, just down into the arena, watching as an interrogator of the Scarlet Crusade battled against some young warrior. The poor lad must have just hit the age to enlist, how he managed to sneak back was beyond the worgen for the moment. ‘So… an aggressive defensive posture. Ah how the pieces fall into place. Malleable enough for now, it will have to be reassessed after a few fights.’ The voice in his mind was bland, emotionless, no emphasis, the sound of the scholar when he wasn’t busy manipulating and acting like he had to outside of his sanctums.

“It depends, no two fights are ever the same. I take forty percent per fight; the base per fight is roughly twenty gold, that would be twelve to you and eight to me. I can almost guarantee you more however but I can’t give specific values without speaking with the organizer first.”

“Alright, I suppose that’s good enough. We can I have one scheduled?”

“I took the liberty of discussing, on the chance you decided to accept the offer, with the organizer. There’s a slot in the evening in a few days’ time. It’s something of a warm up fight so it shouldn’t be overly difficult, thus it won’t be worth the most but there is some working your way up even here. Interested?”

Kwu paused a moment. It would be one thing to dip off in the day, mention something of looking for parts or working on some engineering construct… that usually kept Tammar from prying too far. The evening however would be more difficult… She hadn’t come this far to give up now though, she could find a way, maybe the window in the night.

“Sounds fine, I will be here.”

“Excellent, hang onto that little card then and just give it a flash when you come back, we get people coming and going at all hours so don’t be worried about them at the front they’ll just wave in you. I could give you a tour of the waiting room if you’d like?”

“I think I have seen enough for today.” She turned to leave, took a few steps then stopped and turned back. “Thank you, for this opportunity.” She bowed and Ebonspell did so in return. As the pandaren shuffled out in a mix of determination and anxious anticipation Ebonspell turned back to the arena, where a bloodied body was being swept out. The fights hadn’t turned out to his advantage, but he suspected as much. Just because they were entry level battles didn’t mean people just stopped bleeding. Still he had hoped for a less brutal scene. Done was done though, he had his fighter; she had her chance to let out that pent up rage and insecurity. How odd sentient beings were. A simple failure, even a perceived failure, sent the denizens of Azeroth into a myriad of mood swings. Failure was failure, pure and simple, salvage mop up and move on. It was no wonder the world was thrown into such discord, even the harmonious pandaren weren’t immune to the sways of the heart. He tsked lightly, shaking his head. That was enough for now, he still had to see if Elizra had managed to obtain the reports on the robbery, find out if it was a conveniently timed third party or if the current interest had moved on to more direct methods. He stood and took his leave of the brawlpub, he had to get back to his shop, gold didn’t grow on trees after all and poisons didn’t distill themselves.

[A] Kwu, Ebonspell, [H] Vispiasting, Kureya, Rauuhya

Tunin
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Joined: 2012/02/28

Heiros leaned against the wall at the top of the stairs. Restless, but not wishing to pass through the press of customers below, he forced himself to quietness. While the body could not be in motion, the mind wheeled away.

 

No return visit from the guard, and no real inspection of the building in the first place. Did they even intend to do anything?  A laugh from below intruded in his thoughts.  The place was busy with customers old and new.  Even the faces from the night of the break in had been around.  All had returned from that night except for the mysterious intruder, and the only one to meet her inside.

 

Heiros shook his head and straightened away from the wall. There was only one other place nobody had looked, and turning from the stairs, he reached up, grasped the handhold for the attic access. No groan or squeak of long unused hinges, and no falling dust. Perhaps someone had been this way recently.

 

A pull-down ladder became visible as part of the hatch. After moving a chair into the hallway, Heiros called softly on the essence of earth, and with a couple jumps, a ghostly wolf sailed through the hatchway to land in the attic. Dust lay thick over most of the area, but some had been covered with boards for a makeshift storage area. From the hatch to a small window in the front there was a path with virtually no dust at all, and the little that remained showed only smudges of passage. Someone was very careful.....

 

Returning to his normal form and stature, Heiros inspected the window. The latch was simple, and there was no lock, and once again, the hinges were quiet. Could that be a faint sheen of oil, only barely visible? The shingle roof being nowhere a draenei would want to go, Heiros closed the window, and as he was fastening the simple latch, noticed a hair caught on the rough wood of the window frame. Carefully pulling it free, he could be sure it was not one of his. Maybe a hint of red? Hard to tell with the sun on the wrong side of the building for good light, but certainly not the black of his own.

 

With a sigh that this was the only clue available to his eyes, he peeled a splinter of wood free from one of the rafters and coiled the hair around it. Dropping that through the hatch, he exited as he entered, gathered up the hair, and put things back as they were. Only a hair... we will see.

 

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Early in the morning, Heiros gathers his samples of herbs and traveling kit for alchemical testing and sets out in the city while attempting to be quiet so as not to waken Kwu and Tammar. A couple hours pass as he visits several herb traders in the Mage District, Old Town, and around the Cathedral in search of various plant samples. Then a walk out and around the lake to an area that few but fishermen frequent. Here, there is peace, and a chance to work and concentrate undisturbed.

 

A small fire is set, the herbs are ready, and the minimal equipment at hand should be up to the task. But Heiros hesitates for a moment. Never had visions been something he was interested in, but only studied under Thoralius and Toalu'u to understand how to affect the mind with herbs, the ability and skill to cause your mind to travel in time and space was something he had spent as little time on as possible. Now... if only he had studied that aspect of herb lore and alchemy more, there would be more confidence.

 

Forcing his mind to rest as best he can, Heiros sets up the hair in the path of steam sent up by a gently simmering combination of blossoms and roots. Perhaps there should be a small sprig of Dreaming Glory to wrap it around, but... Laying aside the idea of traveling to Draenor for the time being, Heiros gently wafts some of the steam towards himself with his right hand, breathes deeply, and settles back to see where his mind might take him.

 

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Eyes....

A pair of piercingly intelligent eyes are the focus...

Framed by a face that is always shifting slightly, as though the wearer changes demeanor at will and often.

The face is framed or topped with hair that is ever shifting in different styles and colors.

The body is even more fluid. Though the overall height remains fairly constant, the manner of  movement changes constantly along with clothing ranging from working class to lesser nobility.

The clothing changes as the general class of people around change, and while no faces are clear, the range of social class is evident. Perhaps there is a recurring face with dark hair and blue eyes?

Around the people there is more chaos, as there seem to be connections in Stormwind, Ironforge and many other places large and small.

 

(A stray thought breaks into the rapidly unraveling vision. Stormwind is the anchor. Focus there and the shop where the catalyst was found.)

 

Some unknown young woman only seen from behind exchanging greetings with traders.

Shadows that are too dense to be only patches of low light among roof lines and chimneys.

Emma speaking with an older (?) man with silvery hair.

Silver hair changing to light glinting off the snow, with flashes of people in the garb of Crusaders and... Dalaran hanging in the sky in the distance?

 

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Heiros comes to himself with the fire out and both legs asleep from lack of motion. Carefully, he gathers the hair and stores it in his herb pouch, buries the remains of his fire, gathers and cleans his glassware, then trudges back into the city in search of a meal.

 

Failure gnaws at his mind. Who besides Thoralius or Toalu'u would put any confidence in any of that? And if they had been doing this, they would probably have more information as well. Ah well, there is time for thought, ideas, and questions. And there is time to try again if needed.

[A] Heiros, Kianthys, Caperstaff, Oengus, Atheleys, Duenyen, Quiryn [H] Shadowpass, Kraea, Kintaile, Tunin

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