A Plot Uncovered
Written by Khary, a character on the Earthen Ring server, and posted on the Blizzard Earthen Ring Forums
Khary crouched in the small space between damp bayfront sand and uneven Booty Bay floorboards, and strained to hear the conversation above her. Discomfort made it hard to concentrate; the space itself wasn’t too different from those she’d hidden in at times in her childhood, but she’d been younger then, and not used to comfortable living. Still, the Tong needed information.
The goblin pacing above her wasn’t Tong himself, of course. He was a merchant, and a smuggler, much like the one who’d first put Khary herself in touch with the Tong. Part of their network, but not part of their circle. His particular job was to bring small items across from Ratchet (and back again, but that side of the ledger wasn’t at issue here), signal the Tong’s representative in Booty Bay, and wait for pickup – and payment. As Khary understood it, he’d been doing that for as long as Tai Jiang had been leading the Tong. But this time, he’d claimed the shipment was lost, swept overboard in a storm on the way across. On the surface, reasonable; ships passed close to the Maelstrom, after all, and that made for rough seas even without a storm to consider. But the packet was small, and should have been carried on his person, and if it had been, then they’d have lost the merchant as well as the goods. So she’d been sent to… talk… to him. Although he wasn’t expecting her for another two days. Thus the spying.
And that hunch paid off. Above her, the goblin stopped pacing. Slightly muffled, his nasal, accented tones were clear enough: “They’re sending someone down here. You’ve got to get that out of here, now. I can’t be caught with it anywhere near me.”
She didn’t recognize the man’s voice, although she placed the accent as Stormwind-born. “I don’t have a buyer yet. And I don’t like being yanked down here because you’ve got cold feet.”
“You want the route or don’t you? Don’t do either of us any good if I’ve got to explain how the stuff I said went overboard shows up in my brother’s shop. Get a buyer. Do it quiet. Just take the damned things.”
She froze for a moment. Stay to confront the goblin? Or follow his partner? Not really a choice – the goblin wouldn’t dare go anywhere until his appointment with her, and she could make it back by then. The other… if they silenced the goblin, they’d still have this one out there, undercutting the Tong and living to tell about it. Or – be honest, Khary – living, period.
An observer, had there been one other than the occasional rat, would never be able to say precisely when she vanished from sight; it was as much a matter of stillness, and of using pattern and shadow, as anything else. She just faded, and ghosted through the tangle of wooden piers and up to a quiet corner of the boardwalk. Once there, she dropped the fading, and let a different kind of stealth take over. The kind whereby a leather-clad, dark-haired woman of no particular beauty became part of the colorful evening crowd; nothing about her to stand out at all. All in the time it took the goblin and the man to finish arguing, and the man to step out of the little shop’s door.
It helped that the target didn’t know she was following, of course. But her luck ran out when he reached the griffon master, because she couldn’t hear his destination. As the great creature launched itself, she thought furiously, and blurted her answer to the flight master. Her own griffon launched itself after the other, taking the same path – but then it would, for at least part of the trip. She hoped she’d guessed right; there’d be no time to turn around and find him again if she hadn’t.
A tense flight later, she smiled. Both he and she glided over the forest toward Stormwind’s walls. Stormwind accent; city clothes. No buyer waiting, he said. No reason for him to go to some backwater town.
She followed him long enough to find his rathole, waited to be sure he was safely inside, and trotted toward the Tong’s offices. Time to let Tai know the goblin was a… security risk. And while she dealt with him, someone else could handle this loose end.