Tiger's Return (To Catch A Tiger, Part 2)
- --by Krelle
The sack twitched once.
A small part was pulled inward, forming a dimple. Someone who'd been passing by the back of the Gallow's End might have heard sounds of cloth tearing between small, sharp teeth. But no one walked by.
The dimple relaxed and two small fingers poked out of the hole, followed by two more from the other hand. A sharp tug and the hole became a tear. Several more urgent tugs and the tear was wide enough for the small form inside to slip out of the sack and into the shadows.
A moment later the latch of a window on the second floor of the inn flipped up. The window swung open on hinges that creaked in protest.
The room belonged to someone staying at the inn, possibly for a while now. There were clothes half-packed in a large backpack and the bed looked slept in but unmade. There was water in the washbasin.
The skinny girl appeared as she splashed water on her face. She grabbed an old washcloth and dunked it in the basin, leaning over to scrub her face. A stranger might have been nauseated to watch her wash out her eyesockets as well but the intensity of her movements showed how important the cleasing was to her. When she was satisfied, she rinsed her mouth and spat on the floor, then lifted the washbasin and poured the water over her face and hair, slowly lowering her head to let it wash down her neck and back. She dropped the empty basin absently, not noticing as it cracked in half on the floor.
She padded over to the pack, leaving little wet footprints along the dusty floor. Shivering, she fumbled with the packstrings and tore the top open. Her expression intent, she started pulling out blankets and supplies, dropping them carelessly on the ground as she searched. Presently, she found what she was looking for.
Krelle pulled out a silk shirt. It looked like it wouldn't be too big for her - except the sleeves were much too long. She found a knife as well, in one of the pockets, and a belt and a pair of soft cotton pants.
A few moments later and Krelle was dressed in a sleeveless silk vest, tucked into pants that were too large but cutoff just below the knee. The knife was stuck in her new belt. Giving a last rummage in the bag, she paused as she saw cheesecloth. With a small whine she pulled the little package out and unwrapped it quickly. She wasn't sure how long it had been since she'd eaten but she'd never tasted cheese so delicious, not even when she'd been high on messah.
It was an indication of how tired and distracted she was that she didn't hear the soft footsteps outside the door. Krelle spun around as the door opened and the elf who was staying there entered. They stared at each other in surprise for half an instant before Krelle did the sensible thing and vanished. Half a piece of cheese fell to the floor where she'd been standing.
Brain-rot was definitely a spreading epidemic among the Forsaken he'd decided. After trying to explain to the last random animated corpse that there wasn't any sense in expecting him to 'Beware the living!' he'd decided to retreat for the night. As he climbed the stairs he keyed on the comm channel subtly, speaking softly so he wouldn't be overheard over the chatter of the common room. "Hey Red, are all Forsaken brain-addled or just the ones I keep meetin'?"
The trolls voice came loud and clear over the bit in his ear. "Heh. Dat's whatchoo get fer 'angin' out in Brill, Shisou. Renee tryin' ta sell joo last weeks chowdah again?"
"If only I could be so fortunate... Any idea how long I've got to wait 'round here?" He reached the top of the stairs and turned around the bannister to head towards the room he'd rented. It was Room 8 right?
"Ah dunno, Shi. We no be havin' anneh news yet."
"What's this package supposed to look like anyway? 'less you're plannin' on it coming with a sign it ain't like I'm gonna know it on sight." He was getting a bit annoyed at the lack of information he was given, but it wasn't as if they didn't have reason to be skittish.
"Ah dunno... mebbe nothin be happenin... We all be waitin' on news from dem sindies, now dat Nerrok's back 'ome."
Shisou grumbled about boredom and decaying things as he passed the doors in the hall. "'ow's the Boss doin'? Still snoozin'?"
"Jah, last ah 'eard. Karet' be watchin' im."
Shisou swung to his right, flinging open the door to the room and blinked as he was greeted by a scene. Had that been a girl? Yeah, he hadn't imagined it... Sharp elven eyes slid over the room. Cloths littered on the floor. Broken water bowl on the floor. Water seeping into the wood and discarded textiles along the floor... He leaned backwards and looked at the number on the door jamb... 9. A fortuitous grain in the wood made it look like an 8 at first glance though. He frowned and stood back up straight. "Hey, sorry 'bout bargin' in."
"D'you work here..?" He crained his neck up, looking up in the rafters and remembering the words of ol' Cel: They never look up. There was no way this wasn't someone being somewhere that someone would disagree with them being. His eyes landed on a pale, frail form perched on a rafter several yards above the floor. He couldn't make her out too well up there, but she wasn't elven or orcish, and no little human girl would make it all the way to Brill. "Nah, I'm a courier. Just here waitin' on a package. You alright?"
"Not really," she murmurs. She seemed to catch herself and perked up a bit, canting her head to one side as she looks at him. "I'm a courier too. Got a bit ambushed, along the road."
Shisou nodded casually. Inviting himself in he closed the door behind him with a kick and walked across the room to plop down on the mattress. The cloths scattering the bedding were obviously too large for the girl... perhaps an orc? "Yeah, ya gotta be careful about that. All sorts a hoodlums out there."
He could see her rub her forehead. Maybe she was sick? "Why're you sittin?"
He gave her an odd sort of look, quickly becoming convinced that the whole of the Forsaken race was afflicted with brain-rot. "Cause it's better 'n standin'" he stated as if it should be obvious. Sure, he hadn't been able to see the cloths all that clearly from the door, but mostly he'd wanted to sit down. "Why're ya up there?"
She shifted her perch, sitting on the rafter rather than crouching on it and dangled her feet in the air. Looking at the skin tone he could tell she was definitely Forsaken. "Cause it's safe. I didn't know who you were, see? No one checks the rafters." Her voice sounded a little... annoyed, perhaps? "If you wanna chat, c'n we go to your room? S'messy here."
"Ain't got one. And ya shouldn't complain about a mess ya made." He rubbed his goatee for a minute. "You know, it'd seem to be a bit safer on the ground than up where you can fall and hurt yourself..."
She suddenly brought her feet back up into the shadowed confines of the roofing. He could hear her suspicion in her voice. "Who're you?"
"I'm Jack. Who're you?"
There was a pause for awhile and Shisou started looking around the room again. After a few moments there was a girlish giggle and she said. "I'm tired, but my friends call me Lucky."
Shisou shot a foxish grin up into the shadows. He was starting to have fun with this. "Nothin' to worry about here. I'm just a courier, and even if I wasn't, you're just a kid, right?"
"Yer in my room, courier." Yep, suspicion still there. He couldn't help but grin wider.
"Are you laughin' at me, Jack?"
"'course not Lucky." The girl started muttering in that sloppy sounding tongue the Forsaken used. Could you still call it a tongue when half the people talking it didn't have a tongue? He forgot the musing as he spotted the hunk of cheese on the floor by his foot. He snatched it up, brushed it off, and inspected it for nasties. "About time.." He'd taken a bite out of it before the girl could respond.
Respond she did however as she sputtered "Hey that's mine!"
Shisou shrugged. "No more than it is mine. I'm hungry, alright?"
The girl slipped down from her shadowy perch, landing a few feet away from his as he was getting ready to take another bite. Sharp turquoise eyes inspected her, seeing the wet hair and grossly unfitting clothes. And of course, the empty eye sockets. He couldn't see her left hand but he was certainly willing to bet it held a weapon from the look on her face. "Give. Back. My. Chesse."
"I'll make ya a deal, Little Lucky. You tell me what you're really doin' here and I'll not only give ya this cheese but some silver for some actual cloths. You'll get pinched in a flash dressed like that." He wasn't really that interested, but the girl had managed to pique his curiosity. Who went rifling through stranger's rooms, stealing a shower and bad cloths?
"Why d'you give a shit? I stole that cheese, it's mine. Give it back." Her empty sockets narrowed at him. So naturally, he took another bite out of the cheese.
"And I stole it again, turnabout's fair right?" He kept his eyes on her, watching her carefully while he held the cheese out to be seen easily. She mostly just stood there and steamed. "Eh? Deal or no? I'm gettin' bored and this offer won't last forever."
She snarled and brought her left hand out to show a cheap dagger. Looked sharp enough though, and there was dried blood on the back of her hand. Had she murdered someone and was trying to hide? "If you take another bite of what's mine, Jack, I'm going to cut out all of your teeth," she promised with every hint of sincerity. She stalked closer to him, shifting the crude knife into her right hand and tucking her left hand back behind her back. Why was that? What did she have to hide?
He watched her casually with an expressionless face. When she was nearly within arms reach he shrugged and frowns. "Oh well. I ain't got no interest in fightin' a kid. Don't blame me when you get knicked though." He lofted the half-chunk of cheese to the littlest zombie and watched carefully. The left hand shot out, snatching the cheese from the air while the right hand held the dagger steadily. As she pushed the cheese into her mouth he had clear view of it. She was missing her pinky finger on that hand.
His eyebrow raised as his curiosity fired up again. He decided to take a gamble, casting through his memory of hearing Big Boss speak the Cant and having Red translate. He thought he had it pretty figured so far and had been waiting for a suitably entertaining time to reveal that he didn't really need Red's translations any longer. He found the word he was searching for just as she finished gorging the cheese. "<cant> Returned?"
His suspicions were confirmed as she jerked her head up to look at him, eye-less sockets wide in response. "We've been lookin' for ya." He grinned his foxy grin.
Krelle nodded and held out her left hand. "I'd figured. Pass me your com?"
He tapped the bud in his ear to engage the general communications channel and couldn't help the grin in his voice. "Ya'll guys get ready..."
"Just - ... Just give it over."
Shisou plucked the bud out of his ear and tossed it to the littlest forsaken. "Sure thing, Little Lucky."
Krelle caught it easily and put it in her ear. She hesitated for an instant, uncertain, then grinned and keyed the comm. "Well I got bored with being kidnapped and came back," she drawled casually. "Did you all miss me?"
Kya heard Krelle's weary but deadpan humor-filled comment come over softly and nearly scrambled to sit upright and press her ear key. A piercing shriek rang through the comm.
"EEEEEEEEEEeeeeeeeeeeeeeks! Krelle! It's really YOOOOOOOOOOOUUUUU!!!!!!"
Shisou winced as he heard the screech come over the comm... even though it was still in Krelle's ear. He was suddenly thankful he'd handed it over. He looked at all the oversized clothes scattered about the bed and a mildly disturbing thought occurred to him. "Hey, Little Lucky? Care to be getting out of here before whoever really has this room rented comes back?"
Tai sat bolt upright in bed. Kya's yell over the comm, which was sitting on the bedstand, had woken him up. The thinking part of his brain hadn't registered what she'd said but instictually he knew; Krelle was alive!
Kennia sat up, blinking, "What?" For an answer, Tai leapt out of bed, and grabbed the comm, his voice urgent "Krelle? You in danger?"
Even as he waited for the answer, Tai had pulled on his pants and was tugging on his boots ...
Krelle couldn't help but laugh. Despite her concussion, or maybe because of it, everyone's reactions just seemed so funny. She nodded to "Jack" and motioned for him to lead her away. She followed him across the hall into room number 8 as she tried to answer a bunch of people at once on the com.
"Kya, easy - the modulators can't handle... Tai, hey. No, I'm out of danger now - I think. I'm in Brill. I dunno what's going down, though, he just let me go for some reason. Fel, it's good to hear you guys..."
She sank down onto Jack's bed and rested her aching head in her hands. "Narg? No, no - I'm ok... well yeah, aside from that... I don't wanna talk 'bout it just now. Do you guys know what the fel is going on? Cause I'm a little out of the loop here. I need a status report."
Ruadh slammed the flat of her tail against the underside of the shark's jaw, sending it reeling into the underwater murk. Baring her fangs in an exuberant grin, she spun to meet her adversary as it charged back toward her, teeth at the ready.
Her heart slammed against her ribs and her blood sang in sanguine tribute when she lunged forward, trapping it by the throat in the crook of her neck and shoulder. The shark thrashed in thwarted frustration, jaws closing on empty ocean, its anger turning to confusion and fear when it realized the full mettle and strength of the strange sealion that had attacked it. Chuckling hoarsely, Ru began to push, propelling the shark backwards despite its protesting struggle.
"Well I got bored with being kidnapped and came back," she drawled casually. "Did you all miss me?"
Hm? Ah, she returns. Best put it out of its misery then Shouldering it from her she stunned it once more, bludgeoning the shark about the head with cruel precision. Her teeth met in its exposed throat and opened it in a violent jet of crimson that stung her eyes, making her laugh with the sheer joy of the kill.
'One would hope that your appetite for fish remains - call it a special surprise of sorts.' she growled into the comm.
Grasping it by the tail, she ignored its residual death throes and scudded back toward the Bay.
As she spoke, Tai buckled his belt and threw on a shirt. He looked to Kennia, "We're going to Brill. Krelle's there."
Kennia flew into action, as Tai grabbed his weapons. Over his shoulder, he added, "Wear the dark leathers - we're going in the back way."
As Kennia dressed in a flash, Krelle finished on the comm. Tai answered, letting the others know that he and Kennia were on their way.
Eight minutes later, Kennia and Tai were winging their way north, to Southshore, through the night sky.
Mei fumbled with the comm, hearing a familiar voice.
"Is that you, Little Miss Boss? It's about time you checked in. You know, we were starting to think you'd gone missing." Mei chuckled at her joke. Across the table, her other self breathed a sigh of relief.
"Oh, thank the Light that she's alright..."
"Yeah, thank whatever, it's not like we did anything to help. Now they're going to think we're useless."
"That's not true. Everyone knows that we tried our best. And..." She smiled slightly. "It was kind of nice. You know, us working together."
"Yeah, well don't get used to it, you stupid little girl. I'm the one running the show here, so you can feel free to go back to dreaming about your boyfriend or whatever and let me do the thinking." Mei barked back, annoyed. Her other self simply smiled, looking happier than she'd been in weeks. Looking at her, Mei couldn't help but feel a little elated too. Heck, maybe now she could get paid...
Reims strode through the drag's shadows, finally reaching the Slow Blade. Seeing Kareth, he pulled a letter from his bags.
'For Miss... Krelle...'
Kareth turned, and frowned at him. 'Um, Reims? Krelle's been kidnapped. But its alright, they've found her... Didn't you have your comm on?'
Reims looked down at the floor. 'Busy...'
'Well, whatever, I can hold the letter but maybe you'd better deliver it yourself. She's up in Brill with some of the others.'
Reims nodded at the Orc and ran out of the shop, and towards the zeppelins. Some time later, as he was flying over the ocean, he dropped the letter over the side, watching it fall towards the water.
A shadow moved beneath the trees and Shisou focused on the spot instantly. He watched closely, possibilities of orcs and demons and scourge running through imagination... until a rat scurried from the bushes. He frowned and glanced over his shoulder at the little girl sitting on his bed chatting away on his comm. To look at her it was hard to imagine she might've been one of the higher members of the Tong, especially in those cloths. He'd learned not to trust everything he saw though.
His eyes focused outside the inn again... to find nothing but a bat fluttering around. Being a lookout was boring. He frowned in his momentary disappointment completely unaware of the fact that soon most of the Tong would be arriving in his room.
"What? Tai you can't... ok, well I guess maybe you could but I'm too tired to talk the Deathguard off of someone tonight. Meet up by the lake, alright? They won't care what we're up to, there. And then maybe we can figure out what's goin' down... Yeah, actually, bring some food, would you? I've never been this hungry... uh, no, no-one fed me. ... Really a week? Fel. No wonder I'm hungry then."
The rambling conversation went on for several minutes as anyone who was awake and on the com yammered on. Krelle was exhausted, and her head hurt. She was also thisrty and hungry, dressed like a beggar, and - worse - wasn't wearing anything on her face. She felt exposed. Oh well, nothing for it. At least I'll be safe soon. "I'll see you guys at the lake... yeah, in a few. Yeah I'll come down to the 'Bay tomorrow. Krelle out for now."
She turned off the transmitter and lowered the volume on the receiver. She made no move to give the com unit back to Jack. She'd get him a new one later. She rubbed her face and gave herself a shake. There was work to do.
The small forsaken lifted her head and looked about critically. Jack's possessions in this world seemed few - but easily carryable, for that. The room was mostly empty, like the elf had been keeping himself ready to leave at a moment's notice. Maybe he's not a complete idiot.
"Jack," she said, adressing the elf by the window. "I got a quick errand for you. Go outside around the back of the inn," she said, not waiting for a response. "Under the window to number nine is a sac. Throw it into the fireplace. Then come back here, and we'll head over to the lake."
Firth's contacts were good, and owed him. It wasn't long before he got the word. The missing Tong had been found, in Brill. Firth smiled to himself. Perenolde's mistress had been right. Perhaps his tracking skills were not as good as he thought. Ah well, missed opportunities.
The Syndicate members who had involuntarily involved him in all this were dead. The Tong master was back in her fold, and owed nothing more to him. It looked like the time had come to get back into his own life again. Walking into the constables office in the Undercity, Firth yanked several wanted posters off the wall. Taking note of the last known locations on all of them, he left the city.
The little side show with the Synidicate and Tong had been interesting, but it was over now. Time to earn his keep the old fashioned way.... hunting down scum.
Tigers by the LakeEdit
She was still sitting on the bed when he knocked and entered the room again. The empty sockets looked up at him as he closed the door behind him with a kick. He held out the bit of parchment that had fallen out of the sack when he picked it up. "Hey there, Lil' Lucky. The sack's been burninated but this fell out first."
Krelle sprang up from the bed and crossed the room. She snatched the paper from his hands and quickly read it's contents. Not that there was a lot to read. "All bets are off, hm?"
"That's what it says. You said somethin' about headin' to the lake?"
Krelle nodded, gestured to the door, and Shisou shrugged, turned about and started walking. He had a sense of her following behind him but he just sauntered about as he did every day.
It didn't take long to reach the shore north east of the inn. Shisou pulled a collapsible fishing pole out of his satchel and casted the line out over the waters. There were some other forsaken gathering. He recognized one of them from that thing with the Keep of worgens. At least he thought he did, it was hard to tell with Forsaken sometimes, but he recognized the mask the guy wore. Reims was the name.
The forsaken had been sitting speaking in that Gutterspeak of theirs for awhile and he'd caught three longjaws, four sickly looking fish, and five brilliant fish by the time Big Boss showed up. Shisou looked over his shoulder to see the human approaching through the shadows. He gave a nod to them and said. "Where is she?" A moment later, as Shisou was putting the pole and his catches away, Kennia appeared beside the Big Boss. She nodded to one of the Forsaken and moved to stand next to Big Boss. He'd taken a spot by one of the trees. Lil' Lucky was still there... somewhere... probably. The courier jabbed a finger towards his best guess at least to answer Tai's question. Not the Big Boss even glanced at him.
A moment later Krelle stepped out of the shadows. She smiled sheepishly and looked down. Big Boss's releif was clear under that bald head of his. "Heh .. there you are!"
"<Orcish> I like pants." That came from the kal'dorei lady who changed into critters. Her accent was pretty thick.
Krelle sighed in response to the nelf. "They were.. available." Her words weren't enough to delay Big Boss's hug though.
"<Orcish> I bring gift." As soon as Big Boss released Lil' Lucky, Kennia replaced him. Lil' Lucky flinched and didn't look entirely comfortable being held by the big humans, but she smiled anyway. By the time Kennia released her, the Kaldorei was holding something out to her. Lil' Lucky pulled two navy blue straps, maybe silk?, over her face to cover the empty sockets. Had Kennia given them to her? Big Boss?
"Eh? Wassis, Ru?"
"<Orcish> Shark. I kill last night." That accent was gorram thick. It was hard to really understand what she was saying. Seeing the others were settling in, Shisou flopped down unceremoniously by a tree and let loose with a yawn. Could this wait till morning? Nah, probably not. They'd already waited awhile.
"Oh light, that sounds good..." Lil' Lucky took the package from the Kal'dorei, Ruadh right?, and sat down to open it. Her hunger was evident on her face now. And that only reminded him all the more of his own emptying stomach. Well, there was also that other hunger but that'd have to wait till later.
Shisou grinned at Big Boss and spoke up, finally having found the words he was looking for. He was going to get better at this Cant thing "Looks like I found somethin' of your's Big Boss." The bald man was too focused on the little girl to even give note that he'd heard him. Not that a hungry forsaken stuffing fish in her mouth was exactly a pretty sight... Shisou shrugged and looked off into the woods around them.
He was vaguely aware of Kennia giving Lil' Lucky a selection of daggers to choose from but he only really paid any attention to the conversation.
"Krelle, some were Tai's and some I made a while ago," offered Kennia.
"If I may seat myself?" That last comment seemed to be directed at him, in that horribly accented orcish. He looked up to Ruadh looking down at him. Why did she need to ask to seat? Was there some sort of sitting law in the Forsaken's kingdom? Were the Kal'dorei just odd like that? He'd heard some stories... He shrugged at her, not exactly sure how to respond, and she sat down smoothly a few feet away from him. Shisou went back to watching the shadows.
"Here is a pair with Bone....handles...."
"Ah - Thank you, Kennia. I dunno where my gear's got to... Guess I'd better get new stuff."
"Well I can make you some Swords....." Kennia must've been a weaponsmith.
"So what the fel was this all about?" Krelle asked.
"Syndicate grab, we know that," Tai answered. This was followed by some sort of short, violent sputtering from Lil' Lucky.
"So now Payback?" Kennia demanded eagerly.
"First tell me what happened," Krelle said.
"Ok, you were supposed to meet with some folks. Never showed." Big Boss was explaining. "Next thing we know, we get a note. No demands. Just... Just threats. Threats to kill you."
"What'd it say?"
"Drivel. Something about tigers, tigers, burning bright and having our 'kitten's' flame put out. I got it back at the office."
"Here .. some Stormwind Brie." That drew Shisou's attention back to the others. He'd only had a couple bites of that cheese back in the inn. So hungry... He watched as Big Boss tossed the cheese to Lil' Lucky and tried to ignore the pangs in his stomach. "Then, Nerrok got wind .."
"Oh." Everyone was looking at everyone else, being quiet as it started to rain. Shisou frowned as the first drops hit his head. The perfect end to the perfect day. "So... who'd he kill?"
"Everyone, if reports were correct." Ruadh seemed to like the thought of carnage. Big Boss seemed to be waiting for someone else to speak up. Did he not have all the story? Or maybe he just didn't like talking that much? Maybe he just wanted to see how much everyone else knew...
"...By himself?" Lil' Lucky seemed particularly concerned. Did she have some sort of connection to Boss?
Reims was muttering something in gutterspeak when Ruadh said "He made use of a ritual that called a demon into his person. Once possessed thusly, he killed all before him with no thought for friend nor foe."
Shisou finally chimed in, speaking in his own accented Common. "Rumor was there was an army of demons laying waste to the area. Turned out it was just the Boss"
Lil' Lucky turned to look at the two elves. "What? Nerrok wouldn't... he hates demons."
"We caught 'em though." Shisou continued. "Some bear guy pushed the demon out of him. Red said he was sleepin' still a few hours ago."
"It's ... his thing. He hates warlocks more than Tai hates magic..." Lil' Lucky definitely had something for Boss, and Tai apparently had something against the arcane. That explained a bit.
"But the means surely justify the ends, in this instance, anyway." Ruadh's Common wasn't entirely free of accent either.
Big Boss was picking up the conversation now. "Once Nerrok laid into them .. that's when we got the second note." Lil' Lucky was just giving them all a look like she didn't quite beleive what they were saying. "Yeah? I'm not so sure Ruadh. Look at Krelle's hands."
"What is one appendage when she is returned to us alive *pauses* and of sound mind?"
Lil' Lucky was now hiding her left hand in her lap and giving Ruadh a not entirely friendly look. She turned back to Big Boss, expression fading from her face. "What'd the second note say?"
Big Boss was still looking at the Kaldorei. "My point, Ruahd, is that they could have done worse." Now he turned to Lil' Lucky. "Something to the effect of get Nerrok to lay off or ..." He shrugged.
"I am in agreement, Master Tai, but it remains that they did not, or more accurately, were not given the opportunity." This was an awful lot of chatter about the obvious...
Lil' Lucky tossed what was left of the cheese next to the shark meat. Shisou looked at it wistfully, trying to keep his stomach from grumbling. "They had every opportunity. I couldn't have done anything. Please shut up." Lil' Lucky turned back to Big Boss. "This will make a great story some day. Then what happened?"
"After that ... we tried to work any leads. Firth. Me ... nothing. Kya came too. But whoever snagged you are pros." Lil' Lucky was nodding. "We had no choice. Von put together a team and went to get Nerrok .. alive and unharmed."
"Is he ok? Nerrok, I mean?" And then Big Boss was pointing at Shisou. "He was there." Lil' Lucky gave him one of those looks that meant no joking around. "Jack? What happened? Is Nerrok ok?"
The sin'dorei nodded. "Red said he was sleepin'. That was just before we bumped into each other. So far as I know, he's still sleepin'" He grinned at her "I'd ask her again, but someone took my comm."
"I see.... Heh. S'my com now. I'll get you a new one later." Lil' Lucky gave him a crooked smile and then looked around at the others. Shisou waved it off and then looked out at the woods embarrassed after his stomach grumbled. "Well. Fel. Why'd he let me go?"
The conjecture went on for another hour or so. Kennia thought there might be some third party trying to clear the field of competition. Clever, but probably not likely. Big Boss didn't seem to really agree too much. Lil' Lucky seemed to want to just leap into action and Big Boss didn't seem to agree with that either. Shisou was getting frustrated, though he wouldn't show that out here. If someone tries to kill you, you kill 'em right back. Why sit around in the middle of the night in the rain, surrounded by Blight, and toss ideas back and forth when you've got no way of knowing which one's the right one?
Kennia even suggested having a sit down with the Bloodsails and the Syndicate to exchange information. Shisou asked why they couldn't just get the info they needed without being found out. The other guys couldn't be that good could they? He got a lot of looks from that but no one really seemed to comment on it.
Eventually Kya passed around a bag of jerky... which never made it past Shisou's waiting fingers. Never again would he come into Blighted lands without provisions!
Lil' Lucky started talking about Ol' Cel again and he frowned. Just how did she know Ol' Cel anyway? There was some more chatting about all the things they didn't know and Big Boss started talking about how he wanted the other guys boss' to live in fear. That sounded like fun at least. Kennia and Big Boss started talking about meeting with them again and Lil' Lucky piped in.
"Right...I will get some sleep." The first sensible idea he'd heard all night came from Kennia. "Tai?"
Big Boss nodded. "It's late."
"I'll meet with Cel. I wouldn't trust the rest."
Shisou looked at the littlest zombie. "I'll go with ya Lil' Lucky." She nodded absently.
Big Boss stopped his conversation with his other and looked at the cobalt-haired sin'dorei. "She's your boss, kid. Call her that again and I'll break all the bones in your face."
"I got lots of Bosses, can't call ya all "Boss" he meant it as a joke, but apparently Big Boss had other ideas. The big bald human stood up and looked down on him. He could see Lil' Lucky giving him a lazy kind of smile from the edge of his vision. Taking his eyes off Big Boss now wouldn't been a mistake.
"You seem like a smart kid. Come up with something else. Impress me." Big Boss's response caught him off guard. Why would anyone take offense to a name like that? Personally he liked "Lil' Lucky" as a name, and it certainly seemed to fit... He shrugged. "So far, kid, you seem eminently replaceable."
"That's your call, Big Boss, but if she ain't gonna call me my name I ain't gonna call her hers."
Kennia had been turning to leave but she stopped when she saw Big Boss stride over and lift Shisou up by the front of his shirt. "You little punk ..." Shisou kept all expression from his face. This would be a test then, like everything else. Big Boss had his pride to protect and Shisou had his. He kept his mouth shut and his eyes cool. Simple as that.
He couldn't see anyone else with Big Boss's dark mug filling his vision, but he had the sense that they were all waiting, watching to see what happened. "I'm not telling you again. Earn your place here, kid, and maybe then you'll get a name other than 'shithead'" He slammed his fist into Shisou's gut and tossed him back. Shisou managed to hand on his hands and knees rather than face first in mud.
His eyes wanted to burn and his pride wanted to burst forth but he kept them checked. He coughed once and looked up at Big Boss with the same cool eyes. "I earned my name long before we even met... but you wouldn't know 'bout that."
Big Boss stepped back, looking at him with a solid poker face. Kennia had apparently moved beside him and started whispering in his ear in Thalassian, bad Thalassian, but understandable. "You best respect your bosses. if not I will see you on the Heavy end on that Anchor... understand?" He shifted his cool gaze to look at her out of the corner of his eye. Just who did they think he was?
"Sorry about that Krelle." When he looked back towards the others Big Boss was next to Lil' Lucky who'd just stood up.
"Well what the fel's your name, then, Jack? I just got here." She gave Big Boss a little smile and he watched her for a few minutes. Then he picked himself out of the mud, ignore the soreness in his stomach. Big Boss hit hard. Harder than Bull. Not as hard as Cel though... There wasn't really any keeping the pride out of his name. "Shisou" Even his eyes burned a little brighter.
None of the others seemed to paying any attention. Lil' Lucky kept asking him questions. "Shisou. Who hired you..?"
"Boss, the other one I mean, Nerrok." He was going to have a bruise in the morning, but a kitten could fix that. It was nearly time for him to feed anyway.
"Nerrok. Ok." Lil' Lucky switched to orcish in between sentences. "Listen, Shisou, it's been a long night for everyone, hmm?"
He looked at Big Boss's back and nodded replying in the same tongue. "Longer for some than others..."
"You can call me Krelle. "Lucky" is what marks call me. It's just a street name. Tigers know different."
"Krelle .. welcome home." Big Boss had turned to look at her, apparently he and the other humans were about to leave. Krelle grinned back at him. "When you're up to it, come by the office. We'll catch up."
"I feel welcome. Thanks... Oy, before you go - " She gestured to the rags she was wearing, now soaked through and even more miserable looking. "I need some money."
Big Boss took his coin pouch off his belt, taking out enough coins to get home. "Here." He tossed it to her and the littlest zombie ninja caught it from the air. As she nodded her thanks Big Boss turned back to Kennia and Kya. "We should get back before Mirela wakes up."
Krelle glanced at the remaining Forsaken and the solitary sin'dorei. "You kids hang around, if you've got the stamina."
Shisou grinned at her, tossing the heavy mood and tension from a few minutes ago away. "Sure thing"
Big Boss looked back at her and nodded, a small smile slipping across his expression. Krelle... well, maybe that was a wink? She crouched on her heels and started picking up the bits on the ground, the note, the soaked cheese, the daggers, and tucking them in her shirt and belt. "You fleshies had better get going then." She shot the humans a teasing grin. "There's undead about."
The gryphon rose up into the night sky, leaving Soutshore behind. It was a long flight and it gave Tai time to think. He'd already run through a long list of possible angles on the who and why of Krelle's return on the way up. He'd tried to downplay Kennia's thought that maybe they were being played and maybe Krelle and Mirela's returns were part of some larger play against the Tong. He shook his head, the night air crisp and brisk; even if they were being played, he was damn sure the Syndicate would pay.
Nothing obvious - and maybe not even right away. Professional. In the shadows. Kill 'em in their beds. Nothing to tie it to us, nothing but shadows.
Bloodsails might be a different matter. Nia wants to suss that out. Can't hurt. I can always have them killed later.
Tai grinned in the dark, as the gryphon skimmed over the dark waves. He could be a patient man, if need be.
His mind moved over the details of the two snatches, and he realized that they'd discovered a trove of talent amongst the rank and file looking to be made.
Drayden had impressed Phea, which was good enough for Tai. He'd done his job and done it well. The only question remaining in Tai's mind was his allegiance to this Katelis woman. Tai wondered idly if he should have her killed ...
Jack was another pleasant surprise. The gnome had been dragooned into working for the Tong. But word was that he'd done more than the bare minimum; in fact, he'd kept Drayden alive - and tied up loose ends.
Mei - still largely an unknown quantity, but she'd helped when it mattered. Tai would remember that. And he'd be sure Krelle knew too.
Ajeera, the young troll fighter, had also stepped up. She'd volunteered to help with Nerrok, and had had the guts to be his personal punching bag. Brave or foolish, she was willing to do what needed to be done. And her companion, Natt, had helped - and was the one who actually 'saved' Nerrok.
Creasey had headed up to Alterac too. He'd spotted Nerrok and done the right thing - assessed the situation and called for back up. Tai grinned crookedly; nothing wrong with smarts like that.
The new guy, Rhein, had just been on his toes enough to search Krelle. Stupid of me, Tai thought. Must be tired, he told himself. Fel, he certainly had his concerns about Mirela. Good thing someone had thought to check Krelle for any type of bugs or trackers.
Even shithead had done ok, Tai thought. Proud and mouthy, but smart. And in the end, he'd done his job. Tai idly wondered what Shisou meant about that whole knowing his name thing?
And then there was Firth. Solo operator. Had to be, Tai figured. But he'd chosen to play his hand with the Tong. Smart, skilled, dangerous. Full of potential. Yeah, he hadn't found Krelle, but neither did I, Tai thought with a slight grimace. Firth was the kind of guy worth having a drink with and talking some business.
The gryphon swooped wide out over the bay. The rising sun cast a soft haze around the top of the Port Authority. Tai looked down to the fishmongers. He needed coffee - and he needed to talk to Mirela.
Krelle looked to the other Horde members as the humans gathered their horses. Rheinhardt, Shisou and Reims - who had been rather quiet this evening, even for him. "Stick around, if you've got the stamina," she said in Orcish. She had a few more things to do before she could rest easy.
Krelle stepped over to the humans as they mounted up. She looked up at Tai and nodded, grateful for the mask (she hadn't seen it before, actually, he must have been saving it for a gift). Mostly she was just pleased that everyone had come up to see her. After being in the... her mind veered away from the past week. Can't think about it now. I'll think about it later, she told herself. Krelle felt profoundly uneasy but the presence of the others helped push away the urge to panic. It helped her stay focused. Unable to explain her feelings she settled for reaching up to clasp Tai's hand before he left.
The little forsaken ran a hand over her wet dreadlocks as she looked south towards the Undercity and considered her options. She could go and buy a new set of equipment but that would take time and cost a fair bit. She might have to anyway but... If he's serious about calling all bets off, my stuff might be there. Might be. Worth a look. She put a had over her stomach, feeling nauseated at the idea of going back to the room where she'd been taken. Don't be an idiot - you're not alone this time.
Krelle led the three tigers back towards the Undercity.
They ran into Mei in the courtyard, keeping an eye on the drinking scene. She tagged along, curious. "Oh, you're back, little miss boss!" she said, and giggled at her own joke.
Krelle didn't need to look around to see Shisou's aggreived expression. How come she gets to say shit like that and I can't? she imagined him thinking, after the scene with Tai. Krelle ground her teeth. Rain, beer-swilling goblins in her way, and now this. "I see you're being your asshole self again, Mei. Stow it. I'm not in the mood," she said shortly.
She stalked off, ignoring Mei's muttering, with Reims close at her side and the others following. The back of her head still ached from the sap and dealing with people right now just made the pressure at her temples tighter. She focused on her breathing as she walked, trying not to throw up the shark she'd eaten. I hate concussions. She should have asked Rheinhardt to heal her up properly, she knew, but a rebellious, stubborn streak rose up. She'd had worse than this. It wasn't that bad. She'd be fine.
Krelle's pace slowed as she neared the door to her old hideout. She picked the lock with borrowed tools and let them in.
It felt strange, to be showing other people her secret place, where she and Hakk had stayed. Not like it's a secret anymore, she thought bitterly. Krelle's sulky and pissy mood vanished, however, as she stepped around the desk to see a dark pile of leathers and gear on the ground. "My stuff!" she exclaimed happily. She hurried over and checked it out - her clothes and armour and satchel and weapons... they all seemed to be here.
Giving the others an imperious wave to turn their backs - which they did, with some grumbling - Krelle shucked off the wet, stolen clothes and pulled on her own again. The dark, long-sleeved shirt that buttoned right up to the neck. The leather pants and vest of the courier, covered in pockets. Her darkened armour with it's steel inlays and her combat boots with the steel toe- and heel-plates. She stamped her feet in them as she buckled her dagger belt on. Guess I can pass these other daggers back to Kennia. Thoughtful of her to bring 'em. The only thing that was missing was her combat mask but she could wear the blue silk one for now. "Ok, I'm decent," she called over with a grin. The others turned back and came up as she laced up her boots. "Fel, that feels better!" she said as she stood. She grinned, rolling her shoulders under the padded armour. She felt like a Tiger again. Even her headache seemed to lessen. Reims nodded his approval.
In the end she only had a few last things to gather from the room. She disabled the trap on the drawer at the bottom of the desk and took out a few small things - odds and ends that might be useful. Krelle didn't need keepsakes or souvenirs. She didn't see the point in them, really, since she could always remember anything she wanted to. She settled for a last lingering look around as the others chatted. It had been good, here. Before Hakk left. Her mind veered away from thinking about something and she shook off her reverie. "Screw it," she said. "Let's go."
She left the door open on the way out. She wouldn't be back.
"Do you want to be alone?"
"No! No, you can stay."
Reims nodded easily. Krelle sighed and leaned her head against the cold stone wall.
They were up on a ledge overlooking the courtyard. The sounds of drunken goblins hawking their wares echoed up to them. Shisou was skulking around, leaning on the wall practically out of sight. Mei had taken a seat near Krelle and was fretting away in her nice-mode, apologizing for being "useless" or whatever. Krelle wasn't sure which side was more irritating… but at least she didn't have to take shit from the dress-Mei. She murmured the appropriate "not your faults" back at her, not really listening. Reims was quiet too. Fel. Did everyone feel guilty? Krelle closed her eyes behind her mask. It's not that she didn't appreciate it but from her point of view? Someone clever enough to catch her wouldn't be stupid enough to get caught themselves. It was her fault for being alone. That was the end of it. Shisou wasn't moping at least - though he was sorta off by himself. Probably not really feeling the love tonight. Whatever.
"I am sorry I was not here," Reims said quietly in Gutterspeak. Mei moved away from the other Forsaken, going to introduce herself to Shisou.
"So where were you?" Krelle asked softly.
"I was doing research."
"Research? What research was keeping you away from me while I was in mortal peril, then?" she said, her tone deliberately light.
Reims ducked his head anyway. "The city I came from."
"Stratholme," Krelle murmured.
Reims nodded slightly and continued. "I had thought to return… alone. I did not want to endanger anyone. I was going to leave." Krelle turned her head to frown at him but he continued. "My absence put people in danger anyway," he sighed.
"You want to leave?" she accused.
He looked at her. "Would you have let me?"
"No," she replied instantly, and he seemed to relax. "You swore your oaths. You're mine now." The grin she gave him was teasing but she couldn't keep the affection out of her voice. Reims was one of Krelle's favourites. They understood each other. Reims nodded, ever accepting. She tilted her head back against the stone again, staring up at the night sky. "We'll go together," she promised quietly. Stratholme. Now more than ever she wanted to go. If that's where Hakk had really disappeared to…
"Don't expect a regular paycheck," Mei was telling Shisou. Her tone made it clear that leather-pants-Mei was back.
Krelle sat up a bit and looked over at the frowning elf and snickering forsaken. I got paid after a job, when I was an associate. How regular the pay is depends on how regular you work, she thought. She called over to them, "Oy, we owe you two some money?"
Shisou and Mei looked over, obviously interested. Krelle pulled out Tai's purse. It's company money, right? They could sort out the accounting-bits later. That was Pox's job. And Chalnan's. "Come over then," she said to the associates. "Enumerate the wondrous things you've been doing so I can properly repay you."
Shisou volunteered first. "Hm... I snatched a guard's purse for Boss, Nerrok I mean... And I helped go after him. I was the lookout then… Let's see... I helped Red and all get back the blue skin... and I helped clearin' out some Keep of worgen, supposedly for the ears..." he said, nodding to Reims. "He was there."
"For such a smart guy you sure do forget a lot of names."
Shisou shrugged. "I remember 'em just fine, they're just not mine to give out."
"Hmm. So you helped get Mirella back. And did an ear run with Reims?" Krelle looked over to her laconic companion. "How was he?"
"Showboat. Cocky. … But good," Reims said.
Krelle smirked at the assessment and turned back to the grinning Shisou. "So, petty theft, scouting, two counts of bodyguarding. Anything else?"
"I tracked that package that wound up comin' from Brill, and then stuck around there in case somethin' happened. That's what I was doin' when you popped up."
"Ah yes. A lucky night for both of us," she said in a quiet deadpan. "Let's see then…If we add 'putting up with Brill and the horrors of Renee's cooking' to that list..." She bent over and flicked out a small pile of bright coins into one hand, worth twelve gold and thirty-five silver. She was feeling generous. She looked up at him and smirked as she held out her fist. "I docked you some for being a smartass, but you got a bonus for not backing down, so it evens out," she said quietly as he leaned forward to take the money. He nodded with a grin and stepped back.
Krelle looked over to where Mei had wandered - off by the remains of an old stone banister, staring down into the courtyard. "Oy, Mei! Yer turn, c'mon over here."
Mei looked forlornly over her shoulder at them. "Oh, I didn't really do anything, Master Krelle. I don't deserve any money."
Krelle looked pained. "Don't make me get up and go over there - money is heavy." She jingled the purse in her lap. "C'mere."
Mei obediently came over. Her face twisted as she came. Krelle noticed that even her way of walking changed when she did, from a demure step to an aggressive strut. …Hunh.
"Tsh. For once she's almost right. We didn't do much," Mei said, her lips twisted in scorn.
Krelle sighed. "You tracked the letter too, right? That was a good idea Mei. It could have landed you a clumsier agent. It was worth doing. What else have you been up to?"
"Well I got you those pearls, though they're probably all gone now."
"Ah? You got them? Good. Where'd you leave 'em?"
"On the table in the shop. I didn't think it'd take you a week to pick them up," she grumbled.
Krelle nodded, ignoring her tone. "I'll get 'em back then. Wigcik always waits at least a month to pawn our stuff, to make sure we've really forgotten about it. He'll have them. How many did you get?"
"Enough to encumber me," she said, gesturing as though to show a large sac.
Krelle nodded. "For pearls, you get five percent gross. Add that to the snooping…" she counted out five gold, twenty seven silver and thirty six copper into her hand and offered it to Mei. The forsaken girl snatched it up and put it in her purse immediately.
Krelle felt better for having paid them. Like she was back in the swing of things. Like nothing had happened. They chatted for a while and she relaxed, savouring the company and chatter and the open air above her. Before they left she ordered everyone to stay out of Silvermoon for the next few days - she had plans.
Krelle travelled back to Orgrimmar with Reims. She was eager to see Nerrok and to touch base with Nargesh, who'd been holding down the fort horde-side since she'd disappeared. She and Reims spoke quietly in Gutterspeak as the walked along the dirt roads of the orc's capital towards the Slow Blade.
"So what did you find out about Stratholme?"
"It is in ruins," he said. "The baron I once served betrayed them all. He gave the city over to the scourge."
"I thought he was scourge himself, though? What happened to the 'there's nothing more I could do to him'?"
Reims shook his head, looking grim. "He still remembers. He is still aware."
"How do you know?"
"I hear… reports."
Krelle nodded, letting it drop. Reims had served as a spy to Baron Rivendare in life. When he'd been caught the Baron had more or less thrown him to the wolves. "Revenge?" Krelle asked with a little grin.
"Yes," he rasped.
"And y'know. For the glory of the Lady?"
"Oh yes… the Lady." They exchanged cynical looks.
"I have to - " Krelle paused as a short elf with dark-blue hair jogged up to them. "Shisou? What're you doin' here?"
"Ah," the elf hesitated. "Just had somethin' to ask you, private-like."
Krelle rubbed her face. Fel and nether, at this rate I'll never get to the Blade. She gave Reims the nod though, and the forsaken gave a little bow and vanished. Krelle stepped out of the busy street and Shisou followed her into one of the many shady alcoves among the Orgrimmar cliffs. "Ok. What is it, Shisou?"
The elf seemed uncomfortable. "Ya gotta understand, I ain't one to ask for any sorta special circumstances, but I've got business in Silvermoon and I kinda gotta see to it."
Krelle pinched the bridge of her nose, unconsciously mimicking Tai. Figures. Fel. I guess he lives there though… "Business. I see. Look, normally, Shisou, I'd say "enter at your own risk"... but you're in my crew now and you know things I'd rather the Syndies didn't know. So it'd be my risk, too, see?"
Shisou nodded but just kept looking at her expectantly. Krelle reminded herself that he was new-new. I'd better warn him…
"Let me lay it out for you, then," she said quietly, her voice not carrying farther than his ears. "We made our move into Silvermoon the same month the elves opened the portal. Had a bit of capital from a big investor that let us get the ball rolling more quickly than others, right? We had an understanding with the locals, too. I went down and saw Cel before the shop opened. We weren't steppin' on anyone's toes, really. We'd be handling some of the import business. She saw the advantages to workin' together, sort of thing."
"So that's where you know Ol' Cel from?"
Krelle shrugged. "Sorta. Thing is, not too long ago the syndies decide they wanna move in. Only for them, a piece of the pie's not enough. They want the whole thing. That means the Tong's gotta go. Look, Shisou, you gotta understand how it is in Silvermoon right now. Us and the syndies? We're in a war. It's on. They've come in and are looking to push us out by any means they can. If they hear you're with us, and catch you alone? You're as good as gone. And don't count on 'Ol Cel' to save you - she's playin' nice with them."
"Not Cel. Ol' Cel does her own thing, but she always does what's best for Silvermoon."
Krelle nodded, acknowledging the point. "They told her 'You're with us or against us' and they've got the money and manpower to seriously inconvenience anyone. She's smart. Playing both sides, not that they know that. She's slipped us some good info but her hands are tied. The syndicate is all over Silvermoon like maggots on rot - nothin' she can do."
The elf looked pissed. "Silvermoon's our town. We had it long before the Syndicate or anyone showed up. They try pushin' us around and they'll find out the same thing that the Amani, the orcs, and Arthas found out. You push us, and we push back."
Nice sentiment, but I don't see an underworld people's militia forming, so… "Point is, they've had goons after our guys, they've tried to sabotage our reputation - fel, they even tried to sick the cops on us. Am I getting through here?" She frowned as Shisou nodded dutifully, still looking stubborn. Oy. "Right… fine," she sighed. "Business. How often and for how long do you need to go to Silvermoon?"
"Daily if at all possible, but usually not for more than an hour or so."
It's his town. Anyway, survival of the swiftest."…Fine. But either bring a buddy with you or else make sure no one knows you're there alright? Things are up in the air in Silvermoon and we just got our advantage back. I do not need you to go screw that up."
Shisou grinned his foxlike grin at her. "Sure. I've got some buddies back home. Things go well, Tong might not even need to worry about the Syndicate in Silvermoon."
Krelle winced. "Tell me that was not a sly reference to plans that you are making without my knowledge." Cause I hate those.
Shisou looked away with a little shrug and a grin. Krelle was too tired to play games. What's the worst he can do in a day or two? He's prolly just talking trash anyway. Twit. Still...
They looked up as a guard paused by their alcove. "What're you kids doin' in there?" came the question in Orcish.
Krelle sighed and stepped back towards the street. "Evenin, Romlik. Just talkin'."
The guard relaxed when he saw her better. "Krelle? Y'know Nerrok's lookin' for you, right?"
She smiled for him, pretending to be abashed. "Aw, I heard. Did he tell you guys..?"
"We heard you might be in a bit of trouble," the old veteran said gruffly. "Nerrok asked us to keep an eye out. Everything all right?" he added, looking over at Shisou suspiciously.
"S'fine, Romlik. I was just on my way to see him, actually."
The guard nodded. "Don't keep him waiting, then."
"I won't. Thank you," she added as he turned back to continue his patrol.
She jerked her head at Shisou and they headed over to the Slow Blade. They didn't talk in the busy streets. Krelle's thoughts were now completely on Nerrok - it didn't occur to her to ask Shisou if he'd met Kareth yet.
She entered the smoky tent with a little sigh of relief. Reims and Kareth were talking by the firepit. She didn't see Nerrok - he must still be sleeping in the back. Kareth stood up with a grin but before he could greet Krelle, Shisou strode up to him.
"Hey Pops, I need one of the comm bits," the elf said.
Krelle actually winced as Kareth casually backhanded him. Aw, c'mon, kid, would you just smarten up a bit and make this easier for everyone?
Shisou staggered backwards as he clutched his face but kept his footing. He stayed bent over for a moment or two before he slowly straightened. His eyes did that pissed-off-elf glowing thing, an eerie kind of blue colour in the smokey red light of the tent. Kareth watch impassively as the elf spat blood on the ground, turned around, and strode out of the shop without another word.
Kareth looked at Krelle. "It's good to see you back, chief," he said as though nothing had happened.
She nodded. "How is he?"
"Would you two excuse me..?" she murmured. Reims and Kareth nodded their understanding and sat back down by the fire, talking quietly. Krelle undid her dagger belt as she headed to the back room. She let her weapons slide to the floor and dropped her satchel beside them. Hesitantly, she pulled the edge of the leather curtain back to peer in. The room was cast in shadows but her heart leapt as she spotted Nerrok's sleeping form on the furs. Forgetting about Reims and Kareth, Shisou and Silvermoon, she let the curtain slide closed behind her and moved on silent feet over to her father. She was so tired that just laying down beside him felt like a kind of soothing spell. With the comforting smells of large and well-armed orcs about her, Krelle curled up in a ball and finally fell asleep.