Ups and Downs
- -by Litto
Litto had a simple philosophy, he had followed it all his life, "Enjoy the good times while they last, bear the bad times till you can do something about them." It had always been that way.
His father had made a life out of blaming Litto for the things that were wrong in his own life. It was Litto's fault when the crops failed. It was Litto's fault when his mother ran off with a traveling salesman. It was Litto's fault when his father lost their meager savings at the gambling den. LItto knew the signs well, first came the shouting and name calling, then came the beatings. Since he was old enough to remember he had endured them. Only once had he spoken up, telling his father he would regret it if he laid a hand on him again. The beating that time had been particuallarly brutal.
The time to do something about his bad situation came in his 17th year, right after his father had sold their harvest, but before he could gamble it away. His father was sitting at the table counting his earnings when Litto walked up behind him and slit his throat. As his father looked up at him from the ground with disbelieving eyes, his life pumping out of his wound, Litto spit on him and said "I said you would regret it one day, well that day is today." He took the money from the table and never looked back.
Tough as his childhood had been, it had provided him with several assets. First, he was a strong determined young man, more than capable of standing up for himself and giving as well as he received. His years of doing without ment he valued money, and easily resisted the many temptations others fell into that sapped them of their earnings. Finally, he was more than willing to do whatever it took to better his situation.
The harvest money had lasted him a good while, but eventually even it ran dry. It was then, as hunger howled at his door, that he decided to try something new, the military. They offered several things he needed. Three square meals a day being the most important. They also provided clothing and shelter. While the duty had its moments of extreme danger, most of the time he was either waiting around for orders, or doing menial yet easy details. Hurry and up wait was the military mantra, and for a time it served his needs.
It all ended with his new commander. An Elf, who held different views about what was acceptable in the military and what wasn't. Litto sensed that one day they would clash, and eventually that day arrived. It was right after a small skirmish on the borders. The enemy had probed the border forces looking for a weakness, and several troops on both sides had died. Now looting from the enemies dead had always been an acceptable practice, but Litto, being the ever practical sort, had taken to looting his own sides dead as well. After all, the dead Elf soldier wasn't going to be using those new boots anyway, and those silvers in his pouch would do him no good. The commander saw it differently, and threatened Litto with punishment.
Not being a selfish man, Litto tossed the commander the dead soldiers pouch with half the money it had held. He figured the commander was just looking for his cut. He figued wrong. By the time it was all over, Litto had been tried, lashed and driven from the regimental compound. The commander informed him the only reason he hadn't been exectued was because the military regulations did not allow it for his crime. The military regulations ment nothing to Litto, and he whispered that into the commanders ear that evening when he garroted him in his tent.
With the money from a chest in his dead commander's tent, Litto set off for Stormwind. Perhaps it was time to look into what the big city had to offer.
- -by Litto
With funds running low again, Northshire Abbey seemed a good place to start. Rumors had it that a person willing to take some risks and perform a few tasks for the clergy and militia stationed there would be rewarded with food, shelter and a bit of coin. All three of those sounded good.
All the tasks involved exterminating vermin. The vermin came in the form of wolves, kobolds and Defias thugs. An added benefit was that Litto got to keep any loot the vermin happened to be carrying. Granted, vermin dont tend to have much, but every little bit helps.
Litto's favorite bit of fun was picking a Defias Thugs pocket, then slitting his or her throat. He was getting quite good at it, and every once in a while he would even find one with a decent bit of cash. Still, like all good things, eventually the time at Northshire had to come to an end. While the Militia had no problem with anything he did to the vermin, they began keeping a close eye on him when their own pockets started turning up empty.
No one came right out and said anything, but Litto sensed the time had come to move on. First he did a few odd jobs in Goldshire, then he tried Stormwind itself. It was in Stormwind that his big break came. At first, it didnt seem like a break, but he soon realized it was.
It started when he spotted the well dressed Gnome talking to an Elvish girl. He was apparently trying to convince her to come back to his place. With his attention focused on the girl, the Gnome seemed the perfect mark for a bit of pick pocketing, so Litto carefully moved in and lifted the Gnomes pouch.
"Unless you plan on becoming one of the soul stones in that pouch" the Gnome said "I suggest you return it to me now." Litto stopped and turned back to look at the Gnome. "Pouch... what pouch?" The Gnome laughed. "You are a cheeky one arent you" the Gnome said, holding out his hand. Litto smiled his best kid caught with his hand in a cookie jar smile, and tossed the Gnome's pouch back. "No blood no foul" he said, then turned to leave.
"Not so fast" the Gnome said. "I like your style." Reaching into his robes, he produced another pouch, which made a gold on gold clink when he shook it. He then tossed it to Litto. "I am in need of a resourcefull and intelligent agent to perform a few special tasks for me. I reward loyalty and success extremely well." Litto caught the pouch and secreted it on himself without bothering to confirm the amount of money inside. "Looks like your in luck" he said "because I am both of those things and more."
The Gnome turned out to be a member of the Rocketfellers' clan. Litto knew that he had hit the Jackpot, and planned to milk this job for all it was worth.
- -by Litto
Working for the Gnome was good. He paid well, and appreciated skill and loyalty. The jobs at first had been simple, deliver a message, guard a shipment, investigate the loyalty of an employee and if necessary take action. As Litto proved his courage and ability to follow orders, the Gnome involved him in more and more of his projects. When one of his compeditors horned in on his profits, the Gnome sent Litto in to clean things up. The result was a bloody and obvious message to others to not interfere in the Gnome's business.
It was clear to Litto that this Gnome had a plan. He was driven by money and power, and seemed determined to show the Rocketfellers Clan that he was more capable than any of them. Following the sucess of Litto's lesson, the Gnome began to involve him more and more in the inner workings of his plan. The first order of business was making contact with a human in Menethil harbor.
The human was ostensibly a merchant in charge of a shipping company, but the Gnome knew that he was really the leader of an underground criminal organization with activities on both the Alliance and Horde sides of the conflict. The Gnome had made the initial contact with the Human, but wanted Litto to act as his agent in future contacts. The first of those contacts had come a few weeks later, when Litto had met with the Human in Menethil.
When Litto was young, before his mother had run off, she often told him stories. One of her favorites, and thereby his favorite as well, was about a spy. In her story, the spy had gone to great lengths to ensure the security of his activities. Apparently the Gnome had heard similar stories, since he insisted on all sorts of cloak and dagger procedures. Litto was mildly ammused by some of the protocols the Gnome insisted on, but then, he was paying the bills, and paying them well, so Litto followed them to the letter.
The contact with the Human in Menethil had been easy enough. Litto had presented the recognition token, a pink silk handkerchief, and the Human had acted appropriately. After retiring to a more private location LItto had passed on the Gnome's instructions, and the Money that was to be passed to an agent in Darnassus. Litto had also given the human his payment, which had been substantial. A short while later, Litto received the token indicating the job had been completed successfully.
The Gnome was extremely happy with the results, and immediately began the next phase of his plan. As promised, the Gnome rewarded success generously, and Litto immediately began to lay in his nest egg. No matter how good things were, Litto always kept in mind that they could turn bad quickly. Best he be prepared for any contingency.
- -by Kyanali
Kya was preoccupied with explaining things to Monroe when Tai started feeding her info about the subject through the comm device. Elenya, a lithe, serious and silent cat, had been sniffing around Monday night fires off and on whenever the mood struck her for quite some time now. She came noiselessly and watched, seeming to take comfort in sitting near Kya. If there was one thing in Azeroth Kya knew, it was that cats sensed her love for them. Perhaps it was pheromones or some other scent exuding the acceptance and joy felt whenever one of her adopted cats came to sit close. Yet if a spark flew or voices rose in debate, it took so little to spook Elenya.
Domo had been working on some device that night over near Monroe. He had a few pieces assembled and was puzzling over their fit and mechanics. If anyone could figure it out, Domo could, Kya had no doubts. But Monroe, ever sensible, had taken great objection to Domo’s seemingly careless use of these incendiary devices near barrels of things obviously labeled “explosive”. Monroe could not have known that Domo would never risk blowing himself up, let alone Kya, so he acted with instinctual swiftness. The careless one had been Kya, when she laid a poorly lit fire near the barrels Domo had been working next to. Monroe immediately and without preamble, hefted the closest barrel over his shoulder and chucked it over in the general vicinity of Elenya. The cat’s hair stood on her back and her tail swelled. In a puff of sparkling mist, the druid transformed into a beautifully lean elf with a toss of her midnight blue hair and flashing eyes. She hissed, still catlike, “If you wanted to get rid of me, you could have just asked.” The aftermath tingled Kya’s spine and added to the confusion of static in the night air.
“Monroe, you know you’re welcome here at the fires. We love having you. But tossing that barrel in the bushes actually scared one of my cats. Yes, yes I know you had no idea she was there, and even so, cats have all those regenerating lives. Don’t really want to cross a black cat this time of year. Yes well, I do suspect she’ll get over it and come back…eventually….”
Monroe was gravely upset he had scared the skittish creature away. While he was defending his actions and doing his best to assure her he meant no harm, Kya was aware of both wishing she was not so direct sometimes and also wondering how the heck she was going to learn how to gracefully curtsey. It wasn’t that she was not paying attention; it was that she had understood from the start he meant no harm. Almost ready to pat him on the back in conciliatory comfort, Tai’s voice whispered urgently and quickly to her.
He gave her a description of the man and told her to look for him coming out of the Inn. Kya did not see the subject at first. She finally zeroed in on him as he strode purposefully towards the gryphon master. Too late and too far behind, she did not catch him give the location for his destination as he rose into the twinkling night sky and rode away. Having excused herself from Monroe, she left to grill the gryphon master.
Kya hurried up to Shellei, having used her often to buy tickets. “That man,” she asked somewhat breathlessly, “where did he go?”
Shellei looked Kya up and down for a few seconds then replied, “What man?”
Kya gave her a patient smile and the lost her patience immediately, asking, “The one who just left – Oh come on, I have to know, it’s urgent!” Kya performed a little dance with her feet that greatly resembled what her Momma used to call “the pee pee dance”.
Shellei merely faced her through those mirrored glasses which were so hard to see through, and shrugged, “A million men come through here everyday.”
Frustrated, Kya placed her hands on her hips and countered, “Yes but he JUST bought a ticket a few people ahead of this one here; surely you can remember where the past 3 or 4 customers went?”
Shellei shook her head and kept right on selling tickets as if Kya were not there. Kya finally took out a few gold coins and jingled them in her hand. She walked up real close and nearly whispered, “What’s it worth for you to remember for me?”
Shellei laughed and leaned in towards Kya, “I get paid to be the veritable soul of discretion, Miss. My lips are sealed.” And at that, Kya snorted and walked away. It was always worth a try when someone was tight lipped. Half the time it worked.
“Sorry, Boss. Lost him,” Kya spoke softly into her comm.
Tai’s reply was gentle and understanding, “It’s alright, Kya, I really just wanted you to be able to recognize him.” Kya smiled then and decided it was time to sleep. The crack of dawn was always the best time to practice her martial arts and Kya clearly needed to hone her responsiveness.
- -by Litto
The second meeting with the Human had gone as smoothly as the first. Litto had presented another pink handkerchief and the human had immediately taken him to a quiet place to talk. He had passed on the Gnome's request that four artifacts from the High Elf ruins North of Auberdine be collected and delivered as soon as possible. The human had assured him it would be done. Based on his previous interaction with this human and his organization, Litto was sure it would go off without a hitch.
That confidence had begun to slip a little by the following Sunday. Litto had gone to the post box each day to see if the success token had been returned. Each day he had returned to the Gnome to inform him that the requested task had not been completed yet. At first, the Gnome had taken it all in stride, but then all of a sudden, Saturday evening, the Gnome's entire attitude had changed.
The Gnome had gone to some sort of a family reunion with his indentured man servant. When he returned, he was more agitated than Litto had ever seen him. "I'll show them" was all he ranted as he paced up and down in the room. Litto waited patiently, till the Gnome acknowledged him and asked if the token had arrived yet. When Litto told him it hadn't, the Gnome lost his cool completely, and began heaving expensive pieces of art at the walls.
Litto had assured him that the Human Merchant was good at his type of work, and met his obligations. The Gnome had seemed to calm down a bit, but still, Litto hoped the token arrived soon, he was not looking forward to dodging more artwork.
- -by Litto
Litto checked the post box for the third and last time.
The success token had finally arrived, wrapped in a poem. The hand writing was feminine and the prose showed a flare for the dramatic. Once deciphered, the note gave a time and place where the next meeting was to occur. Litto smiled to himself, and began the trek out to the glade of the Greenwarden. It paid to be well versed in local lore.
Litto loved the Wetlands. It was full of things that wanted to add you to their diet, and that made it both challenging and exciting. After a bit of effort he arrived at the Greenwarden's glade and settled in to wait for his contact to arrive. He reexamined the skin he had removed from the foolish crockolisk that had been determined to delay him. It would make a nice pair of boots he decided.
She came strolling into sight as if she didn’t have a care in the world. That was no mean feat in the Wetlands. Litto reminded himself that any woman who could casually stroll about this part of the world was not to be underestimated. That was good; it meant the Human was sending one of his best. Litto stepped from the shadows of the large flowers he had been standing under.
"Nice night for a stroll and conversation" he said casually. "I was just thinking the same thing" she responded. Litto nodded and added "Then I guess I am in luck, what shall we talk about?" "How about Cats" she said with a smile. "Cats" Litto said "how fortunate, I happen to be in the market for cats... four to be exact." "Well" she said, it just so happens I have four here, and she produced the cat artifacts his employer had contracted for.
Litto examined the artifacts, and when he was sure they met the Gnome's specifications, he handed over a small bag with 20 Azerothian Diamonds. The woman smiled and pocketed the gems after inspecting and counting them. Litto then gave her three of the cats back, with two notes. He provided her with instructions to deliver one cat and one note to the Elf contact in Darnassus, and directed her to deliver the other note and two cats to his Orc contact in Booty Bay. Litto was pleased to see the woman absorbed all the instructions on the first pass.
"A pleasure to meet you" she said. "Indeed, always a pleasure to do business with a professional" he responded. After a few more pleasantries he bowed and hearthed out of the glade. He returned to his quarters to await the predestinated signals that all the deliveries had been successful.
- -by Litto
A most interesting turn of events.
The Gnome, received a good will gift from the parties we are negotiating with. Turns out it was a Hippogriph egg. The Gnome feels this is a sign that they are near accepting his proposal, since they apparently do not give these sorts of gifts out lightly.
The Gnome had his weak minded indentured servant hatch the egg, and is now in possession of a hippogriph hatchling. Needless to say, he is quite pleased. He was so pleased, he gave me a bonus for all the good work I did on this project, which made me quite pleased.
Apparently, the only one who isn't pleased is the indentured servant, who has been sulking around the mansion in a funk since the egg hatched. Not real sure what happened while he was in the room hatching the egg, but it seems to have had a profound effect on him. Go figure.
- -by Litto
The Gnome has gotten wind that one of his relatives, his Uncle Theopolous to be exact, is on to his plans. He has been quite agitated since he found out. He paces back and forth in his room and debates with himself whether he should take action or just accept the fact he will lose revenue to his Uncle. Today, he finally decided he would take action. Still, he wants to be very cautious.
Seems there is a rule within his clan that no member of the clan can spill the blood of another member. Apparently the reprocusions if it is discoverd that the murder of a clanmate occured would be quite dramatic. I have not seen him hesitate over any action he deemed necessary to ensure his profit margin before this, so I believe I understand the importance. He asked my advice, and I recommended we approach the Human Merchant.
He and his organization have been quite resourceful up to now, and if we can convince them to take on the job, I am fairly sure they will succeed. He has agreed to allow me to approach the Human with the proposal. If this works out, I will reap many rewards. If it fails, I will most likely be looking for a new job if I am lucky, and will be pushing up daisies if I am not. Oh well, nothing ventured, nothing gained.
- -by Kyanali
Kya sat in the Pig & Whistle at a table with Tai, Von and Kennia. They were huddled in close, heads together, as if looking over some imaginary document with small print. Kya’s voice was low as she spoke, mindful of anyone trying to hear. Speaking in the Tong Cant might have been enough to conceal their business, but it was never a good idea to be brazenly loud, especially when giving a report of mission status. Kya glanced quickly over to Reese the Proprietor, quickly sneaking a drink of her own water so that she did not insult him.
“Well, to be honest, I expected this Litto guy to be more – rough around the edges.” Kya said with a furrowed brow. “He was surprisingly educated and well mannered, easy going even. He was neither tense nor stingy with his amusement.”
Kennia leaned back a little, her new black armor catching the light in that curious way. People eyed Kennia wherever they went naturally. She was stunning in stature and command, but this new state of the art black material was eye catching on its own. Kya observed a couple of hunters enter the tavern and do double-takes at Kennia. She caught back her own smile when she saw Tai notice the same thing and sit up a bit straighter to stare down the hunters, whose laughing joviality quickly changed to quiet embarrassed whispers after receiving and heeding Tai’s glare.
Kennia spoke casually, proud of Tai’s radar in all matters concerning her, “So, I take it all the figurines were delivered as expected?”
Kya nodded and glanced quickly to Von. "Von did a superlative job, as always. I had Domo deliver the first package to the agreed upon location at the pier in Darnassus. Honestly, I know Domo can be a goof at times, but he was right on target with this delivery. You think he’s charming to just women?” At this Kya pursed her lips and then sighed in teasing admiration. “Well, I think he charmed the socks off the guy. I did not hear the precise wording from my hidden location but I sure heard his laughter loud and clear.” Giving Von’s forearm a quick squeeze, Kya continued. “Von followed him after the delivery was made.” She nodded to Von.
“The Elf is apparently working for the Archruid Staghelm, which does worry me slightly.” Von tapped his cigarette on the table and leaned back to light it, waving the smoke away from the others’ faces. He stretched out, long legs under the table, a pensive look on his face. ”For one, I don't like working for governments, even in a limited role. They tend to blame you if things don't work out as they'd like, and publicly.” Tai nodded thoughtfully at this, always considering every angle.
Von continued, “Secondly, the actual political situation in Darnassus is very tense, with the Disciples of the Moon and the Cenarion Circle locking horns regularly on all policies... “ Von let this sink in a bit before indicating where his thoughts were leading. “I'd like to research this connection further if possible, and if necessary, I'll lead the investigation. Whatever happens, we must proceed with caution.”
Kennia eyed Von with clear admiration. She knew he’d not set well with concerns like this eating in the back of his mind. “You do that, Von. Kya here can sit back and let you take over once in while, right?” At that, Kennia shot Kya a smirk and Kya looked quickly from Kennia to Von the back again. Her mouth opened to protest, but snapped shut again when she felt her face burn in agitation.
Tai’s soft laughter rumbled out like a bubbling brook before asking the next question, “And the other drop, how’d that go?” Kya leaned forward over the table, glad for the shift in focus, “Well, we had a little trouble with Garond…” Kennia’s eyebrows shot up at this as Von flicked a small smile at Tai.
Von spoke with delicate humor, knowing full well that everyone at this table had nothing but the highest respect for Garond and his abilities. “Maybe Garond got lost, or uh… fell off the boat.” Kya’s laughter came out in a half snort, this statement being quite ludicrous. She interjected as the others enjoyed the vision, “Come on, Von, you know he had good reason for his delay in getting back to us. It very well could have been a rendevous with –“ Kya stopped, unsure how to refer to the new mother of Garond’s child, not having met her before.
Tai slipped in quietly and with his typical sneaky humor, “ – Tacos?” Kennia had been taking a sip of Port and now it appeared to spray out her nose just a bit with that sudden burst only a well-timed inside joke can give. Their laughter broke out over and above the rest of the banter in the tavern, and Elly stopped dancing long enough to wink at Tai, her adoration for him clear as a child’s love for puppies. Kya caught the wink and was relieved to see Kennia had not this time.
Kya finished up the rest of their business as it was getting late. She had an early running date in the morning with Tai, if he did not collapse on her. She was intent on getting him in better shape so he could keep up with his long-legged wife. “Domo, Von and I traveled to Booty Bay and met Korttie there. She spoke and aided Von in the delivery to the Horde man we were told to meet. Afterwards, Domo trailed him to a contact just outside the Inn in Ratchet.” Kya hesitated and then looked apologetically to both Tai and Kennia. “I should have assigned one of our Horde team to the task of trailing, because I don’t think Domo caught the actual words spoken.”
Tai gave Kya a smile of reassurance. “Don’t worry, Kya. You’ll plan better next time, I’m sure.” Kya grinned broadly at Tai. “I can do that, Boss.” She noticed he’d not had his usual drink tonight and wondered if he really was taking her scolding seriously about being in better shape.
Tai got up and extended his hand to Kennia, “Come to bed, Nia, you cannot keep me up all night tonite.” His twinkling eyes bore into hers with a passion so strong it filled the room in its power. Kennia rose like a queen and slipped an arm around him to kiss him with every promise of a sleepless night.
Tai nodded to both Von and Kya. “Behave, you two. Great job, both of you. Keep up the reputation and this will continue to pad our pockets for some time to come.” With that Tai shifted his entire focus to Kennia as he led her away, hand on her waist, steering her with some urgency.
Kya smiled and turned to Von, “Wanna bet he doesn’t get up at the crack of dawn?” Von leaned in close to Kya, chuckling. “No, Miss Kya. I know better than to bet you anything.” Kya merely rolled her eyes.
As Kya walked home that night under the full moon, she found herself wondering where the cat figurines really ended up and what might have been planted in them. Why cats, and what drove a man like this Litto guy to resort to secret deliveries? She knew she should be able to close her mind down after a job was completed, but somehow her imagination always kicked in, the challenge of a puzzle something she could never resist. There was something really large behind this fellow, she just could not pinpoint what – yet. Not that it was really any of her business.
- -by Litto
The meeting with the human had gone well, they always did. He had ensured the Human understood the Gnome's need to find a few bribable or blackmailable Dwarvish Senators so he could secure his business interests. The Human, both understood and was already planning his course of action. It was truely a pleasure to work with professionals. Should his tenure with the Gnome ever come to an end, he would look into the potential of working for this human. He liked his style.
- -by Litto
The Gnome has been in a good mood all week. Apparently he achieved some sort of exalted rank recently, and that has made him both happy and generous. Needless to say, a happy and generous employer is always nice to have around. I will certainly enjoy the benefits while they last.
- -by Litto
Litto was summoned to the Gnome's room, "another mission no doubt" he thought.
The Gnome sat in his over stuffed chair facing the fire. A folded letter sat on a silver tray on the coffee table beside him. He looked up and smiled at Litto when he approached. "Litto, I have a job for you."
Litto smiled to himself. "Yes sir, what can I do for you?"
"I wish you to find out all you can about a very prominent Arms dealer. The name is Langley. I want to know all you can find out about him, his family and his business. Sooner rather than later would be best."
Litto nodded and left the room.
30 minutes later, Litto dropped a small package into the post. It was addressed to Mr Tai Jiang, of the Gray Tiger Shipping Company. The package contained a pink handkerchief and a note which read:
Dear Mr Jiang
I require your information services. All you know or can find out quickly about a Mr Langley, who is apparently a prominent Arms manufacturer. Personal, family and business information is all desired. As soon as possible is prefered. Payment shall be in diamonds as always.
- -by Kyanali
To the gentleman with a penchant for pink hankies,
I hope you don't mind but the Boss Man shared your letter with me. I just so happen to have the lowdown on aforementioned target. My co-worker happens to have a kind of understanding with the man, and we can tell you anything you need to know. Do you wish to meet to discuss this in some obscure and guarded location or would you prefer a full written report forwarded to you?
Expediently at your service, The one who likes to watch you fish without you knowing it
(the note has a delicately sketched picture of the Darnassus fishing pier at the bottom)
- -by Litto
Litto chuckled to himself at the picture of the pier. She was a very talanted lady, no doubt about that. He penned a short response.
I of course do not mind your involvement in this issue. I am planning to be in Menethil this monday evening. You can pass on any information you have to me then. Should we not manage to meet on monday, a simple written report will suffice.
Hope to see you in Menenthil
- -by Litto
The meeting with the Gray Tiger folks had gone well.
As promised, they had provided two people knowledgable about Langley, his family and his business. One was the woman he had dealt with previously. She was as professional and capable as she had been in all the previous meetings, and he was always pleased to deal with her. The other was an Elf he had not met before. The Elf proved to be very knowledgable about the subject, and provided good insight.
Based on the information, Litto was going to recommend to the Gnome that he go ahead and attend the Tea, as it seemed unlikely to pose a threat to either his person or his enterprises.
These Gray Tigers were proving quite resourceful. The Gnome was definately getting his money's worth.
- -by Tai Jiang
Tai drummed his fingers on the oak table, his mind running through the possibilities. Kya and Von had met, discretely enough, with Litto. Getting him information on Langley and his associates had been easy enough, in large part because they'd done work with and for Langley. And there was the rub. Tai snorted ruefully; Langley hadn't exactly been showering them with gold and had pulled something - Tai still wasn't sure what - in the 'export' of firearms that Von had arranged with Nerrok ...
Finally, Tai smiled. Nothing Kya and Von had supplied Litto would be something that could be traced back to the Tong, and so far it had paid to keep Rocketfeller happy. So their risk was low. High profits, low risks - a combination that made Tai smile.
- -by Litto
Litto had maintained a discrete distance while following the Gnome. Though he had advised his boss it was safe to attend the tea with the Langley Woman, he stayed close enough to ensure he had not been wrong. He took up a position just outside the house and watched the comings and goings. He was close enough to be summoned by the Gnome, using the short range communicating thing he had designed, but far enough not to be obvious.
He had almost gone in when the blood splattered Gnome entered the house, but since the boss had not signaled him, he stayed at his post. Afterwards a tall good looking female human and a short attractive Gnome entered the house as well. Finally, an armored Dwarf went in. "They must be having one hell of a party in there" he thought to himself, and hoped once more that the Tiger folks were right, as it would be dicey business if he had to rescue the Gnome from the now crouded house.
A short while later, the Gnome emerged unharmed, and Litto breathed easier again. The Gnome was a good and generous employer, and he would hate to lose him. His boss nodded to him as he walked back toward the Tram. Litto followed him once again from a discrete distance.
- -by Litto
The Gnome summoned Litto to his office once again.
"Litto you appear to be correct about Ms Langley, while she is obviously quite capable of agressive action, even in her present state, she seems to have no ill will toward me. Still, I am concerned about her association with a particular Gnome who came to her house. This Gnome, who goes by the name Frazzlesprout I believe, was talking about some sort of scam when he walked in. I want to know more about this Gnome, to ensure his scam does not somehow involve me or my projects."
Litto bowed to the Gnome, and proceeded to send a message to Tai's folks regarding a friend of Ms Langley's who went by the name of Frazzlesprout."
- -by Tai Jiang
Reading over the message brought to him by Kya, Tai's brow furrowed reading the name. Frazzlesprout? Tai looked up and handed the letter to Kennia. Kennia leaned back and rested her rump on the edge of the desk. She smiled a bit at the name and looked up at Tai, her eyes sparkling, "Think he means that pain in the ass Fizzlepockets? He's like a bad copper, keeps showing up ..."
Tai grinned a bit and nodded, "It's a guess, but a good one. I'd put money on it." If it was Fizzlepockets that might complicate things. They'd bumped heads more than once, including the effort the gnome had made to extort them for the photographs he'd discretely snapped of Kennia in the guard barracks' shower. Still, the advantage was that they had a fairly large file on that particular gnome ...
Tai leaned back and called to the back room, "Talula, you back there? Can you grab the folder we have for a Fizzlepocket something something something Tweek something ...?"
- -by Litto
"Darn it all" Litto thought, "just when things seem to be going well they always turn south."
The Gnome had called him in and showed him a letter from the Human. The Human had intimated that someone knew about the recent transaction involving information on Langley and his family. This complicated matters, and worse, made him look less capable. The Gnome was a generous and trusting employer, so long as you showed loyalty and succeeded at your tasks. He wondered if loyalty would be enough to keep his head on his shoulders should this failure be traced back to him.
The only difference between this transaction and previous ones with the Humans organization was the inclusion of the Elf. The Elf had said several times he knew and liked Ms Langley. Could he have slipped her information based on that friendship. Litto hoped not, but he could not assume anything. He would have to talk to the Woman and see what she thought about the possibility of her associate passing information to Ms Langley. He liked the woman, had even grown to trust her, but if it turned out the Elf was not responsible, he would be looking into her next. One way or another, the leak had to be silenced...before he was.
- -by Litto
"Off the hook" was the first thing that came to mind.
"Darn it all if that Tai doesn't have the best looking associates" was the second.
Litto sat at a table across from the attractive woman. She had identified herself as Ollie, and informed him she had been assigned to determine if there was a leak in either the Gnome's organization or the Tong. The investigation showed that no leak had occured. Litto was very pleased.
Since the possibility of a leak had arisen, the Gnome had been very irritable. Litto knew that the Gnome punished failure as much as he rewarded success, and Litto was glad to no longer have that particular dagger hanging over his head.
He knew he should head off at once to inform the Gnome, but Ollie was very attractive, so he lingered just a bit longer, using finishing his drink as a convenient excuse. Eventually his sense of duty reaserted itself, and he excused himself, thanking Ollie, and telling her he hoped to do business with her again.
As he walked off, he thought he was going to have to discover what Tai's secret was. The man was a veritable magnet for highly capable and attractive associates. If Tai could bottle what ever it was that made him so successful, it would sell for a fortune. Litto made a mental note to himself to pay more attention to Tai the next time they met, maybe if he was lucky a bit of it would rub off.
- -by Litto
Litto suppressed the smile until after the Gnome and his indentured servant had departed.
The Gnome had come to trust Litto more and more, and leaving him in charge while he was out of pocket was just the most recent proof of that fact. Money, status, and now power had all been rewards for his loyal service. Now all he had to do was make sure he didnt screw anything up. As generous as the Gnome was in rewarding success, he was equally ruthless in punishing failure. For Litto, failure was not an option.
The smile was for the Gnome's indentured servant. Litto had grown to like the bumbling fool, even if the Gnome didnt trust him any further than he could throw him. It had amused Litto to no end watching him prepare his bags for the Gnome's latest adventure. Borriguard had packed everything but the kitchen sink into his packs, to avoid being kicked for not having something the Gnome wanted, then had almost herniated himself lifting the packs to follow the Gnome out the door.
Though Borriguard had proven himself an idiot over and over again, he was a likeable and trustworthy idiot. In the backstabbing world Litto often found himself in, it was good to know there was one person he did not have to worry about turning his back to. There was also the human merchant and his female associate that Litto had been primarily working with. Though his upbringing and life experiences had taught him not to trust anyone, he found himself wanting to trust the two of them. He hoped that sentiment wouldnt land him in trouble one day.
- -by Litto
To: Pariwinkle Cogsworth Rocketfellers III
From: Acting Business Manager PCR3 Enterprises
Sir, as requested, this is the status report of your firms activities since you departed.
The Blood Elves have honored the agreement you brokered with them and have granted PCR3 Enterprises a monopoly on the sale of beauty products (make up, hair gel, combs, brushes and mirrors). This week alone we made millions of gold on these products, and that just our Male line. With the introduction of the Female line next week, those profits should go through the roof.
With the huge rash of Spirit dogs suddenly appearing in the Draenei area the sale of flee collars has skyrocketed. I admit I was wrong when I questioned your decision to stock pile so many flee collars and have them shipped out there. As usual your ability to forsee a need and step in to fill is it right on the money.
Our sales of profelactics in the Stormwind to Iron Forge Tram have gone down drastically, but the good news is the difference was made up in sales to Blood Elves and Draenei.
The shipments of arms, armor, uniforms, foodstuffs and medical supplies you ordered for the Argent Dawn were well received. You were quite correct in your prediction that their demand would more than meet the supply we have on hand, so I have ordered an increase in production of all those types of items.
All other business areas are showing a resonable profit, so with the huge upswing of profitablility brought on by your Blood Elf and Draenei ventures, you should be making major inroads toward a record breaking year.
I shall continue to monitor all your business ventures as directed, and stand ready to respond to any new opportunities you send my way.
Litto Acting Business Manager PCR3 Enterprises
- -by Litto
Running PCR3 Enterprises was keeping Litto more than occupied. The Gnome's trust came with a long list of responsibilities. Most of those responsibilities involved traveling. He had seen Ratchet, Booty Bay, Menethil, Auberdine and Exodar more in the last week than he had in all his previous employment with the Gnome.
Some of his responsibilities had even involved removing some of the Gnome's minor irritations. One of those irritations was a distant relative of his who was working for the Venture Company in the Stonetalon Mountains. Apparently that particular Gnome had crossed some boundry with his boss sometime in the past. When Litto had informed the Gnome of his relative's whereabouts, the response had been quick "Kill him."
Litto had worked his way into the Venture Company work site. As with all Venture Company activities, the destruction of the land and natural resources was horrible to see. After a few knife point interogations and a slit throat or two, he had discovered the Gnome was usually found at the top of the large water wheel, overseeing the operations.
Litto had worked his way up the scaffoldings. Avoiding confrontation where he could, ending lives quickly where it was unavoidable. As it turned out, the Mark was on top of the last scaffold, repremanding a goblin that worked for him. Litto began the discussion with a stab to the Gnomes back, followed by the words "Pariwinkle sends his regards." The Gnome died badly, as was to be expected. His goblin subordinate had shown a bit more resolve, but only a bit. When it was done, Litto wiped his blade on the dead Gnome's clothing, and took his mechanical arm as proof for the boss.
In a way, the pursuit and kill had been a nice respite from all the headaches involved in running the Gnome's business. He sincerly hoped someone else crossed the Gnome again soon, so he could have another enjoyable outing.
- -by Litto
To: Pariwinkle Cogsworth Rocketfellers III
From: Acting Business Manager PCR3 Enterprises
I paid a visit to the stockade to discuss the non-payment of debts. The ringleaders seemed reluctant to see things your way, so I extracted something personal from each one of them as directed. I nailed the extracted parts to the wall of the stockades, so the new leadership (once they quit squabling over who that will be) should be more resonable about paying their debts.
- -by Tai Jiang
Nikoli took a long swig from the mug of ale, draining it, and then wiped the foam from his beard. The man he was sitting with, a dark skinned man signalled to the barmaid to bring another round. The young doxie smiled at him and wasted no time bringing over a drink to Nikoli, leaning over Nikoli to replace his empty mug and brushing a bit against him. Nikoli smiled, leaning back in his chair, taking in the view of the woman's pleasantly round rump as she swooshed away to the next table. Nikoli was feeling good. Working as a jailkeep in the Stockades didn't pay well, and any attention from women made his head swim. Very nice of this shopkeep or whatever he was to buy him a round of drinks; must be nice to have coin to throw away ...
- - -
Tai kept his face neutral as the boar of a man leered at dear little Elly, who was like a little sister to Tai. Foam still flecked the man's scraggly mustache; by the old gods, it was no wonder the Stockades were always a mess, if this Nikoli was typical of the kind of men and women charged with keeping order there. Tai did not like this man, but he wasn't done with him yet. Before Tai could nod to the new drink, Nikoli had picked it up and was beginning to chug it.
Biting his lip, Tai leaned forward, "So, that's an amazing story. Actual ... parts of prisoners nailed to the wall, eh?" Tai did his best to look shocked by the things humanoids could sink to. Nikoli nodded violently, spilling some of his ale on his uniform pants, "The worst was this one guy's ..."
Tai put up a hand, quickly, shaking his head, "I doubt I could bear the image. Only men cut with your jib are meant to face such things." Tai gave a small nod of feigned respect, before pressing (gently) for more, "And you have no suspects, none at all? Who would do such a thing?" Nikoli gave a big, stupid shrug, "I just work there, but the boss pulled out a couple of the softies and pressed 'em for information ... and the word is that somebody on the outside wasn't too happy with some of the folks inside. Of course, not a single redeeming value in any of 'em, I can tell you that."
Tai leaned back in his chair, not listening to Nikoli anymore. He stroked his beard, thinking. There was always competition for business. He expected that. Nether, it made life fun. There'd been rumors of someone smuggling some weapons down into the stockades (no doubt, assisted by greasing the already oily palms of some cretin like Nikoli here) - and now it seemed someone was looking to make sure accounts were tidied up. The more intriguing part, to Tai at least, was that he wasn't sure who was behind this - and the lacking of information of that nature could be at least costly and at worst dangerous. The Tong would have to learn more about this.
Tai glanced up, realizing that Nikoli had finished his ale and seemed to be waiting for more. Tai frowned and glanced over to Rob, standing nearby, giving him a slight nod. Compact and muscular, Rob came over and put a firm hand on Nikoli's shoulder, "Time's up buddy. Hit the cobbles." Nikoli looked up, almost angrily at Rob and then to Tai. Seeing the cold look on Tai's face, and feeling Rob's fingers dig into his shoulder, Nikoli thought better of it and started to get up. Tai spoke in a low voice, "I'll pick up the tab but it would be best if you left something for Elly." Tai nodded towards the barmaid Nikoli had been eyeing.
Nikoli began to think maybe these guys were more than shopkeeps and began digging in his coin pouch, bringing out a couple silver. Rob gave him a look and grabbed Nikoli's wrist, guiding his hand back to the pouch, "Try again and see if you can't pull out ten more." Nikoli grunted but the man was strong and well trained. Licking his lips, Nikoli dropped a handful of silver coins on the table, before turning and heading out.
- -by Litto
Litto set the letter from the Gnome down on the coffee table beside the plush chair he was sitting in. This was the opportunity he had been waiting for. The Gnome wanted him to work closely with the Human Merchant and increase profits by tapping into the huge market that was growing around the new Jewelry making profession the Draenei had introduced. Litto had been watching the action in the Auction Houses with some interest in the last few weeks, and had also seen what the Gnome and the Human Merchant were seeing. What they all saw was the potential for huge profits.
If the two of them were right, and given the combined business know how that existed in those two brains, he was sure they were, the moves he and the Human Merchant made in the next few weeks could make all off them extremely wealthy. The Gnome wanted the money so he could claim his rightful place next to his father at the family table. He had no idea what the Human wanted the money for, other than the obvious reasons. For Litto, the money would mean the opportunity to be his own man, owing nothing to anyone but himself.
Litto decided that no matter what, this venture must not fail.
- -by Litto
To: Pariwinkle Cogsworth Rocketfellers III
From: Acting Manager Rocketfellers Enterprises
Sales of beauty products in the Blood Elf lands once again topped our sales lists. The best selling item was the silvered mirrors. Seems the only thing the Blood Elves like more than sucking the mana out of the world around them is admiring themselves in mirrors. I hear it is especially bad when two Blood Elf Paladins get together, as they tend to just stare at their own reflections in the others armor. Perhaps we should expand our line of products to include armor polish as I am sure it would sell well to the paladins.
I am also going to introduce a line of industrial sized toe nail clippers into our Draenei line.
I have not had the opportunity yet to contact Mr Jiang directly about his business opportunities. Both he and I have been quite busy lately it seems. I shall speak to him as soon as I can, and will let you know how his proposals look. Given his proven business sence and capabilities I am sure it will entail lucrative options.
I shall keep you informed on any further business issues. Till then, rest assured profits are good and getting better every day.
- -by Aryy
(An ordinary day in the life of Aryy and Kyaa Vayne)
Aryy sprawled back on her chaise lounge, her smartly bobbed hair piled atop her head in the finest large boar bristle rollers money could by. She crossed her silken slipper clad feet at the ankles and propped them at such an angle as if to display the tone and curve of her calves, in spite of the fact the only witness to this pose was her twin sister, Kyaa.
“Ky Ky (a nickname left over from their oneness as toddlers), dahlin’, would you be kind enough to bring me some of that cold spring water we had imported yesterday from that luscious Troll with the “delicate” nose? What was his name again?” Aryy spoke with a voice like a purring springpaw stalker.
Kyaa’s voice was just as velvet but slightly higher strung and definitely coached into perfection, complete with presumptuous accent. “Damned if Ah know, ‘Ry (rhymes with “we”), but that is the least of mah concerns. Ah have a present for you!” Kyaa flew into the sitting room with parcels hanging from each arm. You could barely see the perfection in her attire behind all the name brand bags.
She pushed her sunglasses up to perch on her head as she dropped the entire mass of bags, digging for one in particular. “You are going to… like - LOVE this!” Kyaa squealed as she found what she was looking for and pulled a flat but ornately adorned and garishly rich box from a bag just as obscene. “Look what Ah found at the market!”
With excitement and bounce, Kyaa produced two matching silvered mirrors and held them out to her twin as if presenting her with the finest of crystals. Her green eyes were luminescent with joy at her find. “And to think…” Kyaa crossed her arms with pleasure as her sister took both mirrors, looking in one and then the other at her curler-clad hairdo, while seeming to see only stunning beauty as she pushed her lips to greater fullness. “…They only cost me… like - 13 gold each!”
Aryy continued to survey herself in both mirrors, never once losing her own gaze. “Mmmmm hmmm, was his name… Motoko… or….. Motonko… blast it, Ky Ky! My brows are uneven, aren’t they?!” Aryy preened her long whisker-like brows which were clearly professionally clipped.
Kyaa snatched one of the mirrors from her twin’s grasp and declared, “Whatevah! This mirror is MINE, so keep your claws off it! See the K Ah had engraved on the back?”
Aryy gasped and turned her mirror over, feeling slighted that hers had no A on the back. “Such an ingrate you are, Ky!” Aryy whined, “This is how you treat me after I bought you that perfume last week? And such a precious little skunk bottle!”
Kyaa lifted one perfectly arched brow, and turned on her heel to walk away, her ears bouncing indignantly as she strutted off to her bedroom. Kyaa sniffed loudly with disdain as she heard her twin’s challenging words wane behind her, “I think I’ll see about havin’ some gems set in mine, dahlin’.”
The twins’ typical contest to own only the best thus ensued.
- -by Matarka
(A flashback in an ordinary day in the life of Aryy and Kyaa Vayne)
"Mon, I need to stop takin' on da goblins' jobs, ya?"
Matarka was utterly, hopelessly lost within the city of the elves. The streets had a way of winding around themselves like snakes, without clear cross-sections or central points, and all had Thallassian names he could not distinguish from one another. The buildings all looked similar, white stones, red windows and intricate golden carvings forming what looked to him like nothing but a chaotic mess.
He dared not ask for directions, either. Passer-bys looked at him with nothing but scorn, contempt and a snubby air. The magical golems that guarded the city did not inspire confidence in him, and he most clearly felt they were more likely to smash him than show him the way. And if the elves animosity hadn't been enough, the goblins had been quite clear: that package had to get there fast, or the whole operation would be a failure.
But Matarka faced an ever greater urgency, one that put him in a terribly dire situation. It was surging. And if he didn't soon find a metaphorical vessel through which he could figuratively channel his symbolic energies, he would be in a whole hell of a lot of trouble.
Matarka needed to pee.
He didn't expect Silvermoon to be so clean and proper. The streets were all paved, and magical brooms worked around the clock to automagically keep the place tidy. It wasn't like Thunder Bluff, with its magnificient rises overlooking the plains, offering its cliffs for a quick release. Or like Orgrimmar, with its dark corners and its brown earth, ready to absorb his yellowish waste. Or like the Undercity, which was in fact one big sewer system. No, Silvermoon was different. It had an air of hygiene, and trolls aren't very good at hygiene.
He had tried walking into an inn, but he had been kicked out with lighting speed, told his feet were dirty and that he smelled of fishes. He had considered looking for a body of water, but all he had found was the new sunwell: and the last time someone poured impurities in it, Kel'Thuzad had been reborn into undeath. Matarka dreaded to think what would happen once what remained of the gnome he ate yesterday would touch the wells' water, giving birth to a midget Lich of terrible power.
"Make a knot in it, mon.", he thought to himself. "Why'd you have to drink all that water anyway? Ya can just summon more, ya idiot." He hurried along, desperate, knowing that when the package would have found its way, he could teleport to Orgrimmar and experience sweet, sweet release. And right about when he was going to give up (It's a known fact: things always happen when you're about to give up.), he stumbled upon it. The Vayne mansion.
He went to the door, and knocked. Once. Twice. Thrice. No answer. He knocked even harder. No answer still. He yelled. Nothing. This was not good. He could not leave the package there: the goblins' required the recipients' signature. He could not wait, either: the internal damage he would suffer from his bladder's explosion could be more than any priest would care to heal. Lacking alternatives, Matarka stepped over the fence that surrounded the property, and started making his way around the house, hoping to find someone.
There, besides a long chair, he saw it. The most beautiful thing he had seen all day. An emerald green that seemed to look into his soul, and read his desires. Short, but slender limbs that he instinctively felt would feel good against his skin. Hints of red, making it more lively.
He had found a shrub, with red flowers roses timidly burgeoning from its small branches. Spending naught but a second to look around and ascertain his intimacy, he went beside it, and sighed a very happy sigh of relief.
"What are you doin' here? Ah' don't remember letting you in!", said an high-pitched voice behind him.
Matarka took a deep breath before turning around: "I was smellin' da flowers. Ya got a package, little girl."
- -by Kyaa
Kyaa stopped short at the sight of an intruder in her mansion. It occurred to her that they really needed to hire a butler in addition to the cook and housecleaner. Since moving into this new home, the twins had not had much time for anything but shopping for necessities. In fact, she was on her way out right now to find some merchant who carried imported spring water, since the tap here in town was not entirely palatable. She glanced to the package the Troll carried and clasped her own two hands together with a ladylike yelp and bounce.
“Ah do so hope that is the gown Ah ordered last week!” She reached for the box and found a clipboard thrust into her hands first.
“Jus’ sign on da line, little lady,” the Troll said in a rather humdrum droll. As far as Matarka was concerned, he’d relieved himself and would now be out of this town as soon as this delivery was completed. The sooner he got out of here, the better.
Kyaa glanced at the Troll with an edge to her voice, saying, “There is, like - nothing little about me, Ah assure you, Mister Delivery Boy!” Her hip was thrust out for emphasis, one hand resting on it.
The Troll smirked and muttered something about that being his usual reply, but her lack of a smile and cold green stare left him slightly confused and destabilized. Signing the receipt, Kyaa then reached into her designer clutch and pulled out 2 gold, driving the anti-little sentiment home with an extraordinary large tip. Besides, she had found many a loyal servant from simply flashing about her wealth and being new to a town was no time to be skimpy.
Matarka responded by waving a hand in dismissal, "I already got ma arrangements with da goblin, not-little lady. Ya can keep dat." Stunned, Kyaa wondered what kind of savage would refuse gold! "'Ah don' think so, Mister troll! It's awfully rude to refuse a tip, and I will -not- stand by it!" She stomped as best as one could in heels right up to the Troll, got up on the tip of her feet and stared blankly into his face, her emerald eyes filled with challenge.
Matarka replied with confusion, "Ima sorry, little miss, I didn' know dat. I dunno much about da elves custom, see. I'm better versed in, well, troll customs." Kyaa tilted her head and thought about that a second, then launched into an outright lie, "Well, of course you don't know that insulting a blood elf in her home requires you to grant me a favor on demand!" He nodded and finally obliged, taking the tip with a slight frown. Unsure what to do next, he prepared to leave by asking, "Is dere anythin' else ya need now?"
Kyaa, utterly used to getting anything she asked for, contemplated this with as much depth as she would ever display. After several minutes of thinking, she snapped her fingers and proclaimed, “Yes, as a matter of fact. Ah seek some imported purified water of the finest quality. Have you any accessibleness to that?” Kyaa was fond of large words that made her sound important, and lacking the proper vocabulary to back this up she often inserted her own word, believing others were not onto her.
Matarka, not being well versed in Orcish, saved that new sounding word for some future usage, intent as he was at perfecting his use of language. "I've got some water I kin conjure up -" as he began to wave his hands in the conjuring pattern, Kyaa interrupted with, "OH, dear no no NO! Ah meant..." she paused to smile in her most tolerant and charming smile that usually melted males, "like - IMPORTED water from the jungles of Stranglethorn Vale, perhaps?
Matarka nodded with just a slight amount of restraint, mumbling to himself to make sure to take care of things BEFORE entering the city next time around.
Kyaa became the epitome of graciousness, seeing she would get her way. Taking both his hands in her own, she thanked him. "Mister… what was your name again?”
The troll caught a whiff of her perfume which smelled to him strangely like skunk musk and promptly sneezed. “Matarka, Missy….. my nose – it’s kinda uh, delicate in dese parts.” Kyaa thought that immensely amusing, given there appeared to be nothing at all delicate about any troll’s nose and vowed to have a good laugh over that with Aryy.
Kyaa nodded and nearly pushed him out the door in her excitement. She was now free to spend her afternoon getting a facial and massage at the spa! She picked up her unopened package and ran to flaunt the good news at her twin.
- -by Aryy
Aryy answered the door the next day when Matarka returned. Her twin had told her all about the water and their newly acquired errand troll and Aryy was fully prepared for his arrival today. She swung open the door with a flourish, and pulled him into the foyer giving him an air kiss on either side of his face. “You must be Matorko, Dahlin’. I’m the pretty twin, Aryy.” Her irritating laughter rang loudly and echoed in the foyer.
He was about to correct her on his name when she rushed ahead with her agenda. “Thanks evah so much for the water! Now I have some business for you, dear.”
“Wait right here a second.” Aryy turned and sauntered off, her tall heels clacking nicely on the marble floor of the hallway off the east wing. The noise stopped for a moment and then preceded her return to the foyer. In her hands was a silvered mirror.
“I want you, dear, to take this back to the manufacturer and request a way to adorn it with gems for me. Cost is no object.” She slipped him 3 gold for both the water and his trouble, then winked at him. “Tell him that if he does fine workmanship on this, I will become his favorite customer. Do you think you can handle that for me, Dahlin’?”
Matarka's mouth slackened, absolutely shocked and clueless to have gold stuffed in his hands again. On one hand, he wondered if this was another tip, and if refusing it would get him into more trouble. On the other hand, if it's NOT a tip, but forward payment, he'd have to take it without knowing which it was! Matarka stood there, shifting weight from foot to foot, indecisive.
When Aryy was done talking, she steered the still wordless troll to the door by his elbow, made a kissy motion with her mouth and squeezed him out, quite pleased with her little revenge plan to show up her twin yet again.
- -by Litto
Litto stared at the papers in front of him in total disbelief.
The numbers had been climbing through the roof the last two weeks. Profits had reached all time highs. His reports to the Gnome had all been filled with the very real possibility that he would be able to trump his other relatives and win the seat next to his father. Then the new numbers came in. Sales in silver mirrors had dropped in half. He knew the Blood Elves weren't suddenly becoming less vain, so what could cause this sudden drop in sales.
Litto had to entertain the very real possibility that competition had popped up for their line of Blood Elf beauty products. That did not bode well, especially if it happened on his watch. The Gnome had worked too hard to establish a monopoly on this particular market, and would react well if the monopoly folded while he was away and Litto was in charge. Time to find out what the hell was going on.
- -by Pariwinkle
Pariwinkle stood in front of the mirror and practiced his speech for the hundreth time. Sure it was still many months till the Family Reunion, but it was never too soon to come up with exactly the right words to say when he would finally be elevated to the seat next to his father. The profits from his Blood Elf monopoly were staggering, and would propel him past all the other Wannabees to the seat that had always been rightfully his. Looking into the mirror he worked on achieving that perfect attitude that said both "I am proud and humbled to be here" and "Nany Nany Boo Boo."
- -by Matarka
Dizzy from the sheer rapidity with which the elven girls had once again involved him in some futile errand, Matarka stumbled on his own feet as he was shoved out the door, crashing down face first into the ground. The sound of ripping clothes was immediatly followed by a metallic "clang", itself superseded by the noise of breaking glass. Firmly decided to enjoy a few moments of denial before the inevitable despair, the troll just laid there for a couple of minutes, woozy, his mind empty, his body heavy.
He was woken up from his reverie by repetitive, tickling whacks to his side. Barely tilting his head, slowly raising his eyes in what looked like a tremendous effort, he saw an autonomous broom trying its best to sweep him off the street. Mentally exhausted, having no desire to fight back, Matarka beared the blows in complete apathy. The broom, seemingly unhappy to meet such resilient filth, began thrusting with growing intensity, eventually swinging by a full 90 degree arc into the troll's flanks. But the blue tusked mass was a troll no more: it was the very avatar of inertia, unmoving and immobile, impervious to motion. Realizing the futility of its efforts, the magical brush turned to its nearby pile of dust, and shoved it neatly under Matarka before moving on further down the street.
Finally shaking his head and rising up to sit, Matarka peered into a promise of seven long years of misadventures and ill fortune. Turning the mirror around in his hands, he saw no markings that would indicate its origins, no clue as to who its craftsman may be. Without any lead, he left toward the Royal Exchange, hoping the many dealers hanging around there could provide him with some information.
Wading his way through the crowd in front of the auctioneers wasn't very hard, as most of the elves he came close to naturally moved away with a look of disgust. Some words were whispered in Thalassian, and from their tone, Matarka knew they weren't affectionate in the least. Being a troll had already got him noticed, and being a one dirty made him the center of attention. Still, he pressed on, and eventually reached the stand.
"Excuse me," he said to the elf overlooking the Exchange's affairs: "Wuld ya happen to have any idea where dis mirror could be comin' from?"
The elf looked at him with contempt, and said aggressively (Yet monotonically): "The Royal Exchange is not responsible for the terms, settings, and execution of warranties and exchanges, nor can it be held liable for any damage(moral, physical, monetary or otherwise), deriving from the use of the products bought within its premises or through its authorized agents or brokers, regardless of wether the harm occurs to the new owner, his loved ones, third parties, or bystander squirrels." The elf paused, out of breath. "Please, contact the original seller and conduct your business directly with him. Thank you for your business."
"Ya got me all wrong", replied Matarka. "I dunno who da seller is, that's what I wanna know, ya? I really need ta find out!"
The elf's tone became even more annoyed: "Keeping the identity of the seller secret is part of our 'Statement of Concern Over Privacy' as well as our 'Terms Business Provenance Agnosticity' and cannot be given, directly or indirectly, by any of our personnel, unless a court of law provides due mandates ro that the aforementioned contracts' terms are breached by either of the parties engaged in the transaction."
"But," Matarka blurted out, "if ya don't be tellin' who da seller is, how can I be goin' straight to him for my business, ya?"
The auctionneer seemed positively angry now: "You're a nosy little one. This is a place of business, where people come to shop. And the only thing you're browsing for right now is trouble. If you want information, do like all the other adventurers, and hit the inn's tavern. And... Take a shower, please? You're all dusty. You're going to get dirt all over the street!"
Seeing as he would get nowhere with his current course of action, Matarka nodded, turned around, and blinked out of the building. Lacking any better idea, he was going to follow the auctioneer's council. Not that he thought that any of the local elf drunkard held important information. But it's a widely known fact: trolls think better without any clothes on, water dripping off their skin.
Or maybe that was just him.
- -by Keldu
<In the tavern in Brill, a dark-furred Tauren drinks alone>
I've seen my share of money change hands. Some of it easy, some of it hard. Spent a fair share of my own life chasing the stuff, trying to divert some of that coin my way. Nothing against the deadies, but I don't work Undercity because of the scenery. Still, bartenders ain't pouring whiskey for free, last I checked.
Now in all that time, I've never seen money flow like I've seen it flow out of the Sin'dorei city. From the way the pretty boys are throwing around coin at the bazaar in Undercity? Fel, Silvermoon starts to seem like a lowball name for their city.
Word on the street has it that there's more coin where this came from. And, more importantly, that there's some serious gold being put out on the street for jewelry. Way I figure it, that's a piece of the pie that the Tong should be at the table for. The Big Boss was busy - seemed Outland had its own fountains of gold, if you knew how and where to drill - but it was worth mentioning to Krelle and the others. No sense letting a shining opportunity pass.
- -by Litto
Running a business the magnitude of the Gnome's was no easy job.
From the beginning Litto had known a good bit of respect for the Gnome, despite his petty falts and huge ego. That respect had grown by leaps and bounds once he had begun to fully understand the volume of business and mass of money involved. One thing for sure, he could never take anything for granted. Turning his attention from even minor details could and did bite him.
The sales of beauty goods in the elf lands had dropped, because the volume of beauty products had dropped. The volume of beauty products had dropped because the shipments had sat idle on the dock in Booty Bay. The shipments had sat idle because the voucher to move the shipments had not been signed. The voucher had not been signed because it had been lost in a mound of paperwork on the Gnome's (now his) desk.
His first priority, once he had discovered his own oversight, was to clean all the paperwork on the desk. All documents needing signatures were signed and posted. All reports needing review were read, cataloged and filed. All meaningless drivel was thrown out. In the end, the desk was empty except for one piece of paper that sat in the middle of the blotter. The paper was a short note to him from the Gnome. It was dated weeks ago, and directed him to find some bribable members of the new Senate, so the Gnome could ensure his business ventures were protected and never had to undergo any unwanted interference from the government.
Litto looked at the note and frowned. He remember the Gnome asking him to do this, but in the previous weeks things had managed to push it out of his mind. Now was the time to bring it back to the burner. One of the things he noticed eating away at profitability was the Dwarvish tax on beauty items. Dwarves, never overly worried about the finer points of dress and appearance, saw these items as luxuries, and taxed them heavily. In the Elvish lands anything to do with beauty was considered a necessity, but not here in Iron Forge. If he could get a Senator or two on his payroll perhaps he could get a few laws enacted reducing excise taxes on beauty items. It was certainly worth his time and effort.
The minimal efforts he had expended previously on this task had given him very little to go on. Many of the Senators were either too well off or too self rightous to be bribable. Still, he had heard of one. The Dwarvish Senator from Menethil, Balloch was his name. He had heard this particular Senator was neither too well off or too self rightous. The Tong had a strong presence in Menethil Harbor. Perhaps he would see if the Human Merchant or his female associate knew much about this Senator Balloch. It would give him yet another reason to look the two of them up, something he was quite looking forward to.
- -by Litto
Trust... what a dangerous concept.
Without trust there could be no betrayal.
A man in Litto's situation could not afford to trust. That fact had been pounded into his head many times.
The first betrayal had of course been the hardest on him. His mother had touched his cheek and looked into his eyes with what he was sure was sadness. Then she had walked out of the door never to return again. To have the life she wanted there had to be a sacrifice. He had been that sacrifice.
The second had been easier on his heart, but harder on his body. He knew the pain his father felt, he felt it himself. On one level he could understand how such a scar could change someone, it had certainly changed him. For him, the pain had been internalized. Never to be let out into the world. He would not allow the pain to exist, so it could not control him. His father was not that strong.
His father's pain turned from hurt to bitterness to hate. A burning uncontrollable hate that had only one outlet left to it. The emotional and physical bruises he inflicted on Litto could be compared to the actions of a rabid dog, no longer in control of its actions due to the disease coursing through its veins. The only cure for a rabid dog was to put it down, so when he was finally able to, he had put his father out of both of their misseries.
Those early betrayals, and the ones that followed had taught him the hard lessons of trust and betrayal. Do not put your hand in the fire if you do not wish to be burned. It was a mantra he had lived by for years. It had protected him, shielded him. He wore it like an invisible barrier that kept everything and everyone far enough away that he would always be able to see the blow coming long before it could hurt him. The first to penetrate the barrier had been Bombay.
The black cat had slinked into his campsite in Westfall. Perhaps it had once been someones pet, but now it was a half starved black shadow that kept its distance while it judged him. For a reason he would never understand, the cat judged him worth trusting, and crossed the barrier as if it did not exist. It had never left him since that day, though it mostly traveled in darkness and shadow. At first he had found the creature amusing, and had allowed it into his life but not his heart. Eventually even that last barrier had fallen.
Now two more had penetrated his barriers. The Human Merchant and his Female Associate. At first they had merely impressed him with their professionalism and skill. Each in thier own way was the master of themself and thier domain. They made no idle promises and delivered on those they did make. Over time his appreciation of their professionalism had changed into a genuine feeling of friendship. He liked them.
Now that had turned to trust. The dangerous concept had entered his life again. Trust.
Litto looked himself in the mirror. He was not sure he liked what he saw. Trust and betrayal were opposite sides of the same coin. The man in the mirror flipped the coin high into the air. Which way would it land?
- -by Matarka
As the water trickled down his hair and unto his back, Matarka hummed a song he made up as he went, mixing some of his tribe's ancestral throat chants with the rythms he had heard the elves whistle in the streets of Silvermoon. The results were not totally unpleasant to his ears, but wether or not other beings endowed with hearing would have agreed was still an open question. Using the large brush he had found laying besides the strange ceramic pot opposite of the shower, the mage scrubbed his tusks vigorously, doing his best to make them shine a bright white. A well groomed troll, he was! After having cleaned them to satisfaction, he opened his mouth, letting the shower's fountain flow in his gullet, and made a gargling sound not totally unlike a murloc's chant during the mating season.
Without warning, a jar flew beside his head and shattered itself against the wall next to him, narrowly avoiding bottles of oils and perfumes that were stacked in an alcove there. Instinctively, Matarka unleashed a frost nova spell, a reflex that had saved his life on many occasions when unseen ennemies had creeped up on him. Wasted efforts, as the uninvited jug already laid defeated on the floor, and would soon be running (he presumed) toward its remains in spirit form, hoping for a chance at a second assault. The troll, however, was left encased in a thin layer of ice, standing on a tiny skating rink, and very, very cold.
An high pitched squeal was heard, and an horrified female elf jumped in front of the shower, brandishing a brush as menacingly as possible, both hands grasping it firmly and pointing its spiky, scratchy hair in the troll's direction. Startled by such a charge, Matarka moved back ever so slightly, giving his long blue feet just enough momentum to propel his legs in an exagerated upward arc that landed him straight on his ass, into which's cheek a vengeful pitcher shard penetrated with a considerable amount of pain. As his head hit the wall with force, shaking bottles came raining down from the alcove, landing on his skull with a clunging noise before joining their fallen brethren on the shower's floor.
As she gazed upon the troll's dizzy and barely conscious form, the elf's tension turned to surprise, then satisfaction: her opponent was knocked out and at her mercy! Wondering what to do next, she caught sight of it... Boy, was it ever larger than any other she had seen before! Her eyes started to sparkle with mischevious excitement, and she slowly stepped closer, her hand held out in front of her. Timidly, she let her fingers brush against the tip, shivering as she felt the ice that had formed around it. She moistened her lips with her tongue while she wrapped her hand around it with more confidence, getting a feel for its texture, deriving from it the pleasure only a true connoisseur could taste. As she slid her palm along the gist, she bit her lower lip, enjoying how sturdy it felt, yet how malleable it was...
The troll sneezed hard and the elf, abruptly becoming self-conscious, moved back sheepishly, turning a deep red that contrasted with her grassy eyes. With a rasping, pained voice, he said:
"Ya elves really need to explain' what it is 'bout tusks that gets ya all weird. They're just overgrown teeth, ya?"
"Oh, it's simple!" replied the elven lass, energetically. "They're so pretty! So shiny! Like ivory! There's like, no way to resist, you know?"
A few more seconds of awkward silence later, Matarka spoke again: "Ya can stop staring, now." The elf gasped "Oh!", rapidly looking down, then "Ah!" as she turned around, averting her eyes from yet another uncommon sight. She then started giggling.
"It's cold", said the troll, pitifully.
"So", said the now fully dressed troll, after a few awkward explanations and numerous mugs of coffee and hot chocolate to warm himself up: "Ya're the one with da accessibleness, ya?"
The elf giggled at the made-up word, and nodded. "Hmmhmm! You won't find a more adept jewelcrafter around! I've got Spessarites, draenites, peridots, garnets... Gems that will make you quick, stones that will make you smarter, jewels that will make you sturdier, anything you wish for!"
"Not so sure about dat", replied Matarka on a dull tone. "Ya got anything pretty? Shiny, fetching, lovely, attractive, ya know? It's for some Vaynh, ya?"
"I guess I do have something for petty, vain people", she answered, not bothering to conceal her disappointment. "That's boring work, though. Unless..." She stopped mid-sentence, grinning widely: "I could make it special! Something both useful and impressive. The kind of trinket that you take out at parties to give your snobby friends a healthy dose of shut-the-hell-up-I'm-better-than-you! Pretty vain, isn't it?"
"I have a few doubts, ya", said the troll while scratching his tusk, wary of the elf's sudden excitement. "Won't that be a bit costly?"
"Oh, I'll give you a rebate!" retorted the elf, snatching the mirror from the mage without waiting for an answer. "You won't regret it." she added, almost an afterthought.
She held the looking glass in her hand, turning it around to examine it from all sides. Staring at it with intense concentration, she began waving her slender fingers over it, whispering arcane incantations over a low humming that emanated from the mirror itself. Slowly, the cracks in the glass receded until they reached the edges, restoring the object to its original, pristine condition. As the spell went on, four diamond shaped holes began to appear on its back, eventually growing to just below an inch.
Taking four large gems out of a small pouch she kept at her side, the jewelcrafter started setting them in the new indentations with all her attention. As he patiently waited for the elf to finish her job, Matarka started to wonder how he could possibly afford gems of such imposing size. A couple of minute later, she handed the mirror back to the troll, done: "Voilà!" she said, bustling with pride.
The troll stared at the increasingly expensive trinket, finding it quite pretty, but definitely not as impressive as the artisan had promised. "What's so special about it?" he inquired, bringing it closer to his face in an attempt to discern its extraordinary qualities. "I don't see..."
He was interrupted by a shrill, horrified voice: "Please, please, not any closer! If that crooked blue warted branch touches me, I swear I'm going to faint!" Surprised, Matarka moved the mirror away from his face: "Ewww", continued the voice, "I'd like to say that's better, but what a lie it would be! What a wretched, unpleasant way to be born into this world. You mammals come out through a tiny, dirty hole covered in blood, but I assure you, I just had it much, much worse! What kind of crippled caveman are you exactly, with these big bones in your mouth? And that color is sickly, too! Oh, and the hair, the hair! You should definitely shave. I mean, bald is ugly, but that wild unkept orange hair is simply atrocious!"
Matarka grimaced as he understood the full extent of the enchantment that had been bestowed upon the looking glass. "You're one rude vanity product, ya?"
The mirror's voice picked back up, insulted and incensed: "Rude? RUDE? I'll tell you what's rude, my hunched, misshapen fellow. Mirrors take the exact appearance of what's in front of them, and you're in front of me. Following me up to now? Not going too fast for your prehistoric wits? So, when your empty, idiotic stare settles upon me, it makes me as vile, repulsive and grotesque as you are. How do you think I feel looking like a distorted, frightful, hideous and revoltingly offensive creature like you? Now, that, THAT is rude, and a total lack of etiquette."
Fighting the urge to smash the mirror to piece, Matarka slowly set it on the table, his hand shaking with contained anger. It, however, didn't help in shutting the new sentience up: "Oh, great, now I only see a big knot and crumbs. Real thoughtful, big boy. I'm proud of ya. Couldn't have done better, hm?"
The jewelcrafter horrified, picked the mirror back up, and stared at it incredulously. "It's not supposed to be like this!" she cried, a look of desperation on her face. "Now we're talkin'!" said the mirror with renewed enthusiasm: "Better, a lot better. You've got a bit of a crease on the forehead, and a little zit beside the ear, and there's a little something stuck between your teeth, but still, STILL, it's a load better than the surly monster over there. What's with the hair, though? It seems all dry and... Oh my god, that's a white one, isn't it? Yes, yes, it's white!"
Shocked, embarrassed, tomato-red, the elf put the mirror face down on the table in a jerky motion as it went on and on with its incisive comments about the aesthetics of his surroundings..
"I'm not payin'", said the troll, raising his voice to cover the whining.
"I'm not billing!", replied the elf as she hurriedly packed her things and walked out the inn's arch at a brisk, panicked pace.
Matarka shoved the mirror down his bags, ignoring its complaints, and started walking back to the Vaynh mansion with hasty strides. The faster he got rid of that mirror, the better. Furthermore, all that coffee he had drinked certainly made him wish for a nice shrub...
- -by Litto
It had taken a very long time to find her. She had hidden her tracks well, almost as if she knew he would come for her. Still, in the end all her efforts had amounted to little as he stood behind her in the shadows of her room.
She sat in front of the mirror combing her hair. As she ran the brush through her long dark locks, she hummed a distant, almost sad, tune. He had heard that tune before, a long long time ago. She had no idea her death stood within a few feet of her and watched her every action. She had no idea her past had finally caught up to her. His daggers were poisoned, and he fully intended to let the end linger long enough that she could look into the eyes of her demise and know full well the cost of her betrayal.
Within a breath the whole situation changed. Into the room charged a little girl. There was no doubt looking at her that she was the daughter of his intended victim. She threw herself into the arms of the woman at the mirror. She spoke in a frenzy, telling her mother of her recent encounter with her friends. The words flowed from her in a torrent, as if it was necessary to recount the entire tale in the span of a single breath. Her mother smiled at her, trying to keep up with the outpouring of words. Litto pulled back further into the shadows, to reduce the chance the little one might see him.
He watched them. The mother, listening to her daughters excited rendition of events. Smiling, yet detached, trying and only barely succeeding in hiding her disinterest. The child, engrossed in her need to share her excitement with the one person who mattered the most to her... her mother. He knew the scene well. "One day" he thought to himself "a man will come along and take her from you little one. She will go her way, and not look back. She will never think of you again. It is the beast within her. It will never let her be happy. Never let her remain in one place for very long."
He knew the way of the mother, for he had experienced it. He too had a beast within him. One that drove him to kill. She had released that beast within him all those many years ago. She had loosed it on him, and it had consumed him. He would never be like he was then. He would never be like the little girl is now... again.
Litto sheathed his drawn daggers. He looked with profound sadness upon the little girl, still pouring out her tale between gasped breaths. "I am sorry little sister" he thought as he slipped quietly from the room "I am sorry for the beast she will release on you. I pray you will fare better than I did. One day a man will come, and she will leave you forever. But that day is not today, and I am not that man. So enjoy her for the little time you still have my sister."
As Litto swiftly walked away from the house of his Mother, he placed her into that spot in his mind reserved for those he had killed. He closed the door on her, and knew she would haunt him no more. He wished he could say the same for the little girl.
They came to him each night in a never ending procession.
He was a killer, so he knew it was to be expected. Surely others of his ilk suffered visitations as well. Still, he doubted they were like his. His nocturnal visitors were not the ghosts of his victims. His visitors were the victims' loved ones. Wives, mothers, children, brothers, sisters. They all looked at him with thier haunted eyes, and each had the same question for him.... Why? Why my husband? Why my son? Why my father? Why my sister. Why... why... why?
Long ago he had quit trying to answer them. They didn't understand. A wife didn't see her husband as an abusive officer who risked his troops needlessly. A mother didn't see her son as a foolish lad who thought to make a reputation for himself by killing a killer. A child didn't see her father as a money hungry thief who had stolen from the wrong person. A brother didn't see his sister as a siren who lured good men to their deaths. What they all saw was a loved one who had died at his hands.
Even he no longer believed the reasons. He knew he had believed them once. That his reasons had been good, that the ones he killed had deserved to die. But had they? And thier families, had they deserved to lose the one they loved. He no longer knew.
The only thing he knew for sure was that he would kill again. That he would have a reason that seemed sound at the time. That another ghost would join the procession to ask him why.
End of Volume IEdit
The story continues in Volume II as Litto takes on increasing responsibility in PCR3 enterprises and the Tong steps up operations in Silvermoon.