File GSB-070: Outburst

“Dora! Wait up, I got something for you.”

Dora Rainfist stopped, as Nix ran up to her, eyes shining.

“Something for me?”

“You’re going to love this,” said Nix. “Behold!”

Nix handed Dora a smooth, metal cylinder, polished to a nice shine. Three small wheels were at one end, the other end was rounded. Dora’s eyes narrowed.

“What… is this?”

“Well, remember what you told me, about getting your fingers dirty pulling at the stalks and all that? This is the solution! You just set it to the setting you want, and away you go! No matter how dry or how cold it is, doesn’t matter. It slides right in! I tried it myself, and it works great!”

Dora said nothing, but she said it very loudly. She turned the shining metal cylinder round in her hand, and noticed a button at the end. Against her better judgement, she pressed it. There was a buzzing noise, as the thing shook in her hand.

“Whoa,” said Nix. “That’s a bit premature, you need to take the bottom off first. Want me to show you how it works?”

 

Trixie walked in, to find Nix sitting at the table, head on his hand, looking dejected.

“Hi Bro! What’s for dinner?”

“Steak,” said Nix, tersely.

Trixie looked, and now saw that Nix was holding half their dinner against his face.

“Eww! Well done for me, please. Why are you cuddling a piece of meat?”

“Dora,” said Nix.

Trixie snorted. “Pothole on the road to bliss?”

Nix sneered, found this hurt and stopped. He looked up at Trixie.

“I don’t get it. I really don’t. I spent ages on this thing, to get it just right, then I give it to her and she bloody clocks me!”

“Give her… what?”

Nix pointed at the table. Trixie looked at the thing. Her jaw dropped.

“You gave her a personal massager? What by the rampaging Titans were you thinking? You’re lucky to be alive, you stupid…”

Nix stared at Trixie, pale-faced with terror.

That’s what she thought it was? Oh… crap!”

“You mean it isn’t a joy buzzer?”

Nix handed Trixie his steak, and picked up the thing. He gave the lower end a quick twist, and pulled it off. Sharp prongs extended with a click. Turning the wheel, he spread the fork wider, and stood it on its end. He pressed the button, and it started to vibrate, dancing on the table.

“It’s a herbalising fork with vibrating action to loosen the soil. Works even in dry clay or in frozen soil. You can get the plant out without damaging the roots.”

Trixie stared at the bloody steak in her hand, then up at Nix’ bruised face. He really wasn’t kidding. Trixie bit her lip, trying not to… oh what the hell. She rolled onto her back, helpless with laughter.

“It’s not funny!”

“You’re… right,” said Trixie, fighting for breath. “It’s not…” She looked at Nix’ face again, and almost rolled under the table.

“Sis! I need your help. You have to explain to her that it’s not… that I’m not…”

Trixie somehow managed to control herself. She slapped the steak back into Nix’ hand, and grinned at him.

“If I do, you owe me big time, Bro. Oh, and by the way, put that steak back in the pan. It isn’t helping you any. Try ice instead.”

“Really?”

“I spend my days being beaten up by class-mates. I should know.”

 

Dora saw Trixie walk up, and glared at her. Trixie sat down opposite her and put her tray down. She studied the meat, trying to guess what creature it came from. Since there was apple sauce to go with it, probably pork, though the Mensa Silex was known to throw people off by doing chicken with cranberries.

“That brother of yours,” said Dora.

Trixie smiled sweetly. “What about him?”

“Just when I thought he wasn’t all that bad. I should have known better. Little pervert.”

Trixie tried a bit of potato. Hmm. Bit crunchy.

“Really? I didn’t know. What’d he do, talk about polishing pipes? He means that literally, you know.”

“He gave me a present to use on lonely nights.” Dora seethed. “It vibrates. Tested it out on himself, he said.”

“Ah,” said Trixie. She reached behind her, and pulled something out of her bag. “This, perhaps?”

Dora stared at the beautifully-crafted metal cylinder. Trixie grinned.

“I tried it, too. It really does work very well.”

“Is that supposed to convince me that you Steambenders aren’t a bunch of complete and utter…”

Trixie raised a finger. “Observe.”

She twisted off the bottom half of the cylinder, and pointed the sharp ends at Dora’s face.

“It’s a herbalising tool. Now, much as I love to see Big Brother squirm, I can’t have you thinking that the Steambender family consists only of perverts. Nix may hardly know one end of a girl from the other, but the gizmos he makes usually work.”

Dora blinked, staring at the sharp ends.

“Oh gods…”

“Well, you can still use it on lonely nights, if you want, but I believe the Lordaeic word for that is Zweckentfremdet.”

“Oh boy. I owe him an apology.”

“Don’t be silly. That’ll only give him ideas. Mind you.” Trixie stirred the mass of goo on her plate to keep it from congealing. “He’s taken to muttering your name in his sleep, and I sleep three feet over him. So in the interest of my night’s rest, would you please either tell him to sod off, or jump him?”

“Aww… Had a bad night’s sleep?”

“Ugh,” said Trixie, with her mouth full.

Dora grinned. “You’re sparring with me!”


Merchants were the most unreasonable people imaginable. They would never take back any of the equipment you bought off them for anywhere near the original buying price. Richard tried to explain his standpoint to the Dwarf, as to how a weapon became much more valuable once it had been tested and found to work correctly, and he would give it his unreserved recommendation to anyone who’d ask. The Dwarf was not receptive to this argument. Richard sighed, and took back his small, small stack of silver coins. As he turned round, he heard someone mention the words “Two-and-two.” Richard plied his face in its usual friendly poker-face smile, and turned to the speaker.

“Hello. I’m sorry, but I couldn’t help overhearing you, and I know someone who’d rather not go by that particular nickname. Are we talking about the same person, perhaps?”

“Oh, I don’t know. Pink pigtails like any other girl? So far up her own arse that she can see what she’s had for dinner? Along, I might say, with many other people?”

Richard smiled at Barry Blackknife. People who knew him soon learnt to recognise that smile and get out of melee range, even out of throwing range for that matter.

“No,” said Richard. “That doesn’t describe the person I was thinking of at all. Which is fortunate, because I happen to like her quite a lot, and anyone who’d describe her like that, would be in a whole world of hurt.”

Barry laughed. “They would, would they? So you are her new flame? Well, well. E pluribus unum, I’d say.”

“I wouldn’t go as far as to claim that,” said Richard. “But a Gnome’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s heaven for?”

“Oh, if grasping is what you want, I can tell you a few things she likes. Don’t bother trying to make her scream. She’s a quiet one.”

There was a loud bang behind Richard, and they looked round at the Dwarf merchant. He had one of his maces in one hand, and was shaking it at the boys.

“Lads, It’s well I know how well my weapons work, and if there’s any demonstratin’ to be done in this shop, it’s going ta be yours truly that does it. Now take it outside.” The Dwarf scowled. “Please.”

Richard, Barry and his mates walked out of the shop. Outside, Barry faced Richard, arms wide.

“Well? Want a piece of me? Come on then, don’t be shy.”

“Not really, no. Frankly, the idea of facing the Mighty Hunter of Gol’bolar Troggs makes me shake in my boots. You could probably drink me under the table just by looking at me.”

“That’s what I thought,” said Barry. “Well, next time you snuggle up to Two-and-two, you can tell her that I’m going to be in her class soon.”

“Heh. You mean you’re going to play ‘kill the melon’ with one of our class? That’ll be fun.”

“Already did once,” said Barry. “This can’t be much harder.”

 

“Barry Sodding Blackknife.”

“None other,” said Richard. “Mind you, he said I should snuggle up to you before telling you.”

“How did that loser manage to convince Tosslespanner that he was ready?” Trixie turned her eyes to Richard. “And why aren’t you snuggling up to me?”

“I’ll decide for myself when to snuggle up to you, thankyouverymuch. Mr. Blackknife can go jump off a cliff.”

“Fair enough.”

Richard got a bit closer to Trixie. Because he wanted to, not because anyone had told him. Trixie met Richard coming the other way and all was well.

“He’s the guy who gave you a hard time?”

Trixie nodded.

“Well, if he tries to join this class, you’ll get to hit him.”

“Yes,” said Trixie, with shining eyes.

 

Circle of sand. Pole. Melon. Barry Blackknife stood in the middle, arms crossed, looking supremely confident. Word had got round about this Gnome. People who sparred with him rarely got away without injury. People even said he’d been duelling a lot, and there were rumours of one Human having died from injuries sustained while fighting him. Nothing ever proven, of course. Just rumours. But he certainly looked the part.

“Alright then,” said Trainer Tosslespanner. “Who wants to be the defender for Mr. Blackknife?”

Trixie jumped up, hand as high as any Gnome could achieve. Jonno raised his hand. Richard looked at him, reached up and pulled Jonno’s arm down.

“What?”

Richard grinned, nodded at Trixie. “I want to see this.”

Jonno looked at Trixie’s face, fierce, eyes burning, full of the light of battle. He whistled.

“Grudge match?”

“Like you wouldn’t believe.”

Bilban Tosslespanner pointed. “Miss Steambender. A rematch, I believe. Very well, prepare yourself.”

Trixie handed her shield and mace to Richard, and got out her two-handed sword. She stepped forward.

“Um, Miss Steambender? Are you sure you don’t want a shield?”

Trixie looked at her trainer, and shook her head. “No, Sir. I’m in a two-hander kind of mood today.”

“Your choice,” said the trainer.

Trixie walked out into the sandpit, and drew her sword. She swished it around a few times, to loosen up her muscles, and looked at Barry.

“Two-and-two. This is going to be easier than I thought. Are you sure I can’t persuade you to lie down on your back?”

Trixie got a good grip on her sword, and fixed Barry with a stare.

“Last time, you bastard, I let you win because I was stupid enough to want you in my class. This time, I’m going to beat every colour of shit out of you because I don’t want you in my class. Any questions?”

Trainer Tosslespanner picked up the hourglass.

“Ready?”

Trixie raised her arm. “Wait!”

“Miss Steambender?”

“I want to waive the time limit,” said Trixie. “Let him try as long as he wants.”

“Would you like to tell me why?”

“No.”

“Very well, then. Prepare yourselves.”

Barry growled at Trixie. “This’ll be over very soon, and then it’ll hurt a long, long time.”

Trixie crouched down, and said nothing.

“Fight!”

Trixie launched herself at Barry, sword raised high. Barry raised his shield and swung his mace round, but Trixie swept low, at Barry’s legs. The impact made him lose his footing, and he almost fell over. Trixie spotted the direction he was falling in, and assisted a bit with a stab to the chest. A big tear appeared in Barry’s chestpiece, and he rolled back to avoid being spitted. Trixie followed up with a viciously fast sweep downwards, which Barry could only just turn aside with his shield. He swung his mace as he lay on the floor and scored a chest shot. Trixie only managed to dodge part of it, and she grunted.

“You still hit like a girl.”

Barry pulled his knees up, planted both feet in Trixie’s stomach, and pushed her away. Trixie rolled back, and jumped to her feet again, quick as water. Barry shoved his shield into her and tried to push her back. Trixie didn’t give an inch.

“Give it up. You’re still pretty now. Give me any more grief and I’ll rip your face to shreds. Then see how that wimp of a boyfriend of yours likes you.”

Trixie only pushed harder. Barry tried to twist out of the way to make Trixie fall over, but she was too fast for him. Maces aren’t naturally good weapons to parry with, and Barry caught Trixie’s slash on his arm bracer. Something went snap and it hung loose off his arm.

“Better watch out,” said Trixie. “You may need that hand tonight, for comfort.”

Barry leapt a half-step back and swung his mace down, aiming for Trixie’s head. Trixie dodged, only to run straight into the edge of Barry’s shield. She cried out, and ignoring the pain, launched into a series of stabs and sweeps, hitting home as often as not, until Barry was driven back further and further. Barry crouched down, and launched himself forward. Trixie jumped to one side, let Barry pass and slashed at his back. Something gave in Barry’s chest piece, and it sagged on his shoulders.

Forgetting that he was now between Trixie and the melon of desire, Barry turned round to face Trixie, hate burning in his eyes. He swung his mace round in large circles, then raised his shield and tried to slam the edge into Trixie’s face. Trixie ducked down, stabbed at Barry’s shield arm. Barry cried out in pain and frustration. He swung his mace round, but Trixie parried it with such force that he lost his grip on it, and it ended up swinging by its wrist strap. Trixie found her chance, and swung her sword at Barry’s weapon arm. In an amazing piece of luck, her sword sliced the wrist strap and the mace was sent flying.

Trixie growled. “Got you, you bastard. Say hello to the priest when you see him.”

“Hold!” shouted Bilban Tosslespanner, but Trixie either didn’t hear, or didn’t listen. Her sword came alive in her hands, and battered down on Barry’s shield and armour, until it hung in tatters around him. It was all Barry could do to get out of sword’s reach. Trixie screamed, stepped on Barry’s weapon arm and stabbed down at his throat. Her sword stuck in the sand, less than an inch away from Barry’s neck. Trixie looked over her shoulder at the trainer.

“That’s a fail, isn’t it, Sir?”

Bilban Tosslespanner frowned. It wasn’t uncommon for students to settle grievances this way, but he’d rather they didn’t. “Yes Miss Steambender, that’s a fail. Well done. Please return to your seat.”

Trixie bent down, and looked into Barry’s eyes.

Don’t try that again.”

Trixie turned her back on Barry, and walked back to her classmates, who were cheering. Barry got back on his feet, and picked up his mace. He limped to the pole still holding the melon, swung his mace and smashed it.

“Hey! No time limit! I win!”

All it earned him was a weary look from trainer Tosslespanner.

“Go get your kit fixed, Mr. Blackknife.”

Trixie joined her class mates, Gemma, Jonno, Dora, and especially Richard. For some reason, she had trouble seeing out of her right eye, but her left eye gave all the information she needed. Richard was grinning at her like a maniac. Trixie felt a big strong hand on her shoulder, and someone pulled at her helm strap.

“Let me get that off for ye,” said Gemma. “And I’ll see if I have some bandages for that.”


“Right, folks. New homework assignments for you all.” Fenthwick looked round the room, at all the happy, eager faces. “Hold on, has anyone seen Farglik?”

Nix raised his hand. “Saw him a while back, over by the Pool. I can give him his note if you want.”

“Thank you, Mr. Steambender. That’s all. Good luck, and class dismissed.”

Nix walked out to the Forlorn Pool, and spotted Farglik sitting next to someone who sold strange fish-like creatures as pets. Nix wandered over, thinking about Dora. Trix had told him she’d explained all, but he hadn’t had the heart to look her up yet. Farglik looked up at him.

“Hiya Farglik. What are you doing here, man?”

“Lag,” said Farglik.

Nix sat down next to Farglik. Lag. Few words in this world were so short, and said so much. Lag was that paralysis of the mind, that dull, fog-like feeling that meant that you couldn’t see the point in putting one foot in front of the other, or even to proceed from one thought to the next. Nix sighed.

“Women!” said Nix.

“Dude!” said Farglik, looking at Nix.

“Why do they have to make everything so bloody difficult?”

“Dude?”

“I mean, I mean… Dora. She’s gorgeous.”

“Right on,” said Farglik, a little smile on his lips.

“And it’d be great just to, well you know, do things with her. Go riding to Kharanos. Show her some of the cool things I’ve made.”

“Okie,” said Farglik, with a small nod.

“And of course, one of the nice things you can do, is go somewhere private, and have a bit of a cuddle. But I’m not going to make her do anything she doesn’t want. Hah! As if I could!”

“Dude!”

“I mean, what would be the point?”

“Dude?”

“So now, she thinks I’m weird, at best, and a perv at the worst.”

“Sure,” said Farglik. He seemed to think a moment, then opened his mouth to say something, but Nix waved his hand.

“Of course, I don’t know that for sure. I suppose the only way I can find out is to go find her.”

“Right on,” said Farglik.

“Yeah, you’re right. I should just go find her. Oh by the way, Fenthwick gave me this to give to you. It’s your homework. Probably another obstacle course.”

The envelope was identical to the official Guild envelopes all Rogues were given their assignments in. The idea was that having the real thing in their hands would make them better at spotting fakes. Farglik accepted Nix’ envelope, and put it in his pack. He handed Nix a small melon. Nix smiled. It was one of Farglik’s strange little ways, but as strangeness went, it wasn’t a bad thing.

“Thanks Farglik,” said Nix. “I think I’ll go home and find Dora after dinner. Aren’t you going home?”

Farglik sighed, stared at the dark far end of the Forlorn Pool.

“Lag,” he said.

Nix nodded understandingly, waved and walked off, feeling a lot better. For some reason, talking to Farglik always cheered him up. And often as not, netted him a melon, which was also nice. Nothing for it, then. Time to grab the tiger by the tail, and hope she wouldn’t tear him to bits.


As Trixie walked into the Mensa Silex, she immediately spotted Richard sitting at a table with Dora and Jonno. Her eye was still bothering her, but the priest had said that it’d be fine, though she could expect a scar. It wasn’t very large, next to her eyebrow. Richard thought it made her look badass, and Trixie felt absurdly pleased with that. She walked up to the table, and put her hand on Richard’s shoulder.

“Hi people. How’s tricks?”

Jonno looked up at her, not smiling at all.

“Sit down,” he said.

Trixie did, looking at the faces round the table.

“What’s up?”

Richard put a hand on Trixie’s arm, looking into her eyes.

“Gemma’s dead,” he said.

Trixie stared. From their expressions, it was crystal clear that they weren’t joking. She was absolutely sure that she’d heard Richard correctly. There was no mistake, no joke. Gemma, the embodiment of a Warrior tank, force of nature, strong beyond compare… dead?

“They found her in the Deeprun Tram Station,” said Dora.

Richard looked at the table, not wanting to look into anyone’s eyes. Anger was on his face, and a deep, deep sadness.

“She didn’t go easy,” he said. “She was burnt, with fire, fighting. Till the very last.”

“Somebody killed her?”

Richard nodded.

“Do they know who?”

“No. Mages, probably. I’d say Horde mages, but how can an Orc, or a Troll, get on the Deeprun Tram? Surely, the Humans in Stormwind have guards?”

“And where would they go?” Jonno looked angry. “It’s not like anyone would miss a pair of sodding big tusks!”

“It’s an inside job,” said Dora. “Some damned traitor. If I get my hands on him, there won’t be enough left to drag in front of a tribunal.”

Jonno looked up. “Funeral’s tomorrow. Dwarves aren’t allowed to leave the dead unburied for more than a day. We’re all invited, because we fought with Gemma. Don’t say anything unless they ask you. They’re very particular about their rituals.”

 

Trixie sat on a stone bench in a part of Ironforge where normally, only Dwarves were allowed to come. The hall was dimly lit by only four candles for a whole hall that could hold hundreds. Gemma’s family wasn’t large, maybe a dozen or so Dwarf men and women. Richard was sitting next to her. Trixie wanted to touch him, feel the comforting warmth of another body, but they didn’t touch, fearing that even this could disturb the burial ritual. Trixie looked up at the stone coffin. It looked large. Inside was what remained of their friend. None of them had seen her, and the coffin would not be opened. The door at the end of the hall opened. In walked Gemma’s father, her mother, and two of her sisters. They bore maces and double-headed axes. They took up their places at the four corners of the coffin, and a horn was blown. Trixie looked at their faces, grim, looking neither left nor right, but straight forward. As she watched, they closed their eyes, and Trixie felt a chill run up her spine. Magic was being used. The Holy Light was being petitioned to carry Gemma Ironhand to the World Beyond. Gemma’s father spoke, in Ancient Dwarvish. Lines of a poem never to be forgotten among Dwarves. Someone had given her a translation. Gryll Ironhand’s voice sounded steady as a rock, and as full of minute cracks.
 

Made from the Light
Born from Stone.
Clad in Steel.
Tempered by Fire.

Stone can be crushed.
Steel can be molten.
Fire be extinguished.
But Light flows eternal.
Immortal, untouched.

Rest now, daughter.
Until the world’s ending.

 

As the echo of his voice died out, lights emerged from the coffin, floating, spinning up to the ceiling of the hallway, up through the roof, up, up, never wavering, never flickering. A Dwarf standing next to them motioned them to stand up, as all Dwarves did. Then, they filed out of the room, in perfect order. Trixie looked over her shoulder once. How she knew it, she couldn’t say, but she knew that the coffin would be empty.

“Goodbye, Gemma,” she whispered, too soft for even Richard to hear.


Copyright: © 2008,2009,2010 Menno Willemse. All rights reserved.

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