Part 2: Belonging

Mareva looked at the pieces on the board, then at her opponent, an older man. His hands were on the table in front of him, his fingers steepled. His face was plied in a friendly smile that somehow managed to convey to her that she was doomed no matter what she did. The last three matches, she had to admit, she had won by diversionary tactics. When she had dressed in the morning, she somehow found that all her bras were in the wash, together with all the blouses she had that weren’t slightly too tight. It didn’t seem likely to work on this opponent, though. He had politely introduced himself as Gazpaar and proceeded to wipe the floor with her.

She made a move, and breathed in.

Her opponent smiled. “May I compliment you on your blouse? It really shows off your charms to their best advantage. The effect is quite breathtaking.”

He made a move. Mareva frowned. Damn. Her eyes glinted.

“If you let me capture that knight, I may undo another button,” she said.

“Let you, my dear?” Gazpaar smiled. “I am powerless to prevent it.”

Mareva gave a little laugh, moved a pawn, picked up the knight and put it next to the board. Being a fair play kind of girl, she dutifully undid another button. Gazpaar moved his bishop through the space until recently taken up by Mareva’s pawn and captured one of hers, threatening both her queen and her elekk.

“I believe that goes against the spirit of the agreement,” said Mareva, with a slight frown.

Gazpaar smiled at her. “You may be right. If you were to close that button again, I would not hold it against you.”

Mareva moved her queen next to her elekk. Gazpaar captured the elekk. Mareva captured the bishop.

“My tactics are useless against you,” she said.

“Flattery will get you nothing,” said Gazpaar, smiling. He moved one of his elekks one square to the left.

Mareva looked at the elekk as if it were making rude gestures at her. She hadn’t a clue what Gazpaar intended to do with it. Maybe he was just moving it out of the way for something else. She looked at Gazpaar’s other pieces.

“They did work fine against the others,” she said.

“Were they younger and hopeful?”

“Perhaps. I feel slightly guilty about using my, um, allure to distract them. I should be able to win without resorting to such tactics.”

“If they allow themselves to be distracted, then they have only themselves to blame. Personally, all I have to do is think of my wife and all other women are irrelevant. Your move.”

Mareva moved her queen back behind a row of pawns.

“Is she on board?”

“Luckily, yes. We were fortunate. In fact…” Gazpaar thought a moment. “Yes. We have been married for twenty years, tomorrow. Thank you for reminding me. I think I’ll give you a knight for that.”

He picked up his other knight, and put it next to Mareva’s captured pieces. He moved his elekk forward.

“Check.”

Mareva moved her king.

“Are you getting her a present?”

Gazpaar nodded. “I suppose I am. I’m at a loss what, though.”

“Jewellery usually works,” said Mareva. “What’s she like?”

Gazpaar leaned back in his chair. “She’s one of the vindicators.”

“What colour is her hair?”

“Brown. Light brown.”

“Horns?”

“Transverse, straight.”

“What skin colour?”

“Perhaps a touch darker than yours.”

“Get her something in silver, with amber stones. I could make you one, but you really need it today, and things like that take time to make. It’s what makes them valuable.”

“I see. Do you know where I could get something like that? Trader’s tier, I suppose?”

“No. Crystal Hall. See Farii. She is a jewelcrafting teacher. Perhaps you could persuade her to part with one of her samples. They are very good.”

“That is an excellent idea. I should probably get going, then.”

“I agree. As soon as we finish this game.”

Gazpaar moved his elekk.

“Check.”

Mareva looked at the board, sighed, and held out her hand to Gazpaar. He shook it.

“Thank you for the game, and the advice.”

 

“Close your eyes, dear.”

Gazpaar’s wife did, and he put the necklace round her neck.

“Look.”

She sighed. “It’s beautiful! Thank you!”

“Happy anniversary.”

She held up the necklace, and looked at the intricate work.

“I like this.”

“One of my opponents gave me some advice. A delightful girl.” He smirked. “She tried to distract me by means of her cleavage.”

“Oh? Did she win?”

Gazpaar laughed.

“She could have played in the nude, sitting on my lap, and still I would have beaten her.”

“Oh. Not smart enough, was she?”

Gazpaar shook his head. “She is quite intelligent, but she tried to analyze every move I could possibly make. Which is futile.”

“Well, I remember. I caught you much in the same way.”

“I still won the game.”

“Yes. And I lost my forfeit.” She put her arms round him. “Woe is me.”


“You were wearing that?

“Yes. It is my lucky blouse. Still, I don’t think the chess club is for me. I won a few matches, but only because they were not looking at the board. I can hardly seduce all the players into letting me win.”

“It would not improve your chess play, this is true. How about the musicians? I think you have a lovely voice.”

“That is because your mind is addled. Have you ever heard me sing?”

“No.”

“Good.”

Viral’s eyes turned back to the page. “Mathematicians? You’re clever enough for that.”

“Solving quadratic equations for fun? Are you mad?”

“Only when I gaze upon your beauty, my dear.”

“Well, naturally.”

Mareva looked down the list of social clubs. Many of them had sprung up once it became clear to people exactly how long they would be staying on board Exodar. She pointed at one of the entries.

“The Zealots of Exodar? What’s that?”

Viral called up the appropriate page.

“You are a heathen,” he read. “Be saved and follow the only true Path. Our great god Hut welcomes you with open arms. Advance to High Priest and learn to interprete Hut’s utterances into commandments for everyday life. Punish the unworthy!”

“That sounds like… fun,” said Mareva.

“Oh, I met a few of them. They’re mad. One of them will listen to the utterances of Hut, that is the crackle of intergalactic background radiation, and make up a rule for all the others to follow. Like, only wear blue on the second day. Then they try to catch each other breaking the commandments. Currently, their High Priest is Aqaar. I believe he will not be moved from that position without the use of high explosives.”

“Hmm. Next,” said Mareva. She blinked, pointed at one of the entries. “Am I reading this correctly?”

Viral looked. “The Deviants? The pursuit of ultimate sexual pleasure?” He grinned. “Oh my…”

“But,” said Mareva, a look of complete innocence in her eyes, “You already have me. What more could you want? Could anyone want?”

“Shall we find out?”

“Can we afford not to?”


“Again!”

The target dummy swam in front of Mareva’s eyes. She was all out of mana, and frankly, the thought of having another one of those horrible potions made her stomach turn. She took a deep breath. Concentrated. Just one more.

“Come on! You’ve already got dispensation to use those dumb lights you insist are all you can do. So do them.”

“I am out of mana,” said Mareva.

“What, again?” the trainer, named Harnan, swished his tail in annoyance. “Well, have another potion, then.”

“I do not have any more, trainer Harnan,” said Mareva.

The trainer took a deep breath, and slowly let it escape.

“Well, then get some more, come back later and keep practicing. I want to see at least twice the amount of damage you are doing now, or you may as well put on a tin can and let the Horde hack away at you.”

“Yes, Trainer Harnan,” said Mareva. She scowled at her feet as the rest of the mage class filed out towards the inn. She heaved a deep sigh and went in seach of more mana potions.

 

Mareva tapped in Viral’s code, and walked into his room, grumbling. She dropped the box of potions on the floor, took off her clothes and walked into his shower. She turned up the heat as far as it would go. Scorching hot needles of water flowed over her head. She closed her eyes.

“Well, good evening. Had a good training then?”

Mareva looked over her shoulder at Viral. She turned her face back towards the water jet.

“No.”

“They give you a hard time about it?”

“Yes. I have to go back to the training dummies later.”

Viral reached over, turned off the shower, then pulled Mareva to him. His hand stroked her wet hair.

“You are getting wet,” said Mareva, without making a move to get out of his arms.

“Sometimes, a hug is more important than dry clothes,” said Viral, earnestly.

Mareva closed her eyes and laid her horned head on Viral’s shoulder.

“Thank you.”

“Hey, we have this Deviants meeting this evening.”

Mareva looked up. “Oh, yes. I remember. Damn.”

“Well, they’ll hardly expect us to start at once.”

“Shame,” said Mareva.


The Deviants and Deviant Aspirants met in a softly-lit, smallish hall in the Traders’ Tier. The Deviant chairman looked at his watch, signalled one of his friends to close the door and called for silence.

“Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the first meeting of the Deviants of Exodar. My name is Wildoor, the chairman of this illustrious company. At this moment, our club numbers seventy-one members, and we welcome all comers.” He closed his eyes a moment. “Right. That was a bad one. I apologise.”

Viral pulled Mareva a bit closer. “This should be good.”

Wildoor took a while to explain all the rules of the club, scoring, safe-words to use for the more… exotic pleasures, club equipment used to be returned clean, basic hygiene, and repeated several times the importance of not going where you’re not welcome.

“It is our most important rule. All the others are insignificant in comparison. Consent! The official phrase to use is: ‘Yes, I consent to do this’, if it is not clear. We have no official phrase to deny consent. No matter how your partner phrases it, ‘No’, ‘Stop’, ‘Please don’t’, ‘Wait’, you will stop what you are doing. We pursue the ultimate in pleasure. Being forced into unwanted acts is not pleasure. I apologise if this sounds stupid and obvious, but I must emphasise it. Break this one rule, and you will be reported to the Peacekeepers. Right. Any questions?”

One of the girls raised her hand.

“Is membership anonymous? Um, my friend would not want her boyfriend to find out she’d joined.”

Wildoor turned his eyes down for a moment, suppressing the obvious answer. He looked up.

“We do not announce it on the public address system when someone joins, but anyone can walk into the club house and check the membership list. It is also on our club page.” Wildoor sighed. “Look around you. If you join, you will end up sharing the bed of a good portion of the people you can see. Do you expect all of them never to mention in passing how much they enjoyed your attention? If you join without telling your boyfriend, then in very short order, you will have no boyfriend.”

Another hand went up. “Can we earn points for people not in the Deviants?”

Wildoor looked at his notes, raised his eyebrows. “I thought I’d mentioned that, thank you for reminding me. The answer is yes! Not only can you earn points for them, but if you sample someone outside the Deviants, you automatically get full marks. Keep in mind, they must make an entry into your little black book, or you get no points. If I know my style committee, if you then get them to join, they will be generous with style points.”

“Can we join as a couple?”

“Not really, no. There is nothing to keep you from both joining, but we do not register that you are connected. If you only wish to sample others with your partner present, which you are perfectly free to do, then I suggest you make it clear very early in the negotiations.”

There were a few more questions, but Mareva didn’t pay much attention to them. She wriggled in Viral’s arms.

“So. Do we join?”

Viral looked into Mareva’s eyes. “I would like to. It sounds interesting.” He sighed. “We never did say that we would have no others, did we?”

“No. But I don’t mind. It is like a sports club. Also, we would learn a lot of new things. We could practice them on each other. We would be unbeatable.” She smiled. “When we were running away from the Sin’dorei, I noticed you stayed behind me most of the time. Even before we really knew each other. Also, you let me sleep in your bed, and gave me food and coffee when I woke up. I do enjoy making love to you, but that is simply fun and games, compared to having your arm round me when the day is rotten and I want to kill everybody, starting with myself. Let’s join.”

 

Mareva found herself walking back to her cabin together with the Captain’s personal assistant, Lorelei, who was quartered a few corridors away. Viral had been dragged off to one of the inaugural samplings and had indicated that he might be late. Mareva still had target practice to do. She looked at Lorelei, a young, fresh-faced girl who you’d never expect at a meeting like this.

“So. Did you join?”

Lorelei sighed. “Well, I got the form, but there’s so many people there. And most of them are boys. I really prefer…” She lowered her voice to a whisper. “Girls.”

Mareva nodded, riffling the pages on her brand-new, empty, Little Black Book. “I can understand. Getting to meet so many people naked can be intimidating. And who knows what they want to do with you?”

“Well, at least you can stop whenever you want. They’re really sharp on that. I went mostly because I broke up with my girlfriend a month or so ago. Probably for the best.” She sighed. “The times when you both take your clothes off shouldn’t be the best times. I do miss it, though. If there weren’t so many people…”

They walked on. A thought struck Mareva. She glanced at Lorelei’s pretty face, just as she glanced at Mareva.

“I wouldn’t mind,” said Lorelei.


Mareva was lying on her stomach, head on her arms. Well, she hadn’t exactly counted on getting her first three points less than an hour after joining, but it would show Viral. She reached over and stroked Lorelei’s hair.

“Thank you,” said Mareva. She rolled over, sat up. “It’s almost a shame that you haven’t joined. I would have given you three points for that.”

Lorelei giggled.

“Want me to sign your book?”

“Yes please.”

“And would you sign mine?”

Mareva blinked.

“What?”

Lorelei reached into a drawer, and pulled out a book not unlike Mareva’s. The main difference was that in her case, the first pages were full.

“I thought you said you hadn’t joined!”

Lorelei laughed.

“Yes. Many people thought I said that. But I didn’t. Think back.”

Mareva looked at her accusingly.

“Oh come on. You’re still getting three points. You were great! That thing you did, when you grabbed my tail right at the top, and squeezed. You’ll want to do that again. And again. I will.”

Mareva shook her head, wrote her number in Lorelei’s book and got her own back. Behind the number three, Lorelei had written, “Lovely, thanks.” Mareva had wanted to write something about deceitful women behind her own entry, but looking at Lorelei, she couldn’t.

“How many times do you think you can get away with that?”

“Depends. You won’t spoil my game, will you?”

 

Mareva closed the door behind her, dropped her clothes and put on a robe. The red “do not disturb” sign was up on Viral’s door, so it would be… inappropriate to use his shower. She walked to the communal bathroom at the end of the corridor. Just before the door closed behind her, she heard a sweet, sad voice.

“There’s just so many of them, and most of them are girls. I really prefer…”

Mareva smiled, then grinned, then burst out laughing. She’d have to get moving if she wanted to stand any chance at all of winning.


Mareva frowned in concentration as she tried to squeeze more lightning bolts out of her hands. One of them misfired.

“Ow!”

She sucked a finger. Out of bloody mana again. At least, she’d been able to get her hands on some moonberry juice. It tasted better than the blue mana potions that were mainly used in battle. She reached for another bottle, and drank slowly. She felt her mana pool fill up again, slowly. She put the empty bottle back in the bag and tried again.

“Is going well, no?”

Mareva looked round, and saw someone standing behind her, hands in his sleeves in front of his stomach, a hood covering his face. With a start, she recognised the wizard who’d saved her and Viral from the pursuing Blood-elf mages.

“Not very, Sir.”

“How long have you been practicing this?”

“Two hours, today,” said Mareva.

“And still no better?”

Mareva scowled. “No.”

“Why you training with those zlotniks anyway?”

“Well, they’re better mages than I am.”

“That is true. And there is a good reason for that.”

“Oh? What am I doing wrong?”

“Nothing. You are not a mage.”

Mareva stared at the wizard, but found nothing to say.

“This Harnan, he teach you many spells?”

“He said he couldn’t make them stick, which is why I’m stuck with the ones I knew already.”

The wizard’s shoulders rose and fell, and there was a hoarse kind of sound coming from under his hood.

Mareva blushed, and scowled at the wizard. “There is no need to laugh at me. I’m doing the best I can with what I have. I’ll get better.”

“No, you will not, but yes, you will,” said the wizard, still chuckling to himself.

“What do you mean by that?”

“You will never be a better mage. You will be a better Shaman. Give me your hand.”

Mareva stared at the strange, misshapen, two-fingered claw that was extended to her. In the consternation at the Seat of the Naaru, she hadn’t even noticed. She looked into the wizard’s face.

“Who are you?”

The wizard raised his hood, and let it drop onto his back. Mareva, for a few heartbeats, could only stare. Then, she looked away. She was facing one of the Krokul, the Broken. Here was one of the erstwhile Draenei, like herself, who had been affected by the fel magics of the burning legion. This man had been at Shattrath, when it fell. He had survived the massacre. Mareva breathed in, turned her eyes back to the ravaged face. Then, she bowed her head.

“Sir.”

The Broken One laughed quietly.

“I am no ‘Sir’. I am Farseer Nobundo, Shaman of the Krokul. Now give me your hand. Is time you got bit more power.”

Mareva laid her slender, delicate fingers in Nobundo’s strong hand. Farseer Nobundo concentrated, and Mareva felt his powers extend to her, leaving her with the memories of magic, like treasure left on the shore by the receding tides.

“Good,” said Nobundo. “Now you try again. Have drunk mana potion?”

“Yes.”

“Then shoot target.”

Mareva slowly turned round, raised her hands, aimed them at the target dummy. She took a deep breath, and let fly. The target dummy exploded in a rain of wood and straw. Mareva’s jaw dropped, and she stared at her hands, expecting them to be smoking. They weren’t. She slowly looked round at Farseer Nobundo, who was watching her with a little smile on his face.

“Good. Again. But use bigger dummy, yes?”


The red light was off. Good! She tapped in the code, rushed through the door and poked Viral.

“Viral! I’m a Shaman!”

Viral slowly raised his head.

“Mwh?”

“I’m a Shaman!”

“Oh. Is that good?”

Mareva threw her arms into the air.

“Yes! I’m not a sucky mage! I’m an imba Shaman! I blew a target dummy to pieces! Nobundo is going to teach me to use totems!”

“Hold on,” said Viral, scratching his stomach, “Orcs are shamans aren’t they?”

“Yes, and so are we! Am I! But we’re the good shamans!”

Something moved in the bed beside Viral. The covers were pulled away to reveal the horns and glowing eyes of a raven-haired girl. Viral smiled in an embarrassed kind of way.

“Mareva, meet Lanii. Her boyfriend is, um, busy, so I let her stay the night.”

“Hello,” said Lanii. Her eyes turned to Mareva and a big smile appeared on her face. “Uh… Hellooo.” She bit her lip. “Are you a member?”

“Yes,” said Mareva. “Meet me sometime and we’ll work something out. Viral! I’ve just found out who I am.” She threw herself down on top of Viral, and burst into tears. Viral’s big hand gently stroked her hair.

Lanii gave Mareva a look, got up quietly, retrieved her clothes from a chair and made for the exit. In the door opening, she turned round and blew a kiss at Viral. Viral waved, and she was gone.


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

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