Part 11: Promenade V

Magis Mustrum Sparkbolt, father of Richard Sparkbolt, stepped out of the boat onto the Pandaren Island. He halted and turned North for a moment to admire the fine portal work being done there. Then, he turned to the tents, looking for a Pandaren Mage named Wu Chong Mao. In his bag were copies of all the exam papers set to Gnomish mages. Many students would give their right arms to have a look at them, but some of them would give their right arms to be ambidextrous. Mustrum Sparkbolt walked up to one of the large creatures, and bowed to him, as he’d been told that was the thing to do among the Panda-ren.

Ni-hao,” he said. “I am looking for one named Wu Chong Mao. Would you know where he is?”

Thunderpetal bowed back. “No, and yes. She walks into Stormwind to find some supplies. She is back in a half-hour or so. May I offer you some refreshment? A mug of light ale, perhaps?”

Mustrum Sparkbolt kicked himself. With these alien Pandaren names, it was so hard to tell the boys’ names from the girls’. He bowed his head.

“Her. A thousand pardons. Simple water will suffice, thank you. My name is Mustrum Sparkbolt. Who do I have the honour of addressing?”

“I am called Thunderpetal.” Thunderpetal put a large jug of water on a piece of wood, and added a few biscuits. “Spak-botu… Are you related to one named Li-cha Spak-botu?”

“Richard, yes. He is my son. Do you know him?”

“I meet him in Westbrook, when I travel there with my new friends.”

Mustrum gave Thunderpetal a strange look. “There are many soldiers in Westbrook. What a coincidence that you should meet just him. Was he assigned to show you around, perhaps?”

Thunderpetal shook his head, a fond smile on his large, round face. “I travel with his… Huai El, as they say. T’li-chi is most desirous to meet him, and introduce us.”

“T’li-chi…” Mustrum blinked. “Trixie? Trixie Steambender? The warlock girl?”

“She is a warrior,” said Thunderpetal. “And a very brave one.”

Mustrum Sparkbolt scowled. “She comes out of a nest of warlocks and demon-botherers. She is not the right company for my son.”

“I am quite fond of T’li-chi,” said Thunderpetal. “Her body is small, but her heart is large. When she is angry, it burns like a dragon, and yet, when she is happy, her laughter flows like a mighty river. I am lucky to know her.”

“I expressly forbade my son to associate with her. And yet, it is still going on between them? Behind my back?”

“One can forbid one’s son to steal food. One can forbid one’s son to strike those who are weaker. One can forbid one’s son to tell lies. This is easy, because deep inside, children do know right from wrong, and they are simply looking for their parents to confirm what they already know.” Thunderpetal looked down on Mustrum. “One cannot forbid one’s son to love any more than one can forbid a river to flow downstream.”

“Hmm,” said Mustrum. “I have seen this girl. I am not convinced that ‘love’ is what would drive someone to desire her company. I might seek for motivation somewhere lower than the heart, if you understand what I mean. She’s got that from her mother, I suppose.”

Thunderpetal studied Mustrum Sparkbolt’s face. Certainly, Trixie was a healthy, attractive, young Gnome woman. The gift of her body would be a great gift to anyone. Did this Gnome think, though, that really was all that Richard saw in her?

“You are a Mage. You know the difference between true magic, and make believe. Why do you try to make yourself believe?”

Mustrum shook his head as though to dislodge an inconvenient train of thought. “I’m afraid I don’t follow you.”

“You try to make yourself believe that Li-cha simply wishes for T’li-chi‘s body, as a play-thing. You know this is not true, because there are many suitable Gnome girls, even in Westbrook. Still, no other girl will do. It must be T’li-chi.”

“She may have her hooks in him deeper than I thought. Do you know what a Succubus is, Mr. Thunderpetal? It is a demoness that uses people’s base instincts against them. Lust, Mr. Thunderpetal. Base indulgence in sexual desire.”

T’li-chi is not a demoness, Mr. Spak-botu. She is a beautiful young woman overflowing with the joy of life.” Thunderpetal laughed. “I do not desire Gnome women for that kind of company. And yet, to watch T’li-chi in her joy, makes me feel blessed to be alive.” Thunderpetal bent over to Mustrum. “T’li-chi truly loves your son. It is plain to see for all who have eyes.”

Mustrum Sparkbolt stared ahead of him. “She comes from a family where dark magic is practiced. Nothing good ever came from dealing with these evil creatures from the Twisting Nethers, Mr. Thunderpetal. I do not wish my son to be tainted with that influence. I do not want him to be hurt. This Steambender girl is not good for him.”

“He will be hurt,” said Thunderpetal. “Pain is a necessary and inevitable part of our lives. If not for pain, how do we know joy and beauty? Nobody lives without pain.”

“I lost my wife in the Gnomeregan disaster,” said Mustrum. “I know about pain. I want my son to have a better life than I have.”

Mustrum looked into his mug. It was empty, and he put it down. Thunderpetal refilled it.

“I understand that desire,” said Thunderpetal. He stared in the distance, back in time. “But it is hard sometimes, to see whether we are being kind, or whether we are hurting.”


Griggin could never take the Deeprun Tram without remembering. It had been one of his great failures. He should have noticed the signs of a falling Warlock. In hindsight, they had been clear as day. He had been forced to slay him. After his apprentice had started enslaving, torturing and killing people, there was no way back. In fact, that moment had passed long before, and Griggin had missed it. As the cart whizzed past, his eyes were drawn to the very place. There was a hand on his shoulder, and he looked round.

“Dad?”

“Hm?”

“Where are we going in Ironforge?”

Griggin smiled. Nix knew exactly where they were going. Interalia, who was standing at the very front of the carriage, turned her head round and looked over her shoulder. Her eyes were shining with the joy of being out there again. Little Aubrey was back at Steambender Manor, as was a good supply of You Milk. Lenna had kindly offered to look after her for a few days.

“We’re going to some posh place aren’t we?”

“Not very,” said Griggin. “Stonefire Tavern is a respectable, but affordable place.”

“Did some work there, way back when,” said Nix.

“Yeah,” said Raven. “Me too.”

Nix raised an eyebrow. “Do I want to know?”

“Probably not.”

“Get caught?”

“No.”

“Good. We’ll be using the place as our base of operation.”

Raven stretched, looking at the pretty lights whizzing by.

“What about the little green men?”

Griggin laughed to himself. “Baron Goldenberg and Schmuÿle are travelling to Ironforge under their own power. They will be joining us there.”

Interalia turned round and sat down. “They still let Goblins in? After the whole thing where they all joined the Horde?”

“Not all of them,” said Nix. “And there’s a few of them in Stormwind. Renzik for one. He did some lectures.”

Griggin nodded. “Still, they do tend to be rather low profile, and loath to attract attention to themselves.”

“He’s going to be in our room, sitting in a chair when we get there. I just know it.” Raven steepled her fingers, tilted her head and smiled. “Ah, Misters Steambender, Ma’am, Miss Raven. So good of you to join us.” She sneered. “Melodramatic little git.”

“Let’s switch rooms at the last moment,” said Interalia. “Make him sit in that chair all night.”

“The Deeprun Tram is quite fast,” said Griggin. “In all likelyhood, we will be there before our Goblin acquaintances. I believe their main reason for flying is that they carry some specialist equipment in their helicopter.”

“Cool,” said Nix. “That way, we can sit in a chair and be evil at them.”


“And then you put a towel on your shoulder, and you put her on it, and you pat her back until she burps.”

Bieslook put down the empty bottle.

“It’s bad manners to burp.”

“Not for a baby, Bies. She has to, or she’ll get a tummy upset and throw all the milk up again.”

Bieslook nodded seriously, carefully spread out a fluffy towel on her shoulder and put little Aubrey on it. She gently patted her back till Aubrey did the deed. Lenna picked up Aubrey and put her back in the basket. Just as she wanted to put on the blanket, she sniffed.

“Oh excellent. Both sides of childcare within five minutes. Trixie? Your chance to shine.”

Trixie looked up from her book. “I’m doing my homework.”

“This’ll be invaluable experience for when you get kids of your own,” said Lenna.

“Stuff that. I’m never letting another man get within a mile of me.”

Bieslook’s eyes grew large, “Not even Nix or Griggin?”

Trixie grumbled, not in any mood to explain, and bent back over her homework. How much phlogiston was there in ten grains of coal? She grabbed her BINAS, the reference book for biological and natural sciences, and flipped to the page. Her finger ran down the tables. She looked up to see Lenna watching her, with a very mother-like look on her face.

“What?”

Lenna pointed a finger at her. “Today you get off free, my girl. Today only.”

She walked over into Nix and Interalia’s room for a fresh nappie, a bowl of water and a cloth.


The Deeprun Tram arrived in Ironforge, and they got off. They wandered into the familiar noise of Tinker Town. High Tinker Gelbin Mekkatorque was no longer there. He was camping at the entrance to Gnomeregan, leading the ongoing efforts to re-take it and clear it of radiation and Troggs. They took a left, and walked through the Military Ward to the Commons, with its banks, armory shops and auction house. Nix pointed up.

“That’s our old house.”

“Gosh,” said Interalia. “On the Commons no less? High rolling!”

“There’s always some leftover place somewhere where a Gnome can make a home.”

“In the house,” said Raven, eyes miles away. “Ye gods, that takes me back.”

Interalia grinned up at Raven. “Is that when you were playing kinky bondage games with my husband?”

Raven said nothing for a moment. She pulled up the hood of her cloak and pulled it tighter round her. “More than you can imagine. I really don’t like Warlocks. No offence Mr. Steambender.”

“None taken,” said Griggin. “I’d much rather be remembered for my engineering work than for my Daemonology.”

“Wonder how IGNITE is doing,” said Nix. “We sort of lost contact when we went to Stormwind.”

“I know Anton has left,” said Griggin. “Went to Thelsamar to rejoin Beatrice. Chint Waterspray is still here. And so is the Stonefire Tavern.”

“Mr. Steambender. What a pleasure to see you again after all these years. I hope you are well?”

“Very well, Mr. Smolt. How are the taps?”

“Still running hot and cold, Mr. Steambender. How may I help you?”

“We need room for six, please, for two to three nights. All Gnome size except for Miss Raven here.”

Mr. Smolt considered a moment, then smiled. “If you wish, I can let you have the Crown Room at the price of two doubles, for old time’s sake. There hasn’t been much call for it lately.”

“Opulent luxury, Mr. Smolt. We’ll gladly take it.”

They all walked up the stairs, carrying what little baggage they had brought. Interalia stepped up to the door and opened it.

“Here’s the key,” said Griggin. “Oh.”

Interalia walked inside. “Thanks, Boilerman. Whoa! Are you sure we can afford this?”

Raven followed Interalia inside. She looked at the thick carpet. “I can’t see my feet! What happened to my feet?”

“Taken in tribute to the Gods of Plush,” said Nix.

Interalia pointed at the large double canopied bed. “Dibs!”

“Hey! I’m the biggest girl here,” said Raven, more for the fun of protesting than anything else. “I should have the big bed.”

The Crown Room actually had space for one Main Couple and three other couples. They found beds, and walked down to get something to eat. The Stonefire Tavern was famous for its roast boar in peanut sauce, so they all had that. Interalia was gloating over her first pint of cider in nine or ten months when the door opened and someone walked in. They stared. So did most of the other customers.

The person who had just walked in, followed by a servant, was a Goblin. He was dressed in a purple cloak lined with yeti fur of the purest white, embroidered in gold, and a purple waistcoat that clashed most wonderfully with his green skin. In his hand was a cane fashioned from an elephant’s tusk, blackened, and tipped with a very large gemstone that could only be a diamond. On his head was a purple hat, with a large red feather stuck in the brim. He walked up to the reception and stamped his cane on the ground.

“Sir, your finest room if you please.”

Raven was the first on her feet. She quickly walked over, and bowed to Baron Goldenberg. Her face was quiet, demure, and a meek, almost fearful expression was on it.

“My Lord,” said Raven, in a soft voice, “The matter has already been seen to. We have reserved the Crown Room for your use.”

Baron Goldenberg looked up at Raven. “And when, wench, were you planning on informing me of this?”

Raven seemed to shrink. “Apologies, my Lord. We did not know the hour of your arrival.”

“Well, what are you waiting for? Take me to the room. Schmuÿle, see to the luggage.”

“Yes my Lord,” said Raven, and stepped out, followed by her new peacock of a master.

Griggin, Nix and Interalia walked over to Schmuÿle.

“Good evening, Mr. Schmuÿle,” said Nix. “Did you have a good trip then?”

“Tolerable, young Mr. Steambender. Tolerable. Mostly tail-wind, which was fortunate.”

“Good good,” said Nix. He pointed at the large trunk Schmuÿle was dragging around. “Need a hand with that?”

“That would be most kind,” said Schmuÿle.

Nix grabbed the other handle of the trunk and lifted it, not as easily as he’d thought.

“Bloody hell! What’s in there?”

“A change of clothes for his Lordship,” said Schmuÿle. “Some tools of our trade. A few charges of seaforium to unblock things that need unblocking.”

“Who’d leave home without some high explosives?” said Interalia.

“Indeed, Ma’am,” said Schmuÿle.

They found Baron Goldenberg in the room. Raven was nowhere to be seen.

“Ah, finally. I need to change out of these clothes. I have work to do.” He walked over to the trunk and started fiddling with the lock. Nix and Interalia looked on with professional interest.

“This is the latest in lock technology,” said Baron Goldenberg. “It will render all locks with keys obsolete. All known methods of lock picking rely on mimicing the key. With this lock, the key is in my head. A sequence of numbers, known only to me, that I have to dial in using this control here.”

Nix and Interalia made the appropriate ‘Ooo’ and ‘Aaaah’ noises. They looked at each other and grinned. Interalia looked round.

“Hey! Where’s the tall one?”

“In her room,” said the Baron.

Interalia looked at Baron Samuel Goldenberg. He opened the lid of his trunk and started rummaging inside. Interalia sniffed and walked into Raven’s room. She was lying on her back on the double bed, hands behind her head, staring at the ceiling.

“Oi Scary Chick. What’s up?”

Raven looked at Interalia with large sad eyes, the colour of mist floating over a tranquil pool.

“Samuel told me that we… he and I… can never be.”

Interalia’s mouth fell open. “Oh no!”

“He says he is just not attracted to Humans. Not in that way.” Raven put her hand over her eyes. Her other arm flopped down on the blanket. “Still, he let me off gently. It’s always best to be honest about these things, and not leave me… hanging on. Hoping against hope…”

Interalia took Raven’s hand between her own and stroked it gently, looking up at her. “If there’s anything I can do to comfort you, anything at all… Oh hang on.” She dropped Raven’s hand. “I don’t fancy Human chicks either. Ye gods, he don’t lack for confidence does he?”

Raven chuckled. “Confidence is good. Delusions? Not so much. So now what?”

“His Lordship pulls his special secret agent mojo, we find your old gang and kick butt.”

“Works for me,” said Raven.

They walked back into the lounge to find Baron Goldenberg now wearing a set of dark leather armour. Schmuÿle was folding up the other outfit and putting it away in the trunk.

“What,” said the Baron. “Did you think I conduct covert operations dressed like some purveyor of sexual favours? I need to get in touch with some SI:7 agents here, and find out if they have seen Mr. Baltar or any of his associates. Then, we acquire one of these associates, get the information we need, and so unravel the whole ball of string. You wait here and don’t attract attention to yourself. Schmuÿle, follow me.”

The Baron and his servant left. They heard the key turn in the lock, and disappearing footsteps. Griggin walked up to the door and found it was locked. He shook his head.

“I imagine Baron Samuel Goldenberg is quite shrewd in his own way, but he has just left three rogues and a warlock behind a locked door.” Griggin turned round. “That is the thing with clever people. They often think everybody else is stupid. What shall we do?”

Griggin turned round. Interalia was on her knees by the Baron’s trunk, her ear pressed to the side, slowly turning the dial. Nix sat next to her, simply looking at her. Raven sat down on one of the sofas, pulled out a whetstone, spat on it and started sharpening her daggers.

“We do nothing to make him change his mind.”


Trixie put the last of the plates and forks and spoons and Aubrey’s bottle in the steam-powered dishwasher and closed it. She turned the dial to “hot” and hit the button. Working her fingers to the bone, she was. She turned round.

“Mum? Can I go off to the Golden keg for a bit?”

“Sure. No smoking, no drinking to excess and no throwing yourself into the arms of the first man you see. Home by midnight, please.”

Trixie pulled her coat on. “You didn’t say I couldn’t run away with a circus.”

“If you do, get us all free tickets.”

Trixie ended up taking the long way to the inn. She wandered through the Trading District with its many shops. She walked into the auction house to see if there were any nice weapons on the list. Sometimes, people would “find” weapons on people who had recently shuffled off their mortal coil, and put them up for sale for ridiculous prices. Trixie had picked up a nice pair of shoulder pieces that way, only slightly damaged. Having engineers and metalworkers in the family was dead useful. She hesitated a moment looking at a pole arm, and almost put a bid on it, then changed her mind. She had too much stuff as it was. She looked at the sign of the Gilded Rose, the inn by the bank, but the ale there was not as good as the Dwarfs made it, overpriced, and being near a bank, you got bankers in there. Wunches and wunches of them. She crossed the street leading to the great gate of Stormwind, and walked up to the gryphon masters to look at the large creatures perched on their nests of hay. The gryphons here were not the ones people flew all over Azeroth. They served as a kind of rubber stamp for the magical constructs that flew from here to there, and then disappeared. One day, she’d have one. She walked down the stairs, and headed for the Golden Keg. A pint of Barleybrew would do her good. See? All this time outside on her own and she hadn’t thought of Richard once. Stuff him.

“Trix!”

Trixie drew up her shoulders. Thunderclouds drifted across her face and she resolutely stepped on. She needed a drink.

“Trixie! Wait!”

Someone grabbed Trixie’s shoulder. She resisted the urge to punch whoever it was in the face. She turned round and looked into his eyes.

“What do you want?”

“I’ve been looking all over for you,” said Richard.

“Yeah? Why?”

Richard looked at his shoes.

“I miss you,” he said, simply.

“What? No nice girls out in Westbrook who don’t stink of fel magic?”

“Not a one,” said Richard. “They’re not you.”

“Well isn’t that a pity? So now you’ve found me, get lost. I’m not playing that game anymore.”

Richard put his hand on Trixie’s shoulder. Trixie slapped it away and glared at him.

“Don’t give me that. If you think I…”

“Wait. Could you come with me for half an hour? To the Blue Recluse?”

“Sod you. Why would I want to do that?”

Richard took a deep breath, then looked into Trixie’s eyes.

“Someone I want you to meet.”


Wu Chong Mao had turned out to be a friendly, boisterous, Pandaren woman. She was also a highly capable arcane mage, and unlike many a mage Mustrum had met before, she loved to talk about her arts and share her knowledge with anyone who asked. They had started out comparing their scrolls in the Pandaren camp until it became too windy. Then Wu Chong Mao had suggested they continue their discussion over dinner and Mustrum had suggested the Blue Recluse, with perhaps a trip to the mage tower later. They were now sitting at a table with their scrolls held open by the empty cheese platter and empty coffee cups. Mustrum was writing down a list of the Virtues of Mind as used by the kung fu of the Pandaren mages: Courage, patience, endurance, perseverance and will. It showed a completely different philosophy from that used by the mages of the Eastern Kingdoms, and drawing up the tables to compare Pandaren mages to Stormwind ones was going to be a challenge. The Pandaren way, though, was utterly fascinating, precisely because it was so different.

There was a cough next to their table. Mustrum looked up, mildly annoyed at being disturbed, then saw it was his only son.

“Richard? What are you doing here?”

“Um,” said Richard.

Mustrum raised an eyebrow, then turned to his new mage friend. “Wu Chong Mao? This is Richard, my son.”

Ni-hao Li-cha,” said Wu Chong Mao. “It is a great pleasure to meet you.”

“And you, Ma’am,” said Richard. “Um. Dad? There’s something I have to tell you.”

Mustrum’s face was completely still, not unfriendly, but on the other hand not giving any hint as to his mood.

“In private?”

Richard took a breath, tightened up his stomach.

“No, Dad. I don’t want this to be secret anymore. Not from you, not from anyone.”

“Well? Out with it then.”

Richard looked over his shoulder, and gestured to Trixie, who was waiting by the door. She came walking up, looking defiant.

“Dad? You remember Trixie?” Richard raised his hand to cut off any remark, though Mustrum didn’t look like he was going to say anything. “I love her, Dad. She’s been my girlfriend ever since we were living in Ironforge. Up till last week, when she dropped me for not telling you about her sooner. That was the worst week of my life. Now when I walk out of this inn, I’m going to ask her if she’ll have me back. No matter what you say.”

Wu Chong Mao sat back in her chair, with a little smile on her face, safe in the knowledge that none of this was her problem.

Mustrum looked hard at Richard.

“My son, I would really have preferred to hear of this from you first.”

Richard blinked. “You knew?” He looked round at Trixie, who shook her head.

“Not from me.”

“That, my boy, is besides the point. You have been with this, this…” Mustrum looked at Trixie.

“Trollop?” suggested Trixie. “Tart? Succubus? Demon botherer?”

Young woman,” said Mustrum, “For years. And I have to learn it from someone I met purely by accident this afternoon.”

Wu Chong Mao raised her hands. “Not from me, either. I believe you have Thunderpetal to thank for this. He means no harm.”

Mustrum sneered. “If you must know, he sang your praises. But for him to know more of my son’s love life than I do myself. That is disappointing, Richard.”

Wu Chong Mao put her hand in front of her face to hide her laugh.

Mus-t’lumu, there is a lesson from a wise old tortoise that you do not yet learn. Control. It is an illusion. My daughter, I simply hope she knows that if things are bad, she can come to me. So far, she does not do this. When I am still in Pandaria, she brings home this smelly, lazy peasant boy that she says is her true love. I do not approve of this person, no more than you do of this girl. But do I tell Fang-hua to get rid of him? Never. It does not work.”

“Do you mean to say that if I hadn’t expressly forbidden my son to…” he waved vaguely at Trixie.

“Jump on top of?” she said, and raised her eyebrows, clearly suggesting she could come up with more.

Associate with,” snarled Mustrum. “That this affair would never have lasted?”

Wu Chong Mao sighed. “No, I don’t. But we have to be the trusting fools sometimes. Trust that our children know who to keep and who to throw away.” She stared at the table, enjoying, perhaps, some private joke. “This boy, we learn that he is an avatar of the River God, and that he looks for a mortal wife. Fang-hua, she is smart enough to send him packing.”

Everyone could not help looking at Wu Chong Mao.

“The River God has a new bride every year. Sometimes more than that,” she explained. Blank stares all round. Wu Chong Mao looked up to the heavens. “He has many True Loves!”

Mustrum gave a kind of grunt. “Be that as it may, I do not want a Warlock in my family. Not to mention…”

Trixie stepped onto a chair, planted her fists on the table and glared at Mustrum.

Nobody wants a bleeding Warlock in the family, Mr. Sparkbolt. Nobody in their right mind wants to be a Warlock. How often do you wonder whether the thing you are doing is the right thing? Maybe once a week? Depending on how ugly the job gets? What if I’d tell you that my dad has to think of that every day of the week? His whole life, Daemons have been whispering at him, egging him on. What if I’d tell you that if it wasn’t for him, there wouldn’t be a bloody hot tap in the whole of sodding Ironforge? What if I’d tell you that if it wasn’t for his work, no bloody Paladin would know how to defend themselves from Daemonic attacks? You don’t know the first thing about my dad, you don’t know the first thing about my mum, and you don’t know the first thing about me!”

Mustrum Sparkbolt bristled at her. “I know enough to…”

“What if I’d tell you I’m carrying Richard’s child?”

There was a dead silence. Trixie looked from the pale face of Mustrum Sparkbolt to the equally pale face of Richard, noting, most unhelpfully, that they had the same cleft in their chins.

“Well, I’m not. We used those little hats that you can get in the alchemist shops.” Trixie moved closer. “Because we’re bloody responsible adults! But you find that harder to believe than that I’m some little floozie, do you?”

“Gods, woman, are you trying to give me a heart attack?” Mustrum took a breath. “Anyway, my opinion hardly seems to matter, does it?”

“Damn right. I don’t care what you think of my dad, I don’t care what you think of my mum, and I really don’t give a damn about what you think of me!”

Trixie jumped off the chair, turned round, and ran out of the door. Richard looked at her, then at his father. Mustrum gave him a look.

“Well, what are you waiting for? Get after her!”

Richard nodded, and ran.

Wu Chong Mao smiled. “I may have to borrow that girl when I miss Fang-hua. Feed her.”

Mustrum looked at Wu Chong Mao. “Is your daughter not here with you?”

“No,” said Wu Chong Mao.

“She is well, I hope?”

“So do I. She can take care of herself, wherever she is.”

“Don’t you know where she is?”

Wu Chong Mao looked at the door where Trixie had just left, and her face became still.

“Orgrimmar,” she said.

Richard caught up with Trixie about half way through the Mage District. Trixie could always run faster than he could. Was that a good sign? He put a hand on her shoulder, and she looked back at him with tears running down her face.

“Trix?”

Trixie sniffed, and said nothing.

“Trix, I love you. Please come back to me.”

“Damn you,” said Trixie. “Damn you. I really, really want to tell you to get lost, and don’t ever talk to me again.”

Trixie faced Richard, balled her fist, and hit Richard’s shoulder. Hard. Trixie wouldn’t know how to throw a soft punch.

“I…” Richard looked at the ground. “I understand.”

Trixie looked up into Richard’s face. “But I don’t want to. I don’t bloody want to. And I hate myself for it, but…”

She wrapped her arms round him, put her head on his shoulder and hugged him so hard he couldn’t breathe. Slowly, carefully, Richard put his arms round Trixie and hugged her back. Daringly, he stroked her hair. Trixie gave a loud snort. They stood like that, without a word, for a long, long time. Then Trixie’s eyes found Richard’s.

“I promised Mum not to jump into the arms of the first man I saw. I’ve got to go talk to her.” Trixie let go of Richard. “See? That’s how you do it.”

She turned to the harbour and took a few steps, then looked over her shoulder.

“Aren’t you coming with?”

“Why Richard!” Lenna beamed at the boy who had just walked into the door with her daughter. “How nice to see you again! Would you like a cup of tea? Coffee perhaps?”

“Um,” said Richard. “Tea would be fine, missus S.”

“Oh don’t be silly dear. Call me Lenna.”

Trixie’s eyes moved from her mother to Richard and back. Something was going on.

“I’ll get the tea,” she said, and stepped out into the kitchen.

Lenna watched her go with a smile on her face, then looked round to Richard, in a way that reminded one of cannons leveling at their target. “So you’re here to kiss and make up, then?”

“Um,” said Richard, wilting slightly.

“Oh that’s nice,” said Lenna. “I heard your father was in town, for a chat with the Pandaren mages.”

“Um, yes he is. Trix and I went to look him up.”

“You did? Do give him my best when next you see him.”

Trixie came walking in with the teapot, three mugs and one bottle of You Milk, heated to body temperature. She turned to Richard.

Don’t put this in your tea. She’s crying again, Mum.”

“Insatiable,” said Lenna. “We’re not going to run out are we?”

“Enough for a few more days. Interalia has been busy with that milk pump.”

Lenna left briefly, and came back with Aubrey in her arms. She passed the screaming little bundle of joy into Richard’s arms and handed him the bottle.

“Bottle goes in where the noise comes out,” said Lenna.

Richard looked at Lenna, then gently tipped the bottle up. Peace and quiet returned.

“So Richard, how many do you want?”

Trixie looked at Lenna with wide eyes. “Mum!”

“Well, that’s what you were practicing for, wasn’t it?”

Richard studied the progress of the milk down the bottle. The flow rate was quite impressive and of great interest. Trixie glared at her mother, but couldn’t find anything to say. Aubrey broke the impass by spewing out some of Interalia’s milk. Lenna handed Richard a towel, and he wiped Aubrey’s tiny face. Aubrey looked up to him expectantly. Where’s my milk? Honestly. Can’t get the staff these days. Richard obeyed. Lenna laughed quietly to herself.

“So. Your father is alright with Trixie now?”

Richard looked up. “It’s… an ongoing process, Mrs. Steambender. But I’ve told him about Trix and me.”

“That’s good,” said Lenna. “Feel better now?”

Richard gave Lenna a strange look, then looked out of the window for a moment, eyes miles away.

“I do,” he said, and suddenly laughed. “I really do.”

Aubrey drew his attention back to more important things. He put the bottle back into her mouth.


Richard and Trixie stood by the door to Steambender Manor, a little apart, each waiting to see what the other would do. Richard coughed.

“So…”

“Yeah,” said Trixie.

“Are we alright, then?”

Trixie stood on one foot, then on the other.

“I…”

“I’m sorry Trix. I should have…”

“Yeah.”

“And, well, I did now, but…”

“You did,” said Trixie.

“So. Are we alright?”

Trixie’s blue eyes slowly turned up to Richard’s. Her face became still, as doubt, uncertainty left it. A smile slowly grew, like the breaking of dawn. Trixie kicked the door closed behind her, grabbed Richard’s shirt, and spun him round into the door. She kissed him, softly, once, and then the dam broke and she kissed him as though she wanted to make up for years of holding back.

Apparently, they were.

Part 12: The market at Ironforge

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