Part 13: Catacombs

“Ye gods,” said Nix, sniffing the air. “Were you planning to do anything stealthy tonight?”

Interalia stepped behind Nix and tried to slap his head. Nix caught her hand, tripped her up and held her in his arms, her face inches from his.

“Lavender and lily of the valley?”

“And something purple that claims to be violets,” said Raven, falling down on the sofa. “Meant to do something to things I never knew I had in my skin.”

Griggin walked up to Raven. His dark eyes met hers.

“Miss Raven, do you trust me?”

“No,” said Raven immediately, without looking away. “No offence. I don’t trust anyone. Why would I want to trust you?”

“We still do not know why Baltar is so unreasonably eager to off you, that he even attacks you in my home.”

“If at first you don’t succeed…”

“Why the hurry?”

“The judgement of the Brotherhood is swift and sure, like the footsteps of Doom.”

“Why does one want to kill anyone?”

Raven grinned. “To strike fear into the survivors, to silence their voice, to make sure they can’t hurt you anymore. Or simply because you don’t like them very much. Or because you’re a sodding psychopath and can’t sleep of nights until you kill a Gnome.”

“And which of those do you think applies to you?”

“I’m not a Gnome.”

“You will simply have to live with that fact, Miss Raven.”

“I’ll find a way. So I suppose he simply wanted to make an example of me.”

“Because you embarrassed them by showing us your miserable excuse for a hoard? Seems to me like that’s a bit of a risk to take.”

“Hey! There’s some good stuff there. Needs a bit of love and care, but then it’ll be good as new.”

“Though not as good as your current armour. Which leaves only one thing. You know something.”

“I know many things. Nothing that makes people want to kill me, though.”

“Maybe,” said Griggin. “Maybe not. But that is ultimately irrelevant. You are a very keen observer. Baltar thinks you know something.”

“Well, I haven’t a clue what it is.”

Griggin gave a small nod. “I want to help you remember what it is, but I’ll have to put you under a spell to do that.”

Raven’s face became hard. “Another one of those Warlock headjobs? I’ve had a lifetime’s supply of that, all in one go.”

“The difference is that I mean you well,” said Griggin. “But there is no denying that you will be completely at my mercy. Are you willing to pay that price for knowing why Baltar is after you?”

Raven said nothing for a few moments, her eyes fixed on Griggin’s face.

“You piss around with me, you die.”

“I will not ‘piss around with you’, Miss Raven. You have my word.”

“Let’s do it then.”

Huang and Thunderpetal entered the Jade Temple on the eve of Winter. They stayed there for a long time. Huang simply fell in love with the lore that Priestess Summerpetal, one of the teachers there, had to offer. Unending rows of scrolls of healing magic, everything a young monk needed to know about weaving the mists into the spells that took away the pains, aches and diseases of the world. Thunderpetal spent most of his days practicing martial arts under Liu Flameheart, a Pandaren woman who was normally the kindest soul one could find, until the moment a novice Pandaren monk bowed to her, at which point she turned into a complete psychopath. She gave Thunderpetal a very good idea of what Huang had felt like when he attacked him without mercy. The only times when he was not simply trying to fend off Liu’s blows was when, despite his efforts, the old anger rose to the surface. It did not actually improve his defence, but it made him not care about getting hurt. These episodes were rare enough that teachers wrote them off as momentary loss of temper, but in all his days at the Jade Temple, Thunderpetal never dared spar with Huang.

Days turned into months, months into years. In the summer of their fourth year, things finally came to a point for Thunderpetal. He was practicing with Liu Flameheart, and she hit him with a particularly hard stroke in the midriff that made Thunderpetal stagger back, gasping for air. When he got up again, black smoke seemed to rise from his skin and he whirled round, actually scoring three hits on Liu’s arms. She leapt back and turned up her defence by several notches. She fended off several of Thunderpetal’s attacks, then decided enough was enough and swept his legs from under him. Thunderpetal landed on his back, and while the wind was knocked out of him, she knocked his staff out of his hand, rolled him over, sat down on his back and put a perfect arm bar on him.

“What was that all about, student Léi-shēng Huā-bàn?”

Thunderpetal bared his teeth. “Enemies are there to be destroyed! Suffering and death are their fate! We grind them down till not even a memory remains of them.”

“I am not your enemy,” said Liu. “Yet.”

Everyone is my enemy!” Thunderpetal tried to jerk free, but when Liu had you, then that was that.

Another monk came walking up, drawn by the noise. He looked down on Thunderpetal, then bowed to Liu Flameheart.

“Teacher Flameheart. What appears to be the problem?”

“Student gone mad, Lorewalker,” said Liu, casually.

“Have you been teaching them from the Bundles of Pleasure again? You know that always makes them restless.”

Liu shook her head. “Very little in those that is applicable to martial arts.”

Lorewalker Stonestep bowed down, grabbed Thunderpetal’s snout, and turned his face up to look into his eyes. He let go immediately, jaw dropping. His eyes slowly turned round to Liu’s.

“Teacher Flameheart, this student is afflicted by the Sha of anger! How is it that this was never seen before?”

Liu Flameheart stared blankly at Lorewalker Stonestep, then back down at Thunderpetal. Now that the Lorewalker had mentioned it, it was so obvious. How could she not have seen it?

Sensing her doubt, Thunderpetal gave a sudden jerk, kicked his legs up and sent Liu Flamewalker flying. Liu recovered, all doubt thankfully driven from her mind by something that needed to happen now. Thunderpetal ran at her. Liu spun round on one foot, and placed the other precisely on the side of Thunderpetal’s head. Thunderpetal’s eyes glazed over, his knees gave and he collapsed like a tea-towel placed on its tip.

He woke up in the hospital, in a dimly lit room. He was strapped to a bed, but next to his face, there was a cool drink with a straw in. Since it was obviously meant for him, he drank. Then, he cleared his throat and called out. After a few moments, Priestess Summerpetal walked in, followed by Huang, who was looking much, much too cheerful.

“Léi-shēng Huā-bàn! they let me heal you! I used the Stance of the Wise Serpent, then Soothing Mist, and followed up with a roasted barley tea poultice. Does your head still hurt? Mistress Liu Flameheart tried to be gentle, but you were unconscious, which means you had a concussion.” Huang beamed at Thunderpetal. “I prescribe bedrest, and to drink plenty of fluids.”

Thunderpetal closed his eyes a moment, then looked at Huang.

“What would I drink except fluids? If it wasn’t fluid, I would be eating it, not drinking it. Except if it was soup.”

Priestess Summerpetal moved forward holding a candle. She held Thunderpetal’s eye open and watched it intently, then held the candle in front of it and took it away again. She nodded, then put the candle on the side table. She undid the straps round Thunderpetal’s arms and legs.

“I am afraid you have more to worry about than a boot to the head from Mistress Flameheart, Thunderpetal. The Sha of Anger has taken root in your soul. Have you never had these rages before?”

Thunderpetal glanced at Huang. “I have, Mistress. It is why I came to the Jade temple.”

“Then why in all these years have you never mentioned it?”

“I…” Thunderpetal’s eyes unfocused. “I didn’t want to, Mistress.”

“Didn’t want to.”

“And I don’t know why not,” said Thunderpetal.

Priestess Summerpetal nodded, as if this made perfect sense.

“I have put the Sha to sleep, but with time it will awaken again. You will need to learn the meditations that keep it in check. Which means, I suppose, that you are destined to be a Brewmaster. One cannot heal with aggression just beneath the surface, and as for Windwalking, that is out of the question. You must avoid aggressive thoughts at all cost.”

Huang’s eyes gleamed innocently. “This means people will hit you.”

Griggin had dimmed the light in Raven’s bedroom, shooed away Nix and Interalia, and gently nudged Raven to the couch. She had removed her chest piece, and lay there in her shirt and leather leggings. Raven looked at Griggin.

“So. How does this work then? Do you have to…”

Griggin put two fingers on her forehead. Raven’s eyes closed and her head sagged to one side.

“You are in a comfortable place,” said Griggin. “Your body is floating, and your mind is smaller than a fly, invisible, invulnerable, all-seeing. Everything you are about to see, has happened already and cannot hurt you anymore. Whenever you feel afraid, you only need to will it and you are back here, comfortable, safe. Do you understand?”

“Yes,” said Raven, after a moment.

Griggin nodded. This spell was effortless on a willing subject, but sometimes, people resisted without meaning to, and he had to check.

“Miss Raven, tell me a secret. Any secret will do, but it must be something you would not tell anyone.”

Raven thought a moment.

“There was this Lady who was travelling through Theramore with some servants. I was after her jewellery. So I see all her servants are downstairs in the inn, and I go up the stairs, pick the lock to her rooms and stick everything in a bag.”

Griggin waited. This was simply Raven admitting she was a thief. She’d already admitted as much to them. Raven continued.

“So I’m just about to leave, when I hear this noise coming from the other room. Human voices, but no words, just moans and the occasional little shriek.” A faint smile played on Raven’s face. “So I open the door, sneak in, and there she was, the Lady, naked on the bed, with the face of one of her serving girls between her thighs. She had this riding crop and was smacking her with it, if she wasn’t doing her best.” Raven fell silent.

“Miss Raven, I do not believe you have finished. This sounds like a story you’d only be too happy to tell over a pint or two. What is the secret?”

“I don’t do girls. Never did, never will. Not my thing.” Raven’s voice slowed down a bit, wavered. “But those two, they just hit me below the belt. Don’t know why. I stayed in the room the whole time, watching, until they were just lying there all cuddled up. Was just a kinky game. Probably paid her extra for it. I wanted to join in. Almost convinced myself the serving girl wouldn’t rat me out if I gave her that crop to use on the Lady. I got out of there steaming hot. Never told anyone.” Raven’s voice returned what she normally sounded like, like she was telling you a joke about the world. “The guy I sold all their stuff to could’t believe how lucky he’d got. Got a very good price.”

“I see,” said Griggin. Well, that was another case of ‘Be Careful What You Ask For’. It rang true. Which meant that she was now well and truly under his influence.

“Miss Raven, I would like you to return to the evening of the Pandaren welcome feast. You left early.”

“Aubrey, Mr. Steambender. Raven is just a nickname.” Raven gave a sparkling laugh. “I liked Aubrey. I would have liked being her for a while. Name’s passed on. I wonder if Mavis’ll have me if I’m just Raven.”

“I’m sure she will. What happened after you left?”

“Got caught. Big guy called Brent. Strong like an ox and almost as smart.”

“Where did he take you?”

Raven hunched her shoulders, bent her head down.

“Shady Lady. Very bad tavern. All kinds of scum hang out there. Never drank there. Girl on her own can get herself killed.”

“Where then, Miss Raven? Remember you are safe. Nothing can touch you.”

“Out the back. Place called Cutthroat Alley. And not for nothing.”

“You are floating behind the young woman, Miss Raven. Where next?”

“Down the stairs. Why do they always shove you? What’s the sodding hurry?”

“You are warm, safe, like floating in a warm bath,” said Griggin. Raven stopped shivering, and her breath slowed down again. “What happens next?”

“Baltar. He says… I know the Warlock. I say no.” Despite Griggin’s efforts, Raven started to shiver again. “I don’t want to be here.”

“Just a little more, Miss Raven. You are safe. You are warm. You are with friends. What did Baltar say next?”

“He says that I led you to the treasure room. I’m a traitor! I’m not a traitor, only worthless junk there. I don’t want to go on.”

“You are doing very well, Raven. What did you say?”

“I told him what we had in there. No treasure, just broken chainmail… rusty sword, cheap rings, some floozie’s underwear… Please!

Griggin frowned. Perhaps Raven had seen more than she knew. Baltar would have known how perceptive she was. Which could be a reason to silence her. Still, Griggin already knew what came next. No need to let Raven suffer through that again.

“Come away.”

“I’m… sorry.”

Griggin watched Raven’s face. Her lips were trembling. Then, he realised. She wasn’t apologising to him, but to the poor young woman, for leaving her alone in that cellar.

“She’s alright, Raven. You are alright. We got her out of there. She’s fine. You are fine. Tell me. You are fine.”

“I’m… fine,” said Raven, with an unsteady voice. “I’m fine,” she repeated.

“Good. Now tell me. How do you know what is in that treasure room?”

“I went through it,” said Raven. “I was hungry. Looking for something I could sell. Waste of time.”

“Go back there now. What can you see?”

“Two shortswords. Badly rusted. Chainmail, rings come loose, rusty, bloodstains. Helm. Ornamental dagger, badly made. Oil lamp, glass broken. Trunk of books, In Thalassian I think, pages rotted away. Small jewel box, empty. Cheap rings with green stones in them. Jam jar full of copper nuts and bolts. Tins of fish, rusty, years old, bulging, not opening them. Clothes, rags. Ladies’ underwear and bra.”

“Did any of it fit you?”

It was a throwaway question, just to lighten the mood a bit. Raven smiled.

“Wouldn’t be seen dead in clothes like that. Nice underwear, though. Lacy.”

“So why not take that, then?”

“Don’t have enough to put in it. Baltar’s taste in women is really…” Raven moved her hand.


“Yeah. Besides, they’re monogrammed. What sort of bimbo has monogrammed undies?”

“Hmm. What are the letters?”


Griggin made a note. It didn’t ring any bells, but then again, he was a happily married man and didn’t know any ladies of the night.

“Anything else in the hoard?”

Raven took a breath and rattled off another list of things.

“…and three planks of wood. That’s it.”

Griggin sat still for a moment, then drew a circle round the monogram on his notepad. The only vaguely interesting thing. Nothing worth killing for. He looked at Raven. Time to bring her out of this trance.

“Miss Raven, soon you will wake up. You will feel calm and relaxed, and you will remember everything you told me.” Griggin hesitated. “Except you will not remember telling me about the incident with the lady and her serving girl, or what happened with your buyer afterwards. And neither will I.” That was not actually true, but Griggin could do without remembering his friend’s private erotic fantasies. He held his hand over her forehead. Raven blinked, and grinned at him.

“Why are you so interested in underwear, Mr. Steambender?”

“It is the only thing with any information. I honestly cannot see what any of the other things have to do with your predicament, unless something was in those books.”

Raven bent over to Griggin with a mischievous look in her eyes.

“I’m wearing a black bra, and black underpants.” Raven’s voice went husky. “They’re very practical.”

“Thank you for that wealth of information, Miss Raven. My cup runs over and only an ingrate would desire more. Let’s find Nix and Interalia and see if they can think of something.”

“Underwear,” said Interalia. “You had her under your spell, her whole mind yours to rummage through, and all you managed to dredge up was underwear?”

Monogrammed underwear,” said Raven. “For a girl considerably more talented than any of us, even you.”

Interalia sneered, and looked down. “Half of this is padding. I’m bloody leaking! What am I, a cow?”

Griggin coughed. “The monogram was S-A-N. Does that ring a bell with anyone?”

Nix stared at Griggin. Interalia stared at Griggin.

“Raven?” said Nix, “Large S, small a, large N?”

“Yeah. Curly script. Why?”

Interalia grinned. “You’ve held, in your mortal hands, the calling card of Syrana al Namhaid. She’s a Dark Ranger, and pretty much the only person better at stealth than we are. She’s been sneaking round Stormwind for years, with nobody noticing except Renzik.”

“Did this Baltar guy allow anyone into that storeroom?” asked Nix.

“In a sense,” said Raven. “The lock was a crappy one. Took me all of a minute to pick it. He did make a lot of noise about it when he found out, though, but he never knew it was…” Raven fell silent, the ‘Ah’ clearly visible on her face. “Me,” she finished.

Griggin grinned. “And there we have it. Mr. Baltar has fallen for the charms of a Dark Ranger, which he did not want anyone to know about.”

Raven stared at the wall. “The unmentionables of one of your playthings, I said. Oh gods.” She closed her eyes, thinking hard. “When we got back to pick up Thunderpetal’s recipes, they were gone. Baltar probably took them away when he found out someone had been in there.” She sat back on the sofa, her hand slowly moving under her shirt.

“Well, that explains things.”

The door opened and Schmuÿle walked in, followed by his master. He seemed to be in a very good mood, but nobody wanted to ask why. The Baron closed the door and started to take off his showy outfit. He opened his trunk and stared. Staring back at him was a plush bunny. Interalia jumped up.

“Bertram! How did you get in there?” She snatched up the little rabbit, and glared at the Baron. “Can you explain that to me, your Lordship?”

Baron Goldenberg’s eyes turned cold as he looked at Interalia. “Would you Light-forsaken amateurs please stop treating this as a holiday? You have obviously found a way past my lock. Congratulations. Did you take anything?”

“Nothing,” said Interalia. “It looked like you’d get plenty of stuff nicked anyway.”

“Hold up your hands,” said the Baron. “Come on. Do it.”

Interalia shrugged, and did. The Baron turned over his purse into Interalia’s hands. Rather than gold, a stack of iron washers, bits of wire and pieces of copper rolled into Interalia’s hands. With long, precise fingers, the Baron removed a small item, and held it up to Interalia’s face.

“A tracking device. If Miss Raven’s associates would have stolen my purse, we would have known where they hide.” The Baron turned round to each of them. “I would very much appreciate it if you would stop treating me as if I were an imbecile. I am not in the habit of discussing the intricacies of my plans with minions. It only makes them think they can make decisions.”

“His Lordship only tells me when things need hitting,” said Schmuÿle, looking rather pleased about it. “Like just now. Except I twisted his arm out of its socket.”

“Indeed,” said Baron Goldenberg. “Mr. Ghostfinger eventually told us where to find the headquarters of the Old Barracks Brotherhood. It is in one of the basement levels, near the Gates. We will prepare ourselves and go there. When we do, you will obey my orders to the last word, do I make myself clear?”

Raven looked down on the Baron. “What did you do with Ghostfinger?”

“You’ll be pleased to know we deemed him surplus to requirements.”

Schmuÿle grinned. “I broke his neck. It keeps his blood from spraying all over the scene like when you cut their throats. The cleaners always complain about that.”

Griggin coughed. “We found out why Baltar is after Raven. As it turns out, he does not wish it to become known that he has, shall we say, ‘communicated’, with a Dark Ranger spy named Syrana al Namhaid.”

Baron Samuel Goldenberg slowly turned round to Griggin. “Well done, but we knew that already. It is the main reason why we want Mr. Baltar, first alive, then dead.”

Nix gave the Baron a look. “You knew that? How?”

“Because we caught her, and had her in the Stockade.”

“You caught her? I didn’t now that!”

The Baron didn’t think that worthy of an answer. “They did a little work on her, but I don’t think they ever really broke her. It was quite clear that the names she gave us were people she had not got round to killing. We are still verifying that information. She’s dead. If anyone is interested, her last words, to Shaw, were ‘get on with it’. Which he did.”

“Well,” said Raven, “We had some of her underwear in our hoard. Seems she was definitely talking to him.”

The Baron shrugged. “She was quite alluring to some Humans, and often used that to get what she wanted. Nobody was going to get her pregnant after all. Now then. Get ready. Against my better judgement, I am taking you into the catacombs of Ironforge.”

Ironforge as most people knew it, was a large circular cavern, centered on the Great Forge and the lake of lava around it. What not many people knew was that behind well hidden and closed doors stairs and elevators led down to lower levels. Deep below the mountains lay roads that never saw sun or sky. Only Dwarves were allowed there. Any of the other peoples would be instantly distrusted, dragged before the guards. And still, there were bolt-holes there unknown even to the King himself, excavated inexpertly by Humans or Gnomes, or by the Dwarves themselves and forgotten about. The meeting place of the Warlock Circle was one of those places. So was the place where the Old Barracks Brotherhood hid when they could not hide in plain sight, in the mass of people. They also hid there things they could not immediately turn into gold. The entrance was a little way away from the Gate of Stormwind, behind a sturdy wooden door. They were standing round it.

“This is it then?” said Nix.

“Yes, young Mr. Steambender,” said Schmuÿle. “So the Human told us.”

“You’re sure he wasn’t lying?”

“Nobody can lie with their arm hanging off loose and a knife at their family jewels.”

The Baron looked round. “Quiet everyone. We need to be behind this door. In that house, there is a large wardrobe. Inside that wardrobe, there is a hidden entrance.”

“To the Magic Kingdom,” said Interalia, walking up to the door and giving it the once-over.

“When I want your opinion,” said the Baron, “I will give it to you. That door is locked tight. Now what we need…”

Griggin coughed. “The words ‘small charge’ are hurrying towards your lips, are they not?”

“When in doubt,” said Schmuÿle, “Seaforium.”

“Thereby reinforcing prevailing stereotypes about Goblins,” said Griggin. “Don’t you think Dwarves might notice if they see the smouldering remains of a door?”

“By the time they do, we will be long gone,” said Baron Goldenberg.

Raven shook her head. “The guard by the Stonefire Tavern is already watching us. Everybody, look innocent.”

“Well, Mr. Steambender, if you can think of a better way to get us inside that house, feel free to educate me.”

“It’s open,” said Interalia.

Baron Goldenberg glared. “Impossible. We tried to force that lock, and failed.”

Interalia’s eyes gleamed. “That’s ’cause you’re not as good as me. Coming?” She pushed open the door and walked inside.

Inside the house was a normal looking living room, except that there was a thick layer of dust on everything, except for a path on the floor. It led from the door, up the stairs, and into one of the bedrooms.

“Gosh,” said Nix. “I wonder which wardrobe the secret entrance is behind.”

Schmuÿle grabbed Nix by his jacket and pulled him close.

“Baron Goldenberg wants you to keep your little gob shut. Do you understand what that means?”

Nix looked over his shoulder at Schmuÿle. There was a short noise and Schmuÿle’s eyes glazed over. Nix grabbed his arm, bent down and threw him to the floor with a very satisfying thud. Nix held Schmuÿle down in an arm-lock.

“I’ve just about had it with you. We are here to get the bunch of piss-heads who hurt Raven, broke into our house and damn near killed my wife and child. There’s four of us, not counting any Daemons, and two of you. Which means you’re along for the ride. Got that?”

Schmuÿle gave a kind of grunt.

“Not good enough. Got that?”

“Yes,” said Schmuÿle.

“Good. I’m glad we had this little talk.” Nix let go of Schmuÿle’s arm and got up. Schmuÿle’s eyes darkened.

“Don’t even think about it,” said Interalia.

“Schmuÿle, stop playing around,” said Baron Goldenberg. “Now open that wardrobe.”

Schmuÿle got to his feet with poor grace, opened the wardrobe and reached inside. There was a crack and flying chips of wood. Schmuÿle stepped back and pointed.

“Entrance M’lord,” he said.

“Good. Everybody in.”

“After you,” said Nix to Schmuÿle. “I insist.”

As Nix stepped into the dark, Interalia drew near and whispered in his ear.

“Scary Chick is not getting in the bath tonight.”

The entrance behind the wardrobe led down to a steel door. Interalia, without a word, got out her lockpicks and opened it. She opened the door at a crack and looked inside. She held up three fingers, then made the sign for ‘Guards’. Everybody drew weapons.

Raven and Nix were first into the room, followed by Schmuÿle. Griggin came next, hands aglow with dark magic. He hadn’t summoned any daemons yet. Raven and Nix attacked. Schmuÿle calmly walked up to the third guard, side-stepped when she stabbed out at him with her sword and kicked her in the knee with a sickening cracking sound. The guard fell down. Schmuÿle grabbed her by the throat and punched her in the face with his brass knuckles. He kept on punching until her head was nothing but a bloody mess and her arms and legs stopped twitching. Then, looking at Nix, he ran his tongue down his fist.

“I think you got her,” said Nix. “Wanna make sure?”

Schmuÿle grunted, and walked towards the other door. Raven looked at his back. She wiped the blood off her daggers, applied fresh poison and put them away.

“Bloody psychopath,” she said.

The door led from the guard-room to a flight of stairs. Which led to a dark room. Being underground, it was pitch dark, and nobody’s night vision would penetrate it. Nix reached into his pocket and pulled out a chip of shining crystal from Un’goro Crater. There was a twang in the room and an arrow hissed inches over his head and struck the wall. Nix closed his fist on his crystal, dropped to the floor, and rolled over.

There was a shout from Griggin to get out. Nix, well aware of the kind of thing his dad could do, scrambled away as Griggin stepped into the middle of the room. They heard him shout Words of Power, and there was a rush of air. Then, the floor of the cavern started to glow, and an ominous red light shone upon the frightening form of a winged Daemon. Crossbow bolts flew, hit the creature, and fell to the floor at its hooves. It cried out words of death in a dead language, and the whole room lit up in a cruel light, first red, then orange, then a searing white. The light disappeared, leaving impenetrable dark and silence. Then, there was a scratching sound, and a small light shone. Griggin turned up the light and turned round, searching for survivors. Raven, Nix and Interalia walked in, turning over bodies. Raven turned to Griggin.

“Baltar isn’t here. Counting the ones in Stormwind, and the ones we got earlier, I think we’ve got about half the gang. Unless they’ve been recruiting.”

Griggin rubbed his chin. He needed a shave.

“How large was this gang, exactly?”

Raven shrugged. “Hard to say. There were maybe two dozen in the Old Barracks, but people come, people go. We didn’t exactly have a membership list.”

“Still, we got twenty-four if I’m counting right. One in the Old Barracks, Mum got one in Stormwind, we got four when they attacked the Manor, four more when they snatched His Lordship, one sneak, the three guards here, and…” Nix looked round. “Six here.”

“That’s twenty,” said Raven.

“Not in real numbers,” said Nix.

Baron Goldenberg walked in, fuming.

“You coprocephalic idiots! What is it about ‘leave a few of them alive for interrogation’ that you do not grasp? How are we supposed to find Baltar now, with nobody to pump for information? This. This is why I hate having to work with amateurs.”

Griggin, who had been studying the walls by the light of his gas torch, now turned back to the Baron.

“Your Lordship, I have a suggestion.”

“I shudder to hear it,” said the Baron.

“Why don’t you find out the present whereabouts of Baltar, go to that location, and apprehend him?” Griggin gave him a satisfied smile and a nod, then looked over his shoulder. “My children, let’s go.”

They walked out of the room, leaving Samuel Goldenberg and Schmuÿle in the dark.

“Thank you very much for your custom, Mr. Steambender. Please visit again soon.”

“A pleasure as always, Mr. Smolt. Good day to you.”

They walked out of the Stonefire Tavern, and set off for Tinker Town and the Deeprun Tram to Stormwind. Nix looked up at their old home.

“Hey! The lights are off. Dad, do you think 2.0 is empty?”

Griggin looked up, distracted.

“Maybe.” He took a deep breath. “Before we go, I need to have a word with Chief Warlock Sindala. That basement we were in. The markings on the wall were in Eredic script. Which means that someone has been using Daemonic magic there. I felt it when I transformed.”

“So?” Raven pulled up the strap on her overnight bag. “There’s warlocks in Ironforge, aren’t there?”

“I know every place that our Circle uses. This is not one of them. Also, these markings are… unsophisticated. Words crossed out for the Light’s sake! Warlocks are scary people at the best of times. Inept warlocks scare the Lights out of me.”

Nix stared. “Noob warlocks? Oh crap. They’ll summon things they can’t control, won’t they? Because bigger Daemons are cool.”

“Precisely. The Circle may have to find them and show them the error of their ways.” Griggin sighed. “You get on the tram. I’ll be along later tonight. Please tell your mother I’ll be late.”

Griggin walked down the stairs, followed by two cloaked and hooded Gnomish shadows. One was called Briarthorn. When Griggin was living in Ironforge, he was acting chief for the other Gnome, Chief Warlock Sindala, Griggin’s boss when it came to Daemonic matters. They entered the room by the light of torches.

“What’s that smell?” said Briarthorn.

“Crispy Human,” said Sindala. “The smell is quite distinctive. Your work I assume, Griggin?”

“I am afraid so, Chief. Here we are. Observe the writing.”

Briarthorn held his torch up to the wall. “Prutswerk, he said. What a shoddy job. Don’t these idiots know to keep their writing straight? I’d be surprised if they could summon even a sprite in this place.”

Chief Sindala sucked his teeth. “The problem, Briarthorn, is not whether the Daemons will show themselves. It’s what happens when they do. I must have a word with the Dwarves. One of their experiments may have ended badly. Very badly indeed.”

“Good luck with that,” said Briarthorn. “Not very open to criticism, your average Dwarf.”

“Hah,” said Sindala. “I think even they will have to pay attention when the alternative is finding out how inventive Daemonic torturers are. From entirely the wrong perspective.”

“I wonder if they actually managed to complete a summoning here,” said Griggin.

“Not likely, if you ask me,” said Briarthorn. “Look at this. It’s a Sayaad code of binding, but if you look closely, there’s a Void Oath underneath it that they didn’t erase completely. This would never have worked.”

Sindala shook his head. “If there is one thing more dangerous than a failed summoning, it’s a successful summoning without proper control. I’ve seen enough. Let’s get out of here.”

Griggin was the last to leave. As he stepped through the door, a cold shiver went up his spine, and he quickly looked over his shoulder. Nothing. He shook his head and followed his fellow Warlocks back into the light.

In the dark cellar, there was the tiniest of sounds. With the lights out, everyone was invisible. No need to waste mana. There were no eyes in that room to see, no souls to feel the eerie sense of joy that filled it. No ears to here the broken voice, whispering.

“Griggin Steambender. Of all the mortals who could walk into this place, it had to be you.”

Part 14: Cum mortuis in lingua morta


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