Part 5: Promenade III

Raven looked at herself in the hairdresser’s mirror. Excellent. Her hair was now short, almost boyish, with a few playful tufts sticking out here and there. And black. Deep black. Being a blonde bimbo had been a profitable job, but the real Raven had black hair. Just to make sure that people wouldn’t really think she was a boy, she’d bought a fairly tight red blouse and a dark blue skirt that hung half way down her calves. The skimpy top and short, short skirt that had been part of her damsel-in-distress disguise, she’d thrown in the bin. Now for the most important part. The name. She wanted something wholesome, decent, innocent. Her hair would smell like strawberries and her laugh would sparkle like a waterfall on a summer’s day. Florence? Too old. Janice? Too decent and boring. Aubrey? Hmm.

“Hi! I’m Aubrey. I’ve lived next door to you for years. Have you never noticed me?”

It could work. Slap on a bit of red lipstick, to avoid being too good a girl, and who could resist her? She paid the Goblin hairdresser, and put her business outfit of soft leather leggings, leather jacket, weapons belt, boots, and fingerless gloves, in a bag. Every boy’s dream girl does not, as a rule, run around with two long thin poisoned daggers. Just in case one of the boys might go further than dreaming, though, she clipped a small knife to the inside of her skirt at the back, and had to wiggle a bit to get it comfortable. A sgian dubh, contrary to popular belief, is not always worn in the sock. The reason you wear it in your sock is to show that you’re not hiding it anywhere else. Raven looked at her hands. To a trained observer, those were always a dead giveaway. You couldn’t go around climbing buildings, leaping over rooftops, and occasionally hitting people, and keep your hands in a ladylike fashion. Oh well.

Raven breathed in, filled her mind with sunshine and stepped out into the street. She walked off in the direction of Old Town, where she’d spotted a ‘Help Wanted’ notice earlier. It was time to lie low for a bit and allow her former companions to get over the loss of her. She hummed a happy tune, smiled at passers-by as she walked.

“Oh hello Miss Raven! Nix told me you were in town. How nice to see you again. I love what you did with your hair.”

Raven looked down, and her brilliant smile lost some of its authenticity. Not that she disliked the Steambenders specially, but they didn’t fit the new style.

“Mrs. Steambender! How nice to see you! I hope you’re well?”

“Oh, Lenna, please. I’m very well, thank you for asking. What brings you to Stormwind?”

Raven beamed at Lenna, sweetness and light surrounding her until she shone with it.

“Aubrey. My real name is Aubrey. Raven is just a nickname from way back when. I hear there’s an opening for a shop assistant in one of the spice shops in Old Town.”

“They’ll be lucky to have you,” said Lenna. “Cover for something interesting, dear?”

Damn. That was the thing about Lenna Steambender. She had that knack to believe every word you said, without actually believing it.

“No, nothing like that,” said Raven. “I need a bit of a rest, a change of pace.”

“Don’t we all,” said Lenna. “Mind you, I think we’re in a bit of a quiet before the storm. Our Nix’ wife Interalia is about to pop. My goodness, I’ll be a granny!”

“Nix is married? He didn’t say anything about that.”

“I’m sure he had other things on his mind at the time.”

They walked on towards the trade district. Lenna was looking for some cheese. Might as well get some black peppercorns while she was there, and perhaps save Mavis Fadeleaf the shopkeeper from making a terrible mistake. Miss Raven wasn’t a bad girl, but then again, you had to remind yourself occasionally that she wasn’t a bad girl despite her uncertain grasp on the concept of property and how some things belonged to other people. They walked into the shop, and Raven – sorry, Aubrey asked after the job. Mavis smiled at her.

“Have you ever worked in a spice shop before, girl?”

“I have, Mrs. Fadeleaf. In Westfall, before the troubles with the Defias.”

“Let’s play a little game,” said Mavis, pulling a bottle off one of the shelves. She handed the bottle to Raven. “What herb is this?”

“Saffron,” said Raven. “Made from the stamen of crocuses. Used in cooking among other things to colour rice. Has a characteristic metallic-sweet aroma. It is very expensive. I would say that I am holding about five gold in my hand.”

Raven handed the bottle back to Mavis. Mavis carefully put it back on the shelf, and pulled out another.

“This one?”

“Capsicum. Ingredient for spicy food.”

“And this?”

“Dried basilicum. I love basil. My mother used it to liven up the potatoes.”

“That sound lovely,” said Mavis. “One more, I think.”

Mavis pulled up a ladder, clambered up and pulled down a large brown jar with a glass stopper.

“I won’t hold it against you if you don’t know this one, dear. In fact… Well, have a look.”

Raven shook a few seeds into her hand, then gave Mavis a look.

“Oh, Mrs. Fadeleaf. You are being naughty.”

Mavis laughed. “I am, aren’t I?”

Lenna had been following the exchange with growing wonder. She looked up at Raven.


“This is known as bullhead, goathead, or even devil’s weed,” said Raven. “It is used for things that are drooping down when they should be standing up.”

“Huh? What do you mean?”

Raven looked round to Lenna and gave her the kind of grin that sweet young innocent girls should not give.

“Ah,” said Lenna. “Very useful.”

Mavis looked from Raven to Lenna.

Kent jou hierdie meisie?” said Mavis, in Gnomish.

Wel eens voorheen gesien,” said Lenna.

Is hulle te vertrou?

Lenna smiled. “Die is slim genoeg. Waar die eet, sal die nie kakken nie.

“Indeed,” said Mavis. “Miss Aubrey, I think you have passed my little test. How about you work for a week, and then we’ll see?”

Miss Aubrey’s eyes grew large and a big smile appeared on her face.

“That would be wonderful! Thank you, Mrs. Fadeleaf!”

“Well Aubrey,” said Lenna, “In that case, can I have some black peppercorns and some aniseed? Bieslook likes it in her milk.”

“Certainly, Miss Steambender.” Raven walked behind the counter and without hesitating took down two jars. “How much do you need?”

“Five grains of pepper, ten of aniseed.”

Raven measured out the spices, put them in paper bags, took Lenna’s money and put it in the till.

“Anything else?”

“No, that’s it, thank you Aubrey.” Lenna gave Raven a look. “Best of luck in your new job.”

“Thank you, Mrs. Steambender.”

Mavis Fadeleaf looked at Raven as she put the jars of pepper and aniseed where she’d got them from.

“How did you know where to find the spices?”

“I read the labels while you were talking to Mrs. Steambender, Mrs. Fadeleaf.”

All of them?”

“Yes, Ma’am,” said Raven.

Mavis looked into Raven’s eyes. Aubrey looked back at her. Mavis briefly considered testing her again, but she had the feeling this girl would pass it.

“Welcome to my humble shop, Aubrey. Please call me Mavis. I’m going to make some powders and ointments. If anyone asks for anything medical, call me.” Mavis looked at the clock. “Oh, and Henry Stilger is about due in. He’ll be looking for some of the naughty herbs, but just pass him on to me. I’ll be in the back.”

Interalia looked up from her book. Some git was banging on the door. With a sigh, she dragged herself to her feet and waddled over to the door. Spud disapproved of all this movement and gave Interalia a good solid kick to the insides. She opened the door. It was Fuzzball.

“Hi! What’s up?”

Thunderpetal bowed to Interalia. “This evening, there is a feast for all those who are kind to us. I am honoured to invite you, and the rest of the Steambender family, to the island.”

“Whoa! Free food? Count me in. Are you going to cook?”

“We all cook, N’tu-la-lia. Many people are kind to us. We are blessed.”

“Great! Do we need to bring anything? Bottles? I’m telling you, I squeeze a mean orange juice.”

“Bring what you wish.”

“Right. See you tonight,” said Interalia. She watched Thunderpetal hurry off to the Island of the Cute Furries. Spud kicked her again. Interalia put her hand on her belly.

“Oh alright, I’ll lay off the spicy food. For a bit, anyway.”

Spud kicked her again

“Oh come on. You never let me have any fun.”

“Miss Lei-huen? It is good to see you again.” Thunderpetal bowed to Raven. “Especially in a more healthy place than you were before.”

“Your kind words and gentle touch have inspired me to better my life. By the way, my real name is Aubrey. How can I help you?”

“Tonight, I cook duck stewed in white wine, with an orange sauce. It is a recipe from my mother. You help me recover it when we meet earlier.”

Raven quickly looked over her shoulder, but Mavis was still in the back. There had been lots of customers for an ointment for muscle cramps, and she was making more.

“What spices do you need?”

Thunderpetal closed his eyes and quickly rattled of a list of spices, which Raven pulled down from the shelves. Master Wu Shen’s primer on the Common Speech had been sadly empty of even the most basic cooking ingredients, so Thunderpetal had visited the library and compiled a long list of herbs and spices from the wealth of botanical works there. Raven quickly weighed off the herbs and spices, took Thunderpetal’s money and had almost got him out of the shop when Mavis returned with a tray full of jars. She started to put them on the shelves, and saw Thunderpetal.

“Ah, Mr. Thunderpetal. Can you find what you seek?”

“Yes, Miss. Aub-li is very helpful and quick.”

“Isn’t she though? Hard to think she’s only been here today.”

Thunderpetal nodded. “May I humbly invite you to join us for dinner tonight? The Panda-ren offer it to all who are kind to us.”

“Oh we would be delighted,” said Mavis. “Can you make it, Aubrey?”

“That would be lovely,” said Raven, with a sparkling smile. She was getting good at this Little Miss Sunshine act.

Night fell over Stormwind. On one of the roofs in Old Town, in the shadow of a chimney, Raven looked down on the street. She’d been a good girl all day. In fact, she’d been such a good girl that all the other girls were now slightly tarnished by comparison. As a kind of antidote, she’d put on her black leathers, and taken a run in a few places where nice girls are not supposed to be. From where she was, she could see the spires of the cathedral. She should really try climbing that sometime. The view would be great from up there. Time to get moving. She still had to find a place to stay the night. Plenty of places in a city if you knew where to look and could scale walls. She’d find a proper room somet…

Raven’s eyes were drawn to someone moving in the street below. Her face hardened into an expression that would scare off any hopeful young boy. She’d recognise that chainmail anywhere. What in the name of all things pointy would get him to crawl out of his hole? There were a few possible answers, but the most likely one was that he was deeply concerned about her sudden disappearance, and was looking for her to see if she was alright. And if she was, do something about that.


Right. Change of plans then. Perhaps it would be a Good Thing if sweet little Aubrey went to the ball after all. Lots of people around. She judged the distance to the next roof, took a jump and landed neatly on the other side. With inspired speed, Raven set off in the direction of the Dwarven District.

“Alright ye sconsies, who here calls themselves a brewmaster?”

All round the open-air kitchen, Pandaren were chopping vegetables, stirring pots, and turning spits on which a variety of Elwynn Forest fauna was being roasted to perfection. Some of them were using large round frying pans that occasionally caught fire. At least half a dozen claws were raised into the air.

The Dwarf pointed behind him at four of his family carrying between them a barrel large enough to serve as a house.

“We brought ye a keg! Any of ye furballs care to sample?”

Aysa Cloudsinger walked round, with a big smile on her round face. There was a small list of things two peoples always did when first they met. Learn each other’s language. Exchange gifts. Aysa chuckled. Find out about each other’s mating rituals… perhaps not just now. And of course, sample each other’s food. The people of Stormwind, it turned out, were quite ready for a party. As soon as word got around that there would be something happening on Furry Island, people had started offering help. Large tables and benches had been brought in on a boat. One of the inns had kindly lent them some big cooking pots, grills and other tools. A few Chiu-man were helping in the kitchen. A big man with a long black ponytail was showing off his knife skills. Things were going well. The Panda-ren and the people of Stormwind were getting to know each other. If nothing bad happened, this could be the beginning of a long and strong friendship.

“Get me out!”

“I’m pulling. Do you see me pulling?”

“Well, pull harder!”

“Give me a moment. If I get a few long spars of wood, I can construct an A-frame and lift you out.”

“Are you saying I’m heavy?”

“No I’m not. I’m also not saying fire is hot and the sky is up.”

“Shut up and pull!”

Interalia finally made it out of the boat, and on to the island. The party was already going on. Poles had been erected with lanterns hanging from ropes strung between them. A large sail-cloth lay to the side that could be pulled over the poles if the weather should turn nasty, but as the night was beautifully starry and clear, the tent was used to sit on instead. The island was bustling with every kind of good clean fun. People were eating, drinking. Off to one side, a few members of the Stormwind Male Choir were swapping songs with Pandaren singers, and talking about the different music theories. There was a small circle of Night-elves and Pandaren monks, deep in a serious discussion.

Nix spotted Thunderpetal, who was carrying a steaming bowl to one of the tables, and shouted and waved. He came walking over, and looked at Interalia.

“You look like you lose some weight,” he said. “That’s terrible! Here. Have a dumpling.”

“Don’t mind if I do, Fuzzball.” Interalia picked a doughy parcel out of the pan and passed it quickly from one hand to the other, blowing on her fingers.

“Are Guli-jinn, Len-ah, and T’li-chi here as well?”

“On the next boat. Didn’t want to get in with ow!”

“Watch it, Mister.”

The next boat landed, and Griggin and Lenna got out. Trixie lifted up Bieslook, and Lenna had to hold on to the collar of her dress to keep her running at all the furry Pandaren at the same time. Her eyes were alight with joy and she bounced up and down.

“Bears! Black and white bears!”

Trixie jumped ashore. “Got to cuddle them all, Bies!”

“I’m going to!”

As they walked to the main fire, several Pandaren spotted Interalia and her belly, and steered her to a comfortable spot, close by the fire. They pushed a mug of strengthening tea into her hands, put their hands on her stomach to feel Spud kick, and drowned her in helpful advice in Pandaren. Trixie squatted down next to Interalia. Interalia pointed at Nix.

“I liked those dumplings. Could you get me some more?”

Trixie grinned at Nix. “Oh, you’re the best brother ever!”

“Yeah, yeah,” said Nix, and ran off.

Trixie looked round, and saw Wu Shen walk up with Ilsa Corbin.

“Oh no, it’s the teachers,” said Trixie. “Hide!”

“Don’t tell anyone,” said Ilsa, sitting down. “Shen? Whatever is smelling so nice, get me some.”

“Yes, my Lady,” said Wu Shen, with a bow.

Nix arrived carrying a tray with steaming bowls and chopsticks. Trixie picked one up.

“We’re supposed to eat with that?”

“It’s easy,” said Ilsa.

“For you with your freaky five-fingered hands,” said Trixie.

Interalia grinned, reached into a pocket and pulled out a fork. “Always be prepared, is what I always say.”

“And yet…” said Trixie, pointing at Interalia’s belly. She tried to pick up a dumpling with two sticks. It fell into her lap just before she could get it into her mouth. “Stuff this,” she said, and speared it with one stick.

Wu Shen came back with food. Ilsa lay down with her head in Shen’s lap.

“This is how you do it,” said Ilsa, looking up at Shen. Shen picked up some food and put it in Ilsa’s mouth.

“Hmmm,” said Ilsa, licking her lips with intent.

Trixie stared.

Ilsa beamed at her. “We’re off the clock, young miss Steambender. We can do anything that propriety allows.”

Mavis Fadeleaf walked into the circle of light, followed by Miss Aubrey. Bieslook bounced up off Lenna’s lap.

“Raven! You’re pretty!”

Raven thought quickly, squatted down next to Lenna, and pulled Bieslook on her lap. Too many people here who knew her. Still, it was better than people who wanted to kill her.

“My name is Aubrey,” she whispered. “Raven is just a nickname.”

“Like Granny Fwoosh?”

“I beg your pardon?” Lenna slowly looked round to Interalia.


“I trust you alone with Bies, and now this? Fireballs at dawn, young lady.”

Interalia made big eyes at Lenna, and put her hand on her belly.

“Oh don’t give me that,” said Lenna. “You don’t want your newborn babe’s first sight to be of Mummy running round on fire… do you?”

Interalia sighed. “Just to be able to run around. Almost worth it.”

“Just a few more weeks dear,” said Lenna. “Then, you get the joy of sore nipples and yukky nappies.”

“Can’t wait.”

Raven… sorry, Aubrey, had left just after the Guest of Honour arrived. King Varian had been unavoidably detained, and judged that mingling with a bunch of furry creatures would be just the kind of diplomatic mission for his young son Anduin. Aysa Cloudsinger gravitated towards him, and made polite conversation. Lenna looked away from the spectacle of the Heir to the Throne, several hopeful young ladies, and a rather put-upon servant trying to push them away with a pointy stick. Her eye fell on something colourful lying on the ground. She picked it up.

“Oi everyone? Doesn’t this purse belong to Miss Aubrey?”

Trixie looked. “I think so. The girl isn’t really used to having girly things around, is she?”

“I suppose not,” said Lenna. “Right Nix. Would you…”

Nix was helping Interalia up to get her to the ladies’ room.

“Ah. Trixie?”

Trixie pointed at Bieslook, lying in her lap, fast asleep after the Pandaren Cute overdose.

“Dearest?” Lenna looked round for Griggin, who was at the other end of the field talking to some hooded and cloaked figure. She sneered.

“Oh alright then. I’ll be back in a minute. Anyone know where she’s sleeping?”

“She said she was somewhere in the Trade District, near the griffins,” said Mavis.

“Going up in the world,” said Lenna. “Right. I’ll be back in a bit.”

She ran off towards the boats, found a big strong Human to get her across, then ran off after Raven.

Raven, still in her Aubrey disguise, walked along the streets of the Old District. She’d dropped her kit behind one of the rain barrels in Old Town. Just pick it up and get out of here. Her old friends would probably have returned to the Old Barracks by now, for a busy night of robbing passers-by. Someone else could be the bait. Just as she turned towards her hiding place, someone grabbed her from behind and put a knife to her throat.

“Go on. Scream. See what happens.”

“Wouldn’t dream of it,” said Raven. “What do you want?”

“Boss wants a word with you. Come quietly, and you won’t get hurt.”

Raven sighed. “Alright then.”

Damn, damn, damn! This was not good. She knew the man who was taking her. He was using the magical upper arm hold on her that, as any fool knows, renders women completely incapable of resisting. She could probably dislocate his elbow with one quick move, but then, she’d have the whole gang on her neck. Better to go along with him and try to talk her way out of it. From long experience, she knew that it was easier to be smarter than these people than it was to be stronger. He was taking her to the aptly named Cutthroat Alley. Even though there was no need to, he pushed her to make her walk faster, just to show her who’s boss. They entered an inn called the Shady Lady, went out the back, then into the basement of one of the buildings. She narrowly avoided falling down the stairs when he pushed her. They went into one of the side rooms. Inside, the fearless leader of their gang sat at a table. The room was dimly lit with candles.

“Ah. Cordelia. How nice of you to join us.”

Cordelia had been the name Raven had used when she was being the live bait. She’d picked it more or less at random, after another blonde girl she’d known a long time ago.

“I was forced,” said Raven.

“Trying to hide from us? You should know that nothing that we set our eyes on stays away from us for long.”

“Is there some point to this, Baltar? It’s late, and I’d like to get some sleep.”

Baltar got up and walked towards Raven, looming over her.

“We don’t take kindly to traitors. That quick enough for you?”

“Oh right. Would that be the kind of traitor who runs away and drops his friends in the shit?”

“You knew that warlock and his friends, didn’t you?”

“Never seen them before in my life,” said Raven. “And even if I did, what about it?”

“You led them straight to our cache. That’s not very loyal of you.”

Raven looked Baltar in the eyes. “Let’s see. On one side, a warrior, one of those bears, a rogue, a warlock, and a sodding demoness. On the other side, little me. What else could I have done?”

“Got your cute butt out of there, that’s what.”

“Fat chance,” said Raven. “You and your band of brave brothers tried to fight them, and got nowhere. I gave them a piece of paper worth exactly nothing to you, and got them to bugger off. Now who did better, you or me?”

“You led them to our treasure room, you worthless bitch.”

Treasure? Let’s see what we had in there. Three sets of broken chainmail, a broadsword mostly made of rust, trainees’ spell power rings already soulbound to someone else, a wooden shield worth twenty coppers, the unmentionables of one of your playthings, do I have to keep going? It’s junk! This skirt cost more than that whole damn treasure. If they ransacked it, they did us a favour!”

“You forget one thing,” said Baltar.

“What? Something in there worth a King’s ransom after all?”

“You are expendable. We can get another girl with tits as nice as yours in the time it takes me to snap my fingers.”

A deadly chill ran up Raven’s spine. That answer did not connect with her question at all. Which meant that she couldn’t win this argument, because it was not really an argument, but a prelude. Baltar had lost face with his ‘tactical retreat’, and the only way he could get it back was by putting the fear of the Gods into his minions. Raven could think of only one way he’d do that. Time for a change of tactics. She raised her left hand, put her right behind her back.

“Like that?”

She snapped her fingers. Baltar looked up at her hand. With her other hand, Raven drew her dagger and aimed it at the gap between his chainmail and his belt. Before she could strike, someone jumped forward and hit her hand with a club. The knife fell to the floor. Strong arms grabbed Raven, lifted her off her feet and slammed her down on the table. Baltar picked up Raven’s knife.

“Thank you for that, Cordelia my love.” He put the knife underneath her blouse and cut it open. “Now, we can skip to the fun part. Well, fun for me, not for you of course.”

Raven tried to kick and pull herself free, but it was no use. Baltar bent over her and put his hand over Raven’s mouth.

“Cordelia, my dear? Savour this moment. Between this, and me letting you die, this is what it feels like to have no pain.”

Raven kicked, tried to bite Baltar’s hand as he gently rested the tip of the knife between her breasts.


Baltar pressed the knife into Raven’s skin, then drew it down to her belt. He let go of her mouth.

Lenna trotted through the streets of Stormwind, in the direction of the gates. Mavis didn’t know exactly where Aubrey lived, so she’d have to catch up with her before she got indoors. If she could. Perhaps her keys would be in the purse. No time to look. She barreled into Old Town. Gah. There were at least three different routes Aubrey could have taken. Or perhaps the girl had gone for a relaxing stroll in the starlight. Huh. Not likely. Aubrey might. Raven wouldn’t. She’d climb up on a roof, perhaps, but not in the dress she was wearing. Lenna came to the end of Old Town, without seeing Raven. She took a quick left towards SI:7, saw nothing. Why was she bothering with this? She could just as easily give the purse back to her tomorrow at the shop. Lenna smiled to herself. Raven was a lot smarter than most people gave her credit for. Why the girl had suddenly gone all bright and beautiful and respectable was anyone’s guess. Could be anything from a desire for some rest to a plot to rob the Bank of Stormwind. Or perhaps, she had gone straight. Lenna shook her head. Girls like Raven liked the thrill, the challenge of doing naughty things without being found out. She might work at Mavis’ shop for a month or so, but then the itch would strike her, and she’d end up with her hand in someone else’s pocket.

“My girl,” said Lenna to herself, “If you leave your things behind, then you can run after them.”

Lenna turned round to go back, and then, hundreds of yards away, she saw her. She half opened her mouth to call her, but then she noticed how the man with her pushed her forward. Lenna’s eyes narrowed. No boyfriend does a thing like that and gets away with it. Which meant that this wasn’t a boyfriend, but a boy enemy.

“Oh sugar,” said Lenna, who had long ago learnt to sanitise her vocabulary with Bieslook around. Because she had gone to a party, not a fight, she was wearing an elegant yet practical black dress. Her staff was in the umbrella stand at home. Jennea Cannon, her trainer of magecraft, had always said that for a real mage, enchanted robes and focus devices were but ornaments that encouraged unfocused magic use.

“Thanks Jennea,” said Lenna, and sprinted after Raven.

Raven’s boyfriend put in a brisk tempo, and Lenna only slowly gained on them. She ran after them all through Old town, back to the Dwarven District, only to see them disappear some fifty yards ahead of her. The door turned out to be that of an inn. Lenna stormed in, and quickly looked round the bar. Raven was nowhere to be seen.

“Where’d they go?”

Lenna’s question only got her weary stares. Questions were not encouraged, and answers were unheard-of. There was only one other exit: the door into Cutthroat alley. Lenna ran, then stood still, aware of predatory eyes watching her. Raven and her captor were nowhere near. Lenna walked round the buildings, looking, listening for any clue.

“Oh Raven my girl, where are you?”

Suddenly, Lenna stood still, holding her breath. She’d heard something. The only thing positive about the noise was that the person making it was still alive. She tried the door. Locked, of course. Interalia or Nix could have opened it in seconds. Luckily, Lenna didn’t care too much about locking it again afterwards. Her fireball burnt a Gnome-size hole in the door. Lenna entered. The terrible noise was louder now. Gathering up all her strength, Lenna ran forward.

Raven snorted as the acrid stench of smelling salt hit her, forcing her back into consciousness. The pain hit her, hot angry stripes running from her breasts all over her body.

“You look unhappy, Cordelia. I wonder why that is. But you know, I’ll put a smile back on your face.”

A big hand was on her head, holding her steady. The knife sliced open her cheek to the corner of her mouth.

She screamed, couldn’t faint.

“And the other side.”

Before the knife could cut her, her own sharp knife, she felt… heat. Heat all over her body, and she heard everybody in the room cry out. Above all the noise, above her own cries, she heard a high-pitched voice, calling out in an unknowable language, then… silence.


Raven found that she could move her arms. She looked up, with blood streaming from her chest, her face, into her eyes.

“Oh my, oh my girl. What have they done to you?”

Raven tried to answer, but she couldn’t talk.

“I can’t carry you, my girl. Please tell me you can walk.”

“Lenna?” The word came out strange, slurred.

“Ssh! Don’t talk. Come, lean on me. We’re getting you out of here.”

The room swam in front of Raven’s eyes as she dragged herself to her feet, leaning heavily on the tiny woman’s shoulders. She dragged herself through the hole in the door, through the dark alley, and out through the bar. Nobody tried to stop them. Lenna would have burnt anyone to a cinder who even thought about it, and her limitless anger flared in front of her like an aura. Raven half walked, half crawled, and half was carried on Lenna’s strong shoulders.


“Shh. I’m getting you to the healers, sweetie. Not far to go. Keep going. Everything is going to be alright.”

“Can’t… walk.”

Raven’s sight became a red mist of dancing dots. Then, she slowly sank into blessed sleep. The last thing she saw was Lenna’s hand shooting fireballs into the sky. So bright. So pretty…

Griggin walked back to the fire where Interalia, Nix and Trixie were sitting, chatting with Thunderpetal, Ilsa Corbin and Aysa Cloudsinger. Wu Shen had been dragged away to judge an impromptu martial arts contest between a Dwarven warrior and a Pandaren monk. Bieslook was fast asleep in Trixie’s arms.

“I think it’s time to go home, my little sprouts,” said Griggin. “I’ll call for a boat.”

Griggin turned round to the mooring place, when someone hit his shoulder. He looked round to see Nix pointing upwards. Griggin’s breath stuck in his throat. High above Stormwind were bright flares, rivalling even the fireworks set off by the Panda-ren. Lenna was in trouble. Just as he turned to run to the boats, a clawed hand was on his shoulder. He looked up to see the Pandaren leader, Miss Aysa Cloudsinger, look down on him.

“You seem disturbed. What is it?”

Griggin pointed. “My wife. She is in trouble.”

The tall bear-like woman looked at Lenna’s distress signal.

“Give me a moment. I’ll help.” Aysa called for her warriors, healers. Despite the fact that they had been drinking, they appeared before her like ghosts, all carrying weapons.

“This No-mu‘s wife is in peril. We run to his and her aid. Move!”

Trixie jumped to her feet and dropped Bieslook in Interalia’s lap. Nix grabbed a cooking knife and followed. The Pandaren did not run to the boat, but instead summoned huge tortoises fitted out with riding gear. Griggin and his children were picked up by the back of their shirts and rode along, across the water, with surprising speed, towards Old Town. Griggin stared ahead, his lined face hard as stone. If anyone was hurting Lenna, then that someone would soon long for the comforting solace of hell itself.

They found Lenna sitting by the side of the road with Raven in her lap, still firing firebolts into the air. Aysa and her Pandaren leapt off their riding tortoises. At a few hand signals from Aysa, they formed a circle round Lenna and Raven. Huang ran forward, the green aura of his healing magic already surrounding him.

“I can’t find a pulse!” Lenna looked at Huang. “No pulse!”

“She lives,” said Huang. he held his paw over Raven’s blood-stained body. A green and golden light streamed out to Raven, back to Huang. Then, Raven’s arms twitched, and she cried out.

“Not again! Please stop it! Just kill me! Please!”

Lenna breathed in deep, then stroked Raven’s hair. “You’re safe, my girl. You’re safe. Everything will be alright.”

Huang looked Raven over. The long, cruel cuts on her body, he had closed by his healing magic. He looked at her face. One cut across her forehead, one in her cheek. He’d need better light to fix that properly. From his bag, he pulled out a jar of ointment and smeared it on Raven’s face for the pain, and to stop the bleeding.

“We can move her now,” said Huang, standing up. “Take her to the island. Then, more healing.”

Thunderpetal bowed down over Raven and picked her up in his arms.

“I am very sorry that this should happen, Aub-li.”

She looked up, her body shaking, with grey eyes made of steel.

“My name,” she said, “is Raven.”

They took Raven up to the island, and put her in a camp bed in one of the tents. Huang very carefully put her damaged cheek together, and cast the spells that told the flesh to mend itself, the blood vessels to join up. Raven sighed, closed her eyes and fell asleep with Huang watching over her. Huang put his large paw on her black hair, and smiled. Meanwhile, outside, there was somewhat of a commotion. The Dwarf who’d brought the keg of Thunderbrew’s finest, stomped round with thunder on his face.

“Why does this always happen when yer not bloody dressed for a fight? My sons! We’re going to put a stop to this once and for all! All of ye furries, if yer in for a scrap, meet me in the town square by the notice board in half an hour’s time! The barracks may be a right shambles, but it’s still ours, and no bloody scunner is going ta tramp round it without a good kickin, Dwarf style!”

He ran off for the boats and disappeared in the dark. Aysa looked after him with a smile on her face, then pointed at a dozen or so of her fighters.

“Show our Dor-fu friends that we are allies to be rejoiced in. Make sure that all of our friends return home, and that no enemy be left standing before us.”

Griggin watched the Pandaren. He would have expected a fierce battle roar after that, but they simply bowed solemnly and disappeared into the night. Lenna was sitting next to him, her hand holding his tightly. Her head was on his shoulder, and tears were slowly trickling down her face.

“First Nix, and now this,” she said, quietly. “Poor, poor girl.”

“She’s alive,” said Griggin. “Where there’s life, there’s hope.”

Part 6: Disputes of children at play


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