This is part four of a short story that may or may not lead to some epic conclusion. Part four is … fairly long, I’m afraid, so it might take some time reading it.
Keep in mind all of this is head canon and should not be considered lore. It’s basically a Stream of Consciousness; a type of writing I really enjoy. I have no idea where the story will lead. It runs on its own, free from plans and plots and everything else. In fact, it might not even be very good writing. Still, somewhere in the expansive universe of World of Warcraft I guess there’s a small shelf marked “Pulp fiction”.
You’ll find me there, probably.
I was somewhat inspired by the talk about virtual realms. Also, there’s probably some hints to the upcoming patch 5.4. Most of all it’s sort of a look at Cross Realm Zones from an azerothian view. You know, once upon a time it seemed as if you were all alone in the world. then nametags started popping up everywhere. Now? These days?
The world is crowded.
– – – – –
There was a gnome in the Exodar.
For some people a gnome was nothing special. Indeed, the guards and shop owners saw not as much as a gnome but more of a potential threat (the guards) or a customer (the shop owners). Other people – mostly the paladin in gilded armor over there – snickered. He did his best not to crack a joke; lucky for him he was more interested in moths than gnomes.
Sprackle Cracklerod, engineer extraordinaire, felt a small wave of relief. Ever since he left Gnomeragan he had been forced to laugh at bad jokes. At first he laughed loud, by the time he reached Darnassus he just smiled. When he stepped off the ship from Teldrassil there was no smiles left. All fake joy had been used up. He just gave the mariners a Look when they said farewll to him and pretended to “punt” him across the gangplank.
All in all it was a very lucky paladin who forgot to call out a joke. Sprackle had had enough. He was, apart from an engineer, also a very skilled mage. There was a fireball waiting for the next person who thought a gnome joke would brighten the day. He was on a mission of utmost importance. The faith of Azeroth laid in his hands (so he told himself). Most of all he needed fifty thousand gold. He knew exactly where to get them. That’s why he stepped into the store not far from the bank, “Creannahs Chopper Shop”.
The first thing that happened was this: Nothing happened. Sprackles “Escuse me, I wish to see the manager, please” was met with – nothing. His next words – “Anybody here?” – was met with a clanking noice, a rough ladylike voice going “Oh snap!” and then two horns slowly rose up from behind the counter. The horns were metal. They were attached to the very real horns of a very, very real draenei. She wore a leather apron over a blue overall.
“Are you the manager?” Sprackle said, looking up at her. “If not, I need to see the manager. It’s important. Very important. Eslusive business contracts and all, you know.”
“Hey Cree!” the draenei called. “There’s a kid with a beard here!” The draenei looked down on Srpackle. “I think it’s a gnome acutally!”
Footsteps. Hooves against metal floor. For some reason Sprackle didn’t like the sound, didn’t like it at all. It reminded him of a very traumatic incident in his early career, hunting down ancient blueprints in abandoned spaceships. The last thing you want to hear in Tempest Keep is hooves on metal floor. Especially if you’re a gnome.
Another draenei emerged from a doorway behind the counter. Darkskinned, plae blue shining eyes, horns swept back. She had an ever so slight smile; blackened lips (it was some sort of fashion among certain draenei). She whiped her hands with a piece of wool cloth. The blue overalls she was wearing was covered with stains, old oil smudges and many pockets. She wore a loosely fitted adamantium-foil hood on her head.
“I’m the manager,” Creannah said. She stuffed the rag in her back pocket, pushed away a lock of hair from her forehead leaving a faint smudge of engine grease diagonal across. “Creannah’s the name, call me Cree. Wanna buy something?”
“Not esatly,” Sprackle said, smiling. “If we can talk in private I guess it’s you who want to buy something.”
“Exatly,” Creannah said.
“Right! Good! See? We allready understand each other!”
“No no, it’s pronounced exactly. With an x-sound.”
“Oh, I … ” Sprackle cleared his throat. “I cant say e-ss. Or stuff sounding like it.”
“You can’t? Huh.”
“Had an assident in Borean Tundra. I was a robot for four days before I was cured.”
“I bet you stay away from magnets too, then.”
“Is that some sort of gnome joke?”
There was silence. Uncomfortable silence. Creannah looked down on Sprackle, waiting. Sprackle looked up at her, slowly twiddling his thumbs in a very nervous manner. At long last Creannah took a step to the side, showed him with an outstretched hand to a small footstool and smiled. She sat down on a pile of white arctic furs and said, hand hanging down between her knees:
“Well, mr ..?”
“Cracklerod! Sprackle Cracklerod, miss … I guess you’re Creannah?”
“Good. Now!” Sprackle leaned forward and said in a hushed voice: “How much would you pay for the ability to influence your customers minds ..?”
“Look, if this is some sort of advertising set-up I allready got a guy handling that. A night-elf, really good one too. Ever seen one of those pictures with an almost naked night elf lady sitting on a fence? And in the lover left corner you can see what appears to be a handlebar? Sublime, no? That’s him. And it’s my chopper.”
“Who’s the babe then?” Sprackle said.
“No idea, mate.” She chuckled. “Anyway. People know what they get when they see that ad. A chopper fit for a nude night-elf.”
“Ah, but they can still choose not to buy a chopper,” Sprackle said and nodded. “What would you pay for a device that … takes away the customers free will?” He paused. Leaned back. Looking very content. “What would you pay for a device that makes buying one of your choppers for the best progression in life … mandatory gear?” Huh? Ha ha!”
Before Creannah had a chance to reply, Sprackle pulled out a small metal box from his backpack. The box was no bigger than half a feet, seven inches high. He carefully, gentle in every touch, raised an umbrella-like tiny shield on a silver stick. The shield was made from a copper mesh, curved inwards. In dead center of the dish there was a small golden rod. The rest of the box was clean silver and adamantium, except a few brass buttons, a red glass-knob and a green glass-nob. He held it up in front of her, smiling.
“This is what you’ll get for fifty thousand gold,” he said. “It might not look much but the possibilities are endless!”
“It doesn’t look like it’s worth fifty.”
“It is! It is!”
“Well, what is it?”
“It’s … A Mentality Antimodulator Dissosiativeograph. I haven’t worked out a nickname yet. I call it Mad.”
“So do I.”
“You’re mad if you think I’m coughing up fifty grand for … a box.”
“It’s more than a boss!”
“Don’t look like much. Sorry.”
Sprackle flipped a switch. The red glass-knob started to pulse and glow. He raised the MAD, pointing it at Clareah the Assistant – the girl in the apron – and flipped another switch. The red glass-knob stopped glowing but the green glass-knob started pulse instead. There was a tiny whirring noise and a small jet of almost invisible white steam pushing out through a small nostril on the side of the MAD.
“Go on, tell her to do something she wouldn’t do normally,” Sprackle said.
“Yeah?” She looked up from the motor she’d been working on behind next to the counter. “Wassup?”
“Go tell Velen he’s an old goat.”
“Sure thing b… Hey!”
“Wait!” Sprackle furiously punched a number of buttons. The jet of steam grew thicker … then thinner. The whirring noise sounded like a prolonged wolfwhistle. “Now! Again!”
“Ok,” Creannah giggled. “Go and kiss Antheros. I know you’re sweet on him, Clara. go on.”
Clareah did move. It appeared she wasn’t quite sure if it was a good idea. Her steps were slow, almost dragging. But she did leave the shop. Creannah stood up, walked over to the doorway and watched her assistant go over to one of the guards next to the bank … and punch him in the face, yelling “You’re an old goat!”.
“Oh my,” Sprackle said, looking suprised. “I tried this model out in Ironforge and it worked just fine.” He looked around, brow furrowed. “Ah. I think it may have to do with crystals!”
Creannah rushed forward. Antheros the Guard stumbled around with his hands pressed to his face screaming “My bose! My bose!”. Another guard tackled Clareah to the ground, pinning her under his own weight. More guards came rushing in. A throng of curious and shocked bystanders were quickly forming around the scene. Clareah was struggling, screaming. Two guards grabbed her by her arms, another one heaved himself over her legs. She was more or less buried under shouting, struggling guards.
“Lemme go!” Clareah screamed.
“Let her go!” Creannah shouted.
“What is the meaning of this!?” a watch captain, newly arrived, yelled.
“There we go!” Sprackle said, jubilant about his own genius, flipped a switch and … “Oops.”
It was quite an extraordinary scene. Everyone, including Clareah under a pile of guards, started to dance. The watch captain did so with such vigour he dropped his purple crystal mace and gilded shield, clapping his hands, spinning on the spot. The human paladin who had been buying bags thrust his lower body around in a very sensual way. He attracted more than one interested draenei glance. A passing-by noble young draenei girl slowly danced up to him, almost but not quite touching him with her lips and other bodyparts.
Creannah didn’t dance. Her hands twitched, but that was all.
“The left switch!” Sprackle said with a very urgent tone. “Quickly! The left!” He kept dancing. his words becoming a staccato as he moved. “It’s the crystals! Magnetic antiflux channeling! I didn’t ..! Oh Light! Please! The switch! Do it!”
He had dropped the MAD unit when he started to dance. By now, half the Traders Tier was moving to rythms only themselves could hear or feel. Creannah bent down, picked the MAD unit up and flipped the switch.
The dance party stopped.
For some time people were looking embarassed. Then the crowd started to filter away. Some hurried, almost running. Others walked away arm in arm. The noble young draenei girl and the human male paladin seemed to support each other, quickly stepping inside a building and shutting the door behind them. The guards on top of Clearah and Clearah herself hurried their separate ways. Whatever had just happened seemed to have happened in a dream … or something. Ther would undoubtedly be reports of the incident but for now everyone seemed content with slinking away like small furry frightened animals in front of a wolfpack.
Sparkle breathed deeply. There was a moments silence between him and Creannah, then she said:
“What in the Lights name is that cursed thing!?”
“Mentality Antimodulator Dissosiativeograph,” Sparkle said.
“It doesn’t work!”
“Yes it does! Only it doesn’t work as intended with all these … outlandish crystals all around!”
“There’s nothing wrong with crystals!”
“Sure, yeah ok. No problem. Just, you know.”
“No I don’t.”
“You don’t? I thought you were an engineer?”
“I build choppers, not … Not Mad Boxes!”
“Oh. Uhm … ” Sparkle looked around, thinking. “I think I know the problem now … ”
“You gonna buy the box?”
“No way!” Creannah laughed. It was almost a scornful laugh, it made her feel a bit ashamed. “That’s a weapon of mass delusion, that is! I won’t touch it with a ten foot pole!”
“Ok, sure. No problem.”
“Why don’t it work?”
Sparkle sighed. He returned to Creannah Chopper Shop, sank down on the footstool and turned the MAD unit over in his hand. Creannah joined him, sat down on the furs and waited. She was worried for Clareah but she was also curious about the MAD. Curiousity won the struggle.
“I think there’s some sort of vibration distortion,” Sparkle said. “You see, inside there’s a small sliver of condensed arcane energy, farmed from a spot in Azeroth where all the worlds ley lines converge. Kharazan.” He shuddered. “Let me tell you, it was no easy feat getting that sliver. It’s expected halflife is seven times used, then it needs to be replaced.”
“Kharazan?” Creannah swallowed, hard. “You mean … the haunted tower?”
“That one, yeah.”
“The tower with ghosts?”
“And bats. Don’t forget the bats.”
“Uh-huh. And skeletons.”
“And those whiggly scary magic eels?”
“And the ancient arcane construct?”
“That’s where I found the battery needed, yes. The arcane sliver.”
“How many times have you used that box?”
“Six, counting now.”
“Were you going to tell me this before or after I’d given you gold?”
“Ha! Don’t be daft! Afterwards, of course. I’m a gnome after all, not a goblin!”
“You’re evil, that’s what you are!”
“Hey! No need for name calling now, is there? It’s an essuisite boss, this one. Just a bit, well – flawed.”
“How many more slivers do you have?”
“Uhm … I could only … find … one.”
“So … you’re basically trying to sell a paperweight for fifty grand?” Creannah grunted. “Seems a bit goblinesque to me, it does.”
“Look, it’s no biggie getting a new sliver, right? I mean – you’re famous. All of you, your whole family is. Just, you know, ask someone to get a new sliver. Or get one yourself.”
“I’m scared of ghosts. And my sisters are a little bit preoccupied saving the world from a rampaging Horde warchief if you didn’t know.” Creannah chewed her lower lip. She always did when she went into think-mode. There was a small line of tiny pinprick scars below her lip. She always forgot draenei had fangs. “Ouch!” She twitched, stood up, grabbed Sparkle by his collar and pulled him to his feet. “Come on!”
“Where we going!?” he said, trying his best to keep up with her long strides.
Creannah didn’t answer. Sparkle gave up trying to get an answer out of her once they reached the Crystal Hall. By then he was too tired in his legs to run so he just let her drag him. He didn’t care about the humiliation; plenty of chuckles and snickers followed him across the hall. Fear almost paralyzed him: Traumatic memories swam to the surface of his mind.
Her hoofs made a “Clique clique! Clique clique!” on the metal floor. Sparkle hated that sound, especially when he was being dragged across a brightly lit massive crystal hall. It had happened in Tempest Keep – and it happened in the Exodar. just his luck, he thought. Here he was, a gnome to scared to talk, being dragged by an eredar … well, almost an eredar … or something very much alike. Again.
He just hoped they wouldn’t infuse him with raw mana this time. Soemthing had gone wrong with their machineryu. There had been an explosion. Then a ripping sound as if the empty air had opened up in a rift. He rememberd being sucked in somehow, then everything was blank. When he woke up he had no recollection of how he ended up where he ended up or even where where was until someone told him!. He remembered having one mother of a headache. Sometimes he wondered what had happened to the other guy he had been with, Millhouse.
“Please” Sparkle said as Creannah started dragging him up some stairs. “Please! Where are you taking me!?”
“Someone who would be very interested in a weapon,” Creannah said. She stopped by a door, letting Sparkle go. “Wait here.”
He slumped to the floor, panting. Exhausted. Creannah opened the door, stepped inside and closed the door behind her. A minute passed.
“Ooh I can’t stay here,” he said to himself. “Get up, Sparkle, get up!”
Sparkle managed to get to his feet, bending over, breathing hard, deep. The panic and fear started to subside. He looked around but no one seemed to take any interest in him. So he did what any gnome mage would do in a situation like his: He uttered a few short words, waving his hands around … and vanished.
He forgot the MAD unit.