Do you suppose yourself advancing on real ground toward a real heroic man?
Have you no thought O dreamer that it may be all maya, illusion?
– Walt Whitman, “Are You the Person Drawn Toward Me?”
(Caveat: This short story contains a lot of swearing.)
– – – – –
“The bitch must die.”
People around the table nodded in agreeement.
“All of them must die. All of them! All of the sisters! ALL!!!”
Some people looked around, worried. What if someone outside their close-knit circle had heard?
“Quiet, you fool!” a voice said. “Keep a lid on it!”
“They must die!” the first voice said in a hushed tone. “Death to them all! A slow, painful death … we will destroy their very souls! They will know pain! I – we! – will have fun with them! We will … rape them! Ah, yes! We will ravish them! All of them! Even the dead one! Yes! Yes! They Will! Die! Begging for mercy! Soiled, ravaged … by me.”
“By us you mean.”
“Whatever! that bitch … scorned me in Dalaran. Oooh but you know, she’ll get what’s coming. Trust me. All of them. They will … they will beg us for mercy when we’re done with them! And y’all know what!? They. Will. Have. NONE!!!”
Then a voice said from the shadows:
“No.” There was a pause. “Let them live.” There was a snicker. “Sometimes you destroy a person with death and pain. Sometimes … you destroy their character. Gossip, people. A far greater weapon than lord Dicks wanker-pole. Tell me … lord. When was the last time you didn’t pay for it?” The gnome chuckled. “What greater punishment for a fallen vindicator than to live in shame? She have a dead sister, you know, Zavannah. Yes? Well then – did none of you hear of Arthas Menethil?”
“Fuck off, gnome.” The human with the moustache snorted. “you’re not a paladin. You never were. You can not be! DEATH is righteous! fuck all that smart stuff! You warlocks, yo–”
“MALCOLM!!!” The female human smacked her fist on the table. “Control yourself!”
“So is pain,” the gnome said, not losing a beat of his thought. “Everlasting pain.” He chuckled. “Ever seen the face of a goat when you show them what happened to their precious Karabor? That, my friends. That.”
“That what?” the female human said.
The gnome smiled. After almost a full minute of silence he tossed back a Sulfuron shot, shook his head and wheezed:
“That! Is! Pain!”
Meanwhile, far away from the Brawlers Guild, the evening crept across the waters of Menethil and shrouded the cabin in cozy twilight. The fireplace roared as seasoned scents of halibut on fresh rye filled the room. Little did neither Shuanna nor Maraad know that far away completely different scents and senses plotted, twisted, whispered. As Shuanna leaned back and, laughing, listened to a joke told by Maraad, in the depths of Stormwind City a tired dark iron dwarf refugee served another round of beer. She couldn’t get any work in Ironforge. Stormwind didn’t mind the skin of your dwarf (as long as you stayed out of the dwarven quarter … and tried your best to avoid guard Smithers in other parts).
Myrna was used to people of non-dwarven origin coming to the Brawlers Guild (allthough most of them came to start a fight). Myrna the maid didn’t think twice about them. Brawling, as people called it, was the home of the forgotten Fallen paladins, death knights, warlocks, people who just wanted to watch the world burn. And of course – the “mysterious” human in a wide brimmed hat. Over there in the corner, smoking a pipe … nauseous scents of dried felweed hung like a mist around her.
They called her the Whisperer.
Still, Myrna felt a bit disconcerted by the tidbits of gossip she had picked up from that particular table. They were on their seventh round of beer. Not your typical Blackrock beer either, but the expensive kind. The kind of beer that secretive pale humans delivered in the dead of night. The kind of beer she used to serve absolutely insane nihilists, once when she was a maid at a local pub in the remote mountain areas of Silithus and later in Twilight Highlands … long before a fortress of twisted steel rose from the ground. Myrna wasn’t particularly fond of people like that; those who wanted to kill everything, including themselves (and her kid). Of course, perhaps they were a lot smarter than she; all she knew was she wanted to kill her former lover right after knocking her up.
It was a job. She didn’t enjoy it. But it paid her bills. A single mother was no vacation. So she listened to gossip, she remembered it, and sometimes … somewhere … deep within her … there was the thought: ‘Maybe my kid will be better off if the world doesn’t burn’.
She lingered, close by at a vacant table, wiping it clean over and over with a rag. Listening but not “listening”. Myrna picked up some interesting things … stuff someone no doubt would pay for. She was a popular maid (even among those who came to fight). She knew many names, all of them hidden in her head. One of them was a dwarf called “Flint”.
It wasn’t his real name, of course. It was a nickname. How it had come to be she didn’t know. She did know he had come to the pub looking for a fight. Besides – he owed her. Anyone who don’t use a mages protective spell while “doin yer nat’ral!” stands to owe a great deal. Women, no matter what race, knows this. Men, no matter the race, do their damned hardest to forget. The Goldshire children can attest to that.
She didn’t care much for whoever it was the strange posse around the table talked about. What she knew was that Flint would undoubtedly pay handsomely for the strange information. She knew he was some sort of high ranking officer in the Argent Crusade. She knew that, for whatever reasons, the Argent Crusade spied on pretty much everyone. Sometimes openly, sometimes through long, winding, secretive chains of whispering mouths and listening ears. He had tried to explain it once – she didn’t get it then and wouldn’t ever get it. Myrna didn’t care. Politics rarely touched base with the common folk. All she knew was that her kid would soon need another set of clothes. He grew like magic sprout, he did. She wasn’t a proud woman but she was proud of her son. He would need new clothes … so she listened.
“Fucking bitch scorned me,” the moustache said, slamming his fist on the table so hard pewter mugs skittered all over the table. Some fell off, spraying the floor with beer. “I am not a man to be trifled with y’all know! I was once an honored hero and then … then that blueskin freak came along. All of them. They. Stole. Our. Jobs! Or honor!”
“Just like the pandaren did,” the woman muttered, stuffing chunks of tobacco into a meershaum pipe and lit it. “Honest human people are getting poorer by the day while these damned … foreigners …”
“Can’t even get a decent meal around this city anymore,” the gnome said and sighed. He tossed back another sulfuron, wheezing. “All noodles now, y’know. I swear, honest to Gnomer I do, if I have to eat that filth one more time I’ll torch the fucking place selling it!”
“That Jack in the Box, right? Corner of Canal and Cathedral?”
“They used to have these really good ribs you know … ”
“Fucking hunter’s union, jacked up the price on boar meat. Fucking trehugging fucking nightelf scum fucking aorund who knows the fuck about what …” the moustache clenched his fists. At a loss of words he just growled, so furious small gobs of froth strted to seep out the corners of his mouth. He glared at no one in particular, wild-eyed, red-faced. Then he stood up and stormed off. He took a flying jump across a railing, landed in the pit and screamed at the top of his lungs: “LETS GET SOME CARMINE FLOWING BOYS!!!”
The crowd cheered as he ripped off his shirt, grabbed an iron pipe from the floor and waited. No one answered his call for quite some time. Then a wayward vrykul mercenary stepped into the ring, grinning.
“I’LL EAT YOUR HEART!!!”
Twenty seconds later the crowd went “ooooh!” as the moustached maniac was sent flying across the pit. He slammed into the wall, knocked out before he even had had time to throw a punch.
“MALCOLM THE MAD PALADIN HITS THE WALL SCREAMING!!!” the goblin conferencier shouted. “GUNNAR THE MISER IS VICTORIOUS ONCE AGAIN!!!”
Myrna stifled a chuckle. She headed towards another table. She let one of the busboys take care of the mess around the crowded table. She didn’t like them, the gnome was glaring at everything and everyone. Ashen-faced, veins pulsing in his neck and temples. He was a bomb waiting to go off, she knew the kind of face. She had seen it all too often in different pubs of the world. She also knew it wasn’t men like that one should fear. Rage can be handled, however silent it may be. Brooding on the other hand …
Myrna took a deep breath, wen up to the shady corner with it’s clinging greenish smokey mist and said:
“Care for a drink, miss?”
“Fill it … ” a whisper. A slow, pale hand creeping out of the darkness of the corner. Whoever she was, the one called the Whisperer, she hid herself well; a shady velvet cape and a wide brimmed crimson hat. “Caraway … Please … ” Her voice was coarse, a mere whisper. “That paladin? Who is he?”
“The one Gunnar just messed up? Oh, just some sport itching for a fight.”
The words was as sharp as the crack of a whip, whispered by that cold voice … it sent a shiver down Myrnas spine. She could handle cultists, sure, no problem. She could handle crazed world destroyers as well. She could even handle black dragons (her first job was as a maid in Nefarians palace; a time she desperately tried to forget). But whisperers. The whisperers always got to her.
“I … I’ll get you your drink, miss!”. Myrna scurried off, dreading her return. A minute later she did return. She failed convincing the other maids to get the order; everyone feared the whisperer.
“Who is he?” the whisperer said.
“He … ”
“Do not. Lie.”
“He’s a former paladin,” Myrna said, sighing. “Look, I … Things like this … I could get in trouble and I got a kid to take care …” She swallowed, hard. “I’m scared, allright?”
“Information is never free. I understand.” There was a small ‘clink’. Then the whisperers pale hand came forth, palm down. When the hand was pulled back a small pile of gold coins glimmered on the table. “Twenty sovereigns.”
“That’s … ” Myrna could stop herself from smiling. “By Thaurissans beard!”
“Now … Tell me … Myrna. Who is he? And who are his friends?” The whisperer didn’t raise her voice, not for a second. Harsh syllables, like cold gravel on rough metal. “Sit for a spell. Talk … “
Myrna hesitated. The gold coins – they looked well worn, badly handled, roughly minted. Maybe she shouldn’t? But twenty gold … she could afford moving to a place without rats with that sum! She grabbed the coins, flinching. Cold gold, cold as the black ice of some long forgotten glacier. A thin mist hung around them, she noticed it too late. The portrait on the coins was not the portrait of Wrynn.
It was the portrait of a Lich King.