She stood in the doorway for quite some time, her shadow falling down the middle aisle right next to the cashier counter. It was a bright, sunny day outside. She turned into a cut-out of complete darkness, framed by rays of light. The only thing any of them saw before she moved was the burning white-blue eyes.
Her black boots, reinforced with saronite soles, clomped against the worn linoleum. She only took three steps, then stopped. Black leather pants, worn to a shine. Black leather gloves covering her arms up to her elbows. She wore a sleeveless black leather jacket, zipped halfway up, but nothing under, no linen, no bra. She had two AR slung across her back in an X, her belt heavy with handguns, handaxes, daggers and an ancient twohand sword, blazing with pale blue flames.
Her skin was pale, smudged with grey spots. Her face was haggard, almost a skull, her black hair a crewcut carpet between bone-white horns, swept backwards. Her skin was criscrossed with scars. Her lips were black – not lipstick, tatooed. When she spoke her voice was gravel on steel:
“You got candy?” She looked around. “Chips? Sourcream ‘f you have it. Beer?”
Speedy made a guttural sound that almost sounded like “Eeep!”.
“You mute, goblin?”
Speedy shook his head, swallowed hard.
“Get on with it?”
Speedy nodded. He hurried away, down an aisle, collecting candy and chips as he went and then stopped at the glassdoor refrigerators.
“Zul’Drak choccies ‘f ya got it!”
He made a strangled sound, grabbing sixpacks with one hand, holding the refrigerator door open with an elbow.
She turned to Naz, sitting behind the counter. Then she smiled, ever so slightly.
“What’s the matter?” she said, leaning with her elbows against the counter. Naz did his best not staring at her breasts. “Never seen a death knight before?”
Naz dropped his pen. Then he dropped his jaw. After a few secondds he closed his hanging mouth. He tried his best not to tremble but failed.
“Aww, isn’t that cute,” she said in a feint girlish voice that only made her sound even more terrible. “You haven’t!”
“I … ” Naz swallowed, hard. His voice was tense. “I thought you were extinct!”
“Not quite,” she said. She straightened up, looking over the shelves behind him and the rack of cigarettes above the cashiers counter. “Couple o’pack of fellies too. And burnwine.”
“You … uh … you mean – brandy?”
“Is that what they call it now?”
“No but we don’t carry burnwine Speeds says it’s too expensive and besides it taste like motor oil!”
“See, punctuation is the key to any succesful communication … ” she smiled, winked at him, and added in a slow, horrible whisper: “Naz … grim.”
Naz didn’t dare to reply. Speedys hasty return with an armful of groceries saved him from further embarassment. Being the goblin he were, Speedy had the audacity to pipe up a faint “That’ll be seven gold, miss! Anything else?”.
“I’m cool,” she said. In fact she was. She was cold, very cold. A chill that even if Naz sat more than three feet away made his hairs stand up on his arms. She pulled off a glove, rummaged through a pocket and came up with seven ancient gold coins. As she gently put them in a pile on the counter Naz couldn’t help but notice how the skin and flesh of her fingertips had been worn away, down to the very bone. But her fingernails were perfectly cared for, painted black. There was a faint mist of dissipating frost hanging around the pile of coins. Crudely minted ones, jagged, scratched, worn down.
“Bag it,” she said.
“Yes mam!” Naz nodded, hurried himself to fill a brown paper bag with her groceries and then handed the bag to her. He stood there, bag in both hand, arms oustretched, for a good while. She took her time putting on her glove.
“You know the way to King’s Hotel,” she said without looking up.
“King… uh … down the street, go left, straight forward. big glass and saronite building, can’t miss it.”
“Prolly need a bookin’ tho’,” Speedy said – and then clamped both his hands to his mouth, staring at her.
“I’m … expected.” She grabbed the bag and, resting it against her hip, turned around and walked out of the store. She stopped in the doorway, turned her head and shot a quick kiss with her free hand at them all. Then she walked out the store, closed the door behind her and disappeared from their view. After a minute old Thrall opened the door and gradually made his way inside, shuffling his walker in front of him. He sat down with a heavy sigh and a fart in the old leather sofa right next to the door and lit his pipe with trembling hands.
They all waited for an engine to rev. Instead, a few minutes later, there was a another kind of noise – a ‘clop-clop, clop-clop’. Then she rode past the open front door to the store – on a skeletal horse.
None of them said a thing for almost five minutes. They stared at each other, stared at the door, the street and the traffic. The only sound was the ‘whum-hum-whum’ of a fan from the ceiling, the gurgling of coolants from the refrigerators, the faint ‘thump-thump-thump’ from the sodaslush machine.
“Light … ” Speedy at long last whispered. His hand were shaking as he dug his pack of fellies out of his breastpocket. He managed to light up, took a deep drag and calmed down a bit. “Naz?”
“Yeah..?” Naz breathed out, hard. As if cleaning himself from fear. He lit a cigarette and tried not to stare at the ancient coins. “Yeah, Speeds?”
“Drinks, dude. Bottom shelf. Guess we need the good stuff. On the house y’all.”
Naz nodded, slowly. With the cigarette in the corner of the mouth he was just about to whisk the coins into the till when old Thrall said:
“What?” Naz froze, his hands less than an inch from the coins.
“Don’t touch ’em!”
“‘s Scourge money ‘s what it ‘s!”
“Look,” Thrall grunted. “Dem’s coins are cursed they are! You mark ma words young’un. Ain’t seen coins like dat since the Great War.” He nodded. “Damned death knights were even worse than tanks! Had to use an rpg on ’em to kill ’em, you mark my words dems coins cursed!”
“It’s gold, who cares,” Speedy said, walked up to the counter, stretchedo ut a hand and … froze. He swallowed nervously. “Uh, Naz?”
“Look … ” Speedy grabbed a pencil from his breastpocket and very gently nudged one of the less worn coins into the overhead light. The imprint of a man was more visible; a young man, long hair, wearing a horned helmet shaped as a skull.
“Sweet Elune … ” Naz leaned back, blowing out a big cloud of smoke. “Gotta be hundreds of years old those!”
“That’s Scourge money allright,” old Thrall said and nodded.
“Is that … wassaname … ” Speedy couldn’t continue.
“Arthas,” Naz whispered. “I did a thesis on him in school once.”
“Bad as they ever got get,” Tinker said, his old, shrill gnome voice trembling. “Bad one, that one. Still, I would say that if we had leaders like that these days those damned bluesk–”
“Oh shut it you!” Speedy swirled around. “Shut the piehole or go home, gettin’ pretty fucking fed-up with you, mister!”
“‘s the curse allright,” old Thrall said.
Speedy nodded. He dropped his cigarette on the floor and crushed the butt under his heel. Then he turned to Naz and said:
“Get the rubber gloves. Rake those bastards down. Drop them down the stormdrain, outside. Ain’t havin’ scourge money in my store I ain’t!”
“You sure?” Naz said. “It’s gold?”
“Get rid of it!”
Naz nodded. He butted out his cigarette in an ashtray – “Welcome to Icecrown Hotel!” stamped in the bottom of the black glass with big, red letters – and hurried off. A few minutes later he nervously carried the coins outside and dumped them down the stormdrain. He could have sworn the sewerwater, five feet below, froe to ice in an instant.
He pulled off the gloves and, hesitating for a moment, dropped them into a wastepaper basket. Then he returned to the store – and stopped dead. He stared at them all. Swallowed hard, fumbled out another cigarette but forgot to light it.
“How did she know my name!?” he said, the last word coming close to a panic pitch. “Sweet Elune!”
“Don’t know, don’t care – and neither should you, boy,” Speedy said. He tossed back another shot of Durotar cactuswine. “Now that was scary, gentlemen!”
“Not a bad chick tho'” Benny said and chuckled. He sucked his knuckles, he always sucked his knuckles when he was thinking. “Wonder what she wanna widda hotel tho’.”
Right then, the second strange thing of the day made its way into the store from the street.
The sound of two dozen rumbling, revving chopper engines.