“I din’t mean to! Honist!” The eyes of that little girl welled up with tears. She held out the limp little body, still warm, in her hands and mumbled a “Can’t you make Poodles alive, mommy?”
That’s how I met Isel.
See, there’s a thing I’ve heard the humans around here say, once in a while. “Can’t get truth from anyone but the dead or the kids”. I guess there’s been some trouble with someone. I think I overheard one of the guards muttering about Jake down by Salvage, how he ‘skimmed’ (I don’t what that means). No one knows I eavesdropped. No one pays much heed to a geist in this place. You see, there’s two things humans do that I find peculiar. They don’t take young ones serious – and they follow orders. Both things are important. But first I need to tell you this: Kids only see monsters if their parents tell them there’s monsters.
Humans … The only reason no one has strung me up in this damned garrison is because of Delvar and Master. That’s Master Zavannah, former vindicator in training, hero of the Exodar, mercenary for the Light … skewered by a rusted polearm, raised as a slave to Him … and then, by the grace of the Light … free … again …
Excuse my theatrics. I have come to understand that on this world I’m better off as a monster. Oh, don’t get me wrong – Isel, Maraad (rest his soul) and many other draenei find me strange and even revolting. They are careful around me. But they don’t fear me.
Out of fear comes hate. The only thing that keeps that hate from exploding is Orders. Discipline. The Army. And secret missives from “a friend”. Tell you the truth – most of the humans don’t like the “blue” that much. There’s been talk about “stringing some of ’em up, gotta get even for Baros, boys”.
To some humans it doesn’t matter that it was the Iron Horde that killed Baros Alexston. To some humans, anything that’s not human enough is a monster. To some humans, anything that isn’t human is a monster. I guess it’s a good thing that Quiana can rip the throat out of anyone without even breaking a sweat. I’ve heard stories, you know. Things starting with ‘Lemme tell y’a ’bout the time I fucked this neff slut down in Booty Bay!”. Stories over jugs of rum. Stories met with laughter. The thundering, deep-throated, growling laughter of very strong, and very angry, men. Young men.
There’s a bomb waiting to blow here, my friends. The only one who keeps the fuse wet is me. Geist, the Spy. Geist, the Monster. Once in a while the Commander, Masters sister General Shuanna of the Exodar, finds a note among her paperwork. A crudely written note by a hand that is trembling with homesickness and fear. My hand.
“Sgt Pollard spit on ze grund when a drini walk by, bu onlyff nane see hem do it, maam.” That’s one of my notes. Another one I took great care with: “Private Rayne wasn’t slain by ‘brigans’ uppa Gloomshade, Cumander. Private Theris and Pearse killed him. Dey calld it ‘fraging’. Podlings innocent in dis mattur.” I’ve seen people hanged because of my notes. With every hanging the hate for the blue grows … among some of the humen. I sometimes wish I could have killed them myself. But no, because you know? I’m not just Geist, the Spy.
I’m also Geist, the Friend.
Or maybe more than a friend? I don’t know. I only know this: Guard Morissa has taken a liking in me. Yes, yes, yes – she’s a death knight! I know! This whole set-up is weird, to say the least. It goes a bit like this:
General Shuanna is the Commander. Her sisters are second in command with Master Zavannah as ‘tac ops officer’ (I don’t know what that means). There’s ten commanders in one garrison. If I have spied correctly on the Exodar Ten, there will soon be eleven. The youngest, Rashannah, is said to be on her way. Master felt that some of the soldiers were … lacking. In courage, in knowledge, in morale. So she convinced the Commander to, well, “bring in the dead ones“.
Morissa likes me. In fact, we laugh with each other so often, we punch each others on the shoulder and we talk about Things That Were … we do this so often that I, uh … I … I might be falling in love. Imagine that, huh? Not all is bad in this damned garrison. Take Agriok, for instance – another monster.
There is an old Exiled orc here. His name is Agriok. He comes around from time to time, wanders down from Exiles Rise and peddles beads and pipes carved from elekk horn. Rulkan invited him. He stays close to her and Lantresor, perhaps out of fear. Agriok lacks half his face. Someone, maybe himself, has fashioned a facemask in very thin steel. It covers his damaged part of the face. The mask is painted almost the same color as his skin. It even has an eye, it’s made of glass! He makes me laugh. We drink together (he’s using a straw, sometimes he blows bubbles in his rum!). He is also my friend.
As Agriok, I often mumble a “sorry” when one of the draenei kids who have never seen a geist sees me for the first time and then hides behind her mommys skirt with a terrorized cry. As me, Agriok often tries to hide behind a doorpost or a tree, eavesdropping on the parents who has come from Embari bringing goods and their children. Shadowmoon is not safe for children, you see. But the garrison is. Here, they can tell their children the stories of old … about Argus.
I listen. Perched on a treebranch, Pepe on my head. Agriok listens too, hiding behind the treetrunk, peering out with his “good face” (as he calls it, the unscarred side of his destroyed face). Perhaps we are children of Draenor, just as Isel is? I don’t know … so I listen.
I am Geist the Listener.
Ha! Isel called me that the other day. She said, she did, “Amma make you some tea, mr Listener.” Then she poured cold water in a small teapot Rulkan hade made her from the Exiles Rise red clay. It was me, Poodles, Muffy the stuffed Elekk that Vassannah sewed – and Agriok. He used a straw.
“Dere be any rum, girl?” he said, his voice a growl. He can’t help it, his throat was hurt when he lost his face.
“No mr Orc, Poodles don’t like to run,” Isel said – and fed Poodles a sliver of salted elekk meat.
“Good tea,” I said … and sneaked an adamantite pocket flask into Agriok hands under the table.
It was a very nice tea party.
Later that day Isel must have hugged Poodles a bit to hard, a bit too long. My friend, Morissa, told me that kids don’t know their own strength. Hamish the Porter nodded and added something about a burial. We heard Isel cry, all of us did, but no one but me snuck up to her mothers cottage to ask what we could do.
“I din’t mean to! Honist! Can’t you make Poodles alive, mommy?”
“No, sweety … ” Caregiver Felaani looked as if she was about to cry herself. “Poodles … Poodles won’t come back, honey.”
“I can … ” I said, well whispered. I was hiding close to the doorway. When I knew I had blown my cover I very carefully peeked around the doorpost with my leathery face and smiled. They didn’t see that of course. I wear a mask.
I didn’t tell Isel how. I told her it was Very Secret Magic. Felaani – she still don’t know if she should trust me or fear me – reluctantly handed me the small wooden box with Poodles body. Then I ran away, fast, mumbling “Very Secret, Isel! Do not follow!”
I hid in the attic to the herbalists house. I sharpened one of my saronite claws. I cut Poodles up, from the sternum to the jaw. I removed the seeds and snuck down to the herb garden. Then I ran up to the Big Tree, there I asked Sappy for some juice. Sappy grumbled, he’s always hungry, but he gave me a few drops. That’s all it takes, you see … I’ve seen Phylarch do it, I know how it’s done. I spy. I give life to podlings, hugged to death. I listen. Oh yes, I listen.
I am the Listener … in the Dark …