Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Divided Loyalties Part 2

Unreasonable anxiety griped me once again, closing my throat with panic. Grimly I clamped it down, doggedly pushing on. Unconsciously my hand crept up towards my shoulder pouch. When I realized I jerked it back to my side. Time was running out and I needed help fast.

At the end of the small court yard in the central of Old Town sat a stack of crates and two large barrels. I gave the area a quick survey before slipping behind them. Deep in the shadows I could just make out a large grate. With a tug it came up on invisible hinges exposing well worn steps.  Balancing the grate on my shoulder I gave one last scan before descending into the fabled tunnels of Stormwind.  Officially they were created to allow workers to clean and maintain the city's canals and sewer systems. Unofficially they were the underground highway of smuggled goods, information and home to many of the few true native residents in this port city full of immigrants.

Light filtered down through the quartz bricks hidden along the canals, within the planter boxes, and bridges casting murky shadows along the generous walkway of the tunnels. My nostrils are filled with the damp and musty smell of algae and salt rather than sewage and rot.  I give my eyes a moment to adjust to the gloom before heading off once more. Mentally I counted passage and doorways before coming to a stop before a unassuming, yet battered portal. Positioning myself in a beam I tapped a rhythmic pattern on the door, then waited.

I hear rather than see a spy slot open, shortly followed by the sound of a voice cursing, then a bolt sliding away. A hand shoots out, warm fingers grip my icy wrist and I am momentarily thrown off balance as I find myself pulled into the shadowed room. The reenforced door closing with a clang almost on my heels.

"What are you doing here?" Kaitou questioned almost savagely, rapidly taking in my rather altered appearance. "You look like something your cat drag in. How did you find me?" As he peppered me with questions Kaitou pushed me towards a seat and began opening up lanterns about the room. I took the opportunity to inspect his haven. Compact, the room was dry, and scrupulously clean. Packed crates were stacked along the back wall forming stepping cubies leading to a sleeping loft. Each crate was neatly divided by item, cloth, flasks, bundles of leather precariously rolled were stuffed in the bottomed rows, while bags of what appeared to be gem stones and jewel crafting supplies filled those closer to face level. In the middle of the room was a table with two chairs. On the walls hung weapons of various types, daggers, axes, maces and swords, all in excellent repair. To the left was a large square trunk covered with folded stacks of clothing. Beyond that another door which appeared to lead to a small water closet.

Kaitou himself was as usual impeccably dressed. He seemed to have a flare for the dramatic. Oh not that he would stand out if he didn't want to, but rather that he was a firm believer in form AND function. Hence yes, a ruby ear ring to go with his red tipped uniform and each piece pressed, polished, and coordinating to perfection. His hair pulled back with a nonchalance that took time to create and others would never be able to do with quite as much panache. I couldn't help but grin. Kaitou just always made me smile. I on the other hand as he so eloquently stated looked like something my tabby cat had gifted me with.  An eye patch covered a new head wound from my most recent trip to Northrend, my skin was unnaturally pale and the usual injures acquired during prolonged campaigning were not healing as quickly as they had in the past. I didn't think it was just age anymore. That was why I was here to see Kaitou.

"As to how I found you blame Sharky. I pulled rank and favors so he ratted you out."  At Kaitou's thunderous expression I could feel my grin grow. Sharky, a young, up and coming officer had started out as a street rat just like Kaitou, in fact the two were very good friends from those days and it was due to Sharky that Kaitou had come to my attention in the first place. But Sharky had found his calling within the church becoming a priest and gaining new loyalties where Kaitou still walked the solo of code of the streets.  "Kai, Sharky thought you might be my only hope for an answer."

I could see the quickly suppressed surprise. "I need you to look at some gems for me." I pressed on seeing the disbelief.

"Why do you want me to check out gems when you are partnered to a perfectly good jewel smith?" Kaitou questioned motioning me to take a seat at the table disbelief evident in his tone.
"I had Therigwin look at them, and give me his opinion. However this is about more than your skill as a crafter Kai." I  observed the younger man through narrowed eyes yet again. I was trusting my instincts in this. I so needed an unbiased opinion, hopefully Kaitou would be able to give it to me.  Reaching into my shoulder pouch I removed a small leather purse, pulled the draw string and pored its contents out onto the table's surface.

"They look like Shadow Crystals." Kaitou commented pulling his Jeweler's Ruby Monocle out and affixing it to his eye before picking up one of the gems for closer inspection. I couldn't help but smile at the fact that even the tools of his trade coordinated with his outfit.

"Yes, they do, but watch this." Getting up I moved about the room once more shielding all the lights. The gems on the table now glittered like stars reflecting on the ocean's surface. I heard Kaitou's hissed breath. Together we relit the room in silence. "So what do you think?" I finally asked.

Kaitou spoke tentatively in response. "Gems and Metals are very different things. Metals are easily altered, mixing in other elements or metals to strengthen it. Gems in general are natural formations, it is how you cut and shape them that you make use of their best qualities. The only thing I have seen that reacted like that in the dark was Saronite, but that was green not purple and a metal." Shrugging he continued. "Why ask me and where did you find them?"

I felt myself shiver at his words, Sharky had been correct with his encouragement in sending me to Kaitou. "Bear with me while I try to explain this ok? You know I'm a scribe right? Well, most scribes are nothing more than really good copiest. A lot of them are artists that can't even read. I on the other hand can read in a number of languages and have a photographic memory which means that once I have read something I never forget it. Alright, now in addition to this I have always been considered somewhat...sensitive? I guess that is the term, to certain types of mind games. Back even before we were working in Karazan there was a shadow priest by the name of Orodrith, a mentor of Sharky, he use to love to play games with me by looking through my eyes whenever I was out scouting. I got to being really hyper aware when people were doing things like that. Then we got to Northrend and encountered the Faceless ones and Yogg-Saron."

I took a deep breath, before continuing. "I noticed something while we were campaigning in Northrend, the more our metal wearers began using the Saronite in their armor and weapons the more reckless and aggressive their behavior became.  At the time we all just thought it was due to the prolonged campaign. I mean we had been in Outland, thought we were coming home only to have to ship out again to go to Northrend. Then I discovered something while transcribing something for the Death Knights and Paladins of the Ashen Verdict. They believed that Saronite was actually created from the pressurized blood of Yogg-Saron."

"Ok, what does this have to do with these gems?" Absently Kaitou was playing with the jewels, running them along his knuckles making them dance, or dropping them through his fingers, seemingly mesmerized by the twinkling darkness of their depths.

"I got each of these in Northrend off of high ranking servants of Deathwing." I saw Kaitou start at the information, his gaze jerking off the gems to my face once more. "They were in caches of no more than seven, usually three to five." Once more I took a deep breath before continuing. "Now I have a question for you. How do they make YOU feel?" I sat back and waited for the answer. I had been watching him as he had absently fondled the gems, but my words had stilled his hands.

"What do you mean?" Kaitou stared at me.

"As you hold them, touch them...What are you thinking, feeling. Do they affect you at all?" I watched him. Praying that he felt it too. That I wasn't going crazy. That it wasn't just to much campaigning and not enough sleep.

"Power." The word seemed dragged out from him. "Your right there is a sense of power about them. I didn't even notice until you asked, it is like a caress on the brain, the stroke of a lover. Sucking you in." His hands jerked away from the gems. "How many of them are there?"

"Three Hundred and Thirty Three." I signed. "That is how many I was contracted to get and the more I collected the more unstable I feel. When I spoke to my spouse about it, he didn't feel it, but then he is also a Blacksmith and worked with so much Saronite while we were in Northrend he wasn't sure what I was asking. He is also a Paladin and the Light is so strong in him that may have something to do with it to." I shrugged " I thought I was going crazy when I talked to Sharky, so he suggested I talk to you. He thought maybe you would be able to give me an unbiased opinion since your tour in Northrend was significantly shorter and he felt you and I were more...alike?" Again I couldn't help but show my own confusion.

"What are they doing to you?" Kaitou asked concern flavoring his words.

"They seem to augment whatever I am feeling." I replied. "If I am anxious it is magnified, confident, I become almost arrogantly so. The only thing that helps is that I'm aware but I feel I am over compensating. My question for you is this, my contract wants these gems supposedly for weapons for me: If I am reacting so negatively to them now, what I am I going to do in the future? Apparently I HAVE to have these weapons to complete my contract." Even I could hear the anxiety in my voice.

Kaitou considered the question, his eyes on the gems glittering across the table top. One arm now pined across his chest, his other hand thoughtfully stroking his bearded chin. "I mentioned that gems are generally natural formations, well Alchemists can also create them, though they use other gems to do it. What you may be dealing with here are Shadow Crystals that came directly from rich Saronite deposits and were then refined either with magic or alchemy. If your contract is who I suspect, one of the immortals they should be able to counter or at least know how to counter anything that is in these gems." Shrugging Kaitou gingerly tucked all the gems back into the leather purse, tying it closed before tossing it into my lap.  "My advice is to get those to your contact as quickly as possible." His expression grim.

"That is my next stop." I stuffed the purse back into my shoulder pouch. "I kept the rest of the gems in the bank to try and reduce the impact. Kai?" I stared at the younger man feeling the rising tension with the return of the gems to my person. "I need you to be my back up in this. You don't have the personal involvement that most of the others in this company have, that is why I came to you. If I become a problem, you need to take me out. Understood?"  The shock was evident. How many others contract their own assassination? It would almost be funny if I wasn't so terrified. I watched Kaitou take it in, then grim faced nod. Where ever this lead, I knew that those I loved would ultimately be safe, even if the danger ended up being me.

To be continued...

Thursday, March 22, 2012


Yes, I know I have fallen off the face of the earth again. I actually have been working on the next two sections of my legendary quest short story. However a comment made by a guildy (Thanks Kaitou!) had me throwing what I had written all out and reworking it, hopefully they will be posted soon.

I have also gotten my Mist of Panda Beta Invite (which I can now talk about along with every one else). I have to say I am MUCH happier with the look of the female panda than I was the Worgen. I am very hopeful for this expansion in what it will do for Rogues. But it is still early yet. So far so good, warm fuzzies any way (pun intended) the graphics are living up to hype and it reminded me a bit of when I first flew over the hills of Storm Peaks in Northrend to see Ulduar for the first time. I love what they have done with the over all feel of the "kingdom" for want of a better term.

On top of that an unexpected death in the family has had me dealing with a ton of unanticipated estate legal matters.  Thankfully everyone is getting along but a word of advice, I don't care HOW old you are, take the time to collect all your financial, legal, and even social information and update it yearly. Then make sure that you have at least two trust worthy people who know how to access it. Laws change and if you don't touch stuff but every decade it makes a night mare for your loved ones.

More to follow soon.