For one that knows where to look, Stormwind has something for every appetite, things that would make a pimp in Booty Bay blush, even. In the past it was a lot easier, truth be told, but even after Good King Varian came along and asserted himself, there is perversion and skullduggery a-plenty, some of it even under his nose – the departure of Miz Prestor did not flush out all of the corruption in the royal court.
Even before, a general nexus of seediness existed in and about The Slaughtered Lamb, where the Warlock Council orbited, and the criminal underground’s diminutive overlord, Milo Oddcog, pulled on strings from the dark corners.
Fortunately, I didn’t need to go there, as I came close to setting Milo on fire last time we crossed. I think he knew that, since the note left at the dead drop in Halfhill told me to go to the Shady Lady and see the bartender there, rather than my usual chat in his office.
Fine by me. His place always has a whiff of sulphur about it.
Not that the Shady Lady is much better.
It was good to be back. A faint haze of wood and coal smoke hovered over the place, giving it a dreamy quality that held up until you flew into that haze and tried to breathe.
Viewed from the rooftops it looked like the kind of place the Priests and Paladins told you it was. Getting down to the ground, it took on a whole new character; a busy metropolis filled with people trying to get things done, whether it was banking, buying, selling, stealing, or begging.
Raiders posed and preened on the bank steps, blocking the guards’ view of the courtyard below. I decided to blow a charge of my precious cache of Baby Spice. I walked away with the sound of guffaws fading behind me (and one outraged yelp). Waste not, want not.
Good form is to stop by the Lamb to check in, but the thought that that insufferable Gnome might already be up and poking around sent me the other way, to my assigned rendezvous.
It’s a nice walk, along the canals, just taking it all in; Stormwind is above all other things vital, alive. Children running through the streets, vendors hawking their wares, adventurers selling off their booty. There’s an energy here that makes you feel alive.
The acrid smell of coal burning gives me a general idea that I’m getting close to the Dwarven District. When I walk into The Shady Lady, a whole new selection of scents assaults my nose – stale ale, half-burned tobacco, mostly-cooked meals. This is just the sort of place Milo would send me, the bastard.
The bartender barely looks up when I belly up to the bar and order a cider – reasoning that’s the least vile drink they serve here. I drop one of Milo’s tokens with my payment, and that gets his notice.
"Yarp. Milo said you knew someone."
"Corner table, next to the stairs."
Grabbing my drink, I made my way to the table, watching the local "color" for any red flags. Fortunately, it’s early enough that the serious lushes aren’t up and about yet, but that leaves a more dangerous form of scum to deal with, and they’re less likely to miss an opportunity.
Sitting down at the table, I scan around for the likely candidate. Nobody seemed to be moving towards the table, so I wonder if I have the wrong one.
"My eyes are down here." A scratchy voice that can only belong to a Dwarf comes from across the table. Readjusting my gaze – how embarassing! – I realize there’s a Dwarf sitting opposite me He’s wearing a wide brimmed hat, and has a well-worn stogie clenched in his teeth, but even in the dingy lighting of the Lady, the glowing red eyes clearly show that I’m talking to a Dark Iron.
"Wow, I didn’t realize Milo had branched out into comedy."
"Watch your mouth, lady. Dark Irons are part of the Alliance now, like it or not. We’re not too pleased about it ourselves, but it is what it is. I was told you were a professional."
Sigh. "Fair enough. Just wish he’d’ve warned me." Milo, I’m gonna kill you. THEN set you on fire. "What’s on your mind, aside from amicable diversity?"
He grinned. Even in this lighting, it was a bit unsettling. "Good. Down to business."
He quaffed a bit of I knew not what, and began.
"When we left Shadowforge City I was caught outside the city and never had a chance to gather my belongings. Most of it can be replaced, but one item is special and has great sentimental value. It’s a wand, it’s special to me, and I want it back."
"Why didn’t you go back and get it?"
"Those of us that followed the Empress to Ironforge were put on notice. We’re not welcome back, and by ‘not welcome’ they mean ‘shoot on sight.’ So I need someone capable to get in without, in fact, being shot. And getting back out with the prize."
"What makes you certain it’s still at your place?"
"Oh, it’s not. I have friends on the inside, and they mapped out where it’s at for me. And that’s the other kink in the line."
"Oh, tell me, I can’t wait."
"It was claimed by the chief warlock that remained. It’s been locked up in her vault since then – she doesn’t use it, as it’s not that powerful in anyone’s hands but my own. The catch is, it’s in a place that only a Warlock can get into without raising an alarm. I don’t want an alarm. You’ll probably not get out if there is one, and they might trace this back to me – and I’d rather not find out if we have any Shadowforge spies in Ironforge in that particular way."
"Here’s a map, a drawing of the case, a drawing of the wand. Are you in?"
A job’s a job. "Sure, let’s settle on price."
He grinned, and offered me a stogie. "Great. Name’s Jenkins."
"Any relation to Leroy?"
He made a face. "Jenkins Direflame."
Getting into the depths of Blackrock was a bit easier than it used to be. The fall of the Emperor and the subsequent departure of the Empress had shifted things somewhat, and not always to the better. There were new ways into the city, and some of the old ways were forever closed. The map I had didn’t help with that, since it assumed that I could get to the Grim Guzzler myself, and at that point I could start following it.
The Guzzler’s patrons were, as usual, indifferent to the presence of a Human in their midst. Well, except for Nagmara, who gave me a wide berth. She knew a warlock when she smelled one, and wasn’t buying what I was selling.
The map took me in a direction I’d never been in the city. Usually, I was looking for a way to the throne room. This time, I was headed to a part of the city that, to be honest, had a very comfortable vibe to it, but which would have been described by anyone that wasn’t a Warlock as "foreboding", "dark", "brooding". Seemed like I was headed the right way.
There were patrols to avoid, but plenty of warning and plenty of places to hide. I cursed that I hadn’t worn my black velvet robes just this once; besides being warm in this dank cavern, they’d be decent camouflage.
There were a few casualties, but no alarms. At least, not yet.
I eventually made it to the vault, which had cheery green lighting, making everything look like it was on Draenor. I closed the door most of the way, but wedged it slightly open so as to not become part of the treasures therein.
First rule of vault-raiding: always make sure there’s a way back out.
Second rule of vault-raiding: don’t get distracted.
There were treasures a-plenty in here, and truth be told plenty to tempt even myself. But years of retrieving items for people have taught me that keeping focused on the objective is important. Start window-shopping, and something nasty usually catches you with your hand in the fel cookie jar.
Scanning the shelves, I spotted the case that Jenkins described. It was locked, as expected, but the combination he gave me (667 – "The neighbor of the Beast", he said cryptically. How odd.) popped it right open. The wand itself was within, in fine condition.
I jumped maybe ten feet straight up and scanned the room frantically.
"Hello?", I ventured, hoping to buy some time.
"I’m right here."
I looked about. Nothing.
"In the case."
I looked down at the wand.
"Aye, ya git! right here!"
"Um, you’re the wand?"
"Aye! How can someone so tall be so dumb? Are ye an ogre?"
"No, I’m –" deep breath; "I’m sorry, do you have a name?"
"Aye! I’m Wanda!"
"Yes, you’re a wand. Do you have a name?"
"My. Name. Is. Wanda! Are ye thick?"
"Oh! Okay, Wanda. Sorry about that." Jenkins hadn’t mentioned that his bauble could talk. Something that was going to cost him.
I started to place the wand in my bag. "I wouldna do that if I were you."
"And why not?"
"I’d have to give the alarm! You canna just come in here and steal things anytime ye want, ya know!"
"Aye, then put me back in my case."
I put her back in the case and closed it.
"And don’t cheat and put the case in the bag."
I could hear her clear as a bell. So much for that idea.
"Listen, I can’t let you give the alarm."
"Then put me back on the shelf and leave this place."
"Well we have an impasse, then."
"I don’t normally threaten inanimate objects, but I may make an exception in your case."
"Oooo, how scary! But why would you do that, if you wanted ta steal me, I wonder? Destroyin’ an item ya came here ta steal – now that’s daft!"
"Ever been through the insides of a Felguard? I could have mine swallow you and let you enjoy a slow drift through the alimentary canal. I’m sure you’ll wash up nicely, and I doubt anyone would hear you."
"Might ye be knowin’ what effects I have? Shadow? Flame, Fel Flame? Maybe I shoot bouquets of Peacebloom, so that wouldna hurt your wee Felguard. But that’s a gamble, isn’t it?"
Had me there. Wait …
"Apparently that case is proof against whatever you do."
"Aye, it is. And can your wee beastie swallow the case?"
"He – " Damn. No, he couldn’t.
Thinking for a moment, I remembered seeing some sort of sleeping quarters just a couple of rooms down. "Wait right here."
A couple of minutes later, I was back with a pillow from one of the beds. Slitting the end open, I stuffed the case with Wanda in it into the innards of the pillow, then tied it shut.
"Can you hear me, Wanda?"
"MY CMMAH HRR ROO"
I’m sorry, Wanda, I can’t really hear you that well."
"MM SOO GMMA GBBA AWMM"
"Be my guest."
"AWWMWM! MMM BMM STWM!"
I peered out the door, up the hall, down the hall. Not a creature stirring.
"Sorry, Wanda, nobody can hear you."
"LLL GTTCHOO FRRR DSSS"
The trip back out was pretty much the same as the trip in, except fewer casualties since nobody had noticed the ones I had left earlier. Looked like I was going to make it.
That is, until I set foot back in the Grim Guzzler. One of the patrons popped up from her bench and pointed at me.
"HER! SHE’S THE ONE STEALING OUR PILLOWS!!"
I reached into the pillow, grasped Wanda’s case tightly, and pulled the other end of the pillow real hard. In a flurry of down feathers, I headed out towards the exit as fast as I could, summoning a Felguard as I did. Kil’jaden’s Cunning, don’t fail me now!
As I headed out the way I’d come, Wanda was egging my pursuers on.
"Hey, did ya know she stole a wand from the Warlock’s Vault as well? Aye, that’s me! I’m sure there’s a big reward to the one that brings me back!"
"Shut up, Wanda! I’m not stealing you! I’m retrieving you!"
"Aye, that’s what the others said, too."
"Oh, shut it."
"You go that way? That’s a lot slower! I’m sure they’ll catch you now!"
"Very funny. The other way leads to a chasm of lava."
"Oooo, so sorry. Maybe I’d survive that."
"You’re lucky somebody wants you intact."
"Aye, that’s a kindness. Not sure they want you intact, though."
Jenkins at least had the good grace to look embarrassed. "I’m sorry, I didn’t realize that they had put a geas on her to give an alarm. I didn’t even realize they knew she was more than just a wand."
"More than ‘just’ a wand?"
"Why, yes. Wanda’s my wife."
"She angered Thaurissan a few years back; I begged him not to harm her, so he promised that she’d be mine forever. Then he imprisoned her into this form and presented it to me for our anniversary."
When I looked at the fel crystal on the end of the wand, I realized it was in the shape of a female dwarf’s head. As I watched, the head swiveled to look at me.
"Aye, and I’d been with him ever since. He left the city for ONE HOUR without me and see what happened? That should teach him!" The crystal grinned at Direflame.
"Empress Moira promised me she’d have a go at fixing her, or finding someone that can, in exchange for my allegiance, so I’m hopeful, now that I have her back!"
"One last matter."
"Payment. Of course!"
"No, besides that. Wanda mentioned that there had been others that had attempted to retrieve her … obviously they failed. Is that true?"
"Aye. Close to a dozen times I’ve tried enlisting from the best and the brightest of Ironforge, and not a one has ever returned."
"These were dwarves?"
"Some, but not all."
"So, you sent dwarves …"
"Into a room of treasure …"
" … aye."
"And told them to come out with JUST ONE item."
" … aye … OH!"
"Yep. I’d say they were genetically predisposed to fail."
"Oh, my. What have I done?"
"Given yourself an object lesson, is all. Never send a Dwarf to do a Warlock’s job."
The money was good, I was able to give Milo hell about a number of things, I enjoyed a good night watching fights at The Brawlers Guild, and I got to spend the night in my favorite Stormwind inn afterwards.
It’s not an easy life, but it’s a good life. As I’m sure Jenkins would agree, the little things are what’s best.