* By reading this, you agree not to laugh at my lame attempt at a last name or harangue me too badly on errors of lore. Warcraft is property of Blizzard Entertainment. This story is an original fan work and any similarity to other works is accidental because I've never read any Warcraft fiction, either official or fan-made. Details of lore gained from All the World's a Stage guides along with Wowwiki. *
It took a special breed of woman to withstand boiling summer heat and still make black silk look comfortable.
Dustfire was not one of those women.
Short, curvaceous women were not made for the heat. She slid a look behind her at the wispy troll girl carrying her packages and fanned herself hard with a bit of parchment. Trolls were made for heat. They were bred to it. That was why they made such good laborers. Dustfire envied the girl’s barefoot comfort before deciding that the heat had gone to her head – to think, a woman of her beauty and power envying the help over a few lucky genetic traits! That girl would go her whole life with knobby knees, unmanageable hair, and asymmetrical tusks.
Really, she thought, shaking her head and clucking sympathetically with her tongue, it’s surprising the poor thing gets out of bed at all.
“Dis your place now, lady?” the girl asked, and Dustfire realized they had stopped in front of her boarding house.
Hot and annoyed at her lapse, she said, “Of course it is, stupid. You’ve been here often enough before. Come on.” And she flounced inside and up the stairs to the second floor and her room.
The door fell open under her touch, unlatched, and she stood transfixed in the doorway.
“Oh me,” said the troll girl, looking around the packages in her arms, her eyes bulging. Part of Dustfire’s brain noted it as another unattractive trait, but the rest of her brain had scattered into disarray.
Her room had been ransacked.
“You want I should run an’ get someone?”
Dustfire nodded, but the motion felt wrong, stilted and jerky. Her jaw felt too tight. She vaguely noticed as the girl set her packages down and raced back down the stairs, fleet-footed.
She stepped into the room, took in the wrecked loom by the door, the gaping chest that had held her hand-woven cloth and a few precious magical tomes tucked in the bottom. Someone had turned it over, but nothing spilled out. Nothing remained. The shopkeeper had assured her the chest’s lock was impregnable.
She turned to her bookshelf, noted the lack of tomes, scrolls, and magical apparatus, the remaining items dumped on the floor in a broken mess. A steamy romance novel had splayed on top, the pages crumpled beneath it. She brought a hand to her mouth as she remembered the lexicon of power she’d bought just a few days before and had left tucked behind her books. She’d meant to take it to the city bank to store it properly, had kept telling herself she’d do it soon, a few more days wouldn’t hurt.
Twenty-five thousand gold. Gone.
Sick, she slid her hand to her throat and held it there, as if the pressure would make the feeling go away.
They hadn’t taken any of her paintings, but they’d defaced them. She went to the painting above her piano and touched it, her family portrait marred by a knife slash. Perhaps a restorer could . . .
She whirled. The light in the room hadn’t felt quite right, but she’d attributed that to the mess, to her own sense of horror. She hadn’t thought . . . they wouldn’t have!
The delicate golden birdcage was gone, twisted from its stand so hard that the graceful hook bent at an odd angle. Dustfire grabbed at the piano to steady herself, her knees threatening to buckle. She wanted to sit but couldn’t tear her eyes from the empty space where her pet used to shimmer and chirrup, and the piano stool had been kicked over anyway.
The bright heat of the day beyond the window seemed unreal now, not a part of her. The sky shone so blue it hurt to look at, dust motes shimmered around her and floated to the floor like tiny crashing civilizations.
She withdrew from the sights around herself and steadied the trembling in her legs, annoyed at herself for showing weakness. She picked up the stool and moved it to her writing desk, which still stood in reasonable repair despite the great ugly black splotch covering the left side. Righting the inkwell, the source of the black mess, she fished under the desk for paper and her quill. She ignored the new bend in the quill and dipped it into the ink, carefully plying her round dark calligraphy to the page. The letters came out warped because she couldn’t get her hand to stop shaking, but she kept dipping and writing, methodical, occasionally lifting her head to check some corner of the room and then moving back to the page.
That was how the troll girl found her.
“Quite a mess,” said the guard she'd brought, and Dustfire hated him before she even saw him.
She tossed sand on her parchment to dry the ink and turned, back straight as a soldier’s and eyes just as cool. “Here is a list of the items I’ve lost. I’m not sure if it’s complete, but the most important are at the top.”
The guard took a cursory look at her list and raised a maggot-eaten brow at her. “You put a pet above a lexicon of power?”
She raised her chin and narrowed her eyes, challenging him. “Yes.”
He shrugged like he thought she was stupid. “Okay, then.”
He took a statement from both of them, then from her fellow tenants, and took his sweet time about it. By the time he left, she itched to flay his eyeballs from his skull, to put a pain in his rotting ass, to . . . to . . . to do anything to make him move faster! Didn’t the stupid thing know that someone was getting away right then with her most valuable possessions? Didn’t he know he had to hurry to catch the thief?!
Her hands had curled into claws and she had the feral urge to scratch something.
The troll girl hesitated inside the door. “I hate to be askin’ but . . .” She shifted and looked down at the small decorative box by her foot. Dustfire distantly remembered all the imbued jewels she’d collected over the years and that she’d forgotten to include them in her list of stolen items. “I’ll be needin’ me payment.”
Her hand twitched, and the girl flinched, but she wasn’t going to cast a spell. She touched the money pouch at her belt and noted that it still felt heavy. She still had everything she’d stored in the city bank, including some of her more valuable jewels.
“Yes, of course,” she murmured, pulling the strings open and taking out the appropriate amount of silver. Dustfire was nothing if not a pragmatist. The world continued to turn, services rendered still required payment even if her own life had been turned upside down. She paused and dropped the silver back in the pouch, drawing out a glittering gold coin instead. “Here,” she said, holding it out for the girl without standing.
The girl’s eyes bugged again, but she stepped hesitantly forward to accept it. “It's too much,” she protested. But her hand wrapped tight around the coin.
Dustfire didn’t have the energy to fake a smile. “You fetched the guard, and I kept you longer than either of us intended. I’m not a generous woman, but I’m fair.”
The girl had catered to her too often to argue. Dustfire rarely paid more than the minimum tip for services.
“Let me help clean, den,” she said and, after tucking the gold coin away, she began to straighten furniture and shuffle parchment into neat stacks.
Dustfire blinked. “You’ve been paid for your services. You’re not required to stay.”
“I know.” The girl looked up and smiled a crooked-fanged smile. “But I sees ya brokenhearted ‘bout yer bird and I’m thinking ya need some help.”
“I’m not paying you any more money.” If the little monster wanted more cash, she could go get it out of someone who hadn’t just been robbed.
The girl smiled again and even dared to laugh. “I won’t be needin’ it.” And continued to clean.
Baffled, Dustfire watched her. If she had to be honest, there was nothing left to steal except for her purse, which she’d tucked back into her skirts, or her new packages, which only contained borderline-cheap wine, a replacement pestle, and rich runic thread.
So she shrugged, turned her back on the girl, and began to clean the area under the desk. She’d made her way to the pile of books and broken apparatus when the landlady arrived, fluttering about like an outraged hen and thoroughly damning the cretins who’d robbed the place. Though it most probably made the landlady feel better, it wore on Dustfire’s already frayed nerves. It required an incredible force of will not to say or do anything that could get her kicked out of the boarding house.
The landlady left and eventually the troll girl stopped and surveyed the room. “I tink that's all I can do,” she said, hands on her hips.
Dustfire looked up from where she sat on the floor, her hands on a few unhurt books. There really hadn’t been much left worth saving. The troll girl had had to carry most of it out as trash.
“Thank you,” Dustfire finally said with a nod, still suspicious that the girl would ask for more money.
But the girl just smiled, nodded back, and left.
Part 2: Recruit ---->