Thursday, July 30, 2009

Broken-hearted detective

Note: this is part 3 of a series.

Last year, instead of having our All Hallow's gathering in Dun Morogh, Grimm decided to have it on the more amicable shores of Southshore.

Faiella didn't make it, and that worried everyone. A lot. The whole crew set out to search, with Grimm apparently tromping every square inch of sod between Silverpine and Hammerfall.  Eventually, he called off the search, thanked the family, and returned home to try to find some sort of peace.

With any other group, that's probably where it would end. Well, any group without a Jasra.

Dalaran, 5 months ago

I know I'm not going to see the inside of a raid for quite some time; not only does the Guild need Jasra more than me, but there's also the possible gimping of my abilities. I've even tried Affliction, and while it was nice having the puppy out for a change, it still wasn't doing it for me.

Up in the library, she found me.  "Floramel. We need to talk."  Unusual for her, she's usually pretty chatty with or without permission. We wander out to the balcony.

"I'm not giving up on Fai. This is killing Uncle Grimm. He has no closure, no idea what happened. Is she dead? Did she just run away from home? He just needs to know. I'm going to find out."

What?

"Jas, he gave up of his own free will. He's a trained tracker. He can practically see through walls. He wouldn't have given up if he thought she was still alive. He's making his peace now. Don't reopen this, it'll just make it worse."

She doesn't look away from the view, but for some reason I feel her eye upon me. "Flora ... he 'gave up' to spare us. If it wasn't for his family, he'd still be looking. But he knows we wouldn't abandon the search as long as he kept at it.   Watch him, you'll see. Any chance he has to get back to Hillsbrad, he's there. But he wanted to spare us from a long despair. As usual, he sees us as the children he adopted. We'll always be kids, in his heart."

"Jas, that's a long stretch... "

She cut me off. "Listen, I'm not asking for much. I'll do most of the work. I just need you to keep your eyes peeled for anything ... significant ... here in the capitols. You and Illume are the city dwellers among us, and you especially have the best connections. Can you do that for me? Please?"

Part of me wants to say yes, part of me wants to keep from encouraging her. "Illume? She hardly comes out of the mages' towers now that she's taken up Inscription. And what makes you think Fai'd be in the city, anyway?"

A chuckle - at least she can still do that. "Illume serves the cause in her own way. And everyone else is focusing on wilderness areas, no worries there. But you have the connections. This really can't work without you, Floramel.  Please help us."

The road to damnation starts with baby steps, my mentor once told me. "Fine. Tell me what you need, sis. I'll see what I can do."

Ironforge, three months ago

When Uncle Grimm decided to adopt a number of homeless war orphans, he sunk his entire inheritance into a rather large apartment in the side of the mountain. Being a Wildhammer, he chose the wall of the mountain overlooking the Wetlands. "If you look right over there, lassie, you can see the window to my old home at Grim Batol", he'd tell me, and point it out. I'd always pretend like I saw it, because it pleased him to think I did. "Someday I will reclaim my father's house, and then the family will have a proper Keep!"  Sometimes we forget that he, too, is an orphan.  I imagine this view is all that keeps him going at times.

For the five hundredth time, I'm squinting, trying to make it out. Jasra joins me. She's a bit beat up, but otherwise exuberant. "We were that close to taking down Meaxxna!", she beams. "Next time, I'm sure we'll do it!"  As I help her clean up and mend, we talk business.

"He's out there again, I'm sure of it," I tell her. "I saw his gryphon go by this morning. He thought he was being clever by aiming it at Arathi, but we both know he never ventures into the battleground."

"So you believe me, now. Any other news?"

"Word of a Death Knight that may have some of her belongings. My sources are trying to nail down some sort of pattern that we can use to get closer to it.  My mentor says he may know a way to extract information from it if it proves uncooperative. Where it found the things. How it got them."

"Where at?"

"Stormwind, mostly. Sometimes Exodar, sometimes Darnassus, but usually around Stormwind. Never in Ironforge. That may be significant."

"Unfortunately, I have Guild business to attend to. I'll loop around the capitols to see if I can spot this Knight, too. I'll return as soon as I can. Good luck, sister. "

Well, I have to admit. We're making more progress than I thought possible.

Ironforge, six weeks ago

"Hail the returning hero!" As Jasra walked into the common room, the entire family burst into cheers, with Uncle Grimm leading the way. My little sister had done something none of us has done yet - vanquished the dread lich Kel'Thuzad, and we were full to bursting with pride. As the night went on, various guildies also dropped in, to shouts and applause.  Swan, Dedi, even Shima made a brief appearance.  A lot of these people were old compatriots of Uncle and myself from the Kara days. Much ale consumed, many stories told.

Later, quietly, we get some time together.

"I've news, sister. I've seen this Death Knight a number of times now. It carries a rifle with the Wildhammer seal on the stock."

Her eyes got large. "Did it tell you where it got it?"

"I've only seen it, Jas. It's pretty elusive. It would give Uncle Grimm a run for the money. I've seen it in Stormwind, chased it through three flight points only to have it disappear in the middle of nowhere. It knows it's being tracked now, I think." Might as well tell her. "It was here, this evening, watching you come home, from above the barber shop."

"You let it get away!?!" Really, she can move pretty fast when she wants to.

"Yes! I let it get away! What, did you want me to call attention to what we were doing at a time like this? Think, sister.  We can't show our hand yet."

"Hand? What are ye on about, cousin?" A somewhat lit Uncle Grimmtooth was leaning against the doorway. "What are you two conspirators up to?"

Jasra practically squeaked. "It ... it's supposed to be a surprise, Uncle!" Well, this should be interesting. "I've been ... busy, or I'd have been done by now. Can you pretend you didn't hear anything and act surprised later?"

He laughed a little. "Aye, busy you have been. Ah, it's hardly necessary, lass, but if it makes you happy I heard nothing at all." Slow wink. "Looking forward to seeing your 'hand' when the time comes."

As he sauntered out, I couldn't resist. "Nice play of the martyr card, sis."

The glare I got made Hellfire seem tame by comparison. "Shut up!" Just shut up!" Fade to shadow. "Find me that Death Knight!"

"Sure, sister. By the way, your shadow's showing."  I really shouldn't goad her. I really shouldn't.

Grizzly Hills, one week ago

"I've seen it, Flora. I've seen it, followed it, and lost it, just like you said.  Many times. It's definitely on to us. How did you even get close enough to see the stock of the gun?"

"I have minions. I know things.", I murmured as I watched Pizkip playing in the embers of the campfire. "It was watching me so closely that it failed to notice a Felguard walking right by until too late to avoid that."

"It's like that Ironforge appearance was its way of taunting us." Jas sighed as she threw back her drink. "And now it's gone to ground completely. I haven't seen it in two weeks. And neither have you."

"There are two possibilities, as I see it," I mused. "The first is that it has left the cities completely and retreated to the wilderness, which is unlikely. The second is that it has changed its haunts, knowing it is being watched. I will work on the latter. You work on the former." Nod. "Piz, come. We're leaving!"

"Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee YouWillPerishInFlame!" fwooosh "Eeeeeeeeeeeeee That'sRight,PickOnTheLittleGuy!" fwoosh "Eeeeeeeee IMeanYesMistress!"

Always pushing the boundaries, my little imp.

Blackrock Mountain, three days ago

I like doing nice things for Uncle Grimm. He's gotten himself a sweetie, and we've all been pitching in to make her feel at ease with his rather large and diverse family. So into Blackrock Mountain we go - me, Headhun, and Rosamunde. I admit I like her style. Getting her picture taken on the Emperor's throne was inspired.

As I headed to the mailbox in the Underbelly, one of the shadows peeled off of the wall and spoke. "Floramel."

Jasra's getting really good with the shadow form.

"I have news, Jas. My old mentor in Stormwind knows where our friend has been hiding. She - it's a she, and a dwarf, as it turns out - often takes her evening meal at an establishment he knows of before retiring to wherever it is that Death Knights retire.

Gasp. "Flora, I ... I have news, too. I found Fai's stuff. In behind Tarren Mill, her pack and a few other items. But no body."

No ... Oh, Gods, No!

Even in shadow form, I could tell that she had reached the same conclusion.

"Let's not be hasty, sister. If we spook ... her ... again we might never know.  I'll handle this, Jas. Coordinate with Illume. Be where we can find you."

She nodded mutely.

'And, Jas?"

"What?"

"Don't be a hero."

There's that look again.

Stormwind, two days ago

"Milo, that's not fair! We had an agreement! I've kept my end of the bargain up. Now do likewise!"

Milo, my old mentor, didn't look at all impressed. "Flora, I am changing the terms of the agreement. Keep this up and I'll change it again. And you'll never see your precious little Death Knight again. I want a certain noble dead, you will do it, or else. All I have to do is tell her one word, and she'll bolt again."

Fume

Milo, I'm ... I'll ... GRRR!" He grinned up at me. That Gnome had me by the short hairs, and he knew it. "Let me think about it. I need a drink."

Smugly, he nodded assent. "You know where to find me, my dear. But don't take too long. Some things are ... perishable." You know you've already won, don't you, you bastard?

Headhun glared across the table at Milo's demon, a doomguard. "What happened to your friends?" Oh, I'm going to have to zap him a few times if this attitude keeps up.

I have varying tastes. When I'm in a good mood I often go to the Blue Recluse and enjoy the show as the scrubs come in to clear out the ghosts from time to time. But on a night like tonight, I wants it strong and angry. There's only one place that carries the darkest of rums, distilled (so they say) from demonic grains harvested on Argus itself. The Slaughtered Lamb. Right below Milo's quarters, and above my old training grounds.

The gleam of blue glowing eyes staring back at me from under a hood frightened me out of a year's growth. That bastard! Right under my nose!

I'm either going to kill him, or buy him a drink!

Ironforge, present day

The view from the balcony is, as always, breathtaking.

Milo, it turns out, was more annoyed at having to renegotiate than anything else. For a suitable lump sum of gold, he now has a shiny new soul shard on his mantlepiece, which he occasionally has his doomguard swallow whole and then ... retrieve. I am lead to understand that this will be an object lesson to said noble, who will eventually find himself back home with a healthy new respect for the "worst that can happen."

Uncle Grimm is happiest I have seen him in months. He even seems younger. Jas is, as always, an exceptional healer.

I feel a presence next to me on the balcony. "Aunt Flora, I haven't had the chance to thank you. I'm sorry I put you through all that. I'm glad you didn't give up."  No wonder this little Death Knight gave us such a merry chase. She's still a hunter at heart. She even still cuts her hair with her skinning knife. I guess Amus is right - it's the heart that matters, after all.

"Just don't go doing a fool thing like that again, little sister." I try my best to be gruff. "Otherwise, I swear ... I swear I'll kill you so hard that you won't come back."

For the first time since we found her, she laughs.  It's cold, deep from the ground, diabolically chilling, but it's mirth nonetheless.

I kind of like it.