Zarja

A Tavern in the Rain ((Open))

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Gurrah nodded and relayed to the Gnome Zarja's message.

"The Troll here wants to go after you. Lets keep the shots flowing!" Gurrah patted the Gnome on the back in a jovial manner.

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"Mind if I watch? I mean.. I'm kind of sitting by myself anyway, and bored... I think I may have seen you around Stormwind, a few times."

Mala let lose another giggle. "Oh! You're right. You were hanging around the tavern when Mr. Mel-" she cut off, suddenly distracted by the Troll's hand motion. It had caught her eye as it moved away from the Troll's cape. She stared at it, then darted her eyes quickly up to the Trolls, ever smiling.

A sudden patting by the Goblin scared Mala, and she squeaked in response.

"The Troll here wants to go after you. Lets keep the shots flowing!"

"Oh! Alright, Mr. Green-thing," she replied, half in Common, half in Goblin. She picks up a single die, bouncing it around in both on her hand. Looking a little confused, she asked the Goblin, "You three shots take. Card flip, no?"

As she waited for an answer, she dropped the die. It landed on a four. Mala sticks out her tongue, "Bleh." She then picks four cards, placing them in a quick but precise line in front of her. Taking a deep breath and holding it, she grabs a pair of dice and tosses them quickly to the table. Snake eyes! Double ones.

Mala claps her hands and squees. She turns to the Humans, "I hope this luck holds out!"

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Nika grinned to Mala. "Oh yeah- I saw you at the Blue Recluse one night, didn't I? I forgot I saw you there, too." At least.. she hoped it was the same gnome, and not a different one.

Between the fire that burned in the fireplace, and the overly crowded tavern, it was quite warm inside. By now, her chestnut brown hair had mostly dried, and lay in tangled strands around her face. The leather she wore creaked from the dampness, but she otherwise was no worse for the wear. She moved closer up to the table, nearest Mala and the paladin. Arms folded and resting on the table, she watched as Mala took her turn at the dice.

"I'm Nika, by the way." She offered this to any at the table who were in earshot, or paying attention. If the goblin, troll or tauren happened to look at her.. she repeated her name, motioning to herself.. then offered a hopeful smile.

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The paladin grunts. "The Blue Recluse? Nothin' but a'bunch of hoity-toity fruity drinksh there." he said as he picked up the cards dealt to him. "Lordaeron had better tavernsh than-" the paladin interrupted his own rant. "Oh gees. Where'sh my manners! I'm Samle Alder. Former paladin of Lordaeron." he said while introductions were being tossed out.

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Mabuse polished off her plate of stew with a minimum of slurping, before wiping up the last of the broth with the chunk of bread provided, and washed it all down with the mulled wine. It was okay fare... the wine was a bit thick for her tastes... but you didn't waltz into a tavern you didn't know and complain about the food either. It was hot, and it was filling, and that's what mattered.

The gnome was taking her turn, speaking to the goblin gambler in a badly mangled version of his native tongue. Mabuse mentally noted that maybe learning a bit of Common or other Alliance tongue might make a difference in similar situations. Afterall, the little gnome made an effort to learn some Goblin and even a bit of Orc. No sense not knowing what the other side is saying, for good or ill.

Speaking of Common...

One of the humans, the female, was speaking. Well, both the humans were speaking, but she suspected that anyone trying to understand the paladin would have an interesting challenge to face, even if they did speak the language. She knew a drunken slur, in any tongue.

The female indicated herself and said "Nika." At least, it sounded like Nika, and it dawned on Mabuse that, with the gesture made, the woman was probably introducing herself by name. This was a very good start. Mabuse was always happy to meet new people, and she beamed at Nika and tapped her chest lightly, saying "Mab."

She figured the much shortened nickname would help pronunciation issues. The paladin was still slurring his way through some speech, so she wasn't sure if he was indulging in his drunken stupor or also trying to introduce himself.

She kindly held her hand out to the woman, smiling in a nonthreatening way, but pleased with the situation.

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As the little one finished her first roll, Zarja grinned. Four shots is a lot for a gnome. The gnome drew her cards and rolled again. Damn lucky gnome rolling double ones. Zarja thought.

"Mi turn," She say to everyone. Picking up the dice she shakes her right hand a little before letting fly. "Four," Zarja mutters to herself as the die comes to a stop. Picking up the pile of cards she begins dealing herself out the number of her roll.

"Mab." someone says. Looking up Zarja noticed that the Tauren is speaking and pointing to herself. Shruging Zarja rolls the last two dice.

"Damn, a six and t'ree," Zarja says, frowning. Reaching for the bottle of rum and four of the shot glasses, she starts pouring the rum. "So goblin, mon. Joo never say who joo be. Most be callin' mi Zarja." Taking her first shot of rum, and flipping a card, Zarja coughs. "Dis goo stuff. Just w'at mi need. Who be next?" She continues with her shots, and card flipping, looking to hand the draw pile to the next player.

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Gurrah smacks his palm against his face when the Gnome pointed out he hadn't flipped his cards and says "Thanks babe, whats your name? Pretty interesting, meeting a Gnome that knows even the most rough of Goblin tongue. You can call me "The Gambler" Gurrah shakes the Gnome's hand.

"So goblin, mon. Joo never say who joo be. Most be callin' mi Zarja/" The troll said to Gurrah.

Gurrah abruptly appologizes for his rudeness and replies "Sorry, my name? You can just call me "The Gambler"." Gurrah then looks too the tauren.

"So, Mab right? You wana take your turn now?"

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Nika chuckled to Samle, and gave him a lopsided grin. "Well, I doubt Braggnas would agree. I'd love to see anyone tell him that he drinks hoity-toity drinks, though." Her grin widened, at the thought of the gruff dwarf. "Good to meet you, though."

Her eyes turned to the tauren then. She suspected that most of them were merely being tolerated by the two horde and the goblin. She wasn't expecting such a friendly greeting from any of them. She returned the tauren's smile, looking to her with a bit of fascinated curiosity. "Hi, Mab.." She reached out and shook the offered hand, that most likely engulfed her own.

Zarja and Gurrah were speaking to one another, so Nika fell quiet. She slowly edged one of the barstools from her abandoned table over to sit near Mala and Samle, listening to troll and goblin talk. She settled into her seat, watching the game at the table unfold.

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Seeing that no one reached for the pile of cards in her hand, Zarja placed them in the center of the table. Reaching down into her boot she removed a small dagger. Using the point of the dagger, she began to clean the dirt from under her nails.

Seeing the empty bowl in front of Mabuse, Zarja's belly growled. Waving a hand at the innkeep, the troll warrior asked for a bowl of the same and handed coin to the short goblin. Leaning back in her chair the troll went back to cleaning her nails.

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Mab shook Nika's hand, being careful not to grip too hard, seeing as her large hand engulfed the humans'. Pleased, she turned her attention back to the goblin, who had called himself The Gambler.

"So, Mab right? You wanna take your turn now?" he asked.

"All right," she said, turning her attention to the game. Picking up the first dice, she rolled a four. She wrinkled her nose, and drew four cards, placing them in front of her in a neat row. She rolled the second set of dice.

Not doubles.

"Hrm. Four shots I guess."

She swept up four shot glasses, lined them up, and then delicately poured the shots.

"That's an interesting title, Gambler," she said casually, finishing pouring without a spilt drop. "But do you actually have a name?"

She downed her shots in quick succession, glad she had eaten before the game. She'd never tried getting drunk before, so had no idea what her limit would be. Though she'd certainly seen others drunk on their tails.

She felt the warmth of the liquor well up in her stomach as she flipped her cards face up, and waved her hand.

"Who's next?"

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Gurrah chuckled at the Tauren's reaction to the liqour. "New to the drinking game eh? First time for everything, as for the name... Let's just go with "The Gambler" for now, first names are a bit dangerous for my taste. You figure out who I am and you win the prize, so long as you don't try collecting first."

Gurrah grinned widely at the tauren and called the waiter over, he ordered a Kebab and then awaited to see who else had the gall to take up the dice.

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As Zarja cleaned her nails, she listened to Mabuse and the Goblin Gambler talk. A bowl appeared before the troll and she began eatting. She finished her dish quickly, and bleched loadly. Looking back to her dagger, Zarja frowned. The blade looked dull to her. Reaching into her pack at her feet she began searching for a whet stone.

Seeing that Mabuse rolled her dice, Zarja looked up. Seeing a four showing, Zarja grunted and returned to her search. Finding what she was looking for, Zarja returns her eyes to the table and sits up. Hold whet stone in her left, she begins to sharpen the dagger in the right. The tauren before her began to pour and drink her shots; as the goblin ordered food.

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    It was another cold storming night in the area known as Strangletorn Valley. The rain came down in thick solid sheets. Rarely a bright bolt of lightening would light the sky before everything grew dark again. The wind howled around a darkened figure as it moved along the wooden walkways of Booty Bay. It was forced to lean into the gale force to continue moving forward. All the windows within the city were bolted shut, making travel hard, since very little light escaped them. In the distance the figure heard a rapping noise, indicating some goblin had missed one window, of its house. The dark figure finally managed to reach its destination, the Salty Mug. Using a great deal of strength, the cloaked figure pulled the door open. As it entered the door slammed shut behind it with a resounding boom.


    The inside of the building was a completely different world when compared with the raging storm outside. A large warm fireplace battled the chill of the outside. Sawdust covered the floor, fading from dark wet colored near the doorway to drier and lighter near the fireplace. Members of both factions sat in groups with their friends talking about any number of things. The figure made its way to the pegs near the roaring fire to hang the dripping cloak it had began removing. Flaming colored hair fell out as the troll tossed back her hood.


    Zarja turned from the pegs grinning, even after nearly six years away from this place so little had changed. Which given the fact she had last been here before Deathwing had returned forever changing the face of Azeroth was quite shocking. While the tavern had changed little, this was not so with the troll. A great many scars peeked out of the armor covering her back, clearly the marks of a great deal of whippings.


    Zarja remember little of that night six years ago. She recalled a drinking game she lost, or perhaps won. Whatever the case she was so completely drunk, that she was unable to fight, much less stand, when a Bloodsail raid had attacked the port town. She did recall cutting the ear off one attacker. This last fact wasn’t hard to recall as it was why she had ended up as a slave. Over the last six years she was chained to a bench and force to row when the wind died.


    Zarja’s life consisted of pain daily. Whipped for not rowing, for looking around as she rowed, for being a troll, for healing too fast, for cutting off the whip master’s ear, but mainly because old one ear (as Zarja named him) enjoyed inflicting pain. He never managed to get the slightest moan out of the troll, which of course also added more beatings. Zarja locked the pain away and promised revenge upon her tormenter.


    Revenge had finally come to the troll barely a week before. She had finally convinced her fellow slaves to revolt. Most had never fought before and were true cowards at heart. However, even the weakest have a braking point, Zarja only wished it had been earlier.


    The troll now carried with her a bloody sack containing One Ear’s head. She came here to Strangletorn Vale seeking an herb required to complete her races’ shrunken head ritual. She would keep his head with her, forever stealing her tormenter’s right to enter the afterlife. With the storm outside however, Zarja would have to wait a little longer, not that she cared much.
 

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The tall, dark figure limped along through the pelting rain. Mabuse Skypyre wrapped her cloak about herself more tightly as the wind whipped the dripping hem against her hocks. He right hoof stabbed with insistent fire every step she took. The horn on the inside cleft was split painfully deep, and she had only herself to blame for it. She'd tangled with a boar just a few hours away, and injured herself in the ensuing incident. As she was still in questionable and dangerous territory, she hadn't wanted to stop to do a healing on herself, which would take time and energy and leave her vulnerable to attack, so she had chosen to continue her journey to the town. Well, as bad luck would have it, yet another storm had rolled over the Vale, and the muck she was walking through wasn't helping the injury.

She sniffed, relying more on smell than eyesight to tell her direction. There was a tavern nearby. Should smell the beer and wood smoke and something tasty roasting over flames. Her hooves clopped heavily against the slippery boardwalks, and splashed through the seething mud of the cross streets as she followed her keen nose. It was dark, but she was able to find the door to the Salty Mug. She swung inside on a thunderclap, water streaming off her clothing, and had to shove hard to close the door against the angry gale outside.

"Mother, save us," she muttered under her breath, and blew hard to shed water off her muzzle, flicking her ears. She was muddy, soaked to the skin despite her oil skin cloak, cold, hungry and hurting.

She aimed her head towards the fire and made a beeline for it, limping badly. She'd have to sit and treat the hoof or risk going lame. Hanging her dripping cloak on a hook, she dropped her pack on the warm hearth stones and grabbed a squat stool, heedless of whoever might be nearest her, Hoard or Alliance. She delved into her pack for a small box, and out of it she removed what was essentially a hoof pick. Using the pick, she was able to clear out the mud and small stones that had packed themselves into the painfully split hoof. The posture that allowed her to tend to her own foot was ungainly, almost comical, but she managed. When she had rinsed the injury with water from her flask, she removed a vial of something dark and dripped it into the split- it created quite a bit of purple smoke, and hissed faintly. It also stung like hell, and she bit back an unseemly vulgarity.

Eventually the stinging eased, and she set her foot down gingerly, propping it on the edge of the hearth to avoid packing sawdust into the freshly cleaned wound. She would throw a healing totem to finish the job, but she was tired and wanted to rest first before casting her magic. As she sat, her eyes roamed over the crowd in the tavern. It was a surprisingly subdued gathering of folk; the troublesome times and the horrid weather probably made most travelers think twice about going too far. Her eye was attracted to a flash of red mane. A female troll wasn't too far away- indeed, she was so close, Mab reckoned she had walked right by her and hadn't even noticed, so intent was she on getting a seat and dealing with her foot.

Something about this troll was familiar though. She was hard and lean and bore the scars of any battle worn soldier, and had that flaming hair... Mab stroked her half-ear thoughtfully. She had met and fought alongside many trolls, but not this one specifically... Her gaze wandered briefly to a side table where a small group of Alliance soldiers were playing a drinking game, cards, dice and shot glasses, and then she remembered.

"Zarja?" she blurted out. "It's Zarja, right?"

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    As the troll settled into her seat, the fat goblin innkeeper waddled over to her table. As they spoke, another figure entered the doorway limping. Zarja paid it little mind, more shocked about the cost of food. Newly escaped slaves are not exactly known for having a lot of gold on hand. Luckily Zarja had found a pearl in a clam she had eaten a few days earlier, this she traded for a bowl of soap with hard bread and a cup of water.


    The goblin innkeeper left, as the newly arrived tauren set her gear by the fireplace. Zarja had noticed that this goblin innkeeper was different from the last one. However, he looked related to the old innkeeper from six years ago. Maybe this was a brother or a son. Zarja found herself wondering if the old goblin had retired or had been killed, as she absently mindedly watched the tauren work upon her injury.

    The troll reflected on the events of the past a lot of late. And not only on her capture, she had spent many years in these jungles looking for her father’s old ax. Of course she no longer had the ax anymore. It was most likely lost to her forever below the waves, in the wreckage of the Sea Spray. A fire had started somehow, as Zarja and the other slaves revolted. Fire was never a good thing on wooden boats.

    Purple smoke floated past Zarja’s sight, bringing the troll back to the present. The tauren had clearly finished working on her wound. She was now resting with her hooves upon the hearth, near the warm fire. Zarja’a gaze turned to the goblin waitress moving toward her table, a tray of food and drink in her hand.


    “Zarja. It’s Zarja right?”
   

    Startled at the sound of her own name the troll turns back to the tauren. Six years is a long time without hearing your own name. Most of the time, she was just sworn at while the whip fell upon her back. Every colorful insult the troll had heard over the years, but this was a shock. A frown crosses the warrior’s face. This tauren wasn’t anyone Zarja could remember. She knew a few tauren, but those all had complete ears. Puzzled by this, the troll’s frown deepened.


    “Da, dat mi. Mi know joo?”
 

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The troll appeared quite shocked when Mab had spoken, turning suddenly to stare at her searchingly. The trolls eyes noted her half-ear, and Mab had a hunch it was making her identity difficult to place.

“Da, dat mi. Mi know joo?” Zarja asked.

Now Mab was in the position of reminding a virtual stranger from six years ago of who she was. She turned slightly on her stool, to better light her face in the dim room.

"My name is Mabuse. Mab. We met about six years ago on a night not far dissimilar from this one." She paused wryly as thunder rumbled again. The rain kept coming, pelting down even more loudly against the roof, a fierce spate of it. "I recall a game of Captain Jack." She waved a hand semi-vaguely. "Cards and dice. Shot glasses. I remember not being impressed much with neat rum." She huffed a little with amusement. "Tavern was much more crowded then." It had been heaving with bodies, wall to wall Hoard and Alliance, all crammed in to get out of the weather.

She lifted her leg slightly and twitched her injured foot to flick away some stray sawdust pieces, before whispering an incantation under her breath. There was a whoosh and a small thunk as she conjured the healing totem out of thin air, and it sat on the fire warmed stones pulsing with a soft green energy, a soothing humming undertone as it worked its healing magic. This one had a small radius, but any who sat within it, even those unhurt, would begin to feel less tired, a little rejuvenated, their aches and pains subsiding. The passing innkeeper cast a wary and suspicious eye on her spell, but seeing no damages or mayhem, hustled back behind the counter to serve another patron.

"I remember we had strange company too. A gnome I think, and a goblin. A couple humans. That Paladin smelled like he'd drunk the entire bar dry. Amazingly, no one got into a fight, even with the drinking." It had been a strange gathering of Horde and Alliance, but everyone had been polite. Nervous, but polite.

"I know much water has flowed since then, but I thought I would say hello nonetheless."

Her brown eyes smiled warmly in the golden firelight.

Edited by Mabuse

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    “My name is Mabuse. Mab. We met about six years ago on a night not far dissimilar from this one," Mabuse states.


    Sudden recollection strikes Zarja as the tauren before her states her name. The goblin with the tray passes by both of them. The overwhelming small of slowly roasted boar floats toward the troll. Her mouth waters and her stomach growls. Silently wishing that the staff would hurry up and bring her food, Zarja returned her attention to the talking tauren.


     As Mabuse begins describing the drinking game from six years ago, Zarja groans. If it wasn’t for this game, Zarja would have had a different life. She didn’t blame anyone for her past mistakes, but she can’t help recalling that the drink had changed her path. Watching as the tauren summoned a healing totem, Zarja grinned to herself. Her grin only widened at the worried look thrown their way by the innkeeper.


    As Mabuse begins talking about the strange company that gathered around them at that time, Zarja lets out a little laugh. That paladin was a sight. It was strange to the troll to think about the alliance kindly, but the truth was that its members had done very little to hurt the troll. Her disgust now rested with a different group. The Bloodsail Buccaneers. Pirates, thieves and, in Zarja’s case, slavers and tormentors. 

    “I know much water has flowed since then, but I thought I would say hello nonetheless," spoke Mabuse.

    “Mi remember joo, now. Da much be changed since da last we be in dis place. Lookin’ like joo lost un ear, and limpin’ too. Da humans get joo? Or somethin’ else? Me have many new scars, but no wounds,” Zarja states. Spying another goblin headed in her direction the troll hopes that this one has her food.


    Suddenly the door flies open, the howling wind causing the few lanterns within the inn to flicker. A tall dark figure pushes into the inn, pulling the door closed behind it. As it finds a table, it swings the rain soaked cloak off its shoulders into the back of a nearby chair. Pushing back a hood it reveals itself as a night elf. It stands a few minutes looking about the inn, and then sits paying no more attention to the rest of the inn.


    Zarja’s hope turns out to be good as the short goblin places the tray of food and drink before the waiting warrior. The waiter leaves as Zarja throws the whole chunk of bread into the thin soap, careful to not waste a drop of the liquid within. She then removes her think leather gloves and places both hands around the bowl in order to warm her chilled fingers. Watching the bread swell, the troll waits quietly for the tauren’s reply.

Edited by Zarja

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“Mi remember joo, now. Da much be changed since da last we be in dis place. Lookin’ like joo lost un ear, and limpin’ too. Da humans get joo? Or somethin’ else? Me have many new scars, but no wounds,” Zarja said after listening to her account.

Mab grinned ruefully. "A few humans, but mostly those demons spawned by the dragon when the earth shattered. I found myself caught up in skirmish and battle, and an unfriendly sword decided it would have half my ear for trophy. -The limp though... aye, well, that was my own folly. Never tangle with the Stranglethorn boars... they're so much bigger and meaner here." She peered more closely at the troll woman. Mab couldn't see the scars of which she spoke, but she had a beaten down posture, and looked painfully thin beneath her clothing. "What has happened to you?" she asked without thinking, and then admonished herself for being so thoughtlessly nosy. "Forgive me, I shouldn't pry."

The healing totem started guttering, and finally went out. Mab lifted her hoof to see how it had healed. The split had closed, and the pain was gone, but it still felt a bit tender, the  tough horny material a little softer and thinner than the rest. She could use the totem again, but it was unnecessary at the moment. She reckoned if she rested long enough, her body would finish the healing in a few days. In her years as a shaman training other shaman, she learned that sometimes the results were better if you let the body do its job, and didn't rely too heavily on healing magics. They were good in battle, when a body needed rapid healing and strength, but the magic took it's toll on the user, and it often made recovery after the battle longer and more difficult.

In the middle of her musing, a night elf entered the inn. He looked about as wet and bedraggled as she felt as he forced the door closed against the storm, and found a place to sit.

"The weather is unbelievably wicked tonight," she commented, trying to cover up her social faux pas. The innkeepers assistant delivered a bowl of soup and bread and cup of plain water to Zarja. It looked a poor and meager meal for such a thin and worn creature.

Mab set her hoof down and got up. No pain, and no more limp. Good.

Moving her stool to the table where Zarja sat, she caught the innkeepers attention the next time he looked her way. When the fat goblin arrived at her elbow, she ordered a platter of the roast boar she could smell, a loaf of bread with butter, a wedge of cheese, a plate of boiled potatoes, and a flask of blackberry brandy with two cups. She wasn't in the habit of buying such extravagant meals for herself, usually, but she had no intention of eating it all on her own. The innkeeper was suspicious at the order until she took out her money bag and pretended to count the gold coins it contained, and his beady little  eyes glittered greedily when she deposited each gold coin into his spindly fingers. With a simpering bow, he scuttled off to assemble the feast with assurances that it would arrive post-haste.

She weighed her money bag thoughtfully. There was plenty coin enough to buy passage back home if she lived on travelers rations and hunted or fished as she went... which she usually did anyway. She extracted a few more gold and silver coins and placed them in a neat stack by the trolls hand, to make up for the exorbitant price of the broth, with some spare for traveling expenses.  "It seems that the more strife our world falls into, the more expensive food gets, and the more disadvantaged a poor traveler becomes," and with that she tucked the bag back inside her tunic. Her journey was nearly over anyway. She would travel back to Kalimdor, to Mulgore, and make the rounds of the villages there. She usually made a small living by offering her services as a shaman, a healer, a hunter even. She had many skills she could utilize.

The meal arrived as quickly as the goblin had promised, mouth watering and delicious as the fragrant smells of hot bread and juicy meat wafted around them. The cheese arrived, with potatoes, and the innkeeper placed the flask of brandy and cups down last. Mab thanked him just enough to stroke his ego, before she took up the plate and served a generous portion of the foods onto it. She placed that beside the bowl of thin soup that Zarja had drowned her bread in.

"You look far too thin, my friend," she said. "Eat well tonight."

She poured a cup of brandy for each of them, to take the chill off, and got stuck into her own meal.

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    Stories. It is the reason why Zarja started adventuring. She had heard all the stories the elder village shaman told. Heard them so many times she could hear the old troll’s voice within her head even today. After the shaman died, Zarja began adventuring just to see the places from the tales. Her first visit to Orgrimmar stole her breath away, while sealing her fate as an adventurer. So when Mabuse asked the troll what had happened to her, Zarja never questioned.


    “Joo remember the Bloodsail attack six years ago? Well, when the fight started me ran out to help. Tried to run an help, the drink be slowin’ mi. The first couple Bloodsail pirates were no fighters so dey was easy to kill, even with drink flowin’ in mi veins. Da third me fight was trained, and while me cut off his ear, he be besting me,” Zarja related.

    The troll stopped as Mabuse moved to her table. Zarja waited while the tauren spoke with the innkeeper. As the fat little goblin scurried away, Zarja continued.


    “Mi awoke de next day, surprised ta be alive. Only ta found miself chained and only eye could open. Nothing but water on all side of da boat mi was in. Dis human man come up laughing. He say somethin’ mi no understand an pulled a whip ta beat me. Dis continue everyday for six years. Mi made out better den da other female slave. Troll flesh not somethin’ human male like.


    “Only a week or so ago, mi got da useless cowards chained with mi to revolt during a attack on a merchant ship da Bloodsails had been chasing. Only mi and one odda slave be escaping. Mi made sure dat no Bloodsail live. Mi even got old one ear. Got him first. Ripped his throat out with mi teeth. Took his dirk ta kill more.


    “Got his head in dis sack here,” Zarja said proudly, indicating the blood soaked sack at her side. “Going ta head north when da storm gone. Gotta found some bloodvine ta complete mi ritual. It be north of here by Zul’Gurub. In da mountains.”


    After Mabuse finished pouring the two glasses, Zarja took a moment to remove the dirk hidden in her boot. Poking the finger of her right hand, the troll squeezed a couple tiny drops of blood into her glass. As the blood mixed with the strong liquor, Zarja swear on oath.


    “Mi swear blood oath ta repay dis kindness dat joo show mi. When ever joo be needin’ a sword and an arm ta wield it, mi shall come. Let dis be known.” Finishing the troll lifted her glass and gulped the drink down. Placing the glass upside down, the troll started loading the plate before her with food.


    “What joo be doing in da vale these days?” Zarja asked around a mouthful of soggy bread and potatoes.
 

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Mabuse listened to Zarja's tale solemnly, chewing slowly. Held chained as an oar slave for six years? Mab couldn't blame the troll woman for killing with her bare fangs and taking her captors head. She felt a chill down her spine at the implied fate of the other female. That was no way to go for anyone.

She remembered that night herself, despite having been fuzzy with far too much drink at the time. She was almost embarrassed to remember how much younger she had seemed then, inexperienced and so naive. The town had looked like a slaughterhouse as folk fought and died in the raid. She had gotten out alive, but burned and bleeding, and she had developed a healthy respect for the savagery of brigands. As a Tauren, even as an average sized female, she was bigger than most, and the pirates had been wary of her size and strength- she had had a long fighting staff and a penchant for lashing out with her heavy cloven hooves.

"They came after me with torches and swords," she murmured, poking at a bite of potato on her plate. "I remember them trying to take me down. Someone had swung a net and tangled my horns in it- I remember fighting to free my head. By the way they looked at me and jeered, it was as if they planned to put me on a spit like a roast. At one point, they had me pinned, and one old bastard pulled a knife to cut my throat, like I was some animal. I thought I was done. I am not ashamed to say that I was terrified- I couldn't even think of any spells to cast to defend myself. Somehow, I managed to escape but... well, I actually have a hard time remembering how I escaped. I remember running with a mob on my tail, but I don't remember how I fought myself out of being pinned, or how I rid myself of my pursuers."

It had been a bloody nightmare. A savagely stormy night, rent by shrieking and screams, the clash of weapons, and filled with mist and stinging black smoke as buildings, tinder dry inside, caught and burned despite all the rain, casting a hellish orange glow over the bloodbath. It wasn't something she cared to remember very often, except when it came to her escape- that had always puzzled her.

"When I think about it, I figure that maybe I had used my magic after all, over used it even, in my defense- but all I remember is coming to the next day lying in a bleeding heap in some muddy hole somewhere in the Vale, shaking sick and weak as a newborn. It took me a long time to get up and go back to town, but by then the pirates were long gone, along with whatever they had taken, and the place was still burning. It took me days to find and book passage back to Kalimdor, and I had to work the whole way- my belongings had been lost in the fray and I had no coin."

She swallowed her brandy down and poured another. "I've since settled on Red Cloud Mesa with a tiny clan, teaching young shaman. When I'm not in Mulgore, I travel to far flung places and gather rare plants and other valuable materials, every couple of years or so. If anything, they are good for trade and for coin while traveling, but many I take back to sell in Thunderbluff. The Vale is usually my last stop before I go home but... if you would like company on your quest to Zul'Gurub, I would be honored to walk by your side."

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    Nodding her agreement for company through the thick, wild and often dangerous jungle, Zarja swallowed her mouthful of food. “Ya, dat’s a good idea. Da jungle be a rough palce ta be alone. We gonna wait for da weather da clear up a li’l afore going. An mi goin’ need a new weapon. Dis dagger is ok, but could use somthin’ with more reach,” Zarja said. “Mi used ta know a goblin around here dat built good weapons at reasonable prices, if he still lives. An mi only need a li’l of da bloodvine, so any extra we get, joo can keep.” She continued.


    Returning to the food, Zarja ate in silence. The storm raged outside, the pounding rain on the roof of the inn only quieting only when the thunder deafened the ears of the populace inside. Suddenly a different kind of boom sounded on the rooftop. The end of a large tree limb appeared like magic in the ceiling. Cold, wet rain poured into the inn from the new hole. A few of the lanterns blew out as the wind discovered the opening.


    Zarja smiled as she heard the line of curses escape form the goblin innkeeper. He ran about shouting at his workers to get busy removing the intruder. The workers leaped into action like a kicked ant hill. Someone appeared from the back with a bucket, while another ran out with towels. Another came bearing hammer and nails. A fourth had an armful of short planks. By the speed and effectiveness of the inn workers, Zarja could tell that this sort of thing was not out of the ordinary.


    “Ready?” the giant ogre bouncer said to everyone. With nodding all about him, the brute wrapped its massive hands around the limb. Muscles grew and bulged as the ogre focused. Water poured onto him as the limb slowly inched out of the hole. With a final heave the limb exited the hole. Without the limb in the way, water poured into the inn full force. The howling wind also managed to blow out the rest of the lanterns.


    Working only by the light from the fireplace, the ogre took the planks and hammer from his assistants. In short order the only evidence that anything had happened was a fairly slow steady drip. As a goblin went around relighting the lanterns in the inn, Zarja turn to Mabuse.


    “Well, da was exciting,” Zarja commented.
 

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