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Irontoe

Fordragon Imports

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Through heavy smudged spectacles, the clerk skimmed the packet of charter documents the dwarf handed him like he probably did twenty times per day. After a few minutes of flipping pages far more quickly than he should have been, the doughy little man turned back to the front of the sheaf. He moved the only candle in the dank room to better distinguish its fancy flowing script.

"Mr. Irontoe, am I to understand that your organization is a--" Here he paused and adjusted his spectacles, a motion as elaborately contrived as the curls of the capitals on the page. "--ahem, a shipping firm?"

"That be correck', sir," said the dwarf, thinking that the clerk was well suited to his job.

Behind the clerk's chair, a fire raged among the tents of a tauren village in the Stonetalon mountain range. Women, children ran screaming from the flames. The lucky ones encountered a flying arrow or the sword of a masked rider. The others writhed on the ground, burning alive as the archers conserved ammunition. P.T. Irontoe sat in the midst of a flurry of glowing cinders. He blew, and one separated from the others to alight on the clerk's expensive silk coat.

The clerk peered at him over his lenses like a schoolteacher lecturing a particularly slow pupil. "You are aware, of course, that the minimum number of ships for a trading company to register in Stormwind is two?"

"Ah, yes sir. Without question. And ye will see there that we do 'ave the two required cargo vessels," said the dwarf, leaning forward and acting as concerned and interested as he could bear.

"I see that. But it is a minimum."

"Oh, I take yer point. Honestly I do. But we be a fast growin' firm. It'll be yer own fine work 'ere this day what makes us succeed, sir."

The clerk searched his hairy face for a trace of irony. Finding none, he harrumphed and turned his attention back to the charter. "Yes, well, all part of the job. I'm sure any other Vice Chief Registration Officer would be just as attentive to detail as I." He looked pleased.

The blue silk jacket was the exact color of the zeppelin coming in to dock over his shoulder. The angry yellow cinder ignited his right lapel just as the aircraft's balloon erupted into a ball of flame as hot as the sun, vaporizing every passenger on deck in an instant and obliterating the top of the mooring tower. The blackened hull of the gondola crashed into the Durotar desert as guards sprinted desperately from the city gates to pull survivors -- there were none, ultimately -- from the wreckage.

The dwarf snapped his focus back to the clerk. "Oh, I heard ye. Our main business be textiles, as it be written there, but," he winked conspiratorially, "Sometimes our ships 'ave been know te carry some livestock as well as wool."

With a twinkle in his eye, the clerk said, "You know I am supposed to mark that sort of thing down, what with the additional duties, but seeing as it's a holiday... I'll let it slide." He winked back and grinned broadly.

"Ye do be a gentleman an' a scholar, sir."

"Oh, I try. It's the little things, helping one's fellow man... er, dwarf... Now look here, this is a terribly large security detail for a company of your size."

"We make port in Northrend on occasion, sir. Can never be overly cautious, me mother always said."

The clerk shivered. "Oh my, yes. Northrend. My, my. Undead. Yetis. Did you know there are huge yetis up there that will eat you alive? Or so my brother says, I've never believed in them."

"Why, no I didnae 'ave any idea. I'll be extra careful."

P.T. Irontoe could see a Sunreaver batallion in pitched battle against the Scourge on the Icecrown Glacier. They were badly outnumbered, but they seemed to be faring well against the mindless throng. Over an icy ridge to the east rose a fleet of gyrocopters flying low toward the fight, each carrying a motorcycle. As they neared the rear of the Horde forces, the motorcycles dropped to the ground and raced across the ice toward the packed blood elf army. The gyrocopters gained altitude and speed, passing once over the Scourge and Horde without incident. The elves cheered, certain now of victory, before the first bombs dropped. Some exploded among the undead; most hit the Horde. And then the motorcycles plowed into their rear, carving a path of bodies through the bulk of their forces while entirely avoiding the Scourge. As the mechanized strike force retreated, the implacable swarm converged on the remainder of the living footmen.

The dwarf could hear their terrified shrieks while he watched the clerk pull out a ledger. The clerk's fatty chin was reddening under the heat of his burning robes.

The clerk kept talking as he turned to a page somewhere in the middle of the book. "Most likely the error is on our end. Things like this happen all the time. Now, as it is written here, you received some unnamed hundreds of gold coins from private interests, with which you employ this... extravagant... security force. Hmm, wrong page. Want to go for a beer after this? I should introduce you to my wife and kids. That still leaves an enormous amount unaccounted for, which represents a discreprancy which I am compelled to investigate as a Vice Chief Registration Officer... records for last year, fifth month..."

"Ye do strike me as a very competent official, sir."

The clerk hid his face behind the ledger. "Aha! It seems you received substantial funding from the Stormwind government last Spring."

"Oh, aye... um, the Spring... the Spring textile subsidies."

"Marcus Jonathan himself disbursed four and three tenths thousandweight of gold bullion from the military coffers."

"Military textile subsidies."

The clerk scrutinized him. "Never heard of them."

"Ye wouldn't have."

Behind his spectacles, the clerk's eyes opened wide. He caught himself abruptly and reached for a stamp. He said brusquely, "Yes, well, everything seems to be in order, Mr. Irontoe! Congratulations on chartering... let's see... 'Fordragon Imports'!" The stamp thumped against the paper.

He reached across the desk to shake P.T. Irontoe's hand. It was only then that he noticed the bulging muscles of the dwarf's arm, the horrific scars on his aged, weather hand, and the shining black muzzle of the gigantic rifle leaned against his chair. He gulped heavily.

P.T. Irontoe took his hand and looked steadily into the red sockets from which the clerk's cooked eyes dribbled. The skin of his face was no longer soft and pink, but brown and split in great pustulant cracks. Hot grease dripped from his mouth into the conflagration of his clothes.

There was just a solid wooden wall behind the clerk now. P.T. Irontoe looked steadily ahead and said, "Thank ye fer all yer help. If ever ye need a discount price on silk, look me up!"

With that, the dwarf picked up the charter, shattered a bottle of whiskey on the desk, and knocked over the candle. Before the clerk could react he lifted the rifle and fired.

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