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Derecho

Derecho: Invisible Sun

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Most people don't understand what it takes to truly survive. They are attached to things. Fancy clothes, decorations, toys, pets. Money. They are far removed from their animal instinct, and most of them like it that way. If you took their coins, could they hunt? Most can, I think, but they would feel bereft and unhappy even so. They would hate the hard ground they slept on and begrudge the stars up there twinkling in view without a roof blocking their beauty.

Water. Shelter from extreme weather. Food. This is all a creature really needs to survive. 

Some days I even have all that. Those are good days. Other times, I wake up unsettled and confused. I don't know where I am or how I got there. I'll crawl out from whatever hole I found to curl up into and curse bumping my head and stubbing my toes. I'll shake. Those are the days where my spear misses the mark more than it strikes true. Those are the days when I just can't get enough.

Those are the days where I rely on the excess of strangers to provide. Granted, I'm always begging for food. Why not? Even in my strongest times, if a person feeds me it translates to one less moment of gnawing ache. Usually the meals are small. They are worth the time sitting in the cities, but not usually any more profitable than if I'd gone to hunt myself. The benefit is in energy conservation. Variety. Taste. What they provide is usually cooked. And of course, there is amusement. People are funny.

Sometimes, they like to play tricks on me. They take advantage of what they see as a weaker or more stupid member of their own society. I've learned it to be a common trait among people. They are bored and they are inventive. Lilliana once offered a kind of alcohol that not only burns as it passes the tongue, it literally sparks flames on a drinker. Ha ha, bitch. 

If it isn't condescension for a scavenger, it's outright cruelty. Shop owners will often throw rocks to drive me away. I've never damaged their property. Often, I'm cleaning up their messes! They would have less trash to deal with if they'd only let me have it. I heard a goblin complaining. There is a mind-boggling thing in some cities where they have to pay to have their trash taken and incinerated, because there are so many people making so much waste. It's madness! I could save them some trouble, but they'd rather stone me and drive me off bruised as if I were a hyena trying to steal the hunting kill brought down from their own hard-spent efforts.

Often, I do steal. I try not to. I'm not especially good at it, though I've learned some tricks. Mostly, I feel it is righteous punishment for their own inattention. People are just so dumb. They focus on what is in front of them and they forget the world around. They forget there are people besides themselves in the space they occupy. It doesn't belong to them. Once a mounted rider nearly trampled me when he wasn't paying strict attention to his creature's head. He yelled at ME to get off HIS road!

For the most part, though, I put up with it all. I have to, on a bad day. It's not like I don't hunt for myself, I do. It's just not enough. So, I'll make the rounds of the taverns. I'll dodge the rocks, and I'll lead guys on and let them get their hopes up in return for a drink or a meal. If I like them I'll suffer their wandering hands. So long as they feed me, so long as they help ease the hunger-ache of this invisible sun torching my insides, I let people play their tricks. I don't care what they think. They have their fancy clothes. They have their pets and their ill-behaved mounts and their toys and their coins. All I want is food.

Just feed me. 

Edited by Derecho

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I enter the bar and there are elves already there. There are lots of elves these days. The sky opened in green fire and infernals crashed down to shake more of them loose from their hidey holes. Like roaches scuttling, the Illidari are everywhere. One of the elves bears a familiar face, though. Kex'ti Dalendala.

I go in quietly, but I don't stay that way. You don't get free food unless people either want to shut you up or fuck you, and the second option is just plain nonexistent at the moment, from the look of things. The monk seems on edge around the other two. Maybe they are arguing? I interrupt rudely asking how the demon hunter can see with a blindfold over his eyes. There is a scarlet bit of cloth over his eyes in sharp contrast to his pale skin and blond ponytail. I don't listen to his stupid answer, but I'm satisfied to have annoyed him.

Kex'ti ignores me. He tells the demon hunters he would simply prefer not wasting time with alliance of convenience. So I chime in again. "Allies of convininnyence... Be that not what been happenin ever time de Alliance and de Horde go 'oh shit, we ain't be strong enough to beat dese guys by our lonesomes!'?" He rewards me with a dirty look. Then he coughs, uncorks a jug and sips from it. I stare, and my stomach growls in the moment of silence. Loudly. I could sing praises to it.

The blindfolded Illidari turns his face at me, "If you're hungry eat, troll, I'll pay for your meal if only not to hear that beastly growling."

I perk up. This is, of course, exactly the reason I'm here, but it isn't the blind-folded one that gives me food, it's the other wearing simple robes in layers of green and brown. He rummages in his supplies, coming up with a pretty jar of violet liquid with dark ropes of something inside. He unfolds from his seat and comes to offer me the jar, which turns out to be pickled eels. I smile and thank him, manage not to dribble-drool as I go to open the jar.

It's stuck.

I crouch over the jar, trying to get a better grip and leverage. I throw out random contributions to the conversation still, commenting about how the elves were optimistic to be talking about what might happen after the invasion. We might not all be around afterward! The jar lid doesn't budge.

Red-Stripe looks back over his shoulder at me, annoyed "Shouldn't you be stuffing your face?"

"I be likin to be stuffin me face, but dis damn jar be stuck!" I whine.

He points at the bartender "Get him to open it for you then, you lazy troll."

Now, Gravy has never actually thrown rocks at me, but his dislike is no secret. There is no way I'm going over there and asking him to muscle the lid off this thing when he's already been listening to me harass his clientele. I consider the thick planking of the table next to me, wondering if I can strike the lid off without completely shattering the container. 

The generous priest takes a moment from their conversation to add for me"...just break it open, not like you're going to re-use it right? Well, I mean the glass shards might be a little unappetizing, but hey, no risk, no fun!"

Good enough permission for me! I stick my tongue out at Illidari Red-stripe, then literally take a whack at it. The jar thuds against the table, sending a shock into my palms, but it doesn't break. I frown, then lift the jar up higher for another try. The clunk against wood is louder this time, but no more successful.

I flinch as something comes flying in my direction. Red-Stripe just threw his weapon at me! 

Not at me. His glaive swooshes through the glass jar like it's nothing, then arcs gracefully back to him. He catches it smirking at me. I nod to him, then promptly bend to try and suck up the escaping eel juice.

The elves continue chatting. Red-Stripe is trying to gather as many as he can to join him while they are all still off-balance and might want familiarity. They discuss other established guilds as well while I sit slurping up eels and juice from around shards of glass. Some of the larger parts of jar are almost bowl-shaped. These I pick up to drink from, carefully licking them clean. I learn the two illidari's names. Sylarian, and Red-Stripe is actually Tyinielran.

"Holy Light, your parents gave you a mouthful, huh?" says the priest, who I noticed has not shared his own name.

Ty, a nickname that almost everyone present defaults to using, still tries to convince others to join his group, stating that the Illidiari once before attempted to save Azeroth and was stopped by its armies  He asks what makes them think he is willing to risk his brother's and sisters lives again so blindly without the belief that the horde turns on them again once they've outlive their usefulness?

Finished with my eels, I mimic him. "Oh boo hooo.... I been slighted once and now I be not wanting to play wit ya no mo."

He shoots me a look. "That's the difference between troll's and Illdiari , we don't fall for the same tricks twice."

 

I ask him what tricks, but he ignores me. I shrug. It doesn't matter anyways. "All dat being den. Dis be now, and now we all gots demons. Be suckin it up, elfses." Speaking of demons... I turn to Kex'ti and his purple covering. "Where be Shokkra and her pokey stick?" Maybe she froze to death in that Frostfire cavern after all. Wouldn't that be a shame.

The monk replies vaguely that she is elsewhere, preparing. I scrunch up my face at that answer. 'Preparing.' I'm feeling especially antagonistic. The pickled eels were a delicious appetizer, but the vinegar isn't sitting well and that Ty person had mentioned a meal, but failed to deliver. I'm grumpy, to put it mildly. I turn my attention to the various surrounding tables and begin checking mugs left behind that haven't been bused yet. I drain two cups of whatever was watered down left in them. After that, I'm bored, so I decide to clean up the glass. I swipe it off the table with a delicate clinking noise, and proceed to shove it under the rug.

I hear a cough, the clearing-throat-rude kind, not the clearing-airways-to-breathe kind. I look up at Kex'ti staring at me and the expression on his face begs for a fist. I want to punch him so very badly. Instead I ask. "Ya be sick?" Again, he sucks at that jug. Whatever is it it must be medicine, and I want it. I want it bad. Maybe it would stop my shaking?

"Would... you not just hide away the evidence of your clumsiness?" He shoots a look back at Gravy, but the bartender is helping someone, not paying attention.

"MY clumsiness? Who been breakin de jar, hmm?"

"You...?"

"NO. It been dat one." I point at Ty. He tells me not to blame him, he's paying for my meal and to clean up my own damn mess. Did I miss something? Where is that food? I want it.

"Who held it last?" Kex'ti asks with a smirk.

My fingers curl to a fist, but I wave the other hand at him. "Ooooohhhhh." I gasp in a playful manner. "Ya be tricksy." I know what my next doll will look like.

"You know what they say. Those who live in glass houses should not throw jars?" Then he rubs his beard. "No that is...not correct..."

"Be a fine sayin. If I been havin a house." I grumble. My hand hurts aching for his stupid face. Then I flinch, for I had been so focused on the wish to be close enough to Kex'ti to strike him that I hadn't noticed the other elf sneak up on me. He almost gets himself struck, but if he recognizes my flinch as an aborted attack, he doesn't show it.

He kneels to sweep out the glass. "I don't mind," he tells me gently. "Here, give me a space." I pull back my feet, a little bit bewildered. What was wrong with where I had it? Nobody walks under the table. I can't help a compulsive scanning of the debris he's about to make off with, checking to be sure I didn't leave anything worthwhile. I didn't. The glass is almost completely cleaned of even the residue of eel. He politely thanks me, as if I've done him some favor, and heads to the trash can with my mess. I'm confused and suspicious of him. People just don't act that way. He doesn't come back over to me though, he simply retakes his seat.

Talk continues. I listen with only half an ear's worth of attention. There is an unpleasant sensation in my belly as the eels hit, almost as if they are in there alive and squirming. The elves discuss mercenaries. To Kex'ti, the Grim are better members of the horde in all ways, and this, from a Sanctuary, I find to be interesting. 

"The Grim are zealots, with no vision." says the eel-giver.

Kexti disagrees. "Not no vision. Simply one I find highly disagreeable."

"If the Grim had their way, we'd all be dead already, at least us mercenaries aren't actively pushing for genocide."

This pisses me off. "No, ya just be tinkerin wit tings ya ought hav no business be touchin." I nearly snarl it. The monk blinks at me, then asks the two elves what they believe about the role of mortals in the current conflict. I do scowl then. 

Kex'ti's attention swings to me as an active participant now, rather than merely an annoying pest. He taps his staff against his spaulder. "Yes?"

Under the press of eyes, I fidget a little. If they all decide they've had enough, I'm done. I can't put up much of a fight if they want to eject me, with Gravy's blessings, from the premises. This is the most active bar and my best chances for the evening. "Nuffin. Just... mortals. Ya be meanin everbody. Why not be sayin- 'everbody'?" He admits it to be a loaded question. Of course it is. Everything is a game to him, it seems. I wonder, how would he like to play dolls with me? "Survive. Dat be my answer."

"And how do you feel about the concept of peace?" 

I don't get the chance to answer. The Illidari sequester attention back to themselves, and I'm happy enough to fade into the background. I don't believe what I need can be gotten from this crowd. I had best not push my luck, or Gravy will have me removed before the next wave of patrons makes their way here to me. The goal is to survive.

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The tool for that goal comes lofted through the air to me a moment later, trailing a faint wisp of steam behind it. I react without conscious thought, snatching the hot steak out of the air. The movement is fluid- surprisingly so, even to me. I haven't had that much precision in anything I've done all day long. Half a heartbeat later my teeth are tearing apart the fibers and my stomach is demanding faster delivery than chewing allows. The first bites are swallowed whole to appease it.

Apparently, Ty is paying for a meal, it's just that Gravy has a slacker staff that can't hold a candle to Tahzani. The meat is slightly dry, overdone, but I don't care. 

Kex'ti leaves while I am thus occupied, and I fail to notice or particularly care. Ty is studying me, decidedly less annoyed in his expression, and more... I fail to find a word to describe it. I know that look. I know what it means, not necessarily what it is. It's people wearing that expression that I hate more than ones who pity or despise me. I am a plaything to them, in a variety of ways.

I finish my steak and find Ty looking at me curiously. It takes me only a moment for my nose to inform me of the second steak, this time laying on a plate at his feet. Seeing that I've seen it, he casually keeps up his conversation with the other elves. 

I am unable to take my eyes off the tantalizing bait presented for very long. I recognize it as bait, in some fashion or another, but I'm hungry. I'm so very hungry. As I'm fixated, Ty shoots me another glance of which I am unaware. He's wondering if I will come take it. 

The decision has already been made whether I consciously chose so or not. The monk left an open space. I move, not standing all the way, but almost creeping, and move into it. Ty smirks at me. I can smell some kind of odd flavor, a medicinal scent beneath the herbs and salt and meatiness. Whatever was in Kexti's jug? I stay on my feet, crouched, and reach between my knees to grab for the steak. "I can be havin dis?" Instead of a yes, he replies with some recruitment babble involving free meals for life. I'm not even listening. I didn't hear denial, and that's all I care about. The steak is mine! I snatch it to me and close my mouth around it.

"Free meals, huh? You know that old saying, right?" ask the priest. "Give a troll a fish, she eats for a day, teach her to fish, she eats for life." 

Ty shrugs to this, but I find it incredibly offensive. "I be knowin how ta fish!" I hook more fish in a week than either of them have probably seen in their entire lives. Even given that they are elves and much more long-lived than I, it's not that much of an exaggeration, I would think. "I just.... not always be very good at it..." I crouch around my meal, pissed off and pouty.

"I was being metaphorical."

"An effort wasted on the narrow minded and short sighted." says a new patron. He sounds bored and tired from whatever he's been up to this day. I don't even bother arguing. I don't care. I can see that Ty has a third steak waiting on the other side of him. I chew faster. I don't want him to get tired of waiting and give it to anyone else, or eat it himself. I need it.

Instead of passing the steak to me this time, Ty moves the plate only far enough to perch flat in the crook of his lap. I reach.

"You best be careful, Tyini-Mouthful, you'll find yourself married to a Troll." says the priestly eel-giver. I giggle. Tinny-Mouthful. It's funny! I hook a fingernail in the steak to drag it off the plate as they keep trading comments that I could not care less about. Say you want. I'm getting fed, I don't care.

But Ty doesn't let me have the steak. He tilts so that the plate drops, the steak with it. The elf drags the plate back to the other side of him and I grimace in part-growl and part-frown at him. He looks at me and pats the floor beside him, like I'm some pet to come to heel. I glare. Now I have some inkling of the reason behind the bastard's earlier expression. 

Ty shoots me a questioning look as if asking if I'm sure I want to argue with him. He starts to wrap up the steak to go. I gasp in a panic. No don't! Involuntarily, my shaking hands snatch for the meat and I even hop forward a crab-walking step or two in the effort to reach it. Reaching is all that I could do, for at the same time as I lunged, my stomach cramped. It feels as if I've been punched in the gut, and I'm unable to straighten for the ache of it. I miss, of course. The elf keeps the steak out of reach, smiling, and pats the floor next to him.

Whatever. He's just the same as all the other men. The answer is still going to be the no whether he aims to have a collar on me in his fantasy or not. But, he doesn't have to know that quite yet. I scowl at him, displaying my displeasure with the situation, but I scoot. I plop my ass down on the rug beside him and then flash a sarcastic grin, baring teeth. Happy? My obvious reluctance, yet submission, only seems to amuse him. 

 

I hold my hand out expectantly.

Ty slaps the steak into my grip from one direction, reaching to clasp from the other. He pats the back of my hand, like he's praising me, then leaves me to my meal, standing. I glare at him, but I can't help but be happy. He gave me the food, and he's actually leaving? This makes me happy.

"If you want to ever join me, troll, I got more food for you." I use the fact of my mouth being full as a convenient excuse not to rudely tell him to go fondle himself. I wave goodbye.

After he is gone, and the steak too, I sit sucking the last traces of flavor from my fingertips. If I strike out the rest of the night, I think this should be enough to last me through until breakfast, if I go to sleep soon.

The priest looks at me, and then starts patting through his robes searching for something. I perk up, certain that whatever he's looking for is for me. Sure enough, "Here, some clam meat, this should remove your appetite." He also passes along a bottled drink. I can smell why he expects my hunger to be ruined as I unwrap the gift. Frankly, they are bad. No matter. They won't make me sick, I'm a troll. I let the slimy things slip off the paper and down my throat, then chase them with the drink to clear that foul taste.

This priest is one of the innocent-looking ones. The drink is no beverage, but some kind of alchemical potion. My body shifts of it's own accord. I leap to my feet, alarmed. "Wat...?! De fuck?" I take stock of myself. I've become... a man? "Wat voodoo be dis?" 

Apparently I'm the subject of some kind of demonstration, as the elf ignores my confusion and says to the group "Trust is a matter of degrees, isn't it? I trust you all not to stab me out here, but I sure wouldn't take any food from you." They all laugh at me.

I'm furious, but really, this is not the worst I've endured. I stifle my anger, a feat made much simpler with the temporary cessation of hunger pangs. Still, I can't help the glare. "Be doin de counter now." He tells me it will wear off soon, in a tone that seems mostly honest to me. I look at myself again. I flex my oddly-muscled arms, feeling the strength in them. I'm wiry! "Hmmm. Ya be sure?" I could play with this for a bit, maybe even enjoy it. He wasn't being malicious, he just couldn't resist the joke. His type doesn't bother me too much.

He nods solemnly. "Mixed it myself, use 'em when I need to make a getaway."

"If ya be lyin an dis not come off, I'm gonna find ya and use dem ears to be pickin me teeth wit." I promise. His laughter is another indication of lack of worry, which in turn eases my own mind about this odd shape. I've never thought to try shifting to another gender. I wonder if I could? I try to sit back down to give this a bit of serious consideration, and I find myself hampered by the rather painful constriction of my clothing. The things between my legs dangling are incredibly sensitive. I'm less okay with this. The elves blink at me for a moment, unsure what exactly my malfunction is. "How ya boys be sittin wit dat hangin between ya legs!?" At this frustrated question, they all burst out in true mirthful laughter.

"Carefully," gasps the eel-giver. 

"Sure ting," I agree. True to his word, the potion wears off at that moment and I breath a sigh of relief, "Oh tank ya!" I sink down to the rug without the groin-splitting pain of a moment ago. Then I can't help but join in, giggling at the sheer ridiculousness. "Ya be funny mon, elfie."

"Uh, thanks. I suppose. I'm glad my humor isn't lost on everyone."

"How long dem clams been smudging up in ya bags? Been rank, dey were. Might be needin a cleanin." I pat my belly. "Dey topping off de void, tough."

"Hm, let's see... The last time I was near the ocean must've been on the broken shore, so however long that was. Now, I don't think I've caught anyone's name here."

"I be not trowin it at ya, nietha. Call me wat ya be wantin, if ya be wantin. I be not carin."

"How about late to supper?" suggests the undead.

I cackle. "I be answerin to Laytisuppah, be not botherin me none. Ya gone feed me?" The Forsaken smirks and tells me I don't want what he has. He's a liar.

The priest announces "I'm thinking I'll just call her the Hungry Troll."

I nod at him, a bit of hopelessness to the gesture. "True, dat. Always." To the undead I ask "How ya be knowin? Wat ya got?" Whatever it is, I want it. He rattles off a list as he peers in his satchel, mostly of humanoid pieces and parts from the alliance. If he's hoping to gross me out, it fails utterly. I don't care about the source of the meat. I want it all. "I take all o dat! Whateva ya don't be wantin, I take. I can be havin breakfast." I don't think he quite believes me. He seems to ignore my declaration, as the elves talk among themselves and with him. As they forget me, I murmur sadly, "No breakfast."  

I start leaving to find some place to sleep.

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A sharp whistle spins me around again in time to catch a lobbed bag of brown paper. I peek inside. Dried meat. The Forsaken claims it to be beer-basted dwarf jerky. "Yay!" I cry, "Tank ya! Laytisuppah de Hungry Troll ain't gone be hungry in de mornin! Ya be makin me very happy. I be not botherin ya two any mo. Nighty night. Be sleepin sweet."

"Same to you Troll."

"Take care of yourself Hungry Troll. Try to get better at fishing."

In the entranceway, I'm too busy with my head down sniffing delicious smells from the bag of jerky to notice someone in the way. He doesn't move. I bump into him. Happy at the thought of waking without the need to start off hunting hungry, I look up grinning. It's Ty. The grin dies. I clutch my bag closer against my chest.

"What is that grin for? Decided to join me troll?"

"I been goin to sleep now." I tell him firmly. I sidestep him. 

For a moment, I think he's about to block me, but then he just shrugs and stays where he is. "Suit yourself."

"Tank ya for dinna. Be seein ya!" I trip down the steps and don't look back, running from the tavern and it's creepy patron.

I don't go far. I make sure no one is following me or paying attention, and then I loop back around to the Wyvern's Tail. I check again, then duck down and skid beneath the porch. Gravy doesn't know it, but I've loosened a few boards under here to grant access to the cool and dark underneath of his bar. Sometimes if I'm lucky a drunk benefactor will spill their drink, and then I can just rush to catch the drips like mana from heaven. 

Mostly, though, it's cool and dark. In the corner I've slept often enough to have hollowed out a comfortable space deep enough to let me sit upright if I need to. This comes in handy for when I bolt awake from the depths of a nightmare. Near to it is where I bury anything I want to save for later. There is a wishbone stuck like a headstone marker at the edge of one hole. Under a shallow layer of dirt is a collection of oddities. Teeth, bones, some cleaner bits of fur, seashells and feathers and bits of string. These are my craft supplies.

I scrape loose dirt out from a second unmarked hole. This one is rarely filled, and only at night. This is my breakfast hole. I gently lay my paper bag in the depression, careful not to rustle the paper. I doubt Gravy or anyone else in the bar would be able to hear me over the sounds within, but I'm careful anyway. This has been one of the safer locations I've found to spend a night, free from other beggars and relatively sheltered from both weather and bugs. I'd rather not lose it. I push the dirt back over and pat the little mound fondly. Tomorrow's good start has been ensured, if I can just fall asleep without digging it back up again. This is part of the reason for the hole, to ward against an abysmally poor power of will.

I scoot my hips sideways and lay down, my face at the top edge of my sleeping hollow. I think I can smell the jerky still. To distract myself, I try to think about what sort of inventory I might have in my supplies for a new doll. Do I have any white feathers? I'm sure I've collected from crows, from swoops and even once I picked up a hawk feather. That feather in fact is still in my pocket, I think, but I'm too lazy now to flop out lengthwise and grab it. I need to fall asleep. A body uses less energy in sleep, I need to sleep. Tomorrow's breakfst is right there waiting and ready. Tomorrow could be a good day.

Tiredness evades me. I'm sleepy, but not tired. I'm still hungry. I could lay here all night with my eyes closed, but doing so is the opposite of useful, and in fact would be a really bad thing for me to do. I sigh. Why can't today just be over?! I want to sleep. Just make it be done with, I beg to nothing, to everything. If anything divine is listening, the answer is no.

I sigh again. I start fiddling with the dirt I've just now smoothed over the jerky, picking it up and letting it sift through my fingers. I'm weighing my options. Do I dig it up, assuming the amount here will be enough to sate the ache, or do I leave it, and go back out there? On the one hand, that Illidari is out there, and he really gave me the creeps. I'm used to leading men on, but that's not what had been happening there. He'd been leading me on, taking advantage of my basic needs and stomach-driven stupidity. I am afraid of him, right now. I am afraid that I'm weak enough not to be able to fend him off, or worse, that I won't want to. If he dangles a big enough temptation, how desperate do I need to be to say fuck it... and then do just that? I really do not want to know the answer.

I lay shivering, considering more outlandish options, such as the bar all the way across town, when I hear a familiar voice above me. "Eya everybody." I grin. Where there is a Tahzani, there is usually a Lilliana, his darker half. Lilliana takes care of me. The odds of a meal now are practically guaranteed. 

I start crawling out of the shadows.

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I trail into the bar a few minutes later. There is dirt on my clothes, but this isn't really a concern of mine. I'm always dirty, it's just that it falls off throughout a day's activities. I wiggle my fingers fanlike at Lilliana in a greeting after she notices me. I was aiming to sneak up to surprise her, but it doesn't work. She and Tahzani are at the bar already, and she's facing the door. Tahzani works at bar, and it seems odd for him to be placing the order, not taking it. I am apparently not the only female Gravy dislikes. After the bartender shoots Lilliana a dirty look, though, Tahzani falls into his more usual role. He starts grabbing up things from this side of the bar. He makes good use of those long lanky arms, and if I were the poaching type, I might ogle his ass end as he bends over. I'm not shopping, though, especially after my earlier worries. I settle by the fire in my previously occupied space, assuming that after they are watered, Tahzani and Lilli will join me.

Tyinielran looks down at me. "I thought you were going to sleep?"

"I been changin mah mind." I inform him. "Woman's right ta be doin dat any time she be wantin."

T'suro enters the Wyvern's Tail. For a moment, I fail to recognize him. The paladin is dressed differently. Looking at him, I can't actually recall his previous armor, but it wasn't this. The new plate is mostly black, tinged with red in a sinister sort of way. He reminds me of a shiny black beetle crawling through the bloody entrails of a carrion beast left behind by the predator. Or a scorpion. The pretty little firefly went and got himself the costume of a decidedly more vicious insect. He enters, and greets the folks inside. I hear Tahzani raising a glass to cheer another day of not being obliterated. I just stare at the paladin.

Ty takes my distraction as an opportunity. He sits beside me, close enough to bump knees with me. I blink and scowl, about to object, and loudly so, when he utters some magic words. "Still hungry?" He starts looking through his pack. 

I shoot a glance back at Lilliana. She's at the bar and now distracted by the black and red paladin. Still, she's not so very far. I feel safe enough. "Hells yes."

Ty comes out with a little tiny box, and I'm about to just blow him off completely, irritated. Whatever is in there isn't enough to be worth my time! He opens the box. The scent of sugary confection invades my nose. Is that.... is that chocolate? The box contains the most perfect slice of dark cake I have ever seen in my life. Swirls dance like ocean waves around the top edge. Dotted frosting stars decorate the flat top of it. It's all one color, all deep brown and tantalizing cocoa. I lick my lips, staring at it.

Only vaguely am I aware anymore of the tavern around us. Someone comments on T'suro's new outfit, and he tells them he's obligated, with all the demons running around, that he's stationed here. Then Lilli must have done something funny, because he warns her he can arrest people now. It's noise, it means nothing to me. Chocolate cake means something.

The elf dumps the dessert out into his hand, then holds this out to me. I blink. What? He waves it slightly, bringing it closer to my face, then away. He's wafting the scent to me! He's really going to make me eat cake from the palm of his hand? I hesitate only a minute, then I sigh. Fine. You don't live like I do and still maintain pride in the traditional sense of the word. I really want that chocolate. I certainly don't need a plate.

I bend at the waist slightly to eat. Ty holds the cake for me, but I see, from the corner of my eye, his other hand moving. Fury ignites. He intends to pet me!  This is not funny. I'm hungry, and I want that cake. I'm not in the mood for anymore games, and I'm tired of these superior assholes thinking they can treat other people this way. My stomach hurts. 

I will teach him. 

He wants to play dog and master? I'll show him who is master of me. I will demonstrate how an animal shows it's displeasure. I alter the angle of my chin slightly, hoping to catch flesh in the meeting of my jaws. Losing a finger ought, in my opinion, to do the trick. Snap it right off, I will.

He's observant though. He snatches the cake and his hand just out of reach, then actually slaps at the tip of my nose. "No," he says "Bad troll. Play nice or you don't get your treats."

My immediate urge is to leap for him and shift in midair to the form of a tiger so I can sink my claws in and then rip off his face with my fangs. That would be a treat. He'd scream, and then he'd gurgle, because I'd clamp down on his neck and tear that jugular vein. I'd crouch down and leisurely lap up the puddle of his hot blood as he gasped and ogled at me in disbelief, and the last thing he'd hear before his eyes closed forever on that scene would be the rumbling thunder of my purring. 

THAT would be a treat.

 

But it wouldn't be chocolate. I've never smelled anything that inspired so much aching need. Why? Food is food, isn't it? Apparently not. The attraction to this piece of cake borders on obsession, and it's not something I can really comprehend. 

Maybe it's the toll of the day. My mind is never quite right when I don't get enough to eat. I start to shake, and there are great yawning voids in my mind that open up like a great plain suddenly cracking and crumbling into broken chasms. I'm scatter-brained anyway, with trouble concentrating. I always feel as if there is something important I should be doing, but I can never quite remember what it is. On a really bad day, though, it gets so much worse. The feeling of burning from the inside, of being made of nothing but ash collapsing in on itself... it's a form of madness that I've only experienced once so far in my recollection. Once was enough. It inspired a dread so deep that I will do anything to prevent it. I wish to avoid feeling such a painful hollowness ever again.

I've experienced far worse things than being petted by some stupid elf. This should mean nothing to me. It's nothing. Play nice, or I won't get the chocolate. I nod at the elf and say "Okie dokie." I can be nice.

I wait, holding absolutely still. Tyinielran offers the cake again. I wait. His hands come closer. I can smell the earthy sweetness. My tongue flicks out. A shallow wet trench appears in the frosting as the tip of my tongue drags. Chocolate heaps up, piles on, accumulates. It disappears behind my teeth, then spreads everywhere, melting. For just a moment, I'm swept away in some foreign sort of bliss that also seems eerily familiar. I've had chocolate before. I love chocolate. I need chocolate? 

All too soon, the flavor is gone, drowned in the waters of my mouth and compulsively swallowed until no trace remains. Something isn't right. I open my eyes. Ty's fingers are on my head, touching my hair. I stare at him for a moment, surprised. I expected to see something else, and this feeling of wrongness has me off-kilter. This isn't real. This isn't how it went.

What?

A heartbeat later, the confusion evaporates, nonexistent. Ty is petting me. It's not nothing. It's not okay. I am NOT an animal. Rage boils over. I snatch at the elf's arm, pulling him down as much as I'm pulling myself up. I twist my hips up. I pivot, swinging my weight with him as my anchor, and hook my leg around his neck before I flip my center of gravity. As he's falling, I've climbed him like a fucking tree and sat on his neck. I put him down with a feral snarl, baring teeth.

Ty's face hits the rug and skids forward an inch before the long fibers stretch taut and halt the motion. The rest of him follows his head, flopping in a fishlike way beneath my mount. I sit with his neck crammed in the crook of one knee, my other knee perched behind and applying steady pressure. If I pivot my hips, I can crush him between the two V's until his brain falters from lack of oxygen, a few seconds. A minute more and he'll never wake up. If I twitch swiftly, I know I can separate his spine right here and paralyze him. I'm not entirely sure how I know this, but there is the surety of experience in it. I've done this before.

The bar erupts in chaos around us. Tahzani, who must have been mildly watching, exclaims about the waste of cake, probably not realizing the seriousness of the situation. Lilliana drops hands from a taunting invitation for cuffage by T'suro, and the paladin himself immediately pushes off the bar towards us. 

I see none of this. I lean forward onto my hands now that my legs have a sure grip, and I glare upside-down at the elf with his face mashed into the floor beneath me. "I be NOT ya pet!" I hiss at him. A grope at my shoulder makes me duck my torso and flinch back. T'suro tells me to get off him, I think. The brief respite in pressure means that Ty can open his stupid mouth. He uses the opportunity to ask the blood night if he's going to get this beast off him. I immediately bear down, hushing him again, and I growl to that spear-chucking asshole to "BACK OFF!" If he touches me again, I'm going to twitch, and then I'm going to get off this corpse and go after him, and I won't stop until one or both of us is dead.

Lilliana calls, trying to distract me by asking if I want cheese and meats because she knows where Gravy keeps it. T'suro laughs at me and says he won't ask again. That's good. I'm not listening anyway.  I am pissed off. I'm not a pet."Ya hear?" I growl at this stupid meat puppet, emphasizing the question with a incremental increases in pressure to let him know that I won't let him go until he learns this lesson. "NOT. Ya. Pet." He will acknowledge me, or in a moment he will go to sleep.

Tyinielran's eyes stare up at me. There is no hint of submission there. That's fine with me. He can die now. 

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I meant to straighten my hips. I'd just twitch, scissor my knees and feel the pop of this elf's neck, and then extract myself from his dead weight. I was going to prove that it was a mistake to cross me. I was going to.

Instead, I end up on the floor. 

My head hurts. I might have hit it. I'm on my back, and a monster is about to eat me. I can smell it's fetid breath as it growls something in my face, calling me a troll. Instead of helping me, instead of killing it, people nearby are yelling. At me. What? I have no idea what has just happened. My arm hurts, because it is bent awkwardly beneath me and I'm laying on it. I'm dizzy. The room is still spinning, and for a moment, I'm preoccupied with the worry that I might be sick. 

No no no no. I master myself. 

I blink. The monster is not a monster after all, but only a blind elf. No horns or dripping fangs in sight. I'm crazy. I must be crazy, I'm seeing things. The elf removes his weight from on top of me and gestures to another one with black armor, telling him to deal with it.

Deal with what? I'm confused. I breathe deeply without the guy on me, feeling my ribs expand. They might be bruised. I feel a strange sensation in my belly. Was I punched? I stifle a groan. I can't sit up with my arm twisted under me, so I roll instead onto my side to free it, and there is an odd crunching in my glove. This maneuver puts my face only inches away from a dark mess on the floor that I hadn't noticed. It smells wonderful. Is that chocolate?

A hard metal hand grabs me roughly by my hurt arm and wrenches, lifting me by it. I feel as if my shoulder must pop from it's socket under the strain, but it doesn't. I'm lifted bodily by the elf clad in dark metal plates. I try to get my legs under me because I'd like to take the weight off just my arm so it hurts less, but they feel funny, and won't quite obey. Someone is yelling, a woman, objecting to this treatment of me. She better shut up or get the same, I think mildly. They call her a troll too. The elf stops holding me up. I collapse back onto the ground. My hand lands in the dark mess and smears it. 

Yes, it's chocolate. It's chocolate cake with chocolate frosting, or it was once. Now it's a sad clump of mess that resembles a kodopie. 

I stare at it for a moment while everyone argues about Illidari and assault and jail. I don't want to be locked up anymore. I don't want to go to jail. I don't want... any of this. The cake is ruined, and in this confusion where everything is nebulous and unreal and nothing makes sense to me, the cake I understand. I ruined it. It's my fault. It's always my fault. I ruin everything I touch. 

I start crying.

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It doesn't take very long for the mental fog to clear. My head still aches, but pieces are falling like stars from orbit to crash back into their places. I slowly gather up the squishy mush of frosting. Spongy cake pieces disintegrate into it further with my movements, but I don't care. I feel a little bit numb still, and the question of this strange feeling in my stomach is distracting. 

Above my head, the other tavern-goers are still arguing. Lilliana is defending me like some vicious blue-skinned fire-haired angel of mercy. I'm pretty sure her intervention is the only reason I haven't been wrenched upwards again by my arm. T'suro wants to haul me off to jail. Someone else thinks he's abusing his newfound power. A few are discussing the fact that Illidari can apparently become the demons they closely resemble, a fact which isn't sitting well with them at all.

I scoop cake, mourning the destruction of it, and not entirely certain why. I mean... it's still edible. It still tastes fine. I gather up the whole of it into my hands.

Fay is scolding Ty for his display. He doesn't care, and tells her he's here to fight a war, not babysit sobbing trolls. I'm done crying, but I would have liked it more if the "Fuck ya" I threw over my shoulder to him didn't sound so much like whimper. Lilliana continues to back me, calling him a bumhead. For some reason, her choice in vocabulary does much to further console me. She helps me stand up.

Ty is not satisfied that I'm lacking chrome bracelets and a free night's stay in a barred room somewhere. He looks at T'suro. "You're just going to let an assault on an Illidari occur?" The paladin turns fully to look at the demon hunter. He tells him that it was his actions which escalated the situation, and that we are both at fault. If anyone goes to jail, we both go, says his tone. Ty seems to rethink his own situation. "Just get her out of my sight before I decide to press charges."

What!? "Ya been touching me first!" I hollar. "I were gonna eat de cake, till ya try an pet me like a damned animal, and so I try an bite ya. Fair warning! And ya try it again! So I mash ya to de floor!" I look at all the faces in the bar. I know people have prejudices against beggars, I'm not stupid, but seriously? Why am I the one in trouble here? The unfairness galls at me.

Lilliana rubs my arm as she also pushes against me to keep me moving in the same direction, away from Ty. I let her. She sits me down. I sniffle, regarding the heap of chocolate mud in my hands. It's starting to warm, and the liquid frosting drips through my fingers. I let myself become absorbed in the licking of it, like some kind of room temperature ice cream treat. 

Everything will be okay.

I lap at the chocolate, fully believing in this very strange religion. Chocolate will make everything better. It will fix the way I trip on things. It will cure the tremulous shaking in my hands. It will clear my thoughts. Chocolate will fill me up with joy so much that there isn't room for anything bad anymore. That is what it feels like. Chocolate can douse this aching burn starting in my middle.

I stick the last of my delicious fingers in my mouth. All the flavor is gone from the rest, and this is the only one left. My thumb. My tongue presses, working, invading the tiny little wrinkles at my knuckle as I suck. I trace the edges of the nail and bite gently, working the flesh into different positions to be sure there is nothing else in the crevices. There isn't. Sadness. 

"Were you sniveling over cake?" comes the haughty voice of an elf drifting down to where I sit on the floor. I look up. Surprised, I look again, thumb still stuck stupidly in my mouth like a child. My eyes roam taking in details. 

She stands looking down at me, but the expression seems more sympathetic than the derisive grimace I'd expected. She's got nearly as much skin exposed as I do, above the waist anyway, perhaps more. Blue tattoos  lightning across her ribs and arms beneath a minimal halter-type top. Her shoulders are bare. Short shorts wrap her in leather, and dark boots climb all the way to her thighs. She stares down at me, and the glare in my eyes fizzles out, replaced with a wary sort of confusion.

She saw the look in my eyes though, the defensive challenge. Yeah, so what if I was crying over smashed cake? It's a delicious treat and the fact that it ended up ground into a pulp on the floor was damned depressing okay? She smiles at me kindly. She gets it. The slim tattooed Illidari doesn't say another word. She holds out her hand, and the thing in her fingers is amazing.

I reach for the tiny cupcake, too overwhelmed at her gift to find my voice. Almost touching it, I hesitate, peering. It has to be a trick. It will turn me into a man or have a roach baked inside the middle of it, or it's poisoned and will make me ill. She's an Illidari, surely she's the other one's friend and wants some kind of revenge, since T'suro isn't taking action. 

No one is this nice to me.

 

The elf might understand more than just the meaning behind my glare. When I pause, she doesn't. She presses the cupcake into my reluctant fingers, then immediately turns away again. She doesn't stay to watch the results of the trick. She doesn't call me names. In fact, she starts verbally sparring with Ty, objecting to his overly familiar address to her as 'sister. 

The enemy of my enemy is my friend? Maybe it's just a cupcake? 

I retreat further into the corner with my edible treasure. I eat it as slowly as possible. It's not chocolate. The inside is a clean white color, and there is a delicate red flower like a blooming rose on top. It's almost too beautiful to eat. Almost. I carefully unwrap it and start nibbling from the bottom.

In the bar, talk of my misdeed and the necessity of such drastic countermeasures has died down. The demon hunters are having a hard time believing that trolls can be friends. I hear the tattooed gift-giver say her name as I'm cleaning crumble cake residue from off the baking paper. Cayli Duskvale. 

The elf priestess Aaren enters and receives a summary from Tahzani about how adjustment to the new guys is what's going on. Then he continues awkwardly "...So uh. Dis gonna make jah laugh." I'm listening, but become frustrated when another newcomer and their greeting interrupts. I get up and walk toward the group of trolls to join them, chewing on the cupcake paper, to better hear the story. "Jah evah lose some silvah or some keys or sometin'? Little item dat jah need but suddenly can't find until jah look in de last spot imaginable?"

I raise my hand. "I be losin stuff! All of de time."

Aaren squints her eyes when she hears the demonic words of the Illidari conversing across the tavern. "Who lost a thing?" she asks, distracted.

"Ah did... Ah lost a ting. Just askin' if anyone else heah evah misplaced a little object or sometin'.

Aaren snickers. "Yeah, I've lost a few things."

"....Welp" Tahzani says slowly. His words are reluctant. Ashamed? "Ah've done it... Wit a boat..."

T'suro laughs. I blink. "Wat?" Others say nothing, not quite sure what TO say.

"Lost a boat, huh?" Aaren finally echoes.

"I actually think it qualifies as a ship," Lilliana points out.

"Ah haven't been able ta find it since de..." Tahzani quiets. "Since de Broken shore attack..." He looks down. I saw the flash of sadness though, he wasn't quick enough to fully hide it. I guess the death of Vol'jin, the failures that occurred on those islands, hit him hard.

"Tahzani, mon," I start, trying to be funny. "A big boat ain't be like losin a bitty ting. Dat be a great big ting!" Lilliana frowns, not appreciating my levity. She's dumb. Everybody dies, it's not like the troll leader was immune. And if she's mad about the boat, maybe she should rethink that position. She's got Tahzani. He could be the thing missing instead of some bits of wood and sheeting. It's not like he died. I debate the merits of pointing that out, but something tells me not to at this moment.

Aaren frowns. "The... one you hated, huh?"

"Yeh" Tahzani agrees. "Big fuckin' ting ah was gonna fill wit Dynamite an' launch ta de moon one day. Boom!" He gestures expansively. I comment that such a thing would so pretty to see. The guy's expression sours. "Fuck off, stupid boat." 

I know that feeling. It's the same one I get when I try to swipe some delicious fruit from a vendor stall and at the last minute, a guard walks by, or the merchant who has been inattentive for the last hour suddenly decides to be aggressive with the sales. I tell myself that bruised apple that I really wanted was probably rotten with a worm in it, just to make myself feel better. It's a lie. That Tahzani would say such a thing... well it makes me sad, so see him lose something so stupid, and yet have been so attached to it. 

It's just stuff, man.

But he's not unusual. People get possessive of stupid things, and he liked his broken-down derelict ship. It was his, and he lost it not by his own choice. An idea occurs to me. If I can steal an apple, surely it couldn't be all that hard to find some boat to steal. I've seen all sorts of broken ones at the bottoms of harbors, surely somebody wouldn't mind if I drug up one of those? Maybe we could fix it up for him to have a new boat tied at the docks. It doesn't have to float for real, does it? Not being able to would make it worthless for anyone else to steal from him, which should make him happy! Plus, if he was going to explode it, maybe he's not sad it's missing, maybe he just wanted to see a big boom. I can understand that.

"... I can be gettin ya anotha boat to be blowin up? Dat make ya happy?"

He looks at me sadly, reminding me of nothing so much as a puppy that just got kicked. "Ah appreciate de thought Dere... But..." He sighs. "Everytin' ah had was on it. Mah bed... mah tings, mah clothes."

Beds are superfluous, and he's wearing clothes. He can get more things. I try to be sympathetic, but I really just don't get it. 

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I generally accept this stupid trait about people. They don't understand necessities, and that's okay. It's okay for Tahzani to be sad because he thinks he needs those things that were lost on the boat. He doesn't, but if you saw a sad puppy in the road, would you kick him again, or would you cuddle it and then go after the son of a bitch that dared hurt it? I can't fault Tahzani. It wouldn't really help to just go on a murder spree of little green men in the hopes I got lucky.... though that would be fun. I want to cheer him up, though. "We can be helpin ya find it den!"

T'suro tries to help too. "You'll get new clothes."

"But uh... Yeah." says Tahzani, with Lilliana clinging to his arm, offering comfort in a little sort of hug to the limb. "Heh, darndest ting. Somehow misplaced a BOAT. Anyway... Movin' de Cantina ta Azshara fah now..."

They start discussing the pros and cons of some place called a pleasure palace, which sounds frankly like a very dangerous place for anyone to go, much less a girl like me. I'm not really listening. I'm thinking about Tahzani and how I might be able to make him feel better. Those eyes. Those eyes are just... I can't deal with this mood of his. There is no reason for him to be so dejected.

There are people in the world starving, and he's upset about a houseboat. Still, he doesn't know any better. None of them do. 

I start searching my pockets, knowing that I've collected things today. Things I don't need. I pat myself down, searching for the bulges of where my treasures are hidden. I come up with some shiny fish scales, a few brilliant feathers, and a pockmarked hat. The fish scales make a superior temptation when paired with worms or other lackluster hook bait. The hat I dredged up from reeds. It is bleached on one side, with holes worn through in some places. The thing will block sunlight glare and make it easier to see when fingering for catfish. The feathers are just pretty, and I liked them. I pool these things, my non-edible non-essential collected things, and I offer them to the bartender. "Ya can be havin my hat."

Lilliana laughs, but Tahzani takes the hat and trinkets in it with a warm smile for me. He doesn't tell me I'm stupid or worthless, and my things are junk. He thanks me. He pins the feathers to his harness, slips the fish scales into his pocket, and plops the hat right on his head. Lilliana stares at him for a minute, then reaches up to adjust one of his ears beneath it better. She is trying desperately not to go into hysterics.

I'm doubly surprised then, when the bartender hands me something in return. This isn't supposed to be a trade. Curious what might be inside, I tug the drawstring. Round metal disks in varying shades of precious metal. Not edible. I try to hand the pouch back. I don't need money. He will need that to buy new things. 

"Get jahself some cake witout de pettin' Derecho." This purpose for money had not even occurred to me. I look back in the pouch doubtfully. "Darkmoon still be open... Lady named Aimee dere sells some great food." Perhaps Tahzani gets the same uplifting feeling from helping others that I often find. He certainly does look happier now. It would be rude of me to refuse, and this might also make him sad again. I slip the coin pouch into my pocket. It sits there, a terrible and somewhat cold hard lump settled against the front of my hip bone.

The idea of more cake, rather than elating me, suddenly seems like an awful burden. I don't want anything in my stomach, and I wish I could void what is already there. Something is not agreeing with me. A dull red ache has begun to settle inside in a way that makes me believe it will be something lingering and difficult to deal with. I can't think of what I might have eaten to make me sick. Trolls don't get ill, that's the whole point of being one. I've eaten some things that could not even be considering within the extreme range of food items. None of them have made me sick. I let the normal bar conversations continue without my interjections as I consider this new ache. My hand rests over my navel. I shift in place periodically, bending first one way, then another, wondering if perhaps sitting in a  strange posture has contributed to an ache like this. Maybe it was the way I landed on the floor. As this slowly becomes less a vague feeling and more of a definite fiery sensation, an awful realization dawns on me. 

I know what this is.

My hand moves from my own upset middle to feel at the thick cuff on the arm that had been folded behind me. My fingers pulse, and there is an answering grit grind. Something in the glove there crunches, and I groan. I know what this is.

A shadow falls over me. I look up glaring into the blindfolded face of Tyinielran. "Lets see. You owe me for a sack of meat and two slices of cake."

What? "Wat?"

"You owe me for the food you ate."

I don't find his joke humorous, but I humor him. "Ya be funny, mon." I force a laugh. 

 

He is less than appeased, and he trails me as I try to retreat from him to the relative safety of proximity to Tahzani and Lilliana. He's serious! The Illidari crosses his arms. "Do I need to get the Blood Knight back over here?"

I cannot believe this guy. "Ya, ya be needin. May it be time for ya be learnin not be...." The rest of my retort doesn't even make it out from my mouth. A demon dreadlord tries to come in through the door, spurring almost everyone into action. Demon hunters are perhaps slightly faster in their reaction, and certainly more decisive. It's a demon, they move to kill it. Everyone else by comparison seems to take an extra moment to sift through possibilities. Is it Alliance? Is it a threat? How much of a threat? Then they act.

I act too. When everyone else runs to the demon, I turn away. I'm not afraid, though I prefer not to get hurt. I'm not ready to die yet. Even Gravy has jumped to defend his place of business and shove the invader back outside. The bar is unattended. I reach into my glove.

Lilliana's doll in a sad state. The dress has swiveled sideways, pulling arms into a semi-spiral around and down the torso. The neckline pinches in what are supposed to be shoulders. I straighten things with a quick twist, not that the appearance is what matters. My hand comes away slightly stained with orangish oil. The body of the doll is soaked in it. The interior vial comprising most of the doll's structural support has been completely destroyed. The poor little thing with a too-large head is now rather pathetic and floppy. It smells of firebloom and the secretions of a firefin snapper fish. 

I check again to be sure everyone is indeed occupied, then I climb up onto the bar. On the fourth shelf out of easy sight from the ground is the skull of some creature. A moment, and I decide it must be from a stormsnout of the middling Durotar ravines. No matter, really. I cram the doll's head into the eye socket, then poke it through with a few swift jabs of my pointer finger. The rest of the doll squirts into the cavity behind it's bulbous lead. My hand leaves behind smears of clean white where the greyish brown dust got disturbed, but there is no time to worry about that. The sheer thickness of the coating shows just how often anyone thinks to give the higher shelves attention. I'm only hiding the doll as a precaution, anyway. If anyone thinks to check me, I'm innocent.

I have enough time in the chaos to hop down from the bar, and even join in the efforts to murder the dreadlord. It retreats a good distance before succumbing to the overwhelming attacks of almost every living thing in the valley. Dreadlords, once exposed, are not subtle creatures. 

It creates a good bit of mass mayhem before it goes down. Several folks have their images stolen and given to other people. Tahzani is one, and for a moment I worry for his sanity. Lilliana helps him get through his freakout, which is good, because my shifting demonstration was not enlightening instruction of how to return to his natural form. Oh well. I notice while trying to help Tahzani that my little firefly paladin has been approached by a certain Hakkari hunter. Oh joy.

Slowly, those who left the wyvern's tail return to it.

The attack leaves many jumpy and unable to relax, as well the lingering effects cause random outbursts of violence towards anyone nearby be they friend or foe. It's enough to sour formerly pleasant moods. Mine has been soured beforehand by this inferno beginning to grow inside. I have to fix it before the spell fully seeds!

I'm thwarted, though, in acting to remedy my predicament by the handsy demon hunter perv himself, planting himself squarely in my way. "You owe me."

I sneer at Ty, way past an agreeable disposition. I'm beginning to really hurt. "Be bitin me!" I snap at him. 

It is the wrong thing to say. The Illidari smirks, and abruptly becomes a monster. "Thought you'd never ask, thief," he drawls. "So that'll be payment then?"

His hesitation for stupid questions is enough. Lilliana breaks off from sniping back and forth with the Hakkari troll to intervene, slapping her hand right across that ugly monster mug. "HEY! Get out of her face!"

The Illidari glares, but hesitates. After a moment, his form reverts. Most of the bar has eyes on him and the other demon hunters have a particular bloodthirst apparent in their expressions. It would be amusing, if I were not desperately wishing that this drama was not about to happen. I stand up straight, though every instinct in my body is starting to scream at me that I need to curl. 

"She owes me." Ty tells Lilliana. "If you want to settle her debt, then so be it. I would say twenty-five gold would cover the cost of meat and cake."

"Wat!" I cry. "I ain't be havin... oh wait." I do actually have money. Hated, cold, inedible coins, laying right here in my pocket. Pain and anger both flare, though. I've done nothing wrong. "Fuck ya, dere be no debt. Don't be givin ya food to strangers."

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"When jah handed her de food did'ja say anytin' about a debt?" Tahzani asks reasonably.

"Yeah, it's settled. You get none." Lilliana grabs me and tries to drag me out of the inn with her. She doesn't have to be pushy. I want to go. 

Tyinielran promptly starts hollaring. "THEIVES! GUARDS THEIVES!"

Lilliana's better half tries to mediate still. "Mon, if jah just handed her food witout sayin' what it costs. Das a gift. Not a sale." His mate just yells at Ty to go away.

"It were!" I agree.

Ty keeps yelling for someone to arrest me. T'suro is dealing with the aftermath of demons in our midst like any public officer. His contempt for the demon hunters' apparent lack of aptitude has him on a generally short temper to begin with, and now one is screaming for his attention.

Another outbreak of chaos from some minor demon causes everyone to agree to a new locale. We all abandon Gravy to his fate. Lilliana tugs me along, which is fine because I'm beginning to have trouble thinking of anything but gulping gallons of pond water, skitterbugs, crawfish, and slimy reeds all. Would it quench these flames inside? At the same time, the thought of adding anything is sickening. I feel ill, and I feel as if being ill might help. If there is nothing in there, there is nothing left to burn. Right? 

The fact that my spell is working hasn't yet crossed my mind. This is a new combination of hex bag and doll, with a slow-seating autonomous spell. It feels exactly as intended. I'm too miserable to appreciate these things now, but I will later. I just have to pass on this little hex bag to the proper target before it's too late. I don't have much more time. When was the vial crushed, how long ago? I can't seem to think in terms of chronology. I burn forever.

The place they take me too is round and quiet. Once a giant coliseum, the center arena has since been filled with gated partitions denoting smaller fighting spaces and is stacked high outside the rings with crates as an impromptu storage facility. Still, there is plenty of room for everyone. The slight dugout nature of the place, as well as it's high walls means the interior is several degrees lower than the valley outside. "Dis be a cool place." I like it. I like the goosebumps on my arms, I like the chill. It's soothing.

Ty lost me in the migration. I can hear him somewhere across space saying that he is still owed gold.

"Ey, Tahzani," I hiss. He hums. I fiddle the pouch he gave me out of my pocket where it's wedged. "Dere be twenty-five in here?"

He hesitates. "...Yeh.. Lot moah den dat." Lilliana is eying me like I'm stupid. Do I know how to count? Not right now. I don't have the concentration right now. Wait, you'll see, bitch. Wait until you're on fire from the inside. "...Derecho, when he gave jah de cake, did he say it would cost anytin'?"

"No. He just been gave it. But," I try to take the time to explain. I don't need cake, I need food. Cake is just wonderful food. I don't need this money. I need to get rid of it, and I need to get rid of another thing. I want to run away and curl up and whine. "See, like I been gettin food all of de time. Guys, dey get mad sometimes when dey..." 

Tahzani interrupts my lesson on the way the world works between men supplying and women needing. "Den jah don't owe notin'." He makes it sound so simple.

"Of course she doesn't owe him anything, he's just being a weirdo..." Lilly doesn't realize that the weirdo she is speaking of is right behind her. He taps her shoulder with a demonic claw before once again resuming his elven shape. "What?!" She then looks at Ty. I can see that despite her patience being nonexistent, she's trying valiantly to summon more in order to deal with this guy on my behalf.

"You want to pay the troll's debt, it's only twenty-five gold. Come now, let's have this settled like civilized people."

"Dere ain't no debt." Tahzani replies. I cannot contain my very uncivilized growl. Lilliana bristles, snarling that she'll show Ty civilized. We are apparently of a very like mind in this situation. "Everybody simmah down."

"It's twenty-five gold troll, you really want to fight over twenty-five gold?"

"Do YOU?" retorts my benefactor. I am surprised to hear those words in the masculine voice of Tahzani rather than his uppity female. "Jah just gave somebody food. Jah nevah said it would be costin' anytin'." 

Lilliana might be just as shocked as I, but she recovers quickly from having her words stolen, and adds to them. "Well, do you?"

"Knock it off." T'suro has found us all. He stands there in his pretty black armor like he's bleeding from all the edges, and I can't help but find a budding sense of irony in this. He's either going to take me to jail, which I deserve for way much more than he thinks I do, or he's going to protect me, which is delicious in it's backwardness. 

 

A troll man I don't know takes interest in the conversation happening. "W'at we fightin ova? Be dish ova da price, o' da respect?"

"Oh just be killin' each ot'er and send ya souls t' Hakkar. Just be gettin' it o'er wit'." Atalshi calls. The Soulflayer devotee is watching the show from on high, sipping at a bottle containing red fluid. No one pays her any mind. I invite her to follow her own advice first. She's ignoring me as well.

One of the many elves present digs through her own pockets, coming up with a handful of gold. The robes she wears are purple and white, trimmed in gold. Unless she just a really unlikely fan of those colors in particular, I'd guess her as a member of Sactuary for sure. She eyes the coins a moment, maybe counting them, then tosses the lot on the ground at Tyinielran's feet. "There. Your money. Now pick it up like the demon's dog you are, and leave."

I can tell from the atmosphere that this issue isn't going to be solved so easily. All this, over stupid metal. I hate it. I want to go away, but there is one thing I must do first. The pouch still in my hands is small, but it weighs on me. I don't care how many cakes it could be traded for. I don't care if anyone is offended. I want this money like I want the invisible sun in my core, which is not at all. 

Water. Shelter. Food. Gold is none of those things. I don't need it. I don't want it!

I stand here, in the middle of a bunch of strangers and a few friends who are all arguing about me. It is the strangest thing, to have caused such a storm unintentionally. If I were not so distracted, I might be enjoying this. If I were not weak and scatter-minded and stupid. But I am, and this is not fun. Regardless, I am a minor character. The original source of this dispute, me, has been forgotten. I make Tahzani's coin pouch disappear with a twitch of my wrist, finagling the thing into my glove.

There is a standoff over there with trolls looking down on Ty, and a gathering of everyone else as well looking on. He breaks the tense moment stretching after the rattle of ringing coins flattens into silence. "I've never been afraid of trolls." It isn't submission, obviously, but it is arrogance without direct challenge.

Tahzani remains even-keeled. Rather than rise to the bait presented, he whistles sharply to call Ty's attention to where he's pointing at the metal-spotted ground. "Dere, de money been paid back." The elf that threw it, a mage by the looks of her, gives a sloppy grin to the bartender.

"Pick it up." Ty says. I immediately move to obey. I'm antsy. The chill air has failed to remain comfortable and now I'm extremely not so and anxious. I'm not entirely certain of the timing involved, but I sense there isn't much left for the spell. I rack my failing brain trying to think of a way to hide the little hex bag on Lilliana without her noticing. Such a thing seems impossible with the high amount of animosity in this space.

The mage tells Ty, "You're the beggar here, dearest, you pick up the gold." Wrong. I'm the beggar, and I'm picking it up as instructed.

"Oh for Light's sake," T'suro sighs. To the mage he scolds "Sen'Ahri! You disrespect Sanctuary's tenants!" 

The other troll, far more muscled and therefore outwardly intimidating than Tahzani slams both of his axes into the wooden platform beneath him, creating a thunderous and shocking noise in compliment to his shouted "ENOUGH." It's enough to make me flinch. I drop the coins and scoot back automatically. That's not a tone to suffer hesitation kindly. I'm convinced the shout is directed at me, and I'm halfway wishing to be caught. I'm in pain and if I'm sick and if they see I'm sick then maybe they'll fix it, or at this point I'm seriously entertaining the fact that getting apprehended might lead to my death. It's starting to become an appealing alternative to right now.

T'suro is the one who picks up the money into a baggie, while I'm crouched here ogling that angry troll and clutching my middle. He backhands his fist to thud solidly against Ty's chest with the coins. "Here's your money. Let this be done." 

The Illidari accepts and thanks the paladin. He then starts coming after me.

I immediately backpedal away. I don't want him or his tricky chocolate that makes me think funny, and I can't give him the hex bag. He's useless. Leave me alone! He follows me. I break into a run. Like an ensorcelled heart-seeker arrow, he changes course unerringly to intercept. There isn't all that much room to continue evading him. I recognize this and instantly I panic, feeling trapped. I shift to the cat, dashing out of reach of him. There are too many people!  Not enough space, they are too close, too close, too close! Let me out! I imagine that behind me I can feel the swish of air in my back fur as the monster tries to snare me. There is no where to go. He's going to catch me. The monster will eat me! 

I guess that's alright. At least I'll be cooked for him. My insides still burn.
 

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I hear Lilliana screech objection. "STOP!" She and Tahzani both run interference on my behalf, and succeed. They stop him. I slink into hiding, weaving my feline body around and between a maze of crates until I'm lost. I turn around and snake back. I wedge myself between two crates with an iron fence grating in my view on one side and the rest of the room out there. Only from above can anyone sneak up on me now. The cramped space feels safe, somehow.

The elf sighs. He passes off the twenty-five coins he'd made such a fuss over. "See she get this, and gets a proper meal in her." Lilliana 's jaw drops. Tyinielran looks at Tahzani "Do that for me?" The three of them say nothing more to each other that I can quite catch, but they part without trading blows, only the coins.

On the other side of the room, T'suro's voice has commanded my twitchy and shortening attention span. My stomach cramps on the embers smoldering inside. The paladin walked up to his guildmate and thrust another pouch at her. She raised a brow and asked what she could help him with. "This is what you gave the demon hunter. Like him or not, be mindful of the oaths. You were out of line, calling him a demon's pet." he says. Senahri squints at him, then looks at the Grims in attendance, then back at him. Her acknowledgment is curt. "They're allies, whether we like it or not. don't give them reason to leave. We need their power."

"Uh huh, Yesh shir." she slurs a slightly less antagonistic agreement.

I cannot believe the pretty paladin has just paid for me. Perhaps if I were a conscientious person, I might care. If the debt were legitimate, which it was not. I get no satisfaction from making him waste his coins. They mean nothing.

This is a lie. Money does mean something. It is evil.

I shift, safe in my hiding place. My troll hips wedge against the barrier to both sides but I fit, if barely. A troll pelvis is wider than the tiger's. I fish the coin pouch from my glove, and then I have to really reach to retrieve the hex bag. I yank the drawstring loose and stuff the smaller pouch inside the other, then cinch it tight. I stick the coin purse in my mouth, and shift again. 

I can hear people talking all over now. The demon hunter is a safe distance away, confronted by that scary ax-wielder. The troll is slouching, and still he towers above the Illidari. Tyinielran looks up at the troll " You don't scare me, troll. This horde is fine, maybe, as long as it kills the legion. I'm not here for fighting trolls."

"Good. We on da same page den. Da legion be our goal. An Ah don need ta scah naone. Makin people frightened be da jobs a cowads." He leans eye to eye with the smaller elf. "Sa, end dis fude. Be a time fo 'membarin da lost."

"Xi daz il parn lok Thorje maz x melAr ashj nagas arakalada x raka lok Ashjraka re amanare ur" I cannot tell if this bout of nonsensical demonic words is meant as an answer to the troll or not. 

He takes it as such. He listens to the elf spout his strange tongue and waits for him to finish. "Ah 'ope dat be a 'Ah agree'," he says bluntly. "We done wit dis fude nah? Be erytin settled?"

Tyinielran nods at the troll. "See the other troll gets the money."

The guy looks at this elf for a moment, but maintains the disposition of a barkeep even still. Without anger: "Dat one will do w'at dat one will da. Nah violence will be cause 'o it, eh? If ya let dat be dat, Ahm gon ta go back ta drinkin fa mah wahc'ief." He grips the twin axes he left embedded in the wood floor and pulls them out, sheathing them. He then sits back down to pick up his drink and take a long swig.

My ears finally pick out the low murmurings of Lilliana and Tahzani. I pad softly over to them and find another nook to creep out from. Lilliana is right there. Tahzani is saying how this is one of the dumbest nights he has ever witnessed. She replies, her voice low in a sort of half-whisper. "At least like, none of it's my fault....right.......?" Nope, it's mine. I learn from the best, I guess. 

I reach forward and gently, so as not to startle her, paw at the hem of Lilliana's robe as she stands there. The priestess glances to me, sees me staring up at her from this miserable crouch, then reaches a hand to pat me. Really? What part of 'I'm not a pet' did she not understand earlier? She just pet me. If I had a brief moment of regret for what I was about to do, which I haven't, it would have been gone then.

This bitch set me on fire because she thought it was funny. Sulfuron Slammers are not funny. Cockroaches. Not funny. Rocks, poisons, trick elixirs, false directions to buffets, these are all NOT funny. Lilliana was supposed to be my friend, and in her I have fixated a target for all of the frustrations dealt to me as a perceived lower-class citizen. 

 

I drop the small pouch from my mouth at Lilliana's feet without regrets, and with no remorse. I nudge it to her with my paw in case she neglects to notice it. My friend reaches over to snatch up the small pouch. She doesn't question why I'm giving her such a thing, and she doesn't check it.

Instantly, the spell redirects. The absence of flames in my gut makes me sigh audibly in relief. I welcome the familiar and manageable ache of normal hunger in it's place. This I know.

After only just a moment, I notice Lilliana wilt. She leans against the stack of boxes Tahzani is perched atop. She's lost the spark of willfulness that comes from high spirit as a different sort of flame begins to make itself felt. It's extremely difficult to pretend to be not sick when you really are very much so. Illness has a way of forcing truthfulness. She stretches her back in the same way I had earlier, and I suppress a smirk.

Set me on fire, will you? Let's see how you burn.

Out in the open areas, the Illidari has gone and directly insulted all trolls everywhere with a comment of blatant disrespect toward Vol'jin. The reaction is rather strong, and I do not wish to see any more of that man today, even if it might be of him getting halved by a pair of trollish axes. As much entertainment as that may be, I need to not be near my victim when the spell fully seeds. I need sleep in a bad way, too. I need more food, but I can do without.

I shift to the troll, staying crouched in this alcove. "I can be leavin now?" I whisper, like asking permission. Let them remember that I left only when they said it was okay to do so. What villain submits themselves so obviously to the directions of their victims? A stupid one, perhaps. Me. I do. Maybe it's working. I haven't been caught yet.

"Nobody keepin' jah here if jah wanna go, Dere," Tahzani answers. I know this.

Lilliana reassures. "You're safe, Derecho." Her hand reaches up to rub her forehead as she leans. She's not safe. 

Tahzani flops the hat I gave him back onto his head. I hadn't noticed him take it off earlier. Perhaps the gesture is meant to be good and kind? Lilliana casually tries to swat the headgear back off. I stare up at him for a moment. 

This man is a true enigma to me. I know he has power, he must, yet, he works in such a mundane fashion at a thankless profession with more devotion to excellence than any free person I have ever seen. He doesn't seem to have greed that can I pick up on, so what could his motivations be? He routinely puts himself in harm's way to defend people he has never met before. He's not just an idealist, because that would imply a sort of willful ignorance and a blindness to reality that just doesn't seem to fit. I thank him, then shift and leave. I crawl back underneath, and my restless thoughts twinkle like stars in an endless sky, brighter when you don't look, then hiding once sought.

People just aren't this nice. 

More than anyone I have come to know in the horde, I fear this one. This one I have no link to. This one I do not understand. It's possible he is exactly what he seems to be, but a very hard lifetime of experience tells me otherwise. The morbid dark side of me wants to see the hidden monster. It's the side that dares to ponder the what-ifs. What if I don't strive back to the surface of the lake and decide to stay down here? What if I go ahead and eat those pretty red berries that even the birds leave alone? What if I do poke this sleeping bear? 

What if I strike this match and hold it? What if I light the fuse on the bombs here in the hull of this derelict houseboat? Surely there is something darker lurking in that bartender. Surely it's something terrible. What does it want? What does it live for? 

The invisible sun is burning in his mate. Just as illness forces truth, suffering forces action. Decisions must be made when the ones you care for are in the path of encroaching darkness. Questions must be answered, about yourself and your limits. How much do you care? How far are you willing to go? What would you do if you believed you had to? The answers are much different if the goal is to save yourself, or save another.

What happens if I light this star in the darkness?

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Derecho had just slunk away and left the dysfunctional group behind.

Despite that Derecho has left, the demon hunter and the older, large troll continued speaking.  Tyinielran seems to want to get the last world in following his insult to Vol'jin, “There i will have to dissagree with you troll, but that is your opinion and your right to it. “

Nojinbu shook his head at the elf "den ya be doomed ta follow ahll dat follow ya. ah feel sorry fa ya den."

Tylinierlran gave a retort with a most arrogant statement, “And I pity you, troll.”  To this Nojinbu sighed. He now realizeed that he can get no further in his discussion with Tylinierlan. 

Lilliana whispered over to Tahzani as the argument seemsed to come to a close, "I don't feel good." 

The green skinned warlocked look Lilliana over, before he leaned back to her and asked, “Wanna get outta heah?”  Instead of giving him a clear answer, the priestess troll merely  shrugs her shoulders in a somewhat listless fashion.  Perhaps she's still keen to listen to the continued argument and disrespect going on. Tahzani pressed when Lilliana failed to supply him with a proper answer, “...Jah not feelin' alright Lilly? Lookin' a bit tired.”

Lilliana shook her head in her answer.  Then, as she seemed to physically start to wilt she playfully flicked at the tip of Tahzani's silly hat.  Tahzani smirked, “Das a yes.  Come on... Let's get outta heah.”  He tugged on her hand lightly, pulling her towards the large arena doors to leave.

Lilliana allowed herself to be pulled, and even helped by using her free hand to shove off from the crate, "Bye Nojinbu.....bye Fayleah.....bye....." She paused and looks at those left.  "Bye weirdos."

Tahzani echoed Lilliana, “Gnight everbody.”

The others waved and offered wishes of a good, safe night.

Once the troll pair were outside in the fel tainted air of Orgrimmar and the Brawl’gar arena at their backs, Tahzani began to state the obvious, “….Lilly... Jah not lookin' so good….”

Lilliana was indeed not looking good.  It had taken a good amount of time for Derecho to feel as bad as Lilliana had come to feel in a matter of minutes.  The priestess was never known for her physical stamina, and perhaps it was this weakness in her that allowed the workings of what lied within the pouch to take hold of her so quickly.  She didn't understand the severe burning in her gut.  Whatever it was it had raced up to her throat, causing a violent sensation of nausea that she was not able to control.  When Tahzani started to make his statement, Lilliana had already darted away from Tahzani, releasing his hand.  Even as he offered his concerned observation she had crouched to vomit right over the little hill in clear sight to those coming and going to the Brawl'gar Arena.  She meant to go further and to be discreet…. but the urge caught her and despite being a priest herself, there was nothing she could do.  There was no bravery of being stoic, no withholding and ignoring her physical desire to expel.  It simply happened, she was powerless and she was more than mortified at such a display.

“...Oh geez….” Tahzani reached out to hold her hair back, and even as she continued to wretch violently, he brought a hand to her forehead, checking for a sudden fever.  He was aware of how such things were exceedingly rare for trolls, but exceptions were often made.  Lilliana only tried to brush Tahzani away, both from touching her forehead gently and from holding her hair.  Grim simply did not get sick, or at the very least let others see them ill.  But her attempt to push him from her was weak, and only resulted in her having to grip the red sand of the hill and vomit once more.  She could only do one or the other, and being sick forced itself as a priority right now.

If Tahzani was nauseated himself by this display, he didn’t show it. He merely maintained his hold on her hair, gently keeping the red strands from her face and mouth, “....Oookay...Oookay Lilly...One moah time an' jah should be good fah de road.”

Lilliana took a breath as she seemed to rid herself of the last of it.  She gave poor Tahzani a momentarily dirty look, even if she did appreciate him holding her hair.  This had actually never happened to her, let alone with Tahzani present to witness and provide aide.  It was exceptionally embarrassing for her.

"I'm good." As gross as it was she spit out the remnants she tasted in her mouth, dropping her head so it's not as visible.

Tahzani attempted to check her forehead again, and discovered that there was no hint of a fever there. 

“Sorry, Tahzani.” Lilliana groaned, leaning back to take another breath.  Tahzani handed her some water from his pouch which she down surprisingly quick and without hesitation. Rather odd for someone who just vomited half their innards out.

“...Ain't nothin' jah did.”  Tahzani was trying to be calming but when he drew his hand away from her forehead he was stuck with a look of confusion, “...No Fevah...Perhaps a reaction ta sometin' jah ate or drank.”

Probably moving too quickly, Lilliana shrugged her shoulders and forced herself up to her feet, "Yeah."  Perhaps she now looked a tad better after having drank the water.  Indeed she had felt a momentary coolness through her throat and down into her gut, relieving her for the moment of this strange fever inside - the fever that Tahzani couldn't feel. 

Tahzani didn’t seem to think that this was something she had eaten, for he eyed her suspiciously as he left her side to bring his motorcycle, parked around the edge of the arena around to her.

“I think I'm just sick of the night.” Lilliana uncomfortably climbed onto the bike behind Tahzani.  She grinned.

Tahzani’s reply was somewhat hesitant, “...Stress maybe…..But jah been through so much worse.”  He drove them out of Orgrimmar and nearly turned left to go towards his boat.  However, he turned sharply away from it, his tone holding some frustration, “Lilly ah don' know where ta go...”

There was unrest on the streets, even just on the outskirts of Orgrimmar, and the familiar sound of blades hit their ears as they drove past, “Well....let's just set out a freaking tent....um.....far away from like, the legion ships in the air.  I'm not going back to the Grim's halls tonight, I'm staying with you."  This was frustrating, for the pair were unable to go to Lilliana’s quarters in the Grim, and other locations were too exposed to Legion threats.

Tahzani grumbled, “...Notin' be fah enough away.”

Lilliana bit her lip as she started to struggle once more with what could only be described as burning deep into her gut.  She worked on pretending that she was fine as she clung to Tahzani, "I know...but it's better than staying in Orgrimmar....."

“...Alright dey haven't attacked de harbor yet...We'll getcha a  hotel ta sleep it off in.”

Tahzani headed off towards the familiar goblin town of Bildgewater, where he had run the Cantina for over a year.  Once he entered the town and rolled up to one of the small inns, he squirmed uncomfortably. The sudden violent illness without a fever was not sitting well with him.  As a troll himself, he understood the severe rarity of catching a sudden bug.  Their natural rejuvenation, fueled by the troll peoples initial connections to the Loas seemed to stall all natural illness.  Trolls suffered and died from battle-wounds and from battle, not from a virus or infection.

Tahzani urged Lilliana off of the bike, “...Make jahself comfortable. I'll see about rentin'”  Lilliana followed his instructions, stepping into the room that opened to the dirty goblin streets while Tahzani left to sort out the room for the pair.  Located in the corner of the room, hanging from a thin cord that had been nailed in from one edge of the wall to the other, were some goblin sized undergarments.  These must have been left to dry and then forgotten by previous residents.  Lilliana first noticed the tiny pair of pokadotted underpants, which hung from a single pin. Of course she reached out to pluck it down.  Stretching that way made her wince and clutch her stomach, but she still had obtained her prize.  She straightened and went to the door, waiting for Tahzani to return.  She twirled the underwear around a finger, standing in the doorway with a ridiculous, coy expression that she planned to present Tahzani with as soon as his return.  She didn't have to wait long, for soon came Tahzani, his expressed soured with a displeased grimace.

Lilliana held out the undergarment, "Think these would fit you?"  She grinned.

Tahzani blinked and found himself speechless.  Sometimes Lilliana’s sense of humor was too bizarre.

Lilliana giggled, pointing to the old clothes left hanging in the room with the hand that's holding the silly tiny underwear. 

Tahzani's eyes followed, “Eesh... Who wears dis shit?  How jah feelin'?”

Lilliana leaned against the doorframe.  At first she outright lied, “Fine.”  Then she seemed to rethink that, and changed her answer, “Bad.  And why, what's with the grimace? Can't stay here?"

Tahzani shook his head, “….no... No we can. Dey just bloodsuckahs...”  He stepped into the room with Lilliana and shut the door behind him, “Can jah describe it? Suddenly jah needed ta vomit?”

Her reply as he led her into the room was to toss the pokadotted underwear at Tahzani's head. "Stomachache."  It was more than that, the pain that began growing in her stomach had not initially made her nauseous, but as they had stepped out of the arena it had simply become too intense as it raced, like a fier gone out of control, up through her chest and her throat.  Now she merely felt a dull ache that threatened to blossom once again to the earlier intensity.  She was grateful it now just lurked. This she could bear, although it was not pleasant. "I'm cool, Tahzani, though, seriously."

Tahzani was not too amused at her toss of the tiny article of clothing.  Tahzani snapped it out of the air and threw it aside, stopping in his stride.  Lilliana moved forward to sit down on a bench that had two plush pillows on either side.  Something had suddenly occured to Tahzani, and he took no time in asking her in a blunt, direct manner.  Tahzani found himself staring intently at the red haired priestess and asked,

  “...Lilly when's de last time jah bled?”

After she got herself comfortable, she looked up to Tahzani and shot him a wry grin, jokingly saying, “Oh yeah, I’m pregnant!”

Tahzani nodded, “...Maybe just sometin' jah ate den. Stress can wreak havoc.”

Lilliana muttered to herself afterwards, "When is the last time I bled...."  She grabbed one of the pillows from the bench and chucked it at Tahzani.  He dodged the pillow. She didn’t offer up a good toss anyway, half weak from her earlier vomiting incident.  Lilliana took the remaining pillow, and clutched in her lap, against her stomach. Tahzani frowned, sitting beside her with concern.

“I think that's all you've done tonight.”  Lilliana pointed out, reaching out to touch the scar on Tahzani’s lip to indicate his frown that stretched it.  “You’ve only frowned, all night.” 

“Das not true.” Tahzani argued, “...Ah smiled when ah saw jah tonight.”

Lilliana seemed to like his clever response, “Well, since then I mean.”

“Heh. Well  ah'm honest... Be a fault.”

Lilliana put her staff down beside her and stretched out along the bench. She used Tahzani’s lap as a pillow, resting her head there.  “There are like, bombs in here.” Her eyes went to the corner of the room. Indeed, there was a pile of very small, yet very dangerous bombs resting there.

“It's a goblin built place. Course dere be bombs”

"What if one went off?"

“Den we'd have more of a breeze.”

“Oooooooooooooooooooooh…….!”  Lilliana nodded, grinning foolishly.  She clutched the pillow to her stomach firmly.  Tahzani chuckled, stroking her hair.  Even at his soothing gesture, she stiffened, her stomach burning and eating away at her innards. Soon it would break through her skin and there would be an open hole that lead directly into her gut.  At least, that's how it felt.  Instead of complaining, she asked, "You like all the goblin shit, huh....?"

“Moah like ah'm used ta it. Paht a doin' business.”

"Well, I guess you were always used to sleeping with bombs." She referrred to the enormous ones that had been in the bottom of Tahzani's boat.”

“...An' a few months ago Ah got used ta sleepin' wit a bombshell even.”

Lilliana was nodding, but couldn’t help disguise a small wince and involuntary groan, “A bombshell....?"

“I'll tell jah latah.”  Tahzani looked down to her. The wince and the groan of course had not escaped him.  She was on his lap, he was going to notice, and at this point he was rather attuned to her.  Everything at this point was enhanced by his concern and fine-tuned by his raising suspicions that this was not normal. 

“Fine.”  Lilliana sounded disappointed and partly annoyed.  Tahzani was probably going to suggest she be quiet and try to sleep next.  Who was he to tell her what she should do?  If that had been Tahzani’s plan, he did not get the chance to suggest it.  Lilliana suddenly flung the pillow off of her stomach.  The burning in her gut had risen up to her throat again, and the resulting pain had her spinning and nauseous.  She bolted outside, almost banging straight into the door before she yanked it open rather desperately.  She spun out in the middle of the street, unsure of where to go.  The harbor was too many steps away.  She darted into the alley alongside the room they rented.  Lilliana had moved so fast that Tahzani barely had a chance to keep up with her. 

Luckily she hadn’t been able to go far.  She hit the edge of the wall along the alley, drawing a hand up over her along the metal sheeting of the wall.  If she could dig her nails and fingers straight through the metal she probably would have, so much was her discomfort growing.  She was trying to breath deeply, but each time she opened her mouth it felt like flames would escape that had billowed up from the depths of her gut.  In a way they did, for on her third, deep breath she was violently sick, vomiting at first on the edge of the metal wall, and then leaning away to hit the ground with her disgusting sick.  She then remained there for quite some time, alternating between the pain in her gut dominating and the resulting nausea.  She was completely helpless and overcome.  If this had happened when she was out on an assault she would clearly have been targeted and killed almost immediately. 

Lilliana's level of misery heightened as the evening wore on, and had progressed  so severely at one point it was a miracle that Tahzani was ever able to lead her back inside.  At some point there is nothing left in you to expel, even if you still feel that each time you open your mouth that you'll breath fire along with cooked innards sliding up through your throat. 

The warlock would comfort her as he could through the night, respecting her desire for this particular situation to not be broadcast even to a local healer.  Well, he would at least respect that for the night.  However, as she worsened in the early hours of the morning to the point of tears that she refused to shed, Tahzani seriously began to suspect foul play.

 

Edited by Lilliana Bloodshine
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Trolls could be poisoned; they could get diseases and infected wounds. Despite how often people over-exaggerated the strength of their regeneration, trolls could become unwell though it would take a great deal to do so.

So what had happened to leave Lilliana in such a state?

The barkeep’s lips were twisted into a permanent frown of concern as he watched the Sandfury toss and turn. She somehow managed to keep quiet but she could not hide was how obvious the pain and discomfort was. She had voided her stomach several times on the way to Bilgewater alone yet she still put on the usual ditzy smile and pretended like nothing was wrong, going so far as to throw old underwear left behind by a previous tenant at him for a laugh. Yet now, several hours later, she was still writhing in pain and at times even trying to rush outside as the urge to vomit rose. For the first hour, he had rushed to her side to lead her out, though he had quickly stopped bothering and let her roll to the side of the bed at the feeling of illness, nothing came out anyway.

She was violently ill, yet there were no outward signs. She felt slightly warm to the touch but there was no fever. He had suspected poison but there were no traces that he could see. Per her protests when he suggested getting a healer, he had waited and helped her as he could. Yet as the hours rolled on and the symptoms seemed to only be getting worse his patience for Lilly’s antics wore thin.

She hated feeling weak, but she hated displaying it  even more. Every injury was met with a grin and a joke and outwardly she never took anything seriously. She was a deceiver at heart, but even she could not fake her way out of the current situation.

The clock struck two when he finally made up his mind and left her alone. She was talking incoherently as he shut the door behind him and set off at a sprint towards the business district of Bilgewater.

If anything, the Bay was even busier at night. The bars were still open and several inebriated patrons stumbled from one to the other, the vendors were still hocking wares and gouging potential customers with insane prices while they concocted award winning lies to tell about its worth. The storefronts that were barred up and darkened were in the minority there, yet sadly, the businesses advertising healers and medical experts were among that minority.

The sign of a grinning goblin holding a giant needle would deter most clients almost as much as the slogan ‘No questions asked’ would attract them. Ignoring the darkened windows and all the other signs that the clinic was closed, Tahzani pounded on the door urgently. He would not make friends this way, but neither would he be ignored as he beat the door at a steady, determined tempo.

His fist was going numb by the time a little light could be seen through the front window and the door was flung open to reveal a dark green goblin with a nose ring and a night gown complete with matching cap and puff-ball. “What the hell do you want? Do you have any idea what time it is?” the irate healer shouted at him angrily, “ Can’t you read? We’re closed!”
“It be an emergen-“
“ Kid, everything is an emergency to you idiots! I’m losing beauty sleep arguing with a hypochondriac. Just push some fluids and go to bed!” the goblin growled as he moved to slam the door. His body acted faster than his mind as he shoved his foot into the doorway to prevent it from shutting. Regret flooded him as he paid the cost for succeeding.

“ Mah girl is sick! She puked until dere notin’ left!”
“ That’s magical, good for you. Move your foot ya mook!”
“ Ah’m tinkin’ she be cursed!
“ Well that’s what she gets for getting the voodoo. Kid, move.”
“ …Ah got money!”

He wasn’t sure when it happened, but suddenly the door was shut, his foot was out of the way, and the goblin had become fully dressed. Now clad in a white robe with a black leather satchel and a golden chain bearing the symbol of what he could only assume was the local mega church, the goblin struck a rather professional looking figure. “ Well we can’t just leave a poor soul to suffer can we? Hurry friend, lead the way!”

“ Muddafucka…” Tahzani muttered as he limped towards the rented room, ignoring the incredible, limited time offer for bone setting that his new companion tried to push.

 

***

 

He could only assume that the goblin was efficient. The alternative was that he had a very short attention span. Upon entering the rented room he had dropped his satchel and pulled out a variety of tools. Odd hoses attached to a metal disc and buds that he stuck in his ear, a hose attached to an inflating pad which he quickly wrapped around Lilly’s arm and inflated to a painful degree of pressure as he held her wrist, and a jar of thin sticks which apparently were necessary to examine the inside of the priest’s mouth.

If Lilliana had been aware she probably would have strangled him.

 

“ Well I got good news and I got bad news?” the healer finally said after a few minutes of poking, prodding and touching the priest with the assortment of equipment, “ This is probably gonna cost a bit more than you’d like.”
“Well… What’s de good news?”
“ That is the good news. I’d hate to get out of bed for copper! The bad news is she isn’t showing many physical signs. Sure she’s in pain and dry heaving but for the show she’s putting on everything should be a lot worse than I’ve seen. Think you’re on the right track when you called it a curse. Well, guess this is why I make the heavy purses. Now…” He pulled out a sheet of parchment and rapidly scribbled on it. “ After hours fee… Examination… Dispelling… Bruise healing….”
“ Jah didn’t heal anytin’ on me!” Tahzani protested.
“ Then how come your foot is fine?” Countered the goblin with a greedy smile. “ Okay then, I think this is a fair price, hell of a deal.”

Tahzani’s stomach twisted into a knot as he read over the fee. He was well off but that did not mean he carried his life’s savings on his back. With every coin on his person he could pay a good deal of it but not the full amount.

 

He suddenly longed for the pouch of coins he had tossed to Derecho. With the amount he had tossed to her he would have had enough. No good deed went unpunished it seemed.

 

“ Uh… Jah got financin’?”
“ Listen pal, you dragged me out of bed at an unholy hour. I’m not touching this lady again until I see something that makes it worth my while. So what’s it gonna be, in or out?” The sly demeanor suddenly turned cold as the goblin stared the much taller troll down. “ Ah got de money! It’s in de bank in Orgrimmah! Ah just need a few hours ta go get-“
“ A likely story, deadbeat. Cross off the last two fees and pay me what’s left. I’m out of here.”

The angry healer had already begun to pack his bags despite Tahzani’s protests. The higher pitch must have woken the priestess as she let out a loud, annoyed hiss followed by a pained groan. She raised a hand and shakily pointed at her pack.

“ Just a sec! Just a sec!” Tahzani waved a hand in front of the goblin before he dove for the life preserver in the metaphorical sea of debts and dug through it. His hand found what Lilly had been indicating as he heard the familiar clink of coins in a pouch. He triumphantly whipped the bag out and emptied its contents into his hand; a small shower of gold and an odd soggy sack that he tossed away as he presented the contents and then emptied his own pouch onto the pile.

The healer’s demeanor rapidly shifted back to warm and pleasant as he pulled on a pair of pristine, white gloves. “ A pleasure doing business with you! Now please, stand back and let me work.” He announced in a polite, professional manner as he stepped back up to the annoyed looking priest.

Tahzani was happy to comply as he flopped down into a chair that was several sizes too small and blew out a sigh of relief. His eyes fell upon the odd addition to the coin pouch that he had discarded. It looked like a stitched item, not a ball of gunk she had pulled out of the river. Curiosity got the better of him as he picked it up. It stank of fish and was soaked through with what felt like oil. When he pried the stitches apart he spilled fish scales and little bones onto the ground. The action earned him an annoyed look from the healer as he muttered and chanted, as he hovered his hands over the aggravated troll in small circles.

Lilly did not practice the rituals that would require odd bits like the bag’s contents. It was filled with the reagents that a good hex would require yet they were all mixed and squished together. Stooping down to gather the odd mess of scales, bones, oil, and other odd bits he found himself staring at Lilly’s discarded coin purse.

He was fairly certain that Lilliana had never bought anything from his company aside from a drink every blue moon. So why would she have a pouch imprinted with the Coldstar Logo?

 

The pieces suddenly clicked into place as the healer drew his hands away and the priestess collapsed with a sigh of relief. The strain from the constant pain and misery had left her exhausted and without another word she had fallen asleep. The goblin eagerly scooped the gold into his bag, uncaring of the oily finish on several of the coins in the pile. “ A pleasure Mister…Troll. From all of us at Lightgear’s clinic I must say… Ask for us during business hours next time. G’night!” The door was slammed as the goblin made a quick escape. The noise caused Lilly to mutter again and roll over in her bed.

 

He had tossed Derecho that pouch earlier that night, or a pouch just like it. Somehow it wound up in Lilly’s possession with a grisly addition, shortly after, Lilly became debilitated.

The first domino toppled and his thoughts raced along the line. The bag he had given Derecho winds up with Lilly with an unpleasant addition, she becomes ill. Before that, T’suro is hurt and a stabbed doll is found on his person, the only people who he had seen get close enough were Lilly and Derecho. Before that, the same thing had happened, and Derecho had been holding a doll that looked suspiciously like him. It was convincing, but not concrete.

Tahzani rubbed at his face. The evidence was compelling, but the rest did not make sense. Derecho had a temper, but she had not displayed any aptitude towards combat or magic. To top it off, Lilly was her friend, a kind face that Derecho never seemed to take for granted. She wouldn’t have attacked her, not with something like this!

Tahzani looked over towards Lilliana. The troll was now slumbering peacefully after a long night, something that the barkeep desperately wished he could join. But as usual, a worrying mind would keep him up for hours more. Derecho was a friend, but Lilly was his mate. He owed it to both of them to get to the bottom of this.

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