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About Pathovar

  • Rank
    Junior Member
  • Birthday 03/15/1985
  1. The Perfectors are a very small, niche roleplay guild. We RP as a group of fanatical Gnomes with the singular purpose of removing the Curse of Flesh. The idea came from the Gearmaster Mechazod quest. In what was generally a very silly, fun side quest, one nugget struck me as very poignant and meaningful: randomly, one of the mechagnomes you "rescue" will respond to your actions with "No... I was... Perfect." I saw a lot of potential there to be explored: what would it be like to be a member of a second-string Alliance race living as refugees and find out you had been created for a much greater purpose. How would you react if that destiny was then snatched away from you? Myself and a few friends are exploring this concept as a group that I describe as Gnomish supervillians. We're not godmoders, we know our place as villians is to be foiled by the heroes, but we're out to cause trouble and having a great time doing it. We're looking for some more friends to join us. We are very accepting of alts, since being a fanatical Gnome supremacist would be a tough thing to play all the time (We're not much fun at parties, steam pool socials, or transmog fashion shows) and we provide some perks for your play experience including our own forums, our own vent, and a teamspeak channel. We're also shopping our services out as bad guys for your storylines. Need a foil? A nemesis? We're your Gnomes. For either reason, membership or enmity, contact us here, in game at BTag Flitin#1738, or on the Perfectors website at http://www.perfectors.enjin.com. Some background stories: http://www.ravenholdt.us/viewtopic.php?f=10&t=112&p=1358&hilit=perfectors#p1358 http://perfectors.enjin.com/forum/m/23665786/viewthread/13207400-missed-appointment-pathovars-stories/post/last#last http://perfectors.enjin.com/forum/m/23665786/viewthread/13207491-noble-profession/post/last#last
  2. Flitin's eyes burned with sweat. He blinked furiously to try and clear his vision, managing to make out the blurry outline of a hulking figure, rapidly growing larger. There was a deafening clang as the figure reached its destination, which happened to be the shield Flitin held warily in front of him. The impact lifted Flitin off his feet, propelling him backwards into the morass of snow and mud that covered the ground. He scrambled quickly to his feet, under the boisterous verbal encouragement of his dwarven sergeant, Hurvald. "Get up and hold that line, Gnome! Moira's left toe, but it'd take five of ye to do the job of one Dwarf!" Flitin braced himself for another impact. He managed to remain on his feet as the wooden club struck again, but nevertheless his heart seemed to rattle around inside his ribcage at the collision. Havelhand, a good-natured but frighteningly strong dwarven berserker, focused on pushing Flitin backward while the Gnome attempted to hold in place. This would continue until Hurvald called out... "BURST!" Exhausted but determined to complete the drill, Flitin reacted quickly as the pressure against his shield relented. He swung wildly with the heavy sandbag in his right hand. Arcing, sweeping strike impacted again and again with little to show for it against the padded-leather clad form of Havelhand, who gamely took the attacks until Hurvald called time on the drill. Flitin dropped his shield and sandbag, not even caring as Hurvald admonished him for the lapse. Fifteen repetitions of hold and burst had sapped any strength the Gnome had left. He stayed panting in the middle of the training field for a few moments more, enduring a far-too-hard friendly pat from the mighty Havelhand. After a long moment, the tired Gnome righted himself and shuffled off toward his tent. He passed Dwarven comrades along the way, but exchanged only polite nods. His presence was accepted by the Mountaineer veterans, but he was still a bit of a liability on the shield line, the stronger Dwarves often having to take up his slack. As the only Gnome amongst the Mountaineer infantry, Flitin stood out in other ways. Though considered taciturn and stoic by Gnomish standards, Flitin was still far more chatty and effervescent than his new Dwarven comrades, prone to tangents of thought and speech that strayed far beyond the topic of conversation. In the end, he felt his presence was more tolerated than desired. Whether or not this was true, it contributed to his bleak mood this evening. Flitin arrived at his tent, the last in its row, and threw his gear down without bothering to organize it. He set about preparing a fire. When this task was complete, he unrolled his sleeping mat and sighed in audible relief as he stretched out atop it and removed his boots. Given that the Gnome warrior was feeling like an outsider in the Mountaineer camp, it would stand to reason that he would be happy with his troop's current mission: reinforcing the Gnomes of New Tinkertown against a resurgent Trogg threat. He did not feel any excitement for the morrow, however, nor the possible reunions it might bring. Flitin was on the verge of closing his eyes when a short, slim figure appeared on the edge of the circle of firelight. He recognized the visitor right away: the Gnome scout Pathovar, a member of the mercenary band New Tinkertown had employed to aid the Mountaineers and their own defense force in this latest push. Despite his earlier train of thought, this particular Gnome brought no sense of familiarity or comfort. As Pathovar moved into range of the light and sat down, it was apparent why. The typical Gnomish grin on his face seemed utterly false, failing to touch his dead and empty eyes. Everything about the new arrival's mannerisms seemed affected and forced, like a mummer in a play wearing an ill-fitting mask. "Hello, Flitin!" rang Pathovar's high-pitched, cheerful voice. "Hello." Flitin greeted the newcomer cautiously. "What brings you around this late in the evening? Shouldn't you be resting up for the operation tomorrow? Word is the scouts depart early for the cave." Pathovar waved him off. "Not a bother, I've been sleeping all day while you train with the thick-headed rockbreakers." He let out a forced chuckle, far more hearty than the weak joke deserved. "I came to see if you've finished that manuscript yet. You promised me you'd read it, remember?" Flitin suppressed a groan. Pathovar had forced a dog-eared tome into his hands when they'd first met a few days ago, refusing to take no for an answer. Flitin had attempted to read it, but found it to be a load of preachy drivel. The book focused on the Gnomish races' origins as mechanical constructs of the Titans, and seemed to suggest that all true Gnomes should be seeking to cure the Curse of Flesh. Much of the history in it seemed inaccurate from what Flitin could recall of his schooling, seeking to twist facts to support the mysterious author's strange Gnome-supremacist views. "I haven't..... quite finished it. Yet. But I'll give it another go after the operation." Flitin added the last part hastily, unnerved by the flash of annoyance crossing Pathovar's grinning countenance. "Oh, no matter." The scout continued cheerfully after re-composing himself. Without asking, he plopped down by Flitin's fire and opened a pouch of dried meats, offering some to Flitin. The warrior accepted and the two shared a makeshift meal, Pathovar taking the opportunity to expound upon his strange pseudo-religious views on Gnomes, Titans, and destiny. Flitin listened politely, grateful for the food more than the company, waiting for Pathovar to finally make his exit. The scout showed no signs of stopping, however, and began to work himself into a fervor. "And the Humans, Flitin! We were created to aid in the very shaping of this world! Perfect mechanical constructs. If anyone should be calling the shots in this Alliance it is our High Tinker, not the shaggy-haired, devolved beast occupying the throne of that primitive pile of rocks they call a city!" Pathovar stood, ripping off his tunic and drawing a dagger in a series of shockingly quick motions. Flitin fell back, startled at the violence of the sudden, strange action. Pathovar continued, staring into the dark somewhere beyond Flitin. His frame was shockingly thin, veins and muscle standing out in sharp relief through pale Gnomish skin. "Flesh is a curse, Flitin. This," he began as he drew the point of the dagger across his stomach, blood flowing freely in its wake, "is a curse. We were forged, not birthed. We should be immortal and invincible. It was the intention of our creators. Emotion, frailty... Gnomes were meant for none of this. It all came with flesh, and it is all a pox." He wiped his dagger on his trousers and resheathed it, ignoring the blood still seeping from his wound. "We should purge ourselves of emotion first, physical weakness second. The book shows us how, Flitin. There are ways to reclaim our destiny. I've even heard of a real cure for this curse in the frozen north. We can seek it out, you and I, when this campaign is over, making ourselves worthy along the way. Think on it!" As his speech ended Pathovar returned his gaze to Flitin's. He seemed startled suddenly, as if he hadn't meant to display so much passion. He broke his gaze away and retrieved his tunic. "Well, as you said the hour is late. Keep the rest of the food, Flitin. And finish the book!" Pathovar strode away, leaving Flitin at last to the comfort of his bedroll and his thoughts. There was no doubt that Pathovar was insane, and his views seemed based on inaccuracies. From all the reports Flitin had heard, the surviving mechanognomes in the north were by and large quite peaceful. But there was something attractive in the thought of Gnomes as a master race, a race with a destiny bigger than living like beggars on the surface above their destroyed city, acting as barely-noticed supporting characters in the dramas that were the wars of Azeroth. Within a few moments, Flitin was asleep. He woke the next morning later than his neighbors, as usual. Most of the camp had already broken down their tents. Flitin pulled his boots on quickly and packed up his gear and tent in a flurry of activity. He barely remembered to stomp out the embers of his fire as he raced off to his formation in the rapidly forming battle line. Sergeant Hurvald greeted him with a typical glare as he fell in. Flitin flashed him a cheery smile and an overly-enthusiastic wave, and was happy to be rewarded with an irritated growl. "Nice to see you too, sergeant. Figured I'd stay behind and check the camp; make sure none of you fine Dwarves left anything behind in your great hurry to line up and stand here." "Shut up and gear up, Gnome. We're riding in the battlewagons for this operation, and need to be ready as soon as they arrive." Flitin strapped on his helmet and bucked his breastplate, which he had left loose and dangling in his sprint to the line. As he prepared himself, a group of six scouts passed by the battle line less than a hundred yards to his right. He caught sight of Pathovar among them, his hair swept into a strange, fierce crest. The Gnome scout saw him as well and waved cheerily, that strange mannequin-like grin frozen on his face. The dwarves near Flitin noticed the object of his greeting and made derisive sounds, quickly looking away. Flitin took a perverse pride in their discomfort. However eerie the Gnome was, it was a welcome change to see anyone intimidated by one of his people. The scouts slipped into the trees ahead and disappeared. The battlewagons arrived a moment later, drawn by stout rams. Flitin's twelve man squad loaded up, shieldbearers last so they would be the first out to establish the line of battle. The wagons rolled out, trundling through the snow-blanketed woods on barely discernible paths. As they bounced along, Sergeant Hurvald explained the situation. "Our Gnomish friends in New Tinkertown have been beset by an uptick in Trogg harrassment. Mercenary scouts recently discovered the source of these raids: a previously unknown cave to the north of the settlement that connects to Gnomeregan proper deep below the surface. We're going in to clear it out." The dwarves and solitary Gnome nodded in unison. Embarrassed though he was by his people's failure to defend themselves without aid, he was proud that at least two Gnomes would be a part of the relief effort. He was also relieved that it seemed they would be alone in the effort, thus avoiding any awkward reunions with his New Tinkertown friends. Within the hour, the wagons halted at their destination. Flitin's squad poured out, shieldbearers lining up quickly with the neighboring squad to form a line facing the gaping mouth of the cave. A slight snow flurry had moved in, somewhat obscuring the view of the enemy lair. On order from Captain Tharran, the line advanced, Flitin's squad in the center moving slowly so that the right and leftmost squads could move ahead, forming a crescent with the cave in the middle. As they closed within 50 yards, a terrible yowling din arose from the cave, chilling Flitin's heart with familiar terror. Images of Operation:Gnomeregan flashed in his mind's-eye, and he wondered if this terror was the last thing his father felt before the Troggs had torn him apart. That thought hardened Flitin's resolve, and he obeyed the order to halt and set his shield. The mass of Troggflesh boiled out of the cave like white froth, pouring across the gap between them and the dwarven line with horrifying speed. They crashed against the assembled shieldbearers with a thud, clubs and crude hatchets slashing wildy as they sought out gaps to exploit. The shieldbearers held, though Flitin was pressed back an extra stride, nearly opening a break in the line. The warrior behind the Gnome pushed him forward, the extra force enabling him to correct the error. As the Trogg momentum died out against the unyielding Mountaineers, a second order was given. "Second line: BURST!" The shieldbearers got as low in their stances as they could without giving way, and the warrior behind soared over their heads and into the stalled Troggs. Flitin spotted Havelhand among them, the massive dwarf wielding an axe in each hand with deadly efficiency, whirling like a cyclone. Flitin felt a pang of jealousy... imagine being able to fight like that, a weapon in each and, caution to the winds. Trogg blood and limbs filled the air, accompanied by their ear-splitting shrieks. The shieldbearers pushed forward quickly, harvesting the Troggs between them and the second line warriors with their swords. In a few seconds they had closed the gap and slipped through the spaces between the battling second line warriors, reforming the shield line against the main body of the Trogg force. It took great trust to expose their backs to the trapped Troggs, but they were a disciplined unit. Within moments, the second line had finished off their initial opponents and reformed in their original configuration. Three more repetitions of this drill and the Mountaineers had reached the maw of the vile cave. The surviving Troggs fled within, and the growls issuing from below the surface suggested the y were waiting eagerly for the dwarves in their subsurface world. A small force of Mountaineers guarded the entrance while everyone else rested, bandaged wounds, and drank water. Flitin listened intently to the conversation between Captain Tharran and his squad leaders, Hurvald among them. Apparently Pathovar and his fellow scouts were already inside the cave, and had prepared traps to be sprung well in front of the Dwarven advance when the time came. It appeared Flitin's squad would be leading the assault, as well. Sergeant Hurvald returned to brief his troops. "We're taking the lead. Flitin, I want you on point. This is your city in jeopardy and I feel you've earned the right." And I'm the most expendable, thought Flitin cynically, though he did not voice his thoughts. "Roger that, Sergeant. Thank you." The squad prepared for the assault, strapping Gnomish lanterns to their helmets. They then lined up in two columns with Flitin as a spearhead between the two column leaders. His heart pounding, the Gnome warrior advanced into the dark. He hated walking point. His wandering thoughts and Gnomish curiousity kept his mind from focusing on the task. On point, every sound, sight, and smell could be the difference between life and death, and all he could think about was how he'd read once that slight dripping of water over millions of years had carved out caves like this. Imagine, the equivalent of a leaky coolant hose on a Strider creating a system this large and complex. It boggled the min- The ice gave way beneath Flitin's feet, plunging him into the frozen abyss, his companions shouts of alarm echoing behind him as he tumbled into the blackness. He struck the slick ground hard, and found himself sliding down a narrow chute. his momentum was arrested by the sudden appearance of an inconveniently placed wall, and he lay breathless for a long moment. His headlamp had rattled loose in the fall and no longer provided light. He studied his surroundings with his remaining senses. The cold killed the smell somewhat, but there was no denying a certain dankness to this part of the cavern. And, oddly, he could feel a source of warmth nearby. He fiddled with his headlamp, cursing softly. After what seemed like an eternity, it flickered into life. He pointed it toward the warmth. He found himself staring into the hideous, rotten-toothed visage of the largest Trogg he had ever seen. The Trogg stood on a level below his own, only it's shoulders, arms, and huge head exposed to his view. It had to be over a dozen feet tall. The creature let out a hideous, mocking wheeze that seemed like laughter to Flitin, and lunged forward with a massive hand. Flitin batted the hand aside with a panicked swing of his shield, catching the second hand with the point of his sword. The exchange repeated itself several times as Flitin scrambled backward to escape the Trogg's grasp. He was stymied in this effort when his back slammed up against an icy wall, still well within his opponent's reach. Grab, block, grab, block.... Flitin's panic was shoved aside and his mind fell into the rhythm of the battle. Rhythm.... it was a phrase used often by fighters, and he'd never understood it until he began his training with the dwarves. Every contest did find its own rhythm. Each fight within a battle could then be considered part of a symphony. Perhaps war was the percussion section in the symphony of life.... that seemed a bit high-handed for this messy business, but it put him in mind of a childhood memory. A traveling Gnomish musician, of sorts, had made his way to the Fastratchet's neighborhood of Ironforge. Taggle Wizzclank had been his name... once a respected professor of theoretical magics, the Gnome had raised some eyebrows with his claims that all things in the known universe were dictated by a single, unifying rhythm. The music he made was, he claimed, based off rhythms recorded in forest growth cycles and the movement of stars in the night sky. One of his more infamous pieces featured a full 17 months between beats. And here he and this Trogg had established their own rhythm, no rehearsal necessary. Perhaps Taggle had been on to something after all. But free will was part of this equation, and Flitin fully intended to disturb the next stanza of this song. As the Trogg's right hand snapped forward again, Flitin flattened himself against the ground. Rolling to his back, he faced the exposed underside of the Trogg's wrist, and the blood-rich veins it contained. He stabbed upward repeatedly, drenching himself in Trogg blood. The beast shrieked and withdrew its wounded limb battering at Flitin with its left hand. Flitin held his shield above him to absorb the pounding, barely managing to avoid being flattened. He felt something pop in his elbow, accompanied by a burning pain, but gritted his teeth and resolved to ignore it. He poked upward with his sword, pricking the Trogg's hand, which quickly withdrew. Flitin rolled and leapt to his feet, charging the beast. Surprise registered on the semi-intelligent face at the little Gnome's sudden speed. The surprise would remain plastered there for eternity and Flitin's leap carried him forward to bury his sword between his enemy's eyes. Flitin panted for several minutes after his victory, a dozen previously unfelt spots of pain making themselves known on his battered body. Eventually, he managed to limp to the ice chute that had brought him down here and started the long climb up. His shield and sword strapped to his back, he had to use his boot knives to drive into the ice and pull himself upwards. The climb was excruciatingly painful and impossibly long. He arrived at the initial point of his landing nearly spent. He stared up at the hole he had fallen through. He could hear the faint clash of arms in the distance, but no one was visible above. The light was better here, however, and Flitin switched off his head lamp. When he felt well enough to continue, he followed the battle sounds as best he could. The echoes in the cave led to many wrong turns and switchbacks. Flitin had begun to despair of ever finding the surface when a sharp right revealed a familiar Gnome. Pathovar had his back turned to Flitin, but there was no mistaking the dimunitive figure with his ostentatious crest of hair. The scout stood over a hamstrung Trogg, who was crawling desperately toward its crude weapon. Every time it got within a few scant inches, Pathovar would nudge the weapon further along with his toe. Horrified and fascinated by this macabre ritual, Flitin moved to his left to get a better angle. Pathovar's face showed only curiosity. He seemed to be studying the Trogg rather than taunting it, taking in the desperate last struggles with fascination. Perhaps he was prolonging the kill merely to observe a little longer. Eventually the weapon reached the wall, and the little game came to an end. Pathovar threw a leg over the Trogg to straddle it. He allowed the beast's fingers to close around the weapon, then with a swift, violent motion seized the Trogg under the chin and wrenched his head upward. He drew his dagger across his enemy's throat with merciless finality, opening up a waterfall of blood. Pathovar pulled further back on the head, bringing the Trogg's eyes to his own, staring with wild intensity into the rapidly dimming orbs. What he hoped to see there, Flitin could not say. At last, the scout dropped his slain opponent and looked up, startled to see Flitin watching him. The two gazed at each other for a moment. Pathovar seemed to be gauging Flitin's reaction to what he had seen. Flitin was trying to hide the disgust from his visage, fearful of the unstable Gnome. At long last Pathovar spoke, the empty grin returning to his face. "Flitin! Quite a battle, eh? I do believe we've won though! A great day for Gnomeregan!" Flitin forced a smile in return. "Agreed, Pathovar. Now could you help me to the surface? I'm damaged goods right now, I'm afraid." Aided by the scout, Flitin made his laborious way upwards. The battle seemed to be over. Dead Troggs filled the halls, and within a few minutes he was reunited with his battered but cheerful squadmates. "Flitin, you made it!" Havelhand greeted him warmly. "Indeed! And it seems you dwarves somehow managed to survive without me. I'm proud of you all, really." The dwarves chuckled merrily and took over the duty of helping Flitin limp to the surface. Back amongst the other Mountaineers, Flitin heard news that deflated his euphoria. New Tinkertown's High Tinker had sent word that he was very grateful for the Mountaineer's efficiency in ending the threat, but they would not be sending troops to exploit the possible passage into Gnomeregan. The risk was too great and the Gnomes were content to continue building up their new settlement. Content... content with mediocrity and half-measures. That had always been a hallmark of this High Tinker. Flitin snorted with disgust. Within hours, the Mountaineers had packed for a return to their usual territory. As Flitin loaded his gear on a ram, he found a note stuck to the underside of his satchel. "Flitin, I know you are as disappointed as I am with the short-sightedness of our leadership. If you're at all like the Gnome I figure you for, you'll do something about it. I'm headed to Northrend, where I hope to find the answers to the questions raised in our book. By the way, you can keep that copy. I have others. Hopefully you've got the stones to follow me. Destiny awaits, not only for us but all Gnomekind. -Pathovar" Flitin crumpled up the note and tossed it aside. His leaders were fools, but he had no wish to follow a madman.
  3. Flitin stood on the edge of an unfamiliar cliff, gazing out over a starlit tundra that stretched beyond sight. The boiling black clouds massing above were heavy with grim promise of thunder, lightning, and driving rain. He inhaled deeply, drinking in the storm's power. His midnight-black armor pulsed with a green hue, casting frightening shadows of his horn-helmed self onto the rocks. He wasn't sure exactly where he was or why he was there, but he felt a sense of purpose. Somewhere out there, a great power was approaching, and Flitin and his friends stood against it. His friends… his gaze turned to his left, where there stood a beautiful, deadly Night Elf with a silver-white glow in her eyes. She returned his look and smiled, the fierce battle-joy evident in her confident grin. Beyond her stood another Night Elf, a mage. He towered over Flitin physically, but in a sense he seemed to tower over the landscape itself, his inner self reaching up to the heavens, where the stars themselves became a part of his outline. Was that possible? It all made sense to Flitin in the moment. Others were there as well, but their details were indistinct, familiar yet ghostly outlines floating on the edge of perception. He knew they all stood with him against…. whatever it was. Turning back to the horizon, Flitin drew his sword. It pulsed with the same green hue as his armor. A rushing sound filled his ears, and he raised his blade with a mighty roar. The battle would soon be joined, and he felt in his very bones that he was born for this. The earth began to shake. And shake. And shake…… Finally Flitin awoke to the shaking of his simple wooden bed. He yelped in startled surprise as the dream gave way to dismal reality. "I'm awake! I'm awake, you loon!" Above him stood Rupert, the Gnomish simpleton with whom he worked the field kitchen of Captain Tharran's dwarven garrison. The young Gnome grinned his lopsided grin. Half of Rupert's face was frozen by the same birth defect that kept his mind as that of a small child, but the other half of his face conveyed perpetual happiness, the most genuine happiness Flitin had ever encountered. With a sigh Flitin banished his early morning ill temper, the dream already forgotten. He managed to return Rupert's smile. "The cranky old Dwarf you call pa sent you to fetch me again? I appreciate the reveille, Rupert. Better than he would have given me!" Flitin slapped Rupert's arm in a comradely fashion. Happy to have his friend up and moving, Rupert scampered out of the room, leaving Flitin to quickly dress and prepare for the day. As he scrubbed his face and pulled on a fresh tunic, Flitin reflected on his current circumstances. His journey from New Tinkertown had gotten him no farther than Kharanos when he'd met a branch of the Dwarven military he hoped to join. Led by a Captain Tharran, the tough Dwarven Mountaineers of Kharanos held at bay both the fierce Wendigo and the vicious Frostmane Trolls. The hardened veterans of Thanrran's Mountaineers had been unimpressed with Flitin's petition to join their ranks, but begging and cajoling had landed him a place in the field kitchen that fed their force, working for a huge gruff Dwarf named Remker. Flitin spent long days working in the Dwarven cook's efficient field mess, and a few hours each evening training in combat skills with some of Tharran's sergeants. Flitin's work ethic, learned on the bustling repair lines of Mekkatorque's army, served him well in Remker's service, and he soon found himself accepted by Remker and his adopted Gnomish son Rupert. Flitin left his shared room at the Thunderbrew Distillery, hustling downstairs and into the kitchen. He scrubbed his hands in the basin of water by the entrance and quickly got to work peeling potatoes for the stew, hoping the mountain of a Dwarf roasting boar ribs in the far corner wouldn't notice him. No such luck. Remker spun on his heel before the first potato was placed in the pan, his flinty gray eyes settling on Flitin. "Ha! The sleepy Gnome has graced us with his presence!" Flitin ducked a flung dish towel and continued peeling furiously as Remker half-jokingly laid into him. "And m'boy Rupert 'ad to take precious time outta his day to rouse you once again! Sometimes I wonder who the halfwit really is!" Remker good-naturedly slapped the back of the Gnomish simpleton, who now stood grinning next to his beloved father. Remker's words would seem unduly harsh and insulting toward his son for any who didn't know the pair. Remker's gruff humor belied a deep and real love for the young Gnome. Damaged from birth and orphaned shortly thereafter, Rupert had been adopted by Remker and his wife in Ironforge. Remker was then a newly retired soldier looking forward to a quiet life. Unfortunately, his beloved wife had taken ill and passed a few short years after the adoption. Searching for a purpose to combat his sorrow, Remker had taken his lifelong love of cooking and, along with his son, volunteered to feed the hungry bellies of Ironforge's elite Mountaineers. The pair, along with Flitin, worked now with even greater haste than usual. The Mountaineers would be marching on an entrenched enclave of Frostmane trolls, and the trio would be responsible for feeding them for up to a week out of Remker's enormous, ram-drawn wagon that served as a field mess. Huge pots of stew, trays of boar ribs, braces of roasted hare, and other delights were loaded into the wagon. By nightfall, the three friends were ready for the trek. Tired and sore, but not about to miss a training session, Flitin grabbed his worn shield and secondhand sword and traipsed off into the warrior's tents to seek out his trainer. Sergeant Hurvald was a dark haired Dwarf of average build and a veteran of many battles. He had agreed to conduct the Gnome's training in exchange for the culinary services Flitin provided to the force. Seeing his Gnomish pupil approach, Hurvald grinned cruelly. "Back for another beating, Gnome? Perhaps you should stick to the potatoes. They don't cut back as hard as I." Flitin accepted the taunting wordlessly as he unslung his shield and drew his sword. Hurvald approached confidently, his two-handed warhammer perched on his shoulder. He sprang into action with a series of quick attacks. Though the Dwarven soldier used only a fraction of his true strength, Flitin felt the vibration of each blow from his teeth to his toes as he blocked with his shield. The aspiring Gnome warrior tried the occasional half-hearted stab, but mostly stuck to defending himself from Hurvald's attacks. Flitin considered it a moral victory when, a turn of the hourglass later, the practice session came to an end with only a few new bruises showing on his pale skin. Sergeant Hurvald nodded to Flitin in dismissal, instructing him to get some sleep before the march began in the morning. Now completely exhausted, Flitin trudged back to the mess wagon. Remker and Rupert had built a roaring fire on a shovel-cleared patch of ground next to the wagon. Sleeping next to their ride would expedite their departure in the morning. Flitin unrolled his bedding and flung himself down next to his friends. Remker was casually puffing on a pipe and tossing a leather ball back and forth with the relentlessly cheerful Rupert. The stars overhead twinkled merrily as if reflecting the mirth of the father and son below them. Flitin relaxed as he watched the peaceful scene, drinking in the not-unpleasant bite of the evening air. Remker exhaled a series of impressive smoke rings before speaking to Flitin. "Still pursuin' the warrior life, eh boy?" Flitin detected a note of sadness in the gruff Dwarf's tone. "Yes, Remker. You've known my intentions since I arrived and they haven't changed." The hulking, scarred dwarf nodded slowly and puffed on his pipe. "I only hope ye live to regret that choice as I 'ave, boy. I know ye have your reasons for coming to Captain Tharran, though I respect your decision to keep them private. But, from an old warrior to a new, there's more heartache than joy in our path. Far more. Better to fill bellies and heal bodies than to split either in twain with a blade. I know that now." Flitin didn't respond, understanding that Remker didn't expect him to. The pipe smoke and the mead always loosened the Dwarf's tongue. Flitin knew by now that Remker cared deeply for others, the two Gnomes in particular. Come the morning, Remker would say nothing of this conversation. Remembering something, Flitin dug into his bedroll. His fingers closed around a small object of cold brass. He pulled the thing out, revealing an intricately detailed clockwork Mechanostrider. "Rupert!" called Flitin with a smile. "I've made us something to pass the time." The Gnomish simpleton broke his concentration away from the game of catch and looked inquiringly at Flitin. Upon seeing the mechanostrider, he made an excited noise and scampered towards his friend. Flitin chuckled happily. It had been worth sacrificing what little sleep he had these days to put that look of joy on Rupert's face. He had worked on the clockwork toy for weeks, only achieving satisfactory results the previous evening. Flitin wound the toy and watched it waddle along the ground. Rupert laughed and clapped his hands as Flitin restarted the bird again and again. Remker watched them in the flickering firelight, a look of peaceful contentment on his face as he saw the happiness in the eyes of the only family he had left. Within the hour, the three friends had drifted off into sleep, the clockwork toy tucked back into Flitin's gear. The morning came far too soon. Flitin awoke to chill air and the shuffling of ram feet. Peeking out from his blankets, he saw Remker and Rupert finishing up tying a team of four rams to the massive wagon. "Load up, lazybones!" roared Remker, "Else the war will be won without us!" Flitin groaned loudly, but managed to rouse himself, roll up his bedding, and stash everything in the wagon in time for the departure. The wagon trundled along behind the formation of mountaineers, some of whom were mounted on rams and some of whom walked. Flitin and Rupert alternated between riding inside and atop the huge wagon while Remker drove. The sparse trees of the Kharanos area gradually thickened into genuine forest as the troops approached the bowl-shaped valley where the scouts had reported the troll enclave. Flitin was nervous, but the soft crunching of the snow beneath and the whispering breeze made thoughts of war seem miles away. He and Rupert tossed the ball back and forth to each other atop the wagon. Remker hummed tunelessly from the front of the wagon. Shouting and the unmistakeable clash of arms from the front of the column shattered the illusion. Flitin turned quickly to observe. Dozens of hide-clothed trolls streamed from the treeline into the left flank of the lead trace of mountaineers. Axe and club met Dwarven shields and the Dwarven line held firm. Flitin picked out Sergeant Hurvald among the defenders. The Gnomish student studied him closely as he jabbed at the midsection of a troll with the spiked haft of his hammer, creating enough space for a mighty swing that nearly decapitated his foe. This bought the Dwarf little time, though, as three more trolls pressed in to fill the gap, weapons seeking flesh. Captain Tharran's distinctive voice boomed out from somewhere to Flitin's right. "Cavalry, form up to reinforce!" The Dwarven leader raced past on his ram, circling behind the wagon to the left side of the column. The other ram riders rallied to his side, and they formed an echelon bearing down on the trolls. A few of the Frostmane warriors turned to meet this new threat, but were swept aside by the Dwarves' momentum. Swords rose and fell again and again, collecting a grim harvest of Frostmane blood. Even so, it seemed an eternity before the surviving trolls broke and ran, escaping into the woods. Captain Tharran issued the order to halt, forbidding further pursuit. "We'll not be trapped by a crafty Troll ploy, lads. Slow and methodical's the Dwarven way. Their enclave ain't going nowhere!" He pronounced. The column reformed and cotinued the march. Flitin's carefree attitude of the morning was gone, and even Rupert was more on edge. The next two hours of travel took an eternity when every sound seemed to portend a Troll ambush. Finally, the Dwarves halted and made camp. The three friends went to work, unloading tables and covering them with pans and trays filled to the brim with food for the hungry warriors. The Mountaineers formed a line and passed through, nodding their thanks as their plates were filled. Rupert was a blur of activity, rushing back and forth between three dishes to serve the Dwarves and keep the line moving. His hustle and cheerfulness made the Mountaineers smile, and many cheered him and clapped him on the shoulder as they gratefully accepted their meal. Captain Tharran came through the line last, as befitted a leader. Remker held a ladle of thick, hearty stew over Tharran's bowl, pretending to consider whether or not to serve him. "I dunno, Captain… that charge today was rather sloppy. And yer swordstrokes looked like the feeble floppings of a baby Murlock! Perhaps I should save me stew for the fighters who can 'andle themselves!!" Flitin always cringed inwardly when Remker gave the officers a hard time, but as ever Captain Tharran responded with a sincere belly laugh. Remker's stony visage cracked in a smile, and the Captain moved on with a full bowl. Every last Mountaineer respected the old Dwarven cook, who had been fighting in the service of Ironforge before they could hold a blade. Their task for the evening complete, the three friends cleared the tables and hauled their gear back into the wagon, where they began to scrub the pots and pans in large buckets heated by the interior stove. Flitin found the task mentally relaxing, and the time passed quickly. The occasional soap fight with Rupert and the good-natured scoldings of Remker were the only interruptions to the comforting routine. As Flitin stored the last of the pans in the upper cupboard, a terrible din erupted outside. Shouts and screams of pain raised the hairs on the back of his neck. "Remker?" He ventured cautiously. "Must be Trolls in the camp, boy! Take Rupert in the back and bar the door!" Flitin grabbed Rupert by the arm. The Gnome protested, making fearful noises and straining to stay near his father, who buckled a brace of knives around his waist and hefted a cleaver, preparing to defend the Gnomes against any who entered. Flitin managed to haul Rupert into the separate room that served as both storage area and sleeping quarters, securing it behind him. A peephole halfway up the stout door provided him with a view of the kitchen. There were more Dwarven than Troll shouts of pain, and the guttural barks of the Frostmane tribe grew closer. There came a terrible, wagon-shuddering series of thuds, and Flitin knew the Trolls were pounding down the wagon door. Fear gripped his heart and he held his breath. With a final resounding crack, the door gave way, and snarling Trolls poured through the breach. "Yer in the wrong kitchen, fools!" roared Remker as he leapt forward slashing with his cleaver. He buried the weapon deep in the skull of the first Troll he encountered. Unable to retrieve it in time, he used his enemy's corpse as a shield in the tight confines of the kitchen, bullrushing the crowd of Frostbane warriors back out the door. Using the precious seconds of time purchased by his onslaught, Remker drew two knives out of his brace and positioned himself just a few feet behind the doorway. The Trolls rushed again. The first was met by a right boot to the chest that propelled him back out of the door and into two hapless friends behind him. Four other trolls scrambled over the three on the ground, grappling each other in their haste to spear the huge Dwarf. Remker knocked aside their spearthrusts with his blades, but didn't have the reach to counterattack. A flurry of block and strike ensued that seemed to Flitin to last an eternity. Remker was a skilled warrior, but time had slowed his reactions. More and more of the Frostbane spears found their mark, opening up great bleeding wounds on the Dwarf's muscular form. Flitin struggled with the idea of remaining in place as his friend died in front of him. On the one hand, Remker wanted nothing more than for Rupert to stay safe. On the other hand, Flitin couldn't imagine living the rest of his life with the memory of hiding as Remker was slain. The choice was taken out of his hands as Rupert, unable to take the sounds of his father's pain, grabbed Flitin and flung him aside with shocking force. Rupert struggled for a moment with the thick oaken crossbar before finally freeing himself from the back room and charging into the kitchen. Seeing his son emerge from safety, panic entered Remker's eyes. "No, lad! Go back!" It was far too late to stop the determined Gnome. Rupert grabbed a heavy cast iron pot and flung it at the first Troll to take advantage of Remker's pause. The pot struck the warrior alongside the head, sending him spinning back out the door. Rupert didn't even slow down, leaping in front of his father to intercept the spears. Remker grabbed his son by the collar and flung him back towards the room where Flitin was finally emerging. The brief lapse in concentration was all it took for the Frostbane, who sank two spears into Remker's thick torso. "Aaaaaaggh!" Roared the Dwarf, sinking to his knees. He managed to pull the spears from their wielder's grasps and out of his body, but lacked the strength for any further action. "NO!" Flitin screamed as he leapt over Rupert's prostrate form. He grabbed a poker from the stove and flung himself into the fray. The Frostbane speartrolls had drawn hatchets and blades and advanced slowly into the kitchen, where they were blindsided by the hurtling Gnome. Flitin bashed aside one hatchet with his poker, lowering his shoulder to ram the Troll out into the night. His momentum carried him through into the second troll, who grappled with the little Gnome furiously. Too close for either to use their weapons, it seemed the Troll's superior strength would quickly end the confrontation. Flitin grasped the long, frighteningly strong fingers of his enemy, barely preventing their closing around his throat. He could see other trolls over his foe's shoulder, straining to get into the wagon when the obstacle was removed. He kicked furiously at the Troll's shins, but couldn't muster enough force even to distract the murderous creature. He was saved by the timely arrival of a leaping figure, screaming madly at the top of it's lungs. It could only be Rupert, who sat perched atop the Trolls' head, covering his eyes and pulling at his nose piercing. The Troll shrieked in rage and let go of Flitin, swatting at the irritating assailant gripping his face. He managed to secure a hold on Rupert's arm and flung him to the ground next to Flitin. The troll raised his foot to finish both annoyances with a series of furious stomps. A Dwarven roar signaled the last efforts of Remker, who launched himself from his knees over both Gnomes, grabbing the Troll around the waist. He pummeled the beast with headbutt after headbutt as he hoisted him into the air. The scars on Remker's forearms stood out in sharp relief as he Squeezed the Troll mercilessly. A half second later, there was an ear splitting snap as he severed the creature's spine. Remker tossed the body into the remaining foes outside the door and collapsed once again. Moving quickly to take advantage, Flitin upended a carving table and thrust it into the doorframe, wedging it tightly with a few well-placed kicks. Motioning to the distraught Rupert to help him he began to drag Remker's massive form into the back room. It was rough going for the two small friends, and the makeshift door was already being battered in by enraged Frostmane fighters. They had nearly made the safety of the room when the carving table was battered down by the marauders. Flitin brandished his fire poker once again and grabbed a heavy wood and iron lid from the stove. The U-shaped handle, designed for thick Dwarven fingers, enabled Flitin to slip his forearm inside as easily as he would the handle of a shield. He faced the massing Frostmane in his combat stance. He wondered if he looked like a warrior to them at all… this ridiculous Gnome with his ridiculous armament. He was sure he could feel their derision. His mind raced, but wouldn't summon any of the strategies or sword forms he had learned from his trainers. He was sure to die, and because of him his friends would die as well. Mighty, noble Remker and pure-hearted Rupert… cut down because of his weakness. Thunk! He blocked the first thrusting spearhead, which embedded itself in the wood of the makeshift shield. The force of the contact triggered a memory, clear as his reflection in a Dun Morogh pond. He was on the practice field with Sergeant Hurvald. The Dwarf was taunting him as he drove the handle of his hammer into Flitin's shield, forcing him backwards with each thrust. "If you choose to bear a shield lad, your shoulders best be ready for the weight of the world. Shieldbearers are special, lad. Thunk! The memory of Hurvald and the very real Troll in front of him struck simultaneously, and Flitin accepted both blows with his trusty shield. "A shieldbearing warrior stands in front of his friends, accepting the pain so they won't have to." Thunk! Memory and reality in sync again. "A shieldbearer stands face to face with the enemy, and his friends behind rely on his strength and iron will. Can you handle that, lad? If there's any quit in you, best cast that thing aside now. Thunk! Memory Flitin and present Flitin learned how to take the blows, settling into a deeper stance to take of advantage of a lower center of gravity and the driving power of their legs. "A shieldbearer says by his very presence that none shall pass his position, that none shall strike his friends while he yet lives! Will anyone feel safe behind a runt of a Gnome mechanic like you?" Thunk! Hurvald and the Trolls pressed the pace of their attack. Flitin felt hot anger rising in him, no longer merely accepting the blows but pushing his shield forward to meet them. Thunk! Thunk! Thunk! "Can you be a wall, Flitin? Can you hold the line against all comers, from Goblin to Dragon? Hold the line, boy!Thunk! Hold the line, now and forever! Thunk! Thunk! "I WILL HOLD!" Roared Flitin in both timelines. He dropped his weight and pressed forward, veins standing out along his limbs as the strength of a lifetime of hefting battlesuit and strider parts into wagons and onto repair platforms came into play. Past Flitin was thrown into the mud as Sergeant Hurvald spun easily aside. Present Flitin had better luck, the Trolls unable to move aside. With each forced stride he pushed a phalanx of Frostmane back, away from his friends. "I! WILL! HOLD!!" Each screamed word was punctuated by a laborious step, Troll feet sliding backwards on the floorboards beneath them. Just as Flitin's Gnomish heart was about to burst in his chest, the memory of another teacher came into his pounding head. "Leave the roaring and berserkin' to the Dwarves, boys. Gnomes fight with their heads. And a fair fight's no fight at all!" Drill Sergeant Steamcrank had admonished him in the few days he'd spent with the Gnomish recruits before leaving his home. Flitin pressed forward one last step, then allowed the left side of his shield to give way. The half dozen spears pressed against his shieldface slid to the side as the resistance disappeared. The momentum of their passing spun Flitin in a circle, lending force to his brandished weapon as he smashed it through the hafts of four of the spears, battering them aside. He allowed the momentum to carry him around one more time, pressing upwards as he did so, causing his feet to leave the ground. He was nearly eye level with his taller foes as he spun back around. Surprise was evident on their alien faces, just before his improvised weapon tore across them, bashing them to the floor. The victory rush in his chest lasted but an instant. Two armed Trolls remained, and his wild attack now left his torso open, poker and lid down at his sides. They would take him like a boar on a spit… but he was satisfied with this death. He had done more than the Light could ask of a frightened Gnomish mechanic. He could leave this world knowing that, at least. A lightning storm of dwarven steel swept into the wagon through the gaping entrance. Troll blood and flashing weaponry obscured the face of his rescuer until the carnage had ended and the enemy was no more. It was then that Flitin saw Sergeant Hurvald and two of his warriors. So, the Dwarves had managed to drive the invaders out after all. Flitin didn't have the energy to feel surprise, relief, or much of anything else. Hurvald surveyed the scene: Flitin with his improvised weapons, his Troll foes at his feet, a frightened Rupert clinging to his wounded father. His eyes met Flitin's after a moment and he nodded almost imperceptibly. To the Gnome, it was as good as a hymn of praise from anyone else. The rest of the night was a blur of activity as the casualties were collected and identified, the wounded treated as much as possible, and the camp cleaned up and repacked. There would be no assault on the Troll enclave, Flitin learned as he watched the bodies of the fallen burn on a Dwarven funeral pyre. The casualties of the Trolls' nighttime raid had been too great. Only one of those casualties mattered to Flitin at the moment. Remker's body burned brightly atop one of those pyres. Rupert stood nearby, making the most heart-wrenching sound Flitin had ever heard. There had been no recovery for a last goodbye. No parting words of wisdom. Losing a friend in battle had been nothing like the bards' tales. He was there one moment, in unspeakable pain, and then he was gone. Sergeant Hurvald approached the pair from the darkness behind them. "Flitin, I spoke with Captain Tharran about your actions tonight. He agreed: you've earned a place among Ironforge's forces. You'll march with the Mountaineers from now on. Leave the dirty dishes to someone else." Sergeant Hurvald was attempting a comradely tone, but obviously had little practice with it. Flitin turned to look at Rupert. The usuable half of the Gnome's face was darkened with sorrow and he returned Flitin's gaze. Whether he was termed simple or no, Flitin knew he understood more than most thought. And he understood that the last of his small family was about to leave him. Sergeant Hurvald's voice grew more gruff. "Did you hear me, boy? You're a warrior now. Don't worry about Rupert. When we return to Kharanos someone will take him in. Hard worker like that'll be appreciated in a frontier town. He'll be fine." Flitin still couldn't turn away from his friend's eyes, and Hurvald's tone gained a dangerous edge. "He's not your concern anymore, boy." Flitin fished the brass mechanostrider toy out of his tunic and pressed it into Rupert's hand, closing his fingers around it for him. Rupert's sorrowful eyes didn't leave his own. "Come on, Flitin. It's time to go. You march with the warriors now. That's what you wanted... right?" Flitin finally broke the spell of the moment and turned away from both Rupert and the blazing fires. He spared a glance back a few dozen paces later. Rupert watched him wordlessly, like a mournful ghost. Ahead of him lay the path of war, behind him the friends and priorities of his gentle past. After what seemed a thousand years, he turned to follow Sergeant Hurvald towards the tents of the Warriors. He did not look back again.
  4. ((The tale of Flitin Fastratchet, often a foil for Pathovar and in many ways the catalyst for the founding of the Perfectors. This tale is presented here to provide some background information on the guild.)) Despite the chill wind slicing through the valley, Flitin Fastratchet's brow was covered with a sheen of sweat as he finished tightening down the last piece of armor plating on a mechanostrider. He wiped it away as he straightened his stiff back and surveyed the line. It looked as though the remainder of the mechanics in his section were finishing up as well. Flitin allowed himself a momentary feeling of satisfaction. Given 24 hours to prepare the mounted infantry for Operation: Gnomeregan, his section had finished in 18. Not that he expected much credit for the accomplishment. As if to punctuate the thought, at that moment a gnomish knight pushed past Flitin roughly, mounting the now operational mechanostrider in a single practiced motion. He started the machine up and strode off to put it through its paces on on the snowy terrain. Flitin gritted his teeth in annoyance. Captain Cogthorpe, the offending knight, was the commander of the mounted infantry company supported by Flitin's section. He barely acknowledged the existence of the mechanics, to the point where Flitin wondered if he even knew how his machine stayed clean and operational in battle after battle. Perhaps he thought the bird was flesh and blood? As he wandered toward the mess tent erected in the Gnomish encampment, Flitin reflected on the words his father spoke to him when, as an idealistic young Gnome, he'd tried to join the pilot corps: "Your grandfather and I built and fixed the tanks and flyers of the Alliance in the Second War. His father helped carve the outer passages of Gnomeregan itself. You ought to be proud of your lot in life." Upon seeing Flitin's face fall his voice had softened. "Any fool Gnome or Dwarf can destroy, son. It takes a crafty mind, a patient heart, and strong hands to fix and create! Ours is a noble profession." Perhaps all the more noble for the thanklessness of it, Flitin mused, thinking back on Cogthorpe's underwhelming reaction to his team's superb effort. The battle could not be won without the mechanics, but never had Flitin seen a wrench-wielder on the dais next to the High Tinker receiving a medal. Come to think of it, the job was perfect for a Gnome. If life were a ballad, the Gnomes would certainly be minor characters at best. Flitin recalled his youth in Ironforge, being reprimanded by his teachers for voicing his displeasure at certain chapters of Gnomish history. His people had always been the quiet, stoic supporters of the Alliance, no matter what it cost them. Their very home city had been lost to them because they didn't want to bother their allies with a little thing like a Trogg invasion! Flitin had always found it frustrating to be a Gnome. Watching the Dwarven children wrestle and roughhouse while his friends meekly tinkered with their clockwork toys. Feeling like an afterthought and a charity case in a borrowed home. Perhaps he'd aimed as high as he could in the world. Flitin arrived at the mess tent and inhaled the delicious aromas emanating from within.Thrusting aside the tent flap, he was greeted by a cacophony of clanging trays, sliding seats, and chattering Gnomish voices. He made his way through the chow line. The Dwarven and Gnomish cooks had prepared quite a fine feast for the troops on the eve of battle. Flitin spotted his father seated across the room. Kelbend Fastratchet was a finely coifed old Gnome, with a dapper peak of white hair and a thin, long-tailed moustache. He more resembled one of the scholarly class of magic users or inventors than a lowly mechanic. Flitin sat at the empty seat across from his father, who greeted him with a smile. "I heard your section finally finished up… three hours behind my own, but who's counting?" Kelbend intoned wryly. Flitin smiled at the good-natured jibe. "Well, with a belly like yours, I'm sure you were motivated to beat the dinner rush, old Gnome." Both mechanics chuckled and dug into their meals. When they finished, they wandered back to their tents together, puffing on pipes and talking of the operation to come. "Do you think we'll really retake the city, father?" Flitin asked. Kelbend took a long draw on his pipe before answering. "I don't concern myself with much beyond the next job, Flitin. We all just do our duty and everything will work out fine." Flitin grimaced, sure his father couldn't see him in the dark. It was a typical answer from a man who never shared his son's fiery passions for the struggles of the Gnomish race. Flitin wanted to see his people in a place of honor amongst the races of the Alliance. Kelbend seemed to care for little beyond the iron, steel, and clockwork he manipulated and molded. The pair passed a group of adventurers, night elves, humans, and even a Drenai, among the thousands of non-Gnomes who had rallied to the banner of Gnomeregan. It gave Flitin a brief feeling of joy that his people were finally the focus of the Alliance's mightiest traveling champions, but he reminded himself that they were here as individuals. In the end Mekkatorque's banner stood unsupported by the other kingdoms, at least from his perspective. The mechanics reached their tents and said their goodbyes for the evening. Though they would be well behind the frontlines of the fighting on the morrow, the danger would still be real, though neither Gnome spoke of it. Flitin spared a brief moment to whisper his hope that he would see his father again before he turned in for the night. The next day brought with it a flurry of activity, as the assembled forces broke camp and packed their gear for the final march on Gnomeregan. As he slung the last of his gear onto his back Flitin hustled up to the line where his section was marching alongside their mechanostrider pulled wagon. Fizzy Gearhammer, the section leader for Flitin's crew, nodded her greeting. "Nice of you to join us, Flitin. Hope you remembered your Arclight Spanner this time." Flitin nodded ruefully and fell into step alongside his friends. The hours passed quickly until the first telltale thunderclaps of magic and gunfire rang out ahead. "We've met the enemy, Gnomes! Steel yourself for the fight! The High Tinker and our Alliance friends are disabling Thermaplugg's defenses as we speak! When the order to advance comes, we'll push into the depths of Gnomeregan itself!" Shouted Cogthorpe as he pushed his mechanostrider to the fore of the company. He cut an impressive figure in his blue-tinted armor, his electrolance rising proudly above him. A dwarven mercenary to Flitin's right caught his eye. The warrior cracked his neck and rolled his shoulders to loosen them before drawing his axe. The Dwarf showed no signs of fear or trepidation. He caught Flitin's gaze and winked at the young Gnome. Flitin was transfixed by the look in his eyes. It was a fierce joy, as one who was at home in battle. The spell was soon broken as Cogthorpe screamed the order to move forward. The mechanics held in place as the mass of troops rushed forward to meet the Troggs boiling out of the mouth of Gnomeregan and towards the Alliance forces. The clash was ferocious. Time and again Flitin and his section ran forward to drag out broken gear and wounded friends, patching up both to the best of their ability. The time passed in a blur of blood, cracked metal, and shattered gears. It felt like hours before Flitin managed to spare a look to the west, where his father's section was repairing the flying machines that battled Thermaplugg's defense cannons. He whispered again his wish for his father's safety before turning again to the blade-riven battle-suit before him. Suddenly, the ground heaved as if some ancient giant was shaking itself loose of its burden. Flitin stumbled but caught his footing. A moment later, the High Tinker and his honor guard retreated from the tunnels. Murmurs arose up and down the line of mechanics. Had their army been defeated? It was a few moments before a grim-faced, soot-colored Cogthorpe returned to announce the grim news: the usurper had irradiated the city once again. Gnomeregan was uninhabitable for the time being, and the Gnomes victory celebration would be forestalled while they held firm on the surface. Flitin was crushed. His people's one chance…. the attention of the Alliance was finally theirs…. and it was a miserable failure. That damned traitor had hurt his people once again. Gnomish pride was again an oxymoron. And he'd done nothing but turn wrenches. Flitin hurled his socket driver in a fit of rage. Fizzy admonished him with a glare, but Flitin barely noticed. A few hours later, the Gnomes reconvened at a new encampment just outside of Gnomeregan. The rumor was it would be named New Tinkertown, and would serve as a home for the Gnomish race while they worked to cleanse their city of the poison that afflicted it. Flitin cared little for plan B. His pride was again crushed. He felt like the weak Gnomish child on the streets of Ironforge as he watched the adventurers and mercenaries pack their bags to leave Mekkatorque's failed expedition. He helped his section erect their tents before setting off to Airfield Operation's berthing area to find his father. He arrived in the area to find little activity. Widgin Spinsocket, his father's section leader, sat atop his campaign chair with a look of despair on his face. A bolt of cold dread shot through Flitin's heart, and the emotion drained from his face. "Widgin…" he whispered. The old Gnome looked up with sorrow in his eyes. "I'm sorry Flitin… the Troggs broke through the flank and hit the airfield. Your father… he's gone." The next three days passed in a blur. Flitin didn't speak a word to any of the other members of his section even as they supported perimeter patrols and subsurface expeditions in support of continuing operations in the area. Flitin threw himself into his work, totally empty of any feeling. A blizzard moved in on the fourth day. The company had gathered around their fires to sip hot drinks, intending to wait the storm out, when Cogthorpe marched up. "I need a platoon of mounted infantry and a four man team of mechanics for a long range patrol. The High TInker has reports of a Trogg infestation in a nearby cave overlooking our supply routes. We need to clear it if we're going to get the materials here to build ourselves a home." He stated in a businesslike tone. As Fizzy looked for volunteers, Flitin's hand shot up wordlessly. She nodded at him with sympathetic eyes, before picking herself and two others to complete the team. She placed a hand on Flitin's shoulder as she passed to report the names to Cogthorpe, but he didn't acknowledge the touch. Flitin stared into the fire as the others packed the gear for the mission. The patrol set off in the snow, tied together with a cable of spun copper wire to avoid getting lost in the blizzard, as they could barely see their hands in front of their faces. It seemed like hours before Cogthorpe called a halt. The members of the patrol freed themselves from the wire as they gathered around the captain. "Ok, Gnomes, this is where we begin the assault. Warriors, form a wedge. Mechanics, keep your wagon to the the rear at least 10 meters. Let's move out!" As the last words escaped his lips, the white space behind him seemed to shift. A spindly gray arm shot out and wrapped around his throat, dragging him out of sight as he yelped. The other Gnome warriors drew their weapons as they were set upon by a force of Troggs that had stalked them since their departure from Gnomeregan. The battle was short and fierce. In the commotion, the wagon overturned, trapping Flitin in a snow crevasse underneath it. He heard screams, growls, and the dull thunk of weapon on flesh as the fight played out. In moments all was silent except for the sound of his own breathing, which seemed at that moment louder than a steam engine. Flitin cautiously crawled out from under the wreckage. Fizzy's lifeless eyes stared back at him from a few feet away. His breath caught in his throat and his eyes shone with sorrow. He stumbled a few steps into the gray gloom and came upon the body of Cogthorpe. The knight had earned the arrogance he displayed so callously, as around him lay the bodies of four dead Troggs with the marks of his electrolance upon them. Flitin knelt next to the body, in shock that the mighty Captain could be dead, when a sound somewhere between a chuckle and a high-pitched whine emitted from behind him. Flitin turned slowly, as if not acknowledging the sound would make it not real, and was greeted by the hideous visage of a small Trogg, the last survivor of the ambushing band. Gnome and Trogg stared at each other for a long moment, the Trogg seeming to savor the prospect of his next meal. Flitin backed slowly away, his hand at the arclight spanner tucked in his belt. The Trogg snarled as it pounced, just and Flitin tripped over Captain Cogthorpe's corpse. The vile beast sailed overhead. Flitin was stuck by the gaunt appearance of the creature's limbs, knowing that they belied a terrifying strength. The beast slid in the snow but regained its balance and turned to face Flitin from ten feet away. Time stood still once again as Flitin hefted the broken shaft of Cogthorpe's lance, holding it like a club. The Trogg seemed amused by his puny display of defiance, and leapt again. Fear, hate, and despair boiled in Flitin as the Trogg sailed towards him. He closed his eyes and swung the broken lance horizontally to the ground. The adrenaline flowing through his veins slowed his perception of time as Trogg and shaft cut through the air. He recalled the lessons of Master Tuggsizer, his schoolteacher, as he spoke of the variables in the universe around us, of time and space and size and velocity and matter. He mused on how, when you looked at the expanse of being around him, if you pared it down to one world, then one continent, then one nation, then one small patch of snowy ground and the associated patch of atmosphere, placing within it two objects of similar velocity, it wouldn't be so crazy if…. Trogg and lance met with a sickening crack, the beast's head snapping around at an unnatural angle. The suddenly dead Trogg sailed past Flitin to bury itself in the snow. Flitin opened his eyes slowly, then stared at his dead foe in wonderment. A feeling rose within him, indescribable at first. He thought of the dwarven adventurer he had seen before the battle, and suddenly he understood the fierce joy in his eyes. He had bested a vile foe, he had saved his own life without assistance, and he had struck a blow for Gnomekind. Flitin's mouth curved upwards as he whispered to the heavens: "I know you don't approve of destruction father, but this one was for you." A few hours after lighting a signal fire, Flitin was found by a mounted patrol. They returned him to New Tinkertown, marveling at his speedy recovery from the effects of the cold. Flitin was not surprised by his own vigor. He felt a drive inside now, fueled by a fresh purpose. Within two days he was on the road, a secondhand blade slung across his back and Ironforge marked on his map. The path of the warrior was his to tread, and one day he'd return with mighty adventurer friends by his side to cleanse his city and inspire his people to a greater path. They'd claim an honored place in Azeroth's history under the leadership of a truly strong Gnome and finally… A wolf's mournful howl cut through his dream, bringing him back to the present. It would be a long, hard journey before that day came, he reminded himself as he tightened his cloak and quickened his step, stalked by unseen shadows in the woods around him.
  5. The air buzzed with the electricity of the collective excitement of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Stormwind citizens. The culminating event of the Midsummer Festival had arrived, and the sky was alight with fireworks of myriad vivid hues. Pathovar wove his way through the crowd, stopping occasionally under the guise of enjoying a particularly beautiful display of pyrotechnics or a savory smell from a nearby food vendor. His dark purpose was well-hidden by his meandering gait as he made his way slowly through the thronging streets toward the cliffside keep overlooking the city. His shoulders had a peculiar thickness to them under his cloak, but nothing else about him was remarkable in the slightest to any who saw him on the streets that night. He entered the district called Old Town, the narrow passages packed claustrophobically tight with revelers. Most were centered near the Pig and Whistle Tavern, which was his current navigational landmark. His amble changed instantly to a swift stride as he found a gap in the crowd and sought the safety of the nighttime shadows in a passageway between the tavern and a neighboring structure. A set of stone stairs led down to a wide pool fed by the city's intricate canal system. During the day the place would be populated by fishermen, but on this night of noise and smoke they would find little reason to frequent it. A quick glance and listen assured him that he was not under surveillance. In the blink of an eye he slipped quietly into the water. Staying submerged, he pulled hard for the side of the pool where he knew a culvert blocked by a grate connected to the natural spring that fed the city's canal system from this end. Unable to see, his trusted the instincts honed by his survival in the subterranean hell of irradiated Gnomeregan. As ever, they served him well, and a moment later he was pulling himself over the second grate and into the clear mountain spring on the backside of the Old Town wall. The fireworks and a few distant torches lit this area slightly better, and he was able to make out the waterfall cascading down from the cliff above; the very cliff that housed Stormwind Keep. The stone beneath the waterfall was worn smooth by untold millennia of erosion. The climb would be a virtually impossible task. He was counting on Varyk's technology to make up for the failings of cursed flesh. Kicking his legs to keep himself afloat, he reached underneath the collar of his cloak and pulled out a Gnomish rebreathing device consisting of a mouthpiece and a pair of tubes leading to a small tank concealed beneath his garments. He swam to the base of the waterfall, forcing himself to keep calm and breathe only through the device as water filled his nose. He pressed the tips of his leather-gloved fingers against the rock surface beneath the torrent. The pressure forced a set of adamantium tipped rock-drill bits concealed beneath the gloves back against a coiled spring that prevented the lead wires attached from touching a similar set of wires leading to the terminals of two mana batteries strapped to his wrists. When the pressure was sufficient they came in contact, activating the drill bits and burrowing themselves into the rock. A similar device existed in his boots. Working in tandem, they enabled Pathovar to scale the rock surface in a painstaking manner, concealed by the waterfall from the guards atop the towers and walls of the city and keep. As he settled into a rhythm, Pathovar blocked out the pain of aching, oxygen-starved muscles as he had trained himself to do. Trusting his body to manage the task, his mind fled down the paths of memory to another time. Young Pathovar walked the halls of his primary school for the last time, chest swelling with pride at his selection to a small but renowned college of theoretical magics. He could barely keep his feet on the ground as he practically skipped to the side corridor where he and his friends would meet and play games of chance. He couldn't wait to share the news... perhaps Giznee Sparkshadow would be there. The promising young mage had caught his eye early in the school year, and rumor had it his interest was returned. The months to come held such promise... His mind flashed forward to the same corridor. The shiny steel walls were black and pocked with damage. Wires jutted out from the wreckage. Occasionally one would spark, but few of them still had power connected. A stray emergency light shone defiantly, hurting Pathovar's disused eyes. At first he didn't recognize the corridor. He was never sure if he was in a lucid moment or one wracked by the madness of radiation fever. In the Fel-blasted underworld that had been his city, there seemed to be little difference. But no... this was it. There on the wall.... he and Giznee had carved their initials with welding torches... a most unauthorized modification. But young love lent itself to such indiscretions, even amongst the most serious Gnomish students. He reached for the picture of her he had barely saved from his apartment as he tried to flee the blast... but it was gone. He remembered now: lost in a tooth and nail fight with a burn-scarred, dying Trogg. His Giznee was gone, along with all of the sanity in his world. Pathovar's mind returned to the present as he sensed the curve of the clifftop above him in the blackness. He pulled himself into a crevasse between two huge boulders. He paused for a moment to remove the rebreathing device, waiting while his heart rate slowed down. Once he felt calmer, he replaced it in his mouth. Then, maintaining a low profile, he pulled himself up between the two boulders and slid down the far side into the mostly still waters that fed the falls below. He drifted slowly toward the far shore, acutely aware of the closeness of the keep walls. A few subtle kicks were all that powered his trek through the water. After what seemed like an eternity, he felt himself bump up against solid earth. He crawled onto the shore, slithering on his belly until he was up against the base of the Keep wall. He straightened slowly, and begin to creep along the wall, relying on the steep angle and the cover of shadow to conceal his movements. He passed first one corner, then another. He had been through this route in his head time and again, helped by aerial reconnaissance from a Gnomish pilot friendly to the cause. Not friendly enough.... the Gnome had some unfortunate last minute moral qualms that had necessitated his demise on Pathovar's blades, but the intelligence he had provided would serve the greater cause nonetheless. At last he reached his destination. Under the cover of a mighty tree perfectly placed against the wall, he knew he had found the back wall of the Stormwind Keep Royal Library. He wasted no time in removing a series of long ropelike strands from a belt pouch. The Gnomish detonation cord packed quite a punch for little weight. He wrapped it in an arc the width of his shoulders as Varyk had instructed. The cord should blast just enough of the masonry away to allow a quiet entrance. He lined up his tiny machinists hammer with the shotgun primer attached to one base of the detcord. He waited for a particularly loud crescendo in the fireworks show to strike it. The sharp crack was swallowed by the noise as planned, but the crumbling stone blocks revealed only another layer of stone. Pathovar sighed and removed two more ropes from his belt pouch, placing and igniting them in a similar fashion. When the dust cleared, the backside of a bookcase was revealed, just as planned. Pathovar parted two books and saw what appeared to be an unoccupied and dimly lit library.... a library wherein the journals of Titan scholar Harrison Jones would reveal the secrets to reading the ancient disks looted by his band the week before. Perfect. Pathovar pushed a few books off of a lower shelf and slipped inside to begin his search.
  6. ((It was brought to my attention that I utterly failed to specify the location of this event, which makes it difficult for people to participate. This event takes place in Loch Modan near the border with Badlands. The caravan in question is travelling from the Uldaman digsite to Dun Morogh.)) The Gnome known as Zenibuss Mihnimus crouched amongst the foliage on a sharp overlook. Below him passed a well-defined Dwarven road, rutted with the passage of numerous mounts and wagons. It was the sort of road that made a caravan guard force feel safe... and hopefully complacent. The chill of the morning air penetrated the mask of mud that dulled his features. He noted the cold's presence as he noted all stimuli in his life, cataloging them with a studious disinterest. He knew more than almost any creature now living that his sensory perceptions merely scratched the surface of what it was to Be, to exist on this plane. Mihnimus had been a carefree young engineer toiling on Fizzcrank Airstrip at the height of the Scourge menace when his life had been altered forever. A pumping station had somehow extracted an ancient lifeform hidden beneath the permafrost... a creature known as a Mechagnome. Mihnimus now knew these beings to be the ancestors of his people, their true form as it were. Modern Gnomes had lost their mechanical aspect as a result of a barely-understood process known as the Curse of Flesh. This Mechagnome, which called itself Gearmaster Mechazod, possessed the power to reverse this Curse, a power which it promptly demonstrated on the surrounding staff of the pumping station, including Mihnimus. His short time in mechanical form had been a wonder: a purity of purpose filled his mind, devoid of the weaknesses and distractions of a mortal form. He felt a oneness with his fellow Gnomes and his surrounding environment that was utterly indescribable. He felt as his people were meant to feel: powerful architects of worlds tasked directly by the Titans themselves. A band of do-gooding Alliance heroes had put an end to this short, beautiful dream. The instant they "cured" him of Mechazod's gift, he felt as a child torn from the womb. Perceiving the world in wavelengths of visible light and audible sound alone made him feel blind, deaf, and utterly alone. He fell to his knees in front of his would-be rescuers, tears staining his face. "No," he breathed almost too softly to hear, "I was.... perfect." His life thereafter had been a sad tale of escapism as he attempted to dull the pain of his loss with a variety of ill-advised distractions. It was rare indeed for a Gnome to show such glumness or to allow themselves to engage in substance abuse, and the vagabond Mihnimus found little sympathy from his people as he drifted from place to place. Even as word of the Curse of Flesh spread throughout Alliance lands, few cared to listen to his tale and fewer still believed him. Alliance operational security kept the tale of Gearmaster Mechazod mostly under wraps and his fellow survivors of the pumping station were nowhere to be found. Eventually, he made his way to New Tinkertown, where a Pandaren ambassador known as the "Friend to the Small" was preaching the ways of the Monk to interested Gnomes. Being an intellectual people of nervous energy and endless curiousity did not lend itself well to the meditative, instrospective way of life required of a Monk, and the Pandaren initially found few recruits. Mihnimus was a notable exception. The suppression of emotion and selfish need struck him as similar, if only in the manner of a pale shadow, to the existence he had experienced as a machine. He threw himself fully into the study of zen and meditation, surprising his instructors with his dedication and progress. He was even invited to a monastery on Pandaria itself to continue his tutelage. The continuing rise of the Sha had forced him into action alongside his teachers sooner than could have been anticipated, and he performed well in skirmishes against Sha-tainted Yaungol and Mantid throughout Pandaren territory. One such mission brought him back in contact with Alliance forces, and in particular a Gnome scout named Pathovar. He was an intense, driven Gnome with a singular purpose: reversing the Curse of Flesh. He preached to Mihnimus as he preached to all Gnomes he encountered, and was overwhelmed to hear Mihnimus' tale in return. For the entirety of the mission he followed Mihnimus like an eager hound, absorbing descriptions of life as a Mechagnome. As they prepared to part ways, Pathovar launched into his full recruiting pitch. The Tol'Vir had been promised an end to the Curse of Flesh in return for their service to Deathwing, and Mihnimus' own experience proved that it was possible. Lend his services to Pathovar, he was told, and he would one day take his place at the right hand of the Makers as a shaper of worlds. The offer was too tempting to pass up, and Mihnimus left Pandaria behind. The quest had led him to this overlook, watching an Explorer's League caravan approach. They were close enough now to make out the steam rising from the nostrils of the shaggy rams towing the five heavy wagons. He looked to his right, where another Gnome sat mostly concealed, face and hands caked with mud. The Gnome returned his gaze and gave a thumbs-up, grinning ear-to-ear in excitement. Mihnimus returned a tight-lipped smile. Varyk was a true Gnome who looked at everything as a new opportunity for experiences and learning, including an imminent battle. His quest for knowledge had led him down a surprisingly dark path, however... hence his presence here today. The caravan chugged ever closer, the prize a lot within reach. He could clearly see the Dwarf riding shotgun on the lead caravan, an intimidating blunderbuss tucked under his arm. He could also see the Gnomish wagon driver, a familiar face indeed. Pathovar was chatting away with his bored Dwarven guard, playing his role perfectly. How anyone couldn't see through the mask of normality the psychotic Pathovar wore was beyond Mihnimus, but most seemed to find him harmless. This had worked to his advantage in his infiltration mission, as he had been working for the Explorer's League for several weeks. Though he wasn't visible yet, Mihnimus knew that another driver was also a plant. Varyk's elder brother Vygore, a much less cheerful and friendly figure, was at the reins of the rear wagon. The caravan entered the kill zone. Varyk lifted his controller device, glanced at Mihimus, then activated the charges planted in the opposite bank below. Precisely shaped pyramidal mounds of explosive were sculpted onto the back of bronze disks. The explosive was initiated from the top and center. The force from the narrow peak thus travelled into the disk first, the lower and wider layers providing further impetus to the collapsing, hurtling disk. This created a fearsome projectile which easily demolished the wheels of the front and rear wagons, conveniently parked in the line of fire by Pathovar and Vygore. Varyk could barely contain his excitement as his trap worked as designed. Mihnimus shook him roughly to remind him of the next phase of the plan, which he activated with an embarrassed nod. Remote turrets fitted with rifles opened fire on the road, measured volleys mimicking the disciplined firing rhythms of a Forsaken rifle squad. The Dwarven guards reacted as expected of the tough warrior race, taking cover behind their stricken wagons and returning fire on the bank opposite the hidden Gnomish ambushers, exposing their backs to their true enemy, A second charge, placed slightly higher on the bank, was fired amid the cover of the staged battle, penetrating both walls of the centermost wagon with a slightly larger projectile. Mihnimus gave Varyk a comradely pat on the shoulder by way of congratulations and he rose and prepared for his role in the ambush. He moved forward to the edge, gauging the distance between himself and the ground below. He exhaled slowly, emptying himself of binding thoughts and emotions. Without further delay he leapt from the overlook. He flexed his knees to absorb the impact, driving himself back up into the air with a thrust of his legs. He tucked his body in tightly and rolled easily through the entrance afforded by the ballistic disk. He landed in the wagon, unslinging his backpack and opening it in a rush. He was surrounded by featureless silver circles, described by Pathovar as a means of storing Titan data. He filled his pack and pockets with as many as he could carry, surprised by the weight of his bounty. He removed a red flask from his belt, eyeing it with caution and distaste. Another of Varyk's creations, he was told it would begin the ignite immediately upon contact with the air, removing any evidence of the true purpose of this ambush. He unscrewed the flask and dumped the contents on the wooden decking. The flame spread quickly up the walls of the wagon, surrounding him in blazing flame and obscuring his escape route. "That was... very poorly thought out." He commented dryly as the smoke stung his eyes. He froze for a moment, thoughts racing. He had mere second before unconsciousness assured his demise. Unable to think of anything clever, he went with brute force, launching the last of his reserves of strength into a kick that bashed open the rear door of the wagon, spilling him out into the bitingly cold air in a cloud of smoke. He looked up, coughing, into the stony eyes of a Dwarven caravan guard. The Dwarf raised his weapon, gruffly instructing the Gnome to place his hands atop his head. Mihnimus complied. His captor stepped forward, mouth open to issue further instructions... but only a flood of dark red spilled out as Pathovar's twin daggers entered his throat and lungs, respectively. Mihnimus scrambled to his feet, shouting in protest. "Are you insane? Killing a Dwarf in Alliance lands? This was not the plan!" "The plan called for a quiet exit, which you failed to execute. Now I am forced to make a new plan." Pathovar shrugged calmly as he cleaned his blades. "Besides, this is barely an upgrade to the crimes already committed by our intrepid little band today." Mihnimus shook his head, too stunned to reply. The remaining Dwarves became aware of a threat in their midst and turned inward to the conversing Gnomes. Mihnimus and Pathovar broke for the safety of the trees, pursued by Dwarven fire. The whistling and cracking of passing bullets sent Mihnimus diving to the ground, where he crawled along desperately. Suddenly, the firing stopped. Mihnimus glanced over his shoulder in time to see his foes lifted into the air by purple tendrils of energy emenating from the gaunt form of Vygore. Their faces contorted in shock and horror as they aged rapidly before his eyes, skin tightening and cracking and peeling away until the spark of life was cruelly snuffed out. The desiccated corpses fell to the earth, Vygore giving them nary a thought as he strode calmly past to stand behind Pathovar. The two Gnomes faced Mihnimus, who was dusting himself off. "So am I to gather you have a problem with our "plan b", Mihnimus?" Pathovar asked, cocking his head to the side and staring at the Monk with dead, reptilian eyes. Mihnimus returned the gaze. He didn't fear this Gnomish madman anymore than he feared any other form of death. Life in the flesh, an eternity without the ecstasy of Gnomish perfection, was nothing to cling to. But Pathovar had a drive and determination that made a cure for the Curse seem possible... without him in Mihnimus' life even that spark of hope would be extinguished. The Monk merely shook his head. "Good." Pathovar stated. "And don't take my previous criticism too harshy, friend. You seem to have the disks after all.. this is a fully salvageable situation. You and Varyk gather his devices and we'll disappear. With no witnesses left alive, this will easily be blamed on the Forsaken." "This far south? Seems a stretch, Pathovar." Mihnimus replied doubtfully. "What's the alternative explanation? A band of Gnomes obsessed with Titan lore? Regardless of the explanations concocted by the buffoons they send to investigate, we won't be implicated. Gather the devices and let's move on." Mihnimus did as he was told, and within the hour the road was peaceful again save for the cackles of the carrion birds summoned to the feast.