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After weeks and months spent traveling from one part of the Broken Isles to the next, Kejala finds surprising relief in a brief return to the imposing and cold home of her infamous boss. The troll wanders idly about the room while waiting for her appointment to begin, though she takes great care not to touch anything. Curiosity and brashness, for the moment, are shelved next to the rows of leather-bound journals and delicate silver figurines lining the walls of the dimly lit study. As befits the station of the owner, everything in the room is of impeccable quality, though of a simpler style than that preferred by most of the race. Fine silks frame the tall, narrow window that lets in trickles of cool light; the luxurious rug covering most of the floor proves those drapes were chosen so their colors perfectly complement it. Rich red cushions embroidered in gold provide comfortable seating for the ornate chairs and the single “fainting couch” set against one wall. Not exactly the sort of decorations Kejala would choose for her own frond-draped hut back home, but elves are a different breed. No one but Humans can come close to matching the elves’ love of opulence. The timing of the report had been carefully chosen, as were all things related to her current assignment. Normally, she would not be allowed within leagues of this place, given the awkward questions that could arise from it. Mercenaries are common in Azeroth, but generally they move from place to place. Long-term employment could lead to stirred curiosity and an abrupt end to Kejala’s rather lucrative contract—not a risk to take lightly. At this hour and with the path she had taken to arrive at one of the secret entrances, witnesses should be non-existant. The boss would not be pleased with anything less. A quiet scraping sound is her only alert to the opening of the study’s door. Immediately the shaman straightens up as best she can while turning to face the opening. Proper posture bends into a respectful bow as the noble sweeps into the room. Behind her, Kejala catches a glimpse of an armored guard taking up position outside the room only a moment before the wooden barrier seals the chamber from prying eyes once more. “Punctuality is not usually one of your strengths,” speaks a steady, calm voice that draws Kejala’s attention as easily as a watering hole in the desert draws creatures great and small. She watches silently as the slender, shorter figure glides to one of the chairs to claim it. Only after her host is seated does the troll dare a reply. “Guess dat be somet’in’ I can be learnin’ after all,” she half-jokes. “Just gotta be havin’ da right motivation.” “Your adaptability continues to impress.” A gesture of an elegant hand adorned with only a single silver ring invites the guest to relax as well. “You may begin.” Knowing better than to argue, she gingerly settles into the chair directly opposite her employer. “Right den. So, ya, got t’be meetin’ da one we be after. No way t’be gettin’ much outta dat one yet, but it’ll come ‘round ‘fore long. Dis bunch ain’t da type t’let wunna deir own suffer, ya? Dey be findin’ a way t’fix it all up soon ‘nuff. Mebbe even widdat t’ing dey found widder.” “Elaborate on this ‘thing,’” interrupts a brusque command. “Don’t be knowin’ much ‘bout it, t’tell ya true,” she admits with a shake of her head. “Dey ain’t exactly lettin’ it outta sight long ‘nuff fer me t’get a good look. Did be hearin’ talk. Somet’in’ ‘bout it bein’ able t’eat fel magic. T’hold, sounds like, ‘til ya figger out who ya wanna be shovin’ it in.” “A storage device then,” the elf muses, “but one with weaponized applications. Useful. It seems their collection of interesting items grows once more.” “’Bout dat. Did some diggin’, ‘n I know who’s been in charge o’ collectin’ dem t’ings. It’s a Tauren outta da Needles, goes by da name’a—“ Another wave of a hand cuts off the words. “I am aware of him. There are more ears in the world than yours, Kejala. Return to the subject of your investigation.” Heat colors her cheeks for a moment, though it is born more of anger than embarrassment. Sometimes she would like to punch the haughty elf right in the nose, but that would bring more trouble than it would satisfaction. Best to stay calm and smile through it. “’Course. Sorry ‘bout dat. Dey gotta pretty big place dere in Dalaran. Security’s awful tight, so no sneakin’ in ‘less ya be real careful ‘bout it. Fields all ovah da place t’dampen magic’n teleportin’ too. Ain’t seen it all, but seen ‘nuff t’draw what ya wanted.” The troll fumbles with her pack for a moment before withdrawing a thick sheet of parchment folded over several times. This she hands over with a rueful grin. “I ain’t much in da art department, but should be good ‘nuff t’let ya know da layout.” “Thank you,” comes in simple reply as the parchment is set aside for later examination. “What of their traditions? How does one formally become part of the organization?” “’Bout dat… See, dey kinda already offered me a spot, ya?” That grin widens. “Ain’t took ‘em up on dat yet, but can if dat’s somet’in’ ya be wantin’ me t’do. Ain’t no way I be able t’keep dem vows o’ deirs, but dey don’t gotta know dat.” Rather than ordering with words, another gesture of the elf’s hand commands Kejala to continue. “See, dey got dese four t’ings ya gotta swear when ya join. Ain’t no penalties mentioned, but I figger it’s gotta be explusion or somet’in’. Dey don’t seem da type t’execute ‘less dey ain’t gotta choice. Well, most’uv ‘em, dat is.” Now it is the troll’s turn to wave a thick-fingered hand. “Da first one’s ‘bout not startin’ trouble. If dere be a fight comin’, it’s gotta be comin’ t’ ya. Ya don’t go makin’ it. A vow ‘bout peace, ya?” An amused snicker follows the words. “Biggest batch’a kodo dung dey peddle. Ain’t seen many’uv ‘em dat wouldn’t punch first if dey got mad ‘nuff. Dese ain’t pacifists. If ya be askin’ me, ain’t a wunna dem dat’s kept da first oath.” “So they are the Horde’s version of the Twilight Empire? I had heard their vows extend toward the Alliance as well, rather than being restricted to intra-faction conflict. This has been confirmed through other methods, but I value your insight on the subject.” Again she laughs. “Ya, dat don’t be a bad way t’look addit. Da Empire widdout da diplomacy. Deir leader ain’t—From what I be seein’, she don’t like talkin’ much. More’uv da action sort, ya? Work t’ings out wid silence, stares, and swords. Could be gettin’ ‘long widdat one if she had even a bitta sense o’ humor, but don’t seem t’have wunna dem.” “I know the type,” the elf adds dryly before gesturing for Kejala to continue. “So, ya, prob’ly wouldn’t be a big t’ing if I be breakin’ dat one, since ev’ryone seems t’do dat,” she wraps up with a toothy grin. “For da best. Sometimes ya just gotta punch ‘r stab someone t’ be getting’ yer point across. Second one’s where t’ings get more int’restin’. Vow of justice, t’ be only actin’ t’defend da innocent ‘n only fight fair. Tricky one, dat it is.” The troll drums fingers against the arm of the chair as she thinks, then catches herself when a cold stare chills her into stillness. “Uh. See. Trouble is, innocence ain’t somet’in’ all parties gonna always be agreein’ t’. What’s ‘justice’ t’ Sanctuary might be an act’a war t’ da one dey wanna fight, ya? Ya can always be findin’ some slight t’be justifyin’ even da worst sh—da worst t’ings ya do. Bet ya a pile’a gold dat our ‘person o’ int’rest’ can be comin’ up widda dozen reasons why what she done be justice, ‘n Sanctuary’d side widder on it ‘cause she’s wunna deirs. So dat whole vow basically be meanin’ dat ya align yerself widda guild ‘n den see how many backflips ‘n handstands dey be willin’ t’do t’protect deir own.” A quiet chuckle precedes her conclusion. “Justice be a pretty word dat ain’t got no meanin’ worth bettin’ on.” A brief twitch of lips passes for a smile for the troll’s haughty employer. “Be that as it may, no society functions without it. They have chosen well to demand such a vow; its unequal application between groups matters not, as it is only designed to unite the guild’s members. In that, it well serves Sanctuary’s leadership.” Kejala sighs and shakes her head. “Still a mess even if ya be knowin’ da why. Guess it be good I ain’t swearin’, ya? Wouldn’t be lastin’ a day widdat one.” Casting aside her irritation at being contradicted, the troll presses on with a smile. “Dat brings us t’ da next one, ya? Vow’a mercy. Only doin’ what ya gotta do t’end a fight. Don’t be goin’ too far. Guessin’ dis might be one ya agree wit’ too.” “Perhaps,” admits the slender elf. “Extreme measures are occasionally necessary, but in most cases the minimum better serves the ultimate goal. Grand gestures are for distractions, not for the core of a strategy. One’s purpose is best served when the enemy is uncertain if the instruments of their demise came from without or within.” The shaman sits back for a second, soaking that in, then chances a guffaw. “Dat ain’t quite what da vow be ‘bout, but I be getting’ yer point all da same. Me? Ain’t my way. Ya don’t pull back when ya got yer enemy down; ya keep beatin’ at ‘im ‘n kickin’ ‘n stabbin’ ‘til he ain’t gonna be a problem no more. ‘Til da Loa be pleased wit’ yer off’rin’.” She pauses, then slightly backs off such a harsh position. “Dependin’ on da crime, dat is. Ya don’t be killin’ folk fer stealin’ bread ‘r coin from someone who ain’t gonna miss it none. But someone kill wunna yers? Dat be diff’rent. Den ya pay ‘em back in kind.” “Until one day there is nothing left to fight but your own pain and bitterness,” answers the cool voice, and once more Kejala finds herself flushed with annoyance. She shifts in her chair, gaze straying to the door. “Almost done. Just got da one last one. Pledge t’ forgive ‘n forget. T’ let da bad t’ings done to ya be forgotten if it be servin’ t’keep da peace.” Delicate fingers lace together and rest upon the platform of crossed knees. “A broad-sweeping oath none can hope to uphold at all times. We are selfish creatures, one and all, and we never forget. We may play at it, may act as if the slights of the past have become less than a memory, but that is merely self-delusion. Those wounds, no matter how diminuitive, endure. Such wounds can kill. Perhaps an insult or injury can be forgotten in the short-term to allow focus on the greater goal, but all bills will one day come due. Perhaps Sanctuary requires a reminder of that.” Curiously, Kejala leans forward in her chair. “Ya got somet’in’ in mind den? How can I be servin’ ya in dis?” “We will discuss it over dinner. For now, know that you will be required to take these vows, whether or not you intend to keep them.” That slight twitch of lips pretends again to be a smile. “Oaths that cannot be kept have no value; break them all, Kejala, and feel no guilt.” At last—an assignment. All this talk of philosophy bores the adventurous shaman. The need to get back out in the field and continue her work makes the soles of her bare feet itch. Now that promise of a direction has been offered, her broad grin returns in full force. To the damn Nether with oaths; all she needs, all she cares about, is the promise of a new adventure—a new opportunity to win. “Dat I sure can do, boss,” the troll replies with a rich laugh. “Dat I can be doin’ jus’ fine."