‘Dawndancer? Can you come to the bonfire?’ Sorlain’s voice crackled over the communicators.
I moved out of my tent… It must have been two in the morning. The Hinterlands was illuminated as always by a barrage of stars, but the place was dark, almost unnaturally so. I suspected the trolls had something to do with it, but I couldn’t be sure what. Sorlain was waiting by the bonfire.
‘Good. I’ll make this quick. The Warchief has requested one of our researchers to decipher the products of our earlier work in Northrend. While you are not among the most experienced in the department, I would prefer that Sunshard and Kal’es stay with us for the moment. I would rather that their skills were put to use on the relics found here… And there is less chance of another diplomatic crisis if they stay under my watch.’
It was an unusual change of place, but it was not permanent…
I supposed that it would do me good to get away from the Dawnlake debacle for a bit. Northrend was an old footprint of Garrosh’s power, but our foray there prior to the exile had shown well enough that very little of Garrosh was felt there anymore.
I was not exactly able to disobey, either. I would rather Khairan stayed to keep an eye on Dawnlake than me.
Shortly before dawn I boarded a boat bound for Orgrimmar (which occasionally sent supplies to the trolls), but would not be allowed to disembark during the planned stop at Quel’danas. From Orgrimmar, I would get a zeppelin to Warsong Hold in Midwestern Borean Tundra, before proceeding by land to the Bor’Gorok Outpost, where I was to investigate the relics and take them back to the Hold – where they in turn would be taken to Orgrimmar for whatever the Warchief wanted with them.
Truthfully, I didn’t want the Warchief to end up with any of these things, but if I was researching them alone… I could easily skew the results. Hopefully, anything that was massively dangerous had not been obtained-
A large explosion sounded from the other side of the ship, and I was thrown from my hammock into the far wall.
Wait, what? Several of the planks beneath me ruptured suddenly, and water quickly poured into the cabin. Grabbing my bag, I sprinted to the top deck, where… the ship was in Bladefist Bay, docked?
What the fel was going on?
I jumped onto the dock just to turn and see the ship lurch forward, a tidal wave narrowly missing two other ships as the prow slammed into the silt below. There was a massive hole in the side of the ship, and little criss-crosses of holes all along the hull.
How the hell had this happened while we were docking?
‘What do you know about the sinking of the Bladed Axe, elf?’
‘All I saw was the floorboards rupturing-‘
‘That’s not good enough! The Warchief will have answers! Your kind must be somehow responsible. Nothing else has changed in the last three weeks of shipping!’
‘Why would I sabotage one of the Warchief’s own ships? I was called here upon his orders!’
‘Prove it, runt.’
I dug into my bag and pulled out the bursting sun insignia which I’d been given in Ashenvale. ‘I got this for my service to the Horde.’
The orc on the left – a Blackrock, from what I could see of his face – grabbed it roughly, turning it over to see if it was legitimate. He tossed it back and I caught it narrowly.
‘Hmph. Very well. But we’ll be keeping an eye on you, elf. And know this: Withholding information from the Warchief about the rebels is punishable by death! You may go.’
… What rebels?
Later that night, I contacted Sorlain again.
‘Ah, Dawndancer. How are you faring?’
‘I am in Orgrimmar, currently awaiting the zeppelin. Everything was fine.’
‘What are you doing, exactly? The report was rather vague.’
Yes, I’d imagine so, because our ship mysteriously sank.’
‘Yes. It was just after they docked, which was quite impressive.’
‘How sad. Where are you going?’
‘I’ll be headed to the Borean Tundra. They want me to analyse some relics which they found ‘in ruins’, which I assume means Coldarra. After I’ve figured out how they are used, the Warchief will commandeer whatever he wants.’
‘Well, do see if you can let any slip under the floorboards. It’ll bring us prestige with little risk.’
‘I will see what I can do. It depends on whether there are other researchers involved, though I doubt the Reliquary would accept such an offer. I will contact you when I arrive.’
I rented quarters in the Hobgoblin and was eating my meal as the sun began to set over Durotar. The barkeep began to go round lighting candles. That was curious. The last time we’d been here just a few short weeks ago, they had definitely had oil lanterns. Candles seemed awfully low-tech for a goblin-run bar. There was plenty of electricity available, surely…
I tried to relax, and listened to the ongoing conversation.
‘Shipment coming from Mulgore in two weeks..’
‘Not even allowed out of the Valley..’
‘So I said ta her, “Ya be jokin’ mon!” And den she said I was de offspring o’ a troll! De nerve…’
‘…They sunk two boats in Bladefist today..’
Wait, what? I strained my ears, trying to tune in to the last strand.
‘Warchief hasn’t said a word, but most of the Valley of Spirits knows. Wisdom is supporting them, but Dezco won’t let them go against the Warchief..’
‘What about the Slums?’
‘They’re in cahoots with Steamwheedle, but no one knows if they’re helping finance the rebels.’
‘You gonna join up?’
‘Dunno. The Kor’kron are keeping a close eye on people coming and going. They’re saying that they have the Slums bugged-‘
‘Attention!’ I very nearly spilled my drink at the rather brutish entrance of several Kor’kron. ‘The curfew begins in five minutes. This bar is to be shut and all non-residing patrons are to leave if they wish to get home in time.’
Oddly accepting this as routine, most of the patrons paid their bills or handed tips to the employees before leaving. The employees followed suit, with just a few people and the barkeep left. The Kor’kron muttered a hail to the barkeep and left, slamming the door behind them.
How… disturbing. This kind of policing hadn’t been around when we were last here, and there seemed to be more Kor’kron than guards. I had considered asking the people that had been conversing what they were on about – I assumed that they were talking about the rebels the investigators had mentioned earlier – but it would be too suspicious. Conversation with the Convocation revealed that I could probably bypass the curfew using my commendation. I had nowhere to go to inquire (no one back in the Hinterlands knew anything about rebels), but I did have an excuse to get around.
Twist had asked me to take some letters back home – to her teacher, and some friends from the Slums. The Slums being goblin-run, it was probably the best place for information. And despite being a haven for goblins, it felt weirdly safer being there than in the rest of the city.
The Goblin Slums were less like a part of Orgrimmar and more like a dirtier exclave of Bilgewater Port. The red walls of Durotar’s northernmost canyon were invisible for the amount of soot and outdated neon advertising that covered the area. The place was a lot less brighter than when I had first visited it almost a year ago.
It took me a short time to find Twist’s teacher, a Pandaren who was… ‘enjoying’ some goblin drinks. I left him with the letter before I found the second person, a young accountant named Screwbolt.
‘Ey, a pen from ol’ Twist! ‘pparently she’s been makin’ friends with the furbolg, from what I ‘eard last month! I’s got her Wonga right here whenever she’s in town, don’cha worry.’
Checking to make sure none of the guards were around, I asked him about the rebels.
‘Ah, the rebels. We get lotsa folks comin’ here to join up these days. I just deal with the money, you’ll wanna talk to Rakk. He’s usually up by the border to the Valley.’
Sure enough, a large troll kept to the shadows just where the dim jazz clubs of the Slums met the troll flowthrough.
‘Ey, not many elves we be gettin’ up here. Ya be too busy with ya civil war. I be hearin’ about de Zandalari attackin’ ya territory tho, so I can understand. Ya be here ta ask about de rebellion?’
Slightly unsure, I nodded, but passed over Twist’s letter first.
‘Ah, Twist… Great kid. Dat whelp’ll go far, got a real knack for de spirits. Ah… It’s good dat she be havin’ fun. Come by tomorro’ an I’ll have sometin for ‘er. Can’t be tellin’ ‘er de truth, like, but tings could be worse. We be organisin, shall we say, passiv’ resistance against de Warchief from de Valley. E’s responded by keepin’ us locked tight. A few be gettin’ out, and dey get supplies in an’ out. Twist was good at dat, but she left before de worst ‘appened. De Echo Isles be under martial law, an’ der be a few groups raidin’ de supply caravans, tryin’ to put a strain on de Warchief. But we be little witout Vol’jin. No guidance, no leadership… De only ting we can hope for is dat de Alliance get da upper hand, or Vanira and Zen’tabra start up communicatin’ wit us. I ain’t gonna pressure ya ta join – ya must be havin’ other commitments. We ain’t be needin’ many mages anyhow – de Darkbriar Lodge got plenty. Tanks for ya time.’
Bowing to him, I wandered back through the Slums, caught up in thought. This rebellion didn’t seem big, but it seemed serious. I would have to let someone know… But who?