Chapter One Edit
Talula put the last of her prosepecting tools into her backpack. She hoisted it onto her shoulder and headed for the door. This was to be her first outing since the healers told her she could go for short excursions and she was looking forward to it.
"Where you headed, little one?"
Talula jumped in surprise and turned to face the voice behind her.
"Von Vrais! You startled me. I no hear you."
Von shrugged and lit a cigarette. "Your common is getting better."
Talula nodded. Kya had been running language drills for three hours in the morning and for another two over dinner. She had to admit there was some incentive to relearn the language, as only Krelle and Litto spoke any gnomish.
"So, where are you going?" Von asked again.
Talula shrugged. "The yarshiro give me ok for light work. I am going for some mining."
Von eased himself gracefully from the chair and said "Mind if I tag along?" From his inflection, Talula figured there was really only one answer to that. Deciding that company might be nice, she shook her head and the two went outside.
They hadn't gotten far before the gnome heard the distinctive clicks of a Ravager. It was no secret that of all the animal companions and mounts owned by members of the Tong, Ornrey was Lu's least favorite.
"Really, sir? He must come?"
Von exhaled smoke through his nose and raised an eyebrow.
"Fine," Talula grumbled and headed up the boardwalk toward the jungle.
The afternoon was unusually cool and dry for the jungle and the gnome soon forgot all about the beast at Von's side. They hiked into Mistvale Valley and it wasn't long before Talula spotted a particularly inticing iron vein.
Von took a seat under a palm and seemed to enjoy the simplicity of the afternoon. Talula scrambled up to the top of a rocky outcrop to get a better angle on the mineral deposit with her pick. The soft taping that filled the air was interrupted by the crashing sounds of large rocks falling. There was a screaching cry and a wet crunch, then the rumbling stopped.
Talula looked down from her place at the top of the rocks, frozen in wide-eyed surprise. Spindly legs stuck out from beneath four tons of granite.
Von stood up and walked over to where the dust was beginning to settle. He had long ago learned that a hundred pets would come and go over his long elven lifespan. It was best not to get too attached, lest he suffer a thousand heartaches. The night elf sighed.
"Oh," said Talula.
Von lit another cigarette.
"Oh sir," said Talula.
"Your bug, sir..." Talula chewed her bottom lip.
"It's not a bug, Lu," Von said, exhaling more smoke.
"Is flat, sir."
Talula's eyes went wide as Von knelt by the smashed ravager. As the elf stood and turned, she began to back away.
'Let's not tell anyone about this, hmm?'
'Yes sir. I'll make this up to you sir.'
'I'm sure you will, Little one.'
The pair rode back to the bay in silence.
Having never been comfortable with the animal kingdom, Talula was uncertain where animal companions fit into the Tong oath. Were they family? Were they property? She decided to take matters into her own hands before she found out the hard way.
Sheets of parchment were balled up and thrown about the room as design after design was evaluated, found lacking, and discarded. She refused to let anyone know what she was building, for fear that someone would call down the thunderbolts used to punish oathbreakers. After two days of furious work, she finally settled on an acceptable design. Raiding Krelle's supply of fused wiring and mithril tubes, the gnome set about building the thing.
"Lu?" Krelle called through the curtains that the gnome had hung to shield her workspace, "You sure you don't need a hand?"
Maniacally nervous laughter came from the obscured side of the room and Talula said in rapid gnomish "NO! Nonono. I'm just fine. We're all just fine over here. There's nothing to see, really. Thank you come again!"
In a way, Talula was glad that her fellow Tigers had opted to give her privacy. She had been concerned that her fingers weren't going to have the skill they once did and she'd have to take up a whole new profession to be useful to anyone. The healers had been right, however, and the dexterity came back a little more each day. Her project came together quickly and she sent a note to Von, asking him to come to the lab for a surprise.
Kya had popped in for evening language drills and Talula asked her to stick around for the presentation. When Von arrived, she arranged the two of them, audience-like, in chairs before a large, silk covered object.
"Sir," she began, "I feel truly horrible about what happened to your bug. I know you went to great lengths to tame such a beastie and I hope that this will make it up to you."
The gnome gave the silk sheet a tug, revealing a perfect, metallic Ravager. Von and Kya exchanged a glance and then Von asked "What is that?"
"It's your new Mechano-Ravager, sir," Talula beamed. "To replace Ornery. I've made it as lifelike as possible. It should exhibit all of the behaviors of a normal Ravager and be twice as durable. You'll never even notice the difference sir. Just feed it like you would a regular Ravager. It's designed to process whatever organic materials you feed it and turn it into fuel to keep running. Toss it a flask of oil every once in a while and I'll barely need to run maintenance checks. It's also got a gravitronic control module that will enable it to learn new tricks."
Von stood up from his chair and walked around the mechanical Ravager. "Would you like to flip the on switch, sir?" Talula asked. She pointed to a well concealed button on the underside of the carapace. There was a soft humm and the beast came to life, its pointed legs making a familiar click on the wooden floor of the Lab.
Talula felt certain that she caught the corner of his mouth turn up into a smirk. The night elf watched his new pet for a moment, then said "It's very nice, Lu."
"Why don't you take him for a test hunt, sir? I'm curious to know how it performs outside of a controlled environment."
Talula stood in the doorway and watched as Von and his new pet strolled down the boardwalk. A smile of satisfaction crossed her face as she wiped the last of the grease from her hands.
"So, you know that he could have just gone out and tamed a new Ravager if he wanted to?" Kya said, watching the gnome from the table. "You didn't have to go to all that trouble. And you hated Ornery."
Talula looked up at her friend, her smile growing wider, and waited for the question.
"So, why did you build him a new Ravager?"
"There are lots of critters out there that eat gnomes. Ravagers. Big Cats. Horses. All those pets that Mr. Von seems drawn to. I figured if I was going to replace Ornery, I should give him something he felt comfortable with that I didn't have to worry about eating me."
"Lu, you said you built it to be as lifelike as possible. It can process organic materials for fuel, it behaves like a Ravager. It could still eat you at any time."
"Yeah, but I have this." Talula held up a wand-like device covered in dials. Kya smiled as she caught a glimpse of the three little words written on the side the gizmo: Gnomish Universal Remote.