Krelle sighed as she flopped onto a bench near the north edge of the Silvermoon bazaar, looking for all the world like yet another Forsaken tourist from the Undercity who needs a break after seeing too many Amazing Wonders.
In truth, she was not terribly impressed by Silvermoon. Maybe it was because she just didn't have enough experience to really understand how marvellous everything was. Maybe she wasn't sophisticated enough to truly appreciate the beauty of her surroundings. Or, she thought, maybe it's because Silvermoon is as ostentatious and gaudy as the Undercity is morbid and dark.
Perhaps she was just too frustrated to care. Tai had sent word that operation "Bilking Blood Elves" was a go and that they'd have all the money they'd need to set up shop. The problem, she reflected as she covertly watched the Tailor's shop, was that elves were more or less immortal. When you have a city composed of people who don't, as a rule, die, you end up with three things: very few weddings, very few funerals, and hardly any turn-over in the real estate market at all. The shopkeepers all seemed to consider their professions to be some kind of noble calling and as far as she could tell none were in debt badly enough to feel any financial pressure to sell.
Krelle sighed again. Figures. One rare time when I'm actually looking to do something legitimately and I'll probably still have to get "creative."
Her thoughts were interrupted as an elf - a warlock, from her clothes - broke away from the crowd around one of the tables and approached her. Krelle watched covertly. She walked differently than the other elves, and her platinum hair was unusually short. The strange elf walked up to Krelle, gave her a friendly nod, and then sat sideways on the bench beside her, facing her.
Krelle raised an eyebrow. "Can I help you?" she asked in a neutral kind of tone.
"No, that's allright. Someone else is already helping me," she replied.
"Oh," the small rogue said, nonplussed.
The elf nodded but didn't explain. She seemed content to rest near Krelle. Her manner was almost that of a friend enjoying the company of another, but Krelle was certain she'd never seen this person before.
Ah, what the hell. Krelle leaned back, drawing up one foot and linking her hands around her leg. "Hey, you wouldn't know anything 'bout the real estate market around here, would you?"
The elf shifted uneasily. "Real... estate?"
"Yeah, like a store or a house."
"Er, no… I'm not from around here. I expect it's pretty pricey. Everything here is."
Krelle nodded, pretending to be discouraged. "That's the truth. It's not the price that gets me, though, it's the availability…"
The elf looked at her, a bit incredulous. "Are you a shop-keeping type?"
Krelle laughed. "Me? Naw. My employer is, though. He's looking to set up a store in Silvermoon - just hard to find someone willing to sell."
The elf leaned forward, conspiratorially. "I hear tell they don't like rentin' ta… well, non-elves."
Krelle was surprised to hear an elf talk like that - maybe, since she wasn't from Silvermoon, she considered herself to be different than the elves who lived here? Light knew that Tellas had nothing but contempt for his own race. The forsaken covered her uncertainty with a little grin. "That might explain a few things."
The elf nodded slowly. "If I were you," she began, then hesitated, shifting around in her seat.
Krelle remained silent, one eyebrow lifted in polite inquiry.
"I'd get myself a pointy-eared catspaw to do the initial renting."
Pointy-eared? This from an elf?
Krelle gave the strange lady a grin. "Looks like I may have to."
"Bet they'll be shocked when they find out they've let a nasty grubby "undead" into the city," the warlock said with an impish grin. Something about her accent was familiar, but Krelle couldn't quite place it.
"Oh it won't be my shop. But yeah - the Silvermoon elves are pretty snooty," she answered quietly.
The elf laughed sardonically. "As opposed to the other kinds? Who are open-hearted and open-minded?"
Who was this? "Truly. They'll buy if the price is right, though."
The lady nodded. "Aye, they'll buy most things. Have you seen their gnomes?"
Krelle blinked behind her mask at the sudden change of subject. "Their gnomes? What, like, gnome pets?"
The warlock nodded. "I'll show ya," she offered, heading to the north end of the bazaar. Krelle followed along, afire with curiosity.
The warlock led her into the tailor's shop - the very one Krelle had hoped to acquire. Making some show of perusing the wares, the two made their way to the back of the shop and slipped quietly through some thick curtains. The drapes concealed a darkened stairwell leading down into a basement that Krelle hadn't even known was there.
The room at the bottom of the stairs was large, round, dimly-lit, and full of gnomes working furiously at looms. The only sound was the clickety-clacking of the machines, punctuated occasionally by the crack of a whip. A succubus patrolled restlessly, surveying the small workers.
The warlock looked around with a frown. "I wouldn't bring your short friends ta visit, ya know?" she whispered grimly.
"Truly," was all she could respond. Wow. Talula would freak.
They stood in the shadows by the doorway, peering into the crowded workroom. So this was how those damn tailors could afford to undercut the market - slave labour. Krelle glanced to the strange elf beside her, who was looking at a gnome locked in a cage.
"Is this… legal?" she asked quietly.
"Umm… I'm not sure. I mean, Forsaken have those blindfolded people, right?" Five different excuses sprang to Krelle's lips, but she didn't bother to utter them. The elf had a point. She nodded as the other continued. "I'm pretty sure the High Tinker wouldn't be amused, though."
"How very interesting," Krelle murmured.
"My grasp of Horde law is a bit weak. But Orcs don't keep slaves, do they?"
Krelle was eyeing the piles of gold coins on the center table, but she doubted the succubus would allow for any serious attempts at mischief. Besides, she was here for recon - not to get into trouble. Still… "Orcs have prejudices about that sort of thing, being slaves themselves once," she answered. "So no, they don't - that I've seen."
"Isn't Thrall kinda in charge of the whole bang-up?"
Bang up? "He's the leader of the Horde, if that's what you mean, but mainly in military decisions. He has no authority over how the other races govern themselves," she answered absently, her mind working as she memorized the layout of the place. It would be a perfect base of operations.
"Hmm," the lady was whispering. "I suspect all this is kept mum in any case. Might harm dip-lo-mat-ic relations."
The strange elf backed away from the curtains, nodding for Krelle to follow and led her discretely back out of the shop. They walked a ways in silence, finally stopping by the fountain.
The elf smiled at her. "Well, have fun in Silvermoon. I'd better scamper before the disguise wears off."
So it wasn't an elf! Several things began to fall into place, but Krelle was still unsure of who the stranger could be. It wouldn't be one of the other tigers - they wouldn't fool around like this, they'd have identified themselves already. "Thank you for showing me around," she said, stalling for time.
"Oh aye, my pleasure. Nice to see someone with less ears and more sense."
Krelle wanted to know who she was talking to - and the lady was leaving! She found out the quickest way she knew how. She introduced herself.
"By the way, I don't think we've met before - I'm Krelle."
"Me name's Shame. Well… at least it is when I'm not 'visiting' here."
Krelle started, unable to conceal her surprise. What the Fel was Shame doing in Silvermoon? Wasn't she supposed to be in Outland - with her Tong-supplied bodyguard? "That's a very good disguise, Miss," she said respectfully.
Shame laughed derisively as she pulled out her hearthstone. "It's a cheap piece of crap. Breaks if anyone touches me - and it has those magic-addict elves sniffing after me like hungry cats. I expected more for my money, to be honest," she said with a faint hint of the accent Garond had when he spoke Orcish: that of the common tongue.
"Well, it looks convincing anyway," Krelle offered. "I know what you mean about the elves though. I always leave my better gear at home when I'm sneakin' around out here. Otherwise they can feel ya comin."
"Smart plan. Well, good luck with finding yourself a patsy," Shame chuckled, activating her hearthstone. The telltale green glow slowly spread outward from the stone as it warmed up.
Krelle gave the powerful warlock a respectful bow and Shame bowed back even as she vanished.
Krelle walked slowly over to take a seat on an ornate bench. Well now, she though as she leaned back against the glossy wood. Wasn't that an interesting little encounter. A slow smile crept over her face. She started making a list of things to do. She didn't bother to write it down, since she never really forgot anything.
Contact Tellas. Buy some dirt on tailor Keelen - the locals'll have some, Tellas can sniff out more. Find out how much this Litto guy is gonna be able to front them for the store. Have Tellas make an offer. If that doesn't work, have Keldu and Reims make some threats. If that doesn't work…I'll go myself, she thought with a grim smile. By then I'll know enough about him to make him an offer he can't refuse.
Tellas stepped from behind the curtain, standing iron rod straight and with the haughty, half-lidded look of a bored lordling in his eyes. Krelle stared, slackjawed. She had teased him about being a prettyboy, but she had no idea he cleaned up to... this.
"Shall we fool them, do you think?" he asked in a thick Sin'dorei accent. A smirk curled Krelle's mouth as he reached back behind the curtain and pulled out another box.
"This is for you. But first, we have to do something about that hair."
The smile faded. "We're not touching the hair."
"Sorry Boss." Tellas said, his voice going back to the Orcish accent he usually adopted. "There's no way they'd believe that a Sin'dorei noble would have a servent with an odd colored rat's nest like that. You have spent time in Silvermoon, right?"
Krelle let out a low growl and opened the box. A dark red gown lay folded inside.
"I'm thinking a rich black for the hair. True blood elf colors. Bring the dress. I've got someone for you to meet."
In the end, she gave in with only a few tokens of protest. She understood the reasons for it. She had to look like a proper factor if she was going to accompany Tellas to his business meetings, and that, obviously, required a different look.
After her hair had been "fixed" by the silliest elf Krelle had ever met - the high-pitched giggle would be ringing in her ears for days, she was sure - she stood in front of the mirror, examining the transformation. Strangely, she found that she didn't mind wearing a dress this time. Perhaps it was because it wasn't really just a dress, but a disguise. Krelle understood and respected a proper subterfuge.
She grinned at herself in the mirror, then stood up straighter, the grin sliding into a smug little smile. She picked up the ledger book they'd bought her, to make it look authentic, posing with it held in the crook of her elbow against her hip. She tried to look snooty.
A soft laughter behind her told her that Tellas had peeked into the dressing room. She turned calmly, fixing him with her best blank stare.
"Is his Lordship ready to depart?"
"One last thing. Put this on under your dress." Tellas said.
"What is it?"
"Just a little bauble. It'll make you look more... magical. It's much more believable that I keep you around as my personal assistant if you would also make a tasty snack, should you displease me."
Krelle slid the necklace on and Tellas resumed the appearance of the arrogant lord. "Come, Morna. Lead me to this... tailor."
The afternoon meeting dragged. Keelen and Tellas had never met before, but Tellas was well aquainted with Keelen's youngest sister. They exchanged pleasenties for a while and then began the elaborate dance of negotiation. Tellas was regretting giving the idea of subtle threats and blackmail to Krelle. Her way would have been faster and much more fun.
"I am afraid it is quiet impossible, Lord Dranik. I have been a tailor here for a thousand years. The Sheets family has owned this building since the founding of the city. I don't see that there is any way you could tempt me with this offer."
Krelle had warned Tellas that it would come to this. The hunter had already spent hundreds of years as a Sin'dorei nobleman and wanted nothing more than to be done with the ruse. Locking eyes with Sheets, he fell silent for a minute then said "How is your dear sister?"
"She is quite well. She's getting married next month to Lord..."
"Oh, Mirnellan wasn't the sister I was asking after," Tellas inturruped. Keelen's face darkened. "I have not seen my other sister in quite some time."
"No, I suppose not. It must be so hard to keep track of family once they fall so far into magic addiction. Lucky for you, I've been keeping a watchful eye over her." Tellas casually leaned back and popped a date into his mouth. "In fact, Morna, make a note. Send some flowers to my dear Shadra. I suspect that she's quite desolate in her cage at the villa."
Keelen's jaw dropped slightly as he looked between Blood Elf and Foresaken. Tellas stood and picked up his glass of wine. Giving a bored yawn, he said "I feel the need for some fresh air. Morna can fill you in on all the little details."
Krelle amused herself during the meeting by keeping as still as possible. She sat on a small stool next to (and slightly behind) the luxurious wingbacked chair that Tellas had taken. As the two blood elves rattled off platitudes and casual conversation Krelle took advantage, once again, of her eyeless gaze. Though she sat without moving during the meeting, she nevertheless examined everything in the room minutely - especially Keelen.
She was pleased to see that Tellas' idea seemed to be working. After the third time in an hour that Tellas had mentioned family, a barely perceptible flicker of suspicion had crosesd Keelen's face.
She decided that the expression on the tailor's face when Tellas dropped his sister's name made the three hours worth it.
"Morna, make a note. Send some flowers to my dear Shadra. I suspect that she's quite desolate in her cage at the villa."
Krelle kept her perfect pokerface on as she flipped open the book she carried and made a tiny note in the Tong Cant. It said "neener," but the tailor wouldn't know that.
"I feel the need for some fresh air. Morna can fill you in on all the little details," Tellas said airly as he got up and stertched, wandering out onto the balcony.
The tailor was trying to control his features, but his attention was on Tellas' back, not on Krelle. He stood, making as if to follow Tellas, but stopped after a step, his fists clenching and his eyes suspicious.
Looks like Tellas was right about the sister - though Keelen's not sure if he believes us... but he doesn't know we're lying, either. Krelle made a mental note to have the others find Shadra, if they could. Actually having the collateral might be handy.
Kellen turned his glare at her. She was a bit taken aback by the force behind those eyes. Careful, here. He's a warlock after all.
She turned her pale face up at him, one delicate eyebrow raised in a hint of inquiry. She waited.
"What details?" he finally spat.
"Whichever details you'd like, my Lord," Krelle replied, unruffled.
"What are you talking about?"
Krelle made some show of consulting her book, running one finger down a column of text. "Your youngest sister, Lady Shadra Sheets - last seen in Silvermoon several years ago, on the family estates, raving and in the company of the house priest. Current wherabouts: officially she has been reported as deceased, though your family suspects she is living with the fallen. She has been under the care of my Lord Dranik for three years and four months as of tomorrow." She paused looking up at the furious elf. She raised her eyebrow a fraction of an inch higher. "Have you any suggestions for the bouquet, my Lord? I'm afraid I do not know the Lady's favourite flowers..."
She permitted herself a tiny smile as the elf spun away, striding to the balcony where Tellas lounged on a gilded lawnchair. Remembering the danger a warlock of his power represented, however, she slid her pokerface back on and hurried after him, glad for the cold daggers in her boots.
"This is an outrage! An outrage! Do you know who I am? Who my family is?"
Tellas looked up at the warlock. His face was calm but his eyes burned dangerously. The air crackled with unused magicks and Tellas resisted the urge to reach out and take ahold of the power.
"I know precisely who you are. I know what you do. I know about the gnomes in the basement. I know how your family came to own this building. I know about your sister. I also know that you will soon sell this building to me. It's time for you to see the world, Keelen. Do not cross me."
Tellas stood and said, "You have until the end of the day to make your offer for how much you want for the building. Morna will be waiting at the Silvermoon City Inn. You'll hear from me very soon."
The two elves locked eyes until Keelen turned away. "Come along, Morna," Tellas ordered and the two Tigers left the building.
"That was great! Did you see the look on his face when you... Hey, you OK?" Krelle faltered.
Tellas had started shaking. His voice came out strained and hoarse. "Give me the amulet. Now." Krelle reached into her dress and pulled on the chain. Tellas grabbed the trinket before she had a chance to take it off. Krelle felt the chain grow warm and turn to dust. The glow in the blood elf's eyes faded and his shaking stopped. Krelle raised an eyebrow at him and he returned a lopsided smile. "Sorry, inya' falore. It's been a while since I've been around someone with that much arcane power. Well, except for Phealea, but she doesn't go around projecting it at me. It's all good." He pocketed the strange dust and said "What now, Boss?"
Krelle brushed some dust off her ner neck. "Now we should go get me another amulet."
"I'm fine, really," he assured her.
"Perhaps, my Lord," she agreed as a traveller passed them. Then she lapsed into the Tong's cant. "But we're not done with these disguises so we may as well keep up appearances. Besides I've left my other magic goodies at home, and if you resort to disenchanting my mask I'll be very put out."
Tellas crooked an eyebrow at her, maintaining his lordly demeanor as they walked along the streets of the bazaar. "Your mask is magical? It doesn't feel like it."
Krelle nodded proudly. "It's special. It's enchanted to allow me to see through it. There's magic in there somewhere, but the enchanter hid it. Good thing too - I guess I'd have to wear dark goggles if the spell weren't hidden. Otherwise the elves would feel me coming."
Tellas nodded regally at a passing noble who nodded back with equal formality. "Why d'you wear that mask, anyway?" he asked curiously.
Krelle patted her fancy hairdo. "S'part of my mystique, don'tch'ya know?"
Tellas snickered but let it drop. "You must make a killing at poker."
Krelle flashed him a grin. "Usually I do. Unless Ollie's cheating, then she wins. Never play poker with Ollie if she needs money."
"She cheats?" Tellas asked, suddenly chagrined.
"Ya didn't hear it from me. Let's head over to the inn and plot our next move."
They wandered along the boulevards at a leisurely pace, not trying to hide their movements. Krelle expected that Keelen would have sent someone after them, so they stayed in character, browsing different stalls and shops for the better part of an hour. They picked up another enchanted amulet for Krelle - it allowed the wearer to fly for several minutes at a time - and a small sack of fresh dates for Tellas.
"They just don't grow dates like this outside of Silvermoon," he mused, munching on the soft fruits.
They took a table in the restauraunt attached to the inn and amused themselves by ordering the most expensive items off the menu. Everything was delicious, though Krelle was shocked at how pricey things like fried potatos could be when you pronounced them in Thalassian.
"So what do you think Keelen'll do?" Krelle asked as she munched on so Ell'ari Binda'faohra (which she decided meant "horribly overpriced minty sticks").
"He doesn't have much of a choice. His sister's marriage to a very good catch more or less hangs in the balance. Either he moves his business or else she loses the match as his entire family is dishonoured."
"Or..." Krelle prompted.
Tellas grinned wickedly at her. "Or he manages to kill us first."
She waggled her eyebrows at him. Pretending to fix her hair, she switched on her com transmitter. "Report in, Tigers."
Keldu's voice rumbled in over the com first. "In position, boss. I hope this warlock of yours tries something."
Tellas arched an eyebrow at her. "Where's Keldu?" he asked.
"On the roof," Keldu replied with an audible grin, having heard him. "Better hope the beams on your inn are as sturdy as they are fancy, Lord Nightwing or you might get backup sooner than you expected."
Krelle snickered even as another voice chimed in on the com.
"I ere boss" Korttie sat low in a alley watching the shop. Her ever Faitful snake curled around waiting for the call to strike. Korrtie found these elves very amusing, especally if one came up to her while sitting. But what made it all the more fun was when she would stand and tower over them. Her eyes focused on the two and with a smirk she looked at how Krelle was dressed. "Day be nice treads yes?" With some more snickers she placed the bow on her lap and unless one saw her and looked very closley, only then would they see the bow was actually nock with a deadly looking arrow.
Ari stood on the street causally making small flirtatious conversation with one of the local men. She was dressed in a fine silk dress instead of her leathers, to aid in her camouflage. While she made small talk her eyes were constantly scanning the area she was assigned to watch. When the com kicked in she politely excused herself from her would-be suitor. With a smile on her lips she made walked away and whispered ever so gently into her coms.
"Ari here, scanning the streets."
Reims liked Silvermoon. It reminded him of his days in Stratholme, before the capture and execution. The elves flitted about, seemingly carefree for the most part. Laughter and music poured out of every building, the whole feeling one of a prosperous city.
Of course, there was a dark secret underneath. There always was, much like the spies running around Stratholme, Silvermoon had its own underbelly.
Reims sat on the roof of the inn, cloaked in shadows, watching. He'd seen some relatively harmless ones travel inside and out of the inn, but you could never be too careful.
With Nerrok on the wrong side of the portal, the hordeside operations were in Krelle's capable hands. Reims knew that his task was to keep an eye on her, both out of loyalty to the Orc, and to Krelle's kindness.
His yellow eyes glowed brighter as he scanned the area. Had he missed something? A preemptive hand reached for his dagger. Something was wrong, he could feel it in his bones.
Krelle sipped at some imported Everlook icewine, pretending to enjoy it. Blech, this stuff is so gross. I'll never understand alcoholics. "So," she said quietly, setting down her glass. "Where's he gonna try it?'
Tellas pushed his half-full plate a fraction of an inch to the side, then sipped calmly at his own wine as a serving girl immediately came to take it away.
"Truthfully, it's hard to say," he mused, also speaking the Cant. Their mics were live, set to "the Silvermoon channel" (as Krelle had baptised channel 4) so the local skulkers could hear them. Krelle didn't want to get jumped and have to fiddle with buttons in the middle of a fight.
"It will depend on what he's going to throw at us, I think," Tellas continued.
"So. His succubus, if he can pull her off of gnome whipping duty. Fireballs. Rains of fire. Fiery tornadoes." Krelle ticked off her fingers, making a list.
Tellas chuckled. "That's about it for him, as far as I've heard. Thing is, though, his family is also quite accomplished. If he pulls them into it..."
"Think he might?"
"Excuse me, Lord Nightwing?"
They both looked up.
"A letter just arrived for you, m'Lord."
Tellas nodded for Krelle to get it, murmuring "Morna..?" in a I'm-too-lazy-right-now kind of way.
She took it, nodding cooly to the servant even as the man bowed away from them. She looked it over in apparently idle curiosity as her practised eyes scanned for potential traps. She crooked an eyebrow at Tellas but he shook his head slightly. No magic.
"What be on da letter?" Korttie's impatient voice came in her ear.
Krelle's lips quirked around a smile as she worked the seal off.
"I'm not used to performing for an audience," Tellas joked quietly.
"All the world is a stage, Lord Nightwing," Krelle murmured, unfolding the parchment. "Oh, he's kept it simple. How elegant..."
"Dranik," she read softly in Orcish. "Come to the shop at zenith."
Tellas grinned triumphantly as though having won a game. He really was a natural actor, Krelle reflected.
"Excellent!" he said, slapping his palm on the table. He sat up straighter and popped a date into his mouth.
"What's the last word mean?" Krelle asked in the Cant.
"It's a fancy word for midnight," he replied in kind, speaking as though gloating. "Refers to the arc of the moon in the sky."
"The... so zenith is the top of an arc?"
"You got it, boss. Think he'll jump us on the way?"
"I doubt it. Easier for him to control things that are in the shop. Still, we best be careful about it. Reims, Ari, you two mosey up to the bazaar and suss things out. We got about an hour before we get there, if you can give us some warning about what to expect, I'd be grateful."
Ariyana laughed at a joke from the blonde elf who was flirting with her. Smiling coyly, she suggested that they go for a turn in the bazaar. He grinned at the idea, gallantly offering the mysterious girl his arm. He wanted to impress her, and spending money was something he was good at.
Reims and Keldu exchanged a curt nod and the rogue slid into the shadows. He kept to the rooftops of the tightly-packed shops as he made his way slowly around the bazaar's square and north to the tailor's place, keeping Ari in sight.
Halfway past the auction house's stage, he paused, again feeling the prickling on the back of his neck. He carefully scanned the rooftops around him, his eyes searching for a telltale reflection off of some metal or uneven shadow.
Nothing. And yet...
"Don't get cocky," he murmured over the com, in Gutterspeak. "This is their turf."
"Be careful," Krelle translated for the others, her tone serious. Then, softly, "... I hate warlocks..."
Reims ghosted forward, a frown of concentration on his face.
Ariyana rested her head gently on her new suitors shoulder as she walked close to him. She smiled warmly as they walked into the bazaar. She played her part as they walked back and forth from shop to shop. The blonde elf regaled her with stories of his many successes, which she figured were half-truths at best. She put on her brightest smile and acted impressed as she kept up her vigil.
Idly she used her free hand to pat the side of her leg, as if dusting off a speck of imagined dirt on her silk dress. In reality she was making sure her daggers remained in place. Her would-be suitor told a new joke and she giggled and smile. Though her mind was happily thinking of the fight to come and the fun it would be. Warlocks also bring the best spells to a fight.