Written by Sujin, a character on the Earthen Ring server
She sat on the shore, dabbling her toes in the water as she waited for the bobber to dip beneath the surface. She could still hear the chattering of life from Sen'jin village up the hill, and it brought her peace. After all her people had endured, after all the trolls had suffered and fought through, they had finally found a home. Maybe not much of a home, she chuckled, but it was a beginning. The future looked good for her people, and for her.
Her fingers ran softly over the necklace tightly circling her throat. Tiny bones laced together, it marked her induction into the arts of spirit-talking. She had opened herself to the loas, and hoped to be a powerful priestess one day. The necklace was handmade, but not by her won hand. Sujin herself had never been fond of killing. She had fought, and killed, all her people had during the battles with the Murlocs, but she had no love of the act. Her younger sister, Rashaja, had made it for her. She was a skilled hunter, and intensely proud of her contribution to her older sister’s path.
She smiled again, a hearty tusk-spreading smile, with thoughts of her future dancing through her mind. Thoughts that inevitably led their way to Bado. After the turmoil of the last few years, she never expected to find a mate. Then she met Bado. They were to swear their oaths this coming summer, and had already begun building their hut. She was ecstatic.
She glanced back towards Sen' jin as the sounds of the village began to pick up. Not enough to make anything out, but enough to know something was going on. Hopefully it was Bado. He had left in a party heading out past the Barrens last week, and was due back today. She rose and began gathering her fishing pole, ready to greet her lover's return. Then she heard the cry.
"Sen' jin village is under attack!"
She dropped her pole and, grabbing the only weapon available to her, her fishing knife, she sprinted up the hill. Alliance! They ran through the village, setting huts afire and slaughtering young trolls. Lying on the ground in the center of the village was Tongo, one of the members of Bado's group. They had returned! But she saw none of the others, and Tongo was dead, elven arrows filling his chest.
"Bado!' she cried, scanning the carnage around her for a glimpse of her mate. She saw him, standing before their hut over the prone body of her sister, encircled by attackers. Shouting his name again, she darted towards them. Then a sharp pain tore through her skull, and darkness enveloped her.
"Wake, little sister, and be well." The voice pulled her from the void she traveled, and her eyes fluttered open to see a Tauren kneeling above her. She sat up, too quickly, her head pounding with the movement. "Bado! Aja! Where are dey?" And the Tauren began his explanation.
“As your men made their way back from Ashenvale, they picked up a trail of Kaldori trackers. They followed them all the way across the Barrens into Durotar, unt-…” the droning of his voice trailed off in Sujin’s head as her eyes drifted to a pile of troll bodies. Dozens of dead lay atop one another, as the witch doctor chanted their way into the spirit world. As he placed the torch to them, she watched the flames begin working their way up. A hand jutted out from the pile, a small bone bracelet encircling its blue wrist. A bracelet Aja had made for Bado with bones left over from the necklace. The warmth and hope that once filled her was gone, and the swirling of the flames swam in her mind. As she drifted back into slumber, her thoughts drifted towards the future, and the last of the family she no longer had.
Changing Winds: Part OneEdit
She stepped into the small inn, shaking the sea mist from her hair as she stormed through to her usual back corner table. Shoving a seat to the side with her foot, she plopped heavily down into it. Tossing a few coins onto the tabletop, she quickly scanned the common room while she waited for the little goblin to bring her drink. Empty again, as usual. Occasionally, she considered leaving Ratchet; it definitely did her social life no good. She loved the water, though, and business was better here. Lost in her thoughts of loneliness, she barely noticed the goblin sauntering up to her table.
When he failed to set a drink on the table, instead setting himself into the seat across from her, she noticed. Instinctively, her hands dropped to the hilts of her daggers. He was a fat little goblin, no one she had ever seen before. He leaned back in his seat, slamming his unshod feet up on the table. As she repressed a wince at the ripe stench now assaulting her sensitive nose, her new little friend shook his head.
“You not gonna be needing dem, girlie,” her cracked at her in his high, squeaky voice. He shot a glance down to her blades.
“Really?” she snorted in Goblin right back. “I tink I be keepin’ dem aroun’, jus da same, mon. D’ere somteeng I con ‘elp joo wit?”
“Maybe, girlie, maybe.” He sniffed the air, his flat nose scrunching up and out, as his arm swept up from under the table, depositing a hat atop her coins. Black and rigid, lined with quillboar teeth along its wide brim, she knew the hat. Last she had seen it was on the head of its owner, a gnoll enforcer for the Cartel. Eyeing a blood stain on it, she made a mental note to herself; be neater next time. “It seems someone don’t like me and my boys too much. I hear you one to talk to about this? Looking for some ‘outside protection’, if you catch my meaning.”
“Aye, I got de meanin.” Did they think she was stupid? That she thought they just happened to come to her with this? She doubted it. Something was going on here; otherwise why not just kill her? Only one way to find out, so in she dove. “Joo wan’ de guard, joo go talk to one a de big-bellied boy’s joo got. If’n we talkin bout fixin a person for you, we can talk.”
A big, gaping smile spread across his face. Dropping his feet and leaning across the table, he set his face inches from hers. “Good. I’ll be seeing you reeeal soon then, girlie. Real soon.” Chuckling, he slid the hat off the table, stood, and left the inn.
In a rush, her breath burst out in a prayer to the Loas and her body went limp in her seat. She had expected…worse. The Cartel was unhappy with her, never a good thing. No point in leaving Ratchet now. Still, if she was careful, she might just make it out of this alive. She rose, ready to leave, when she noticed. Her coins were no longer on the table. This was going to be interesting…
Changing Winds: Part TwoEdit
Sometimes, things turn out to be better than you thought. Sometimes…not.
When Rozzib first approached her in the tavern in Ratchet, Sujin was naturally suspicious. A local Cartel enforcer, the goblin was worried about recent attacks on his lieutenants. The gnoll Brantod, his second, had been assassinated. Seeking protection, he came to Sujin, hoping she would be able to track down the party responsible. This is where her suspicions came in; she was the one that had killed the gnoll. ‘Eh, mabee dat’ll teach me ta be a bit mo’ discreet in de jobs I take,’ she thought. ‘Prob’ly not,’ she chuckled. Well, a girl’s got to make a living, right?
So, with more than a bit of trepidation, she took Rozzib’s job. Hunt down and kill her self before she killed any more of his men? Money in the bank. The only thing missing, a believable patsy. Here, tonight, sitting on the dock of Booty Bay, her thoughts drifted back to that night when everything seemed to fall together.
Living in what some would call the shadowy underbelly of the Horde, Sujin heard rumors. One in particular had caught her interest and seemed suiting for the task at hand; the Venture Company, an infamous group often in competition with the Cartel, had recently formed an alliance with the Defias Brotherhood, a band of renegades from the far continent run by humans. Worth checking out, to be sure. She hadn’t heard of any Defias being sighted here in the Barrens, however. So she began the less glamorous part of her trade, the legwork.
For days, she pumped every contact she had made over the last two years, but to no avail. Exhausted and aware that she was running out of time before Rozzib would expect results, she decided that a brief hiatus was in order. So, in spite of her uneasiness at returning, she secluded herself in the one place she knew she would be safe…Sen’jin village.
The small gathering of huts along the coast that served as the home of her people, a home she once loved, had changed little in the seasons of her absence. The ocean air mixed with the ever-present odor of burning cauldrons and stews, the boiling potions of the voodun and shamans of he tribe, creating an intoxicating yet familiar odor. A stable of raptors yipped and chattered as she passed on her way towards the village’s center circle. She focused her gaze ahead, not giving in to the desire to stop at the hut she had once planned to share with Badu, her chosen mate, and quickly found herself near the small pool at the heart of the ramshackle homes. A pool she had once nearly died in. Slipping into unsettling memories, she found herself thankfully shocked from her reverie by a deep voice from behind her.
“Welcome back, little sister.”
She glanced over her shoulder and found herself chest high to a male Tauren in ceremonial robes. “Ramh,” she warmly returned the greeting, “it be good ta see joo ag’in.” The tauren druid had become something of a fixture in the village shortly before she ended her time there, as he sought to aid the Darkspear in recurring attacks from the Alliance on their new home. He spoke troll, though with a horrible slurring accent, and had befriend Sujin with his many tales of adventure beyond Kalimdor. And as good as it truly was to see him, it was a reunion tainted by time. She was not the same girl she once was, unable now to innocently follow him in his tales. That was a life gone, another casualty of a senseless war.
“It has been too long, Sujin,” he continued in his horribly obtuse Troll. He gently laid an enormous hand on her shoulder, “I sense uneasiness in you. This is not a pleasant social visit, no?”
Chuckling, she shook her head in amusement. “Straight to da ‘eart, like always, mon. Cana even flatter a girl wit’ some chity-chat, can ya?” Wincing under the weight of his furrowed brow, she continued,” Ja, I gots a problem or two, but whodon’, nowadays? Wat ja ta do, mon?”
“You share them over a drink with your friends, that is what you do. Come, follow me.” He turned and headed towards the shore, not looking back to see if she followed. She did.
When he reached the beach, he unpacked a large fishing pole from his pack and began preparing it. Not saying a word until he had thrown out his first cast, she silently enjoyed the ritual. This is how he told all his stories. “So, tell me what is bothering you, little sister.”
She had planned on just telling him a little, a bit of what her life had become. Like most of the Horde, her people were warriors, proud and strong, and killing was not unfamiliar to them, nor a life based around it. Once she began, though, she found she couldn’t stop. Two years worth of embitterment and estrangement from the world around her came pouring out, and she ended nearly in tears after spilling every dirty little detail of her life since the war had taken away all the things she once cared for.
Letting loose a long sigh once she finished, Ramh looked down on her with unjudging empathy. “It is a dangerous game you play, Sujin. The Company and Cartel are each powerful in their own rights, and playing them against each other like this could very well be the end of you. But, it could also work out wonderfully. You must go about it correctly, though. I know this Rozzib, and as much as he may seem a stupid goblin, he is quite shrewd. Your plan will never work without proof, without some type of very strong evidence.” He paused, giving his fishing pole a quick, sharp tug. “Damn,” he muttered softly, reeling the line in and recasting.
“I may know someone, a troll, gets me things from time to time, from the other side of the ocean. He has connections over there, and would probably be able to point you in the direction of the Defias. That is where you should start, I think. Besides, if you are to continue down this path you have set your life upon, he will be a good one to know. Lay low for a couple days; I will get word to him. He will be in touch, I am sure. Zolrin’s his name…”
She nodded slightly, finally glad to have returned to this place, but found herself wondering; where was her path taking her?
Sins of the Past: Part OneEdit
She leaned back, the chair tipping onto its rear legs, the heels of her crossed feet resting on the table’s lip keeping her balance. Eyes squinted against the sunlight streaming through the tavern’s “door”, little more than a large hole in the wall, she absently ran a finger along the edge of a dagger as her expected guests made their way towards her. A large ogre pushed through the bar, needlessly, the few patrons scattered around tables made a show of not looking too hard, but the brute still made an impressive show of force. He stopped at her table, pulling out a chair, and a tiny goblin popped seemingly out of the giant’s folds of fat and seated himself. She let a quiet whistle slip through her teeth as he sat. Always came as a shock, the fortune he wore. Gold all over, in multiple holes in his ears and nose, necklaces which surely weighed more than he did, and rings with jewels as large as her eyeballs. One chance encounter on a dark night, without his portable mountain bodyguard, and she would never have to work again. He had no worries, though. He was Rozzib. The big shot for the Cartel here in Ratchet, and everybody knew it. He was untouchable.
It had been several weeks since she last spoke with him, and she wouldn’t have complained if it had been a few more. After their last meeting she really hoped to never see him again. He had come to her, asking for information on who was killing off all his lieutenants in the area. Of course, since had been her doing it, she needed something else to give him. Knowing that tensions were running high between the Cartel and the Venture Co., it hadn’t been very hard to use reports she gathered from the Tong on collusion between the Venture and some human organization called the Defias to lay the blame off on them. Competition, and all that. So she was a little apprehensive when she received word that he wanted to meet with her. Her instinct had been to bolt, take off and never show up again. And there had been a time, not long ago, when she would have done just that, no hesitation. Now, she couldn’t. She had the Tong to consider.
“Sujin! Good to see ya girl!” Rozzib declared, throwing his arms wide above the table in a mock gesture of embrace. A gesture she wouldn’t have returned even without three feet of wood separating them. She nodded slightly in response.
“Roz,” she said, smiling when he winced at her informal shortening of his name. “ Wat joo be needin’ from me? I be a busy lady, joo know.” She hated having to play this little drama out. It was better for the Tong, though, to not be outright antagonistic with the Cartel. If they were to decide the Tigers were competition rather then someone worth working with, things could get ugly quick. She dropped her feet from the table, the chair legs slamming to the floor, and leaned across the table, trying to appear as attentive and cordial as she could.
“Cha, I know ya a busy one, but I wanted to thank ya in person, myself.” HE flashed a smile that made Sujin feel he was about to start gnawing on her leg with those little razor teeth, but she just smiled back. “That intel, ‘bout tha Defias and Venture working together, panned out nicely. I think it could lead to opening up some interesting opportunities, for both of us.” He leaned back in his chair now, letting the head of it, which stuck up much higher than his own, ink into the belly of his looming bodyguard. Peering at her across his pointy little nose, he continued with exactly what she feared he would. “ So, we gots one more job ta ask ya for.”
Sighing, she motioned for him to get on with it. “Wats da dealie, mon?”
“The humans are a funny bunch. They have no problem coming into our territory to do business with us, but let them catch one of us strolling through their lands, and it’s head-on-a-pike time.” He rolled his eyes, and for once, this was a sentiment she could agree with him on. She had never been the staunchest supporter of the Horde’s cause, she preferred to avoid politics as much as possible; too much dogma, not enough profit. But she generally didn’t like humans. AS a whole, they lacked intelligence, foresight, and any ability to see beyond their own prejudices. There were exceptions, of course. The majority of the Tong was human. But as a whole…
“We made contact with a guy, ex-Defias. He’s been hiding out somewhere in Duskwood. He says if we get him out of there, he’ll give us all the info on the Brotherhood we could ever want.”
“So joo be expectin’ me ta be runnin’ in dere an’ draggin’ him out, den?” She knew Duskwood, somewhat. It could be dangerous, if you weren’t careful, but so could Orgrimmar. Besides, she would have the opportunity to question the man herself. She nodded. “Alright, mon, I can be doin’ dis. I should be getting’ over dere in a day or two. Where ya want me ta be bringin’ him?”
Rozzib chuckled quietly as he shook his head. “No, no, little girl. Ya gonna be coming with us, now. My ship is at the dock, we head to Booty Bay. I need ta send a few men into the Vale anyways, so you gonna go with them. Don’t want ya getting your pretty lil back snapped in half by some stupid gorilla before you can bring my boy ta me.”
“Whoa! ‘Ey, mon, I be havi-“
He waved her silent before she could make her protest. “This really isn’t an option, Sujin.” Pointing a thumb at the blubbery hulk behind him, he said, “Tog here can carry ya over, or we can be a little more…civilized…about it.” The sneer he spat the word out with nearly made her flinch. This was not the way she wanted to do this. She had things to attend to. The sneering goblin and large ogre seemed to be hoping she would refuse, though. ‘Idiots…’ she thought.
“Sure, mon. Be leadin’ da way…”
Sins of the Past: Part TwoEdit
Sujin sat, motionless and unnoticed, on the top rail of the wooden fence that separated this small farmstead from the dark woods surrounding it. The fence, like the countryside around it, had seen better days. Rotted and missing lengths of post did little to keep the pestilence that had settled in these lands. She scoffed, silently. With all the Alliance’s talk of righteousness and purity, she saw more desecration traveling through their lands than she ever did in Kalimdor. Hypocrites.
She peered up through the canopy of the forest, estimating how long she had spent waiting here for her mark. ‘Too long,’ she thought. Arbert, his name was; some human that was once a member of the Defias Brotherhood. She was supposed to be bringing him out for her contacts in the Cartel, who were planning on interrogating him regarding the link between the Brotherhood and the Cartel’s main competition, the Venture Company. Plus, she hoped to get some intel out of him first, something of use to the Tong.
Sliding quietly off the fence, she decided to move on the house. All day she had been sitting here, staking the place out, and had seen nothing. She had triple-checked her maps and was sure this was where he was supposed to be holed up. As night had set, no lights had ignited from within, no signs of any movement. She had been hoping to catch him as he returned. The chances of that fading into the deepening night, she headed inside to investigate.
Cautiously, making not a sound as she stalked across the dilapidated yard, she inched the door open. Seeing still no sign of life within, she entered.
Having spent most of her last few years operating under the cloak of darkness, she had become more astute at working in it. The faint moonlight beaming through the windows provided more than enough illumination for her to realize that not only was no one here, but that no one had been here for a very long time. She quickly ducked away from the windows, pressing her back flush with a wall, and let her hands slip to the hilt of her daggers as she slid into a crouch. Something was not right here. The distasteful, and all too familiar, flavor of a setup hung over the entire place. ‘Stupid,’ she admonished herself. Well, whatever trap was set for her, she knew she was too far in it to turn back now. They had gotten her into the house, best to spring it on her own terms. She coiled and tensed her body, prepared to leap through the nearby window to meet whatever lay outside.
The sound caught her off guard, and in the same instant she looked up to see the black bird perched on of the support beams beneath the ceiling, she flipped a small throwing dagger towards it. As the tiny blade sunk home, an arrow flew through the window from outside, striking her outstretched hand. Sujin cried out, looking in horror at the wooden projectile half way through her palm. Biting back the pain, she ducked low and bolted for the back of the house. Streaking from the main room into a small bedroom in the rear, she made for a large window in the back wall.
Something small, hot, and heavy crashed into her just below the knees, flipping her head-over heels, and she slammed onto the floor, face up. Breathless, she was unable to defend herself when the creature struck her again, its weight driving a pair of sharp points into her side. She screamed and flailed at it, successfully snapping the arrow still stuck through her hand in half, sending a numbing jolt throughout her arm. Struggling, feeling the points begin to tear her flesh as she wrenched against them, she managed to get her legs beneath its low body and kick it away. Roaring as the two embedded objects tore free, she skittered back and recognized the creature as a boar, the type found often in Durotar. It recovered from her toss, and charged forward, tusks still dripping with her blood. She slammed a foot into its snout, but it continued onward, driving her knees toward her head and shoving her along the rough wooden floor. She slammed into the footboard of a bed, and braced herself on it with her uninjured hand. Again, she launched it back, and again, it scrambled to its feet and readied to charge. She felt a weakness seep through her as she sat there, wedged against the bed, preparing for the charge. Glancing at the feathered tail of the arrow protruding from the back of her hand, she knew it to be poison. She used them often, herself, and made a point to test each one she did on herself, to be sure of the effects. She did not recognize this one, but she knew it for what it was. The boar charged.
A sharp whistle from the main room brought the animal screeching to a halt, and it turned tail, happily trotting out to whoever summoned it. Sujin’s head began to dip as her vision twisted and swam, the poison beginning to shut her down.
“Choo beh ah ‘ard ‘un tah ‘unt, foa suah.” The voice seemed to float in through the door, disembodied from the young troll woman following it in. She swept across the room, resting her short wooden bow on her knees as she squatted before Sujin. Leaning forward, she thrust her scarred face into Sujin’s, her long, thin tusks scratching along Sujin’s cheek.
“Wh-who…” Sujin tried asking. Breath coming in short, shallow gasps, she felt the blackness approaching. She squinted, trying to get a good look at her attacker.
“Choo gonna beh findin’ all dat out soon ahnuff, sistha. Ah beh waitin’ a long, long time foa dis…” The wicked curl of her lips as she smiled around her last words was all Sujin saw before unconsciousness claimed her.
Sins of the Past: Part ThreeEdit
Consciousness snuck up on Sujin as abruptly as it had left her. Remaining motionless and feigning sleep, she attempted to get her bearings without alerting whoever had taken her to the fact that she had woke. The darkness bobbed and swam nauseatingly as she attempted to gather her thoughts. They came in no cohesive order, flooding over her in a wash of remembrance. The deal with the Cartel, the double-cross, the Troll woman looming over her as a poison coursed through her body. Then the darkness she now found herself in.
She sat on a bare wooden floor, propped against a hard wall, and felt the rope which bound her hands behind her back. From the numbness in her bottom and the ache in her shoulders, she had been in this position for a while. The pungent odor of salt water filled her nostrils, and a familiar sound of breaking water brought the realization that the swaying darkness was not just a remnant of her poisoning; she was on a ship. She listened, hoping for a sign of anyone that might be near her. After a long moment of no noise save the ship cresting through waves, presumably the ocean, by their size, she opened her eyes.
Painfully she forced her gummed together eyelids apart and began worrying at exactly how long she had been unconscious. It could have been days. Her eyes adjusted slowly to the light of the room, such as it was. A lone torch flickered in a sconce on the wall opposite her, even its faint light stinging her eyes and blurring her vision. The room was small and bare, probably no more than a large storage closet. A single door sat shut on the wall to her left, just a few feet away. Quietly, she began flexing her wrists, testing the strength of her bonds. Well tied, she realized there would be no shrugging free. As her eyes adjusted more, she took visual stock of herself. She was surprised to find all her clothing intact and on her, but all her bags had been taken. Her daggers were missing though their sheaths still hung on her hips, and the many small throwing daggers she kept secreted in various parts of her body were gone as well. No weapons, no equipment, no way of freeing herself from the ropes. She sighed, slumping against the wall behind her, and waited.
The ship rolled on, for how long, Sujin could not tell. The isolated room and unchanging rise and fall of the ship separated her from time, as if she sat sullenly in one long, unending moment. Her mind began drifting, floating along in its own sea of scattered thoughts. She saw herself standing upon the shores of Sen’jin, watching the sun set in the arms of her long dead mate, Bado. Then, Bado was gone, and she found herself resting in the arms of another Troll, Zolrin. Then, even he was gone, and she stood on the shore alone, with a long ruined Sen’jin behind her, watching the sun set over an armada of great warships approaching the shore. That faded, and she was a young girl, standing over the body of her father, his spear in hand, as a swarm of Murlocs raced towards her. Their gurgling washed over her accompanied by yet another wave of darkness. Thankfully no visions followed this one, and her mind floated empty through the void.
Waking again, Sujin opened her eyes and gave a start. Her little cell was no longer empty. A small torch hung in a previously empty sconce. Crouched against the opposite wall, the Troll woman from Duskwood sat quietly staring at Sujin. She was motionless, as if in a sleep of her own, but when she saw her captive wake a faint smile tugged the tips of her tusks from beneath her lips. Without rising, she slid smoothly across the small room, ending up knee-to-knee with Sujin.
“Choo bae feelin’…betah?” she asked, raising a quizzical eyebrow. She spoke in troll, but it was heavily accented. And she obviously seemed amused at Sujin’s condition. Suj got the impression that this might be personal, but she couldn’t figure out why yet. She needed information. Ignoring the girl’s question, for she was certainly young, despite the many scars lacing her face, she asked one of her own.
“Who ya be workin’ for, sistha?” The girl’s reaction was…unexpected.
Before the query had fallen completely from Sujin’s lips her captor spat in her face. Lunging forward, she had a dagger pressed firmly across Suj’s throat before she could react. They sat there like that, locked together in a steely stare, the scarred woman shaking, seething with some rage. Sujin sat, unmoving and unflinching. Whoever this woman was, whoever she was working for, she was most defiantly not stable. That meant she was dangerous. Things would need to be arranged very carefully from this point out.
The other woman smiled then, an evil smirk that seemed to engulf her face. She pressed the blade into the flesh of Sujin’s throat, just enough to draw a line of blood, before withdrawing it.
“ Ah bae fergettin’ ‘ow of’en we be throin’ dat word aroun’. Sistha.” She chuckled softly, running her fingers along the edge of Sujin’s cheek. The she punched her. Her balled fist cracked into Sujin’s face like a club, and Suj felt her cheekbone break. Her head rocked back, slamming into the wall behind her. Eyes watering, her vision blurred as she watched the woman hop to her feet. She spun around on the balls of her feet, arms out wide, and cackled, high-pitched and breaking, as she came to a stop facing Sujin again. Sujin frowned.
“Choo don’ bae recognizin’ me? Choo don’ bae ‘membrin’ me?” Sujin stared closely then, caught a bit off guard by the question. So it was personal. She studied the crazy troll’s face, but aside from something slightly familiar in the eyes, she had not time for any further recognition before the woman continued on. “A ‘course choo don’ bae. Why cha nee’ ta bae tinkin’ ‘bout dose dat ya bae leavin’ fer dead, eh?” She dropped back down, eye level with Sujin, tapping her finger on Suj’s nose. But ah don’ bae dead, not at all. An choo will bae ‘memberin’, fo suah.” She stood and walked out of the room, grabbing the torch as she exited. The room was thrown into darkness once again, and the lock clicked as she slid it into place from the outside. As suddenly as she had appeared, she was gone.
Sujin immediately began thinking; trying to attach this lunatic troll to someone she had dealt with. After the faces of souls she had sent to the Nether paraded through her mind she stopped. It was pointless, there were simply too many. She didn’t know who this woman was, or what she had done to her. As curious as she was though, she realized it didn’t matter. How and why she was stuck here on this ship, heading Hakkar knew where, was irrelevant. Getting free was the priority.
Sliding along the wall, she felt for the exposed support beams running up the wall. Finding one, she lay down facing it. Grimacing, she began to chip away at it with her tusks. It was slow going, and the salty wood tasted horrible, but after a few minutes she had chipped away a decently sized ragged edge of plank. She rolled over and sat up. Leaning back into the beam, she began sawing her ropes against the rough wood.
Again, time passed, and the only way she had to tell was how far she had cut through her bindings. Her mind kept drifting back to this troll woman. She didn’t know her, but that feeling of familiarity continued creeping in, growing stronger all the time. Perhaps she had changed her appearance somehow? Perhaps she had crossed this woman years ag-
Her binds came loose with a snap. She pulled her hands free, examining the length of rope that had held her. It was long, and about half an inch thick. Throwing one half away, she wound the other around her hand and rushed to the door. There was a metal handle there, but no keyhole at all. The door locked only from the outside, it seemed. Picking it was no longer an option.
Sujin sat there quietly, trying to think of a plan to get herself off the ship. Easy enough, once she was free of this cell. Just slide along the edge of the ship until she found the lifeboat, then cut it free. She would worry about where she was and how to get home after that.
A low, steady thumping sound rose up from beyond the door. She leaned close, pressing her ear to the wood. Footsteps, heavy ones, coming towards the door. She moved to the side of the door, so as to be behind it if it opened, and waited.
As she had suspected, the footsteps came to a halt just outside the door. A jangling was heard, the sound of keys being jostled. A key was slid into the lock, and Sujin tensed. The door swung open slowly, a lantern thrusting into the room. A large, meaty hand held it aloft. An ogre. ‘Always ogres,’ she thought. The huge creature stepped into the room, holding it’s light higher to aid in his search for her. As he completely entered the room, she slid quickly along the door, pushing it shut with her body. The brute turned sharply towards her. Sujin snapped her hand out, grasping the hand which held the lantern by the wrist and twisted. The bones cracked as they twisted and the lantern fell free. She scooped it up mid-fall, smashing it into the ogre’s face. Grunting as his head snapped around, he reached for a short blade on his belt. As his hand clasped the hilt, Sujin’s fist drove into his throat once, twice, three times. He gurgled, and blood trickled from his mouth as he slumped to the ground.
She surveyed the body quickly, she didn’t think anyone heard the brief scuffle, but you could never be sure. She wanted to leave the room before her opportunity vanished. His sword she took, along with the key ring he carried. Only five keys on it, but there weren’t many locks on a ship. She left the room, locking it behind her. She found herself in a narrow hallway. One way lead deeper into the belly of the ship, the other way was a stairwell up to the top deck. It was night up there. She could taste the seawater in the air. Up she headed.
The sea was calm and the night was dark. No moon hung in the sky, and a lone lantern hung from the center mast. Perfect. She had emerged near the aft of the ship, and had a good view of most of the deck. The sails were slack on their rigging, and no one was up here with her. It appeared that the crew slept below while the ship simply drifted through the night. There would be someone, she knew. Someone keeping watch, ready to wake the rest if conditions changed. Still, just one to watch for seemed decent odds. She smiled quietly to herself. ‘Tai was always the gambler. He’d be throwing everything he owned into this pot.’
Turning her attention back to the ship, she slid along the walls of the cabin toward the side railings. She could see the lift which held the lifeboats near the center, just on the edge of the light cast by the lantern. She would have to be quick, but if she could just release it and hop down after it, she could be away into the darkness before they could catch her. With a look around to ensure the sentry wasn’t about to come around, she crouched down and ran for the lift.
She reached the small boat with no trouble, and looked around for the mechanism to lower it. A small lever, a handbrake, which opened up the more you pulled it back. Pull it a little, and the boat lowered slowly. Yank it all the way back, and it dropped straight into the ocean. She grabbed the handbrake with her bandaged hand, and pulled slowly.
The lifeboat started its decent, relatively quiet. As it reached halfway down the side an arrow came flying through the darkness, sinking into Sujin’s outstretched hand. A good shot, it went nearly right through the hole in her palm made by the arrow in Duskwood. Sujin wasn’t able to appreciate it, as she screamed and let go of the lever. The pulley stopped, and the lifeboat lowered no more. Gritting her teeth, Sujin ripped the arrow from her hand, pulling the sword with her other. She turned back toward the center of the ship, and an arrow sunk into her shoulder. The blade clattered to the deck as her arm went limp. She snarled, rearing her tusks toward the approaching woman.
The other troll strode easily across the deck, an arrow drawn back aimed at Sujin. She smiled, her crazy, twisted grin, and stopped several yards from Sujin.
“Choo bae in a hurra ta leave, no?” She stepped closer, bow still ready, and kicked the sword away. “We still bae ‘aving soo much ta talk about, sistha.” She spat the word with such vehemence that it startled Sujin. Why did this woman hate her so much? She decided to ask.
“Who joo be. Who be dis one kilin’ me ‘ere?”
Dropping her bow, she pitched her head back and roared into the night. She advanced on Sujin, grabbing hold of her by the collar of her tunic, and shoved her backwards, holding her over the railing.
“Choo don’ bae knowin’ me? “she screamed into Sujin’s face. “Do da scars be messin’ choo up? Can choo no bae seein’ me? How ‘bout dis!” She thrust her arm into Sujin’s face, shaking it back and forth before her eyes. Sujin looked, focusing on the bone bracelet that hung before her, and her heart stopped. Her bloody hand went to her throat, feeling for a necklace that hadn’t been there in years. A bone necklace, a perfect match to the bracelet around the girl’s wrist. She looked into the girl’s face, and saw what she had recognized in her eyes. They were her own eyes, glaring back at her. She saw the bracelet in her mind, the last place she had seen it. On the arm of her little sister, sticking out through a pile of dead trolls, being engulfed by the flames that ushered their spirits to the other world.
“A-aja?” she asked breathlessly. The girl let go over her, retreating back several feet, screaming.
“No! NO! Choo don’ bae calin’ ma dat! Rashaja bae dead! Choo be lettin’ ‘er die! Choo bae killin’ me!”
Sujin dropped to her knees, tears streaming down her cheeks. Aja, her sister, turned towards the center mast of the ship. She picked up her bow and nocked an arrow. The door leading the the stairs down that Sujin came from burst open, and several armed goblins rushed out. Aja reached the center mast and lifted the lantern off its hook with her drawn arrow. In one smooth motion she turned towards the doorway and loosed the arrow. It hit the door and shattered, spreading the flaming oil everywhere. Two goblins screamed, racing to the side and throwing themselves overboard as they burned. Another arrow pinned the last to the flaming door as the enraged troll turned back to her older sister.
“Choo burnt me, and trew me into da sea wit’ da dead. I tought I was dead, until a gobiie ship foun’ me. I bae killin’ fer da Steamwheedle evah since. Den, I bae findin’ choo. Choo bae killin’ fer dem, too.”
Sujin pulled herself up on the railing, her hand extended to her sister. “Aja,” she cried, “Aja, I didn’ be knowin’. I tought joo was dead, dead wit Bado. If I had been knowin’…” The flames rose higher above Aja, spreading out along the deck of the ship. Sujin reached up and pulled the arrow from her shoulder.
“Stop!” Aja screamed, lowering her bow again. “Dey bae promisin’ me choo. I bae makin’ a deal, workin’ wit dem fer free from now on if dey give choo ta me.” She motioned toward the flames behind her, stepping closer to Sujin as the flames raced closer. “Now dey bae tryin’ ta keep choo fer ‘emselves. I bae tinking a killin’ choo fer a lo-. “Her words cut off as the arrow Sujin threw pierced her stomach.
Sujin ran to her sister, taking her in her arms and grabbing hold of the arrow. “I be sorry, sistha. But it be too late fo’ joo now.” She shoved the arrow through, closing her eyes as her little sister gasped. Without opening them, she pushed, throwing her towards the fire. Turning, she ran to the lift, picking up the sword as she passed. Leaping over the rail, she sliced the lifeboats ropes as she landed in it, sending it plummeting to the water. She lay there, silent, crying, and adrift on the ocean as the burning ship slid away. ‘I need to see Zol,’ she thought, and then unconsciousness claimed her.
The sun rose, and Sujin awoke. To the east she saw the ever present storms of the maelstrom, so she pointed her little boat west, towards Kalimdor. Rowing was slow with her injuries, but row she did. Home was calling her.
She made her way quietly through the winding tunnel, taking care not to let the miners notice her passing. She wasn’t worried about them questioning why she was her; the Tong paid well for the right to use the back of the mines as a small staging camp. But she had been away foe a while, without a word to anyone. She was worried about certain people seeing her before she was ready to be seen.
With little effort, Sujin made her way past the numerous orcs chipping away at the stone walls. The acrid odor of repeated metal on metal clashing hung heavy in the confined shaft and hurried her on. After several minutes of skulking behind dirty, sweaty orcs, she found herself leaving the main tunnel. A large cavern opened up before her; stories high and just as wide. A small lake formed in the rear of the cavern, with a stream connecting it to the nearby sea. Pallets of crates took up most of the empty space, with a few clusters of orcs and trolls adding more. The absence of many Tauren in the Tong never surprised her, but that there were next to no Forsaken members did. This seemed the type of job right up their alley. Although she was never really sure what the company line on the deadies was. Shrugging to herself, she walked toward the back of a massive orc hefting a large crate onto a stack. Many of these crates would be mixed in with the minerals and ore harvested from the veins of this mine, and distributed to their respective destinations by Tong handlers in various other cities. The more…illicit items would be sent by a small raft down the river to the sea, then on to Ratchet, where the goblins would take charge of shipping. It was a good setup, and made the Tong a good bit of money. As the hulking green beast in front of her set his crate atop another, she spoke.
“I need ta be seein’ Zolrin,” she said.
Startled by her voice, the orc jumped, nearly knocking the entire pallet over. Turning furiously, he aimed his furrowed brow at her, seeking to teach whoever had scared him a lesson on polite introductions. Until he noticed the three small, red diagonal slashes at the collar of her tabard which identified her as a Vanguard. Then he simply grunted at her, waving her off with a brusque “Ain’t been around.”
Grabbing the tip of his smock as he turned back to his work, she spun him around and pulled him close. Lowering her head, her tusks nearly touching his nose, she asked, “ Wat ju be meanin’, ‘e ain’t been aroun’? Where ‘e be?”
Snorting, he met her gaze head on. ‘Welps, we nevah did hire no weaklin’s,’ she thought. “Don’t know. He ain’t been around for weeks. Maybe longer, who knows? I just move boxes. Mattix has been running things here.”
Mattix she knew of. Lying, cheating, weasely little grub of a goblin. Everything they prize in a merchant. Without a word, she turned and headed out of the tunnels. The sun had begun to set, and as she exited back onto the Barrens, she turned toward it, toward the sea, toward Ratchet. She needed to get in touch with Tai. She wished she could get in touch with Zolrin. She felt like she had abandoned him, and wanted to offer an explanation. Not an apology, but the reasons she had left. First, though, a letter to Tai.
Sujin sat quietly, perched carefully on the rail of the bed’s headboard. Leaning down as far as possible, she hovered mere inches above the sleeping troll’s head. She knew this was the troll she hunted tonight, knew it by the tiger claw tabard folded neatly in a drawer across the room, a tabard that mark him as a member of the Tong. The same tabard she wore herself. She sat, poised over him, his hot breath tickling the skin of her neck, and looked hard. Harder than she had allowed herself to look at any of the Tigers she had killed throughout the past weeks. A collage of faces ran through her mind, melting together into an indeterminate amalgamation. But this one, this Biz’rin, a name she had never spoken, a name she knew only from a secret list that Zolrin once kept in a hidden compartment atop a tower in Orgrimmar, this face she wanted to remember. Someone had to be remembered. If these deaths changed nothing, if this became just meaningless, bloodthirsty murder, as she was often afraid it was, then she was lost. It had to mean more.
She gazed down at him, watching him sleep for a long time. His eyes darted beneath their lids; he was dreaming. She smiled, hoping he shared the same dreams as her, dreams of fishing, and mating, and life free from war and sorrow and death. Those were good dreams to die with. Good dreams to die for.
Ever so slowly, careful not to alter her balance and shift the bed, she dropped a hand to her side, curling her fingers around the hilt of a dagger. She drew it, but as she did the troll opened his eyes. He was a Tiger, after all, this was the world they lived in. Wouldn’t last very long if you can’t tell someone is about to kill you.
He reacted nearly instantly, making to roll off the bed. Nearly instantly ended up not being fast enough as Sujin plunged the dagger into his throat. She continued watching him, his life gurgling out around her blade, until the life faded from his eyes. Waiting a moment more, to be sure the heart had stopped beating and blood would not shoot from the artery in his throat, she removed her weapon, wiping it clean on his sheet. She reached out to him, running her hand softly across his face, closing his eyes. She hoped he still dreamed. She hoped that he was now forever on a sunny beach, surrounded by children, no more cares. She sighed as she exited his room, slipping into the darkness of the Undercity’s alleys. She doubted he would dream again. But she would, she would dream for him. And in dreaming for him, she dreamt for all of them. For he was now their face, the only face of so many dead Tigers.