The Last Gnome Out Edit
"Alright evacuees! Listen up! We've got trogg sightings at the Train Depot so you'll need to stay close together and keep moving."
The stern gnome in charge glanced briefly at the white-haired girl wandering through the evacuation center. Her wide eyes tried to take in the chaos of the hall. Families with all their possessions strapped to their backs huddled together. Armed gnomes in heavy plate ran fighting drills. A small group of gnomes dressed in dark coveralls whispered to each other at the back of the room. She approached the Master Sergeant and tapped him lightly on the shoulder. "Excuse me, sir" she said. Her voice sounded small and scared. "You better hurry miss," he interrupted, "this group is leaving."
"No, sir," she answered. "I mean, that is, I can't leave yet. My Aunts, they're... very old. They can't make it alone and I was wondering if we could get help."
"If you can get them here, we'll get them out" the Master Sergeant said, turning from the girl to sign some papers. "Better hurry though. Last transport leaves tomorrow." She nodded and hurried for home, hoping that she wasn't too late.
"Aunts Bea! I'm back! Hello?" Her voice echoed strangely through the once busy house. "She's gone, dear" came a weak response. She set her bag down and followed the voice to the back bedroom.
"When did she leave?"
Her last remaining aunt lay in bed, looking greyer than when she had left. "This morning. Just after you went out. I don't think we'll be seeing her again."
"Don't say that!" the girl yelled. "Aunt Bea the Summoner is the strongest gnome I know. She'll be back!"
"No, dear, she won't. I won't be with you much longer either." A fit of coughing shook the sickly gnome's small frame. "I want you to take what little gold is left and leave Gnomeregan." She held up a withered hand to stop the argument before it could start. "Now listen to your old aunt for once and don't argue with me. The city is lost and your family with it. You need to go make a life for yourself on the surface."
The girl said nothing and set about fixing the dinner that neither of them ate. Just before midnight, her aunt's battle with the leprosy ended. Lying deathly still in her bed, willing herself to be invisible, the girl heard the growling and scratching sounds as her last aunt found her way outside and into the Gnomeregan streets.
Master Sergeant Hammerspark recognized the white-haired girl and nodded to her as she approached the last group of evacuees. "Are you ready to go miss? Where are your Aunts?"
"They... won't be joining me." she said, her gaze firmly on the floor.
He put a hand on her shoulder and said "I'm sorry about that. Don't worry though. You'll be safe soon."
"Sir, I want to stay" she said as though she was still trying to convince herself that it was true. "I want to help take Gnomeregan back."
She turned her ice-blue gaze on him and he saw the determination behind her eyes. After a long moment and nodded towards the group of gnomes in the shadows. "You'd do better to head for Ironforge, but if you're fool enough to stay, go talk to that group over there. Tell them Hammerspark sent you."
She nodded and picked up her meager possessions. The whispering gnomes fell silent and watched her approach. She cleared her throat a couple of times and then said "Hammerspark sent me" hoping that it would be enough of an explanation.
The shadow gnomes grinned and the girl caught a couple of rolling eyes. Their doubts fueled her spirit and she straightened herself defiantly. "Well, lets see if we can't find someone to show you around," said one of the eye rollers. He caught the eye of a young gnome just entering the hall. "Hey Hugh! Come here and meet your new partner."
He approached and looked the girl over. She stood at attention, unwilling to seem weak to her new companions. One corner of his mouth turned upward, forming a lopsided grin. "So you got a name?" he asked. "My family called me Lu" she answered. "Well then, Lu, I'm Hugo. Welcome to the Resistance."
The Final Exam Edit
"But I don't see why we have to keep it secret," Albin grumbled, picking at a stone in the tread of his boot. "Most everyone has left and I would think that the few that remain would be happy to see us coming."
The group paused for a rest in the remains of an old access tunnel. It was the third day on patrol for the two newest members of the Resistance and the lack of action made them bored and chatty.
"Keep your voice down!" Hugo whispered, scowling. "You really want people to know that you killed their father, even if he had turned leaper? If anyone were to find out who we are, when this is all over, there could be some serious repercussions."
"Sssh!" hissed Lon. "Did you hear that?" The squeaking and gurgling of Troggs could plainly be heard echoing off the walls of the ruined tunnel. Talula and Albin exchanged worried glances. "Relax guys," said Hugo, "I'll go take a look and see how many and how far away they are." He flattened himself out against the wall and crept around the corner.
"Ok, recruits. Deep breaths." Lon said, coating his blade with a ugly green liquid. "You've been training for this for a month. Get behind them if you can. Just worry about shallow slices. Let the poison do the work. Remember, they won't give you a fair chance, so don't give them one. This ain't an arena match."
The sound of steel on claws and the bestial cry of the troggs echoed down the corridor. "Incoming!" Hugos voice echoed over the din of battle. Lon turned to the two green fighters. "Ambush tactics! Against the wall!" Albin and the older fighter flattened themselves out against the wall. Lu saw the long shadows of three troggs coming towards her, and froze. Her heart pounded in her ears so loudly, that she didn't hear Lon calling her name and telling her to hide. The troggs were almost in sight when Lu inhaled sharply, and vanished.
Standing still as stone, she watched as the hairy monsters came closer. Then she was in the middle of them. Then she was behind them. The largest of the troggs sniffed at the air, sensing fresh meat nearby. Lon and Albin leapt from their hiding place, swords flashing in the near dark. Lu felt someone brush by her and then Hugo was behind the big one, his blade sliding deftly between trogg ribs. She stayed frozen to the ground, watching the battle in front of her as if it was some dream. Lon's angry voice jarred her back to reality. "Spannerbang! Where the fel are you?" She hurried forward, dagger drawn, and cut shallow slices into the back of the one attacking Albin. The trogg turned to face his new attacker and caught a dagger in the eye. The falling trogg wrenched Lu's dagger from her hand as the beasts blood splattered across her face. The gnome girl blinked in shock as the other two troggs fell next to the first.
Albin's cheer of victory echoed down the hall. Lon and Hugo both shushed him through wide grins. "Hugh, when did you teach her that trick?" Lon asked, catching his breath.
"What trick?" Hugo asked back.
"That one where you disappear into thin air."
Hugo turned and looked at his partner, who was still blinking in shock at the pile of trogg bodies at her feet. "You can vanish?" he asked, pulling her dagger from the trogg's skull. "I... uh..." she stammered, unable to form proper words. Hugo slid her dagger back into its scabbard and smiled at her. "Lu, deep breathes. Who taught you to vanish?"
"No one," she sputtered at last. "My mother I maybe. I don't know. I've never done it before. Not like that." He ruffled her hair and said "Well, when we get back, lets see if we can't teach you how to do it on purpose."
The group pulled the bodies out of sight and the realization of her first victory set in. She grinned as they continued down the tunnel. "Hey Lu?" Hugo said quietly, watching her face, "Good job."
The patrol had been dispatched in haste. Leper gnomes had been spotted massing near the Clean Zone. Lu's hands tingled with excitement. She had proven herself competent when it came to dealing with troggs and she saw this as an opportunity to test her new skills against a more dangerous foe.
Lon brought the group up short and signaled his instructions silently. Stay in pairs. Keep to the shadows. Work quick. He motioned each team in a direction and poisoned blades were silently pulled from their sheaths.
The infected gnomes had gathered near a wall and seemed to be doing something with the wiring. One by one, the fighters that were able vanished from sight while others did their best to advance undetected. The first shout of surprise echoed loudly across the vaulted room and then all was the chaos of battle.
Hugo and Lu reappeared behind their targets, sharpened daggers finding their marks easily. The two spun and stood, backs together, as the lepers scattered and regrouped. Lu blocked a blow from a length of pipe and sliced deeply into her attacker. The leper lunged at her again and she twisted out of the way and dragged her blade across the neck of her foe. It fell in a heap at her feet and she turned to face her next victim.
Suddenly, she found herself falling as hands roughly pushed her to the ground. She looked up to see Hugo counter a blow she never saw coming. The battle swirled away from her and in the lull, she spotted a lone figure dart away down an access tunnel. Its going for reinforcements she thought and scrambled to her feet to give chase.
The tunnel was poorly lit and Lu tracked her prey by the sound of the leper's harsh breathing. Tunnel's collapsed. Its mine now. The leper looked about for an escape route as Lu carefully made her way forward. She raised her dagger for the killing blow when it turned and placed its back against the wall. Lu took one look at the face and dropped her dagger in shock.
"What... how did you get here?" the rogue asked, her invisibility fading away.
"You!" the leper hissed. "I know you. You're a Spannerbang. The last one. Talula." The leper growled and spit at her. "Come to kill me have you?"
"No," Lu said, dropping her guard. "No. We can get you help. Come on. Come with me. It'll be alright." The young gnome reached forward with one hand. The leper shuffled nervously, its hands behind its back.
"It's a trick! Get away! Worthless! Deceitful! Liar!"
The leper growled and pulled a cleaver from behind its back. It swung at Lu and the rogue rolled backward and switched her remaining dagger to her main hand.
"Please, don't. I don't want to hurt you," Lu said.
"Should have thought of that before you became one of Them." The leper gave a shriek and charged. Lu held her ground and spun out of the way, bringing her blade to rest squarely in the back of her attacker. The leper staggered and turned, its eyes wide with shock. Lu watched as it sank to its knees, gasping. The poison on the blade worked with deadly efficiency and the leper fell forward and lay still.
The shock of it settled on her then and her legs gave way beneath her. Several minutes passed before she heard feet running down the tunnel toward her.
"Damn it, Spannerbang!" Hugo raged. "You're supposed to be watching my back. What the fel do you think you're doing going off on your own like that? Did you just finish your training yesterday?" His anger faded when he saw the look in Lu's eyes. "What is it? Are you hurt?" He leaned forward to check his partner for injury. "No Hugh. I'm fine. This gnome..."
Hugo looked down at the dead leper at his feet and pulled the blade out of it's back. "You killed it Lu. You did good."
The gnome shook her head and looked up at him. "No, Hugh. I didn't. That was my Aunt Beatrice."
Dinner was over and spirits were high from the success of the mission. Hugo hadn't seen Lu since they got back from the patrol. He grew concerned when she didn't show up for the pai gow game and decided to make a sweep of the obvious places before getting too worried. He found her curled up on the floor of the barracks. The look on her face told him all he needed to know.
"You gotta know. That wasn't your aunt today." Hugo set a hand on Lu's shoulder.
"She remembered me. She called me by name. Tell me that she wasn't still my Aunt."
"It's just a trick. They use what they can to get us in close and then they strike. You saw her come after you with that knife. Do you think she would have hesitated?"
"Maybe," Lu answered with a shrug. She knew he was right.
"Hey," he said, pulling her to her feet. "You are helping to reclaim Gnomeregan. When everyone comes back, our sacrifices will be honored. You can't tell me that your family wouldn't be proud of that. Not the shadows of your family we saw today, mind you. The gnomes that raised you? They would be very proud."
Lu sniffed and let a grinning Hugo lead her away, his arm around her shoulders.
"Come on. I think it's time we introduced you to a little thing the Dwarves call... Ale."
Battle of the Clean RoomEdit
Lu woke to alarms and the sound of battle. Crawling from her bunk, she strapped on her daggers as she ran. Across the main floor of the Clean Room, lepers and their spider mechs engaged a wall of half dressed and partially armed gnomes. She slid down the banister toward Albin who was barefoot and wearing only pants. He fought to hold his ground against two grey-skinned leper gnomes. Lu raced to his side and sliced into one. Albin spun and smashed the other in the face with a chair leg. Lu tossed him her second blade and said “Have you seen Hugh?” Albin shook his head then lunged at a leper, blocking the strike that would have taken off Lu’s head.
Ducking away from Albin’s fight, she raced across the room in search of her partner. She felt as though the battle around her moved at half speed as she dodged among the fighting bodies. She heard a familiar voice cry out in pain and spotted Kari on the floor with lepers standing over her. Lu charged the group, her poisoned blade flashing in the low light of the room.
Reaching down she helped Kari to her feet. “Come on girl! We’ve got to move!”
The ground shook behind them and Lu turned to see a spider mech speeding in their direction. “Run Kari! Go!” Lu dragged her comrade as fast as she could, but was no match for long legged mech. A popping noise echoed loudly and Lu panicked. The engineer knew that sound well.
“Incoming!” Lu yelled and pulled Kari behind a overturned table as a gout of flame shot from the mech. The table caught fire but saved the gnomes from a similar fate. Lu dragged Kari away from the burning pile of furnature and returned to the chaos.
Near the entrance to the Clean Room, Lu noticed a mech seemed to be stalled. As she moved toward the vehicle, she saw Hugo fighting with the driver. She also saw two more lepers climbing the spidery legs weapons drawn.
Lu broke into a sprint and crossed the large room in moments. She leapt at the first enemy, grabbing his leg and pulling him to the ground. The leper rolled to his feet and swung at her with a bloody pick. Lu pushed the blow away and countered with her own deadly strike.
The second gnome was already out of jumping range, and Lu quickly sheathed her blade to climb after the leper. She yelled a warning to Hugo as her target grabbed ahold of a pipe on the main body of the mech and scampered to the top. She heard her partner yelp in surprise, and the sounds of blades clashing. A gurgling cry was followed by the shape of a gnome falling to the floor. Lu looked down and breathed a sigh of relief to see the green skin of a leper lying on the ground. A second leper body fell to the floor and she heard Hugo yell “Hang on Lu!”
The spider mech rumbled to life and Lu cringed as she listened to cogs grind angrily against each other.
“Second gear Hugo! Go to second! You’ll strip the...” Her order was cut off as the mech lurched wildly forward. He’s gonna kill us. It was all she could do to hang on, as the legs of the spider brushed dangerously close together, threatening to crush her between solid pieces of steel.
As the mech lumbered unevenly out of the Clean Room, Lu used all her strength to pull herself to the top of the machine. Hugo sat at the controls pushing buttons and looking confused.
“Move!” she yelled, tugging at her partner to get him out of the way. She slid into the drivers seat and turned the machine back toward the fight. “Hugh! Sit behind me and warm up the flame throwers.”
“The yellow switch! Flip it up and pull the trigger!”
Fire blasted the wall in front of them as Hugh figured out the controls. Lu grinned wickedly and pushed the spider-mech at top speed toward the fray.
Lon’s back was to the wall as his blades blocked the relentless assault. He had been a warrior for years and a pile of enemy bodies slowly grew at his feet. The lepers stepped back, giving him a moment to catch his breath. Lon stole a glance at the rest of the battle and saw a mechanical spider move into position to crush him. He tried not to cringe as the flamethrower popped to life. He shut his eyes and waited for the searing pain but all he felt was the heat dissipate above his head. He looked up to see a second mech had grappled his would-be killer and was forcing it onto it’s side. At the controls, he spotted Lu and Hugo. The legs of the grappled mech wobbled as it lost its balance and the floor cracked as the heavy machine tipped over. Lon made a break for safety as Hugo let fly a ribbon of flame at the lepers on the ground.
Word spread fast that the gnomes had taken a mech and the moral boost quickly turned the tide of the battle. With their own machines being used against them, the lepers broke and ran. The resistance pursued, cutting down what they could catch.
Hugo and Lu looked down from their perch as a cheer rose in victory. Lu turned to her partner and said with a grin “We won! Good shooting Hugh!”
Hugo nodded, his face somber. “Yeah, but what I want to know is, how did they get past the sentries?”