A Day At The Races, Part VII. WOW Fan-Fiction
“Ancestors below! I need a coffee. Let me see if I’ve got this right. Nazz Steamboil is actually Nitz Steamwheedle, son of Trade Prince Ratso Steamwheedle, the richest person on Azeroth and head of the Steamwheedle cartel, who just so happens to be rip-roaring pissed off at sonny boy here for raiding the family horde before he pulled his vanishing act. With me so far?”
Nods all around. Miglen had found Nitz trying to kill Plucky with poison. Apparently Nitz didn’t realize it’s best not to chuck the bottle at someone and ask him to drink it. They sat in opposite cells, along with Stig, Kravel, and Miglen. It gave me enough room in the jailhouse to pace a few steps back and forth while I tried to make sense of their disjointed confessions.
“Sizzle Brassbolt, who was tired of being seen as the baby brother and wanted to strike out on his own, figured out who Nazz was when he overheard a couple gossiping derrick workers. He then decided to blackmail Nitz so he could start a new life someplace where the name Brassbolt isn’t synonymous with Team Gnome. If Nitz didn’t pay an ungodly huge ransom, Sizzle would send word to Papa Steamwheedle with junior’s whereabouts. And to make sure junior didn’t try anything underhanded—because Sizzle was such an outstanding model citizen, the hypocrite—he kept a readied messenger chicken with him at all times.”
I stopped for breath, mind reeling. Stig had taken a place on Plucky’s cot next to Miglen. They passed a bowl of popcorn between them, hanging on my every move.
“Sizzle, having survived a catastrophic explosion last year that catapulted him into the ruins of the old Dunemaul dig site, knew it contained a trove of emeralds. But they were guarded by a colony of silithids that had taken up residence. Seeing no choice, he risked his life to retrieve crateful after crateful, and commissioned Kravel Koalbeard”—Kravel acknowledged me with a casual tilt of his pipe from his spot beside Nitz—“to secretly contain them in the most secure location he could think of: cold storage.”
I realized why Brivelthwerp would’ve had to pay so much for storing his ice cream. No room. I shoved the thought aside, focusing on making the rest of the pieces fit.
“Plucky was chasing a stray chicken last night that got into the warehouse, where he witnessed the exchange. Sizzle figured there was no harm done since he would be gone the next day. Kravel didn’t care because, for once, he was guilty of no wrongdoing.” Kravel hacked out a lungful of smoke and looked around, as if the rest of the room would be as shocked by slander as he. They weren’t. He shrugged and went back to his pipe. “Only Nitz stood to lose anything with Plucky knowing who he really was. He went after Plucky, and Plucky polymorphed himself to hide with the rest of Tirth’s flock, which is why Nitz was seen stealing chickens last night.”
Nitz was shivering on his cot, huddled, hugging himself. He still managed to spit out a few white feathers on cue.
“Sizzle was intent on escaping at the one time his brothers weren’t constantly coddling him: when racing. He probably intended to meet with the inbound caravan from Freewind Post, gems and messenger chicken insurance in hand, as he wouldn’t have lasted long in the desert by himself. He didn’t know the caravan was overdue. But it didn’t matter. The crates cooked off because the new sub-zero heat sink had been removed in favor of a more conventional and less effective model, and Sizzle… well, sizzled.”
I stopped pacing. “That about wrap it up?”
It was hard not to give a quick bow when everyone but Nitz broke into applause, though I did accept some popcorn for my trouble. Hadn’t eaten since breakfast, and it was almost past six.
Miglen raised a hand.
“You forgot the part about the richest person on Azeroth, you know, the head of empires both commercial and criminal—with an entire flying armada at his beck and call, I might add—being royally pissed off and gunning for Nitz.”
“No, I didn’t,” I said, took a well-deserved seat, and propped my feet on my scuffed desk. “That’s Nitz’s problem. I’m only bothered by the fact that the one perpetrator is also our victim. No one to hand over to the MRIOC now, and that’ll mean double the paperwork headache.”
Nitz lost all semblance of self-control and let out a long howl. He buried his face in the cot, racked with anguished spasms. A damp spot appeared, expanding rapidly. Tears, I was hoping. Kravel edged away on the off chance it wasn’t.
I don’t like people. They’re always guilty of something. If a man sat quietly in his cellar from dawn to dusk, being no harm to no one, he would still be guilty of loitering. That means my opinion of people isn’t too high. They’re always trouble. Still, I’m not cruel by nature. And there was no point torturing Nitz, thief that he was, when a solution presented itself so readily.
“Look, stop crying,” I said. “You can sell off those emeralds to the caravan when it gets here; pay dad damages that way. It’s mostly money he cares about, right?”
Kravel leaned forward, sputtering glowing embers of tobacco all over the floor. He broke out coughing, great heaping lumps of baby cough that cracked off from the mother cough; a cough with bones in it. Nitz, as distraught as he was, started hammering Kravel’s back when the dwarf’s face turned purple.
“Fat chance!” Kravel finally wheezed out. “That fire gel cost a mint. The emeralds might be enough to cover my expenses.”
“Nitz found those fairly,” I said, and motioned for Stig, who was already rising, to calm himself. “Someone who’s got the stones to sneak past an entire silithid colony deserves to keep ‘em. Or we can look into how ‘accidental’ mixing up the crates was.”
Kravel stewed in it, but kept his peace.
“You think they might be enough?” Nitz said, watery red eyes glinting with hope (and tears). “Had a pawnbroker with the caravan look one over last month. Said he’d be back with an estimate today, but not to get my hopes up.”
“A pawnbroker?” I said. “Hah! The apple couldn’t fall further from the tree unless you fired it from a cannon! Next time you see this pawnbroker, make sure to bring me along. I apprenticed to a jeweler before I left Ironforge. Too much fiddly work, but my eye’s decent.”
Kravel grunted, pulled something from a pocket, and threw it to me. He wouldn’t meet my gaze.
“Just ‘accidentally’ fell in your pocket, did it?”
Whatever snide reply left Kravel went unheard. I stared at the glowing green bauble in my hand and knew what an “oh, shit” moment felt like. Not nearly as funny when it happens to you. “Nitz. Nitz… how many of these do you have?”
“Eleven crates full. Thousands!”
“We-we need to put them back.”
Miglen’s eyes widened even more behind his glasses. “What are you—?”
“Stig,” I said, ignoring him. “Go with Kravel back to his warehouse, fetch the crates, and meet me—”
“—back here. We need to bring them back to the Dunemaul dig site, and fast. Miglen, Plucky and Nitz are free to go. Best get somewhere safe—”
“Race Master!” Miglen shouted.
“What?” I shrieked back.
“What the hell is wrong?”
“This!” I said, shoving the bauble under his nose. “This, this, this! Can’t you see it through those glasses?”
“I see it. What of it?”
“It’s a silithid egg, you four-eyed cretin! Unless we put each and every one back where Nitz found them, we’re all in serious trouble.”
“Why?” Stig said.
Miglen snapped his fingers, catching on. “Pheromones! They’ll follow the scent to get the eggs back!”
“And they will not be happy,” I said. “We can only hope we’re not—”
“Race Master Konkrider!” A familiar bovine voice said from behind.
Trackmaster Zherin filled the doorway, panting, foam collecting on the ring through his nose. He was covered in windblown sand, his kodo slumped outside.
“—too late,” I finished.
“I found the Freewind Post caravan,” Zherin said. “They were being torn to ribbons! Nothing I could do but come warn you.”
“Silithids?” I said, thinking of the egg Nitz sent off that unwittingly doomed them all.
“How’d you know?”
“Lucky guess… Where are they?”
“Twenty miles north of here,” he said.
I checked my pocket-chron. “Hmmm. They’ll be here before dark. But the derrick is between us and them. No point in endangering the whole town when they’ll follow the eggs.”
“What are you thinking, Race Master?” Miglen said.
“That I hope mechanical chickens are faster than the living kind.”
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