Chapter 6 – Setting Up the Board

I hightailed it back to my shack near the Goblin district to grab some essentials. Captain Rojero Skarrlet…about halfway through my career as a warlock, I ran into a bind. I was down near Tanaris, before much of it became beachfront property, and running from some of the locals. They didn’t seem to have a sense of humor about things…

"Well boys, get your knives, time to start whittlin."

“Soo, Bilgewhizzle sent ya pokin’ about, did he? Well I think it’d be fair to send him a message with yer head not to trifle with us. We’ve let them be for now, but this – this is just provoking my temper to flare up. And when my temper flares, it’s not pretty.”, Andre said pacing slowly in the smoke filled cabin. Several pirates stood around Grimsparkle bound and gagged on a rum barrel. “Well boys, get your knives, time to start whittlin.”

“That’d be an awful waste of some valuable material…marketable material one might even say…dare I say – precious and particularly goldworthy?”, a gravely voice said from the gruesome crowd. Andre looked about grunting, “Who said that? Show yerself and be heard. You’re interrupting my leisure time activities.”

A well-armed goblin stepped forward, somewhat flamboyant in his scale mail armor and scarlet cloak, “Well then, that’d be me Captain Andre…that’d be me you’d want to be saying something to.” An evil grin peeled across Captain Skarrlet’s face, “I’m just saying, why waste the fellow when there’s money to be made? Andre, remember your 3 Arrh’s of Piracy: raiding, rapin, and rearmin, eh? They cost money and he can make that for us – can’t you my boy?”, he said gently patting the side of Grimsparkle’s face.

At that point what was I gonna say? I simply swallowed and nodded.

“Ahh”, Skarlett grunted, “y’see its a win-win all around. Andre let’s talk about this, but, not in front o’ the children.” and several of them walked off and talked about things I couldn’t make out.

I was just getting comfortable on that barrel when the pummel of a fist roused me from my beauty sleep. “Rise and shine dog, time to go for walkies”, a human pirate said unhinging some of my bonds. Two of Skarlett’s lieutenants stood nearby and watched me. The one goblin looked at the other with a darting glance, “Skewer him if he starts to say – anything! These warlock types, I don’t like ’em; it’s bad luck just to keep him around with all that trafficking with devils.” The other shot back, “As if you keep better company ?! I forgot “m’lady” that your precious reputation might be tarnished with the company the likes – pleazz, make sense.”, and prompty began a hoarse snicker with his companion.

We made our way topside; the tropical sun was glaring mercilessly on the deck of the ship floating in a desert of salt water; no shade to be found. The spray of the ocean woke me up as I came amidship to the mast where they tethered my chains. Skarlett was talking to two other lieutenants quietly when he saw me, “Ah, our guest’s arrived! Well then, we should definitely coach him on today’ festivities.”

We made our way topside; the tropical sun was glaring mercilessly on the deck of the ship

“Grimm…sparkle, that’s it! ‘Sparkle my boy you’re going to help ol’ Captain Skarlett get some of my possessions back. The good officials of the Steamwheedle Cartel felt it a due punishment to commandeer my property along the coast. Said property is now under the confines of yonder Auction House beneath the sands of Tanaris in the heart of Gadgetzan.”, he explained taking a sip from a strange flagon.

“You’re part in this rescue operation is to get the gates open using yer, y’know shadow puppets n’such while we get my stuff.”, he leaned in close enough I could smell a strange cologne of sweat and the heady fragrance of whatever he just drank, “Oh and lad, you’ll be keepin’ that puppet o yours under a tight leash, seein that two of my crack shots’ll be watching ya from afar. Ol’ Cap’n Skarlett knows a thing or two about traffickin’ with devils himself.” He laughed a bit and patted me on the cheek – I hated that.

“Now boys, there’s no need for senseless restraint and that sort. Anyone gets in your way y’just cut ’em down for chum be it man, woman, lad, or pet.”, Skarlett added, and with that they went about their preparations for the raid. In my head the gears were turning but the two guards assigned to me watched my every move. I could feel them nearby but could never get a look at other one – I knew he was close by.

The ‘puppet’ he was referring to was my Void Guardian, Imbra Zhuz, a huge spirit from the Shadow plane. As a warlock we learned early that to stay alive you had not only work with but control things of that sort. Skarlett was no dope when it came to casters. They had put me out of the sun just below deck alongside some other captives. I was able to make out that they were being used to do the raid’s heavy lifting. In that group, another goblin sat across from me and he’d been watchin me for a while. He was wearing some Stranglethorn silk – very nice stuff – although it had seen better days being with this lot. His blue, disheveled muttonchops framed his piercing and silent gaze.

Then, in the air between us, I could see something moving, real faint if you weren’t look at it. He was shadow writing; a trick warlocks learned from their earliest days using magic. You could write in the air as long as there was some shadow around and, with a little work, it was your own personal doodlespace. I could barely make out, “CAN YOU READ THIS?”

I could barely make out, "CAN YOU READ THIS?"

I looked back at him and focused “YEAH. WHATS YOUR NAME?” in the pillowy darkness between us. “RASPOOTIN”, a shadowy script twirled. As it puffed away, “GRIMM” formed back and he barely nodded. I tried looking inconspicuous waiting for him to write back and forth. “WILL KILL US ONCE WE IN”, he wrote as the wisps of shadow pulsed and faded, “ESCAPE ZF”. “ZF??”, I wrote, getting a bit fancy with my quotation marks. “ZUL FAR-” he tried to write before a deck hand burst in.

“Get ready you slugs, we’re making for shore.” He threw a salted fish at each of us and a hunk of bread like he was feeding a group of birds, “Enjoy your meal, you’ll need it.”

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