Koltira shifted his weight from one foot to the other, peering out over the long queue of people staring back at him with hopeful expressions on their faces. They were all dressed in a mish-mash of clashing armour.
He sighed. Earlier when Darion had grabbed him and asked if he could handle a critical mission, he’d thought… well. Forgive him for thinking Darion was finally sending him out to do battle. It had been weeks since Koltira had been in a good fight and he could feel the blood lust and sadistic urges rising again.
But no, the ‘urgent mission’ hadn’t been to go and kill some monstrosity or other that was threatening people. Rather it was to distract the mass of unwashed, uncouth adventurers who had recently descended upon the Eastern Plaguelands like locust, whilst Darion hid the valuables and made sure the truly important tasks were handled by competent people. Not money grabbing ‘adventurers’ who were always so easily distracted by anything shiny.
And why had they appeared now? He had no clue, but suspected some other region had had enough of the bastards and sent them here to free themselves of the pests.
Koltira wished he could do the same. Surely the Badlands needed all the help it could get? There were… well… vicious animals everywhere? Possibly an issue with dragon control. He was sure he’d heard a traveller mention dragons while talking about the Badlands… No, that wouldn’t do.
With another sigh and a glance at the sky Koltira pursed his lips.
And it wasn’t like Darion had even told Koltira what to do with these clowns. Just distract them and keep them out of the way of important missions...
Easy to say, harder to do.
Why had Darion given this to Koltira? Had he pissed him off that badly lately?
Hmmm. Something out of the way that didn’t hurt anyone.
“You, come here.” Koltira snapped, pointing at a warrior who was wearing a garish combination of green and purple plate and chain mail armour. And, oh light, why was he wearing cloth boots? Orange ones at that.
“I need you to go to Terrorweb Tunnel and collect 20 intact beetle wings.” Hopefully the ham-fisted man would keep squashing them, keeping him out of Koltira’s hair for a long time.
The warrior nodded happily, and then smirked. “What do I get?”
God, these adventurers. Always after something. But the weird thing was you could pay them almost anything. What did they have in vast supply that no one would miss? He’d heard that small pets had become the latest craze amongst these stupid mercenaries. “Ugh, we have a really rare maggot that needs a home.”
The warrior grinned wickedly. “Done.” And with that he started to march off in the wrong direction.
Koltira stared after him in fascination.
Eventually the warrior paused and slunk sheepishly back while holding out a map.
“Give it here, I’ll mark it on. And it’s that way.” Pointing while rolling his eyes slightly Koltira turned the map around and scribbled quickly on it in common. “And you were holding the map upside down, not that it truly matters.”
“Or will even help you” muttered Koltira as he watched the warrior set off again, this time in the correct direction. Darion owed him big for this.
“Give me your map. Go here.” Koltira said as he marked a random area on the map. “Collect 30 yellow flowers. Next!”
But instead of leaving and letting the next person come forward the female human just stared at him. “Why do you want 30 flowers?”
Koltira paused. This was the first person all day who had even questioned these stupid quests.
“First of all, how do they keep finding me?! I understood it whilst I was keeping to the same place. But now I’m in the Acherus. I should be safe up here! Those living gryphons don’t like travelling up here for most people!”
“Oh, the paladins at Lights Hope keep sending them up. They’re asking for you, you see. And no one wants them around down there so they’re happy to send them up here on the specially trained gryphons.”
“I don’t want them around up here! And we’ve got to keep them out of Darion’s sight.”
“Find my special ghoul. You’ll know it when you see it up close, it has purple eyes. Answers to Clancy. I last saw it in the Plaguewood. Very friendly, just walk up to him.”
Looking determined the adventurer walked off. A nearby death knight looked over at Koltira in confusion.
“You don’t have a ghoul.”
“I know, it’s fantastic.”
“They’re going to get killed, walking up to random ghouls.”
“We can but hope.”
Due to the sheer number of adventurers that kept appearing and the consequent junk they brought back, seeming so pleased with themselves that Koltira kept imagining them as dogs presenting their owner with slime coated sticks from a river, Koltira had stationed himself outside an unused room.
The room had been used for the storage of the bodies for potential death knights, kept cool to prevent rot from developing before the necromancers could get round to attempting to raise them into undeath. Under the Lich King there had been a steady stream of people moving in and out. Placing in fresh bodies, necromancers shuffling around, hopeful new death knight initiates and as well as the ghouls freshly created from the failed attempts leaving the room. Now of course, the room had no use. Why not fill it with the useless junk that had begun to pile around him?
After each adventurer gave him whatever item he had asked for, he would give them some of the gold he had swiped out of Darion’s room and a new quest made up on the fly, and as soon as the idiot turned away Koltira was quick to open the door and throw whatever had been handed to him inside. This system was working well so far. The room was so underused that he could probably leave everything in there and it wouldn’t be discovered for months. Maybe even years.
Unknown to Koltira, the former storage room morgue was in used by someone. Velkan, a fellow death knight, had rescued an injured bat some months previous and placed it in the room. After the pet incident from half a year ago Darion had put his foot down on his death knights bringing animals onto the Acherus, but Velkan had become so attached to the bat that he couldn’t bear the thought of releasing it back to the wild.
He took daily trips to visit his beloved pet and so far no one had noticed.
Therefore he was miffed when he turned around the corner and spotted Koltira standing just to the side of the door, talking to some dwarf. An alive dwarf at that. Velkan hadn’t thought the living were allowed on the Acherus without special permission. And Koltira seemed to be even more irritated than normal, his long ears were pinned back and he was waving his arms around in short sharp movements.
This presented a problem. How to get around the elf and dwarf into the room without drawing Koltira’s attention to his bat? He needed to get in there to feed poor Batty.
Koltira was in the process of arguing with a dwarf rogue about the quantity of squirrel tails he had originally requested when out of the corner of his eye he spotted movement and glanced over to see Velkan. What was he doing here? Wasn’t he supposed to be watching the ghouls to ensure they didn’t try to eat the laundry again?
With a determined set to his face Velkan moved up towards Koltira and then started to reach for the door handle. No! Panicked Koltira shot out an arm and hissed slightly at the human. “What do you want?”
Looking shocked and more than a little panicked himself Velkan pushed back Koltira arm and tried for the door handle again. “I just need to pop in here for a quick moment, nothing to worry about.”
The dwarf sighed loudly, trying to get Koltira’s attention back again while the elf just turned away, narrowing his eyes at Velkan. “What do you need that’s in there? It’s not been in use for months.”
“Oh, you know. I think one of the ghouls left a chew toy in there. One of their favourite chew toys, I really need to get it back.”
“No, I don’t think-“
“Look lad, do you want these tails or not?” interrupted the dwarf, impatient for his reward and to get away from the undead.
Koltira turned back towards the rogue, startled as the bloody squirrel tails were shoved into his hands and Velkan took this opportunity to yank open the door and dart inside the room.
Staring down in dismay as blood from the severed tails trailed down his hands and along his armour, Koltira heard a quick gasp of dismay from within the room, just before a loud crashing sound and wail was heard.
“What was that?!” exclaimed the dwarf, hands rushing to his daggers and craning his neck to see past Koltira.
Quickly Koltira kicked his leg out behind him, catching the door and slamming it shut. “Nothing to worry about.” He smiled wolfishly at the rogue. “Here’s your gold, thank you for the tails. If you need something else to do, collect some slime from the Infectis Incher water snails. You’ll find them in the water at the Infectis Scar. Don’t kill them, slime from dead snails is of a lesser quality. Bring about 30 vials worth of the slime.” He gestured down the corridor and after a long pause the dwarf left, darting glances over his shoulder towards Koltira and the door with a suspicious look in his eye.
Once he was out of sight, Koltira turned and placed his forehead against the cool stone of the wall and closed his eyes. No more sounds could be heard from inside the room. He really should fish Velkan out, but then he’d have to do something about the mess.
Shaking his head slightly Koltira made a decision. If Velkan didn’t reappear by the time Darion freed Koltira from these morons, he would come back and rescue Velkan. And bribe him with something to keep quiet about the whole thing.
Quietly Koltira slipped down the corridor, trying to think where else he could put all these useless items. Maybe the ghouls would like to play with the squirrel tails?
“This is an urgent message! It must be given straight to Thassarian, who is in Stormwind. Give it to no one else! Do you understand? Time is essential!”
Koltira handed the draenei hunter a sealed letter, which she tucked away into one of the pouches on her belt and started to activate her hearthstone. Koltira had definitely hit a creativity wall, struggling to think of tasks to assign the people still coming to him. Out of desperation he had written a number of letters, most of which simply read “HELP”.
Once the hunter and her pet fox had vanished, Siouxie the Banshee looked over from where she was cleaning her axe to raise an eyebrow at him. “That’s the 23rd one you’ve sent off with one of those letters”
“I know. It’s a pity they all hearth to Stormwind, but travelling back will hopefully take them a long time. Or maybe they’ll hand it over and stay there. I said Thassarian would pay them for the delivery.” Koltira sighed and quietly admitted “And maybe he will come back home sooner this way.”
Siouxie just shook her head.
It was that warrior again. Why did he keep coming back? Most of the others had move on after a few stupid retrieval quests. But no, not this guy. And for some reason he’d replaced his purple chest plate armour with some leather monstrosity which mainly consisted of a few straps. It looked cold and left nothing to the imagination. Koltira shuddered.
Okay, drastic times called for drastic measures. He’d been hoping not to have to do this, but even so had been preparing for this eventuality. Reaching into one of his carry pouches Koltira withdrew a crumpled piece of paper. It contained a list of the most random items he could think of.
“Okay. I can safely say that you have proven yourself trustworthy. I wasn’t going to ask someone to do this, but it’s become an urgent issue. And you need to keep it quiet. Very important no one knows what you are trying to do. Can I trust you?”
Eagerly the warrior nodded and leaned forward as Koltira motioned him closer.
Dropping his voice down to a whisper, Koltira leaned in too, trying to breath as little as possible while still allowing himself to speak. The human stank horribly. “It’s come to our attention that a number of items have been possessed by malevolent forces and planted amongst key members of our allies by the Cult of the Damned in hopes of corrupting them. I’ve compiled a list of the items that our spies have identified, and the locations we think said items currently are. I need you to remove these items with as little attention as possible. We do not want the cultists to know we are on to them.”
Koltira stared straight into the warriors’ eyes for a long moment. It seemed to unnerve the human, who swallowed quickly, eyes darting around frantically before he nodded. “You can trust me, I will not fail you.”
Koltira solemnly handed him the list. “Remember, no one must find out what you are doing.”
“Don’t worry; they won’t have a clue what I’m doing.” With that serious declaration the warrior strode off with a proud gait, a clear purpose leading his movements.
“You don’t have a clue either.” mumbled Koltira. This was going to get him in serious trouble, he knew. But it was worth it. It served Darion right for sticking him with these imbeciles.
“Koltira!” The shout echoed down the hallway causing Koltira to pause. Darion sounded pissed. He’d been expecting this ever since he’d sent that stupid human warrior off on that ludicrous scavenger hunt. It had actually taken longer than he’d thought it would before someone found out and confronted him. Maybe that warrior wasn’t so useless after all. Koltira wondered how many of the items he had managed to collect before being caught.
“Koltiraaaaa!” The bellow came again, sounding much closer. Koltira considered the situation quickly. Should he stay here or should he duck out and avoid this for a bit longer? What the hell. He had nothing else to do.
Around the bend came Darion, looking impressively red in the face for one of the undead, clashing with his hair. Trailing behind him strode Tirion who was looking on with a bemused expression on his face. Koltira noted absentmindedly that he was missing his left boot. Ah.
“Koltira.” Darion repeated through clenched teeth.
Koltira tilted his head and responded calmly. “Darion.”
This only seemed to enrage Darion more, who had to visibly pull himself together by closing his eyes and taking a deep breath. Only after holding it in for a 5 second count and releasing it slowly did Darion reopen his eyes, his shoulders looking less tense and his face regaining its more normal pale colour.
During this short pause, Koltira glanced over to Tirion, who was now leaning against the wall with his arms folded loosely, bootless foot resting on top of his lone footwear. Koltira couldn’t blame him for not wanting to place his bare foot on the floor longer than it needed to be, cleaning was something no one cared to do in the Acherus, unless forced.
“What is this I hear about a warrior terrorising members of the Argent Crusade in your name?” Darion had started to tap his foot. “Not only was he being an inconvenience by trying to distract members from their duties and making numerous attempts to get into areas out of limits, but it turns out that he was taking items.”
“Really?” Koltira widened his eyes at Darion in an attempt to seem quizzical. Which he was, wondering what items the mad human had managed to take. “Why was he doing that and what did he take?”
“Don’t act like you don’t know.” Darion was wearing his disapproving look which he always did when trying to press upon his knights at how serious a situation was. Unfortunately Koltira had always found that it made the human look more constipated than anything else and constantly found it a struggle to keep a straight face and look serious in return. Judging from the snot that issued from Tirion’s direction, the paladin had similar problems.
“The man was detained for questioning, and although he refused to explain his actions, this was found on him.” A crumpled piece of paper was quickly thrust towards Koltira, who took it and smoothed it out; looking down at the list he had given the warrior earlier. “That is your hand writing is it not? And oddly, it’s a list of items. Containing some of the ones which seemed to have gone missing.”
Finally looking away from Koltira, Darion turned and gestured towards Tirion’s uncovered foot. “The man only had one of the items from the list in his possession, but considering what else is missing, he must be hiding them somewhere.”
Catching Koltira’s eyes again Darion asked slowly, “Can you explain?”
“I did give him that list, yes.” Koltira looked over to Tirion sheepishly, but kept his head high and then smirked slightly. “I didn’t actually think he’d manage to get any of the items from it though. Maybe it shows that security needs to be tighter.”
Darion face started to gain colour again but Tirion just pushed away from the wall with a laugh. “That may be so, but if you could retrieve the items and return them? These are my favourite boots, the only ones that actually fit perfectly.”
“Of course Highlord.”
“Then I’ll leave this matter to you to sort out.” With a wink at Koltira, Tirion placed a hand upon Darions shoulder before walking away.
Darion continued to stare at Koltira.
“Look, you told me to keep all those adventurers occupied. So I did. For days.” Giving Darion a flat unimpressed look in return Koltira continued “I honestly thought you would have relieved me of that duty much sooner. I was running low on tasks to give them.”
“So you decided to give them a scavenger hunt? Of items from our allies? What made that seem like such a great idea?”
“Only that one warrior. I managed to get the rest of them to leave. And admit it, you actually forgot about them didn’t you. Why else would you leave me with them for so long with no actual instructions?”
Shaking his head, Darion motioned Koltira to walk with him as he set off for his office.
“I maintain that this wouldn’t have happened if you had actually given me something to do with the adventurers. Pushing me at them and saying ‘distract them’ wasn’t all that helpful.”
“I was expecting you to send them on simple gather and kill missions! There are plenty of undead and harmful creatures around!”
“Well, you didn’t tell me that did you? You have to actually say these things out loud, I’m not a-“
The shout and the clucking sound of someone trying to move fast in ill fitted plate armour caused Darion and Koltira to turn just as Thassarian appeared running through the door of Darion’s office, only to skid to a stop as he reached them. He grabbed Koltira quickly, pulling him to his chest in a crushing hug.
“I got your letters, tell me what’s wrong!”
Koltira pushed his hands hard against Thassarian in frustration, managing to break the hug only for Thassarian to grasp his shoulders to hold him at arm’s length and start a visual scan of Koltira’s body from head to toe.
Koltira looked over at Darion in confusion, who was slowly shaking his head at the scene before him while Thassarian started to run his hands around Koltira body, attempting to feel for any sign of injury on the elf. What was Thassarian on about? Had he gone mad? Suddenly the memory of all those adventurers he’d sent to Stormwind came back to Koltira.
“Oh! Those letters. Thassar-ugh…“
Thassarian had placed his hands on both sides of Koltira face, squishing the elf resulting in his lips puckering into a demented ‘duck face’ look, preventing Koltira from talking, and moved his head from side to side, still checking.
“Darion, what is going on?”
Darion threw his arms up in frustration.
“What is going on? I live and work with insane people, that’s what’s going on.”
Darion then stalked away, muttering angrily to himself about how he wasn’t even getting paid for dealing with this shit while waving his arms around.
Frowning and watching Darion go, Thassarian paused with his hands still holding Koltira face. Turning back to look the elf in the eye he quirked his eyebrows in a questioning look.
Trying to sigh, Koltira reached his hands up to Thassarian’s, removing them from his cheeks. Koltira smiles slightly at the human, giving the hands a gentle squeeze.
“But all your letters! You were asking for help!”
Pulling the human towards him in a quick motion, Koltira seized his mouth in a kiss. Thassarian made a startled noise against Koltira’s mouth before deepening the kiss, weaving his hands into Koltira hair and pushed him towards the wall.
Koltira stumbled back only give a little jump and wrap his legs around Thassarians hips. The unexpectedness of the movement along with the unforeseen weight of Koltira and his armour caused Thassarian momentum to wobble and off-balance, resulting in an abrupt trip forward, narrowly avoiding Darion’s desk on the way down.
Hitting the floor hard, Koltira threw his head back and gasped in shock as the full impact of the ground and the bulk of Thassarian landing on top forced the breath out of him. Quickly, Thassarian pushed his weight up onto his elbows, peering down in concern.
With a grin and a breathless laugh, Koltira pulled him back down to continue the kiss.
Relaxing against the wall behind the desk, Thassarian felt content to slowly run his hands through the tangled hair of his lover whose head was resting heavily against his chest, listening incredulously to the story Koltira was weaving about his last few days.
“Did no one even question why you wanted these things?”
“Very few. Some of them didn’t even wait for me to finish talking, as soon as I said what I was after, they just went.” Chuckling and shaking his head, Koltira plucked at the sleeve of Thassarian’s shirt, pulling at a loose thread before shifting to look Thassarian in the eye. “I think that says something about the mentality of these adventurers. If nothing else, it shows that we really need to keep an eye on their activities. Can’t trust their morals to stop them from doing something questionable. I bet I could get them to murder (person) without having to give a good explanation.”
Thassarian paused to stare at Koltira until the elf looked away.
“Not that I would of course.” Peering back up at Thassarian he frowned. “But maybe then I could find that book. I know he took it!”
His chest rumbling with a quiet chuckle, Thassarian grasped one of Koltira hands, lifting it up for a quick kiss, before scanning the room with a rueful smile on his face. “We had better clear and get somewhere more out of the way.”
“I know a place; no one goes there anymore...” Koltira trailed off, eyes widening in sudden realisation before he shot up to his feet and started for the door. “Shit, Velkan!”
The sudden movement startled Thassarian into jumping up as well, trying to quickly scoop up some the random pieces of armour they had shed whilst keeping up with Koltira as he swiftly strode out the door. “What? What about him?”
Standing before the doors, Koltira started doubting that this excursion was even needed. Surely Velkan wasn’t still inside? He must have gotten out by now. He and Thassarian should have gone somewhere private and continued catching up. But just in case…
Koltira opened the door, Thassarian following him closely inside, curiously glancing around in disbelief at the junk piles.
Silence. No movement anywhere in the room.
Feeling relieved Koltira was about to suggest they go elsewhere when a faint sound emitted from behind the largest junk pile. Curious, he moved around to find the sounds source.
There on the floor was Velkan, arms stretched out with two bats hanging from them. Velkan looked up at Koltira with a manic grin on his face.
“Batty had babies!”
“Who?” Thassarian questioned looking around.
“Obviously a bat.” Koltira answered in a deadpan voice. “At least I hope so.”
Velkan shot a look up at the ceiling and Koltira and Thassarian couldn’t help but follow his gaze upwards.
Hanging down was one of the largest bats Koltira had ever seen. And he’d seen some large ones in his travels.
“I can’t believe Batty had babies. I hadn’t even realised Batty was a she.” Babbled Velkan, lowly moving his arms to gesture his disbelief at his fellow death knights while trying not to disturb the baby bats hanging from them. “What am I going to call them? What if Darion finds out? He said no more pets!”
Koltira continued to stare at Velkan for a while as the human continued to quietly ramble to himself, before shaking his head and gabbing Thassarian’s arm and leaving the room.
He was not getting involved in that. They had much more important things to do. Koltira was sure he could think up a few very important tasks in dire need by the time they had reached his sleeping cell.