It's All Fun An' Games Until Someone Gets Dunked in the Canal...Edit
In the cobbled streets of Stormwind, the rapid-fire patter of a group of bare feet echoed through the narrow alleyways, punctuated by an occasional high-pitched wordless yell or whoop. The avenue by the canal was relatively calm until suddenly half a dozen children of many heights and sizes came bursting through.
The one in the lead was a particularly tall and gangly girl, her dark hair gathered into a flyaway braid, her ill-fitting clothes like those of the other children that could be at the very best be kindly described as "street urchins" were dirty and ragged. She swerved abruptly as she reached the edge of the canal, ducking as a rock nearly clipped her long, pointed ear. Her elbows and knees went akimbo, flailing as she tried to change her course and her center of gravity quickly and keep from toppling into the water.
"Hey, Elfy! Whassamatter? Ya can't use magic ta walk on water?" The boy in the lead leered, easily a full head shorter than her and yet clearly the leader of the lot of them. He balanced another rock in his hand, getting a feel for the weight of it and eyeing the distance between them.
"I AIN'T NO FRIPPIN' ELF!" The girl bellowed as she whirled to face them, her voice hoarse, gesturing with her entire body.
Her appearance, of course, instantly made this a lie. Faintly glowing eyes, pointy ears, a build that might have been called "willowy" on a creature with any kind of natural grace or poise, something the girl definitely seemed to lack. And yet she clearly wasn't entirely Elven either, with a broad, wide mouth that seemed to split her face, a vague coarseness to her features and large hands that suggested mixed parentage at best.
"My uncle said that if the Elves were helping with the war it'd've been over a long time ago, an' then my dad might still be alive!" Another boy shouted from the back of the group.
"You think you're too good for us humans, always prancin' about puttin' on airs!" A shaggy small boy off to one side sneered.
Now that the children in the lead had made their opinions known the lot of them broke out into jeers and catcalls and, for the less creative, vague whooping noises. The girl stood shaking with silent fury, her hands balled into tight fists, her face darkening--
A tall figure rounded the corner, the light glinting off the carefully polished armor of a Stormwind city guard. "Beat it, it's the Sword an' Boards!" The defacto leader of the child mob yelled and the lot of them dispersed like a trail of ants with a leaf dropped in the center of it, scattering in every direction. The unused rock fell and bounced against the cobblestones from the boy's hand.
The girl stayed where she was, watching the guard as he passed, fidgeting with the seam of her ragged pants that only fell to the middle of her calves. Even his eyes narrowed slightly as he saw her, everything she was in plain view and judged to be wanting.
Her eyes fell on the rock that the boy had dropped after the guard rounded the far corner. She turned, looking down into the water at her reflection dully. After just a moment she let go of the rock and let it fall into the canal, the ripples and splash of it distorting her image.
"I ain't no frippin' Elf..." she said more quietly, her voice edged with pain.
The sound of running bare feet echoed behind her again, and this time the girl was ready. She pulled a stubby, dull knife from her pocket. If they weren't gonna leave her alone, then she could at least let them know she wasn't an easy target--
Her eyes went wide and she relaxed a bit as she saw who it was, a dark-haired, slight boy, gasping for breath as he reached her, struggling to form words.
"Cy," the girl said firmly, putting her knife away. "Yer all inna state. Take a minute ta calm down, an' then tell me what it is."
"Yer...dad...at the Whistle...needs help..." Cyranno wheezed between gulping breaths.
A weariness and an understanding came to the girl's eyes, making her seem far older than her ten years. She nodded, patting Cyranno's shoulder on the way past him. "Thanks Cy...I'll take care of it." He nodded in return, still trying to compose himself, leaving her to what needed to be done now that the message was delivered.
"Yer BASTAGES, tossin' me out inna streets like some kinda DRUNK!" The clearly drunken man in the street raged from his quite dignified position of being sprawled on his ass, waving vaguely in the direction of the Pig and Whistle tavern.
The girl stood for a moment and regarded her father - small-time con, thief and perpetual drunk, his compact but wiry frame slumped against the cobbles, unable to even gather himself up enough to stand. She closed her eyes for a moment to gather herself in turn, a hot flush of embarrassment on her cheeks as she went to her father's side.
"Sorry Nick, nothing to be done for it. You've already got a tab the length of my arm, and if I serve you anymore right now it'll be the death of you anyway," Reese Langston rumbled regretfully but congenially, a man long used to dealing with drunks.
"Just you WAIT, yer gonna...oh. Hey sweetie..." Nick Bennerton calmed considerably as he caught sight of his daughter, blinking at her vaguely. "Just a spot of trouble here, no worries, I just gotta--"
"C'mon, dad, let's just get you home, huh?" The girl said quietly and hurriedly, slipping under his arm and tugging him to his feet, averting her eyes from the gathered passers-by spectating her father's humiliation.
A short time later she shouldered him off onto the narrow bed tucked against one side of the shabby space that they called home, her own cot occupying the opposite wall. He groaned, arching his back in discomfort as he settled against the threadbare mattress, and the girl sat on her own bed, watching him quietly in the darkened room.
A coughing fit racked the man's body, and with a sigh the girl went to kneel by his bedside. He sighed and patted her mussed hair, and she frowned plaintively.
"Dad...tell me about mom again," she said, biting her lower lip.
A slight smile crossed Nick's lips as he looked up at the ceiling, conjuring the images in his mind, his demeanor taking on a new clarity and shaking a bit of its drunken slur. "Oh, yer mom...she was somethin' else an' then half again," he said, his voice rising and falling in the patterns of an often-told tale. The girl watched him raptly, her wide eyes shining softly in the low light. "Lily, she wasn't just pretty, she was glowin' with beauty. It was hard ta even close my eyes at night on account a' how bright she was. An' all we ever wanted was ta have a kid what ta share all that love an' beauty with, but nothin' happened an' nothin' happened an' yer mom went ta the Cathedral ta pray every damn day an' still nothin' happened, until one day outta nowhere there ya were. An' some ladies get tired an' pale while they're expectin'? Not yer mom. She glowed even MORE. Brighter'n the sun..."
He looked over at his daughter fondly, but with a deep and lingering pain behind his eyes. "When ya were born, she called me to 'er an' said yer name was gonna be Seraphinn, because ya was a gift straight from the Light, the answer to 'er prayers."
Phinn, who would not abide being called Seraphinn, nodded, her voice small. "An' then she died?"
Nick nodded, his lips pressing into a thin line, frowning. "Yeah. Yeah...an' then she died."
He laid back with a sigh, slipping into unconsciousness soon afterwards, but Phinn stayed kneeling at his bedside after she rolled him slightly to make sure he wouldn't choke to death if he threw up in the night. Nick Bennerton was a lot of things, and almost none of them could be described in anything approaching a positive way. But he was her father, and no stupid glow to her eyes or point to her ears could say any differently.
Because, like the woman who died bringing Phinn into the world, Nick Bennerton was as human as the day was long.
They'd be damned if that made a godsdamned bit of difference to either of them, though.
What They Say About My Mom, It's That She Weren't Real Bright...Edit
It was early in the morning, just before dawn and the sky over Lordaeron was finally turning from a nondescript gray to hues of pink and blue. Below, in the overcrowded narrow alleyways, a woman was arranging the goods in the large basket set out in front of her, fruits mostly, a few vegetables, some mushrooms. She hadn't been able to find much - there simply was not enough to go around. Farmers were holding on to their crops to feed themselves, or family who had come from Stormwind when the Orcs had taken it.
She was tall and slight, and her thick black hair was tied up in a colorful scarf that matched her somewhat ragged skirts in the hopes that they would set her apart from the other merchants trying to hawk their wares in the marketplace.
Then, when everything was set out and prepared, she did as she did now even as she did in Stormwind, even before the invasion and the journey north. Her hands clasped, she cast her eyes to the sky, towards the dawn.
"Light...bless this bounty that it might sell well, bless Nick in his work today that he will be safe, and as always, please Light, bless us that we might have a child and bring them up in your warmth."
Lilyanne bowed her head over her hands for a moment, and then picked up the large basket, setting it on her hip. Part of her understood that the Light rarely granted specific blessings, but really, she didn't ask a lot, and she'd been asking this for so very long. It was true that now was perhaps not the best time, while what passed for a home for them was a quickly erected tarp in an alleyway like so many other people who didn't have specific family to turn to here in the city, but if not now then when? She had been asking the same thing for years, and the habit was deeply ingrained.
She glanced around for her husband with a slight frown, noting that his blankets were undisturbed. She didn't exactly approve of his work, but he brought in the lion's share of their still quite meager income. With a sigh and quick, extra prayer for his well-being on top of the ones she had already given, she took the largest and shiniest apple and set it out for him and then hurried off to the market. If she didn't arrive before the other merchants she would get pushed to the edges or the back of the throng, and her wares would go to waste.
She turned east, between two large buildings, and was momentarily blinded by the newly-dawned sun in her eyes. There was something blocking the way, though...
A figure stood a ways down the alley, wreathed in light, facing towards her with perfect poise and perfect calm. She blinked, sheilding her eyes, noting that from what she could see the person was dressed in finery and it wouldn't be her place to ask them to make way for her. The way they were standing in the sun like this, they almost seemed to be made of light...
The figure strode towards her purposefully and caught up her hand before she could move out of the way in deference, and gestured.
Her basket fell to the ground, fruit spilling and rolling over the cobbled stones.
Some weeks later, Lily excitedly told her husband the news that they'd been aching to hear for so long, that she was with child. The news from the front of the war was good, Stormwind could be liberated soon and they might be able to return to their home. Truly, the Light was shining down upon them.
Nick wouldn't understand, he always teased her for her devout ways, and really it didn't matter that he know anyway. Her exact recollection of that day was hazy, but she knew the truth of it anyway, that she had been visited by an Avatar of the Light, and that she had been blessed, and that blessing had finally allowed her and her husband to create life. She clasped his hands tightly, offering a silent prayer of thanks.
Smoke swirled thick in the low light of the room tucked into an inconspicuous corner of the city, glittering shapes moving through it as girls drifted from table to table where men sat gathered in loose circles, or lounged on couches spectating on the action with mugs or pipes or small adorned metal boxes filled with choice substances and glittering powders. Thick plush curtains hung, separating the already small space into smaller alcoves and nooks, perfect for conducting business of a more private nature. And that was exactly what it was for, a place for doing business of almost any kind imaginable, limited only by the weight of the bags the guests brought in with them.
No sign marked this place, except for the ornate image of a fountain carved into the door. It was known as The Court.
It had been especially busy lately, with the crowd of refugees from the cities to the south, pushed up by otherworldly invaders. Some of them had the means to have been discreetly directed here as opposed to trying to scrape a fix off the streets, tossing dice in narrow alleys with ragged gangs of unwashed men and negotiating with copper coins for the attentions of a bleary-eyed girl who was just trying to feed herself. Nobody found themselves here by accident.
One such patron stroked his chin thoughtfully, pondering the other men at the table with a neutral expression. He narrowed his glowing blue eyes briefly, and then at length said, "Five thousand." A slender blonde girl hovered at his elbow, and she passed him a long pipe that he took a slow, dignified drag from, letting the smoke curl up one side of his face. He had been a regular if infrequent visitor even before the Orcish invasion, when the call of his profession had brought him into town.
Nobody here went by their names. They called him the Magister. The girls he invariably selected at the end of the night reported that he had them call him something else, but that, like everything else that happened here, was his own business.
Most of the other men tossed their cards down at this, but the man directly across from him, a rough, squat Goblin gentleman with a cigar clenched in his teeth. "All right," he said with a nod. "I call." He spread his hand of cards on the table, and there was an appreciative murmur from the surrounding watchers.
A slight smirk played across the lips of the Magister, and he too spread his cards on the table, hardly moving a muscle except for this spare motion. Gasps went up around them, and the Goblin pounded his fist in frustration on the tabletop, leaving his considerably large-sized bag of gold behind as he got up and stormed away.
The Magister rose, grinning and nodding to his new good friends, for anyone with a considerable amount of money in a place like this had a lot of good friends. He tugged down the sleeves of his blue, embroidered robes sharply, and slipped his arm around the waist of the girl at his side, murmuring in her ear. She nodded, but glanced to one side as something caught her attention from within the shadows behind the patrons. She nodded again, and went with him.
"I ain't sayin' yer wrong, I'm just askin' if yer sure," a man said from those shadows. He wouldn't have ever made it through the door if he had indeed come through the front door, with his shabby clothes and his rough Common. He hadn't so much fallen on hard times as stumbled into them sideways, but if nothing else he had contacts that brought him here and kept him working even while displaced from his hometown.
"Quite," the Boss said, and you didn't disagree with the Boss. His network ran a lot farther and deeper than just this one place and just this one city, and the Magister was not at all unknown to him. "We do not tolerate this sort of thing at the Court. Make sure you make that understood to him, Bennerton."
Nick Bennerton nodded, a gesture that was nearly a half-bow. "Will do, guv, will do."
The Magister had the blonde in the short glittery dress he'd retreated to a private room with pressed against a wall, grinning at her. He took a lock of her hair between his gloved fingers and twirled it in a spiral pattern, looking her over closely. "Do you have family, girl?" He murmured to her, quietly.
She opened her dark-painted mouth to reply, but before she could her eyes shifted over his shoulder and then she slipped away quickly, moving to the door. The men standing there, blocking it, parted to make way for her, and the one at the fore, a skinny, rough man with a cigar nodded to her. "Thanks Katy, good job. Go on an' let the Boss know yer done." The girl moved past them with a grateful nod, disappearing in a flash of gleaming bangles.
The Magister glared at them, his eyes flashing. "What is this?"
"Well, that's the thing there," Nick said with a supplicating grin, gesturing. "Is that the Boss runs a clean house. We don't let our gals get roughed up, which ain't yer problem, an' we don't let junkies flip out an' scare the other patrons, which ya also don't do..."
The other, larger men closed in behind him again, blocking the doorway. The Magister's eyes moved from one blunt, scarred face to the other, narrowing. "I will not stand here and let you make accusations as to the nature of my dealings here--"
Nick continued on, unabated. "An' we don't let frippy magic-types come in here an' put glamors an' cantrips on our cards an' cheat established patrons outta their hard-earned cash. We ain't country yokels out here, Magister, this is Lordaeron, the capital city, an' yer dealin' with the Boss..."
The Elven man gestured, blue power starting to swirl around his hands, but it sputtered out as Nick stepped forward quickly and with surprising agility, catching him across the chin with a swift, hard blow. The men behind him moved in closer, cutting off other routes of escape.
"See now, just like that. I apologize in advance, mister," Nick said with a slight, regretful tilt of his head, taking a short drag off his cigar before he rolled up his sleeves. "But this is just business."
The Elven man whose fine robes were now marked with blood and torn in a place or two was tossed out into the dirty, narrow alley behind The Court, and the door was shut firmly behind him. Rage welled up in him as he staggered a few paces, his head still swimming with the Dust he'd taken and whatever he'd smoked and drank that had been pressed into his hands and the beating, trying to catch his breath.
How dare they. How dare they. Didn't they know who he was? His tongue gingerly explored the inside of his mouth, locating all of his teeth, but he tasted blood from numerous cuts. He would show them, he thought, the fabric on his glove creaking as he clenched his hand into a fist, even though he knew the thought of being able to even set foot in this place in particular again was a distant possibility.
This was not the first time something like this had happened, but it would be the last, he vowed it. His luck would turn, he wouldn't need to use the enchantments anymore, he would revel in the victory of a big win, big enough to surmount the debts he'd incurred. Big enough to dwarf the funds brought into the family by his wife's family's cash as opposed to his family's unprofitable holdings. Big enough to do as he pleased and not be beholden to her bitter, pinched face. They'd see. He would show them.
He would show someone...right now he just wanted to make someone, anyone, hurt as badly as he did, to rid himself of his pain and humiliation by passing it on to another person...
He rounded a corner, turning away from the harsh glare of the dawning sun, and saw his way blocked by a slight, shabby figure. He drew himself up with a wince, gathering his dignity and his noble manner, knowing she would make way for him out of sheer instinct at a glance. And yet...something about her threadbare, short-eared disgusting simplicity reminded him of the man who'd just lead the beating on him. She was nobody, and he was somebody, and he would show these Humans in their so-called great city who truly held the power.
He moved closer to the woman who was staring at him dazedly, with all the understanding of a calf about to be slaughtered. He gestured and called down a spell to magnify the light around him and obscure his features...she was nobody, but one could never be too careful as he had learned rather painfully just a short time ago, and the large basket of fruit she was carrying fell to the ground. And he covered her unprotesting mouth, pressing her roughly to the wall of the alleyway.
He would show them that it was he who was in control.
Nick Bennerton slumped to the pile of threadbare blankets in the lean-to he and his wife were staying in, holding his frostbitten arm. Fuckin' mages. Lily of course had already gone out for the morning, but he picked up the apple she'd left him and regarded it with a small smile before taking a bite. Always thinkin' of him. He didn't deserve a gal half so good as she was. Stretching out, it wasn't long before he fell asleep after a long, hard night's work, passing the time until he could have his wife in his arms again.