The bells of The Maiden's Fancy bellowed through the decks of the ship as it came to a full stop at the docks of Booty Bay. The last of the few passengers aboard grabbed their belongings and shuffled to the pier. There were a few scattered merchants, adventurers and downright madmen among the group, all with their own agenda to implement in the popular seaside town. Three in particular were there for a "true" purpose. Two humans and an orc, clad in somewhat faded, yet still eye-catching, purple robes exited the ship with large packs of supplies. Immediately upon setting foot on the wooden docks of the town, they gave each other a quick nod and darted to the first major establishment they could find.
Back on the boat, the ship's final passenger was making his way off. A short goblin, shorter than the norm, muttered unintelligibly to himself as his flat feet loudly slapped the wood as he tromped to town. Unlike the business-minded goblins of the bay, this new arrival wore finely crafted, charcoal robes with red-orange fringe around the neck and cuffs. A maroon, satin bag hung around his shoulder, ever so carefully and neatly tied off by golden laces. His belt matched the orange shade of his robes, but still hung loosely from his slouched position throughout the sea voyage. Immediately upon noticing this, the goblin froze, stopped muttering for a moment, quickly fixed this imperfection in a silent fuss, and continued both on his way and his indecipherable mumbling. Clearly, he was not a commoner to these parts, and certainly not some other merchant simply passing through.
"Get outta' here!" A bruiser yelled, "The lot of ya'! I'm sick of seeing your faces scaring off the customers!"
The strangely clad goblin looked up to see the three former passengers being chased out of town. They were carrying large wooden signs and shouting, "The end is coming! Who's side will you stand on judgment day?"
"Scat!" The bruiser yelled again, with a violent whack of his mace to one man's back. He fell to the ground, while the other two quickly ran away, destroying property, dousing the pier in paint and spouting more talk of the apocalypse. The struck one still shouted from the ground, "Our master will not show mercy to those who do not believe!"
Two more bruisers jumped in and grabbed the man by the arms. At first he struggled, but one more smack from the sharp mace of a Booty Bay guard knocked him out cold. The other two still ran wild through the town, vandalizing the shops and homes with buckets of paint as they continued shouting "The end is near!"
"Get them out of here!" The first bruiser commanded. "I'm sick of this apocalypse nonsense
it's bad for business! The Baron will have our hides if we don't stop them ASAP!"
As the other guards nodded and chased after the vandals, the robed goblin approached the bruiser, unable to contain his curiosity and asked, "What was that all about?"
The goblin guard turned to see who was talking to him. Giving him a quick look up and down, the bruiser said, "It's those damn Twilight's Hammer again. They've even started coming here to Booty Bay to spread their propaganda."
"Propaganda?" The robed goblin asked, "For what?"
"The cataclysm," the bruiser mocked, "Those damn fools are convinced the world's coming to an end. Haven't you heard?"
"Ah, yes, now I remember. I've just
never actually seen them."
"Never seen them? Son, where have you been?"
The bruiser raised an eyebrow suspiciously.
Without breaking eye contact with the taller goblin, the robed goblin clutched his satin sack nervously, "Bilgewater Port, to be exact."
"Hmm," the bruiser muttered, examining the shorter goblin up and down again. "Interesting. From your robes I knew you were a
type of goblin. Not from around here and whatnot."
"Right." The goblin said dismissively, "Could you direct me to Baron Revilgaz? I've come with a message."
"Those robes you've got on," the bruiser continued, completely ignoring his question, "they're not exactly standard goblin attire. Where'd you get them?"
"What's that got to do with anything?" The shorter goblin snapped.
"Hey bud, I got crazies coming and going through here like a bad case of the hiccups." The bruiser's eyes redirected towards the now apprehended Twilight's Hammer cultists being dragged out of the city before finishing his statement. "I gotta' check out everybody that comes through my town looking like
Clearly insulted, the robed goblin wrinkled his face and said, "These robes are a combination work of Undermine silk, runecloth and the richest imported frostweave from Northrend! Those wretched cultist rags aren't fit for me to blow my nose on! How much do you make? I bet you've never smelt clothing this nice. To compare my masterpiece of a robe to that filth goes to show your own lack of taste good sir! Now, you've wasted my time, gotten me infuriated, and are impeding me on my mission to
"I'm going to have to see some ID pal." The bruiser said, angrily interrupting yet again, "What's your name?"
"Bowie!" He shouted, "Tenant to the wealthy and powerful Silvertongue family of Bilgewater Port! Now, I've come here with a message from Trade Prince Maldy and you are
"Silvertongue? Maldy?!" The guard shouted, "Why didn't you say so?"
"Damn straight," Bowie thought. The Silvertongue name carried a fair bit of weight among goblins. They weren't the biggest goblin family, nor the richest, but they are the only goblin family with money to also be known for their kindness, prodigality and risky ventures: all qualities that goblins don't necessarily hold in high regard. Too often it's been publically thought their good nature has lead to their downfalls, let alone their dangerous business adventures. The head of the family was the extremely elderly Baron Fizwitz Silvertongue, one of the builders of Bilgewater Port years and years ago. He had many children in his prime, but all of them took on the same characteristics of the Silvertongue family; risk big win big, nothing ventured nothing gained, and danger seemed to be the middle name of every child. Two were lost in an attempt to establish a more direct trade route by cutting closer and closer to the Maelstorm, shaving days off the trip. Time was money, after all. A third was lost trying to expand goblin foothold in the barrens, only to find the financial gain didn't exactly outweigh being skinned by Quilboar for trying to build a town on their holy ground. One set sail from Kezan claiming he could find a faster sailing route to Northrend by going south, and was never seen again. Three other children all lost their lives in schooling through their combination studies of engineering and arcane magic at The Centre for Research Into Fire and Explosive Studies at the local Academy (the same Centre and Academy from which Bowie had graduated Suma Cum Laude). Thankfully, the good Baron did have two children still alive; his son Pompwhig Silvertongue, whom had gotten an apprenticeship under Trade Prince Maldy, and his eldest daughter, his proudest accomplishment and the apple of his eye, Mida Silvertongue.
A shrewd and skilled, yet level-headed (unlike most of her siblings) businesswoman, Mida works as a ship mechanic and engineer for the vessels that do business for her father's many ventures. At the same time, her father taught her everything he knew about merchant life, as well as received formal education, in being a great businessman. She was upbeat, approachable, friendly and even protective of those close to her, yet intimidating, witty and merciless in her business affairs. Such a demeanor was perfectly captured by her lanky physic, oil-stained, well-worn face, yet extremely professional attire and a snarky grin that could make the nastiest goblin merchant sweat polls. Most noticeable was her height. Mida towered over every goblin in the port city of Bilgewater, and some believe her to be the tallest goblin in the world. Of course, thus is the gossip of a trader's town. Mida's respect for her father's business skill was limitless, even if his "nice guy" approach to ethics often left her puzzled. She loved her father and she loved Bowie like a brother, even if she displayed it in bizarre, downright explosive ways. Mida loved all goblins, or "her people" as she would jokingly refer to them, given her half-joking ambitions of ruling the world. Well, Mida Silvertongue loved almost all goblins.
"Baron Revilgaz is at the far end of the port," The bruiser continued, "through the tavern, and on the topmost balcony overlooking the piers."
Throwing the entirety of his short stature into a chest-thrust, Bowie clasped his bag tighter and stepped past the guard. Just as he passed, Bowie felt the guard's claw-like hand clasp his slender arm and stop him one last time.
"Give my regards to Baron Silvertongue." The guard said, "and that fine daughter of his."
Bowie nodded, "I'll make a note of that. The Silvertongues send their thanks."
"And as for that Trade Prince," the guard started. His grip around Bowie's arm tightened as he gave Bowie a harsh thump on the back of his head. Bowie was shaken and hissed at the guard as he continued, "Give him that for me!"
The bruiser let go of Bowie at last and somewhat angrily walked away. Bowie, rubbing his bald, aching head, flicked his middle finger and thumb together in the guard's direction. Like pieces of flint, each flick sent small sparks into the air. On the third flick, a very weak, small blast of fire magic flew from his fingers into the back pocket of the guard. As smoke rose from the goblin's pants, Bowie stood straight, pivoted, and returned on his journey to Baron Revilgaz.
Bowie was a man of great restraint, to the point even of psychological suppression, in most situations. Receiving a whack to the back of the head would have been enough for a less controlled goblin to torch the attacker like a wicker man. At worst, Bowie knew his spell would make the guard's pants catch fire. A small and fair punishment, in his mind. Why? Because the whack was not for him, but for Maldy Trade Prince of the Bilgewater Cartel.
Trade Prince Maldy. The name had meaning behind it among goblins, and was the one goblin Mida Silvertongue didn't care to love. It was one thing to be shrewd, or even cruel, in business affairs, but Maldy's ethics often came to point where even many goblins deplored him. Of course, such standards have also made him one of the most praised of Trade Princes. It all depends on what end of goblin society one lived. Maldy's parents were both part of the construction of Bilgewater port, alongside Baron Silvertongue. It was from them Maldy inherited his ethical standards. Once the town was built, surely, the wealthiest goblin part of the foundation of Bilgewater would be appointed the new Trade Prince of this newest port and associating cartel. As a sign of their "friendship," Maldy's father had built glorious mansions for all the wealthiest goblins, Baron Silvertongue included, that were part of the construction physically or financially of the town. They were all along the outskirts of the future town, overlooking the beautiful crag on the southeast and southwest parts of the city's boarders, and towering over what would one day become the streets, alleyways and piers of the busiest port on Kezan. What Maldy's father didn't tell them was that they were so far on the outskirts, and that they had been built before the legal establishment of the town of Bilgewater Port, that they were still technically within the jurisdiction of the neighboring towns, cartels, and respective Trade Princes. Thus, they would not fall under Bilgewater Port's taxation code. Maldy's father then convinced the bordering towns' Princes to increase taxing the upper class of their towns, which they were happy to do since Maldy Sr. had delivered so many more extremely wealthy taxpayers under their rule. It was a risky venture that cost their family a lot of money to build such houses while continue funding construction of the town, as well as bribe surrounding towns to agree to such a plan and, on top of it all, remain the wealthiest goblin on the city construction plan. It was all part of the Maldys' plan to ensure their status as Trade Prince of the Bilgewater Cartel and rulers of Bilgewater Port.
When the town neared completion, the taxation scheme had paid off. Nearly all the goblins Maldy Sr. had targeted had been taxed into lower class status, some even into poverty, and were immediately asked to leave the project once their funding of it ran dry. In the end, when time to pick a Trade Prince neared, all that remained was the Maldy family, and the patient Baron Silvertongue. While most goblins fought extensive legal battles over the taxation of their property, this only drove them faster into debt. Through simple negotiations and generous offerings from his own pocket, Baron Silvertongue maintained a great deal of his wealth and trade deals across the world. He did not enter into legal battles, he simply accepted life as fate dealt it to him, only negotiating his way out of the truly impossible of situations. It was this cool, calm demeanor that Mida grew up with, and the man she came to love and respect so deeply. Most thought him a fool, but it had paid off in the long run. Because of the cost of such an elaborate scheme, Baron Silvertongue held greater wealth than the Maldys by a meager three-hundred gold.
Mr. and Mrs. Maldy fought day and night, blaming each other for their stupid plan, straining their minds for a way out of it. Concluding that it was all his fault for messing up the calculations, Mrs. Maldy took action on her own. She delivered news of what her husband had done all of his own accord, untruthfully of course, to Undermine and the goblin royalty. The bordering Trade Princes were shown leniency, as they collected and paid taxes legitimately, meaning Maldy's scheme had made goblin government all the richer. Someone, however, had to be the scapegoat to show that there was no dealing behind Undermine's back, especially right under their noses. Maldy's father was found guilty, and sentenced to death. Plus, for her good deed in reporting such a "brilliant travesty of greed," Mrs. Maldy was handsomely rewarded by being appointed Trade Prince of the Bilgewater Cartel. It was the first time in goblin history that the wealthiest financer of a new cartel was not made its Trade Prince, and the goblin community chagrined at such a notion (not at the fact that the new Trade Prince sold out her extortionist husband for personal gain, of course).
Time went on, and the goblins began to accept the newest Trade Prince. Baron Silvertongue, in his infinite patients and calm nature, even agreed with the ruling and accepted the position as a Baron of Bilgewater Port. Years passed, the good Baron had a family, and the already older Trade Prince eventually withered in looks and in health. Not even a year ago, she died, wrinkled and worn from stress of being the ruler of Bilgewater Port and perhaps from a guilty conscious as well. Immediately, her son, the excessively short (but not as short as Bowie), sniveling little whiner now known by the world as Trade Prince Maldy had taken over, and was quickly working on running his reputation, and cartel, into the ground.
The bitter history of the Silvertongues, Maldys and Bilgewater oozed around in Bowie's brain as he walked to the tavern. When he reached it, Bowie stopped, looked up, and groaned. Before him was the building he was looking for as the broken sign indicated, but the entrances and exterior of the building had been smashed by a small landslide, preventing any entrance.
"What's this?" Bowie shouted, "What's going on here?"
"Another avalanche." A goblin passerby said, "smashed up the tavern real well. Happened a few hours ago, I reckon."
"You must be joking." Bowie said, "Is the Baron in there?"
The goblin shrugged, "They're getting a team down here to try and clear this place out, but until then, no one's getting in or out of that place."
Bowie placed his palm over his face and muttered in frustration. He looked up to see a balcony sticking out of the wrecked tavern hanging over the pier. Surely, that balcony was where the Baron was, as the guard had mentioned. Seeing no way in, or up, Bowie scratched his head for a second and tapped his long fingernails on his sack. He suddenly grinned a happy grin as he took five steps back from the building. Channeling the arcane powers around him, Bowie lit his hands aflame and threw two large, yet unusually contained fireballs into the sky above the balcony. Upon soaring just high enough that those above could see, Bowie clapped his hands and the fireballs exploded exactly like fireworks over Booty Bay.
"Hey!" A deep voice shouted from the balcony. From over the edge, an enormous tauren, clad in pirate hat and swashbuckler fashioned clothes, peered over the edge down to the ground where Bowie stood.
"Excuse me!" Bowie shouted, "Hi."
"What's this?" The tauren shouted, "Who are you? Did you just do that?"
"My name is Bowie!" He shouted up, "I'm looking for Baron Revilgaz."
The tauren nodded, but then shrugged, "I'm Fleet Master Seahorn. He's normally here, but
"Damn it." Bowie muttered.
"He's not here." The Fleet Master said. "And he got sealed out by this last earthquake."
"Well then where is he?" Bowie emphatically cried.
"Janeiro's Point." The Fleet Master called, "He was out doing business when the earthquake happened, and he wanted to go check on his statue to make sure it wasn't damaged. He took a small crew of workers with him."
Bowie sighed in frustration, "I've a very important message from Bilgewater Port for the Baron. Is there a way I can get out to the Point?"
Fleet Master Seahorn said nothing, but pointed out to the docks just near Bowie. Barely tied to a post there was a tiny, rickety row-boat with two oars on the side. Bowie turned to the boat, blinked and gapped his mouth open wide. He turned back to the Fleet Master and shouted, "You can't be serious!"
By time Bowie looked back up, though, the Fleet Master was gone.
"Useless pirates." Bowie muttered to himself, carefully stepping into the row boat. He delicately lifted the bottom of his glorious robes to make sure they didn't get wet, but it did little good seeing as how the boat was partially swamped. He clasped his claw-like hands around the oars and began paddling.
"Stupid Blackwater Raiders," He continued, "Ignorant Steamwheel Cartel, don't know how to run a proper town or business. Associate with bloody pirates. Make me get my robes wet, row out by myself to some island."
Some time later, an amount of time in which Bowie didn't even bother keeping track of he was so frustrated and offended, he finally rowed ashore at Janerio's Point. Before he even stepped on the land, he heard a raspy, old, sea-fairing voice barking from the foot of the statue, "Polish that dome better boys! That last eruption from Blackrock Spire spit ash all the way down here!"
"But, sir?" One of the workers quivered, "It's
stone sir. It doesn't shine."
"Keep your trap shut!" The Baron barked, "Just get it clean before another earthquake hits and you fall to the shark's dinner."
Bowie nervously shook his robes as dry as possible, fearing looking improper before the Baron, and double-checked for his satchel. With it firmly in hand, he stepped up the steep hill of the tiny island with his head held high as he approached Baron Revilgaz.
"Baron Revilgaz, I presume?" Bowie said diplomatically.
The Baron turned to the new goblin, "Yes?"
"My name is Bowie sir. I've come from Bilgewater Port, Kezan, looking for you."
"Have you now?" The Baron asked, "All the way out from Kezan you say?"
"Yes." Bowie said. He did not elaborate further because he found his attention drawn to the workers atop the monument. They were busy washing and polishing the stone covered in black soot. Immediately Bowie's mind wandered and flooded with questions. Why is there soot on this monument? What volcano could it have come from? Could it have really been all the way from Blackrock Spire? If so, does that mean Blackrock Spire is showing signs of an eruption? Geological studies show that the area around Undermine was becoming more active, so what about Mount Kajaro? Could it be active now as well? How did the wind carry the soot all the way out here? Or was the eruption just that large?
Baron Revilgaz traced Bowie's eyes up to the top of the monument and monitored his workers. Crossing his arms, he said, "It's hard to believe the winds be strong enough to carry that ash and soot all the way out here."
Bowie turned back to the Baron, blinking again. It must be true then, that it is coming form Blackrock Spire.
"Activity in Blackrock," The Baron continued, "earthquakes increasing in frequency, landslides toppling down in the hills of Stranglethorn, ripping winds carrying debris half-way across a continent, and the animals are all acting strange too. Migratory birds are going mad; seem unable to find their way. Large schools of fish and sharks are seen by ships going farther out to sea each day, and who knows what those gorillas are up to north of here, fortifying themselves in caves." The Baron looked down with a sigh, "The Horde's busy refortifying their base at Grom'gol. Word from Northrend is the Alliance has started capturing goblins up there for simply doing business with the Horde, honest work for honest pay, while down here their capital city's a stone's throw away from us. Something's going on up in the Deadmines just north of here; the Brotherhood is resurging, I reckon. And to top it all off there's these Twilight's Hammer folk
Solemnly, the Baron turned and looked out at the setting sun on the boat-filled horizon. "I don't know how things are going back in Kezan, Bowie, but here
this world, is changing."
"Something big's about to happen." The Baron continued, "I can sense it, like the calm before a storm."
Bowie quietly groaned, trying not to offend the Baron, but at the same time disgusted at this oddly sentimental waste of time. He reached into his red, satin bag and pulled out a scroll of parchment. Approaching the Baron, he tapped the scroll on the taller goblin's shoulder. Revilgaz turned and grabbed the message.
"It's from Trade Prince Maldy." Bowie continued. "I don't normally deliver messages for him, but he claimed it an 'emergency,' and, according to Bilgewater Law
that he passed
a Trade Prince can draft any Baron or Lord's tenants and Stewarts to use for whatever reasons he may have in such situations."
The Baron unfurled the scroll and skimmed the message. Slowly, his face turned from calm and sentimental to a perturbed frown, then a scowl. Bowie gulped. The Baron growled, twitched, and crumpled the paper up in his hands.
"Damn that Maldy!" Baron Revilgaz shouted, "That insolent, greedy, arrogant little blob of scum with legs and arms is raising taxes, AGAIN, on all trade vessels and goods that go through his damn docks!"
"Sir, if you could allow me
" Bowie started in a vein attempt to calm him down.
"I wouldn't even use his Port if he hadn't put the others out of business! That monster's got a monopoly down there in Kezan, and he's sucking the rest of us dry! I have to use Bilgewater Port to get to Undermine! What else am I supposed to do? I can't afford these taxes! He's a damn abomination, a damn monster! He wouldn't even be Trade Prince had he not inherited hit from his precious mummy!"
The Baron, foaming at the mouth, turned back to Bowie to see him almost gone. All he could see was the tip of his head quietly shrinking away back down the hill to the row boat.
"You!" The Baron shouted. The crumpled up message flew through the air violently and hit Bowie on the top of the head. He gulped, and hesitantly turned back to the enraged Baron Revilgaz.
Bowie, unable to control what he knew was proper, mumbled, "Yes sir?"
"Get off my island. Get out of my town. There's another boat leaving here tonight in a couple of hours." The Baron's eyes narrowed as his fangs flashed in the twilight of dusk. "You'd best be on it if you know what's good for you."
Bowie nervously smiled, took two steps backward, and ran back to the boat. Never in his life did he row faster, not even caring about how damp his beautiful robes were getting. Just after pushing off, he heard the Baron's hissing voice shout, "And tell that wretched Maldy he'll not be seeing another copper out of me! Not one! I'm going all the way to Undermine with this! Bilgewater's services are no longer needed by the Steamwheel Cartel!"
With his back to the Baron, Bowie's fear turned to more and more of an offended scowl the more Revilgaz shouted.
"Great." Bowie thought, "What am I going to tell the Trade Prince now? That I lost the Booty Bay contracts? But it's not my fault! It's Maldy's own damn fault! Why I oughta'
this is such a waste of
I mean really, how am
stupid pirates! Curse that Maldy, CURSE HIM I SAY!"
Bowie's inner complaints continued throughout the long, cold row back to the docks. Upon making landfall, he quickly walked to the same place he had entered the bay and awaited the next vessel to Kezan to arrive. He didn't speak to anyone, he didn't look at anyone. He was offended, frustrated, exhausted, and wanted to go home. A simple family tenant he was, and a goblin complete with the usual degree of greed and megalomania, but there was nothing like returning home to the Silvertongue estate. People, goblins included, outside of Kezan, outside Bilgewater Port, just weren't the same. Nationality, humbleness, pride, whatever it may have been, even the screwy, well-mannered, oddity of a genius Bowie couldn't be away from his fellow goblins for long. A strange feeling brewed in the even stranger goblin as he reminisced of his home and his best friend, Mida.
"Her Tallest." Bowie thought to himself and giggled slightly. Her Tallest was a nickname Mida had given herself, but only Bowie still thought of her by that title. She and Bowie met back in their early days of their childhood. He would cower in the corner of the playground, she would throw rocks and firecrackers at him. Bowie at first feared her, until after a few months of abuse she ran up to him and stared at him with wide eyes, silently. Then she grabbed him by the wrist, proclaimed he was her boyfriend, and dragged him off to use him as a test subject for all her newest engineering and chemical marvels. One time, she turned him blue for a week when they were five.
Bowie giggled at the memory.
The years passed and their friendship eventually became more collegial and professional. Coming from a lower-class of workers, Bowie was more than happy to be used for whatever the upper-class daughter of a Baron needed. But now, he didn't even see their class difference. When starting her higher education, Mida drafted Bowie to be her secretary throughout engineering and business curriculum. She was so fond of him as both an underling and friend she got the money to pay for Bowie's way through school, studying arcane magic and pyrotechnics. After serving her proudly for years and earning a degree from the Academy for Chemistry, Machines, Magic and Economics (A.C.M.M.E) alongside Mida, Baron Silvertongue hired Bowie as a full time tenant to his estate. Immediately, he was placed under the rule of Mida herself and made her private assistant.
Bowie was smiling. He didn't even realize it, but his eyes were closed and he was smiling; not grinning, mind you, smiling. Truth was, nothing made him happier than doing Her Tallest's bidding, regardless of the consequences. She could tell him to stick his head into a tank full of hungry fire ants and he'd do so without question, and happily, even if he deeply regretted it later on. At times, he would make his own plans for global domination; angrily, frustrated with his status, desire for more money, power and, most of all, respect. All it took, though, was another order from Mida to occupy his mind and he'd go back to his happy life carrying out his secretarial duties, confident that such thoughts were fantasies and nothing more.
Thinking about it there on the docks of the bay as the first starts began to dot the sky, in retrospect, he was right. His life was happy, despite brooding frustration and stress bubbling in his subconscious. With a contented sigh, Bowie gazed out at the horizon, searching for the ship that would take him back to the Silvertongues, back to Mida, back to Bilgewater Port, back to happiness, and back home.