Chapter Two

A Short Trip

            Lillen and Meeples trudged through the thick snow in Dun Morogh. And honestly, that was no surprise. There’s always snow in Dun Morogh! Lillen held her cape tightly, while Meeples constantly adjusted his goggles making sure they were headed the right away. The wind was brisk and the density of snowflakes was increasing. He didn’t want to be out here longer than he could help it – especially with bad weather on the way. “We’re lost, aren’t we” groaned Lillen. She wanted to be by the fire with a nice cup of warm cider, reading the latest of the Tinkerer’s Digest. It’d been ages since she did any real tinkering and her fingers longed for some gears to work with.

“Shhh, we should be there soon. Now let me see….right past the rock that looks like a rabbit and then a right onto a….” “We are lost!” interrupted Lillen in dismay. “No we’re not – just give this beauty a little bit of time.” Meeps tapped his helmet proudly as it whirred and buzzed. The blinking light turned green while the tiny dish on it rotated around, scanning area to direct him to his destination. The snow made it impossible to distinguish any rocks resembling a rabbit or any other creature for that matter. Just to be sure, Meeps dug out a small device, no bigger than the size of his palm from his satchel and began walking, muttering to himself, absorbed in his readings. Lillen gave up with a sigh and followed. She had no idea where they headed and who they were supposed to meet. Meeps just woke her up that morning and insisted she accompany him on this mysterious trip.

“So, who are we going to see Meeps?” asked Lil, her teeth now chattering.

“A gifted engineer as a matter of fact! Not to mention a skilled err….  well…. err…. conjurer…..” he trailed off.

“Conjurer? You mean a mage?” Lil adjusted her snow goggles, hoping the snow would let up soon.

“More like a warlock” answered Meeps quietly.

“A warlock??” asked Lil, incredulously. No wonder Meeps had been so tight-lipped about it before.

“Well why do we need to go see one of those?”

“Well, it has to do with the Alliance’s future engineering plans. Surely you know about the Horde’s latest aggressions. It’d be a perfect opportunity to teach the Horde and their stinky goblins a thing or two about the marvels of gnomish engineering! And we need all the talent we can get.”

“Well that’s lovely, but what did you need to drag me along for?”

“Oh. Well… the folks from Gnomeregan Covert Ops thought it would be better if I took a medic along for this one. Just in case you know…..” Meeps ended weakly.

Great cogs, thought Lil. Exactly what kind of warlock were they meeting?

“Oh look there it is!!” yelled Meeps excitedly. The silhouette of a small dwelling appeared. It was definitley gnomish… although there was something odd about it. There were rings of black smoke that would occasionally pop out although Lil could see no chimney. As they neared the place, they could hear a loud voice inside bellowing out chants and generally making a racket. This must be the warlock. Meeps knocked on the door but it was already open. The gnome inside apparently was too engrossed in his chanting and bellowing to take any notice of his visitors.

“Hello there!” said Lil. “You must be the warlock who lives here….” She sharply nudged Meeps for she had no idea what his name was.

The gnome stopped waving about and stepped down from a pile of books. He seemed to have on a robe and a hat that were decidedly too large for him. His hair and beard were bright red, which Meeped eyed at once with envy. “Who me? Well…. well yes ofcourse, I am the great and mighty Malthian!” he did an extravagant wave and bowed. “Bender of the Dark Arts, Enslaver of Demons…. Master of Curses!!” he paused, dramatically. Meeps was about to introduce them and why they were there but the little warlock gushed on. “I’ve been to the Dark Portal a hundred times, slain demons of the darkest sorts and even captured one of their steeds for my very own!! Mwahahahahaha!” He cackled, clearly pleased with his accomplishments. “I say, I bet you two might’ve seen an imp or two summoned but you’ve never seen army! Would you like a little demonstration?” “Err no” began Lil in protest. Really, this warlock was quite difficult. They had no interest in his demonic abilities. But it was too late, the warlock climbed up his pile of books, and began to chant in demonic.

The chants sounded strange to Lil and Meeps – it was nothing like they’d ever heard before. As the warlock waved his arms about, he kept stealing glances onto an open grimoire on the table, as though to make sure he was getting it right. Soon, not one but seven imps appeared in all shades of colours. Green ones, yellow ones, orange ones and flaming red ones. Lil hadn’t seen so many imps since she crossed the Burning Steppes! The warlock began commanding the imps but it wasn’t long before it was clear he was not the one in control. Frantic, he kept flipping page after page looking for the right chant to command them it seemed like. But the imps were here to have a ball. They cackled, jumped about and started hurling fireballs all over the place. Lillen dodged a particularly nasty one just in

time, and it singed her robe as it flew past and crashed into a pile of bottles.

It wasn’t long before the imps began doing some real damage not just to the place but to the three gnomes in it! Lilien found herself having desperately channel the Light to heal Meeps’ wounds and keep herself from getting burned. This was not good – she could only keep it up for so long. And it looked like the warlock was no closer to getting his minions under control. What kind of warlock was he?? She shot a worried glance at Meeps who seemed bewildered at the situation, but his frown showed that he shared her concerns. Clearly, this was not the warlock he was expecting to meet. She stuggled to mitigate the incoming damage from the imps but it only got worse.

The ruckus was interrupted when the door suddenly flew wide open and let in a cold gust of wind and snow. In the doorway stood a gnome. “Flaming felguards…” he said, scanning the place. “WHAT IN BLAZES IS GOING ON HERE?” His voice was a good deal deeper than one would expect from a gnome. For a split second, there was silence and everyone including the imps stopped to pay attention. The warlock went white as a sheet while Lillen and Meeps just plain gaped. What was going on? The imps decided to push their luck with their mayhem and continue on with their merry destruction of all things. The gnome adjusted his goggles and quick as a flash wiggled his fingers while slowly muttering a verse. It sounded like he was speaking plainly – but it was no language they could understand. The imps on the other hand took notice, but it didn’t seem like they had a choice in the matter. His voice kept rising as his hand turned into a fist and when he completed the verse with finality, his fingers sprung apart as though to sprinkle something. The imps howled in defiance before disappearing in a puff of smoke.

Malthian Darkspanner

            There was a moment of peace as the gnome shut the door and took a look around. The place was a mess – well, even moreso than before. Books were opened and lying about everywhere, broken bottles littered the floor, pools of disgusting unknown goo that spilled from them were in many parts and many of the robes that were strewn around were now badly singed. In a corner, the warlock crouched, shivering in fear. It was clear that the gnome intimidated him. Meeps and Lil decided to just wait and watch – this trip already turned out much stranger than either of them could’ve imagined.

“FINNEUS FIRESPROCKET!” The room went dark and a shadowy aura envloped the entire place. The gnome took off his goggles and a serious expression came over his face. Despite themselves, Lil and Meeps were a wee bit scared – they had never seen anything like this. The little warlock went positively pale. “I…I…I…I’m….I’m sorry Ma-ma-master!” he stuttered. “It wasn’t my fault!” The room got darker and an eerie green began to fill the gnome’s eyes. He seemed to be growing and his very presence seemed to fill the room. “NOT YOUR FAULT??” he bellowed. His form now began to change. Lil wearily stepped behind Meeps as she saw dark wings slowly form. He almost looked like….a demon. She gulped in fear. “YOU DARED TO READ FROM MY GRIMOIRES? YOU DARED TO SUMMON FEL IMPS?” His voice had changed to be almost unrecognisable now and Meeples slowly put his hands in his satchel, ready with his engineering gadgets incase things got hairy. The aura was now so thick that it felt choking to both Lil and Meeps.

Whimpering, the little ‘warlock’ hurriedly took off his master’s robe and hat. “F-forgive me master!” he managed. “It shall never happen again! I have learned my lesson with the dark arts!!! Forgive me, master!” he begged. Lil felt a little sorry for him. Being in the warlock’s presence was terrifying enough! She couldn’t imagine what it would be like to be the object of his wrath. Lil imagined that the demon however, did not have mercy in mind. He slowly raised his hand against a petrified Finneus but something made him hesitate. Gradually, they saw the process reverse. The demon now became more gnome, and the choking aura loosened its hold, making it easier to breathe again. The cold green anger in the gnome’s eyes, however, remained. “You impetuous little welp. If it weren’t for your mother, I’d feed you to my doomguard!” He growled. Finneus let out an involuntary shrill whelp of fright. “You have dabbled in the dark arts without any respect for them! You chose to disobey me! You WILL face the consequences.” The warlock rolled up his sleeve and readied his hand for magic. His face was calm but his eyes betrayed his intentions. “Since you like you seem to like to read my grimoires and chant so much, I will use it to teach you respect. You WILL learn respect… and suffering shall be your teacher!”

Lil and Meeps wondered what would be Finneus’s punishment. Would he be turned into a toad? Shackled in fel-tainted chains for life? Banished to the Outlands? A dark magic surrounded the gnome’s hand as quietly muttered various verses in demonic. And then… that was it. No puff of smoke, no demons, and Finneus was still a gnome. Did anything happen? Meeps finally spoke up. “What did you do to him?” Finneus slowly opened his eyes and stood up. He seemed rightly relieved that he was still a gnome, and not missing any of his limbs. He tried to say something and then his expression turned to utter horror. Try as he might, all he could get

out was an “aaah”. “Curse of Tongues” came the reply. “I put an especially powerful version of the curse on him. It will take him ten times as long to say anything now, regardless of the language. He will think twice before speaking in Demonic.” Sniffing and dejected, Finneus began to clean up the mess he was responsible for.

“So, you must be….” began Meeps, uncertainly. “Malthian Darkspanner of Gnomeregan!” finished the gnome. “Well, the real Malthian I should say. Where are my manners… it’s been ages since I got any real visitors. How exciting!” The warlock beamed brightly before scuttling about arranging things and looking very busy. He had such a warm smile that it was hard to believe he had invoked such darkness and terror only moments before.

Persuasion

             Malthian quickly put his goggles back on and pushed away some scrolls from a tiny table nearby. He had a mop of untidy white hair that Meeps, no doubt, was eyeing even though he tried to make it seem like he didn’t notice. “How about some tea? and warm muffins?” “Oh yes please!” burst Lillen. She was tired. Their trip so far had been nothing but snow, then fel imps, then dark demon warlockery. Malthian dragged out a rather large contraption and revved it up. “The Tastea Zapper 2000!” he introduced proudly. “Get it? Tastea?” Meeps and Malthian burst into giggles. The Tastea Zapper did not disappoint. A wonderful machine, it whirred and buzzed out cups of tea and deliciously warm muffins, complete with an impressive zap of lemon at the end.

“And what brings….let’s see… a medic and an engineer to my little dwelling? Aha! Mekkatorque finally came to his senses did he? Well, well, well – never thought I’d see the return of Gnomeregan so soon but it’s about damn time we did! Always did offer to send my imps down there to unleash hell on Thermaplugg but oh noooo – Mekkatorque always needs to do it his way!”

“Oh yes well, but this isn’t about Gnomeregan.”

“No?” Malthian’s eyes popped out and his tone implied utter incomprehension. Why else should two gnomes come to him for help if not to free their beloved city of Gnomergan!

“Yes you see, things are rather grave for the Alliance at the moment. We seem to be on the brink of war with the Horde and frankly the King of Stormwind needs our gnomish ingenuity on his side….” explained Meeps, but he never got to finish.

“Hold your sprockets there Mister….Mister…..”

“Fizzlesprocket” offered Meeps obligingly.

“I am out here in political protest see? PO-LITI-CAL PRO-TEST. I refuse to lend my engineering and magical talents to an Alliance that refuses to get me my believed Gnomeregan back!”

He was clearly passionate about his home city and Meeps was rather dismayed at the turn of events. He didn’t want to anger the warlock after what he’d seen, but he knew that things would get difficult without powerful magic-users and engineers like him on their side. Why did warlocks have to be difficult?

“But but….what about all your marvelous inventions? The X501 Reaper – you added bombs to that thing! Imagine if we created a hybrid and used my Flying Bombs 501 instead. And….and…. the Gnomish Shield Protector? I know it’s still a protoype but I know how we can make it better together. And really….. even the Tastea Zapper….where will the Alliance get their tea to lift their spirits??” He finished with high passion out of pure desperation on that one.

Lillen and Malthian blinked.

“You’re not just here for my gadgets and I know it. I know why us warlocks are both feared and needed in battles. Tell your King to help with Gnomeregan or no deal. He can take on the Horde with all his mages and see how well that works for him! That’ll teach him to ignore Gnomeregan!” The warlock folded his arms obstinately and snorted at the thought of mages.

Lillen went for her fifth muffin….Meeps was right, but so was Malthian. She did want this thing out there after a long battle… along with all the other nifty gadgets! And she had seen how indispensable a warlock could be on the battlefield…. even if she never saw their dark arts as closely as she did today. She decided to try her hand at something different.

“Well I suppose it isn’t all bad. I mean, all we have to do is admit that goblins and mages are better. It’s really not that awful when you think about it.” She calmly sipped tea.

“WHAT??!!” Both Meeps and Malthian exclaimed in unision. This was unthinkable.

“Well, I mean it’s obvious isn’t it. If we’re on the brink of war and we don’t have our best, that crazy Horde Warchief will get to do whatever he pleases. Maybe he’ll even go after Gnomeregan next! Thermaplugg certainly doesn’t have the engineering genius to stop him. And you know what they’ll all say don’t you? Those stinky exploding goblins will finally be able to say they’re superior – and it’ll stick. Anyone want this last muffin?”

Meeps and Malthian just stood there in shock, trying to take it all in. Goblin engineering superior? Goblins? Those stinky no-good back-stabbing excuses of engineers? Meeps felt sick.

Malthian felt even worse. What would his  friend, Professor Xakxak Gyromate say, he wondered. Goblin technicians? He called that an oxymoron! Dealing with goblins was bad enough….but the thought of mages too. No… those silly little sheep-loving conjuring casters who were too afraid to delve deeper into the arcane arts? No… they could not be deemed superior….not over his dead… well his doomguard’s dead body!

“As much as I hate to admit it, you have a good point my young medic” he finally said. “And this new warchief…? I haven’t been in the loop much – we like our peace and solitude, away from the nuisances of politics. But it would indeed seem as though pressing matters might have me reconsidering. I cannot have this new warchief of the horde remotely threatening Gnomeregan. No no no. And the goblins and mages too – no.”

“So… we have your support then? Is the Shield Protector 5000 going to be a reality??” Meeps could not hold his excitement in. His fingers were practically shaking with anticipation to get started.

“Yes indeed my good gnome! By my gears, I can’t wait to see their horrified faces when I unleash some of the latest gadgets on them. Those goblins won’t know what hit them! Mwaaahahahahaha!” Malthian let out an evil cackle.

Afterthought

            Lillen and Meeps soon headed back to Kharanos. They had left the warlock’s den fat and happy with tea and muffins. Lillen in particular ate far far too many and was finding the trek back home difficult on her tummy. Meeps, on the other hand, was full of excitement. His eyes shone and skipped across the snow practically humming. He also seemed particularly excited about the hybrid engineering projects – he seemed to know an awful lot about Malthian’s prototypes and Lillen wondered how he came about that information. Her thoughts were interrupted by growls and moans from her very unhappy tummy.

“Hey Meeps” groaned Lil. “We’re done with these trips now, right? I don’t think I can handle any more warlocks… or any more walking for that matter!”

“I told you not to eat so many Lil!”

“But they were so tasty! That machine’s a marvel… I can’t believe he had something like that tucked away in his tiny little den there! But seriously, no more trips right?”

Meeps looked at her uneasily and Lil stopped in shock. No! He had something up his sleeve as usual! She stopped to throw a snowball at him. Wham! Right in the face.

“Lil! Fine – it’s just one more trip alright? And it’s not even a warlock so it’ll be fine I promise!”

“You had better tell me their name this time. It’s another of your engineering friends I bet.”

“Ummm… well yes they do tinker and they’re very good at it!”

Lilien lightly zapped Meeps with some holy magic. Her tummy had put her in a very unforgiving mood.

“Alright alright! I can’t believe you’re a medic. It happens to be a friend of Malthian’s too… Syfie Locksprockette!”

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