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- by Nikajah Edit

The bells that hung from the Agency door jingled with the entrance of a potential client.

“I gotta go, Mai. Client,” the woman behind the polished oak desk in the lobby hissed into a small, glowing runic stone. She hastily tossed it into the middle drawer, which jammed sideways as she tried to shove it closed. A rugged, brazen face appeared over the lip of the desk.

“Greetin’s milady! M’name is Trugdug Truesilver. I come from Ironforge on Magni’s orders, ta speak with th’ Agency Director ‘bout a matter of importance. She in?”

The dwarf proudly puffed out his massive barrel chest, on which the insignia of Ironforge was fastened to his lapel. His course, wild, fiery red hair had been greased into submission, yanked back into a thick braid, which matched the twin braids of his unruly, waist-length beard. She was quite certain that his thick, corded arms could have easily lifted both she and her desk – at the same time.

“Y-yes… I’ll… let her know you’re coming, Mister Truesilver,” Lynissa responded nervously. “Please, have a seat?”

The dwarf glanced around at the chairs lining the lobby. He climbed into one, his arms each occupying at least half of the chairs on either side of him. He offered her his most charming smile and a wink as she hurried off down the back hallway.

“Director, there’s a dwarf from Ironforge – a Trugdug Truesilver – here to see you. Shall I send him in?” She looked pleadingly at Nikajah, uncomfortable with the idea of sharing the small lobby with the grizzled dwarf eyeing her figure.

“Send him in.” Nikajah noticed the relief that washed over Lynissa as she returned to send the dwarf into her office.

Less than a moment later, a rugged face appeared in her doorway. She gestured to one of the seats opposite her desk.

“Trugdug Truesilver, at yer service. I come on Magni’s orders ta discuss th’—” his voice dropped a notch in volume “—Maltese Panther case. Y’knew Professor Feldspar, right Ms. Director?”

Nikajah nodded. She and the professor had been friends. Her mind wandered to the note and package in her desk, sensing trouble.

“He’s dead,” Truesilver responded, gauging her reaction. Her mouth opened, then closed, and she gazed down sadly at her desk.

“Somebody broke inta th’ Hall o’ Explorers las’ night and killed ‘im. Stabbed ‘im square in th’ front. Took his latest find, the Maltese Panther. Poor feller bled ta death before anyone knew what happened.”

“Ironforge wants ta retain yer Agency ta investigate. This ‘ere is th’ down payment,” he dropped a sack of coin on the desk. “An’ more where tha’ came from when th’ case is solved – if’n it gets solved.”
Nikajah nodded. “We’ll take the case. The professor was my friend. I would like to find out what happened to him.”

- by Nikajah Edit

The package had arrived wrapped in plain brown paper and strings of twine. Nikajah picked at the strands of the twine, unfurling the length and rolling it again before setting the package aside on her desk. Raking her fingers through her long, tousled tresses, she gritted her teeth, the muscles in her jaw working.

She looked down at the package’s accompaniment for the third time: a plain white card.

To Director N. Silverleaf of the Agency:

Dear Nikajah,

The day finds me well indeed, my Kaldorei friend! A wonderful discovery was unearthed today at the excavation site… one that may change the face of Azeroth as we know it!

The artifact we uncovered was none but the statue of the Great Cat Spirit deep within the bowels of Uldaman. It is a magnificent find, shrouded in legend and myth. I hope to bring to light the mystery of the statue.

It is imperative that – with so many interests at stake in the artifact – it remain safe. Therefore, my friend Nikajah, I am entrusting this package to you and your agents for safe-keeping until the great unveiling Thursday at the Hall of Explorers.

Your friend,
Dr. Horatio Feldspar

Nikajah swept the package and card up, placing them carefully in the bottom drawer of her desk. She reached into her blouse, pulling a leather cord complete with several keys from beneath her clothing. Slamming the desk drawer and turning the appropriate key in the slot locked the package securely away. She needed time. Time to think about the next move.

- The Stormwind Sentinel by Nikajah (Trixi Tuddlington) Edit

The Stormwind Sentinel

Archaeologist Found Dead in Hall of Mysteries, Reward Offered for Statue Recovery
by Trixi Tudlington

Ironforge - Dr. Horatio Feldspar of the Explorer's League was found dead early Thursday morning in the upper gallery of the Hall of Mysteries, Ironforge. He was stabbed at least five times from the front, leading authorities to believe he knew his attacker. Authorities have no leads at this time.

Dr. Feldspar and his assistant, DeVollio, discovered an artifact in the Uldaman excavation site earlier this week. Dr. Feldspar was to unveil the artifact Thursday evening at eight bells in the Hall of Explorers.

The artifact in question is the Statue of the Great Cat Spirit, rumored to be the key to controlling the Great Cat Spirit himself. Authorities have not yet been able to locate Dr. Feldspar's research and notes concerning the find.

The Hall of Explorer's is offering a sum of one thousand gold for the statue's safe return, no questions asked.

- by Circetara Edit

The sun shown brightly as the griffon flew through the skies over Ashara. Circetara looked down upon the land she called home, and smiled. It was her first time returning to the home she and Ry shared since her change, aside from that fateful night when she nervously left the letter for her husband, and she looked forward to some peaceful time fo contemplation and relaxation.

The griffon landed and she diembarked, smiling at the druids and Wardens in the small camp along the Ashenvale border. Circe looked around and her eyes took in the familiar sites. She casually made her way to her home, her flowing robes swishing aorund her legs, staff firmly gripped in her right hand. She was still adjusting to this new body, but at least she was becomming comfortable in it and with her abilities.

She unlocked the door and entered in, noticing that Ry had been through on one of his many jaunts from Outlands to Karahan, as evidenced by the dishes piled in the sink, and the mess that their shared bed was in. Circe smiled, sighed, and moved to the small nook, to clean the mess her husband had left behind, when she noticed a small package on the table with a note left by her husband.

"Dearest Circe. This was delivered for you. I wish I could be here when you return from Azuremyst, but I am needed in Karazhan. I shall see you soon. Love, Kon'n"

Circe smiled and took the package in her hand, slowly and carefully opening it. Inside there was a carefully wrapped item, and another note. Circe picked up the note and read its contents.

To Circetara Hakkara-Rykerx of Azshara:

Greetings, Huntress of Azshara,

I have made a wonderful discovery today at the excavation site… one that may change the face of Azeroth as we know it! Certainly one you may be interested in with your fixation on felines as companions!

The artifact we uncovered was none other than the statue of the Great Cat Spirit, deep within the bowels of Uldaman. It is a magnificent find, shrouded in legend and myth. I hope to bring to light the mystery of the statue.

It is imperative that – with so many interests at stake in the artifact – it remain safe. Therefore, my friend, I am entrusting this package to you for safe-keeping until the great unveiling.

Your friend,
Dr. Horatio Feldspar


A smile came easily to the draenai's features, "Well, well, Feldspar found something in all his diggings? I must look in on him in Ironforge then, and see how he is. If nothing else, his reaction at my new...persona, should be priceless. He always was fond of that 'Huntress of Ashara' thing. Guess now he'll call me 'Magus of Azshara' "

Circe slowly opened the wrapped item, her eyes lighting up in wonderment, "Oh my, it is lovely. Almost reminds me of Isis. Fixation on felines indeed!" She slowly turned the staueete over in her hands. Staring at the craftsmanship in admiration. Then, very carefully, she re-wrapped the stautette and moved ot a chest by her bed. She removed the golden necklace from around ehr neck, the Highborne runes on it glowing mystically. She placed one of these runes against the lock and spoke a few phrases in the Kaldorei tongue. With a click, the chest opened. Inside rested only a small leatherbound book. Atop this, Circe placed the figurine. Then, she closed the chest and put her necklace around her neck.
"There, Feldspar. As safe as i cna make it." She then spent a few minutes, singing, as she quickly cleaned the mess in the kitchen. Then she moved ot the bed and flopped down upon it, slowly closing her eyes, resolving to head to Ironforge to speak to Feldspar after she had rested a bit.

- by Shady Character Edit

He gathered the heavy black cloak tightly around him, the heels of his boots clicking the cobblestones as he walked. The night shrouded what the cloak did not, giving him the advantage of being merely more than a shadow on the streets. Dim light flooded the street just ahead of him, his sharp eyes watching the grimy, flickering windows.

A rustle caused every muscle in his body to tense. His head turned crisply, surveying every shadowed overhang. One of the braziers near him sizzled, and the Old Town tavern's sign swung like a pendulum from its rusted iron hinges.

He pushed off from the curb, making his way across the street, careful to shrink from the dim fingers of dancing candlelight. Tied horses whinnied softly, shoes echoing against stone. He slipped past them with ease, entering the building with little more than a whisper from the wind.

He chose a seat in the darkest corner of the tavern, ordering an ale in a grizzled voice. Elly knew that her winning smile would be lost on this man, having served him in the past. She brought him a mug of ale, then rushed off to tend to her regulars: jovial adventurers who shed their burdens and shared their tales over pints.

His contact soon arrived. He was a large man, barrel-chested and barrel-bellied, with meaty fists and squinted-gaze. Thinning black hair was plastered to his head to end in a greased ponytail. He stroked his heavy beard, searching the tavern until his eyes landed on the figure in the corner.

"The Fat Man," as he was commonly referred to, sat across from him, folding his big, sweaty paws. Ornate rings adorned almost every finger.

"You have somethin' for me?" The Fat Man asked, voice softer than one would expect for a man his size.

He laughed inwardly. "Yeah. Let's see the money."

"You think you calling the shots here, big man? Let's see the goods," responded The Fat Man shrewdly. He pulled out a small sack of coin, capturing it on the tabletop beneath one sausage-fingered paw.

Withdrawing the brown-paper-wrapped package for The Fat Man's inspection, he eyed the bulging sack. "Here."

The Fat Man unwrapped the package, looking over his massive shoulders as he did so. Satisfied that no one was paying attention to their little meeting, he inspected the cat figurine. The shady character drew and held a breath.

After a moment's inspection, The Fat Man shoved the sack of coin across the table and released it. He snatched the coin sack and drew it open, jiggling the sack to inspect the currency.

"S'all there, I ain't no cheat," growled The Fat Man, re-wrapping the package and placing it inside a burlap bag. The figure nodded, then placed the heavy sack into a pocket of his cloak.

"A pleasure doing business with you," he replied, holding out his hand. The Fat Man studied his outstretched hand for a moment, then a sinister grin wended its way over his lips. He took his hand, shook it, then waddled out the door without a second glance.

The figure smirked to himself, left Elly his tab and tip, then made his way out of the tavern. As he again dodged the horses, the hair on the back of his neck prickled.

What happened next seemed to occur in slow-motion. A dagger caught the candlelight for a brief moment, shimmering in his peripheral vision just before it sunk into his side. He had a brief glimpse of The Fat Man's carriage bouncing over the cobblestones just as it turned a corner.

He swung around, daggers smoothly slipping from the sheaths in his belt, catching one of The Fat Man's goons between the ribs. The man let out a little cry of disbelief and anger, then the figure twisted the blade. He covered the man's mouth with a hand, staring down the hatred, then fear, in the dying man's eyes. He eased him to a sitting position on the tavern stoop, propping him up in a dark corner.

For the first time, he noticed the Defias kerchief around the man's face, and the insignia on his shoulder. He withdrew his dagger, which caused blood to flow and pool around the dead man. Ripping off the Defias mask, he cleaned his blade with it before sheathing his dagger. He glanced back at the tavern door, hearing voices approach. Hastily, he tucked the mask into his pocket and ducked behind an adjacent building, using the shadows to make his escape. The wound in his side had just begun to burn.
And even though he had killed a man and he was wounded, he chuckled inwardly. For what The Fat Man had yet to discover was a pair of letters etched into the replica's surface: "HF."

- by Thaag Edit

Vinklo's violet toes hung in the water off the pier at Booty Bay. He felt elated at having met his Highborne cousin. So few of his Kaldorei family spoke to him at all. With the birth of a golden-eyed boy, he was expected to go navigate the Emerald Dream.

Eh, not. One look at the drooling dreamers and Vinklo ran away as far as he could get from Ashenvale. He didn't even return for three centuries, during which he spent his time in the underground of Ironforge. His brothers and sisters still begged him to go to Moonglade. This past year he did, to take part in the lunar festival. Polite words were exchanged, along with yet another polite but empatic NO, Vinklo has no plans involving druidry, thank you and good night.

Apparently the stuck-up Highborne cousins weren't quite as stuck up as his closer relatives. Vinklo wanted to keep in touch with them. Besides, since the ruin of Quel'thalas and the new alliance of the Highborne with the orcs, a new market was opening up....

That reminded Vinklo--time to check the mail. Coded letters from the Ring, oblique requests and offers from those who didn't want everyone in their business came in every day. And today was no different.

Requested: green fireworks plans from Nogg's shop in Orgrimmar. Must contact Thaag. Can you see if there are any specialty Kaldorei marital aids? Vinklo chuckled. "Jump on a mailbox and dance in your skivvies," he mumbled. "Works for thousands of Kaldorei females."

The return address of the last one caught his eye, since it had but one letter: D. Vinklo looked at the postmark: Hall of Explorers, Ironforge. Vinklo could barely conceal his anticipation as he attempted (with much success) not to rip the envelope to shreds to get at the document inside.

THE TATER CROAKS AT MIDNIGHT.

Vinklo looked around to see if anyone else were reading this. Not like they'd know what that message meant. He shredded the envelope, holding the strips while he found the goblin that sold fish. The smaller ones that would not sell to the market usually were bought by a goblin who made his money off selling small packets of those undersized fish to tourists who wanted to entertain themselves by feeding sea lions that basked under the piers. Each fish got a strip of the envelope wrapped around it and each fish went down an appreciative gullet.

He wrapped a piece of fresh fish for himself with the letter. The ink would run. He had to get to the meeting place he and "D" had already arranged, where he would receive the artifact.
He already knew of several shaman and hunters Hordeside who would make him fabulously wealthy. Maybe then he would be able to afford better leather.

- by Circetara Edit

Circe placed the note telling Ry where she was bound on the table in the dining rom oftheir home. Then she grabbed her staff, slipped her wand into her belt, and made her way outside, locking the door behind her. She smiled, deeply inhaling the fragrant morning air of Azshara, before heading to the Griffon Master.

The druids at the camp greeted her warmly, now fmailiar with her presence. Circe smiled back, stifling a giggle as she realised they probably thought Ry had replaced his wife with the young draenai they saw now. Little did they know they Night Elf and the Draenai were the same person. And they would never know.

Circe mounted the griffon and began the long flight to Auberdine. She relished in the feel of the wind blowing through her long brown hair as she flew over Warsong Gulch. She looked down on the devastation tot he forest that she grew up in and a tear fell form her eyes. Soon, she would be ready to join the Sentinels in their efforts to stop the Hordes destruction of the forest. But not now. Not yet. She eneded to speak to Feldspar and find out more about the Panther. She dreamed about it last night, and that concerned her. Circe's dreams played an important part in her past, and she considered them more than the wild amblings of her sleeping mind.

The griffon flew over Astranaar, and a smile came to Circe's face as she passed over the area she and Ry had been married in. She could still hear Apho's words as he pronounced them married. That had been one of the happiest dsays of her life and she cherished the moment.

Circe's thoughts returned to the rpesent as she landed in Auberdine. Quickly, she made her way down the dock and boarded the boat for Menethil Harbor. As the ship left the port, Circe made her way to the Front, listening to the clal of the gulls and remembering her first time taking this trip, Isis at her side. She shook her head and put the past behind her as she sat down and rested agaisnt the cool wood of the hull to rest.

The trip took the usual amount of time, the ship avoiding any bad weather or problems, and Circe found herself boarding another flight in Menethil Harbor, for Ironforge. She shivered with the cold as the griffon climed high into the mountains, but soon was warm again as the heat from the dwarven forges met her as she landed at her destination.

Staff in hand, the young draenai made her way to the Hall of Mysteries, looking for her dwarven friend, "He's probably buried deep in books and researches. And I'll probably have ot tell my tale to another friend."

Circe stopped short as she noticed a plethora of guards standing before the Hall's entrance. Wishing she oculd still shadowmeld, she listened to the conversation of the crowd gathered before the Hall

"I eard he was knifed..FIVE times!" one dwarf told another

"Nah...Feldspar was done in by magic, is what I eard" said another

"And I eard that e was shot" said a third.

Circe paused, shocked. Feldspar was dead? This didn't make sense. She listened in some more as the three dwarves continued.

"Nah, he was knifed alright. Knifed by his girlfriend!", said the first.

"You're crazy Gimli, Feldspar didn;t have no girlfriend! He was married to is work!", said the second.

"Thats not what I eard, Thorin. I eard one of them draenai was seen entering the Hall, when Feldspar was the only one there, every night. And she was there till the wee hours of the morning" said the third.

Gimli, the first, snickered, "That true Flint? Took to mountain climbing, did he? Not my type, but, hey"

Thorin, the second one chimed in, "Eh, theys not too shabby looking, once you get past the hooves and all"

Flint laughed, "Ya, but, if one of them done in Feldspar.."

Gimli looked grim, "Then we's make her pay. No goat-girl is ognna do in my friend and get away with it.

The other two dwarves grunted their agreement and ran their fingers over the hafts of the axes at their wastes. Hearing this, Circe slowly slipped away.
"Feldspar killed? I can't believe it... Need time to think and plan. but still need ot be enar where it all happened too." With this thought, Circe made her way across Ironforge, past the Auction House, and into an inn, getting herself a room to gather her wits and try to figure out who killed her friend. She knew it had something to do with the statuette Feldspar sent her. "Thank Elune I left it secured back in Azshara." Circe lay upon the bed, her thoughts wandering, as, unwillingly, the long trip took its toll on her and she fell asleep.

- by Thaag Edit

Vinklo noticed something amiss as soon as he alit from the Buzzard Express in Thelsamar. The dwarven guards eyed him suspiciously as soon as he began to walk north. They knew exactly who he was. He'd been around this area for decades, and now they decide to mistrust him? What the hell happened?

Had his cover been blown?
Maybe it was time to take an alternate route to the Deeprun tunnel. The flight master looked quite pleased to have Vinklo hand him more silver and chart a flight out of his town. Vinklo thought Lakeshire would do. He would have to walk the rest of the way.

- by Illarion Edit

Coldwyn Twinblade allowed her thoughts to coalesce as the gryphon whisked her over mountaintops, from the heat of the Great Forge to the settlement at Thelsamar. She’d had little time to come to terms with Uncle Feldy’s death, even less so due to her new employer’s involvement in the investigation. She fished into her packs, very carefully so as not to drop anything from such an impossible height, pulling out the most valuable find so far: bound in leather, worn from excavation dust and long travel, the journal and notes of Horatio Feldspar.

Keeping a tight grip on the tome, she leafed her way to the pages most recently scrawled upon. She scanned, hoping to absorb via exposure some sort of insight, but still, all that was to be found fell among academic histories of the cat spirit and the artifact itself, or a long winded and needlessly detailed account of its discovery. Coldwyn stared at the last entry, as if willing it to go on longer, but Uncle Feldy had ceased writing during his journey back to Loch Modan; the events of his stop at Thelsamar before returning to Ironforge, whatever they may have been, were missing.

Coldwyn closed her eyes, cold mountain air biting her winter-white skin. Her mind drifted back to Winter’s Veil years ago, when she and twin sister Goldwen had just begun to follow their paths in life. Da bristling and grumbling bitterly in the corner, on his third ale of the evening, as Uncle Feldy burst through the door, packages in his arms and a grin beneath his beard. On Da’s fourth ale of the evening, Ma embracing her brother, asking for news of the world outside of dwarvendom. On the sixth ale, Coldy and Goldie tearing open packages, Coldwyn breaking into a grin as she caught a glint of metal beneath the paper.

As the gryphon swooped to a halt, Coldwyn jolted herself out of her memories. She planted her feet on the ground and started off on the path to her family’s home. Ma would know who might have been close to Uncle Feldy, might have even seen him when he stopped by on his way to Ironforge. Also, Nikajah had advised Coldwyn to check her mail, in case the artifact or one of those damn replicas might have come her way.

“I doubt it,” Coldwyn muttered to herself. “’E’d not be so careless teh trust somethin’ like that teh me. I’m nat worth tha trouble.”

She opened her pack to stuff the journal back inside, as she did, a loose page fluttered out and into the air. Coldwyn snatched at it, wrinkling the page in her hands but catching it before it hit the road. Studying the page, her brow quirked at the list upon it, a list of names with no title or clue to its purpose. Nikajah, Coldwyn, Demarion, Circetara-… The last name on the list had been blotted out entirely with thick black ink. Circetara was a stranger to her, but Coldwyn recalled Demarion as the handsome, if hot-headed elf that had known Uncle Feldy.
With a sigh, Coldwyn folded the list and slipped it down the front of her shirt. “Best ta keep this separate, lest anythin’ ‘appen to tha notebook.” She continued onward, deciding to worry about the list later, and getting home before dark first.

- by Dynast Edit

"As the saying goes.. 'Better late than never'." the masked female intoned.

Pacing around her new barrow, the dull thud of her boot heels was the only sound that her prisoner could use to guess where she stood now. Often, these spans of silence stretched what seemed to be hours.

Though he was used to the darkness and had been since he was a child, the situation he was in now drove the dwarf into a state of anxiety. He believed he was not so deep in the earth, perhaps only a few meters. The soil he could feel with his bound hands was not completely frigid, meaning some of the warmth from the sun and the rain could make it this deep.

This morsel of hope was not enough. Even if the ground was only a foot above, he still could not figure out the contraption she had him bound into without his sight. It felt vaguely warm, and had gave the slightest bit when he had thrashed around during those first hours of captivity.

She was further away. Waiting for a few moments with stilled breath, he strained his ears to listen for her footsteps.

They were faint now, no more than an echo on the earthen walls. And so, he thrashed again; calling on strength from any god's name he could remember in his fit. The bindings gave him space, then tightly constricted him once again soon as he ran out of breath. Never, did they give enough leeway for him to squirm free.

Defeated, he slumped back against the wall, counting the seconds in between his breath. It was difficult to put any measure of time to her absences, and as the days dragged, he became thankful for her presence, even if she was his captor.

She was not cruel to him. She had not beat him or maimed him. All she had done was take his list.. The list. He wanted it back, but his freedom had become his primary concern. Still, it seemed to be getting further and further away with each passing moment. At least she kept him fed, and he was not ever too th...

"Deee..Vollio." a voice whispered in his ear, sibilant. He nearly jumped out of his skin. "Ah. You are awake, it seems. How wonderful."

"Ye narely scared mae out of my skin!" he blustered in return.

"That -was- the point..."

She moved away from him again, but this time she did not leave. Instead, this time.. A light blossomed in the darkness, then burned, searing white. He closed his eyes, turning his head away from the brightness until his sight adjusted.

"Now then.. DeVollio.. What of this last name?"

He set his jaw, opening his eyes in cautious slits. The alcove was still almost unbearably bright, but he could see the silhouette of a form perched on a table not too far away. He blinked, trying to clear the starbursts out of his sight.

"Aye du not know." he grumbled.

"Extrapolate."

"Et was blott'd out on te ol' git's copy."

"Then I will have to find said copy. The memory of the plant that was in the paper might be willing to grant me the name." her voice was surprisingly calm despite this obvious setback. "For now, we will have to get to the others. The last name may not even be important."

"...Te.. Memory?" he inquired cautiously, a sense of optimism swelling in his chest.

"The paper used in the Eastern Kingdoms is made from trees. Trees are living things, which we druids can 'speak' to. Even if they are cut down, maimed, and.. made into a mockery of themselves.. Some part of the spirit remains.

It is a long shot. That is why I hope the last name will be of no consequence."

"An' wot would a thrice-damned elf want wit it?" he sputtered, growing increasingly annoyed by her calm demeanor.

"It is not what I want.. It was never about that at all. Some things are simply meant to remain buried, is all." she fell silent for a few moments, removing her mask enough to study the dwarf with one glowing white eye.

All he could see of her face was that eye, accented with a glowing green scar. Otherwise, he only saw her long white hair, spilling out of the hood of her worn cloak. The way she studied him was uncompromising, offering no pity to his plight; and as quickly as she had tipped the mask, she replaced it, speaking once more.

"It is however, about what He wants. I do hope you understand."

His bindings tightened, putting uncomfortable pressure on DeVollio's chest as she spoke. Slowly, he looked down, realizing that now, he could finally see what was holding him... And he screamed, thrashing in terror.

She only chuckled, reaching aside to snuff out the candle.
"I see you two are getting along."

- The Stormwind Sentinel Edit

The Stormwind Sentinel

Arrest Made in Maltese Panther Case, Statuette Yet Unrecovered

by Trixi Tuddlington

Ironforge - Yesterday, a Draenei woman, Circetara Rykerx, was arrested for the murder of Horatio Feldspar, the archaeologist from the Explorer's League who was killed before the unveiling of what citizens are now calling the Maltese Panther, a feline statuette.

Authorities declined to comment officially, but through a source, we at The Stormwind Sentinel have learned that the woman has been connected with several crimes in Darkshire and Lakeshire. Her rap sheet includes multiple suspected murders, theft of magical items, and allegedly spying for the Forsaken and Sin'Dorei. The odd thing about this woman is that her description does not match her name, which is, indeed, the name on the rap sheet. Authorities are still sorting out the details.
A witness claimed to have seen the Draenei woman only days prior to the incident, asking Feldspar about an item, presumably the Maltese Panther itself. "Dr. Feldspar sent her to Darnassus, and the woman did not seem entirely happy with this instruction," the witness claims.

- by Thaag Edit

The Deeprun Tram held fond memories for Vinklo, most of which included the sound of precisely alloyed disks of metal falling into his hands. Today, he sat in a service alcove, perfectly still, nothing more than a shadow.

His contact was late.

The Tram sped by. Vinklo counted one human aboard, commuting to Ironforge.

The rock hit him square in the face and he heard his nose snap. Just making me more gorgeous! Vinklo picked himself slowly off the ground, his stomach still burning and now his face throbbing anew. Vinklo picked the rock up and found writing on it.

Just couldn't wait, could you?
He felt something trickling down his mouth and tasted blood. "Well, I guess that concludes our meeting," he mumbled before hiking to Ironforge. It would be easy to get rid of this missive.

- by Hyacinthe Edit

The winds of fate picked up numerous pieces of walking detritus from the wide reaches of Kalimdor and swept them together into one place -- a place known as Gadgetzan. Consequently, it was a place where a person of uncomplicated moral scruples could find ready employment.

"Yeah, so i figgered since you're big and green, dat maybe you could, ah, get trough to him."

"Him who?" asked Sobralia.

"Dey call him 'Da Fat Man.' He's a dealer in antiquities, based in Stormwind, dough he sometimes comes trough Booty Bay. He sold me dis, and at first i tought i'd struck it rich, only it's damaged goods and i want my money back. And maybe in da process you could find out what he knows about all dis."

Sobralia turned the cat figurine over in her hands. She didn't see anything wrong-- wait, now she saw it. Two letters in the Dwarven alphabet, very small, had been lightly etched on the bottom of one of the paws. "What is this supposed to be, anyway?"

"Da Maltese Panther!"

"And that is?"

"What, you nevah heard of da Maltese Panther? What are dey teaching in schools dese days?"

Sobralia's eyes narrowed. "At the slave camps we learned mostly about how bad we Orcs are." She handed the figurine back. "No."

"Whatayamean, no? Just like dat, 'no'?"

"I can't help you. You need someone who can pass unhindered through Alliance territory, who speaks the languages, who can--"

"Double da price!"

Sobralia crouched down so she could look the goblin right in the eyes. Her menacing stare would be more effective that way. "What the hell is going on here? You want me to work for you, you gotta be straight with me."

The goblin looked away. "Yeah, okay, well. Dere was a murder over dis. Da guy who found the Maltese Panther was murdered right in da middle of da Hall of Mysteries."

"In Ironforge?" The goblin nodded. "What's a dead dwarf to me?"

"Well, murder, see, murder is bad fah business. Makes everyone clam up, see? Dey won't buy nothin', won't sell nothin', won't say nothin'. I can't move dis."

Sobralia nodded. "And you can't find anyone else stupid enough to take this on."

"Triple it!"

"Why are you throwing good money after bad? So you got ripped off. Write it off, move on. Or sit on this for a while until it's not so hot."

The goblin drew close. "Okay, you want me to be straight wid you, i'll be straight. Dis wasn't an accidental purchase, see? I have a... very prominent, very powerful, and very, ah, excitable client who would like very much ta get his hands on da real Maltese Panther. I put his cash on da line to get dis, and now he wants my head on a platter! Unless i can get da real ting, right away."

"Hmm, he wants to chop off your head? I can't think of a good reason to get in the way of that." She snickered. "Quadruple the price, you said?"

"Sure ting! Just, please, find it quickly!"

Sobralia smiled. "I'll need some operating funds up front."
The goblin grimmaced. "Yeah, yeah, i expected dat. Here, give dis widdrawal slip ta Qizzik, he'll fix ya up."

- by Nikajah Edit

(16) - by Circetara Edit

Circetara sat in the corner of the small cell she had been placed in. The ceiling was too short and if she stood up, her horns scatched along the ceiling. She was miserable, cramped, hungry, and terrified.

She had been arrested for Feldspar's murder. Supposedly, there was a witness to this crime, but that was ridiculous as she was innocent.

Circe looked up as she heard the door to the cellblock open and an armored dwarf gurad entered the room. Circe looked at him, "I did not commit this thing you accuse me of doing. I only just arrived in Ironforge!"

The dwarf looked at her, right hand stroking his long beard, "That's wat they all say missy. We gots an eyewitness who saw ya with the Doc the other day. Pretty argument you and he was havin too. Sent you away to Darnassus he did."

Circe looked at the dwarf, "What? I haven;t been in Darnassus in weeks, and haven;t seen Feldspar for months! Your witness has me confused with someone. Feldspar was my friend. I've known him for years"

"Really? Years? And hows that possible? You draenai only crashed here a year ago!"

Circe closed her eyes, "I meant months. See how clear thinking you are locked in a cell you can't stand up in"

"Sorry the accomodations aint to your likin missy. Now, for the record, state your name."

Circe sighed, "Circetara Hakkara-Ryker"

"That sounds like a elf name to me."

"Regardless of what it sounds like, it is my name"

"And where were you three nights ago?"

"Making my way from Azure Watch to my home in Azshara."

"Can anyone account for this time for ya?"

"I was alone in the wilds. Perhaps one of the hyppogryph masters or someone on the boat to Auberdine, I do not know"

"It seems your name is attached to several crimes up Stormwind way, anything you have to say bout this?"

"I know nothing about these crimes"

The dwarf looked at the draenai girl. She wasn;t a very good liar. He was pretty sure she was innocent of Feldspar's crime, but she knew something about the events in her rap sheet. He looked at her, "Well, missy. Your trial is set for a week from today. Your advocate will be ere shortly. Oh, and ere's your supper." And with that, he pulled a loaf of bread, some cheese, and a small jug of water from his pack and placed them inside Circe's cell. Then he left, leaving Circe with her thoughts.
As Circetara took the food and began to eat, little did she know that the dwarf, one Torak Stonehelm, was sending a letter off to a contact of his. That draenai girl was innocent, but was going to hang, unless someone got her some help. And, he alwasy ahd a soft spot for pretty girls.

(17) - by Circetara Edit

(*Letter sent to the Agency Headquarters*)

To Whom it May Concern,

The young draenai girl recently and publically arrested in Ironforge for the death of Dr. Feldspar is innocent. I have no evidence of this ebyond my own belief in what she says. I am powerless to do anything to help her, aside form sending you this letter. She claims to have been in Kalimdore when the murder occurred. I request you use every resource at your disposal to clear her name. All expenses should be directed to the following account in Booty Bay 98628342728439378-a/1
Should you require any further information on my part, you may reach me via the bartender of the Pig and Whistle in Stormwind
Torak Stonehelm

(18) - by Thaag Edit

Gwenna Firebrew gathered Vinklo's three tankards and asked, "So, ya leavin' me sae soon?"

"I've one more question, my dearest love," Vinklo winked.

Gwenna put her free hand to her ample hip. "Dearest love indeed. I'm not yeller and," she looked down at her chest, "I'm not flat either. Now what is this question?"

"What the hell happened? The vibe here and in Thelsamar is off."

Gwenna blew out her cheeks. "Dr. Feldspar was murdered." She tossed an unused copy of the Stormwind Sentinel on the table in front of Vinklo. He paled to lavender.
Vinklo stood suddenly and lay another coin in Gwenna's hand and a kiss on top of her head. "I have to go."

(19) - by Dynast Edit

She put one foot in front of the other, enjoying the loud clack of her heels on the worn cobblestones of Stormwind's canal district despite the ache in her bones. With her slender ferule tucked under her arm, she smoothed out the front of her crisply pressed suede coat and then adjusted its broad cuffs as she continued her walk, pausing only to glance at her reflection in a pane-glass storefront.

Placing the tip of her cane back down, she continued on, moving with a proud swagger. If not for her long ears, she could have passed as any one of the gracefully aging matrons this kingdom had to offer. But today, she was as the humans knew her; merely Illantha Luhta'zair, a repeated benefactor to various institutions in the human capital.

Such patronage extended certain benefits her way, the most useful of these being access to reliable sources of information. It was by this that she walked up the wooden ramp into the Royal Hall of Records and inside, without a word of protest from the guard posted by the doorway. Passing by case upon case of books without a glance, she made her way upstairs to the Royal Factor Bathrilor's chamber.

It was his assistance that was the most important now. On her own, she only knew where to find one name on the assistant's list. That was the one she planned to save for last, knowing the opposition she was liable to meet. Better to let the others in persuit of the relic handle them and their ragtag band.

Instead, she focused now on finding the others listed.

Rapping the top of her ferule on the doorjam, she announced her presence to Bathrilor. Entering but a moment later, she placed the re-written list down on his desk. "I need to know the last recorded residences of these individuals."

"There was a census taken fairly recently, m'lady. You may yet be in luck. Can you tell me anything else about them?"

Illantha pursed her lips together, leaning on her ferule. The ache in her bones was becoming more insistant now, difficult to ignore and a strain on her composure. But she managed to maintain her facade, closing her eyes in thought.

"Nikajah.. Is a 'night elf'. I believe she has an establishment in this city itself, a business. The other two are likely known to her, perhaps on her payroll. If you can give me the Kaldorei's location, that is enough for me."

Bathrilor looked up at the aging elf standing in front of him with a quizzical expression, pausing to adjust his monocle. "As you wish. Unfortunately due to the volume of individuals we must list in a census, it will take a long time to search through."

Her expression turned the slightest bit sour as she stared down at the human male, the spectacles perched on her nose doing little to hide the sharpness of her gaze.

"...So be it." she relinquished after a long pause. "Perhaps you can more quickly tell me the location of her business? Or at least, who posted this."

She reached into her bodice, pulling out a worn scrap of flier, holding it up for Bathrilor to see. It was ripped from one of the local publications, a specific entry circled in red ink. She then handed it over, dusting off her gloved hand afterward.

Picking it up, Bathrilor mused over it for a few moments before nodding to himself. He then looked back up at the woman looming over his desk, trying to smile.

"Yes. Perhaps that, I can do.." he began, the sound of his own voice boosting his confidance. "Yes, definately. By tomorrow."

"Well then. I will call for my retainer and consort to come to the city tonight." she paused, pursing her lips before forcing herself to continue. "Thank you once again, Bathrilor."

She forced a stiff smile, holding it for only a moment or two before turning away. "You can send a messanger to the loft over the old Argent Dawn headquarters."

Leaning on her ferule more heavily, she managed to make her way down the steps. By now, the annoyed quirk of her lips had returned. Everything had to go perfectly. It was imperative.
One week from now, in the darkness of the new moon.. That would be the time to strike.

(20) - by Thaag Edit

Vinklo had to get away from Ironforge. Not only had Feldspar been killed by some squid chick, DeVollio was missing as well. No one in the Hall of Explorers had seen him, and when Vinklo was able to speak to a traveller from Thelsamar, she had insisted DeVollio hadn't been anywhere around there in a while. Since DeVollio had been the one to send him those messages, the letter and the rock...

Wait. DeVollio had been missing for days. He could not sell the artifact without Vinklo's connections--DeVollio was just a nerd with a little business ambition. So who wrote the message on the rock?

Vinklo closed his eyes and tried to remember the writing itself. It wasn't in any ink. It had been scratched into the rock itself. What kind of rock? Vinklo had no experience with rocks but he guessed it was sandstone, something easy to scratch. The writing was nothing but straight lines, almost runic. It was in the human's language. Vinklo guessed that the human on the Tram threw it at him. He couldn't have seen Vinklo, but he could have known somehow which alcove Vinklo was to meet DeVollio. He could simply have been paid by someone else to count the alcoves he passed and pitch it there.

So...where did the rock come from?
Vinklo didn't want to wait around in Ironforge to find out. He booked a flight to Menethil, where he would take a ship to Theramore. He had business there anyway, and getting away from the scene of a crime he'd been albeit obliquely involved in sounded quite wise.

(21) - by Hyacinthe Edit

(22) - Ravniel Edit

(23) - by Naidia Edit

Naidia had been given and (reluctantly) accepted the assignment to follow Demarion that night by her Director, Nikajah. Demarion and she had met a short while ago in Elwynn forest, Goldshire and had gotten along well considering the both of them were self-proclaimed loners. They had spoken about the trials and tribulations of being a hunter, and had funily enough bonded in a sense. Naidia wasn't usually one to let herself succumb to such weak emotions such as that, but she had gotten a little more open to meeting and speaking to people since she had signed on as an agent, now an operative, for Agency.

Having spoken about their beasts and talked a little about their lives in the wild and aluded to parts of the past history with the opposite sex, she had noted that he was not unlike how she was, very closed off from the world after having been burned by another. She thought he handled himself well, with confidence and security. She almost felt weak and inadequate around him if only for the quality of his armor and demeanor. "He is a more season hunter, and he is far older than I. Of course he would have an air of superiority around me." It would be a lie to herself if she said she wasn't very attracted to him.

Their relationship had gotten very interesting in the past few days, but she had no intention if it getting too "interesting" too soon. She firstly wasn't that ype of woman, and secondly had not been comfortable enough to let anyone get too close to her emotionally in quite some time, and wasn't going to be stupid enough to open herself up in that way to still, what she considered a complete stranger. Being in Agency now she was a little more guarded as she had thought it wise not to speak of her "job" to others as they might have been taking advantage of her to get information about Agency.

When Nikajah had given her the assignment to follow Demarion she had just finished having quite an argument about having to "babysit" him, feeling infuriated being assigned a partner. She felt as if Nikajah had not trusted her judgement alone and did not trust her to be able to get the job done. After following Demarion around like a puppy for days and finally wearing him dow with honest words, she had convinced him that had not found him to be a child she needed to babysit. Even after that she wasn't so sure that he believed her, regardless.

Keeping her eye on him through a source of hers when she had other duties to attend to (no matter how she felt about him she wasn't going to trust anyone in regards to a case she was on.) she got regular reports from her source as well as asking Demarion directly what he had uncovered, knowing full well he probably didn't trust her either. Having seen him speaking to some of the Explorer's League earlier in the day and them acting so secretive, she knew that he was hiding something important to the case, she just didn't know what, and it was likely to drive her mad if she didn't find out soon.
Reaching forward with her eyes closed from her place on the floor of her office, she felt warm fur, then heard a soft rumbling of a purring lion. "I suppose we've got our work cut out for us, mmm Patronus? A huntress and her beast tracking a hunter and his." Patronus let out a soft groan, almost a sigh. "I know, I like it best outdoors as well. But it will do you good to stay indoors sometimes. We need social exposure." The lion seemed unconvinced and lay back on his side beside her. She opened her eyes and lay halfway over his side on her stomach, gently scratchijg the big cat's belly. "I know you miss being in the snow, I do too. Perhaps we'll have time when we finish this case." Getting up, the lion rolled and sat up, watching her now. "Alright then, let's get going. We have a girl to question you know. They might not enjoy a lion in the jail, but they'll have me to go through now won't they?" She winked and they started down the stairs.

(24) - by Hyacinthe Edit

Jezzik the Bruiser came upon two humans hefting a large burlap sack by the dockside. The sack, six feet long, had been wrapped with cords tied hastily around it. "Scuse me, scuse me, whadaya tink you're doin' here? We don't allow trash disposal in da bay. Ah, hey, waitaminit, is dat a body?"

The humans turned and dumped the sack on the dockside. There was a muffled but audible "Oof."

One of the humans, a tall and stocky guy with long dark hair and rings on every finger, took off his hat. "My cousin Vinnie from Westfall. He came here on vacation every year, he just loved it here. He always said that when he passed away, Light rest his soul, he wanted to join with the waters of the bay. We're just here observing his last wishes."

Jezzik looked down at the sack. He thought he saw it twitch. "Yeah, well. We got rules now about corpse disposal. Can't just dump 'em in da bay anymore, see? It's bad news all around. Corpses are a health hazard, and dey bring in seagulls by da flock, and da mariners, well, dey got dese woo-woo superstitions about floatin' bodies hittin' da sides a' their ships. Den sometimes trolls fish out da bodies, and i don't wanna say what happens next, but it's very bad for tourism, very very bad. So i'm sorry, ya can't dump your stiff here."

The humans exchanged a glance. "So what do you recommend?"

Jezzik scratched his head. "Normally we ferry dem out to da coral reef so da sharks can tend ta dem. But Squeezle's prolly asleep right now, so ya hafta wait till morning, i guess. In da meantime, if it ain't any trouble, i don't suppose you could show me da receipt you got from Baron Revilgaz?"

The stocky human opened his mouth for a moment as if to ask a question, but he closed it without saying anything.

"You know, da receipt he gave you when you paid da fee for burial in Booty Bay?"

The humans shared another glance, and took off in a sprint.
Jezzik shook his head as he crouched down beside the burlap sack. "I'm tellin' ya," he said to no one in particular, "it's like dere's a epidemic of dumb or sompin'." He untied what he gathered to be the top of the burlap sack and pulled it down, to reveal the head of an orc woman with a gag in her mouth. "Cousin Vinnie, i presume?"

(25) - by Nikajah Edit

Withdrawing a thick piece of black charcoal from a small sack, her most recent purchase, Nikajah wasted no time withdrawing Feldspar's journal. With the lightest touch she could muster, she swept the charcoal across the marked page in long, smooth strokes. The indentations beneath peeked out in stark contrast to the darkening page. It was working.

Documented from Text #3483-28:

The Great Cat Spirit is summoned by way of an artifact shaped like a wild cat beast, the ever-elusive panther. It is a statuette, rumored to have been lost many, many years ago. Legend has it that the possessor has the power to call upon and control the Great Cat Spirit.

According to legendary belief and supplemented by an ancient scroll written in a primitive language (see #285-1), a summoning ritual is required to tap into the power of the artifact. Here is a rough account of the ritual as described on that scroll:

The Collar of a Wild Feline - To assert control over an animal, one must collar the beast. It is no different with the Great Spirit.

The Paw of a Wild Feline - A feline's paws are equal only to its fangs as primary weapons. To restore the Spirit's fierce power, its weapons must be restored.

The Fang of a Nightsaber - In addition to its paws, a feline's fangs are a most deadly weapon of this natural predator. To aid in the restoration of the Spirit's power, this second weapon must be restored.

The Elixir of the Cat's Eye - To grant the Spirit sight in the mortal world, you must create an Elixir of the Cat's Eye. This potion is brewed from the crushed leaves of the shimmering plant called "Fadeleaf" and the blood from the squeezed roots of the plant known as "Goldthorn."

The Blood of a Mortal - In order to grant this Spirit physical entry into the mortal world, blood must be shed in its name with both paw and fang. This enables the statuette to form the initial link with the Spirit Realm, and is a powerful attractant to the Great Cat Spirit.

The Statuette of the Great Cat Spirit - This relic is the Great Cat Spirit's gateway into the mortal world. When the ritual is completed and the Spirit invoked, the Great Cat Spirit will emerge from this artifact.

The Collar of a Wild Feline is to be soaked in half of the Elixir of the Cat's Eye for one sunrise and one sunset prior to the ritual. It is then to be placed around the statuette as tightly as possible.

At sunset of the second day, the Mortal is first clawed with the paw. This should not be a fatal wound. It should be on a wider portion of the Mortal's body, very likely the abdomen or chest. The paw is to be used on the Mortal to write the sacred words: "I invoke the Great Cat Spirit" in the ancient tongue.

Then the Mortal must be pierced in the heart by the Fang of a Nightsaber. This must be a fatal wound. The Mortal's blood should be allowed to coat the Statuette.

Then, over the Statuette the last half of the Elixir of the Cat's Eye must be poured as those sacred words are spoken aloud.
A final, very important step--


And that was where the entry ended. She tried to work her charcoal over the next page, but nothing seemed to have been written over it. It just ended here abruptly. And most alarming of all, this was a page that had been removed. The question was, removed by whom?

The thought of an innocent humanoid being murdered for this ritual was sickening. She knew she had to find the page, and the person who took it, very soon.

(26) - by Hyacinthe Edit

When Sobralia was a pup, she lived with her mother in Lordaeron Internment Camp Number 17. Her mom told her that her father, whom Sobralia had never met, was in one of the other camps. She often wondered if that was just a lie to spare her from having to tell Sobralia that he was dead or imprisoned.

Her mother befriended the wife of one of guards, and the two spent time together when she came to visit. Friendships between humans and orcs were uncommon and frowned upon, but not forbidden. Her mother's friend had a daughter, Ada, and Ada had a pet bombay cat, Lil' Panther. "I call her that because she looks just like a lil' panther."

Lil' Panther had yellow eyes and would just stare at Sobralia, and stare and stare.

Sobralia knew she'd never be pretty like Ada, she'd never have pink skin and blonde hair and people would always think she was ugly. But Lil' Panther could chase these thoughts away with a purr and meow, by curling up in her lap.

Lil' Panther was killed by Aedelas Blackmoore in one of his drunken fits.

While fighting the poison which the Fat Man had given her, Sobralia had a long fever dream in which Lil' Panther was trying to tell her something. But then she would wander off and Sobralia would have to look for her. Lil' Panther was hiding in a mine in Westfall, which Sobralia (during the more lucid parts of her dream) thought was strange since she'd never been to Westfall.

She came to on the dusty splintery wooden floor of a shack in Booty Bay. A potbellied stove sat against the wall, and the far corner had a hammock and a table with a few books and other items.

There was a note pinned to her shirt.

Hey there orc lady,

Attached please find a bill for emergency rescue services, and rental of floor space while you slept -whatever- off. The safe under my hammock has a deposit slot on the top. Have a nice day,
Jezzik the Bruiser


Sobralia folded the bill and wrapped enough gold in it to send Jezzik Jr. to business school in Undermine, stuffed this into the safe, looked around for any of her possessions that might be lying around, and left.
She was burning with the white hot fury of a thousand suns, and she had a Fat Man to track down and kill.

(27) - by Illarion Edit

Sitting on the dock at Menethil Harbor, Coldwyn felt overwhelmingly lost. Usually, she'd enter foreign lands with a spirit of adventure, the trait in common that had kindled the bond between her and her late Uncle, Horatio Feldspar. But faced with his death and the dead end she'd hit on the trail of his assistant, she just didn't have it in her.

She picked up a pebble and skipped it out over the waves, glancing between the docks. Her inquiries at Thelsamar, with both her mother and the locals who had seen Uncle Feldy returning, had lead her to Kalimdor. The only person anyone saw close to him was the assistant, DeVollio, who'd been overheard as departing from Menethil once he and Feldspar had parted ways.

After leaving Uncle Feldy's journal with Nikajah, Coldwyn felt as if she had nothing left to go on. She'd followed DeVollio this far, but no one seemed to know of him. "I canna just sit 'ere forever," she muttered to herself. The options laid before her on the piers. Theramore or Auberdine.

She glanced up and saw white sails billowing over a dock, the other empty. Going on her gut, she hopped on the boat. "Pardon me," she addressed a disembarking Draenei man, "But where does this boat 'ere make go?"

"We have just arrived from Darkshore, my lady." He replied with a nod before making his way down the dock.
Coldwyn shrugged. Finding any further leads at the moment would require some sort of miracle. "May as well follow me instincts."

(28) - by Hyacinthe Edit

Fortunately, Sobralia had left her mace and sword with the banker before meeting with the Fat Man, or else those would be missing now too, along with various effects she'd had with her.

After stocking up on bullets, poison reagents, flash powder, a new lockpicking kit, and other various effects, she was shocked (but not surprised) to overhear the voice of a familiar goblin.

She stalked Freezix for a few moments, and then chose her moment, plucking him off the street and pulling him into an alley.

"Woah, hey! Ah, it's you Sobralia..." Then he saw the blade. "Old buddy, old pal. Don't kill me."

"I had a little conversation with our friend the Fat Man. He tried to kill me."

"Well, you gave it a try, but i tought it over and i agree wid what you said, i'm just gonna write the whole ting off. So, don't worry about getting da money; after all it's just a material possession, right? You can keep da advance i gave ya."

He gulped and looked at the blade again. Sobralia hadn't lowered it.

"Okay, okay, if you don't kill me, i'll cut you in. I'll make you par- eh, junior partner wid a non-controlling interest in Suck-o-matic Designs."

Sobralia raised an eyebrow.

"Here, let me show you. Dis is what i got in da works. I call it the De-avatar-ifying Suck-o-matic 2000FL. Da 'FL' is for Freezix Lugwrench, 'cause like dear ol' da always said, make sure ya put your name in da product somehow."

"So tell me, senior partner... what the hell are you talking about?"

"So glad you asked! Ya ever find yourself with a relic dat you just know is a god's avatar, but ya can't use it 'cause the ritual you need to do to tap into it is lost in the mists of time? With the Suck-o-matic, you never have to face da embarrassment of dis again. One blast and WHAM! all the god is sucked out of da relic, and right into this can. Canned God! What am i gonna do wid 'Canned God,' you ask? But i say, what can't you do? One spritz and POW! 'I SMITE THEE MIGHTILY!' And, no messy rituals, no bloody altars, it's easy, it's hygienic."

"What does the Archmage think of this?"

"Well, what he don't know don't hurt 'im, right?"

"I'm sure he'd notice, Freezix."

The goblin shrugged. "Well, da contract we signed never said i had to give him a potent artifact, just an intact one."

"So, your plan is to use Xylem's money to find the Maltese Panther, zap all of the divine power out of it, and then give it to me to turn in?"

The goblin scratched his head. "Well, you left out a few details, but yeah, pretty much."

"And you think it's wise to make an Archmage murderously angry with you?"

"Us. Wid us. We're partners now, right?"

Sobralia shrugged. "I don't know. Maybe i'll cut your throat instead and throw your suck-o-matic into the bay."

"But tink about it! Canned god! What's da Archmage gonna do against that?"

Sobralia lowered the blade. Some people were just too pathetic to kill. "In any case, first we have to find the statue. What do you know about a guy named Eddie Van Cleef?"

Freezix shrugged. "Just dat he's hired a bunch of goblins on the down low. Got some kinda mining operation in Westfall. Rumor is, he's up ta no good."

A mine in Westfall. Sobralia sheathed her blade. "I'll be back in a day or two. I'm gonna look up this Eddie Van Cleef guy."

"Have a nice trip!"
After she walked away, Freezix eyed the small pouch he'd lifted from Sobralia's pocket. It was a lot like the one the archmage had given him, with the materials needed to make a bowl of scrying. He tossed it into the bay. "Sorry, partner, but i can't have you betraying me now. Didn't anyone tell you not to keep stuff in your pockets around goblins? Sheesh."

(29) - by Thaag Edit

Theramore seemed to be full of dark dealings as well. Vinklo finished his business there and pondered what he was to do next.

He actually felt a little bad for Feldspar. The dwarf had been the first person to hand Vinklo a beer, just randomly at a bar on Feldspar's birthday. Feldspar had laughed heartily when Vinklo belched loudly (and unelfly) afterward, pronouncing him an honorary dwarf (but only for the party).

So who might have some insight on Feldspar's activities? Or even (gulp) possibly the location of the cat?
Vinklo booked a flight to Ratchet. He could hike to Bael Modan.

(30) - by Shady Character Edit

He followed Vinklo unseen, hobbling along due to the wound in his side. He knew Vinklo had heard about the murder - who hadn't?

The fake was gone. He'd had to move it quickly, so that the trail from DeVollio, to himself, to Vinklo and his contacts was not discovered. He was reasonably sure that DeVollio could not have committed the murder. The dwarf had been in an utter panic when they'd last met. He'd handed over the replica they'd created, wanting nothing more to do with it.

And then he'd disappeared. Just like that. He'd looked everywhere for the dwarf, to no avail.

He had wanted to meet up with Vinklo, but Ironforge was not safe. The authorities would be looking to make a trail - either that, or the Agency he heard they'd hired. The story put out in the Sentinel didn't fool him. He suspected the Agency would be on the trail, and at the least, DeVollio, his, and Vinklo's involvement wouldn't look good. No, it was best to lead his contact away from the heat.

Not only that, he had killed a man now. Just a Defias thug, in protection of his life, but that didn't matter. He'd hoped he'd been careful enough when he had met with The Fat Man. He wanted to make certain it was a public meeting to lead the trail away from his associates, and by proxy himself, but he wanted The Fat Man visible. He thought that the public location would keep him from trying anything. He had wrongly assumed that The Fat Man wasn't entirely stupid.

Where the hell was that elf going now? he thought, catching him booking a ticket with the flightmaster.

(31) - by Hyacinthe Edit

With any luck, no one tailed him to the Deadmines. Eddie might skin him for coming straight here with the heat on his tail, but Eddie had to know what might be headed their way, and he didn't trust a courier with it.

As soon as that orc joined him instead of DeVollio and started leaning on him, he knew, he just knew that he'd been set up to take the fall for someone. And what a huge mess this could cause. As long as the Defias kept their operations confined to Westfall, they were fine. But if King Magni accused them of killing dwarves in Ironforge and stealing sacred relics, not even Lady K could shield them from the fallout. Picture the Alliance coming down on the Deadmines with the full brunt of its army. They could hole up in there for a while but it would be big, and public, and very bloody, and whoever had really killed Feldspar and taken the Cat would be in the clear.

And then on top of it, the Cat had been a fake!

If the poison didn't finish off that orc, and he doubted it would, she was gonna come after him. Until he knew she was dead, he was gonna have to sleep with one eye open. That wasn't really important in the big scheme of things; he believed in Eddie's cause and keeping that safe was the important thing. But it could certainly be a distraction. And the last thing he wanted was to see her show up on Eddie's doorstep.

--------

Edwin Van Cleef spoke with a deep, rich voice that made every woman, and half the men, within earshot go weak in the knees. His hand came down on the Fat Man's shoulder. "You're killin' me, Carmine. Killin' me."

One of his thugs came over and whispered in his ear a moment. He looked up at the Fat Man. "Yeah, that orc is on her way here. She's been askin' all around, she's got a real hard on to kill you." He looked up at his thug. "I want to speak with her. See to it she finds her way in here. And bring in," he snapped his fingers a few times trying to remember, "bring in Floozle, she speaks Orcish. Oh, and... make sure we got one of our sharpshooters on that ridge up there. I want to be able to take her out if we need to."

"I speak Orcish," the Fat Man ventured.

"Yeah, but i need you to keep your mouth shut. Don't say a thing, you just sit there. I don't want her getting distracted. We'll just sit down and have a nice dinner, you, me, the goblin, and the orc who wants to cut off your gonads and shove 'em down your throat."

(32) - by Circetara Edit

Circe sighed with exasperation. Days had passed, and except for the lone dwarf who questioned her, no one had come to see her, aside form the dwarf girl who brought her her meals. She felt like a captive animal, and she didn't like it. She'd been through enough, she did not need this as well.

Unable to stand in the cell, the draenai crawled over to her bars and examined the cell door for the first time. She needed ot take things into her own hands now. The bars were solid, to be expected with dwarf make. The lock as well. Circe sighed, and put her hand over the lock. A few words muttered in the arcane language of the Highborne and the lock clicked open. For the first time in days, she smiled, and crawled out of the cramped cell, standing up, stretching her back, standing up.

She then crept her way otwards the cell block door, cursing the noise her hooves made on the stone. She peeked through the window and saw two dwarf guards standing outside. this would not do. Even if she merely polymorphed them, it would be an attack on the rightful authorities of Ironforge. She'd never be allowed here again.

Crice swore under her breath, then noticed someone coming down the hall towards the guards. Quickly, she slipped back into ehr cell, closing the door behind wher with a click. As she did, the cell block door opened and a dwarven woman entered.

"Circetara Hakkara-Ryker?", she asked

Circe nodded.

"Good. I am Eloin Shattershield, Paladin. I've been sent to escort you from here, with the apologies of the King. It seems that your are in fact innocent of this crime and are being released." As she spoke, the dwarf opened the cell andd Circe emerged.

"Thank Elune, someone finally listened to me."

The dwarf looked confused at a draenai swearing to the Night Elven goddess, but shrugged, "Yes. It seems that you are not in fact the draenai who was involved." she led Circe out of the cell block and waited while the draenai retireved her personal belongings. She then handed Circe a note. "I was asked ot give this to you", then bowed, and departed.

"Circe watched the dwarf go as she quickly made her way to the Gryphon Master and left Ironforge behind her. She'd had quite enough of the dwarven city. After landing in Menethil HArbor, she opened the note given her.

"If you desire answers, seek out the Agency in Stormwind. Signed, A Friend"
Circe shrugged. "Well, that says a whole lot of nothing." She sighed, and arranged for the flight to Stormwind. She reveled in the feeling of her freedom, and enjoyed the sights as she soared over the land. After landing in the towered city of Stormwind, she inquired form one of the guards as to where she might find this Agency. Directed to the poroper district, she soon found herself walking inside, staff in hand, "Hello? Is anyone herE? I am looking for something called the Agency, and was told this was where I would find them"

(33) - by Hyacinthe Edit

What Sobralia saw in Westfall surprised her. Westfall was practically in the shadow of Stormwind, and yet it was a place of utter lawlessness and chaos.

Mechanical golems roamed the countryside, tearing up crops and slaughtering people. Sobralia saved a family of five trapped in a barn by three of the mechanical monstrosities. She was too numbed with surprise to reply when they expressed their joy and gratitude. Humans should not be cheering to see an orc in their own lands.

And the Defias roamed freely, though it was known they were bandits. But why not? They ruled Westfall. By watching their movements for while, she could tell that the center of their activity was an abandoned town near the coast. She snuck her way into the busiest building and found herself in a labyrinthine mine.

Once inside, she saw miners; representatives of the Bloodsail Buccaneers; numerous goblins; and an ogre or two.

By the time she reached a dock inside a cave, she was convinced they had been instructed to let her through. Their sentries could not universally be so incompetent. Just in case, though, she continued to move as stealthily as she could.

The path of least resistance led her up the gangplank onto the ship, and once there to the uppermost deck on the ship, where she found the Fat Man, a goblin, and another human she presumed was Van Cleef sitting there staring at her as if expecting her. Van Cleef motioned to an empty chair.

"Aka'magosh," he said, with a heavy accent. "I am Edwin Van Cleef. And you are?"

"Sobralia." Her name was already a human word actually, but Floozle translated it as "Arugula."

Van Cleef, through the spoke, and the goblin translated for him. "Arugula, i asked Cookie to prepare a feast to make you feel right at home, and so he made raptor stew, and for the main dish, boar seared Orgrimmar style." At a snap from Van Cleef, bowls of stew were brought in.

Sobralia stared at it a long moment, savoring the aroma from it, and admiring the swirl of blood in the broth. It smelled just like the raptor stew her mom used to make after their arrival in Durotar. Was it poisoned? She doubted they would go to this trouble to poison her. She looked around, saw the many dozens of hiding places from which a sniper could be watching.

The others were picking at it, taking small polite sips from the broth; from what little she knew of human eating habits, the meat in the stew was probably too raw for them. She dug in; it was delicious. The cook had even left in bits of cartilage! Whoever this 'Cookie' was, she'd have to send her compliments.

They ate in silence, and had grilled apple for desert. She hadn't eaten so well since her first days of training in Razor Hill. Just can't find good Orcish cuisine outside of Durotar.

"Thank you. The food was delicious. It doesn't assuage my anger towards this man. But don't let it be said that i was unwilling to try talking a second time."

The goblin translated, and Van Cleef nodded. She translated his words to Orcish for her. "By letting you in to see everything, we've taken you into our confidence. This was a gesture of goodwill on our part. This is our little way of acknowledging that my friend erred. I hope that we can buy your forgiveness, or at least convince you to stay your vengeance."

Sobralia said nothing. What could she say to that? Van Cleef took her silence as assent to listen to more of what they had to say. "You're probably wondering what the cat relic has to do with all of this." Sobralia had to admit that she was curious about that.

"Arugula, have you ever had a friend who was about to make a mistake, but you just didn't know how to tell them? So you scheme around behind their back in order to prevent them from making the mistake, but without them knowing that you're doing it, because you don't want them to know you're against it?"

Sobralia nodded no.

"Well, i hope it never happens to you, because it's a terrible position to be in. See, we have friends in Stormwind. Powerful, connected, influential friends. Friends who are keen to get their hands on a relic like that, who might do anything to get it. And, i don't want to bore you too much with the details, but we couldn't allow the relic to fall into those hands. So... we decided to deflect the relic a bit, get it moving away from Katr-- ah, our friends. We hoped we could do it quietly, but when you showed up, it was clear we hadn't succeeded. Arugula, if word gets back to Stormwind of what we did, we could be looking at the Fourth War here. So we're eager to keep the whole thing under wraps.
"We'd like to propose to your employer a working partnership. I can possibly buy you entrance into various parts of Stormwind or even Ironforge if that's where you need to go to investigate this. But we need to find the cat before the wrong people get ahold of it. Or, if they already have it, we need to know how much time is left to make our peace with the Light."

(34) - by Hyacinthe Edit

Sobralia pondered the offer for a long moment. When she spoke, her words implied her acceptance of the offer. "My employer charged me with first finding out who was the original recipient of the Cat." She looked at the Fat Man. "Where did you get it?"

The Fat Man looked back and forth between Van Cleef and Sobralia, then finally said, "I bought it in Stormwind from a... bit of a shady character i sometimes deal with. Well, perhaps i should say dealt with."

Van Cleef looked a little mortified at this. "Are you saying he's the one who killed Kenny?"

The Fat Man shrugged. "What can i say? I underestimated him."

Sobralia asked, "Do you know where we can find him now?"

The Fat Man looked grim. "I know where he frequents. Plus maybe i could send out word, maybe offer to make amends..."

"I doubt he'll fall for that. I have a better idea. You have this amazing knack for making people want to kill you. If you pulled a fast one on him, maybe, like me, he wants to see you dead. In that case we can use you for bait to draw him out."

"Oh, i don't think i like this idea..."
Sobralia allowed her grin to unfold slowly, like a snake unraveling. "Don't worry, i wouldn't let him kill you."

(35) - by Thaag Edit

"Shut yer mouth!" Khazgorm exclaimed when Vinklo showed him the copy of the Stormwind Sentinel with Tudlington's headline splashed across it. The dwarf's stout fingers deftly snatched it from the elf's hand.

"Ah, crap," he sighed, surrendering to reality. "I told 'im goin' after that Cat'd be th' end o' him. He even offered ta send it ta me fer safe keepin', but I don't even wanna have annithin ta do wi't." Khazgorm squinted at Vinklo, then whispered, "Duzzis have annithin ta do with our on-goin' business?"

"I would certainly hope not," Vinklo answered with the slightest hint of injury. "But you have an ear to the ground, and being in the League you might even count the hoofbeats you hear." Vinklo looked at the pouch that his cousin had given him to lubricate memories with, and figured he could spare a little and get a lot more later. "You know my gold is good, and unshaven."

"Keep it." Khazgorm studied Vinklo for a few seconds, then waved him to follow. He led Vinklo out of the dig and to his own office within Bael'Dun, just off of the tank repair bay. He smiled to find it noisy.

"Sit down, that barrel ha'n't been primed yet so it's harmless." Khazgorm plopped down on his own barrel and shuffled through the papers and files on his desk. Several pretty but worthless fossils served as paperweights and scattered sandstone bits about.

"Look," Khazgorm said at length, "I know ya've been tryin' ta buy that cat. Hell, half o'th' smuggling world is after it. I stayed out of it an' fer good reason. I know if I tolja ta drop it ya wouldn't, so I'm going to say this: that squid girl ain't the one ta've dunnim in. Five times ta th'front. That's familiarity, an' that's rage. They didn't kill him ta get th'cat. They killed him cuz he didn't have it."

Khazgorm sat back. "Now where's that dumb assistant o' his, DeVollio?"

"Missing for days."

"Oh, so yeh was gonna buy th' cat from that idiot. Vinklo, Vinklo. Never buy from th' sidekick. It's too obvious. Well, he didn't do 'iz boss in either. Sommins either dunnim an' hiddim, or's tryin' ta gettim ta talk. Now whoever dunnit, they was smart 'nuff ta leaviz body where it'd be found. That's a message ta whoever's got th' cat, Thissiz gunna happen ta YOU when I findja." Khazgorm's eye twinkled. "That means th' cat's gonna be movin'. Whoever's gottit ain't gonna wanna keep it in one place fer long. So whatcha do? Watch who's movin' a lot."

Vinklo nodded and stood.

"Oh, by th' way," Khazgorm added, "legend hazzit that th' cat requires mortal blood ta make it work. Dunno whatchu think about that, but that makes me kinda squirm. Ya sure ya wanna sell it t' them furry heathen savages up th' road frummere?"

***
Down the road, Vinklo looked at a chunk of the sandstone he'd kyped from the dig site. It was too pale to be from the same place as the rock that broke his nose. He tossed it aside, where it cracked and exposed the imprint of a beautiful fern.

(36) - by Ravniel Edit

Filter raised his sword high against the charge of the imps, his great claymore slicing through the demons as he made his way through the fiery wasteland that was the Burning Steppes. Toeing one of the bodies, he'd tilt his head in mild confusion at what the demons had in their hands. "... ice cream?"

One of the men in the travelling party he was with called out to Filter. "Hey, boss! I don't mean to pry, but what the hell are we doing out in this Light-forsaken place?"

Cleaning the blade he carried off with a piece of cloth, Filter slid his great sword back into its scabbard, the great blade glowing lightly against the bleak landscape around them. "Waiting on my man... who, looks like he's here," Cool grey eye would look up to the path coming up from the Redridge mountains, the other covered by an eyepatch.

A lone rider, a solitary figure in a cloak, would stop at the broken gates that separated the peaceable areas of Lakeshire from the fiery lands of the Blackrock Orcs. Only as Filter appraoched, did the rider dismount and meet with the slaver.

"This better be good news, pup, or else I'mma have to shove my boot up your ass," Filter would say, crossing his arms as he leaned up against the broken gate.

"I assure you it is, Master Filter," the rider, a slightly older woman's voice spoke out - a throaty, deep voice that was the result of hard drinking and smoking. "Trust me, babe, this'll be worth your time. We locked down the courier who delivered the parcels in this side of the world. His logbook has a few names in here you might find interesting." She'd say, passing over a scroll to Filter, the dark-featured man sliding the ribbon off to examine. "The other list we're trying to get a track on, but that's a good start..."

Filter sighed as he looked over the list. "It doesn't say who any of these deliveries are from, just who received them... what the hell am I goonna do with this? Am I gonna have to slap around all of these people to find out where this thing is?"

"That's the other thing... the courier said that the packages were all identical - same size, same weight, same everything," The woman would say, sitting down on a rock so that she and her horse could rest. "They're about the right size of what you're looking for, but he couldn't tell me what I wanted specifically."

The one-eyed man sighed as he thumped his head against the blackened wood of the gate, closing his eyes. "Great. So, not only did this guy send out a dozen packages that I'm gonna have to track down individually, but only one of them might be what I'm looking for? Might as well have told my ass that I'd be picking a fight with a dozen random heroes or something. Just tell me that Saurfang and Fordragon aren't on this list..."

"Hey, you told me to look into this for you, and I did." The woman would say, chuckling a bit. "Any progress on my request?" The woman would say as she quickly frowned, looking up at the man hopefully.

"You always do good work for me, Maggie... and yeah. I tracked her down to a place in Alterac, where the trail went cold... I think she may have gotten caught up in some Syndicate activity or run into the Scarlet Crusade..." He'd say, a long strand of jet black hair falling into his face as he hid the half-smile away from the woman.

She sighed and nodded, lowering her head. "Find her, find my daughter before she becomes food for those awful monsters up there... I'll keep doing what I can here."

"I'll look into it, Maggie... trust me!" He'd say, flashing a grin that was entirely too fake to believe.

"Is it possible she may have tried to get back into our home in Lordaeron?" She asked quietly.

Filter rolled his eye and shook his head, and rather quickly changed the subject. "... Yeah, I remember Lordaeron, before the big what-to-do with the Prince and all... not a bad place. I remember this one guy I used to run into every day at the forge there. Nice guy, prolly a doctor or dead now, or undead as you may take it... so he asks me one day what I do for a living.

"I tell him I'm a sword-for-hire. He's like, 'Yeah?' and I'm like 'Yeah.' I show him the kit I usually bring around and he picks up the spyglass.

"Well, this is neat!' he says, looking up into it. 'I can see my house from here! Yeah... I can see it alright, this is fantastic! I can see my wife in the bedroom... and she's naked!' and then the poor shmuck's face drains of all color. 'Wait a minute, my neighbor's in there too! And -HE- is naked!' He immediately turns to me, 'How much do you charge for a hit?'

"I look at the guy and nod. 'Flat rate, fifty gold every time I swing my sword,' I say.

"Can you do two for me now?

"Sure, what do you want?

"Well, cut my wife's head off... I don't think I can ever face her again after what she's done. Then the guy, he's a friend of mine, so just cut his wingdangdoodle off to teach him a lesson.

"So I just watch for a little while, shaking my head at how callous this seemingly nice guy comes off. And then he gets agitated and starts pestering me, 'Are you going to do it or not?'

"I don't want to be a bastard in this situation, I'm trying to help a friend out, afterall. I just look at him and nod. 'Just be patient, I think I can save you fifty gold here." He'd laugh at his own joke, before looking to the woman.

The woman just stared up at him with confused eyes.

Filter pushed himself up off the broken gate and nodded to the woman. "Aaaanyway, I'm outta here before some guy from Morgan's Vigil sees us here...We just delivered some packages to a client in Blackrock Spire, and it's still fresh, and I think there's some Alliance or Horde 'adventurers' snooping around again. Later, babe!"

The woman snapped back to reality when he waved to her, and she reached up into her cloak. "Filter! One more thing! This ought to be a good read for you." She'd say, tossing him a copy of the Stormwind Sentinel.

Catching the paper in one hand, the one-eyed warrior would grin. "Hope it's about me!" He'd say, before jogging back up the trail to meet with his band.

One of the mercenaries looked up at Filter as he returned. "Boss... isn't that the lady whose daughter we sold to the Syndicate?"
"Yeah, but she doesn't know that... I told her she ran off to fight the Scourge," Filter would shrug his shoulders. "My horse," He'd gesture for the merc to give him the reigns to his steed.

(37) - by Dynast Edit

She closed her eyes, focusing her entire attention on flexing her fingers. Extending herself this way was draining but an inevitable task; part of sloughing away the past.

This must not be allowed to interfere with the task before us.

Extending her fingers, she slowly spun around with closed eyes waiting for the signature tingle in their tips that would tell her a source of energy was nearby. One breath then two, three, four and..

Nothing.

She slowly lowered her arms before clenching her trembling hands.

It is not here, either.

The dwarf was becoming a nuisance.

Soon enough, she would pick his mind apart. It no longer mattered if the poor creature was left a husk in the wake. Time was of the essence now and she could no longer afford to waste time in this manner. Besides..

In case we miss something..
No clues are left in a shattered mind.


She stood in the darkness, seething; waiting for her temper to ebb.

We must hurry.

"Yes.. I understand. Completely." she responded.

The hollow sound of her voice left her discomforted. The numbness of her thoughts did not abate that feeling of frailty. Forcing her fingers apart, she rushed over to where she had left her cane to snatch it up.

She had enough of this ruin.

With her heels clicking loudly on the cobblestones, she moved briskly down the abandoned streets of the tenement, ignoring the drops of water coming through the vaulted ceiling. It was not much further now.

Though she wanted nothing more than to flee, she slowed her pace. He shouldn't see her like this. He would only worry.

He has no clue what we have been doing.
...We will have to tell him soon.


When she reached the entrance and the fresh air of the outside world, he was waiting there for her; looking as uneasy as ever. But he smiled at her, eyes glowing brightly.

She reached up and ruffled her lover's copper hair, managing a weak smile of her own.

"Illa.. Dynast. Are you --"

"Yes, Trezpan." she interjected, quieting him by pressing her fingertips against his lips firmly.

Arching her pale eyebrows for a moment afterward, she gestured with her head northwards. "Let us go home for now. There is.. Always tomorrow.
..Is there not?"

(38) - by Nikajah Edit

Nikajah had decided to take matters into her own hands regarding the rogue hunter, Demarion. She tailed him herself, without the knowledge of her agents. Her feline form blended with the shadows perfectly, and she stalked her mark all the way to his home. She was hoping he would lead her right to it.

Patiently, she waited outside his home until he emerged from it. It was a few hours later that - completely armed - he ventured out. He hitched up some large sacks to his mount. Nikajah figured he was headed out somewhere in the vast Outland. She knew he fought with a regiment in Serpentshrine. She hoped that the figurine wasn't in one of the bags...

When he disappeared from sight, she eased her way into his home. The lock was no problem - she'd known for a while how to break one. She called upon the forces of Nature, urging thick roots and brambles to grow from the ground. They emerged swinging and writhing like some tentacled animal, creeping its way around the door, moving its slender appendages into the lock, choking the door, working the lock until it gave way. When the roots receded, she pushed the door open with her boot and crept inside.

Feeling a sense of urgency - for Demarion could turn around at any moment, deciding he forgot something important - she quickly began going through all the nooks, crannies, and drawers in his house. He would assume the place had been ransacked, and that was precisely what she wanted him to think. She finally found a wrapped package, roughly the shape of the feline, at the bottom of a metal chest that had been unlocked using her root method.

She tore the packaging off eagerly, her heart hammering her chest. Blood rushed through her ears as she revealed the feline figurine. She turned it over and over in her hands, but there were no markings. None. It was pristine. She felt its power pulsating in her veins. It's draw was so powerful, so hypnotic--

She heard someone poking around outside. Her eyes darted to a window in the back. She eased it open and slipped out. Carefully placing the package inside a small drawstring sack at her belt, she was able to shift into her feline aspect and meld with her surroundings.

How fitting that a feline aspect should hide a feline relic, she thought to herself.

*************

She didn't go to the office as she had planned. She sat in the home she and Ceridith shared, hiding the artifact away where no one would think to look. She sat at the spot, staring at it, unable to pull her eyes away. Her hands and arms were covered in dirt and mud, and it even streaked her face.

She wouldn't hand it over. No. It felt right with her; it felt like she was supposed to have it. The way its power coursed through her... no, Feldspar would have understood. It belonged with her. To her.

Another part of her boiled up. No! It's dangerous. You should turn it in and be done with this mess. Find Feldspar's killer and wrap up the case. Are you mad? Why would you play with fire? She suddenly wanted desperately to dig it up, to cradle it in her hands, to feel its strength again.

The inner turmoil was giving her a headache. She mounted and headed to the flightmaster, intent on returning to the office lest they suspect something strange was going on.

*************

Nikajah walked inside the office, caked in dried mud. Lynissa, the Agency secretary, quirked an eyebrow, but decided against questioning her.

"You have a message, Director." She handed Nikajah a "While You Were Out" memo. "Circetara Hakkara-Rykerx wishes to meet with you regarding the Maltese case."
Nikajah nodded absently. "Ask her when a good time for her would be."

(39) - by Naidia Edit

(40) - by The Stormwind Sentinel Edit



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