Author’s note: Bauron has given me permission to borrow Strakk. This is a continuation of Friday’s KMG event and picks up after Harpo returned with the wyverns and everyone headed home after their failure in Uldum.
Nietrayt slumped in the saddle. She was so relaxed; between the rhythmic pulse of the wyvern’s flapping wings, the lazy sway of it’s airborne gait, and the cool breeze that ruffled her burnt hair and cooled her feverish brow, the world threatened to lull her to sleep. Two things kept her awake - the knowledge that sleeping on wyvern back was suicide and the Goblin that was pressed against her front.
Her eyes flickered shut against her will and Nietrayt took a deep breath. Strakk Crashgear smelled like tar, leather, and sweat, with just a hint of sand and gunpowder, a dollop of fire pit, and the tiniest swirl of spice - a musk that curled down her esophagus and deep into her belly. Like a shot of good whiskey, the smell of his skin warmed her.
How long had it been? Nietrayt tried to think of the last time she spent so much time around (and so close to) another Gob. Five months, at least. She lived in a tiny hole-in-the-wall up in the Goblin Slums, but she spent most of her time out of the city, doing work or meeting with clients. Clients that tended to be of Orcish or Elvish descent.
Instinctively, Nietrayt leaned closer, her fingers tightening a fraction more on his hips. Strakk, of course, was talking. Telling some story or other that was lost to the wind. She caught the occasional word, but really just liked the way his words vibrated through his torso and into her fingertips like the growl of a finely-tuned engine.
She opened her eyes. In the darkness she could see a small strip of yellow-green flesh between the brim of Strakk’s hat and the start of his armor, and Nietrayt longed to press her nose to it and smell his flesh directly. But she was so much shorter than he was. She’d have to stretch or rearrange herself in the saddle, which would be painfully obvious. A genius thought slid through her damaged mind and she shifted, trying to see how much he would notice her movements.
Strakk turned his head over his shoulder, glancing down at her with violet eyes. “You doin’ okay back there, toots?”
Mortified, Nietrayt sat very still. Did he know? “Uh, yep. Sure thing, baby. Just. Uh. Tryin’ to get comfortable.”
“Shouldn’t be too much longer,” he said with a smile, pointing out in front of them where the mesas of Durotar rose like stalwart soldiers out of the darkened horizon. “Now, as I was saying, those squirrels are--”
Nietrayt returned to ignoring him and leaned back, trying to put some distance between her nose and his flesh. It has to be my concussion, she thought, taking in deep breaths of the salt air. Only so much damage a brain can take before it gets broke. Huuza, Strakk, and Harpo had all been pretty adamant about her not sleeping, but once the adrenaline of getting out of Uldum had worn off, that was exactly what her body had wanted. Was exactly what it wanted now. Her eyes drifted shut again.
You didn’t even try to call me.
Like ice water down the back of her armor, those words sobered Nietrayt up. Her eyes flew open, but nothing had changed. Dahee’s voice flowed through her mind like a gentle river.
You didn’t even try to call me and I could have helped.
Noix and Tetrah had it, Dahee. And I thought you wanted some time off.
Not fighting, the elemental responded with a wisp of a sigh. I could have helped protect everyone. Maybe that Orc wouldn’t have died.
He was already long dead before I knew it.
Fine. Then I could have helped you.
Can’t think hard enough to concentrate on using your healing waters right now, sweetheart. My brain’s broken.
There was silence in her head for a moment. Nietrayt smiled smugly before settling in closer to Strakk. The wyvern had started its descent towards Orgrimmar. She’d be home soon and could put the whole nasty business of the desert behind her. Well, until they called her back out. There was still the whole mystery of the necromancer crow-human thing. And they weren’t getting paid until they found that missing Goblin. There were still perfectly salvageable weapons and tombs in that pit, too, as long as the dwombies hadn’t eaten them.
Let’s make a deal.
Nietrayt scowled. I’m listening.
If you keep running with these mercenaries, you’re going to need my waters more than Tetrah’s fires. I could work with you to train you more.
And what do you want in return?
There was a moment of silence before the elemental laughed. Don’t you get it? If you keep going on these missions, you’re going to die. And you’re no use to me dead. Sure, Tetrah’s fires are deadly. Niox’s winds and storms are fierce. Calcarb can even protect you with his strong stone. But you aren’t good enough to wield them properly and they don’t want to train you.
Well? You just started this whole thing. Some Shaman have been meeting with us their whole lives. You’re not some savant and you don’t train enough to really be something special. Dahee’s voice paused again. They’ve got plenty of muscle. Maybe what they need is a little support.
Hold that thought.
Orgrimmar was quiet in the moments before sunrise. Strakk guided the wyvern to the nests with the skill of a trained rider and once safely on the ground he handed the reins to a waiting attendant. The Goblins dismounted and stretched their tired muscles.
“Alright, toots. You gonna be good to get home?”
Nietrayt nodded slowly, careful of both her injured head and the barely-secured bandage around her skull. “Sure thing, baby. Thanks for the company.”
“Hey, it’s no big. After your head’s feeling better, you can make it up to me.” He grinned wide and Nietrayt rolled her eyes. “Catch ya later, toots.” With a wave of one hand, Strakk walked off, leaving Nietrayt alone next to the wyvern nests.
Well, alone. With an audible plot, Dahee appeared next to Nietrayt, summoned without the Shaman’s help. Her waters churned, rolling against themselves with the simmered anger Nietrayt had heard in her voice.
“Okay, fine,” Nietrayt said with a sigh, too tired to deal with arguing. “So, what, you want exclusive access or something?” They started walking off towards the Slums.
“Not exclusive, but close.” Dahee pulled back her anger slightly and her waters returned to a gentle tumble. “Any time you go out with the Mercenaries, we’ll partner up. You get better at using my powers and I’ll do everything I can to keep you and your companions alive.”
“Doesn’t seem like you’re getting much from this deal. Where’s the catch?”
Dahee puffed out her waters a little in a sigh. “No catch. You keep treating us all like you’ve been doing. Spa days and helping with side tasks when we ask. I won’t need anything more.”
They rode down the lift in silence. Nietrayt’s head pulsed, her concussion distracting her from the conversation. As they walked the streets of Orgrimmar, she mused over the pro’s and con’s in her head. She’d seen the Troll - Sassy? Sashion? Something with an ‘S’ - trying to use Druid magic to repair the wounds of the group. Had it been the harsh desert that kept her from pulling it together or just a lack of skill? Nietrayt chewed on her lower lip.
Would the Orc had survived if they’d combined their efforts?
Dahee pulsed with joy. “Really?”
“Yeah, why not,” Nietrayt said with a sigh. “Just… don’t go pissing off Tetrah by gloating, alight? He’s volatile enough as it is.”
“You won’t regret this!”
Nietrayt doubted that. Would Grazzug, Son of Someone-Important-Sounding, mind so much? He seemed to only be interested in Tetrah’s fire, but maybe that was an oversight.
Maybe she’d at least be useful to the Kalimdor Mercenaries now.
With a sigh, Nietrayt unlocked her home and slinked into the darkness. Dahee pulsed beside her for a moment before vanishing with the same plop and when she appeared. Nietrayt barely noticed.
The sun would be cresting over the ridge in a handful of minutes, but Nietrayt hoped to be long asleep before it poked its head in the Slums, concussion or no concussion. She’d need to recharge if wanted any hope of surviving Dahee’s training. A few hours of sleep, a big meal, and a new haircut. Then off to the coast of Azshara to practice. Over and over.
Nietrayt groaned in frustration and collapsed on her straw bed, still in her full uniform. She was asleep before her eyes fully closed.
Before too long, sunlight crept under her door, illuminating the shabby living quarters in pale light. Nietrayt’s sprawled form twitched and she buried her face deeper into her meager slab of a pillow. As she settled back into a deep sleep, the gentle plink of Dahee’s appearing form reverberated around the room. The water elemental paused, her waters as smooth as silk. The Goblin on the bed didn’t so much as sigh.
From her watery body a limb was formed, and on that limb a hand. The crude attempt at humanoid form looked like something a small Goblin child would scrawl in the sands. Three thick fingers pushed forward as the arm extended impossibly long. They stopped just before touching the side of Nietrayt’s head.
Dahee could feel the concussion beneath the Goblin’s bandages. Where Nietrayt’s mind was normally a rapid river, the concussion sat heavy - an oil slick polluting the waters and obscuring the mind.
With barely a pulse, Dahee whisked it away, just like Nietrayt had done when she rescued Dahee from the polluted waters in Kezan. Just a simple task - removing the corruption and restoring the balance - but one that had left the small Goblin exhausted. Dahee wasn’t exhausted. Instead, she puffed out her waters, the hum of her flowing girth harmonious. She was happy. It wasn’t often that Dahee was able to outsmart the clever Shaman; but this agreement more than made up for it. It was the closest she’d come to a solo contract. And if one were going to work with Goblins, one should always make sure they got the best deal.
Dahee’s watery limb returned to her side, rejoining the waters with barely a whisper. The elemental pulsed with joy once more before returning to the elemental plane.
Soon she’d have the power she craved.
Soon the Goblin would be prepared.
Soon Dahee would have her proper place in the world.
But until then, she’d keep Nietrayt and her mercenary friends alive.
That was part of the deal, after all.