Thursday, July 5, 2012

Site Write: Final

As with all ends, I chose to keep this one separate.  It was four posts long, or so.  

Were she alive, this may have been made another one of those copper-dreadful romance novels marketed by Goblins for adventurers with all coins and no sense. Were he alive, it may well have been the same situation (though the Trade Princes would've placed a higher premium on the story).

The cold fact of the matter was that both of them were dead. Nobody was interested in romance novels where both the principal parties had shuffled loose their mortal coil - nobody breathing, anyway. The dead tended to shy away from those novels as a matter of course.

She was a Ghoul. He knew this because he could feel the walled-off demesne in her soul every time he issued a directive. The wall was softer than most, because in life they had been...not lovers, but there was certainly an affection there gestated by a mutual past and built through years of camaraderie. However, she was a Ghoul. What's more, she was his Ghoul, purchased at a premium at the Bizarre - the place that the dead went when they had...special needs.

His was sums. The Ebon Blade was far from immune to bureaucracy, and a Ghoul capable of maintaining the separate set of numbers for both the unit and Eredis' own personal enterprises was worth its weight in whatever precious metal the living decided was worth their time. With a bag full of cupcakes and a sack of gold, he found both serendipity and dismay: Eredis' new Ghoul was the closest analogue to an old flame that the Death Knight had ever known.

Every time Eredis looked at the Ghoul named Numbercruncher, he instead saw Nancy and felt the wall between them. He would issue orders, and NC would follow them without question. Her vocal cords were intact, and like several Ghouls she was capable of a full range of speech. She would speak at his order, but almost none of the Knights ever knew that NC existed. They would only speak on occasion of a particularly delightful meal, even to the dead, at a bakery cart in Stormwind that was offered by a quiet young thing in a shadowy baker's cart on Canal Street. Eredis was even known to attend to the cart at times, though as time passed he strayed farther and farther away from the trappings he maintained in order to remember what it was like to be alive. The baker's cart on Canal Street was the genesis of the entire situation.

It was in that cart late one evening that Eredis and Nancy sat, facing one another.

Adjustments have to be made, he thought, as he stared at her. She stared back, unblinking. He could feel the wall there, and the wall was the origin of his problem: He simply could not function properly knowing that she was here. He had to know. He would solve this mystery, and bridge together the two sides of his unlife. Tonight.

"Do you love me?" he asked. Eredis could feel the small trickle of his will pass through the wall, meeting no resistance. He could always force the body to obey his command, but it was her soul that he was after. It was her soul that maintained the wall.

"Yes," came the answer. It was soft and hesitant. It tasted of vanilla cookies and moonberry - her favorites. It was the answer that brought a flickering memory of brisk days in Tirisfal after the Orcs had been broken and the Alliance had gone their separate ways. Of late nights making pastry and sunrise peeking over the mountaintops. They had watched many a sunrise together; it was one of many traditions she had come up with over the many years they had been in each others company.

"Why?" he asked. The tendrils of his will, green as a spider's ichor, flowed beyond the wall and he could feel the structure between them harden in his mind.

He received no response.

The wall was still there. It was his memory directing those feelings. Not hers.

"Answer," he persisted. Nothing.

He could feel the familiar spark of anger in the twisted morass Arthas termed a 'soul'. What he was still existed in there, at right angles to everything that he felt was right after dying. The thought of being a kindly baker who taught children how to cook and fed the orphans on the street was anathema to what he was. He was a golem built to destroy! Why was he doing this?

"Answer. Answer! What is required for you to answer?" Eredis thundered, standing up in the cart. He smacked his head on the ceiling and hissed in annoyance. He lifted his hand, clenched into a fist, ready to bring down pain and suffering, to sate his need for control, to inflict agony, agony that never came with his past so totally enthralled-


The fury that radiated in his core fled from his body like a nest of mice when a cat landed nearby. The cart felt colder. Eredis thought he could see the crystals of ice form in the eaves. Indeed, icicles were starting to bud from the rough, weathered planks.

"What?" Eredis asked. He fell onto a stool, staring at NC-no, Nancy again. A different spark was building, one that had a small tendril of its own in every aspect that comprised baker and soldier, man and corpse. One that had long since been subsumed and left to fester in his soul, lost and forgotten.


"Freedom," Nancy repeated. Her eyes showed the barest hint of spark while she stared at the Knight.

"But I-" Eredis started, caught off guard for the first time in perhaps a decade.

"Freedom," Nancy repeated once more. Eredis could hear her voice warm the cart, her own soul a direct opposite to what his had become. He could feel the wall between them weaken.

Was this really the answer?

"If I do so," Eredis said to her, "This will b-No! Damn you, I cannot do this! I won't!"

"You must," Nancy responded. Eredis couldn't even see her lips move, she was so quiet. So gentle. The sense of warmer days and quiet nights came back, and he turned away. The wall, the gulf between the two of them seemed so close to being conquered. He could almost see the shining beacon of light that would mean he could touch her soul, and perhaps find something pure and uncorrupted. Such things were rare in this day and age.

"This is not life," she continued. Her voice was in his ear, even as she sat there unblinking. "Not for you, nor I. If you wish your questions answered, you and I must look to the future, and not the past."
"Future?!" Eredis roared. "Past?! We are dead, woman! You and I! There is nothing here! There cannot be! You are mine, here, and now! Forever!"

Even as he said it, he could feel the wall stiffen. So close! He was-

"Am I?" Nancy asked. Her voice's warmth hadn't changed, but the tone seemed...softer still, sadder. "You avoid this place unless required to come here. You have thrown yourself into serving the living under the auspices of the dead. I remain here, forgotten. Did you love me, old man?

"Do you still?"

"YOU KNOW I DO!" he shouted, and in that moment he felt the wall between them fracture.

The rotted mortar and pitted stone of repression flowed back into the owner, bridging the gap between the twisted chill of Eredis' old and cynical soul and Nancy's warm, forgiving being.

The wall was not hers. She had never wanted to keep him at length like this, Eredis realized.

The wall was his.

The stone whirled and whipped back into Eredis, showing him the gulf he had built between the two out of affection for his first, and most capable charge. The hubris he had cultivated as he assumed it would be safe enough for her to tag along on the expedition to Northrend. The guilt for bringing her so close to utter destruction because he felt he could have his cake and eat it as well. All of it was done out of love.

The agony of it was enough to cause the Knight to press his hands into his eyes. He had been healed by the Light before, and this felt the same - it burned at his core, filling his body with the sensation that he was alive once more, and enveloped in magma. It felt as if his corpse was going to turn to ash, and the conduit that brought him this purifying, delicious, and terrifying agony was anchored in his own heart. It sated his needs - his undead desire to inflict pain, his internal need to feel alive once more, and his irresponsible wish to protect that which should have been set free long ago.

In the span of a moment, it was gone. Nancy's touch, soft and delicate like the down of a freshly-hatched gosling, rested on his shoulders. Her eyes glowed with an unholy fire, a green she had never had in life - but her soul, her being - everything that Eredis had tried to lock away was there.

The icicles above them had started to break apart as if shaved by a keen blade. A gentle snow had begun to fall inside the cart.

"I am free," she rasped. It was as if she had spoken for the first time that evening. She seemed unused to putting forth effort to speak.

"Your voice sounds different," Eredis noted, resting his hands on his knees. "You look different."

"I never spoke," Nancy said. "And I am as dead as you. It isn't the best of romance stories."
"Will you stay?" asked Eredis. The chill of his voice had faded, infused with the spark of...humanity, perhaps, unsure as it was.

"No," Nancy responded. "My will is my own, and I must..."

"I understand," he said. "I think...I am not sure."

"Neither am I," said Nancy. "But time is a resource we both have in abundance now, isn't it?"

Eredis smiled. He nodded once.

"I suppose it is."

Nancy leaned forward and planted a dry, tentative kiss on the Knight's forehead.

"You'll adjust," she said. She stepped past him to open the cart's door.

"Nancy," Eredis said as he turned, sitting alone in a cold, dark baker's cart on Canal Street. "Did yo-"

"Yes," she said. "Because you were wonderful. In time, you will be again."

"How do you know?" Eredis asked.

"Because you're much more than just a Death Knight," Nancy replied. "And much more than a baker."

"When will you return?" he asked.


Silence returned to Canal Street. After a time, light flickered on in a baker's cart, and a corpse with twin streaks of ice from his eyes rose from his stool to begin making the day's stock of comestibles. Dawn would come soon, and for the first time in many years he would stop his work to watch it break over Stormwind's harbor.

Site Write 4 - 'cause I can only count to three in French

Entry #28:  Suck it, I've done 28 in a row

That Geist's screech was getting on his nerves, but at least Lackey had done what Eredis had asked.

The Knight sat at a small stone table in a windowless room somewhere in the bowels of Acherus.  He had scribed a note to go out to a few select people - a copy, rather, of a note that he had received.

"Each to his grief, each to his loneliness and fidgety revenge."

Eredis snorted.  Knights knew of each, though their revenge couldn't be termed 'fidgety' even on the best of days.  To grief and loneliness, however...

The creatures of the 1113th knew well of both.  Their operatives would sow grief and separation wherever they went, and their pasts were rife with it.  Each had come to terms with their own grief and loneliness years ago - accomplished via regicide.  Even so, the Knights set aside a day every year that was for them to remember what it was to be alive, and to refresh their vows to the living.

The Day of the Dead.

During last year's Day, Eredis had dressed as he did in life - a baker, and stood atop a statue in Raven Hill's cemetery to tell the people that they, the dead, wished nothing but the best of life for the living.  That they died for the living and would do so again.  That in doing so, the dead wished that the living would take each day and truly live it.

To grieve, perhaps, but to realize that no living being is truly alone.  Everyone came into this world with loved ones, and even if they did die, those loved ones still watched and waited.

The dead, after all, are patient.  They have nothing but time.

Perhaps, Eredis surmised as he withdrew a small deck of hand-painted cards, he would have the Captain and the Commander both speak on this year's Day of the Dead.  There was some time, of course, but to each their grief, loneliness, and fidgety revenge.

The thought of subjecting them to public relations made his foot tap once.  Fidgety, indeed.

Entry #29: By Will Alone

It was raining.  Eredis could feel it hammering into the back of his skull.  The mud pushing up around his nostrils felt just as cold and clammy.  In reality, it should have suffocated him by now, but when one was already a corpse, mud was just an inconvenience.

A trio of folk some paces away were the source of Eredis' so-called 'dirt nap.'  They each held a cudgel and looked upon the unmoving body with trepidation.  They were murmuring to each other while expecting the body to rise up and menace them again.   Each of them wore the tabard of the Scarlet Crusade - or approximations of it, each swatch of white silk instead yellowed with age and misuse, and the scarlet flame drying out to look like matted old blood.

"Ain't nobody I know could survive a bludgeonin' like that!"

The words gave the corpse strength.  Eredis levered himself up to his feet, slicking back water against the gash in the side of his head.  The gleam of bone was visible for but a moment before frost started to build over the wound.  He set his gaze on the three, and said nothing.

"Wh-what are you?" asked the first.  "You should be dead!"

"I am dead," Eredis responded, flexing his hands.  Everything still seemed to be in order.

"N-no!" said the first in response.  He lifted his cudgel again and stepped forward.  "You should stay dead!"

Eredis smiled.  It wasn't a happy smile, one meant to deliver warmth - it was one that ensured that his addictions - normally under control - were about to be sated.

"Your friend on the left," he rasped, "I'll call that one 'Renfield.  The one on the right, I'll call that one Lackey."

"What are you talking about?!" shouted the first.  The other two looked at each other, taking a step back.

"I'm going to turn them into ghouls after I kill them," Eredis responded.  He could feel it now, the fear giving him power.  The will to live in spite of being dead.

To continue to perform in spite of the people trying to prevent you from doing it.

"You I'll turn to ghoul food."

Eredis took another step forward, and he could feel the frost gather.

Entry #30: Retelling

"So there we were, just four Dwarves an' this cook from Lordaeron in a Steam Tank, and just over the pass were no less than three hundred Orcs!"

The speaker was a Dwarf, enough of a back-mountain breed that the assembled could barely understand him.  His bright red hair and paler features(and the engraved bronze stein in his hand) proclaimed him to be of the Ironforge stock, though there was talk that the Wildhammers in the north would be coming down in the nearing days. 

His audience was the exact opposite of the exuberant Dwarf - they were all dead.  Only a few of them, each the living dead known as Death Knights.  They'd managed to corral the Dwarf and ply him with (a lot) of alcohol to get a story out of him - one of one of their commanders, back when he was alive.

To his credit, Bergmann was playing to the crowd.  His squad of Orcs had grown to an army, the reinforced column the tank was a part of had dwindled to a single vehicle, and the importance of the Orcs had grown and grown until it was Orgrim Doomhammer himself heading the forces arrayed against them. 

Or at least until his stein was empty.  Then one of the Death Knights would summon another round for the belabored Paladin and he would start his story anew.

"...An' that's how he got us past the Black Mountain and into Redridge, where the tank fell apart after crashin' through the gate!  It's why it stands open to this very day!"


About an hour later, Bergmann staggered out of Bruuk's Tavern, where a taciturn man sat on a crate outside.

"You're getting sloppy, Sergeant," the man said.

"WHhzzzltghlnffrn," responded Bergmann.

"I recall you could've told that story with twice as many drinks.  Perhaps you're just getting soft."

The Dwarf hiccuped, and the man hopped off the crate to help carry him home.

Entry #31:  Confession

"What say you?"

Boyd was standing (in chains (again))  in front of a magistrate.  Behind him were a crowd of angry people, howling with rage at the man while the stern-faced man in a powdered wig that looked very suspiciously blue.

"So...lemme get this straight," Boyd said.  "If'n I don't admit that Professor Macgillycuddy's Unambigusously Uniform Undead Unguent, guaranteed t' unglue any undead, is a hoax, then yer gonna lock me in th' pillory an' let this crowd tar an' feather me again?"

The crowd looked on.  They were hungry.

"An' if I do, I'll spend three days in a cell an' I can't come back to town for a whole year?"

The magistrate nodded.  "Those are the terms."

Boyd shrugged.  "It's a fair cop.  Undead unguent only works on 'alf dead skeletons, not the Death Knights who keep fightin' an' drinkin' in Goldshire."

Entry #32: The Upright Man

It wasn't that Boyd hated fighting.  He simply preferred not to get shot at, or stabbed, or swung at, or any of a myriad of things that equaled pain and ended with an overly worried girl clucking at his inability to get out of something's way.

The trouble was, he preferred money more than he disliked pain, and putting himself into harm's way often meant he got paid a lot more.  Plenty of folk valued their skin at a fair coin, and when Professor Macgillycuddy's Delightful Daily Dehydrator ended up shrinking that poor woman's blouse to something you'd see on a Bloodsail Pirate wench, well...sometimes honest money was worth it.

This afternoon, though, Boyd needed the catharsis that fighting provided.  There was a simple beauty to it, really, as fists met flesh, more fists met an inch-thick plate of tempered steel, the howls of broken hands, feet, and the whimper of grown men trying to crawl away from the fracas.  It was nothing a bribe to a Priest wouldn't fix - well, that and a few tankards of the Golden Keg's best - but in the moments after Boyd's happy violence when he found Rabbit tied to a chair (with no appreciable profit in sight), the damage was enough. The only injuries he sustained were to Rabbit's professional pride at someone who didn't need a plated lunk to bail her out of trouble.  Really, it wasn't even to him!

They kept a tally.  It was always worth a tankard at the Keg when Boyd was able to even the score a bit.

And so, now, they had a lad that Rabbit termed 'Thickie' tied to the chair, and a small woman flailing around the room after putting her bandages back over her eyes.  She'd fallen three or four times over the groaning forms of the other men - each one always eliciting a howl - until Boyd had patiently explained that, yes, he had already lifted their purses, and could she go and catch Skaven's ear for a bit of conversation?

Rabbit had muttered something about Thickie being the 'Upright Man' as she tottered off to find the head of the Canal Rats and wheedle out a bit of a reward at nabbing a team of poachers on their turf.  In today's economy, one took what one could get.  Boyd figured he had about ten minutes of good questioning time before the Rats came in.

The trouble was, Boyd had absolutely no questions.  So he decided to take a different route.

"D'yeh know what you did wrong?" Boyd asked as he tidied up what was left of the room.  He didn't listen for answers nor really wait for them.  He did see a few near-gold fillings at strategic points in the woodwork of the floor, and idly wondered what they might be worth as he gathered them up.

"Three...four...five.  Not terrible.  Where was I?  Right!  Y'said you were an Upright Man.

"See, around here there's a certain...accord, I'd guess, between all the folks who make an honest livin' doin' deeds termed unsavory.  Keep things on the down-low, if you catch my meanin'.  Keeps the guards away, pockets not as full but certainly safer, and folks get to eat.  Really, that's all we all ask for, right?"

He tucked the gold fillings away in a pouch for future use.  A few minutes at the forge and he could melt them down, maybe coat a few coppers and swindle a tankard or two of the better swill.

"Well, even the street gangs might 'ave an Upright Man or two, but they always answer to each other, lest the unsavory deeds get downright uncivilized, and when the Horde and the demons and such are knocking on our doors, we can't have an uncivilized populace, right?

"So's bein' an Upright Man of the Grey Goose, you should know this, an' you went off and nicked m'girl without so even as a by-your-leave t' the Rats, on their turf, an' I suppose they an' I might get pretty angry, yeh?  Right."

Boyd could hear murmuring and sounds coming from the entryway.  He smiled as he heard Rabbit's higher tone, as it suggested they'd gotten top coin for the poacher's bounty.

"Sounds like the boys are here, Thickie.  Bounty on a poacher's a gold a pop, two for their Upright Man.  It looks like your Grey Goose..."

Boyd turned, settling his goggles on his head as he walked out.

"...Is cooked."

Site Write: Trois

Entry #19: Sleepless

Things had nearly returned to normal at the Canal Street Bakery.  Nearly.

For a time, people were confused when the restaurant kept odd hours.  That is, it kept normal hours.  People in the Canal district knew that the bakery was a strange place in that there were fresh-baked goods at nearly any hour of the day, yet there was only one chef on the payroll there, the proprietor.  And for a time, the proprietor was missing.  Business faltered.  There were no goods to sell.  What of the other workers, the patrons asked.

Anyone else was simply serving staff or trying to enroll in one of the cooking classes that the baker offered for free on special days, if you got on his good side.

Some surmised that the reason for this was that the more who could bake fine cookies, the happier the world would be.  This was a fine belief in dark days during the Cataclysm, or even before when Arthas still ruled.  Now, it was simply a fine recipe for cookies.

However, the people in Stormwind now felt a little better that there were fine meals at any time of the day.  As long as one recognized there was an hour or two every day that was reserved for the baker's private time plus the occasional fire that required extinguising, everyone could be happy.

Everyone, perhaps, save the baker himself.  He still couldn't sleep, even when he thought he was alive.  Now he knew the truth of it, and two histories came together as one. 

Though it removed the uncertainty in his (un)life, and opened up so much more time for idle pursuits, the baker couldn't help but feel...something.

But that was why he spent his free time running a restaurant.  It took his mind off the sleeplessness and uncertainty, and directly transferred effort into tangible results.

Entry #20: Without Whom

There are some people that could completely ruin one's perception of an entire species.  It may be somewhat shallow, Eredis conceded as he listened to the rapid-fire tones of a language that set his teeth on edge even in death, but some people are simply that annoying.

So it was with this Huntress that prattled on about the combat readiness of her troops and how she had single-handedly defended the entirety of Kalimdor without the assistance of the vaunted Alliance.  He stood in Darnassus alongside another Knight while on a trip of diplomacy, though in this case 'diplomacy' translated to 'listen to the goat-faced woman whine about a lack of reinforcements she never requested in the first place.'

As the Huntress continued to prattle, Eredis tilted his head and raked his eyes over the assembled regiment of Kaldorei.  They puffed their chests with pride in their commander and remained mostly in silence, save the occasional breaking of said silence with some quip in Darnassian.

Their formation was sloppy and their discipline matched it.  It was no wonder Eredis didn't like this woman - she was all speech and no action.

Entry #21: Forget Whom

It would be simple, Eredis surmised as he poured batter into pans for baking.

Thunder Bluff was easier to get to these days, now that the flight restrictions had been lifted over Mulgore.  A simple combat drop during a resource raid from the nearby Alliance outposts would coax Bloodhoof out long enough for Eredis to drop off his gryphon and run the bullman through.

He would smile as his men screened the guards long enough to twist the blade in and declare, "Magatha Grimtotem sends her regards."  Make sure the damage was enough that no manner of healing would fix the Tauren as his life's blood fertilized the dry mesa soil. 

With acceptable losses, they would drop off the mesa's edge, reacquire their bone gryphons, and exfiltrate.  The Tauren would be aghast at losing the next in the Bloodhoof line.  They would be scattered, weak.  Useless.  Another becalming influence on Garrosh, gone.

Either they would retreat to lick their wounds and deny the Horde their support, or they would charge right in alongside the Orcs, and fall victim to a prepared defense and sweeping counterattack.

Eredis placed the pans in the oven and tapped the heating crystal.  The fire elemental within blazed happily as it always did, and the cupcakes began to form. 

He shook his head.  A flight of fancy with too many risky elements.  Their time would have to come in a different manner.

Entry #22:  The First Taste is Always Free

The ovens were open and the trays were cooling on racks in the kitchen.  The baker had paid out an inordinate sum to a trio of Dwarven architects to put together a proper ventilation system for the bakery's kitchen.  It wasn't that the building's air control was substandard (for the area, where none of the buildings had adequate jakes), but that it could be better.

For instance, Dwarves know how to vent a cooling confection's aroma out into the street to properly entice passers-by who may not even stop in for a bite to eat.

However, the Canal Street Bakery had its share of regular patrons, walk-ins, and then the die-hard fanatics of sweets.  They were the ones who didn't hesitate to hand over a year's worth of wages for any farmer or sawmill's hand for a fine meal and bottle of wine, eat more food in a sitting than a peasant family would eat in a week, and debate endlessly about the battles of the day and how they fared after the smoke had cleared.

They were, of course, adventurers, which are the bread and butter of the restaurant industry.

Today's cuisine junkie, however, was a noblewoman from the castle.  She had been discussing the week's petitions to the King with her compatriots, who had each ordered five golds' worth of food and wine, and commanded the leavings be carted off to be burned as they could in no way be fit for leftovers after they had been in the august presence of nobility.

The baker wholeheartedly agreed, and preferred to set out the day-olds for the kids in the alleyways who knew when to come up to the door - and if work was busy that day, they even got a copper or two in order to run messages or deliveries.

The noblewoman, who once was a skinny thing who was exiled from Lordaeron during their time of troubles (and had since gained about twenty pounds as her mouth needed to be filled with food in order to keep words from tumbling out of it), loudly proclaimed that the redress of grievances of the Confectioner's Union #6, Stormwind, would never reach Varian without her approval.  Her compatriots were in the midst of a ten-minute argument of agreement with this notion when the last course arrived - a box of cupcakes for each of them to take home.

This did meet with the noblewoman's approval, and they filed out into the afternoon to stagger back to the castle for the afternoon's meetings.

The baker, naturally, had heard every word.  When one hires a trio of Dwarven architects to redesign a bakery's ventilation system, you may as well go the extra mile and ensure that the conversations from every table can reach one's ears.

Eredis turned from the trays and scribbled a note to hand off to an urchin standing at the back door of his establishment.  Adding a copper to the young whelp's hand, he said, "Run this to the clerk at the castle, and let him know to subtly spread the word that if the Confectioner's Union's redress is not heard, then the luxury sweets the nobility is used to will go elsewhere."

Elling Trias, Eredis thought as he went back to work, certainly had the right idea.

Entry #23: If Only

The Borean Tundra had its chill moments, especially when the northerly wind blew off the ice caps onto Valiance Keep, where the assorted Knights attached to the Alliance Expeditionary Group had claimed a stake for a headquarters.  The cold didn't bother them much at all, nor did it bother two of the three Horde who had come to the floes to speak to the gathered Knights that day.

They had come under a flag of parley, and the major was feeling charitable.  The expedition had achieved many successes in the face of what many considered to be certain failure, so a flag of parley would be honored.  Eredis was curious about what the trio had to say.

The Doctor and the Dark Ranger were well known to Eredis as figureheads within the Horde's Combat Operations division.  Yulenia and Rasomil flanked the third, an orc which Eredis had heard much of, and whose actions made him none but a steadfast opponent in everything the Knights did.


Choosing an ice floe away form the Keep itself where the chill winds bit and caused icicles to form on the armor of the various corpses in attendance, Urgas made a heartfelt (and chattering) plea - not for leniency in the face of a tactically superior foe, nor for one of cessation of hostilities.  His plea was one for amnesty - for the Knights.

Uttering justifications for the Knights to turn and join the Horde that Sylvanas would later echo during the Cataclysm, Urgas touched on the Alliance's lack of support for those dead who still served the Lion of Stormwind, the hatred that the Alliance members felt for the former Scourge, and the understanding that they would indeed find a home within Thrall's Horde.

Curious, Eredis listened to the entire plea, and offered one word in response:  No.

Entry #24: Looking Ahead

Bakeries tended to change little with the times.  Certainly, more powerful and more efficient ovens could be installed, new recipes could be experimented upon and tinkered with to the delight or dismay of patrons, and prices could rise and fall. 

In the end, however, a bakery sold tasty goods at a price that patrons could afford in order to assuage their cravings.

Canal Street had branched out in the aftermath of several wars, a Cataclysm, and the nonsense in Pandaria.  After Velen's 'Unstoppable Army of the Light' made its debut and achieved its costly victory, Eredis found he had nothing but time on his hands while the Ebon Blade withdrew more and more of its people to stand the Long Vigil in the frozen north.

Where there was a single bakery in Stormwind (and a delivery service that had to be seen to be believed), there were now several: Stormwind, Lordaeron, Ratchet, Dalaran and Shattrath.  Each had an 'executive baker' he had trained over the years - a never-ending cavalcade of ne'er-do-wells, young pups looking to make a living, or retired soldiers looking to do something quieter with their time.  Each knew how to make all the recipes that the people loved, and had specialities that were true to the locations they served.  Ratchet had succulent meat pies that caused a riot that nearly capsized a ship at the dock when they ran out, Lordaeron's Undercity location was known worldwide for its pumpkin gourd soup, and Dalaran's 'Professor Macgillycuddy's Magical Moonwell Brew' confounded the mages with its carbonated nature.

Eredis still talked with all of the people who ran his bakeries, and kept in touch with the Knights that still wandered Azeroth and Draenor instead of standing the Long Vigil or simply dying off.  When the world of war had come to a close, there was little reason for a Death Knight to remain with the living.  The dead should stay with their own kind at times, though to let a blade rust in the mud is a travesty. 

And so Eredis remained in the original Canal Street Bakery, known for its cupcakes, and kept the knowledge alive that even the dead could still be of use, and even the dead could make something wonderful.

((After a lengthy drive, Val's exhausted and I'm feeling creative.  Go figure!  She'll have hers up tomorrow, likely, while I squee over a new car stereo from Crutchfield.  lolpackingwut))

Entry #25: Succulence

"The secret is in the succulence."

Eredis pulled a hefty cast-iron pan away from the stovetop.  It was filled with a mouth-watering array of chopped vegetables, finely-sliced strips of some sort of meat (by the smell, it may well have been warp chaser), and a bevy of spices and additives that were known as 'the Colonel's Secret Recipe.' 

(That wasn't well known, as other restaraunteurs may have taken offense and lodged a complaint with King Wrynn.  He was a Brigadier now anyway, so it wasn't as dangerous.)

The baker began adding the concoction to rounds of flat dough placed in small pie pans, cutting vents into the pietops and readying them with a dash of melted butter to go into the oven.  A rather fat noblewoman was watching him do this, her beady eyes on the small parchment next to the Knight's left arm.  The text atop could barely be made out, and suggested something about said secret recipe.

The noblewoman herself had a box of cupcakes next to her, and was no longer loudly proclaiming difficulties for the Confectioner's Union Local.  Instead, she had huffed, and puffed (and sat to take a few deep breaths), and demanded a private audience with the Executive of the Canal Street Bakery.  There would be answers, she demanded.

Eredis had acceded to her whims, on one condition:  That she would come in the early hours while he prepared the day's menu.  There, all questions would be answered.

To hear the truth as she told it, she only had two:  Why did this bakery bring in so many golds, and how could she get some of those golds into her pocket?

Eredis was only willing to answer the first, though he did ply her with another tray of cupcakes that had just come out of the oven when she had arrived, alone - as agreed - and promptly began feeding her sweet tooth.

"The flavor has to be locked in," Eredis continued while the tray of cupcakes continued to dwindle.  He pretended not to notice, but there as a minute nod every time he saw the confections in their no-holds-barred Last Cake Standing. 

"Succulence," he repeated.  "Do you know what that means?"

Ignoring any reaction from the noblewoman (who was looking a touch drowsy), he continued.  "Juicy.  Tasty.  Filled with flavor.  That is why the Canal Street Bakery excels at what it does, Your Grace.  We endeavour to ensure every bite is bursting with flavor, and that is why our customers are so loyal."

He continued to prepare his pies, ignoring the clatter of the tray as it landed on the floor.  "And when the nobility decides they should take what is rightfully someone else's, the Canal Street Bakery has a quiet agreement with the other businesses in the area.  It helps to have the contacts I do, Your Grace."

Eredis looked over, to see the noblewoman near unconscious, her mouth caked with frosting.

"And when the source of such trouble is so addicted to succulence that she gorges herself on cupcakes planted by an egregious impostor, who had laced the frosting with Dreamfoil, something the Canal Street Bakery would never do, well, one would wonder why she tried to eat all that evidence.  Fortunately, I have here a writ signed by your hand that provides the answer, Your Grace."

Eredis permitted himself a small smile as the woman began to burble.  Her incoherence had a cetain...succulence to it.

"The investigation into your holdings will not be pleasant, Your Grace, but...Who would believe a mere baker would be capable of such work?  Have a most pleasant evening, Your Grace."

After the burbling turned to snores, he set the pies in the oven, and summoned the urchins to ensure the noblewoman made it home safely...if not considerably lighter of purse.

Entry #26: Beauty

The dead woman was furious, and Exarch Ortuuze found it captivating.

There was something to the undead Draenei that he found so alive,  Perhaps it was the angry flick to the sway of her tail, the way the Saronite plates in her gloves creaked when she clenched her fists, or the subtle burr in her voice as the Common caught on the scar across her throat. 

When she spoke Draenei, it was pure and unaccented - what one would expect from millenia aboard a ship of the Nether.  When she spoke the local tongue, it was thick, angry, and rough - but alive.  How could a woman so dead feel so alive?

Ortuuze was not certain, but he knew this woman in life and again in death, and even now as she raged at him in two languages for his naturally upbeat demeanor, he could barely tell where life ended and death began.

It was seamless.  Her skin was smooth as the finest of silks, and as cool as the freshest Nagrand springs.  Her rage burned hot, bubbled as magma boiling to her eyes and mouth before bursting forth with the fury of the choicest, most considered curses as to his lineage and training.  Her arms trembled with barely-contained fury, each sinew taut like a cable ready to snap, and send her axe flying forward into his skull.

But even then, there was control.  Buried behind the life in her eyes, there was that cool blue spark of control.  The Exarch knew his death would not be found that day, and the Naaru had other plans for him - and for her.  Even as her heart ceased beating, they in their myriad of ways had found purpose to keep her moving, thinking, and being.

To stay alive, even when life had fled.  And she was beautiful for it.

Ortuuze knew better than to say such, however.  The Naaru may have a plan for everyone, but even they cannot save an Exarch who had stepped too far over his bounds.  If it wasn't the vision of beautiful fury before him, it would be another who would be just as furious at his dalliances with the past, and was far less cautious with her thunderbolts.

Entry #27: Beggars and Thieves

"'Scuse me sir, might you spare a moment for a homeless man?"

Boyd froze.  A man was asking for his time.  That was a code.  Wasn't it?

Thieves, naturally, had lots of codes.  Cants, ciphers, drops, passes, cons, flukes, runs, trips, angles and even offers.  Was-was this an offer?  One he couldn't refuse?

"I 'AVEN'T DONE NUFFIN!" he cried, whirling on the-wait, what was this?

He was clearly a homeless man!  He wore no shirt!  He wore tattered pants!  No shoes!  He stank of a life in the sewers and alleyways of Stormwind City, of dried blood from fighting off other hobos for a fish, and of fish from eating a fish he'd fought off other hobos to devour!

His tradecraft was amazing!  What was his angle?  (Thieves had angles.)

The 'homeless' man looked confused.  Or was it an act?  Boyd was sure it was an act.  "I was just wonderin' if-"

Boyd interrupted.  "Wot's your angle?  Fancy a dip?  Bob and weave?  Hair of the were?  Who's your marker?  Your boss?  Are you the boss?  Wot's the code?  Is your code the code?"

"Sir, I ain't sure wha-"

"You with the Dock Street Doxies?"


"Canal Rats?"

"The wha-"


"I jus' want a cheese!"

That brought Boyd up short.  He had an idea of most of the criminal groups in Stormwind (having run afoul of nearly all of them in the past month for some reason or another) and 'wanting a cheese' was the first cant he hadn't heard of.

"A cheese?" Boyd asked.

"Yessir, heard you muttering about cheese and the Watch earlier."

He was a buyer's rep!  Amazing!  Well, two could play coy.

"Yessss," Boyd drawled as he reached into his pocket.  "I have a...cheese right here."

The man looked hopeful as Boyd dumped something small, heavy, and likely of questionable value into the man's hand.  Boyd, to his credit, beamed.

"You run on and tell your boss that Arthur Pilkington's got all the cheese in Stormwind," he said, turning on a foot and continuing on his way.  Behind him, the homeless man looked at the shiny brass pocketwatch that the odd Gilnean had dropped in his hand and ambled off towards Trias' place to see if he could swap it for a wedge of Swiss.