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The Keys
#1
"So he just let out a yell, and dashed off into the jungle?" Zlinka asked of the Grom'gol innkeeper, standing in the sticky heat of Northern Stranglethorn.

The white-haired Trollish innkeeper nodded, "Aye, 'e grab his bow, give a scream, and off 'e go after dat beast. Never seen anyt'ing like it. An dat was three months ago."

Oryx, standing by Zlinka's side, wiped a line of sweat trickling down his white muzzle, "Well, that's it, then. If I know Sreng, he'll follow that thing all the way to Northrend and back without giving up."

"But what do we do about this, then?" Zlinka pulled an envelope from her backpack, from Grizzlespan's Party Supplies and Unstable Explosives. The words "LAST NOTICE" and "URGENT" were scrawled across the front in angry red ink. "It was a guild event, and all. From three months ago now. But without the guild bank keys we have no way of paying such a big sum."

Oryx tightened his grip on his staff.

Looking at the bill in Zlinka's hand, the innkeeper narrowed his eyes. "Aye, and 'e never pay mah bill either for his hammock and beer."

Sighing, Zlinka pressed her lips together, and said the familiar words, "I'm sorry. How much was it? I will pay it if I can."

Zlinka settled the bill. As the coins chinked into his palm the innkeeper brightened visibly. He tucked the gold in a lockbox under the twisting staircase, and called out in a muffled voice, "Here," he said, "you may want dis. 'e left dis behind under his hammock."

The innkeeper brought out a bundle of clothing. Zlinka took it. A leather vest was wrapped around a ripped quiver half-full of arrows, as though in hasty repair. The whole thing was secured with a mail belt with a dented buckle. The quiver was oddly heavy in her hands. Zlinka tipped the quiver. The arrows slid quietly to the floor, like a handful of reeds. Several coppers rattled down the quiver and rolled away. Then a heavy object slid down the quiver and clattered to the floor.

It was a set of keys on a heavy metal ring, the ring now rusted from months in the humid Stranglethorn air. Inlaid in the shaft of of every key was red ruby hammer set into a black iron background.

Zlinka blinked. Those were the guild keys. Ironsong's keys. The keys to the guild hall, the guild vault, the storerooms, the basement, the attic. Beside her, Oryx's eyebrow quirked upwards.

The innkeeper, cheerful now that he'd been paid, peered curiously at the articles on his floor. "Do you want these, den? If not I can trow dem away for you."

Zlinka scooped up the keys, tucking them carefully into one of her secret pockets.

She shook her head, as Oryx gathered the other items into his pack and turned to go.

"That won't be necessary," she said. "We'll put these to good use."
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