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Thlayli's Homecoming
The tauren wiped the sand out of his eyes with a well-used swatch of mageweave, then combed his fingers through the salt-stiffened tangle of fur that flopped into his eyes. The unrelenting sun and wind had creased and weathered his face far beyond his years. At least the locals made excellent alcohol. That and the ready supply of fresh seafood made it a tolerable existence. The cash flow didn’t hurt much, either. He snorted, clearing the grit out of his nostrils.

“Oi! Watch where you’re blowin’ that snot, Mac!”

“Sorry Bip, I didn’t see you downwind.”

“It’s a wonder you can see anything past that fuzzy schnozzola,” Bip said. “Open ya freakin’ peepers next time you gotta clear the snoot, or follow my lead and use ya fingers. Or maybe you can’t stuff those big ol’ sausages into ya blowholes. Speakin’ of stuffin’ sausages, that reminds me of this time back in Booty Bay—“

“I’ve heard that one. Several times. You should get out more, Bipster. Get some new material. It’s not like you’ve had a job here for the last four years.”

“You. Piehole. Shut. I’m the center of a web here, Bigwig. I got feelers in every shack and dive on four continents. Any day now they’ll pay off. I can taste the gold in the air!”

“I’m pretty sure those nuggets you’re tasting are nasal in origin. But good luck with that.”

Thlayli turned and headed back to the cool shade of the inn, grinning at the goblin’s departing gesture. He looked around at this cramped, dusty room that had been his home for nearly a decade. The knot in his stomach clenched a little tighter when he saw his bags, waiting, half-full. He was at that point in packing where each thing left to stow seemed heavier and harder to reach for; the decision to keep or throw away more and more difficult. His path to the garbage dump took him instead to his sand-polished barstool. He let the heavy sack of trash slump to the floor.

“Usual, Wiggles?” asked Fizzgrimble, with what passed for an understanding smile on his pinched, predatory face.

“Yeah,” said Thlayli. He dropped a pickle into the gin and stirred it slowly, looking at the scratched and cigar-burnt bartop through the swirling liquid. His fingers traced the worn initials he’d carved into the wood one night, monumentally drunk, after his brother had passed through town. Nine years ago? Eight? He shrugged. He didn’t have a lot of contact with his family out here in the sphincter of Kalimdor. Sometimes he took a boat up the peninsula just to look across the water at Dustwallow. If the air was clear, he might see a tree or two; a few hardy specimens growing in the rocks on the shore. But he always came back to Gadgetzan.

He’d been running the southern outpost of his family’s import-export business since he’d earned his second name. A delivery might arrive at any hour, and it was usually the kind of exchange best conducted personally. The work was easy; his life, a punctuated equilibrium of drowsy boredom shot through with flashes of danger. Thlayli bared a tooth in a half-grin. One time he’d brought in a huge shipment just a step ahead of the customs agents. He’d been stuck for an hour under the docks with a portable hole full of owls, humming subvocally to keep the damned fluffy things calm. He sipped his gin.

The grin faded. He ran his hands over his arms, feeling the bumpy contours of the scars. Ng always frowned when he saw them. His brother had been forcibly marked at his second naming, years before their parents were killed. Thlayli had chosen to take the markings. Maybe now, older, he’d be able to explain it was not some misguided attempt to honor their tribal legacy, but a promise to the dead. Their memory. His anger. Murderers, all of them. Their story was cut into his skin. Perhaps this coming journey was his chance to finally let his rage be spent.

With a shudder he brought himself back to the present. Tipping the last of the gin down his throat he flipped a coin to Fizz and picked up his bag of trash.

“Time is money, friend,” he said.

[Inspired by the news of coming cross-faction combined auction houses, where I realized that my little warrior, parked in Gadgetzan for the last ten years (omg) might actually be able to come home now. Thanks for the idea, Z!]
Nganga Nyeusi
He is fast and is the danger.
What's a dazzling urbanite like you doing in a rustic setting like this?
I love it, Ng!! Great imagery, very evocative... and now I want to know more about Ng and Thayli's story. I hope you share more of it some time!

I imagine that Kalimdor will see an influx of weatherbeaten cross-faction traders. I have a little paladin, Rivenlight, who has been sitting for years on the barrels outside the inn in Booty Bay. She receives and passes contraband through her contact, a shady gnome mage, down on the docks. She, too, will be able to come home.

Thank you for writing and posting this! I really enjoyed it Smile


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