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Zlinka's dark bargain ((Revered with Thorium Brotherhood!))
#1
Zlinka slid the tension wrench into the keyhole of the rusty lock. With deft fingers, she inserted her lockpicks and lifted the pins one after the other. As the last pin lifted to the shear line, she rotated the wrench and the lock clicked open.

Zlinka knew this lock like an old friend. She knew its scarred face and rough mechanism, the dent in its third pin and looseness in its fourth. With endless patience she had coaxed it open again and again. She knew its every mood.

She passed through the gate into Blackrock Depths. A mere shadow against the wall, she slipped by the fire guard and approached a bloodhound. The dog stiffened, swiveled, and sniffed in her direction. Zlinka took a piece of cooked liver from her pocket and tossed it behind the dog. It turned and snuffled at the ground, munching on the tidbit as she slipped by, unnoticed.

She had fed this dog so many bits of liver over the past few weeks that it was getting fat. The other dogs were scrawny, hardscrabble beasts. This one had a luxuriant golden mane that matched its glossy red coat. This dog was thriving on its secret diet.

Zlinka entered the great hallway where squads of dwarves marched from end to end. She crept from shadow to shadow, nook to nook. She knew every hiding place along the cavern walls. She had spent hours watching the dwarves from her hiding places, memorizing their patterns, learning to predict their movements. The cavern was loud and echoing with the beat of marching feet, barking demons, clanking machinery, crackling firepits. Zlinka hid her footsteps in the noise as she concealed her form in the shadow.

She glided behind a line of dwarves to a deep recess in the rock, barely hidden from sight. In the glow of the firelight she could barely see the crevice she had been working on. Deep inside she glimpsed the dull, rich blackness of the dark iron ore. She removed her mining pick and thrust the blade into the crack in the rock. Working the pick side to side, wheedling, coaxing, cajoling, she pried loose a chunk of ore. She held it in her palm, a rough lump of darkest night, unbelievably heavy for its size. She tucked it in her pack and followed it with another, and another. This node was getting too dangerous now, she could see a dwarf glance in her direction. She melted away.

Besides, she had no more time to mine today: she had an appointment to keep. Creeping and sneaking, peeking around corners, hiding under tables, holding her breath and squeezing between weapon racks, crouching under cannons, she made her way deeper and deeper into the caverns of the Dark Iron Dwarves. She tiptoed through the manufactory, dodging the little gnome engineers who were too intent on their business to notice her. She slipped between the flaming guards, and into the Grim Guzzler.

Zlinka spoke to no one, looked at no one, as she passed through the bar. The benches were packed with dwarves. Dwarves carousing. Dwarves dancing on the tables. Dwarves spilling their mugs of ale. Dwarves laughing. Dwarves quarelling. The Grim Guzzler was a raucous, stifling place.

Zlinka found a chair in a back corner and sat down, wrapping herself in her cloak. She placed her pack on the table. After a few minutes, a dwarf sat down opposite her, bearing two mugs of ale. She eyed him coldly from under her hood. How many times had she met him here? She had lost count. Her shoulders ached with the weeks of carrying heavy, lumpy packs filled with ore.

She pushed her pack toward him over the table, but did not remove her hand. "The last payment, Lokhtos Darkbargainer."

He flipped open the flap of the pack, and glanced at the chunks of dark iron ore within. He nodded and started pulling the pack towards him, but Zlinka's fingers closed, almost imperceptibly, on the strap.

"The weapon plans, Lokhthos." Zlinka smiled at him, and the firelight gleamed on her tusks and teeth. Her other hand rested casually on the table. A few inches away, barely visible under her cloak, was the red ribbon on the hilt of her dagger.

Lokhtos considered a long moment, his gaze resting absently on the bit of crimson cloth by her side. Then he nodded, leaned back, and pulled two parchment packets from inside his coat.

He pushed the first one across the table toward her.

"This," he whispered, "is the secret of one of the finest, most discreet stilettos in Azeroth. The Black Amnesty is so slight, so narrow, that its victim hardly notices it slide in. In fact," Lokhtos smiled, "I have heard that victims look away even as it slips between their ribs and pierces the heart."

Zlinka's eyes gleamed.

He unfolded the second set of plans. Zlinka studied the drawing critically. This weapon, the Blackfury, was the opposite of every weapon Zlinka had ever used. It was nine-foot pike, with a thick shaft of Stranglethorn ebony that supported a massive, serrated blade of dark iron. Zlinka could not heft one of these, but she knew others who could.

Zlinka released her grip on her pack and tucked the parchment plans into her tunic. Lokhtos slid the pack under his chair. She nodded at him and stood up to go.

Out of the corner of her eye, she glimpsed a third set of plans in Lokhtos' coat. On the edge, in dark ink, she could just make out one word: "Nightfall."

Well, that could wait for another day. Tonight, she would celebrate. Tonight, she would share her accomplisments with her friends. Tonight, two more weapons joined the arsenal of the Ironsong Tribe.

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

((OOC: Zlinka reached Revered with the Thorium Brotherhood! She can now craft the Black Amnesty dagger and the Blackfury polearm!

Black Amnesty:
<!-- m --><a class="postlink" href="http://www.thottbot.com/?i=40775">http://www.thottbot.com/?i=40775</a><!-- m -->

Blackfury:
<!-- m --><a class="postlink" href="http://www.thottbot.com/?i=40777">http://www.thottbot.com/?i=40777</a><!-- m -->

))
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