“Hello good sir! Do you have a moment?” a bald man interrupts.
Master Norman and I are getting ready to leave town for a bit and scout out the nearby Fargodeep mine. We’re both anxious to get out of the madhouse that is Goldshire, but apparently Norman can’t resist a plea for help.
“Sure! What can I do for you?” Norman says cheerily. I’m used to his goody-two-shoes act by now, so I only growl a little when he says this.
William Pestle gives us the run-down, “My brother and I run an apothecary in Stormwind, and I’m here to gather large candles for their wax. Can you help me?”
“Yes indeed!” Norman says, and he produces about a dozen small candles from his pack.
“Oh no. These won’t do,” the man says. “I need large candles.”
“But … it’s wax,” Norman protests. “You melt it and make as many large candles as you want.” He looks down at the candle nubs in his hand with doubt.
“Hang on, boss,” I say as I tug on the fringe of his tattered, threadbare robe. “This guy runs apothecary? Don’t they make wax? Why is he buying wax?”
“Your very ugly child is wrong,” the man says to Norman. “I’m not looking to buy wax. I want you to kill for it. See, the Kobolds around here carry large candles and I’d like you to go in and get eight of them.”
“But … I’ve got all these little candles that I got from different Kobolds just this morning,” Norman says sadly. “Are you sure you can’t … you know, combine them?”
William Pestle folds his arms and says nothing.
“Okay then,” Norman sighs. “I’ll see about getting you large candles to make candles with. Where can I find the Kobolds?”
“They’re all over the place in the Fargodeep mine.”
“You’re saying you know there are Kobolds in Fargodeep?”
Pestle shrugs, “Sure. I think everybody does.”
“This candle stuff is nonsense!”, I say as we walk away. “This is like a dairy farmer asking you to get him a large glass of milk because he only has six small glasses. What kind of messed up world of squealing lunatics have you summoned me into?”
“Why would Marshal Dughan ask me to scout the mine if everyone already knows it has Kobolds in it?” Norman mumbles to himself.
I think Norman is about to learn an important lesson in not being such a rube, so I don’t tell him what I think.
So we’re on our way to Fargodeep mine. Norman dithers about and talks to a few more dullards, and then we head south into the wilderness.
The place is about a two minute walk out of town and is overrun with filthy little Kobolds.
Norman stands there looking into the valley for a few minutes. “How could the Marshal not know about this?”
“Who cares? Let’s get our murder on,” I say with a shrug.
We work our way down into the valley, bludgeoning burning Kobolds before destroying their life essence with spinning tendrils of shadow magic. Once in a while Norman has to finish one off with a crack to the skull, just to keep things interesting. After they stop twitching he rummages through their pockets and swipes their candles. Once in a while he even finds a handful of gold dust.
At the bottom of the hill is a scattered collection of rusty mining tools and litter gathered around the yawning entrance. A mangled set of tracks spills out of the opening like a lolling tongue. As we draw near, the smell of stagnant water and filth replaces the smell of burning fur and flesh.
“I’m really glad to see you coming around,” I say as we enter the mine.
“Around? To what?” he asks.
A Kobold spots us and shrieks a battlecry in his adorable little high-pitched voice. He waves a cudgel over his head, threatening to give Norman’s kneecaps a savage bruising. Norman stops him short with a knock to the head before the little rat is engulfed in demonic flame.
“To evil!” I say as I call forth another wad of fire. “I thought you were committed to that other stuff. Good and such.”
“I am!” he says indignantly as he knocks the teeth clean out of another Kobold with a perfectly executed swing.
“Then why are you driving these Kobolds from their home? Don’t get me wrong. I am 100% in favor of this, but I didn’t think you were up for it.”
“This isn’t their home,” Norman protests. “This place belongs to humans.”
Another pair of Kobolds run in to rescue their fallen kin and end up getting added to the fire.
“Really? So how come no humans come here? I mean the guards have no idea about the place and the townsfolk just want you to come here and rob these guys, so …”
“Maybe the Kobolds … took control? Somehow?” Norman stops and looks back the passage doubtfully. Behind us is a trail of smoking Kobold rat-man.
“And nobody noticed? Where are the miners?”
“Dead?” Norman posits.
“Then where are the miner’s bodies?”
“The kobolds ate them?” he says with somewhat less certainty.
“Let’s say you’re right. Let’s say that these tiny little men that you and I are killing all by ourselves somehow overpowered a dozen or more humans armed with pickaxes, and killed them all. Let’s also assume the Kobolds somehow consumed them entirely, even their bones and clothing so that no evidence remained. Before this implausible battle took place, where did the miners live?”
Norman scoops the last few bits of candle and gold dust into his bag as he thinks it over. Finally he answers, “I guess they lived in town somewhere.”
“By ‘in town’ do you mean they all lived with the backsmith, or at the inn?”, I ask patiently. “Because those are the only buildings in ‘town’.”
Norman scratches the back of his head, as if the bafflement was simply something he had caught in his hair.
“Face it,” I tell him. “There never was a group of humans large enough to make proper use of this mine. At least, not in the last generation. The humans decided they want what these Kobolds have, and sent you here to get it for them. You don’t have to admit to being evil. You don’t have to admit you’re a chump. But you do have to admit you’re one or the other.”
“I think … ” he says slowly. “I think I’m done fighting Kobolds for now.”
“Aw. We were just getting to the good part!”
So we head all the way back to town, fifty paces away. As always, madmen and loonies are stabbing one another in the streets, screaming nonsense. We sprint through the melee, ducking at opportune moments and elbowing past the half dozen or so people who challenge Norman to a duel.
Norman stops to talk to Remy “Two Times,” a shifty-looking fellow by the side of the road. I sort of remember Norman talking to him earlier, but I was too busy watching the night elf dance naked on the mailbox to pay attention to what their agreement was.
I watch as Norman hands the guy all the gold dust we’ve collected. They shake hands and Norman nods for us to head for the inn.
“What was that all about? Did you really give that guy gold dust?” I ask as we skirt around a pool of fire someone has called down.
Norman shrugs, “Sure. I mean, he asked me to get the gold from the Kobolds. I figured we were going there anyway, so might as well. A job’s a job, right? And we need the money.”
“How much money do we have? How many gold?”
“We’ve got thirty silver. Almost a third of the way to our first gold piece.”
“And how many gold pieces do you think are in ten handfuls of gold dust?”
“I … ” Norman looks back at Remy. Then down at his purse. Then over to me.
“So what did he pay you for all that gold, which you risked your life for?” I ask as casually as possible.
Norman holds out his hand and slowly opens it to reveal a small burlap pouch, “He gave me a … bag of marbles.”
“So. Pretty good deal, then?” I ask.
Norman’s face goes red. “That son of a bitch!” he shrieks.
“Woah. Easy on the language. Sensitive ears here.”
“I’m sorry,” he stammers.
“I’m just messing with you. You really think a demon is going to be offended by swearing?”
“No, I mean I’m sorry to lose my temper, but I can’t believe he would take advantage of me like that. I’m here to help these people!”
“I know, right? It’s enough to make you abandon your absurd devotion to The Lighttm and join the smart people on Team Evil.”
“No it isn’t!” he snaps.
“Okay,” I tell him. “But don’t think the invitation will stay open forever.”
Back inside the inn, we talk to the apothecary guy again. Norman hands over his collection of large candle nubs and William Pestle presents us with our reward:
Norman looks down at the gift for a long time, thinking. “So … you didn’t want the little candles. You made me get you big candles. So you can use them to make candles. And now you’re paying me in candles?”, Norman asks.
“It’s a glowing wax stick!” Pestle corrects him.
“That’s what a candle is!”, Norman shouts. “I can’t even… I don’t even know which one of us just got screwed here. This is just so…”
“Don’t worry big guy,” I tell him. “It was you.”
Finally we return to Marshal Dughan.
“The Fargodeep mine is overrun with Kobolds,” Norman says flatly.
“Duh,” I add under my breath.
Dughan’s face wears the shock of a man who has just woken up with a Tauren prostitute in his bed. “What’s next?”, he exclaims, “DRAGONS? I guess I’ll have to increase patrols in that area.” He fishes a couple of sweaty silver coins out of his armor and hands them over.
“You have patrols?” Norman asks with surprise, “Because I never see you guys outside of town.”
“Oh, not that kind of patrol,” Dughan says with a deep laugh. “You won’t catch any of us wasting our time in the wilderness.”
“So what kind of patrols do you have?” Norman asks this with a certain degree of fear in his voice.
“Oh, every once in a while we’ll get some idiot townie to go out and poke around in the woods for us. If they come back in one piece we give them a couple of silver or something.”
I glance up, and it looks like Norman is trying to eat his own mustache.
“Oh! That reminds me,” Dughan says suddenly. “I need you to travel east to the Jasperlode Mine and check it out.”
Next Week: THE END IS NIGH!