“Look kid, ya done some great work for us so far and for a pink skin you’re a real rising star,” the goblin yammered, not bothering to look up from his meal of wolf steak and Blueleaf tubers. “Yeah, it’s hard to say it but we need friends like you right now. Have a seat, kid.”
Sheigh bit his tongue as he slid into a seat across the table from Gazlowe, the de-facto mayor of the port city of Ratchet and the goblin who was his handler as he worked to wrap up a few exclusive trade deals with the Steamwheedle Cartel. “Business has to be good for you right now,” he baited the goblin. “What could a lesser elf family like mine really hope to contribute to your bottom line?”
The goblin smiled, looking up at him. Goblin smiles were always dangerous, even when it was from someone soothing their ego. A goblin only smiled when he smelled a deal. The smile quickly faded as he tried to feign neutrality. “Business is booming, kid, it’s booming. Your work against those pirates have made Ratchet and Gadgetzan a lot safer, and safe ports mean busy ports. But come on kid, even you’ve heard the rumors.”
The mage nodded. “A new cartel is coming up from the sounds of things. Certainly no threat to the might of Prince Steamwheedle, but you’re worried that they might take a piece of the action.”
“Exactly kid, exactly. See? This is why I like ya so much!” Gazlowe nodded, and a serving girl walked in with a plate of the exotic Blueleaf tubers for him. The girl was a blood elf, her eyes downcast and with the furtive movements of a slave. She was clad in little more than a crocheted halter-top which left nothing to the imagination, and a blue silk wrap around her hips, her lips pained a bright ruby and purple eyeshadow applied a bit too heavy, in the goblin style, while her golden hair was pulled back and pinned in place by a simple clasp holding a fresh peacebloom. Inside Sheigh scowled, but the girl sat next to him, still looking down in fright, and he realized she was part of the “deal” to buy him off. He turned to Gazlowe and gave a wink, causing the goblin to laugh.
“That’s right kid, I knew I’d heard right about you.” The goblin smiled and waited for Sheigh to taste the tubers. He gave an approving nod, biting into another one. “But you’re right. These Bilgewater Cartel guys, they were big fighting on your side during the war, but they couldn’t handle the infrastructure growth into Kalimdor like we could. We wanna keep it that way, ya dig?”
Sheigh cast his eyes over the girl. She had been washed but wasn’t entirely clean, with smudges of dirt on her shoulders and hands. She was older than him, maybe by as much as a century, and the shame written across her face told him that she hadn’t been a slave in Ratchet very long. She was too skinny, her ribs and hips protruding too much, and her skin was pale but showing signs of jaundice. He struck upon an idea. “Gazlowe, you have a good eye for beauty. Before we come to the point of this meeting, I’ll cut a full ten off of whatever you were offering me if you can turn her over to me.”
The goblin rolled his eyes, scowling. “Please, Llyrandor, you know she’ll just run off the second you reach Silvermoon. Besides, it’ll cost me quite a bit to feed her, ship her, keep her safe. And I was only offering you eight. The payment isn’t cash, it’s bigger than that.”
Sheigh nodded, knowing he had what he wanted, maybe even more than he had hoped to get from this meeting. He leaned over to the girl, whispering softly into her ear, feigning seduction. “I will free you once I return to my home in Orgrimmar. Please, blush, pretend I am describing naughty things I would do to you. You will be well cared for when you get there, so stay strong and you will be home in a fortnight.” The girl’s eyes welled up with tears, but a smile crept across her lips. She turned to look at him but didn’t meet his eyes before looking back down. Sheigh winked at Gazlowe again to complete the effect, and the goblin grinned.
Digging into his robes, Sheigh tossed the goblin a sack of coins. Gazlowe snatched it up, weighing it in his hand. “You’re trying to buy me off, Llyrandor. Maybe you should hear about the deal first.
“Simple snatch-and-run, but we’re looking for a man this time. Not like that samophlange deal.” He leaned in closer to Sheigh. “One of our top guys went missing. His name is Knot Thimblejack. Yes, THAT Knot. Half of the best adventuring clothes we sell were designed by that guy. When it comes to leather and cloth, he’s the best we have, and we need him back if we’re gonna keep our thumbs on these Bilgewater rats.”
Sheigh nodded. “He disappeared. Where was he?”
Gazlowe looked away. “Exploring in Feralas, looking for some of the, uhh, older patterns. In, uhh, Dire Maul, kid.”
Instead of blanching, Sheigh broke into a wide grin. The goblin’s eyes popped open in surprise from Sheigh’s reaction. “Hey, look, kid, he’s being held by ogres you know. Big ones. Ya gotta be safe in there.”
“Oh, I’m familiar with Dire Maul, my dear Lord Gazlowe. I’ll get Mister Thimblejack back for you, and if we find any patterns, I’ll make sure he delivers them back to Undermine.”
Gazlowe smiled and nodded. “THAT’S why I picked ya for this job, kid! Exclusivity will buy you a lot of respect, if you can deliver it! You get me a pattern, you get me Knot, and I’ll make sure the Llyrandor family gets a deal.”
Gazlowe burst into laughter. “Are you kiddin’ me? I ain’t even authorized for eight percent!”
“We both know you can do better than eight. I’m going somewhere you can’t to give you something you don’t have. Twenty percent.”
“Work with me, here! Look, okay, seven percent and I’ll handle moving the girl.”
Sheigh pointed at the coinpurse in the goblin’s hand. “You’ve already been paid for that. Fifteen percent.”
“Okay fine, eight percent.”
That was a little too easy, Sheigh thought. “You can do better than that, Gazlowe. I know three or four different companies getting over fifteen percent from you.”
“Yeah, but they buy in bulk. What’s a pithy little elf family like yours gonna do to make fifteen percent worth my while?” the goblin snarled, the insult almost too quick from his tongue – Gazlowe had come prepared to say that, Sheigh realized.
“My pithy little elf family has been running explorations of the West for years, Gaz . . . through Gadgetzan. You give me fifteen percent and I can afford to move it to Ratchet. We’ll be buying your food, your caravans, your lodging and warehouses, your guards. Every penny I save will add another five to your pocket.”
Gazlowe nodded in agreement. “Fine kid, I’ll give you twelve. But just here, just Ratchet.”
“If it’s only going to be twelve, it has to be twelve everywhere. Including Booty Bay.”
The goblin snorted. “Kid you’re lucky I got eight out of the Blackwater Raiders. Ten in Gadgetzan and Everlook I can swing, but I better never see a Bilgewater poking around your warehouses.”
Sheigh smiled. “Deal. I’ll have your man in two weeks.”