Draenor really is an alternate reality...
His hooves beat a rhythm on the road. He was a force of nature, endless, irresistible, he pressed his perceptions outward and knew the Earth Mother's children as he passed. Plain-strider, scythe-claw, prowler, all their spirits there along the way. Each one aware of his passage, gauged his threat, felt and replied to the challenge of his passage. Behind him beat the steady adoration of his companion, Fangs. Beside him the little green goblin struggled to keep pace. Flatlander found some amusement in Fitzsprokets' discomfort.
Fitzsprocket was small even for a goblin. His scurry reminded Flatlander of the cockroaches from Desolace.
"You are one ugly bull, Flat." Fitzsprocket said. When they topped a small hill west of Cross Roads.
Flatlander's smile would have scared the scales off of a scythe claw.
"Yeah?" He said.
"Yeah." Fitzsprocket replied. "Take that broken horn. You look unbalanced."
Flatlander stopped and turned to face his small green charge.
Fitzsprocket ran on for a few strides then stopped. As he turned back he caught the light of anger in Flatlanerís face.
Flatlander considered his options. From some small pocket he produced a whetstone and began to touch up the already brilliant blade of his skinning knife.
"Fitz, your left ear has a bullet hole in it. It makes you look unbalanced. Shall I fix that for ya?"
"Ahh, No thanks Flat. Mother knows I didnít mean to up set ya."
Flatlanders voice could have frozen the South Fury in its bank. "I'm not angry, Fitz. Just offering to even you up."
"OK. Ok, I'm sorry. I just thought I'd ask is all. Just trying to show a little interest."
"Show some interest in something else. Like the scythe claw behind you trying to make himself some goblin lunch."
Fitzsprocket squeaked and spun, his arc-light spanner and dagger ready. The scythe claw was a large red one that towered over the goblin. Fitzsprocket froze in terror. Flatlander gave Fangs a hand signal. The big cat bristled and roared. The scythe claw jerked as if he had been struck a physical blow and stopped stalking the goblin. It stepped past Fitzsprocket and roared a challenge at Fangs.
Flatlander gathered his spirit and threw a fear spell at the beast.
The scythe claw reeled under the spell and turned to flee. As it pivoted its tail swept Fitzsprocket from his feet. Flatlander laughed at the startled look on the little goblinís face.
Flatlander knelt and watched the goblin climb back to his feet.
"Damn, Flat, you sure know how to handle them. I sure am glad the tribunal assigned you to escortÖ"
"Save it." Flatlander said quietly. Fitzsprocket didnít realize the tauren had knelt to keep from exposing himself on the ridgeline but something in Flatlanderís voice alerted him to a danger unseen. Try as he might Fitzsprocket could not make out what had captured the taurenís attention. He drew breath to say something else and Flatlander twitched. Suddenly Fangs stepped in front of the goblin and silently pulled his lips back bearing his mouthful of razor sharp teeth.
"If you so much as twitch, you little green wog, Fangs will take your face off." Flatlander whispered so softly it could not have been heard a dozen feet away.
In the distance Flatlander could see four members of the alliance calmly riding across the valley. He knew they would attack at the slightest provocation and he was determined not to give them the chance. After a few minutes the group crested a hill and descended into the Alliance post. As they passed out of sight Flatlander sighed and stood up. For a minute he considered giving fangs the signal that would end the goblinís life with a snap and the crunch of teeth on bones.
"I should let Fangs have a little fun chasing you around but you would probably give him indigestion." He said.
Fitzsprocket rolled his eyes and tried his best not to tremble. Fangs let a low growl escape his chest. The goblin seemed to grow a shade lighter.
"I donít know why Ironhoof thinks you should be protected and I donít care. But know this, Wog, I will have no problem at all chopping you up and feeding you to one of the scythe claws if thatís what has to be done. Understand?"
Sweat was beginning to bead over the goblinís ears. Flatlander let him sweat for a moment more and then gave Fangs the rest command. Fangs circled and came to heel. Flatlander gave him a morsel of plain-strider and patted the big catís ruff. "Good." He said to the cat.
Fitzsprocket slowly sank to his knees. He shook the sweat from his ears and picked up his dagger and spanner from where they had fallen. "Look, Flatlander, I told Ironhoof I would help. Gibbetwrench stole my whirrley design and passed it off as his. He made some changes in the prototype to save money and then when the thing blew up in his face he blamed me. Ironhoof wants the original plans from Gibbetwrench and any prototypes he built. He also wants Gibbetís head. Venture company execs want my head on a platter and Gibbetís people do to. Iíve got no choice. My only hope is to help Ironhoof. If I can get my plans back and the prototypes from Gibbet, Ironhoof promised the Great Mother would take me to her bosom and protect me from the Venture company.
This made Flatlander smile. Ironhoof was telling him he wanted the little goblin to disappear. When one of the other races buried their dead in the ground the tauren expression was that they had been placed in the bosom of the Great Mother. Tauren custom was to place the body on a platform where the spirit could leave and travel with the great sky spirit. Ironhoof wanted this little wog and his evil contraption buried and forgotten. He would be protected from Venture.
The goblin noticed the smile and wondered just what the big dumb ox was up to.
"Letís go." Flatlander said. He started off, little caring if the goblin agreed or not.
Suddenly the day seemed a little better.
Flatlander sat on a bolder sticking out of the cliff over looking the Venture Company logging concern. Below Gibbetwrench and his cronies went about their business little suspecting that Grimhorn vengeance was about to descend into their midst.
Fitzsprocket stood next to him and bounced nervously from foot to foot.
"Tell me Fitz, what was that whirly thing of yours supposed to do?"
"Ahh, well, you know engineers use vellum and parchment and anything else they can get their hands on to write down their plans and schematics?" Fitzsprocket asked.
Flatlander frowned. "Yeah, Smallhorn ruined an entire stock of linen with his damned scribbles. And he was starting on a stack of fine hides... I almost skinned him." He rumbled.
"Yeah, yeah. I bet. Made ya mad huh? What if he could have a cheap unending supply, well, not all that cheap, or unending, but cheaper than linen or parchment and easier to get?"
Flatlander puzzled the goblin's words for a second. "The whirly makes parchment?" He asked.
"No, no, it makes a new thing. I was gonna call it paper but I think whirly stuff is a better name don't you? Whirly stuff looks like parchment, feels like parchment and rolls like parchment but it doesn't come from sheep. It comes from trees! Isn't that cool? We'll get rich! Can't you just smell the gold?"
"I smell pollution, destruction, and waste. Is that your whirly or is that just the Venture company stink?"
Fitzsprocket nodded. "Yeah probably. Those guys used substandard parts. Glittergear, he was my boss, always told me I gave him headaches because I wanted the best parts. Well, at least they got it working. We can hire a bunch-a orcs to clean up the mess. Pipe the waste water out to sea and..." He trailed off when he saw the expression on Flatlander's face
"Fitz, can't you smell the destruction and sickness? Can't you see the harm? Ahhh!" He couldn't stand it any longer. Flatlander's hooves smacked the ground hard and Fitzsprocket nearly fell over from the sudden jolt. On his feet now Flatlander descended into the valley. Fitzsprocket was stunned by the big tauren's speed. The big night cat, Fangs, screamed a challenge and followed. A split second later Fitzsprocket heard the first of many high-pitched goblin screams suddenly cut off by the crunch of falling war axe or the growl of a very large, very angry cat. It seemed Flatlander was everywhere and nowhere. The Venture Company bruisers and enforcers couldn't seem to find him and when he let himself be found they learned very quickly they didn't want to find this very angry apparition. It seemed only seconds before the last of the screams died away and Fitzsprocket heard a voice speaking to him from the valley.
"Fitzsprocket, get your little green wog ass down here or I'm going to send Fangs up there to bring it back in pieces." Fitz heard an answering roar that could only have comes from Fangs.
"Ok, Coming!" He said as he hurried down to the mill.
On the way down Fitzsprocket became a little more terrified with every dead goblin he came across. By the time he was half way there he had stopped looking to see if he knew the dead. Then two things brought him up short. This first was the stinking corpse of a Razormane. The second was the body of his old boss, Glittergear. He was shocked to learn that Venture was hiring Razormanes. Glittergear was nearly split in two. Flatlander's war axe had done it's work. Fitzsprocket was standing over the body trembling with a single question playing over and over in his mind. "No more headaches for you huh?" When a low rumbling growl from right behind him brought him back to his senses. Fangs swatted at him and Fitzsprocket stumbled into the mill workshop.
Flatlander was standing in the middle of the shop. In his right hand his skinning knife was pressed against Gibbetwrench's fat throat. Fear and resignation warred on the ogre's pasty face. His eyes lit up with anger when he saw Fitzsprocket.
"You!" He said almost cutting his own throat on Flatlander's knife.
"Yeah, Me, you thief." Fitzsprocket shot back.
Flatlander gave fangs a hand signal and the big cat assumed the guard position in front of the ogre.
"I'm gonna drive you into the ground like a stake!" Gibbetwrench blustered.
Fangs roared and Gibbetwrench shrank back and seemed to grow a little whiter.
"Fangs would love a taste of ogre." Flatlander said conversationally.
"What do you want here, ya big ox? You takin orders from that wog? Ya gonna go inta binnes wit him?" Gibbetwrench seemed amused by the thought.
Flatlander smiled to himself.
Gibbetwrench felt a cold chill run up his spine when he saw that smile.
Flatlander sat down on the edge of a workbench and turned to Fitzsprocket. "How long before reinforcements arrive you think?" He asked.
"Did you get'em all or did some get away? Fitzsprocket asked as he tried to look everywhere at once.
"Some always get away Fitz. It's the nature of the business."
Gibbetwrench laughed. "Oh they'll be here soon, ya big dumb ox."
Flatlander stood up. "I've had enough of you." He said to Gibbetwrench as he picked up a wad of material from the bin marked whirly stuff. He forced a jaw-cracking wad into Gibbetwrench's mouth and then used a piece of wet rawhide to hold it in place. Another piece of wet hide served to bind the ogre's hands behind his back. Flatlander's senses reeled at the smell from the ogre. He kicked Gibbetwrench's feet out from under him and laughed as the ugly fellow hit the ground.
"Yeah, right, plans, prototypes..." Fitzsprocket said to remind himself of the object of the mission. He scurried around collecting vellum and parchment from drawers and cupboards. He piled each armload on the bench near the still turning whirly. At last he finished.
"That's all Flat," he said.
"Yeah. Well mostly sure. I mean he could have some hidden someplace." He said pointing at the ogre who was beginning to struggle with the rawhide bindings as they shrank and squeezed his pasty flesh.
Flatlander bent over the ogre and looked him in the eye.
"That pressure you feel is the Mother's embrace. It will get tighter and tighter and tighter still. I wonder which will kill you first, Mother's embrace, or this?" He produced a pouch with a beadwork skull design. "Oh, you don't know what's in this do you? This is Mother's cleanser. Our herbalists and shamans have been working overtime. I helped gather some of the components. You know, I almost envy you. If Mother's embrace doesn't kill you in the next few minutes, you will be the first to witness a full demonstration. Now, I want to know, are there anymore plans or prototypes?"
The ogre just lay there and glared hatred.
"Not going to tell me? So be it." Flatlander stood up.
"Fitz, I should leave you here too. That's what Ironhoof was telling me with that bosom of the Earth Mother line. He wants me to make sure your little ideas don't get anymore play."
Fitzsprocket froze, he couldn't believe his ears. "I... I..." he said.
"You. You." Flatlander laughed, mocking the goblin.
"Please, Flat, I..."
"Oh save it. Ya wog. If I was gonna kill ya, you'd already be dead."
Fitzsprocket looked around wildly and realized Fangs had slipped up behind him silently. There was no way to escape.
"What ya want?" He managed finally.
"I've learned that you are as good as your word. On this little trek, you were brave and I always honor the brave. You have stuck by your word. I always honor honesty. What do I want? I want your word that you will stop trying to invent things. I want you to go south, go to one of the islands, become a fisherman."
"Yeah sure, Flat, whatever you say." Fitzsprocket said, a little too quickly.
"Your word is your bond. If you break your word to me, what is about to happen here will happen to you." Flatlander said, as he turned he gave Fangs the signal to retreat and drew a glowing green stone from the pouch. He dropped the stone into the whirly's hopper and stepped back. The whirly began to glow green and then suddenly it reversed direction. Green light, the color of the deep forest, began to come in cascading waves from the device. Flatlander stepped back again and began sprinkling blue dust from the pouch over the documents Fitzsprocket had piled on the bench. As the powder touched them they turned black and slumped as if they had suddenly been burned to cinders and charcoal. Then Fitz realized they had become fine black loam. Flatlander sprinkled the ogre and Fitz realized the ogre had died while they talked. Each place the blue powder touched the ogre's body it also turned black.
Flatlander threw the pouch down and produced another from somewhere. This one was green and Fitzsprocket caught a glimpse of blue and yellow stones in some kind of design worked into its surface.
He began pulling handfuls of brown powder from this new pouch and casting them as if he were sowing a field of wheat. As he threw the last hand full he turned and ran for the door. Fitzsprocket watched in amazement as saplings burst from the ground wherever the brown powder landed.
As Flatlander ran buy the goblin he slapped the fellow's ear and broke the spell. Fitzsprocket turned and ran out on Flatlander's heels.
At the top of the hill Flat sat and watched the mill disappear as the Gia spell consumed it. In little more than an hour the mill and most of the outbuildings were replaced by a verdant green deep forest glade. Towards the end that same green light lanced out from the heart of the glade and touched dead logs and stumps of once great trees in the cleared land around the mill. Everywhere the lance of green light touched new life sprang forth. Downed trees gained mantles of thick moss and bright wild flowers. Stumps sprouted branches and began to grow into trees.
Just as the lightshow began to subside a group of Venture company enforcers arrived aboard scythe claws and dire wolves. Their column was thrown into chaos at the first sweep of the green light when each mount turned on the rider of the mount next to it.
A second sweep of the light made the saddles, and bridles fall to pieces dumping the riders who had not already fallen to the ground.
The enforcers gained their feet only to be swept by the light a third time.
Fitzsprocket was horrified as each of the enforcers turned in to a living, growing tree.
Flatlander laughed loudly and waved at the group.
"Gia tested them and found them wanting." He said.
Fitzsprocket didn't know if he should flee or try to hide. In his heart he knew it would make no difference at all. For the first time in his life he could feel the earth around him. He could feel the pain and sorrow the clear cutting had caused. When he looked at the Gia grove that replaced the mill he could feel the earth sigh in relief.
He looked up at Flatlander. "Is it always like this for you?" he asked.
Flatlander looked down at the little goblin and nodded. "All day. Every day." And as you learn to listen you will be able to hear Gia cry from further and further away.
Flatlander turned to go. He knew the little goblin would do no more to harm the Earth Mother. He suspected, rightly it turned out, that Fitzsprocket would become a force for true change.
"Walk with the Earth Mother." Fitzsprocket said solemnly.
"Go in peace." He replied.
Flatlander whistled for Fangs and set off to Thunder Bluff. He had a report to make.
Fangs fell in at trail and as they topped the ridge he looked back. Fitzsprocket was still standing on the hill watching over the grove. Flatlander returned the goblin's parting wave and began his descent into the barrens.