((This is the first part of a collaboration between Tarquin’s player and myself.
What do criminals do when they go on vacation? It was suggested to Tarquin that he needed to take some time off and regain his balance — though his interpretation is probably very different from what Alishe had in mind when she meted out the advice. Tarq and Annalea headed down to Booty Bay with the intention of drinking, gambling, and doing nothing that resembled work. But old habits die hard, and in the Bay, opportunities for heinous fuckery abound…))
There were four guards, bulky and heavily armed, spaced around the chamber. There was a brace of breech-loading hand cannons under the desk. There was a sniper somewhere, so well concealed that even the Admiral couldn’t find him off the dot. His guests had been disarmed at the door. And still, Raza Breakwater was sweating. It hadn’t been much more than a year since the last time he’d been in this same situation, and he’d come very close to dying that day. Every day that entire week, in fact – so maybe it was just the association, and not any actual fear for his life when the odds were completely in his favor.
But a goblin in his position really had to be honest with himself. It was the latter.
“Let’s play straight,” he said, shaking off the nerves with an irritable twitch of his neck. “You want use of my properties for a week, my backing of your stake at the tables, and my name as assurance against harm. And in return, you offer me…nothing.” He leveled a gaze at the taller of the two pale yellow-haired things standing across from him. “Straight?”
“Half again your normal cut, wasn’t it?” The woman, Elcare or some such, was a gorgeous specimen, just delicate-looking enough to assure the Admiral that she most certainly wasn’t.
“That’s nothing.” He raised a thick-fingered hand. “First off, a cut of your winnings is nothing, because you won’t keep winning, because nobody ever fucking does unless they’re conning the house. In which case, it’s my fat green ass on the line for you, and I don’t see Prince Kezan coming out of the clouds with sacks of cash for all, so that’s not happening. Second off, even if you did keep winning, money is fucking nothing. I could buy and sell you both ten times before sunset.” He paused. “Seven, at least.”
“Playin’ this yin hard, are yeh no’, mate?” Every time Tarquin ap Danwyrith smiled, Raza had to keep himself from going for one, or maybe both, of his guns – partially on survival instinct, partially on principle. “A share fir yir backin’, a payment fir a room at t’inn – s’a fair standard deal.”
“Yeah, well, you’re not a standard fucking guest.” Breakwater matched the smile with a steely glare, a weight of beetle-browed scowl over the top of his braided collar and epaulets. “My boys say you walk through walls and cheat kings at dice, and that when you snap your fingers, an arrow drills itself through a warlord’s brainpan. The Horde calls you Oathbreaker, the Alliance calls you traitor, and a bunch of fire-flinging lunatics and bloodthirsty elf cannibals call you boss. You’re a pain in the ass with a hat on.” He switched his gaze to the woman. “And you, lady, I don’t even know who the fuck you are, but any woman passing time with this skinny white ghost is nobody I want anything to do with.”
She smiled at him. He did not feel the urge to reach for his guns. “Are you always this smooth with the girls, Admiral? Think if you don’t know who I am, that’d be a fine reason to play it careful.” Her eyes flicked around the room. “Don’t know how goblins say it, but in Stormwind, there’s all sorts of warnings about getting familiar with mystery women.”
Raza snorted. “Not bad. And that’s an even better reason for me to tell you to fuck off and get off my ship.”
“Wis gonna say, mate,” piped up Tarquin, “I’m enjoyin’ the new boat. Stays even a fair deal better’n the last.”
“It’s a ship, and you’re leaving it. Lucky for you, I’m not going to tell that carroty prick in the City you were down here. Not today, anyway. Boys?” Before the guards could move in, the woman stepped forward.
“Come on, Admiral. Aren’t you the least bit curious what brings us down here? What sort of business we have planned that requires the cooperation of such an infamous…businessman…” She didn’t say pirate, and he could hear her not saying it. “…with a personal grudge against us? It’s a bit of a risk, even for the Black and Red. It’s got to make you curious.”
The guards were hesitating. Raza cursed his race’s inherent weakness for good dramatic timing. “No. Not even a little. It’s some insane fucking scheme and I want nothing to do with it.” He didn’t raise his hand to the boys again, and both man and woman just looked at him in smiled. “Galzik’s loose change, alright, fine, what the fuck are you doing here?”
“Yeh tell ‘im, Annie,” Tarquin said, sticking his thumbs into his belt and leaning back.
The woman began to walk closer, her voice taking on a tone that somehow passed for both businesslike and intimate. “Admiral Breakwater, my name’s Annalea Al’Cair, and this reprehensible fellow’s offered to take me on a vacation. We have no grand plans.” She paused elaborately, thinking to herself. It wasn’t a seduction – it was something significantly more subtle, and appealing. “Well, alright. We plan to ruin Booty Bay. We’re going to win your games of chance, defile your prettiest men and women, and be so blind stumbling drunk you can’t believe we got away with it.” She finished leaning against his desk, eyebrow arched, looking around the cabin with the air of a woman looking to redecorate. “And if you turn us down, you’ll never see what happens when you turn Stormwind’s finest criminals loose on the richest port in the south.”
More subtle, more appealing, and infinitely more dangerous. Raza closed his eyes momentarily, half-expecting to hear Tarquin crow Got yeh, yeh bastard! or something similar. But the human at least had more manners than that. “Twice my normal cut. And when you drop my name, you do it with respect.”
“S’if we could do elsewise, auld boy.” Tarquin grinned expansively, striding up to join Annalea Al’Cair in front of his desk. “Far as any punters asks is concerned, I’m here oan account ay air frequent business, an’ might be earnin’ some coin at the tables ta repay the favors I owe yeh.”
“Fine. Whatever.” Raza reached back for a bellpull. “I’ll have one of the girls show you to a suite. This had better be fucking entertaining, ap Danwyrith. Al’Cair. Now go away, I’ve got a motherfucker of a headache coming on just looking at you.”
They moved to the door, the guards folding in around them. Tarquin glanced back over his shoulder. “An’ by the by, Breakwater, Ceil sends her virra best regards.”
There it is. He kept his hands away from the guns by force of a certain effort. “Yeah, I’m sure. Shaw won’t try anything in Cartel territory, you half-vrykul freak. Keep your leashed devils away from me and don’t make me regret this.” He waved them away, ignoring the effusively barbed rejoinders, and waited until he was certain they were gone before smiling. You had to take your entertainments where you could.
The Bosun’s Quarters was a deceptively modest inn. Breakwater’s had girl led them along the plank streets of Booty Bay, seemingly unsure whether she should be chatting up the pair that had made her boss’ teeth grind audibly, or whether she should leave them the hell alone and hope they forgot her as soon as the doors to their rooms closed behind her. In the end, she opted for the latter, and that was fine by Tarquin and Annalea. They had sights to take in along the way — seeing which taverns looked lively, which alleys might lend well to skulking through, which others were better for pelting down at full-speed if need be. The Bay’s more opulent inns were built on the higher decks of the port city — above the stink of the docks and the rabble — but The Bosun’s Quarters was nestled snugly into the middle tier, the inn’s front looking no different than any of the others near it.
Once you got past the facade, however…
“So this is how you slum it without giving up your comfort.” Anna dropped her bags on the floor just inside and turned in a slow circle. The spacious common room was big enough to host a small dinner party in. Across the room, the balcony door stood open, the salt breeze stirring the curtains.
Tarquin sauntered over to it, peering out as though taking in the view, but his fingers traced the contours of the lock for a moment before he nodded. “This’ll do. Annie, thank our guide fir her services.”
She dropped a gold piece into the greenskin’s upraised hand and steered her to the door. “Give Breakwater our best,” she said, closed it in the goblin woman’s face. When she turned back to the room, Tarquin had disappeared. She heard a low whistle from one of the bedrooms and followed the sound.
Tarq stood, hands on hips, taking in the setup. The bed was heaped with pillows, their decorations stitched in shimmering silk. The furniture was finely crafted, gold gilding the mirrors, the arms of the chairs, even the washbasin. Not that anyone staying in Booty Bay ever needed extra blankets, but a heap of them sat on a lush divan by the window. Anna knew Darnassian lambswool when she saw it. The blankets would fetch enough back home to pay her rent for half a year. “Yeh think we could do somethin’ like this downstairs in the Pig?” He tossed a grin back over his shoulder.
“Sure. If you empty out the King’s coffers.”
“Put it on my list.”
“When we get back, I will. I’m on vacation.” The other bedroom was nearly the same, decorated in cool blues instead of the greens that graced the walls of Tarq’s room. From her window, Anna could see people strolling about, enjoying Booty Bay’s attractions while they waited for the sun to set and the true debauchery to begin. A woman walked by, hair piled high atop her head, wearing a dress that had to have her sweltering beneath it. The man at her side was also overdressed for the southern heat, but that wasn’t what made Anna curse under her breath. His black coat bore a crest she knew, had known since she was little and memorizing the Houses at her mother’s insistence. “Tarq?”
“Ayeh, Annie?” His voice came from the common room this time. When she poked her head out the door, she spied him by the window again, fiddling with the lock. He’d dragged an overstuffed armchair over to the door so he could sit while he worked on it. It was expensive seating for breaking-and-entering practice, but Tarq looked almost at home. “Have ta give it ta Breakwater. They didn’t skimp oan the security. This is a fuckin’ Wilmar an’ Young’s. If any punter in this town kin pick it, I’ll eat that virra fine hat I lent yeh.” The lock clicked under his ministrations. “Well. Any ither punter, ay course.” He looked up at her. “What were yeh callin’ for?”
“House Lambrick,” she said, tapping at her lip. “Didn’t they declare themselves penniless over the summer? Said that’s why they couldn’t donate any funds to the war efforts?”
“Ayeh, or so we heard.”
“Well. I just saw Lord and Lady Lambrick heading for The Golden Anchor. Unless they’re washing dishes, it’s not a place broke nobles ought to be able to eat at.”
For a moment, they were quiet, wheels turning in two separate golden-haired heads. But the silence between them was a sly one, of plans being mulled over, dismissed, or reworked. Anna’s grin broke first, but by the time Tarq had reset and picked his lock once more, his own sharklike smile matched hers. “Put oan yir prettiest dress, Annie,” he said, unfolding himself from the chair, “wir awey ta dine wi’ the bankrupt.”
Half an hour later, they emerged from their rooms, transformed. Anna’d buttoned herself into a crimson gown with altogether too many ruffles. It was completely impractical and the height of Stormwind fashion. Her hair was gathered up in a bun, with onyx beads tucked into the twists. She curtsied while Tarq sketched a bow, sweeping the hem of his white coat back in a manner that would impress the King himself. An intricate gold chain at his waist disappeared into the pocket of his pristine, snow-white pants.
“Didn’t the man waiting beside us at the gryphons have a pocket watch?”
“‘Did’ bein’ the operative word.” Tarq held out his arm. “Yeh ready ta go make Breakwater glad he saw things air wey?”
They headed out the door, making their way towards The Golden Anchor and its patrons. Behind them, the sun was sinking into the ocean, turning the water the color of blood.