The Riders worked on a story wherein a few unsavory people figured out a way to sell Lotus on the cheap. This pitted a cartel against the Riders, and for a large part of Cata, it did not go well for the Black and Red. And this is how that story ended.
For the record, Tarquin, Annalea and Lorelli made significant edits and they made this piece awesome. Furthermore, I am indebted to Tarquin as he gave Bricu the last “word.” That was not my initial intention, and I am grateful that he nailed Bricu down so very well.
The bloodiest war that Stormwind never cared about ended at a round table that sat eight.
Next to the gaunt man with straw-colored hair and a simple, but beautifully constructed wide brimmed hat, was a grim looking ginger bastard and a petite, wicked -eyed blonde. Next to her was a night elf woman with green hair who would not stop smirking. Around the other half of the table sat a gnomish woman with dead eyes, a human woman looking uncomfortable in a simple, homespun dress and Draenei man who was unremarkable aside from the series of tattoos across his face and tentacles. To his left, and the gnome’s right, was a vacant chair.
“I think we can all agree that today has been a long time coming, and I, for one, am exceedingly happy to move beyond this dark…” Said the draenei before the ginger bastard cut him off.
“Where the fuck is Angel?” he said.
“The Angel could not be here today, as he had pressing matters of business to attend to given our preliminary agreements…” the Draenei responded. The activity on the other side of the table drowned out his words.
The man in the very fine hat might’ve made a gesture to his fellows. Maybe he was just adjusting his position. Either way, the blonde and the elf stood up, while the ginger bastard leveled a finger and began shouting.
“Fuck this. Yeh said he’d be here. All the major players we’re gonna be here. Now yer boss is too wrapped up in shite ta be here? Then we’re done.”
“Please, there is no need for this situation to devolve further, I am perfectly capable of addressing his requests and demands.” The draenei said calmly.
“That means sit your ass down before we kill you.” The gnome said softly.
“Adorable, isn’t she?” The elf said to the blonde. “In a creepy-porcelain-doll of death kind of way.”
“My family isn’t too keen on spooky dolls,” the blonde responded. She squinted at the now scowling gnome. “But I can see it.”
“Yeh lot ir eh pair o’right cle’er twists. I’d b’a right fookin’ pleasure ta rip out yer fuckin’ tongues.” The woman in the homespun dress said. As she stood up from the table, she drew a wicked curved knife.
“That’s all?” The elf said, drawing two straight edged daggers. “I’m disappointed, sweetheart.”
The man in the very fine hat put his elbows on the table and rested his head on his hands, looking as bored as if they were talking shipping.
“Enough!” The draenei shouted. “If you insist, I will find him.”
“Boyo, I think we insist.” Bricu said.
The draenei stood up from the table, and motioned for his companions to sit down. They complied, albeit far from willingly. Bricu made a similar motion to Lorelli and Annalea. Annalea stood behind her chair, while Lorelli put her daggers on the table and sat back down. For his part, Bricu leaned against the wall behind Tarquin.
“So.” He said, “If it’s gonna take our friend a long time ta get Angel, we should get at know each other. What’s yer names lasses?”
“Fook off.” The woman said. The gnome said nothing at all.
“Right then. Fook off an’ Glower it is.” Bricu said.
“Figure we should just enjoy some quiet time, Bric.” Lorelli said.
Bricu snorted. Tarquin said nothing.
The room was silent for some minutes while they awaited the return of the Draenei and Angel. Tarquin rested his head, Annalea smiled sweetly at the gnome. Lorelli sat sideways in her chair, legs crossed not looking at any of them. Bricu watched the door. Glower and Fook Off conferred with each other, but in hushed tones that even Lorelli struggled to hear.
The draenei entered first. He carried himself taller and straighter, and he smirked as he sat back in his chair.
The Angel was a few feet behind him. He was taller than Tarquin, with Bricu’s broad shoulders and something of Lorelli’s predatory grace, and the innocent, almost beautiful face of a marble statue. He stood behind his chair and smiled at everyone at his table, like he was welcoming them to dinner and they had only to partake of his bounty. His blue eyes rested on Tarquin.
“Master ap Danwyrith, it is truly a pleasure to sit here with you. May I stand?” Angel said. His voice was as rich and clear as a note on a viola.
Tarquin, by comparison, sounded rusty and tired when he spoke for the first time in that room. “Sit, stand, long as we talk.” Bricu took his seat next to Tarquin, and Lore put away her knives. Annalea leaned forward and studied each face at the table carefully. She did not flinch when they made eye contact–instead, she smiled brightly before winking at the Draenei.
“Please, continue.” Annelea said, “We’re all ears.”
The Angel was stone-still, but not stiff or awkward; a man who moved, and could be moved, only when he allowed it so. “I will state the obvious, on the chance that it is not. This conflict has grown beyond reason and profit. I have lost valuable resources.” His three confidants, employees, or henches had no overt reaction to being referred to, by implication, as resources, but Annalea smiled at them all when the Angel said that. “Yet you are not invulnerable, and your people have learned that.” It was his turn to smile, at Lorelli, who looked back with searing, white-hot blankness.
“There’s none o’ us dead,” said Bricu with a sneer. “An’ a whole fuckin’ pile o’ yer best gone ta the dirt. So don’t yeh talk like it’s even, huh?”
Again that soft smile. “Yes, I am sure the judges place you firmly ahead on points. Nevertheless, that you are here at all speaks to the danger of your position.” He stared at Tarquin. “You have few of your Riders to lose, and fewer still that you can afford to lose. I, on the other hand…” He spread his hands. “There are always violent people with more debts than sense. Your luck cannot hold out forever, Master ap Danwyrith.”
The silence would have been oppressive, to a different eight people. All of these, on either side of the table, were well used to it. Finally Tarquin rolled his neck and shrugged. “Obvious. As yeh said. An’ so wir here fir terms.”
The Angel didn’t exactly relax, physically, but there was a lessening of that thick tension in the air. “Let us discuss those vaunted terms. Simply, we will continue to sell our product, as long as we remain outside of Old Town.”
“Aye.” Bricu said.
“In return for this, you won’t…”
“Deal with unmentionables in a clean, quick and terribly efficient fashion.” Lorelli stated matter-of-factly. “We are professionals.”
“And if we say no to these terms?”
The Riders glanced at each other, and one by one each pair of eyes travelled to Tarquin. “Then we’re back where we was, big lad,” said the northman. “Yir people try an’ do business in Auld Town, an’ we float thim home in the canals. We kin keep it up till someone runs outay mates -” he opened his fists and spread his hands apart – “or, we kin do business.”
“I see.” If the Angel had a reaction to that, he wasn’t sharing it. “Well then, do we all sign in ink or in something more permanent?”
Annalea rolled her eyes. “This isn’t the opera. Ink.”
Starting with the Angel and ending with his right-hand Draenei, everyone around the table signed the name.
Bricu snorted as the paper passed him. “Yer signin’ this as the Angel?”
“For all intents and purposes, that’s as binding as anything else I would have signed with the name my parents gave me. I intend to enforce this agreement severely. In fact, my organization is aware of how I will enforce discipline on this issue.”
Fook off, who signed her name as Clara Hunt, shuddered at the mention of discipline. The Draenei paled, but the gnome gave no indication of any concern.
“Discipline is good.” Lore said, “It should make sure we all play nicely.”
Glower turned her gaze to Loreli, “I agree,” she whispered, just loud enough for the room to hear; “Fire makes for excellent discipline.”
The room was quiet for more than a few moments. Finally, Tarquin broke the silence.
“So that’s us set, then, is it?”
“I suppose it is.” The Angel looked around at them, smiling like a plaster saint. “Until our business conflicts again. We may well see each other at this table in years to come, Master ap Danwyrith – and those of your associates who are still able to join you.” Bricu bristled, but it was Lorelli who spoke.
“Trust me, I fully intend to outlive you and yours. And by quite some time at that.”
Angel looked over Loreli. Glower simply snickered.
“Miss Tymara, this is not a threat but a fact, with figures. One in your line of work doesn’t grow old gracefully.” He looked almost sad about it. “In fact, likely none of you will grow old. You can cheat death only for so long before she claims what is hers…and I am certain you are each far, far in the red.”
Silence weighed down the room for a long moment. Again, there was some signal from Tarquin that might as well have been a slight shift in his seat; Bricu put an already-rolled cigarette in his hand, and Annalea leaned in on his other side with a light. “I take that ta mean, mate, that yeh’ll be waitin’ when the books are due ta be balanced.”
The Angel inclined his head. “It’s just good business.”
Tarquin took a long drag while the Angel waited with ironic patience, his subordinates following his lead. These things had a form, after all. Finally Tarquin ejected two jets of smoke from his nostrils and spoke.
“S’pose so. Only – I’m no’ really a businessman, big lad. None ay us are, proper. Did yeh ken that?” He stood, and the Riders stood with him – Bricu hard-eyed and sneering, Lorelli stretching like a well-fed jungle cat, Annalea’s gaze flickering between faces and her mouth crooked in a slight smirk.
The Angel answered, after a pause, his smile just this side of wary. “I can’t say I’d thought much one way or the other about it, Master ap Danwyrith. But we are doing business – so if not, what then?”
Tarquin pulled the cigarette from his mouth and smiled, a white wide fence that kept in things better not considered. “Nutters,” he said, almost happily, and extended his free hand to the two women. “Murderin’ witches. Red-handed savages. [i]Mad bastards[/i].” He dropped the stub of cigarette and laughed. “Shite, big lad, think I set out ta live like this? None ay us did – it’s the only friggin’ thing we got left. An’ yeh want ta try an’ take it? Guid luck t’yeh.”
The Angel couldn’t help but smile back, or at least, that was the impression he wanted to give. “Why, Master ap Danwyrith, I’ve never been so amiably threatened.”
“Ah, I’m no’ threatenin’ yeh. Hell, we do business again–” Tarquin stepped back, half-turning towards the door. “Bric?”
With a suddenness all the more shocking for how placid the negotiations had been, Bricu stepped into Tarquin’s spot, hands slamming down onto the table, teeth bared, eyes bright and deadly. “We fuckin’ do business again, yeh get me,” snarled the Bittertongue. “The chief’s the fuckin’ businessman. I’m a bloody-minded north country bastard, an’ I don’t care what the fuck it costs, or any o’ that shite!” He swept his eyes across the four of them, Lorelli looming at his shoulder, tongue darting across her lips with an uncomfortably serpentine air.
The Angel had no response, a guarded lack of expression on his face, and none of his anxious lieutenants dared to speak. Again came one of those barely-notable signals from Tarquin, and Annalea smiled sunnily. “A pleasure, you lot,” she purred, and linked arms with Tarquin, the two of them heading to the door. Lorelli took two long steps backward, turned gracefully, and followed.
Bricu was the last out, but not before making a wet death-rattle in his throat and gobbing mucus across the Angel’s pristine table. “Come on if yeh think yer hard enough,” he said, leaving the challenge and the splitting behind him as he turned on his heel and walked after his fellows. Annalea gave the Angel a last lingering, unreadable look, and closed the door behind him.
And then the war was done.