Sunday, November 29, 2009

Good Deeds Never Go Unpunished

 Written while listening to Under the Bridge by Red Hot Chili Peppers.

. . . . . Diyos had been feeling the subtle prickling of the hairs on the back of his neck for a good three minutes now. The weight of the stare he was getting pushed his shoulders into a hunch and his hand tighter around his mug of ale. He finally could take no more. Shoulders straightening, he spun in his seat; his blue robes twisted around his hips. “Yes, it’s in a bun!” he yelled at the human girl at the table behind him. “My masculinity is not threatened by this!” His bellow did not cow the girl so much as the gleam of pointy white teeth in his indigo face. The girl turned bright pink and turned around in her chair to face her companion and pretend she had not been staring.
. . . . . “Bloody gawkers,” he grumbled with some of the slang he’d picked up and turned back to his mug at his own table. “If it’s not the beard it’s the hair.” He lifted a platter-sized hand and stroked his facial tentacles self-consciously, then took another swig from his mug. The prickly feeling was back already.
. . . . . With an impatient snort, the draenei shoved his chair back and stood up, slamming his empty mug down on the wooden table. He dropped a handful of coins next to it, tugged his robe straight, and stalked out of the tavern. Outside the Blue Recluse, dusk had fallen on the city. The guards were already patrolling in incompetent, inefficient squads. Three of them ran by towards the warlocks’ section, their plate armor jouncing and clinking comically. You know, the warlocks’ district wasn’t such a bad idea; they had a tavern too. A single mug of ale really just wasn’t enough for as big a fellow as Diyos. He set his hooves towards the Slaughtered Lamb to get another drink – or five.

. . . . . It was somewhat after midnight when Diyos staggered out of the Slaughtered Lamb, his robes rumpled and his hooves wobbly. He made it as far as the well in front of the tavern and slumped onto a bench. As he leaned forward to put his elbows on his knees so he could find his head with his hands, a lock of dark brown hair fell down across his left eye. “Naaru’s sake,” he muttered. It took him a few seconds, but he did manage to find his head, which was – yes – still attached to his shoulders. Excellent. Thick indigo fingers carefully followed the top of his head back until they reached the mass of hair bundled on the back of his skull.
. . . . . Giving up the possibility of neatness for a while, he grabbed the heavy bronze stick and yanked it free. A wild mass of dark, coarse, curly brown hair tumbled down his back and fell forward over his shoulders. He grumbled and shoved it back with one hand, the other hand fumbling with a chain around his neck. It took three tries, but he finally managed to snap the bronze stick into place along the back of the holy symbol he wore around his neck. Part concealed weapon, part hair taming device, part symbol of his faith, Diyos tucked the symbol back under the collar of his robe and leaned forward on his knees again.
. . . . . He spent a few minutes enjoying watching the cobblestones wiggle on the ground. “Damn, those fel suckers sure know how to party…” he mumbled. A girlish giggle came from the tree next to his bench. Blinking his pale blue eyes slowly, Diyos leaned back and looked to his right. Oh. A burly night elf male and a scrawny human girl – was that the same girl who’d been staring at him earlier? – were partially clothed and quite involved against the tree.
. . . . . Grimacing, he pushed off the bench and wavered towards the canals. “That is really just not fair,” he rumbled. “You’re taunting me, universe, aren’t you?” The universe didn’t answer. As drunk as he was, Diyos figured it was best to get off the streets before a guard unit found him and hauled him in for public intoxication. Pity they wouldn’t get those two at the tree for public indecency. Then again, night elves’ mere existence was usually indecent, if that lovely little jiggle many of the ladies did was any indication.
. . . . . Catching a hoof on a raised cobblestone yanked Diyos’s thoughts away from that pleasant jiggle and back to the task at hand – getting someplace safe for the night before he passed out. Light take it… His brother had the keys to the apartment. Two places he could be, really – the bookstore or the library. The bookstore was closer. Diyos followed the path along the canals.
. . . . . For the exceptionally late hour, few stores stayed open, but the bookstore on the canal side of the mage district was used to scholars with no regard for a normal person’s hours popping in at any time, so the magelights still shone from the windows. A spell chimed softly as Diyos pushed the wooden door open and slid woozily inside the shop. He squinted his eyes against the brightness of the lights and started looking between the stacks for his brother.
. . . . . “He’s not here, Diyos,” came a high-pitched voice from behind a towering pile of books. “He was. Earlier, I mean. But not now. There was a young gnome girl. Something about Naaru’s blessing. Screaming. Squad of guards. You’ll find him down in the Stockades.” The pink-haired gnome mage – Kreli Conktoggle – peered around the books and way, way up at the drunken draenei. He waved a hand in front of his face. “Phew! Maybe you won’t find him. Not like that anyway.” The gnome set his book down next to the stack and jumped to his feet. “Come upstairs.”
. . . . . It took Diyos several seconds to process the gnome’s babbling. “Wait… What?!” He frowned as the gnome nearly yanked his robe clean off trying to pull him towards the upstairs portion of the shop.
. . . . . “Upstairs first, kiddo.”
. . . . . Diyos made a disgusted noise as he followed the gnome. “I am not a ‘kiddo.’ I’m tens of thousands of years older than you.”
. . . . . “You’re also drunker than an engineer at a Sprocket Party, so I can get away with calling you anything I like right now.” Kreli led his friend’s brother up to a table and shoved at his shins until he sat in a chair. “Just sit there and try not to puke on the books. My last vacuum broke this morning. Now where did I put that goldclover?”
. . . . . Diyos lifted a hand to shield his eyes from the magelight and tried hard to figure out where he left his sobriety as he watched the gnome bounce around a low table full of vials and jars. A handful of dried this, a few drops of distilled that, thirty seconds over a flame, a pinch of powdered whatsit… This was really not how he’d planned to spend his evening. He’d hoped he’d find a nice mage girl – or even a nice mage boy would be fine with him – and go back to an inn with a companion of somewhat better stature than the babbling bundle of pink hair and unsubtle madness known as Kreli Conktoggle.
. . . . . A beaker of brownish liquid that smelled like the backside of an elekk appeared in front of Diyos’s face. He reared back and glared at Kreli. “What the hell is that, shortie? Going to poison me so you have both of us out of your shop for good?”
. . . . . “Oh, posh, goat. It’s a sobering potion. Little concoction I cooked up last year when I had to help a dwarf get sober enough to fire his rifle at this crazy warlock who was trying to steal my books. What in the world would a warlock want with A Treatise on Making People into Pigs anyway?” The gnome waved the beaker impatiently. “Just drink it. You can’t go bail Athos out while you’re drunk. They’ll just throw you in with him.” Kreli went back to the table and pulled a length of linen cloth out of a drawer. He ripped a strip free and handed it to the draenei. “And use this to tie your hair back. It looks like you’ve got a dead baby yeti glued to your head.”
. . . . . The sobering potion tasted like boiled marsh water and old socks, but Diyos choked it back. Kreli was right, after all. And his baby brother wouldn’t last long in the Stormwind Stockades. What the hell was the guard thinking, putting a bookish nerd like his brother in a prison full of hardened convicts?

. . . . . It took a great deal of smooth talking and several gold coins for Diyos to even get to a magistrate at this hour. Several more gold coins parted ways with Diyos for the bail. The magistrate – a grumpy human male in what appeared to be woolen onesie pajamas – pressed his signet ring into a wax seal on the release orders, yawned, and shooed the draenei out of the office on the ground floor of his home.
. . . . . Considerably more in control of his faculties after Kreli’s sobering potion, Diyos hurried to the Stockades with the release orders rolled in his fist. The smell of the place hit him before he even stepped into the entry way. He tried not to wrinkle his nose, but failed when the guard he approached turned out to smell even worse than the surrounding dungeon. Through a slit in his helmet, the human guard glared as Diyos produced the release orders from the magistrate. He waved a plated hand at one of the other guards.
. . . . . “Take the big guy down to fetch the molester,” he said, his tone dripping venom.
. . . . . Diyos paled at the words. He hadn’t even heard what Athos was down here for. But molestation? He would never…!
. . . . . He watched his hooves carefully as he followed the escort guard down the steps and into the belly of the prison. Torches along the wall barely kept the place bright enough to see where one was going. Shouts, sobs, and even the occasional agonized scream slithered around the bars and thick wooden doors, into the main corridor. Two large indigo fingers touched the scaleplates on Diyos’s forehead in a wordless prayer to the Light. His baby brother had better be alright, or Diyos was going to be bringing the wrath of…well, the wrath of something down. He’d figure that part out later.
. . . . . The human guard stopped at the fifth cell in on the right and lifted his keys, using the wan torchlight to search them. The cell on the other side of the thick wooden door with a barred window was frighteningly silent. Diyos shifted from hoof to hoof and tried to look through the window, but the door was open before he got a chance.
. . . . . In a puddle of white robes, his baby brother was sitting on the filthy stone, three prisoners seated on the floor in front of him. Their eyes were wide with wonder as Athos spoke very softly to them.
. . . . . “Athos!” shouted the elder – by a few minutes – brother as he stepped into the cell. “Why – by Kil’jaden’s foul left teat – am I bailing you out of jail instead of the other way around?”
. . . . . Athos turned and smiled brightly at his brother, his indigo skin purpling slightly with embarrassment. “Can we talk about it later? I’m telling these nice fellows about the giant blue mushrooms of Zangarmarsh.”
. . . . . “No, brother. I’ve got release orders for you and an impatient guard outside the door. It’s time to go.” The three prisoners looked disappointed as Athos stood and brushed off his robes. The entire backside of them was stained from the floor. He smiled at the three seated humans. “Maybe they’ll let me come back and finish my story tomorrow,” he said.
. . . . . Diyos lifted a hand and pinched the bridge of his nose. “Let’s go…”

. . . . . It was not until the brothers were back at their apartment in the Park District and Athos had taken the bath Diyos ordered that the incident was discussed. The two draenei – similar in appearance but not identical – sat across from one another at their small kitchen table over a pre-dawn meal of milk and leftover cherry pie.
. . . . . “Alright, seriously, Athos,” Diyos said as he tried to cover a yawn. “Explain to me why the good twin had to be bailed out by the bad one?”
. . . . . “You’re not bad,” Athos protested, patting his brother’s hand. He ignored the scoffing sound Diyos made and spent a moment organizing his words for the explanation. “I was at the bookstore helping Kreli catalog some wonderful research theses on the mingling of Light and arcane – would you believe the sorts of things humans think up to try? I mean, to use an arcane bolt to deliver hea-”
. . . . . “Nerrrrd…”
. . . . . “Right. So this female gnome comes into the shop. She looked nice enough, but she had a bit of a black eye. Why anyone would bang up such a tiny little creature-”
. . . . . “Athos. Subject at hand.”
. . . . . “Right. Well, I offered to heal her bruise, since it looked painful. She said that was alright. I knelt down and cast a blessing of the Naaru on her. You know the hand gesture. Right above her head.” Athos bent down from the table and mimicked the gesture about two and a half feet from the floor. “But then all of a sudden she starts screaming ‘rape!’ She just screams absolute bloody murder about me groping her chest until these three guards showed up. Kreli tried to tell them I wouldn’t – I don’t even like girls! – but they didn’t listen.” Athos stamped a hoof against the wooden floor. “So they arrested me and took me down into the Stockades. It doesn’t smell so good in there, but it wasn’t too bad. I hope I can go back and finish telling those nice men about Zangarmarsh.”
. . . . . “Athos, you’re not going back in there. You didn’t grope that gnome girl and you definitely don’t belong anywhere near prison.” Diyos pinched the bridge of his nose and scowled at the crumbs of his pie on the table. “I’m sure this will be cleared up in a matter of minutes at the hearing. You’re a priest, you don’t grope people.”
. . . . . The younger brother arched an eyebrow at his fraternal twin. “You do.”
. . . . . Diyos, midway through a sip of milk, began to cough and thumped his chest. “Yes, well, I’m a bad priest. Just tell the judge the truth. This was clearly a misunderstanding of monumental proportions.”

. . . . . The judge hearing Athos’s case was a stern-looking, steely-eyed, steely-haired woman with cheekbones that could slice deli meat and a reputation that made Grom Hellscream sound like a pleasant chap. The gnome girl cried big fat tears and trembled at the sight of Athos – slight and unprepossessing for a draenei, and in his best anchorite’s robes. Kreli, Diyos, and two very kind patrons of the bookstore testified to the sterling and upright character of Athos, even citing his service to the Hand of Argus on Bloodmyst Isle and his time spent aiding the medics of the Cathedral of Light in Stormwind for the last year.
. . . . . Judge Not-Hellscream was not swayed. Her gavel slammed down on a sentence of a year’s probation, eighty hours of community service, and orders not to leave Stormwind City until Athos’s probation time was completed.
. . . . . Diyos vibrated with rage as he watched his baby brother’s shoulders droop and his head bow. The judge was already leaving, so rather than vent his rage, he cast a venomous glare to the smirking gnome girl. You’ll pay, he mouthed at her, then turned away and draped an arm over his brother’s shoulders. “Come on, Athos. I know you don’t drink much, but I think now’s a good time for it.”
. . . . . Kreli Conktoggle patted the back of Athos’s calf over his robe. “Don’t worry, Athos. There’s a lot to be done in the shop still. I’ll keep you occupied. And that community service stuff, posh, you practically do that anyway. I’ll make sure you have the time off to do it all.”
. . . . . The two draenei and the gnome walked towards the Blue Recluse. Athos looked so awful – like someone had drowned his pet sporebat – that Diyos struggled for something else to come up with. “Hey, Athos. I know! I’ll go up to Northrend and bring you back a research project!” The moment the words popped out of his mouth, he regretted it. Diyos had nothing against adventure, but he really wasn’t the book-smarts sort. And Northrend was cold. And not likely to have much in the way of lovely people to court. Light take it…
. . . . . Athos brightened a little. “Ooo! You know, there’s stories about chips of ice that never melt no matter what you do to them. And sentient spiders! Can you imagine?”
. . . . . A grimace settled on Diyos’s face. “Unfortunately…”
. . . . . “I’ve heard reports that there’s a lot of relics from the Titans when they shaped Azeroth. And then there’s some-”
. . . . . “Nerrrrd…”

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