The Vale of Stranglethorn. A colossal peninsula at the bottom of the Eastern Kingdoms covered from shore to shore in vast stretches of dense rainforest. The night was quiet and the heavy winter clouds obscured the moon leaving the vale engulfed in a thick impenetrable darkness. This was why no one on the ground would have seen the black zeppelin gliding through the skies above. Like a sinister bird of prey it swept through the sky, a prowler of the winds. Aboard the zeppelin below the deck in what served as the guest quarters, Kane Lecher sat alone rustling through a leather folder of parchment in the dim light. The light sprouting from the candle barely touched the hooded stranger who sat across from Kane, his outline barely visible in the dark. The figure crossed his fingers, putting his elbows on the table. He Gazed at Kane, much like a gargoyle stands perched on the side of a building looking down at those below. The vague outline of a smile touched his lips as he spoke.
“Remarkable isn’t she?” His words reached Kane’s ears slowly, the last syllable of every word he spoke feeling hard on the ears. Kane looked up at his shadowy companion, snapping shut the folder and placing it on the table in front of him.
“That may be true. But I have to ask, what has this got to do with me?” The figure made a gesture that could only really be described as a shrug.
“The society pays you to work Mr Lecher” Kane lowered his eyes in a deep stare at the figure.
“I’m an accountant. If you want people to “evaluate” your trainees, send a soldier. I’ll continue to do what I’ve been doing for the past few years, taking your gold and telling you were to put it without asking any questions.” The figure chuckled at this, nodding slightly.
“And I must say you have been ever such a good accountant in that respect, but Mr Lecher alas I am to inform you that creative manipulation of numbers is a trade that is not in short supply.” The figure reached into his pocket pulling out a pipe and goblin lighter. “Besides, how much have we been paying you for the past two years Mr Lecher?” Kane shrugged at this, watching carefully as his companion lit the pipe and put it to his lips. The light from the pipe shone gently on the man’s features, giving him a sinister glow which Kane’s stomach could not help but jitter about. He swallowed deeply before answering the question.
“About 500 gold pieces a month give or take.” The figure nodded slowly, inhaling deeply on the pipe and slowly letting out a dense cloud of white smoke in Kane’s direction.
“I hear your daughter turned nine last week, Meganne wasn’t it? Kane gritted his teeth before nodding stiffly at the figure. He couldn’t help but pick up the grin that was now spreading across this man’s face as he spoke. “It’s a Pity about the sickness, it’s a pity she’ll never see her thirteenth.” Kane grimaced and he could feel the vein in his forehead tweak uncontrollably. The figure only grinned more and took another breath on his pipe.
“Oh come now Mr Lecher. Do you really think I am such an honest man that I won’t use your Daughters unfortunate condition to gain your compliance?”
“What do you want me to do?” Kane nearly spat the words through his gritted teeth, this seemed to amuse the stranger even more.
“The girl in that file represents a significant investment of much of the society’s time and money.” The figure leant back in his chair, puffing on his pipe as he considered his words. “And as with all good business’, we need to expand. So therefore you and her will be the first of a new... system we have devised.” Kane kept his eyes locked on the figure, a bead of sweat dripping down his temple slowly. “All in all, your job will be described to you fully once you have met her. But for now I can tell you that should you decide to help us, that 500 gold a month may have a few noughts added to it. Kane sighed to himself and slowly nodded.
“Ok I’ll play along with this, on one condition.” The figure cocked and eyebrow and leaned forward to listen to Kane. As he did, Kane met his gaze with a look of upmost determination as he spoke firmly. “I will do your work for you, but I will never join or become part of your “Red Rose Society”. Am I clear?” The shadowy figures grin tweaked a little before he leant back and nodded at Kane reluctantly.
“You make a hard bargain Mr. Lecher, but I’m sure I can arrange something along those lines.” Kane nodded back, before picking up the folder off the table and walked to left the figure sitting there, slamming the door behind him.
Meanwhile about 2000 feet below the cruising zeppelin, the jungle that covered the bases of the north eastern mountain range which bordered the vale remained silent. There was no sign of civilisation for miles apart from one settlement which was almost invisible from the air and the ground. In a small valley nestled between two mountains lay what was left of an old trollish temple. Actually it was more than a temple, a small city of ruined structures built on the slopes of the valley around the large lake which had formed in the valleys bed. In the centre of this lake lurked a single island, upon which was built a large ceremonial pyramid, access to which could only be gained by a walk over a rickety rope bridge. Similar bridges were present around the settlement, linking rocky outcrops and towering structures together. Amidst the towers and rocky outcrops lay numbers of raised wooden huts, standing on stilts so that the water that ran down the valley’s walls would pass under them. The city appeared lifeless, but this was far from the truth. At the lakes southern tip, beside a water fall which tumbled from the cliffs above, a single body moved in the water amidst the other denizens of the lake water. Slowly she pulled herself from the water onto the rocks at the base of the cliff. What little light there was shone upon her wet pale skin and soaking white hair, giving her an almost ghostly aura. From the defined features of her face shone a pair of almost luminous purple eyes, the pupils replaced by dark vertical slits down her iris. From her figure one could tell she was athletic despite her body having a natural slender curvature. She crouched there on the bank for a moment turning her head slowly and carefully from side to side.
With a sudden movement she leapt forward towards the cliff face, reaching up to grab a handhold off one of the slippery rocks. Now with such swift and graceful movements, she began to scale the cliff face. She darted from outcrop to outcrop and ledge to ledge, not stopping once to plot her route or take a rest. Across the wet moss covered rocks she criss-crossed, the slippery surfaces not causing her grip to falter or fail. It did not take her long to reach the ledge at the top of the bluff. She pulled herself on to the ledge, pausing yet again to cast her harsh gaze across the thick jungle canopy that surrounded the clearing in which she was now standing. To her right ran the river that rushed from the cliff tops down into the lakes, a white torrent of fast water. By the bank of this river lay a neatly stacked pile of clothing. The girl now walked over to this pile slowly, not one of her footsteps making an audible sound. She grabbed the black linen shirt that lay on top, pulling it over her glistening torso. It was much too big for her and obviously tailored for a man, as it now hung down to her thighs and left an obscure bulge around her breast. She stopped for a moment, a small slight rustle coming from the bushes behind her. She slowly nodded to herself, reaching down into the bundle and pulling out a small metal spoon with a wooden handle, slipping it up her right sleeve and turning to the bushes.
“Show yourself” She spoke both loudly and sternly, as if she was talking to the bush in front of her. There was silence for a moment before more rustling and the brush parting, a boy about her age stepping out from the canopy. He wasn’t particularly tall nor did he have what you would call a strong build, dressed much as she was: a black linen shirt much too big for him tied around his waist a belt, a set of black cloth breeches and a set of heavy boots on his feet. A sickly grin spread across his face at the girl combing his bushy blonde hair with his hand.
“You always spoil the thrill Garrena.” He clicked his neck to one side, eying her up and down “I was enjoying myself.” Garrena kept her eyes locked on him in a hard glare, slowly surveying him.
“I can tell. I’ll give you a tip for the future Angelo. If you want to remain hidden, don’t masturbate while you do it.” Angelo snapped his head up back to its vertical position, glaring at her with a look of deep rage.
“Mock me all you want girl! But sooner or later I’ll make you take them back.” He jabbed his finger at Garrena as he spoke, and a light smile touched at the left corner of Garrena’s mouth.
“I remember when you last said that. Just before I broke both your arms the last time I caught you watching me.” Now Angelo’s grin returned as he shook his head, chuckling to himself in a sinister fashion.
“Yes that’s true. But however I am a man who learns from his mistakes” As he spoke, Angelo clapped his hands together twice. This prompted a load more rustling from the dense jungle behind him and another two boys emerged standing by Angelo, looking rather pleased with themselves. Garrena flicked her gaze between the three of them, her expression remaining as stoic as before.
“3 Guys... I’m insulted.” Garrena spoke with no hint of a joke; this however didn’t stop Angelo and his thugs snickering to themselves.
“Still think you cannot take us seriously?” Angelo tilted his head again and took a step towards her, his minions following. “Let me put it in terms you’ll understand. Me and my friends here are going to rough you up a little, then we are going to take turns to have a bit of fun with you.” As they grew closer, she couldn’t help but notice the sick hungry excitement that lurked in their eyes. “And then we are going to rough you up some more and then have more fun”. Garrena stood there watching them as they slowly encircled her. “And so we will continue until the beating kills you, or you split in two.” She backed up to the rivers bank slowly as they approached her. Due to the Angelo and his thug’s attention being locked solely in her state of undress, they didn’t notice her right hand go behind her back or the small wooden cylinder that tumbled from her hand into the rushing water behind her.
“Your sexual appetite will be the end of you Angelo.” She spoke slowly and clearly to her three stalkers, cracking her neck as she did. She didn’t even flinch when all three of them grabbed her by the shoulders, trying to push her to the ground. From that moment on there was silence, until the sinister chilling sounds of screaming rang across the still air above the valley.
Kane Lecher cursed to himself as he emerged out from the ships hold into the bright dawn light which now covered the deck. He had spent the last few hours of the night trying to sleep in his cabin. Unfortunately it was located right next to the engines, which were not only insufferably loud but also left his cabin several hundred degrees hotter than he would have liked. Now he was tired, hungry and rather irritable. He walked slowly over to the railing which ran the edge of the deck, looking down at the vast expanse of jungle that passed beneath them, then at the looming mountains in the distance. There was the sound of heavy boots on the creaking wooden floor, and a familiar smell of a lit pipe.
“The place you’re being taken to is in a valley at the base of that mountain range.” Kane barely turned his head to acknowledge the hooded and cloaked figure that stood by him at the railing.
“You still haven’t told me why I’m going there?” Kane muttered back at the figure, drumming his fingers idly on the railing. The figure nodded slowly; removing its hand from beneath its cloak and offering Kane a small mug of steaming liquid.
“Thistle tea, should keep you awake for a while longer.” Kane took taking a sip from it, savouring the refreshing warmth of the drink.
“That still doesn’t answer my question.” The figure sighed to itself, causing a flood of pale white smoke to drift off on the wind.
“You’re a man of business Mr Lecher, and the Society in its most basic form is a business. Surely you can understand that we are required to expand. And with expansion we need to change the way we operate, else we will attract unwanted attention” Kane slowly turned his head towards the figure cocking an eyebrow.
“Let me guess, you guys have a fuck load more paper work to do?” This prompted a chuckle from the figure who slowly nodded.
“Indeed. But not in the way you might think. You see previously we have had our... employee’s going to external sources for work and information. But now we wish to raise the bar, we would rather we had other individuals gather information and contracts for the Society’s members to act upon.” Kane furrowed his brows in thought, the frequency of his fingers drumming upon the railing increasing slightly.
“I don’t get how this involves me?” Kane asked quizzically, eying the figure to gauge his response.
“To put it in terms that you will understand. You will be placed in stormwind and every so often you will be asked to retrieve 10 scrolls from 10 dead drops. On those scrolls will be information you will decode and pass onto the cell which you will be working with.” Kane maintained his glance at the figure before sighing and turning back to the horizon.
“Sounds like a job for someone dispensable.” He drained the rest of his tea, holding the mug back out to the stranger.
“Well in most cases yes, but yours is a special case.” The figure took Kane’s cup, balancing it on the railing in front of him. “You see your talent for paperwork makes you an asset when it comes to... keeping an eye on certain a certain individual.” Kane turned to the figure, looking at him more quizzically than before.
“The girl from that report you gave me?” From beneath his hood the figure smiled and nodded.
“Both brilliant and dangerous, a double ended sword if you like. We could make quite a tool of her, or she could resist and most likely cause a lot of damage.” Kane furrowed his brows and a touch of a grimace crossed his face.
“Need I wonder what you did to make her like that?” Kane narrowed his gaze at the figure, who just shook his head.
“On the contrary, she did most the work herself. Firstly she willing joined our training program, then never tried to escape and on the whole has proved herself as a remarkably effective means of dispensing death.” Kane smirked to himself and turned back to the horizon.
“Sounds like your average teenage girl then.” This prompted a chuckle from the stranger again, he was obviously enjoying this conversation.
“Oh you’ll find out in a half hour Mr. Lecher.” Kane turned his head to the stranger looking somewhat confused.
“What happens in half an hour?”
“You’re going to introduce yourself to her.” Kane looked somewhat paler for a moment before he turned his head back to the mountains ahead.
“No sleep, no food and a date with a psychopath... Sounds like a Monday to me...”