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The dwarven woman cut an unusual figure as she made her way through the Mystic Ward of Ironforge. Not for her stature, but for her dress; where the rest of the citizenry and students going about their business wore soft fabric robes of varying colors and degrees of ornamentation, and a few followers of the SIlver Hand in gleaming plate, she was clad entirely in supple dark leather, with her flaxen hair was pulled back carelessly in two bunches. Only an outsider would have noticed the difference, however. As she passed small knots of people, both dwarf and gnome, conversing intently about matters of the arcane and the holy, none raised an eyebrow, even at the large basket she carried on one arm...or the two bright daggers at her waist.

She turned down a narrow, little-used hallway, and knocked at the fourth door down. It was answered by a friendly looking woman, with coffee-brown skin unusual to the mountain dwarves, and her dark hair arranged in neatly coiled braids atop her head.

"Cluny Gempebble! My it's been a worg's age since I've seen you last. Come in, come in...I was expecting Twigget with those herbs. Slow day in the trenches? Or are you taking up your mum's work with the greenery?"

"Och, Eddi, not on yer life. I'm not made for flower-pickin. Ma had to bar me from her hot-house when I was a wee lass, said my black thumb went to all ten fingers. Twigget's got a big bakery order and asked me to drop these off, and as for work...well...I'm under review, as they call it."

Edelgarde raised an eyebrow. "Review? That doesn't sound well. Is it classified? Sit down, I'll make us a nice cuppa."

"Thankee..." Calluna set the basket on the floor and perched on one of the two stuffed red chairs near the hearth. While Edelgarde busied herself fetching the tea service, she looked around the snug cell that the dwarven priestess called home. A cot with a brightly woven coverlet anchored one far corner, and in the other was a complicated roll-top desk, its myriad pigeonholes stuffed with rolls of parchment, vellums, and small crystal bottles of ink whose colors seemed to shimmer and swim. An earthenware jug held an assortment of quills and reed pens.

"You've fixed this place up right homey, Eddi. Tired of the wandering life?"

"Me? No." Edelgarde shook out a tea towel and laid it on a tray. "But since I started getting more orders for manuscripts and other things, I needed a base of operations, as I think they call it in your line of work. Now then, while the kettle boils, tell me what happened. You never could keep a secret from me."

Calluna grinned ruefully. "Aye, that I never. Ye'd make one hell of an interrogator, Eddi. Welp..." she shifted in her seat, "it's like this. There's a new batch of upstarts fresh from training. You know how it is to be young an' full of pepper. One of em, though, she's got a lip on her to match and she uses it mainly to kiss arse..."


"Och, language?"

Edelgarde made a face. "Not growing up with the number of siblings I did. But you're being uncharitable."

"Tis true though! This chippie, Dulcie Cruthers, that's her name, a human gal barely grown into her bosoms, is enough to make a saint swear, and believe me when I say I ain't the only one fed up wi' it. She's just latched onto me for to be wearin' my last nerve. I'll give ye a fr'instance. She was in a squad I led up into the Kun-lai hills to run recon on this gang of Hozen that were makin' raids on Westwind Rest. You know the place?"

"That base we helped establish with the locals? I thought the problem there was Yaungol marauders."

"Aye, so did we, but these blasted monkeyfolk are creeping in and making mischief. Stealin' bits and pieces, cutting loose the yaks the locals use. It's not for them having lack of their own provisions, so we went to scout em out, see if maybe the Horde was harrying them into the business. You know that Garrosh will use whoever he can get to get under our skin, and he'd use Hozen before sending in his own lackeys."

"Mmph. You don't have to tell me about Garrosh Hellscream. But better the devil you know, as they say."

"Right. Well. I took three scouts, including Dulcie. Not my first choice, but I thought if I could show her how it's done...anyway, we take our points, and hunker down, waiting to see if any Horde contacts came through."

"And were there?" Edelgarde set two thick mugs on the tray, and began to spoon tea leaves into a small red teapot. "Hope you like green tea, I picked up some up in the Jade Forest, now I'm hooked."

"Ta, that's lovely. Anyway. We'd only been there an hour or so, when a bird flies overhead. Not a native one. No, it were one of them messenger swallows they use between Thunder Bluff and Orgrimmar, gliding low with a scroll on it's leg. Great, I think, we can bug out of here and report back in time fer dinner. We'll get the Cenarions to send us a druid to track the flight path, figure out where the birds are coming from, get a marksman set up in a remote waypoint to intercept the communication or sommat. Nice an' clean. But then, gods all damn it..."


"Och, Eddi, it's what I'm up against. Next thing I know the damn bird is droppin' dead from the sky in the middle of a the damn Hozen settlement with a shuriken buried in it. And you know they're all marked with the SI:7 sigil!"

"Oh no. That Dulcie?"

"Only her. Next thing you know, the whole encampment of em are hootin and whoopin' and racin about like loons. Them Hozen are plenty dumb, but not THAT dumb. We were lucky to all get out of there without being seen, the way they were carrying on."

"Oh, Cluny, I'm sorry. Were you able to report her? Surely there's something..."

"It ain't even that. It ain't even that she blew the mission. She's green, all greenies foul up. It's that as soon as we got back, SHE wrote to the home office saying that I had, how'd she put it, "lost my edge" and that we should have just charged in there and taken out the whole camp and blar blar blar. Not to Matthias Shaw, mind you, her lips don't kiss arse that high up, but to someone higher up than me all the same, and THEY took it to Shaw. I dunno who. Don't think it was Reznik, he's too cagey. So now I gotta haul my bum down to Stormwind and sit in audience of all the muckety-mucks and explain the reason I am wasting time is because some blasted brat barely out of pissin' down her legs thought she was doin' us a favor by baggin' us a squab to roast!" she punctuated her frustration by pounding the arns of the chair.

"So you're out of rotation until then? Here, cream and sugar?" Eddi passed her a mug.

"just sugar." Calluna plunked two cubes into the steaming tea and took a sip without stirring. "Och, that's nice."

"Good for what ails you, as Nana Butterberry used to say."

"And Nana Gempebble too. All Nanas must. And aye, I'm stuck here in Ironforge drivin Twigget to distraction whilst the papers get shuffled about down south and they call for me to 'defend my action'. It ain't me what should be defendin' nothin! She's the one who bolloxed up the play!"

"So tell them that. You've got a good case to have that girl disciplined herself. You have witnesses to her recklessness, right?"

"Aye, the other two, Dominic and Shadebough, they were just as cheesed as I was. They're both as green as she is, though, so I dunno what weight their words will carry. And it tisn't just this whole bureaucratic rigamarole. Eddi, I can do good work out there. I always have! It makes me itch t'sit around the house all day when I should be somewhere gathering intel. Right now I'm the best that the Hidden Circle has working with SI:7. I can't even look Hulfdan in the eye 'til this is over."

Edelgarde sighed and put her mug aside. "Cluny...I've known you since you we were a young girl, and me even younger. Remeber when we first met? I caught you sneaking a cheese out of the buttery, and you were so smooth about it that I didn't even register that you were stealing until ten minutes after you left."

Calluna chuckled ruefully. "Aye, I always had deft hands. Wasn't the first cheese, and wasn't the last. I was nicking it for my friend Gubbles back home, you know how gnomes are about anything dairy."

"I'll take that as a confession," Edelgarde said with a laugh. "I do miss Gubbles."

"She's still in Tanaris, her and Bipney Gobsmack on that cocked-up speedbarge they built after the flood. Bar fights and ice cream all day and having the time of her life."

"Good on her. But back to what I was saying. You are very good at your job. You always have been. Light knows you're one of the few agents I know of that isn't scarred from head to toe. You're cautious and you always get the job done. That's why I don't understand why you're so worried. They'll see you were in the right and put you back in the field."

"But the waiting, Eddi. The waiting! On days when Twigget goes out on whatever the Council bids her, I just about fly to pieces staring at the four walls."

"Sounds like you need a hobby."

"Och!" Calluna blew a raspberry. "Sucks to yer hobby. I need to work. Whole world's goin' to shite, poor wee Anduin laid up with every bone broken, Garrosh plannin' who knows what-all, and that creepy Wrathion, I know he's playin' everyone fer fools, I just KNOW it, and--"



"Just stop. Cluny, you can't do it all. You can try, we all need to try, but you're going to run yourself into an early grave. Our people are hardy but we haven't mastered the ability to be everywhere at once."

Calluna grunted. "Huh. Tell that to the mages."

Edelgarde shook her head. "That cantrip of theirs doesn't count. When was the last time you took a holiday?"

"Och, er, um...well now, I dunno. About the time Twigg an' me set up house together."

"And that was what, five years ago? Cluny, you need time off. Use it. Relax. Take Twigget down to Booty Bay, it's nice this time of year. Go fishing, drink grog, watch the ships go in and out."

"DO IT. As your priest and counselor--"

"I didnae come here for that!"

"I don't care. I'm prescribing you some, what do they call it? R&R. Frankly I'm shocked that your higher-ups haven't done so already."
"Well, they can't afford t'go without me."

Edelgarde folded her arms and smiled. "Exactly. So why worry about getting reinstated? It's a sure thing. Now, shoo, I need to pestle up those herbs for ink, and you need to go pack. Come see me when you get back, and give my best to Twigget."

"Aw, Eddi..."

"I insist. Have a grog on me."



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