Chapter One - Beginnings
Matron Broadforge was standing next to the window in her office, sipping weak tea and fretting over the cost and care of the latest arrivals. With the troubles of the world mounting, orphans seemed to be popping up from the cracks like weeds. She had seventy-three children under her watchful eye and hardly enough room to keep them. The little ones were sharing cots as the older ones were sent to apprentice or work odd jobs, rather than be placed in homes. The Dwarven lady’s brow furrowed and shoulders sagged at the recollection of all she wanted to do for the impoverished youth of the North. Well. We all do th’ best we can, she thought to herself taking another careful sip.
The lady’s emerald colored gown caught her eye as the couple made their way down the paved street in her direction. The Matron inwardly scolded herself as she struggled to curtail the wave of envy that passed over her. They were a truly handsome pair, the fashionable raven-haired woman and the tall golden-haired man. And they were sorely out of place in the dark reaches of Ironforge. Needless to say, she was entirely surprised when they stopped directly in front of the Ironforge Home for Children. As they began to climb the stairs, Matron Broadforge flew into action – tea cup down, mess of papers stuffed into the top drawer. Miraculously, she was sitting when her assistant knocked and poked her head into the room. “Matron. There be a couple here inquirin’ aboot the children. Are y’free?” With a nod of her head, the door opened and in they swept. She stood to greet them, smiling and extending her hand first towards the lady and then her husband.
They introduced themselves as Captain and Mrs. Belfore of Stormwind City. The Matron sat and listened to their woeful tale. A barren plague. Her eyes crinkled in sympathy as large unshed tears came to the eyes of the Captain’s wife. He blamed himself – for the lives he took on the battlefield. He was sure he had been cursed. Their shipping business flourished. They were well situated and more than comfortable except for one, small detail. The family his darling Victoria had always wanted. They would do anything to have a child to raise as their own. A girl, preferably. Not a baby, but not yet grown. Eight, perhaps? Matron Broadforge found herself entirely fascinated and taken in by their wide, even smiles and exemplary good manners. How horrible it must be for Mrs. Belfore. Even before they offered to make a sizable donation to the Home, the decision was made. They could have their pick and the lucky child would be all the better for it.
The Matron recalled her assistant and asked her to bring all of the girls between the ages of five and nine for their clients’ perusal. Leading them into the Great Room, she offered them seats upon a great plush sofa. The excited voices gave away the parade of children before they were even fully down the steps. The Captain’s wife clasped her hand over his with a beaming smile upon her face as the girls entered. Some were bashful or frightened, staring anywhere but at the potential parents, while others were bold and desperate to be noticed. They stood and walked along the line together, stopping to speak to each child individually. Matron Broadforge watched with baited breath as her charges gave answers. There had to be one they would like. They were all dear little things. She began to panic as they came to the end of the line and hadn’t yet made their selection. But then, the woman turned.
She set her sights on eight year old Reigan Adaire. The small blonde child had come to the Home when she was just a baby, left on the steps with a note that read, “Parents are dead. Child is named Reigan Adaire. Light bless your kindness and charity.” The Matron was fond of her and smiled at Mrs. Belfore as she bent down to Reigan’s level and spoke softly to her. The Captain followed behind, resting a large hand upon his wife’s back and grinned down at the child. Reigan looked unsure – as was usually the case. The Matron sighed inwardly, afraid the girl would jeopardize her chances at a home by showing her overly cautious nature. “Ye’ll hafta forgive wee Reigan, Missus. She’s a might wary o’strangers, but she’s generally agreeable. Aren’t ye, lassie?” Captain Belfore smiled, putting his hands behind his back, but it was his wife who spoke, “Cautiousness can be a virtue in my estimation, Matron. It shows a keen sense of observation. It is admirable.” Unaccustomed to such praise, Reigan smiled widely at the couple.
It was settled. She was finally going home.
With her modest bag packed and a bone-crunching hug from the Matron, Reigan stood upon the steps of the Ironforge Home for Children and bounced on her heels. Astute for one so young, she knew she was about to begin a whole new life. She was someone’s daughter now. No more need for wondering who should was or would one day be. That day had arrived. Victoria Belfore wrapped a protective arm around her skinny shoulders and spoke, “Our coach is just outside of the gates, Matron.” The Captain pulled a heavy leather bag out of his surcoat pocket. “We cannot thank you enough. You’ve made us very happy. Please, Ma’am, accept this as our donation.” Taking the bag, the Matron smiles and graciously accepted there gift, “Light-speed yer way, Miss Adaire. Come an’ visit me again someday. We’ll miss ya, lass.” Reigan nodded, promising she would do just that. Giving one hand to her new mother and the other to her new father, they walked, hand-clasped, to the gates of the City.
It was dark and cold when Reigan woke. The stars were twinkling above her as the floor rattled beneath her. Where was she? The Belfore’s had said they would be taking a coach to Stormwind. She peered carefully at her surroundings and noted the grayed wood and sacks of supplies. Her first thoughts went to her new family. Had they been captured by bandits? Worry covered her features as she sat up abruptly and looked at the darkly cloaked person driving the wagon that carried her. A horse rode up alongside and the mounted man let out a whistle. Pulling the horses to a stop, the figure at the front of the cart turned. “Chloroform’s worn off. She’s up,” the man on the horse said softly. It was the Captain. “Fel, I didn’t bring more with me, Roderic,” replied the driver. It was a woman’s voice. “What do we do now,” he retorted angrily. “Why is everything always my job,” the woman pouted, “I thought one vial would be enough to take her from Ironforge back to Menethil.” Menethil… Reigan thought, alarmed. Something isn’t right.
With no time at all to think about a plan, Reigan let instinct take over and leapt from the cart. The ground was much farther away than she thought it should be and she pitched forward, scraping her knee open and knocking her head right into the wheel. She was out cold. “Bloody stupid, little thing,” the woman said, shaking her head. The “Captain” laughed, scooping her little body up and placing her in the cart. “Hand me that rope, Ilya,” he said, gesturing to the coil next to her on the seat. Tying her hands behind her back and then to her feet, he rolled her onto her belly and jumped back onto his horse. “She hit her head so hard she’ll be out until we get home. And if she wakes up, she can’t move. Now, let’s get the Fel home. I’m hungry and it’s bloody freezing.”
Lurching forward, the wagon carried an unconscious girl on more of an adventure than she bargained for…
There is required to be an "Unlike" button, because I do not like where this story is headed! D:
But again, I like the story and the writing! Oh god I'm so confused!
(( O_O I so did not see that coming. Moar pls! ))
[ Whoops. Posted this as the wrong character. Oh well! ]
Chapter 2: Bittersweet Memories
Soft tinkling of glass upon glass as finely dressed men and women spoke with corset clad courtesans did little to disguise the muffled clatter of horseshoes, to the keen ears of a young boy. He paused in mid-step and canted his head to the side a bit, doing his best to pierce the din of idle chatter. A man and a woman astride a wagon, by the tone of their voices. He could make out none of their conversation, but there was something authoritative in the speech of the former.
The silver tray topped with drinks found its way to an empty table as carefully as can be, and the child made for the door with all haste. If the “Captain” had returned with exotic foods from the market, perhaps he might be allowed a taste. Or maybe he could curry the favor of one of the new concubines that the cart bore. Light help him if he did not attempt to aid his master, though.
His ponytail bobbed and bounced as he pushed through the heavy front doors of the brothel, the quiet Menethil evening greeting him with open arms. Lanterns hung on either side of every street and before each building. Though most were dark and silent, both the tavern and the brothel shed a warm, welcoming glow. Or the latter would have, had there not been an large wooden wagon drawn by sable horses that pranced impatiently before the brothel.
“There you are!”
An aggravated growl snapped him from his reverie as Ilya advanced on the poor preteen, but her rage was abruptly quelled.
“Ilya, darling. We have only just arrived. The child could not have known,” the Captain chided gently in honeyed tones. The boy turned his gaze on his feet quickly to avoid the venomous glare from Ilya. He knew better than to keep his eyes down when Malkov continued, however. “Do be a good boy and fetch our things from the carriage, won’t you, Marrik?”
The boy with his mousy brown hair and wide brown eyes gave a swift nod and scurried to comply. The carriage door swung easily on its hinges and the next few moments erupted into an ecstasy of fumbling with luggage and supplies. It was not until he was nearly finished with his chore that he came across the true nature of their venture. Long blonde hair hung messily about the face of a girl no more than four years younger than he. Coils of rope had bound her fast in place and an unsightly knot on her forehead accounted for her unconsciousness.
Marrik could only stare in horror, his mind awash with imaginary torture that the girl may have already experienced at the hands of the Captain and his Mistress. It was the thoughts of what she might come to experience that caused him to recoil and lose his footing on the edge of the wagon. Vertigo overwhelmed him for a brief moment before gravity took hold and sent him tumbling back down to the earth.
Crack! went Marrik’s skull onto the stone beneath him. Black spots danced before his eyes as molten tongues of pain licked across his shoulders and down his spine. The exquisite sensation of crippling agony was not lost on its host, even as his limbs went limp like wet noodles. His face felt wet and he was dimly aware that a stream of blood trailed lazily from his nose.
Marrik’s captor was unfinished, however. A sharp kick drew a flash of white hot flames across his rib cage, causing him to curl up like a writhing worm to protect himself. The boot driven into his spine caused him to recoil, opening himself up for further abuse. And so it went, the young man cringing and quivering and flinching with only the sound of each pained yelp to comfort him.
As calloused, bloodied fingers finally took hold of his hair and lifted his face from the floor, he knew what was to come. Teeth bared into a rictus grin, sweat gleaming upon his master’s forehead; the mask of calm that Malkov always wore was gone in a flurry of murderous rage. The expression was not unfamiliar to Marrik. When the Captain’s face slid out of view and the ground swiftly rose up to meet him, he welcomed the void of unconsciousness and the dreams that it heralded.
“Hey, that’s mine!” Yelled the boy of no more than fourteen as he tore after the diminutive thief. Down long halls, through adjoining rooms, and over beds they raced; one working to evade the other, while the latter did his best to catch the former. The brothel itself was not large enough for the pair to chase one another around in, but the two children were not so limited. Just as the boy thought that he had managed to corner the girl in a dead end, she nimbly caught hold of the headboard of a bed and launched herself out the window. He paused for but a moment at that, surprised by her audacity, but the sensation was fleeting. Hurling himself through the window and onto the roof of the neighboring building, he continued their chase.
It was a precarious sprint across the rooftops of Menethil, as loose shingles slid out from underfoot and roofs slick from the sea spray threatened to toss them into the streets below. The pair persevered, though, each driven on by sheer determination. Or perhaps it was merely he who was determined, and she fled out of sheer terror. Marrik would have liked to believe that he had such an effect on someone, but the likelihood was slim. Few had reason to be afraid of servant boys, especially ones so young as himself. However, none of these concerns touched the mind of the child as he leapt over railings and dodged around stovepipes.
The rogue juked around a wide white bed sheet spread across a clothes line, only to drop down into a thin alleyway between two buildings. Using her sleeves and the soles of her shoes to slow her fall, she slid down two stories of flat stone and hit the ground running. Lithe as she may have been, her mark had the advantage. Or so he thought as the rooftop fell away beneath him and gravity welcomed him with open arms into its ethereal embrace. At least until a large cart of hay saw fit to break up the proverbial clutches and deliver him safely to the street once more. Scrambling from the cart, he made good use of his advantages to beat her to the mouth of the alley.
Thin fingers lifted to brush long, blonde hair from before blue eyes that gazed back upon the brown eyes opposite. A long moment passed between the pair as they gradually caught their breath and awaited who would make the first move. Then a second moment. A third. It was not until the slightest glimpse of red peeked through the thin fingers of her other hand that their uneasy truce broke. Marrik closed the distance between the two of them in an instant and dove at the girl with every intention of knocking her clear of her feet and onto the cold stone of the alleyway. Instead, he was greeted with an armful of smoke, a rough landing upon the earth, and the immensely aggravating chime of giggling at his back. As if to add insult to injury, Reigan lifted the shiny red apple to her lips to take a large, triumphant bite out of it when he shifted to scowl back up to her. His shiny red apple.
“That’s not fair,” he grumbled mostly to himself as he worked to push himself to his feet once more. Frozen fingers of dread clamped down upon his heart and pumped ice into his veins when a familiar shadow fell across the mouth of the alley. The thrill of success shriveled and died within Reigan as a large, calloused hand found its way to one of her shoulders in a deceptively friendly manner.
“Life is not fair,” Roderick Malkov began with all the smugness of a poker player with the winning hand. “That, my dear Marrik, was brilliant.”