The Silverleaf 400 is the biggest racing event in Azeroth and frankly they don’t have anything like it on Draenor either. You can hear it a day before you see it. It echoes off the titanic walls of the Shimmering Basin and blows up so much glittering silt you can’t see anything in front of your face. Half an hour ploughing across the flats towards the race, you and your mount are the same colour and texture, packed with silty mud from head to toe, blind, thirsty, and cranky.
If you think that’s bad just imagine stumbling onto the raceway by mistake during one of the heats. Cursing and swearing about the dust and trying not to step on any scorpions, and then all of a sudden there’s a vortex of clear, hot air that spins you into daylight, which would seem like a blessing from the ancestors except oh shit it’s boiling off the front of a goblin rocket, it’s a sperm-shaped pocket of terrified wind trying to get the hell away from this piece of moving death – it’s so close on top of you you can see the driver trying to put out the fires that are all over the cockpit… good luck having any time to steer — no time, you dive to the ground and hope your mount has the sense to run
HHHHHHHHHHHHH oh mother
Roll around on the ground to put yourself out because you are now on fire. Keep a move on. You don’t want to miss this.
It’s the biggest thing anywhere. Arthas probably has tickets.
Cairne’s Beard, they’ll soak you here, but only figuratively. There’s no bathwater, and the drinkable stuff only comes in tiny bottles stamped with the logos of the Steamwheedle Cartel or the Venture Company, the two biggest rocket-sponsors. You’re better off drinking the moonshine beer the trolls bring in from Sandsorrow; it tastes like they just let a dead basilisk mellow in the oasis water for a few weeks and then bottled that, but it’s cheap and being slightly drunk at all hours adds a lovely glaze to the proceedings that makes them seem less than completely insane.
By the Gnomeregan Memorial garage there’s a little bearded man screaming at the desert. He’s got a kind of parasol, totally useless in the dust-storm, and he’s poking it around in front of him.
“What’s the matter?” I ask a gnomish technician running by with his arms full of what I think are explosives. “What’s his deal? Did he drink the Sandsorrow beer?”
“That’s Blind Stripgear,” replied the technician without stopping. Fortunately, although he was running full speed I could amble along beside him, no problem. “Don’t even think of eating him, Tauren, he’s our best driver.”
“Gnomes give me gas. Well, more gas than usual. He’s your driver? he’s not really blind, is he? It’s just a nickname.”
The technician peers up at me, the goggles hiding his eyes. “If you could see where you were going,” he says, “would you climb into these things?”
“Maybe if I were a goblin,” I say, and shrug.
The mages are restless. Dalaran has a team in this year – thing runs on pure magic. Really expensive. Absolutely not expendable, which is not the kind of thing you say about something in the Silverleaf. The desert knows we’re all expendable. One of the archmages just sits in the bleachers all day – a human with a cue-ball head – somehow he just gets more and more sunburned, though I haven’t seen the sky since I got here. Just sits there and frowns at the starting line like he can cow it into obedience. The Dalaran techs glance nervously at his back but they never go near him. They know he’s really watching them.
The goblins and gnomes aren’t happy about this. The mages are all saying that this is the engine of the future – cleaner, quieter, less destructive. None of these things, the Little Folk feel, are really the point, are they? More like the opposite of the point.
There’s a scene when the Dalaran Racing Carpet starts up and its propulsion field, not quite stable, blows all the other vehicles over on their backs before the gun sounds. The wrenches come out.
Spectators scatter as bombs and spells are thrown around. A huge orc covered in leather and chains stands up and pulls out his axes. “WAAAAAAAGHHH!” he screams, but it’s lost in the dust and anyway he can’t really decide who to hit with them. None of this makes any sense.
The bald mage in the bleachers just sits there, his arms crossed, getting redder and redder.
No one can tell what’s going on, it’s all breaking down. Somehow, all of the rockets have gotten off the starting line, but now there’s been a rules dispute about the number of laps, and there’s no way to signal the riders once they’re off. They’ll come to a stop when the fuel runs out or the Silithids get them – we’ll sort it out later.
I’m rolling bones with some trolls in the beer tent. Every so often we get up and peek outside, but there’s nothing to see – you can only hear the race now, echoing off the distant cliffs. The roar of the rockets, and the squeaky, indistinguishable voices of the tiny riders. Riding the hurricane.
“Let’s go see if we can run over some gnomes,” says the Orc, whose name is Karkeron and who has a big, badass motherhumpin motorcycle. “Bring your totems.”
We pass the sapta back and forth, tearing through the storm towards what we think might be the raceway. Everything starts to gel; the glittering dust whispers to us of the ocean that once filled this basin.
“This place is angry,” I hear someone shout through a black neckerchief. Oh, wait, no, that was me.
“Grom damn right,” says Karkeron. “Shit, I think we’re stalled – seems like we aren’t moving.”
I drop a totem over the side to check. It instantly vanishes behind us, nothing but a fiery glow and then gone. “We’re moving,” I think I say.
And we are, too, because we cross right through the thick of the pack, wheeling crazily as we try to bounce off the passing rockets without getting crushed. All of a sudden the ground opens up and we’re freewheeling in the air, plunging out of the morass into cool dark.
The bike is fucked. We landed in the middle of a Silithid nest and it was Katy-bar-the-door. I see Karkeron out of the corner of my eye, he’s swinging the sidecar around like a mace, knocking bugs flying by the half-dozen. I’m just burning anything that gets close.
Those bugs roast up real good. The stars come out above us as the dust gently blows away. We sit around, still high as a kite, breaking off beetle legs and cracking them open for the meat. Later we’ll haul the bike back to the motorway using a parachute Kark keeps in his saddle-bag, goodness knows why.
The Gnomeregan Memorial garage is on fire; the mages and goblins are blaming eachother. Blind Stripgear, touched by the Makers and without a scratch on him, has got a night elf in each arm. Well, he can’t get his arm around them. You get the idea, though.
Biggest thing anywhere.Next: Dissertation Panic »