Old Tauren joke:
“How can you tell if a goblin is trying to rip you off?”
“His lips are moving.”
If you’re following the same route south that I did, you might be feeling a little worried about the contents of your waterskin and ration pack at this point. Shimmering Flats and the Mirage raceway are a good place to let go of your worldly goods, intentionally or otherwise, and a bad place to acquire new ones. The Elders teach that each part of the Earth Mother’s body teaches us something about her; in Southern Kalimdor, you see her discpline. Mother made the desert, they say, to test the people’s devotion to the old ways.
But screw that, the goblins built a great big town on it and stuffed it full of goodies, so let’s get a room at the inn and sleep inside for a change.
Gadgetzan glitters like treasure from the top of the pass through the mountains. By night it burns with gaslamps, by day the sun sparkles on the metal and the adobe glows with desert gold. Civilzed comforts are once again close at hand, though the hand hasn’t been washed in a while and needs its fingernails trimmed.
If you thought the sun was harsh out on the Shimmering Flats, well, you were right, but Tanaris is little relief. The tall and ancient walls of the Flats send echoes of birdcall and rocket engines that give the hardpan desert a sense of life that is muted or missing out behind the shield pass. The long sandy dunes are full of silicates that reflect the sun in a hard, polished gleam, and they soak up almost all noise. The sky overhead is enormous and generally cloudless. Nothing echoes here. Stay close to your friends because if you become separated, a blast from your war-horn may not reach their ears even if they’re only a few dunes away. Out in the deep desert, every direction quickly looks the same, unless you have learned from experience to navigate by the rare outcroppings of rock, or have a good guide with you.
My advice for inexpert travellers is to stick to the northern edge of the desert, and that’s the route this guide will cover, starting with Gadgetzan, gateway to nothing and nowhere.
The flightmaster for the Horde is north of the city wall, and he doubles as a water-bearer for the assorted mounts that are tied to posts in the shade. The goblins are fairly insistent on people dismounting outside the gates as well as leaving any siege weapons behind, because on the south side of the town there’s an Alliance flight-master. Yes, in Gadgetzan you will suddenly be rubbing elbows with the opposite number, and the goblin credo is “Welcome everything, guarantee nothing.” What they mean by this is that there is often blood on the sandy streets, and that if a night-elf thinks your horned, somewhat surprised-looking head will look smashing on their mantlepiece, the Gadgetzan bruisers will not lift a finger to save you.
The safest thing to do is to get a core-hound pet, encase your wallet in lead and then feed your wallet to the core hound in order to discourage pick-pockets. Then wear your spikiest outfit and walk around looking very cranky.
Actually, the safest thing to do is to go home. But it’s too late now!
He just looked so excited about the kitten.
“Welcome everything”. Gadgetzan is home to a rarity – an auction house with bilingual Orcish/Human auctioneers that takes goods and bids from any race without regard to political affiliation.
People sell the oddest things. For a reason that’s not clear to anyone, the Gadgetzan auction house seems consistently swamped with dog-eared, paperback copies of Hemet Nesingwary memoirs, in particular The Green Hills of Stranglethorn. They have stacks of these things, pages preserved by the dry desert air, filling an entire side of the auction warehouse. The excellent thing, from the perspective of buyers, is that each copy is bound to be missing pages or whole chapters, so someone who wants a complete set of the memoirs has to buy a half dozen copies or so. The real question is why, why why? And where do they all come from? I tried to get answers from one of the auctioneers but they refuse to divulge seller identities.
One poor undead fellow, down on his luck and begging for sutures in the street to keep his arm on, ranted at length to me about how the copies of Green Hills contained coded messages for Stormwind Intelligence and Royal Apothecary agents, who were secretly in cahoots and planning something or other from isolated safe-houses in locales like Gadgetzan. He wasn’t clear on the details. Or much of anything, really. I could see his brain straining to complete each thought that passed out of his mouth.
I really, really wish I was being figurative when I say that.
I admit I got a bit over-excited myself about the truly bizarre nature of goods on offer, and was escorted out of the auction house into the beating sun. Dusting myself off and trying to distance myself from my smelly new Forsaken companion, I was hissed at invitingly by a goblin in an alleyway.
“What’s with the big secret act?” I asked him. “No one’s looking at you.” And indeed it was so. Every alleyway in Gadgetzan is full of shady goblins. Selling things out of your clothes in an alleyway is a perfectly respectable way of life for a goblin. Your mother would approve. Unless you were moving in on her turf, in which case she’d shove a metal shank so far up your behindus that you’d have perfect posture for life. But it wouldn’t be out of shame.
“Youse look like a smart young bull. I have an opportunity for such a fella,” he replied, hooking his thumbs through his suspenders. Beside him in the alley was a big Tauren who didn’t look like such a smart young bull. He looked glazed and very sad, on the edge of tears really, kicking at the dust with his hoof. Clearly a minion in the dog house.
“Who me?” I fixed my hat. “Naw, I put my feet right through the bottoms of my new shoes like everybody else.”
“Yeah? I likes that, very funny,” he says with a big fake smile full of shark teeth. “Hey, listen, you know where kittens come from, right? Smart young bull like you?”
“They come from cats.”
“Do you hear that, hoofwit?” he poked the Tauren behind him with an elbow, and the big guy winced. “what a smart bull. Cats! Yessir. Well, maybe you could solve a little confusion we’re having if you take a look under this canvas here.” He beckoned me into the alley, just a little ways and still within a beeline of the main plaza.
You might think it foolish that I shrugged and ambled over. Ordinary common sense tells you that shady alleys are not places you want to wander in a strange desert town. The thing is, they’re no more dangerous than any other part of gadgetzan. If you’re willing to drop your trousers and use the outhouse, knowing that at any second you may feel the flirtatous tickle of a Silithid climbing up from the tunnels below (and wondering why the sunlight just went out overhead), ambling down an alleyway with a goblin isn’t such a big deal.
“Do these,” said the goblin, still with that terrible strained smile, “Look like cats –“ he pulled back the canvas, “to you?”
“Wellsir, they look more like eggs.”
“and do kittens, generally speaking, hatch out of eggs?”
“Not to my knowledge.”
“Not to his knowledge!” screeched the goblin.
“I sorry, boss,” mumbled the Tauren, wincing again.
“Listen,” the goblin said to me, “how’d a smart young bull like yourself like to make a bit of gold, eh?”
I checked twice. His lips were definitely moving.
(to be continued)Next: The Great Tickbird Caper II: Land of the Sauced »