The gobbo stable master stared back at Quae insolently. "That's our price, lady," he said. "Ya got a problem with it, take it up with the big boss." "Okay, where can I find him?" she asked. He smirked. "Undermine." Quae stared again, then said a few words that would probably have shocked any of her siblings if they had heard.
They were interrupted by the postman, another goblin, who tugged on Quae's sleeve and presented her with a letter. "Yer mail, lady," he muttered, then shuffled off. Quae watched him go- did the gobbos run the whole place?- then looked to her letter. It was from Alanon.
I would like to talk with you at your earliest convenience. I'll be at home.
She blinked, then read it again. What did he want to talk about? And why did he sound so... formal? That usually meant he was troubled by something. Quickly she ran through a mental list of everything she had done in the last couple weeks. She certainly hadn't done anything. Neither had Barraccus as far as she knew. Her curiosity piqued, she turned around quickly- and almost crashed into the darned stable master, who had been trying to read over her shoulder. She looked at him coolly. "You're in luck," she told him. "I'll need to take her with me after all." She walked over to Moon, who quickly stood at her approach, and swung up into the saddle, then touched her heels to the frostsaber's flanks and headed toward home.
* * * * * *
Alanon paced restlessly in the house. He still wasn't sure about writing to Quae, but he didn't know their cousins well at all, and she did. He just hoped she wouldn't give him too hard of a time about this. He almost jumped when he heard her ride into the yard, then made himself stand still as he waited for her to come in.
She looked rather irritated and disheveled when she walked in. Uh oh, he thought. Trouble with the goblins again, I bet. She plunked herself down in a chair and began muttering. "Stupid greedy greenskins. I bet if they could package the world and sell it off, they would auction it to the highest bidder with no qualms." Yep, goblins. She shook her head, then looked at him. "Hey big brother," she said in greeting. "I'm here, what did you want to talk about?" Suddenly he was at a loss for words. "Umm," he stammered. "I was, ah, wondering, um, if you could, maybe, ah..." Quae looked at him in amazement, one eyebrow slowly raising. He stopped himself and took a deep breath. "You know our Stormwind cousins better than I do," he stated. "Would you, maybe, mind talking to Kal for me?" He waited to see how she responded.
She stared at him, and slowly a knowing grin spread across her face. "Are you being serious? You're actually interested in someone?" She chuckled, then abruptly stood and went to the door, looking out at the sky. "Quae," he said flatly. "What are you doing?" "Checking for flying pink elekks," she replied. "Or, you know, the trees turning upside-down or something." She came back in with a huge grin, and sat back down in her chair. He gave her a sour look. "I'd like you to be a little more serious, Quae," he said, but she paid him no attention. "So who's the lucky girl?" she asked him, then suddenly looked at him. "It is a girl right? You're not going to try marrying a bear or something like Pitch did, are you?" He frowned. "Pitch did not-" Stopping himself again, he took another deep breath. She just waited, looking at him expectantly. Finally, his face expressionless, he simply said, "Arien."
Quae blinked at that. "Kal's friend?" she said. "Wow, that is a surprise." He glared at her, but she was ignoring him again. "So what did you want me to do?" Alanon rubbed his face with both hands, then sat down on another chair nearby. "I hardly know her," he said. "I mean, we've talked, but nothing really about each other. Mostly just about whatever we were doing at the time. So, would you just talk to Kal a bit for me? I'd like to know more about her." Quae blinked at him again. "And why can't you just talk to her yourself?" "I..., I just can't," he said. "Not yet, at least." "Well, the first thing you should know," she told him, "is that Kal and Arien are best friends. They don't have any secrets from each other. Which means if I talk to Kal, Arien will hear about it." Alanon looked a little sheepish. "Well, that would be an easy way to let her know I'm interested," he said quietly, then shook his head. "But that's a coward's way out. I couldn't do that to her." He groaned, rubbing his forehead with one hand.
Quae watched him, finally growing serious. "Alanon, why can't you just talk to Arien yourself? She's not hard to talk to, you just said you already have, sort of." "I...," he trailed off, and she studied him, understanding dawning in her eyes. "It's because of last time, isn't it?" she asked softly. He just looked at her. "Listen, big brother," Quae said seriously. "Arien isn't going to run away just because you asked her, oh, where she grew up or something like that. She's a bit tougher than that." "I, I think I know that," he said quietly. "So what is wrong, big brother?" she pressed. Alanon opened his mouth and closed it again. Finally, "What if she doesn't want to be with an elf? Or a druid?" The words sounded forced, and she could see he was having a hard time with them. She reached over and patted his knee. "Why would that be a problem, eh?" "Quae, look at me," he said. "I'm almost eight thousand years old, but do I look it? Even after Nordrassil fell, we haven't aged much at all. Will she want to be with someone that will outlast her that much? And what if I get called back to the Dream again? What if I get stuck there, like Malfurion? Even if that doesn't happen, I'll still be gone for who knows how long. What if she can't accept that?"
Quae looked at him for a minute. "That's what happened last time, isn't it? That's why she left you." He stared at her, and she could see the pain he still felt in his eyes. She gently squeezed his knee again. "Okay, I think I know what your problem is," she said. "Think about this a second, Alanon. How is this different than worrying about getting killed in battle or something?" He was silent for a minute, staring at his hands in his lap, then he looked up. "I didn't really think about it that way," he said sheepishly. "Obviously," Quae said dryly. "So, is that any different?" "I suppose not, not really," he said slowly. "Although I'm still going to have to explain things to her. I don't want any more... misunderstandings." Quae grinned and patted his knee again, then leaned over and hugged him. "There you go then. Now all you have to do is talk to her." Alanon glanced up at her. "Quae, thank you," he said softly. "Don't mention it," she replied. "It's not often I get to give my big brother advice. I need to treasure the moment." She grinned impishly at him as he snorted.
At that moment his buzzbox crackled, and Arien's voice came over the frequency. "Hello? Um, Alanon, you there?" Quae gave him a look that practically pushed him over to the box. He picked it up and looked at her nervously, then pressed the button. "Arien, hello. I'm here." "Oh hey," she said quickly. "These druids here in Zangarmarsh need me to help some lost friends, would you be able to come watch my back?" He couldn't quite keep a smile off his face as he replied, "Sure, I'll head right over."