A/N: This story takes place in vanilla WoW, before the original end game material, not that the exact time matters much. It ties into my Impervious series.
Sprocket Screwbolt frowned as he peered out the small window of his house to look into the blizzard driving most everyone living in Everlook indoors. If only he could do the same. He shuffled over to his door, grabbed his fur-lined gloves and cloak, and bound himself up as tightly as he could. As his large green ears popped through the ear holes in his hood, he forlornly wished that he had spent more time working on a feasible ear muff model that would accommodate goblin ears. If he could figure something like that out, he'd own this town.
He checked the buckles and clasps of his gear one more time, shouldered his staff, and headed out into the snow. If he hadn't been born and raised in Everlook, he would have had to give up and just stay in his cozy little cottage. However, after spending so much time in the town, he could walk it blindfolded, which was good, considering the snow was practically blinding him.
He was used to the perpetual cold and he barely noticed the way the air scraped at his lungs, freezing him from the inside out. If not for Kezzel, he would have said fuck it so many times by now. But she deserved the best and after tonight, she'd see that he was just that.
Tripping over something jutting out of the snow, Sprocket cursed as his nose left an indentation in the foot or so of cold blanket smothering the roadway, though it was quickly refilled. He squinted past his numb nose to see a frozen, slightly withered looking flower wreathe. It was a shame that the town committee had already put out the festive decorations for the Love is in the Air festival.
Goblins had to have come up with this two week long celebration of love, namely because of how well it blended capitalism and romance, and Sprocket had to say he was proud of his people for being such geniuses. However, with the wreathes and other decorations damaged by the blizzard, he had a suspicion that travelers wouldn't be feeling nearly as lovey-dovey and ready to spend coin when they were surrounded by wilted bouquets and soiled ribbons.
Good thing he wasn't invested in the festivities.
No, he was thinking outside the box. He pretty much had to, if he wanted to win over Kezzel.
Sprocket picked up the pace of his trudge when he could just barely make out the door to the inn just a few yards in front of him. A sudden gust of wind sent him tumbling head over heels a few times through the snow and he thudded into the door, knocking it open. Before he could sprawl face first on the floor, he blinked into the room, saving his entrance. He'd be damned if he'd let nature make him look like a bumbling moron.
Even as someone cursed at him and a few frantic travelers threw their weight into closing the door against the encroaching snow and wind—they were unused to the frigid temperatures of the trade town—Sprocket knocked back his hood and looked over the area. His dark green lips dipped into a deep frown as he noticed how empty the inn looked.
Pulling his gloves off and tucking them into his robe's pocket, he trotted over to the check in counter and stared expectantly at the innkeeper. "Where is everybody?"
The innkeeper sighed and ran his fingers through his hair. "Apparently some shaman broad caught wind of this storm a day ago and most everyone vacated the area." He looked as though he might spit on the floorboards, but thought better of it. "I'm hemorrhagin' gold here."
Sprocket's ear twitched and he sniffed loudly, trying to encourage feeling to return to his nose. "What about my ad? Nobody was interested?"
"Plenty of people were," the innkeeper scowled. "Then they saw what Winterspring has to offer and abandoned any thoughts of helpin' any of us."
A few thuds from the second floor of the inn echoed down to them and both goblins stilled, looking toward the noise, hoping that wasn't some part of the roof collapsing from the ice. That would ruin the heating spell. When the noises died down and no howling, hellish chill swept over them, they relaxed.
Sprocket splayed his fingers across the countertop and had to fight back the urge to keep his voice from showing his panic. "Then there's nobody left?" He looked toward the men who had closed the door and frowned as he saw the three humans huddled in a corner, looking miserable in general.
The innkeeper tapped the wood in front of him to recapture his attention. "Sorry, friend. Wish I could—"
His sentence was cut off by angry voices that suddenly filled the air and two bodies toppled over the railing along the upper hall. A troll and a forsaken crashed into one of the tables a few feet away, clawing and punching at each other. The table quickly tipped and sent them spilling onto the floor, though neither seemed to notice. Swears and insults in both trollish and gutterspeak echoed through the room.
As the troll jerked to his feet, straightening up to his full height so that the forsaken—a warlock from the looks of it—who had been trying to put him in a headlock hung with his feet well off the floor, Sprocket noticed a bit of fabric swish into his peripheral vision and turned to see an overly thin high elf standing next to him, her hands out as though she were trying to figure out how to break up the fight.
The warlock grabbed onto the troll's tusks and swung so that his weight would force the creature back into his stoop, and the high elf took a few tentative steps forward.
"Timmons, Haa'aji...please stop—"
Her voice was barely audible and she stilled as the troll—Sprocket assumed that was Haa'aji—wrapped an arm around his adversary's—Timmons—waist and then jumped into the air and dropped down on top of him. The warlock let out a sharp hiss as a few of his bones cracked loudly.
"Enough!" The innkeeper shrieked and all eyes turned toward him. He glared at the useless high elf and then stalked over to the other two. Haa'aji hopped to his feet, though he squatted back down, as though to make it easier to make eye contact with the angry goblin who would have otherwise been glowering at his shin guards.
The troll paused and glanced around the room, narrowing his eyes at the railing which looked to have sustained some mild damage when they'd fallen over it. He looked back at the innkeeper. "'Sup, mon?"
"Ya owe me ninety gold for repairs."
"Ah don' be havin' dat kind a moneh. Neitha do dey."
Eye twitching, the goblin watched as light flickered over the warlock's body, mending his injuries. As the forsaken cursed the light and shuddered, wishing desperately for the burning sensation to pass over, the innkeeper looked back at the high elf, who was obviously the healer. "Ya with them?" When she nodded, the innkeeper pointed upstairs. "Great. Ya can get their crap while they wait outside."
Haa'aji's jaw dropped. "Ya be kickin' us out? Da hell kinda bitch move be dat?"
"Pay up or get out."
The forsaken sat up slowly, his skeletal fingers tugging a dark hood lower over his head so that the upper half of his face couldn't be seen. "At least let us get our coats first."
"She can bring 'em down for ya," the innkeeper motioned to the high elf, who nodded her head quickly and hurried off, not bothering to argue like the others had.
Sprocket watched her vanish upstairs and then looked over the two grumbling in front of him. He held the troll's gaze as he noticed Sprocket inspecting them and nodded. "Ya need a place to stay?"
"No shit," the warlock muttered, brushing a few wrinkles out of his robes' sleeves.
Ignoring the man's rudeness, Sprocket chose to keep his attention on the troll. "If ya help me with somethin', I'll be happy to put ya up for the duration of the storm."
Haa'aji rolled one of his shoulders slowly. "Ah be lissenin'."
"I need help dealing with a yeti." Sprocket motioned for the two to come sit at a table in the corner while they waited on their healer. "Real old, real mean creature, yeah? He..." Sprocket paused and inspected the two again. If they agreed to be his muscle, they wouldn't need to know everything. "He's a threat to the town. Help me deal with him and not only will I house ya for the storm, I'll even throw in a meal or two...looks like ya lady friend could use one, if nothin' else."
Haa'aji cocked his head to the side slowly. "Ya be doin' dat fa us, jus' if we take him outta de pictua?"
"That's right, friend," Sprocket clasped his hands in front of him.
The warlock and troll exchanged a quick glance and then looked back at him. Haa'aji nodded. "When ya wan' us ta go do dis?"
"In de blizza'd ya s'pposed ta be shelterin' us from?"
Sprocket held his hands out, palms up as he shrugged. "That's the deal. Take it or leave it."
Rather than answer, Haa'aji and Timmons both hopped to their feet and darted past him to the bottom of the stairs. As Sprocket turned in his chair, he saw the little elf from before looked like a walking mound of cloaks and bags rather than a living creature. As her companions relieved her of their belongings, Haa'aji patted her on the head. "We gon ta go get us a yeti, yeh?"
Sprocket had to say he was glad that he'd decided on this lot instead of trying to bribe the humans. While a small part of him had half hoped that they would beg him to just wait for the storm to pass before heading out, they had been surprisingly enthusiastic about the adventure and the innkeeper had been kind enough—it helped that Sprocket slipped him twenty gold—to allow them to stay long enough for Sprocket to show his new traveling companions his map and the cave where the yeti they were after would probably be sheltering from the storm.
When Timmons had inquired how they were expected to stay on course through the blizzard, Sprocket had merely grinned and showed them his latest "invention". It was a fire spell that would burn brighter the closer to their destination they were and it would flicker in the direction they needed to go. Though the warlock had seemed skeptical about why, if Sprocket was so set to go, he hadn't led an expedition out to eliminate the creature earlier, Haa'aji and Liila—as the high elf was introduced—didn't seem concerned with details.
Thus, they'd bundled up and headed out.
At first, the troll and warlock had tried to talk, but the wail of the wind drowned them out and the snow threatened to suffocate them when they opened their mouths. Instead, they'd resorted to shoving each other into snow banks. At one point, Haa'aji had even swung the frail Liila into one, though Timmons had nearly set him on fire for it.
Sprocket was glad that the blizzard negated any chances for them to get to know one another better. Though...they did seem to be having fun. Perhaps if things worked out, business cards could be exchanged. Maybe he could even charge them to let him make them business cards.
It had taken them almost five hours of trudging through the cold hell to get as far as they had, and Sprocket didn't want them to abandon their quest for thinking he was a slave driver, so he made a small fire around the first bend in the caverns and he plopped down with the trio.
Haa'aji rubbed his hands together over the fire and then tugged down the cloth he'd used to cover the lower half of his face and keep the snow from freezing off his nose. "So...Ah be guessin' dis be less a cave 'n moa a netwo'k a dem?"
Sprocket shrugged. "I guess."
"So...whea in dis giant cave be de yeti?"
Allowing himself a wry smile, Sprocket sighed. "The deepest, darkest part, of course."
"Of course," Liila offered. Her voice barely had any inflection to it and she still spoke so softly that it was hard to hear her over the wind outside. "Light forbid something ever be easy to reach."
Haa'aji merely laughed. "If it been easeh ta get ta, den dey wolda alreadeh taken ca'a a de damn ting, yeh?"
"So what did it do?" Timmons asked. Unlike his companions, he didn't seem too concerned with huddling near the fire and had instead sat back against the far wall of the cave, his legs out in front of him, crossed at the ankles while he clasped his hands in his lap. When Sprocket and Liila both looked at him, he shrugged. "What did the yeti do that you need adventurers to go after it?"
Sprocket shrugged and hopped to his feet. "It's a danger to Everlook."
"Seems like a long way for it to come to be a danger."
"It messes with trade routes," Sprocket replied calmly and motioned forward. "We should get moving. We don't want it to attack us while we have our guard down."
"I never have my guard down," Liila murmured, standing up quietly and starting down the tunnel. She clasped her hands together and a small orb of light formed between them. She lifted the light to the top of her staff and it hovered just over the head of the weapon. "I'll light the way while we're in here so that you don't have to waste your magic...or does your spell take us to the yeti itself?"
"Just the cave."
The caverns proved to be much, much larger than Sprocket had realized. Twists led back to turns that they couldn't be sure they'd seen before. The further down they managed to get, the higher the ceilings became and the vaster the caverns. Pale purple vines wound their way over the walls, with gentle white flowers that glowed with a dim light of their own, allowing for Liila to dismiss her own spell. The flowers offered a softness to the otherwise harsh surroundings.
Sprocket had never actually made it this far and all he could do to keep his mouth from dropping in awe was debate whether it would really be practical or feasible to lead tours through this place for a decent fee.
Just as he was considering that something would have to be done about the floor—it was far too slick—so that he wouldn't have to worry about law suits for injured or lost individuals, Haa'aji perked up.
"Ya hea dat?"
"Hmm?" Sprocket frowned, the notes on what to research for his tour scattering to the corners of his mind.
"Water," Liila murmured. She paused, inspecting one of the other-worldly flowers on the wall. It was larger than both of her hands and its giant petals looked almost translucent up close. Upon closer inspection of a lower flower, Sprocket noticed that thin purple lines ran across the silk-like petals. Even as he pondered what kind of flower it was and if perhaps the kal'dorei might know the name, he heard robes swish up next to him and looked over to see the warlock had come to stand by Liila.
Timmons eyed the flower that had caught her attention before crossing his arms, annoyed. "You're such a girly girl. You want one."
It was an accusation more than a question. Liila took a few steps away from the wall. "No. I'd have to kill it to take it."
"You kill things all the time," Timmons muttered, his hand slipping behind one of the fragile flowers.
"I kill monsters," Liila rebutted, though it was Haa'aji who caught the warlock by his waist and jerked him away from the wall and onto his shoulder.
"Liila don' be wantin' ya ta hurt de flowas, ya don' be hurtin' dem."
Timmons let out a low hiss and suddenly fire danced around Haa'aji's feet. The troll cursed and dodged away from it, though the flames trailed along the cavern floor, following him. He threw the warlock into the wall and then vaulted up onto a low hanging ledge. The fire shot up the wall after him, yet somehow failed to ignite the vines covering it. However, even as Sprocket cursed and demanded they not damage the caverns, the flames dissipated and Haa'aji leapt from his roost, tackled Timmons, and the two went rolling off of the nearest ledge.
Sprocket ran over, dreading to see them impaled on something, but stopped as his world was abruptly shifted and he found himself floating almost a foot above the ground. Liila floated beside him and motioned down. "Don't worry. I lev'd them."
He caught her hand as she started to take a step after their wayward companions. "They fight a lot?"
"How do you guys ever get anything done?" Sprocket arched an eyebrow, though he gasped as Liila took her step and he went floating after her, down like a feather in a soft breeze. Once he realized that the spell wasn't going to falter and send him plummeting to his death, he had to say he enjoyed the view.
This would definitely be the end point of the tour. From the looks of the little elf beside him, people would totally pay big bucks to be escorted safely into this place. Water pooled into an indoor lake, with three small waterfalls cascading down. Were it not for the continuous ripples across the surface, it would have looked like glass. Sprocket had only seen conjured water look this pure. The flowers were larger the nearer to the water they were and a few of the vines had goblin sized leaves that curved and caught some of the falling water to make more intricate, smaller waterfalls over the vines.
At the center of the underground lake, a single boulder rested, protruding from the shallow, but frigid waters, a vast root network wove its way through downy white moss. At the top of the makeshift pedestal was a deep blue stalk, with ridged leaves that sprouted along it and accented a single crystalline looking rose at its top.
Sprocket's eyes lit up and he spoke without meaning to. "The Everfrost Rose..."
His voice echoed into the room and the sounds of fighting—which he hadn't even registered as still happening—ceased. Timmons and Haa'aji float-walked over to where their guide and healer stood, just above the edge of the waters. Sprocket frowned as Haa'aji trotted out toward the flower. "It be pretteh, yeh?"
Timmons took a step after their troll, but stopped, turning to glare at Sprocket. "There is no yeti, is there?" As the goblin blinked, caught off guard by the accusation, Timmons' lips contorted into a sneer. "You just wanted us to fight anything that might be guarding your damn flower."
"Oh, there's a yeti," Sprocket replied, annoyed. As though to help prove his point, as Haa'aji reached out to touch the rose, a roar suddenly echoed through the air and the rock the flower was on shuddered and stood. Haa'aji didn't even have time for a swear before the yeti whirled around and sent him flying with a swift swipe.
Choking on his curse as he tried to cast it, Timmons turned pointedly toward the goblin who had interrupted his spell. "You want a dead yeti or not?"
"I may have...sorta misled ya about why we're here. Don't kill it." Sprocket and Liila dodged one way and Timmons tripped back through the air another as the yeti charged them.
Haa'aji popped out of the water with a gasp, his teeth chattering together as he sloshed his way back to the dry part of the caverns. He managed a glare in the goblin's direction as the yeti charged him again. The cold slowed the troll's reaction time, though he was still quick enough to dart out of the creature's reach. Thinking quickly, Haa'aji managed to stun the giant monster with a quick kick and then stumbled away from it. As Liila threw him a heal, the dripping troll staggered up to the others and grabbed their guide by his robe. "De hell be de problem wit' killin' it?"
Sprocket jerked free from Haa'aji's grip and tugged his robes back into place. When he realized that all eyes were on him and that the yeti probably wouldn't be stunned for much longer, he cleared his throat. "We need to get that flower, alright?" Sprocket pointed at it for emphasis. The yeti was already beginning to gather its wits. "But it's sort of...sacred to the kal'dorei. If we kill the yeti, it'll never grow another one and we'll be on every night elf hit list there is."
"Are you kidding me?" Timmons hissed.
With a scowl, Sprocket stomped his foot. "Look, I'll port us back to Everlook once we get it, okay? Just...I need that damn flower!"
Sprocket drummed his fingers against the table in his shop, staring at the elegant rose in the vase in front of him. After arguing for another five minutes, Haa'aji had merely restunned the yeti and plucked the flower. He'd held the flower hostage until they'd all been ported back to Everlook.
The vase was too plain. Originally he'd wanted a plain one, so as to accentuate the brilliance of the Everfrost Rose, but now...
It needed something as gorgeous as it was.
Just as he hopped to his feet to go search his stash of valuables for something better suited, the door to his shop swung open and a bundle of furs and fabric scurried in, slamming the door shut behind it. As the bundle shivered snow from it, allowing the clumps of flakes to melt and puddle the floor, two large green hands jutted into sight and knocked back the top of the mound to reveal a pale green goblin, her hair a little haphazard from being tucked hurriedly under the hood of her coat.
"Kezzel, great to see ya—"
"Yeah, yeah," the woman snapped, crossing her arms. "If ya wastin' my time, I'll kick ya ass."
Sprocket drew himself up as tall as he could, puffed out his chest and then motioned toward his table. "Does that look like a waste of time to ya?"
Kezzel paused as her yellowed eyes followed his direction and her jaw dropped. She paced forward and stopped just short of the table. Then she snapped her mouth shut and fumbled through her layers of warmth before finally pulling out a small, crinkled piece of paper with a plant drawn meticulously onto it. She held it up next to the rose. "Well damn, Sprocket. Count me impressed."
Grinning from ear to ear, Sprocket shrugged, as though it weren't a big deal. "What'd I tell ya, hmm? If ya want it, I can get it. Anythin' and everythin'."
Kezzel offered him her hand and he took it in a firm shake. Kezzel ran her fingers through her hair. "When I do business up here, you're the goblin I'll be comin' to." She looked him over again. "Damn shame though. I don't mix business and pleasure."
"Neither do I, doll."
The door to the shop opened and Kezzel glanced over her shoulder to see Haa'aji and the other two dart in. She looked back at Sprocket as her fingers gripped the hood of her coat. "Well, I'm heading back to Rachet. This hell is way too cold. We'll be in touch. Don't suppose I could get a port, hmm?"
After haggling a decent price and sending his new business partner on her way, Sprocket grinned at the trio who still waited patiently by the door.
"Who was that?" Liila asked, cocking her head, curious.
"Kezzel Lockspring. One of the most well connected goblins in the Steamwheedle Cartel. To be one of her connections...I'll be runnin' this town by the end of the week!" He threw his arms out as though he intended to either close-line their knees or grip them all in a bear hug. "Couldn't have done this without ya, friends. Just for ya, since ya were so helpful, I'll offer ya a discount. Ya ever need anythin', just send word to me and I'll get it for ya. Half price."
"Anythin'?" Haa'aji cocked his head. "Wat if Ah be wantin' ta be wa'chief?"
"If ya can't afford to pay for the damages ya did to the inn, I doubt ya can afford me helpin' ya be the warchief, but in theory, yeah. After all, if I can get the Everfrost Rose...a symbol of eternal, true love to the kal'dorei that only blooms once every two hundred years, then ya better believe I can get ya to warchief."
"I find it hard to believe that something that grows on a yeti is a symbol of true love," Timmons muttered, though he took a few steps toward it, inspecting the flower. Even though it had been picked two days prior, it still looked as healthy and beautiful as when they'd first seen it. Timmons looked back at Sprocket, a boney finger pointing toward the flower. "About this..."
Sprocket shrugged. "Ya guys can have it, yeah? I just needed to get it as proof that I could, so it's useless to me now."
"Liila, do you want—" Timmons voice cut off as his fingers grasped air and he looked back at the vase to see it was empty. Haa'aji sat on the edge of the table, flipping the rose this way and that to inspect it. Then, even as Timmons tried to ask for it, the troll shoved it into his mouth.
He chewed slowly, thoughtfully. "Fa true love, it be kinda bland, yeh?"
Sprocket grabbed Timmons' sleeve as he felt the air grow heavy with magic. "Ya break anythin' in my shop and I own ya, warlock." He nodded as he felt the tension fade. With a satisfied smile, he grinned at the three of them. "Now then, anythin' I can get ya?"