"Are you sure, ma'am?"

 

Mallory allowed herself a small smile as she set down her pen. Peter Alabaster's Gilnean accent made the word "ma'am" sound like "mom," which always amused her since he was five years her senior. "Of course I'm sure," she answered, sealing an envelope and handing it to him. "Are you up to the task? Be honest now."

 

Peter looked down and hesitated for a moment, his heavy jaw set forward as if chewing on the words before he said them. "I'm quite up to it," he said slowly. "I only question why you would trust me for something so great."

 

Mallory stood, handing him the envelope. "Because I trust you as my courier, and you've never done me wrong. If I can trust you with something small, then I can trust you with something great." She smirked at him. "Besides, I know where you live."

 

"You are coming back, right?"

 

"As sure as anyone can be in an age of war," Mallory answered. "It seems the Templars' fortress is stable, but I wouldn't call it safe."

 

"And you're certain that I can't accompany you?"

 

"Are you wanting to be my bodyguard, Peter?" Mallory asked, turning to the draped area of the tree that served as her bedroom. "I have lots already, in a manner of speaking…two Wardens among them."

 

"No, ma'am," he replied, keeping his distance from her private room. "Just…just being silly, I suppose. I apologise. You'll still be handling business matters though?"

 

"Yes. If all goes well, you just have to write and deliver the work orders. I'll keep up the market analysis and give you directions."

 

"And all of the Templars can be trusted? They would obviously hear if we discuss business using their guildstone."

 

Mallory hesitated before closing her pack. "I trust them. With my life…but you may be right. If they hear us discussing the value of embersilk, someone may send a good deal of it to auction and crash the price. Zen Fateshifter may be able to set up a private channel for the two of us. He may be crazy, but I don't know how we'd get on without him." She snapped her pack shut and slung it over her shoulder, then turned to face her faithful courier. Even in his human form, Peter was still several inches taller than her. As a worgen he would be taller still. She found his last name of Alabaster to be surprisingly appropriate: his worgen fur was such a pale blue as to be nearly white, which Mallory found quite striking. As a human, however, his steely blue eyes contrasted with his messy red hair, making them stand out brilliantly.

 

At Mallory's mention of Zen, Peter nodded. "I'll listen for news then. All of our current operations seem to be on pace. The market is slowing a bit and the price of ghost iron has taken a hit, but the cloth markets remain strong, so I think I can handle things until you're able to take control again." 

 

"Good, you'll do fine." She smiled up at him. "Good luck. I'll be in touch before you know it."

 

She saw his hand move toward her as he answered, but the motion stopped as soon as it started. "Frankly, ma'am, I'm not the one we should be worrying about. You're the one who's going to another world."

 

"With an army of the best and brightest at my side and ahead of me," Mallory said brightly. "Sure, it's dangerous out there…but there's a lot to be learned from an intact Draenor. Now…I'd better get going. The fortress supplies may need some organizing before the portal opens again. See you again, Peter."

 

 

* * *

 

 

"This is Mallory Everley! I'm ready with supplies, resources for the fort, and Aertemis. Requesting portal opening."

 

She lowered her guildstone and smiled at Aertemis. Several pallets of stone, mortar, arms, armor and arrows lay nearby, with several workers ready to aid in carrying them across. Nearby, Zen Fateshifter toiled at his complicated controls, running to and fro and yelling various things at the machines as they sparked and whirred to life.

 

"Roger that," came a reply from Doradrassil. "Tightening perimeter defenses. I want more rangari in the sniper nests. High alert for the next thirty minutes. If a rabbit's ears twitch, I better hear about it!"

 

Next to Mallory, Aertemis snickered. "That's my little shadow for you," she mumbled. She reached for her own guildstone and quipped with a smirk, "So as soon as I come through the portal, you increase security. I see how it is."

 

"Oh, and let's get some guards to the portal itself too," Doradrassil answered after a chuckle.

 

A female draenei's voice crackled over the guildstone next, introducing herself as Kopaali and offering to head to the portal to keep it stable. It seemed whatever operation the Templars had established on the other side had grown quite advanced indeed. The guildstone's voices scratched and distorted first into static, and then startling clarity as the portal yawned open before them. Immediately they saw Kopaali on the other side. Her eyes went straight to Zen and grew wide, but she soon turned her attention to the newcomers. A rush of cool wind blew through, rustling Mallory's hair. 

 

"And here we go," she said, stepping forward.

Author Rann
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