“Package for you.”


Mallory smiled and turned toward Alphonse, tearing her attention away from her work for a moment. Alphonse carried a wooden crate, measuring about a foot on all sides. THIS SIDE UP was scrawled across every panel of the crate, with a “stamp” that looked like a cat’s paw. She knew just what this was. Atop the crate was a stack of letters, which Alphonse removed as he handed the crate to Mallory. 


“Careful there… I think it’s from Fateshifter.”


Mallory chuckled. “It is. Thanks, Alphonse. How are you today?” 


The mail carrier grinned. “Better than the Justicar. All the rest of this is for her! Yesterday she still hadn’t gotten to the letters I brought her three days ago.”


“Sounds about right.”


Alphonse inclined his head to her. “Well, I’d better be off. These won’t deliver themselves, you know. But, er… I don’t suppose you’ve got plans later?”


She looked at him and couldn’t help but wear the faintest hint of another smile as he stumbled through his words. 


“I just thought…you know, maybe I could buy you a drink at the Smiling Jim later.” 


Mallory went ahead and smiled, cordially. “I appreciate the offer, but I’m rather spoken for.”


Alphonse’s face turned downcast for a moment. “Ah, right. Sorry then… Maybe another time.” He brightened only a moment later, a bit too quickly. Mallory felt sure it was an act, but at least he was trying. “Well,” he said, “Sorry to be a bother then. Take care!”


He was gone before Mallory could really say anything. She felt bad for him, but soon found herself forgetting the conversation, for the moment, as she pried the crate open.


A faint green light greeted her from within the crate, barely showing through the packing paper. Pulling some of the paper aside, she smiled as she laid eyes on dozens of small guildstones, the hearthstone-like swirl design giving off the glow. These guildstones were tuned differently than Templar guildstones, essentially providing a communication channel for an entire other organization. 


Resting atop the pile, wrapped separately within its own paper, was another small stone with a pale orange glow…the master guildstone, the one she had requested specially. She reached for it and unwrapped it, clicking it on carefully.


“Testing, testing,” she said quietly. The guildstones within the crate all echoed T_s____, __s____, but in a distorted, deep, ominous voice. 


“This is the Shadow Trader.”


T__s _s ___ S_____ T_____.


“I need a report on all operations within the next Azeroth day.”


I ____ _ ______ __ ___ _________s ______ ___ __x_ A______ ___.


Mallory felt a smile spread across her face. This was going to be good. “Looks like it’s time to expand,” she said, satisfied.


L___s ____ __’s ____ __ _x____.

Author Rann
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