Zaanthe propped his forearm against the table, silverware gripped between his thumb and the nook of his forefinger. He had been working slowly on the meal he�d ordered–braised clefthoof. He hadn�t gotten particularly far with the plate despite the time he�d spent on it. It�d been a good fifteen minutes since the waiter had brought the dish out, yet the draenei was barely halfway through the meat and hadn�t touched the sides. This was atypical of the enforcer; stories were told about him putting away more food in a sitting than the average man would in a day. Naturally, he vehemently denied these stories whenever they cropped up. They didn�t mesh well with the image he was trying to build. Especially so when he was seated across from this particularly sweet woman he�d recently had the pleasure of meeting.

Dinner had been her idea, the location his. It always felt more natural when the decision to meet was mutual. The restaurant was an older one, having been around in Stormwind city for longer than most of its citizens. It had spanned back numerous generations, passed down through the children of the original owners. The restaurant–named rather simplistically �Rose�s�, after the founder�s wife–served impeccable food with an atmosphere that was tough to beat in the city proper. The interior was often booked up to capacity, though there were on occasion a few tables set outside when the weather was nice. With some luck and a familiar enough face, it wasn�t beyond one�s imagination to snag a table for two. 

Zaanthe and his companion had been conversing for a good deal of the afternoon, hence the vindicator�s largely untouched meal.  The woman across from him, a tall and lithe creature with a narrow face and bright eyes, idly chased a straw around the rim of her glass as she spoke. �I don�t know that I would enjoy spending too much time at the Broken Heart. Not that you and your friends don�t have a fine establishment between you all, but� It�s not really my scene.�

�I suppose it isn’t for everyone, no,� Zaanthe spoke, his lips curling at their edge as they loosed that amused tone. Waiting patiently for his new friend to finish her mouthful, he stuck his fork in the last segment of his main course, balancing the bottom end of his fork with a single extended digit. �Shame, though. I was hoping we might be able to bump into one another again. We�ll just have to stick to planning.� The cabal�s enforcer spoke with a deep and rough timbre, but it wasn�t too difficult to pick up the traces of humor in his otherwise coarse baritone. The woman�s lips curled into a bemused smile, though her eyes remained fixated on her plate. She glanced up under those thin black eyebrows, bright orbs peering up towards him. Something about her expression sent a buzz through his nerves, a rush of some long-lost emotion gracing him.

�We can stick to planning. It isn�t so bad, really. You picked a fine place this time� I�ll even give you a rest and pick our next locale.� The woman�s tone was playful and relaxed. Zaanthe was finding himself able to enjoy the company of a new face for once; there was no immediate grating of her personality against his, no minor habit that was getting under his skin. He was about to note his luck before two somewhat familiar faces turned up, men with familiar faces but no name to put to them. Boys from the Lucdamis family. Even if he hadn�t recognized them, the well-fit suits with purple pocket squares would have given away their allegiance. The Cabal�s enforcer�s face dropped quickly, his expression shifting immediately into one of distaste and frustration. The woman across from Zaanthe noticed that something was awry almost immediately, causing him to raise a hand, a silent reassurance that she needn�t worry. �I�m trying to eat, boys. Whatever it is that you�ve come to say, it can be left for another day.�

The two were both draenei, relatively young, and while the Lucdamis seemed to stick to the running family�s extended kin, it wasn�t unusual for them to hire outside blood. The shorter of the two men placed his hand on Zaanthe�s shoulder, looking down towards him over a crook nose. �I think now�s a perfect time, vindicator.  We�ve got work to discuss,� the young man with thin brown hair spoke, his voice a nasal drag of nails against metal. 

�Any work you might think we have to speak of can be brought to me by Nesuros. …Light, did I just ask to meet with Nessie?� Zaanthe groaned, setting down his fork to reach up and slowly rub at the back of his neck. The furthest of the two men, a taller and thinner black-haired fellow, flinched. His fingers curled and his hand shot beneath the left half of his jacket before the first could stay his movement with a simple gesture, a flat palm faced towards him. 

�We need to talk about Taleath. You remember Taleath?� asked the taller of the two, the man in the rear, his hand still tucked into his jacket.

Zaanthe thought for a moment. �Taleath? Doesn�t ring a bell, no.�

The taller man�s nostrils flared and his jaw clenched. Wrong answer, it seemed. His gaze danced for a while between Ayaari, his guest, and the two men. 

�The docks, you bastard,� the taller one spoke again, as though losing his cool quickly. His voice faltered, a faint vibrato. 

Suddenly, the name had a face. A night elf, the one he�d drowned at the docks. Evidently this was someone close to the man. �Regardless,� Zaanthe began with a rare, cautious approach, �That isn�t a matter for here and now. Nesuros knows what happened. Your whole family knows. It�s in the past, and there�s noth–�

�You�re fucking right there�s nothing we can do. Because he�s dead! Because of you!� the draenei spat. The shorter, fatter one with the crook nose was trying to reel in his friend by now. What�d started as an attempt to rustle the vindicator�s feathers had begun down the path of something else entirely. In an attempt to diffuse the situation, the shorter draenei put an arm across the taller, thinner male�s chest. He spoke in a hushed tone, words never making it to Zaanthe�s ears. With a shove, the taller male pushed his friend aside and in one singular fluid motion had a metal barrel barely an inch away from the vindicator�s forehead. 

The restaurant emptied in what felt like two seconds to the sounds of screams and clattering plates. Even Ayaari had wildly scampered away, the bottom of her teal dress billowing away in the wind. Zaanthe cursed internally as the one woman he knew without a red dress had the sense to run away from him. Silence hung in the air for perhaps a second longer, the thinner man naturally hesitant about pulling the trigger. As hot-headed as he was about his friend�s death, he knew that his enforcer�s death would mean an all-out war on the streets, one that he was unlikely to survive. 

Zaanthe, however, assumed this young man had no such sense. In a desperate motion, he struck out with the hand that had been at the back of his neck, grabbing the gun�s barrel and forcing it diagonally downward, away from his head. Two shots rang out, and the three men fell to the floor of the restaurant in an almighty crash. Fists flew, elbows met jaws, and flecks of blue blood stained the table cloths. The enforcer could feel an intense, roaring pain in his abdomen, no doubt the sting of a bullet. In a struggle of vice-like grips, Zaanthe finally freed an arm to swing a balled fist square into the shorter man�s jaw. He collapsed awkwardly at his side as the thinner draenei continued to try to wrest control of his firearm. The punch left the enforcer�s arm nigh useless as his nerves flared once more, his shoulder struck by one of the rounds. With the digits of his left hand curled around the gun, he managed to turn the gun away from himself, now pointing it off into the dining area. Slowly, with a brutish yell and a bare of sharp, bright teeth, Zaanthe wrested the gun from the taller man. The thin, black-haired draenei had little time to react, a single panicked word escaping his lips.


One final gunshot echoed in the street and Zaanthe let the firearm drop with his arm, laying in a slowly growing pool of deep blue blood and unable to summon the strength to push himself up. His lips parted in a gasp for breath, as slowly the vindicator slipped into the all-too-familiar shroud of unconsciousness.

Author Zaanthe
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