Warcraft Fan Fiction ❯ Turning Red ❯ Truth and slapsies ( Chapter 9 )

[ Y - Young Adult: Not suitable for readers under 16 ]

Phoenix opens her eyes, the dim light of a nearby candle pooling into her blue irises.

She’s in a bed by the wall in the hideout, fully clothed beneath the covers; Seven and Falkor are looking down at her from chairs beside the bed. The orc grunts and moves away, while Falkor makes a loud noise from his disfigured face, catching the attention of the rest of the group.

Phoenix blinks, suddenly feeling very self-aware, and moves to pull the covers further over herself. But they are already above her chin, so she ends up looking like a child hiding from an imaginary monster under the bed. She shuts her eyes and stretches. Her right achilles tendon twinges with pain. 

A crowd has soon gathered beside the bed: the two portly dwarves, Django, Falkor and someone else she doesn’t recognise: a slim, pale-looking elf with thick black eyebrows and an ugly-looking, basin-style bowl haircut. It’s Thirteen. They lock eyes; he tuts at her.

“You ain’t no saint, yourself, ya know,” Django says to Thirteen, responding to his tutting. “All you knife ears are nuthin’ but trouble,” he says jokingly.

Thirteen scowls at the troll and walks away.

Phoenix looks up at Falkor, who is on Henry’s shoulders. She forces herself to speak to him. 

“Thank you, Falkor,” she says. 

The boy squeals in her direction and smiles.

Trixie notices the exchange and looks pleased. She pushes forwards and the group creates a gap for her to move through. She has removed her scarlet cloak and sword, and is carrying Phoenix’s bag of fruit.

“Hey…” she says. “How are you feeling?”

“My leg hurts,” Phoenix replies with a groan, her voice deeper and more slurred than usual after waking. She clears her throat. “My right leg.”

Trixie says: “Falkor has done what he can, you should be feeling better soon.”

Phoenix blurts out with urgency: “The elf! Did he find us?”

Trixie raises her head and her palms and closes her eyes. She says: “All taken care of.”

“But did he?” Phoenix starts.

“All taken care of,” Trixie repeats with assurance without going into specifics.

She pauses and leans towards Phoenix, speaking low: “I don’t think we’ve been entirely honest, have we? I think we need to talk.”

Phoenix looks back at the goblin, expressionless, and reacts with a few little nods. Nerves creep into the pit of her stomach. 

Trixie turns to the others and says: “Leave us.”

Most of them return to the table, except Falkor, who joins Seven in the far corner. Phoenix thinks it’s strange that two beings so different from one another would congregate together like that. Django lingers a little while longer and looks at Phoenix with concern, before lifting the two chairs and walking back to the table to play some card games with the dwarves.

Trixe sits on the bed next to Phoenix and pushes her back towards the wall, before bringing her knees up and placing the bag of fruit between the two of them. She sighs and passes her hip flask to Phoenix, who reaches out and takes it, reluctantly. She takes off the lid and sniffs it apprehensively. Trixie chuckles.

“Rum. To bring you some calm,” she smiles. “You know, you’re lucky Falkor is here, and that you didn’t bump your head when you fell,” Trixie says in hushed tones, keeping the conversation away from the others in the room.

Phoenix leans up in bed, takes a swig of the rum and swishes it around her mouth before swallowing, feeling the mild burn of the strong alcohol as it trickles down inside her. She hasn’t drunk since working at the inn - it feels good to try a tipple again.

“You gave Henry and Harris quite a fright!” Trixie chuckles.“You fell from the ladder right next to them.”

 “Oh,” Phoenix responds, awkwardly, passing the hip flask back to Trixie.

The goblin takes a gulp of drink herself, before returning the flask to the holster on her belt.

“It seems the rungs of the ladder and the wall helped break your fall,” Trixie says, looking ahead. “Ya got lucky. But it sounds like it gave you a few bruises, and your foot was fractured upon landing. It’s an odd place to pass out...”

Phoenix responds: “Yeah, I do that, apparently.”

“And how often does it happen?” Trixie asks, looking concerned.

“Only twice so far, ever since my life went to shit,” Phoenix responds. “The first time, I felt anger before it happened. The second time, up there, I felt fear.”

Trixie nods in thought. She looks around the room and purses her lips.

“Is it true?” Trixie asks, turning to Phoenix. “You killed a goblin? Balthuel said it was another innkeep, I’m assuming it was the innkeep you mentioned from your story...”

Phoenix looks down at the bed covers, her fingers fidgeting.

“It’s true,” she says, glancing up at Trixie. “At least, I think it is. I mean, I think that’s what happened. I would never want to harm Chrim, he was my mother’s employer and gave us a roof over our heads. He told me the news about my mother’s capture and passed me a note. It said my mum belonged to someone else now, and had a feather marked in the bottom corner. I saw the same type of feather tattooed on the neck of the girl who beat me up yesterday. You mentioned their name earlier.”

Trixie says with contempt: “Steelfeather. They’re a family and group of bandits that control much of Silvermoon’s underbelly. Drugs, extortion, robbery, general crime. It’s likely they’re using your mother as -”

“Don’t,” Phoenix cuts her off. “Please don’t.”

They sit in silence for a moment; Trixie nods slowly in understanding.

“We will get her back,” Trixie adds, looking into Phoenix’s eyes, searching within them and finding only sorrow and pain.

“I hope so,” Phoenix smiles with her mouth, but not her eyes, which look down.

“Anyway, after I read the note,” Phoenix continues, gasping with sadness. “I… lost control. Everything went blurry, I could hear my heartbeat pounding in my ears, I couldn’t see straight, I couldn’t hear what Chrim was saying…”

A single tear falls from Phoenix’s eye and seeps into the blanket. 

“When I woke up, one of the homeless drunks outside the inn was screaming at me, and Chrim’s body was… yeah. His face...”

“Shhh,” Trixie says, leaning closer and placing her green hand on Phoenix’s shoulder, using her thumb to wipe away another tear as Phoenix wells up.

“Could the homeless person have framed you?” Trixie whispers.

“I don’t think so,” Phoenix says, between sniffles. “My hands were covered in blood. There weren't any bloodstains on the drunk that I noticed. The last thing Chrim said to me was: ‘Don’t do anything stupid’. I didn’t think I was capable of such a thing with my bare hands.”

Trixie looks down. “By the gods,” she says. 

“What?” Phoenix asks, choking back tears.

“It’s just... an awful thing to go through. I am sorry, Phoenix.” 

Trixie leans in and embraces Phoenix, who lies there stunned, slowly returning the hug. She cries into Trixie’s shoulder and feels the warmth of another person’s touch, something she has longed for from her mother. The elf attaches herself emotionally to Trixie in this moment, their bond strengthening through the pain of the past and the comfort of the present.

Their hug ends and Trixie moves back to sitting up against the wall next to Phoenix.

Suddenly feeling a little hungry, Phoenix takes a plum from the bag of fruit and bites into it, the last of her tears slipping down onto the purple fruit. As she eats, she looks at the rest of the bag of fruit and thinks about returning it the next day. But it tastes good and she thinks to herself: ‘It’s only fruit, Phoe. The owners will get by.’

Trixie looks up at the rocky ceiling and frowns.

“How on Azeroth did you get out of Silvermoon at that hour, anyway?” Trixie asks. “The elfgate…”

“Was closed,” Phoenix replies, taking a pause to swallow her bite of plum. “I ran. I ran and I didn’t look back. I was so scared, guards chased me through the city streets, and there weren’t any large crowds for me to lose them in.

“By the time I reached the inner elfgate, I had about half a minute’s distance between the guards and I. By freak luck, the first light of dawn emerged as I shouted up to the gatekeepers on the battlements. They started to open it and I just managed to squeeze through the gap before the other guards approached and got them to shut the gate. Then I ran into the forest and hitched a ride on a farmer’s cart.”

Trixie nods and smiles slyly to herself. 

“You did good, kid,” Trixie says, praising Phoenix. “I’m impressed.”

She holds her hand up and gives Phoenix a high five, giggling at the little goblin.

Phoenix smiles at Trixie, and in that moment, the act of murder and running from the law becomes somewhat normalised in her subconscious mind. Trixie is an infectious character, and Phoenix is extremely susceptible to her charms and praise.

“Why don’t you turn me in?” Phoenix blurts out, her confidence rising as she gauges Trixie’s reaction, testing her. “You said it yourself, you’re a trader. You could trade me in for money.”

Trixie looks back at Phoenix, stroking her chin and narrowing her eyes in mock thought, deflecting the question somewhat.

“Don’t give me ideas kid!” she jokes. “Besides, you have potential.”

Phoenix scrunches her nose up and scoffs at that statement.

“What, a potential burden you mean?”

Phoenix grows a smile and Trixie returns it, laughing naturally.

“Your tact needs work, but you would make a good runner, or messenger” Trixie adds, still smiling. “You’re fast. Say we had anything taken from us, you’d be good at claiming it back and getting away. 

“I can trust those two bumbling dwarves with my life,” she continues, looking up at the portly brothers sitting at the table ahead of her. “They run errands, handle some of the trades and scout for me. But they aren’t exactly marathon runners, are they?”

Trixie turns back towards Phoenix, eyeing her up and down. “You, on the other hand, are slim, fast and nimble. You’re young. That’s why you have potential. But potential is nothing without guidance.”

Phoenix considers this, the message behind Trixie’s words. There is something that remains unspoken between the two, some kind of pact, a silent agreement that they both seemingly make at that moment. Trixie the guide, Phoenix the follower, the young, eager elf looking for meaning in her life. The pair sit in silence for a few moments.

“I don’t know magic,” Phoenix adds, breaking the silence. “Never have done. I can feel the Sunwell sometimes, but it’s random, I can’t harness it. I’m not a very good elf, am I?”

Trixie waves the topic away, pouting and shaking her head.

“We don’t need magic,” Trixie says. “We’ve got Falkor for that. And this...”

Trixie pulls out a long grey crystal from her inner pocket, about four inches in length, her eyes glowing.

“What’s that?” Phoenix asks, reaching for it.

Trixie holds it back. 

“It’s an anti-magic piece of dark iron,” Trixie explains. “Very rare and twice as valuable. And we have a small crate-load of it,” Trixie smiles smugly to herself, throwing the crystal up gently and catching it in her hand a few times.

“The boys found a potential buyer earlier,” she says. “It’s partly why we’re here. Trading with the elves, while waiting for word from our captain, who will return and give us a new task elsewhere. We don’t stay in a place for long: why build when you can ebb and flow like the sea?

 “ We also have a large load of powerful mana crystals from Suramar.”

She whispers: “It feeds the addicted.”

Phoenix feels a pang of anger inside but doesn’t show it. Instead, she asks Trixie: “Why are you here, anyway? I mean, right here, underground. It seems you have enough to rent a nice apartment in the city, surely…”

Trixie studies Phoenix for a moment, half-smiling, half-staring.

“My sweet little redhead,” the goblin responds. “We would not have all this if we paid our taxes…”

Phoenix blinks and glances around the room for a moment, feeling a little stupid for asking the question. 

Trixie looks back down at the dark crystal.

“I hold this close to me, it can be very useful for nullifying magic,” Trixie says. “Not so good for your pointy-eared kind, however. It blocks out what you need from your Sunwell. But when used momentarily, it can save your life.”

Phoenix’s curiosity is piqued. She stares at the crystal with child-like wonder and thinks about the other items Trixie and her crew may have stockpiled.

One of the dwarves groans in annoyance at the table; Django celebrates with a cheer before sliding a pile of silver coins his way.

“I know someone who had what you do, ya know,” Trixie says, returning the topic of the conversation to Phoenix’s blackouts. “He called it the red mist. Some of us call it bloodlust. I’m afraid it can’t be fully controlled, but it can be managed somewhat. 

“What you had just now sounds like a panic attack, but it’s possible it’s linked to your other blackout… You know, Falkor had a tough time healing you properly earlier. He thinks there’s something wrong with your mind, something in the way. Perhaps this is all connected.”

Phoenix frowns in thought.

“But why me?” Phoenix objects. “I didn’t ask for this. I wish I didn’t have this to worry about on top of everything else.”

Trixie speaks softly, the glow of the candle making her green skin look purple and red in the flickering light.

“Fate does not care for what we wish,” Trixie says. “You are clearly hurting after the blood on your hands, the disappearance of your mother. But you do what you must. You build the pain into your story, until it isn’t pain anymore, it’s just another piece of who you are.”

Trixie stares into space, her words coming deep from within. Phoenix looks up at the goblin, a small trickle of hope rising within her. 

“The blackouts needn’t be a hindrance,” Trixie says. “They can be harnessed as a strength. It is good that you have anger, that you have fear. It means you’re smart and ya want to survive. But never show your fear.” 

Trixie’s eyes light up.

“Instead, instil it in others,” she adds, turning towards Phoenix momentarily, a wicked-looking grin spreading across her face.

Trixie’s voice takes on a raw, unhinged edge as she stares back into space. There is passion and danger burning within her.

“Fear is a powerful tool, more powerful than any weapon. It can disarm your enemy, or yourself, so wield it wisely. Anger and hate, on the other hand, can tap into your impulses, your inner thoughts and desires. Why not let the rage build inside of you? You are clearly a threat with it,” Trixie trails off, thinking about Phoenix’s potential.

“But it’s dangerous, I don’t have control over my actions,” Phoenix replies, raising her voice slightly, the dwarves and Django looking over at her, then back at their cards.

“You won’t, if you take steps to manage it like my old friend did,” Trixie says, turning to Phoenix, her voice returning to its normal calm demeanor. “If you’re anything like him, you bottle the anger when the situation is too dangerous, you release it when the odds are in your favour. Your subconscious will do the rest. The mind is more powerful than a blade. There is something inside of you, Phoenix, something that burns. I can’t tell ya what it is, except it exists. I’ll help ya find it, and use it to your advantage.”

Phoenix nods in understanding.

“While there is such a thing as fate,” Trixie goes on, “do not forget you can mould it and attempt to choose your own fate, make it your own,” Trixie says. 

“What we need to do,” Trixie says, “is train your subconscious so it’s ready for when you do see red.”

“And how do we do that?” Phoenix responds, the salty tears from her blue eyes now dried and smeared into her freckled face.

“Slapsies,” Trixie stares at Phoenix, smiling a devilish grin.

“Sorry, what?” Phoenix asks, puzzled.

“You heard me: slapsies, or red hands, it’s a game,” Trixie repeats. “Come on, let’s play!”

“Why’s it called red hands?” Phoenix asks.

“You’ll see,” Trixie replies, grinning.

Trixie takes the hand of a perplexed-looking Phoenix and guides her out of bed. 

Phoenix reluctantly follows Trixie to the table. Trixie shoves her into a chair a little harder than necessary and steps onto Phoenix’s knees, then scoots onto the table. She sits on the table, turns to face Phoenix and holds her hands out in front of her, palms together, facing the elf. 

Phoenix stares blankly at the little green goblin in bewilderment. 

“Oh come on, you tellin’ me ya never played slapsies before?!” Trixie screeches. 

The goblin takes Phoenix’s hands, pushes them together and moves them outwards, then does the same with her own, so that Phoenix’s hands are in a praying position but tilted 90 degrees down, thumbs facing up. Phoenix’s fingers are opposite Trixie’s and lightly touching one another.

“Okay, I’ll go first,” Trixie explains. “When I try to slap you with one hand, you have to move your hands out of the way and avoid the slap. Do that three times, then it’s your turn to slap me. But if you move your hands away when I haven’t properly swung, then I get a free slap.”

Phoenix smiles and nods. She says: “Oka-”

Trixie swings out at Phoenix’s left hand with vigour. A loud slapping noise fills the room.

“Ow!” Phoenix frowns. “I wasn’t ready!”

“There are no rules in combat, kiddo,” Trixie says sarcastically, looking into her eyes. “Ya don’t take turns. Ya just fight.”

As she finishes the sentence she takes another sudden swing, this time Phoenix moving her hands out of the way. 

“Okay that’s one, well done, well done,” Trixie says.

Across the table, the two dwarves and the troll have stopped playing their game of cards and are now watching the elf and the goblin with interest, with humour. 

Trixie looks into Phoenix’s eyes and tilts her head forward slightly, grinning slyly. 

Phoenix stares back with focus, keeping the palms below in her lower peripheral vision. 

Trixie continues to stare, the tension growing.

Phoenix smiles back with uncertainty. 

This continues for half a minute. Trixie holds the same silly grin, unblinking, causing Phoenix’s smile to widen.

Phoenix eventually breaks. “What are you doing?” she barks playfully.

As Phoenix speaks, Trixie jolts her hands upwards an inch - and stops. Phoenix swings her arms up so fast she almost hits herself in the face.

“Thank you for gifting me a free slap,” Trixie winks. “I didn’t swing - but you moved.”

“Shit,” Phoenix mutters under her breath, holding her hands out.

Trixie swings her right arm out wide and firmly slaps her palm into the outside of Phoenix’s left hand.

“Oooh,” a collective groan comes from the dwarves and troll at the table.

Phoenix’s hand stings. She opens her eyes wide in shock as if to say to Trixie: ‘How could you?’

Trixie simply smiles back, smugly, flicking her hair to one side.

“Okay, no more games,” Phoenix says with intent. This time she avoids Trixie’s silly gaze and stares down at the goblin’s deep green hands, watching them carefully.

Trixie makes a few dummy moves; Phoenix remains unflinching. Trixie makes three dummy moves quickly in a row and follows up with a sudden swing.

Phoenix glides her hands away with ease. Trixie’s eyebrow raises as a small cheer comes from the table.

Others have gathered around to watch the game now. Falkor is sitting on Seven’s shoulders, smiling, listening to the sounds of people having fun from his disfigured earholes. Seven looks less hesitant and more relaxed.

The slim, pale-looking elf, Thirteen, is standing next to Seven, leaning against a wooden beam and eating some bread. He is watching Phoenix and Trixie, half-amused, half with a look that could be construed as jealousy. 

Trixie suddenly swings again - and Phoenix evades.

A larger cheer comes up from the group around them and Django and the dwarves start banging their hands on the table and their feet on the floor. A look of surprise falls across Trixie’s face. 

“Ha hah hah,” Django laughs. “She’s good, Trix!”

Trixie looks around sheepishly and composes herself, moving towards the edge of the table and resting her boots on Phoenix’s thighs, digging one in ever so slightly to remind Phoenix who’s boss.

Phoenix smiles proudly and blushes, suddenly aware of the small audience around her.

“So it’s my turn now?” Phoenix asks Trixie, looking into her eyes. Trixie nods and Phoenix makes a brief, lightning-quick slap to the goblin’s left hand.

“Ooh,” goes the crowd.

Trixie raises her eyebrow playfully, trying to distract Phoenix with humour.

But the elf is focused, and pauses for ten or so seconds, staring down at her hands. She makes a quick dummy and Trixie pulls her hands away. 

The crowd cheers again.

“Go on, hit me,” Trixie says, rolling her eyes.

Phoenix throws a mild slap.

“That wasn’t very hard!” Trixie protests. 

Phoenix shrugs. And makes another slap. But Trixie evades it at the last fraction of a second.

Another “ooh” comes from the group of misfits around them.

The game continues for a short while, with Phoenix, Trixie and the gang enjoying the moment. By the end of the game, Phoenix’s left hand is like raw salmon. But Trixie is impressed.

“Now ya know why we call it red hands,” Trixie winks, leaping off the table. 

“I suppose I do,” Phoenix smiles down at her.

“There’s nothing wrong with your reactions,” Trixie says. “The next part is combat training, confidence training, and tricks. The tricks of our trade.”

Trixie stands and addresses the room. 

“Everyone,” she suddenly yells, stamping her right boot on the floor and circling to grab the attention of all around her.

“We are to meet the Steelfeathers now, to pay off this girl’s debt and see if we can get her mother back. Then she joins us. I do the talking, Django you stay by my side. Seven, you carry Falkor. Henry and Harris, as usual.

“Thirteen, I want you looking after Phoenix,” she says, peering round to the slim, pale elf with gangly features.

He chews a piece of bread from the other side of the table and looks back at Trixie, silent.

“You’ll get used to our grumpy git soon enough,” Trixie says to Phoenix, loud enough for Thirteen to hear.

“Right, what are we waiting for?” she says loudly to the rest of her crew. “Out! And don’t forget to leave a minute’s gap between each of you when heading back to the hideout,” Trixie booms, her small frame managing to produce a loud, commanding voice.

The gang move towards the ladder. Django is the first to head up.

A thick, hairy hand taps Phoenix on her back.

“Nice slapsies game, lass,” Henry compliments Phoenix, smiling.

“Oh, thank you,” she says shyly. 

“Didn’t feel I had the chance to properly introduce myself last time,” he states, holding out his hand.

“Pleased to properly meet you then,” she replies, shaking his hand. 

“I’m sorry you have to meet this idiot too,” he adds, his voice becoming a raspy growl as he turns to his brother.

Harris pulls a silly face and half-sings: “He’s the idiot, not I, he’s the idiot, oh my.”

Phoenix lets out a quiet giggle; Henry sighs and rolls his eyes. 

“Don’t take anything he says seriously,” Henry mutters before turning to the ladder.

At that moment Thirteen brushes past Phoenix and she opens her mouth to say hello, but he’s already moved past her, ignoring her. 

Trixie pats Phoenix on the side of her leg.

“Now, redhead, let’s go and get your mum back.”