Warcraft Fan Fiction ❯ Turning Red ❯ Tricks of the trade ( Chapter 12 )
Phoenix wakes to a slap around the cheek. She groans and hastily turns over. A sharp flick connects with her right pointy elf ear. She moans again, louder, and pulls the covers over her head. There are more slaps, this time to her head.
“What are you doing?” she grumbles beneath the covers.
“Starting your training,” Trixie replies, dropping something heavy onto her lap.
Phoenix pushes the duvet down, frowning, and stares at the little goblin, half-asleep, her eyes puffy.
“If ya want to be with us, ya need to know how to survive, how to fight, how to live,” Trixie says, a little too perkily for Phoenix’s liking. “Starting now. You’re skinny, ya need toughening up. Get lifting.”
Phoenix glances down and spots two weights on the bed. She looks around the room. The dwarves are doing some stretches, Django is using a chair to step up and down repeatedly, occasionally grabbing a swig of rum as he does so, while Seven is completing some press-ups in the far corner.
“Oh, what on Azeroth is this?” Phoenix groans and pulls the covers back over her head.
She receives another swift slap around the head. Trixie grabs the blanket and pulls it away.
“This is how we prepare each morning, how we stay on our toes and keep fit,” Trixie explains. “You’re a good runner, yet ya don’t work to develop yourself. Imagine what you’ll be like after a few weeks of solid training.”
“I don’t want training,” Phoenix lies. “I just want to sleep.”
“Right now ya do. But you’ve had sleep, lazybones,” Trixie says, grinning. “Come on, up.”
Phoenix rises, reluctantly.
“There’s some leftover bath water in the washroom you got changed in before. Get cleaned and ready. There’s another new change of clothes for you in there and some bread on the table for breakfast.”
Trixie nods in the direction of the large table in the centre of the underground den and Phoenix sees a few pieces of crust and a slice of bread left. She sighs and says “yes mam,” grabbing the bread and beginning to eat it as she heads to the room to wash. Some wet clothes are dotted around, hanging on the walls by the lanterns.
“Don’t say I don’t do anything for you,” Trixie says sarcastically.
After Phoenix locks the door and strips off, she enters the dirty bath water, the smell of sea salt and burnt magic rising from the tub. It is surprisingly hot. She spots a couple of small wooden buckets in the corner of the room.
‘I hope I’m not given water carrying duties,’ she thinks to herself, still groggy and not fully awakened just yet. ‘Or perhaps Falkor conjures the water and the warmth with the magic, and the buckets are just used to add a little salt water to the mix, for whatever reason.’
Her mundane thoughts fade as she relaxes.
The old metal tub is deep and wide, with slices of rust in the outside corners. Phoenix looks lost in it. She is sitting up at one end with her knees up, her face and knees above water. After a few moments she splashes water onto her face, the salt of the water seeping into her pink skin, streaking down her face. She stares at the glowing lantern beside the bath and smiles, feeling alive, feeling reborn somehow.
Phoenix sinks beneath the water, gently closes her eyes and lets her face and body fully submerge. She lies there still, and breathes out deeply, the bubbles from her breath dashing to the surface. Her heartbeat slows; she feels content and ready to start her training. While her eyes are closed, thoughts run through her mind:her mother’s face, a smile turning to sorrow; Trixie, Django and Seven standing with arms crossed; Chrim crying, bloody and broken; Alexandra scowling with contempt. The visions blend together but do not pain or anger Phoenix at this moment. Instead, they give her some kind of focus, a disturbed clarity.
Phoenix slowly rises above the water, her ginger hair darkened and stuck to her head, neck and upper back from the water. She breathes deeply and stretches, before leaning over to grab the brush and soap from a chair nearby. She notices there’s a clean set of clothes on it, dyed midnight blue, as well as a neatly folded towel, and begins to wash herself.
Once she’s finished, Phoenix soaks herself again and stands to exit the bath, her steamy skin reddened from the warmth of the water. She dries herself using the towel and unfolds the deep blue clothes on the chair.
It’s the same outfit she was given yesterday - tunic with hood, tights, belt and boots, plus a pair of gloves and some clean underwear including a vest - but in dark blue rather than brown. It feels snug and the tunic a little tight-fitting compared to the loose brown one. She stands tall, holds her head back and shakes it, allowing her still-damp hair to fall behind her shoulders, over the back of her blue hood and onto the top of her tunic.
Phoenix clenches her fists a few times and tenses up. She looks into the small mirror by the door before she leaves, and for a moment thinks she sees a different person looking back at her. Her confidence is buoyed by the opportunity in front of her; the person in the mirror is not smiling, nor frowning, just looking back with belief and an inner excitement. Something she has not felt for… well, as long as she can remember. Something's not quite right - maybe it’s the colour - but this doesn’t bother her.
The reluctance she had for training and working out earlier has been replaced with an eagerness and determination to succeed. Phoenix does not feel a hunger to attack others or even steal from them. But she decides that Trixie is right - if she is to survive, to be able to defend herself from the Steelfeathers and better handle her rage and blackouts, then that means training. If that means learning to use a blade and whatever else Trixie deems necessary, so be it. Phoenix takes a deep breath, tightens her belt and turns towards away from her reflection. She unlocks the door and opens it.
Phoenix barely steps into the room, full of vigour, when an arm swings around her neck and places her into a tight headlock. A long dagger is pressed to her throat.
Her eyes widen, startled, but any panic dissipates when she hears a familiar voice breeze coolly in her ears.
“Knives,” the troll says with a thick edge to his voice. “Dey be your best weapon, your attack, your defense, your negotiatin’ tool, your get outta jail card, your words and wisdom on da streets… ya understand?”
Phoenix manages a little nod; the grip loosens.
She turns to her left and sees Django swishing his weapon around in a figure of eight in front of him, a broad smile stretched from ear to ear, his eyes following the oversized dagger as it whooshes, his wild red hair flowing through the air. The end of his weapon looks incredibly jagged.
Django flips the weapon up and catches it swiftly, placing it inside an inner pocket in his tunic, neatly concealing it against his large frame.
Phoenix looks impressed and grins at the troll nervously, shifting her weight onto her right foot, swaying slightly with anticipation of the lessons ahead.
“What is that weapon?” she asks.
“It be a tooth, mon,” he grins, showing his teeth. “Taken from a beast in da jungles of Stranglethorn. Like its former owner, it is fast, strong and deadly. Why use sometin’ made by us when nature already provides it? But it’s not for beginners.”
Curious, Phoenix asks: “How come you left the jungle?”
The lanky troll sighs.
“I tink dat’s a story for anotha time,” he starts, but continues on anyway. “ I am one of da Gurubashi tribe. For many years I was happy in Stranglethorn. But more and more of my kind began worshipping da loa of blood, Hakkar.”
He shudders at the name.
“Trolls were makin’ sacrifices to him, using foul magic, being driven to madness… dere was an evil dere. I could not stay. I signed up as a deckhand for hire at Booty Bay - dat’s where I met Trix and da captain. Even though elves hated my kind, he opened da door to me. And da rest is history, as dey say.”
He smiles, though the memory of his tribe seems to be a sore point for him.
Django smiles again, removes a smaller dagger from a pouch below and behind his knee. He flips it up in the air, catching it and passing it to Phoenix, hilt first. She takes it in her left hand and turns it over, admiring the blade. Django leans in and pulls her hood over her head, then positions her arm so that it’s outright and holding the dagger in front of her. He gently presses the back of her knees, bending them slightly. She stands still, frozen in Django’s advised posture.
He stands back and puts his chin in his long blue hands. The troll nods slowly, smiling.
“Yes,” he says. “Trixie chose well for you. Dis outfit will keep you hidden well at night.”
“Dat’s because Trixie knows best, mon” The little green goblin mocks the troll, and winks as she walks past. She takes the dagger from Phoenix’s hand and passes it back to Django without looking at him. Phoenix feels a different hilt being placed into her hand and pulls her hood back. She looks down and sees that she’s holding a narrow, silver rapier, in her left hand.
“Blue and the boys like to play with their small toys,” Trixie says, glancing at Django teasingly. “But I personally think bigger is better,” she smiles, acknowledging the irony of her statement, before dragging a chair opposite Phoenix.
“Bah,” Django grumbles disapprovingly, swiping his hand in the air and walking away from the pair. “She’ll prefer knives, anyway. Like Thirteen. Da knife-ears always do.”
Trixie ignores him. She jumps neatly onto the chair, slides out her own rapier and turns to face Phoenix.
“Turn sideways,” she says. “Bend your right knee and lean. Place your sword in front of you. Look and see with your sword, not your eyes.”
Phoenix follows, waving the light sword out in front of her. Trixie, standing opposite her, guides Phoenix’s sword upwards with her own, then taps it lightly a few times, ushering Phoenix to lower hers slightly. With the blades crossed, Trixie suddenly withdraws and strikes towards Phoenix’s chest, stopping at the last moment to tap her tunic lightly.
“I’m killing you,” Trixie says, screwing her face up to look like she’s dead and continually taps the sword into Phoenix’s tunic. “Do something!”
Phoenix pushes her sword down, moving Trixie’s aside. The goblin’s sword raises again and, thinking of the slapsies match they had, Phoenix quickly tilts her sword upwards to halt Trixie’s advance. The rapiers thwang.
“Good,” Trixie says, winking at Phoenix, who stares back into her good eye and eye patch, smiling.
Trixie makes a swift curving movement with her rapier, sending Phoenix’s blade crashing to the floor.
“How did you do that?” Phoenix asks with curiosity.
“Let me show you,” Trixie beckons, pointing towards the rapier on the floor with the tip of her own sword, encouraging Phoenix to continue.
Over the next few weeks, Phoenix trains hard, only returning to the surface at night to walk along the beach for some fresh air or help the dwarves shift cargo up and down the ladder. They run simple errands, selling mana crystals to customers in the nearby area for gold, and acquiring other trinkets and goods for the hideout. But she never ventures back towards Silvermoon and takes care to avoid the main paths and the bridge where she met the Steelfeathers. She almost forgets her birthday, but mentions it in passing to Seven, who tells Trixie, and the crew celebrate her turning sixteen together.
During the day, Trixie teaches her the basics of the blade, a fencing-like fighting style, interspersed with sea-fighting techniques adopted by pirates and various dirty tricks goblins like Trixie have used to swing many a battle in their favour. In the evenings, she runs through the art of lockpicking with Phoenix, starting with simple locks on some of the chests and trunks dotted around the room, and working her way up to some tougher locks towards the end of the week. She also teaches her how to climb a rope, using a practice rope tied to a hook in the ceiling, and basic knot-tying techniques.
Thirteen reluctantly teaches Phoenix the basics of assassination, using throwing knives, poisons and surprise attacks to gain an advantage, though Phoenix sometimes struggles to take in his frank words of advice.
Seven is much more supportive. Like Thirteen, he teaches Phoenix all he knows about the art of the dagger, using it to debilitate foes and kill quickly. While she is squeamish at first, Phoenix finds it extraordinary how someone the size of the orc could move with stealth and cunning, and she too focuses more on this than learning how to effectively strike a killing blow. Seven and Phoenix enjoy their time together and quickly establish a genuine bond.
While the dwarves can use a sword, they are not hand-to-hand fighters as such. Instead, they train Phoenix in the way of munitions, gunpowder, mines and traps. It is difficult for Phoenix to learn without practical use, but aside from setting a basic bear trap here and there, they are unable to actually set off even the lightest of explosions for fear of alerting elves nearby or giving away the location of their hideout. Despite this, Phoenix learns the basics of munitions and delights in their lessons, finding Harris’ rhymes and ridicule of his brother, Henry, hilarious.
Phoenix is not exactly a natural with a weapon, and it takes her time to learn the different stances, parries and basic techniques. But one thing she does have is swiftness. And what she lacks in strength, she makes up for with flexibility and a graceful poise that impresses Trixie. Phoenix likes to spar without boots and gloves, allowing her arms to breathe and her tight-laden legs to stretch, to allow her to feel the nuances of the floor and step without sound. Trixie teaches her a fighting style focused on speed and rage, while Django has other ideas.
The troll is an enigma to Phoenix. His fighting style is unlike anyone else’s in the group, very natural and adaptable depending on the situation. He can coil and strike swiftly like a snake, using his fists as weapons, jump and move through the air almost like a gliding bird, and attack with the ferocity of a wild tiger or alligator, teaching Phoenix to pierce into skin with a blade and rotate to rupture and ensure a painful kill. He also teaches her the basics of hand-to-hand fighting and kickboxing. Some lessons, such as breaking someone’s neck, can only be explained rather than practiced, of course. But the troll spends more time teaching the ginger-haired elf about life outside of fighting. He urges her to adopt calmness in a bid to control her rage, teaches her about gods, spirits and fate. In particular, he talks about the beings trolls worship - the loa - including the loa of death Bwonsamdi. He plays with an old coin, running it through his fingers as he speaks to her, and says it brings him luck. He also tells her all about his influences and inspirations from his Gurubashi tribe and the jungle of Stranglethorn, which interests the elf.
But the one thing that Phoenix finds most fascinating is his belief in fate: that they are all on different paths converging towards the same destination. Incidents happen for a reason, and while people can weave and guide their own way around fate’s threads, they are ultimately bound to them. Phoenix becomes almost obsessed with the idea of carrying charms to create her own luck, in a bid to prevent her blackouts from worsening, and reads the few books of ancient history the group has amassed over and over.
Lastly, Falkor remains a mystery to Phoenix. She finds it impossible to converse meaningfully with the eye-less, ear-less, tongue-less little elf boy, but at the same time remains in awe of his magical powers, which she never truly understands. Instead, she does her best to talk to him with words unspoken, through nods, hugs and waves. She thanks him again for healing her, and he smiles and nods in return. But through his smiling face, she always feels an awkwardness from his unnatural-looking injuries. She wants to ask what had caused his scars, to find out who had tortured him and make things right, somehow. But she never has the courage to ask.
Falkor is most useful too. His conjured heat allows the group to cook from within the hideout and access warm water, and he seems genuinely happy with his life, not allowing his disabilities to affect it. On the contrary, Phoenix thinks he is more able - in other ways - than anyone else she’d met.
If only he had a tongue to speak and communicate with, perhaps she could learn from him, unlock the ways of magic and draw from the Sunwell herself more effectively. But then again, she thought, that was possibly not her fate.