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Sniffing Cards (MTG, Hearthstone, YGO, etc.) (SI)

Discussion in 'Creative Writing' started by d.fish, Feb 5, 2018.

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  1. Threadmarks: 1 The Teachers Think Cards Are Bad
    d.fish

    d.fish Cringe Incarnate

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    What do cards smell like? In the Old World, I used to buy magic cards. I loved the way they smelled just out of the packet. The thick, inky musk preserved by the slightly less than legal reacted plastic packaging wrapped up in a cardboard box filled to the brim, inside a even larger box filled six at a time did magical things to me. It was cheaper than cocaine, I'd always say. Cardboard drugs, we called them, wasn't it?

    They were nothing to these. These were thick cuts of carefully carved from cedar planks, inlaid into a rich, arcane-infused mahogany. Their rosy aroma filled my insides as if they hugged me from within. I was carried away by the strong yet accented scents. We had so much resources at our disposal, and we used so little of it for production—all of that came into play here, really.

    I traced the edge of the handcrafted card with my cute-as-a-button nose, a trait I gained from this silly reincarnation but no one cares about that. The important thing was how slowly I trailed against the sanded wood, so that I could get the most out of the many hints like a wine connoisseur tasting some ancient Lafite or some Scotsman in a woolly smoking jacket sitting next to a warm hearth tasting a hundred-year-old Dalmore. These were what life was for, these were the simple yet elegant experiences in life that were so few and seldom that even if not for their wondrous, transformative, and dare I say near-psychedelic adventures, would still be prized possessions of kings and gods. Sniff, sniff, snifffff... I took it all in. All the hints of nuts and cherry and roasted leaves and shavings of whiskey barrels, just as they were infused into this beautifully carved card, they similarly entered me and filled me with a warmth I never knew I could so utterly want.

    Snifffff...

    “You're insane,” a blonde crept up to me to sit down in the work station beside me. She had a cute, white top with a matching set of pants—people thought this was her trying to be fashionable, but both she and I knew this was because she didn't bother with fashion, every set of clothes she had looked the same. She also wore a hooded cloak embroidered with runes, a sign of her rank within the mage-city. “Why are you smelling those things?”

    “If you try it, you'll understand,” I said, not cryptically at all. I held up one card I just made the previous night, the Azure Drake, up to her nose. It was delicately blueberry scented with an overtone of addictive ink, inlaid as all of these cards are with a type of arcane powder composed plastic between the two wooden boards. “Do you wanna try it? That smell. It's a special kind of smell. The smelly smell that smells... smelly.”

    Jaina's nose crinkled cutely and she pulled away from me as if I held up a goblin candle right in her face. “No, thank you. Really, you could be so much better if you worked at your studies instead of... this card stuff. You know, I could ask...” She trailed off and started fidgeting, reminding me once again of how she wasn't the confident, strong, and sexy older lady that I knew her as, yet.

    She was just in her teens, like I was now, and we were just apprentices. And she wasn't wrong; the time I put into making Hearthstone cards could have gotten me a decent grade. I knew I'd never be as good as her, Miss One-of-the-Most-Powerful-Sorceresses-in-the-World, of course, so I settled for being mediocre.

    The cards were good money too. I fondled my bulging sack of gold coins, the sound of them clinking against each other was a special kind of gilded choir to my ears. “I'm not like you, honey, I'm not... you know... smart. Plus, I love me some gold.”

    It was an excuse, and it sounded inauthentic to my ears too.

    She didn't believe me, but the little darling was kind enough to not pry. It was why we got along as well as we did, despite everything else.

    Jaina turned away from me and sighed. Maybe all these secrets weren't so good for our friendship, but she seemed to accept it. She stood up and turned away. Each step she took seemed to echo in the empty library, and I flinched each time.

    Finally at the doorway, she turned again, and added with a sort of tired tone I didn't often hear from her, “The masters aren't too pleased with your... Hearthstone. They're saying it's taking a lot of the other apprentices' time. Master Conjurus Rex burned the—”

    “Ah! I heard about that,” I perked up and interrupted her. If I didn't pay extra attention to her face, with her being my most favorite character in this universe, I wouldn't have even noticed how she grimaced the moment I spoke up. If I remembered correctly, I was acting out with a bit of a know-it-all attitude, despite not knowing enough of anything, but I persisted because I was that kind of an insensitive kid that I was. “He got so mad he burned the game board! Is it true that he burned his beard too?”

    “... Yes,” Jaina rolled her eyes at me, as if exasperated that that detail was what I stuck with most. “And now he's banning it from the Southern Towers.”

    I thought about that. That would make the cards contraband there, and yet it was already reaching a sort of critical mass with the mages. Some of the even more accomplished sorcerers and priests were playing the game too, having never seen such a thing before in their lives. I knew what the conclusion of that action would be, at least in my mind. “That'll only make them hide their cards. They're not going to stop. I'm not going to stop.”

    “Yes,” Jaina placed some emphasis on that word.

    I frowned. “They'll hold tournaments in the Underbelly. They would.”

    “Yes,” Jaina beckoned. She knew this was my thought process.

    Oh. She's trying to teach me something. I thought about it harder, “So... he won't catch them. Because they're organized and everything.”

    “... Yes?” Jaina seemed to know this too, but she wasn't smiling.

    Why wasn't she happy for me to have figured this out, unless... there's more? I frowned. “They'll be good enough at hiding their tracks, so he wouldn't go after them. He's the kind of archmage who likes to attack structural weak points.”

    Now, keep in mind, we were two twelve year old apprentice mages—witches, magical girls even, if you will—and if anyone else were having this conversation, it'd have raised eyebrows.

    You could say we raised expectations about the two of us quite a bit?

    Well, I wasn't very self-aware... after all, I was just a self-insert. This was just a story, right?

    It was all a game to me. But looking at how serious Jaina seemed... oh! She's concerned not for my blooming card making business (or how Wizards of the Coast might craft some kind of interdimensional portal to sue the gold out of my pockets), and more about me. Oh. OH!

    “Oh shit.”

    Yes.”

    “He's going to come after me.”

    “Uh huh. And?” She nodded, finally the corners of her lips twitching upwards. She had that cute, little quirk where she'd try her best to hide her emotions, but she'd always wear them on her sleeve. Before the years of genocide and war and espionage and massacres, most of these days my BFF usually experienced joy. It made me want to protect that smile.

    “You're here... and he knows you're here telling me this,” I concluded. “He's an Archmage of Dalaran, after all.”

    “That's true,” Jaina beckoned again.
    “So you're telling me, he's using you, to tell me to stop,” I realized.

    “Or else,” Jaina replied in her sing-song tone before skipping out of the library humming her off-tune song. She might be a magical genius, but she wasn't a musical genius.

    I turned back to the Malygos I had been working on before my best buddy walked in and lamented on my ill fortunes. It was going to smell so good too... Well, it was either to give this up or I'd have to go into remedial studies and toilet duties for the next decade.

    Hm...
     
  2. Teiwaz

    Teiwaz Shut in cryophilic Witch

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    Uhoh Fishy fish is planeswalking again!
     
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  3. Threadmarks: 2 Parents Throw Your Cards Away Because They're The Way of the Devil
    d.fish

    d.fish Cringe Incarnate

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    Kael'thas grimaced at the horrid, musty taste that assailed his scent of smell and taste the moment he walked past the entrance to the Underbelly. It was at that moment that he realized he wasn't dealing with the average sewer works. That was right, Kael realized, this magical dump of a sewer had risen beyond the limits of what the definition of the word could even mean and into the realm of legend... the legend that his nose and even his tongue feared. The legend known even in Silvermoon as the most disgusting sewer in the world and to ever exist. This sewer, the Underbelly, has become the legendary super—

    “Hey, what're you doing standin' out here like some dumb chump? Are you trying to get mugged?” A voice interrupted Kael'thas' royal internal monologue. Yet, he was just the Prince of All High Elves, thus, anyone capable of reaching this point in Dalaran must have been worth his attention.

    Kael'thas turned towards the source of the disturbance to find an apprentice, not too unlike the icy object of his affections. But this sorceress-in-training was shorter, thinner, and obviously tainted if she was meandering around in the underworld of the magical kingdom. “I doubt anyone would so dare care to cause an... international incident as to attack me, Kael'thas Sunstrider, the Prince of All High Elves.”

    “Uh huh,” she didn't sound impressed. “And you're actually going to tell anyone that you got caught off-guard, knocked out, and got your pockets picked by some lowly street rat, O' Prince?”

    “That's...” He choked. The Lady Proudmoore had a similar attitude towards him when they met. Were all human females like this?

    “Besides,” the girl continued, “no one's going to attack you. They're just going to rob you blind. What are those red balls you have floating around? Are they worth a lot? I bet I could get a pretty penny for those...”

    Kael'thas saw how the girl's eyes trailed the glowing, red orbs that floated in the air around him. To be absolutely truthful, they were magical jewelry he purchased on a whim, to seem more like a truly accomplished Blood Mage. Of course, he was still in his training, but to be looked down so by some common rabble galled his sense of pride. Any admiration for the female quickly burned up into ashes within Kael'thas' heart and he thundered, “You shall not covet the Prince's Ioun Stones! They are a royal heirloom since even before the founding of my kingdom!”

    “Uh huh. Look, Prince, even if someone were to attack you, say, me, perhaps, what would you do? Bleed one me?” She smirked.

    It was at that moment that Kael'thas knew he was just wasting his time with this buffoon. He stormed away in a huff, without another word to this apprentice. He knew he could have threatened her by saying he would have words with her master, but he wasn't the average high elf prince. He was above that, having reached beyond his limits.

    And besides, the empty eyes of the girl frightened him. Something about the way she watched him made him feel like she was looking at him as if he were some rather well crafted toy.

    This was a feeling that rankled him, and it took all of his patience to fall back on the cautionary words of his father... no one in Dalaran was as they seemed. He mustn't underestimate anyone here, or else the kingdom of Quel'Thalas would require a new heir. As he stomped away, he turned to keep an eye on the urchin that bothered him so at the entrance to the Underbelly, only to find there was no one there.

    A simple diagnostic spell, cast with the snap of his fingers, told him that there had been no one standing there.

    A shiver ran down his spine, and the Prince of the Quel'Dorei hastened his pace.

    Kael'thas was on a mission here in the dark side of the wizarding world. He needed to find a myth, a legend, really. There was only one man who could help him in his dire time of need. It was a man who was so greedy and so ruthless, in the recent years he extended his grasp over all of the lawless underworld and seemingly endless dungeons of Dalaran and held it all in his iron grip. It was a dangerous man who kept it all with such raw power, that even the Archmages dared not cross him.

    His journey brought him deeper into the damp, arcane-smelling sewer. The more he looked, the less it looked like a sewer—for there were many tunnels and entryways that merged the sewers with the dungeons, and more than a few patrolling gaolers seemed to patrol the region. They were sloppy in their work, though equip with powerful armor and weaponry, almost as if they were bored with their work. Not a single one of them paid him any heed, an action which further irritated his patience.

    “Pst.”

    Kael'thas turned towards the darkness behind him. In a hush whisper, he hissed, “Who?”

    “It's me, Prince,” The grizzled face of the veteran hunter and soldier made itself visible to the High Elf. It was his acquaintance, Kassan, who was one of the many gaolers of Dalaran. “I see you're here. It took you a while.”

    Kael's teeth ground together, but he thought it better not to show his annoyance. “Yes, after a minor inconvenience.”

    “Minor?” Kassan sounded strained. His eyes darted towards the path behind Kael'thas.

    “Nothing to worry about, just an urchin,” Kael'thas offered.

    “Urchins aren't just urchins anymore, Prince,” Kassan warned, but he didn't go any further. He seemed worried, as if his loyalties were being tested by this simple task of helping a friend.

    It tried the Prince's patience too much, and he prompted the jailer, “So, Kassan. You say you know a way to the Tycoon. I need to find him.”

    “HUSH!” The man's eyes widened and his irises shrunk. “Not here, it's too open, come with me.”

    The Prince nodded in silence, and they took a winding path into the labyrinth of the dungeons and sewers beneath Dalaran. It was dark, with only a very few magical torches to light their way. Kael'thas took extra care not to tread in any liquid at his feet; many of the alchemical concoctions dumped out as waste from the wizarding towers found their way here, and many of them were worse than deadly.

    It seemed to be ages before they stopped at an arbitrary alleyway, where Kassan turned to face him. “Why do you want to find the Underbelly Tycoon, Prince? That being... you don't wanna mess with them, you get me?”

    “I know,” Kael'thas sighed, but he found he could probably trust this friend of his in his confidence. “It is about the upcoming Tournament of Power. My cards... they were stolen, Kassan, my friend, I must acquire new Blue-Eyes White Dragons, else I cannot participate. Surely the Tycoon, who makes these cards, can help.”

    “The Blue-Eyes White Dragons! Kael, those are limited-print cards! You know there aren't anymore of them! Even the best duplication magic can't come near to crafting them!” Kassan gasped aloud, surprised by Kael's request. The Prince knew it was too much, but he had too much at stake here. “Can't you at least ask for other cards?”

    “Don't you think I've tried?” The Kirin-Tor had been cracking down on the Magic Cards Trade, even going as far as claiming some of them to be demonic—Ha! What a joke, but Kael wasn't laughing. He needed new cards, and if the authorities were claiming them to be hellish, despite being just simple cards, then he needed a new source. “I don't have any new sources. Can't you point me towards the Tycoon?”

    Kassan licked his lips, and it took him a minute before he responded. “I can get you to Lieutenant Raethan, Prince.”

    “Pah! That lackey?” Kael'thas' face twisted with distaste. The man in question, Raethan, was a High Elf who abandoned his ways. He didn't respect the royalty of Silvermoon with the respect they deserved—that Kael deserved.

    “That's the best I can do, Kael,” Kassan shrugged.

    Kael thought about it in the dripping cold of the sewer tunnels—so abominably wide enough that an army could march through them, yet so empty of anything but dimly glowing alchemical wastes that have been mixing with a thousand other mixtures since the beginning of the city.

    He had no other choice, didn't he?

    “... Fine.” He swallowed his pride to meet a follower rather than a leader, but only because he was desperate. He'll come out on top and avenge all slights later, in a series of card duels that were already brewing in his mind.

    “Oh, and if he addresses you as 'My Dude', it isn't an insult, alright?” Kassan added. He seemed almost powerless as he said this, and he was pleading with his eyes. “It's some kind of new tread down here, because the Tycoon started calling people this. Of course, no one addresses the Tycoon this way, and... well, you'll see. I'm sure you're smart enough to know not to fuck up a good thing, Kael'thas.”
     
  4. UrsaTempest

    UrsaTempest Yuri Fanatic, Archivist

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    Oh god. You make everyone into card maniac.
     
  5. d.fish

    d.fish Cringe Incarnate

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  6. LordVile

    LordVile Not too sore, are you?

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    Crack is literally cheaper here.


    And what of figurines?
    Those nasty little overpriced pieces of shameless plagiarism.
     
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  7. Threadmarks: 3 Kids on the Playgrounds Ripping You Off With Predatory Trading
    d.fish

    d.fish Cringe Incarnate

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    The Guardsman's Office was a glorified hut, in Kael'thas' royal opinion. It was a two-story, wooden structure with what could be called “waterfront real estate” values, but that was simply glorifying having the office being built dangerously close to the stream of multicolored experimental sewage.

    Of course, when it had been originally built, this was not a problem. In fact, “guardsmen” were nothing more than glorified janitorial staff, in Kael'thas' mind. After all, this was a nation built on efficiency and magocracy, and that meant there were magical constructs for defense in the form of ward arrays and towering golems breathed life by streams of arcane power. The State of Dalaran never worried about any foreign hostiles sneaking into their dungeons, because those were the most magically guarded locations in the city, bar only the vaults. And if something could get into the vaults, then everyone of note in the city must have been killed or defeated in some way anyway.

    So when the Prince of All Quel'Dorei walked up to the (albeit magically enforced) wooden building, he scoffed at it. It was a waste of time and space; the city didn't need it or guardsmen at all. As a mage, he obviously believed magic superior to the strength of arms.

    Kassan stayed back and hollered out at one of the closed, glass windows, “Oi, Raethan, I got a customer for ya'. Don't let 'em get mugged, they're important.”

    There was an extra bit of bounce in the Prince's footsteps at that, and he raised his chin a little higher than it already was. His footsteps echoed through the stone tunnel not dryly, while he mused how much gold must have been spent on the guards down here for them to have magically or alchemically crafted windows. Those were too smooth to be made by hand, after all. Nevertheless, he strut into the building as its rather normal sized wooden doors creaked open for him (in contrast to the tunnels it was in, which could fit rows of war golems).

    The lobby, for that was what it was, was almost exactly as he expected. It was entirely made of a sort of dark wood, with visible lines of gaps between each plank, making the entire structure seem shoddy. A couple of hovering torches of magical ember flickered and crackled overhead and several circular tables were laid about before a rather tall counter lined with barrels of what smelled like cheap ale as if this guardhouse lobby was some sort of tavern.

    In fact, that was probably what it was, because one thing the Prince noticed immediately after stepping forth was the smell. It smelled of roasted cinnamon and toasty, hearty bread. There had to be some kind of magical filter at the door that kept the smell of the magical sewer (which did, at times, smell like a normal sewer) out.

    Four guards were playing some kind of free-for-all game of what was obviously a game of Hearthstone, with some house rules, and there was a bored looking High Elf at the lobby counter who made no attempt to hide that he was more interested in the game than in his Prince. This specific High Elf guard had a sort of cropped, short hair, very different from the average High Elf, as it was in fashion for males of any sort of culture or breeding to take pride in their long, luscious hair. To cut it so short, and to mold it into spikes with disgusting and hair-damaging alchemy was an affront that told Kael'thas that this man had no Quel'Dorei pride. He also seemed to carry himself with a sort of rage uncommon in the higher orders, and this told Kael all he needed to know.

    It was an upstart who rose beyond his rank. Kael's chin rose even higher, and his regal voice filled the air and instilled into it a chill that only those of the higher orders could. “Greetings, I assume you are Guardsman Raethan. I am Prince Kael'thas Sunstrider and I require your services.”

    The man at the counter looked up with seemingly purposeful laziness. “Yeah? Well, ya can't bribe me, see? And I ain't seen anyone with your precious Blue-Eyes 'round here.”

    “You know,” Kael's eyes narrowed immediately, like a shark swimming upon the scent of blood. “How do you know?”

    “Word travels in our circle,” Raethan shrugged. He picked up a mug and spat into it before wiping it with a dirty rag that had been sitting beside his boots. “From one duelist to another, Prince, you ought to know. There were only four of them printed after all... Rare cards get anyone's attention. 'Sides, the blue cards you had were... uncommon as well. People pay attention to that, especially if, ahem, cards show up in the, ah, open market.”

    “Blue cards” were a reference to the rarity of the cards. The cheapest cards were those without any gems sealed into them; those were the weakest and most worthless. One rank above those were “white cards”, or what could now be called the more common cards with a white opal encrusted in the middle, sealed with rather potent magic. Not too potent, of course, compared to the blue cards, but still strong. “Blue cards” were the uncommon cards... and Kael'thas had something above that. One of the one hundred or so cards created so far enchanted with a purple gem known as a “Black Diamond”. Just the gem alone was worth over one hundred gold coins, and that was if you could even find them...

    To Kael, his Blue-Eyes White-Dragon was not just his property and not just an investment, but a beloved card that had won him his fair share of important battles. It was a comrade at arms and a constant companion in this place, this Dalaran, so far away from home. He believed that the card had a heart of its own and that they had a bond... before it was all snatched unfairly away from him.

    The very thought filled him with rage, and his arcane might seemed to boil to the surface from within. His normally azure eyes now glowed with a furious white, and he stared down the insolent guard.

    Well, he tried to anyway.

    Raethan yawned. “Look, what do you want? The auction broke your deck apart already, and those cards are now in the hands of dozens of different people. I can't help you with that, or anything really.” But then he made a cupping gesture with his free hand.

    Kael looked down and frowned. “What... what do you mean? Aren't you a guard? Your duty is to aide me!”

    “Are you serious, Prince? Look, never mind. Come with me out of this, uh, public place.” He beckoned Kael to a small door hidden to the side of the room. It was naturally hidden by flickering shadows, an optical illusion of sorts, that even with dispelling effects would not have alarmed any mage of its presence.

    Kael nodded. “Fine.”

    The room was small and cramped. It was filled with wooden crates and barrels of supplies, but there were not weapons here. It was simply a larder perhaps or some kind of storage facility? It was dark, with only a single torch that Raethan had to light with an augmented fire bolt. That was rather strange, to Kael, since they had so many magical lights outside.

    Raethan turned to him as the door close, and a savage expression took place over the guardsman's visage. He reached out again, “You gotta pay me for information, kid. You think the Kirin-Tor rule down here? No, I'm the boss in the sewers, and you might not have to pay a toll thanks to Kassan, but nothing is for free in this world.”

    “You're the boss? Really.” Kael'thas scoffed. “And what of the Tycoon?”

    “I could knife 'er if I wanted,” Raethan's voice seemed to tremble for a second, but it happened too fast, and he seemed to act like it didn't happen. He leaned closer, and allowed the shadow to loom on his face intimidatingly as he glared down at Kael'thas.

    It was at this moment that Kael realized the guardsman was actually older than him, and probably very, very deadly. It was also probably prudent not to poke the subjects that might make the lower orders rebel for no reason. He might be a prideful prince, but he was no idiot elf. “Fine. Then I need a new deck to compete in the Tournament of Power. Can you find me a dealer for some boosters?”

    “Boosters, eh? Nah, Prince, the Tournament of Power is just a month away... everyone worth their salt is buying every booster there is.” Raethan scoffed and leaned back. He seemed to regain his composure. “Last I heard, there even a Lordaeron Booster was being sold on the auction for over fifteen hundred big ones.”

    “That's... that's enough to buy a small army,” Kael gasped. “And the Lordaeron set is trash!”

    Raethan smirked, and it wasn't a nice smirk. “Yeah. So you see, there ain't no chance I've got that. Look, I can offer you two things, Prince, that I can see you actually buying. One, I can provide you with a deck, something I built myself, see? That'll cost you a pretty penny. And the other... well, I can point you to who currently owns your precious Blue-Eyes—ah!”

    “WHO?” Magical fire leaked out of Kael's eyes so much that the room was temporarily blindingly white.

    “Ah, ah, ah,” Raethan smirked again, shaking a lazy finger at the Prince.

    Kael'thas sighed. Damn. He had no choice. “How much?”

    “How much, what?” The guardsman's smirk widened.

    “How much will it cost me?” He ground out from his gritted teeth. The room dimmed.

    “Ten.”

    “Silvers?” Kael'thas asked incredulously.

    “No, gold, and not the mineral kind. Too much alchemically transmuted crap we seen these days, you could fool some dumb farmers, but you can't fool me with that stuff. I need to real deal, stamped by the Bank of Dalaran itself.” He paused before speaking more softly, “or, if you have... ah, you don't. There's no point in asking you.”

    Before the man finished speaking, Kael grabbed a fistful of coins from his pouch and dropped them on the top of a wooden barrel. Their splendor shone even with the dim torch light.

    Raethan took one and conjured a spark of arcane power. It was instantly repelled by the coin. “Alright, it's the real deal. If you want the Blue-Eyes White-Dragon, you'll have to find Archmage Aran.”

    “Fordred Aran?!” Kael'thas was aghast. He couldn't intimidate that man, who could stare even death in the eyes and stand tall, into giving up that card. He would have to duel him... in a game of cards for it.

    “The very same.” Raethan's insufferable smirk lingered. “I might distrust all 'o them Kirin-Tor to even do my dirty laundry, but that's a man with principle. You could, oh, challenge him to a card game for it and he'd stand by his word... if you can win. Ante up, Prince.”

    “Fine,” Kael growled. “Let me see the deck.”

    “I have it right here, in fact,” Raethan handed over a set of worn out cards.

    Kael quickly scanned through these cards, his irritation building with each flip. “How much, Raethan?”

    “Oh, how about... a hundred gold?” Raethan studied his nails, not even looking up at the Prince.

    “Are you serious? This is a deck of common cards!” Kael roared.

    “And here I thought you were shit at bargaining. I'll let you have it for 95. What a deal, am I right?” His grin only seemed to grown.

    And with it, the irritation within Kael. For a moment, he thought he would just conjure a Flamestrike on the guardsman, but Kael'thas knew that wasn't a real option. While the man was just a lowly peasant, he was still in his place of power. And those little tricks of fire bolt and arcane sparks only told him that Raethan was at least a mediocre mage of some respect.

    He couldn't strike the man, not when he had nothing to gain from it. “Give me an uncommon at least. For that price, I could buy three starter decks. And at least start decks come with a set of uncommons.”

    “Uncommons that are shit, though,” Raethan pointed out. He seemed to take in the Prince's rage for a moment longer before nodding. “Fine, fine, since Kassan brought you here. He's one of my men, after all. I'll add a limited-print uncommon, how's about that? A Dark Magician.”

    “... Why?” Kael'thas asked suspiciously.

    “You're not haggling down the price, you shit haggler of a prince!” Raethan laughed in the royal High Elf's face.

    “So lower it!” Kael'thas pleaded. He didn't think any of this entire trip was something he'd ever do. No one would haggle with a Prince! He always just demanded and got what he wanted. At first, the few signs of defiance were amusing, especially from his equals, but now, even upstart peasants thought they were his equal? He wanted nothing more than to get out of here, and it was only his desire for power and for this card game that kept him rooted where he stood.

    “Ah, as the Tycoon is oft to say, inflation is quite the bitch, Prince,” Raethan retorted. He turned down towards Kael with a knowing look. “Yeah, I might shank her one day, but her papers on economics are some of the best and most enlightening in the field. In fact, you might say she discovered the study and science of economics.”

    “Economics?”

    “The magic of money, something you might want to learn about, Prince.”

    “I can see the value in this,” Kael'thas nodded as he made his exchange. He would get his vengeance on this guardsman one day, but not today. He had to prepare to get his cards back and... “Wait... she? The Tycoon is a woman?”
     
  8. Medb

    Medb DoesntExist

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    This fic is so God darn great. This is exactly what I need in my life.
     
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  9. Threadmarks: 4 Double Wrap Your Cards For Better Protection
    d.fish

    d.fish Cringe Incarnate

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    “Oh, it's you again,” that one annoying—yet still nameless in Kael's mind—apprentice mage looked up from some tome thicker than her thighs with a tired gaze. She sat cozily in between two stacks of tomes and surrounded by spinning, purple, glowing runes as if she had made a bed out of the books and never bothered to move from her place. “What are you doing here?”

    “I,” Kael'thas motioned to himself imperiously, “am here to challenge the Archmage Aran to a duel.”

    The girl stared up at him incredulously and with narrowed eyes. “What, like a magical duel between two wizards? Are you out of you god damn mind, kid?”

    Kael found himself twitching at her attitude. Never mind that this wasn't what he was here for, the Prince thought the Archmage wouldn't mind if he disciplined one apprentice in his tower. It had been a long day and his patience had just about run out. With writhing flames dancing at his fingertips, he glared down at the girl, anger bubbling in his chest. “You will not speak to me with such a tone, girl. You will show me the respect I deserve, and you will apologize for your transgressions! I will not be mocked and made a fool of and the next words out of your lips better be an apology or I will—”

    “SHUT YO BITCH ASS UP.” Her voice thundered in his ears so shrilly it caused him to drop to his knees. The girl closed her tome with a snap. She raised her hand and smacked it swiftly against his left cheek while he was down.

    “What...”

    Kael's head spun, and he thought he was seeing stars.

    He was so stunned when a second slap came across from the corner of his eyes at his right cheek.

    “You's a bitch, you know that?” The girl sneered down at him with contempt, as if she knew him even better than he knew himself. As if she knew something about him that couldn't ever be wiped away, and would always mark him as garbage in her eyes.

    Slap.

    Slap.

    Slap.

    Slap. Slap. Slap. Slap. Slap. Slap. Slap. Slap. Slap. Slap. Slap. Slap. Slap. Slap. “O' Light, please pray for the soul of this bitch ass elf and guide my pimp hand and make it strong, O' Light, so that he might learn a bitch ass elf's place. Amen, and all that stuff... wait, do we say amen in the Church of Light? Well, something to look up later.”

    It was only then that Kael'thas stopped and bothered to study his surroundings. The entrance to Archmage Aran's tower had been a portal, and with so many portals within Dalaran, he had never suspected it to be any kind of trickery, especially with Archmage Aran's reputation for honor. Even the lowly guards knew of how he would stand by his words and...

    … and this was not the Archmage's tower, as much as it might appear to be to begin with. With his High Elf sense for the arcane, he could feel the very power of the world, of the Light and the Void, hum in this place.

    This was a sanctuary, a place of power, for someone or something many times more powerful than just an Archmage of the Kirin-Tor. It reminded him of the Sunwell, and despite it not being anywhere near as potent, the thought sent a shiver down his spine. His neck swerved as he spun to take in the room he found himself in.

    It had the hallmarks of an Archmage's tower, of course, with the large, wooden beams supporting the many floors and stairways, and its walls made of solid chunks of smooth marble as most of the more expensive human architecture was so fond of using. The walls were lined with shelves of books, as many mages' homes were, and more than a few automated servants and curators walked the halls... but that was where the similarities ended.

    The curators of the library, they were immense beings brimming with arcane might, so much so that they would not be out of place from the private estate of the Guardian of Tirisfal, the reputed most powerful mage in the world. The glowing runes that floated around the girl weren't magical lights, but the expanded enchantments that he could only glimpse the surface of... from the cards...

    Kael'thas' elf eyes widened even further as he saw more and more, and realized the truth, or a truth, about his rather dire situation. The guards worked for the Tycoon, in some way or another. The Archmage Aran... he was also in the Tycoon's pocket, wasn't he?

    It wasn't even a question anymore, in Kael's mind.

    Oh, he knew now. Everything that led up to this moment... he felt stupid. His father always told him to never underestimate anyone in Dalaran, for none of them were as they seemed. But how could he have known that this unassuming apprentice was... “The Tycoon.”

    As if in response to his realization, the form of the Archmage Aran materialized behind the girl. His flowing white beard and enchanted robe were a signature of his that seemed to parallel with some of the greatest minds of Dalaran, such as Antonidas. But the hum of arcane power within the Archmage's body, as if ready to strike on command, told Kael'thas that this was no impostor either.

    Suddenly, the girl shook her head, and the Archmage behind her adopted a face full of fear. He even went as far as flinch and take a step away from her.

    “... No.”

    “No?”

    “It's 'A Trade Princess named Tycoon'.”

    “That's...” Kael gasped painfully through his now swollen cheeks, “that's what I said. Tycoon.”

    “No, no!” She started to sound angry. “That's 'A Trade Princess named Tycoon'. Like 'A Tribe called Quest', you say the whole thing. Get it right! I'm trying to do a reference here!”

    “A... A Trade Princess named Tycoon?” Kael'thas wracked his mind for the title. He had heard it before, the title of 'Trade Prince'. It was supposed to be something far beneath his notice, but where had he heard it from?

    “Thank you!” She threw her hands up in the air and turned to the Archmage Aran behind her and started to rib him with her elbow. “At least he didn't ask if he could just call me 'Tycoon' for short.”

    “Yes, of course,” the Archmage nodded nervously. His forehead was visibly glistening with sweat from this conversation.

    Kael wondered what had the wizard, one of the most powerful beings in Dalaran, so upset, when the Tycoon added, “Remember how hard it was to get the blood out of the floor because of the last guy who did that? You had to turn back time because it seeped into the cracks and everything. SO! You've been looking for me, Prince Bitch. What can I do you for?”

    Suddenly, Kael'thas wished he never got out of bed this morning. Nevertheless, princely pride prodded him to keep going. “I require my card. For the Tournament of Power. That you are holding.” Please don't notice how my voice was trembling, was a thing that went unspoken.

    “Ah huh, ah huh,” the Tycoon nodded. Her jewelry—some kind of golden lotus, as well as a bunch of rather gaudy gemstone pieces made of sets of emeralds, jets, pearls, rubies, and sapphires—clinked as she nodded. For some reason, he never noticed them before until he got so close to her, almost as if they were magical or protected in some ways. “Do you even know what that competition is for before you charged in like this? I mean, I can see you doing it if you did, but you don't look like the kind of bitch ass elf who thinks things through. You're like Kaiba in that way, actually. Cute, if you were a girl, ya know what I'm sayin'?”

    Kael'thas was lost. “No?”

    “The prize, bitch, the prize.”

    “What... what is the prize, Ty—I mean, A Trade Princess Named Tycoon?”

    She smiled. It wasn't the sort of warm smiles that Kael longed for, nor was it the type of fake, masked smiles he was used to. It seemed similar to the bloodthirsty smile that the guardsmen had, amplified to infinity. It was the smile of a shark, the smile of someone who took pleasure in the struggles of others... the worst of the higher orders. It was a smile that wasn't unknown to the Prince, after all. Her voice sounded husky, as if she longed to see the conflict take place.

    “A wish. A card... any card, to be brought to life.” Her features seemed to twist, but not into that of a demon or a monster. It was a face too serene, too... simple and symmetrical. Too unblemished, that she couldn't be natural. “Oh, I want to see it, we're going off the rails! We're going to destroy the canon! We're going to unknown places no one's seen or heard... oh, my, oh my, oh my my my...”

    None of that rambling even entered Kael's thoughts. He wouldn't understand it anyway, and he couldn't process it. But he knew what bringing a card into reality meant...

    … that type of magic was new and unheard of in this world.

    And he wanted it. But first he'll need some ointment for his face.
     
  10. kayangelus

    kayangelus Flame Wizard

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    I feel sorry for anyone that has to deal with her insanity
     
  11. theqwopingone

    theqwopingone Journeyman rationalist wannabe. Gone for Good

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    She must have been bored with things going as expected; things are going to become fun again~
     
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  12. Garahs

    Garahs Soil Surveyor

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    Isn't she still worried about the archmage that wants to shut down the game? Or is she just ignoring him?
     
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  13. Threadmarks: 5 Cards Smell Good
    d.fish

    d.fish Cringe Incarnate

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    Jaina Proudmoore was my only friend in Dalaran. I wasn't exactly an orphan, but in this life, I was born in Kul Tiras to a family that died to the second war. Okay, so I was an orphan, but Kul Tiras takes care of its own. We were an island nation with little natural resources and even fewer in population compared to any of the other kingdoms. It was only our naval traditions and expertise that kept us on equal footing with any of the other nation-states of the Alliance.

    Kul Tiras had no large fields of farmland like Lordaeron. It didn't have the magical knowledge and education of Dalaran. It didn't have the rich forests of Azeroth. It didn't have the longevity and power source of the High Elves. It didn't have the advanced culture or infrastructure of Gilneas. And it didn't have the rich mines the Dwarfs had.

    We were the poorest of the seven kingdoms of the Alliance, and it was only by wit, grit and force of will that we held our place, rather than to become a vassal of one of the other powers.

    Our island nation wasn't an exact parallel of any nation of Earth, not really. There was a sort of camaraderie that came with being surrounded by greater powers yet still holding desperately onto our independence. We had our pride in being able to fight on par with the others, of course, and we acted like we lacked nothing. But we didn't have vast holdings of serfs to feed our nobility and we were, even in times of peace, constantly attacked by all sorts of creatures of the sea.

    They would come with the mists, and we would always wake with less than we had. Sometimes, it was supplies, and those were the better days. Other days, we found homes empty except for a few splatters of blood.

    So our kingdom learned to care for our young, to place everything into the investment that is their education and training. For without a strong foundation, we would have nothing. So perhaps, in a way, there was a parallel, though I wasn't sure if it was a good one. We were not like Britain, despite that being my initial reaction. We were more like... Israel, in that we were surrounded by things that wanted to kill us and that we tried to advance our nation through skill and technology. The current Lord Admiral, Jaina's daddy, liked skill more than technology.

    Now, before you skewer him in your minds, keep in mind that we didn't have the resources to develop technology and infrastructure on our own. We had to import it all, and that wasn't... cheap. Everyone, not just me, went some days without proper food. Even Jaina, actually. Starving forced us to grow faster than what was acceptable, and even the lowest servants' children were taught to fight, to clean, and to support our people.

    It seemed like we were bound more than just by a national identity, and more than just by a faith, or our origins. We suffered together, and that tempered us into a rather unique kingdom, I thought.

    Jaina Proudmoore was responsible for my acceptance into Dalaran's academies, but that was just one act. I could feel grateful for the rest of my life, but that didn't make a friend. Time could make people friends—more than a few people made friends in the academy. But those were school friends, and that wasn't what we were. The difference between that type of relationship and what we had was the difference between beer buddies and battle sisters. I would lay my life down for her if it came down to it. It wasn't because she was my favorite character nor was it because I still saw this world as something from a story—fictional.

    Well, maybe that was a story for another day.

    Jaina Proudmoore was the only girl I let see my vulnerability, and the only person I allowed into my workshop. It was a small place, in a small corner in the outskirts of the magic city, still a part of the commercial district and yet within an alley where no one bothered to look. It wasn't shady, well, maybe a little. But it wasn't like there were any criminal elements above the sewers; the Kirin-Tor would never allow it.

    My neighbors were just... good hired help. Who didn't ask any questions. And hid bodies for me.

    “What are you doing now?” Jaina asked with her hands on her hips, being more sassy than I thought she'd be, but still within the boundaries of what I perceived as Jaina.

    I looked up from the mountain of Dream Dust on my workstation. Dream Dust was a type of pinkish white magical powder with a dim, orange glow, and the product of artisan level enchanting—it was basically the most potent crystallization of arcane magic into a trade commodity currently available in Dalaran's markets. Each pinch was worth about twenty gold pieces on the open market.

    I had about eight bricks of the magical dust on my desk, some of which were spilling from their packaging. “I'm not snorting this stuff if that's what you're asking.”

    “Then what are you doing?” Jaina deadpanned.

    I pointed at the Azure Drake before me. Apparently even in this fantasy world, card gamers had their meta. These were worth quite the pretty sack of gold, but I had something else for it. See, the magical dusts, no matter what kind they were, just didn't do it for me. They had no...

    … pigment. Yeah.

    But my cards did.

    This specific card used a mixture of two parts Wild Steelbloom, seven parts Liferoot, and one part Kingsblood to make its specific subset of what would later be known as Burnt Pigment. In total, it used about 200 milliliters of the refined form of this pigment, that had yet to be named, but I knew it to be later known as Dawnstar Ink.

    And as I pointed at this card, I allowed my arcane magic to act as I was trained, and I disenchanted the card into a magical dust.

    It was a fine, white sort of dust.

    I had to muster every ounce of will to resist attempting to snort it.

    Jaina blinked. The gears were already turning in her head; she was always cleverer than I was. She licked a forefinger and tasted the still sparking and arcane static filled dust. The tip of her pink tongue darted out for just a fraction of a moment, and she gasped. “What is this? This isn't any kind of arcane dust I've worked with!”

    “Yeah, I know,” I smirked. “It's a byproduct, or a waste actually, of some kind of bastardized fusion of alchemy and enchanting.”

    I never mentioned inscription, as it wasn't actually a known profession at the time. People still made runes, of course. People made ink too. Some people made magical ink that were used for inscribing magical runes, even. But those were... experiments... of consumer products. Because the inscription that I knew of as what it was in the big ass game was just that: something to be made for the average mook or some stuff that any middle class citizen could buy.

    Of course, there wasn't years of constant war in the world yet, so that wasn't actually a market right now. Still, it was something that I kept in mind as I made my cards.

    And Jaina, encountering something so new, was fascinated. Her eyes sparkled with their baby-blue light and she couldn't help but let her lips quirk upwards in a silly grin that I loved to coax out of her. “That's amazing! What can it do?”

    “Why would I know?” I shrugged.

    “You always know. I might work with theory, but I know you're the one who knows how to apply it,” She smiled widely.

    Ah, that trust in me was so misplaced. I wouldn't hesitate to watch her life crumble around her as Arthas reenacted his heinous acts. I would actually revel in such a prospect... I would drink her tears.

    I was a bad friend, I knew.

    But that was neither here nor there.

    “I'm not sure... I don't even know how the theory works. I guess one of the Archmages would know... and maybe some tome or spellbook might have an answer. I doubt it though.” I shrugged. “It seems like a waste of time to work on something so... mundane.”

    “Ah. You're being upset about Master Antonidas again,” Jaina nudged my shoulder with hers.

    Antonidas constantly crapped out thesis papers about multiple dimensions, time travel, and all sorts of junk. He never made a spell or something with all that knowledge though. Not that I knew of anyway; and he died like a chump in Warcraft 3, so I didn't really care for him.

    “Look, let me close up shop here,” I started to say.

    “You don't have any customers,” Jaina pointed out a fact that we both knew to only be true for this specific workshop.

    “AND,” I continued as if she never spoke, “I'll join you at the ice cream shop in five minutes, okay?”

    “No ingesting the strange powder,” She said over her shoulder.

    I quickly wiped my nose and ran after her, pretending as if I wasn't doing anything stupid.
     
  14. NPC

    NPC Getting sticky.

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    Never change fishy, never change.
     
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  15. Threadmarks: 6 But We Keep Trading Cards Anyway
    d.fish

    d.fish Cringe Incarnate

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    The Cantina was supposed to be my homage to Star Wars. We didn't really have something of a population center in the Underbelly—people all minded their own business because they knew everyone down here was dangerous. No one sought to gather up all the scum and villainy into one location and succeeded until I did it.

    Oh, there were some uses for magical muscle, but making this little location used neither brute force nor did it use even the cards. I had other, ahem, cards up my sleeve, after all. See, to understand how I did this, you had to know the current geopolitical climate of the continent...

    … The dwarfs have locked themselves in. Their gnome friends aren't even a known entity yet. The high elves don't trade with anyone, being the secluded pissants that they were and acting high and mighty because they had a well made from diluted waters made from a well made from the bleeding cold sore of the planet. That left the human nations of Lordaeron, Stromgarde, Azeroth, Gilneas, and Kul Tiras. We'll be ignoring the minor duchies and shit, like Alterac and what not. Alterac was already balkanized at this point and I thought they turned into the Syndicate or something in the games? Whatever! The thing is, outside of these guys, there were still goblins, who actually existed and had their own trading empires going even now, just the Alliance was against them because they had similar skin color to the orcs, or something. A lot of that boiled down to racism, now that I thought about it.

    That wasn't important. The trolls also had their many little tribes and nation-states; they weren't active and trying to start a war, but they weren't missing either. Somehow, because no one wanted to start a war, our Alliance thought we had peace.

    Ha!

    Well...

    They weren't wrong, maybe. The Warsong Clan was still somewhere in the east, wandering and pillaging Hillsbrad, and, somehow, the Frostwolf Clan were also in Alterac Valley somewhere. So the orcs were still around as a force.

    But the magic must flow. Trade is always going to happen between the human nations, but that was a macroeconomic scaled thing... looking into the microeconomics of Dalaran's Underbelly, you'd see that it was also splintered into so many small factions that each tended to itself. This was a Dalarani culture, mages didn't like to fight for things and they really just wanted to be left alone to their books and such. There were deviants, like me, of course, but even most of those deviants were simply peasant's children turned into apprentice mages who thought they could sneak a few trinkets back to their families or some other kind of minor criminal element. You know, punks.

    There was an uneasy peace down here, and if you knew Dalarani culture, then you'd know that we'd like to keep the status quo. The Underbelly's society was a reactionary one... so no one sought to complain until it was too late.

    So what did I do, really?

    See, it was actually a multiple parted coup that I'd rather no bore myself with the details of—the shady fuckers in the sewers wanted a place to exchange, and the goblins wanted an “in” into the human markets. No one cared for goblin timber or goblin leather; the human markets were diverse enough to not need to rely on another source, even if it was trying to undercut human product.

    Ah, but for magical goods? There was a shortage. So I didn't use any overwhelming might, nor did I leverage the strangle hold I had on the card trade (after all, I wasn't sure if the people were that into cards just yet). Instead, I made a stock market.

    Yes, I'm an evil capitalist. It's in the name, you see. A Trade Princess Named Tycoon. Dollah dollah bills y'all.

    I played each party a little; I wasn't the best at disguises or espionage or acting or anything, so it wasn't anything exciting. The goblins provided some muscle, which were easily warded by Dalaran's protections (Antonidas had to earn my ire somehow, and it wasn't because of what I told my dear Jaina). But the goblin muscle had a way with keeping the smugglers who sought to bring Dalaran's goods out of Dalaran in check—after all, Dalaran's protections were anchored onto Dalaran alone... it was good business for me all around.

    So I bluffed a little, playing the goblin mooks off as my own, and that kept the gangs of the Underbelly in check. The Widow (a Gilnean hedge witch and assassin for hire) was first to cave in, since her kind didn't steal or take from others, they were killers on retainer. The Guards were next, because they were easily intimidated and bribed—we had a bit of a stalemate for a few days where each of us tried to stop the other, but they soon realized just because they could keep me from operating didn't mean I couldn't keep them from taking money on the side. After all, their income mainly came from adventurers who entered the Underbelly seeking magical services and information... adventurers who I could easily stop or redirect. They were easily served by the goblins, albeit temporarily. It was then that I started setting up the other services, such as the Cantina and the Dueling Pits. After that, smaller gangs that pretended to be bad boys or an empire or whatever fell in line.

    Look, if I didn't do this, the goblins would eventually do this. At least this way, everyone knew who ruled these parts.

    The dueling pits were magically hardened locations for mages to do some death battles with each other; there were always some crazies who liked this kind of thing. Dalaran's laws didn't actually allow for duels to the death, or at least it was frowned upon. No one really talked about that stuff, but it seemed like something culturally unspeakable. Anyway, I, of course, monopolized the viewing and betting rackets. I did design games for a bit in my past life, so when I had my shows, I didn't reward rare cards or something.

    That would be too easy. The way the duels, the exchange, and the inn worked were that all services within and all goods exchanged used a set of currency that I distributed. Massively multiplayer online games used usually around four different currencies in order to keep farming from being excessive and keep players from exploiting the singular currency.

    Everyone in this world seemed to love gold, but after designing how the cards worked, with runes and seals that would be self containing magic, I realized this wasn't any different than making a sort of... energy credit, perhaps. Or a cryptocurrency, since I could have a ledger of where each of my coins were and who was holding it and so on. Sort of like a more advanced form of the Protean Charm from Harry Potter, but with more functions and so on.

    Of course, all currencies couldn't stand alone, and I didn't have the reputation to boost the currency's usage with just the black market of Dalaran—and I knew I didn't even have more than 60% of that market monopolized.

    So what did this have to do with the current geopolitical climate of the world? Well, see, the goblins? They weren't one singular entity. There were half a dozen cartels and corporations along with hundreds of smaller subsidiaries and individual businesses within their over all “Trade Coalition”, which had not yet actually become called that since there weren't any outside or inside pressures for the goblins to band up yet.

    This meant I had to deal with individual goblin companies as if they were their separate entity, and that was for the best as it was just simply good business practice and due diligence. Trade Prince Steamwheedle was the one who provided the muscle, so he was actually my preferred trading partner, something that profited him greatly. Nevertheless, Steamboil, Donais, and Maldy were the other partners who helped me gain access to the greater goblin market, and thus, a global market.

    When I suggested the “Ether”, the name for our magical, crystallized arcane coins, they were the ones I persuaded into joining me in this venture. They lent their support, spending basically nothing, to own approximately 15% of the new currency, each. When we released our currency, making it the preferred trade coin of the world eventually and announcing that being our goal for the coin, we were making mint off of the chumps that came after.

    It was sort of like how the people who profited off of alternative cryptocurrencies did so by using celebrity endorsements and they collectively dumped their cryptocurrencies the moment random mooks started betting on their coin, thus making a load of cash, or basically however much they tricked people into investing into their coin. Except our coin was ever going to be in use, backed by a variety of means, so it was more like Bitcoin, really. We were similar to the first miners or the pump-and-dumpers, except we had a control over the currency. Well, I did, and they had the illusion of doing so. The one major thing about this, that is no different than doing business on Earth, was that technical people could easily trick and lie to investors who only know the basics. Only, here, it was a magically proficient sorceress running circles around greedy goblins who were more mechanically inclined than magically so.

    I hear the drums echoing today, but she hears only whispers of some quiet conversation...” We even had bands playing now in the Cantina, and I could count about five thousand users of our Ether in the Underbelly alone, and there were almost a hundred thousand users of Ether around the world by now.

    Ah, but you must be thinking, but one of the best part about cryptocurrency was that it was decentralized! I had the encryption of magic into crystallized coins, but I was the issuer of the coin, wasn't I?

    But that was where you'd be wrong—the “way” to “mine” more coins were also something I released, after a fashion. After all, I couldn't handcraft all my cards, why would I handcraft all of my coins? No, what I had, for both the cards and the coins was what could be called a “master key”, something that I worked a year on, and also something that basically made me never be able to catch up to Jaina in our magical studies... Look, she was studying all types of magic and I was just... specializing. Yeah.

    Anyway, there I was, at the third floor of the Cantina, where only select VIPs were allowed. I could see over the balcony a band playing, but what occupied me was the four goblins gathered before me. It took some doing to get them in through the protective wards around Dalaran, as well as legal status within the city, but here we were.

    “Friends,” I raised a glass in toast. “It has been a profitable year.”

    “Yes, yes,” Steamwheedle waved a hand covered in sixteen different jewel-encrusted rings. He was also smoking some kind of cigar-like thing, but the smell seemed more similar to nutmeg than what I knew to be tobacco. “Why can't you hold the Tournament of Power earlier?”

    “Are you interested in the competition? I do know we already have quite the interesting line-up,” I remarked over the music.

    I bless the rains down in Azeroth...

    “Eh, you could say that. I'm here to win,” Steamwheedle grinned. His teeth were yellow, but more than half of them were actually gold. He slammed a leather deck box onto the table, causing the plates of food—the combined cost being more than what most wizards make in a month—to fly everywhere.

    “Oh? Does the competition interest you so?” My eyebrow rose.

    He snorted and his tone implied he knew something I didn't. “It's not the competition. It's the prize. You've got a lot of people interested... including your Kirin-Tor.”
     
  16. Threadmarks: 7 Oh Shit Oh Shit Oh Shit Oh
    d.fish

    d.fish Cringe Incarnate

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    I sat down in my apprentice mage guise beside Edwin VanCleef. Well, a Edwin VanCleef. “Edwin VanCleef” was a legendary rogue who rose to prominence by creating the Defias Bandits and organizing the group into a solid rebel force that could have toppled the southern human kingdom of Azeroth in my memories. In the current timeline, the “real” Edwin VanCleef was still just a disgruntled labor boss—a workers' union leader of one of the masonry guilds in the south—being upset about not being paid on time by Azeroth's nobility. The Edwin VanCleef sitting beside me wasn't that Edwin VanCleef.

    “Boss,” he whispered before nodding to me. There were no salutes and no actual indication to any watchers that he was subservient towards me. Instead, he immediately turned back towards the surging crowd within the now rather grand arena of what was my little Dueling Pits.

    “That must be at least half of Dalaran here,” I mused.

    “Only slightly higher than a quarter, Boss,” Edwin corrected. “There's about seven thousand in attendance, but an extra one thousand sneaked in through... means.”

    He didn't like magic, because he understood so little of it. It showed in the way he stood. Even as he rested against a pillar and hid in the dark, he was agitated and a constant scowl graced his face. It kept the more timid strangers from even approaching him.

    I turned back towards mess that was the preliminary rounds of the Tournament of Power. I only knew a little about organizing conventions back in the previous life; I knew nothing about organizing competitions. It showed, in a way, how chaotic things were down here. Of course, my closest minions would tell me that this was the way things were, and I shouldn't be trying to take the blame for this. Maybe they were right.

    Maybe mages lacking a war to fight, the underworld, and adventurers seeking their fortune mixed together were a volatile combination.

    The “hub” of the Underbelly was packed with people from all walks of life at this moment. Many of them weren't actually here to participate in the tournament. Some were here to watch and others were here for opportunities. Fights seemed to break out every couple minutes as some idiot tried their luck pick-pocketing someone else, because of course the stupid adventurers thought pick-pocketing wizards capable of burning down their home village a smart decision.

    I had Edwin watch over my establishments here, since he was a jaded business person who killed his own emotions enough that he could be a proper psychopath—the makings of a great CEO, really. Of course, what was visible and known through reputation was that I owned the Dueling Pits, the Cantina, and the Exchange. That left me the master of the underworld within Dalaran, and for the most parts, the southern bits of Lordaeron and the northern bits of Stromgarde.

    What wasn't known, for obvious, tax evasion and so forth reasons, was that I owned other establishments, through shells and contracts and... more brutal means. After all, the Edwin VanCleef who worked for me was someone who learned from his mistakes. He was an Edwin VanCleef who had died before.

    He was one of my cards, given life.

    See, with my cards, the moment I bring them to life, the card itself is gone. But I was like Maximilian Pegasus, and I could keep printing cards as I needed, just that the more powerful and rarer cards required personal time and quite a chunk of resources. Bringing creatures or people to life was something I could deal with, but it took me weeks to make a single Counterspell card. The moment it was used, it'd never come back.

    I was the type of gamer who kept every elixir and potion unused even during the final boss fight, and that carried over to this personality, it seemed.

    Anyway, everyone knew I also owned the Ethereal Bank (despite anyone capable of creating the coins, there was only one bank for them that was truly safe), the betting rackets, the Dice House (a gambling den), the Herb Hut (a hallucinogenic herbalism distribution chain), and of course, the cards. That was all whispered about in the darkness. After all, Edwin wanted my rep to be intimidating.

    What they didn't know was I also owned the enchanters, the tanners, the weavers, the tailors, the cooks, the brewers, the alchemists, the stables, the carpenters, the guards, and even the FUCKING RATS AND THE MUTANT TURTLES. I owned everyone worth owning in this fucking sewer.

    I just didn't like confrontation. I didn't like fighting. I didn't like people knowing about me or meeting me or watching me.

    I liked puppeting things from the shadows; Earth's story showed that this was the way to go.

    “Are we breaking even,” I waved a hand and motioned towards the chaotic gathering of practically half of the murder hobos of the northern side of the continent, “after everything?”

    Edwin shrugged. “We aren't losing money, Boss. It's just growing pains. We expanded too quickly, and even if you solved the problem of loyalty and competence of your lieutenants, too many people are watching. You're taking too big a bite of the pie, you know what I mean?”

    “Yeah, I get'chu. Keep it up, I'll go back to my box,” I sighed and wandered back towards the VIP lounges. With money and power came privileges, after all. Good food, good wine, and good ladies. You know, the finer things in life.

    There was a knock on my door some time later, as the competition was just starting to get heated. Well, competition of the more amateur card players—there were too many noobs. It was the first tournament of its kind, so that was expected, but still unpleasant.

    I turned an eye over my shoulder and wondered why my legion of lackeys and accounts and lawyers and thugs didn't stop this specific guest. I thought I said I didn't want to see anyone.

    The door opened.

    The man standing there was not simple. He wore the cowl and robes of an Archmage, but it wasn't one I recognized, so this must mean he was a retired Archmage. There weren't many of those, but every one of them were powerful enough to persuade the Kirin-Tor to fuck off. He had the power of one too, I could feel the aura radiating off of him, suffocating the air around him.

    It was like meeting Antonidas again, face to face. I didn't enjoy the encounter. But this feeling left a chill running down my spine, and I saw something cold and dead in his eyes.

    No matter what kind of gentle words he could say, I wouldn't trust this man.

    “Hello,” his voice was cultured and elegant, with an edge of something dark. He sounded like a Bond villain. “I was told if I had significant wagers you were the one to seek.”

    I swerved my chair around (yes, it's a spinny chair) and I watched him with lidded eyes. “Who's askin'?”

    His arm swept into a bow that only so slightly angled his back, the bare minimum of respect among wizards. The rusty, teal-colored metals that decorated him like jewelry clinked and clacked as he moved, and each were as exotic as the last in shape and function. “I have holdings in Andorhal and Stratholme, prime locations for one such as yourself.”

    “Uh huh,” I raised an eyebrow. He didn't answer my question.

    “I will be betting on myself,” he added and spread his hands, as if he wasn't a threat.

    This only caused the goosebumps to rise on my skin. My attention was on him fully, and I was desperately aware of how under prepared I was for confrontation with a power beyond Archmage. I had five Counterspells on me, three legendary creatures, one Azure Drake, a dozen little mox jewelry, and one Serra Angel. If it came down to a fight, I was dead. I wasn't a fighter. Fighting was something I left to others... and I regretted not training more with Jaina now. It took all of my will to calm my nerves and keep speaking, as if I wasn't ready to turn and run.

    The problem with an empire with a foundation built in part with reputation was the moment you betrayed that reputation, you'd lose everything. Or most of everything built with it.

    And I leveraged that reputation too much—that was the fastest way to build anything.

    I was sloppy. Lazy.

    I turned that hatred for myself, now reignited, inwards and I grit down on my teeth. “So then, high roller. Tell me about yourself. What made you want to risk everything? Who are you really?”

    “Ah, dear child,” the undead wizard, the lich, chortled as if in a gentle, grandfatherly way. “I am betting mere baubles, to support your bustling enterprise... If you know your history, you might know me, the Archmage Kel'Thuzad.”
     
  17. UrsaTempest

    UrsaTempest Yuri Fanatic, Archivist

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    Well.
    Let's see where fishy will goes!
     
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  18. LordVile

    LordVile Not too sore, are you?

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    Am not too familiar with Warcraft .
    Depending on wiki's for info.

    Well time to cut and run
     
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  19. Threadmarks: 8 They're Reprinting for the "Good of the Players"
    d.fish

    d.fish Cringe Incarnate

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    Kael'thas Sunstrider stared across the field at That Bastard. They were in the arena where the preliminary matches were held, to see who could participate in the Tournament of Power. It was just that only the winners from each block of participants could go on into the true matches, and every duel he had witnessed thus far left him yawning. He would show them, he would all of them true power, including That Bastard.

    That Bastard had another name, but Kael'thas didn't deign to use it. “Finnall Goldensword”, daughter of the famed high elf sorceress Kilnar Goldensword, had inherited some innate magical talent from her mother but it was the tactical mind and strength of arms that she inherited from her father that caused Kael to scoff.

    She was a bastard, a child born out of secrecy and wedlock. While every elf knew she was the daughter of the Lord Admiral Daelin Proudmoore, no human would admit so.

    To Kael'thas, she and her mother were disgraces to elfkind. They turned away from the high elf culture, something that had history since before even the first human had stood upright. They shunned the respect and good will of Silvermoon to stay and aide this human mage city. That was all there needed to be said, for the Prince.

    “Well? Are you ready, Bastard?” Kael'thas spat. Sparks of arcane flame flew from his lips.

    “I will prove myself!” She retorted, but without any hatred in her eyes. There was no fire in her, even if she forcefully pulled her deck out and made the motions.

    These duels within the Dueling Pits were nothing like playing on the normal boards. The normal boards fitted easily onto any peasant's dining table, and they were small enough and animated enough to amuse and store. Though some parts of those dueling tablets were flimsy and prone to breaking after multiple taps, they were self-repairing and usually took only one match before they were as they were before any damage.

    The Dueling Pits held no dueling tablets, and there were no mats for the cards to be placed. Instead, the very air around them shaped itself and the magical array of the pits aligned to form a coliseum sized dueling stadium, looking like a much larger version of the Hearthstone dueling tablet.

    A giant Ether token flew into the air...

    … and it was the half-elf's turn first. That was fine, Kael smirked as the token to form as a card within his hand. He would show her that her strength of will was nothing before his massive, bulging... intellect.

    “Before we start,” Kael shouted across the field, causing the half-elf to pause. “Let me ask you something.”

    “... Speak.”

    “I know you have a card. My card.”

    Your card? Are you delusional?”

    “Give me back my Blue-Eyes White-Dragon!” Kael'thas roared. “It's mine!”

    Finnall scowled, her eyes finally gaining some semblance of the fires of the soul that the Quel'dorei shine with when they are infused with the fury of the Sunwell. Her cheeks reddened and she let loose an undisciplined, primal growl. “You ass! You bullied me for that card, and when my mother buys me another one, you want that too? I can't believe your arrogance!”

    “Arrogance? That dragon will belong to me! Ante it up!” Kael'thas didn't give up. It wasn't within his royal prerogative to be ashamed of his actions, after all. Shame was for the lower orders.

    “Fine! But if you lose, you'll never set foot in Dalaran ever again!” The young Goldensword warrior countered.

    “I accept.” Kael'thas smiled, knowing that he would never lose to a mere jumped up bastard of an exile and a human.

    Finnall began her turn with a frown, realizing that she had no time to go for a different hand. This was the hand she had to stick with, and it seemed nothing she had was small enough to play on the first turn except for land.

    Of course, Kael'thas studied his prey beforehand, and knew that this was a bluff. Despite being prideful, he learned from his experiences in Dalaran to never underestimate anyone. Thus, he knew that Finnall Goldensword was the type of player who kept everything in her hand until she could play it all. She was the type of player who either slowly whittled down her enemy or took them out in an all-in gambit.

    And that meant she was the perfect opponent for his aggressive deck of puny human weenies. “I play one plains and Lost in the Jungle, which allows me to summon two Silver Hand Recruit.”

    The rest of the game itself was something of a landslide victory for Kael'thas. It went something like this:

    He summons some creatures with one attack and one defense, with some shit abilities. They counter whatever it is that Finnall summoned for that turn, just barely. And all of them attack her with little pokes of one damage each.

    The next turn Finnall would try to play some sorcerer card or some warrior card that cost her half or more of her mana to use, and she'd realize she'd need to use it to shave away at Kael's army of one attack and one defense minions.

    The following turn, Kael would summon more than she could kill, leaving her regretting attack the minions in the first place, when she could have targeted the player.

    By the end of the match, there were the illusory forms of thirty-something Silver Hand Recruits—each looking startlingly alike to the younger version of the renown Paladin hero Uther Lightbringer, only less detailed and possibly a bit uglier. They surrounded Finnall and attacked her with their pokes from all sides, leaving her defenseless to this sort of shitty aggressive play.

    In Kael's mind, this was a testament to his abilities, when in reality very few people played this way. Warfare was never fought like this before, everyone expected stronger, rarer, and more expensive cards to trump those with less in all aspects... but they didn't realize that this was horribly unbalanced.

    So after some taunting, insulting the half-elf's mother, father, and everything she held dear, Kael'thas smirked and swaggered across the stadium and sneered down at the defeated girl with an outstretched hand.

    “My card, if you would.”

    “Fine!” She threw it at his face, though he caught it deftly. “Take it! I hope you choke on it!”

    With that, she ran off, tears streaming from her cheeks.

    Kael's grin grew wider.

    As the judge announced his victory, he strolled out of the stadium to see the card vendors and scalpers. Even though they'd be taking a large cut and selling at higher prices, he need to get some cards to support his new Blue-Eyes White-Dragon deck.

    It took some doing, some haggling, and a lot of rereading his own notes on the subject, and not to mention some five hundred gold of his own stipend to get such a powerful deck surrounding his dragon, but he did it.

    “Hey, you're a competitor, right?” The salesman at the front desk of the souvenir shop asked curiously.

    “That's right, I am the future title holder, Prince Kael'thas Sunstrider. What is it?” Kael asked, as if he were granting the man a great favor to be speaking with him. It was one, in his mind, as all audiences with royalty were worth their weight in gold.

    “You know that they announced some new prints just to celebrate the tournament? Some new rules too,” the man added.

    “New cards? Well, it's about time,” Kael nodded. “What new cards are they printing? And new rules?”

    The store clerk didn't even look up from his news magazine as he raised his eyebrows and read off. “Ah, yeah, see, ya see, they're printing a lot of reprints for the newcomers of the game, ya know? Some rare cards! They're gonna be downgraded to uncommon cards, 'for the good of the new players', pffha!”

    “Interesting...”

    “Yeah, some cards are going to be banned too, and some are being tweaked. Apparently they're doing some, what's it called, balancing of the scales, if you could believe that load of crock.” The clerk scoffed. “You might wanna look up the rules, since you're a competitor and all that.”

    “I'll do that.” Kael nodded, but he was already thinking about how he'd win. After all, the organizers couldn't change the rules too much, could they? It wouldn't be the same game if they did. He knew that right now he would have better use for his time deciding which card he wanted to make into reality.
     
  20. UrsaTempest

    UrsaTempest Yuri Fanatic, Archivist

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    > tfw blue eyes is banned
    Doubt it tho, it is normal monster after all. It just got a nice thematic support from spells and such.
     
  21. Threadmarks: 9 If We're All Fucked Anyway, We Might As Well Blow Everything Up
    d.fish

    d.fish Cringe Incarnate

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    If I were honest with myself, I thought I was too much of an idiot to be so successful. It boiled down to luck and some foresight and planning, but some days it seemed like luck played too big of a part in anything.

    More importantly, I was always doing things I shouldn't be doing. For example, if, in a hypothetical situation, I were a dealer of narcotics, I would not be snorting my own goods. That just wasn't done, if I wanted to stay profitable and secure.

    Now, I wasn't sitting at the end of the assembly line with my head tilted and sniffing and licking every card that came my way; I had standards. Just like how I only sniffed and then tossed out the mythic rares of the magic cards in the previous life, I graced only the finest of cards too. Besides, if I spent my days sniffing cards, I wouldn't be able to maintain a remotely sound mind and leveled judgment.

    Of course, I wasn't sound of mind right now. I was curled up in my bunk with my cards stuck to my nose and huddled in eight layers of blankets.

    “Oh, what's going on now?” Jaina stood over me, with a look of sass and her hands on her hips. Her blonde hair was tied into a cute sidetail that I liked to play with, except she always stood with me on one side and that sidetail on the other.

    I sniffled and looked up with my eyes red. I'd been crying a little. “I, uh, might have caught someone's attention that I didn't wanna.”

    Her eyes were lidded, as if she was barely restraining herself from telling me she'd told me so. “And the Kirin-Tor are people you want the attention of?”

    “The Kirin-Tor won't kill me,” I grumbled into my covers.

    Something sharpened in Jaina's eyes and the air within our shared room grew cold. “Who is it? Do you need me to tell Father? Or Master Antonidas?”

    “I... I don't think so. It's too long a story. You wouldn't believe me if I told you,” I sighed.

    “Try me.” Jaina straightened her skirt and plopped down beside me gently.

    I shook my head. I didn't want Jaina to meet Kel'Thuzad just yet. She wouldn't suffer at the hands of the lich, she'd just die to him. There would be no delicious emotional fruits of the confrontation. Telling her teacher would just invite inquiries and he'd never believe us. Jaina's teacher was a kind man, who'd even try to help the orcs when they were no longer at war, despite each being a perpetrator of bloody massacres.

    I'll admit it. I cared for Jaina's father, due to how he was an extension of Kul Tiras. I cared for that rocky, desolate chain of islands. It was... home, now.

    No.

    I had to face the lich myself. I had to... figure out what his goal was. My presence had changed something, but some things must stay the same.

    Come on, think...

    … His master would still be the true spirit of the Lich King. That creature would still want the body of the most powerful figure of the Light to be his vessel... and this meant that he ought to know that he didn't have any current candidates for possession. The most powerful Paladin was currently Uther Lightbringer, and he was too level headed to ever fall to depravity.

    Kel'Thuzad had planned, in the games, to use some kind of magical poison or ailment to infect, probably with a disease, the grains of Lordaeron. He'd used some kind of pandemic to spread a “curse of undeath” to the masses, and thereby killing upwards some tens of millions as he basically rendered an entire kingdom—the most prosperous and populous human kingdom—a barren wasteland filled with walking corpses. That couldn't change too much either, right? Even if he had other plans or made new plans, wouldn't he still be trying to make a massive horde of undead to attack the World Tree and the Night Elves, and herald in an era of war as the gates reopen for the demonic legions to invade?

    Both the lich and his master were beings with power beyond comprehension to the current me. And their demonic master beyond that was even greater...

    I scratched the back of my head. I couldn't think of why the former Archmage would approach me, and so openly. Why would he reveal himself to me? Why would he bet? For some kind of plan to entail betting on himself for this card tournament, it means whatever plan or trap or scheme he had in mind, it would move onto the next step at the end of this competition. It could even the final step then.

    I couldn't just confront him, that was suicidal. But I could prepare... The Tournament of Power would finish its preliminary round tomorrow. After that, there was a day of rest, for maximizing profits, before the day of the Tournament. After that, the Finals would be at the end of the week.

    There wasn't much time to plan and prepare. I needed help, but I couldn't trust anyone with what I could do, for fear of...

    I turned my eyes to Jaina, who was soothingly stroking my hands. It all clicked together then. I couldn't keep this a secret anyway.

    She perked up the moment I turned to her, but she kept silent, knowing this was a tense situation. She was serious in her determination to help me. This was an idealism that would live on within her even into adulthood and after what that human prince did to her...

    I offered her a mad grin of an idiot with too much power and too little sense. It was the reflection of the current state of my mind. I wasn't all there right now, but who was, after getting addicted to playing with magic cards? I suppose I must have looked quite like a cereal killer or some kind of psyker path.

    Again, it was a testament to Jaina's fortitude that she just smiled at me to encourage me to talk to her. That was mature of her.

    “Jaina,” I prompted and then spoke the words that she'd soon come to fear coming from my mouth, “... I have an idea.”
     
  22. Garahs

    Garahs Soil Surveyor

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    Run, Jaina , it's not too late .
     
  23. NPC

    NPC Getting sticky.

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    Admit it fishy, you just want an excuse to wrap your arms around Jaina and bury your face in her... erm... hold hands.
     
  24. d.fish

    d.fish Cringe Incarnate

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  25. legionalle

    legionalle Getting sticky.

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    God I am so glad that I found this story. I love it.
     
  26. Stickypiston

    Stickypiston Invadingcat

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    • Do not necro. This is against Rule 7.
    talk about beating a dead horse.
     
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