STORY BY: CALDGRAN
“Say ‘aah’, please, and keep your mouth open real wide for me,” Caldgran instructed a small human girl. Though the action caused the child visual discomfort, the doctor produced a small flashlight he had purchased from a mechagnome and shined it into her mouth, his gray eyes darting back and forth as the patient’s overbearing mother stood nearby, arms folded across her chest.
After a few seconds, Caldgran stepped away and pulled a sterile rag from his trusty doctor’s bag. “Aye, that’s what I thought. Your daughter has streptococcal pharyngitis.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“It means,” Caldgran paused, rotating his wrist in the air for emphasis, “strep throat for short.”
The mother’s eyes widened. “Is she going to lose her voice? Is she going to die!?”
Caldgran pursed his lips, reining in his frustration. He could always handle children; it was their awful, insufferable parents that were another story. “No, no,” he assuaged, digging into his bag. “It just means that she needs to rest. No going to school for a few days.”
“Yay!” the girl blurted out, only to clutch her neck and swallow hard.
“No!” the mother protested, hands now on her hips. “Not ‘yay’! You have a singing recital tomorrow! What will the other parents think? Don’t you care? Don’t you care about me?”
Caldgran reached over and handed the mother a bag of pills. “Not in this situation, no, because we don’t want her to develop an abscess. Have her take one of these a day.”
The mother took the bag with a rueful look. “I bet I could just get one of the priests or paladins in town to cleanse her - I bet I wouldn’t need your so-called ‘medicine’.”
Caldgran donned his wide-brimmed hat and headed for the door. “I bet you couldn’t,” he retorted back, “because bacteria still exists in the world as naturally as you and me.” He reached into his cloak and placed a piece of parchment on the table. “Oh, by the way - here’s my bill.”
The doctor shut the door behind him, ignoring the mother’s scowl as he stepped out into the open street. Caldgran breathed deep, taking in the crisp morning air as the snowfall speckled his cloak. Business, as he referred to it, had been steady enough within the past three years, though not as rewarding as it could have been. People found out that he was a licensed doctor, so it was a long, constant stream of folk wanting to schedule appointments or whining to him about their problems. He had to bone up on his pediatric knowledge due the increase of families having children, or managing to grow up in a time without a massive crisis. It was decent enough, but as it turns out, conflicts create bigger paydays.
Still, the aphorism of making hay while the sun still shined remained true, and the doctor had spent considerable time making that proverbial hay for his project.
Returning to his office space, Caldgran entered through the back door; he realized early on that he could tactically ignore everyone wanting to bug him by not entering through the front door. Doffing his hat and cloak, he dropped his doctor’s bag on a table before going to his desk to finish a letter home.
He glanced at his waste bin, seeing the crumpled up rough drafts he had discarded beforehand. Sometimes, putting thoughts to pen was not as simple as some might think, especially with the complicated relationship Caldgran had with his children and grandchildren. The wars - ones with the Dark Irons, the other with the Horde during the Second War - may not have made him totally bitter, but they made him calloused. When his wife died from illness, he felt no reason to stay in Khaz Modan; his children had already grown up, and most of them had families of their own. He knew the choice never sat well with them - the grandkids wanted to see their papa, after all - and he made it up to them by sending most of the money he made back to them to help further their education.
I hope these letters are delivered promptly and find you well. Moreover, I hope the money I sent you all has gotten to you already.
Things around here in Alterac have been calm (at least as calm as they can be in this day and age!). There hasn’t been a whole lot of note other than the occasional soldier getting hurt or managing to injure themselves during training (humans, you know?). I’ve also been getting a lot of appointment requests for kids. Some of them can be fussy, and it reminds me of how you all were when you were that age. It also reminds me of the grandchildren and how I’ve missed seeing them.
Other than that, I’ve been working on my little project I’ve told you all about already. It might be a great asset in the future or a monetary flop - risk and reward, just like any business venture.
I tend to keep to myself; I don’t often fraternize with other people in the Eagles. Maybe it’s just me being old and curmudgeonly. But I often feel like my methods and solutions to problems can potentially cause friction? I don’t know, it’s hard to describe.
Give the grandkids a hug for me.
Lots of Love,
Caldgran returned the pen to its inkwell and rubbed his chin in thought. He decided that he would send the letters after he tested his project. He got up and walked over to the workbench pressed against the wall, looking down on what he had spent almost two years working on.
The object sitting in the center of the workbench looked like a cross between a spyglass and a kaleidoscope. A peculiar thing, made from glass, cut diamond and steel, with a ridged ring encompassing its center. When he turned the ring, the device made a satisfying clicking noise as it cycled through its lenses.
In his spare time, Caldgran made an effort to always try and learn new things, so he took to tinkering. His proficiency paled in comparison to his eldest daughter’s, whose academic tuition he had painstakingly funded. The first prototype had failed, the second one was thrown against the wall in resigned frustration, but after trial and error, he was positive he had gotten it right the third time.
A knock on the door interrupted his thoughts.
“I’m busy,” Caldgran said.
“You have a visitor,” the petitioner responded.
“Tell them to come back later.”
“He insisted. Said he had three blind men waiting for you.”
Caldgran glanced upwards at the statement, looking at the blueprints tacked to a corkboard on the wall.
It was time for the true, final test. Hopefully he wouldn’t get caught.
The fresh-laden snow crunched beneath Caldgran’s boots as the middle-man he hired traipsed behind him. The man had a strange, limping gait and constantly hummed and chirped to himself, much to Caldgran’s annoyance, but the dwarf only had to tolerate him for a little while longer. And to his credit, he did manage to set up a meeting with his people of interest.
The two waited in a clearing in the woods with nothing but the howling of the wind and the hooting of owls to keep them company.
“You said they were coming, Arturo?” Caldgran asked as he reached into his cloak and checked his pocket watch.
“Hmm, um, yes, yes…of course!” Arturo exclaimed, clasping his hands together to emphasize his point. “Any minute now, I’m sure.” He shifted his gangling stance, eyes shifting back and forth as Caldgran watched the tree-line in silence. “Um, you…hum…”
“You don’t think you’re going to get in trouble for this, yes?”
“As long as you don’t tell anyone, I won’t.” Caldgran responded.
Arturo licked his lips, eyes shifting again. “But you would think, hum…hm, you would think your Eagles would get mad if they knew you did this?”
Caldgran shrugged. “Maybe. I don’t care what they think of me. It’s highly unlikely they consider me a friend, and vice versa - we’re just associates. They pay me, and I give them results. And if my project works, they’ll thank me for it in the future. Is there a problem with that?”
Arturo held his hands up in supplication. “N-no! No. Nothing. Just…”
The middle-man’s protestations were cut short as he saw three gangly, purple-robed Forsaken apothecaries come into view.
Caldgran reached into his cloak and produced a sack of coins, tossing it to Arturo. “Take it and go. And remember what I said about keeping this a secret. You don’t know me, I don’t know you.”
Arturo yelped as he awkwardly clutched the money bag in the air. With a nod, he turned and retreated from whence he came as the Forsaken got closer. Their leader, a man with mottled, gray hair and a metallic jaw arched a brow at Caldgran, looked at his peers and then spoke.
“Where’s your friend going, huh? Did he get scared?”
Caldgran tilted his head at the trio, still clutching his doctor’s bag. “He did his job, that’s all the little weirdo was meant for. You got my sample?”
The Forsaken apothecary offered a rictus grin, reaching into his sleeve and producing a thin vial containing a green, cloudy substance. “Of course, as long as you give us that bag of yours.”
Caldgran dropped the bag, letting it fall behind his boot. “Sample first,” he said as he pulled his spyglass, which he named Plagueseeker, from his cloak. The Forsaken couldn’t help but chuckle at the dwarf as he took the sample from them and inserted it into a slotted compartment into his device. “We’re not done yet.”
“Cute toy, dwarf. I think I saw a little boy with one of those during a Winter’s Day festival,” One of the apothecaries remarked. He produced another vial, this one filled with a black substance and threw it hard against a nearby tree. The three apothecaries were renegades - former Sylvanas flunkies - who couldn’t tolerate the change in leadership, and so they had taken to terrorizing both the Alliance and Horde. Caldgran had “promised’ the renegades important medical information and outlines of notable Alliance figures in exchange for their concoctions.
The blackened vial shattered, releasing an angry, hissing cloud that disappeared as quickly as it arrived. Caldgran held the Plagueeker up to his eye, pleased that it was working. What appeared to be an odorless, colorless, invisible plague cloud was visible through the Plagueseeker, changing in color and detail as he rotated its ring to swap through the lenses. He would need a sample of a plague in order to see its trace residue, but for now it was good enough. In the event of any future wars where biological warfare was involved, he’d be ready.
“Thanks!” Caldgran said with little enthusiasm as he picked up his doctor’s bag and tossed it to the renegades. “Don’t thank me all at once.”
The lead Forsaken bent down and rescued the bag from the snow, his rheumy yellow eyes lighting up as he and his comrades opened the bag.
What was excitement turned into subsequent confusion as a bright flash ignited from the bag, followed by three gunshots. When the flash cleared, all three renegades lay sprawled across the ground, their even more lifeless eyes gazing up to the starry sky as Caldgran stepped over them, holstering his pistol, and retrieved his doctor’s bag, pulling the flashbang trap from it.
“Some of you truly are as dumb as you look,” Caldgran said aloud as he dropped the expended trap into the snow before traipsing back to Talongrab.