This story was an effort to take the then-recently introduced achievements system and incorporate it into a story. As it happens, it ended up being the last story I wrote, and an unintentional cliffhanger at that. This first chapter was originally written August 5, 2009
“Pardon me, madam: is this the Shield Book I keep hearing so much about?”
The gnome looked up at Ambrose. “You mean you don't have one yet? I think you're the last person on Azeroth to get one!” She chuckled kindly.
The book had been one of those instant successes, racing to the top of the Stormwind Herald bestseller list and knocking off that torrid, tell-all biography of Jaina Proudmoore. As far as anyone could tell it didn't have a title and nobody had taken credit as its author. Booksellers claimed that crates of the Shield Book, as it came to be known, had just magically appeared in their storerooms one night and once the first copies made it out into the wild no shop could keep it on their shelves.
Colquitt turned the book over in his hands, watching the light sparkle off the shining yellow and white crest on its cover. “How much do they go for nowadays?” he asked.
“Same as they always have: six, ninety-five.”
The mage contemplated a moment. “Would you take five gold for it?”
“Not on your life,” said the gnome shaking her head. “I've got no say in it, anyway. See, the crate the things come in is labeled: a six in gold paint, a ninety-five in silver paint. I heard once about a dwarf who tried to sell them for less. Had an amazing day, especially once word got out.” The woman leaned in close. “But now he's the only one I know who doesn't get a new shipment every night. Cut off his rack to spite his pinion, if you ask me.”
Ambrose thought a moment more, shrugged, and pulled seven golden coins from his coinpurse. The merchant opened her strongbox and picked up a small stack of pre-counted silver coins to give to the mage. Colquitt took them, thanking the gnome, and dropped them into the slot on the back of a small mechanical cat stamped “Breanni Fund” that was sitting on the counter. The cat emitted a sound not unlike a meow and its whiskers twitched back and forth in a very unnatural regular rhythm.
Thanking the merchant, Ambrose ambled casually toward the fountain courtyard in the center of Dalaran. The young man found an empty bench across from a pair of trolls to whom he gave a half-hearted smile before turning his attention to the book. Casually flipping through the pages his eyes caught some of the more amusing legends. “Going Down,” for instance, was one of the first items in the book he heard about when he spotted a flyer in Shattrath City some months back. It seems people were organizing parties to jump off the Scryers' Tier together. Colquitt chuckled, imagining the consternation of the Magistrix at such displays of frivolity.
Opening the book to its title page Ambrose saw the outline of a human hand. A small explanatory icon in the corner showed a featureless humanoid placing his hand onto the page, so the mage laid the book open in his lap and followed suit. The paper jumped up to contact his palm like a pair of magnets brought close together. A faint purple glow emanated from the page which, Colquitt discovered, adhered tightly to his hand. Just as panic started to set in the energy receded and the paper fell gently back to the open surface of the book.
The mage swallowed, glancing around to see if anyone in the courtyard had taken notice. The trolls seemed to be engrossed in one another, and for the first time Ambrose noticed their bare feet touching. Turning his attention away from Horde mating rituals back to the book, Colquitt gingerly turned the page by one corner, careful to avoid the outline. The next page of the book showed the featureless example figure tearing the handprint from the tome. Eager to comply the young man ripped the page out of the book, tossed it gently into the air and incinerated it with a twitch of his fingers. He turned to the next page with a smirk of satisfaction that instantly changed to a look of curious wonder
This book property of AMBROSE COLQUITT
“How in the devil…?” Each leaf of the book left the mage's mouth gaping wider. It knew he had achieved eightieth circle. It knew he was an Exalted Brother of the Kirin Tor. It knew of his less than illustrious tour of duty in Wintergrasp. For fel's sake it knew what the Greatfather had left for him under the Winter Veil tree! Ambrose stared at the book half fascinated and half terrified.
How does it know? And how many of my secrets does it know?
The young man slammed the book shut with a loud pop that echoed around the courtyard and managed to even get the attention of the trolls. He thrust the book into his backpack and stood before he realized he didn't know what to do next. Certainly someone already had considered the risks, right? People who were smarter than Ambrose Colquitt had already examined the situation and had obviously determined there was no danger. He was yet again worried over nothing.
If you've learned anything in your travels, it's that half the world's problems would be solved if people simply talked to one another.
Shouldering his pack Ambrose marched quickly toward the Silver Enclave and the portal to Stormwind.
writing/the shield book.txt · Last modified: September 8, 2011 by Dave Leach