Category Archives: Stories

The Value of a Profession

Waylan might be a city girl, but she's learned how to fit in with the locals.  Mostly.

Goldshire.

Growing up in Northshire, we looked at Goldshire as a bustling, happening place.  When you’re surrounded by scholars, priests and farmers, the pace of life is pretty slow.  But not in Goldshire!  No, Goldshire is where things happened.

It didn’t take much exposure of the larger world to see Goldshire very differently: a dinky town outside a big city, with the people who lived there trying to be bigger than they really are.

And yet, having faced the horror of the Scourge from both sides, I’ve come to appreciate this sleepy hamlet for what it is.  Yes, the folks are simple, plain spoken, and they have their own little world going here… but it’s a not a bad place to be.

I rode slowly around the pond behind the blacksmith, edging back towards the road that led to the center of the town.  I didn’t know if Waylan would be in Goldshire, but it seemed worth a visit to find out.  I’d already ranged over much of Elwynn without sighting her.

Northshire has two kinds of people who coexist in a relatively easy fashion – farmers and scholars.  There’s a pretty heavy overlap between the two, actually, as scholars settle in and start raising families in farm country, but there are not a lot of tradesmen in that remote valley.

Goldshire is different.  As I rode down the main street towards the Lion’s Pride Inn, the difference was clear.  Tradesmen working at their shops, conversing in the streets.  There weren’t a lot of merchants out hawking wares, but they were there; craftsmen, artisans, a few traveling salesmen.  Kira Songshine waved hello as I rode past, then raised her eyebrows at my outfit.  I smiled and shrugged, she laughed and went on her familiar route to bring fresh-baked bread to some of the outlying houses.

I pulled up to the Lion’s Pride Inn, dismounted, and handed my horse over to Erma, the stable master.  She smiled and made some small talk while I pulled a few things out of my saddlebags.  I described Waylan to her, and Erma told me she was inside.  So inside I went, steeling myself against the smells and sounds coming from the bar.

I found Waylan seated inside, talking animatedly to Melika, the assistant Innkeeper, who was standing beside her table.  Waylan had changed into a simple country dress; Melika looked at me in some surprise as I approached.

“Cynwulf, is that you?” she asked, making a quick gesture at my clothes.

“Oh yes,” I laughed, straightening my tuxedo jacket with a quick tug.  “It’s me.  Miss Waylan over here thought I needed some cleaning up in order to be taken seriously.”

“I considered making him wear a Haliscan outfit, Mel, but decided against it at the last minute,” chimed in Waylan.

“Well, he looks good in it.  Don’t you be spoiling him by taking him to any low places, now!” laughed Melika as I sat down.  “What can I get for you, ‘wulf?”

I thought for a moment, caught.  I honestly had no idea what to order that wasn’t a Azora Stout or Westfall Whiskey or any of a dozen other drinks that I really, really wanted right now.  I struggled through drinks I’d seen others order.

“Tea, if you have any.  Thanks, Mel,” I said.

Melika blinked at me.  “I’d be happy to, hon,” she said, then walked back to the kitchen.  I turned back to Waylan, who was watching me with interest.

“There aren’t many options in Goldshire, ‘wulf.  I’m sorry,” she said, looking at me.  Then she looked at her wine glass almost guiltily.

“Don’t apologize.  This is the best inn in the region, and even if it wasn’t, this is something I’ll have to get used to anyways,” I said.  I waited a moment and then asked, “would you really have told me to wear a haliscan outfit?”

Waylan laughed a wicked little laugh.  “I might have, had I thought of it!” she said, her eyes dancing.  “I still might.”  She relaxed a little, the tension broken over my choice of drink.  Mel brought the tea a few moments later in a steaming mug.  As she left, Waylan raised her wine glass in a toast.  I automatically raised my drink in response.

“To prosperity,” she said.

“To prosperity,” I returned.  We drank.

“So, how did you do out there?” Waylan asked after a few moments.  “Will you be able to be a gentleman and buy me a few drinks and dinner, or am I on my own?”  She smiled teasingly as she said this, and I smiled in return.

“It all depends on what you order,” I replied.  I was pretty sure I knew which wine she was drinking.  If I was right, it would exhaust my funds on the third glass.

“Oho!  Well, let’s see how you did,” she said, leaning forward.  I obliged by dropping a full coin purse on the table, then pulling some small nuggets of copper ore out of my pocket and placing them on the table.  Waylan nimbly took the purse, poured the coins out on the table, and started counting.  She was very, very fast at counting and stacking coins.  “Fifty four silver and thirty two copper,” she said after a minute.  “Not bad, I guess.  How much copper ore did you get?”

“About 70 pounds.”

“Huh,” she said, suddenly all business.  “What else?”

I quickly listed the rest of my inventory from memory.  It didn’t take long.  She brightened up a bit when I told of the stores of cloth I’d taken off the Defias down by Jerrod’s Landing, but most of the other items she passed by without comment.  I recounted my experience in Northshire and the scarcity of coin up there, and then how my luck changed a bit when I moved into the more trafficked areas.  She nodded during this, absently toying with the copper ore.

“Copper is currently going for about fifty silver a pound in Ironforge,” she said when I finished.  “Which is actually a pretty good rate.  So you could say that you had a profitable afternoon, what with 35 gold pieces worth of ore out in your bags.  But here’s the thing,” she leaned forward, holding the ore sample out to me, “You can’t buy anything with the ore in it’s current form.  And the price you’d get in Ironforge is not what you’d get here.  In fact,”  she continued, “I wager you’d probably get about the equivalent weight in copper coins.”

“True enough,” I agreed.  Smith Argus, one of the best blacksmiths in town, might buy it from me for a bit more – or he might not.  He’s a strange chap.

“So on the one hand, just by going and doing little tasks for the people of Elwynn Forest, you made some cash that you can spend; we call that liquid capital.  Capital are things that you have that have value; money is liquid capital because it can be changed into a lot of different things easily.  You can buy a meal, or a horse, or a sword, or an inn with money.”  She paused.   “Remind me later to see about the finances of this inn.  It might make a worthwhile investment.”  Waylan grinned.  I hoped I wasn’t supposed to actually write that down, since I didn’t have any parchment.

“The copper ore and linen cloth you gathered today are assets; another word for things that have value.  There are some distinctions between assets and capital that will be important later, but aren’t right now.  How much is that copper worth, ‘Wulf?” she asked suddenly.

“You said it was worth 35 gold in Ironforge, a good price,” I responded quickly.

Waylan looked pleased.  “Very good.  And how much are they worth here?  Right now, in this inn.”

“About … 5 copper a pound, so 350 copper… or 3 and a half silver?” I asked.

She leaned in.  “So which is it… 35 gold, or 350 copper?”

I thought before answering.  “Both,” I said.  “It depends on the buyer.”

“Exactly!” Waylan said, leaning back and smiling.  “The first price, the price you can get from people who want it, is the market price.  The second price, the one you can get from just about anyone, from ol’ Farley over there to Donni the cat lady, is called the vendor price.  At least, that’s our slang term for it in the bank alt community.  It’s really the minimum asset value, which often is substantially less than the book value of an item, which is hopefully less than the market value.”

I blinked several times at that.  She laughed.

“Sorry!  I got ahead of myself.  Think of the vendor price as the absolute minimum value an asset can have.  If all else fails, you can turn around and sell it to anyone for this price.”

“Like the useless gear I collected up in Northshire.”

“Exactly,” Waylan said.  “Because that gear isn’t useful to anyone, the vendor price is the best price you’ll get for it.”

“That implies that market price is directly related to utility,” I said.  “The more useful an item is, the higher the market value will be.”

“Well… not exactly, ‘Wulf,” Waylan cautioned.  “The market – which is what we call that big amorphous crowd of people who might be interested in whatever you’re selling – isn’t really based on utility.  It’s based on desire.  It’s based on individual value judgments that might, when considered separately, seem crazy, but when you consider it as a whole it seems to be rational.”

She paused and took a drink.  “There’s an important point here.  The copper ore you collected today has value because certain people want it. It doesn’t matter why they want it, or what they want it for – they want it.  And they are willing to pay for it.  Maybe they don’t know how to mine, or they don’t want to be bothered riding out and getting it.  It doesn’t matter.  What does matter is that you had the skill to gather it, you took the time to gather it, and they are willing to pay you for it.”

“There’s a substantial difference in income between having a profession and not having a profession. Not having a profession limits your income opportunities.  Especially when folks are getting started in the world, developing a profession gives them income above and beyond the wages they get from questing and loot they collect from their kills.”

“Consider your experience this afternoon,” she said.  “Best case market value, how much income did you generate today?”

“About 38 gold or so, with all the cloth and copper ore?” I replied.

“Okay, she said.  “And how much of that came from mining and engineering?”

“35 gold.  All of it from mining copper.”

“Huh,” she said, taking another sip of her wine.  “Interesting.”

“Now, if only we can figure out how to turn copper ore into gold.”

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Starting From Scratch

I took the road leading into Northshire and thought about what Waylan had said, especially about my skills as an engineer not being worth very much to the folks around here. How could that be? I could make rockets shoot out of my gloves… which I wasn’t wearing anymore. I could make bombs and teleporters and helicopters. Why wouldn’t people pay me for such things?

The road was very familiar as the Abbey came into sight. My family’s stead is in this valley, off on the northern side near the mountains, though I didn’t think I needed to try to sneak in a visit. I’d seen my parents a few weeks ago, and wasn’t quite up to answering questions about my altered condition. Instead I headed inside the Abbey to speak with Deputy Willem about getting some work. He pointed me in the direction of a diseased wolfpack, while Marshal McBride asked me to do something about the kobolds, and hey, I hear there might be some Defias on the east side of the valley, could you do something about that?

The troubles were easily dispatched with my Lich King-granted powers, and the officials gave me some coppers for my troubles. They seemed a little embarrassed about the paltry sums offered, but I assured them that I was happy to help. I fed my apple to my horse and headed out of Northshire.

Several things were apparent.

  1. The income you get from questing, or your wage, is fairly insubstantial. These tasks are worth doing for experience, but the sums given, especially in the early levels, are on the miserly side. And most important – these quests all took time. Travel time, killing time, looting time – lots of time. The longer each quest took, the less money I made overall.
  2. The income you get from looting mobs you kill comes from two sources – straight cash and useless items (gray items). Useless didn’t mean worthless, of course — the vendors hanging around the Abbey were more than willing to give me some small amounts for everything I brought back. It wasn’t much, but over time it adds up to enough silver to pay for training.
  3. Every once in a while, something I’d kill would drop a small pouch. Bags are important. I’m lucky that I’m doing this with a full set of bags already, but I can see that it would be worth hanging around and killing creatures in the starting area until I had as many bags as I could carry, for all that useless stuff. If ever I were to start over, in a new place, bags would be my first priority.
  4. Vendor everything. Your food, your drink, your clothes, quest rewards — everything. You don’t need any of it yet. Your health and mana will regenerate very quickly.
  5. Don’t buy anything from the vendors in the starting area. You don’t need armor for the starting area, seriously. The only reason you need clothes is modesty, and even then you should sell off as much as you can!
  6. Get experienced enough to learn professions (level 5) and then leave! The money you make in this zone is extremely small. The only resources you could possibly harvest would be the skins from animals in the zone, but even then you’re better off moving onto more resource-rich areas.

As a Death Knight, I realize that I had significant advantages over many others when freed from the Scourge. I had bags, some gold, an epic mount, effectively negating the need for this starting zone. But I had forgotten so much from what I knew in my previous life, and had to relearn basic things. Simple things, like how a Gnomensprocket 47-A interfaces with a Mithril Cog Model 502 Mark V, or how to pry copper out of the earth.

I passed through the Northshire gates and almost immediately spotted the telltale gleam of a copper vein through my Charged Titanium Specs. I rode over, mined it out with my Gnomish Pocketknife (never leave home without it, and Waylan didn’t ask what I kept in my pockets) and rode on. I rode from vein to vein, traveling routes I’d traveled months before when I relearned how to find minerals from the earth. In a short period of time I had a sizable collection of copper ore and rough stone in my bags.

I also came across the occasional aggressive band of Defias, but they weren’t much of a threat. I stripped their bodies of anything useful, though, and soon had amassed a decent collection of wool and linen cloth. My purse was still lean — no one was walking around Elwynn with gold in their pockets, except maybe Waylan — but at least I had enough to feed my horse, and then some.

After a few hours of collecting, I set my sights back towards Goldshire.

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Two Apples

Checking in on her Guild Bank, Waylan pauses at the Stormwind Bank

“Okay, you know where the Auction House and Bank are in Stormwind. Good,” started Waylan. “You obviously know Innkeeper Allison, which we will definitely talk about later,” she said, her eyebrows arched. “But that’s another matter entirely. Ahem. Moving right along.”

I was initially deceived by the flow of chatter coming from the pretty redhead. There was so much talking going on that I was certain it must be just babbling, like some of my sisters would do, and I started to tune it out.

But then I realized that she wasn’t babbling, but instead offering concise, pointed observations about everything around her. This woman may be 10 years my junior, but she’s far more mentally agile than I am. It was kind of depressing, actually — this would not be an easy trade to master, and I had barely taken the first steps yet.

“”wulf, do you have a horse?” Waylan suddenly asked. I think she knew my attention had wandered a bit and was jerking me back to the task at hand. “One of those non-screaming ones, something that’s less… obvious?”

“Yes,” I replied. “I have a horse from Eastvale.”

“Perfect!” she exclaimed, actually clapping her hands together. “That will make this so much more fun. I hope you were paying attention, since we’ll put it all into practice in the field.”

Uh oh. Caught.

“Let me go grab some lunch for us to take with us, and I’ll be right back.” Waylan walked quickly into the inn while I racked my brains for what she could have been talking about before proposing our little excursion. Complete blank. Oh well.

She emerged with a small satchel of food and waterskin – at least I hope it’s a waterskin – just as Billy the stable boy went running around the side entrance to the stables. “I tip him well,” Waylan said as she came up next to me, rummaging through the satchel. “Shouldn’t be long.”

And indeed it was not. Soon we were riding through the dappled shade of Elwynn Forest, me on my white charger, her on a sturdy pinto. It was a gorgeous day for riding.

“Okay,” Waylan began, after we’d gotten some distance from the city. “Just like I told you.”

I looked right at her and said, “I’m sorry, Waylan, but I have no idea what we’re doing out here. Aside from enjoying a nice ride in a beautiful forest.”

She grinned. “Good. Honest. Cynwise said you’d be honest to a fault. We can work that to your advantage. If I had an open face like yours, I could steal half the city.”

“I didn’t say anything before, so I’m glad you didn’t try to bluff your way through it. Good. We’re here to talk about what you do when you’re just starting out, which you are,” she said.

“It’s true,” I replied. “I am just starting out.”

“How much money do you have on you, ‘wulf?” she asked, digging in the satchel for something. “Aha, here they are!” she exclaimed, not waiting for my answer. This girl talked faster than all four of my sisters before a dance at the Abbey!

“I have a few gold on me, why?”

“Toss it over,” she said, bringing out two apples from the brown bag. I unhooked my coin purse and tossed it over to her; in one fluid motion she caught it, tossed it and the two apples into the air, and briefly juggled all three objects before flicking an apple over to me and catching my purse in one hand. I caught the apple without difficulty – it was a good throw.

“Have an apple,” she said. “That’s all you get for this exercise. Now, we’re starting from scratch. You have no money. You have a horse, which is a beautiful animal by the way, but I don’t have the heart to take him away from you. So you have an apple and a horse.” She transferred the money in my purse into her own and tossed it back to me. “Correction! An apple, a horse, and an empty purse. And your wits, I hope.” She paused to take a bite out of the apple, which caused her horse’s ear to cock backwards.

“How can you make money when you have nothing?” she asked, settling into her saddle.

I thought for a bit before answering. “Well, it’s not true that I have nothing. I have myself, my skills, and my abilities.”

“Okay,” Waylan said. “Expand on that.”

“Well,” I said, “There are creatures in the woods who I can kill for pelts and meat that people will pay for. There are pockets of Defias left who, while poor, also have some money. And while the people around here don’t give much, they will certainly pay for assistance I can provide.”

“True, true,” she said, crunching on the apple again.

“Uh, let’s see. I have professions I can use. I am a skilled miner, and the rock around here is pretty soft to work with. There should be copper and rough stone, which I’m pretty sure will sell well on the Auction House. Engineering is a bit tougher without more advanced materials, but I’m sure I could make something these people would want.”

“Yeah, you believe that ‘wulf, if it gives you comfort,” Waylan said, smiling broadly. “You were doing great up until engineering. You’re right about mining, but engineering doesn’t offer much to these people, or to anyone really, until a little later on.”

“Okay,” I said. “I can buy that.”

“Let’s ride a little bit, I have something I want to show you.” She led me off the main road, following the line of the northern hills, heading towards Northshire. Up ahead was the Crazy Cat Lady’s house.

“Donni and I go way back,” Waylan said, “but there are similar folks lurking about each one of the capital cities.” She pulled the apple back out and took another bite. “Why did I bring you here?”

I thought for a minute, watching the cats wandering in and out of that tiny house. Waylan took a last bite of her apple, then fed the remainder to her horse. It was a nice day, but it was starting to get a little hot. My horse looked back at me reproachfully.

“Tell you what, ‘wulf,” Waylan said. “Go out and start making some money, and think about things. I’ll swing by in a bit and see how you’re doing.” She grinned and headed towards the cottage in the woods, presumably to renew her acquaintance with the Crazy Cat Lady.

“Okay,” I muttered, looking around for signs of any Defias, or perhaps an exposed copper vein. “Maybe in an hour we’ll have two apples,” I told my horse.

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Going To Work

I had, perhaps, imbibed more than was good for me when my sister paid me a visit in the beer garden of A Hero’s Welcome in Dalaran.

“Cynwulf son of Cynferth, you mangy son of a drunk whore, you better give me a good reason I don’t throw you out on the streets to starve!” she yelled.  Oh, ow.  She’s got a loud drill sergeant voice when she wants to use one.  Ow.

I raised my head, tried to focus my bleary eyes on her angry form, then gave up and concentrated on making the words come out clearly.

“Because, dear siss… sister, I have just come from… from…” I paused.  Where had I been?  “Oh yeash.  Alterac Valley.  I was celebrating another glorious victory over the Horde.  For Stormwind and… uh… Stormpike!” I yelled, trying to rise and give a salute.

In retrospect, I shouldn’t have tried to salute.  I have no idea how I could have drunk so much wine, but it always makes me dizzier than whiskey, especially that great stuff from Halaa.  Oooo.

Anyways, I, uh, fell over at that moment.  The bench tripped me, or something.  I don’t know, I was drunk, okay?

“Get up,” my sister Cynwise yelled.  “Get up you sot.  It’s time for you to stop living in the past and go to work.”  She made a quick gesture, and a large blue demon burst into our plane, ready to do her bidding.

Apparently, her bidding was to go fetch a pail of water and throw it on to me. Repeatedly. Then, and I’m not sure how this happened because I’m positive I should have been able to outwrestle a demon, even if I had perhaps had a few too many bottles of that great Dalaran white, but that big blueberry hoisted me up into the air and marched me out to the Eventide fountain.

The crowd that gathered didn’t try to stop ‘wise when she cooly ordered the voidwalker to drop me in.  No, they laughed.

I guess I must have been a bit of a public nuisance, to be quite honest.

I came up, spluttering, to the sounds of the citizens of Dalaran laughing at me.  And there was my sister, my dark, ruthless sister, holding out her hand to pull me out of the water.

“Come on, ‘wulf,” she said. “You have work to do.  No more fighting the same battles over and over in your mind.  No more fighting the Horde and the Scourge.  Come back to us.”

I saw then that my younger sister still loved me, no matter what the Scourge had done to me.  And that all she had been offering me, all she had been offering me since I returned from Light’s Hope, was a chance.  A chance to do better.

I looked at that hand for a long time.  That hand, and the dark eyes behind it.

I couldn’t go on like I’d been going.  The drink hadn’t changed anything.  I was still a twisted mockery of my former self.

But my sister didn’t care about that.  She still saw me as me.

Perhaps… Perhaps it was enough.

“No more fountains, ‘wise,” I spluttered, taking her hand.

“Why not, you drunk?” she said, pulling me out. “I’ll throw you in every fountain from here to Darnassus if I have to.  You had enough?”

“Yeah.”

“Good, then there’s someone I want you to meet.”

I was wet, but I didn’t care. I’d had enough.  If Cynwise wanted me to meet someone who would keep me out of the bottle, I’d follow her to Icecrown Citadel itself.  Instead, she led me to the Stormwind Portal in the Silver Covenant courtyard.  From there it was a quick walk through the streets of the Mage Quarter to the canals, and from there to a small, richly-appointed inn in the Park District.  There was a pretty redhead sitting at one of the tables.  She smiled when she saw my sister, but that quickly turned to a frown when she saw me.

“Outside,” she said in a low but urgent voice, rising quickly and moving towards us before we got too far inside.  “Outside before you ruin the carpet.”

Oh.  Right.  I was still dripping wet.  ‘wise smiled as she got out of my way.

“Mr. Grant gets awfully upset when folks come in and track mud all over his place,” the redhead said as she exited the inn.  “I can’t imagine that he’d appreciate having rust spots on his expensive rugs.  He imports them from Kalimdor, after all.”  She laughed and looked at me.  “You must be Cynwulf.  You’re taller than I expected, honey.”

I raised an eyebrow in response.  She laughed again.  “Oh, this will be fun.  I’m Waylan.  And you’re my, er…”

“Apprentice,” ‘wise chimed in.

“Right.  Apprentice.”

I blinked.  ‘wise was looking at me, her eyes sparkling with mischief.  I learned to be wary of that look when we were kids.

“I’m sorry.  I’m to be your apprentice?”  I asked, glad that I could not blame this on the drink.  Thinking about it made me want some wine, though.

“Yup,” said Waylan.

“And what will I be learning?” I asked, wondering what new madness my sister had arranged for me.

“Why, how to make money, of course!” she smiled, patting me on the arm.  “Put away that armor and you will learn to make a different kind of war.  Your sister has arranged to have you learn the fine art of banking, ‘wulf.  Isn’t that exciting?”

“Er, what?” I stammered.

“Banking!” she said, excited.  “Finance!  How to make money!  No more living in the poorhouse for you!  When I’m done with you you’ll be a titan of commerce!”

“But…” I was really out of my element here.  “I’m just an engineer.  An engineer who was turned into a Death Knight by the Scourge.  What do you think I know about finance?”

“Aha!  You know numbers!” said Waylan.  “And that is where we’ll begin.  Well, no, we won’t begin there, we’ll begin by getting you some decent clothes.  Where did you get that armor, ugh, we’ll have to find something more suitable…” her voice trailed off as she started back towards the canals.  I turned to Cynwise.

“You’re crazy,” I said, looking down at her.

“I raise demons for fun and profit, and you’re just now noticing that?” she retorted.

“I… ” the right words wouldn’t come out.  “This is crazy.  I know nothing about the Auction House.  I’m a construct of the Scourge, made to kill.  Not to make money with the goblins.”

She took my arm and started walking with me after the redheaded banker, who had stopped to talk to some people and was already animatedly gesturing in my direction.  “You are no such thing, ‘wulf.  You’re my brother, returned to me through some grace I can’t understand.  But you need something other than war and death now.  Something to replace the dreams of battle and bloodshed.”

I thought about that as we walked along.  This was only crazy if I clung to the past. My drinking was a way to hold on to the past, even as I tried to insulate myself from it.

“Okay,” I said, after a few minutes.  “Okay.  I’ll give it a go.”

Cynwise smiled one of her rare smiles at me.  “It’s good to have you back, brother.”

“Now get to work.”

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