A half-dozen four-fingered hands thrust forward into the circle, resting one atop the other.
“All right, on three: One, two, three …”
“FOR GNOMEREGAN!” the gnomes roared.
The Argent Tournament was still in the process of being set up, but that was the kind of thing they had dwarves for. Dwarves liked construction and excavation and, well, anything that involved a lot of manual labor. Gnomes were meant for higher pursuits.
“OK, who’s on first?” said Voca Lodestone, pulling out her clipboard.
“That reminds me of a joke,” said Vamen.
“Is it that hat?” Milven grinned evilly.
“Quiet, you,” Vamen replied, sticking out his tongue.
“I’ll go first,” said Gnoir, climbing up into the saddle of his mechanostrider.
“OK, great,” said Voca, looking up from her clipboard and waving to a nearby Argent Crusader. “Squire David is going to send another valiant onto the field. This is just like we practiced with the dummies before: Charge him once he’s in range. Once you get into melee range, you can try and smash his shield or …”
“I know what to do,” the death knight said flatly.
“What was the middle part again?” Gnooki Bootsgnocker asked, grinning.
Voca ignored her and watched Gnoir’s mechanostrider jog down to meet the approaching valiant. Both the gnome’s and human’s lances were lowered, and there was a wooden crash as both jousters drove the points of their lances into the other’s shields.
Driving his strider up against the valiant’s horse, Gnoir threw his shield aside and yanked the massive mace off his back, slamming it against the valiant’s shield, cracking it loudly and driving the paladin off his horse and onto the ground.
The pair talked quietly as Gnoir reached a hand down and helped the valiant to his feet, and then the gnome turned and jogged his strider back to his cheering companions.
“That didn’t look too hard,” chirped Widge Gearloose, vaulting into the saddle of his strider. He raised his lance in salute. “For Gnomeregan!”
Widge’s mechanostrider took long loping steps toward the waiting valiant at the other end. The paladin spurred his mount forward just as Widge’s image blurred, and suddenly four mounted gnomes charged toward him.
“Who ordered up an extra large can of whoop-ass?” Widge cackled.
The Argent Crusader drew up short in confusion, just as four lances slammed against his shield. Only one of them really connected, but it barely mattered which: The knight went flying off the back of his steed, landing in the slush and skidding to a halt.
Widge leapt off his strider just as the other images faded away and helped the valiant to his feet, before returning to the Gnomeregan banner where his friends were waiting.
“He seemed a little surprised by that,” Widge chuckled as he dismounted.
“OK, Squire David says the valiant’s ready again,” said Voca, looking up to see Coquine Sneakypants’ strider racing down the list field, with apparently no one aboard. “Well, that’s different.”
The valiant apparently thought the same, riding up toward the mechanostrider with his lance raised.
“Where is your valiant?” the knight called out, concerned.
“For Gnomeregan!!” Coquine roared, appearing behind him, and bashing him on the helm with the pommel of her daggers. “STUNLOCK!”
She beat out a metallic rhythm on his helmet, the knight powerless to resist. She leapt up off his shoulders just as he slid off his horse, collapsing unconscious in the slush.
Coquine hopped back onto her mechanostrider and jogged back to the pavilion.
“You know,” said Mollie Fizzleton, “That’s kind of unfair.”
“What?” Coquine said, dismounting. “Widge used his mirror images!”
“Don’t blame me!” Widge said angrily.
“He wears a robe! He has to use magic!”
“I’m not wearing any armor, either! I’m not Gnoir!”
“Hey, don’t drag me into this!”
“I don’t like people accusing me of cheating!”
“Then maybe you shouldn’t cheat!”
“Howdy, gnomes. Having fun?”
“Ringo!” Voca gasped. “Have you come to champion Gnomeregan? Gnomeregan’s finest have come to compete in the tournament!”
“Nay,” he said, stepping between Coquine and Mollie. “Ah’ve just come from Ulduar, and was wondering if ye all would come back with me.”
“What?” Coquine said, her eyebrows going up. “We’re here to fight for the glory of Gnomeregan!”
“Are ye? Think about it: We’re here to fight the Lich King and we learn about Loken and his lot. But we’re eager to slaughter the Horde and maybe each other instead. Even that team of murlocs with the shields and the spears is fightin’ amongst themselves. Ah think.” Ringo looked from one gnomish face to another. “Are ye going to tell me Ah’m the only one hearing all them whispers telling me to turn on ye lot?”
The gnomes were silent a moment.
“No,” Milven said finally. “It’s not just you.”
Ringo tapped the side of his nose meaningfully.
“There may be a way to shut that bastard’s yap for good. Are ye in?”