The shop was bustling with patrons, all searching for fireworks. It was the same every New Year’s Eve; every year people would hold off buying their fire works as they played with their Winter Veil toys and slept off eating too much at dinners and lunches, where cakes were still being served.
Gildwynn wiped the sweat from his brow as he set a bundle of reds on the counter. “All right, I got ten red fireworks here. That’ll be twenty gold pieces.”
“Twenty?” the tauren demanded. “Any other time of year you sell them for half that!”
“Yeah, well, supply and demand, doll. These here are the last red rockets I got in stock, so now I’m gonna have to make more to sell more. Catch my drift?” He folded his arms and stared up at her, clearly unwilling to budge.
The tauren huffed through her nose and shook her mane. She dropped twenty gold pieces onto the counter and began shoving the rockets into her bag. “Well, maybe next year you should be more prepared!”
She narrowed her eyes at him.
“I take orders in advance. Really helps beat the rush.”
“Ugh,” she grunted. “Maybe next year I’ll just go to the auction house!”
Gildwynn laughed outright. “Those gougers? You’ll be lucky to get ‘em for fifty! But whatever floats your boat. Next!” He waved the tauren away and a gnome stepped up to peek over the counter at him.
“Three of each, please!” she said, her height making it difficult for him to see her kind smile behind the countertop.
“Don’t take this the wrong way, but, uh…How old are you?”
She blushed and twiddled her fingers. “Eleven.”
Gildwynn grumbled. “Every year… Look, kid, I can’t sell no fireworks to a minor, all right?”
“I have a note!”
“Give it here.” After checking the authenticity of the note, the goblin sighed. “All right, all right. Lemme just step in back and get your rockets.”
The back room to the shop was filled with odds and ends, a chopper with its engine on a stand, a gyrocopter rotor with only two blades, and barrel upon barrel of fireworks. He took three red from the two overflowing barrels, then three from the green, pink and purple. He sighed as he took them from the dwindling supply of blue, then scowled at the single yellow rocket.
The door on the back of the shop slammed open and feet scurried into the shop; the door slammed closed. Gildwynn waited patiently as the unseen person scurried around. A green hand reached up over a crowded table and grabbed an apron, then a goblin so dark she was nearly black rounded the corner. She stopped and squeaked in surprise.
“Steamy, heya. I uh… Sorry I’m late.” She tossed the apron over her head to protect her fancy green top and embroidered trousers. Then she adjusted her auburn hair in its sideways ponytail, twitching the skull and crossbones pin on the side.
“You are shockingly, extremely, catastrophically late, Aubyne. Today, of all days! If I was paying you, you’d be fired.”
“Aw, Steamy, don’t be that way!”
He ground his teeth together. “And damn it, stop calling me that, all right?”
She clamped her mouth closed and twiddled her thumbs together at her waist. “So, uh, what d’we need, boss?”
“Yellow. Lots of them.”
She adjusted her green goggles and furrowed her brow. “You said red sells the best.” She huffed over to the rocket making station. “I spent all night—”
“—making you a bazillion red rockets—”
“And you’re saying people want yellow?”
“AUBYNE!” he shouted.
“What?” she shouted back.
“Make the damn rockets.” He headed for the swinging door that led into the main area, but stopped on the threshold. “Call Peeblet if you need to.”
“I would love to!” Aubyne said sweetly. “If she was available!” she shouted, bending forward to put all of her aggravation into her voice.
Gildwynn scowled at her, then went to the counter. “All right, doll, I got all but the yellow ones, but they’re being made right this minute.”
“I’ll wait,” the gnome chirped and went to look at the odds and ends for sale.
“Ay, don’t touch nothing. I claim no liability to personal injury. You break it, you buy it. You bleed on it, you buy it. Got it?”
She giggled. “Yes, sir!”
“Ugh, kids,” he mumbled as a troll stepped forward.
“I be needing yellow—”
“Our supply is gone, but you can wait a few minutes for more. Or settle on another color. Got a couple reds left, but thems hard to come by, so the price is a bit higher.” He smiled up at him.
“I will wait for the yellow.”
~ * ~
The day went by painfully slow for the goblin. No matter how quickly Aubyne made the rockets, the colors depleted faster and customers became annoyed.
“You know,” Aubyne said as he came back for a handful of blue rockets, “if these meatheads bought the rockets in advance—”
“Yeah, but they don’t, do they? ‘Cause they’re meatheads.”
Aubyne giggled. Her eyes landed on something as she took a moment to drink some juice to cool off. A gift, set away from everything filthy. She climbed from her stool to pick it up and examine it. The goblin lifted her goggles to get a better look, without the green tinting. Her pink eyes swirled with little blizzards as she scrutinized the present. Gildwynn stepped into the back room and she slapped her goggles back onto her face.
“What’s this? You got an admirer?” she asked.
Gildwynn ignored her hasty hiding of her eyes. He made a rule of never bringing up her being a death knight. As did everyone else that knew Aubyne before her death.
“I got a date.”
Aubyne frowned. “Mage girl?”
Gildwynn said nothing as he collected the colors he needed.
“You know, you can’t spend forever waiting for her to fall in love with you, right?”
He still said nothing.
“Steamy, she don’t even know you exist beyond—”
“We need more purple.”
Aubyne’s ears drooped and she frowned at the nearly empty barrel. “Yes, sir.”
~ * ~
Gildwynn’s face was sweating bullets as the clock ticked closer to midnight and his shop was still full of customers. Aubyne saw the worry on his brow as he grunted into the back room.
“Go,” she said.
“I still got customers—”
“Go, Steamy. Go to your mage. I got this.”
He gave her a thankful, but tired smile and untied his apron. “What would I do without you, Aub?”
“Have less explosions in your shop and not have to replace a door or two each month.” She gave him an impish grin.
“Next time your sister shows up in that damn contraption, I’m blowing it up.” He slipped his apron on the hook and put a nice vest over his shirt.
“Peeb means well.”
“Ay!” she shouted as he neared the door. Aubyne tossed the little gift to him. “Go get her, tiger.”
Gildwynn chuckled and closed the door quietly behind him.
Aubyne sighed, then grinned and rubbed her hands together. “All right, Aubyne’s in charge of this operation now.” She went into the main room and hopped onto the counter. “Listen here, meatheads! You didn’t pre-order your fireworks, so you can’t demand colors any longer. All prices are up by fifty percent, now, since it’s five minutes to midnight! Who still wants a rocket?”
A small few left the shop, while others shoved their way to the counter to be served first. It was after midnight by the time she declared all fireworks sold out and shooed those left over out the door. As she locked up, she sighed, listening to the fireworks and music and shouting. She thought of all the parties she’d missed in order to go help Gildwynn, the party her sister was probably wreaking havoc at in Orgrimmar.
The door to the back room opened and closed. She went over so see Gildwynn shuffle in, ears drooping and shoulders sagging.
“She wasn’t there?”
“I was too late, I think.” He shoved the box into Aubyne’s hand. “Here. Sorry I wasted your New Year’s.”
Aubyne forced a laugh. “Ruined? Saved me, more like it. If I hadn’t been workin’, I’d have gotten stupid drunk and kissed an orc at midnight.” She shuddered. “Who wants to kiss an orc ever? Let alone at midnight for New Year’s?”
“Heh. You’re welcome, then, I guess. Open the gift. Someone should have it, might as well be you.”
She didn’t hesitate or question his generosity, just ripped open the paper and opened the box to find a wind-up frog inside. She laughed. “New prototype?”
“Naw, first one off the line. Didn’t want it to go breaking on her.”
Aubyne wound up the frog and set it on the floor to let it hop around the room. “I’m sorry she didn’t wait for you.”
“Oh, eh, well… She was gonna be there with her friends, I just thought I’d stop by. Knowing those four, they got drunk and had some sort of weird orgy.” He gave a small laugh to indicate that he was joking.
“Hey,” Aubyne went to him and wrapped him in a hug; he resisted, leaning his head back in minor discomfort. “Happy New Year.” She set a kiss on his cheek.
Gildwynn shook off his apprentice and straightened his clothing. “You, too, doll. Don’t do that again, all right?”
“One time deal, boss. This year.” She giggled into her fingertips.
“I’m gonna go settle the register. Why don’t you clean up back here?”
Aubyne saluted him as he went through the swinging door. He was halfway through counting the gold from the day when the shop shook with a loud crash from the back room.
“AUBYNE!” he shouted angrily as he eyed the pile that was once several neat stacks.
“Sorry, boss! I got it!”
Gildwynn drummed his fingertips on the counter as he listened to the ruckus in the back room.
Crash! “Sorry boss!” Boom! “I’ll replace those.” Smash! “That’s not gonna buff out.”
The room went silent and the goblin up front paused, waiting. “Aub?”
The girl ran into the front room, a nervous smile on her face, her cheeks and hair covered in dirt and soot from the small explosion. She set the wind-up frog on the table and grimaced.
“It, uh, stays wound up a lot longer that I thought.”
Gildwynn glared down at the mechanical animal, then the corners of his lips curved up in a smile. He began to laugh. Aubyne joined in nervously, but unable to hold back, seeing him so hysterical.
“Everything all right, boss?”
“Box up the frog and go on home, Aub. Ha!” He turned back to his gold. “And Happy New year.”
Aubyne grinned. “Good night, Gildwynn.”
He smiled and set to work righting the piles as he listened to her pack up and leave. The goblin sighed as he started counting again. Something cracked loudly in the back room and he flinched, then glared down at his mess of coins.
“Damn it, Aubyne!”
“Gildwynn!” Anarchaia popped her head through the door, then stepped inside. “I took a chance that you were still here. Sorry, we missed the fireworks entirely. I only have a couple minutes, then I have to get back to Antorus.” She went to over and smiled down at him. “So…” She stooped to hug him, then planted a soft kiss on his forehead. “Happy New Year.”
The goblin grinned and hugged her back, then kissed her cheek. “Yeah, Happy New Year.”
“I have to go. It was so nice seeing you!”
The air cracked, jostling the coins again.
Gildwynn’s ears drooped. “—too.”