Grommet'd hardly heard from her mother since Cowlflap had left Gnomeregan to volunteer as a medic for the Argent Dawn.
The first letter was full of concern and worry that Grommet had not gotten into the Arcane Academy after all, along with the admonitions to study harder and “apply again later. I know you can do it! Maximom, serving the Light at Light's Hope Chapel. P.S. They don't know anything about the soothing Power of the Infinite Lever!”
Grommet had dutifully kept the letter, "organizing" it into one of her many boxes. She had not thought of it since, and had only partially taken her mother's advice, she was studying, but it was more of a real world applications course of study, she had the callouses and bloodstained robes to show it.
After the first letter had come a series of eight packages, wrapped in several odd publications, seemingly from some sort of religious press. Grommet had filed a single copy of each of them away in one of her boxes as well, the one closest to the small fireplace in her room. Why her mother would send dozens of copies of them, Grommet was afraid to ask. Maximom was a fairly respected priestess of the Order of the Infinite Lever, so not likely to be taken in by such a rough and illogical religion as portrayed here. The first few boxes contained various knick-knacks to sell, and some jewelry (a hobby of her mother's, though these were quite unlike anything her mother had made before.) Grommet had sold the lot off to help pay for private tutoring.
Grommet excitedly wrote to her mother that she was studying enchanting in hopes of helping her own magic work better. And, coincidentally, hoping to distract her mother from the topic of the Arcane Academy; Grommet had pretty much lost all hope of meeting their entrance requirements. The next package contained several enchanted items of armor and a couple of weapons, the shipping cost must have been exorbitant. They were all far too complex for Grommet to make any progress with them, so she took them to the auction house in hopes that someone else would be able to use them. That shipment had also contained the first hint that things were not right with her mother. There was no letter. Whilethere had been no letters with the first few boxes, they had come all at once over the course several days, and were obviously goods meant for resale, after the economy of Gnomeregan broke down, barter was pretty much the way things got done, Maximom was good at it. This package, though, was obviously sent in response to her own letter, but there had been no correspondence.
Upon returning from a trip to Kharanos to purchase her first mechanostrider, Grommet found that another package had arrived, full of odd little carved glass balls. Grommet had taken one out, pondering it, and promptly got lost in the maze of lines etched in its surface. She sat, mesmerized, and drifted off. She dreamed of shouting and blood and fire and smoke and the smell of death, not fresh like the wild boars whose leather Grommet skinned and meat she preserved to provision her allies in the local militia, but old death, rotten with evil. The smell permeated the box and clung to the glass baubles. Grommet took the box of baubles to the fountain outside the Cathedral and washed them, unconsciously reciting the “Checklist of Smooth Operations” she'd learned as a child. She discarded the pasteboard shipping box, and though the smell was gone, she couldn't bring herself to meditate on one of the baubles again. She sold that whole lot for a somewhat surprising fee. It funded her next couple of lessons and allowed her to purchase what she needed to make a runed rod to further her study of enchantments.
The final clue that something was amiss was the boots.
Westfall and the choking mines underneath were days ago. The undead that still worked the deep mines were all formerly good men of the Explorer's League and Ironforge Mining Guilds. How they'd been turned was a mystery to Grommet, but it had taken most of the day to get the smell out of her robes. Grommet had donned her coveralls and gone down to the Blue Recluse to study and check her mail, and hopefully forget. She'd frozen again, fighting the undead, and had almost died because of it. If that Handsome Dwarf with the two headed hound hadn't come along....
Another package, the outside was singed and items were stuffed inside as though in a hurry. The smell of smoke and blood was still on them. It was an odd collection of mismatched armor and baubles and trinkets. Then there were the boots. They were at the bottom of the box, on top of a note, scrawled in what looked like blood. Grommet set the boots aside, one of them much heavier than the other. She picked up the note. It was, though large and rough, undoubtedly her mother's writing.
“Study harder. I'm coming for you. You MUST be ready. Cowlflap Cogswaddle”
“Cowlflap Cogswaddle,” Grommet blurted aloud, startling a young mage headed into the Blue Recluse. Her mother never signed her letters that way, not since, as toddlers, Grommet and Camfollower had nicknamed them Maximom and Omnidad. They always signed their letters with their nicknames. They even called one another by them, even when working around the medical platform, at least when they thought no one could hear.
“What's the matter, Maximom?” she whispered to no one.
She picked up the heavy boot, and discovered the remains of a foot from the ankle down. Her squeal echoed through the Mage's Quarter.
The young mage stepped over to see what the problem was. He saw the raw rotting edges of the contents of the boot and passed out at Grommet's feet.