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World of Warcraft: The Journey
Muun, 2005-09-06

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"There is nothing more I can teach you. You are a swift learner, young Muun. It is time for you to seek apprenticeship with my Mistress in Feathermoon. She goes by the name of Kylanna Windworshiper. Tenarin, her assistant will meet you at the dock and lead you to her. Make haste, the road to Feathermoon is fraught with peril", her voice floated sonorously on the midsummer night's breeze.

The chiming tinkle of magic lanterns that I miss so much when away from home, now tore my heart apart. No matter how far I traveled from here, Ainethil gave me a reason to return, to forget the pride and detachedness that I could not tolerate about my people, the Night Elves. Now she is sending me away to a land I've never even heard of, the furthest outpost of our race, to be apprenticed to an old woman whose harsh ways are legend among alchemists all over the Alliance.

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A flood of words raced up my throat but none made it through. For once in my life I could not speak. All I could do was kneel, bow and blurt out : "I shall be eternally indebted for your service, mistress Ainethil."

"Rise and be on your way. Azeroth awaits you, brave one. Delnadris be with you."

And that was the last time I saw Ainethil.

I wasn't ready for my apprenticeship. If my knowledge was adequate, my heart wasn't in my work. I strayed to Ironforge and spent a few weeks dealing in herbs and establishing contacts with ingredient suppliers for my beloved brews. I rented a room at the Boar's Head and set up a small laboratory there. Losing myself in the trade made me feel somehow closer to Ainethil. A sad antidote for my lack of expression. Inkeeper Firebrew complained about the smell of burning plants coming from my room (a welcome change, I would have thought to the scent of smoldering iron that pervades the city). The patrons didn't seem to appreciate the bittersweet scent of burnt Goldthorn. Or perhaps it was that spiteful dwarf waitress Brunhilde getting back at me for not leaving her an underserved tip. But like everything else in this dark city, a few well timed silver pieces kept everyone happy.

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Drunken days quickly become indistinguishable from drunken nights in this dark, hot place and I started feeling the same unease that used to creep up on me in Darnassus, only here there were no chiming lanterns to console me and no Ainethil to lighten my days. It was time to get on the road again.

Hammerhand at the league of explorers scrawls a vague map of the way to Feathermoon. It will be a long journey. From Ironforge to Stormwind by tram, then a long griffon ride to the infamous trader port of Booty Bay. From there the boat to goblin-run Ratchet and from there it's a long trek across from east to west coast through Horde occupied territory. Not a journey I was looking forward to. Stocked up on dried fish, water, flash powder and enough ingredients to make most brews I've been thought, I nervously wait for the tram at the rat infested station…

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Upon reaching Booty Bay I was struck by the shifty attitude of the locals, not to mention the masses of goblin bruisers patrolling the place. Then I realized why. It was the first time I was in proximity of Horde scum. Strangely enough Horde and Alliance both used the trading outpost, with whatever goblin pirate mob that was currently in charge trying to keep the uneasy temporary truce. I was quite happy to leave the place. In the few hours there, I witnessed two melees at the local bar and the swift mugging of an orc by a band of eye-patched gnomes. Hands shot to my daggers every other minute. I hugged my precious plants to me at all times fearing the nimble green fingers of the pointy nosed locals. But once on the boat, with the sun coming down behind the gigantic statue of a robed goblin with outstretched arms, I felt somehow excited about the journey ahead.

The excitement died abruptly when I set foot on Ratchet. The place was run in a similar fashion to Booty Bay, only it had a sense of desolate seediness and none of the picturesque oddity of Booty. Dirty would be a compliment to this collection of ramshackle huts. There was also a high proportion of limbless goblins hobbling about, baring sharpened teeth like mountain sables, making unrecognizable gestures at anyone who passed by and from time to time you'd catch a glimpse of a lone traveler disappear behind a pile of rubble, green hands flailing and muffled screams muted by the high pitched glee of the greenskin mobs. The worse part is that no one even batted an eyelid at any of this.

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I hurried to the inn, the aptly named Vomit Den, and decided not to get a room here but press on as soon as I found a group to travel with. Two armored dwarves, a robed human and a fellow elf with his pet sable sat arguing at a corner table. I ordered a round of strong ale and intruded their circle. A few hours later we were on our way. The plan was that I would travel with them to Thalanaar and then make my way from there on my own. In repayment I brewed three potions of their choosing each. We set off on the orange dusty road through the Barrens.

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Herds of large reptilian creatures roamed the land. At one point we were close to being trampled by one of the herds, if it weren't for a charm that the human priest cast on them. The party argued over taking a shortcut through the plains and veering off the road and taking the better mapped circuitous road. The former won and we headed straight for a place called the stagnant oasis where we were supposed to rest. When we reached the oasis, Ferenis, the elf hunter that was acting as a scout raised his hand and we stopped in our tracks. He made his way back to us and reported sighting a party of two orcs and two tauren resting by the oasis. The dwarves prepared themselves for battle, reasoning that if we attacked them first, we would have the upper hand. The priest rightfully argued against this preferring not to engage at all and simply turn back, while the elf refrained from giving his opinion. I urgently mentioned the fact that our deal did not include attacking Horde parties, but the dwarves simply ignored me and started ordering the rest of the party about.

I did not want to have anything to do with the situation so I silenced myself, waited till they were ready to attack and hid behind a clump of rocks. The battle lasted for a few minutes, and it was obvious from the first few blows who would survive the ordeal. The dwarves' charge lost them any surprise the supposed ambush might have had. The bearded fools were on the ground in a matter of seconds, blood feeding the arid land. I didn't wait around to witness the end of the engagement. Using a low ridge and a line of boulders for cover I beat a hasty retreat directly away from our current position. When I finally stopped, short of breath and sweaty, I realized the dire state of my predicament. Not only was I alone in a hostile land, but I was completely lost, the red desert dotted with the skeletons of giant creatures stretched as far as I could see with the vague outline of mountains to the far west. I had two choices; head towards the mountains and hope the sketchy map the dwarf in Ironforge drew for me was accurate, or head back to Ratchet and formulate another plan. Feeling vulnerable and confused I decided to make for the mountains and hope for the best.

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After a full day of traveling I came to the mountains and saw a wide pass between the range. The directions I had been given indicated I should go south. That would extend my journey by a few days, a prospect which I wasn't too happy about. So I made for the pass, keeping well away from the main path, dodging from rock to rock.

The pass opened up to a great expanse surrounded on all sides by mountains. I kept to the rougher terrain on the southernmost mountainside, hoping to come across another pass that would lead west or southwest. For three days I journeyed in the land called Mulgore and saw a variety of exotic creatures ranging from winged women with talons and hooves, trolls of all kinds and most notably, the tauren. Their outposts dotted the top of the mountains and I came across a number of patrolling parties. I barely slept even when beaten with exhaustion. I circled the south and westernmost mountain ranges only to realize that there was no way across. My heart sank and as I set under a tall black tree I contemplated giving up. I had almost run out of supplies and had no energy left. But Ainethil's face blazed in my mind and I would not bare the thought of not seeing her again.

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By some unelfin effort, I made it to the top of the mountain ridge, only to come right beneath a tauren stronghold. I employed all the thieving abilities that my rogue master, whose name I swore never to utter in public, had thought me to make my way past the stronghold, and the next, and the next till I came to a point where the long spires of rock the dwarf had referred to as Thousand Needles. Thalanaar lay on the other western side of this valley of rock pillars. The only access to the valley however was through the well guarded lift that went all the way down the gorge. At least two tauren stood by it at all times and I saw no way of getting past them. To make things worse, watchtowers north and south had a clear line of sight to the lift outpost. I watched the guards for half a day, hoping for an opening, but none came. Then, a few hours into the night, a small caravan led by two goblins and guarded by what looked like armored trolls came to the lift. This was my chance. The horned beasts that pulled the caravan had a bulky tether that hung under their monstrous bellies. I skulked to a rock outcrop opposite the last beast. The trolls were gathered around the goblins who were having a heated argument with the tauren guards. Crawling as fast as I could on all fours, I made it to the leather sling under the beast. The stench was unbearable. For the first time I was happy I hadn't eaten anything in the last two days; an empty stomach is easier to keep in check. The beast started shuffling about making hollow guttural noises. Heavy footsteps approached making me freeze with panic. The troll grunted something at the beast and gave it a few thudding blows.

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The caravan finally went down the lift and set up camp soon after. I rolled out from my repulsive perch when the troll's snoring got loud enough, sneaking past a half sleeping guard after taking the liberty of relieving the scoundrels of their money pouches to assist in funding my apprenticeship. The rest of the way was easy. The only creatures I came across were groups of half men half horses often referred to as centaurs. They were busy slamming into each other and engaging in what seemed like an extended bar room brawl with clubs.

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When I reached Thalanaar my body gave way and I fell unconscious before I could speak to the outpost's commander. I woke up to the familiar sound of elfin lanterns tinkling ahead. I was in a room with dark wood that creaked slightly under some unknown pressure. I got the vague sensation of movement which I put down to the fever that had plagued me for the last days. A door creaked open and a low, gentle male voice spoke in heavily accented Darnassian; "Ahh you are awake. Welcome Muun. We were worried about you." Footsteps drew closer and a stern yet kind face looked over me. He waved a hand over my face, a strong scent of purple lotus filled my nostrils.

"Now sleep. Tomorrow shall bring…"

And then there Ainethil's face, half smiling. Only it wasn't Ainethil, it was Ainethil made statue of the Moon Goddess, sparkling with light, water streaming around her feet…Next Page

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