[Story] An Unexpected Letter

Uldred took his breakfast out on the terrace, where he might see others and listen to their conversations. Often he couldn’t understand them, being in draenei or Thalassian, but the sound was comforting all the same. In those cases, he’d try to guess what they were discussing, making up meanings for some of the words. But today, as was often the case lately, he was alone here. He frowned, setting his plate and silverware down on the table as he sat. The only other creatures that shared the terrace that morning were some small drab brown sparrows, hopping around looking for crumbs. Uldred guessed that everyone had gone to the portal, it was the primary subject of the conversations he had overheard lately. It led to another Shattrath, one rumored to be much more dangerous and wild than this one. He couldn’t understand the appeal of that at all; this Shattrath was much more useful with its extensive libraries and comfortable inns.

But other people must have found the idea interesting, because the city had begun to empty soon after the rumor began to circulate. The draenei went first, eager to revisit their relatives and see their temple again. Then many sin’dorei went, following the leadership of their blood knight commander. The mages and scholars who spent their days in the library went, Uldred could only guess at why, but likely to study the portal and the magic that had constructed it. Shattrath had always been lonely for him; he dared not summon his succubus here. Surely the naaru wouldn’t stand for such audacity in their own city, if they truly could see everything. Uldred had no reason to think this wasn’t true. He had not seen the other summoners in a great while, though he thought they lived up near the library. If they were still here, they had not come to research anything recently. Nor had he seen the mage apprentice, the blonde one who talked to him once. Maybe she’d already passed her exams and had no need to study anymore.

The only person he saw with any regularity wasn’t even a person at all, but the plagued drake. Hunting in the forests, he had grown to an intimidating size — Uldred feared at times that he might be the creature’s next meal. But perhaps because of their bond, or a distaste for human flesh, possibly, the dragon had never attempted to eat him. His body was larger than a plow-horse, and just as firmly muscled. Uldred could see the strength that lay underneath the mottled scales. His wings and tail were again as long as his body, and horns had begun to grow from the dragon’s gnarled skull. Uldred still brought him food on his visits, but they were just nibbles, hardly enough to sustain such a large animal. The dragon hunted alone, but returned to see Uldred from time to time. Sometimes he would consent to having his head scratched, or listen to Uldred’s account of what he had researched that day. It was better than having no one at all.

Uldred frowned, pushing the food around his plate. They’d put in those strange spongy root vegetables this morning, the ones he couldn’t stand. Even if you pushed them aside, their odd flavor seemed to linger on everything else. He didn’t have to eat them, of course. Father wasn’t here to make him, though he thought the waiter would disapprove, somehow. He speared one with a fork and attempted to chew on it. As if he’d read Uldred’s mind, the elf behind the counter rose and walked briskly over toward him. But he didn’t scold him. He held out an envelope.

“For you, sir,” he said, bowing his head briefly and heading back to his post at the little desk.

Uldred looked at the envelope, puzzled. Was it from the city? Had they somehow deduced what he was working on in the library? Turning it over, he saw that the address was in the Ghostlands. It had to be some sort of mistake. He didn’t know anyone there. Uldred wiped his fingers on his napkin and broke the seal, taking out the letter. It was only one sheet, and quite short. It was from one of the elf summoners, the one with red hair. He wanted Uldred to research some family records in Dalaran. Of all places! He could not go himself, the letter explained, because of recent political events. The elf was offering a sizeable sum of gold. Uldred double-checked the number of zeroes in the number.

He didn’t really want to go to Dalaran. The sort of magic he was interested in was plainly outlawed there. Not to mention, he had never been, and would surely get lost. But truthfully, Uldred’s own research had been stalled for some time now. He had made breakthroughs at first, including the necessity for both a magical and physical component for the application of a curse. He had collected many new curses which he’d never even heard of before, and successfully applied and removed several of them. But that had been months ago, and he had not uncovered anything new since that time. It was impossible to perform any tests without the physical component of his own curse, and the trail on that went cold in Northrend. Not to mention the gold. That would pay for his inn for a very long time. Maybe it would be a simple matter, and only take a few days. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad to see the city of mages. He could find something interesting there, after all. You never knew when one bit of information in an unrelated book could turn out to be the piece that you were missing. He would write back as soon as he returned to his room. Then he’d need to find one of the mages who still remained.

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