[Story] Thorns – Darnassus

A summer thunderstorm darkened the skies as the ship approached Teldrassil. A few stray drops pattered the wood of the ship’s deck, but the rain held — for the time being. Uldred was brought back immediately to the day that he’d first arrived here. How many years had it been? He wasn’t sure, but he remembered the feeling of it as if it were yesterday, as if he were living it again right this moment. Which, in a way, he was. It had been winter then, the dark sea lashing at the ship’s flanks, at this very same pier at the great tree’s base. Kor had been with him then, silent and doubtful, as lost as he was. They were still a team then, Kor had not yet betrayed him and his family’s legacy. Uldred had no hint of it, no warning signs. He remembered the smell of the leaves and the living wood, the strange appearance of the elves and their shining blades.

It was mid-day now, and most of the elves slept within their homes. They would not emerge until evening, when all of the shops would open and people walked along the shaded paths. The guards stood watch, even at this hour. Uldred thought they eyed him with suspicion still, even after all these years. Perhaps they were wise to do so. Perhaps the man who had told Uldred about that forbidden magic had been caught, and disposed of. Uldred did not know what elves did to criminals, and he was afraid to ask. The tree still stood though, where the Gilneans refugees had taken shelter when they first arrived on Kalimdor’s shores. Nature had reclaimed it, moss and small flowers growing over the ground, vines twining over the bark. Only the small stone pedestals in the center served as any reminder that the Gilneans had once been there. It seemed almost serene, which struck Uldred as ironic given his countrymen’s fates. He himself had been lucky. His experiments had not yet produced a full cure, but they served to keep his “attacks” – as he called them – under control. Others were not possessed of such willpower, or they actually preferred it. Others, like Kor.

The hippogryph master was not difficult to find. He had long green hair that reached to his waist, though it was tied back. He hauled several buckets of water over to the animals, who dipped their beaks in and sipped with a daintiness Uldred didn’t expect. The elf noticed Uldred, and his brow raised slightly.

“I need a hippogryph,” Uldred said. Of course he did, that’s why he had walked to the hippogryph master. “To Uldum.”

The elf looked surprised. He said it was a very long trip, and the hippogryph might need to stop and rest. That was fine, Uldred said. It would cost a lot of coins, said the elf. That was fine too. Uldred had expected that it would, and brought plenty with him. Of course they weren’t even his coins, they were coins that the blood elf had sent him. So the cost didn’t bother Uldred one bit. He even gave the elf a few extra, for good measure. The elf went to brush and saddle the hippogryph while he waited. He also brought a paper, onto which he’d scribbled a rough map. He pointed out the best resting places, where they could stay overnight. It was simply too far to travel in one day. The elf told Uldred that he must bring food along for the hippogryph to eat, and that could be bought in the market. He made him show it before he handed over the reins.

Uldred had never liked riding, and a hippogryph seemed to combine the worst attributes of both horse and bird. He had hopes of one day riding on his dragon, though — he had grown over the years and would soon be able to support the weight of a rider. If he agreed to it, of course. Uldred held tight to the reins and willed himself to learn this, so that he would make fewer mistakes with Naxitarius. To its credit, the hippogryph hardly seemed to notice his presence at all. It tossed its head and fluffed its feathers, then spread its enormous wings in a stretch. The elf gave him a brief wave, and the hippogryph took to the sky with a squawk.

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