[Story] Thorns – The Journey

Uldred consulted the map again, his hands still trembling from holding tight to the hippogryph’s reins for so many hours. It was impossible to tell whether they were in the correct spot or not, the first X marked on the elf’s hastily-drawn map. Right or night, the animal had tucked its wings and began a swift descent as they neared the area, a flat hilltop clearing. He didn’t know Kalimdor well, but he had spent a year or so in Ashenvale, and he believed they were still there. Looking down at the rapidly passing trees had made him feel a little too queasy, so he’d closed his eyes much of the way. Uldred sighed, folding the map again. It was more or less useless. Thankfully, the hippogryph seemed to know which way to go — if not, Uldred would find himself lost somewhere in the wilds of Kalimdor.

He took out the first little bundle of food that he’d bought in the Darnassus market; a fish and some chunks of red meat. He tossed them onto the grass near the hippogryph, but it was busy scratching at the earth with its strong front claws. Uldred could only guess that it was making a nest to rest in. He himself had no tent or sleeping roll; mostly because he’d not thought to bring anything like that. Fortunately it was warm, and the sky clear, so it would probably be fine. He did worry about animals, though he supposed the hippogryph might defend him from them. Or if not, it would at least defend itself, and the commotion should scare whatever animals away. Their little camp was at the top of a hill, and there were no paths down that Uldred could see. He frowned. There would be no way to get water for the night, either. He could feel the day’s dirt and sweat clinging to him. He had a small amount of wine left, about a quarter of the bottle, but of course he couldn’t bathe in that. He supposed the hippogryph could just fly away if it needed to drink, but what if it never came back? Uldred would be stuck on this little hill forever. Surely that wouldn’t happen, he assured himself, surely they were better trained than that. Otherwise no one would ever rent them. Unless it was a deliberate ploy to rid Darnassus of Gilneans. Uldred was still keenly aware of his accent when he spoke, what others assumed when they heard it. The elves claimed to want to help, but Uldred could see the distaste written in their expressions all the same.

Uldred arranged his pack and cloak into a small cushion, and sat upon it, taking out his own dinner provisions. There was bread and some dried meat, not very filling and less appetizing. He missed the restaurants in Dalaran already. They all had fine silver and china, and any sort of food you could wish for — if they didn’t have it on the menu, they could probably conjure it. Uldred could almost see himself moving there permanently — if it were not for the effect it would have on his own research. As nice as the city was, its prohibitions were frustrating at times, and Uldred hadn’t made any real breakthroughs since he’d been there. He had made some valuable notes from the library, but any experiments with them would have to wait until he was away from the Kirin Tor’s eyes. He took out the demon statue, carefully wrapped in cloth. He scratched a simple circle into the dirt, adding the required runes for making contact with the wrathguard.

“Arixatik,” said Uldred, and the statue’s eyes glinted briefly. Sometimes demons could take their time about answering his calls.

You called, master?

“Do you still see the elf?”

The reply came quickly, and assuredly. Yes. She dines with the other elf.

Uldred nodded, relieved. “Good, good. That’s all. See that you don’t lose her.”

The wrathguard didn’t answer, the statue’s eyes going dark once more. Uldred was only a few days away from his reward, he had to be certain it didn’t slip away at the last moment. He would have to give Arixatik something for his help, though he wasn’t certain just what yet. The succubi were easy to please, and imps served readily out of fear. But not the larger demons, they always wanted something, and their demands could be high. But he could worry about that once he’d found the elf.

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