[Story] Thorns – Tanaris

On the third night, the hippogryph landed on a high, desolate cliff. Behind them stretched the Thousand Needles, a vast canyon carved out of striped red rock. Uldred had read that it was flooded several years ago, that once the entire thing was dry and lifeless. Looking at it now, it was difficult to believe. Towns clung to the edges and high points, he could not see them well but he could see the tents and small buildings, even some of the smoke from the fires. They were Tauren, most likely, or perhaps even centaurs. He remembered reading about those, too. There had been a drawing in the book, but it seemed too outlandish to even consider. How would one run? What did they eat? Did the young run like horses, or were they carried like babies? His tutor hadn’t known any of the answers to those questions, and was irritated when Uldred had asked. Maybe on the return trip, he could get close enough to get a better look at one. But they were supposed to be dangerous, he remembered reading that too.

In the opposite direction, to the south, stretched a desert. The late afternoon sunlight reflected strongly off the bright sand, making Uldred squint. It was almost as if he could feel the heat of it already. Consulting his rough map, he knew that was Tanaris, which meant they would reach Uldum sometime tomorrow, just as the hippogryph master had promised. Maybe everything would go according to plan. That is, if the woman would even agree to speak to him. It was a neutral place, less dangerous than approaching her in Silvermoon. If she went there before they could talk, it would be impossible to reach her. Uldred brought out the statue from his pack, carefully unwrapping it from the cloth. He set it upon a flat rock and asked to see through it. To his great relief, the woman was still there in Uldum. She was sitting across from an older elf; Uldred could tell because of the lines in his face and the silver at his temples. Uldred hoped the man wouldn’t be there when he arrived to speak to her, he might get the wrong idea, or simply tell him to go away entirely. He had already been practicing what he might say when he finally found the woman, but he still had to make sure he said it the right way.

Your children are looking for you,” was a good one, he thought. It was straight to the point and would get her attention. Or, “I have information about your children”, though Uldred thought that sounded more dire, as if there was an emergency. He didn’t want to frighten her, just explain the situation. He let the demon statue stay out, its tiny gem eyes looking forward out over the deserts of Tanaris.

The hippogryph had already settled itself down, its legs folded in underneath itself and its head curved over its back. Uldred had grown a wary appreciation for the animal in their time together; he no longer believed it would abandon him or drop him from the air. He’d even begun to understand its little quirks — for example he knew that it was only napping right now. It would lay fully on its side when it was ready to sleep for the night. There were still some provisions left, these Uldred left near the animal’s forelegs for when it woke up, but most likely it would seek fresh prey, as it had the other nights. He couldn’t blame it at all, he’d much prefer a fresh hot meal to the dry, tasteless rations. Maybe there would be some in Uldum. He had no idea what sort of food they ate there. Maybe the woman would even invite him to stay and eat with her. He was curious about her research. Through the statue’s eyes, he’d seen a glimpse of her tent with all of its books, papers and diagrams. History was a subject that could be very useful to his own research, as well. It had been far too long since he’d been able to discuss his work. It was illegal in Dalaran, and he hadn’t seen the mages in Shattrath in a very long time. Even his succubus seemed bored with listening to it of late. Yes, dinner would be very nice. He would have to comb his hair before they left in the morning.

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