Previously: An Unexpected Ally
Now with a detailed, accurate map of the Jade Forest, Weipon and Akabeko stuck to the main roads and headed straight for Dawn's Blossom. Akabeko had hoped that any influence they could have at the main city would spread out to the surrounding villages, making it easier and more efficient to bring them into the Horde. The journey into the heart of the forest was long, although they saved time by not stopping at every town they passed. Pandaren farmers watched them curiously as they passed, and those they met on the road were wary even after Weipon called out to them. They spent two nights in the forest, huddled in their bedrolls listening to the creaks and chirps of an unfamiliar landscape.
Finally, shortly after their morning snack, eaten in the saddle, the pair could see flashes of bright red and orange paint through the trees. Heartened, they picked up the pace, eager to get back to work and on their own two feet. As they approached, the tall, sweeping roofs of the city's many buildings rose out of the trees, making both women gape. Aside from Orgrimmar, Weipon had never seen another city so grand; although the Temple of Five Dawns was an impressive piece of architecture, the surrounding buildings in all the towns on the Wandering Isle were small and sprawling. Here, she could see many-storied buildings surrounded by a crush of smaller shacks and carts, and around it all a never ending crush of people trading, chatting, or just milling about.
Akabeko's low whistle drew her attention to the tauren. "Looks like this is the place." She turned her mount towards the massive gate in the stone wall surrounding the city.
Although the locals noticed their approach, they didn't have the nervous air that the other inhabitants had given off. Weipon smiled encouragingly at a woman lashing things to the back of a cart and got a friendly nod in return. "These people seem much more trusting than the ones we met before," she remarked, dismounting beside the druid. Fu danced around their feet, sniffing the other mounts from a safe distance.
"Well, cityfolk tend to see a lot of weird stuff." She hooked the reins to the closest hitching pole and turned to Weipon. "So they tend to take things more in stri--" with a gasp, she cut off abruptly, hands coming up in front of her chest, fingertips already blunted into paws.
Weipon followed her gaze. A trio of humans were passing through the gates ahead of them. They took no notice of the shocked tauren glaring suspiciously at them, and instead went to their mounts, talking loudly.
"We'll tell him that we did our best, but I don't think that will get us off easy. The general was clear that we need to secure Dawn's Blossom for the Alliance," the shorter human was telling her companions in Common.
One of them stroked his beard in consternation. "We have the entire journey back to make it sound better than it is," he suggested. The group mounted their horses and started down the path away from the city.
"That doesn't sound promising," Weipon said, glancing at Akabeko to confirm she had retracted her claws.
Akabeko rolled her neck and shrugged as if bracing herself. "I bet they're just bad negotiators. They don't even have a pandaren with them! Let's see what we can do."
Just inside the gate was a crowded marketplace. Although pandaren were nearly as tall as tauren, the appearance of a hooved, cow-faced creature in the throng attracted some glances. Weipon led the way through the crush, nodding politely to vendors shouting advertisements for their wares. Akabeko followed along behind, her most approachable grin plastered to her face. Reluctantly, she had agreed to carry Fu to protect him from the constantly moving feet.
A burly pandaren toting a huge keg of ale took in their appearances and called out to them, "Hey, strangers! You look like you could use a friend!"
Weipon smiled back at him, then indicated for Akabeko to follow her. "We just got into town," Weipon told him, rooting around in her bag for the letter of introduction they had received. "My name is Weipon, this is my companion Akabeko, and we are ambassadors of the Horde. It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance." She bowed, and Akabeko, recognizing some key phrases, followed suit.
The pandaren laughed, bowed over his enormous gut, and said, "Well, it's real nice to meet you, too. Name's Kai Wanderbrew." He set down his keg with a thump. "This here's my wandering brew!" Weipon laughed, and Akabeko smiled the polite smile of the completely lost. "Can't say I've ever seen one of her kind before. What did you say her name was...Ababeko?"
"It's Akabeko. She's a tauren from Kalimdor. We are both members of the Horde," Weipon explained. "We were hoping to meet with your mayor, to introduce ourselves." She neglected to mention their other goal.
"Well, shoot. I can take you to the mayor's office if you like." He glanced over his shoulder, peering through the bustle to a cart parked near one of the walls. "Boys! Come take care of this keg for me!" He grinned apologetically at Weipon as two young pandaren ran over at his command. "These are my nephews. They're working for me for a while since their daddy's away on business." The two pandaren grabbed the keg, peeking curiously at Weipon through their lashes, then rushed off to deliver it. "Well, follow me," Kai said, pushing his way through the marketplace.
Turning to Akabeko, Weipon switched to Orcish. "This is Kai. He's going to take us to the mayor."
"Here's hoping we have better luck than those humans," Akabeko replied.
They didn't have better luck. Master Windfur, the mayor of Dawn's Blossom, looked politely at the letter of introduction that Weipon gave him, humming and ahhing at the contents. In the end, however, he smiled kindly at the pair and said, "Although I understand your plight, I'm afraid that it's in our best interests for my city to remain neutral in the conflict you have brought with you from across the sea."
Sensing a 'no,' Akabeko murmured, "Remind him that should he not choose a side, it's possible that neither side will come to his aid should the city need it."
Weipon ignored her, instead opting for the more diplomatic, "Well, if remaining neutral allows you to open your city to the Horde, then we will be glad to accept whatever trade you offer."
The mayor rose, followed quickly by the two ambassadors, and he saw them to the doorway with a pleased expression. "I must say," he remarked, "You two took this much better than the Alliance delegation."
Weipon tried to keep a victorious grin off her face. "The Horde is respectful of the autonomy of the settlements in this area. We will not risk losing a positive connection, even if it is one also extended to the Alliance."
Impressed, Master Windfur motioned to one of his attendants, who disappeared briefly and returned with an elegantly wrapped bottle. "Please, accept this token of our good will." He handed the bottle to Weipon, who accepted it graciously. "I hope you will stay some time in our city to appreciate all it has to offer. Should you need anything, do not hesitate to ask."
However polite it had been, it was still a rejection. Akabeko was frowning, having finally put Fu down so she could rest her hands on her hips irritably. "What are we supposed to tell Nazgrim?" she griped.
"We can tell him that we can use the supplies and resources of Dawn's Blossom. And that the Alliance have the same right." Weipon began to walk back to the city center, interested in seeing just what those supplies and resources entailed.
"It's better than nothing," Akabeko said begrudgingly. She followed along, and her good humor soon returned when the smells of food stalls drifted down the street. Eyeing a tray of pork buns, she said, "I'm gonna go check out the local fare," before drifting into the crowd.
Shaking her head in amusement, Weipon wandered through the stalls, Fu close on her heels. The marketplace butted up against a rocky hill rising up in the center of the city. The slope of the hill cradled a small pond, in the center of which was a small shrine. Curious, Weipon picked her way across the stepping stones and knelt in front of the shrine. She lit a handful of incense, adding the sticks to the sand-filled pot on the altar, then tossed a coin into the donation box beside the supplies. The statue inside was no deity she recognized, but the scrolls hanging inside the altar provided the answer. "Emperor Shaohao," she murmured, rolling the unfamiliar name around on her tongue. The story on the scrolls was just the beginning. She wondered how it ended for the former emperor of Pandaria.
She had just stepped back into the fray when Akabeko appeared, holding a bag of something tasty-smelling and looking quite pleased with herself. "I got us some grub using my Pandaren and charming negotiation skills," she explained, handing Weipon a bun filled with red bean paste.
That night again found them drinking and carousing in the inn's common room, and Weipon was again encouraged to bring out her sanxian. She relished the opportunity; not only did she miss playing the instrument every day, but she had been working on a few new compositions inspired by recent events and wanted to try them out. The crowd of gathered pandaren were appreciative, laughing and sighing at the twists and turns in her tale. She also played the old folk songs she knew and was delighted to find some older pandaren in the crowd who still remembered them.
As the night wore on, the listeners began to call for Akabeko to sing for them. Weipon translated dutifully, grinning at her friend as she hemmed and hawed, hiding behind her drink in mock embarrassment.
"It doesn't have to be anything complicated," Weipon assured her. "They just want to share some of your culture."
Finally, Akabeko relented. "I'll sing an Orcish drinking song," she declared, finishing her drink in one long gulp. Weipon translated this for their audience, earning a roar of approval, and then Akabeko began to sing.
The song was loud and bawdy, and Weipon blushed at the phrases she knew. Uncomprehending, the pandaren in the common room swayed and cheered and clinked mugs as the tauren led them through several stanzas, finishing with the chorus and cheers.
Delighted, the pandaren clamored for another. They clapped Akabeko on the shoulders, and someone refilled her drink. "Now they are asking for something from your language. Do the tauren have any drinking songs?" Weipon asked curiously.
"Hmmm," Akabeko said, swaying a little in her seat. "Most of our songs are for special occasions; for the hunt and the harvest and the changing seasons." She closed her eyes and drank deeply, thinking hard. "Oh, I have something. It's something we sing at parties."
She began to sing again, and Weipon found herself intrigued by the way Akabeko's voice changed when singing in her own language. This song was upbeat, but still more stoic than the orc tune had been. Experimentally, Weipon plucked at her strings, eventually finding some simple chords to match the repetitive melody.
Abruptly, Akabeko fell silent. Her hand fumbled to bring her drink to her lips, knocking the rest of it back in one go. When she wiped her lips and opened her eyes, they were overly bright and swimming with drink. "That's it; that's the end of the song," she said unnecessarily. "I have to go." With that, she lurched unsteadily to her feet and made her way to the stairs.
In the awkward silence that followed, Weipon simply said, "I think she's had a bit too much to drink."
"Pandaren know how to brew ale right!" cried a voice from the back, eliciting shouts of agreement, and from there the festivities came back to life.
By the time Weipon finally returned to their room, Akabeko was asleep, half-dressed and collapsed face-down on top of the covers. Her hand dangled off the bed, fingers slack, and on the floor beneath them was one shiny blue feather.
Next: Heading North