21 May 2013

Stowaway (guest post!!)

Previously: A Dream

Dahakha perched on the edge of the cliff, peering through beady bird-eyes down at the Drag. Periodically he twitched his head around nervously, watching for any signs of recognition from the guards, patrols, and general passersby. It was a gamble simply being here, but he could see no other option to avoid a hermetic existence in some remote wilderness. As long as he remained in one of his animal forms, and didn't run into any high-ranking druids, he was fairly certain that he would blend in as just another visitor to Orgrimmar.

After the rude shock of finding that his guild headquarters were not where he remembered them being, it had only taken a few minutes to locate the HQ of this dimension's guild, and now he was looking for a familiar face to show itself. He brooded over his predicament as he waited. Sometimes he still thought he was dreaming, stuck in some never ending nightmare.....or that, perhaps, he was actually, completely mad. Insane, even. But the familiarity of his surroundings always restored his confidence in reality, however bizarre it was turning out to be. Every so often something jarred his perception, reminded him of the same-but-different nature of the world he was now living in, but he was surprised to realise that those moments were becoming less frequent and less intense. Obviously his long experience with the uncertainties that defined engineering had inured him to such shocks. The thought made him chuckle-chirp to himself quietly. It was engineering that had got him into this in the first place!

After a long night in conversation with Unoke, the windrider master at Thunderlord Stronghold, Dahakha had left in a daze that had little to do with the Mulgore firewater they'd downed together. Clearly the world he was in was not the one he'd been in the previous day. Moreover, from what his old friend had told him, it would be dangerous to make himself known to Horde authorities. What pained him the most though, was the idea that he was cut off from the Cenarion Circle as well. He'd meditated on it for a number of days, then decided to end the nagging doubts by investigating Unoke's claims himself. Finding himself a cave – not much larger than a niche – in Nagrand from which to base himself, he journeyed back through the Dark Portal to Mulgore. Finding the junkbox at the grave had been a shock. Was it her? Could she....he risked a foray into Thunder Bluff to seek out answers. Returning to the grave, he had intended to replace the offering, but found himself unable to relinquish the only reminder he had of her. With a mixture of hope and reluctance, he returned to Nagrand and continued to meditate on the matter. Finally admitting to himself that he had no real understanding of what had happened, and unable to seek help from his usual sources, he had decided to consult with the learned ogre-magi of Ogri'La.

It had taken months, but eventually Dahakha was persuaded that his wormhole generator experiments had......succeeded....in a way that he had not been able to imagine. Of course, as an engineer he was familiar with dimensional travel, but the possibility of it taking him to a whole new reality was completely new.

Unfortunately, the ogre-magi could not offer anything except condolences when he started exploring ways to return home. Apparently there were, in theory, an infinite number of realities, and they counseled him against trying to duplicate his experiment as the chances of him finding his home again were vanishingly small. With a heavy heart, Dahakha had thanked them for their help and taken his leave.

Now here he was, trying to see if he could contact guild members and start a new life with them. He fought down another surge of panic as the thought flashed through his mind yet again that his friends might not be in this guild, might not even exist in this world. He calmed himself with the reassurance that his closest friend, the one he could trust absolutely with his situation, was alive and a member here. Now he just had to find her, and hope that she would speak to him again, after that......no, no, it could be different here. He prayed that it was different, one of the few things he'd be glad to see changed.

Shuffling along the edge of the cliff, he became suddenly impatient. Where was everyone?! He hadn't seen anyone enter or leave the HQ for hours! In fact.....the entire city seemed rather empty. Abruptly tired of waiting, he fell forward, gliding down to the guild entrance. Flowing into lionform, he padded through the door, searching the building for signs of activity. Hmph. Nothing. Glancing through some open doorways to sleeping quarters, he got the decided impression that most people had been away for a goodly amount of time. This was very odd. He needed some answers, and unfortunately that meant risking talking to strangers.

Trotting outside again, he made his way down the Drag, considering his options. A merchant would probably be best, he mused. Spotting a tauren walking away from one shop, an Earthen Ring tabard proudly displayed over her armour, he quickly barged in before he lost his nerve. There was a startled orc just inside on his way out, and the orc at the workbench was half out of her seat, though she seemed more angry than surprised at his sudden entrance. The orc at the door glanced back at her. "Remember, no slaughtering customers!" With a straight-faced wink at Dahakha he left the shop.

Sitting on the floor beside the entrance, Dahakha realised belatedly that he would have to give up his animal cover if he was to get any information here. The orc frowned at his silence.

"Can I help you at all, druid?"

With a sigh Dahakha flowed back into his tauren shape, twitching and poised for flight if any sign of recognition showed in the orc's face. After a tense moment, he relaxed slightly and spoke. "Greetings. I have...been away for a substantial amount of time, and I return to find the city much less busy than I remember it being. I was hoping you could enlighten me on the reason?"

The orc's eyebrows raised incredulously. "You haven't heard?"

Dahakha scowled. "Obviously not. Is there some news of Deathwing? Has Ragnaros finally been defeated?"

At this, it was the orc's turn to scowl. "Har har, your little joke is about a year old now, druid. Stop wasting my time." She turned back to her seat, muttering scornfully under her breath.

Dahakha stood in confusion and mounting indignation as she sat down, pointedly ignoring him. His mouth opened and closed silently, torn between answering this rudeness and the need for answers. Finally he settled for shifting into a lion and giving vent to an almighty roar of frustration.

The orc did not look impressed at all. She waited until he shifted back, then pointed at the door. "If you don't have work for me, then leaving would be a good idea."

Dahakha took a deep breath. The orc gave him a warning glare, and he let it out again, shoulders slumping. Gathering himself, he said "I apologise for giving you offense; it was not my intention. As I said, I have been away for a long time, and I find all my friends gone. The city seems almost deserted. I have no idea where they could have gone. Anything you could tell me would be most appreciated."

The orc stared at him appraisingly. Finally she spoke. "Someone found a new land. The Warchief sent an expedition out there to claim it for the Horde, and after the relative peace after Deathwing was killed, I'd imagine your friends - along with most of the adventurers and thrill-seekers in Orgrimmar – went to see the sights." She waved vaguely at the door. "There's some sort of ambassador in the Valley of Honour, they can probably tell you more."

Acknowledging this dismissal, Dahakha bowed his head in thanks and with another mumbled apology flowed out into the Drag again. Making his way to the Valley of Honour, he quickly saw the camp of the newcomers. An apprentice mage was nearby, maintaining a portal. Approaching him cautiously, Dahakha asked where it led. "Pandaria, of course!" the blood elf snapped, not bothering to turn around. "No, I can't issue passes!", he continued before Dahakha could say anything more. "Get one from the Warchief's hall."

Dahakha turned away, disappointed. After a few steps he brightened. The merchant had said the Horde had an expeditionary force there....they would need supplies and reinforcements. All he had to do was find a ship to sneak aboard. That shouldn't be too difficult. Finally having a purpose and a plan felt good, and some of the tense weight on his mind eased a little. He turned his attention to the new arrivals, studying the Pandaren delegation curiously. Their friendly demeanour invited his approach, and he decided to see if he could learn anything useful about this new land. Again he was disappointed, though, for these Pandaren were only slightly more familiar with the Pandaria of today as he was. When they asked him about himself, he remembered his danger and quickly excused himself, hurrying off.

As dusk deepened into night, a bird landed on the deck of the airship Saurfang. Minutes later the hold had another occupant. Settling down to sleep, Dahakha woke to the sounds of the crew preparing to leave. Making himself as comfortable as he could amongst boxes and sacks stamped with the words 'Domination Point', he took out the rusted junkbox from his bag. Carefully holding it in his large, callused hands, he once again gazed at the slim proof that his goal was worth chasing. He wondered how long it would take to find her.....and if things would turn out better this time around.......

Next: Heading Out

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