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The Boughs of Teldrassil

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Part I

Auberdine can be a frightening place for a student of Cenarius abroad for the first time. But Kylvan was a quick learner and had no choice in the matter. Auberdine held the cold trail's beginnings – he was sure of that.

The griffin platform swayed ever so slightly beneath his feet, its pylons strained by the traffic it endured and the rhythmic pounding of the tidal sea at crest. The continual parade of massive creatures burdened with cargo made the old boards, encrusted with salt, mud, and beast urine, creak and groan with each landing and launch. The smell of sweat-soaked hair and feathers mingled with the lingering odor of unwashed travelers in the salt air.

The atmosphere was different here. Kylvan could feel its thick humidity and silently compared it with the thin, cool air of Teldrassil's boughs. Ruth'eran had this air, but even there it was . . . cleaner. Here the offshore evening breeze kept the smell of the dark woods from his sensitive nose, but that was probably for the better. Too much of a new thing was always disconcerting at best, disorienting and downright dangerous at worst.

The sun was gone now, slipped beneath the seas edge and the moon already risen, was suffusing its glow across the forest and shore. The moon gave him comfort, but he did not remember why. Perhaps it was a pleasant memory from the past? The reason eluded him.

"Clear the way!" the master yelled as one of the beasts at the far end of the platform began pumping its wings, the elf on its back holding on tightly. Her pack bulged with tight bundles of plants and Kylvan made a silent wager to himself as to how much of her uprooted bounty would make the trip.

A ramp led down from the platform and at the base stood Auberdine’s only Inn. There were no swinging doors, just open frames, and inside the conversation pulsed like a flock of birds. Warm, stale air flowed out the doors and into the offshore breeze to be blown inland, no doubt driving some feral beast to distraction.

The Innkeepers had lit the lamps at sunset, warding the deepening gloom. Beneath the lights hawkers called out to him as he passed, "Bread for your journeys!” “A discount on spring water for you my friend - from the moon temple itself.” “Fish, cooked or raw.”

He weaved his way through the peddlers packs, fish baskets, sleeping dwarves (seemingly all beard and leather), boxes of dry goods, bolts of cloth, clay jars, and travelers’ baggage, looking for someone who could give him the information he was looking for. Any one of these travelers might know, but where to start?

A small humanoid tugged at his pant leg. “Patchwork, snatchwork, I can do your latchwork” he chanted in a child’s voice.

“No thank you.” Kylvan answered.

“Elves on a griffin, maybe need me for fixin’? Slide rule, barstool, I’m handy with the best tools.”

“I have no need of your services.” He told the gnome. He’d heard of the little creatures, but never seen one before. It was small and seemed in danger of being trampled underfoot. Kylvan glanced around looking for its companions and saw none. His old instructor’s words flashed through his mind: Be wary of the lone tree in an empty meadow, Kal used to say. There is always a reason behind its success and the others’ failure.

“Ahhhh, your journey begins in Auberdine.” The gnome leaned forward, his eyes darkening and the rhyming verse disappearing from his speech, now two octaves lower. “A traveler starting his quest needs information and supplies. A traveler on the return needs repair and . . . mending.” He stretched out the last word, with the emphasis on the second syllable. It leant a more menacing air to his pronouncement - almost a prediction.

“Are you a purveyor of information?” Kylvan was now interested.

“Body blows, thistle toes, talk to one who knows.” The gnome began chirping again. He twirled in a circle, hands in the air. “Barnacle wharf, fishing dwarf, talk to the one who sees all landing and leaving.

There was a flash, and the gnome was gone.

Kylvan looked quickly left and right, but no one seemed to have noticed. A brewing disagreement in the corner between two humans that looked likely to climax in a duel was drawing the crowd’s attention.

He seized the chance to move behind a cooper’s wares, slip to the keeper’s desk and wave the attention of the lady there.

"Last light brings rest."

"Rest from journeys done and rest for roads to come.” She answered in accented Darnassian, then switched to common. “Welcome traveler, are you interested in a bed or do you wish to buy from the house?"

"I'm not here to stay. I'm looking for someone.”

“I can help you with most, but some of our residents, they wish to remain anonymous, you understand.”

“I’m not looking for strangers. I’m looking for my family."

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