"Adventures of a Dragglehoof" by Sioranth

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Pathia tilted her head back and stared straight up to the launch projecting off the Lower Rise of Thunder Bluff. Her mouth gaped slightly as a crooked smile worked its way over her features. She would finally see the city! The lift descended amid shuddering groans and creaks that changed her grin to a suspicious tightening of her lips; after all, she was hardly capable of flight if that thing should suddenly plummet back to Mulgore's plains. A gust of wind buffeted against the structure, and it swayed with what she considered an alarming amount of jostling. Tentatively, she took a step backwards away from the conveyance as it landed, only to be thrust forward again as several people behind her merged ahead to board. She muttered a soft prayer as it slowly ascended and then stumbled her way onto the Lower Rise when it finally reached the top.

Her nose wrinkled up into an expression of distaste as she was assaulted by the overwhelming stench of perfume and cologne. She coughed a few times and then exhaled forcefully through her nares as if that could clear the cloying aroma from her sense of smell. Then she attempted to breathe shallowly through her mouth until, after a few breaths, she realized that only made her taste the scents. She pinched her nose shut with one hand, covered her mouth with the palm, and hailed a Bluffwatcher with her free hand.

"Excuse me?" she called with a muffled nasal twang to gain his attention.

"Yes?" he replied with amorous smile which was quickly followed by a frown. "You have no token for me? Do you not love me?"

"Er…" Pathia blinked in puzzlement at the large male. "I have some Mulgore spice bread," she offered with that crooked grin that gave her muzzle a sideways appearance. She released her nose to root through the small pouch drooping off her cracked leather belt. The blunt tip of one stubby finger poked through a hole in the bottom, enlarging it marginally, before she triumphantly pulled out a shattered loaf of bread. One end had been completely squashed flat, and the other looked like she had already been chewing on it. She dangled it in her fingertips in a poor imitation of what she had seen the hunters in her village doing with kodo meat and a newly tamed companion.

The guard dragged his hand over his face with a weary sigh. "Why is it always on my shifts? Kal never has these problems," he muttered to himself. He dropped his hand away only to wave it in dismissal at the ragtag young woman. She looked like she had been sleeping in a briar patch for the last week and liked it so much she had brought the whole bush with her. He resisted the urge to pluck some errant twigs and leaves from her mane as he would one of his daughters. "What do you need, Sister?" he asked in a more kindly tone.

Pathia bounced twice on her hooves and shoved the bread back into the pouch, producing a shower of crumbs to pool at the ground next to her and attracting several nearby birds. She paid them no mind as they squabbled across her hooves and dove at her swaying tail.

"Well, firstly, I need to find Kym Wildmane here; she's a Druid. I was told she would be on the Elder Rise, but I am not sure which direction that is." She shoved a worn map against his nose. It showed three overlapping circles for the three main rises as well as three outer circles for the extended rises. None of them were labeled.

The guard gritted his teeth and then gently pushed her arm down so that he could actually see what she was trying to show him. He quickly labeled the outer rises as well as the main rises with a piece of charcoal. Then he drew a rather blatant arrow pointing towards the center of the Elder Rise. "You will find the Runetotems and other druids here. You need to take that ramp over there," he instructed slowly as if speaking with a simpleton. "Follow it up to the next rise. From there you will find the bridge that will take you to Elder Rise. If you get lost, just ask the guard with the broken horn up there," he added with a chuckle. That'll serve Malyn right for that trick he played last week involving that harpy, he thought.

"Wonderful! Secondly, what tokens?" she continued with a curious slant to her ears.

"What what?" he countered with a measure of confusion before a light seemed to dawn on him. "Oh! Love tokens in exchange for these." He held out a small package wrapped in pink paper. "They have flowers, chocolates, dresses…" he trailed off, suddenly realizing how ridiculous it all sounded. "Look, I just do what I'm told. Sometimes this job isn't all about thumping wayward Night Elves that took a wrong turn and stumbled onto the Bluff, you know?" He scratched the back of his neck and mumbled something under his breath.

Pathia's lips merely twitched at the corners as she gave him a cheery wave as thanks and trotted off towards the ramp at the far end of the rise. Her head swiveled left and right and back again as she marveled at the sheer number of people dodging back and forth across the rise. She had never seen a Blood Elf or Forsaken in person.

"I wonder which is which?" she murmured as she went past a group that was clearly not Orc, Troll, or Tauren.

Contrary to the guard's opinion of her, she was no simpleton and she found her way over the Elder Rise without incident. Kym was easy to spot and much like Pathia remembered from when she had last seen the Druid.

"Kym! It is good to see you again," Pathia greeted her warmly as the two embraced.

"And you as well, Runeclaw. Does this mean you have decided to take my advice?" She had last seen the young female at the ceremony marking her entrance to adulthood. She had sensed that the typical hunter's path known among the Wildmane held no appeal for Pathia, an idea that was only reinforced when the Elders of their tribe bestowed the name "Runeclaw" upon her.

Pathia bobbed her head enthusiastically. "I have! I have no desire to tromp through the woods firing off shot or bolt while chasing after something that hasn't bathed in a week."

Kym merely smirked silently in response as Pathia had never been known for her neat appearance. Even now, Pathia stood before her with herbs and plants tangled in her fur, a few owl feathers jutting haphazardly from around her tunic, and what looked like a few bear teeth hanging around her neck on a leather thong that seemed in danger of breaking any second. She nodded encouragingly for Pathia to continue.

"The Elders seemed eager for me to come here to train in the ways of a Druid as well," she went on, her smile faltering for a second. "I'm sure it had nothing to do with what happened during archery practice. I really had no idea the wind would shift like that and carry the dart to Elder Thal's backside. The shamans fixed him right up though, and I think he was even able to sit again by the time I left," she finished optimistically.

Kym choked on a guffaw that sputtered into a coughing fit. When she had regained her composure she smiled broadly, "Come then, and meet the Arch Druid, Hamuul Runetotem." She took the other woman by the arm and led the way to the beginning of "Runeclaw's" official training.
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