The gnoll camps held no sign of his foster father. Seeing his expression as he returned to Three Corners, the farmlady invited Seryth to the dinner she was putting together for the poor. Seryth felt a flash of resentment, wondering if perhaps she thought him one of the feckless transients, but as the guard had also asked him to deliver a message to Lakeshire where her feast would be held, he agreed to come along.
Cooking alongside the wives of the Lakeshire fishers was a pleasant experience, and Seryth almost felt at home again, strange looks at his pointed ears and his faintly glowing elven eyes and all.
Over dinner, the locals corroborated that the gnolls were kidnapping villagers. Perhaps, Seryth reflected, he just hadn’t been investigating the right camps, and one of those in the foothills would be the one to hold both his foster father and the missing villagers.
He approached the magistrate to sign up for one of the teams making the probe. First he was asked to find a gnomecorder, whatever that was — a cord of wood for beating gnomes, Seryth joked to one of the other teams. The leader of his team looked at Seryth flatly and told him the only spare gnomecorders he knew of had been stolen by murlocs some weeks before; if Seryth wanted in, he’d have to get it from them.
Seryth was pretty sure the man was lying and that this was just spite over the bad joke, but none of the other guards with gnomecorders would give them up. So, tacking up his donkey, Serryth prepared to pay the murlocs a visit…
The deep water of the lake was intimidating to the Westfall farmboy, and Seryth wondered if it would interfere with his fire magic in some way as he hunted the murlocs. Luckily, he was able to pick them off from the shoreline, only getting his feet wet once to wade over to their village in search of the mythical gnomecorder.
Gnomecorder attained and attuned to him, Seryth could get back to the business of hunting gnolls. He almost laughed outloud when his team leader mispronounced “gnolls” as “gnomes” during the briefing of their mission. Seryth was rubbing off on them.
Seryth’s team pushed deep into the gnoll territory, but there was no sign of any kidnapped villagers except a few ominous heaps of skulls.
The gnolls also had in their possession an orb of orcish make that could be used to control the minds of humanoids. Seryth only vaguely knew about the orcs — some of the older farmers in Westfall liked to tell stories about them over a drink late at night, though they tended to hush and glare whenever he or his foster father came nearby, so Seryth didn’t know much more about the race than a general description.
The team leader gave the orb to Seryth, suggesting Seryth try and use it on account of elves “being good at that kind of thing”. Seryth wasn’t sure whether to take it as an insult or not.
Still, he laid hands on the orb and gave it a try…
Seryth tried communing with the orb magically; he tried talking to it mundanely. He tried casting various spells on it; he once even tried to destroy it with a fire bolt in anger. Nothing Seryth tried got the orb to work.
The rest of the team gave it up as a bad job and made to leave for Lakeshire after clearing the last of the gnoll camps. Seryth was allowed to keep the orb, at least until the team could show it to the magistrate for his take on the matter.
Evening was falling, and the team decided to camp out just under one of the ridges, out of the wind and where their fire could be hidden from prying eyes. Gnolls barked and howled all around them through the night, and Seryth couldn’t sleep. The other guards, old campaigners, were unconscious in minutes.
Seryth got up and went to the orb. He found the imp, who he hadn’t seen for a few days now, sitting on top of it.
“Why can’t I use it?” Seryth asked.
“You’re, um, well let’s just say you’re not compatible,” said the imp.
“This isn’t a date,” Syreth snapped sarcastically.
The imp laughed, loud enough Seryth was worried he’d wake the humans, but just like everyone else he’d met, none seemed to be able to hear it. “Not like that,” the imp finally said.
“Then like what?”
“Oh, you’ll figure out how to control things eventually,” said the imp dismissively. It yawned and lay down on top of the orb, like a cat, which it then became.
“I’m not sure why you bother,” said Syreth, pointing out its new form. “No one’s ever been bothered by real form before.”
“But it bothers you, right?” said the cat with a toothy grin.
Seryth decided he’d get no more useful information from the imp or the orb and returned to bed, where he spent several more hours tossing and turning before the sun came up over the hills.
The next morning, the team made the return trip to Lakeshire. His team leader briefed the magistrate on the failure of the teams to find the missing villagers and the potential that orcs might be involved with the gnoll attacks.
From there they began to bicker on whether to send more teams of guards to root out any orc presence or to wait from diplomacy or alternatively a full army from Stormwind. Syreth excused himself for the meeting at this point.
Everyone was thinking it, but no one was saying it: the orcish orb in the gnoll camps might’ve come from the Horde. The Horde and Alliance currently were at peace, but if Lakeshire attacked any orcs they found over a mere suspicion of aiding the gnolls, they could risk igniting a Fifth War.
If there was some chance his foster father was out there, Syreth told himself he would have chanced even a war to find his dad and bring him home safe. But as Seryth thought about it, brooding up front of the inn’s hearth, he wasn’t sure his father WAS out there.
What bothered him more, though he didn’t even like to admit it to himself, was that he couldn’t bring himself to care about the other missing villagers. They were probably dead, more skulls in Yowler’s pile, and he wished someone would just come out and say it instead of continuing to string along hope for their families.
He also realized the same logic could apply to him. Perhaps his foster father was missing beause he was dead. Perhaps it was time for him to move along as well.