The Story of Seryth, Chapters 11-13

Chapter 12: Seryth stopped and asked travelers along the road for any news of gnolls as he rode down out of the mountains. He wished he had kept his oversized hat from Stormwind: he could have used its too-big brim to hide his face in case anyone saw the insignias on his ram's armor and figured him to be working with the Mountaineers, and so were friendly enough. Even so, Seryth refused most offers to stay, wanting to keep ahead of the spread of any bad news about him.
That typo is forever going to bug me.

Seryth was surprised to find the pinacles of night elven towers rising out of the mists a couple day’s ride into the Wetlands. He supposed after the Fourth War, more night elves would be living in the Eastern Kingdoms than on Kalimdor, but there was a difference between speculating about it and actually seeing it with his own eyes.

With some trepidation, he entered the outpost. His foster father had never been specific about Seryth’s bloodlines, and he always wondered if his dusky skin might have come from a night elven parent instead of a quel’dorei one.

The night elves were mostly focused on their tasks in protecting the land from the Dragonmaw orcs to the east and so ignored him. However, he couldn’t ignore the hulk of vines, moss, mud, and roots that suddenly rose up out of a flowerbed when he came near. Two big mournful green eyes opened out of the mass, and Seryth sat back into the mud with a start.

The mass was actually a creature, who called himself Rethiel the Greenwarden. It talked long and slow, and Seryth only managed to not be irritated in that he was still awed that such a being could think and speak.

After a rambling monologue about the taste of swampwater and the flirtatious beauty of flowers, the creature warned him of other beings like itself to the northwest that were less than friendly. Seryth thanked it as best he could, considering he had no idea what plant-beasts believed to be polite, and left with an unsettling sense that what he normally understood as personhood and intelligence was all wrong.

Seryth did indeed come across some of the wild bogbeasts that Rethiel had described. They attacked him, moaning and wailing about fire, and at first he thought they were talking about him and his magic.

It was only when he spotted the glow of something smoldering under the peat — an uncanny sight in a marsh — that he realized they hadn’t meant him at all. It was only when he approached the peat, curious, and that glow grew into the face and arms of a fire elemental, that he realized the real trouble — and that he was deep in it as well!

Seryth was most comfortable with fire magic, but using it on the elemental only served to make it grow wilder and more aggressive with each bolt he fired at it. It roiled almost at random through the bog, though it seemed more drawn to the trees and rushes than it was to him. Seryth was able to lead it onto a tree and retreat to reconsider his tactics while it was busy consuming the deadwood.

He had never caught on to ice or arcane magic, despite the hedgewizard in Sentinel’s Hill trying to teach him — how long ago that seemed! — and somehow, he thought firing wooden arrows or hitting the elemental with a stick would only make it more enthusiastic.

The only thing he had left then was the shadow. With trepidation, Seryth began to weave a spell using the dark element. The magic was fitful at first — he mostly only drew on Shadow to control his voidwalker, which he hadn’t yet dared to resummon — but the more complicated the spell became, the stronger it grew, both between his hands and singing in his blood.

When Seryth released the spell, it extinguished the fire elemental with a hiss. Seryth grinned. The peat bog was still burning, and he set out to smother the rest of it. Perhaps the bogbeasts would let him travel more easily through the swamp then.

His voidwalker reappeared as Seryth was putting out the fires. It was small at first, barely the size of a cat, but grew a little more each time he used his shadow magic.

He supposed it was inevitable. He had no other tool to fight the fires, and at least he was still able to control the voidwalker. He just had to keep control of his temper this time…

Seryth found no signs of gnolls until he had almost reached Menethil Harbor, and even then, the port town was dealing with the more pressing problem that it had been flooded in a particularly bad summer storm. Seryth hoped that after he helped with the aftermath of the flooding, the local officials would be able to advise him on the gnolls…

The townsfolk turned out to be more worried about murlocs than gnolls. Seryth sat by the tavern fire, shivering: helping the town clean up after the flood had involved a lot of wading through frigid seawater, including getting dunked up to his ears when he had tripped on a crate hidden under the murky water.

He wasn’t looking forward to hunting murlocs next, but perhaps the scent gland trick would prove useful here again, and besides, one threat was as bad as another where vulnerable innocents were concerned.

That’s what he told himself at least, as he delayed moving from the fire until his clothes stopped steaming and the barmaid was plying him with his fourth drink.

In the end, the officials had no information about the gnolls. Oh, there were rumors about camps in the swamp, but as far as the townsfolk were concerned, gnolls were native to the Wetlands and usually left them alone if they left the gnolls alone.

Seryth wasn’t convinced. In Westfall, Redridge, and Loch Modan, the gnolls had been responsible for the slaughter of many innocents. Even if the gnolls in Wetlands weren’t attacking anyone now, sooner or later, Seryth was sure they would.

So he took it upon himself to raid them. He would be lying if he said he also didn’t get some enjoyment out of it.

Seryth burned out three of the gnoll camps, and was moving on to a fourth when he saw something curious over a low rise in the distance. Dwarves with fiery eyes and ash-black skin were attacking the gnolls. He vaguely recalled stories of the Dark Iron and he assumed these dwarves were them, but why were they here? Who had started the fight? Would they be hostile to him, as some Dark Irons were to any non-dwarf? Or would they help him in exterminating the gnolls?

Seryth approached them, but the Dark Irons vanished before he came within hailing distance, like foxfire into the fog, leaving only gnoll corpses behind. Seryth could see the beginnings of a road and an enclave of dwarven buildings just beyond. Perhaps someone there would know what had happened.

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