After the battle of Dun Modr, the Mountaineers invited Seryth to their fire for a round of drinks and celebration. Seryth declined, instead telling them about his purpose in the Wetlands (carefully skirting the issue of Thelsamar) and about his strange sighting of the Dark Iron fighting the gnolls.
The dwarves looked grim, and one suggested a Dark Iron plot. It was a lead on the gnolls, if a slim one, so Seryth pressed him about it. The dwarf explained they were all concerned that Dark Irons would try to blow up the Thandol Span.
To Seryth, not from the Wetlands, it was just some bridge, unimportant in the grand scheme of things. He pressured the dwarves to instead focus on the gnolls, but they gave him much the same answer as the dwarves and humans in Menethil Harbor had: the gnolls were native to the swamp and usually left them alone. The bridge’s safety was most important; they laughed at Seryth and told him to take a hike to see it, as he was clearly a young fool who didn’t know his ears from his toes.
Stung, but valiantly keeping his temper, Seryth took them up on the offer and rode north.
As his ram clopped along under him, uneasy thoughts swirled though Seryth’s head. Maybe the gnolls were innocent, like the dwarves said. Like the Greenwarden and the bogbeasts, maybe they were just another expression of life and intelligence, deserving of respect no matter how much Seryth hated them.
Whatever the truth, Seryth reflected the last thing he wanted to do was lose his temper again. For now, Seryth promised, he’d stay judgement on the gnolls until he got to the bottom of what connection they might have with the Dark Iron and the Thandol Span. He hoped he wouldn’t regret it.
The road bent around the trees and the Thandol Span came into view. Involuntarily, Seryth jerked his ram to a stop and stared.
The dwarves had been right. The Thandol Span was not just “some bridge”. Shamefacedly, Seryth started the ram walking again, as the shadows of the bridges supports fell across him, their origin looming far above him.
Seryth fought a short, but pitched battle against Dark Iron saboteurs that been hiding just past the Thandol Span, in the Arathi Highlands. The bridge was so long, and the mountains on this side so high, that the smell of the swamp was behind him. Instead, misty highland air filtered down to him, and Seryth felt a stir of excitement in his belly; he was getting ever closer to the land of his people and the answers to many mysteries in his past.
But it would have to wait. The Dark Iron were still clearly a threat to the innocents of the Wetlands — and wasn’t that what he fought for, whether it was gnolls, murlocs, dwarves, or something else behind the threat? Taking a last deep sniff of the highland air, Seryth turned back around to bring tidings of his findings to Dun Modr.
The dwarves thanked him, even promising to put in a good word for him with the rest of the Mountaineers. Thinking of Thelsamar, Seryth disabused them of that notion. Confused but happy to help, the dwarves instead pointed him to their other outposts in the Wetlands. Seryth found himself retreading the road back in the direction of Loch Modan, wondering jumpily if the next dwarf he might meet would be one who remembered his attacks on Thelsamar, and would sooner turn him in than help him fight the Dark Iron.
At first, the dwarves of Slabchisel’s Survey either didn’t know or didn’t care who he was. They saw the Mountaineer insignias on his ram, and like the dwarves in Dun Modr, assumed he worked with them, and that was more than enough.
Slabchisel sent him up the valley on a rumor there were more Dark Iron agents hiding out in the caves above the water table. It was on the way back from that fight, with the beards of the Dark Iron agents tied to his belt, that Seryth tripped on something in the mud and fell. In a flash of anger he turned around and dragged the thing out of the muck with some vague intention to burn it to a crisp, when he suddenly recognized it.
It was the spar of a gnoll tent, covered in mud and still with a bit of tarpaulin and grass caught in its splintered tip.
Seryth look up the cliff to where the ruins of the old Thorbardin Dam were, just visible through the mist of the waterfalls. His foster father once told him the story of how the dam had burst, flooding the Wetlands in a deluge of the Loch’s water. The area he was wading through must have borne the brunt of it, and if the tent spar was anything to go off of, this place had once been inhabited by many gnolls.
Seryth looked around. As far as he could see there was only cloudy water and thick rushes now; even the trees had been washed away in the flood.
He suddenly felt bad for the gnolls. He thought of the similar destruction he had left of their camps near the Loch…
Seryth kept the tent spar. Perhaps one day he’d learn to carve it into a wand. For now, it was his reminder on the steep price paid when anything — whether a broken dam, a Dark iron insurgent, or a half-elf like him — tried to take too much power to itself and lost control.
When Seryth returned to Slabchisel’s camp, he saw what he least wanted to see: a Mountainer riding ram, not his own, tied up with the other rams.
Fear paralyzed him, long enough for the corresponding Mountaineer to walk out of his tent, relieve himself, then stop and stare as he noticed Seryth.
“Dark Iron,” said Seryth finally, untying the beards from his belt and flinging them to the feet of the Mountaineer.
“Saboteurs?” said the Mountaineer.
A few more long minutes passed. The Mountaineer knelt to pick up the beards, but he didn’t even bother looking at them as he bundled them away. “Slabchisel told me about you.”
Seryth said nothing.
“Ye helped save the Thandol Span.”
The Mountaineer punched the beards as if he’d rather be punching Seryth, then held them up. “This’ll pay for your life,” he said. “Next time, it won’t. Ye ken me?”
Back itching under the eyes of the Mountaineer, Seryth retrieved his ram and left.