Consulting my map, I saw there should be a forward command post not far from where I had climbed out of the river. Once there, I could find the main road – maybe the remains of the Gold Road – that would take me farther South on my journey. As I looked out over the verdant plain though, I saw packs of hungry Scytheclaws and other lethal predators, seemingly waiting for a meal like myself.

Considering my options, it immediately struck me that the hills were too steep to climb; rising sharply out of the valley floor, they were rocky and hard – impassible, even if I weren’t laden with armour and equipment. I had an enormous amount of faith in the armour I had been gifted, but the talons on the predators shook my resolve. I doubted there was any way I could sneak my way past the terrifying, bipedal lizards – my mother always knew when I tried to get even one spoonful of extra dessert – and the grasses were too low for a bulky orc like me to hide in anyway.

My chance came when a giant plainstrider came just too close to the pack of carnivores, which sent them in a murderous, frenzied chase toward their hopeful dinner. Steeling myself with a deep breath, I started running down the hill, trying to cross the dangerous vale with as much rapidity as I could muster. I didn’t stop to catch my breath until I was firmly in the shade of a tall tree, soft grass beneath my feet and heat of the sun blocked by the overreaching canopy. I had made it.

I didn’t find any soldiers or encampments at the so-called “Forward Command,” which made me question the validity of my map. Armies moved with their orders, as the search for my sister had certainly taught me, and maybe they had relocated to somewhere else, after my map was drawn. Frowning, I wondered if the other marks denoting habitation were still relevant. Slightly daunted, I made my way through the Overgrowth, a twisting forest of brambles and high trees. It was beautiful – if eerie – and was like nothing I had seen growing up. I couldn’t help but wonder at the sheer variety and bounty of crops a farm in this place could produce, provided one could keep the dangerous local predators away. Perhaps that’s why there weren’t farms, I mused. Durotar wasn’t the easiest place to grow food, but it certainly was safer than these wilds.

A path, less well-defined than the Northern Gold Road, was marked beneath the great trees, but the forest had quickly started reclaiming it, hard cobblestones disappearing under encroaching moss and grass. It looked like there hadn’t been mass travel through the area for a long while, which gave me pause. Was this honestly a “safe” way to journey? As the strange sounds of the woods, filled with animal calls and invisible rustling in the underbrush, I seriously wondered whether I would have been better off skirting the edge of the continent by way of Dustwallow Marsh, instead of trying to stay inland. There were small springs and rivulets that glowed with an eerie luminescence under the thick green canopy, but instincts told me to keep away – all creatures needed to drink, and I would likely meet some truly dangerous foes were I to try and intrude on their refreshment. Tightening the straps on my pack, I continued on.

Luck found me crossing paths with two druids, Muyoh and Naralex, who welcomed me into their small yet defensible camp, offering me a safe place to rest and refresh myself. They were studying the current state of the overgrowth, and hoped to one day bring the “land back into balance.” I nodded politely, but in truth had no idea what they meant – I’m sure it had something to do with magic and spirits and other things that were farther over my head than the vultures that seemed to perpetually hover in the Barrens’ thin skies. We may not have connected on their metaphysical goals, but we did find common ground when it came to vegetation, herbs, and planting. I don’t think they expected a wandering orc to have so much passion about farming, but it ended up being a nice surprise for all three of us.

Graciously accepting their offer to put me up for the night, I thanked them both for their hospitality and safety. The cautious march through the Overgrowth, after the panicked swim away from the Alliance patrol, had been taxing, and I was very glad to have found a welcome tent in which to shut my eyes.

In the morning I would ask them about the road ahead, and where I may find more permanent structures. My supplies weren’t running out, but I did want to make sure not to risk going too long without restocking. Kalimdor was bountiful, but with every step I was traveling farther and farther afield from where my knowledge was focused, and I couldn’t trust my instincts of what plants were safe to eat forever.