Waiting until evening to continue my journey was a good idea – not only was I able to spend much of the afternoon talking with the infrequent travelers who stopped in, I also saw how life on the frontier was for the soldiers and guardians of the Horde. I imagined my sister standing watch in a tall observation post, scouring the horizon for signs of Alliance trouble, and it made me smile to see how sincerely the majority of the guards took their duties. That isn’t to say there weren’t moments of levity or relaxation, but there were always watchful eyes scanning the roads for anything that seemed out of place.
Thanking the young innkeep for the well-cooked dinner, I waved to two of the merchants with whom I had struck up conversations, and I turned my attention back to the road. Far Watch Post marked where the path to the Crossroads turned West, inland away from the Southfury River. No longer was I walking in the direction of my home, and every step brought me farther afield than I had ever traveled – than anyone in my family had traveled, aside from my sister of course. In addition to the well-worn cobblestones which had been laid in the dirt, small signal fires were lit beside the road. Not bright enough to provide real illumination, but spaced so that it wasn’t difficult to follow the path, even as night fell.
I was very pleased to pass by a farm, two orcs and their young son penning up the pigs for the evening. I liked the reminder that even this far away from my own home, there were good and simple people, honest folk, who lived simple lives, contributing to the war effort in any way they could. Waving as I passed, I remarked how truly heartwarming it was to see a family hard at work together – I tried not to get too nostalgic for the endless days and nights of my youth where my whole family worked the earth, and ultimately failed at keeping dry eyes.
A guard on the path, armed with a large blunderbuss, warned me about a pack of Razormanes that had been seen in the area, and that I should keep my wits about me. Admitting that I had no idea what kind of creature he was referring to, he shook his head – undoubtedly he saw me as just another country bumpkin whose hide he’d have to save soon enough – and explained that There were pig-faced raiders that lived in the Barrens, normally up in the hills and broken mountains, but that they had been seen down on the valley floor in recent days. They may only be armed with stone axes and clubs, he warned, but they were ferocious, angry, and capturing Horde travelers for their dinner.
Frowning, I loosed my trusty logging ax and kept it at the ready as I departed, thanking the guard both for his service in general and the advice in specific. Keeping my eyes on the horizon, I saw great, twisted silhouettes rise against the night sky – razorbrush, it was called. Long vine tendrils, thorny and tough, grew out of the ground of the Barrens, stretching far up mountains and beyond. It grew quickly, particularly when cut, and I had been told it was just easier to work around it than try to continually fight it.
This far from home even the plants could be dangerous, I thought, snacking on some oats I had brought. I may not have been as wet-behind-the-ears as I was just a week ago, and I was certainly far better-equipped, but I had a lot to learn, and a lot to be wary of in these strange new lands. Just because the locals had grown accustomed to the dangers – much as with the Alliance scouting party I saw near Sen’jin Village – it didn’t mean they weren’t threats, particularly to an inexperienced newcomer like myself.
I thought about my sister, and about how she must have changed – or rather, how her journey must have changed her. I hoped her time in the army hadn’t dulled her quick wit or joy at exploration. If anything I hoped she’d have far more to be excited about, having seen so much of the continent. What experiences would she have accepted as her new “normal,” far away from the quiet farm of our youth? I passingly wondered what I would consider normal, by the time I returned with her; already I had seen so much, and so much more than I expected, and I could tell my idea of the world had grown, even if just a bit.
The call of a Barrens vulture flying lazily overhead broke my from my reverie, and I continued on my journey to the Crossroads, where hopefully I would get more help on my journey to Tanaris, the last place I heard that my sister was stationed. I didn’t know much about Tanaris, certainly less than I did about the Barrens, but had heard that it was a neigh-endless desert, with few civilized outposts to dot the landscape. I sincerely hoped that would limit my search, with fewer places for Sina to be stationed.
The Gold Road stretching out before me, I walked through the night, pleasantly cooled by the soft breeze. Far ahead I could see lanterns hanging, signifying civilization. With any luck, I would reach the Crossroads before dawn.