A challenge never scared me. In fact, I think it’s safe to say I have a hard time resisting one. This can be both good and bad, for it brings out my stubborn streak. Where any ordinary person would weigh the balance of time expended vs. the wisdom of asking for help, you can be assured that I will be driven towards making it happen by sheer force of will. It is with this spirit that I undertook my first assignment for the Gray Tiger Shipping and Freight Company.
Sunya had called upon me to come get my briefing, “Hurry, Kya, I don’t have long here.” As I made haste, my heart pounding with anticipation of finally getting a chance to prove myself worthy, I flung open the door of the Pig and Whistle. Panting and sweating from having cantered through Stormwind, I felt my legs burn taking the steps up to Sunya two at a time. Stopping abruptly at the top of the stairs and regaining my composure with deep breathing, I found Sunya drumming her long fingers on the table.
She invited me to sit, a small smile tugging at her lips to see me trying to shove my eagerness underneath a calm and self-possessed exterior. She then told me quickly of two people I needed to contact in an area I had never visited before. They were in need of some help to find a couple of items and I was to offer my services as a representative of our fine Company to ease relations with them, in case we might need to cultivate some understanding in that rather seedy town. I had heard of Ratchet before in my travels, but had never set foot upon that soil. It made me a tad nervous to think about venturing into Horde territory, but I also knew it was imperative to find some ease in traveling there if I were to accomplish my goal. I assured Sunya that I was very proficient with a map and could get myself wherever she needed me to go. There was doubt evident in her eyes, but also I saw the challenge. It seemed to be a simple test of my stamina and there was nothing in Azeroth that was going to stand in my way of completing the task Sunya had set before me.
Stubbornly I ran, at a marathoner’s pace so as to conserve my energies should I need them, towards the notoriously odiferous town of Booty Bay. I noticed a change in the weather running into the jungle. Humidity hung in the air heavily, with the lush tropical smells of new plant growth and chirping of thousands of varieties of insects. I did not have time to think about my aversion to spiders, for there were multitudes of snarling tigers and a few beastly gorillas standing in my way. Drawing upon the tracking skills my Sensei had imbedded in me, I deftly slipped from tree to tree, bush to bush, avoiding as much confrontation as I could. My muscles taut from the strain, it occurred to me there might be a better path to safety – that in the wake of a much stronger and older creature. I waited in the shadows of a palm, observing those who passed.
Several younger creatures flew by, fear in their strides. I needed someone more confident and adept who would clear the path without even blinking. I waited patiently, my training always foremost in mind. Then I saw my ticket to ride: a robust longwinded fellow with superior gear and a few bugs in his beard came barreling by, singing some wanton ballad of his dwarven youth in a strangely sarcastic voice. It mattered not to me if he’d had a few stouts to fuel his momentum. This fellow carried the distinct wand of a Paladin, and I suspected I could toss him a flask of something potent, which I carried with me expressly for such negotiations, and receive a resurrection if it came to that. I sprinted up behind him and followed like a cyclist catching a ride behind a semi. Yes, he was quite large for being so short! He stammered a bit when he realized he was being followed, and slowed to speak to me. “Yer a bit young to be traipsing through this jungle, M’Lass!” I replied evenly that I knew this, but it was inevitable, as I needed desperately to get to Booty Bay. He looked at me like I was crazy, knowing full well I had no business attempting this alone at the tender season of 14. I put on my best damsel-in-distress face and implored him to help me get to my sick aunt whose deathbed wish was to see me before she passed on to the afterworld. Knowing his profession must lend him a heart prone to respecting death wishes, I was sure he would cave in and offer protection. He did so with a hoot of joy and I let him feel the pride swelling for helping someone who would not make it without him. Agerjag was his name, and let it be noted he is trustworthy and solid as they come, even in the midst of a hiccup.
I felt rather accomplished, having passed the first echelon of my test, but I hid my satisfaction behind a grieving demeanor for my imaginary ailing aunt. I ended up giving Agerjag a flask in thanks and he shook my hand with his stubby palm and directed me to call him whenever I needed a capable escort. After our parting, I stopped for something to eat and drink in the back shadows of the Inn, and studied my map for how to get to the ship I needed. Picking up a couple more flasks, I headed to the docks.
The smell of fish was strong, but there was more to the air than odeur de poisson. It reeked of that distinct sweaty smell only Horde can exude. While it bothered me enough to cause a slight shiver of revulsion, I drew upon my training once again to discipline my mind into centered quiet. I needed to be fully aware, ready for any glitch that might impede my progress. As if I had done it a thousand times, I strode purposefully onto that ship headed for Ratchet. The excursion was tumultuous and I could tell that even a few of the regulars were tinged slightly green. I remembered a story I had heard recently from this remarkable soul named Ersatz about radioactivity coloring a being green and could not decide if this was the cause, or seasickness. I could have slapped that Captain for the roiling in my tummy, but gratefully I did not go overboard mid-trip and arrived in the port of Ratchet needing only a few deep guttural belches to ease my nausea.
I approached Bigglefuzz first thing, preferring the distance from onlookers coming off the boat, and spoke to him about his needs. I explained that my Company had sent me to aid him and he scoffed at my innocence. I repeatedly assured him I was fully capable, but then he had to remark upon my “greenness” and I was flustered at whether he meant he could tell I had been touched by sea-sickness or if he thought I would never come back to him alive, let alone with his coveted bottle. Either way, my face flushed with indignant frustration, and I narrowed my eyes at him. “I will return with your port, and it will be intact, and I will not have a scratch on me,” I whispered quietly to him with a set jaw. He actually chuckled at me then, delighted to have gotten me riled and his laughter echoed in my ears far longer down the path than it needed to. Before leaving Ratchet, I also sought out the other contact Sunya had mentioned, Wharfmaster Dizzywig. This guy seemed harmless enough, and he was definitely more respectful of my offer to help than his buddy. He gave me general instructions about finding a Cat’s Eye Emerald for him, and then I gathered up my packs and set out into the grassy plains.
It was nighttime, as I love to travel best by the moonlight. I could see dark swirling clouds in the night sky, with a few twinkling stars peeking through. Sadly though, there were not enough stars for me to get my bearings easily in unfamiliar turf. The ground was covered with oddly bright green grass, and I began to wonder if the entire land were bathed in radioactivity and if I was in danger at all of it seeping into my skin and having the same effect on me as it had Ersatz! Yes, I know this sequence of thought is a little paranoid, and it served to propel me forward into being full blown lost in this crazy land of gazelles and horned giraffes. At the realization of my situation, I stomped my foot, stirring up a cloud of dirt and looked around me to gain some perspective. It was in this state of angst that who else should appear before me but Ersatz herself!
I cannot tell you how very glad I was to see my new friend. I say this not at all lightly, yet I must be careful not to place her in the same category as Kennia, whom I nearly idolize. Kennia in my mind is a honed professional and accomplished business woman. I could do far worse than to be like her one day, and I feel her joy in sharing with me the ways of a warrior and the encouragement needed to get stronger. I feel a special kinship with Kennia from being two peas in a pod (save for her penchant for fancy dresses, hah!) While she does mentor me in the professional sense, I look to Ersatz in a different way. My mother’s sudden and unexpected death left a gaping hole in me spiritually, which I have filled with the study of my Arts. Yet, I often long to ask my Mother about life and its twists, and I find the silence at times oppressive. In Ersatz I have been lucky enough to receive some bond of connection. It’s as if she senses when to appear and when to let me stumble. Emotionally, she has picked up where my Mother left off, and for that I am forever indebted to her.
So Ersatz appeared before me, and gave me the once over from head to foot. I felt under her scrutiny like a child caught in the middle of making mud pies with Mama’s new baking pans. She said to me in her jovial yet sternly scolding voice, “You call THAT protection??!” I shuffled my feet and muttered something about my gear being just fine, thank you. It was then she started loading me up with new equipment. Mind you, I do not take well to being handed anything, ever. I much prefer to earn my own way and patiently seek a goal from sweat and longing. I tried to resist her offerings but she would not hear of it. She made it appear as though my refusal would insult her to the highest degree and so I had no choice but to comply. Now, I am not one to let fine items feed my soul. The armor she gave me was indeed sturdier than I was wearing, but what really touched me was the sword she handed me. While I have Kennia’s sword for my mature days, this one is for my midseasons. I felt the quality of it like lightning running through my fingers all the way to my toes. I am not yet worthy enough to wield it, but I will one day soon. And by the time I can, I will make Ersatz proud. I felt when she handed it to me, like I would if my Mother had just given me a family heirloom.
In this state of shock and appreciation, with my uncompleted missions weighing heavily on my mind, I decided to level with Ersatz. “Alright, I confess here and now – I am lost! Don’t laugh, please, just point me in the right….” She cut me off with what I can only describe as some kind of voodoo type magic. One minute she was a beautifully weathered gnome, the next she was the exact replica of a Horde woman! My jaw dropped and I stared at her with utter shock. Had she moved towards me in any battle stance, I would have reacted immediately but with a ripped heart. Thankfully she just laughed even louder and harder at my reaction and said it was due to a very expensive toy she had sought. It helped ease her ways in rather dirty jobs. I could see the value of this immediately and was once again nearly overwhelmed with all I can learn from her in this line of work.
Patiently she led me in the proper direction of my missions, and allowed me to fumble my way with the creatures I could handle. There were times when I could hear her softly snort and lose patience with my methods, a single slice from her causing a head to roll. I first found the carrier of the Cat's Eye Gem, and was able to steal that off his still warm but dead body. Then we went in search of that ancient bottle of Port. I will confess that I feel I cheated some on these missions. I meant to do them alone and prove my worth! Yet, something else occurred to me as I allowed Ersatz to intervene and lead the way. I was not really set up by Sunya to bring back items and pave the way for better relations with any potential enemy interactions. I was sent to discover something about myself.
What I learned was that there is no need to be so stubbornly focused. I learned that I don’t have to win out alone always - that sometimes the win is better when you allow someone else to feel needed. I learned that it’s less about the end results and more about building trust with your companions. I learned that allowing someone to help me can feed their soul as well as temper my own drive to prove myself. I am learning, I hope, to let my elders teach me with my acceptance instead of with a barrier of keeping others at a safe distance. I am learning… there is so very much more for me to learn in this respect. Sunya was wise to give me this chance to discover my limitations. I will face her and show her what I have learned. I will understand if I am needed to complete another task without help as well, and will gladly take on the challenge.
I have one last confession for today. When I arrived back in Ratchet to deliver the Port to that silly little Bigglefuzz, I took extreme pleasure in handing him his overripe Port bottle. To Ersatz I offer a toast, for enabling that small moment of satisfaction for a small girl having completed his request without a visible scratch. I will cherish the shock in his face for quite some time. And I must reassure Sunya that both he and the Wharfmaster were duly impressed with our quality of work.