She found him, first. Minona almost tripped over him in fact, her eyes downcast in the blustery snow and her face hidden deep in a fur-lined cowl. She’d been trying to work her way across the Cracking Plains before the storm got any worse, hoping to persuade the surly Brenna Skymoor to arrange a flight south before the weather closed in completely. He was lying, face-down, partly sheltered from the snow by the large bones of some long-dead creature. Even so, snow had started to pile up along his still limbs, with the winds whipping flurries of flakes across the ground. A long staff still clutched in a hand, but with thick clothing torn and bloodied. An orc – alone – and dead.
Minona stopped, lifting her head to peer around her. Was whatever had attacked the lone orc traveler still here? Frostfire Risge was not an accommodating place, and the current snowstorm made seeing anything beyond a few steps all but impossible. She glanced sideways to her wolf, Lychee, and he met her gaze before turning to scout their surroundings. If something was lurking in the gloom, he’d find it. That left the orc. Minona knelt next to the body, looking for some indication of clan or kin. The tears in his clothing revealed brown skin – a Draenor native then. A torn pack lay to the side, small mounds in the snow marking where the remaining contents lay.
She took a deep breath, steeling herself, and moved to roll the body over. The extreme cold made determining how long he’d lain there impossible, preserving his remains almost perfectly, and ice crackled along the fabric and furs as Minona moved him. His face was young and unlined, showing none of the panic and chaos that had likely marked his final moments. He was outfitted for a long journey in poor conditions, with his clothing thick and coloured so as to blend into the bleak landscape. The front of his body showed several deep wounds – probably from teeth and claw – and the snow directly below him gleamed a deep red. He hadn’t turned his back on his attackers, and it seems he’d managed to drive them off below collapsing into the snow.
Minona rested her hands on his chest, willing the Light to shelter him. As she did so, she noticed his robe gaped slightly across his chest, with a corner of parchment just visible. Carefully, slowly, Minona eased the scroll out into the open and brushed off the snow. There was a furry trinket dangling from one end – an old rabbit foot by the looks of it. The paper itself was heavily creased, with the look of having been rolled and unrolled repeatedly to be read. Wet snow had caused some of the lettering to feather, and blood had seeped onto the bottom half of the note, but it was still legible. Tripping over some of the words, she read:
Karash, my wolf.
I was so happy to find your note, I had to bite my knuckle from yelling and waking up the other trappers.
Of course I remember that day! You and Longhowl prowling the flats, looking so fierce. My unsteady aim, that pitiful throw. Can you believe we almost killed each other? Now I want nothing more than to live beside you for all my days.
I know a place. North across the flats, behind the volcano overlooking Colossal’s Fall. I will leave bones to mark the way. Come find me, and we can be free together.
P.S. I will keep Longhowl’s fang safe. Attached is my own good luck charm – the foot from my first successful snare. Bring it safely to me, or I will gut you like a hare!
Karash. The orc’s name was Karash. Lychee chose that moment to bound back into view, his big paws throwing up sprays of snow as he moved. He’d not found anything worth noting, else his entrance would have been far less dramatic, and Minona gestured for him to be calm. He did a slow circuit of Karash’s body, nose almost to the ground, and then came to sit by Minona’s side (using her as a wind-break, of course). They’d both been looking forward to leaving this ridiculous part of Draenor, where freezing cold gave way to molten stone and back again in a blink of an eye. A distinct lack of Alliance-friendly outposts meant that Minona and Lychee had been travelling overland for several days, skirting hostile forces wherever possible, and the slow pace had exhausted and rankled.
Minona looked up, north, the direction Karash had been facing when he fell. Magra – whoever she was – was waiting for him. Could Minona really walk away without letting Magra know Karash’s fate? Karash had been a hunter too, the letter made that clear, and the image of an orc waiting patiently in the cold flamed into Minona’s mind’s eye. There really wasn’t a choice. Minona sighed, “I suppose the storm will do us one favour – Magra won’t get the chance to try and kill us until we’re almost on top of her. Although finding her in this isn’t going to be easy.”
North, across the flats. Behind the volcano overlooking Colossal’s Fall. Their path was set.