Halfhill was bustling long before the sun came up. Rheugan sat and watched the Pandaren move about, preparing to open shops or head out to their own farms.
Pitch had said he would be there to escort Rheugan to the Vale, but he hadn’t specified a time. Rheugan had thought he would simply wait for the druid to show up, but as the approaching dawn began to pink the sky, he and the cat both began feeling a bit of wanderlust. The first farmer he approached was able to give him directions, and soon Rheugan was loping up the incline toward the path cut into the mountainside.
He ignored the small voice that told him he’d be better off waiting for Pitch. He’d been wandering alone out here for days and nothing bad had happened. What could go wrong?
* * * * *
The tunnels gave him pause, but not for long. The saurok were everywhere, yes, but there were plenty of shadows along the cavern walls, and with the cat’s guidance Rheugan had no trouble slipping by unseen. The lizardmen never even knew he was there.
* * * * *
Kun-Lai was impressive - Rheugan thought it would have been even without the giant mountain peaks in the distance. It was quiet, as well, but Rheugan wasn’t fooled; here and there he could see smoke rising from what he assumed were the yaungol’s war camps. He skirted the mountains separating the plains from the Vale, giving any possible combat zones a wide berth. He judged he was nearly halfway to the gates when he felt the disturbance.
The corruption was still fairly new; to his druidic senses it felt like a hole in the earth. Despite his own misgivings and the cat’s reluctance, he found himself changing his route to pass near enough for a look.
He’d never seen anything like this. Rheugan had been careful to avoid Serpent’s Heart, but this looked the same as Pitch’s descriptions. Blackness boiled up out of the ground, while strange creatures idled about inside. It repulsed him, even as it resonated with something inside him that he’d thought long-buried. He stood frozen, suddenly unable to decide what to do next, until one of the creatures noticed him and headed toward him with a snarl.
Rheugan felt a flash of alarm from the cat, quickly followed by revulsion, and he found himself lunging to meet it with an answering snarl. The cat danced around the Sha-spawn, unwilling to get close enough to use its fangs. Claws worked well enough, however, and before too long the creature collapsed in on itself, becoming a shapeless blob on the grass. The cat watched it long enough to ensure it was dead, then lifted its head to stare out over the plain.
The other creatures were still oblivious to his presence, squabbling amongst themselves. Farther off, too distant to pinpoint a location, Something seemed to awaken, as though just becoming aware of him. It... called to him; Rheugan could feel it stirring up the anger he’d buried within, before he stamped it back down firmly. The cat suddenly shuddered, then abruptly it released control, and Rheugan found himself back in charge of his own body.
The distant thing called to him again. Rheugan turned and fled.
The gates were a more than welcome sight. Rheugan paused to study them for a moment, then passed through at a trot.
* * * * *
The Vale was singing. That was his first thought. His second was that the “singing” wasn’t something he heard, but sensed. Rheugan fell in with a grummle caravan, pacing alongside a wagon while he tried to make sense of it.
It felt... familiar somehow, although he couldn’t place where he’d felt it before. He found it hard to care at the moment - it was doing a wonderful job of soothing the jagged nerves left from his encounter with the Thing in Kun-Lai. A shadow passed over him suddenly, and he looked up to see an immense dragon- wait, no, they call them cloud serpents -flying past overhead.
He paused to look around one more time. Even here he could see the signs of battle, but they were distant enough that he felt safe. Here, maybe, he could find some peace. He padded on, heading further into the Vale and toward the Shrine of Seven Stars.