goofy Olympics. Feral and I were far too young and inexperienced to be in Outland, let alone swimming in a race through elemenal-infested waters. But we wanted to be there, to not be excluded, so they let us come. It should have been terrifying, but as long as we were together nothing could stop us. If I close my eyes and smell the grass and listen to the waves lapping on the shore, I can pretend for a minute that it's that day again, and nothing has changed. But of course it has, and pretending won't change that.
Six months ago, I was trying to get us to Gadgetzan. Naked, burned, dehydrated, exhausted, I knew I couldn't keep going much farther. But the Goddess was kind that day, and the sun was still climbing towards noon when I saw that stupid, preposterous, beautiful mechanical hammer appear over the horizon. The tsunami hadn't destroyed the city (although the bay it had carved out came to within a mile of its walls), we hadn't gotten hopelessly lost in the desert, and I still had enough strength to carry her the rest of the way. "We made it, Sweetie," I whispered to her. "We're going to get you real healers, the best gold can buy, and you're going to be just fine."
If only things had been that simple.
The city guards stopped me fifty yards from the gate. "We ain't runnin' no charity here, sister. Nobody gets in unless they can pay. In advance."
I blinked at him, stupidly. "But... but... she needs help. She's hurt. We have gold - just... just not with me, right now. And we have friends, rich friends, if that's not enough. Please. You have to believe me. You have to let me take her to the healers!"
He just shrugged at me. "Healers are busy. No cash, no admittance. That's the rules, toots."
"Please, you have to let us in. We don't have anywhere else to go." My voice was breaking, my body was shaking, and tears would have been streaming down my cheeks if I hadn't been so dehydrated.
"Sure you do." He pointed to a spot off to the side, outside the wall. "Cemetery's right over there."
With that, my legs gave out and I fell down to my knees. It was all I could do not to drop Feral. I... I don't remember very well what all I said to the goblin guard at that point. I know I begged and pleaded and appealed. I threatened. I cried. I was probably about to offer him and his companion my body, when a voice interrupted.
"Ai! What in the name of mah grannies' tangled beard is all this ruckus aboot? What ar ye keepin' these poor lasses ootwith th' gate?" I turned my head and saw Bera Stonehammer holding a pair of leashes attached to gryphons. Behind her stood a couple of goblins carrying what looked like salvage from a flight station. The guard and I launched into (rather different) versions of why he wouldn't let me into the city. After a minute she said, "Enough! Yoo'll skeer th' kimmers. Lit th' girls in an' give them tae th' healers. I'll vooch fur them an' clear it wi' yer boss. Glovon! Geltan! Git o'er here an' git th' lass on a kimmer." Her retinue dropped what they were carrying and took Feral from me and gently lifted her onto the back of one of the gryphons. Meanwhile Bera rummaged through the salvage and came up with a couple of lightweight blankets for us. At this point I didn't give a flip for modesty, but it was nice to have something to block the damn sun with.
I'm sure we made quite the spectacle parading in through the gate, past the forge and the auction house. But I didn't care. I'd gotten Feral back to civilization, and now she would be taken care of by someone far more skilled than me, and then everything would go back to how it was supposed to be.
Water elementals still swim through these beautiful blue lakes of Nagrand. But instead of trying to avoid them as I did three years ago, I am hunting them for their motes, and they try to avoid me. Everything is the same as it was then, and everything is different.