November 7, 2010

The Misadventures of Harold Lane

Mood: Irritable, wet. Probably chafing.

Dear Journal,

What on Azeroth was I thinking when I signed up for this ridiculous expedition?! I know I wanted to get away from the farm and see the world, but I wanted to visit ancient architecture, see the desert, maybe even visit the Exodar or Darnassus. Take some soothing sea voyages, maybe convince the goblins to let us ride the zeppelin, that sort of thing.

Instead I am saddled to a madman! Hemet Nesingwary may have some famous books to his name, but I don't see how this crazy dwarf hasn't disappeared down the gullet of some ferocious beast yet. I'm not sure if he's just senile or if he's actually insane. He's constantly pestering panthers, annoying alligators and rump-slapping raptors - that's not a metaphor, the crazy old coot did it last night for laughs! And for what? For "the experience" he says!

The rest of the expedition is just like him, total nut-jobs! If it's mean and dangerous and got fur, it's fair game! I can't even count the number of times we've had to flee some pissed-off beast and dive off a cliff into the ocean or hide desperately under some strange jungle fauna, all because someone took a pot shot at a weird shape in the distance.

And they're so blood-thirsty! It's really quite frightening. It's like they're a bunch of starving pigs on the farm, and the farmer just came with a fresh bucket of scraps, except the scraps are every animal in the world that possesses fangs and claws.

To make matters worse, we haven't even GONE anywhere! Know where we are, journal? Stranglethorn Vale! Yes, my epic world travel has taken me all the way from the farm back in Westfall to the jungle just a few miles north! And it's awful here, just miserable. It's hot and icky, there's blood-sucking bugs everywhere, and I think I've got a sunburn on my entire body. The weather here is completely unpredictable, and will go from burning sun to torrential downpour to fierce monsoon at the blink of an eye. Oh, but at least there's not probably all sorts of jungle disease and filth in the river we use for drinking and bathing! I'm sure my poor body is a cesspool of contagion right now.

Oh, and remember those brand new lovely trousers Ma gave me before I left Westfall? The hand-sewn, really comfortable with the monogrammed initials inside? Ruined. Utterly ruined. The left leg now have a horrendous tear down the entire side, courtesy of an enormous crocolisk that chased us up Lake Nazferiti for almost an hour!

Why was it so mad? HEMET THREW A ROCK AT IT!! The thing let out a blood-curdling rasping roar and let me tell you, it can really move on land! We took off running but it was close behind the whole time! Bloody thing has six legs, I guess I shouldn't be that shocked.

I'm a scholar, not a runner, and soon that horrible creature caught up to me and chomped onto my leg, and began tossing me about like a rag doll! My quills went flying, my sketchbook went sailing into the mud, and my carefully sorted set of indexes and reference notes took a dip into the lake, lost forever.

I was sure I was about to become the creature's dinner, but Hemet popped back into sight and got its attention, and the thing instantly forgot about me. It spat me out into the lake and disappeared into the brush after him! I gingerly checked myself for injury, expecting to find nothing but a ragged stump...but thankfully it only bit my breeches. They're totally beyond repair, which is infuriating. I really liked those pants, though I almost needed new ones for an entirely different reason, if you catch my drift.

When I staggered back to the base camp that night, wet, tired, and half naked, did Hemet apologize? No! The old codger just broke out laughing and clapped me on the back, said that I was now a true member of his crew! I was too shocked to respond, but he said that if we didn't tackle the biggest, baddest animals, then it just wouldn't be any fun.

Fun!! I was nearly devoured and this old dwarf is talking about fun?! I looked around at the others, sure they would now see what a psychopath led them, but they were all just chuckling and clinking their ale mugs in agreement and merriment!

These people are lunatics!

Mood: Frightened, extremely apprehensive

Dear Journal,

Good news: I'm not in the jungle anymore.
Bad news: I'm not even on Azeroth anymore, either!!

A few weeks ago, crazy Hemet decided that the jungle had gotten boring, so it was time to move the expedition to "fresh hunting grounds" as he put it. We took a nice boat back to Stormwind where we cooled our heels for a few weeks while he made some preparations, bought supplies, and other such tedium.

It was heaven! I'd forgotten how much I had missed the finer things in life. After months of eating nothing but stale biscuits and undercooked, stringy lizard and jungle cat, I was almost reduced to tears the first time I saw a nice roast chicken. Everyday activities that I taken for granted were finally available to me again! I bathed in CLEAN WATER, I shaved, I breathed in lovely air that wasn't heavy in sweat, fur and droppings. I think I scrubbed off a dozen pounds of dirt and grime! I even paid their library a visit and carefully cataloged, sorted and filed my observations. Nesingwary isn't the only one who can write books! To say our visit to Stormwind invigorated me would be an understatement. I had never felt so refreshed, so alive!

But then Hemet came and whisked us off to his next expedition site, and being honor-bound by the contract I had signed, I had to leave behind all the niceties I had just gotten re-accustomed to. There were only four of us, Hemet, two others, and myself, so I figured we'd be meeting up with the rest of the expedition later, or perhaps joining a hunting party that was already out in the field.

We passed through a wizard portal, and I emerged onto red, dry clay under a toxic, tumultuous purple sky. I nearly fainted at the sight. THIS was our next locale? The ground was cracked and burnt, and off in the distance I could see rotting husks of once-mighty trees jutting from the soil like skeletons. The air was full of soot and ash, and the fine silk doublet I had purchased just a few days earlier was immediately stained with an oily, greasy smear. Lovely.

Hemet knelt to adjust the ties on some of the supplies and told us not to worry, that we were just passing through. Thank goodness! I asked where we were headed. He led us up a short bluff and with hands on hips, pointed and said "Right there! What do ye think, eh? What an opportunity!"

I stared, mouth agape. Down in a shallow crater was a gigantic, ominous stone structure, a portal or gate of some kind. In its center glowed a sickly green portal, flickering and shimmering with an evil light. I had heard of this - the Dark Portal, which led to the original homeland of the orcs, an alien, strange world called Outlands. I was not pleased.

To my horror, my companions began excitedly chattering and laughing, and started running down the slope towards it! I tried to protest or talk some sense into them, but no one paid me any heed whatsoever. Another planet? Another WORLD? Where those violent orcs called home? This couldn't possibly be happening!

Hemet was already down the hill and halfway to the portal when he looked back and saw I hadn't moved from the lip of the crater. He waved his arms and began beckoning and shouting at me.

"Come on now lad, don't be nervous! There's bound to be all sorts o' exotic new wildlife to discover on the other side! The is the chance of a lifetime!" He and Fitz, another of the hunters, then unslung their rifles and began firing into the air wildly, hooting and whooping, madly celebrating their new adventure.

I was ready to just flop down onto the ground in a daze, but at that moment a terrifying monster came snorting around the corner, probably curious about all the guns going off below. It looked like a boar, if a boar had glowing yellow eyes, a bright crimson hide, and wicked looking bony spikes - yes, SPIKES - along its back like some kind of evil, demonic porcupine!

It looked at me, let out a screeching squeal that sent a shudder down my spine, and then broke into an alarmingly fast trot right towards me! Well, I wasn't going to stick around and chat with this DEMON BOAR, so I hightailed it down the crater and joined Hemet and his band of madmen. The boar stopped at the edge and looked down at us, but didn't come any closer. Fitz wanted to kill it (of course) but Hemet said that there was better game on the other side! Oh, wonderful!

We stepped through the portal and I was delighted to see that the other side was exactly the same, except worse in every possible way. The ground was still red dusty shale devoid of life, but here the sky was also on fire! At least three moons hung lazily overheard and multi-hued vortexes and rifts dotted the horizon. The air was thin and tasted faintly like rotten eggs. Oh, and there was an army of 10-foot-tall demons engaged in a heated battle just a few yards away!!

The clamor of their roars and the clashing of weapons was deafening, and I'm sure my hearing will never be the same. We gawked at our new surroundings and stared fitfully at the demonic horde in our path, but Hemet immediately took off running to a makeshift camp nearby, so we followed. He ran up to a fearsome looking contraption of iron, wood and canvas and announced that it was our ride!

Journal, I'm not really sure what this thing is. It's got wings, so I guess it's like a bird? But it also has what looks to be a stove and chimney, and enormous metal tubes spitting out a foul, acrid smoke. I didn't see any wheels, so I asked Hemet if this device was meant to fly, a question I dreaded hear the answer to.

"You got it laddy!" he said, beaming, a wild glint in his (crazy) eyes. "This is our ride to greener pastures, to a land of beasties o' unimaginable size, o' the best huntin' ye'll ever find!"

I shuddered. I didn't WANT to find the best hunts! I didn't want to fly in this winged stove thing. I just wanted to travel the world - MY world! On the other hand, I was infinitely glad that we were leaving this barren, scarred place behind. But knowing Hemet, will our new destination be even worse?

Already, Marsha and Fitz had started to load up our boxes and supplies, so I took a seat on a nearby crate and figured I should write this down, in case our bizarre machine crashes and sends us all plummeting to our deaths. I really should have invested in an iron-bound casing for this book. Or fireproofing. Or just become a secretary. Ah well, too late now.

Hemet's waving at me and telling me it's time to leave, so here we go, I guess. I hope that I live to pen another entry.

Mood: Cranky.

Dear Journal,

We are all going to die here.

After leaving that hellish landscape we flew many minutes, soaring high into the sky. On Azeroth, the gentle ceiling of clouds and blue sky would have calmed my frazzled nerves, but here in the Outlands there is no sky, just, infinite, gaping space! It was truly unsettling and it made me dizzy and nauseous just thinking about it, so I closed my eyes and just tried not to fall off.

It really didn't help that our ride was bucking and sputtering like a gnomish mechano-bronco, weaving through the air like a drunken sparrow. I actually saw entire metal plates just detach and fall to the ground many miles below. I grabbed Hemet and told him, but he just chuckled and muttered something about "redundancy layers" and told me to sit back and enjoy the ride. Such a thing was completely impossible, so I clenched my eyes shut and waited for death.

After what seemed like an eternity, the burning in my nostrils began to fade and I smelled...fresh, pure air! I cracked my eyes to see that we were approaching a lush, fertile land with gently roaming hills and verdant fauna. For a moment, I forgot my apprehensions and marveled at the wonderful land sprawled before us. Westfall will always be my home, and Stormwind's majestic canals and streets are a thing of beauty, but I felt amazingly at peace when gazing upon this pure, natural scene.

Of course, the serenity of the moment was ruined seconds later by a large explosion that rocked our craft, and we screamed (Hemet in exhilaration, myself in complete, utter terror) as we dropped out of the sky. I glanced down at the fast-approaching grass that I had been admiring moments earlier, and while it was still very nice looking, guessed that it wouldn't make for a very soft or giving landing pad.

Somehow, against all odds, Hemet managed to straighten us out so that we were only violently ejected when we landed instead of being killed instantly. We tumbled do the ground and lay there stunned as our ship smoldered and sizzled. After a minute, Hemet and the others leaped to their feet, slapping each other on the back and exchanging thrilled laughs. As I lay on the grass, I wondered just who I had wronged in a former life to make me deserve my fate.

Eventually we put out the fires and salvaged as much of our supplies as we could. Fitz started a campfire and as we dug into some charred rations (more trail biscuits...yum.) I asked Hemet where we'd be headed after we ate.

He burst out laughing. My stomach immediately felt queasy and I do believe I felt an ulcer materialize.

"Where we're headed? Lad, we're already here!" he said with a grin. "We'll just set up our tents over yonder and we'll be good as gold!"

"But there's just four of us!" I yelled at him. "Aren't we meeting up with a larger camp, or some more hunters, or at least finding a cave or some form of shelter?" I had seen many large creatures at least twice my height roaming the plains as we had made our approach, and did not fancy the idea of sleeping out in the open where the beasts could stumble upon us and engage in a midnight snack.

He grinned at me. I cursed under my breath. Don't say it. Don't say it, you miserable old loon!!

"Ah, but Harold, where'd be the fun in that?"

I hate that dwarf.

Mood: Dying!!

Dear Diary,

I am moments from expiration, I can feel it in my bones. A pox on Hemet Nesingwary and his stupid expedition! O, I am slain! Done in by a fearsome injury sustained while accompanying that blasted dwarf on his wild hunts. Such pain! Such agony! I wish I listened to Ma and become a farmer.

But...perhaps I can find the strength to finish my tale, so at least others may learn from my mistakes, and see how deranged my employer truly is.

After we set up our "camp" Hemet began surveying the area, looking for new types of creatures to study, inspect, and murder. Camp is perhaps a generous term. Our domicile consists of two flappy tents, some logs, and a handful of barrels & crates containing our foodstuffs. The nights are cold, the days are hot, and we are stuck in the middle of nowhere in a foreign land on an alien planet. I never thought I'd miss the jungle.

I don't know how we managed it, but we crashed in a relatively safe location. By safe, I mean that there are no predators that stalk us in the night waiting to devour us, only gigantic furry mammals that stomp around us endlessly, knocking over our tents and waking us in the middle of the night. Though omnivorous, they have enormous mouths and could swallow a man in a single gulp.

There's all sorts of other strange animals living around us, as well. Stag-like beasts Hemet has named Talbuks, and birds that resemble owls, except much more ferocious and about twice as large he called Windrocs. Our food supplies were running low, so Hemet and Fitz decided to head out and try to bring down a talbuk for dinner. Marsha was busy working on our ruined vehicle, so she and I stayed behind to watch the camp.

I was sketching some hoof prints I had discovered in some mud nearby when I heard a great uproar. Hemet came charging back into the camp, Fitz close on his heels, and together they leaped behind a stack of barrels and began pointing their rifles back the way they had came. I turned just in time to see no less than a dozen talbuks charge into our camp, knocking over my tent and upsetting the broth I had been simmering for dinner. One talbuk bowled me over and knocked me head over heels into some thorny bushes, and I could only watch in agony as its friends trampled my precious sketches under their hooves, reducing my hours of painstaking measurements and precise brushwork into nothing more than muddy paste.

Desperate, I pushed and squeezed at the talbuk that was mashing me into the ground. I heard Hemet and Fitz shooting at the angry herd, and then oddly, heard a new, unexpected noise, the sound of furious squawking. I looked up from beneath the talbuk to see a flock of angry windrocs soar into camp and begin tearing huge gouges in our tents, carrying off pots and pans, and causing all sorts of chaos.

Trapped as I was beneath the talbuk, I was helpless to escape the claws of a few unruly windrocs that swept down at me, their sharp talons ripping and tearing for my flesh. Fortunately, the bulk of the talbuk protected me, and the furious assault by the windrocs seemed to awaken the dumb animals and stir it to lift itself off me and bound off into the brush. Hemet and Fitz ran over and picked up some burning logs from the campfire and began waving them in the air, and eventually the animals grew tired of their siege and left us in peace.

Miraculously, I had escaped serious injury, though I did have a angry looking slash on the leg. Hemet glanced at it and rolled his eyes. "Just a scratch! Ye'll be fine!" he said with a chuckle. Every muscle in my body ached and creaked, and I went to bed in excruciating soreness, my sour attitude not helped at all by the great amusement and revelry from Hemet, Fitz and Marsha outside. "Just another heart-pounding escapade!" Hemet had called the day's events.

Well journal, of course that little scratch was an alarming green in the morning, and my leg had ballooned to twice its size. Even Hemet was taken aback by the wound, and recommended that I get some rest before had to chop off my leg. I assume he was joking. I hope he was joking. One never knows, with Hemet...

The pain is excruciating and it shoots through me every time I move. I can't even sleep or whistle to pass the time without gasping in pain. I am sure I will be dead within the week. Oh, and I also seem to have developed a strain of pneumonia! Probably because my tent has great rents in it and the rain has been pouring on my face every night. Worst expedition ever.

I wish I could say I had no regrets, but I regret EVERYTHING to do with Hemet Nesingwary and his cursed hunts!

Mood: Hunted, hungry, want to kick Hemet in the groin.

Dear Journal,

I'm still alive. But you will never believe what's happened to me.

My sickness continued to get worse and I developed a terrible fever, so Hemet eventually packed me up and we set off to find civilization. I was sick with delirium, so I only remember bits & pieces of the journey, but I do remember us entering a beautiful building made of shining crystal and melodious music.

I thought I had died and gone to least until Hemet's face thrust into my vision and started yelling at me. He told me that they'd managed to find a Draenei village, and their priests had calmed my fever and purged me of my sickness, though it would take some time for me to fully recover. He went on to explain that they'd borrowed some talbuks to use as mounts, and that they were going to take me back home to Stormwind so I could recover.

I drifted off then, but felt at peace. Finally, going home! No more of these crazy hunts, these strange, dangerous lands. I decided that I would join a nice book club and get a job as a librarian when I got better. Maybe start a debate club, something like that.

I next woke up in a place that was definitely not Stormwind. I blinked, wondering if I was dreaming, and felt the ground beneath me sway and bob. I looked around and discovered that I was lying on a bed in...a ship? I was dressed in layers of thick, heavy clothes that did very little to keep me from immediately feeling like I had stepped into an icebox. It was REALLY cold.

I propped myself up on my elbows and nearly passed out - clearly, I was still feeling the effects of the infection. The door opened, and Hemet peeked his head in. His eyes lit up when he saw that I was awake.

"Harold, great news!" he crowed as he climbed down the ladder and poured himself a mug of ale from a nearby keg. "Y'see, we had just gotten back in Stormwind when heralds began runnin' through the streets, announcin' that the Alliance would be headin' off ta Northrend to fight the Scourge! Northrend, Harold! A whole new continent of new species and amazing new animals to discover! I knew ye wouldn't wanna miss out on such a grand adventure so we packed you up and tossed ye on the boat and here we are!"

Wait...ANOTHER new land? And this one full of the undead?? I was supposed to be at home in Stormwind, where it was warm, where it was safe! This was horrible! I tried to voice my complaints to him but all I could muster was "Uuuughhh unngh uhhraa?!" Speech having failed me, I looked about to something to throw at his face, but I was stricken with a sudden migraine and lost consciousness again.

I awoke much later as the ship began rocking violently, hurling me from my bed. I groaned and got to my feet, and rustled around for any additional clothes with which I could further cocoon myself. Swaddled and bundled, I trudged down the hall and up to the deck. Fierce winds and swirling snow assaulted me as I ascended, and I was shocked to see the ship surrounded by a pure wall of whiteness on every side. I couldn't see anything in any direction. Just what Hemet gotten me into now??

I spotted him conversing some distance away with what must have been the captain. I took a step towards him, prepared to deliver a blistering spew of epithets, but I never got the chance. The ship suddenly careened to the side, shuddering, as if it had collided with something huge. Unprepared for such a motion, I fell on my tailbone and tumbled down the deck and hit the railing...and rolled right up the rail and flipped over into open air.

I didn't even have time to scream or curse Hemet's for doing this to me before I splashed down into the ice-cold water. My lungs began to seize with shock, and I immediately lost all feeling in my limbs. This was it! No escaping this one, I thought.

But I was wrong! I was in the water for no longer than a few seconds before I washed up on a sandy shore. Shivering, I stumbled out of the water and took stock of my surroundings. It was a frigid, rocky tundra, covered with light patches of grass and rocky outcroppings. I knew I had but seconds before I froze to death, but as luck would have it, I spotted a campfire nearby. I staggered over to warm myself but stopped abruptly when I saw its owner slumbering in a bedroll a few feet from the flames - a massive, hulking male orc.

Orcs! I was in Horde territory! But I was desperate. I crept nearer, as close as I dared, until I could feel the slightest heat from the fire creep into my bones. I stayed there, hovering at the perimeter of the camp, until I was confident my bovine friend was indeed fast asleep. I edged closer and closer, and finally began to regain feeling in my extremities.

I shivered from a slight breeze, and the orc snorted and shifted in his sleep. I froze, terrified. I couldn't stay here, not this close. There was an enormous axe next to his pillow - he surely wouldn't stop to ask questions if he awoke and found me invading his campsite. I looked around, desperate, and spotted my solution - it appeared that the orc had recently slain some of the local wildlife, as a heaping pile of furs and hides lay nearby. Though I hated to steal, this was a matter of life or death. I absconded with enough furs to keep myself warm, and wrapped them around me in a loose bundle as I hurried off into the night.

The furs were itchy, still bloody, and covered in lice, but they were warm enough to keep me alive, and that was all that mattered. I found a cave and spent the rest of the night huddled inside, cold, hungry, and exceptionally angry at a certain dwarf, but alive.

The next morning I tightly wrapped the furs around me and after peeking about to ensure that the orc wasn't waiting angrily outside, set off to find help. I wandered the tundra for a short time before I spotted some humanoid forms in the distance. More Horde? I peered through the fog and finally made out a tall figure, with long pointed ears. A night elf! A few others were milling about nearby, and I could see a gentle bonfire crackling a few feet away.

I ran up happily, eager to throw off the dirty, stinking hides and warm myself by their fire. However, as soon as they noticed me approach they immediately grabbed for their weapons! I slowed, confused.

"Do you think us fools! You're covered in animal blood!" said the elf as he ran towards me, an angry scowl upon his face. Beside him, a female Tauren brandished a spiked, jagged staff.

"Calf killer! Murderer!" she shouted at me, hatred in her eyes as she transformed into a ferocious bear. They were druids!

I had no idea what was going on, but I knew danger when I saw it, so I turned tail and ran. Their angry cries followed me as I fled over the hills, and I heard one of them shouting that they "had found the Borean Butcher!"

Eventually they stopped chasing me, though they continued to shout death threats in my direction. "We know it's you, Fur Baron!" the Tauren screamed at me. "We know you're the one who has been murdering the innocent animals in the area! You will pay for your crimes again nature!"

Me! A butcher! As if I could ever find the nerve to kill something! I am a biologist, not a hunter!

That was a week ago. Everywhere I go, these crazed druids spot me and try to hunt me down! I'm not really sure what their deal is, but it's quite distressing.

I'm not sure what to do, journal. I can't go anywhere or the druids will kill me for wearing furs, but if I don't wear the furs I'll freeze! It sure would be nice if I were in the nice warm Stormwind library and not scrounging for edible weeds and dodging frenzied druids at every turn.

I know one thing for sure though. This is all undoubtedly, unquestionably, Hemet's fault. That blasted dwarf!! If I ever see him again, I'm going to rip out his beard and shove all eighty-seven pages of his silly book right down his throat!

Wait, what's that noise?

Show/Hide Letter Notes

Pertinent Lore:

Harold Lane

Honestly, I have no idea how Harold's adventures ended up being almost 5000 words long. I am baffled. The only thing I had in mind at the start was that he was pretty comically cowardly in Nagrand, and his Borean Tundra quest never really made sense to me. THAT guy? The guy who was laid low by a thorn scratch? HE'S the Fur Baron? No way. There had to be some kind of mistake. And then I thought, wouldn't it be hilarious if he was totally NOT a badass hunter, but simply someone who got caught up in Hemet's crazy hunts?

I thought it would be extra funny if he was the antithesis of a hunter - cowardly, whiny, used to luxury, overly dramatic, etc. And if Hemet was just a teensy bit insane (which, judging from some of his actual quests, might actually be true) it would make the contrast and Harold's exasperation even better.

The rest really wrote itself. The more I wrote of Harold, the more vividly I could picture him in my mind, imagining what he was feeling, what new irritation bothered, him, etc. Although he wasn't actually one of the original Stranglethorn Vale NPCs, I added him in as I felt it would make more sense if he'd been with Hemet for years, growing increasingly frustrated with Hemet's wacky ways.

I did struggle with just how this incompetent person would ever make it from Hemet's crash site in Sholazar Basin to his home in Borean Tundra. A shipwreck did work, but how would he survive? It didn't make sense, until I came up with the idea of him stealing furs, which THEN tied in perfectly with why D.E.H.T.A. was after him. It all worked out great in the end.

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