Quest for Pandaria

Part 2 of 4

They stayed a few days in Stormwind, stocking up on supplies for their journey. It was a long road south, and there wouldn't be any major cities until they reached Booty Bay itself. Once they had everything they needed, they set out on the open road, leaving the bustle of the city behind them.

Though Stormwind's damage had been extensive, Elwynn Forest seemed largely unchanged, and nothing really stood out to Li Li as unusual for the route they traveled. Stranglethorn Vale, however, was another matter entirely. As they tramped along the jungle's narrow but well-worn trail, the signs of Deathwing's return were all around them, from corrupted patches of forest to newly founded settlements of both the Alliance and Horde. In some places the road grew truly treacherous. Booty Bay, by the time they arrived, was a more than welcome sight. Run by the Steamwheedle Cartel, the small city perched over the tip of the Cape of Stranglethorn with the unmatchable defiance of the terminally down-and-out. All manner of brutal cutthroats and wide-eyed adventurers sought out Booty Bay as a place to make their fortunes or just escape the strict law enforcement of the larger cities. Li Li and Chen stepped onto its rickety wooden walkways with both relief and delight.

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"As much as I love life on the road, it'll be good to have a bed underneath me tonight." Chen sighed happily. Li Li knew that Booty Bay was one of his favorite places on Azeroth.

"The road in this part of the world could use some improvement," Li Li huffed. "Would it have killed them to put up a sign? 'Warning: Path ahead disappears into a giant whirlpool of death'!"

Chen quickly sobered.

"Deathwing really did shatter the earth."

"Booty Bay seems intact, though."

"I think it would take more than a few giant whirlpools of death for the goblins to give up on this place." Chen winked, smiling again. "Come on, Li Li. There's a mug of terrible goblin grog with my name on it."

***

The Salty Sailor Tavern would never catch any architect's eye, except perhaps as a textbook example of disrepair. The dilapidated old hovel had an unfinished, haphazard air about it, its additional floors and bedrooms simply tacked on whenever the steady stream of visitors had exceeded the existing structure's capacity. In Booty Bay, safety and stability were generally not a proprietor's highest concerns—buyer beware, after all.

So, while the infamous pub might be a less-than-ideal destination for the honest tourist, it was a perfect haven for the downtrodden, petty criminals, gallivanting sailors, or otherwise slightly off-kilter members of society. There were plenty of places where one could hide unseen, and observe.

Unusual people found their way to Booty Bay. Nonetheless, Catelyn was genuinely surprised to see two pandaren walk through the front door and slap some coins down on the counter for Skindle. She had heard of their kind but had never seen any up close, and something about them piqued Catelyn's interest.

Doing just that was one of Catelyn's favorite pastimes. From her vantage point on the mezzanine-style second floor, she could easily watch the comings and goings of all the tavern's patrons, with an eye toward any opportunities that might present themselves.

Unusual people found their way to Booty Bay. Nonetheless, Catelyn was genuinely surprised to see two pandaren walk through the front door and slap some coins down on the counter for Skindle. She had heard of their kind but had never seen any up close, and something about them piqued Catelyn's interest. Their staves and haversacks clearly marked them as travelers. She watched them carry their pints of ale to an empty table in the corner of the bar, and started to edge along the stairs, eager to discover more about the two fascinating strangers.

***

Chen gently rolled the metallic mug between his palms, watching the beer swirl.

"It's definitely as bad as I remember," he commented.

"Pandaren brew beer to have an effect like gunpowder," Li Li said, "but I'm pretty sure the goblins brew it with gunpowder."

Chen tapped his chin, looking thoughtful.

"Li Li, do you remember anything else you've heard about the pearl?"

Li Li paused, her own mug halfway to her mouth.

"I told you and Papa everything the naga told me, and what Wanyo said confirmed it."

"So you were eavesdropping on that meeting."

Li Li glared. "That was a dirty trick!"

Chen laughed. "You did that all by yourself, Li Li." He wagged a reproachful finger at her, but his eyes twinkled.

"Fine, yes, I did listen in," she huffed. "So what?"

"I just wonder about the pearl. We don't know anything about it other than the fact that some naga was desperate to get her hands on it and it grants visions, yet here we are, following its direction."

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