Disclaimer: This is one of the side stories that goes with Impervious, and a bit of a play on the old tale, The Three Billy Goats Gruff.
Ta'lim Bonsplitter sat in the middle of the road through Stranglethorn, blocking one of the bridges as he tried to very carefully write out a warning on a few of the giant jungle leaves he'd dried the night before.
Bridge being repaired. Please wait to use.
The orcish part had been easy enough—he wasn't illiterate or anything—but he was trying to write it out in common, too. While the Grom'gol lot had looked down on him when he'd asked if anyone spoke the human tongue, he'd tried to explain that if Alliance kept going across the bridge while he was fixing it, they'd probably end up damaging it and then the task would take him longer.
This was Ta'lim's first vacation ever. Well, the first one he'd taken alone, anyway. He was a courier, always delivering letters and packages for the Horde, be they just in Orgrimmar, or across the sea. While it wasn't a glamorous job, people did frequently try to kill him for the information he carried and as a result, when he asked for time to himself, it was given.
After all, no other Horde courier had lasted nearly as long as he had.
Usually, when he wanted time away from work, it was to raid with his guild or to go on an adventure with said guild. However, as much as he loved his brothers and sisters in arms, they had tendencies to get into trouble. Intentionally. And even if he thought they deserved to learn a lesson, he couldn't leave them to meet some horrible demise.
That was why he hadn't told anyone in his guild about his vacation. He didn't want to get dragged into some life or death whirlwind adventure. The last time he'd done that had been in the Burning Steppes and his wolf had met a grisly demise because of it. For once, he'd like it if his pet could live more than a month before dying.
He reached out and patted the purple striped saber cat curled up beside him. He needed to think of a good name for her, one worthy a warrior of the Horde.
With a sigh, Ta'lim lowered his paint brush and inspected the common line on his sign.
Bridg danja. Deth likkli.
It probably wasn't perfect, but hopefully whoever came up would understand that the sign was there for a reason and would take the time to look over and see what he was up to.
Letting out a long sigh, Ta'lim scratched one of his tusks and then looked around for something to mount his sign on. After he fixed the bridge, he would still have the rest of his vacation to do as he pleased, right?
Ta'lim had trouble telling people no. Really, he liked helping people, but sometimes he just wanted a day or two for himself. Was that too much to ask?
Before the Darkspear had fled across the sea, Ta'lim had barely been old enough to walk. However, he still dreamed of nights lit with torches and bonfires, of a strong armed man with a tiki mask, moving his hands in grandiose gestures as he told stories of the ancient loa. He'd thought it would be nice to go back to his original home. Maybe he would see something that would strike at his memories.
He'd wanted to ask his older sister, Khai'rhi, if the man he remembered had been their father, before he'd fallen fighting the sea witch, but he never did. He wasn't sure why. The two of them never spoke of their parents and it seemed like bringing up the man from his memories might break that taboo.
He'd been wandering the jungle, leading his mount along by its reins as his cat bounded playfully ahead of them, occasionally slipping into stealth so that it could pounce at butterflies and small rodents. On one occasion, a snake bigger than Ta'lim had reared out of the underbrush, but Ta'lim was good with his bow and it only took a single arrow between its eyes to kill it.
During his travels, he'd come across the bridge. It hadn't been overly sturdy and his cat's leg had gone through one of the planks. After spending an eternity trying to quiet the beast long enough for him to set it free, he'd headed back to Grom'gol to let them know about the decrepit nature of only safe route north.
The orcs had responded by smiling and handing him a bunch of repair tools. When he'd tried to say it wasn't his job to fix it, the leader of the forces there had taken him aside personally and, with arm slung over the troll's shoulders, had explained how he and his men were pressed for people to do even the simplest of tasks, because of the ogres and murlocs and jungle trolls. He even threw in some concern about the Venture Co. and Alliance for good measure.
While Ta'lim wasn't a carpenter, he figured that if he could at least get some sturdier timber, it would turn out better. By the loa, maybe someone else would come along and improve upon his handiwork.
Ta'lim finally relieved a nearby murloc of its spear—he left the rest of it for his cat to have a quick meal—and set the sign up next to the bridge upon the spear's shaft.
With that, he went about taking measurements for the posts and boards. He spent most of the next day chopping down two smaller trees and then cutting them into the appropriate sized pieces. As he was measuring the third to last plank, he heard something trip-trapping across the bridge overhead.
At first, he thought that perhaps someone from Grom'gol had come to help and that they were looking for him. He didn't look up, instead calling out, "Who dat be trippin' ova mah bridge?"
A soft squeak was the only response.
Frowning, Ta'lim climbed up the bank to the southern end of the bridge, but froze when he saw a young draenei woman standing just barely on the other end. She hadn't made it three feet onto the bridge before she'd realized it wasn't safe. Further, she looked slightly terrified to see Ta'lim. The hunter ran his fingers through his tangle of green braids and made a shooing motion toward her.
"Ya don' wanna be usin' dis bridge. Ya gonna fall t'rough 'n break sometin." Even as he tried to figure out how to tell her to either go around or wait a day, she took in a sharp breath and charged across the bridge, keeping her eyes on the road beyond, even when one of her hooves slipped through the rotting wood. As she ran past him, she cried out a quick spell and Ta'lim found himself rooted to the ground in a ring of ice.
He took in a slow, irritated breath and closed his eyes. She must not have understood him. He ended up having to wait half an hour before the ice was finally weak enough for him to free his feet and went back to working on the bridge.
After finishing the planks, he went up to see how he ought to go about replacing the rotting ones and quickly saw that—just his luck—even the rope was beginning to rot. Ta'lim tapped his fingers against his knee as he pondered going back to Grom'gol to ask for some. However, he didn't want to go back and have them tack on another task they desperately needed done, but didn't have the man power for. Instead, he considered the way his sister sometimes wove baskets. If he cut his leftover wood into thin strips and soaked them, he could probably weave them into something stronger than rope.
His palms were already sore from all the chopping he'd done, but he decided he might as well go ahead with it. If nothing else, he was leaving his old homeland a little better a place.
Ta'lim worked well into the night before he was content that his woven rope would suffice. He tested it by making a mini bridge and having both his cat and his raptor cross it. When it proved sturdy enough for him on his raptor, he began to attach the rest of the planks.
As he squinted through the sweat dripping from his brow, he heard someone speaking in a language he wasn't familiar with overhead, near the northern end of the bridge. Climbing back up the bank to the southern side, he saw another draenei woman standing near his sign. Unlike the first, she wore plate and he figured her for a warrior. Ta'lim stepped so that he was blocking the path and made an X with his arms.
"Dis bridge ain't safe, mon. All Ah be needin' is ya fallin' t'rough it and damaging de replacement Ah been workin' on below—"
He let out a cry as the woman tore across the bridge, much as the first one had. Several of the rotting planks gave out and thudded to the forest below as she hurried, making the rest of the bridge quake and the ropes stretch, their brittle threads beginning to break and snap.
Ta'lim barely had time to dodge out of her two handed axe's way. However, he easily swung himself up into one of the nearby trees and the draenei apparently didn't think it necessary to wait for him to come down. Instead, she shook her fist at him and yelled a few words in her native tongue before continuing down the road.
Ta'lim hunched his head down lower. If it weren't for his guild leader's stance against faction conflict, he'd have him some dead Alliance. He waited until he could no longer hear the light clop of the draenei's hooves before he dropped back to the ground.
For a while, his task went along smoothly. He finished attaching the planks to the weave and then cut down the old bridge and dug up the old posts. As he tied the new bridge to the new northern two posts, he called for his cat and had it sit at the one end, a new sign around its neck.
Repairs almost complete.
Pas Cat ded.
"Don' be lettin' nobodeh past, yeh?" He held his finger to the cat's nose and looked into its eyes. "No movin'."
As he commended himself on his genius in telling any Alliance morons to wait for the cat to move—that had been what he'd written, right?—he dropped back down into the gulley and scurried across, tugging the other end of the bridge up after him. He'd finished one of the rails, tying it to the lower weave every few feet, and was just starting on the second side when he heard it.
His cat let out a hissing noise and then a full growl and then...a yelp. Ta'lim jerked his attention toward where his beast had been sitting and his jaw dropped as he saw a male draenei paladin striding across his bridge toward him. Behind the massive creature, he could just make out the outline of his cat, sprawled out across the road.
"Da fuck is ya damn problem?" Ta'lim cried out, dodging back as the paladin swung his mace at him. The draenei kept at him and Ta'lim finally snapped. To hell with making a nice bridge for everyone to use.
With a quick motion, Ta'lim sliced the less secured railing in half, wrapped his arm around the other, and threw his knife at the weave securing the rail-less side of the bridge. It snapped and the bridge half collapsed, sending the draenei into the underbrush of the gulley below. Ta'lim hopped down after him when he was sure the bastard was unconscious, and used some of his extra weave to bind the creature's hands behind his back.
When he was sure that his attacker wouldn't be sneaking up on him any time soon—he decided to take the creature's mace for good measure—he scampered back up to see how his cat was doing. With a few bandages, it would be good as new in a few days. Ta'lim patted the creature's head as it nuzzled his face. Perhaps this one would last longer than the others. This would be his pet forever. Finally a companion who would last through whatever the fates might throw at him.
Thinking better of his drastic measures, Ta'lim went back up and re-secured the last side of the bridge, though he left one side rail-less. Someone else could finish the damn thing.
He'd had enough of draenei and Stranglethorn. It was time to head home.
Three weeks later, Cat was eaten by murlocs who traveled across the sea on a suicide mission to storm Orgrimmar and avenge their fallen comrade.
A/N: In fairness to the Alliance, the draenei thought that his signs were hexes. That's why they were so hostile.