Episode 5: The Misguided Murloc King
Two days after leaving Amber Ledge, I was seriously starting to regret my decision to avoid the roads. I worried that some of the Kirin Tor might be eager to seek me out once the excitement of Evanor’s return faded, so I had opted, instead, to follow the water’s shoreline. It had seemed like a wise idea at the time, and for my horse, Surfal, this was a nice way to stay hydrated. Still, there had been little in the way of social interaction since we had departed.
According to the latest maps, the gnome checkpoint in the north would have warm meals and soft beds. They also had an airstrip. All of that seemed a long way away now. In the distance I could hear the roar of a waterfall, which meant I would find the ramp that the Alliance had built leading back up for the main road just a little further ahead. From there I would be able to follow the road and find the airstrip.
I spurred Surfal on and the horse reluctantly picked up speed until we reached the waterfall and the large pond that fed the waterway I had been following these last few days. I almost wanted to rinse off in the water, but just as I was thinking about how I would warm the pond, I caught sight of something I wished I could have unseen.
It was a man… standing in the cold water… dressed a murloc.
It was a sight that confounded and confused me. Maybe I was hallucinating? I had heard of such stupidity all across the globe, but Northrend had so far been a very unforgiving community. I had not expected to find something as mindless as this in the tundra, much less any part of the north, yet here this man stood.
As I moved over to where the man was standing, I was surprised to see that not far behind him were several dozen actual murlocs. The smaller creatures all appeared to be minding their own business as though the man in the suit was supposed to be there.
At this point, I realized the costume was actually a disguise, and it seemed to be working, which was astonishing if nothing else. I watched the man for a long moment and then finally decided I had to know more. I gave him a wave.
“Excuse me,” I said aloud as I waved. “Are you okay over there?”
The man in the murloc suit suddenly turned to face me. He then practically jumped out of his suit as he started to lunge toward me. Something about seeing the enormous fake murloc jump at me made me feel uncertain. I started to conjure a fireball just in case.
The man reached me and quickly took up my hand into a wet glove and shook vigorously.
“Welcome!” he shouted. “I’m so glad you are here! I’m was just thinking about how I needed someone who could help and then bam, here you are. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect!”
“What timing,” I said with a fake smile. “It does seem obviously that you need some help. What are you hoping that I can do for you?”
The murloc man tilted his head for a moment but then started to laugh wildly. “Oh! You mean the suit? Yeah, that’s a thing. Anyway listen, I was just out here to observe these things, I never expected I’d get wrapped up in a fight for survival with the murlocs! Mage, they’ve made me their king! I’m responsible for keeping these creatures safe from the monster across the river. Over there is some kind of dark creature that has driven the other murlocs insane!”
“You do realize you’re a guy in a mucloc suit… trying to convince me that something else is insane, right?”
“Listen, it’ll all make sense soon. All I need you to do is go over and fight the giant crab monster that’s taken control of the other murlocs. Once you kill it, then my followers will be able to return home across the way.”
The man nodded. “I’m currently the leader of these murlocs. I was one of the fastest to respond when that giant monster showed up and started taking control of the village. Those that escaped have followed my lead ever since.”
By now I was mildly captivated by all of this. I decided there was only one way to run this to ground. I needed to help this poor man complete whatever quest he had lined up for me.
“So what do you want me to do? Go across the river and kill some kind of crab monster?”
The Murloc King nodded. “It’s the only way.”
“Do you understand how stupid that sounds?”
“I don’t, but then again, I believe that’s because for me this is a grim reality.”
Well, now I couldn’t leave him. I nodded and said I’d do his task.
Following the King’s direction, I was forced to swim across the river at the point where it was most narrow. To do this, I had to backtrack several hundred yards. At first I grumbled about it a little bit, but when I got in the freezing water, then the grumbling turned into full complaining.
The water was surprisingly warm while I was in it, yet when I emerged on the other side, I was almost instantly frozen. I had to use a very special, and very dangerous I should add, spell to warm myself up and dry out my clothes without bursting into flames.
Once I was dry enough to feel my hands again I headed up the water’s edge until I found the abandoned murloc village that the King had described.
Then I found the massacre.
At least a hundred dead murlocs were dead. Many more were huddled together, hovering around small huts or hovels, but not doing anything. Behind the village, I could see where a cliff wall had cracked open recently. The murlocs seemed to be avoiding the opening, which is exactly the place where the Murloc King told me I would need to go.
I moved to the cave, taking great care not to anger any of the murlocs that were mindlessly wandering about. I had seen this zombie-like behavior before from the undead scourge. It was terrifying to think that maybe the murlocs were being turned to undead by the Lich King, but at this point anything was possible.
When I reached the cave, I slipped inside and tried not to make any noise. The darkness swallowed me whole. I moved deeper into the chambers until I found a large opening that was aglow with a bioluminescence. There, resting in the large flat area, was a very large crab.
All around it, dead murlocs.
The Murloc King wasn’t so crazy after all.
“Alright,” I grumbled. “Let’s get this over with.”
I took up a spot on a tall rock and then raised my hands and burst fire into the air around me.
“Wake up monster!” I shouted.
The crab shifted, its eyes turned to look directly at me, something that felt a little unnerving, but when it spoke, that’s when I felt the most concerned.
“Who dares enter my chambers?” the crab demanded. “Show yourself, so that I may destroy you properly.”
“You mean you can’t see me?” I asked.
“What do you want?” the monster growled.
“I’m here to tell you that you need to get out. These murlocs had this domain first and you need to find somewhere else to live.”
“These murlocs are my food. I live here because they live here.”
“So you did that to them? That zombie plague out there?” I asked.
“I sedate them with my venom. It softens their tissue and makes them weak.”
“Gross,” I said plainly. “You need to go find some other food. This place isn’t yours anymore.”
“I will not yield!”
“I’ll kill you,” I warned. “Seriously, I’m really good at cooking seafood.”
“You cannot kill me,” the crab growled. “I shall kill you first!”
The crab pulled back its enormous claws and started a charge toward me. I leaned forward; pushing my magical energies together in my gut and then letting it flow to my hands. This was a big crab and I was going to need something powerful if I wanted to put it down for good.
Of course, if I took too long to conjure the spell…
“Okay monster,” I shouted as I pressed my hands together and watched swirling fire start to form between them. “Allow me to introduce you to one of the most dangerous spells I know! They call it the pyroblast!”
The cave erupted into a white light, and the terrifying screech of the crab monster was all anyone for miles could have heard.
The Murloc King had been waiting patiently atop a small hill that gave him a perfect view of the cavern. He probably hadn’t been very interested in what was going on until the ground had started to shake and the cave started to collapse. All around, the murlocs had started to snap out of their trance and flee from the chaos that was erupting within the caves. The murloc king knew that I had managed to destroy the crab monster, but he hadn’t seen me emerge from the rubble after the destruction finally ceased. I suspect he was feeling a little overwhelmed that he had sent someone to their death, but at least it had not been in vain. With the sun setting behind him, the murloc king decided it was time to go down to his people and explain everything as best as he could. The moment he turned from his spot he was shocked to find the that I had already escaped and was now standing near him, looking down on the same spot.
“Pretty nasty down there,” I said as I looked to the king. “Don’t you think?”
“Yes,” the king replied with a large grin. “It’s quite the mess.”
“Still, the murlocs seem to be acting normal, so I guess that’s something.”
“You still don’t like them?”
“What, murlocs?” I asked. “I don’t know. I’ve killed a lot of murlocs.”
“So why help them?”
“To help you,” I admitted. “I’ve lived long enough to know there are two sides to every story, even for the murlocs. Perhaps if you work with them you’ll discover something that we’ve been ignoring.”
“Those are powerful words,” the murloc king replied. “So where then will you go?”
“I need to find the airstrip. My map says it’s not far from here, but honestly…”
“Follow the path by the waterfall and head west southwest. You’ll find it.”
I was impressed. “That’s very helpful. About how far away is it?”
“A day’s walk, perhaps,” the king said with a firm nod.
“Then I suppose I should be on my way,” I replied, walking toward the waterfall. “Thanks for the detour, good king.”
“Maybe we’ll meet again someday,” the king said. “If you ever need anything, well anything murloc related anyway, just let me know!”
“Right,” I shouted back. “I will do that!”
…I would never do that in a million years.