It was drizzling in the Valley of the Four Winds. Though the weather was miserable, Navimie was in good spirits. Just the other day she had done a favour for Chee Chee and now she was on excellent terms with all the voting members of the Tillers faction.
The pitter patter of small feet penetrated her thoughts and Navimie looked over her shoulder to see Andi running towards her. "Navimie, Navimie! Can you do something for me?" said Andi, panting a little as he caught up to the tauren druid who towered over him.
"What do you need today, Andi?" asked Navimie, smiling down at the young Pandaren child.
"Haohan Mudclaw is the big boss of the Tillers union and the richest guy in the Valley! He's been nice to let me stay here, so I want to do something nice for him. He likes expensive stuff, like ruby shards, but I don't have a lot of money, so I need to get him something else. I know! I've seen a great big fish in Cattail Lake! We should get one of its teeth as a gift!"
Navimie had seen those fish. They were nasty. They'd get into feeding frenzies, and would try to make you into Fish food by biting you and trying to swallow you. She couldn't imagine little Andi going there to do it.
"I'll get it, Andi," said Navimie. "It's too hard for you."
"What's too hard?" asked Lushnek. His hands were covered in dirt, for he had planted lots of Enigma seeds. Rades had told Navimie that you could yield a lot of Golden Lotus these days from your farm, but Navimie wasn't interested in herbs.
"Andi wants us to kill one of those Enormous Cattail Groupers in the lake and give the tooth to Haohan as a present," explained Navimie, placing a hand on Andi's head. Andi's eyes were round with excitement, thinking about how happy Haohan would be with him.
"I can help, let me just send these to the bank," said Lushnek as he shifted into flight form and flew to the mailbox.
"I'll come with you. I'll see you soon, Andi," said Navimie as she waved goodbye and then launched into flight form to chase after Lushnek.
"Andi is ALWAYS asking us to do things," grumbled Lushnek, as he packaged up the vegetables he had harvested to make way for the Enigma seeds.
"I know, but he's young, and he doesn't have anywhere else to go. He hangs around my farm a lot and he's kinda lonely. I bet he can't wait to be all grown up like us so he can go do all this stuff himself."
"I wouldn't count on it. I can see him sending us on these hairbrained fetch missions for the rest of his life..."
"You CAN say no, you know."
"I can say no NOW," said Lushnek. "Now that I'm BFFs with everybody here."
Navimie laughed, and clapped Lushnek on the shoulder. "Let's go see about that fish."
Massive groupers were found in the lake where Fish Fellreed made her home. As the two druids glided in, they shifted to caster form high above the lake and waved to Fish as they dive bombed into the lake in Tauren form, the huge waves from their impact startling Fish herself, Sifang otters and Softshell saplings around the lake.
"Did we get her?" asked Lushnek, wiping his face as they they floated on the lake, looking over towards the soaked jetty that Fish could often be found on.
"I think so, look she's even shaking her fist at us," laughed Navimie, as they grinned at the wildly gesticulating Fish before they went under the surface in search of the unfortunate grouper that they were going to sacrifice to get a tooth.
Lushnek pointed at a huge grouper in front of them, scars on its lips and flank indicating that it had been involved in some vicious fighting. That it was still here meant that it must have been pretty vicious itself. Navimie growled and shifted to Bear form and charged the huge fish. It put up a good fight, but it was no match for the two well armed druids. Navimie grabbed the fish by its neck in her powerful bear's jaws, dragging it to the shore to extract teeth and maybe fillet it to sell at the market.
Fish's face was like a thundercloud as she stomped over to them, as Lushnek was using his knife to dig out the teeth.
"You two are a dookin' lot!" she yelled at them. "You scared all the critters!"
"Fish, it was a joke, I'm sorry you're so upset," said Navimie apologetically, extending her hand to ask for forgiveness. "Come on, admit it - if it had been Sho who was standing there all soaked..."
Fish's dark look of anger gave way to a tiny second of amusement before she put her angry look back on again. "Mayhap. But that was reckless, you coulda been seriously hurt or worse!"
Lushnek shook his head in disbelief even as he laughed. "Fish, your imagination is just too wild."
Lushnek and Navimie had heard Fish's wild stories. One of her favourites was about Old Man Thistle. Navimie remembered when Fish had told her that story, after Navimie had shared a Twin Fish Platter with her.
"Did you make this twin fish platter yourself?" asked Fish, as she tucked into the dish Navimie had brought.
"I sure did. I know you like it..."
"Yer so nice, Navimie," said Fish, her face full of gratitude. "
I'm so glad to know someone like you." Navimie beamed at the praise. "Hey, have you heard the story 'bout Old Man Thistle? That's a good story if I ever heard 'un." "Oh?" said Navimie, as she talked with her mouth full. "Tell me more." "Old Man Thistle owned a little plot o' land just o'er there on that hill. Now one day he was diggin' and diggin' and he dug so far down he didn't do but found a while cave underneath these them hills! And what do you suppose he found in that cave?" Navimie was intrigued. "What was in there, Fish?" "Old Man Thistle found a cave full o' TREASURE!!! There was gold 'n diamonds 'n jade 'n statues 'n a whole room full o' books!" Treasures! Navimie's eyes lit up at the thought. "Well he wandered 'round that cave 'n before long a whole day had passed 'n he was gettin' might hungry. So he heads back toward the way he came and what happened but he couldn't find no way back out agin'! So Old Man Thistle's stuck down the cave, so what does he do but whistle fer his trusty mushan, Bobo! And right fore long, he hears a boomin' noise and Bobo busts a hole right in that cave! That mushan done hear his master and come fer him! And then, what happens but the whole cave starts a shakin' and the ceiling starts crashing down. So Old Man Thistle jumps on Bobo's back and you know what happened then?" "No, what?" "So the cave's a crashing down, and Old Man Thistle and Bobo run as fast as they can! They twist and turn throughout the caves, til they burst outta the ground right up that hill! And what happened then but the cave closed up right behind 'em, like it got swallowed by the earth. Old Man Thistle's shaking, but first thing he does when he gets home is make a map to that cave full o' tresaure. Cuz maybe it's still there, true? Good thing he did, cuz the next day, he couldn't remember as well, and the day after he remembered even less, till he plumb forgot 'bout that cave altogether.
Lushnek had heard the same story, and Fish never tired of telling it.
Now they say that whoever can git their hands on that map, can find that lost treasure..."
"Now this here reminds me of a rumour I heard about Old Man Thistle's treasure map..." Fish started saying.
"Cymre told me a bit about the rumours of that map," said Navimie, interrupting Fish before she launched into another drawn out tale, nudging Lushnek with her knee to encourage him to say something to stop Fish from talking.
"Amazing what these fish will eat," said Lushnek, as he pulled out a half digested apple, a crumpled scrap of leather and 2 spoons from the grouper's stomach.
"Hey, look there, I can see some there writing on that piece o' leather," said Fish. Navimie picked it up. The old, faded leather was falling apart, but still legible. Scrawled on it was some kind of map, and the following lines:
Deep in the valley where four winds blow,
The maiden laughs behind her golden fan.
At the feet of her ancestors' stair,
She whispers secrets into the echoing dark.
"Whoa! I think you found it, Lushnek and Navimie! You found the map to Old Man Thistle's Treasure!" Fish was beside herself with excitement as she craned her neck to look at the scrap Navimie was holding. Navimie stared at it in amazement. Just a minute ago she was telling Fish not to launch into the Old Man Thistle story, and the next minute she was holding the legend in her very hands.
"Wow, really? And I thought you were just spinning tales, Fish," said Lushnek, as he leaned back, a bemused expression on his face.
Navimie handed the map to Fish who read over it, and her face fell in dismay.
"What!?! This don't make any sense! What's this mumber jumber about a maiden and an ancestor and a buncha stairs? I can't make any reason outta this, can you?" Navimie shook her head in the negative, still a bit speechless over the sheer coincidence of it. Treasure! A real possibility of treasure!
"Well, there are lotsa folks 'round here who're much older than you and me, Navimie. Can you go talk to the folks in Halfhill? I betcha they might know somethin'!"
"What wild goose chase are you sending us on, Fish?" asked Lushnek suspiciously. First Andi, now Fish... he looked over at Navimie, clearly unhappy with this turn of events.
Navimie shrugged helplessly, and placed a placating hand on his back. Lushnek may not believe there was a treasure, but she did. And she was eager to start the treasure hunt. Fish said she would finish filleting the grouper whilst they investigated these clues.
Grainsorter Pei was happy to help them, and he told them all that he knew.
Mama Min offered them a cup of barley tea and she told them stories her father had told her. But at least she could answer part of the puzzle.
Stonecarver Mac was the only one who knew what the ancestor's stair was - suprising that nobody else knew that the mountains were called that!
Old Man Whitewhiskers made the last clue seem so simple, Navimie almost facepalmed in front of the gentle old Pandaren.
Navimie interrupted him. "Fish will be going with us, I suspect. She has to have a cut as well."
"Oh really? Oh MAN...."
"Look at her, she was so excited, how can she NOT come? I'm sure there will be plenty for all of us anyway...."
Lushnek ended the conversation by leaping into the air and shifting to flight form without a backward glance. Navimie sighed and flew after him.
They reported their findings to Fish, who exclaimed "Of course, it makes perfect sense! So the location of the treasure must be where the lake meets the mountains! Well high golly! This is turning into a real life treasure hunt! There's gotta be some kind of entrance or opening to the north, where the mountains meet Cattail Lake. I'll meet ya at the entrance! Let's go get that treasure!"
Fish rushed into her house to pack some things. Lushnek turned to Navimie, "I know where that cave is. I didn't know what it was for but I guess now we do."
"Yeah, let's go."
"Shouldn't we wait for...?"
"She said she'd meet us at the entrance. She obviously knows where it is too. Come on." He jerked his head in the direction of the mountains.
The two druids went to the cave and Navimie was surprised that Lushnek had even seen it - it was hard to see behind the creeping shrubs. And just like the legend, the cave entrance was blocked.
"How are we going to get past this?" Navimie wondered. Fish looked disappointed.
Lushnek went up to the rubble and lay a hand on it to shove a rock out of the way and as if by magic, the rocks all fell away to reveal the cave entrance.
Navimie looked at Lushnek in awe. "How did you do that?"
Lushnek looked just as surprised. "I hardly touched it. It seemed to fall as if by magic."
"Magic?" Fish looked around nervously, looking as if she expected ghosts to jump out of thin air. "Do y'all think it'll be safe?"
"You're with us, Fish," said Navimie reassuringly. "We won't let anything happen to you."
They stepped into the cave and let their eyes adjust to the darkness. A movement caught Navimie's eye and she squinted at it, and felt Fish clutching her arm.
"Oh my," whispered Fish.
The cave was full of spiders and their eggs. And they didn't look friendly.
Navimie looked at Lushnek who nodded at her in silent agreement. Navimie turned to Fish and whispered "Follow in our footsteps, and be as silent as possible. We are going to stealth in." She saw Fish nod and Navimie and Lushnek shifted to cat and stealthed past the spiders and patrols.
They managed to dodge most of the spiders and then Lushnek tried to walk over some eggs in stealth form, but they burst and little spiderlings swarmed out to attack him. Navimie immediately went into Bear form and swiped them whilst Lushnek moonfired them, dispatching them with ease.
"Oooh, this is so exciting! A real life treasure hunt!" squeaked Fish, as she picked over the bodies to see if there was anything of value.
As they headed deeper into the cavern the sound of water dripping became more echoey, and the cave opened into a huge chamber where a huge green spider stood silently, its legs flexing slightly. It was a fearsome sight.
"There," said Fish, pointing to the chest behind the spider, almost hidden from sight behind the arachnid's massive body. "I think that's the treasure!" Navimie snuck around the back to see the treasure with her own eyes. The moment she laid eyes on it, her hearth pounded in anticipation. It was almost within her grasp!
Lushnek shifted back into astral form, his starry physique majestic and grand, belying the power he held. "Are you going to tank up?"
Navimie nodded and shifted to bear and charged.
The fight was short. The spiders had been secluded inside the cave for so long, that it seemed unlikely they fought humanoids often, and fighting the giant spider was easy. In less than a minute the pair dispatched the monster and the chest was theirs.
The three adventurers stood before the box. "So," said Lushnek, in the awkward silence. "Who wants to open it first?"
"Let Fish do it," said Navimie, pushing the small pandaren forward towards the box.
Fish reached forward with shaky fingers and opened the box with a gasp. "Wow, would you look at all this..."
Navimie and Lushnek stepped forward to peer into the box. Gems glinted as well as hundreds of gold coins. Fish ran her fingers through the riches.
"I can't thank you both enough... I feel like I'm now part o' the legend!" she exclaimed.
Navimie smiled and pulled out 3 large brown sacks. She passed them to Lushnek and Fish. "I guess we'd better divvy this up then."
Fish shook her head. "You two can keep it. I might though..." she picked up a large piece of Wild Jade. "I'll keep this as a momento, I love Jade."
Navimie grinned at Lushnek, who looked relieved and at the same time grateful. "Maybe I should have made bigger bags then for just you and me."
At the very bottom of the treasure chest, Navimie found a stack of scrolls and a soft leather sack with seeds. Unrolling the scrolls, she saw they contained detailed farming notes, drawings of plants, numbers and calculations, locations of nearby water springs, and countless other snippets. She asked Fish what to do with it.
"Give it to Seedkeeper Shing Sing, she's in a cave back at Half Hill. She'll know what to do with it." Fish shook both of their hands and gave them a hug. "This was a fantastic adventure Navimie and Lushnek! Thank you both for bringing me along and all, but I'm going to scoot out of here." She pocketed her wild jade and dashed silently up the path back through the cave.
It took about 5 minutes to empty out the riches into their sacks and the two adventurers chatted excitedly as they walked back. "Can you believe there was some truth to Fish's stories after all?" said Navimie, her voice still light with wonder.
"I would have been the last to believe it," said Lushnek. "I swear she talks crap most of the time."
"She's not THAT bad," laughed Navimie. "
"Uh oh," said Lushnek, stopping short in his tracks. "Small problem...."
They had reached the cave entrance and the entrance was blocked with rubble.
Lushnek went up to the rocks and shoved it hard with his hand. It didn't budge.
"How did Fish get out?" wondered Navimie, exasperated.
"Do you think she blocked us in here??" said Lushnek, as he felt along the edges for a loose spot for leverage.
"Nah, she may be a bit dreamy and full of legends and stories, but she doesn't seem malicious. Maybe there is some weird magic in this cave. Oh look, there's a small gap at the top, she could have gotten out through there," Navimie pointed to where some light was filtering in.
"Lucky she's a small pandaren, there's no way we could get out that tiny gap," said Lushnek as he climbed up the rocks to get a closer look. He jumped off the boulders. "I'll just go round the other side and see if there's another way out." He dashed off around the corner.
Navimie tried to crawl through the hole but her shoulders got stuck. She shifted into cat form but even in the smaller form she still couldn't get through the hole. She had managed to wiggle her shoulders through but her hips were now stuck. She sighed and tried to back up and groaned inside as she heard Lushnek speaking behind her.
"Umm.. that's not a very flattering look, Nav."
Navimie hissed in response, as she braced her front paws against the craggy stone in front and her hind legs braced forwards against the boulder she was wedged. Gathering her strength, she pushed hard, trying to pull her body back into the cave. She roared in pain as her shoulders slipped through the hole and she fell unceremoniously back into the cave with a crash. Lushnek was laughing and she snarled at him as she shifted back into humanoid form. He cast a healing touch on her and the pain eased to a warm glow as the abrasions healed from his weaving of nature's gifts.
"I said I was going to have a look..."
"And?" Navimie snapped it out, a little more abrupt than she had planned.
He shrugged helplessly. "No exit, I'm afraid."
Navimie's shoulders slumped. "I guess we'd better hearth then," and she reached for her hearthstone. Lushnek did the same.
It wasn't a long flight back to Halfhill from Summer's Rest. Seedkeeper Shing Sing was in her cave, surrounded by seed packets and plant cuttings. It was well hidden from plain sight, but the cave was cool and dry, a good place for storing the lifeblood and knowledge of Halfhill.
Seedkeeper Shing Sing looked over the documents Navimie and Lushnek brought with avid interest. "This is... remarkable, Navimie! These notes provide invaluable knowledge to our farmers. We are truly in Old Man Thistle's debt for keeping such records, and in your debt for recovering them. Thank you!"
Navimie was pleased. Not only had she found treasure for herself, she'd found treasure for the farms too. "If you heard Fish telling the tales of Old Man Thistle, you'd think that he was a huge treasure hunter..."
"Ah yes, I know the story of Old Man Thistle quite well, Tauren. There are all sorts of crazy tales about his quest for treasure. But the truth of the matter is that he was a bit of a recluse, a bit eccentric, and an excellent farmer. As he grew near the end of his life, he retreated up into the mountains and was never seen again. He was just a man, and it seems that you have found his legacy. But don't tell Fish the truth. Some stories are best left tall in the telling."
Lushnek and Navimie bid farewell to the Seedkeeper, and Lushnek leaned over to whisper as they left the cave, "Now we know the REAL story of Old Man Thistle. I feel a bit disappointed now - Fish always made him seem so much larger than life."
"But that's the thing about legends, Lushnek," said Navimie. "It's not worth remembering if it isn't a good story, right?"
"And if I know you Nav," teased Lushnek. "You'll embellish this story as if it was a legend."
"I don't know what you mean," said Navimie innocently. "This story was epic all by itself."