The day was already half over when Akabeko's headache began to subside, and she reluctantly admitted that pandaren ale was much stronger than the drink she was accustomed to. That, and since hearing about the new continent she had been drinking much less. Keeping busy was always preferable to alcohol-saturated brooding.
Weipon had politely ignored her all morning, after realizing that her tauren friend was in no shape to do more than follow simple directions. The monk had gotten them both safely out of Honeydew, back to make a report to Nazgrim, and now on their way to another settlement for recruiting purposes.
Akabeko took a long swig from her waterskin, exhaling noisily as she finally began to feel somewhat like herself. "So where are we off to now?" she asked sheepishly, having dozed off during their earlier briefing.
"I'm not sure how to translate this one," Weipon admitted. "It's something like smallest bamboo but I can't really think of a name that sounds nice." She flicked her map open once again, revealing a crude approximation of the Jade Forest with pandaren settlements circled in red. "We have a few stops to make, and I'm afraid that we will be eating and drinking as much as we did at every town we visit."
"I can cut back," Akabeko declared confidently. "I don't have to get sloppy at every single party."
Weipon shook her head. "The custom is that if someone offers to drink with you, you don't just say no. Not unless you have a really good reason. Maybe if you were going to die if you drank more. But even then, people would joke." She shrugged apologetically at Akabeko's expression. "My suggestion is to keep your drink close, and only sip enough that someone can refill it if they want to. Don't finish your glass unless you have to."
"That doesn't sound like it will keep me from getting drunk," Akabeko replied contemplatively.
"As drunk," Weipon corrected. "Custom says you have to drink at least a little. To be sociable." She rolled her neck and shoulders, shifting uncomfortably after another long day of riding. "I was thinking you might like to learn some words in Pandaren. Maybe it will be more fun for you."
At this, Akabeko perked up. "Yeah, watching you talk to people stops being entertaining after a while. Only so many pandaren expressions I can figure out."
Weipon frowned, unsure if the tauren was jesting. "I should warn you, though, that my language is a little different to that of Pandaria."
"Well, the pandaren of the Wandering Isle have been away from Pandaria for a very long time. It's amazing that we can still understand each other at all, really. The pandaren in Honeydew said that I sound old-fashioned and speak slowly. To me, they sound very strange. Everything is too fast, and some words are different. They even," she sniffed, "use incorrect grammar."
Akabeko let this sink in. She had plenty of experience with different languages, or even dialects of her own Taurahe and Orcish. Still, it had never occurred to her that the two groups of pandaren would have trouble understanding each other. If the many flavors of trolls on Azeroth were any indication, being the same race didn't guarantee any agreements of language or culture. How would the ostensibly peaceful pandaren react to the island pandaren bringing war from outside?
"Let's start with the simple greetings," Weipon suggested. "There are the casual ways to say hello, and then there are the formal ones I use with strangers. On Shen Zin Su, we say it one way, but I've noticed that they have some other set phrases here in Pandaria..."
A week or more passed, and the pair moved from village to village, campaigning for the Horde. Some villages were quick to join them, although their eagerness was driven more by fear of conflict than any real desire to serve the unfamiliar invading forces. Others firmly sent them away, at once polite and menacing. Still others attacked at the sight of Akabeko, knowing that it was a Horde envoy approaching a converted Alliance settlement.
Akabeko continued to memorize Pandaren phrases. At one village, she hailed a villager tending a vegetable garden with a friendly, "It's raining!" The villager smiled in confusion, until Weipon nudged her companion and elicited the proper, "Jade Serpent watch over you!" ("They sound similar to me," the tauren hissed in what Weipon could now identify as her embarrassed voice.)
Fortunately, Akabeko's fumbling with the difficult-to-master tonality of Pandaren was charming enough that villagers were more inclined to listen to Weipon's requests. The more successful the negotiations, the more likely they were to be feasted. In one farming village, after what even Akabeko could tell was one ale too many for her pandaren companion, Weipon, was convinced to break out her san xian. Although Akabeko often heard Weipon humming or singing to herself, the long-necked instrument had remained in its case, quiet and safe from the elements while they traveled.
Now, though, eyes swimming with drink, Weipon laughed, said something that made the pandaren closest to her gesticulate encouragingly, and plucked a string experimentally. The room quieted as she carefully tuned the instrument. From the bar, a voice called out something that had other pandaren nodding in what Akabeko assumed was agreement.
"They are requesting songs," Weipon said suddenly, looking at Akabeko. The sudden burst of Orcish made the druid jump, sloshing ale over her fingers. "Some of the titles sound familiar. Others may be songs I know by a different name." She grinned, looking like a very different pandaren than the one that had shied away from an angry General Nazgrim, and began to play.
|Gorgeous illustration courtesy of Kamalia!!|
Before the last note had died away, Weipon was slipping into another song, this one eliciting more cheers of recognition. Akabeko drained her glass, absently thanking the person next to her as they topped it off again. It seemed that the night was just picking up.
The following morning, Weipon still managed to look only slightly rumpled compared to Akabeko, who was more or less wrecked. She rubbed irritably at her temples, trying to pay attention to the new map the innkeeper was explaining to Weipon. The impromptu concert the night before had gained them not only a clean, locally-drawn map of the area, but a handwritten introduction from the village leader to the mayor of Dawn's Blossom, which appeared to be a major nearby city.
Readying their mounts, Akabeko tried not to scowl at the too-bright sunlight and the too-cheerful villagers as they gathered to see their strange guests off. She forced herself to say the formal farewells, earning her smiles and even a patronizing pat on the hand. Weipon nodded in approval, then directed them out of the small village.
When they had cleared the last of the fields, Weipon turned to Akabeko and said conversationally, "How about I teach you the word for 'hungover'?" When Akabeko's scowl only deepened, she continued, "Actually, in Pandaren, a more literal translation would be 'two days drunk'." She grinned wickedly when Akabeko snorted in response.
Next: A New Land