The air in the Hall of Explorers was stale. The smell of old books reminded Rustee of legendary, sometimes lost, things. That was, after all, why he was here. Why he had spent all of his spare time reading every last book that he thought might contain a clue that would lead him to that which he sought. The Celestial Steed.
High Explorer Magellas had been tolerant of Rustee’s repeated visits to the Hall. His questions, at first, had seemed very unassuming. What was he looking for? Was it something that the Explorer’s League might have information on which could be used to help him in his search? Rustee had responded to those questions with answers that were equally unassuming. But when he finally reached the point where he thought that no book here had his answer, Rustee confided in Magellas the true nature of his search.
“I am looking for information because I wish to hunt the Celestial Steed. I was sure I would find information in the Hall that could point me in the right direction. But there is nothing.” said Rustee.
Magellas did not speak at first but simply looked at Rustee. To Rustee, it felt more like Magellas wasn’t so much simply looking at him, but rather judging him. “The Steed is legend, Rustee. A constellation that one can ride? It cannot be real.”
“That is what everyone said about Arcturis,” shot back Rustee, “and I tracked and tamed him.”
Magellas shifted his gaze to the spirit bear standing next to its master. He had heard tales of the beast in battle and despite its ghostly appearance, knew its actions were all too real. He looked back at the hunter before him. Rustee was a proud dwarf. Proud and determined. He had carried this same look of determination when he first appeared in the Hall to ask Magellas what he knew of Arcturis. Look where that had lead him. Sometimes it was difficult to discern if the bear cared more for the master of the master more for the bear.
“Well, if I were the kind of dwarf that was going to hunt down a legendary horse that rides the night sky, I would seek out Garwulf. I think he holds the key to that which you seek, Rustee. Last I heard he could be found at the Darnassus Inn.”
Rustee nodded as his mind worked to process what he had just been told. Garwulf, despite not being dead, was a legendary hunter in his own right. He was a hunter just as deadly in the arena as he was to foes of the Alliance. It did make sense, though. Garwulf was a Night Elf and the elves were well known to be in touch with nature and the heavens. Rustee thanked Magellas and left to find a mage willing to sell him a portal to Darnassus. With the thrill of the hunt now fresh in his mind, standard travel would just not do. If Garwulf did, in fact, hold the key to his taming the Celestial Steed, then Rustee wanted that information as soon as possible.
As he stepped through the portal into Darnassus he headed for the inn in search of Garwulf. As he made his way to the inn, Rustee took note of the air in Darnassus. So fresh and clean smelling. Definitely not the same as the air in the Hall of Expolorers, or most of Ironforge for that matter. As a hunter, Rustee preferred the smell of gunpowder and the scent of a freshly skinned kill to that of pure, fresh air. Although he had many friends who were elves, trips to Darnassus made Rustee happy to be a dwarf.
The innkeeper informed Rustee that Garwulf had left for Dalaran a day earlier to fight in the arena. No matter, thought Rustee. If Garwulf was fighting in the Dalaran arena, Rustee would find him at A Hero’s Welcome between matches. Another payment of gold to a friendly mage and Rustee stepped through the portal into Dalaran, making his way directly to A Hero’s Welcome.
Upon entering the inn it was not hard to spot his target. After all, how many night elves would be set up in the corner with a giant green dinosaur keeping watch. As Rustee approached him, Garwulf commanded his pet to allow the dwarf to be seated across from him. “I don’t believe we’ve met, fellow hunter.” said Garwulf.
“My name is Rustee and High Explorer Magellas said you might have the information that I seek.”
“Perhaps.” replied Garwulf. “There is much I know about the ways of the hunter.”
Rustee decided on the spot that the direct approach would be best. “Can you tell me anything about the Celestial Steed?” At once, the way Garwulf looked at him changed. It was the same look Magellas gave him. The judgmental look. Rustee was growing somewhat tired of being judged.
“And why do you wish to learn about the Steed?” Garwulf asked.
“Isn’t it obvious?” replied Rustee, motioning to Arcturis. “I want to tame it.”
“There is nothing ‘obvious’ about the Celestial Steed”, said Garwulf. “A steed born of the heavens is no easy tame, Rustee. In fact, most of your kind don’t even believe in its existence. I suspect Magellas and the Explorer’s League only bother knowing anything about the Steed in the hopes that it might one day join their trophy displays in the outer hall.” There was no mistaking the obvious tone of distrust in the last comment.
“I do not want the Steed for the League. Nor do I want it for anything or anyone other than myself.” said Rustee. “Will you help me?”
Garwulf looked now from the hunter to the pet. Taming Arcturis would have been no small feat. So many of the others did not appreciate the beauty and majesty of the spirit beasts. So many dismissed them as aberrations. Beasts that were inferior to their more corporeal counterparts. Garwulf knew better. And so too, it seemed, did Rustee.
“I do possess the key to that which you seek, Rustee”, said Garwulf in a level tone. “But know now that the hunt will not be easy. The Celestial Steed roams the heavens until tamed by one of sufficient skill. You appear to possess such skill, yourself.”
Rustee listened intently as Garwulf continued. “Despite its existence as a creature of the heavens, the Celestial Steed needs nourishment the same as a beast made of flesh and bone. As a different kind of creature, obviously it needs a different kind of nourishment. It is nourishment, however, that the Steed must come down from the heavens for. Can you think of what that might be?”
Rustee’s mind was working fast. A creature born of the heavens, that roamed the stars and, yet, still needed to come to earth for nourishment. What could be found on Azeroth that would nourish a celestial creature? His guess came so fast that he was surprised he hadn’t considered it before now.
“Moonwell water”, he said, his voice almost a whisper.
Garwulf looked almost pleased now. “Yes, Rustee. The Celestial Steed drinks only the water from Moonwells. I assume you now also see the problems this creates for the creature?”
Rustee knew all too well the problems a heavenly creature would have if it needed to drink from a Moonwell. Many had been corrupted by demons and other fel creatures. Rustee had, himself, helped to slay the demons corrupting some of the Moonwells across Azeroth. A creature could not, for obvious reasons, drink from a corrupted Moonwell.
“So what must I do then to entice the Steed to land?” asked Rustee.
“That, my friend, is what you must figure out for yourself.” said Garwulf. “Look to the heavens near Moonwells, Rustee. Although the Celestial Steed is a creature of the heavens, its armor is trimmed in gold. Find a Moonwell above which you see streaks of gold amongst the stars in the night sky. The gold you see in the sky is the light of the heavens reflecting off the armor of the Steed. If you see such flashes above a Moonwell then you will know that you have found one that a Steed might drink from. All you need to do is wait for it to land, then decide what you will do once the creature comes down to drink.”
“Thank you, Garwulf.” said Rustee as he rose from the table.
“You don’t wish to stay and share stories of great hunts and glorious battles?”, asked Garwulf.
“I certainly mean no offense,” replied Rustee, “but I wasted no time in coming to see you and I shall waste none in setting out to pursue the Steed.”
“Understood.” said Garwulf. “May your hunt be successful then.”
The tone in the final line could have been interpreted by some as dismissive, but it made little difference to Rustee. He preferred to leave at once, anyway. Preparations needed to be made for what he was sure was going to be a long journey. Moonwell locations were scattered across Azeroth and many of them had already been corrupted. He would need to find an uncorrupted Moonwell and then search the heavens for the presence of any Celestial Steed. He had no idea what one of these creatures even looked like, apart from what he had heard in legends and from the once piece of solid information he had been told by Garwulf…the Steed wore gold-trimmed armor. If he did detect the presence of a creature he believed to be a Steed then he needed to first verify it was real and then wait for it to land. So much needed to be planned in so short a time. This would truly be a hunt like no other he had been on before.
The search for uncorrupted Moonwells took longer than Rustee had thought it might, as he was not a Night Elf and, thus, not familiar with their locations. In addition to that, most of the Moonwells he had come in contact with were corrupted. That was, after all, the reason he had been sent to them in the first place. Moonwells, it seemed, were sometimes located in very odd places. They stirred in Rustee, though, a sense of wonder. Who built them? Why did the builders choose the locations they did?
Despite his wanting to know the answers, Rustee knew the answers would have to wait.
Rustee finally decided that if he wanted to find Moonwells, then he would have to find Night Elf settlements that had them. This proposition did not seem all that bad to the dwarf. The Night Elves were usually gracious hosts with comfortable inns, hot food and fine drink. Rustee would take a room with a view of the Moonwell if one was available and, from his window, study the skies at night for signs of the Steed. He had decided shortly after leaving Darnassus that he needed to see one first, before he could work out how to tame one once the opportunity presented itself.
The first Moonwell he visited was the one at Auberdine in Darkshore. After a few nights of observation there, he was quite sure that he recognized shifting stars as the body of the Steed. The rush he experienced the first time he realized he was watching a number of starts move ever so slightly in concert was the same rush he always experienced when he knew, as all good hunters do, that he had picked up the trail of that which he hunted. It was a feeling that would never grow old.
However, Rustee had failed to notice any flashes of gold in the night sky, which he felt would confirm his hunch that a Steed was present, and so he moved on. Stops at Moonwells in Desolace and Ferelas showed him the same slight shifts of stars in the night sky, but it wasn’t until he stopped to study a Moonwell at the Cenarion Hold in Silithus that he caught his first glimpse of gold flashes in the night sky. He was sure, then, that not only was a Celestial Steed present but that it wanted to drink, as well.
It was very late the next night that it happened. While looking to the heavens from his window at the inn, Rustee noticed the stir amongst the stars and saw a flash of gold in the sky. What he noticed next, puzzled him. Dust began swirling near the Moonwell and the water rippled on the surface, yet Rustee felt no breeze at his window. Before he had time to work these bits of information out, it appeared. A Celestial Steed descended from the night sky to land at the Moonwell. It was a breathtaking creature, the likes of which he had never seen before. Stars formed the outline of a horse, but there was more. This was a winged horse. As he watched it land he supposed it made sense. Having heard of the Steed as a creature of the heavens, he had assumed it could fly. He had never, though, in his mind’s eye pictured a horse with wings.
As the creature folded its giant celestial wings in as it landed, it stepped up to the edge of the Moowell and began to drink. Golden trimmed armor covered the Steed’s head and neck, similar to a paladin charger’s armor. There was also a gold trimmed armor plate covering the horse’s chest. Wondering why the creature wore armor at all made about as much sense as trying to discern how a constellation could stand there before him as a living creature. The beauty and majesty of this creature was a true sight to behold and Rustee could see how easy it would have been for those who had seen a Steed to embellish their description without having to try very hard.
The Steed had been drinking for only a minute or so when the sound of footsteps caused it to launch itself back up to the heavens. In a flash of streaking stars and golden light it was blended back in amongst the other stars. No matter, thought Rustee to himself. He had now learned what he needed to know in order for him to proceed with his plan. The creature was large, winged and as acutely aware of its surroundings as Rustee was of his. This would, indeed, be a great challenge. But Rustee had conquered great challenges before, he thought, as he looked from the night sky to Arcturis and then to the stars again. As he continued to search the night sky for any sign of the creature, Rustee made up his mind. He would tame the Steed here. And he began planning to do it soon.
The next night Rustee noticed the slightest flashes of gold appear again in the night sky. He quickly set about putting his plan into action. He had decided that the only chance he had to begin to tame the Steed was to slow it. He had known since setting out on this hunt that taming a mount would not be the same as taming a pet. He did not even know that a frost trap would affect the Steed, but his instinct told him it would, and his instincts were rarely wrong. Without a sound, three of the traps had been set around the edge of the Moonwell. Rustee then retreated to the cover of a nearby awning and waited.
He did not need to wait long. Rustee observed the familiar shift in the stars, saw the ripples on the water of the Moonwell and using the swirls of dust as guides, sprang from his cover and towards one of the traps. In quick succession Rustee landed on the back of the Steed which, as it landed, set off the frost trap. For reasons Rustee had neither the time nor knowledge to understand, the cold from the trap passed through the ghostly horse and seemingly straight into him. The Steed was now aware of the being on its back and the trap in had landed on. Surprisingly, rather than buck, the Celestial Steed spread its mighty wings again and launched itself towards the sky.
Had he more time to plan, Rustee supposed he would have given due consideration to his reactions in the event the winged horse gave flight and left the area of affect of the trap. As it was, he dug his knees in ahead of the wings and did his best to hang on by the armor. He had expected that the cold from the trap would be replaced by the cold of the thinning atmosphere as the Steed climbed up to the stars. However, as the cold from the trap left him, he only felt the cold of the night air. The Steed was flying, not up, but away at a speed that Rustee could hardly believe.
Rustee drew upon his skill and training in the ways of a Beast Master hunter and tried to communicate with the Steed, through his physical contact with it, to let it know that he was no threat to it and that he did not wish it any harm. In all his tames prior to this, Rustee had never tried to convey a sense of control but, rather, a sense of oneness of being. A sense of symbiosis. Gradually, Rustee loosened his grip on the horse with his knees, and the Steed slowed its breakneck pace. Rustee positioned himself in more of a rider-like position as opposed to the hanging-on-for-dear-life position he had been using up to then. The Steed did not try to throw him. Rustee adjusted the pressure with his knees and applied some pressure to the back of the horse’s neck. His mount dove. Yes, his mount. The previous minutes that had seemed like only seconds to him had done it.
As he gained his bearings and directed the two of them back to Cenarion Hold, he knew there would be no problem with his Steed allowing him to bridle and saddle it. He knew, as he had known with Arcturis, that although the Steed would not be with him everywhere he went, it would be there for him when he called. Now came the hardest part of every tame for Rustee…..picking a name. After all, he had never named a legend before.