I said before that I hate writing battle scenes, right? Well…
This one is three and a half pages long.
I wrote it in my notes while in Germany, so it was pretty easy to write on the comp, in a cleaned up state. Still, I just hope that it makes some semblance of sense, because it’s long and grueling and I’m sure there are confusing bits. Take it away!
Working on what to title this monster. There are a whole lot of clashes, so the title will probably have some name based on that word.
I don’t hate tauren! I like them, really!
What to make of Azshara? The trees and grass blazed in the warm colors of an eternal autumn. Locked in a fading state, yet somehow never reaching decay. In this land, the crumbling ruins of an ancient night elf civilization melted into the background as naturally as the cliffs they were built on.
Somber, and beautiful. If only there had not been such pain in the land, and demons befouling it even now. Dor’ash breathed deep of the crisp winds, smelling the faint salt of the ocean. The spirits of this place wept quietly – they suffered, but had suffered for so many years that they no longer had the strength to howl in rage against the demonic taint. Only closer to the ruins where demons still dwelled today did the spirits growl, but that too sounded faint and distant. They stayed away out of fear, here as everywhere else, when the foul creatures were near. The visit to Valormok camp – and how they had even managed to find it, he still didn’t know – had done nothing to make him feel better. The beaten whimpers of these spirits were disquieting enough, and seeing the poor remains of the orc scouts had been downright depressing. Azshara may be a beautiful land to the naked eye, but he found himself missing the warm winds and dry smell of the Barrens. Well, a village in the Barrens, at least. Inwardly, he sighed. His travelling days would eventually come to an end – not yet in quite a while if he could rule, but it had begun. He had somebody to return home to, and the undeniable tug at his heart only underlined it. Still, not yet. Neither Grema nor he himself would stand for him abandoning the Horde, not while he still could not deny the wish to serve the Warchief like this for a while longer. The spirits called him to battle, asking just a little more. Dor’ash knew that he was just a small part in a great puzzle, and he could not give up his place in it – not today, not in a month, but for certain in a couple of years. If he survived, and he damn well planned to. Squaring his jaw, he grimly gazed at the hills ahead. The landscape rose up ahead, but he knew that it would turn steeply downwards once one got closer to the sea. And that was another thing. There was not only the salty tang in the air, but also a scent of fish. Fish that crawled and carried weapons. Demons was not the only thing to worry about here. He and his companion rode along at an easy pace, saving their mounts – well, his mount, hers felt no exhaust – in case they needed to flee for one or another reason. This land had not been kind to the Horde, but, as for Valormok, the two travelers had come here to help set things right for them.
“Hey! On our way to kill elves here. Think about your girlfriend some other time.”
The hoarse voice ripped Dor’ash straight out of his reverie, and he turned an amused gaze towards his sneering companion.
“You were talking about Jonathan just the other day,” Dor’ash said, managing a faint grin. He did not much like this solemn mood, and her joking accusation was welcome.
Sarah waved a thin hand towards him, joints creaking by the quick motion.
“Totally different,” she said. “He’s off my mind completely by now. Killing elves takes precedence over everything.”
“We’re just going to scout the area,” Dor’ash reminded her.
She nearly fell off her horse from leaning precariously towards him, and he bent further away in return. Grey, his wolf mount, glanced around with a wolfy kind of “are you out of your minds?” look. Well, Grey should know the answer to that. He had been around for a while, after all.
“If you think that you can tell me that there are rebel belves that need killing, and then bring me close to them and still expect me not to commit genocide, you’re gravelly mistaken,” Sarah snapped, then turned her face skywards with a disdainful snort.
He regarded her for a moment.
“You’re a racist,” he said, blankly.
“Pff!” Bone clattered loudly as she folded her arms and ‘glared’ at him. “It’s not my fault that they’re all pretty, arrogant asses that can’t bear to jump into battle unless they know there’s a shower and a hairdresser waiting on the other end of it. Incompetent too.”
“Not everyone is Celandria, you know.”
They both shook their heads of the memory of the last blood elf they had allied themselves with. Definitely the last. The experiences in the Wailing Caverns, which almost cost Dor’ash his life as well, had even made him regard tauren with suspicion for a while. It was something he could shake off after a while though. Not all of them were calves desperately needing some sense knocked into them. Unfortunate for Damian that the knock he finally got smashed the life out of him rather than added common sense. Well… Dor’ash turned his face towards Sarah again, grinning around one tusk. She too glanced back at him, returning the expression by flashing her chipped teeth. Not everything had been a complete disaster with that adventure, despite the tragic end of it. It was where they first met, after all. Still, back then Dor’ash had just chosen to give a blood elf a chance, seeing as they were new allies of the Horde and he felt a sort of duty towards the Warchief to be helpful to these new friends. Being of the Frostwolf clan, he never had a part in the second war and the assaults against Quel’Thalas – and despite the bitterness many of his brethren and especially troll friends expressed on the matter, he figured that the past was best laid aside in these times. Yet it was not easy to push aside the unease, because when so many people you know are opposed to something, there has to be some legitimacy to the matter. He found there to be truth in it when it came to Celandria. In her defense, what happened in the caverns was not her fault, and she had not been a turncoat or unwilling to help an orc. Just, indeed, incompetent and fatally unfocused. Since then he preferred to deal only carefully with the elves. Having Sarah constantly at his side made it easier, because her coarseness and lack of tact kept the, in her words, “dollies and pretty-boys” away. Watching her trying to control her disdain was a show in itself, of course. Low opinion of the elves clashed with loyalty to Lady Sylvanas, and Sarah almost tied herself into a knot at times, when she could not duck away from whatever blood elves she and Dor’ash had to deal with occasionally. Back in Orgrimmar, when he told her about why they were going to Azshara she almost climbed up his arm in glee. That… had been unsettling.
“Anyway,” she said, calling him out of his thoughts again. “We have some very important business to take care of. If I catch you with your mind elsewhere, I’m going to hurt you very much.”
“But not kill me?” Dor’ash asked, amused.
“I didn’t say that.”
She smirked at him.
“All I’m saying is that if you know what’s good, you’ll be in heat in between and not during important events,” she said.
He just looked at her, until she dissolved into cackles and slumped over the neck of her horse.
“First of all, females go into heat, and secondly, orcs don’t do it at all,” Dor’ash said, loudly to make sure she heard him.
Sarah let her arms dangle freely, still chortling. Any monsters that might have planned an attack would probably have been stunned in pure bewilderment at the sight and weird discussion. After a while her laughter melted away, and she heaved herself up on one arm planted on the horse’s neck. The skeletal creature didn’t react at all.
“Speaking of, though,” she said, quirking the scrap of an eyebrow, “when that Ag’tor said that this Rimtori bitch seduced Belgrom, did he mean seduce seduce or just that she buttered him up?”
Dor’ash pressed a fingertip to the bridge of his nose.
“I don’t want to know,” he grunted. That poor old fool.
“Because that’s disturbing even in my view.” Sarah cheerfully waved her hands about, her gestures not quite decent at all times. “No offense to you, handsome, but that’s like a humming bird and a-”
“Oh my, I had no idea you were such a prude.”
Silence settled for a moment. After a little while Sarah coquettishly raised one shoulder, tilting her head towards it.
“Bulldog,” she sweetly said.
It was with the smallest margin possible that she managed to duck his fist. Their banter faded and seriousness returned as they moved on across the fields and patches of trees struggling with eternally fading leaves in the poor soil. There wasn’t much earth for the plants to draw nutriments from. Spruces had the easiest time, but even their needles were tinted a brown red. Ahead of them, to the east, the landscape rose upwards in what looked like rolling hills. However, from the descriptions they had received in the meager orcish camp, they knew that the soft rise of the land was deceptive. The other side of those hills would be steep cliffs, and below that were the areas where the naga ruled. Until now Dor’ash and Sarah had more or less followed the old main road, but kept a distance to it and all ruins along the way to be careful. There were few friendly travelers in this hostile land. According to Ag’tor, when one spotted the rising hills it was a good time to turn north. Tugging gently at Grey’s reins, Dor’ash made the wolf turn northwards.
‘No… you must see…’
As soon as he heard the whisper, he automatically pulled the reins and Grey stopped with a surprised yelp. Sarah too held in her horse, watching him silently as he listened. The wind merely rattled the leaves and needles of the trees and bushes, and a few birds chirped. Dor’ash looked to the west, experimentally.
Weak as they were, and their voices faded, the spirits still held a bidding tone and he was not one to turn them down. If they wished him to see something, then so be it. Sarah didn’t comment as he turned Grey towards the east again. She merely nodded and followed. The spirits remained silent, but Dor’ash scanned the area with eyes and ears as he and Sarah rode to and up the hills. The world plunged in front of them as they reached the top, just as Ag’tor had described. Dismounting, they crept towards the edge of the hill and crouched, gazing upon the land below. Pale marble temples and towers rose over the jumbled, rocky ground, still impressive despite that millennia had passed since they were built. Beyond the age-old rooftops, one could see the ocean stretching to where it met with the sky. Only moss and a few tiny bushes clung to life amongst the rocks, adding some bits of warm, brown color here and there. However, there was also an awful lot of blue down there, and some yellow where the finlike sails replaced hair on the female naga. Hundreds of them, slithering amongst the ruins and rocks in whatever tasks they performed. And those were only the ones visible from this vantage point. Dor’ash grimaced at the sight. This, if anything, showed what an unfriendly land Azshara was. The old night elf queen’s followers still claimed this place as theirs, even when they were all warped beyond recognition of their old selves. The Legion had done this, too. All of it. The spirits remained silent, so he waited – for further instructions or whatever it was they wanted him to see. At his side Sarah remained just as silent as the spirits. By the looks of her, one might think she could remain hunched down, keeping watch, forever. Dor’ash shifted, leaning on his hands to avoid letting his muscles stiffen. He didn’t have her kind of body. Behind them, Grey laid down with a crunch of dry grass. Sarah’s horse didn’t move at all from the spot where she had dismounted. It may as well have been a statue. They waited, seconds and minutes slipping by. Still Dor’ash stubbornly searched the ruins, sharp gaze running tirelessly over the crumbling walls and the rocks that surrounded them. At one point he thought he saw a speck of red from the corner of his eye and quickly looked that way, but then it was gone. Although unsure if he had imagined it or not, he kept staring at that point. Nothing else showed itself, however. Suddenly fur brushed against grass and Grey stood up with a patter of paws and a snort. Dor’ash and Sarah both spun around. A tauren moved up the hill, dressed in leather armor and one hand raised in a sign of peace. Just behind him lumbered a bear, its fur a rich, grayish brown. Exchanging glances, Sarah and Dor’ash shuffled a bit further away from the edge of the cliff before standing up, to make sure they weren’t seen from below. As he got closer, it got easier to see the bow slung over his back, and he also carried a relatively small hand axe at his belt. If the bear had not been enough of a clue, this definitely proved that he was a hunter. One of his horns had been broken off, and no unnecessary trinkets dangled in his thick mane.
“Hail Thrall,” he said as he got closer, speaking a greeting as much as his allegiance.
“May the spirits smile upon this meeting,” Dor’ash replied.
He half expected Sarah to lash out with what seemed to be all Forsaken’s favorite welcoming phrase, “what do you ask of death?” but she thankfully held her peace and left it at a not too pleasant smile.
“We haven’t seen many other travelers since coming to these lands,” he quickly said, before she could reconsider.
“I only climbed up here to see the ancient city,” the tauren said, the salty wind toying with his fur and mane. “Even without the naga, I probably couldn’t get Fuzzik here down there. He refuses to go into cities.”
Dor’ash raised an eyebrow. The tauren absentmindedly patted the bear’s neck, and the animal shook his huge body with a snort. What kind of a name for a pet bear was that? The thought was probably apparent on his face, if Sarah’s smirk had not spoken well enough. The tauren grinned sheepishly and shrugged his huge shoulders. Then he nodded, grin disappearing.
“Pardon me,” he said and thumped his chest lightly. “My name is Deran Mountainhoof.”
Dor’ash glanced at Sarah, who tilted her head in dismissal. Possibly a weirdo, but nothing else. Well, he might have some information to share about the situation here.
“I am Dor’ash Coldbane of the Frostwolf clan,” the shaman said, then motioned at Sarah. “My friend’s name is Sarah Nebula.”
“Ah.” A sigh escaped Deran, causing his wide nostrils to flare. “That is unfortunate.”
The weakened spirits surged, murmuring worriedly in warning. Dor’ash tensed in reply, although he didn’t understand.
“What is?” he cautiously asked.
Fuzzik too seemed to notice something of the sudden tension, claws scraping the ground as he looked up at his companion.
“I have been searching for the undead who killed my brother in the Wailing Caverns,” Deran said.
With that, he rushed Sarah. The change between calm declaration and sudden action went so quickly that Dor’ash failed to react in time, and when he did it was already too late. Although Sarah managed to duck the sweep of Deran’s axe, his body slammed into her and they both went flying. Unfortunately, he probably had not realized how close to the edge of the cliff she had been standing, and his attack made her recoil further just before the impact. The two of them flew past the short expanse of stable ground, out into thin air. Sarah’s furious shriek changed tone as she realized this. Dor’ash stared, stunned for a precious second, as a blast of fire sent Deran’s axe out of his grip. The tauren cried out, but he still fisted Sarah’s robe in his other hand and they plummeted towards the rocky landscape far below together. A soft glow suddenly flared up around Sarah, and the fall slowed somewhat – she’d still had a light feather, the tiny reagent allowing her to cast a spell that dampened gravity’s pull. However, with about four hundred pounds of tauren clutching her, there was only so much the magic could do. Even worse, several naga had turned their blue faces upwards at the sound of all the shouting. Already they started forwards, slithering across the rocks with ease. Swearing, Dor’ash rushed down the slope, Grey and Fuzzik dashing beside him. Sarah’s horse didn’t seem to care one way or another, but he didn’t take the time to look around to see whether or not it would help. In a distance he heard the hard thump as Sarah and Deran hit the ground, and he leaped down the side of the cliff, landed on a rocky, natural shelf and continued downwards. It was a hazardous trip and one the two animals could not follow him in. They could run quicker though, and join him as soon as they could. Getting to Sarah before it was too late was the only thing on his mind. He reached the ground, and immediately a naga male burst out from behind a rock, trident in hand. Dor’ash called upon the elements in a snarl, and sent the snake-like creature tumbling backwards with an icy blast of magic. The beast fell over, tail trashing desperately as he struggled to break the ice covering his protruding face. Rushing onwards Dor’ash ripped his war hammer and shield from his back.
Far, too far ahead he could see the dark shape that was Deran. He didn’t move, and Sarah didn’t reply to the shout. Dor’ash dearly hoped it was only because she was stuck beneath that pile of muscles and stupidity. About sixty yards separated him from the crash site, and the closest approaching naga only had half that distance to go. He leaped across a cluster of stones, coming face to face with a second naga male. A female stood a few feet behind him, all of her hands glowing a dangerous blue. Dor’ash caught the stab of the male’s trident against his shield, using his momentum to wrestle the weapon aside and get within reach. His war hammer arched through the air and crashed deep into the fish man’s head, sending gore flying. A slimy mass splattered over Dor’ash’s arm and chest but he didn’t stop, only wasted the moment it took to rip his hammer free. But the female naga had almost finished her spell, face twisted into a mask of fury. He dashed, had to stop her- Grey flew past him, mouth open in a murderous snarl. His huge, furry body smashed into the sea witch, and her spell shattered to the sound of her howl of pain and rage. Dor’ash didn’t stop to see Grey finish her off. Fifty yards to go. He heard heavy breathing and thumping scrapes of huge, clawed paws on rocky ground. Fuzzik was just behind him. Deran still didn’t move. Knocked out cold, and then, what about Sarah? Logic desperately tried to stay afloat in Dor’ash’s mind – she was undead. She couldn’t be unconscious- But she could be crushed. She was dead, not immortal. Forty yards. There was no path, only short strips of ground easier to traverse past the jagged rocks. Dor’ash growled select curses, leaping and throwing himself over the sadistic landscape. The sharp stones cut gashes even in his thick skin as he nearly fell and caught himself against a jutting rock. He hardly took note of it, struggling on while Fuzzik came up beside him. Froth dribbled around the bear’s teeth. Thirty yards, and the first naga had almost reached the unmoving heap on that was Deran. Five of them so far, but others were coming, drawn by the sound of battle. The ground turned to ice in front of Dor’ash, just as he put his foot down. He slipped, arms cart-wheeling as much as their burdens allowed in the search for balance. His hammer caught against a rock and he vaulted up straight, nearly slipped again but stepped forwards – only to find that he was stuck. Ice encased the hammer and the hand holding it, creeping all the way past his wrist. He looked around wildly, catching a glimpse of a grinning sea witch, but Fuzzik had already changed direction. The naga female recoiled with a shriek, but the bear was quicker and his mighty paw sent her flying, the side of her chest cawed in. It gave Dor’ash enough time to tear himself free, sending shards of ice flying from his stinging hand. However, by then the naga ahead had already reached their goal. Two of them poked Deran with their tridents, while the others turned to face the approaching orc.
“Sa-Sarah!” Dor’ash snarled, dangerously out of breath.
He heard a reassuring, strangely high-pitched gasping just behind, and more paws against rock. Grey was back, and by the sound of it Fuzzik was on his way as well. Ten yards, but the naga were ready. A wave of fire exploded from below Deran, searing his fur and the ground all around. Hissing in pain and surprise, the naga tumbled away from the flare. Sarah was alive. Grin overtaking his strained features, Dor’ash flung himself forwards while clumsily clawing at the pocket where he kept totems for easy access. Luckily he had trained to grab a totem and throw it even while holding his war hammer, although it was more difficult than usual in this stressed situation. Grey bounded past, using the naga’s confusion to attack one of the three in front. However they were all recovering quickly, and the closest of the other two almost immediately flung his trident towards the huge wolf. Although he saw it coming Grey managed to roll aside only barely, wrestling with his opponent’s lashing tail. One of the pikes of the trident caught his back and he howled, twisting in agony and clawing at the struggling naga’s belly with already bloody claws.
With a roar Dor’ash sent the totem flying, and the naga recoiled in alarm as it stuck in the ground. Instead of blasting fireballs at the snake men, however, a healing aura rose up around the wooden item as the magic activated. It flowed towards Deran and Grey. In the second of uncertainty, Dor’ash and Fuzzik reached the naga.
The bear aimed for the one who had wounded Grey, and it met him with claws spread and vicious lines of fangs bared. No time to see how the animals fared, Dor’ash raised his shield to yet again block a trident. The naga hissed at him, exhaling a stench similar to rotting fish. That did nothing to a nose used to decay. From the corner of his eye he saw Deran stir, roused by the healing totem.
“Get off me, you damn ox!” came a muffled voice from beneath him, just loud enough to be heard through the hissing and growling.
With renewed strength Dor’ash called upon the elements again, channeling a second blast of ice through his hand although it stung – his fingers felt stiff from being caught in ice themselves, but he had to ignore it. His spell hit the naga in front of him square in the chest, and it tumbled back with an inhuman shriek. Using the loss of balance Dor’ash tackled it, and stomped down hard on its throat when it hit the ground. Something crunched and he leaped aside to avoid the violently writhing tail. The last two nearby naga were already coming at him, having split in a direction each to surround him. And more were coming, many more, speeding across the rocks from the ruined temples and whatever hollows the cliffs offered.
“Sarah-!” Dor’ash snarled, gasping for breath. The totem on the ground sent tendrils of healing magic towards him, but its power was almost drained and he hardly felt any difference. “Sarah, portal!”
He didn’t hear if she replied, dashing towards the closest naga. Couldn’t allow them to get at him from two directions- This one had quicker reflexes however, recoiling from his sweeping war hammer. The weapon nearly slipped out of Dor’ash’s numbing grip and he staggered, just barely able to block the trident. But the other naga got within reach in that moment, and its trident stabbed into a thin line of exposed skin just above Dor’ash’s gauntlet. He roared in pain, war hammer sliding dangerously, but he wrenched himself free by the power of rage and adrenaline. Using all his strength he slammed the side of his shield into the surprised naga’s face. It was a desperate move, leaving his back exposed to the second one and he stumbled around even as its friend thrashed backwards. Fuzzik fell over it just as it was about to stab, closing his jaws over the naga’s arm and biting down. Blood spurted and the naga screamed, its arm crunching into an unnatural angle. Dor’ash stumbled back, swinging his war hammer into the fallen naga’s head. A sickening smash, another splatter of gore. In the background, Fuzzik noisily finished off his prey as well. Staggering around, Dor’ash saw Sarah roll out from under Deran, who was heaving himself up while shaking his head in disorientation. Sarah, on the other hand, clawed at her waist bag with determination, drawing out a rune. Even as she struggled up on her knees she was muttering under her breath, and the magical stone glowed in reply. Still more naga were approaching, and Dor’ash could not tell if the spell would be done in time to save them. Gasping for breath, his entire body throbbing and arm burning from the stab, he lurched closer to Sarah, determined to get between her and the incoming enemy. The portal she tried to open was their only chance of survival. Then Grey, growling and limping, padded up between the warriors and the naga, and Fuzzik lumbered to his side a second later. The two animals matched each other, paws splattered with blood. Patches of their fur gathered in slimy, red lumps of hair and foam dripped from their mouths. They could make it. Dor’ash straightened up and leant his war hammer against his leg. Ignoring the pain in his hand and arm he tore open one of the bags from his belt and grabbed all the totems within. There weren’t many, but it might do. Letting his shield drop he took them all in his good hand and sent them flying. They stuck in the ground several feet away, clumsily placed but activated by his prayer to the elements. The naga recognized the danger and recoiled, trying to get out of reach. But the closest ones had no chance and fled backwards, screaming, as fireballs launched towards them. Deran had finally gotten to his feet. He growled, clawing for the bow on his back. Despite that he apparently had enough sense to put his personal little crusade aside for the moment, the tauren gained no sympathy from Dor’ash. The shaman had to suppress a very dire wish to kick Deran in the shin. No, not now. If they survived, he could and definitely would do it later. Small rocks sailed through the air, thrown by the furious naga. One totem fell. They only had seconds before the brittle line of magic defense would collapse completely. As if hearing this thought, a shimmering hole flared up in thin air, and on the other side one could see the orange cliffs and the troll-styled houses of Orgrimmar’s Valley of Spirits.
“Go! Go!” Sarah shouted, struggling to get to her feet.
Fuzzik spun around at the shout, and Grey too turned his head.
“Hey wha-” Deran started, but in the next moment he was gone through the portal with Fuzzik tumbling after him.
Perhaps the pet – rightfully – felt worried that his master might be left behind. Grey bounded after them, his tail brushing against Dor’ash’s arm as he passed. Quickly the orc grabbed his shield and war hammer, taking the former under his good arm.
“Come!” Dor’ash snarled, reaching for Sarah. The naga were almost upon them, the totems destroyed.
She took his hand, sharp fingertips digging into his thick, messy skin. Holding her as tightly as his battered fingers allowed, Dor’ash stepped towards and through the portal. He felt her stumble behind him, but she weighed so little that he just pulled her along. A blast of Durotar’s warm sunlight and a smell of sand and fresh water greeted him, washing a wave of relief through his exhausted body. Then he felt a tug. Her fingertips dug deeper, but his hand was so slick with blood and worse that no friction remained. Even as he spun around in alarm, staggering on the planks in Orgrimmar, Sarah’s hand slipped out of his. Through the closing portal he saw her tumble backwards, struggling against the huge, blue hand that enclosed her thin waist and the one which clapped over her mouth, muting any spell. The gateway disappeared, and he saw only the orange cliffs rising towards the cerulean sky.
The belf Rimtori does exists and she DID seduce the orc Belgrom according in-game dialogue. Uuhmyeah.
And she’s got a title. “Magus”. Ahahahaa!
She will sufferrr.
And yes, Fuzzik, and Deran Mountainhoof. I have finally commited a Princess Bride reference. But in my defence, it took twenty-six years! And it wasn’t as painfully apparent here as it was in my notes.
Ugh. Let me tell you, this productivity is rather staggering to me personally, but I daren’t stop while the inspiration fairies are still gripping me. This isn’t the story where there’ll be another attempt at horror though, that’s still to come