Commander Keynes walked through the inn's dim interior. "Innkeep, we'll need to shelter a number of refugees from the countryside here. Prepare some extra blankets for the night, and you might as well start a bit of extra food on the fire. Keep a report of the food eaten, and deliver it to me in the morning. I'll see that you're reimbursed when this is over. Try not to cheat me too much," the Commander said with a smile. His face was marked with scars from illness he had as a child, but it was still not uncommon to see him smile kindly upon the folk of the towns he was stationed in. The fat innkeeper nodded grimly. Keynes turned and walked out of the inn, but took note of a figure seated at one of the tables in a dark corner.
He was unsure whether the person, who was sipping from a bowl of soup, was man or woman due to the fact that their face was hidden by a hood that matched the gold trimmed deep purple robes they were wearing. It did not help that the figure was slender, as was common to those of their profession. All he knew was that they had been at the inn for almost a week and had only really spoken to the innkeeper, and even then rarely.
"Mages..." he muttered in disgust. He stepped outside and surveyed the skies. Though it was just past noon, dark clouds made it seem like dusk. Lovely skies for fighting undead. A shiver crept up his spine. He was approached by a smaller, though battle-hardened man in steel plate armor that matched his own. The man saluted. Commander Keynes returned the salute. "At ease, Sergeant. What news?"
"Commander, scouts have returned and are reporting that a mob of refugees approaches the town with packs of snarling ghouls at their heels. They should be here within the hour."
"Good. Take a detachment and see that you can get them here safely."
"Yes sir." He saluted again and left to do as he was ordered.
Keynes sighed internally. He knew that those men would likely not return. But if fifteen or so soldiers' deaths would save the few hundred civilians fleeing from the neighboring villages, then it was worth it. He continued on until he reached the wall. A light rain began to fall as he reached the top. He stood in the rain and watched, waiting.
He did not have to wait long. Soon he saw the flood of refugees fleeing towards the city gates, and not too far behind was an enormous host of undead, ranging from mere ghouls to horrible crypt fiends to monstrous Abominations.
He could see that no soldiers stood between the peasants and the howling swarm, so he assumed that they had been cut down already. Thunder rumbled through the skies. Other than that, it was quiet. Refugees made it to the gate and were directed to several different inns that had been designated as shelters for the night.
The scream of a small child cut through the silence. Commander Keynes looked off in the distance to see a family that had been straggling caught by an Abomination, a horrible giant creature sewn together from the parts of many corpses. The father tried to put himself between it and his fleeing wife and child, but he was cut down. Soon after, the child's scream was cut off as suddenly as it had begun.
"Close the gate. The last are inside," he ordered.
As the gate closed, the undead stopped their approach, a few hundred yards from the walls. A necromancer walked to the front of the host. "Open the gates and succumb to the Lich King's will. There is no escape, and any resistance will only prolong your pain."
The Commander responded. "We will fight you until our last breath."
"So be it. I shall make sure that you do not die before you are eaten."
And so the siege began. At least, Commander Keynes thought it was a siege. But he soon saw the lie of that. The sounds of great wings could be heard on the cooling air as the rain and wind died. Then the roar sounded, and he saw them. Frost Wyrms. The great skeletal dragons took up a holding position above the throngs of several thousand undead that had begun to encircle the city. What was worse was that the Wyrms were not alone in the sky. Hundreds of gargoyles flew amongst them, screeching horribly.
It was eerily silent, save for the few sounds of the wings and screeches of the gargoyles. He knew there had to be something they could do against these foes, but he was ill equipped to fight them. And then it hit him. "The mage!"
A commotion stirred in the town square near the inn where the mage had been staying. He looked and saw a figure in purple robes mounting a snow white gryphon and several peasants pushing to get on with them. The mage kicked several of them back and the gryphon took to the sky. The mage was abandoning them.
"Mages..." Commander Keynes muttered in disgust and spat.
But the mage did not do as he expected. Instead, they flew directly at one of the great Wyrms. Gargoyles attempted to swipe at the white gryphon darting past them, but the gryphon was too agile and dodged their attacks easily.
When the mage was in range of one of the great Wyrms, they leapt from the gryphon and stood on the beast's back. The gryphon disappeared into a cloud and eluded the gargoyles.
The shrieking of the gargoyles continued, but a new sound could be heard. It sounded like the voice of a woman whispering through the hills. The murmuring grew louder, and was finally punctuated by a voice at a near yell. "Emfury scedahris scedahr!"
One of the Frost Wyrms began to glow red, and then exploded with a deafening roar. Keynes could see the mage fly through the air, propelled by the explosion, onto the back of the other Wyrm. Shattered bone sprayed the undead upon the ground and destroyed hundreds of the foes. A cheer erupted from upon the city wall.
The murmuring began again and soon the other Wyrm had met the same fate as the first. The mage, having no where else to land, perched upon the wings of a gargoyle that had been flying by. She spoke more words of power, and, one by one, the flying gargoyles returned to their stone form and plummeted to the ground, with forceful impacts, destroying more undead and filling the sky with dust. The mage's perch took the same fall, and in the cloud of dust, Keynes could not see what had befallen her. Regardless of her fate, she had won a great victory. The few hundred that manned the city's garrison could not have held back the swarm of airborne foes, but those on the ground would be slowed by the city walls, and now the survivors had a chance. Everyone observing held their breath.
When the dust cleared, over a thousand undead had been destroyed, and the mage stood on a hill a bit further away. Her hood had fallen back, and her shoulder length Auburn hair blew in the new breeze. Keynes breathed a sigh of relief. The remaining hordes of undead, however, were less than happy. The separate columns charged her.
The mage pulled a small object from her belt, threw it onto the ground nearby and spoke another word of power. A great portal shimmered into view. Keynes wasn't sure, but the portal appeared to open into Stormwind City.
Or rather, from Stormwind. A warrior in black armor wielding a large black shield and runed-sword of Elven origins stepped through. Several others followed him. More followed them. When the portal finally closed, a couple score people had come through. The group was varied, containing stout Dwarves, diminutive Gnomes, mysterious Night Elves and valiant Humans. Keynes even thought he saw a couple walking trees among the group. Surely this was an interesting bunch.
The warrior in black addressed the others. Keynes could hear his powerful voice calling out across the field. "Stand fast. We will cleanse this blight from the land!" He unsheathed his sword. "For victory! For Blurred Reality!! For the Alliance!!!" With the last, he raised his sword, prompting others to do so as well. Their shouts filled the air. They turned to the undead and awaited the grim onslaught.
All save one night elf...a hunter who drew the most interesting goblin contraption Keynes had seen, and fired an explosive shell into the swarm. The blast knocked dozens of undead into the air. The defenders on the wall cheered again.
Battle was soon joined, and the stalwart men and women upon the hill began cutting down the undead like so many blades of grass. Pillars of flame seared hundreds, sheets of ice fell from the sky and crushed many more, a rain of arrows slew others. Paladins exorcised the great monsters and priests both healed their allies and smited their foes. Warriors in full plate and more agile rogues cut through the masses of undead. Night Elves in the form of great bears swatted their foes, and the sky rained green fire as warlocks summoned great Infernals into the fray against the undead. Even the walking trees seemed to have some kind of magic, as they were casting spells of healing upon all those who were wounded.
When the battle had finished, none of the great champions had fallen, though none of the undead survived. A mage opened a portal of some kind and, just as quickly as they had appeared, the heroes of the day were gone.
But the people of this land would not soon forget them.
The carriage pulled up to the front gate of the walled estate. A middle aged Archmage draped in the finest crimson robes stepped out and walked through the open gate.
A small, red-headed child squealed in delight. "Uncle!" she yelled as she sped towards the man.
"Well hello, Poldaran," he greeted her as he scooped her up. "How have you been? Have you been a good girl?"
"Uh huh," she said as she nodded seriously. "Daddy says I've been real good."
"Good girl," he said, touching a finger to the tip of her nose. She giggled again. "Now, where are your mommy and daddy?"
"They're up in the nursery. Mommy had babies!"
"She did, did she?" The child nodded seriously again. "Well, let's go see them."
** * **
During the time I spent in Kalimdor before and after the Battle of Mount Hyjal, I had some good times with friends, both old and new. Shortly after arriving, I ran into my friend Pasiran, who was an apprentice with me back at Dalaran. She and I were assigned to the same unit by a kindly old mage who was assisting Jaina Proudmoore. It was one of a few units that integrated Night Elves, Orcish soldiers and those of Alliance member races. My knowledge of both Common and Orcish meant that my presence was invaluable as an interpreter as well as being able to serve in the capacity of a mage. Pasiran joined me in this group and we made another friend amongst the Night Elves with us.
This new friend was a strange one, to say the least. Hyperactive beyond reason sometimes, but completely focused and incredibly deadly at others. Neldara is a true friend and one I'm glad to have met during that battle.
Our unit was sent out to into a small pass that lead to the great path that Malfurion Stormrage had funneled the invaders to. A Night Elf commander was put in charge, but somehow, he decided that I would be best to truly command the group due to the respect the humans held for me after my tirade a few days before as well as the reverence paid to me by the Orcs due to the tales of my destruction of a mighty Nathrezim. So he made me his second in command. He planned fortifications and formations, and I made sure his orders were followed.
We joined battle against a scouting force of demons and undead led by a lesser Eredar warlock just as the main enemy force stormed Thrall's defense line. We managed to defeat them, but many of our unit were grievously wounded and killed. Having since analyzed the positioning of that pass and where it led, putting our small force there was folly. Had the enemy bested us, they would have had the perfect vantage point to observe and learn of Malfurion's plans, which would have led to our undoing.
But we held.
In the end, I guess that's all that matters.
** * **
The night was quite dark on the small estate and the night air reeked of smoke. The young child sat outside the study, nervously listening at the door. The men inside were talking about her, she knew.
"Silas, what happened only proves that the time has come. Her power is much too dangerous-"
"I know this. It's just that she's much too young. None will want to deal with..."
"This is a special case and it requires the aid of a special mage. I've spoken with someone and he's agreed to take care of it."
The child could not hear the name.
"Ah, he's agreed to handle it? Well then, as much as it pains me, then it is for the best."
"He thinks she might be " the sound of someone coming up the stairs caused her to miss what was said. When she finally managed to get back to the door from a hiding spot, she'd missed a bit of the conversation.
"If that's truly what he believes, then this isn't the task for just one."
"Yes, Silas. It has already been arranged."
"Fine, then she will return with you." There was a moment of silence. "Poldaran, you can come in here now."
The child, startled, fell through the opening door. One of the men looked at her sternly. The other smiled, amused by the child. "Am I in trouble, father?" she asked the stern looking one.
"Well, you certainly should not be eavesdropping, Pol," Silas Wintermoon responded.
She turned red, embarrassed. "No, Father, I mean..."
"Oh, that. Of course you're not in trouble for that. What you did saved your sister's life. The problem is that your gift is much too powerful for you to remain untrained. You must go with your uncle to Dalaran when he leaves in the morning. He has arranged for you to become an apprentice to a very skilled Archmage who will train you to control your power.
"Understand that you will find yourself much younger than any other apprentices in Dalaran. Most do not begin training until they're about three years older than you are now. However, due to the events of the other day, it has been decided that you must start your training earlier so that you can learn to control the power you possess."
Her uncle spoke, "This is very true. You may find yourself ostracized for being so young and so different from the others. Do not let this bother you. I will be in town and will check up on you as often as your Master allows."
"Speaking of your Master, he is a very stern man, but he is a good man. He will teach you what you need to know and much more. You mind him and do what he says. In no time, I foresee you finding your place in Dalaran and I'm sure you'll love it there. Now go pack. You leave early tomorrow."
She hugged both men and rushed off to pack a bag, excited at the prospect of the upcoming apprenticeship in spite of her fear and sadness at having to leave her family.
** * **
The mage entered the large office of a member of the Kirin Tor. She bowed before him.
The old man smiled. "Greetings, Poldaran."
"Greetings as well," she responded, pushing back her purple hood, revealing her auburn hair, light skin and hazel eyes.
"Have a seat," he said, indicating a chair in front of his desk. "I have another mission for you." He handed her a folder. "Inside is information on the target. We believe that the forces of the Scourge in Stratholme are responsible for the recent attack." He took a sip from a steaming mug of tea. "As you know, our agents and those of the Argent Dawn have slain him on numerous occasions. You yourself have slain him on several occasions as I recall. Yet, despite our best efforts, Baron Rivendare always rises again."
"Will slaying him again accomplish anything?"
"In a way, yes it will. More than just killing him, we want you to analyze the magic that fuels his un-life. We believe that you are the most qualified mage to do so at this time. Further, we need this done with as few members involved as possible. We do not want word of what we are doing to leak out. This must look like just another attempt to slay him."
"I understand. I will need a few days to assemble the few I need to accomplish this, and it is almost time for my yearly gathering at my parents' old home."
"Ah yes. I understand. Bring me the results within two weeks, in that case."
"Thank you, Archmage. I will begin immediately."
** * **
The young apprentice mage was sitting in her room in her master's tower, studying one of many magical tomes he had tasked her with learning that day. A girl of twelve, she had grown like a weed in the past year. Her auburn hair was still as silky and beautiful as ever and her hazel eyes still shone with warmth and curiosity, but she was gangly and incredibly thin, having grown quite a bit in the previous year.
Her brow was furrowed in concentration. Her friends often commented on her over-serious nature, but her Master said that she was the best apprentice he had ever had the joy to train. She also seemed to learn the most complex of magical concepts faster than anyone he had ever seen.
She was thoroughly engrossed by a dissertation on Arcane Ley Lines when she heard a knock on her door. "Come in," she said.
One of her Master's servants opened the door. "Young miss, you have a visitor."
Her uncle stepped through the door. "Hi there, Pol." The servant showed himself out. She carefully set the old book down and hugged her uncle. "Arcane Ley Lines, eh? I always found that subject boring beyond belief. So, what do you have planned tonight?"
"Pasiran wants to go to an inn on the other side of the city. She says there's a musician playing there that has an illusionist that illustrates all the songs he plays, and that the songs are incredible. Not to mention that the singer is incredibly handsome, from what I hear," she added dreamily. "However, I need to study, and I'm sure that my Master would not approve."
"You're young yet, Pol. You should go out and have fun with your friends. How about this: I'll get your Master's permission for you to visit me tonight, and you can go with Pasiran to see this singer."
Her eyes grew wide with excitement. "You'd do that for me?"
"Of course, child. A little mischief will be good for you." She hugged him. "Now you had better get back to your studies. Just because you're going to have a night out on the town doesn't mean that you can shirk your responsibilities," he said with a smile.
** * **
Poldaran sat on a hill near the ruins of her family's estate waiting for the others to arrive. She knew it would not be too long before the others arrived, as they traditionally met at noon this day every year, and it was definitely late in the morning. Her hair and simple violet robes fluttered in the breeze as she sat in the grass next to her tent.
First to arrive were her sister Alexandrine and her friends Xelsia and Thanoris. With them was another figure, a man in red robes who rode with Thanoris. Alexandrine was a beautiful young woman with long blonde hair and tanned skin. Just as her sisters, she was slender and tall, but unlike the others, her lithe figure was accented by dense muscle from years of training in the arts of the Order of the Silver Hand. She wore silver mail armor and a white cloak with a shield slung across her back and a sword sheathed at her side. She dismounted from her holy charger and greeted her sister with a hug.
Xelsia was the second to greet her, shifting from the form of a black panther into that of a tall Night Elf, fair violet skin glowing eyes and all. She wore a simple green leather robe and boots, the uniform of a druid.
Thanoris dismounted from his large Mistsaber tiger and saluted her in greeting. He too was well muscled and wearing mail armor, though his was green and appeared to be Barkmail, a type of mail armor crafted by the Night Elves. Slung across his back was a huge axe.
Poldaran learned from their discussion that the man in the robes was Horsdouvres, another member of the now disbanded Order of the Silver Hand.
The next arrivals were two warlocks on fiery Dreadsteeds. The first was her sister, Sindara, a slender woman in black robes with steel grey eyes, pale skin, and her black hair tied back in a ponytail. Her face was serious. It always was. If anyone could be said to be more focused and serious than Poldaran, it was Sindara.
The other appeared to be a gnome. Sindara explained that he was called Skweek, as that was the nickname given to him by the warlock who trained the two of them due to his high pitched gnome-like voice.
The final arrivals were a human in crimson robes with long brunette hair and brown eyes and a Night Elf woman in black leather with blue-green hair cut short. The human woman rode a Talbuk; a gazelle like creature with long horns, and the Night elf woman rode a white tiger.
Poldaran waved at her two friends. "Pasiran, Neldara, it's about time you got here!"
Pasiran dismounted. "Neldara had to stop to chase butterflies."
Neldara dismounted, her face excited. "Pol!" she threw her arms around her friend's neck and hugged her tightly.
Sindara looked around, trying to figure out what the sound was she was hearing and finally asked. "Is she...purring?"
Pasiran laughed as Neldara let Poldaran go. "She's always done that... since we met her on Mount Hyjal long ago. We haven't figured out why, though," Pasiran said.
Thanoris, who had watched the exchange from his seat on a nearby tree stump, cleared his throat. "I can explain that."
Everyone turned to him. Neldara's eyes lit up. "Thanny!" She rushed over and hugged him too.
Thanoris continued. "Neldara is my cousin. Long ago, when we were all children, she wanted nothing more than to become a druid. She got it in her mind one day to try to shape-shift into a panther, just as you've seen Xelsia do.
"For those who don't know, what happens when you shape-shift is that you not only gain the body of an animal, you also gain its instincts, reflexes, and even a bit of your mind changes into that of the animal. Neldara, however, had received no instruction on how to do so, so her early efforts were less than successful. We'd often see her spend hours sitting in a glade just concentrating and concentrating, until one day, it happened. She managed a partial transformation, pushing her mind through the Emerald Dream partway and taking on the instincts, reflexes, and part of the mind of a cat." He paused for a moment. "Then she got stuck."
Everyone gasped. Thanoris continued. "Many druids tried to help get her free as did several priestesses. Arch-druid Malfurion Stormrage even attempted to help her by entering the Emerald Dream and helping her from that end, but it was to no avail. So, her parents, making the best of the situation, enrolled her in training as a rogue to best make use of her heightened senses, instincts, and reflexes."
Poldaran thought for a moment. "You know...Neldara makes a whole lot more sense when you think of her as a cat." She giggled. Everyone else joined in the laughter...except Neldara, who had run off to stalk some rodent she had seen run through the grass.
** * **
Wow, he is cute, Poldaran thought to herself, looking that the singer on the stage set to one side of the inn's common room. His head was shaved and he sported a light black beard. He had to be in his late twenties. He wore the blue and white robe of a battle mage.
On the stage with him were a few gnomes and several musicians, one playing drums, another some kind of string instrument and the third yet another type of string instrument the likes of which Poldaran had never seen. The three gnome men sitting on the stage appeared to be some kind of backup singers, and the gnome woman was likely the illusionist that Poldaran had heard about.
Poldaran received the glass of red wine she had ordered just as the drummer began to play.
Images appeared in the air, much like a scrying. They showed the singer, in red robes slow-falling from a cliff and launching a great ball of fire at an orc guarding some kind of structure.
The singer began to sing. "I've been kicking ass, since the dawn of time," images appeared of a boy using his magic to train, launching fireballs at Kobolds and other nuisance creatures. "I'm just a killing man that's reached my killing prime. I burn and I plunder as it suits my desire." The images shifted to that of the young man in red robes killing Orcs on the field of battle. "My weapon of choice is great balls of fire! So, 'Why?' I ask, 'It just doesn't make sense that a man of my stature should have to wear a dress.' So 'What,' may I inquire, 'were you thinking on that day when you conjured up for a man like me a robe that looked so gay!?'"
The illusions stopped and the gnomes began to sing. "Aaah, aaaah, just sit right back and your troubles melt away. Aaaah, aaah, he uses fire but his robes look so gay!"
The song continued, as did the illusion. Poldaran watched, enthralled, as the mage in the image continued to decimate his foes on the field of battle, going through several changes of robes through the process.
It was not a song she would soon forget.
** * **
The group of friends sat around a fire and cooked some rabbits that Neldara had caught while telling stories of their journeys through the past year. Alexandrine, Thanoris and Xelsia told tales of their battles against the Horde in the contested zones of Arathi Basin and Warsong Gulch. Pasiran told of her alchemy business and how she had become a big supplier of many of the potions used on the battlefield by the armies of Stormwind. Neldara spoke of forays into the Shadow Labyrinth of Auchindoun in an attempt to rout the Shadow Council forces therein.
The friends continued their stories well into the afternoon, but shortly before dusk, they saw two figures running through a field nearby, chased by undead. They rose to aid them, but Neldara, Skweek, and Horsdouvres reached them first.
The others arrived just in time to see the figures jump into a bush. Thanoris engaged the foes alongside the others and the casters began casting spells upon the undead legions. Poldaran was attacking with her wand, hesitant to use her magic.
An explosion rocked the ground near them, and Skweek ran by, on fire. "I'm burning! I'm burning!!" Alexandrine cast a spell of healing upon him and cleansed the fire, but he collapsed to the ground.
Poldaran turned to Sindara. "Interesting gnome there," she said.
Sindara grunted. "He's not a gnome." Her Fel-guard, a brutish blue demon wielding a wicked axe, charged their foes as she turned to face Poldaran, who was staring at her skeptically. "He's about as good with chemicals as he is with explosives," Sindara explained.
Neldara received a large gash from one of the undead as her daggers weaved in and out through the swarm. She looked at Horsdouvres. "Paladin, HEAL ME!" she yelled.
"Wait!" Alexandrine cried out, but it was too late. Acidic corruption engulfed Neldara, who fell to the ground in agony. Alexandrine healed her.
Poldaran and Sindara both looked at their sister. "That was a Warlock spell," Sindara said. "I thought he was a Paladin, like you."
Alexandrine looked at her sheepishly. "He was a novitiate at the same keep as me, but one of the older Paladins trained him wrong...as a joke," she said with a shrug.
Poldaran and Sindara looked at each other for a moment.
Horsdoevres, oblivious, cried out, "Come to me, my noble steed!" An imp appeared and looked at him in terror as he jumped on its back, flattening it.
The undead were vanquished in short order. Thanoris approached the bush where the two that had been fleeing them had hidden. He called out. "It's safe now. You can come out." He waited. "No, really, come on out." He tapped his foot impatiently and then reached in and pulled out an Orc and a Troll, both completely naked. They squealed in terror and began beating on his mail clad chest with their fists. "Wait," Thanoris said, motioning for them to stop. "Wait," he said again, making another motion. "Wait!" he said again. He sighed and rapped the troll on the head with his plate gauntlet. The troll collapsed to the ground.
The orc fell on his behind in terror and curled into a fetal position. Poldaran placed her hand on Thanoris' shoulder. "Hold on. You're scaring them." She turned to the orc and spoke to him in his native tongue. He looked at her, incredulous. She repeated her words. He responded, albeit reluctantly. She nodded. "It seems his name is Eggoh. He and his friend, whose name I'm not even going to attempt to pronounce, were out doing a delivery for someone to the Undercity when they were attacked." She turned to the orc and spoke again. He nodded, a little less fearful. "Everyone stand back a bit. I'm going to open a portal for him and his friend to Orgrimmar." Everyone looked at her as though she had sprung a second head. "Yes, I can open portals to Orgrimmar, and no, I'm not going to explain how I can do it."
She opened a portal for him, and he dragged his unconscious friend through. As the portal closed, an undead rose from the pile nearby. Without a thought, she cast a blast of fire at it.
The resulting shockwave literally shattered the bones of her target and reduced the remaining pieces of undead lying all around to ash. It also knocked the party to the ground. Poldaran sighed and sat up.
"So...who is ready for some roast rabbit? I'm starving."
** * **
In a camp on a hill above the main Alliance camps sat a lone girl. Her fire burned brightly, though her tent showed inexperience in its construction. The night sky of Kalimdor was beautiful beyond words to the young girl, though she was not in a state to really appreciate it.
It seemed that she was always either seething with rage or filled with a bitter sadness. Tears came to her more freely than smiles these days, though they had just won an amazing victory against the Burning Legion.
Worst of all was that it was affecting her magic.
In the past few days, Poldaran had caused no less than three near-catastrophes. The first had been when she had been attempting to conjure a bit of food. A simple trick for mages, but the giant loaf of dough that appeared nearly killed three people. The second had been an attempt to polymorph someone on the practice field. Instead of a sheep, he had turned into a gnat. Thankfully that spell had worn off before someone crushed him. The final, and the reason she had decided to exile herself to the lonely camp, had been when she had tried to create a campfire. She had only been trying to create a simple spark, but the resulting inferno nearly destroyed half the camp. Certainly several soldiers would have to deal with blisters and no eyebrows for at least a few days. Weeks was more likely.
Her new apprentice-master, a kindly old mage that had followed Jaina Proudmoore to Kalimdor, was at a loss as to the cause of her magical malfunctions. High Elven mages with centuries of experience attempted to fathom her problems, but to no avail. She was casting the spells perfectly, but the magic was going haywire. Poldaran had no idea what to do, so she sulked. The night is long when you are not sleeping much. Poldaran spent much of the night sitting on a log facing the fire, just waiting for morning to come.
She was sitting like this when she heard the snap of a twig and heard a voice... an Orc voice. "Greetings, Demonslayer!" the voice exclaimed merrily. "May I enter your camp?"
"Come on in," Poldaran said, less than excited at the thought of company. She looked up, and immediately stood in respect as the figure entered her camp. "Greetings, Warchief," she said.
He motioned for her to sit. "Just call me Thrall. Mind if I use your fire there? I brought a couple flanks of kodo that could use a little more cooking." She nodded. "Thanks." He pulled up a log to the fire near her. They sat in silence for a time staring at the fire and enjoying the smell of the roasting meat. "So," Thrall said after handing her a piece of well cooked meat. "I hear you're having a bit of trouble with your magic lately."
Her face was stricken. Seems that everyone knew about that, even the Warchief of the Horde himself. "I, uh," she muttered to the floor.
His smile was warm. "It's okay, child. We all have problems sometimes." They ate in silence for a while. "You know," he said, breaking the silence again, "Your friends speak of a strong young woman with extraordinary talent for magic, a warm smile, and a love for life." He looked at her with one eyebrow raised. "You know, I'm disappointed that I'm not greeted with that smile."
Her face was apologetic. "I'm sorry, Thrall, but I just don't seem to have any smiles left."
"Truly, that is indeed sad news. 'A smile as radiant as the noon day sun,' was what I was told. It will be missed." He looked at her. "You know, sometimes it helps to talk about what troubles you." He held out his arms in an offered embrace. "Perhaps you can tell me about it."
She took the offered hug and began crying. She told the wise young Orc all about what had happened...from her sadness at the deaths of her parents, to missing her sisters, to her anger at her Uncle's involvement in the Scourge invasion. When she was done, he continued to hold her as a father would his child.
He looked down at her. "Feel any better now?" he asked. She nodded, the tears still flowing. "Come now. Let's dry those tears." He smiled. "I understand more than you know the sadness you feel. Many around you do. We've all lost friends and family to the Scourge and Burning Legion."
"Yes, child, even me. Just before you arrived here, I lost one of my closest friends in a fight with Mannoroth. Grom Hellscream was a great warrior and an even greater friend." He thought for a moment. "You know, my people have a ritual that we perform when one of our loved ones dies. Perhaps it may help you."
"What is it?"
"When we mourn, we allow our emotions to build beyond our control, and we unleash a primal roar that cleanses us of the sadness that has built up. Some believe that it is a last farewell to the spirits of the fallen before they pass from this world."
"I'd be willing to try."
"Good, but not here...too many are trying to sleep in the camps below. Let's find a place away from them so that your anguish may not wake them."
They traveled deep into the woods and found a nice clearing. Poldaran stood upon a great rock in the center of the glade and allowed her emotions to build to levels they had never reached before. When they were at a breaking point, the tears began to flow - not regular tears, but rivulets of flame streamed from her eyes. She looked to the sky and roared. Great shards of ice flew into the sky and a vortex of flames erupted around her. Waves of arcane energy morphed all the creatures around her into all manner of other creatures, though did not touch Thrall, who had taken refuge behind a tree at the far end of the clearing.
When she was done, the magic quieted and all was silent. Thrall walked to the exhausted girl. "Well, so much for not waking anyone," he said with a smile. "I'm sure they heard you in Stormwind." She smiled at him sheepishly. "Ah, so that's the smile I was told about. Definitely an improvement. Come; let's get you back to your camp."
As they walked through the woods, Poldaran saw Thrall stumble into several trees. She laughed. "Problems?" she asked him.
"It seems that your display back there has caused me to lose my adjustment to the darkness." He picked up a stick and wrapped it with several dry leaves and a bit of resin from a pouch at his belt. "Here, why don't you light this for me?"
"You did hear about my magic problems, right?" He nodded. "And you still want me to try to start a small fire?" He nodded again. "Alright...your funeral." She cast the incantation for a small spark. The torch erupted into a small flame, just as she had intended. Her eyes grew wide with excitement. "I did it!" she exclaimed. He smiled knowingly at her. She looked at him suspiciously. "Wait a minute...did you have something to do with this?"
"I believed that your lack of control had a simpler cause than what the mages did. Your emotions were interfering."
"But emotions don't play a part in control of magic, so long as you can concentrate enough to cast the spells."
"That may be the case with most mages, but Vi'krosh says that your father believed that there was something special about you. I figured it was worth the time to try something different."
They walked in silence for a time. As they approached her camp, she spoke. "Thank you, Thrall. Tonight has meant a great deal to me. I will learn to control my emotions and thus my gift. You have taught me much and I will always consider you a friend." She hugged him.
"Do not be afraid to release your emotions when you must. In time, they will become your servants...yours to control. But they must still be let out once in a while."
"I will remember, Thrall," she said with a smile.
"Grak'thar was wrong," he said. She looked at him questioningly. "The sun is certainly not that radiant." She blushed.
He bid her farewell and headed into the woods towards his own camp. As he passed the shadow of a large tree, a voice spoke from the shadows. "A moment, if you will, Warchief."
Startled he spun and drew his weapon. "Who goes there?"
A figure in a crimson robe stepped from the shadow. "Greetings, old friend," she spoke, pulling back her hood. "I have just come to thank you once again for what you have done this night. She sleeps now, the first good sleep she has had since the fall of Dalaran, and the peace she has achieved is all thanks to you." He moved the torch closer to see the shadowed figure. Her face and auburn hair were certainly familiar. She smiled at him and embraced him. "Thank you again, Thrall, for all you have done for me this night," she said, and was gone.
** * **
It's funny, really, when I think about it.
Everything I've ever been taught is that magic is not affected by one's emotions, at least not directly. The only way emotions can affect one's magic is through messing with concentration. Everything I've ever experienced, however, shows that to be false.
When I saved Sindara, I communed with my gift, my magic. Somehow, through the fear for my sister and my need to save her, it showed me what I needed to do, and acted to protect me when I called upon it. When I fought with the demon as a child, it was anger that gave me the required strength and magical power to defeat him. During the Battle of Mount Hyjal, my fury unleashed wave after wave of magic that my foes seemed unprepared for.
It wasn't until just before my second apprenticeship ended that I learned to encase myself in ice, and to this day I would have trouble safely doing so to another to protect them. The magic is complex at best...at worst, it's nigh impossible. And conjuring a Phoenix, even an unstable one, is magic that can only be handled by a select few mages who have devoted years of research to it. Yet I, as a girl of fourteen, freshly a journeyman, conjured one in my anger.
The same happened after the Battle of Mount Hyjal. My raging emotions caused every one of my spells to go completely haywire. I could cast the spell perfectly, indeed several of the more experienced there said I was indeed casting the proper spells, but the magic would so vary in scale and intensity that a simple spell could cause devastation.
My father and uncle believed that there was some special magic about me, that I was something different, not an ordinary mage. I'm starting to believe that they're right.
So, as I have since the first time Thrall taught it to me, I go to my family's estate, or rather, what's left of it, once a year and allow my emotions and magic to overflow into a crescendo of power. I feel cleansed when it's over, and more importantly, I regain full control of my emotions and my magic so that no accidents happen like those that happened so long ago.
Looking back, however, I can't help but laugh at the time I polymorphed the entire Alliance force in Kalimdor simultaneously. The smell was horrendous.
** * **
Poldaran, Neldara and Pasiran closed the gate to the service entrance of Stratholme quietly behind them.
"So, what's the plan?" Pasiran asked. "We going to sneak up on Baron Rivendare like we usually do in these raids?"
"Actually," Poldaran said, "I have a more direct idea."
"Oh?" Pasiran asked as Poldaran pulled something from a small sack she had brought with her. "What's that?"
Poldaran held up a small crystal etched with arcane markings. "Portal beacon," Poldaran said cryptically.
"I've created a system where a portal spell can be cast just by activating a portal crystal. However, to create a portal from here would do us no good. So instead, what I've done is cause the portals to not be directed, and leave them at home. I can activate a portal crystal by instead activating a paired crystal elsewhere, allowing a single person to sneak into somewhere and summon others in without tapping into Warlock magic."
"I thought we weren't allowed to have too many people," Neldara declared.
"Indeed true," Poldaran agreed. "However, I have a different kind of assistance in mind this time." Poldaran activated the portal beacon, and a portal appeared in front of them, coming from her tower. "You see...I've been studying the magic used by the Blood Elves to create their Arcane Sentinels." A crystalline figure appeared through the portal, followed by another, and another, and still more. "So I decided to create my own army."
** * **
Thrall, Warchief of the Horde, sighed. He just could not understand the bickering amongst the parties present at these important peace talks. He wished Jaina Proudmoore could have come, but she was having trouble with Naga near Theramore Isle and had to send some old wizard as a representative. She might have been able to steer these talks to a more productive topic, but the old man was worse than any of the others.
And this was not good. These talks were an attempt to prevent the collapse of the truce between the Alliance and the Horde. And these people could not even agree on simple matters.
"There can be no talks of peace until we stop the harassment of our people by the so called 'League of Arathor!'" the Forsaken representative declared.
"You've intruded upon our lands, undead!" a human representative shouted. The crowd became a cacophony of argument. Thrall was quickly developing a headache.
He watched as the argument played out. After a short time, the old man Jaina had sent threw his hands in the air in disgust and stormed out. The voices trailed off to a murmur, and one of the humans said, "How can we protect the peace with these constant raids on the border towns? Our peoples are getting bloodthirsty and small adventurer guilds are blowing off steam by attacking smaller towns. This will eventually lead to war. We cannot end the conflict. As much as we hope to avoid it, war is inevitable." The room burst into argument once again.
But one voice was not argumentative. Thrall could barely hear it, but he heard it nonetheless. "Excuse me," the voice said. Thrall looked around. Then he saw her...the old man's apprentice. She had grown since he had last seen her. A beautiful young woman this was, hair of auburn and eyes like emeralds. "Excuse me," she said again, still fairly quiet amongst the shouting.
"Silence," Thrall ordered the room. "SILENCE!" he yelled. Understandably, the room became quiet. Thrall smiled at the young woman. "You may speak, Poldaran."
"Thank you, Warchief." She smiled at the room. "Surely we cannot prevent a war by degenerating into war amongst ourselves. Now, I agree that there are problems, but I think we have a solution lying before us." She paused a moment. "The greatest reason we have to prevent a war is that any fighting amongst ourselves will weaken us when the true enemies strike again.
"And mark my words. The Burning Legion and the Scourge WILL come again."
The room broke into hushed muttering. The young woman waited for quiet again. "You see, killing each other is what they want us to do. We won a victory on Mount Hyjal those years ago not by fighting each other, but by working together."
"And just how do you propose we avoid fighting, girl?" the Forsaken emissary said, his tone dripping with sarcasm.
She looked at him with one raised eyebrow. "It's quite simple, actually." She paused for dramatic effect. "We don't." The room erupted once again. Once it quieted, she spoke once more. "Everyone is angry after the events of the invasion. Everyone has lost someone dear to them. This pent up anger is what will lead to all out warfare. Sometime, somewhere someone WILL go too far, and we will be unable to prevent a fall into war. That is, of course, unless we give them something else to do."
"I'm intrigued," Thrall said. "What exactly did you have in mind?"
"Let's give them fights. Let's give them somewhere to vent off this excess energy in a controlled war, but let's wash our hands of the whole ordeal. We can do it properly so that it appears that the Alliance and the Horde as a whole aren't involved in any way, but instead some small factions of peoples within the Alliance and the Horde." She took a sip from a glass of water on the table before her.
"My idea comes from the conflict in the Arathi Highlands. This League of Arathor harasses the efforts of the Forsaken there. Perhaps we should draw up a boundary, divide the land between the Alliance and the Horde." She looked at the Forsaken emissary. "Do you have a map of the region handy?" He nodded and handed her a large map. "Now, I don't know what border would be fair, that will be for you gentlemen to decide. However, for the sake of this discussion, let's say something like this." She drew a line through the middle of the Highlands. She then removed a section of the border that went through a large basin. "You see, I'm leaving this part unmarked on purpose. This will be the site of the new battleground. All will know who owns what, except for that one spot.
"That's where the League of Arathor and some faction we create amongst the Forsaken come in. Both will claim that their side owns that section of land and will immediately begin recruiting amongst the people of the Horde and the Alliance. The Horde and the Alliance will both take the stance that this small piece of land isn't worth fighting over, but will say that because of the mistake, there is no reason that the League of Arathor and the other faction can't fight for it as separate factions. In this way, we create an outlet for some of this pent up aggression and anger without risking a general war.
"In fact, perhaps we can even formalize it into almost a game. Create something like five shops, blacksmiths, farms, etc where the two factions fight. Faction that has used the facilities to craft the most supplies wins for the day. However, we will want it to slowly become like that so that the people do not suspect that this is anything other than actual war."
Cairne Bloodhoof spoke. "But, countless young people will die there and their deaths will fuel anger between the people. We'll lose some of our best soldiers and will be weakened when the next invasion comes. I agree it's the best solution we've come up with thus far, but it is still flawed."
Poldaran nodded. "Indeed, this is true. However, I believe that there may be a way to enchant the land. In dealing with the arcane, I've often enchanted items with certain magical properties. Perhaps we could set up some kind of magic upon the land so that the bodies of the dead are teleported to a safe haven in their own strongholds and resurrected by magic like that used by both practitioners of the Light and those most in tune with Nature and the Elements?"
Thrall thought on it for a moment. "It might be possible. We will need the help of some of the most powerful wizards and healers alive to accomplish it, but it might serve your purpose."
Cairne smiled. "This might just do the trick to save our peoples."
The Night Elf ambassador spoke. "Will this one conflict be enough? I doubt that our youth will all be enticed by just a battle in the lands of Azeroth."
Poldaran smiled. "I thought of this as well." She paused. "However, we have two other conflicts just waiting for this. In the Forests of Ashenvale, both the Night Elves and the Orcs claim a tract of forest and fight bitterly. This conflict would draw in others that the first would not. If we can settle on a border treaty, and perhaps the Night Elves would be more willing to do so if the Horde will learn less destructive lumbering practices from the Cenarion Circle, then there is a nice gulch that is clear cut halfway through that we could 'smudge' the border on as well. I was thinking that the commander of the Horde faction could come up with a mischievous plot to steal some object from the Alliance faction's base... something of little actual value but with some value to the Alliance commander. Perhaps a portrait of the commander or some such that the Alliance commander has shown pride in. This will lead to an effort to steal it back.
"Perhaps, even, it could be the base's flag. Eventually, this could be formalized into a game of flag capture."
"You spoke of a third conflict," the Dwarven ambassador said.
"Indeed. This would be the culmination of it all. You see, the size of the other two locations will limit the amount of fighting that can go on in those. This one will not be in a small basin or gulch, but will take up an entire valley.
"In the Alterac Mountains, the Stormpike Guard and the Frostwolf Clan are already in conflict. Let's fill them with two fortresses and countless defenses. The final objective will of the games will be to slay the enemy commander, someone of great import...Drek'thar and Vanndar Stormpike, perhaps. Always it will end at a stalemate, and always, the generals and the picked guards in the field will be resurrected by the magic we imbue these places with.
"But, even more importantly, can you think of a cheaper way to train troops for warfare? Let them fight for these factions, and when the real threat comes again, they will be ready. And now, ladies and gentlemen, I must leave it to you all to figure out the details."
Poldaran left, smiling. The idea her father had concocted those years ago had been well received, just as she knew it would.
** * **
"Kitty!" Neldara yelled while chasing gleefully after the fleeing skeletal steed. Pasiran chuckled. One of Poldaran's arcane sentinels bounded after the target, preparing to crush it.
Poldaran laughed. "Well, he should be reanimating soon. Never seen the horse get up without him, though."
Baron Rivendare arose. "Intruders! More pawns of the Argent Dawn, no doubt!"
"Told you, his memory is never very good when he wakes up," Poldaran said with a smile. "Sentinels, take his weapon and restrain him." The creations pressed him against a wall and tossed his blade to the ground. Poldaran placed a scrying crystal upon his chest.
"Unhand me! You shall know the full might of the Scourge!"
"In a moment, I will surely have them unhand you." Poldaran cast her spell and recorded what she learned. "Okay, sentinels. Tear his arms off and beat him to death with them. I am through here." Pasiran looked at her, confused. "We waited for him to reanimate so that my instruments can record that process."
"We know that the greater Lieutenants of the Scourge cannot be fully destroyed. I think that if I can find out what happens when they come back, I might be able to devise a more permanent solution. At least, that's the theory."
"They always come back?"
"Yes, I've tried many different methods to try to destroy this one. I've cut him to pieces and had them spread across Azeroth. I've tried having Priests and Paladins purify the corpse. I've even tried using a giant mortar and pestle to crush his bones to powder. Each time, the remains disappear and reform here."
"So, why did you have those things rip his arms off and beat him to death with them?"
"He said to unhand him. A girl's got to have some fun."
** * **
Alexandrine of Wintermoon, known as the Merciful to her fellow paladins, walked through the forests of Ashenvale along with a band of friends. Prominent among them were the warrior, Thanoris, and the druid, Xelsia, though there were others. Their destination was the battlefields of Warsong Gulch, where the Silverwing Sentinels did battle with the Warsong Outriders. The general mood of the party was light, as though they were only on an afternoon outing. Most of the party was green to the ways of battle. While all were extremely well trained in their particular styles of combat, few had ever been on a battlefield, let alone witness the death of friends or foes in armed combat.
They were a few miles from the town of Astranaar when a bloodied Night Elf crashed through the bushes at the side of the road. He fell to the ground, unconscious. Alexandrine ran to his side and immediately began channeling the light to heal his wounds. His eyes opened.
"There is no time. I will be fine. But the Horde is attacking Astranaar! Women and children are being slaughtered! Please help them!" With that, he fainted.
Alexandrine looked at the man. He would indeed recover. She stood and addressed her comrades. "You heard the man. Astranaar needs our help." She drew her blade. "This is not a battle we can withdraw from. We are members of the Alliance, and we must aid our comrades." She looked at one of the druids. "You are the most fleet-footed amongst us. I want you to hurry back to Auberdine and secure aid." He nodded. She then turned to a young dwarf paladin. "I want you to stay and tend to the wounds of our friend here," she said, indicating the injured Night Elf. "Everyone else, let's go. Astranaar needs us."
They reached the town within twenty minutes, at a near dead run. They found that much of the town was burning, everything on the east side, at least. Near the center of town, a bloody battle was being waged. The party sprung into action. Alexandrine began to heal the wounded while barking orders out at those around her. A night elf and a dwarf from the party began firing upon the foes from range. Thanoris strapped his shield to his arm and began to wail upon attackers, while Xelsia and a priest began dragging the injured to the relative safety of a nearby building.
The situation, despite the reinforcements, remained grim. The defenders were outnumbered nearly three to one. If they could not find a better position to fight, they would fall.
Alexandrine gestured at one of the townsfolk. "Is there a building with a basement here? Something that we can fall back to and defend ourselves within?"
"Xelsia!" Alexandrine called out. The druid ran to her side. "Go with this man and begin moving the wounded to the building he takes you to. I want them all safely within the basement. We can have a mage shield the building against fire, and at least then we'll have a defensible position." Xelsia nodded.
The battle raged on for nearly twenty minutes before Xelsia returned. "We are ready," she said simply.
"Thank you. Fall back to the building and help lay down suppressive fire with your powers over nature to help the defenders retreat to the building. Take as many hunters as you can with you." Alexandrine gave Xelsia a few minutes to do so before she called out to the forces. "Fall back! We cannot defend ourselves here in the open! Go now!" The defenders began a retreat. One of the townsfolk received a great wound. "Thanoris!" Alexandrine yelled, rushing the fallen man's side. She drew her blade and shield and began fighting the mighty Tauren that had struck the man.
Thanoris approached. "Whatcha need, Alex?"
"Carry this man to the shelter. I'll be along shortly."
"Okey dokey." He picked up the large man like a twig and bounded off. And then Alexandrine was alone on the field of battle. She cast the power of the Light into the ground, making it painful for her foes to approach. Many had seen this before, so they simply waited. It would not last forever.
But it did not have to. Alexandrine pulled a grenade from her belt and encased herself in a Divine Shield. She tossed the grenade into the mob of foes, and they all dove to escape it. This gave her the diversion she needed to make it safely to the defended position.
And then they waited. It was only a matter of time before someone came to their aid. They could only hope that it would be before the enemy was able to breach their defenses and press the attack.
** * **
Poldaran once again entered the office of the Archmage. He looked up from the tome he was reading. "What have you discovered?"
"It appears that the magic is indeed bound to an outside source. The magic of his resurrection could be traced all the way to the necropolis of Naxxramas, and further beyond, I'm willing to wager. I believe that it is possible that there is a nexus point of sorts that ties all the greater lieutenants together, and binds upon Kel'thuzad. It may be only possible to destroy our lesser foes by utterly annihilating him. I understand that many have accomplished such a goal, but that he always rises. It may not be possible with conventional means to destroy his phylactery."
"Do you have something else in mind?"
"I believe it may be possible to do so with proper usage of a specific magic."
A young mage in brown robes burst through the door. "Archmage, I do not wish to interrupt, but your agent in the Cult of the Damned in Northrend sends dire news." He handed the old man a report.
"Thank you, Leviticus." The mage read the report as the young man left. "This is grave news indeed. Poldaran, read this."
Poldaran read it, a look of dread crossing her face. "This is not good, sir. If they manage to reach the Guardian's Cache, the Scourge will gain an immense advantage."
"I agree, it must be destroyed. The destruction will be your top priority. Take what resources you need. This is to be the Kirin Tor's top priority until it is accomplished."
"As you command, Archmage. I do have one concern, though."
"What is it?"
"Kel'thuzad was once a member of the Kirin Tor. If we attack Northrend, might it not occur to him what we seek to destroy?"
The old man thought on it. "I believe you may be right. We may need to blind them to his knowledge. How confident are you on your spell?"
"I believe that the spell has the possibility to destroy him. And even if it doesn't, I believe it will scatter his mind to the winds for some time, making resurrection difficult, which will buy us the time we need."
"Good, then go to it. Gather what reagents you need for the spell. Oh, and one more thing," he said this last with a smile. "We had intended for this honor to be bestowed upon you in a grand ceremony, but circumstances indicate that it may be a long time before we can do so." He handed her a small box. She opened it, revealing a chain of mystical silver on which hung the emblem of the Kirin Tor. Her eyes grew wide and her jaw dropped in shock. "Welcome to the Kirin Tor, Archmage," the old man said with a smile.
** * **
Edited, Feb 25th 2009 4:17am by Poldaran