A little background on the story... Edit
I began working on this story all the way back when WoW was in its beta stages. It was meant to be used as a backstory to how several of the characters played by myself and my friend came to meet. However, over the years it has grown into something more then just a simple historical account. However, due to how it was initially formatted it does not quite fit well when broken up into chapters, but I will try and break it up as such to make it easier to read in pieces at a time. I apologize for the strange headings, like the one above this little blurb, but I'm still working out the kinks of the wikia system, particularly in keeping those handy content links so readers can jump to particular chapters rather then having to scroll through the whole story to pick up where they left off.
Regardless, I humbly present to everyone "In the Shadows of Hyjal", an old man's first steps on the long road to redemption.
In the Shadows of Hyjal Edit
With a loud groan the mast finally gave way under the battering winds. With each gust of wind, each crashing of the waves more and more of the frigate’s passengers were lost to the sea, the ever dwindling remnants clutching vainly onto anything that would keep them on the ship.
Quietly sitting against one of the railings was a middle-aged man, seemingly unaffected by the chaos surrounding him. Traces of his once dark red hair stubbornly clung amongst the mass of grey that lay disheveled on his head. His dark brown eyes remained transfixed upon a silver pendent he held between his worn hands. With each flash of lightning the inscription “Terra” seemed to leap out at him, flooding his mind with images of his burning house and the swarm of undead beasts that surrounded it.
“Reikan!” The beasts cried out at him.
“Reikan!” He tried to pull away, but they were drawing him closer.
“Reikan, wake up! We need you over here!”
The image faded, and his eyes slowly focused on another man who was crawling on his hands and knees along the rail towards him. “Reikan, this ship, she’s not going to make it! Is there anything you can do!? Say a prayer for us, something, anything!”
Reikan slowly pushed himself to his feet. He opened his mouth to speak when a large wave slammed into the side of the ship and carried him off into the darkness.
The sun felt warm on his skin. Soon he would be home and a large dinner would be waiting for him. His daughter would be at the door, waiting for him to arrive. Just a little farther down the road and he’d be home…
Coughing and spitting Reikan woke. Dangling from his right hand was the silver pendant, and he counted his blessings that it was still with him. He struggled to his feet and looked around. Small crabs skittered about the beach and birds could be heard chirping and chittering overhead. Just a bit north of him he could see what looked like remnants of the boat that had carried him from Lordaeron to the Western Continent. Reikan walked towards the wreck, looking around for signs of any other survivors.
The mast and what appeared to be part of the bow of the ship had found their way to the shore, as well as several boxes of the supplies that had been hastily thrown onto the ship before it had left the Eastern Kingdoms. Reikan quickly opened the boxes and pulled out any of the food that was still edible; a few apples, some wheels of cheese and a bottle of pinot noir. It had been many years since he had last tasted wine, or any alcoholic beverage for that matter, but with nothing but sea water in sight he was not about to fret over the lack of a suitable drink.
His meal was interrupted by cruel laughter. Reikan looked up to see four strange beasts with the body of a man and the legs of a horse grinning at him and brandishing their weapons from the edge of the beach. Reikan stood up quickly and looked around feverishly for a weapon. The hilt of a sword, sticking out of the sand caught his eye and he quickly yanked it free from its tomb. The beast men laughed, the blade was shattered; very little was left attached to the hilt.
One of the beast men sauntered up, laughing and chattering in some foul language. He stopped just out of reach and pointed towards the ground. Reikan gripped the broken sword tightly in his hand and glared. The beast shrugged and charged, swinging his axe. Reikan side stepped nimbly and slapped the edge of the blade hard against the beast man’s wrist, causing him to howl in pain and drop his axe. Reikan wasted no time. In one quick motion he picked the axe up from the ground and flung it up at the beast’s head.
The three remaining beast men stopped laughing as their comrade fell. Reikan twirled the broken sword in his hand and grinned. It was clear to him that the beast men had never encountered a knight of Lordaeron. He dug his feet in and held his sword defensively, watching the horse-men encircle him.
A savage war cry pierced the air. Reikan cringed, he knew that cry all too well. Suddenly the centaur were ambushed by orcs, and were quickly felled. An older orc, wielding a curved sword approached Reikan. Flashes of gray streaked across his long black hair, his red eyes showing a mix of anger and determination. Though Reikan was fast, the orc was faster; he caught Reikan’s sword hand and quickly brought the hilt of his blade down on the knight’s head.
The sky was alight with reds, oranges and purples, the sun settling down in brilliant fashion behind the outline of a modest farm house. Reikan could see a middle aged woman taking laundry off the line. She turned, her black hair wrapping itself about her in the light breeze and waved. Reikan quickened his pace, he was almost home.
The smell of roasted pig greeted Reikan as he woke. The graying orc stood close by, watching him protectively. A plate of food was at his side, tantalizing Reikan with its aroma.
“Eat,” the orc said, sliding the plate over to Reikan.
Reikan looked up apprehensively, “You, you speak common?”
“I can write it too if you’d like.” The orc grinned.
Reikan slowly took the food. “Where’d you learn to speak common?”
“You can learn many things while enslaved, human.”
Reikan took a small bite and nodded. “So that is to be my fate, eh?”
The orc laughed. “Oh no, human, though the thought had crossed my mind to make you a slave…to show you what we had to endure under whip. Yes, retribution was a fine idea but it would take more then just one man’s suffering to make up for the enslavement of my entire people.”
Reikan took a larger bite. “Hmph, so what is it then? Slow death instead?”
The orc laughed again. “Your death may be quick, human, but that depends on what you do.” He kicked the plate of food from Reikan’s hands. “You’ve eaten enough, now it is time to prove yourself.”
The orc roughly pulled Reikan to his feet and dragged him into a small pit where another orc waited. Two wooden staves rested on the ground between them.
“If you wish to live, human, then you must prove yourself to us, to the Horde. Prove to us that you are worth the burden.” He barked a few orders in Orcish. “You must best this grunt, pink skin, now go!”
Reikan looked warily up at the orcs surrounding the ring, and then at his adversary. He knew this was just a game, just some entertainment for the orcs. Whether he won or lost did not matter, he was dead anyway. Reikan was determined that if it was his fate to die, he would at least take one orc with him.
The two opponents dashed to the center of the ring and each grabbed a staff. The orc quickly swung, trying to catch Reikan before he was ready but the human was too fast and nimbly rolled out of the way. The orc quickly whirled around and parried Reikan’s strike. He could hear his fellow soldiers cheering him on. He was going to enjoy killing the human, and bringing great honor to his name.
Reikan backed away, wincing as he parried each blow. The orc was strong, much too strong for him. The orc swung viciously downward and with a loud crack the two staves locked above Reikan’s head. The orc pressed downward, shuffling close to Reikan, grinning as he pushed with all his weight. Pain shot up through Reikan’s legs, he could feel them starting to give way, but, the old man had fought in many battles; he had more then a few tricks up his sleeve. Reikan suddenly dropped his staff from over his head and quickly slid to the side. The orc stumbled forward, Reikan swinging savagely at the orc’s knee. He howled in pain and with another vicious whack dropped his staff as his elbow was shattered.
Before Reikan could swing again the other orcs were in the ring. They tore the staff from his hand and threw him to the ground while pulling their partner out. Reikan quickly hopped to his feet and looked around feverishly for the inevitable attack but none came. The orcs resumed their places around the ring.
“Good, human, good…” the graying orc said, “you did very well, but now you must fight me.”
The elder orc hopped lightly down into the pit, holding two wooden swords. He tossed one to Reikan. “My name is Trogar, human, and I am one of the Warchief’s Centurions. What is your name and rank?”
Reikan picked up the wooden sword. “Reikan, Knight of Lordaeron.”
The orc smiled. “Good, if you are a Knight then you must be respectable with a blade. Though these are wooden, remember that they are just as lethal as any steel weapon. Now be on your guard, Knight Reikan, for I am no simple Grunt!”
Trogar charged forward and swung quickly at Reikan’s neck. Reikan dodged and attempted a swing of his own, only to find himself on his back with the tip of a wooden sword pointed at his neck.
“Get up,” Trogar pulled his blade back, “and try harder, I know you can do better then that.”
Reikan was quickly on his feet and swung in rapid succession, catching the orc’s body with every few blows. Reikan feinted a strike at the knees and swung at the orc’s chest, but the blow was parried and Reikan was pushed backwards.
“Much better, Knight Reikan, but you still have many holes in your technique. Leave the feints and shuffle steps to the entertainers, you should be trying to kill me, not dance with me.”
Reikan kept his sword up defensively. “If you’re going to kill me just be done with it, orc.”
Trogar laughed. “Fear not, I am not going to kill you. You have earned a place, at least temporarily, with my group. Consider yourself one of us now, Knight Reikan, you will learn to eat as an orc, drink as an orc, and, most importantly, fight as an orc. Now let me show you how an orc fights!”
Trogar charged and with several quick strikes brought Reikan to his knees. “You humans spend far too much time worrying about defense. Our warriors were always stronger then yours because we are trained to kill, not trained to simply stay alive. Fight aggressively, Knight Reikan, fight to slay as many as you can. If you die on the battlefield, then so be it. There is great honor in death. There is no honor hiding behind plate and shield.”
Trogar let his sword fall to his side and Reikan seized the opportunity. He charged the orc, grabbing his sword arm and flipping him to the ground. Reikan slammed his foot down on the Trogar’s hand, and pressed the edge of his sword against the orc’s neck.
Trogar laughed. “Going to kill me human? You don’t trust my word that you will not be killed in your sleep?” Trogar grinned. “Well, if it is my fate to die here then so be it. It was an honor, Knight Reikan.”
Reikan stared down at the orc. Competing thoughts and emotions raced through his mind. This was an orc, a blood thirsty savage that had ravaged his homeland the homes of many other humans for years yet there was a kindness about the old orc. There was something in his words and in his eyes that made Reikan believe the orc could be trusted.
Reikan lifted his sword up and stepped back. Trogar pushed himself to his feet and bowed. “It seems as if I was right about you, Reikan. You will sleep in the grunts’ tent with my other soldiers. While you are with us you will be safe, however, you must earn your keep like any other orc. When we run, you will run. When we stop, you will stop. When we fight, you will fight. I will provide you with weapons and armor, however, if you for any reason choose to renounce my hospitality by running away, or attacking another orc in this camp then I will kill you.”
“Good, now get some sleep, we move out in the morning.” Trogar barked some orders in Orcish and Reikan was dragged out of the pit.
Chapter 3 Edit
Reikan slept very little that night. Constantly he was peering around from his cot, looking for the blade that was bound to come, the orcs that were just waiting for him to fall asleep. Reikan noticed every rustle, every cough, and every shift the other orcs in the tent made as they slept.
After what seemed like an eternity morning finally came. As the first rays of sunlight peeked into the tent the orcs woke and shuffled out. Reikan followed them, grateful that morning had come. Greeting him as he exited the tent was the strong smell of roasting meat. He saw the orcs gatheedr around several fires where large bird-like creatures were being roasted on a spit.
Reikan sat down between two of the more jovial looking orcs. The meat was taken off the spit whole and passed around from orc to orc. Each orc tore off a piece of meat and handed the carcass to his neighbor. Reikan stared at the mangled bird as it was placed down in front of him. The young looking orc next to him laughed and picked up the bird. He tore several hunks of meat off the ribs and split them between himself and Reikan, handing the bird down the line. Reikan continued to stare at the meat in front of him. The orcs nearby laughed as they ate, their new pet amusing them greatly.
After “breakfast” Trogar pulled Reikan aside and led him to a pile of armor placed on the ground.
“This should serve you well enough, pink skin, despite you being so tiny.”
Trogar shoved the much too large chest plate down on Reikan. The armor seemed to be mostly leather with metal studs dotting across the chest and back. The shoulders were thrown on next. These were made of a light chain mail wrapped around hardened leather, with fangs from some long dead carnivore protruding from the top for decoration. The helm was no better, it was leather with two large tusks protruding from the sides. Trogar took a step back and laughed at what he saw.
“You are a little human no longer, now you are a little orc!” The other orcs seemed to find this amusing as well.
Reikan rolled his eyes. “What about a weapon, Trogar?”
Trogar chuckled as he pulled a cruel looking great sword off of a nearby rack. “Try this, little orc; see if you can lift it.”
Reikan took the blade from Trogar’s hand and stepped back. He needed two hands to lift it, but it was not too heavy for him. Reikan held the blade up in front of him and examined the edges. He was impressed with the level of talent the blacksmith had who had crafted such a fine weapon.
“Good.You are to serve directly under my command, Grunt Reikan, until you learn to understand orcish.”
Trogar nodded. “You may have been a Knight in your human lands, but here you must earn your rank. You are fodder, slay many of the Horde’s enemies and you will earn the right to be promoted. Now, take some of these bags and form up behind the others. Our scouts have discovered a nest of pig-men to the west of us who have gathered a great many metals. We are going to help ourselves to their stock.”
Trogar yelled out his orders in Orcish and the march was on. Reikan fell in line towards the back. The band split off into three groups, two slipping silently on more northern and southern routes while the central group hooted, hollered and smashed any vegetation that dared to get in their way. As they moved inland from the beach the land became more barren, dotted here and there by small trees and shrubs.
The morning had not yet passed when they reached the camp of the pig men, who were waiting outside of their camp, all their warriors facing the orcs and their lone human companion. Trogar barked out an order to halt.
“Come, Grunt Reikan, we have the honor of leading the charge.”
“You’re the commander of this group, aren’t you? Shouldn’t you be in the back giving orders?” Reikan asked.
“Hmph, silly human, this is not like your human army where command is given to the most inbred of the swine. Rank and respect are earned from the spilt blood of our enemies! For the Horde!”
Trogar charged ahead, Reikan and the others following close behind. The pig men fired off a few arrows and fell back, right into the waiting blades of the other two groups of orcs who had secretly slipped in behind them. The pig men, knowing they were trapped, fought savagely but to no avail. Trogar was first into their ranks, his gleaming curved sword cleanly cutting through whatever it came in contact with. The thrill of battle overcame Reikan’s senses. He charged headlong into the fray, slaying many of the pig men foolish enough to attack the smallest of the orcs.
It was over quickly. Only one orc was wounded, a lucky arrow had caught him in the shoulder. Trogar quickly had him moved to the back lines while the rest started to gather up spoils from the camp and gather up the corpses of the pig-men into a pile. Reikan gathered all he could carry of the various raw ore he found laying in the camp and brought it to peons in the back ranks. He returned to the camp and liberated several bolts of silk cloth for himself. Sitting on the ground away from the camp Reikan ripped apart some of the silk, using it to clean the blood and dirt from his sword.
Chapter 4 Edit
As the days passed into weeks Reikan learned a great deal from Trogar. The elder orc was true to his word, Reikan was treated no better or no worse then any other orc, he was even promoted. The elder orc took time each night to speak with Reikan, telling him about his people, where they came from, the pain they endured at the hands of the demons and the humans. He spoke often about a great leader of the orcs, Thrall, who was south of their position with a much larger force of orcs. Thrall, he said, was a visionary, someone who would lead the orcs back to their old ways, before they were corrupted by the demons. Reikan grew to respect Trogar, and most of the orcs in his troop. It was hard for him to repress the memories of the atrocities he saw the orcs commit in Lordaeron and Stormwind, but these orcs did not seem to be the mindless killers he had thought they were. Despite their savage ways, they showed compassion, remorse and honor to their enemies. All who were slain by Trogar’s band were ceremoniously burned.
“War often has a way of blinding us, does it not, Reikan?” Trogar asked, one night.
Reikan nodded, slowly, “Yes, yes it does.”
“Though we were corrupted by the demons, most of us were still aware of what we did, and we enjoyed it…we blinded ourselves to the humans’ suffering, to the pain we were inflicting on a people we had no quarrel with.”
Reikan looked up at the old orc. He noticed for the first time the multitude of scars that coursed across Trogar’s arms and face. War weighed heavily on his shoulders.
“Our paths will part one day, Reikan. When they do, do not forget us. Remember what we taught you. We are no longer your enemy. We wish to only be left alone to live out the rest of our lives.” Trogar stood and walked off, leaving Reikan by the dieing fire.
An ashen morning greeted Trogar’s horde the next day. Reikan looked up at the quick moving clouds and let his mind wander. Why have I been left alive? I should have died in Lordaeron from the Scourge, but I did not. I should have perished when the waves took me from the ship, but I did not. The horse-men, the orcs, and the skirmishes with the pig-men after…why have I survived when so many have fallen around me? How is Krys? Did her ship make it to Menethil? Why did I not keep her with me? I have not kept my word to her father…
“There is great evil in the air this morning…” Trogar said as he walked up next to Reikan.
Reikan closed his eyes and reached out with his mind. “The undead are drawing closer to this land.”
Trogar studied Reikan’s face. “Are you certain?”
“Yes.I’ve been trained to…sense, if you will, their presence.”
“Not just any knight but a holy one, eh, Reikan? It’s a wonder you have not tried to smite us all for our sinful ways.” Trogar grinned. “Where are the rest of the Paladins? I remember your kind being like locusts on the battlefield.”
Reikan opened his eyes. “My order no longer exists.”
Before Trogar could speak indistinguishable battle cries could be heard in the distance.
“What in the world?” Reikan asked.
“Put on your armor, they’re probably after us.” Trogar yelled out his orders in Orcish. “Let’s intercept them before they get a clean chance at us.”
The orcs were quickly armed and moving towards the sounds of the cries. To Trogar’s surprise it did not seem as if whatever was shouting was heading their way. He ordered a halt and took a small group of orcs, Reikan included, ahead to scout.
The small band quickly discovered the source of the cries.
“The horse-men!” Reikan said.
Trogar squinted. “Hmph…half horse beasts…what are they so riled up about?”
One of the orcs pointed and spoke quickly in orcish.
“Look,” Trogar said, “there, they’re attacking that bull creature.”
In the middle of the centaur pack a lone tauren could be seen. Though only armed with a staff the tauren was putting up a good fight against the superior numbers of the centaur, but he clearly wouldn’t last.
“Come, we are going to aid the bull.” Trogar said.
The orcs charged forward and threw themselves upon the centaur. The tauren, seeing his adversaries distracted dropped his staff and ran to a fallen tree. With a loud grunt he pulled the tree loose from the ground and swung it wildly at the centaur, clouds of dirt erupting where ever he struck. Reikan hurried to move out of the tauren’s way, as did the other orcs. Another tauren joined the fray, swinging his massive mace at any centaur unlucky enough to be in his way.
A few centaur had gotten away, but the vast majority lay dead or dieing at the feet of the mighty tauren. Trogar re-sheathed his blade and walked up to the beasts who stood easily a head and shoulders taller then he did.
“Greetings, bull-warrior, I am Trogar,” he said in Orcish, pointing to himself and then bowing.
“Greetings Trogar, I am Monok,” the black-furred Tauren said, lifting the tree trunk onto his shoulder.
“You can understand me?”
“Well enough, your accent is a tad off but it is understandable. Thank you for your assistance.”
Trogar bowed again. “From the looks of it, you and your friend did not need our aid.”
Monok returned the bow. “Perhaps not, but any aid against these centaur is welcome. They have harried our people for many years.”
“Centaur, eh? Well we have had encounters with them before, none pleasant.”
Reikan watched as the orc and tauren conversed, trying to make some semblance out of what they were saying. Suddenly, he was staring into a large blue-gray wall. Reikan stumbled and fell backwards, looking up into the inquisitive blue eyes of the other tauren. The beast seemed to be smiling, or so Reikan thought.
“Why does this orc not look like the rest of you?”
Monok and Trogar turned and walked towards where Reikan was laying on the ground.
“That is a human, not an orc, Vallai. Humans are smaller then we are, and they have pink skin.”
“Pink skin!?” Vallai asked. “Really? Pink? He looks more brown to me.”
“Well, they’re not all pink; this one has unusually dark skin for his kind.”
Monok looked down at Reikan. “Can he understand us?”
“No, but I can understand and communicate with him.”
Vallai grinned. “Tell him we thank him for his help, and that we mean him no harm.”
Trogar nodded and spoke to Reikan in the common tongue. “The tauren wish to thank you for your help, and to let you know that they mean you no harm.”
Reikan slowly stood up, looking from tauren to tauren. “Tauren, is that its name?”
Trogar shook his head. “No, that is the name of their race.”
Vallai pointed to himself. “Va-llai.”
Reikan nodded and pointed to himself. “Reikan.”
Vallai grinned and pointed at Monok. “Mon-ok”
Reikan nodded at Monok. “Monok…Vallai.”
Monok bowed before Reikan.
“Trogar…can you tell them that it’s an honor to meet them?” Reikan asked.
“He says it is an honor to meet the two of you.”
Monok nodded. “Are you orcs allied with humans?”
Trogar laughed. “No…no, no, no…here, I’ll be happy to tell you all about the history between our races over dinner. The rest of my troops and our supply caravan are just beyond that hill. Come, join us for dinner.”
Vallai bowed before Trogar. “We thank you for your hospitality, orc.”
Chapter 5 Edit
Though they tried to be modest, Trogar knew that a beast as large as a tauren would have a huge appetite and he made sure both were well satisfied. Many others of his kind may have not taken a human into their fold, or aided the tauren, Trogar knew the value in having many strong allies, no matter the history that might exist between the races. He knew that peace would never come for the Orcish Horde. There would always be war, and he was going to make sure his race was always ready to win.
“What brings the orcs to Kalimdor?” Monok asked, relaxing by one of the many fires that dotted up around the camp.
“Our great Warchief, Thrall, has led us here. We hope to build ourselves a lasting home in these wilds.” Trogar noticed that Vallai was sitting right next to Reikan, trying to communicate with him. “Why’s your brother so interested in the human?”
Monok looked over at Vallai and chuckled. “He is fascinated by all that he does not understand, and this human is unlike anything we’ve ever seen. Now this Warchief Thrall, is he around here somewhere?”
Trogar shook his head. “No, he is to the south of us with our main army. The group you see here is for scouting to let the Warchief know what types of creatures and terrain he will face.”
Monok nodded. “My brother and I would like to aid you in your exploration. We know these lands well.”
“Thank you, Monok. Your aid would be most appreciated.”
“It is the least we can do after your help with the centaur.”
Trogar stood up and bowed before the tauren.
The tauren proved to be invaluable allies. With their guidance the orcs were able to move much quicker, avoiding much of the hazardous terrain. For many days and nights Vallai tried to learn to communicate with Reikan. It was more then mere curiosity that drove him; he could sense something in Reikan, something odd that he could not place. Though he was not sure what it was, in the back of his mind he feared the worst, and one night, his fears came true.
The orcs came to a halt near an oasis in the middle of the barren lands. Trogar was very pleased; the Horde would have a fresh supply of water to draw from. His pleasure was soon shattered, though when an orc came running up to him.
“The human, the human has collapsed, Trogar!”
Trogar looked at the orc. “Give him some water, then.”
“No, chief, it’s not that, he seems to be in great pain and is babbling incoherently.”
Trogar yawned and followed the orc to wear Reikan lay. His eyes went wide as he saw Reikan writhing in pain. “Get him into the medical tent quick, and bring me the priest!”
Reikan was placed in the medical tent, wincing and babbling. Trogar looked over him. “What is it, Reikan? Are you wounded?”
“Whatchu wan’ wi’ Charaji?”
Trogar looked back at the troll priest and growled. “The human is sick, heal him.”
Charaji spit on the ground and looked down at the human. He waved his long, rattling staff over Reikan and hummed to himself. “Dis be bad voodoo.”
“Bad voodoo, what in the hell does that mean?”
Charaji looked back at Trogar, rubbing one of his long tusks with his free hand. “He afflicted wit’ bad voodoo, mon, or so Charaji tinks.”
Trogar rubbed his head. “Can you fix it?”
“Charaji will try, eh?”
The troll waved his stick around Reikan’s body and chanted. Brilliant, white light appeared at the end of his staff and then cascaded over Reikan’s body. His cries of pain only grew louder.
“You can’t help him?” Trogar asked.
“He gone, Charaji tink he last one, two days more.”
Vallai peaked into the tent. “What’s wrong with the human?”
“He’s fallen ill,” Trogar said, “go troll, you’re of no more use here.”
Charaji spit on the ground and left.
“Do you mind if I take a look at him?” Vallai asked.
“Sure, go ahead.”
Vallai walked up beside Reikan and pulled up his shirt. He pointed at a large, blackened patch of skin on Reikan’s side that was oozing blood.
“What in the…?” Trogar leaned in for a closer look.
“It’s a deep wound…demonic energies are radiating from it…you cannot help him here.”
“How could he have gotten something like this? Is it from the centaur?”
Vallai shook his head. “No…this burden he has carried for awhile now…”
Trogar frowned. “There is no way to cure it?”
“No…there is a way. North of here, in Ashenvale forest, there are pure waters, blessed by the Earth Mother herself. Only that can clean this wound.”
“How far north are we talking?”
“A ways yet, many days hike.”
Trogar nodded. “You know the way?”
“Take him. I cannot accompany you, I must report back to the Warchief within the next few days.”
“Monok and I will make sure to bring him back to you alive.”
Trogar shook his head. “No…should he live, lead him back to his people. He does not belong here with the orcs.”
Chapter 6 Edit
“Terra! Your father’s home!”
Reikan hurried towards his house. His wife stood by the doorway, smiling warmly as a pair of big blue eyes peaked out from behind her dress. She’s so beautiful, Reikan thought, like her mother.
“Daddy!” Terra squealed as she ran down the steps.
The young girl jumped into Reikan’s arms. “Oh little Terra, I’ve missed you so, so much…”
“Oh stop fussing, Daddy, you weren’t gone that long!”
Reikan set his daughter down. She tugged on his arm. “Daddy, I want to tell you a secret!”
Reikan leaned down, smiling. “What is it?”
Terra leaned up against her father, kissed him on the cheek and whispered. “Don’t give up.”
The trees slowly stopped spinning. Reikan sat up and tried to clear his head. All around him he could hear the rustling of leaves and what sounded like singing coming from woods.
Reikan looked over at the Tauren with the blue-gray fur and the intense blue eyes, like his daughter’s. “Yes…where, where are we?”
“What is this place…? What is that singing…?”
Vallai shook his head. “That not sing, Reikan. Ghosts, tell us to leave.”
The trees seemed to press in closer. “Why are we here then?”
Vallai pointed at Reikan’s side. “To heal wound. We give Trogar our word.”
Reikan looked at his side. The wound had been bandaged with several odd looking leaves and roots.
“How you get it?”
Reikan looked at Vallai. “I, I’m not sure.”
Vallai sighed. “Demon poison. Very hard to cure. Only certain waters here can.”
Reikan nodded slowly as Monok came back into the camp. The black-furred Tauren spoke quickly to his brother.
“We are followed,” Vallai said.
“Followed, by what?” Reikan asked.
Monok put a finger up to his mouth. “Quiet, human, follow into woods, we trap whatever comes.”
The three warriors slipped silently away from the camp fire and into the trees. After what seemed like an eternity of waiting, a lone ghoul shambled into the camp. The rotting corpse sniffed, hissed and chattered as it scoured the camp site. The singing of the trees stopped as an arrow pierced the ghoul’s skull. The ghoul screeched and stood erect, looking around feverishly for its attacker. A large, black cat appeared at the edge of the camp and growled menacingly. The ghoul stumbled forward and then fell, a spear sticking out of its back.
A tall woman, with lavender skin and long white hair appeared in the camp. She pulled her spear free of the ghoul’s back and smiled radiantly at the cat as it brushed alongside her and purred. Suddenly her back went stiff, as did the cat’s. She looked around, holding the spear behind her in an awkward fashion.
With a loud crash the camp was swamped with skeletal warriors and more ghouls. The elf and her companion fought bravely but were soon overcome by the sheer numbers of their adversaries.
“We have to help her!” Reikan said as he dropped from his hiding spot and charged into the camp. “For Lordaeron!!”
The skeletons and ghouls fell before the mighty knight and his righteous fury. Many tried to flee, fearing the wrath of a Paladin but none escaped. Reikan stood at the edge of the camp, panting. The elf pushed herself to her feet, her cat whimpering as it inspected its wounded master.
“Are you ok?” Reikan asked.
The elf backed away, hissing as she held her side.
Reikan threw his sword aside and took off his helmet. “I won’t hurt you, are you alright?”
The elf’s pure white eyes seemed to show confusion at seeing Reikan. She whirled around as the two Tauren stepped behind her. Monok spoke slowly, and pointed to himself, Vallai and then to Reikan. She nodded slowly, seeming to understand what Monok was saying.
Reikan walked up close to the elf and tried to examine her wounds. The elf scowled at Reikan and hissed menacingly.
“Monok…can you tell her that I can heal the wounds she has?”
Monok spoke slowly to the elf. She shook her head, vehemently and backed away. Monok calmly spoke to her some more. The elf looked to Monok and then to Reikan and sighed. She spoke slowly, her voice sounding much like the singing of the woods.
“She not think highly of half-orcs.”
“Tell her I’m not an orc, I’m a human.
Monok laughed.“I doubt she know human.”
“Tell her there’s a difference, then.”
Monok and the elf spoke again. “She sees no difference.”
Reikan sighed and shook his head. He walked up to the elf and looked at the wounds on her side and arms. Though the elf stiffened noticeably, she did not recoil from him as he held out his hand and began to pray. White light shone from the palm of his hand, slowly radiating outwards. The elf’s wounds began to heal and the bodies of the skeletons and the ghouls faded into nothingness under the holy light.
As the light faded the elf bowed before Reikan and then before Monok and Vallai. She spoke slowly, again, to the two Tauren.
“She thanks us for help.”
Reikan nodded and pointed to himself. “Reikan.”
Monok spoke to the elf. She pointed to herself and then to her cat. “She says you call her ‘Lady Whiteraven’ and her cat should be called ‘Kayla’.”
Reikan bowed. “Evening, Lady Whiteraven.”
The Whiteraven seemed to ignore Reikan and spoke at length with Monok. No matter how hard he tried, he could not understand the language the two were speaking. All he knew was that it was different from the language of the orcs.
The sun had begun to rise when Monok and Lady Whiteraven had finished conversing amongst themselves. Monok looked over at Reikan and smiled.
“Lady Whiteraven say we are in Land of Night Elves, and that trespassers are slain.”
“No worry, Reikan! Lady Whiteraven has listened to our tale and grants passage. She will escort us to a moonwell where there is blessed water.”
Reikan nodded and looked up as Vallai walked into camp carrying an armful of fish.
“Food first, then we leave.”
Chapter 7 Edit
Over the next several days the party moved westward. The trek was mostly uneventful and the two tauren took the opportunity to learn more of the human language. Reikan was astounded at how quickly the surprisingly gentle giants picked up his language. If anything, the tauren were remarkably intelligent. The Lady Whiteraven, though, remained cold to her companions. She would speak only to Monok and only then, or so it seemed, when it was absolutely necessary.
It was the elf’s turn to take the watch. The group had decided that she and the two tauren would take turns watching over the camp while the others slept, despite Reikan’s protests. They had decided that Reikan’s inferior human eyes and nose would not be adequate to pick out a threat in the dark before it was too late.
The elf stood at the edge of the camp, her long white hair gleaming in the moonlight. She was very tall, much taller then the elves he remembered in the Eastern Kingdoms. He wondered to himself if she spoke the same language as they, and decided to find out.
Reikan looked to see that the two tauren were asleep and then sat up. “Why do you stand alone, my Lady?”
The elf turned to face Reikan. “What do you want, and how can you speak this tongue?”
Reikan smiled. “Good, you can understand me…it’s been awhile since I spoke the language of the elves.”
“Where did you learn to speak it?” Her eyes were cold.
“I knew a great many elves in the Eastern Kingdoms. We’ve been allied with them for years. They taught me a great deal while I was in Eversong and Dalaran.”
Lady Whiteraven closed her eyes briefly and growled. “Highborne…”
“There is none of my kind that leaves these lands. You must have been taught by the Highborne, the traitors.”
“Traitors…? I’m afraid I don’t understand.”
“You wouldn’t,” she turned her back on Reikan, looking back into the woods.
Reikan rubbed his head. “You didn’t answer, why do you stand alone?”
“Someone must keep watch.”
“No, that’s not what I meant," Reikan searched his mind for the right words, "why do you avoid us? Why don’t you speak with us?”
“You stink of corruption.”
“Then why help us?”
The elf sighed. “I am not without honor, you saved my life; I will save yours.”
“That is not necessary, if being here is so intolerable just leave, we will not think ill of you.”
“I do not care what you think.”
“Then why again are you staying?”
The elf looked back over her shoulder. “Why do you care? Do you wish to sweep me off my feet, ‘hero’? ‘Save’ me from whatever problems might be haunting me? Leave your childish chivalry behind. My reasons for staying are my own, be grateful that I am guiding you for without me you would have been dead long ago.”
Reikan sighed and shook his head. “Get over yourself, I only wish to help. There are no ulterior motives, despite what you may think.”
The Lady Whiteraven looked back out into the forest. “Do not push your luck, outlander.”
The next day’s march brought the party to a small clearing in the woods. The Lady Whiteraven held the group at the edge of the clearing. The sun had faded behind the black clouds that gathered in the sky.
Reikan squinted, trying to see what was in the clearing. “What’s going on?”
Monok sniffed the air and whispered to Reikan, “Demons…”
“Now it is time for you to prove your worth, outlander,” the Whiteraven said, coldly. “We strike when they light the torches.”
Reikan clutched his sword tightly and adjusted the orcish helm on his head. The two tauren had split off to each side. A dull chanting slowly filled the air as several torches around the clearing burst into a greenish light. In the clearing Reikan could pick out several hulking demons surrounding a much smaller, robed figure. He said a small prayer to himself and charged out of the woods.
The robed figure turned towards the charging knight. “Deal with them, satyr.”
The encircling demons launched themselves at their adversaries, hissing, scratching and clawing. Monok swung his mace, viciously slamming an oncoming satyr into the ground. He reached out with his hand and caught another by the throat. The demon snarled and clawed at the tauren’s arm as Monok squeezed tightly around the demons neck and hurled it onto the ground. An arrow found its way into the satyr’s head before it could stand again.
The Lady Whiteraven notched another arrow in her bow and fired, felling another demon. Out of the corner of her eye she caught a satyr leaping towards her. She whirled around, bracing herself for the coming strike only to see the demon fall limp on its side, Reikan grinning at her as he pulled his sword free. She rolled her eyes and threw her spear at a demon behind the oblivious knight.
The chanting grew louder. Vallai could sense the portal beginning to open and approached the robed figure.He griped his mace tightly and asked the Earth Mother for her blessing.
“You do not belong here, tauren…” the robed figure hissed.
Blackness rushed out from the robed figure’s outstretched hand, knocking Vallai onto his back. The warlock whirled and knocked the others down as they tried to help their fallen ally. With an inhuman howl he pinned his would be assailants to the ground, the sickly green light leaping from the torches and surrounding their writhing bodies.
Reikan could feel his body weakening. His breathing became shallow, a mist covering his eyes. He tried to cry out, but the sound had died before it reached his lips.
“Daddy, please don’t give up.”
The sky was clear.
“Let me help you up…”
He stood, the sky clearing as the sunlight danced upon his back.
“Believe, Daddy, believe in yourself.”
His sword shone brightly in his hand.
Reikan threw off his shackles.
The warlock fell to the ground, the light searing his eyes. He crawled backwards, looking up in fear at the holy knight that stood over him. He tried to call out to the demons who had given him his power, but was only met with silence.
“Who…who are you…?” the warlock asked, his voice quavering.
The sword fell and the warlock was no more.
“What was that?”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Serris.”
Reikan smiled at the elf as she finished bandaging Monok’s arm. The tauren nodded approvingly at the work and pushed himself to his feet. He picked up the tree trunk he used as a mace and walked over to the river’s edge where his brother was resting. He sat down and pulled a large, curved knife from his belt and began whittling away at his mace. Vallai too, was busy working away on a much smaller piece of wood, attaching dyed feathers and a piece of quartz to the top.
“What is it you’re working on?” Reikan asked as he walked up behind Vallai.
“It is…” Vallai blinked as he tried to think of the right word. “Not sure…”
Reikan looked down at the small trinket. “Well, it’s very pretty whatever it is.”
“It is for you.” Vallai nodded handing it to Reikan.
“Yes. It help…spirits focus around you.”
Reikan stared at the piece of wood, puzzled. “Uhh…what?”
“It’s a totem,” Serris said, “It is used by the tauren to ward off evil spirits and protect themselves and their companions.”
“What did elf say?”
Reikan smiled at Vallai. “She said this is a totem, and that it’s used for protection.”
The tauren nodded, grinning. “Yes and your daughter focus her energy on it to help you.”
Reikan blinked. “…what? How did you…?”
Vallai looked into the water. “When you fight...human woman with bright white wings watches over you. She…try her best to help you…” he paused to think of the right words, “but cannot focus all her energy properly. This totem will help.”
Reikan looked at the totem and then at the tauren. “Thank you,” he whispered.
The sound of orcish battle cries ripped through the air. The sound of thundering feet could be heard rapidly approaching the four companions.
“Do not shoot if it is an orc.” Reikan said, sternly as he looked in Serris’ direction.
“Stop worrying, I won’t shoot your friends,” Serris said, as she lowered her bow.
“Something’s wrong…” Monok rested his mace on his shoulder.
An orc dropped down into the gulley and started climbing up the hill where the four were standing.
“What’s wrong, friend?” Vallai asked. “Are you being chased?”
The orc looked up with blood stained eyes and quickened his ascent.
“Something’s not right, Reikan…”
The orc stood up in front of Reikan and snarled. An arrow caught him in the throat and he fell back down the hill, choking and sputtering.
“What in the…?”
“I lied,” Serris said as she slung her bow onto her back.
“They’ve been corrupted, Reikan, we must get out of here.” Monok turned and hurried away.
Serris and Vallai hurried behind. Reikan looked into the ravine, the orc’s now lifeless bloodshot eyes staring back at him.
“Hurry Reikan, they’re coming!”
A dozen more orcs dropped into the gulley and charged up the hill, their eyes showing nothing but mindless hatred. Reikan sprinted off after his companions. Two arrows whipped by his face as he ran.
“Just keep running, Serris!”
“Hush, outlander, I move quicker then you.”
“I think they’re gaining on us.”
“Only because I have to slow down so I don’t leave you behind.”
Throwing axes flew wildly around them. Serris quickened her pace and nimbly swung herself onto a large tree branch. Reikan stopped and drew his sword. Monok and Vallai stepped beside him.
The orcs charged right into the three warriors and broke under a hail of arrows and swinging maces. The survivors regrouped and attacked again. Serris dropped off the branch under a barrage of throwing axes and darted from orc to orc killing or crippling them with a well placed stab of her knife. Reikan stood tall; cutting down orc after orc that was foolish enough to attack him.
With a shriek and a crash a large blue-skinned demon appeared behind the orcs. It held its blackened sword up and walked towards the battle.
“Leave this to me…” Monok said, walking forward to meet the demon.
“Monok!” Reikan yelled.
“He is beyond your strength, human, keep the orcs away from me.”
A streak of lightning flew from Vallai’s hand and scoured several orcs. “Stay with us, Reikan, Monok will be fine.”
The demon growled threateningly as Monok approached. The black furred tauren stared at his adversary, resting his giant mace on his shoulder. He dug his hooves into the ground.
“You will go no farther, demon.”
The doomwarder seemed to cackle and swung his sword. Monok caught the blade in his mace, the sword lodging itself deep into the wood. The doomwarder leaned with all his weight on the blade, trying to push the tauren into the ground. Monok groaned and with a twist stepped to the side, flinging his mace and the doomgaurd over his shoulder. The demon was up quickly and crashed into Monok, the two tumbling to the ground.
A lucky strike from an orcish axe brought Vallai to his knees. The orcs quickly moved in to surround the tauren as Kayla dashed from her place at her master’s side and stood protectively over the wounded warrior. Though they tried, the orcs could not reach Vallai from under the protection of the great nightsaber. Serris and Reikan dispatched the remaining enemies and helped their comrade to his feet.
Monok was losing his battle with the doomwarder. Eventhough they were evenly matched the demon simply would not tire, and the tauren’s body was starting to drag. The demon knocked Monok backwards and went to free its sword. Reikan intercepted the doomwarder and lodged his sword into its side. The demon roared in pain and knocked Reikan to the ground. It looked back for its sword and quickly found it as Monok brought the demonic blade down sharply on the doomwarder’s head.
The red, orange and brown leaves were whirling about in the air as Reikan stood, Terra’s hand in his. He walked towards the front door of his house, its inviting light calling to him. Home, finally.
Terra pulled her hand free from her father’s grasp and stood on the front step with her mother. “You can’t come, Daddy.”
Reikan stopped and looked at his daughter, puzzled.
“You can’t come home, Daddy, not yet.”
Reikan reached out to his daughter and his wife.
“Reikan, no,” his wife said, smiling, “There’s still so much more for you to do.”
Terra shook her head. “You can’t come, Daddy, they need you.”
“You need me.”
His wife smiled her eyes warm. “We’re fine, Reikan. We’ll be here waiting when it is your time to return.”
“I need you…” Reikan whispered.
Terra ran up and hugged her father once more. “We’ll always be with you, Daddy.” She tugged on the silver pendant that hung from Reikan’s neck. “Don’t give up.”
She walked back to her mother, her blue eyes flashing brilliantly.
“We’ll be here, Reikan.”
“Don’t give up, Daddy!”
His family and his house faded from view. Reikan closed his eyes and wept. Snow lightly fell to the ground.
“The dreamer awakes.”
Reikan rubbed his forehead and waited for his eyes to focus. Monok sat across the fire from him, carving his mace. The mace no longer resembled the tree it was pulled from; the bark had been neatly shaven off, and the wood had been dyed, mostly grey with a spattering of whites, blacks, reds, oranges and other colors. Near the top of the mace was a carving of a bird, painted white, and surrounded by indistinguishable black figures.
“What is that?” Reikan asked, pointing to the mace.
“It is my mace,” Monok said, never looking up from his work.
“No, I meant, what is that you carved into it? Is that a bird?”
Monok nodded. “Yes,”
“Why did you carve a white bird? What type of bird is it?”
Monok chuckled to himself, “Curious today. It is a raven.”
Monok set down his knife. “It is symbolic, Reikan, as all images on a totem should be.”
“And what are those black things around her?”
“Tauren, brandishing weapons and chains.”
“What does that mean?”
“It represents an attempt to chain the Whiteraven to the ground.”
Reikan blinked and furrowed his brow. “Have you not finished that part? The tauren don’t look like tauren at all.”
“No, it is done. The tauren are not important, only important people are carved in detail.”
Monok turned his mace around, revealing a gold colored bird, with its wings held towards its sides, battered and ragged. Hanging from the bird’s neck was an unmistakable pendant with the name “Terra” delicately carved into it.
“This is you,” Monok said.
“Me…?” Reikan blinked.
“Yes…you are proud and wish to fly, so you are an eagle…but you have been wounded and cannot, so your wings are battered.”
Reikan pointed at the smaller, white colored wings that emerged above the eagle’s battered ones. “What…are those?”
“That represents your guardian spirit, who is trying to help you fly again.”
Vallai and Serris arrived at the camp in the early morning. The grey-furred tauren sat down by Reikan as Serris and Monok sat discussing the plans for the day and the movement of the enemy.
“You are feeling better, Reikan?” Vallai asked.
Reikan nodded. “Yes, I am, thank you.”
“Good, you were in great agony while you slept; we were concerned you might be drawing too close to the nether.”
“No…I’m fine. Vallai…why is Monok carving that log?”
Vallai looked over at the tree trunk that his brother had been using as a mace ever since they met the orcs. “It is tradition for a tauren to carry a family totem.”
“Family totem? Then why is he carving representations of Serris and I in it?”
“Because you are family.”
Reikan blinked. “Pardon?”
“Did I not say it right?”
“No, no, not that…I just don’t understand, how am I family? I’m not a tauren.”
Vallai laughed. “Of course not, but tauren do not view a family based on silly things like appearances. Even though we have only traveled together for a few months we have bled and sweat together. We have defended and cared for one another. This is what makes us family.”
Reikan nodded slowly. “Why are there no important tauren on the totem? Has he just not carved them yet?”
“There is only me.”
“Just you? No father or mother or sisters?”
“Monok does not have a father or mother as you understand them.”
“What do you mean?”
Vallai thought for a moment, searching for the right words. “He does not have…other tauren who share the same blood. I have a mother and father like the ones you understand, though.”
“What…? Aren’t you his brother?”
“Yes I am, but we do not share the same blood.”
Reikan looked puzzled. “Then how are you brothers?”
Vallai smiled and patted Reikan on the head. “You have forgotten already, we tauren do not think of family the same way you do. He is my brother and an Earthstrider because he lived and worked with us for many years.”
“He was not born an Earthstrider?”
“No, but that does not matter to us, Reikan. We are concerned more with what people do, rather then what they did. Like you, I do not know if in your lands you are a hero or a criminal, but that does not matter to me. All I know is you are a kind and curious human and that is all I need.”
Reikan looked over at Monok and Serris. “Do they know each other?”
Vallai followed Reikan’s gaze. “I believe so, from a time before I knew him.”
“How long have you known him?”
Vallai thought for a moment. “Forty years.”
Reikan whistled. “That’s a long time.”
“From our perspective, yes, but that is barely half of the years Monok has walked these lands and not even a sliver of the time the elf has.”
“How old are you?”
“I have walked these lands for forty three years.”
“Hmm…my guess is he is eighty, ninety years old.”
Reikan blinked his eyes in disbelief. “Ninety?”
Vallai nodded. “He has lived for a long time, but that is no where near as long as Lady Whiteraven. She is a few thousand years old at least, if not ten thousand.”
“How is that even possible…?”
Vallai chuckled. “The elves of this land do not age as we do, Reikan. The Earth Mother has blessed them with never ending life.”
Reikan shook his head in amazement. “Unbelievable.”
“Life must look quite different when one has lived that long.”
“Indeed, no wonder she’s so bitter,” Reikan said, chuckling.
“She is not bitter.”
“Umm…have you heard her speak to me? She’s quite bitter.”
Vallai shakes his head. “Close your eyes and listen closely. Can you hear it? Under her voice, she is weeping.”
Reikan closed his eyes. “No…she sounds the same as always.”
“Perhaps you are not able to hear such things, but I can hear it. She carries a great sadness with her.”
“Really…? She always seemed so angry…”
“It is merely a face she wears to hide her true feelings.”
“Why would she do that?”
“Pride? What use can pride be to her?”
“Pride may be all she has left.”
Serris and the tauren were distraught at what they saw. The trees were slowly dieing, their forms twisting and contorting in agony. The wildlife, too, seemed greatly affected. Where once innocent and curious eyes peered out from the woodland there was only a mindless hatred. The presence of demons and the Scourge hung heavily in the air, overwhelming Reikan’s senses. He could feel the undead surrounding him and his allies, but he could not tell how far away they were or even how many.
“This…this is terrible,” Vallai said.
Serris hissed. “Foul demons…we will drive them from this place.”
Monok grabbed on to a branch of the dieing tree and effortlessly broke it off. A glowing green slime dripped from the wound.
“I have never seen anything like this in my life…” Monok said, “so much agony, so much pain…”
Reikan drew his sword and held it up defensively. “They’re coming.”
Serris twirled her spear. “Let them come.”
Monok slung his carved mace up onto his shoulder and Vallai held his at ready. The crashing of branches could be heard from all sides.
“Stay together.” Monok said.
A lone, hulking beast approached the group. The monstrosity appeared to be a mass of sewn together parts with hooks dangling from several limbs on its one side and holding an axe in what appeared to be a right hand. Its entrails seemed to be dripping out from the poor sewing job that had been done on it, the stench overwhelming. The abomination of the Scourge stopped and gurgled, attempting to communicate.
Serris hurled her spear at the abomination, piercing its neck. The beast gurgled again and laughed. The elf quickly slung her bow off her back and fired several arrows. Each shot was met with more gurgling laughter.
The beast charged. The group all slid out of the way, avoiding the swinging hatchet. Reikan and Vallai collapsed on the abomination, hacking on the beast’s disfigured body. With a quick swing of his hatchet hand Reikan was knocked to the ground. Vallai caught the abomination’s arm and with one hand slammed his mace into its head as Serris drove her knives into its back. With a blood curdling howl, the abomination lashed out with the metal hooks attached to its other limbs. One caught Serris, digging deep into her back. With an audible rip it tore upward and she fell to the ground, her back oozing crimson. Another caught Vallai on the shoulder and he grimaced in pain. Monok slammed his mace into the abomination’s back, but the beast did not seem to notice. With a loud grunt it charged forward, pinning Vallai between itself and a tree.
The abomination whirled around and dug two of its hooks into Monok’s arm. The great tauren growled and grabbed hold of the chains, tearing the abomination’s limbs from its body. The beast howled and lashed out with its remaining hook, the metal digging deep into Monok’s mace.The abomination yanked backwards, pulling the mace free from Monok’s weakened grip. Before he could react, the abomination brought his hatchet down sharply, the black furred tauren fell, his broken horn crashing to the ground in a pool of blood.
The beast laughed as it pulled its hatchet free from Monok’s limp body. The laughter quickly stopped as its arm was cut clean off. Before it could even turn to see its assailant its head rolled to the ground. What remained of the abomination stumbled around and then fell.
Reikan jammed his sword savagely into the abomination’s body, finally convinced it was dead. He looked up and shuddered. Ghouls, skeletons, and other agents of the Scourge had surrounded him and his group, all grinning wickedly. Reikan whirled around at the sound of soft clapping behind him.
“Excellent job, Reikan…”
Reikan tightened his grip on his sword.
“…but I’m afraid it was all for naught.”
With a loud, ringing clang the swords met.
“Have you forgotten already?”
Another crash, the swords held each other once more.
“Always a second too late...”
Reikan pushed himself free and slid back from his attacker.
“Where has your ‘Light’ gone, Reikan? It has abandoned you.”
The knight, clad from head to toe in black armor swung again. Reikan dodged out of the way.
“You…you are a fallen knight…”
“One of the Lich King’s death knights, Reikan…but I am...saddened that you do not remember me…”
The Scourge who had not moved cackled.
“It does not matter who you are, death knight.”
Reikan’s strike was parried nimbly.
“You lied to me, Reikan…”
The death knight knocked Reikan’s sword from his hands with a vicious swing.
“You said you would protect her…”
He knocked Reikan to the ground with the flat of his blade.
“You said you would take care of her…watch over her…”
The death knight removed his helmet, forcing Reikan to gaze into his maddened eyes. “No…it can’t be…”
“You lied to me…” the death knight raised his sword over his head, “…you…let her die!”
“For the Horde!” “For Khaz Modan!”
The sound of gunshots caused the Scourge to scatter. The death knight hissed from underneath his helm and vanished in a cloud of smoke. Dwarves, orcs, trolls and humans spread out amongst the Scourge, cutting down those who fled. Reikan let his head fall back on the ground. In his mind he could hear a dark voice whisper, "you can never escape."
Chapter 11 Edit
It was a sight to behold.
Though mistrust still hung in the air the Orcish Horde and the Human Alliance were working together, aiding one another in the fight against the demons and the Scourge. The sizeable camp was bustling with activity. Every now and then a small skirmish would break out between a human and an orc, or a dwarf and a troll but the leaders of the camp were quick to break them up before things escalated too far.
Reikan was allowed to freely wander where he pleased throughout the camp, but he rarely left the medical tents. Of his three companions, Vallai was the first to recover, but the doctors and priests advised him to stay under their watch until they were certain he would suffer no ill effects from whatever diseases the abomination might have been carrying. The two spent a great deal of time talking, and worrying over the fates of Monok and Serris.
The Lady Whiteraven had regained consciousness, but she was still weak and spent most of her time sleeping. The doctors said that she would be fine; however several shook their heads in pity whenever they saw her. The new scar on Serris’ back would not be lonely, from what Reikan heard she bore many such signs of battle across her body. What ever cause she served, Reikan thought, she has given every inch of her being for it.
Monok was in a far worse state. He had been near death when his body arrived to the camp, his wound deep. His condition improved only slightly after the priests and doctors did their work. Vallai believed that Monok would be fine, since he could still sense his brother’s spirit remained strong. Reikan was not so sure. If any human had taken such a strike, they would have been long dead.
After several days of pleading the doctors let Vallai go. The tauren was pleased to finally be allowed to stand again and he took the opportunity to wander the camp. Every now and then Reikan would leave the medical ward to walk with his comrade. Vallai wandered into every building he could fit inside and asked Reikan about all the peculiar things he saw. What interested him most was the mages who would practice their arcane arts by turning various woodland creatures and sometimes each other into sheep. Vallai recalled legends told to him when he was young about ancient tauren who had the ability to transform into beasts, but he had never heard of a being capable of transforming someone else into a beast, much less one as silly looking as a sheep. He would spend hours each day watching the mages work.
With each passing night Serris was growing stronger. Reikan tried to learn more about her, but the elf was curt whenever he tried to speak to her about her past, or about anything other then when she would be able to put her armor back on and head back out into the woods.
“It’s been awhile, little orc, how are you feeling?” a familiar voice said one night.
Reikan looked behind him and grinned. “Good to see you too, Trogar, how’d you ever manage to stay alive?”
“Death is for the young,” Trogar laughed, “How’s Monok doing?”
“Better, but he still hasn’t woken up.”
Trogar nodded, “I’m sure he will soon enough.”
Serris stared at Trogar, coldly. “What do you want, orc?”
Trogar looked at the elf and grinned, “Nothing, elf, other then to visit my friends. Although…” Trogar walked up closer to Serris, “this is the first time I’ve seen one of your kind close up. Normally I only get to see elven arrows.”
“Get used to the arrows; you’ll see more of them.”
Trogar chuckled, “I’ve seen more then enough, perhaps when you are better you can tell your kind to stop shooting at me?”
“Not until the murder of Cenarius is paid back a hundred fold.”
“That was the fault of the demons, elf.”
“It was an orc who killed him, and it is orcs who will pay.”
“None of the orcs in this camp are guilty; you would see them killed too?”
“All orcs are guilty.”
“If that were true…then there is much the kaldorei have to answer for…” Monok said, weakly. “Out of all people yours should be the last to judge…it was…the elves who called the demons here in the first place. It was the elves who split the world in two. The long years you have lived do not give you the right to judge. Age has not brought your kind wisdom, only paranoia and arrogance. Do not forget the sins your kind has committed, Serris, lest your blind arrows find an innocent mark.”
Trogar and Reikan were quick to Monok’s side. Serris sighed and slumped back into her cot.
“Monok! How are you feeling?” Reikan asked.
“I can’t complain.”
“I heard you gave the undead a hell of a fight,” Trogar said, grinning.
“Oh!” Reikan said, reaching into a pouch at his side, “I don’t know if you want this or not, but I’ve held onto it anyways.”
Reikan held out Monok’s broken horn. The tauren looked at the horn and then reached up to his head, rubbing the stump where the horn used to be. He smiled, weakly, and took the horn from Reikan.
“Thank you…is my totem here…?”
Reikan pointed towards the corner where it sat. “Yes, we made sure to bring back everyone’s things after we had gotten you all into camp. It took two orcs to carry that, you know.”
Monok had fallen asleep.
Chapter 12 Edit
It seemed even the sun had been affected by the gloom that hung in the air. The once vibrant reds, oranges and purples of the western sky were seemingly muted, hiding from the ever growing presence of the demons in Kalimdor. Reikan could still see the maddened eyes glaring at him, accusing him. He could still hear the tortured voice echoing in his mind bringing forth the many failures of his life.
“We should leave soon, there is still much ground to cover,” Serris said, holding her walking stick idly at her side.
“What about Monok?” Reikan asked.
“He’ll be safe here; he still needs time to recover. We should be fine on our own the rest of the way, provided I don’t have to carry you.”
Reikan rolled his eyes. “Right…”
The two walked through the camp, passing by the various human and orc tents. Where ever Serris walked, she drew attention. The orcs regarded her with apprehension. The few high elves in the camp gave her cold stares, while the trolls were much more open with their hostility towards her, glaring and cursing whenever she passed. The humans were most interested by the tall, lavender skinned elf, and openly gaped when they saw her.
Several of the tents were alive with drunken laughter. A small group of human soldiers stumbled out of one, jabbering amongst one another. When they saw Serris and Reikan, they quickly quieted down and whispered amongst themselves. A fair haired soldier was pushed away from the group and stumbled in front of Serris, as his friends watched on and laughed.
“Ugh, hey, wha’sh yer name, beautiful?” the soldier hiccupped and snickered.
Serris stepped around the drunken man and continued walking. The soldier nearly fell as he turned and tried to catch up.
“How ‘bout…umm…” he laughed, “Umm, why…why are you with this grandpa, huh? I betcha…I betcha you could use a good night out, you seem like the type of woman that could use a good night out, you, you know what I’m shayin’?”
Reikan stifled a laugh and shook his head.
“Sho…why, why are you with this guy, huh? He’sh so old…not a good man, know what I’m sayin?”
Serris looked back over her shoulder. “Perhaps you should go back with your friends, before you get hurt.”
“Oh, a feisty one, I likesh you, let me buy you a drink.”
The drunk reached to take Serris’ hand. She quickly stepped to the side and tripped the drunk with her staff, his head slamming to the ground. He swore and grabbed his head as his friends ran up.
“What was that about?”
“Who do you think you are, huh?”
The soldiers glared at Serris and started moving towards her. Reikan stepped between her and the irate group.
“That’s enough, go back to your tents,” he said.
Serris pushed Reikan aside with her staff. “Stand back; these swine need a lesson in manners.”
The drunks lunged at the elf. Serris was far too quick for them, cracking her staff into their knees. One drunk shouted as he went down, and several other soldiers emerged from the tents and hurried to the scene of the commotion.
“What’s going on here? What’s the meaning of all this?” one of the soldiers said, quickly affixing his commander’s insignia to his shirt.
“A few of your soldiers needed some instruction in discipline. I suggest disallowing alcohol in your camp; it breeds this type of behavior.” Serris crossed her arms over her chest.
“These men were harassing this elf, sir, and when they tried to grab at her she defended herself,” Reikan said.
The commander looked down at the drunks and sighed. “Get them to the medical ward…”
“Make sure this does not happen again, human, or I will bruise more then just their egos,” Serris said.
“Watch the insubordinate tone, elf, you are in my camp,” the commander said, glaring at Serris.
“Actually, with all due respect, sir, this camp is under the command of Lady Proudmoore, and I highly doubt she’d condone this type of behavior from your soldiers. However, we can ask her, if you’d like.” Reikan stared right into the commander’s eyes.
“Hmph…very well, then, but you and your elf friend best keep out of trouble.” He turned and walked off.
Reikan and Serris continued on their way.
“Men…” she said, rolling her eyes.
The ashen sky was their only farewell as they left the camp. No one wanted to leave their companion behind but time was of the essence. The Scourge was pushing through Ashenvale at a rapid pace; soon there would be no pure waters left.
Reikan was greatly agitated. Though his two companions attributed it to either his wound or leaving Monok in the care of the combined forces of the Alliance and the Horde something else troubled him. Ever present behind their steps was his past, waiting for its moment to strike out at him and his friends. He had resolved himself to taking on this burden alone; there was no need to put his companions at any more risk then was necessary. All Reikan needed was a moment to slip away.
Finding such a window was proving difficult. Serris rarely dropped out of sight ahead and Vallai was constantly at his hip asking questions about the arcane, humans and sheep. With the heavy gloom hanging over the forest it puzzled Reikan how the tauren could think about anything else.
“Are you certain you can keep watch, Reikan?” Serris asked, studying him closely.
“Of course, I’ve been trained to sense the presence of the undead, I’ll be fine.”
“It’ll only be for a few hours, Serris, and then I will take watch,” Vallai said.
With a resigned sigh the Whiteraven agreed. Reikan once again assured them that everything would be fine, and waited till they had fallen asleep to make his move.
“I’m sorry,” Reikan whispered as he blessed the ground beneath his companions.“This will keep the undead from coming, at least for a little while.”
Reikan slipped silently out of the camp. After he felt comfortably out of sight he paused and lit the torch he was carrying to provide a little light as he was navigating the woods. Looking up at him from the ground below were the green eyes of the large night saber Kayla.
“Kayla,” he hissed, “go back, go home.”
The cat stared back at him.
“Fine, come along…”
Reikan continued on his way, Kayla following protectively at his side. As the two descended into a shallow river Reikan saw the great black blade jammed into the river bed. Kayla growled as Reikan drew his sword.
“Come on out!” he yelled.
The sound of heavy footsteps approached. A black, plated gauntlet grabbed the hilt and pulled it free from the ground.
“So…you came,” the Death Knight hissed.
Reikan held his sword protectively in front of him.
“Drop the torch, Reikan, you cannot hold that sword with one hand alone.”
The water turned a sickly green and began to glow.
“I will provide all the light you need.”
Reikan tossed aside the torch and let his sword fall to his side.
“Defend yourself, Paladin!”
The Death Knight charged and swung viciously. With a quick step to the side Reikan slid out of the way. His adversary swung again, and again, but each time Reikan slipped away never once taking a swing of his own.
“You don’t have to do this,” Reikan said.
Reikan’s words were only met with a growl and another missed strike.
“I don’t want to fight you.”
The Death Knight howled and knocked Reikan to the ground with a torrent of fel energy. Reikan felt hands reach out from the river bed below, clamping onto him and holding him to the ground. The Knight stood over him and raised his sword into the air.
“Now…you shall…join her in the nether!”
An arrow found its mark between the chest plates. Kayla jumped onto the stumbling Death Knight and knocked him to the ground, his sword falling into the water inches from Reikan’s body. A large furred hand grabbed onto Reikan’s arm and tore him free from the ground.
“It’s far too late in the night for this nonsense, wouldn’t you say, Reikan?” Vallai asked.
The Death Knight groaned and knocked Kayla off of him. He pushed himself to his feet and tore the arrow out of his body. Two more quickly replaced it.
“Be wary Reikan, for I…will never stop following you.”
The knight vanished in a cloud of smoke.
Chapter 13 Edit
“So, who was that?” Vallai asked.
“What were you thinking wandering off like that!?” Serris demanded.
Reikan shook his head, “I don’t know.”
“Don’t be a fool, you could have gotten yourself and us killed!”
“Serris…” Vallai said, calmly.
“Or don’t you care?”
“Serris! That’s enough!”
The Whiteraven crouched and glared at Reikan who was slumped on the ground before her. Vallai, too, kneeled down next to the Paladin.
“Are you alright, Reikan?”
“I’m fine,” he answered, quietly.
“You can’t fight the Scourge alone.”
“He’s not Scourge.”
“Looked like one to me,” Serris said, coldly.
“He’s not…” Reikan said shaking his head, “he’s still…human.”
“Who is he?”
“It doesn’t matter.”
“Why does he follow you?”
Reikan shook his head.
“Damned fool…” Serris muttered as she walked away.
Vallai patted Reikan on the head and smiled. “We are just concerned for your safety, Reikan. You would stand with us against our enemies, wouldn’t you?”
“Then let us stand with you. There is no need to isolate yourself.”
The fire died down with the rising of the sun. Both Serris and Vallai had kept watch the rest of the night, but Reikan simply could not sleep. He’s too far gone to save, he thought, he’s never going to forgive you. You’ve failed in your duty to him and to your family. You’ve failed to protect your homeland; you’ve failed to preserve your order.
“The moonwell should be just over the horizon. If we push ourselves we can make it there by the afternoon.” Serris was pointing off towards the west where the trees seemed to be thinning.
“Good, I’m afraid if any more time was to pass the poison will have taken full control of his mind. Hopefully we’re not already too late…” Vallai beckoned Reikan to come.
Serris frowned and walked to the fore, as she had done ever since they began their travels together. She often wondered what her fellow Sentinels would say of her helping the outlanders. Such actions would normally warrant a severe reprimand, if not a full dismissal from service but these were unusual times. The Legion is always the primary concern; all other problems can be dealt with later.
Still, was she just using the outlanders for their aid in the fight against the Legion, or, she wondered, was there something else? She owed the Paladin her life; that much was certain. Without his aid, however much she’d like to forget, she would have certainly fallen. Death was not what frightened the Whiteraven, though; it was the potential failure in her duty to Ashenvale and to the repayment of her eternal debt to the favored of Elune.
Perhaps there was something else. The tauren Vallai was wise beyond his years. There was a great deal of the waking world he knew that she did not, despite the many seasons she walked the forests of Kalimdor. Knowledge alone made him valuable.
And then there was the Paladin. He was foolish, reckless and saddled with his own personal demons. At times he seemed ready to embrace death, at others, ready to strike it down. What drove him to such actions? How can he live one moment weeping, cowering and the next moment courageously protecting those he did not even know?
The water in the moonwell seemed to glow a brilliant blue. The sound of waves crashing echoed around the woods, though no shore could yet be seen. The smell of salt was heavy on the air, reminding Reikan of his home in Lordaeron, so close to the waters of the Great Sea. When the wind blew just right, all the smells of his farm would mingle together: the flowers, the grain, the fruit and the salt of the sea.
Serris cautiously dipped a wooden cup into the waters of the moonwell, apologizing to Elune as she did. The cool touch of the water refreshed her whole body easing the pains of travel and war. With great care she carried the cup to the Paladin whose eyes were lost somewhere in the distance.
“Here, Reikan, drink this,” she said, handing it to him.
“The blessed waters of the Earth Mother will make you whole again,” Vallai said, nodding, “there are few things in this world like it.”
The words were lost on Reikan. He did not want to leave his memories. The house, the fields, the trees that followed the road which bloomed so brilliantly in the spring; it was perfection, and he did not want to leave. Slowly he pulled himself away and looked into the cup. Here was the cure that would mend the wound and clear the toxin that pained him greatly.
But, he thought, it would not relieve the pain of my failure to the Light, to Lordaeron, and to my family. It would only prolong his agony and keep him away from the family and home he longed to return to. Home was where he belonged, and the path of life would not lead him there.
He stared at the clear water in the cup. Do I not owe it to my companions, who risked so much to bring me here, to drink and live? His mind was torn, but his heart was set in its ways. His daughter, Terra, and his wife, Evelyn were all that mattered. So long as he walked this life he would not find the joy he felt when he was with them.
“Thank you…but I can’t drink this…”
Vallai stared at Reikan, “but, you will die without it!”
Vallai was too shocked to speak anymore, but the Lady Whiteraven was not.
“So, you’re giving up then?”
Reikan glared at Serris, “I want to see my family again.”
“What of your duty to your land, your purpose?”
“I have spent my entire life fighting for my homeland. I have fulfilled my duty and served my purpose. All I want is to see my family.”
“And you think they would want to see you? Returning, with your tail between your legs like a coward? You would go to them, cowered in a corner?”
“It doesn’t matter to me anymore so long as I get to see them again.”
Serris’ eyes narrowed. “If you’re going to die, then you might as well die for something. We go to Hyjal, there’ll be plenty of opportunities for you to fall defending the World Tree.”
The Whiteraven took the cup from Reikan’s hand and tossed it to the side. She stormed off to the north and east with Reikan following behind. Vallai watched his two companions as they vanished from sight into the deep woods and then knelt down next to the fallen cup. He placed his hand on the wet ground and bowed his head. After a moment of silence he stood and followed the Paladin and the Sentinel towards Hyjal.
Chapter 14 Edit
“We’re to defend the World Tree at all costs!” the knight yelled from atop his horse. “It will not be long before the Scourge and their demon masters arrive, we cannot let them pass until the Night Elves are ready!”
A young woman, her face partially covered by her blue hood and long blonde hair stepped in front of the knight to address the Alliance forces gathered in the camp.
“And…if the call to retreat is given, fall back and rendezvous at the Orc camp to the north, understood?”
Reikan, and all those around him, nodded in agreement.
“I know it’s hard to forget old hatreds but we must set aside the past. The Legion is an enemy to all who live and it is our duty as survivors of Lordaeron to do our part to defeat them!”
“For Lordaeron!” the knight yelled.
Reikan stood in the front line of the forces. He had arrived just days before and his help was quickly welcomed. He had not seen either Serris or Vallai since they arrived at Hyjal and he hoped both would survive the coming battle. If the fall of Lordaeron was any indication it would take every body the combined Alliance, Horde and Kaldorei forces could find to stop the Legion.
From the distance the first wave of Scourge could be seen rushing towards them. Thousands of ghouls, spider like crypt fiends and even a handful of abominations were making the charge. Reikan closed his eyes and said a small prayer to himself.
“Looks like they aren’t going to waste any time, eh?” Reikan said to no one in particular.
“Hmph, they didn’t even bother to send five times more bugs then we got blades. If I’m feelin’ charitable I’ll save a few fer you, lad.” The dwarf next to Reikan said, gripping his axe tightly.
“Don’t get in over your head,” Reikan said, smirking.
“A short joke, eh? Jus’ fer that, I ain’t gonna share!”
The order to charge was given and the army crashed into the first line of the Legion. Amid the chaos of steel and flame Reikan cut down enemy after enemy. Though he longed for death he was not going to go out without a fight and many a ghoul fell before his blade.
The first wave had been broken, and the forces gathered their wounded and fell back to their camp. Priests and doctors scurried amongst their fallen companions sending back to the lines all those who could still fight. Reikan had remained relatively unscathed through the first wave, as was his dwarf companion who spent the downtime sharpening his axe.
“More on the way! Get ready!”
The second wave came, and like the one before it, was defeated. This time, however, there was no rest between attacks; the Scourge poured towards the Alliance camp. Though heavily outnumbered, the soldiers of Lordaeron held strong. No inch of ground would be given without a fight.
Courage alone, however, was not enough to halt the Scourge. The order to retreat was finally given, and the lines finally broke and scattered, fleeing farther up the mountain. Though it had crossed his mind to ignore the order to retreat the tide of battle had Reikan in its grasp, and he fled with his comrades from the Scourge.
A single drumbeat echoed across the mountain.
The minions of the Legion gleefully chased their human adversaries up the hill, cutting down those who fell behind. As they rounded the bend to continue their chase another drumbeat tore through the sky. The army of demons and Scourge stumbled to a complete halt. Before them stood the Orcish Horde, their leader, an orc with jet black hair sitting at the front of the line atop his great black wolf. Another drumbeat ripped through the sky, amplified by the sounds of the Horde’s weapons slamming together in unison.
“No longer are we slaves to the Legion! No longer are we pawns, blinded by bloodlust! Your time in this world is at an end, demons! For Hellscream! For the Horde!”
With the raising of the mighty Doomhammer over his head the Orcish Horde charged down the mountain. Many of the lesser demons and Scourge simply turned and fled. The rest fell under hoof and blade.
The confusion amongst the Legion’s ranks quickly subsided and they renewed their push back up the mountain and into the Horde ranks. The troll priest, Charaji, ran between the Horde and Legion lines, cursing and hexing the demons and the undead while mending his fallen allies. As he was making his way towards a fallen troll an undead abomination stumbled before him, raising its hatchet. Charaji held his staff up defensively, the various seed filled husks tied to the end rattling endlessly.
“Joo mess wit da wrong troll, mon…”
The abomination slowly backed away.
“Ha! Run! Run from Charaji!” the troll danced and shook his staff.
Charaji cursed as a large, plate covered hand pushed him out of the way. A great, black tauren stepped towards the abomination, a great sword held tightly in his hand, the shattered end of his horn jutting out from his helm. The abomination swung his hatchet in panic at the tauren. Monok viciously slapped the hatchet away with his hand and with a great swing of his arm cut the abomination in two. He roared in triumph and charged into a pack of demons, tossing any who dared stand before him aside.
Chapter 15 Edit
Like their allies before them, the Horde was simply far too outnumbered to hold on for long. Slowly the Legion was gaining ground; with each one that fell four more came to replace it. The battle was looking grim, and the order to retreat would soon have to be given.
“Warchief, our scouts have located the source of the Legion’s reinforcements,” Trogar said, bowing before the Warchief.
“And where is that?”
“It’s a series of portals at the back of their lines. Several acolytes are maintaining the spells necessary to keep the gates open; if we can disrupt them it could buy the elves more time.”
Thrall nodded. “We’d have to cut through their entire force to reach the back lines.”
Trogar nodded grimly. “We have but few kodo and horses to use, but mounted we’d stand a better chance.”
“Still, getting through would be next to impossible.”
“Impossible y’say? Just give the order and the dwarves’ll blow you a hole so big you could drive a fleet o’ steam tanks through.” The dwarf casually fired his rifle, taking out a ghoul who was wandering too close.
Thrall looked down at Trogar. “Gather up as many as you have mounts for and I’ll give the order.”
Trogar bowed and headed off leaving his Warchief to continue discussing the plan with the dwarves. “Strange times, strange times…” he muttered to himself.
“Indeed they are.”
Trogar grinned at the grey haired Paladin. “What are you doing up here, little orc, I thought you’d be at the front.”
Reikan shook his head, “I was needed back here to tend to the wounded…” Reikan looked down at the battle below. “Let me lead the charge.”
“The Scourge took our homes from us, let us, who have no homes to return to, make the charge.”
Trogar nodded solemnly. “Alright, Grunt Reikan, you will have the honor of leading the charge. Gather up those you can and I’ll get the horses.”
There were fewer mounts then anticipated. Together, only nine, all refugees of Lordaeron, sat ready on their horses to make the charge. Trogar shook his head sadly knowing that all nine would certainly die. He only hoped that they could make it far enough to halt the Legion.
Reikan paced on his horse before his eight weary companions. There was no shortage of volunteers amongst the ranks making it difficult for him to choose who to take along. There were many who deserved the opportunity to make one last strike at the Scourge which took their homes from them.
“Knights of Lordaeron!” Reikan called, “It is our honor to lead the charge into the Legion lines. It is our responsibility to disrupt the Legion’s reinforcements. We must not fail!
“Though it is likely none of us shall make it back alive, do not fear the nether! The Scourge have driven us from our homeland, taken from us all that we hold dear, now let us do our part to rid this world of them! Let the world see that though driven from our homes the children of Lordaeron have not been broken! Let our deaths not be in vain! For Family! For Honor! For Lordaeron!”
The Horde forces quickly moved out of the way as shot and explosives rained down on the demonic army. Before the smoke could clear the Knights of Lordaeron charged through the bewildered enemy and passed out of sight down the mountain. As he and his brother watched them disappear Vallai sighed.
“May the Earth Mother watch over you, Reikan.”
Time passed without notice of the chaos that crept closer and closer to Hyjal. Trogar grimly waited for any news of Reikan’s progress, the scouts were slow to bring information. While the old orc understood that there was no way to avoid this he still was losing patience. Finally, as the sun reached its apex news came.
“The humans have made it to the Legion’s base!”
All those who heard the news cheered.
“Press the attack!” Trogar yelled, “Keep their attention here! The Horde will not fail their allies!”
The Horde surged once again into the jaws of the enemy.
The demons clearly had not expected an attack on their base.There were few outer defenses to speak of other then the occasional band of demons and undead that would leave to join the battle farther uphill. Reikan motioned with his hand towards the three gates and his companions nodded in understanding.
The knights charged into the demon camp and split up, amongst the gates. Reikan rode from acolyte to acolyte, mercilessly cutting them down. With each one that fell, the energy around the gate grew more and more distorted until it finally dissipated. Reikan called together his knights to lead them out but the Legion cut off their exit. Surrounded by enemies Reikan thanked his comrades for their help.
“This is it…our last ride…” Reikan said, “One last push, towards the orc base. If you make it through, ride as fast as you can.”
Chapter 16 Edit
The orcish forces turned and fled up the hill. Though successful, their gambit was far too late coming to prevent the Horde from being routed. Trogar, however, did not join his allies in their flight, he stood his ground, alone, against the onrush of the Legion. He quickly slipped to the side, avoiding the attack of a doomwarder and with a twist of his arms relieved the demon of its head. He snarled and charged a ghoul, cutting it down effortlessly.
Trogar whirled around at the sound of hissing behind him. A doomwarder, flanked by two ghouls had slipped to his rear. He gripped his sword tightly; aware that turning his back to the greater rush of the enemy could be fatal.
The ghouls collapsed to the ground, a streak of blue lightning cracking through their bodies. The doomwarder fell as well, the chipped and stained blade of Monok protruding from its back.
“Waiting for the human?” Monok asked as he pulled his sword free of the demon.
Trogar nodded. “I can’t leave an ally and friend behind.”
Vallai cut down another rushing ghoul with a blast of lightning. “We shall help you then.”
Trogar smiled. “Thank you, Tauren; hopefully we will not die waiting.”
Time continued on its rapid course; moments flowed into hours and still Reikan had not returned. The three soldiers of the Horde stood strong against the onrush, but their allies had long since retreated. The Scourge and their Legion masters were now on all sides and hope for their wayward ally dwindled.
“Hold your ground, Tauren! Death is an honor for all soldiers of the Horde!” Trogar yelled.
Beyond the rising waves of the Legion the sound of hooves could be heard. Bathed in the light of the setting sun nine riders charged forward. Demons and undead alike parted under blade and hoof; the sons of Lordaeron would not be denied their vengeance.
“For Lordaeron!” The cry of her exiled sons rang through the shadows of Hyjal.
“Keep riding! Don’t stop until you reach the Horde base!”
Silver hair matted with blood pulled away from the other, wounded riders. His face was haggard and worn but his eyes still burned with the spark of life. Reikan reached down and pulled his orcish friend up onto his horse.
“I thought you were riding to your death,” Trogar said, grinning.
“Death is for the young,” Reikan said, “I think it’s time we got out of here.”
“Follow us, Reikan,” Vallai said, “the orc base has fallen, we’ll need to make for the elvish camp.”
“Hopefully we’re not too late.”
The two Tauren charged off ahead. Reikan urged his horse forward, but with the added weight of Trogar and the strain of charging twice through the jaws of the Legion they were quickly out distanced by their allies. Trogar looked over his shoulder at the approaching enemy.
“We’re falling behind, Reikan.”
“I know I—“
The horse’s front legs gave way, throwing its two riders as it crashed into the ground. Reikan rolled onto his back and shook the daze clear from his head. A sharp pain shot through his leg, cold steel puncturing deep into the muscle.
“Escape was never an option, Reikan,” hissed the Death Knight, kneeling on the ground next to the Paladin.
“That was never my intention. There is no running from what I’ve done…”
“You must suffer for what you have done! You corrupted my daughter, took her from me…and then left her to die!” The blade twisted in Reikan’s leg. “My daughter…you are no Paladin, you were an embarrassment to the order. I should have left you to rot in that Light forsaken prison!”
“Where is your honor, fallen one?” Trogar asked. “Killing an enemy who cannot fight back is the act of a coward.”
“An orc…speaking of honor?” the knight sneered, “curb your tongue, or I will cut you down where you stand.”
“Then get on with it, I’m too old to wait for you to finish ranting.”
As the Death Knight stood, Reikan swung his arm into the back of his legs, knocking him to the ground. With a quick roll and a flick of his wrist, a knife flew from the knight’s hand and caught Trogar in the shoulder. The orc fell to his knees, his curved sword burying itself softly in the ground.
Before the Knight could return to his feet, Reikan was on top of him. Dark energy ripped through Reikan’s body but he held firm. His heart was filled with rage; rage at his father-in-law, at himself, and at what he had become.
“You left her…and your daughter! Used them, just like you have everyone else in your life…and left them to--!”
The blade that had been lodged in Reikan’s leg found itself a new home in the throat of the fallen knight. “No…I loved Evelyn, and I loved my daughter. I gave all in the world I could give to them.”
As the last gurgled gasp escaped the vacant black hood, Reikan sighed and shook his head. With great effort he pushed himself to his feet. His leg was badly hurt; pain erupted at even a hint of pressure on it. Trogar walked up beside his wounded friend and picked up his sword.
“Nothing worse then a crippled soldier; they eat, drink and complain like a healthy one but are twice as lazy.”
Reikan closed his eyes and cleared the pain from his mind. “You can still make it back, Trogar, you should go.”
“There is no changing your mind of this, is there?”
Reikan looked down at the tattered remains of the man who took him in, who gave him a chance when no one else would. The Knight was right, he was suffering from all that he left behind in Lordaeron, and it was time for the suffering to end. “No, there isn’t.”
Trogar nodded and winced as he handed Reikan his sword. “Lok’tar Ogar, brave Paladin. You will not be forgotten by the Horde.”
The orc bowed and hurried towards the elven base for it would not take long for the focus of the enemy drift from the World Tree to the wounded prey in their midst. Though his arm ached terribly remorse bit far worse then the wound; duty to his warchief kept Trogar from dieing alongside his friend.
Chapter 17 Edit
The two Tauren intercepted the orc halfway to the Elven base.
“What happened? Are you alright? Where is Reikan?” Vallai asked.
“The legion has quieted,” Trogar said.
Monok nodded, “They are preparing for one final assault.”
“Where is Reikan?”
Trogar sighed, “He awaits the Legion down the mountain.”
“What? We have to go help him!”
Vallai looked at his brother, his eyes pleading for help. Monok turned and walked back up the hill.
Monok stopped. “Vallai, it is an honor rarely bestowed on a warrior to choose the time and means of his death. We cannot take that away from him. Reikan’s fate is his own.”
“But he’s family!”
“And as such we should respect his wishes.”
Vallai looked back down the mountain. Trogar gently patted the great Tauren on the back with his good arm as he followed Monok up the hill. After several moments Vallai too returned to the elf base.
Reikan’s body slammed viciously into the ground. The Legion had begun their final push and a monstrous pit lord led the way. The demon lord had ordered his minions onward to the base, opting to deal with the broken Paladin alone. Though no match for his tremendous strength the Paladin showed frustrating resiliency; determination and the whispers of his daughter kept returning Reikan to his feet and holding up his sword after each blow.
“You have made an amusing toy, insect,” the pit lord cackled.
“I never fail to disappoint…” Reikan said weakly, his body trembling from fatigue.
“…but I have other bugs to deal with…”
A great nightsaber panther leaped onto the pit lord’s arm, clawing and biting. The cat landed nimbly on her feet as the demon tried to shake her off. A spear lodged itself into the pit lord’s neck.
“Foolish elf,” he growled, “I am immortal.”
“As immortal as I am.”
Kayla dashed at the pit lord again, knocking the plate covering the demon’s chest loose. An arrow, fletched with raven feathers dabbed with white paint, found its way to the exposed chest. With a final, chilling roar the pit lord faded into dust.
Reikan stared in disbelief at the ground. “Can you walk?” he heard a voice say.
“You…I…no! I’m staying here; I’m going to see my family!”
“Fool,” the Lady Whiteraven said with only a hint of bitterness, “you have family here that needs you.”
Reikan continued to stare into the ground. His daughter’s plea grew louder in his ears: Daddy, don’t give up. The demons and undead scattered and hid as vicious laughter echoed up from the base of the mountain. Archimonde was coming.
“Can you walk?”
Don’t give up.
Reikan took a step forward and collapsed. Serris sighed as she helped Reikan to his feet, slipping his arm over her shoulders. With a wince he took another step forward, and nearly fell again. Serris reached out and steadied him resting her hand on his chest.
“Let’s go, Reikan.”
“But…the camp…isn’t it back the other way?”
“Yes, but now we must flee. Archimonde is coming and there is nothing we can do to stop him.”
“They will have already fled for cover. All we can do now is pray.”
The energy released when Archimonde fell left the land at the base of the World Tree scorched. Trogar kneeled and looked over the ash covered ground. Monok stood beside him, his knife whittling away the final touches on his familial totem.
“Such is the price we pay,” Trogar said, grimly.
“The land will heal in time. It will grow strong on the blood of the fallen.”
Vallai sat beside Reikan, gingerly cleaning the wound in the Paladin’s leg and tightly bandaging it. Serris kneeled across from him, her eyes following the motions of Monok’s hand. With one final knick into the wood the black furred Tauren nodded approvingly.
“War comes soon.”
“Indeed it does, Monok.”
Vallai looked from his brother to the orc. “Why do you two think that?”
“It is the way of things…there’s too much history for the Alliance and Horde to remain friends for much longer,” Trogar said as stood.
Reikan sighed, “Is there nothing we can do?”
Serris shook her head. “It is out of our hands.”
“Then, if war is to come, let us remain true to one another,” Vallai said, “we are family, Earthstriders all. Though circumstances may lead our people to war with one another, our bond will remain strong.”
“Let the spirits of Hyjal bear witness to our bond.” Monok slammed his familial totem into the ground, the base digging deep into the ash and dirt.
“Come,” Trogar said, “let us enjoy the peace while it lasts.”
The five left Hyjal together for one last time. Standing alone the Earthstrider totem remained.Two wolves prowled its base; one gray, one red. Above a white raven and a golden eagle struggled to fly on chained and battered wings and all were kept under the watchful gaze of the broken horn.