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Khorvis    80

[[ Some brutal metal for Mai'kull ]]

 

"Matron!" Khorvis howled as the dust of the explosion began to settle, much of it still hanging in the silent air. He had seen her valiant sacrifice and tumbling form thrown from the voidlord just before the blast and the ringing in his ears started. Staggering to his feet, the orc shook his head and took two steps towards the scene of the druidess's fall before his boots gave out beneath him and his jaw connected with the chamber floor with a painful click! The wraithlings had descended from the ceiling and were swarming the pool. Two of the freaks had tackled Khorvis's legs and their claws ripped into his flesh. Not far away, Baal'themar slashed and flung away his own assailants, barely escaping their shadowy embrace.

"Get! Off! Of! Me!" Khorvis roared and kicked at the darkness. "You black goatsuckers! I'll have your- GAAAAHHHHH!!!!!!" The wail escaped the warrior's mouth as a shadowfiend's dagger-like claw stabbed into the delicate machinery of his engineered eye. The complex circuits and ornate housing crunched, ruining Harbinger Bloodscream's masterpiece in a shower of sparks. Khorvis squirmed and screamed, overwhelmed by a mounting pile of wraiths until a booming snarl accompanied the shattering of rubble.

A massive grizzly lunged from beneath a stone pile and tore at the fiends with a broad swipe from her paw. They fell in a wave, shredded and mangled by sickle-like claws. Skittering and screeching, the voidlings recoiled away from the pool. The fury of Theira Oaksong drove back the tide of shadow in the very last moment before her strength gave out completely. A broken and bleeding tauren fell unconsciously as the elf Baal'themar raced to catch the woman. She hung limp in the rogue's arms - the man turned to Khorvis and barked an unaccustomed order to his erstwhile-superior: "There is no more time! We must retreat at once!"

"Then stop da whimperin' an' get ya arses up 'ere, stone-blind fools!" Tahzani retorted from the entry ledge, framed by a glowing portal. Its twin arose some few feet from the party near the pool, finally revealing the conjuration that the warlock had been brewing throughout the battle. Baal'themar grunted as he slung the dead-weight of his commander over his shoulders. The Lasher struggled to his feet, clutching his thrice-ruined eye, and stumbled after the elf with the aid of his servant, Edgar. As a unit, they were whisked to the waiting side of the two trolls.

Not a moment after the demonic gateway shuttered, the horde of shadow wraiths mustered and swarmed towards the tunnel.

Lilliana flung a bolt of Light at the cresting wave of shadow and screamed, "RUN!"

---

Mai'kull had taken only two strides down the tunnel within the Shadowlands before Lilliana's blood-curdling scream echoed up to his ears. Trouble. Now!

His loping gait rounded a bend before stopping short at the sight racing towards him. A party of six - including the late High Inquisitor! - ran up the passage, hounded by what could only be described as a swirling tsunami of blackness crashing over floor, wall, and ceiling. Hundreds, thousands of void-wrought horrors gave chase to the mage's comrades. An army of the Shadow stretched far and away, without number.

He reached into his satchel, gripping an ancient scroll. The wrinkled parchment pressed with familiarity against the forsaken's fingertips. These were the words that mapped the foundations of his arcane powers. Years unremembered in training and devotion, culminating in this very instant. It was a small comfort, the tactile sensation of something so commonplace. A base affront before the ephemeral foe. Mai'kull flung the parchment forward as it unfurled, lying flat and suspended in the air.

Baal'themar heaving, Theira in luggage, Tahzani sprinting, Khorvis in agony, Lilliana waving wildly at the mage, Storm linked through in horror, and Edgar bounding at heels, all fled past Mai'kull in a cacophony of warnings. Their words washed over him, for his concentration had long left worry of his own flesh. The Dark Parchment hung only a few meters between the mage and the host of the Void's oblivion, but time slowed to a crawl. The Maleficar weaved the remaining strands of arcanistry into place and settled their threads upon the geomantic inscriptions covering the scroll.

The ward activated instantaneously in a shield of light that ripped apart the Dark Parchment and spread to block the tunnel. Shadow fiends flung themselves futilely at the barrier only to vaporize in blasts of golden oblivion. The swell of shadow broke upon the cliff of Mai'kull's making, his hand outstretched as if holding a bulwark of pure power. Indeed, it required every ounce of the mage's concentration to maintain the spell as the enemy horde eviscerated itself upon an arcane cliff face.

The party had come to a stop, catching their breath and watching Mai'kull's devilry in awestruck horror. They screamed their urgings to abandon the tunnel and exit the portal, back unto the plane of the living.

"Leave it, mage! Retreat!" goaded the elf.

"Togethah, mon!" chattered the warlock. "We kin do dis!"

Mai'kull turned his head, the cowl dropping away under the backblast of shielding. The hair and flesh had been seared from his skull - only face of bone stared back at his fellow Horde. Within the eye sockets dwelt a solemn resolve. Khorvis, the darkening wound in his own eye, caught the look and understood. Dozens of comrades over the course of many campaigns had displayed the same commitment upon battlefields less obtuse. There would be no return to Azeroth for Mai'kull. The mage had chosen his fate, and the end would consume him in this land of shadow and decay. Already Khorvis could sense the forsaken's spirit slipping away.

The warrior turned and helped Baal'themar carry the burden of the fallen Matron. Lilliana brought both of her hands to her mouth in a silent scream. Gripping her by the shoulder, Tahzani pulled the troll through the gateway back to Tirisfal, followed by Edgar and the rest...

---

The shield was giving out. Whether it was the sheer number of voidlings that threw their corpses upon the barrier or the very decrepit nature of the Shadowlands itself, the spell was draining more rapidly than Mai'kull had expected. He watched out of the corner of his eye as the last of the party passed through the gateway, to safety. A solace he would never know again - but that was to be expected. Here at the breach, he would alight the banner of the Mandate.

Closing what was left of his eyelids, Mai'kull Fireweaver dropped the shield and ignited the remainder of his arcane reserves. From within, a storm of flame erupted and spread down the passageway like a sirocco, annihilating every shadow field that it touched. The impression of fiery wings unfolded from the mage's shoulderblades and-

---

Edgar dove out of the portal to the Shadowlands and immediately tackled the Blackrock Dagger, ripping it out of the ground and throwing it out of the ritual circle. The gateway shuddered behind the last of the party and as it sealed shut, it released a blast of raw flame before disappearing entirely.

Unable to march another step, Baal'themar and Khorvis set Theira down among the toadstools of the Whispering Forest. While the others could only stare at where once had been the portal, now a scorched patch of earth, the orc was frantic as he shook the still form of the tauren.

It was through tears of a bloodied eye that Khorvis saw the spirit of Theira depart Azeroth. The Matron's back was broken. Her body, having given every last ounce of fury to protect those dear, was lifeless.

Edited by Khorvis
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As Theira lay lifeless in the ritual circle, the toadstools glowed briefly and dimly for a moment before a strange dreamlike flower blossomed from the chest of the Matrons corpse.  A mourning glory sprouted with that of a strange and small pod like growth its life seemingly sustained from her death.

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As Theira’s body laid in the ground, the group of elementals who first remained silent, shocked by Mai'kull’s sacrifice, slowly started weeping, tears of sand, lava, vapor and water dropped from each of their faces while they observed the gathered party. Their unified will combined with the powers of The Heart of Azeroth being channeled by Stormsky allowed the bonds they shared with each other and with the shaman to become stronger than they ever were, their tears were Stormsky's tears, they were feeling what he was feeling.

In the shaman’s mind the mission could not be counted as a success, yes... Khorvis was safe and sound but two others were lost in the process, one of which was Theira, a really close friend, one who had fought with him and also celebrated by his side.

And then in that moment of shared pain they saw it, the mourning glory sprouting out of the matron’s lifeless body, “New life comes forth from death… the never ending cycle continues” the elementals commented before they began to fade away as the shaman could no longer sustain them. In the maelstrom, Stormsky opened his eyes, his body and mind completely exhausted; he looked to the sky and whispered “Theira… old friend… Mai'kull…. may both of your spirits find peace now among the ancestors”

 

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Chaoseater    17

As quickly as they had vanished, the ragged party tumbled from the portal and the massive form of the Chaoseater blinked. Beneath his gaze the tiny bone slave dashed for the ritual dagger and shattered the integrity of the spell that had opened the gate. Around the circle pylons exploded in showers of sparks, and the portal flickered but resolved once more, now held only by the Gatekeeper. From within an orange glow flared, reflecting dimly from the Death Knight's dark plate.
 

As simply as lowering his outstretched hand, he severed the power keeping the rapidly degenerating portal open and turned, filling the space with his own form. The flames broke in midair, illuminating a translucent green sphere as the abomination that had once been Tauren shielded the party from the Fireweavers final conflagration. Ice turned to steam in a flash, and then it was over. Silence fell over the circle and the fine edge that the magic of the working had laid on their perceptions was broken.

 

The cold blue eyes  gazed down at the party. They passed over the one-eyed orc, their prize, though the Monster above knew him but little, the elf, the trolls, and finally lingered on the bloodied corpse of the Rutilan’s Matron. They looked on, impassive, as the flower bloomed from the body’s bosom. They waited and watched, and only after a long moment turned away.

 

A matching set of eyes shimmered in the underbrush as a massive black war wolf loped out of the forest and the Warchief of the Blacktooth Grin swung up into his saddle. As he reined around he spared a final glance to the party and his deep voice rumbled forth “My commitment is fulfilled.” And without another word the Chaoseater vanished into the gloom.

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It was some time and long miles from the clearing when Bager brought his own mount into line alongside the giant Steelborn. The smaller worg layed back it’s ears and lowered it’s tail, able to sense the undead power that gripped the alpha beast that bore his master. The Laughing Skull priest turned his bone face up to regard the ominous rider. “Bager, he so enjoys the moonlight rides. Though it would seem the moonlight does not agree” he cackled up at the dense clouds above”.

 

“Your enjoyment is the least of my concerns Grot” Came the rumbling response, sullen despite its overtones of threat. “What did you see?”

 

“Working orcs go through the portal, only broken orcs come out” Bager shrugged, the bones and beads of his garb clattering slightly “Your servant Bager thinks maybe portals are not so good for the orcs of this place, yes?” A rumbling growl emanated from the massive metal form and he had to fight to keep his wolf from bolting.
 

“Much and more took place in that clearing Grot. The Matron lies dead, her spirit flown. I had thought to have long years before that one passed, but I have yet another promise to fulfill.” The Chaoseater’s cold eyes turned to regard the priest at last “You will wait a day, perhaps two, then seek out these Rutilans. Offer what condolences you may, and take a measure of their power structure. I…..” a sharp popping sound split the night air and Bager realized it was gears catching as the Steelborn clenched a massive fist “I will see to their Matron”

 

An unspoken command sprang between rider and mount, and powerful limbs flexed as they tore away into the forest towards the Sea. Bager reined up, watching them go. He glanced back the direction from which they come and the Laughing skull choked out a giggle. He immediately thought of Feathered -orc-who-walks-like-cat.


After a moment, Bager fished out his hearthstone and whispered the incantation to whisk him back to Dalaran.

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Baalthemar    44

Baal'themar slowly recovered from the battle, his mind was a storm of emotion he fought hard to control. Theira and Mai'kull had given their lives to save Khorvis from the shadowlands, both knew the risks but still they charged headlong into the unknown.

Baal'themar offered a small smile at their memory before he returned to his stoic and cold features. He put his hand on his wounded brothers shoulder. "Khorvis... I have to take her back to her family." He looked down at Theira's body. There would be no body for the Grim to take... Mai'kull was gone. This mission was bittersweet, he had saved his brother but the Luna had lost a mother and a sister.

Baal'themar knelt down and lifted Theira's body in his arms, she felt lighter now, somehow..

"Take care, Khorvis." He said softly as he thumbed a heathstone to take Theira home, one last time.

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