The Assault on Aerie Peak [Open]

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The Grim war party made camp in a remote vale, hidden in the mountains north of the Arathi Basin. An'she had reached her zenith before the picket lines had been set, and the afternoon was taken in silence as the troop lunched on cold vittles. No fire was lit - they were deep in Alliance territory after pushing through the flanks of the League of Arathor and cutting off the reinforcements to seal a temporary victory in the Basin. Khorvis Bloodstar slid down a steep side of the vale, returning from a short scouting observation to the North.

"Get some shut-eye while you can, Grim," he growled, not too loudly. His voice rebounded from the cliff walls but died quickly. "We should be out of sight from the Peak. It is just across the ravine, so do keep your bloody mouths quiet. If we do be lucky, these old pines will hide us from the gryphon patrols." The orc rapped his gauntleted knuckles against a mossy tree trunk and came away stained. The air at this elevation was thin but for the constant mist and occasional eagle whose shadow slid over the crags.

"Something does feel strange. Few gryphons were at roost in that dwarf felhole. I do remember when Wildhammer did darken the very sky. I count no more now than .. uh ..." Khorvis fumbled with his fingers, then finished with a belated, "two."

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Filora listened without evidence of much interest. As this was an assault on Azeroth, while most of the Alliance's forces were tied up in Draenor, it had been judged within her capabilities although she was still behind in training and gear compared to most of her compatriots. In other words, she didn't have an excuse not to come.

She couldn't even remember the last time she'd been out this way. It was dull and cold and she was looking forward to being done.

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Most of the afternoon was spent with a triple watch - one lookout at both the north and south entrances to the vale and another set of eyes on the sky. The rest of the company dozed against the pines, cushioned by a blanket of dead needles and the ever-present moss. The steady drip of condensed fog fell from tired snouts and beat its tune upon platemail.

At the center of the camp, Khorvis argued with his ranking officers about their next course of action. Standard operating procedures were to the make by foot to Hammerfall and secure transportation to the Guild Hall. The Grim were fighting on too many fronts to commit a large force to one location for long, and weathering the mountain's night would expose the war party to great risk. Even still, Dreadweaver Bloodstar was adamant that Aerie Peak was a ripe target for a surprise attack.

"Their garrisons are empty, Irredeemable! If ever there did be a time to wipe out that filthy Wildhammer den, it is this night!" The warrior was red in the face with unquenched bloodlust - a dwarven shaman had escaped his hurried axe in the Basin and the failure still smarted. He continued his case to Syreena. "We are a small enough fist to move quickly by the cover of darkness. With you and your fellow shadowblades, the sentries will die in silence. I will command the main charge into the gryphon den and the torch will find her home." With a final grin and clenched fist, he hissed, "and there may be younglings to be snuffed out."

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The Grim descended from the mountains after the sun slipped behind the towering symbol of Wildhammer permanence. Dusky purple twilight covered the frosted groves before Aerie Peak and hid the warband's approach like a silent cloak. Wisps of local spirits were nowhere to be found, their light having been hid by some foul enchantment concocted by Greebo the Twice-Made. The elder Grim weaved his felmancery from a crag at the edge of the vale encampment and was guarded by two stout guards weilding Blackrock greataxes. If any blue-badged saboteurs happened upon the trio, they would find a wall of fur and iron.

A patrolling Wildhammer footdwarf stopped by a bent fencepost on the path leading to the town proper. It's lantern lay on the ground, cracked and snuffed. He smoothed a wrinkling brow and leaned over to pick up the sconce and righted himself with a harsh jerk. The dwarf toppled over headless, the garrote of Syreena completely severing his spine in one swift whip-like spray of lifesblood. A brief thud as the body hit the frozen ground and the rogue was once again invisible in the night. At three other entry points to the Peak, similar fates greeted the remaining guards, each falling into the tall grass without time to raise an alarm.

The main causeway dimmed with an unnatural and cloying darkness. All of the lightposts winked out in succession, possibly from a stray wind, more likely from the shadowbeasts that wormed out of the grove and crawled uncannily on their backs. Khorvis Bloodstar, flanked by Lilliana Bloodshine and Adherent Lupinum passed through the shadows and threw back the hoods of their cloaks. With a noiseless howl, they charged the Aerie Peak.

(( That is 10 Grim. At least one rogue (Syreena) and 3 others, Khorvis, Lupinum, Lilliana, Greebo, and two guards. 2 full fists from RBGs! ))

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Who held Riftwind Holdings? That was proving a hard question to answer.

The company hadn't shied away from printing their name on the libelous broadsides that had been posted all around Orgrimmar, and as lead after lead turned up nothing, it became clear why they had little to fear. They were a shadow organization with no evidence pointing to anything but disappearing money and words.

But one lead had turned up something.

There was someone with the last name Riftwind. And he had a manor in the Arathi mountains.

This hadn't taken more than a day to discover, but when her messenger came back after being met with hostility at the manor's gates, Julilee considered carefully. She had spent part of the previous evening emphasizing to one of her guildmembers that it was against Sanctuary's ethos to administer force without being utterly sure of culpability. Certainly they were not going to march on this Riftwind Manor and fight their way in to demand an explanation for an act which the people of the manor may or may not even be responsible for.

Still, they had to ensure their presence was taken seriously.

That was how Julilee and several other Sanctuary members found themselves in the mountains at this chill evening time. With her were Durk'atar, Cylindryl, and Cerryan, some of her trusted officers. Vilmah and Nojinbu were off investigating on their own, hopefully turning up more leads in case this one didn't pan out.

However, when they stopped to take a rest – the thick fog not far off the ground meant approach by air was out of the question, and the mountainous path was steep – a complication arose.

"Commander," came Durk'atar's grave voice. Juli had found that the older shaman had yet to say something that wasn't worth heeding. If she had listened to him about Saphiara... Juli patted her zhevra's neck and walked over to the orc.


"We are not alone."

His shamanistic senses had detected another force nearby; one who marched under a banner Juli had sincerely hoped she would not see in the course of this investigation. Perhaps it was just a coincidence that the Grim were gathered near where the broadsides might have come from... She tried to tell herself that, anyway. It wasn't very convincing. She sighed to herself as her officers discussed the matter in low, urgent tones.

Cylindryl sent her pet wolf Faelan out to gather more information. Through his ears, she was able to listen to the Grim encampment as the wolf stayed to the misty shadows.

"One of their commanding officers is pushing for an attack on Aerie Peak," she reported. "It's said to be mostly undefended... with children left behind."

A silence fell on the group.

If Vilmah or Nojinbu had been there, surely they would have argued for not getting involved; only supplying a warning, and no more. Juli certainly expected Durk'atar to make that argument. He and other former Sanctuary members had seen enough conflict within the Horde to know it was counterproductive at best, and much worse at worst. Juli was not unaware of her own relative naivety and idealism. It was a quality that she did not necessarily consider a flaw, but which she was sure to be cautious of allowing free reign, either – as she did cynicism.

But as it turned out, all four of them were in agreement. Each one of them wanted to go to Aerie Peak and defend the innocent there.

"We will not raise weapons against Horde," Juli said. "But we will raise shields."

They headed north in speed and silence.

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Khorvis, in the lead, found the blow he aimed at the next target blocked with a startling strength.

Juli's feet didn't budge an inch as her shield absorbed the blow; she didn't so much as grunt. She was small, even for an elf, but she could hold the line. It was what she was good at.

"Grim," she said in the split second of silence that ensued. "Find a more worthy opponent, or make one of me."

She stepped back, readying herself for another strike should it come. Her shield was raised, but her sword was lowered, its point aimed to the ground.

At the same time as that happened, a hail of arrows imbedded itself into the ground before the oncoming the Grim, to make them check their advance. Juli was sure Cylindryl would have happily feathered them all, but Juli had made her orders clear. Sanctuary would not strike the first intentional blow.

Even in the dim lighting, it was immediately apparent that Sanctuary and the few remaining Alliance guards were outnumbered. Cylindryl had a camouflaged perch out of sight, but the number of arrows she was capable of shooting numbered her. And behind Juli stood only two others, Cerryan and Durk'atar. The former looked righteous, his shield and sword in hand as he began to glow with holy light; the latter looked solemn as he summoned up elementals to his side.

Within the town, about half had been evacuated and were disappearing into the forests that they knew much better than the Grim. The rest were too infirm to go, or had elected to stay and defend their home.

Juli's level gaze stayed on Khorvis, though she was aware of the other Grim, including Lilliana. They would only be startled into inaction for the briefest of moments, she was sure. The moments that followed next would be momentous.

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Khorvis leaned into his casual, one-handed swing and bore his weight down against Julilee's shield before snapping backwards wrothfully. This surprise defense was more than his technique bargained for, and yet the orc refused to show any quarter on his face. Shifting his footing, Khorvis gathered himself into his full height and raised his offhand. Clenched in that armored grip was the neck of a struggling adolescent dwarf. Ill-fitting chainmail gave lie to an overambitious maturity, as did the farce of a beard that was slick with fearful tears and gasping spittle. "Look, pinkskin. Your savior marks a line in the sand," Khorvis snarled at the defender. With a spltting crack that echoed throughout the standstill enveloping the town, the warrior crushed his prisoner's windpipe and dropped the motionless corpse to the cobblestones.

"You show your colors better than any war banner, wench." Khorvis gave the signal with his free hand to Syreena and Anaie, who slipped into the shadows to flank Cerryan and Durk'atar. "Now you can bleed with your dear allies!" Choking up on his axe with both fists, the orc charged at Julilee again with a whirling series of blows, his axe howling in the Hinterlands' night air.

In the distance, a tiny specks on the twilight horizon, several airborne units were returning to roost.

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Juli had wanted to believe, in that deep part of her where lived the spark of idealism that could give life to such a hope, that the Grim would pause at the thought of attacking fellow Horde. But another part of her had been all too prepared for them to do no such thing.

Her foot impacted the ground with force disparate to her slight figure, shattering the earth, and lightning lashed downward in response. It would slow their assailants and give her and her allies room to maneuver. Her shield was ready when Khorvis's full-strength charge hit her in the next moment. This time, the force of his attack sent her sliding, leaving rents in the already damaged ground, but she kept her feet under her and returned an attack of her own with her shield, aiming to slam it upward under his chin.

But the force of his attack had been nearly staggering, and he had only begun. Not only did he have strength and sheer size on her, but he moved like a war veteran, which he undoubtedly was. The grizzled orc had probably killed more people than Juli had ever met. Even if it were only one-on-one, which it wasn't, it would not have looked good for her. With the Grim's superior numbers, Sanctuary would be quickly overwhelmed regardless.

In the split seconds it took for these thoughts to pass through her mind, she also remembered again the conversation she'd had with Jinsai the day before. "Gonna be really hard to support an ideal when we're dead," he'd said diffidently. In this moment now she grasped a fleeting sense of the foolishness of her choices; of regret.

But it was washed away in the next instant by an utter surety, for the moment she considered what she would have been, how she could have lived with herself, if she had not made this choice, she realized it was no choice at all.

"FOR JUSTICE!" she shouted as she swung with everything she had.

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Filora stood in the back, ostensibly to help defend Greebo and some other spellcasters, but mostly because she wanted to stay well away from the real action. Still, when she heard the shout, she had to look, recognizing first the voice and then the tabards.

Sanctuary? Here? Defending an Alliance settlement? Maybe, like Saphiara, they'd all gone insane, she thought. Then again, maybe they were just crazy all along. She couldn't help but think it really said something that compared to the Grim, Sanctuary really seemed rather unreasonable.

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"We watch you slaughter no more! Peace is never possible as long as monsters like you continue to prove to the Alliance that the Horde is as bloodthirsty as they believe!"

The wind howled and the earth shook, as Durk'atar unleashed the full power of the elements upon his foes. Lightning leapt from his hands, arcing into one body before conducting into another. Though his totems protected him from some of the Grim spells being returned at him, far more got through. It was only by Cerryan's healing spells that he was even still on his feet.

The orc gritted his teeth and continued his assault. If fate dictated he die this day, he was determined to do so with honor. Perhaps in death he would earn the name he never had in life. He stomped his foot upon the ground, and an earthquake rocked the battlefield. The elements were with him on this day, and in his eyes it proved the righteousness of his cause.

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Julilee's blade took Khorvis in a graze over his faceguard. The orc's age could not be discounted, and the years had taken their toll upon his reflexes. What he once accomplished through sheer brute strength and virility, he now tempered with the wily cunning of a veteran and the deadly precision of a blademaster. Still, he was caught flatfooted by this upstart of a girl. Who would have believed that such intensity of purpose could roar forth from such a small frame to defend an ideal that clearly put her at a great disadvantage? Liene would be a worthy foe and Bloodstar would see to it that she could greet her ancestors with honor.

The battle raged all around them in a tumult of sundered earth and spellfire. Syreena and Anaie worked to keep Julilee's guards at bay, dagger on shield and sword. They were only barely protected from endless arrow vollies by wards woven from shadow by both Grim priests. A nearby dwarven bunker literally exploded in felflame as a lumbering infernal emerged from the rubble and the mad laughter of the Twice-Made echoed down the valley. Greebo worked his devilry from the cliffside like a war wizard of old, calling down a rain of embers upon the town. He seemed unconcerned with the stalemate between his comrades and Sanctuary, more content to slaughter fleeing dwarves and hold back the last rabble of the garrison.

In the center of this chaos, the Commander and the Lasher squared off in their duel. They locked eyes and charged each other, sword and axe raised. Khorvis feinted to his left and Julilee fell for the ploy, moving to block the charge with her shield. Instead, the older warrior twisted at the last moment to his right and moved past the elf. He whipped the long haft of his axe behind his back and brought it up beneath Julilee's knees, flipping her head over heels to land on her back. The breath having been knocked out of his opponent, Bloodstar turned and raised his greataxe overhead to deliver the execute ...

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An arrow ricocheted off Khorvis's axe, deflecting it just enough to make him imbed it into the earth instead of Juiliee's skull. A charging wolf slammed into the orc, pushing him away from the downed warrior just as a barrage of arrows peppered the Grim fighters. A glittering from the cliffside spoke to a freeze grenade delaying the warlock for the few precious seconds needed for the dwarven civilians to escape the slaughter.

"There will be no more murder for you today, Grim." Saphiara stood on the battlements of one of Aerie Peak's towers, her bow trained on the war party's leader. "I will not suffer the cowardness of this assault to continue this any longer." Her hair was different - shorter, and jet black - and she had discarded her tabard, but she knew revealing herself in this way would also do little to hide her identity.

She could sense the Grim's assassins drawing closer to her; doubtless, Syreena one of them and eager for her blood. There was too much for her to still accomplish to risk capture or worse. Perhaps she could disable or even kill one, maybe two of the Grim before falling herself, but that would still leave Sanctuary badly outnumbered and likely dead anyways.

No, she needed to make a large demonstration, one that would buy the defenders enough time to regroup while still allowing her to escape both the Grim and Sanctuary. A glance at the sky gave hope; wings were on the horizon, the gryphon patrols likely having spotted the smoke signals she'd set and returning home at top speed.

The Grim might be able to overwhelm five members of Sanctuary and a handful of infirm homeguard, but four squads of the Wildhammer's best would almost certainly drive them away.

A high-pitched whine filled the air as Saphiara pressed a button on her gauntlet and aimed a laser beam down onto the ground. "Catch me if you can..." She lept off the tower just as a blade slashed at the back of her leg. Her cape opened, the glider sending her flying both far above and beyond the Grim, into the trees of the Hinterlands.

Behind her, a crack of displaced air reverberated through the mountains, heralding the teleportation effect of a massive bomb into the sky above the combatants. After a brief moment of suspension while reality reaffirmed itself, its shadow grew larger as it fell into the heart of the Grim's formation.

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The chaos of the battle surrounded Cerryan, and the paladin struggled to keep his bearings through it all. Weaving the healing powers of the Holy Light in the midst of combat was far from unfamiliar to him, but he was still in shock at how readily the Grim's assault force turned their blades on fellow Horde. He knew it was a very real possibility when Commander Juililee committed their small force to defending the weak and infirm of the Peak against their assault, but a small part of him held out hope that they would be turned away, convinced to turn their blades on a worthy foe at least. He supposed that Sanctuary provided that foe, and he was intent on making that a hard fight, even should they fall.

His shield blocked blow after blow as he did his best to keep his attackers at bay, and the wounds of his allies closed as readily as they were made, but he knew that he could not persist in this indefinitely. His mastery of the healing art was exceptional, but nothing could counter the sheer disadvantage of how outnumbered the small force was. He winced as a blade made it past his guard and dug into his side, not the first injury he had sustained in the battle. Even still, he strained his powers to the breaking point, waves of healing light directed at both his comrades and the Dwarven defenders they stood beside. He could gain some small satisfaction from the frustration his efforts would provide to the Grim attackers, as even the weakened Wildhammer forces were bolstered in their defense, the paladin's healing magic supporting their tenacity in defending their home. But still, they were falling, and the wounds of his allies were growing harder to counter. It was all he could do to keep Julilee safe as the leader of the Grim's strike force pressed his assault against her. Things did not look good, but Cerryan took solace in the knowledge that if he fell, it would not be in defense of an enemy, but of the weak and unprotected. The young, and those able to safeguard them, had already been evacuated, and to the paladin that was a victory, no matter the outcome of their defiant stand.

So engrossed in his efforts, he did not even notice the blow deflected from Julilee's path, or the volley of arrows from a new direction raining onto their attackers. He did hear the voice, though, and he froze for a moment as Saphiara's words echoed down into the Dwarven stronghold from on high. He did not know what to think of the rebellious huntress' sudden appearance, but he had little time for thinking as a loud crack filled the air, guiding his eyes upwards. They widened, and he shouted for his comrades and what Wildhammer remained to take shelter as the materializing explosive fell from the sky to the battlefield below.

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The unnatural dark was rent by crackling elements and sickly fire. She could sense her opponent slowing before she did, but her inexperience cost her when she fell for the feint. The breath was knocked out of her as she hit the ground. There was one more flash of green light that gleamed on the honed blade of the axe raised over her, and she tried to move, knowing she couldn't fast enough.

Then there was a clanging ricochet and the axe buried itself in the earth beside her. Juli rolled away and into a crouch, ready to spring back into the battle even before she grasped what had happened. But a wolf was occupying her opponent now, and an unexpectedly familiar voice rang out that stopped her short.

Juli twisted to look up at the battlements in shock. "Saphiara!" she gasped, unthinking.

Cerryan's holy Light settled into her body, renewing her strength as she rose to her feet. Saphiara had come to aid them; perhaps even save them. Was she not as lost as they had believed? Could she return to the righteous path?

But there was no chance for reconciliation. Saphiara was forced to make her escape even as Khorvis threw back the wolf harrying him. The whistling sound that ensued heralded disaster. Even if the bomb was aimed for the Grim, there would be repercussions on the front lines.

"Sanctuary, retreat!" she shouted, and turned to run. She grabbed Durk'atar's arm to pull him with her when it seemed he was consumed by bloodlust. Cerryan she trusted could survive within his protective shield, and Cylindryl had already leapt from the other battlement where she'd made her sniper's perch and hit the ground running, Faelan at her side.

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The lone arrow took Khorvis's axe with the force of a siege arbalest. His downward cleave was knocked aside and imbedded the blade into the earth nearly at the same time that a wolf took him to the ground by the throat. Explosive clouds spread in thick billows over the battlefield and transformed all of the combatants into shadows and ghosts. Tusseling with the great beast, Bloodstar barely caught the challenge shouted over the din of battle.

But it was her. The traitor. Saphiara.

While Commander Liene signaled for the retreat of Sanctuary and the Grim disengaged from their marks, bodies fleeing in all directions, Khorvis grabbed the wolfpet by the snout and flung it to the side of the battlefield with the unleashed strength of a berserking avatar. Whether he had snapped its neck or simply beat it into a retreat with its tail tucked between two mangy legs, the warrior's attention was now focused solely on the origin of this conflict. Khorvis snatched the handle of his greataxe and dragged a great rent in the field with the blade as he marched towards where last the huntress's voice was heard.

"Show yourself, traitor! You will not find this orc to be such easy prey!" He roared his challenge up into the smoke, flame, and hidden sky. "Saphiara! I will have your head on a pike for Commander Stonespire! The Mandate will be carved upon your bloody skull!" The tirade continued with all the fervor that the exhausted orc could muster. It was then that a strong wind from Alterac banished the cover of black smoke.

With a heavy thud, a stormhammer landed squarely between Khorvis's stanced legs. Bewildered, he turned his eyes to the sky and felt his jaw go slack, for above the battle hovered a full squadron of Wildhammer gryphon riders. The garrison had returned.

The Grim warrior felt his hair immediately stand on end as ball lightning rose from the stormhammer. A titanic flash of blue-white light. Electricity ripped upwards from the thrown weapon, tearing through Khorvis's left side, and arching into the heavens. He let loose a piercing scream and dropped his axe, clutching a ruined face and the remnants of an eyeball that seeped between his fingers. The laughter of Greebo was overshadowed by the shouted orders of gryphon commanders and the confused howls of the Grim.

Brother Lupinum was the first to reach the fallen orc. A protective nimbus of Light-sewn words curled round the two as the Shadowblades gripped Khorvis under the shoulders and dragged him southwest. "Fall back!" Reaper Lilliana screamed hoarsely. Several more stormhammers converged upon the Grim in their rout, deafening explosions ripping apart the once-tranquil grove. "The charge is lost! Greebo, you asshole! Get us out of here!" A darkening twist of the air and a fel portal split the air between the pines.

The two fists of battered Horde retreated through the Twice-Made's summoning rift and made their escape through the mountain forests of Arathi. It would take them hours of a slow night's march to reach Hammerfall, evading the gryphon patrols and carrying their wounded. The entire flight back to the Halls of the Grim was a battle to keep Khorvis strapped to a wind-rider and silence his thrashing howls that echoed from the snowcapped peaks.

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Aerie Peak would be awhile rebuilding. The fires, explosions, and other impacts had severely damaged the town. Scars from the battle would linger.

But most of the families were saved. There were casualties, but it was a far cry from the slaughter that would have taken place had no one come to their defense in time. Tales of the story spread like wildfire, growing in each telling, though the truth needed little embellishment.

One thing did not change as the rumors spread: the banners that were seen. A red skull on black the attackers, and a golden phoenix on purple the defenders. The former was well-known amongst the Alliance already, and the significance of the latter was lost on few either.

The next day, the Grim and Sanctuary would meet for diplomatic talks at Bladespire Citadel. When they parted ways, the hostilities had only grown greater.

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Saphiara felt the snap in her spine almost as if it had happened to her personally; she stumbled, nearly losing her balance, and ended up tumbling down a plateau in a barely controlled slide.

Falore's back was broken - her wolf had been caught by the Grim's leader and injured severely. Fatally. There was nothing the huntress could do. Even if she wanted to go back and put her beloved companion out of her misery, she would be caught long before reaching the clearing again.

She cried out in agony, despite the need for stealth. Falore represented herself. The wolf was the daring hunter, the loner who still relied on her family when times were toughest. A literal part of her was dying less than a mile away, and she could do nothing about it.

Saphiara's eyes filled with tears. She struggled to return to her feet, certain that she would be overrun at any moment by her pursuers. Her legs just wouldn't work. The sympathetic pain, crossing over the fading bond between hunter and companion, was overwhelming.

The despair however, that was crippling.

The weight of the past five years came crashing down on her like a tidal wave. The loss, the isolation, the complete failure of her leadership. All of these and more were released from the emotional prison where she had locked them away. She stopped trying to get up, and sat there sobbing instead.

She could feel the link starting to fade away, along with Falore's life. There wasn't much time left. She sent a farewell through it, a sense of regret and sorrow, an apology. In return, she received a sense of comfort and love. Then it was gone. Only emptiness remained.

She wasn't sure how long she sat there in the shadows of the fading sun, waiting for the fatal blade that never came. Hours came and went, as Saphiara numbly ruminated on all the loss in her life - husband, child, parents, duty, Sanctuary, her powers. Finally, once dark began to fall, she started to realize that the Grim weren't coming. Whatever had happened after she'd activated the bomb, the Grim had been driven away. She wasn't done yet after all.

The shock of Falore's injury and death had worn off. She stood, shivering in the cold mountain air, and for the first time felt the pain of a slash from a blade in her back; it seemed one of the Grim had managed to penetrate her mail armor. She gingerly touched a finger to her back, and came away with blood. The wound combined with the spiritual shock she'd suffered made her feel weak and nauseous.

Slowly, Saphiara picked her way through the trees, stumbling on occasion as she searched for a road. She was lost, unable to focus, unable to recall her training and skills to make her way back to the spot where she'd stashed her belongings. She could feel the fever building, her body fighting to overcome her wounds - both physical and psychological.

You know what you have to do.


Make them all pay. They've killed everyone and everything you've ever loved.

"I just want everything back."

You have the key now. All you need to do is fix this world, then you can leave it behind.

"Please. She is my only family remaining. I cannot."

She betrayed you. They all betrayed you. Show her what cost betrayal carries.

"If I do this, you will leave me alone?"

Yes. We only want to help.

"The deal is struck. She falls, you get your justice, I build the device, and I never have to deal with you again."


The huntress continued making her way to safety, mumbling strange phrases to herself while painfully taking step after exhausted step.

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Durk'atar gazed out over the devastated landscape before Aerie Peak, trying to place the occurances of that day into context. The Grim had blatantly attacked Sanctuary, exactly as they had the Alliance. It was only by sheer luck, and the intervention of a wayward soul, that had allowed them to survive. If Saphiara had not acted on their behalf, the Grim would have killed them all.

My friend is not lost - at least, not in total. There is still a chance to save her from herself.

Though he would have to depart in a short time - he was, after all, still a member of the Horde in Alliance territory - Durk'atar had remained behind to help the Wildhammer shamans to restore some of the damage from the battle. The area where Julilee had pulled them both to the ground, and he had subsequently covered them both with a dome of earth to shield them from the blast, was a shattered wreck of ground. The shamans were working together to coax the earth back into a flat plane once again.

He stood, brushing his hands together to clear off some of the dirt, and looked around. With dusk falling, now was a good time to slip away. He waved his farewell to the Wildhammer, and entered the woods to return to his mount.

A few dozen yards into the trees, he came across a horrible sight. A wolf, the same wolf that had leapt to Julilee's defense when the Grim leader attempted to kill her, lay dead at the base of a shattered tree. He knelt at the wolf's side; she had apparently shattered her spine when she was tossed against the tree. He didn't know what effect the death of a companion could have on a hunter, but it was yet another loss for a woman who had suffered too many already.

Though he was not of the Frostwolf Clan, he had learned in their shamanistic tradition from those whom Thrall himself had originally trained. This gave him a spiritual connection with wolves, and along with this a ritual he had before now had little use to undertake. He laid his hand upon the wolf's flank and closed his eyes as he embraced the element of Life, seeking that thread connecting spirit to body.

Blessed wolf, I honor your sacrifice on this day. Through your strength, many lives were saved - not only those of Sanctuary, but many innocents amongst the dwarves as well. Your warrior spirit shall be sung of in our halls from this day forward.

He felt the spirit stirring; as he suspected, the wolf believed her duty undone, her mistress still endangered. It was weak, however, lacking a tie to the mortal realm other than its broken body and pure determination.

I sense you, Falore. I feel your desire to continue to serve. Will you allow me to aid you?

He felt a sensation of acceptance, and released his hand from the wolf. Looking around the tree for a suitable branch, he selected a thicker sample and pulled a carving knife from his belt. Sitting crosslegged in front of the wolf's body, he began to carve. As the totem began to take shape, he started to sing a song that was older than the recorded history of his people.

When the totem started to resemble the wolf for whom it was meant, he pulled a few more supplies from his pouch. From Falore's body, he took a few pieces to enhance the totem's power - some fur, blood, teeth, and a claw. All of these he incorporated into the totem, and then returned to carving greater detail into the shape. When he was satisfied, he placed the totem upon the ground and his hand back on the body.

Falore, I offer you this home for your spirit. Through this totem, you may continue to serve both Sanctuary and your mistress. I do not seek to force this binding, but offer it to you freely to do with as you desire.

He felt the elation of the wolf, the drive to return and continue her work. The spirit strengthened, gathering itself once again and flowing through him to enter the totem. Once the process was as complete as it could be, he intoned the final words of the ritual and sealed the spirit within.

He stood, grabbing the Spirit Wolf totem and his hearthstone as he jogged for his mount. "Commander, I have news. I know how to find Saphiara."

To be continued...

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[[ It is a real shame. Khorvis and Durk'atar could have been dear comrades in an earlier time. How times change. Oh well, the repercussions of this battle have unleashed within The Grim a darkness from a more terrible portion of their history. The Archivist returns! ]]

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