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Eclipse: Progeny

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For the second time in two months, they stepped into the cool, green glade together, weapons drawn.

Her gold bow glinted; his mace rested on his shoulderplate with a promising heft. They moved together with an ease borne of years of fighting side by side, instinctively knowing where the other looked, moved. Xara glanced over, her gold eyes meeting Fhen's red, and he nodded. They started up the path.

The message had said that the worgs had stirred. It came on the heels of Naheal's story. Now, the silence of the glade was troubling enough on its own. None of the usual fearless deer or rabbits were to be seen; no birds flitted through the dense foliage. The shadows between the trees seemed denser, more menacing for their absence; or maybe due to something else.

"We shoulda come sooner," Xara muttered. Fhen grunted.

She'd been told a month ago that Fell and Alpha were breeding in Moonglade, discovered by the blind mage, Taozhu. But it just hadn't been at the top of her priority list. The druids of the glade would be able to handle them if they stated causing trouble for the town, and a few fel puppies wouldn't be an issue for awhile. Xara knew they couldn't afford to be distracted from the real opponent: Accalia herself. They had to find out how to defeat her, and more than that, destroy her. Otherwise, this was just going to happen again, and again, and again. Twice was two too many times already.

But Fhen's daughter was in Moonglade. He had to ensure she was safe.

Despite the menacing air, they made it to the town safely. The druids greeted them, and asked Fhenrir if he wanted to see Raina before they addressed the worg threat.

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Fhenrir offered a bow to the druids when they greeted the two, a gesture that had become less common for him over the years.

"Would you care to visit Raina? She's been asking for you."

Fhenrir shook his head. "We need to get to work." The consistent expression of obscure disapproval on his face concealed the unhappiness with which he made the choice for him.

"Is there word on the dogs' whereabouts?"

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Xara glanced over at Fhenrir as he spoke to the druids. She had briefly known Fhenrir's wife, Kaliera, before she disappeared, but had barely ever seen his daughter... either version of her. Exactly why Fhenrir chose to have the relationship he did with his daughter, she didn't know, but she did know it was his choice. It wasn't like she would have made a good stepmother anyway.

"They had been contained to the southern barrows dens," the druid was saying to Fhenrir, "but have recently emerged and begun stalking the perimeter. I understand there was an altercation recently as well."

"Yeah," Xara spoke up, "Naheal encountered 'em. They were with the new avatar."

The druid looked at her. He had probably told them his name, but Xara, in typical fashion, hadn't committed it to memory. He had bushy white eyebrows, purple skin, a long white beard, and was probably twenty times her age. "The hunter whom you were helping keep a watch on the glade," he said. "He continues the fight against the Beast and her Herald."

"More or less," Xara said, thinking back to her last conversation with Naheal. But she just shook her head. "Not surprised they came out when he showed up. Alpha kinda has a thing fer him."

Fhenrir looked at her; she grinned and shrugged at him, then addressed the druid again.

"Where's the last place they were spotted?"

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They moved out with three druids for backup. Xara and Fhen had barely been able to hold off Fell and the fel worg's commandeered pack last time between the two of them; facing both of Accalia's creatures, they'd need all the help they could get. But they had the advantage this time, not only bringing the fight on their own terms, but setting out in the middle of the day – in other words, Accalia's least opportune time.

Plus, they had a few tricks up their sleeves.

"They were both just normal worgs once," Xara was explaining to the druids. They were a troll, a tauren, and a night elf. The troll, a female, was the youngest of the three and had bright blue eyes and a warm smile; the tauren was somber, white-furred, and reminded Xara of Awatu; and the night elf was dressed in sticks and leaves, androgynous, and apparently didn't talk much. "They were pets, belonging to a couple of Rangers. But after the last avatar got ahold of the book, they changed." She glanced at Fhenrir, who was listening, though his brow was furrowed as he kept a lookout around them. "Now they seem ta have changed further... I think Accalia has absorbed a lot of fel this time around. So keep an eye out fer that. And don't ferget it takes two healers ta heal the wounds, unless ya wanna kill yerself tryin'."

They rounded a bend in the path and the trees opened up to reveal the high elf ruins. Here, the menace in the air was clearer, but shaded with the ancient beauty of the ruined architecture. Beyond, the barrows reached into the depths of the hills, with a yawning stone mouth.

"Wait," Xara said. She moved forward, examining the ground. There were fresh tracks. She looked up at the pavilion as a shadow fell over her.

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One of them must've sensed the group coming. The shadow coming down at Xara was one of the progeny, and Fhenrir didn't take time to think. He dove through the air and tackled the beast to the ground, rolling into a heap and throwing punches at the things jaw. He hadn't had time to draw his weapon, so he thundered fists into the thing as he snapped at his arms and his torso. He could feel the majority of the bites getting soaked up by plate, but he knew teeth were hitting their marks too. More wounds for a team to patch up.

The elven druid wasted no time in morphing into a tree and throwing restorative spells into Fhenrir. Unfortunately for the newly-wooden elf, the worg had brought backup of its own, and two smaller worgs dove into them and started snapping.

"Move! NOW!" Fhen hollered to his team. The team needed to reach the mouth of the cave if they were going to secure Moonglade.


Just above the mouth of the cave were two gob squad rookies and an orc shaman lying in wait. The energy about them had been tense the whole time, but as one of the rookies spotted the worgs attacking in the distance through a pair of binoculars, the small team got all sorts of jumpy.

"C'mon, we gotta boogie! G.T.L. Mak, the odds aren't in our favor and I ain't got a spare set of pants!"

The orc backhanded the cowardly goblin and snarled. "We hold position. The Lieutenant General needs the explosives detonated at exactly the right time, and that time ain't now."

The other goblin piped up in agreement with the first. "Detonating now wouldn't be a total gnomish result, would it? We seal things up and give the druids time to clean up the spill of worgs."

The orc shook his head again and snatched the binoculars to watch the events unfolding. "If the alpha isn't inside it's a waste of powder. Keep your heads and focus." As the orc spoke, he saw Fhenrir tumbling with the worg and desperately throwing punches. He could see at least one of the druids getting torn up. "You two need to stand tall. I'm going to offer support."

Unfortunately for the orc, as he spun to confirm with the goblins, he noticed one of them drooping dead from the mouth of the other progeny. The other goblin began to shriek and run around in frantic loops.

The orc drew a club off his belt and wiped his brow. His heart thumped into his ribs, but his exterior was calm and focused as the worg dropped the goblin's body and snarled viciously.

"Now how'd you sneak up on us," the orc spoke softly moments before colliding with the progeny in battle.

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Xara ducked as Fhenrir sailed by, her bow flowing into her hands like water. An arrow was nocked and fired at the first other worg before it reached the treant druid. It slowed it down long enough for the tauren to shift bear and interpose himself. The healer was able to start sending restorative energies Fhenrir's way while the druid trolless began casting sun-powered spells to attack.

These worgs were still young, adolescents, but there was a full litter of them; a half dozen. Xara swore softly, thinking again that they'd waited too long to come, but there was no use kicking herself now. The arrows were singing from her hands as she leapt up onto the pavilion for higher ground. Below, Lupa had emerged from the shadows where she'd been hiding to set upon another worg, keeping its attention with provocative, darting strikes. With one on Fhen, two on the druids, and one occupied by Lupa, that left two more who had emerged from the den when they scented prey.

She looked up above the cave entrance, grinning when she saw Mak and the goblins. Their plan had been successful; by entering Moonglade on foot, Xara and Fhenrir had kept Alpha and Fell distracted long enough for the crew to get in position. Now, they just had to hold it.

One of the fel pups gained the ledge and started helping itself to goblin; Xara fired a distracting shot its way, but then had to face the last one, which had decided the arguably scantily-armored huntress looked like good eatins. A concussive shot slowed it down as she jumped down on the other side of the pavilion, dangerously out of line of sight of the healer, but no one else was going to be as good bait as she was. The worg followed.

"C'mon, Fell, Alpha!" Xara shouted. "Ya were pets once... obey the command ta kill!"

They obliged.

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Fhenrir rose from beating the shadowy worg to a pulp and drew the mace from his back. He turned to Xara while she shouted and looked in time to see one of the big ones barreling after her. Fhen would later learn this one was Fell, but at that moment he hardly cared beyond the knowledge it was an enemy.

It was a dangerous enemy, and it was racing toward Xara.

The plan left his thoughts entirely. He was used to thinking under pressure, but the very-real danger he'd seen Xara in since this had started had him more on edge than normal. He ignored the druids and charged toward the wolf, aiming to cut it off. As Fell drew closer to Xara, Fhen closed the distance, and with a surge of energy threw himself the last bit of space into the wolf and brought his mace crashing down into the worg's head.

"Leave. Her. ALONE!" Fell was less easily thrown off balance than its litter and countered Fhen with a vicious headbutt that sent him flying. He hit the ground with a heavy thud and left a crater in the dirt as he stood up. His eyes were filled with a vicious anger as he stared down the beast.


The shaman and the surviving goblin had just dispatched the worg that attacked them. The goblin was shaking her head violently and fumbling through her bag for a hearthstone. Useless.

The shaman picked the binoculars back up and surveyed the field once more. "What the hell is the Boss doing?" he mumbled aloud as the goblin hearthed away from the field. She must've been truly terrified to give up her paycheck.

There was another problem the shaman realized as he looked over the surroundings.

Alpha had shown up too.

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Xara's blood sang with the chase, but she kept her sights on the mark. Another distracting shot grabbed Fell's attention away from Fhenrir, and the fel worg lunged toward her. Evading, she ducked aside as Fhen followed swinging, and spotted Alpha coming up from behind. Good. They needed both of them.

"Kitty!" she called, and Lupa darted away from the worg she was occupying to run and leap onto Alpha's back. The female fel worg roared in fury and contorted to snap at the ghost saber; another shot took her in the haunch as she threw off Lupa. The worg staggered and turned baleful amber eyes on Xaraphyne. Xara backed towards the den entrance.

The druids were getting overwhelmed with three worgs on them now. Fhen was still going after Fell. "Fhen, get him inside!" Xara called out. It would be easier to get both of the big worgs inside with his help... but harder to get both of them out. Still, you know what they said about plans after the first encounter.

"Help them, Kitty," was all Xara had the time left to say; then she turned and ran into the tunnel, Alpha and the fourth worg on her heels.

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Fhen snapped to his senses as Xara called out to him. He shouted a quick "right!" to her and smashed his mace across Fell's face to get the worg's attention. Fhen leapt again, this time evading toward the cave, and hit the ground spinning. He closed the distance to Xara by intervening between her and the lesser worg, taking a blow that bounced off his whirling defense and sent the small beast tumbling away.

He moved normally, then, and offered Xara a nod as he fell into step behind her. "Fell is in line. Let's move!"


The shaman chuckled to himself since nobody else was around to hear him. "Knew they'd pull it together."

He hunkered down into hiding and waited, using his natural far sight to watch the cave entrance. He watched Fhenrir and Xaraphyne run into the mouth of the cave, then resisted the urge to push the plunger early. "C'mon... move it..." he thought.

Finally, both of the big worgs chased the two inside. He didn't like closing them in without any of the druids, since things had gone awry, but he knew they wanted both of the big ones in at any cost. He pushed the plunger and a series of loud explosions collapsed the cave behind Alpha and Fell, leaving Fhenrir and Xaraphyne inside with them and no support.

"Suppose I'll earn some overtime," he quipped to himself as he switched into ghost wolf form and hurried down to assist the druids with the lesser worgs still outside. He reminded himself to shift back out before the druids attacked him by mistake.

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Several quick shots as Fhen fended off the pup kept Alpha and Fell at bay long enough that they had a small lead dashing into the tunnel. The large entrance chamber just ahead branched into one smaller room across a narrow stone bridge, and a dual ramp downward to the bottom section had had a single other exit. That was now blocked off, already collapsed by the druids from the other side some time ago after Taozhu's original warning, so that the worgs would not have free access to roam under the hillsides and emerge from the other barrows.

"Across," Xara said, "but jump!"

She dashed across the stone bridge into the smaller chamber. The bridge trembled precariously under her feet. It was old; it would not support much more weight than hers. She turned to see Fhenrir gathering himself for a leap to clear it, but that was when two things happened.

The first was the explosion that rocked the barrow, signaling the entrance had been sealed. It made Fhenrir pause to regain his balance. The second was Fell's pounce taking the tauren warrior. They rolled forward, slammed into the bridge, and it buckled.

"Fhen!" Xara shouted.

Fhenrir seized Fell and managed to use the worg to break his fall. Masonry tumbled around them and came to a rest, but they did not, grappling with one another. The worg had its fangs sunk into the warrior's armored shoulder and wasn't letting go.

Xara was now alone in the upper chamber, higher than the worgs could leap, but Fhen was below with Fell. Alpha looked at her from across the way, then loped down the ramp toward her mate and Xara's where they wrestled in the debris.

"Oh no you don't, bitch," Xara said, grabbing a handful of arrows.

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Fhenrir had sheathed his mace to make his jump easier, and it tumbled off his back when they slammed into the bridge. When they hit the ground he spotted his mace fall under debris out of the corner of his eye and snarled.

"That's the second one of those I've lost to you bastards," he growled just before Fell sunk teeth into the tauren's shoulder. Fhen's growl turned to a shout as the teeth drew blood.

Fhenrir thrashed with the beast and hammered fiercely at its head, over and over and over. Fell snarled and beat on him fiercely with four paws and held him in place with its teeth. Fhenrir was losing and he knew it; he had the sense to realize he wouldn't be able to beat this one to a pulp as he had some of the lesser worgs.

He needed to act quick, and had an idea. Fhenrir grabbed the worg with both arms and rolled onto his back, putting Fell on top of him. He crunched himself up to kick off with both legs, as he and many other warriors typically did from standing. He could hear Alpha and Xara moving and knew their rough position.

In that moment he leaned on their experience together, trusting Xara would be ready. He prepared himself for the pain of Fell's teeth being ripped out of him.

"Now!" Fhenrir howled as he kicked Fell high into the air. As Fell soared high he threw the stormbolt he kept on his belt and hit his mark, crushing it across Fell's face and making the beast whirl.

It also made Fell a prime target for a volley of arrows.

Fhenrir didn't have time to watch the result and scrambled to his hooves, charging back toward Xara's position. It was time to get the hell out of here.

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Alpha was going for Fhen. But there wasn't going to be another opportunity to take out Fell. Xara made her choice. A charged shot ripped through Fell's open maw, piercing into the beast's skull. The body was limp when it slammed into the ground.

Alpha leapt over it with a thunderous howl. Fhenrir made it to the wall and Xara dropped down to her belly, extending her arm as far down as she could reach when he jumped. Their hands clasped and she gripped tightly as he put his hooves to stone and started hauling himself up by main force. She slid, pulled by his weight but trying to hold on. Fhen was a dangling target and Alpha was moments away.

"Oh, hell," Xara said, and rolled off the edge.

The two of them hit the ground as Alpha rebounded off the wall where Fhen had been a moment before. The great fel worg turned as Xara brought her bow up, but there wasn't enough time to get off another shot. Alpha barreled into Fhenrir, slamming him against the wall with the crack of plate hitting stone and a deep tauren grunt. He started to swing; Xara whacked Alpha with her bow and shouted, "Let go of him!" Unsurprisingly, it was ineffective.

Alpha was bringing up her great clawed paws to maul him, snapping at his swinging arms. He'd already suffered one injury; it would be an exponential decrease in their odds as he took more wounds. Xara started backing away, focusing energy into a new shot and trying to think of what to do. They needed a clear space and several unhindered moments to activate their hearthstones. They weren't going to get either.

There was only one thing left to try.

Xara said, "Your name's not Alpha."

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The great fel worg's ear twitched as she and Fhen fought, her jaws closed on the warrior's arm. She still knew her name. Jazziks had named her pet after the Beast-God, but after the worg turned, she'd become known as simply the alpha of the pack – or Alpha. But once, she'd been a hunter's pet, and nothing more. Xara imbued her tone with authority.

"Down, Accalia. Down."

Alpha – Accalia – growled at her, turning her head to make one of Fhen's punches glancing. The worg had no interest in obeying, but she heard the commands.

Xara tossed her bow onto her back and lunged forward to seize the worg by her ears. Accalia let go of Fhen's arm and tried to snap at her; Xara narrowly evaded the slavering jaws, forcing the great head down with all her strength. It had worked on Kain, Cobrak's corehound, just a few weeks ago, but of course Kain wasn't five times her size. Fhen shoved at the worg, trying to get her away from Xara, but the trolless hung on. "Get back!" Xara told him.


There was no time to explain. Accalia tossed her head, picking Xara up off the ground. Fhen grabbed onto her and kept her from going flying. Xara grunted and slammed all of her weight with Fhen's behind it on top of the great worg's head, forcing it down again. "DOWN!" she shouted.

Fhenrir lowered his horns and slammed into the worg with his shoulder. Xara took advantage of the momentum to add her own, shoving Accalia onto her side. The fel beast's claws raked but Xara ignored the lines of pain that opened up on her legs. She knew, again, that every injury lessened their odds of success. But in these close quarters, and Fhenrir disarmed, they couldn't hope to overpower the worg with physical tactics alone. Xara jumped onto the worg's neck, shoved her knee down, and grabbed the slavering jaws. Doing so, she forced Accalia's head back to expose the worg's throat.

"Submit," Xara commanded.

Accalia froze, her primal instincts activated by being forced into a submissive position. But then she heaved, throwing Xara back and flowing to her feet. Fhen caught the trolless again. "You're trying to tame her?" he said incredulously.

"Just pin her for a few seconds," Xara said, then she dodged left and Fhenrir right as Accalia lunged.

"Easier said than done!" Fhenrir's left arm and right shoulder were both bleeding heavily; Xara felt her legs slower to respond with the slashes marking them. All these wounds went deeper than the body as well, sapping their energy from the spiritual damage the shadow-touched worg inflicted. Their chances were running out. Accalia turned her head to eye one of them, then the other, debating for a few moments. "I'll help you back up to the ledge," Fhenrir said grimly.

"Not a chance," Xara said.

Accalia turned and snapped at Xaraphyne. The trolless wasn't quite fast enough to dodge, and the worg's maw crushed down on her arm. Xara threw her other arm around the beast's neck and dropped down, then shoved upward to make Accalia stagger nearly off-balance. Fhenrir had charged and slammed into Accalia's side, his spiked plate adding more injuries that the crimson hide concealed well. If they could just wear her down enough…

They struggled for a few moments; Xara shoved forward with her arm trapped in the beast's jaws. Accalia's lips were lifted in a snarl as she held on, shaking off Fhenrir. The eyes of worg and trolless met. It was a challenge.

"I've faced bigger dogs than you," Xara growled, "and your den mother's next!"

She grabbed her bow off her back and whacked Accalia directly on the snout with it. Accalia made a sound like a yelp, involuntarily releasing Xara's arm. Fhenrir seized the worg by the tail and dragged her back, close to Fell's corpse. Xara advanced. Accalia hesitated again. Xara stopped.

"Submit," she ordered again.

A conflicted whine escaped the fel worg. If it had been nighttime, and they'd been out under the open night sky, there would have been no chance the true Accalia's predatory influence would not have dominated. But this Accalia had been a pet first, and at heart all pets needed a master. Xara extended a hand.

"Good girl," she said. "Lay down."

Accalia bared her teeth at the assumption of authority. But Fhenrir stood behind, ready to move again, though for the moment he waited to see how Xara's plan panned out; and most influentially, Fell's corpse cooled nearby. It surely unsettled Accalia to be near it. Xara stared the beast down. They just needed her scared enough to acquiesce for a few moments…

Accalia gathered her courage and herself for a lunge. Xara raised her bow. Accalia hesitated yet again. It was a standoff.

Then Xara had an idea.

She circled. Accalia turned, watching her warily, while also keeping track of Fhenrir. Fhenrir moved to complement the trolless, staying behind the worg as she turned to follow Xara.

Reaching Fell's corpse, Xara eyed Accalia for a moment, then drew her skinning knife. Using the hilt, she was able to knock out one of Fell's fangs from the mouth that hung propped open from the arrow that had killed him. With a grin that bared Xara's own tusks, she pointed the gory fang at Accalia.

"Lay. Down."

Finally intimidated enough, the worg did so.

Xara reached for her hearthstone; so did Fhenrir. The trolless held Accalia's eyes until the moment the hearth magic whisked them away.

They stood in Fhenrir's garrison, in the snow, and looked at each other. Xara grinned.

"I can't believe that actually worked," Fhenrir said.

"Me neither," Xara admitted.

They planned to return when they had the chance, but Alpha remained trapped for less than a week.

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