- -by Kormok
Blood and sweat clouded my good eye, and I brought the corner of my shredded tabard up to wipe away the ichor that threatened to steal what sight I had left. There was no more use for an archer with only one eye, I reminded myself bitterly. Best not to lose what little value I have left.
The battlefield was littered with corpses, piled atop one another by the convulsions of their death throes. Bodies of orc, human, elf, troll, demon, and worse lay strewn for as far as the eye could see. Some had been there for days, and I had lost count of the exact number of said days that had passed since the battle started.
I looked to my companions, as few as remained. The dark skies, tinged red by fires both near and distant, seemed to reflect the despair that gripped us all. Tolzek stood battered and weary atop the small hill nearby, gazing out over the field as he watched over the camp. His arm was still wrapped in a makeshift sling, the bones set but far from recovery. With his other arm, he leaned on the shaft of his spear, the enchanted glow muted by the haze and smoke of the aftermath.
Drahliana was kneeling over a small shape, her long silver hair dangling in front of her face as she wept. Glistening, luminescent tears rolled down the elfs cheeks and fell onto the bloody robe of the little white-haired gnome Elaran, her eyes now closed and her features absent of any pain she had been forced to endure. Drahliana's shoulders shook in silent grief, the sobs wracking her body with the agony of loss.
"Who else is left?" I asked.
A forsaken kicked his helmet across the camp, the thorium armor rolling through the dust to come at rest some yards off. "Not enough of us, I'll tell you that." Vassali was haggard, his body torn and covered in grievous wounds that didnt seem to slow him down at all. His armor was in tatters, and his shield had been split asunder. Now he fingered the hilt of his brutal Doomsaw and seethed, and I could see the anger boiling inside of him.
"Shala ul daran, bestine kel belore?" said another night elf, his long hair swept back from his face as he addressed the kneeling ranger. She shook her head once and glanced up to him, responding in more elf-speak that I could not understand. He then turned to me. Medrith, whose knives had cut me and whose rivalry I had even appreciated to an extent, now stood with his back straight and his face clear of any hostility. The elf nodded once, then sat down calmly on the ground, closing his eyes in concentration.
The hearthstones were broken. Whatever foul sorcery was used to sever our connection to them also removed any hope of calling for aid, if there was indeed any left to render from anywhere. The cities had been burned, the few remaining strongholds flushed out by the Legion's forces, and the spirit of both Horde and Alliance broken beyond repair.
Tolzek sighed heavily from his perch. "There is nothing for many miles, though the smoke makes it difficult to know for certain." He shook his great head, his remaining horn splintered and cracking. "Just bodies. So many bodies."
In the past days, I saw the end of those who I had called friend, clanmate, and rival. There was no one and nothing left that we would recognize, and it left me numb. I couldnt shed tears for the fallen, for the shock was still too great.
Then Tolzek growled, a low rumble in his throat that spoke of danger. He stood up quickly and sprang from the hill to land in the dust in the camp. "Demons. They're heading this way, more than we can handle in the shape were in."
The elves seemed to understand quite clearly, and immediately gathered up their belongings. I took one last look at the fallen gnome and bowed my head, whispering a prayer to the spirits, but I stopped in mid-utterance. There were no more spirits. They had forsaken this world. "We have to make for a safe haven. Does Stonard still stand?"
"It's ten miles to the border, Kormok," the tauren advised.
"We'll try to outrun them," I replied confidently. The two elves seemed poised to follow our lead, or at least had the same thought in their mind.
The run was long, even with our hunters speed, and we were chased for the full hour that it took to cover the distance. A great mound of rubble marked a barricade designed to keep the demons out of the swamp as much as possible, and it appeared to have the scars of many battles. Still, it held upright, even if the gate itself had been battered open many days prior. The Legion's conquest had been swift and brutal.
Exhaustion finally took its toll. We had no more strength to flee, and the demons were gaining rapidly. A twisted horde of horrors gamboled through the haze behind us, a myriad of claws, fangs, and wings that no mere words could describe. The barricade gate arch was mere yards from where we stood.
"We'll never get to Stonard, these things wont give up!" Tolzek panted.
A blast of fire erupted nearby, rocking the ground under our feet and shaking rocks loose from the barricade. I glanced back over my shoulder, through the eyes of my feral mask, and saw the demons preparing another barrage of fel magic. "Through the barricade, and don't look back!" I roared. Another detonation struck the barricade itself, and it began to tumble down. Great stones crashed to the ground as we attempted to pass through, and it was clear to me that I wouldnt make it through in time. Neither would Vassali, with all of his armor.
So I increased my pace and crashed into his back, shoving him past the crumbling barricade as the rubble collapsed. Through the falling debris, I saw him stagger to his feet and start back towards me, but he disappeared on the other side of the smoke and rock. The barricade had been reinstated, it seemed, and there was no way I would be able to climb that mess.
The demons came quicker now, one of their prey isolated. I nodded once in understanding, and brought my hand to the hilt of the blade on my back. "This time, I will protect you, old friend." I would buy them as much time as I could.
(( Whoops, forgot to post the second one. :D ))
I glanced up over the stack of papers towards the doorway, spectacles balanced on the edge of my nose precariously. "Yes, Alexei?" He was a young human boy, willow-thin and mousy, whose only ambitions seemed to be working in the library.
"The other dignitaries have arrived. The council will convene in an hour."
Nodding, I returned my attention to the documents. "Thank you, Ill be along shortly."
"Yes, Ambassador," he replied, giving a short bow and disappearing behind the door.
Papers, papers, papers; there were always so damned many things the Alliance wanted me to sign, review, amend, and peruse that it made my head spin and my hair even grayer than it had become. I grumbled and scrawled the orcish rune that signified my name at the bottom of this last page, then returned the quill to the inkbottle and got to my feet slowly. Aching bones creaked in protest as I stood to my full height, smoothing out the front of my crimson robe and adjusting my belt slightly.
I was getting fat. That bucket-headed warrior would have no end of comments to make about it when I saw him next, whenever that would be. It had been so long since I had been to Kalimdor, seen the great stretches of wilderness in the Barrens, the wondrous mountains of Winterspring, or the deep forests of Ashenvale. Duty being what it was, though, I had little choice in the matter.
My boots shuffled across the cool stone floor of the Keep as I made my way into the hall, nodding to the servants as I passed them on my way to the council chamber. The builders of this place would be turning over in their graves to see an orc striding calmly through their castle, even calling the place home. How ironic.
Of course, it was foolish to wander unarmed. There were many that did not desire peace, many that sought to rekindle war between Horde and Alliance that had only ended after tens of thousands had died needlessly. The old orc thought back to his glory days as he walked, fingering the hilt of the broad knife on his belt. Its handle had been notched a dozens of times, one for each assassin dispatched or treaty signed. Both events were among the greatest victories he had achieved.
Ahead, the council chamber was already awash in clamor and disarray, evident by the grumbles and shouts that emerged from behind the four heavily armored guards at the open doorway. I nodded to them as they parted, allowing me to enter within and closing the doors behind me. The noise began to subside, and I strode into the center of the great room containing many dignitaries from both Horde and Alliance.
My speech was brief, followed by an extensive debate that lasted into the evening hours. By the time the meeting had ended, I rubbed my eyes in fatigue and got to my feet to leave. From several rows over, old Hukari smiled to me, tipping his gaudy purple hat and releasing a puff of peacebloom smoke from his pipe. I chuckled, as he had barely changed in all of the years that had passed, despite the appearance of wrinkles and the fact that we both couldnt keep up with the recruits these days. His attention was diverted by one of the Silverwing ambassadors, and he was dragged into yet another conversation. I would speak with him later, then. The talks were going to happen for another few weeks at least, and he would be here.
The halls were quiet, and a cool wind blew through the narrow, arched windows along the wall. Spring was so mild here, with the trees and flowers blooming as if to symbolize the new life that would be breathed into these peace talks. My attention was so occupied by thoughts of the talks that I almost didnt hear steps from behind me, steps that belonged to someone attempting to be silent. The knife was in my hand in an instant, but I did not turn.
"You will find I am no mere scholar that cannot defend himself," I warned.
"Of course, son of Grolmok," a voice hissed. "Thats why we brought more this time."
I finally turned about slowly, a grin splitting my face. "Six of you? Im flattered."
"The halls are empty now, orc. No one will hear you scream in this wing of the castle."
A chuckle escaped my throat. "The talks will continue, no matter how many ambassadors you kill. Clinging to old hatreds only makes you weak."
"Enough of this!" another demanded. "Kill the greenskin!"
With that, I brought the knife up and slashed at my own robe, tearing away the expensive fabric to reveal the gleaming mail underneath.. I hurled the shredded cloth to the stones and drew a second knife from the top of my boot. "Come then. Let my last battle have been fought for peace."