Topic Alayne's Story
Ger’alin danced nimbly, keeping the giant guardian focused on him while the others chipped away at his defenses with spells flung from a safe distance. The guardians were ancient and powerful, but they had not fought in long years. Their instincts were rusty and their attacks easily avoided. Though Rahj pulled his fiery vortices towards the others, the Disorder of Azeroth was able to get away from them before they could be caught up in the swirling chaos of superheated air and fire. “We learned a few things while in the Firelands,” Ger’alin grunted as he threw off another of Rahj’s blows with his shield. “How not to get caught up in fire was one of those things.”
After a short while, Rahj must have sensed that the invaders had far more energy and far more power than he’d originally suspected. The guardian was wearing down. His energy reserves were nearly depleted by the spells and attacks. Growling, he leapt to the center of the chamber where the sun’s light blazed down through filtered windows. “Can you feel it? The blessed warmth of the sun?” he taunted as he concentrated on drawing the heat and life from the sun’s rays into his shell. Waves of flame rushed out from his body, helping to protect him while he recharged. Normally, the heat from the waves was enough to keep any would-be invaders at bay while he regathered his strength for the next attack. But these mortals were different.
Ger’alin and the others, wearing armor that was enchanted to protect them from the fiery environs of the Firelands, waded into the area around Rahj. While the guardian was replenishing his energy, he could not attack. His defenses were greatly weakened as he focused his attention on drawing down energy from the sunlight. Ger’alin shouted and the others began to throw their strongest spells, breaking the guardian’s armor in several places and forcing him to expend preciously-gained energy to try to maintain his shell. Ger’alin himself hammered away at the guardian’s legs until they were lined with cracks and fractures. When Rahj tried to take a step, his legs shattered beneath him, dropping his torso to the ground. Bit by bit, the Disorder of Azeroth broke down the guardian appointed by the Titans. “Blazing rays of light, take me!” Rahj screamed as Ger’alin levied a blow at his defenseless head, shattering the facemask and the guardian behind it.
“Let’s get the shard and get the elevator working,” the paladin sighed as he wiped sweat from his forehead. Though the armor protected them quite well from the heat, it did not prevent them from feeling some of the effects. “And someone fetch me a water skin. I’m dry as a bone.”
“Do you ever feel guilty?” Alayne asked as she studied the ruined rubble that had been the final guardian of the Halls of Origination. “This being had stood watch over these halls for more centuries than our people have existed. And we destroyed him.”
“The only thing I feel,” Ger’alin replied as he sat down in the shade, “is tired. Now, let’s get done with this place and get out of this desert. Light only knows what has been going on in the real world while we’ve been out here playing desert detectives,” he sighed. “And no, I don’t feel guilty. I feel angry that the Titans so thoughtfully left so many ways to destroy the world which can be easily accessed. You’d almost think they didn’t want us to survive.”
“Who can know the minds of the gods?” Alayne muttered, shrugging.
“The Titans aren’t gods. Gods wouldn’t build a world with a reset button. Come on,” he said loudly, rising to his feet and heading back down the stairs. “Let’s finish this expedition.”
Brann was waiting for them on the elevator. He quickly re-assembled the four shards from the guardians and then inserted the new disc into the elevator control panel. A few moments later, the platform rose to take them to the third level of the Halls of Origination. Brann claimed that there should be no more guardians left in place but Ger’alin kept his sword and shield ready just in case the dwarf was wrong about that. When the elevator platform came to a halt, the paladin glanced around, relieved to see that the dwarf had been correct. Only a control panel and a balcony were on this level of the Halls.
“Arrite, then,” Brann said, cracking his knuckles and moving to stand in front of the control panel. “Let's deposit these discs and be done with this!” The dwarf began tinkering with the panel. It lit up brightly as he pushed buttons, turned dials, and pulled levers. “I must admit, I couldn't done this one without your help.”
[Story continued in next post]
“Keep that in mind the next time you come across something like this,” Alayne said quickly. Ger’alin glared at her. The last thing he wanted was Brann Bronzebeard calling on them to go on another strange adventure with him and his exploring archeologists. Alayne shrugged as if to say ‘live with it.’ The paladin promised himself a nice round of cold ale when they were safely back in Silvermoon. He briefly considered locking his wife in the cellar for a while but decided that complaining to Mir’el and Jez’ral would be more effective at achieving what he wanted in the long run.
“Accessing data… stand by,” the computer said as it ground away on whatever task Brann had set it to.
“Yeah, yeah. Just read the discs and gimme access already…” Brann muttered impatiently.
“Accessing reorigination device override.”
“There we go. That should do it,” he said confidently.
“Repository access denied. Reorigination subroutine initiated.”
“What!? Wait! That's no good! That's no good at all…” Brann swore. Ger’alin sighed, grabbed Alayne around the waist, and began kissing her thoroughly. If they were all going to die, he intended to die happy and this time Zerith wasn’t there to stop him. Kiharu growled and began backing away while the others made their prayers to the powers they followed. Brann poked and prodded the control panel in a panic, trying to reverse whatever it was he had done.
“Warning!” the computer chirped. “Reorigination device activated. Detonation in one minute.”
“One minute!? Come on, Brann! Think!” the dwarf growled. “I'm goin' in manually! There's gotta be a way!” Ger’alin heard a loud thunk as the dwarf kicked the panel, breaking open one of the lower sections and exposing the wiring that connected it to the Reorigination device. “Arrite! Fuses exposed! Now which one ta break? Red? Or blue…? Och! I can't decide!”
“Detonation in thirty seconds,” the computer said calmly.
“Woman, I love you and I’ve loved every moment we’ve spent together,” Ger’alin muttered as he held his wife.
“It’s been fun,” she nodded as she wrapped her arms around him.
“How about, in consideration of all ye've done, we go with…” Brann muttered as he stared at the wires. “Red! For the Horde! Arrite, here goes nuthin'!” The dwarf ripped the wires out and the entire complex shuddered. Whether it was a prelude to the end of the world or it was the machine shutting down, no one knew. Ger’alin ignored it all, counting silently down from thirty. When he reached zero and nothing happened, he pulled away from Alayne and grinned sheepishly.
“Reorigination device detonation aborted,” the computer said.
“Wahooo!” Brann cheered. “Azeroth lives to see another day!”
“Brann,” Ger’alin said as the dwarf capered before the panel. “The next time you find out something about a Titan device, do us all a favor, would you?”
“Post a guard to reinforce the guardians set over it and then stay the hell away from it!” the sin’dorei roared. “This is the second time we’ve nearly destroyed the very world we were trying to save! Let’s not do this a third time.”
“Aye,” the dwarf said. “Perhaps ye have a small point. But still lad… there’s so much out there to learn. So much…”
Here’s this week’s update:
Ger’alin and the rest of the Disorder of Azeroth returned to Ramkahen. The paladin fully intended to spend the next few days resting from the tumult of nearly accidentally destroying the world before he hauled his wife back to Silvermoon and then tried to get news on whether or not Deathwing was still plaguing the world. The few reports he had from Orgrimmar were sparse and disorganized. The Forsaken were under Garrosh’s ire once again. Callie had written a few terse letters saying that she hoped Alayne was not kidding about offering safe haven to the Forsaken who wanted nothing to do with the Dark Lady’s use of the plague. Ger’alin missed having the rogue around but was glad she was taking the time to try to learn the full extent of the Banshee Queen’s activities. Being able to provide such information would do much to help bring Lord Theron around to granting the Forsaken holdings within Quel’Thalas as well as helping them smooth out their own relations with Garrosh Hellscream. Not that Ger’alin or Alayne planned to have much to do with Hellscream either. Both elves were growing heartily tired of fighting. It was one thing to fight for the salvation of the world or to work to protect those you loved. It was quite another thing to get involved in a meat-grinder of a war sparked for no better reason than two men were far too much alike and far too willing to order others to die for their personal prejudices.
As Ger’alin wandered the streets of the tol’vir city one evening, he was approached by the pharaoh of the ancient race. “It is said that your comrades and you have taken on many foes of great strength and power and overcome them,” the pharaoh said carefully.
“The Disorder of Azeroth has a habit of punching far above its weight-limit,” Ger’alin agreed, wondering if they were about to be hired on or drawn into another fight. “But we fight only when the cause is just.”
“It is said you slew the Firelord in his own domain and that you have befriended the Stonemother. It is said that Neptulon allowed you to walk into his temple and depart unharmed.”
“Those things are true.”
“You fought and defeated Siamat within the Lost City,” the pharaoh continued. “You do not fear to fight the elemental lords when needed.”
“Those things are also true,” Ger’alin answered, wondering what the tol’vir leader was getting at.
“Since you left to dismantle the Titan device within the Halls of Origination, a new rift has formed in the sky over the coast,” the pharaoh sighed. “A rift that leads into the Skywall, the realm of Al’Akir, the Windlord. Once Al’Akir was a creature of harsh nobility, willing to take on challengers who were honorable. He defeated them,” the pharaoh added, “but he treated them with respect. However, it seems that Deathwing has whispered on the winds and his words have reached the Windlord’s ears. Al’Akir is beginning to marshal forces against the world. He has heard that the Titans can be defeated and their creations overthrown. He seeks vengeance on all mortals within the world, calling us the favored children of the tyrant Titans. Deathwing whispers to him, feeding his hatred and now, the once-noble lord of the winds has, himself, become a threat to all life.”
“Where are these rifts?” Ger’alin asked, sighing as he felt the last few days of his vacation vanishing like morning mist. “What information can you give me about the realm of air?”
“The rifts are high off the coasts. We have animals who will take you to them,” the pharaoh replied, sounding relieved that someone would take care of this for him. “We will reward you most richly for doing this service for us and for the world. Truly, you will be known among our people as great heroes – powerful and of strong natures – for fighting the wind lord and helping to free us from the Neferset’s slavery.”
“That’s not why we’ll do this,” Ger’alin said calmly. “We’ll fight this fight because it’s the right thing to do and because we don’t want to let Deathwing gather in any more allies. Keep the fame and fortune, pharaoh. We fight for peace and justice, not for gold, gods, or glory. Send me whatever information you can. I will go round up the others and we will begin planning the assault.”
[Story continued in next post]
Nodding to the leader of the tol’vir, the sin’dorei marched off to gather up the rest and to apologize to his wife for dragging her into another battle after all the grief he had given her for dragging him into the battles with Brann.
The rift that allowed entry into the Skywall was very high off the coast. Alayne clung to Ger’alin, her arms wrapped so tightly around his waist that the paladin knew that the only reason he could keep breathing was due to the fact that, even terrified, Alayne did not have the strength to crush his plate armor. For that, he was thankful. His wife had already given him the rough side of her tongue for volunteering them for another battle. However, in the end, she saw the sense of denying Deathwing a powerful ally. Ger’alin hoped that, once Al’Akir was defeated and the rift to the Skywall sealed back up, Deathwing would either re-evaluate his decision to destroy the world he was supposed to protect or would be drawn into a battle with only a few of his own creations and lieutenants left to protect him.
Once they had safely traversed the rift, Ger’alin was glad that Alayne had not opened her eyes again. Though they stood on a solid platform, he could see that it hovered high in the air. Glancing down off the nearest side, he could not see the ground at all. The tol’vir had tried to explain that there was no ‘ground’ in Skywall as Ger’alin knew it but he could not conceive of an entire plane that was nothing but floating platforms and air. It made the normally stoic and calm paladin feel a tingle of panic to think that if he fell off the platform, he might fall forever and ever through endless sky.
“I hate you with every ounce of my being,” Alayne said in a thin, tight voice.
“I’m beginning to feel the same,” Ger’alin replied in a similar tone. “After all that complaining I did to you, I let us get dragged into this.”
“As long as you know it,” she growled. “Light help us. How are we supposed to find our way through here?”
Ger’alin nodded. His throat was too tight and his mouth too dry to formulate a response. As the others appeared through the rift, they went through the same reactions. Once most of them were through, Ger’alin began moving further up the platform. A set of stairs led up to a crystalline platform that made the paladin’s stomach lurch. He felt a sense of vertigo as his eyes told him that he was walking on pure air. The others moved up behind him slowly, creeping cautiously, their bodies rebelling against them as terror gripped them.
A sudden violent gust of wind was the only warning the group had as a pair of wind elementals descended upon them. The group moved to the center of the crystalline platform, not wanting to risk being thrown from the only solid structure they could see. The elementals were swirling dark tornados with glowing red eyes. Ger’alin’s sword sliced through them, doing no damage. Behind him, the Blood Knight could hear his wife cursing softly as she prepared a spell. Her bolts of magical energy connected, disrupting the magic that held the elementals together and allowing Ger’alin to strike at the well-concealed heart that kept the creatures together. After a few solid blows, the crystalline heart shattered and the elemental vanished in a gentle breeze. The second elemental soon followed and the Disorder of Azeroth gathered its wits to move further into the strange aerial structure that the tol’vir called the Vortex Pinnacle.
Gentle marble and crystal ramps curved past an elaborate canal carving that spun, revealing intricate scrollwork carvings in a corkscrew pattern. Had the sin’dorei not been so nervous at the thought of being high in the air, they might have stopped to admire the beautiful architecture of the plane of air. It was a complete contrast to the stolid, plain architecture in Deepholm or the lack of any orderly planning within the realm of Firelands.
Taking the ramp downward to a set of stairs, the Disorder of Azeroth fought through several more groups of wind elementals before they reached a raised platform where the first guardian of Vortex Pinnacle, the Grand Vizier Ertan, waited. No sooner had they reached the top of the platform than Ertan attacked, screaming, “Filthy beasts! Your presence in Skywall will not be tolerated!”
A swirling vortex of wind created a solid barrier around the edge of the platform, locking the fighters in with the temperamental wind elemental. Around the outer ring sprang up a slowly circling group of tornadoes. Lighting arced between them and leapt outward from them, electrifying the air on the outer portion of the platform. Alayne, Kiharu, Nishi, and Ger’alin moved into the central ring where Ertan stood in place. Alayne and Nishi hurled spells at the creature while Ger’alin, calling upon the Light, charged his sword and shield with holy energy so that his blows would land at all.
[Story continued in next post]
Ertan was stunned when his attackers were able to strike at him. All other trespassers into the holy temple dedicated to Al’Akir, Lord of Air, had been unable to touch him. He summoned more elementals on the outer edge of the platform and retracted his shield of tornadoes. Lightning covered the platform within seconds. Ger’alin’s hair stood on end and Alayne cried out in pain as the jolts struck her. Kiharu closed his eyes and focused his will, calling on the Light to create a small safe haven on the platform where the lightning could not strike them.
“To me!” he shouted. The others, seeing a faint golden shimmer in the air, moved to stand within the domed shield the priest had erected. Ertan held his tornado close for several more moments before releasing them to see if the impertinent mortals had been incinerated by the violent bolts that were the favored weapon on the plane of air. Once again, the guardian of Vortex Pinnacle’s first rise was stunned to see the mortals largely unharmed by one of his most powerful abilities. Spells continued to slam into the elemental, sapping his strength while the paladin swung wildly, striking and chipping at the Grand Vizier’s crystalline center. Before Ertan could retract his shield again, the frigid ice spells striking at his core and the paladin’s holy-infused sword shattered his heart. With a shriek, the elemental’s winds began to slow and die until nothing but his turban and the shattered remnants of his core remained.
“That wasn’t so bad,” Ger’alin said once the winds died down and his hair began to calm down.
“That wasn’t,” Kiharu agreed. Then the priest pointed beyond the platform to the winds that connected them to the next platform, “but that will be.”
Ger’alin groaned softly as he heard Alayne collapse to the floor. “Realm of air,” he muttered. “Why use a solid bridge when tornadoes will do?” Gathering her into his arms, he braced himself and leapt into the swirling winds, praying that he would survive this leap of faith.
After spending some time to get their bearings and grow a little more accustomed to the preternatural surroundings, the Disorder of Azeroth felt steadier as they made their way through the second platform. There were more solid stone platforms and fewer crystalline bridges and ramps with nothing but open sky beneath them. The elementals on the second platform had more solid bodies, making them easier to strike and defeat. By the time they reached the last part of the platform, the group was feeling fairly confident about its ability to make its way through the rest of the Vortex Pinnacle.
“That is one tiny little dragon,” Kiharu remarked as they glanced around the columns surrounding the platform.
“It’s big enough to be in our way,” Ger’alin replied, nodding slightly in agreement, “but it is nothing on Nefarian, Valiona, or Theralion.”
“I think that the tol’vir said it was named Altarius,” Nishi supplied helpfully. “And, if it’s anything like the rest of the creatures in this Light-forsaken place, we should expect a lot of wind-based attacks.”
“That would seem rather obvious,” the paladin said dryly. “Regardless, let us get beyond this dragon so we can get to the final platforms and then enter the Throne of the Four Winds. We have to put an end to Deathwing’s plans to use the Lord of Wind in his scheme to destroy Azeroth.”
Altarius waited until the group had moved up the stairs to his platform before he launched himself into the air and summoned tornadoes to keep them diverted. Small dust devils and twisters covered the platform with only small gaps between them where the others could maneuver. Whenever one of the cones came too close to the fighters, they were thrown into the air. Alayne and Nishi cast protective spells that slowed their falls, preventing anyone from suffering from broken bones. Altarius also called on the winds of Skywall, summoning a violent gust that blew steadily across the platform, chilling the attackers and slowing their movements. Ger’alin struggled to swing his sword. The wind nearly tore his shield off his arm as he swung it, trying to slam it into the dragon’s snout.
[Story continued in next post]
Alayne and Nishi focused their attacks on the dragon’s wings, quickly tearing holes in the tender membrane and preventing the dragon from gaining altitude. Altarius’s belly dragged and dipped, his wings unable to keep him aloft very far above his own torandoes or gust of wind. The wind shifted direction, nearly taking Ger’alin off his feet. The paladin continued to stab and thrust with his blade, scoring several solid hits through the dragon’s lower jaw. Blood and scales splattered on the ground near his feet, creating a slick puddle of gore. A tornado passed just behind him and Ger’alin stepped forward. His foot slid out from under him, dropping him on his back beneath the injured dragon. Altarius saw his prey fall and dropped, his wicked claws seeking to punch through the paladin’s armor and dig into his flesh. Ger’alin knew he would not have time to roll out of the way before the dragon was upon him. Instead, he pulled his sword up and held it out so that Altarius impaled himself as he descended. Reflexively, the dragon’s taloned claws moved to clutch at the blade buried in his underbelly, giving the sin’dorei an extra few seconds to roll out of harm’s way.
As Altarius curled up on the ground, his winds dying and his life bleeding out from him, Alayne moved forward, her staff spinning in her hands. Altarius tried to puff out one final gust of frigid air as the mage approached him and thrust her staff through his eye and channeled her energies through the weapon, incinerating the dragon’s brain in its skull.
Ger’alin pushed himself to his feet and went to pull free his weapon. He saw Alayne staring at him expectantly, her arms crossed loosely over her chest and her posture relaxed. Kiharu sensed something and moved away while Nishi, oblivious, knelt down and began collecting some of the dragon’s scales.
“Yes?” Ger’alin asked, wondering what his wife wanted.
“I got it in there,” she said, nodding towards her staff. “You get it out.”
“I am not pulling your staff out of the beast’s head and cleaning it for you,” he replied evenly. “If you’re strong enough to pull that off, then you’re strong enough to retrieve and clean your own weapon.”
“So, you’re admitting that I have some strength,” she said calmly.
“Could you get to the point, woman? We still have several fights ahead of us before we can tell the others waiting at the rift to come through the rest of Vortex Pinnacle so we can put an end to the rulers in the Throne of the Four Winds.”
“I’m just getting tired of you and Ber’lon treating me like I’m too weak to do any decent fighting without spells,” she replied as she wrapped a hand around the slender staff. She pulled upwards, nearly falling when the weight of the dragon’s head resisted, her staff trapped fast in the melted gore within the skull. She put her other hand around the staff and pulled again, tugging and jerking until she was sweating and cursing. Ger’alin, by this time, had cleaned his own sword and re-sheathed it and was standing over on the other side of the dragon’s head, his arms folded over his chest and an expressionless mask on his face. Alayne glared at him through her hair and continued to try to free her staff. Kiharu tittered nervously as he watched the pair. Finally, Ger’alin sighed, wrapped a hand around the staff and pulled it free. Alayne’s face twisted in distaste at the gore coating the weapon and Ger’alin rolled his eyes. He pulled out his own cloth and wiped the staff clean before tossing it back to his wife.
“Poking a dragon’s eye out when the beast is already down,” Ger’alin said calmly, “is not difficult. Strength is easy to find in the heat of battle. But afterwards, once the mind is calm and the blood is cool, strength can be much more difficult to call up.”
“In other words,” Kiharu said in sotto voice, “I have a feeling that the teasing is about to get a lot worse.”
Here’s this week’s update:
Alayne was surprised at the lack of wind elementals on the third area. It was guarded mostly by tol’vir guardians, making it much easier for the fighters to move through. The defenses on the final approach were more solid and stable but they were still no match for the Disorder of Azeroth. As they moved down the last ramp and looked upon the domed enclosure where Asaad waited, Alayne wondered just what the denizens of the aerial realm had expected. The platforms had grown less challenging as they progressed through the areas, a reverse from the typical manner of guarding important areas.
“The winds are capricious,” Alayne muttered to herself, “but not stupid.”
“Worry about the fight ahead of you, not the ones behind you,” Ger’alin reminded her, knowing what she was thinking and not wanting her to divert her attention from the fight against Asaad. True, the lack of challenge in Vortex Pinnacle did weigh on his mind, but Ger’alin knew better than to spend too much time dreading the next fight or attributing facts not in evidence to the creature he was about to face. He also knew that, no matter what came of the Vortex Pinnacle, they would face plenty of challenges once they stepped into the Throne of the Four winds.
Asaad waited patiently until the attackers had entered his chamber. The ancient servant of Al’Akir was canny and clever. In ages long past, he had stood next to the Windlord and fought against the Titans. His master may have, ultimately, lost that battle but the war raged on. Asaad believed that one day he and his master would be free to rule over the chaotic, shifting world that Azeroth had once been and would again become. Deathwing, one of the foul dragons the Titans had tamed into obedient pets, had tired of sitting at his masters’ feet and supping from the worthless scraps they allowed him. With the Earthwarder behind them, the wild elemental lords would finally be freed from their imprisonment and given back the world that had so long been denied them. Asaad waited and watched until the last of the invaders was within his chamber. Then, with a roar of outrage, the elemental moved to attack his attackers.
“YOU tread upon the sacrosanct! Mortals have no place amidst the clouds,” he cried out as he summoned lightning and sent it arcing towards the mortals who dared penetrate the sacred halls of the Vortex Pinnacle.
Prepared for such an attack, the four scattered, weakening the lightning bolts as they jumped from one to another. Though the bolts packed a punch, that punch was greatly diminished by the distance they were forced to travel to complete the arc. Only Ger’alin bore the brunt of the spell’s power but his armor, magically enhanced to defend against all manner of elemental spells, absorbed much of the lightning’s energy. Asaad, sensing that the paladin was the most well-protected against his spells, focused his attacks on the insolent plate-wearer, hoping to bring him down quickly and then take care of the rest of the mortals at his leisure. Asaad also knew, from his careful vigil over the other two platforms, that the paladin was the most worthy opponent. The two magi could hurl their spells but it was the paladin’s holy-infused attacks that did the worst damage.
Ger’alin easily dodged and parried the wind elemental’s attacks. Asaad had been forced to make his form more solid and more susceptible to physical damage in his zeal to destroy the paladin on Ger’alin’s own terms instead of relying on his own magic to weaken the paladin’s armor, leaving him more open to the elemental’s attacks.
Several more times, Asaad cast his lightning bolts at Ger’alin and the others, hoping to do enough damage to the weaker fighters to put them out of the fight while he focused on bringing down the insolent paladin. Alayne, Nishi, and Kiharu were expecting such a tactic, however, and remained spread out, weakening the chain lightning and calling upon their own Light-granted or arcane-powered defenses to shield against the worst effects of the spell. Finally, Asaad realized that he could not take down the mortals with a single spell or series of attacks alone. He drew upon his own powers and sent static electricity through the air, causing the four elves to be stuck to the ground while the elemental erected a barrier to protect himself from his own next attack. Though Asaad could call and control lightning, he could also be destroyed by it if he was not careful.
Kiharu and Ger’alin both knew that they did not want to be out in the open when Asaad unleashed his next attack. Calling on the Light, they freed themselves from the magnetic spell that held them in place and then freed Alayne and Nishi. The four scrambled to get under Asaad’s own shield just as the elemental unleashed his spell.
“Al’Akir!” he cried out loudly, his deep voice resounding through the chamber with a majestic ring, “Your servant calls for aid!”
[Story continued in next post]
A wild storm filled with lightning, wind, and rain filled the chamber outside of the shield. Had any of them been outside, they would have been hardpressed to stand against the force of nature Asaad had unleashed. For long moments, the elemental was absorbed in maintaining the spell, leaving himself open to attacks from the four gathered just under him and within the protective barrier he had called into being. Alayne, Nishi, and Ger’alin launched their strongest attacks, the need to kill the final guardian of Vortex Pinnacle quickly before he dropped his shield and left them to the mercy of the storm he released filling them with resolve borne of desperation.
Asaad could feel his strength being sapped and his essence being drained away by the spells slamming into him and by the holy-infused sword cutting away at him. He continued to feed power into his spell, hoping that the mortals would succumb to it quickly. His shield offered protection that the mortals, curse them, had taken full advantage of. However, the shield did not offer complete immunity to the spell. If he could just maintain the storm long enough, the mortals would surely fall to it.
Sensing the weakness in the shield, Ger’alin and Kiharu called upon the Light and created a secondary shield beneath Asaad’s protective barrier, further protecting themselves and the two magi from the storm that boiled in the chamber. Asaad shrieked and groaned as his own spells hit him and the mortals, trebly protected, added strength and power to their own attacks.
“The winds take me!” he moaned as he was defeated, his essence dispersing and his spell ending. Light rain and gentle winds continued to fill the chamber for several more minutes before the spell’s effects wore off. On the far wall, Ger’alin spied a second rift that he believed would lead them into the Throne of the Four Winds. Sitting down next to it, the paladin splashed water from a puddle into his face, refreshing himself. The opaque floor of the chamber did not bother him in the slightest as he leaned against the wall and let himself relax.
“Go get the others,” he said to Alayne and Nishi. “We’ll catch our breath and then move into the Throne of the Four Winds. It is nearly time to take the Lord of Wind off his pedestal like we took down the Firelord. No one, not even a god among the elementals, can be allowed to threaten the world the Titans left us. No one.”
The Throne of the Four Winds was a beautiful place. Four platforms joined by cunningly crafted bridges of flowing air and wind formed a perfect square around a fifth platform where Al’Akir, the Lord of Wind, watched. Al’Akir would not attack until he was attacked. Though the Lord of Wind had always been capricious and had grown more malevolent since his partnership with Deathwing, he still believed in a peculiar kind of honor. The Disorder of Azeroth would be allowed to fight the Conclave of Winds first with no interference from Al’Akir. If they defeated the Conclave, then they would be permitted to pit their strength against the Lord of the Aerial Plane.
“If we can defeat them,” Ger’alin mumbled disheartedly. The three lords of the Conclave of Winds were formidable in their own rights. Nezir, the lord of the northern wind, could chill a man’s blood to a sluggish slush without much effort. Rohash, the master of the eastern wind, could command a gale with a wave of his hand. Anshal, the ruler of the western wind, could command elementals to his side. And all three of the Conclave would have to be taken down in short order lest they gather their energies and revive the fallen.
Ger’alin continued to survey the situation and finally made his decision. He beckoned the other members of the Disorder of Azeroth to his side and began outlining his plan. “The fighters on Nezir’s plane will need to be rotated before he can flash freeze them,” he began, “so I will take that plane with Kiharu. Alayne, Ber’lon, Tau’re, Callie, and Sparxi will take on Anshal and will switch to Nezir when Kiharu and I come over just before the Council begins to use their ultimate attacks. Nishi, Jemuya, and Doriara will focus on Rohash with Nishi and Jemuya transporting to Nezir’s platform when Alayne and the others join them there. Rohash does a simple gale outward from him for his strongest attack and Anshal simply heals himself. But Nezir summons a freezing ice storm. Everyone will need to provide whatever shields they can during it in order for us to ride it out. Once the Conclave has finished its most powerful attacks, they will need time to regain their energy to use them again. Everyone except for Ber’lon and Sparxi and Kiharu and I will return to their original platform. The four of us,” he gestured to those he had singled out, “will wait and switch places just before the next set of major attacks.
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“My hope is to have Anshal and Rohash defeated within seconds of each other allowing all of us to join the battle on Nezir’s platform and defeat him before he can summon the energies to revive the other two. Now, let’s get in place and then I’ll give the signal for battle.”
The Disorder of Azeroth nodded and left to take the winds to their assigned positions. The Conclave members allowed them to gather without attacking them. Their master’s honor dictated that they permit this and defeat the Disorder of Azeroth fairly. The windlords truly believed that defeating the mortals was inevitable. Deathwing had told them nothing of how this group had interfered with his plans already. He had not told them of the group’s responsibility for defeating Ragnaros on his home plane. The Destroyer hoped that Al’Akir would be able to fling these foolish insects to the eternal airs, keeping them out of his own way until the tainted world of Azeroth could be destroyed. Deathwing had not counted on the Wind Lord’s peculiar notions of honor getting in the way of what he hoped would be a simple matter.
Ger’alin watched from Nezir’s platform as the other two groups prepared themselves. Ber’lon gave a shout that was echoed by Nishi, signaling that they were in place and ready to begin. With a roar of determination, Ger’alin launched his assault against Nezir and the master of the northern wind. As he channeled holy energy through his shield and hurled it at Nezir, he could hear the cries coming from Anshal’s platform as well as Rohash’s.
“It shall be I that earns the favor of our lord by casting out the intruders. My calmest wind shall prove too much for them!” Anshal taunted.
“As I am the strongest wind, it shall be I that tears the invaders apart!” Rohash replied.
“The honor of slaying the interlopers shall be mine, brothers! Their feeble bodies will freeze solid from my wind's icy chill!” Nezir shouted.
Ger’alin quickly felt the truth of Nezir’s call. The Lord of the North Wind blasted him with an icy burst that made the paladin long for the heat of the Firelands. He could feel his reflexes growing sluggish and his body becoming numb by the otherworldly cold. Drawing upon his faith in the Light, Ger’alin was able to keep himself moving and attacking the wind lord. Kiharu moved to the far edge of the platform, well out of the way of Nezir’s icy blasts. The master of the north wind saw that his attackers were able to shield themselves from the worst of his primary attack. Snarling softly, Nezir summoned the ice from the air and formed it into patches of slick snowy ice on the ground beneath their feet. Paladin and priest were forced to work their way slowly through the puddles lest they freeze or lose their footing and fall in their haste.
After several long minutes of shaking off the chill of Nezir’s blasts and working his way clear of ice patches, Ger’alin shouted hoarsely to Kiharu and the pair made their way to the bridge that lead towards Anshal’s platform.
“Change now!” Ger’alin bellowed as he stepped onto the bridge and felt himself being pulled towards Anshal’s platform. Ber’lon crossed him in the air and Sparxi was right behind the death knight. When Ger’alin and Kiharu landed on Anshal’s platform, the paladin could feel the ice melting from his blood as the warm western wind blew across him. Alayne and the others quickly crossed the bridge after the last elemental, a floral plant creature, was finished off. “The power of our winds, UNLEASHED!” Anshal roared with the other two wind lords as he teleported to the center of his platform just before he began to heal himself, calling on the western wind to bring its healing rains. On the other platforms, the two other Conclave members were using their most powerful abilities. Doriana kept deftly ahead of Rohash as he spun in a slow arc, blasting air out in front of him. Nezir summoned a blizzard that chilled his entire platform but with all of the fighters there, the shields they provided kept it from being a lethal weapon.
A few moments later, Alayne, Callie, and Tau’re rejoined Ger’alin and Kiharu on Anshal’s platform. The lord of the west wind had not been able to completely heal himself. Strange wispy blood flowed from several wounds and Anshal’s attacks were slower with less energy behind them. Glancing over his shoulder, Ger’alin could see that Rohash was in similar shape. Nezir was also greatly weakened. The paladin began to feel more confident in his plan.
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Anshal called on more elementals as he grew weaker and weaker. A handful of floral creatures sprang from seeds in the wind lord’s wake and began swarming over the attackers. Ger’alin worried for a moment before he saw that the elementals were weak and easily dispatched. The others turned their attention back to Anshal just as Rohash let loose a roar of defeat. Anshal bellowed soon after and the five joined the rest of the group on Nezir’s platform just in time to let Ber’lon and Sparxi return to Anshal’s platform and shake off the severe chill the northern wind lord had inflicted upon them.
Nezir, like his brothers, was reaching the end of his energy. Ger’alin and Kiharu joined the others in unleashing their strongest attacks just before Nezir began to repeat his blizzard attack. Ger’alin called on the Light and threw shields around himself and the others, letting them power through the snow storm without relenting on their own attacks. With a howl of anger, Nezir dissipated and the other two wind lords vanished from their platforms, leaving only their strange turban-like crowns behind.
“The Conclave of Wind has dissipated,” Al’Akir shouted, creating a vortex that connected Nezir’s platform to his own. “Your honorable conduct and determination have earned you the right to face me in battle, mortals. I await your assault on my platform! Come!”
“You heard the Lord of Wind,” Ger’alin said as Ber’lon and Sparxi rejoined them. “Let’s get going.”
Without waiting for the others to nod, Ger’alin threw himself into the vortex and let the winds carry him to Al’Akir’s platform in the center of the Throne of the Four Winds.
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Al’Akir clung to his honor even though he now knew that these mortals were truly formidable. He knew that he was often considered caprcious and of wild tempermant but he also knew that he had always been honorable. He would not discard that now no matter what he faced or what he stood to lose.
Standing at Al’Akir’s base, Ger’alin regarded his foe with respect and awe. Al’Akir was massive, towering far over the Disorder of Azeroth. Even if they had been able to stand everyone on someone else’s shoulders in a perfect line, the top of the line would not have reached the Lord of Wind’s shoulders. Bound to his platform at his waist, Al’Akir waited patiently while the paladin and the others planned their attack. He knew that they were well-prepared to face him. The tol’vir had told them much of what to expect. But to face the reality of it was far different than planning an attack in the abstract.
Ger’alin sighed and nodded as the others took their places around the platform. Once they were all in position, he bowed respectfully to the Lord of Wind and then began the battle. Al’Akir laughed as the first spells and weapons struck him. “Your challenge is accepted, mortals! Know that you face Al'Akir, Elemental Lord of Air! You have no hope of defeating me!”
A slow-moving ice storm began circling around the center of the platform, leaving a slick trail of ice and snow on the ground in its wake. Bolts of lightning sprang from Al’Akir’s base, spreading out and arcing harmlessly. Ger’alin had positioned the Disorder of Azeroth to ensure that the bolts did not spread through the entire group. Each person wore a special shield woven by Sparxi and Alayne that let the lightning pass over them and to the ground with a minimal of damage and distraction. The shields were not thick, though, and would not withstand a truly strong assault.
“Tornados!” he heard Alayne shout. “To the back!”
Ger’alin turned his head and then kept track of the moving wall of tornados out of the corner of his eye. As his wife had shouted, there was a gap in the back of the wall that would allow him to pass through them without being hit by the brunt of the brutal winds. He could see each group moving to let the wall pass them by as the swirling wind-wall moved behind the ice storm. “Watch for it!” Ger’alin roared as he darted swiftly around the wall and back to Al’Akir’s base. He was waiting for the master of the Aerial Plane to use the very wind to blast them back and throw them off the platform. Long wounds bleeding air and mist created a blanket of clouds at Al’Akir’s base and told Ger’alin that the Lord of Air was taking severe damage. Surely he would call on the winds soon in an effort to rid himself of the pesky mortals around him.
“Winds! Obey my command!” Al’Akir shouted. Ger’alin braced himself and saw the others darting in as close as they dared. He prayed that no one would be flung out into the infinite space, to fall forever through the realm of air. The paladin heard a few cries as fighters were pushed back to the very edge. A few slipped and fell but grabbed at the ornate carvings on the platform’s edge and pulled themselves back up. Al’Akir, seeing that his spell had not had the desired results, growled and pulled his energies back to himself, dissipating the ice storm that circled the platform. “Your futile persistence angers me,” he shouted.
“Collapse!” Ger’alin shouted over the roar of the wind lord’s raging tempest. The Disorder of Azeroth moved inwards to the place where the paladin stood. Alayne and Kiharu continued to keep a watch for tornado walls, shouting when they spotted one and warning the others where the gap was. Lightning continue to pour out from Al’Akir’s base but no more ice storms kept the group from moving quickly through the gaps and staying close to the air lord’s base to keep from being blown off the platform by his wind bursts. Al’Akir summoned lightning elementals to swarm over the Disorder of Azeroth, hoping to force the mortals to split their energies to keep from being electrocuted by his minions.
Ger’alin waited until several elementals were swarming over the fighters before he began directing the others to focus their efforts on them. Whenever one of the lightning elementals died, it arced wildly, the lightning of its death throes passing harmlessly around the Disorder of Azeroth and striking Al’Akir himself, creating a build-up of static and lightning around his base. The once the elementals were destroyed, the fighters refocused their attentions on Al’Akir, dancing nimbly out of the way of his tornados while staying close enough to the center of the platform that the wind lord’s gradually-weakening wind blasts could not toss them off.
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Wisps of cloud and steam poured out of Al’Akir’s base. His wounds were growing more and more severe as he continued putting most of his energies into offense. The stacks of electrical feedback from the lightning elementals, however, gave the Disorder of Azeroth an edge in the fight. Their attacks and spells slammed into Al’Akir’s weakened body, joining and mingling with the electrical discharges jumping through his form, dealing greater and greater amounts of damage. Finally, Al’Akir bellowed once more.
“ENOUGH! I WILL NO LONGER BE CONTAINED!” he roared as his corporeal form blasted apart the platform and sent the fighters sailing through the air. However, though he was enraged, the Lord of Air held to his honor and pulled the mortals into a spiral around him, using his winds to keep them aloft and circling around him. A fierce lightning storm sprang up in a shield around him at a distance, keeping the fighters from breaking free of his orbit.
“Strike now!” the paladin shouted over the deafening din of thunder and wind. Channeling the Light’s power through his body and his weapons, Ger’alin struck savagely and strongly against Al’Akir. He could sense the others pouring out all of their remaining energy into their attacks. Al’Akir commanded the lightning from the storm surrounding him, forming a cloud of lightning at his base and forcing the Disorder of Azeroth to swim through the wind storm up towards the wind lord’s head. As they ascended, Ger’alin had a moment’s inspiration. He continued to swim upwards, the others following him. Al’Akir kept a watchful eye on his attackers, wishing he had thrown them off his platform when the fight began. But even now, in the face of his own defeat, the Lord of Air could not find it in him to do something so completely dishonorable. If the time of his downfall had truly come, he would accept it with honor.
Ger’alin continued his ascent until he was level with the Wind-Lord’s head. He pulled his sword up in a salute and then channeled all of the holy power he could muster through the blade, making it glow a brilliant golden hue as he drove it through Al’Akir’s head. Spells and attacks from the rest of the Disorder of Azeroth continued to slam into the being. Sparxi targeted Ger’alin’s sword and hurled a bolt of lightning at it, letting the holy-infused metal conduct the deadly element directly into Al’Akir’s brain.
“After every storm... comes the calm...” Al’Akir sighed as he dwindled away and vanished. His winds continued to hold up the Disorder of Azeroth and, as the lightning storm behind them vanished, they flew back down to the platforms where the Conclave of Wind had been. A new rift was beginning to form, wide enough and stable enough that Ger’alin and the others could see through it. The rift opened up to a platform high over the southern sea beneath Uldum.
“Al’Akir has been defeated,” Ger’alin said as he and the others landed on the platform with the rift. “Now we can rest for a while before we find ourselves locked in yet another battle to keep Deathwing from destroying our world.”
“Resting sounds like an excellent idea,” Alayne muttered. “And you are not blaming this one on me, Ger’alin. This particular fight was your idea. Your whole personal idea.”
Ger’alin turned his head to be certain that Alayne still had her head above the water in the steaming tub. They had returned to Uldum late that evening after their battle with Al’Akir. The tol’vir wanted to feast them and celebrate their victory over the Lord of Air. Ger’alin had managed to beg off early in the night to get him and Alayne back to their own room for a long, hot soak and a good night’s sleep. Alayne had beaten him to both the tub and sleep. She snored softly a foot away and mumbled the occasional gibberish in her sleep. Weary as he was now that the battles were over, Ger’alin knew it would be up to him to find the energy to lift her out of the water and tuck her into bed. Groaning as he got out of the tub and wrapped a towel around his waist, he gathered the sleeping woman up, roused her enough to get her to the bed, and then tucked her in. She fell back to sleep immediately.
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He watched her sleep for several moments before he settled in at the desk and penned a letter to Zerith. The priest would be worrying about not hearing from them for over a month. He wanted to allay the man’s fears while still being completely truthful about the events that they had stumbled upon in Uldum. “It would be rather embarrassing for me to lie to the man and then have Callie spill the truth out to him before Alayne and I even get off the ship,” he grimaced. Callie had voiced her intentions to return to civilization the next day.
“I wonder what news there has been of Deathwing in the time we’ve been down here,” the paladin wondered aloud as he climbed into bed next to his wife. “Light send that we’ll have a bit of a true respite before we have to face him. Light also send that he finds no new allies in the time it takes us to find him.”
Zerith finished reading the letter and set it down. Night had fallen over Silvermoon and Dar’ja had retired several hours before. Mir’el and Jez’ral were still in the kitchen making plans for tomorrow’s breakfast. The priest had to be at the chapel during the morning to do his service. The afternoon would be spent wandering the forests of Quel’Thalas gathering herbs for both himself and the two magi. If the letter had not been delayed overlong, Ger’alin and Alayne would be returning for their home visit in a few weeks.
Nodding to himself as he crawled into the bed, Zerith thought that life could not get any better than it was right now.
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Ger’alin ignored Alayne as she read over his shoulder. He knew that he did not read as quickly as she did but if she wanted to read this missive at the same time as he was reading it, she would just have to tolerate his more methodical pace. So, he continued to ignore her impatient snorts urging him to turn the page already. It was rare enough that Garrosh Hellscream took the time to put pen to paper and if the hot-tempered orc had felt it important enough to send a courier to them, then Ger’alin intended to weigh what the fellow had to say carefully before he let Alayne write out a suitable reply.
“So,” Alayne muttered as Ger’alin turned the page. “Deathwing has been spotted.”
“At Wyrmrest Temple no less,” Ger’alin agreed.
“And the Infinite dragonflight is causing problems again.”
“How do you do that?”
“Read so quickly.”
“Years of practice. We will need all of the Aspects’ assistance to take on Deathwing. We will have to call up everyone again and head down to Tanaris to the Caverns of Time. Alexstrasza, Ysera, and Kalecgos are not enough. We’ll need Nozdormu’s aid as well.”
“Indeed,” he muttered in a non-committal tone while he continued reading. It seemed that the Infinite dragonflight was stirring up trouble. Adventurers had already traversed the time-ways to prevent issues this rogue flight had caused by trying to manipulate some of the pivotal events in history – the Opening of the Dark Portal, Thrall escaping from Durnholde Keep, and the recent Battle of Mount Hyjal. While the Disorder of Azeroth had been fighting in Northrend, the Infinite dragonflight had tried to disrupt the events surrounding the destruction of Stratholme by Prince Arthas, one of the events that set him on the path to becoming the Lich King. Ger’alin could make little sense of the reports enclosed with the missive. He knew that tampering with history could have profound effects on reality but he also wished that someone had killed Arthas before the man rallied his undead armies and marched on Quel’Thalas. What a different world they would be living in now if the Scourge had never been unleashed on Lordaeron! “What I don’t understand,” he muttered, still trying to make sense of what he was reading, “is how they can be changing the future. The future hasn’t happened yet. So what if they alter it?”
“Altering the future is just as deadly as altering the past,” Alayne replied. She took on a slight lecturing tone. Ger’alin said nothing but let her continue. “If the past is altered, then the present would change around us. Depending on the alterations made, the fabric of reality itself could be unraveled. For example, if Thrall had never escaped from Durnholde to rally the new Horde, then he would not have had forces to lend to the night elves at the Battle of Mount Hyjal. Without the Horde forces to help the Alliance hold off the demonic lieutenants, Malfurion might not have had time to summon the forces of nature itself against Archimonde. Same thing with stopping Medivh from opening the Dark Portal. Our history and our survival have depended upon both the races from Draenor and the races of Azeroth setting aside their differences and working together to stop an even greater threat. Divided we are weak but united, we can stand firm against anything.”
“Which means that getting Wrynn and Hellscream to stop their foolishness is imperative.”
“Yes and no,” she conceded. “There have always been wars and tensions between the two great factions since the First Invasion. In a way, those wars have kept our martial practices honed and taught our generals and leaders to discover new tactics and strategies. Those lessons, in turn, have been used against greater threats, keeping our world safe and relatively whole.”
“Regardless,” he sighed, “we’re not getting dragged into another war if we can avoid it. So, that explains how altering the past is a bad idea – something I already knew. How can the future be altered?”
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“As I understand it, past, present, and future are set within this timeline. If you were to look at reality from outside time’s perspective – which is exactly what Nozdormu and the bronze dragonflight do – then you would see that past, present, and future collapse to a singular ‘now.’ Altering any part of the timeline could lead to the destruction of Azeroth in a catastrophic manner. It is conjectured that, in time, even worlds die. But their death comes at an appointed time in the universal timeline. If our world ended before it should due to the alteration of future events, then it could impact the future development of the cosmos. Also, altering the future could create a time-loop paradox that would result in a feedback loop moving from the future to the past, destroying the world or the universe itself before it began.”
“My head hurts,” the paladin complained. “So, to get to the point – we should probably head back to Tanaris in a few weeks and help Nozdormu so that he can travel to Wyrmrest Temple and help us put an end to Deathwing.”
“If you want to boil it down that far, yes,” she grinned. “I know, the nature of reality and time mechanics is pretty confusing, even for me. And I’ve had years to study and ponder it while you were swinging your sword.”
“Don’t even think about taking that smug magisterial tone with me, Lady Sunrage,” he grunted. “My swordwork has saved our hides more times than your theorizing and speculating and researching and whathaveyou.”
“If the two of you don’t stop arguing,” Zerith said as he walked into the room, his eyes sparkling with amusement, “someone might think you’re married.”
“Dar’ja said you wouldn’t be home for another few hours,” Alayne laughed as she went to help him bring in the baskets of plants he’d gathered.
“It’s good to have you two back around. Deflects some of her temper from me,” the priest chuckled. “And, from what I overheard, it sounds like the two of you will be leaving again and you’ve only just gotten here.”
“We’ve been here for two weeks,” Alayne protested. “Maybe you could come with us to Tanaris. It’s only to…”
“Zerith has his duties here to attend to,” Ger’alin said, talking over his wife, “and if he came with us, he wouldn’t be able to focus on what we needed him to do because he’d be worrying constantly over his wife. And we’re sure as hell not taking her with us. Traveling at all at eight months’ is inadvisable.”
“Something for you to look forward to one day, Sis,” Zerith teased. “I wouldn’t want to go anyway. If you’re heading to Tanaris, it’s either goblins or artifacts or the bronze dragons that you’re dealing with and I would hope that you would be smarter than to get mixed up with any of them.”
“Bronze dragons and we’ll get mixed up with them because we need them to stop the black dragonflight’s insane master,” Ger’alin answered as he finished the letter. He set it down and went to help the other two elves sort through the herbs the priest had gathered. They moved the baskets to the kitchen where Zerith had cordoned off a part of the pantry and cellar for storage. Working together, the three soon had the herbs set up for whatever the priest had in mind for them. “Looks like you’re starting a miniature hospital here,” Ger’alin remarked once they’d finished.
“I’d like to have everything on hand that I can for when Dar’ja’s time comes.”
“You’ve got plenty for that and then some.”
“I like to be prepared.”
“Just another month and a half.”
“You should see the room we’ve fixed up for the baby. It’s actually your old room, Sis. I hope you don’t mind. It’s been standing empty ever since you and Ger’alin got married.”
“I don’t mind,” Alayne said. “Let’s go see what you’ve done.”
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The small room that had once been Alayne’s had been completely aired out and repainted with bright, cheerful colors. A small chest on the floor was open to show clothes that the two had been given or had made for the baby. A crib replaced the bed which, Zerith explained, had been moved to the cellar for Callie if she wanted to stay over. Ger’alin quipped about keeping the rogue under lock and key so she couldn’t pull any more pranks and Zerith laughed but nodded, the look in his eyes saying that the paladin had read his mind. The desk was still there but had been converted into some strange kind of table. A rocking chair near the window completed the room. “We’re thinking to keep it this way for now,” Zerith explained, “and to start considering building in more rooms in the cellar or the attic when the children are older.”
“Dar’ja’s expecting more than one?” Alayne asked.
“Your brother believes that eventually you and I will have children,” Ger’alin answered. “And, we will. Eventually.”
“You know,” she said with false innocence, “I think some of the herbs I saw can be used to suppress libido…”
“Not a chance,” the paladin replied, dead-pan. “Still, we might not be living here by then. We might build something habitable out on your estate in the Ghostlands. Don’t worry,” he said, seeing a flash in Zerith’s eyes, “there will be plenty of room for all of us.”
“What about the place in Nagrand?”
“We’ll worry about that later. For now, we have enough on our plate. The Infinite dragonflight, Deathwing, Wrynn and Hellscream…”
“That’s true. When do you think you’ll be back? There’s just a little over a month left before…”
“Hopefully, we’ll have this finished within the next few weeks,” Ger’alin replied calmly. “We’ll have plenty of time to get back here and get rested up for the big event. I have a feeling that Dar’ja is the only one who will be getting any rest after that.”
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“Zerith looked a little wistful when we left this time,” Alayne said as she and Ger’alin approached the entrance to the Caverns of Time. “I think he really did want to come with us.”
“He might have,” Ger’alin agreed, “but he needed to stay there with Dar’ja. She needs him now far more than we do. Even if he is starting to feel a little confined by staying in Silvermoon, he needs to help her out daily and rest for the birth of their child.”
“Why would he need to rest?”
“Because he’s got to deal with a pregnant woman, his own work, and the bulk of the childcare in the days after the birth will fall on him while Dar’ja is still in bed recovering from the birthing.”
“I hadn’t thought about that,” Alayne admitted. “Have you ever attended a birthing?”
“Several of them as part of my training. None that involved any complications, though,” Alayne stared at her husband, incredulous, “Light, woman,” he growled, “even I had to take a turn among the healers during my training. I didn’t show much interest or talent for it until I had reason to study it, but it was expected of all of us who wanted to be Blood Knights.”
Alayne muttered something that Ger’alin could not make out. He glanced out over the weird, twisting skyscape within the cavern. It made him dizzy to look at it for too long. Buildings from ancient history were warped into the stone walls, making for a strange and intimidating scene. He thought he could spot several from recent human history. A few appeared to be orcish in design. As they drew closer to the end of the Caverns, he thought he saw a few things that looked elvish. When they reached the place they had been summoned to, the paladin was glad to see that Callie had rallied almost all of the Disorder of Azeroth to this battle. After they had managed to restore the timeways, they would travel, with the help of the bronze dragonflight, to Wyrmrest Temple in order to fight Deathwing.
Reports of Deathwing’s attack against the Temple had been coming in nearly daily for the past week. Though he was still intimidated at the thought of going up against one of the Aspects, Ger’alin was reassured to know that Deathwing himself was growing desperate and reckless. The black dragon had called on one of the old gods in order to have any lieutenants at his command. Three of them were besieging the area around the Temple while the last two, Twilight fanatics both, were causing trouble elsewhere. One was within the Eye of Eternity, Kalecgos’s domain. The other was commandeering an airship and keeping a tight perimeter around the Temple, reinforced by the Destroyer himself. Thrall, Ysera, Alexstrasza, and Kalecgos were at the Temple, doing their best to hold off Deathwing’s forces while the Disorder of Azeroth worked with the bronze dragons to allow Nozdormu to join the fight.
“Greetings,” Soridormi, Nozdormu’s Prime Consort and second-in-command of the bronze dragonflight, said. “We are glad you have come to assist us. The Infinite dragonflight is attempting to disrupt the events surrounding the battle at the Well of Eternity and the creation of the Dragon Soul, causing the artifact to be lost in the mists of time. Nozdormu has been forced to travel through the future to the End of Days in Azeroth in order to contain a new threat that is emerging. We believe it is the leader of the Infinite dragonflight himself. He calls himself Murozond – a mocking corruption of my mate’s name.”
“The original battle at the Well of Eternity,” Alayne whispered, awe and fear clear in her soft voice, “was what led to the Sundering that ripped the world apart and created the Maelstrom. If it were somehow prevented…”
“Then the night-elves might not have cast out all of their magi, Dath’remar would never have founded our nation, and the humans would never have learned to use magic from us leading to the First Invasion,” Ger’alin finished for her. “I do pay attention.”
“Our brood will take you through the timeways to the site,” Soridormi explained. “Once there, your forms will be disguised so that you seem to be fellow kaldorei. Illidan Stormrage will need your assistance to fulfill his destiny. Be careful,” she cautioned, “that you do nothing to alter the outcome. Let not pity rule you – those who are fated to die must die in their proper time. And do not let the temptation to bring forth the power of the Well of Eternity into this era lead you, and the world, into premature destruction. Your mission is to ensure that the Dragon Soul survives to the present day. Nothing more.”
[Story continued in next post]
Alayne sighed and nodded, knowing that the statement about the Well had been directed at her and the other magi. The lure of the Well of Eternity was a powerful thing. Now that the Sunwell had been restored, however, its gentle light filling and uplifting the sin’dorei people, Alayne thought she could withstand the temptation of the Well of Eternity long enough to do whatever she must do. She shot her husband a harsh glare that dared him to leave her behind while he traveled back to undo whatever mischief the Infinites were up to. He shook his head and shrugged, silently admitting that he would take her with him even if he thought it might be dangerous for her.
Several more bronze drakes landed near the Disorder of Azeroth. Ger’alin selected several others to accompany him through the timeways. Sparxi, Kiharu, Callie, and Alayne would come with him for the first battle while the others waited on a shipment the goblin had promised them was coming. Armor, weapons, and other necessities from the Horde, the dragonflights, and the druids were being sent to help the Disorder of Azeroth stand against Deathwing. During their “vacation,” Sparxi had been busy buying or soliciting such donations. Despite his misgivings about her kind, Ger’alin was glad to have the goblin around. He wondered if she would be as useful in peacetime serving on Alayne’s estate. Making a mental note to bring that up later, he concentrated on keeping his wife from panicking when the bronze drake lifted off and began carrying them through the crazed skyscape of the Caverns of Time.
A strange, cobwebby sensation washed over him, making the paladin feel as if he had just flown through a massive spider’s web. Heat and chill flowed over him in turns and he was forced to close his eyes against the strange, twisting sunset and sunrise. Ger’alin felt as if he were flying through a different version of the Maelstrom. Only, it was not arcane magic that flowed around him. It was the essence of time and experience itself. In his arms, he felt Alayne relaxing as if flying through this strange cosmic soup did not disturb her the way flying through the air did. Ger’alin did not want to open his eyes and start a conversation that might make her panic, though, so he kept his mouth shut and tried to keep his mind and soul centered as the bronze drake flew them through the ever-shifting timeways back to the past they were going to save.
“We are here,” a voice whispered. Ger’alin opened his eyes, stunned to find himself in a strangely familiar place.
“Azshara’s royal palace at Zin-Azshari,” Alayne breathed. “We’ve seen its ruins in our time.” That explained why it looked familiar. Ger’alin turned to say something to his wife and nearly jumped in shock. She appeared to be a young, beautiful night elf. He glanced down at his own body, surprised to see that it looked like a night elf. Then he recalled Soridormi’s warning. Of course they would have to appear to be night elves in this era. Sin’dorei did not yet exist and would not for several hundred more years. As the others joined them, he saw their expressions mirror his own. Sparxi complained the most – she was unaccustomed to seeing the world from such a high vantage point.
In a whirl of magic and time, Nozdormu appeared before the five. He alone did not look kaldorei. The Aspect of Time retained his High Elven appearance. Speaking with an economy of words, he addressed the five adventurers.
“Between us and the Dragon Soul lies a legion of demons. They will have to be dispatched before we proceed. If my timing is correct - and it usually is - a young night elf named Illidan Stormrage should be crossing our path shortly. He will undoubtedly be of some use when it comes to demon hunting. Help Illidan disable the demons' portals, then slay their leader, Peroth'arn.”
Vanishing just as he had appeared, Nozdormu left the five to deal with their objective. Ger’alin surveyed the area but did not see the man who would become so legendary in his own era, the man they would eventually kill at the Black Temple in Outland. Several demons barred their way. Pointing to them, Ger’alin waited until the others were ready before he engaged them.
Suddenly, a large satyr appeared in the midst of the demon pack. “He is here,” the satyr said as he sniffed the air. “Lurking in the shadows. You, Felguard, hold the area. The rest of you, secure the courtyard.” Ger’alin was impressed with the discipline the demons showed in obeying the orders quickly. He waited until the other demons were out of eyeshot before signaling the others to move in and engage the massive felguard.
Though powerful, the demon was quickly dispatched, allowing them to move up the stairs and into the palace’s courtyard. Whispering from the shadows came a familiar voice. “About time you showed up. Come with me into the shadows if you wish to see me free this place from the Legion.”
[Story continued in next post]
Stepping from the shadows and removing the magical cloak he had laid upon himself, Illidan Stormrage revealed himself to the five “kaldorei” agents. Ger’alin sucked in a breath as he regarded the other man. The garish green tattoos were still on his purple chest. His arms were just as muscular as they had been – would be – at the Black Temple. But he lacked the wings and the demonic horns sprouting from his head and his legs, though cased in flowing black cloth, were normal, not the satyr-like legs he would gain later in life. Illidan wore his customary blindfold – his eyes had already been removed by Sargeras when the tattoos granting the demon-hunter his power were bestowed. He carried the Twin Blades of Azzinoth and bore them with a confidence that bespoke of skill.
“We are ready to accompany you on this task,” Alayne said smoothly. Illidan had been growing more and more nervous under Ger’alin’s intense study.
“Then stay close,” the man warned them as he cast his spell, cloaking them all in invisibility. “The demons are pouring out of the palace. We must destroy the crystals powering their portal in order to force them out of this place. Only then will their leader, Peroth'arn, reveal himself allowing us to enter the rest of the palace.”
Alayne nodded to herself and followed Illidan. She could not see her husband or the others. She wished she had time to study the spell Illidan had used. It could prove useful in other situations. She knew, quite well, that Callie was probably dreaming up all kinds of pranks she could pull if she could truly turn herself invisible. The sin’dorei woman did not know if it was the Well of Eternity that allowed such things to be done or if it was just skill at magic but she resolved to study it once this business with Deathwing was done and she had leisure to tend to her own studies and her estate in the Ghostlands.
Following Illidan, the fighters made their way through the hordes of demons and quickly killed the guards at the three crystal focus points, disrupting the magic that kept the portals functional. Alayne watched as the demons hastened to make their way back into the portal, not wanting to be cut off from their allies and left stranded on this strange world. Once the demons were gone, only Peroth’arn remained between the fighters and the rest of the palace. The satyr surveyed the courtyard, sniffing the air as the last demons marched through the collapsing portal.
“Who shut down the portals?” he demanded. “Clever,” he said as he wagged his head. “Little worms,” he spat angrily as he continued to search for those responsible for shutting down the portals. “None will reach the palace without besting Peroth’arn, the first of the feltouched,” he bragged as he strode down the stairs, looking around for any sign of the intruders.
Ger’alin could feel the spell surrounding them beginning to fade under the onslaught from Peroth’arn’s magic. He motioned for the others to spread throughout the courtyard while he waited near the center, keeping an eye on the satyr as he made his way down the stairs. Once Peroth’arn was near, Ger’alin bellowed and rushed towards the demon, calling on the Light to shield him as he struck.
“No mortal may stand before me and live!” Peroth’arn shouted.
“Nothing will stop me! Not even you, demon!” Illidan roared as he sprang from the shadows, flanking the demon.
Ger’alin let loose a flurry of blows, forcing Peroth’arn to focus on him instead of turning to try to sweep Illidan away. Callie sprinted to attack the satyr from the side, forming a triangle with herself, Illidan, and Ger’alin while Alayne and Nishi attacked from outer ring and Kiharu kept an eye on all of them, channeling the Light to counter the worst of the demon’s spells. Ger’alin moved quickly when he felt the air around him heating up. Green haze shimmered around him and he rolled out of the way as a patch of unholy fire scorched the ground where he had been standing. He glanced over at his wife and saw several patches near her. She shot him a quick, tight-lipped smile and then focused her concentration on her spells.
Ger’alin gasped as demonic energy surrounded him in a chokehold. He saw the others being lifted off the ground, just as he was. He clutched and clawed at the air around his neck but could do nothing to stop whatever it was that was strangling him. “Your essence is mine!” Peroth’arn shouted.
“Your magic is pathetic,” Illidan taunted. “Let me show you mine!”
The chokehold vanished as the night elf used his magic to pull the others back into the shadows. Ger’alin’s teeth clacked audibly as he dropped back to the ground.
[Story continued in next post]
“The shadows serve me now!” Peroth’arn roared as he vanished, leaving nothing but glowing green balls that zipped around the courtyard, searching out the fighters hidden by Illidan’s cloaking magic.
“Return to the shadows!” Illidan shouted. Ger’alin could both hear and sense combat nearby. He strained, trying to figure out where the demon and the demon hunter were. A shield sprang up around the paladin, holding him in place.
“The shadows will not save you!” the demon warned. The spell surrounding the others began to wane and flicker. “I can see you!” Peroth’arn chortled as one of his “eyes” focused on Ger’alin. The satyr’s foul magic encircled the paladin, holding him as stiff as a statue and letting Peroth’arn land several blows. As the spell shattered around them, Illidan groaned. He had poured all of his strength into that spell and now that it was broken, the kaldorei demon hunter was left weak and weary from the backlash. Peroth’arn moved to try to strike down the pesky night elf but Ger’alin moved to cut him off. The paladin let the Light’s fury flow through him and pummeled the demon with his own anger backed by the Light.
“My strength returns!” Illidan crowed as he regained his balance from the backlash of his broken spell. The demon hunter rejoined the fight with renewed vigor.
Peroth’arn snarled but he was boxed in by the three fighters. The two magi’s spells were slamming into his body, weakening him. He had little strength left. If he allowed these pesky mortals to best him and enter the palace, he would face worse from his masters in the Legion. “Enough!” he shouted angrily, “It is time to end this game.” The satyr poured his remaining strength into a fury of attacks. In his desperation, Peroth’arn weakened his defenses, allowing Ger’alin to land a solid slashing attack across the demon’s midsection. Peroth’arn hunched forward, clutching his abdomen. Callie leapt and thrust her sword-arm into the satyr’s side, then used her momentum to swing upwards and stab her long dagger into the demon’s chest. Peroth’arn lurched forward, staggering and falling to his knees. “No!” the satyr groaned. “How could this be?”
Illidan moved quickly, the Twin Blades of Azzinoth spinning through his hands. He slashed once, twice, and then the demon’s head rolled across the courtyard. “The hunter became the prey,” Illidan chuckled. He glanced over the others, his gaze carrying a measure of respect mixed with proud contempt. “You did well,” he said, “but for now, I must continue on my own. Good hunting.” The kaldorei hurried up the steps into the palace proper. A flash of light and magic sprang up behind him, revealing Nozdormu.
“Peroth’arn is dead,” Ger’alin said as he walked up to the leader of the bronze dragonflight.
“Good. We march on. Queen Azshara and her royal guard lie ahead of us. We cannot afford the possibility of any interference with our plan. So we will take the fight to her, before she has a chance to meddle,” Nozdormu said. “It is quite unlikely that you will kill Queen Azshara today; very few coherent timelines exist along that branch. Consider it a victory if you are simply able to occupy her attention, however temporarily.”
The Aspect of Time vanished just as he had appeared. Ger’alin shook his head as he walked up to the ramp that led towards the queen’s chambers. He wished he could pull the same kind of disappearing act.