The Sun Hawks: Five Years on...

Argent Dawn
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“Not Again” He spat into the forest “Not so soon”

Six Escadrilles he had, two on patrol, two on rest, two on readiness. Oh aye, he had a seventh, oh he had a seventh, and they eagerly carried out their duties but he would not...could not send them up. They were -Children- for goodness sake...And the worst thing...the absolute worst thing, that made of him a monster? If he asked them “Will you fly?” They would say “yes!” with all the childlike glee and enthusiasm, And they wanted to, they -wanted- to. But he could not allow that.

Could not.

Would Not.

A Blossom of fire in the sky, the Troll next to him asked “One of ours, or one of theirs?”

Brigante listened and watched a moment. “One of theirs. See it burns, thats a machine.” He huffed out a breath”Our fliers don’t blaze when they fall”
“Good way of keepin’ score mon”
Brigante watched the blazing comet as it crashed to the ground, there was no parachute.
“They don’t blaze, they just scream” he murmured.

The Troll moved away, Flier-folk were odd folk, but it was understandable, Quel’thalas was under attack. It was the last city of the Horde in the Eastern Kingdoms. He’d feel odd if it was Sen’jin under attack.

Brigante kept his eyes on the skies, That would have been one of the Cloud Reavers or Sky Sabres, Third or Fifth Escadrille...either way, someone had either ‘opened their book’ or added to their tally. Perhaps someone had made Ace..

“This can’t last” he muttered. “We haven’t the numbers…

They hadn’t. The numbers that was. Every day his messages to Orgrimmar went unanswered. Every day another name was wiped clean from the chalkboard of available fliers.

Day and night the Alliance tested them. Sooner or later he would have to face the uncomfortable, but inevitable fact. Silvermoon could not stand. Not alone...not for long.

This was not even the worst of it, their main efforts upon Arathi, That was where the warfront was, now, but looking forwards, looking to the future, looking not to this week, but what came the week after, and the week after that…

He growled and lit a cigarillo, his letter to Orgrimmar must have seemed begging...cap in hand, but what was he to do? He could but trust in the Regency, the atmosphere in Silvermoon was one of grim resolution, they had weathered a worse storm, and would weather this, but it was -his- job to stop that storm breaking. His job to hold it off, and if he could not… Why was it his Job! Such Arrogance!

He shook his head and held his head in his hands.

Our Dear friends in Orgrimmar, I write to you in time of dire need. The Alliance is at our gates, has destroyed Undercity and must soon move upon Silvermoon, Whilst our forces heroically continue their struggle, whilst there can be no doubt! None whatsoever, that every soul and spirit of the Horde will rise itself to the utmost, to their highest might! For the protection of this great continent and assured security of the Horde upon it, I must ask for added support, we need more aerial forces, Give me a hundred Windriders, and I can assure you a victory...Fifty even! Forty if it must be...For with such forces as we have, if the Alliance come for us with their full fury, and anger, and rage at past perceived injustices, then Silvermoon alone cannot hold against their aerial wrath, their fury. Give me Thirty if that is all you can spare... We will try. But you...Cannot abandon us.

Too Desperate? He huffed out a breath of smoke and shook his head. “Not desperate enough” he muttered.

To call Silvermoon’s situation as ‘parlous’ was to describe mass murder as a ‘mild social deviation’

They would come, soon enough, and in textbooks in the future, in the flier academy they would ask the question”Why did Summerisle not ask for reinforcements before the event?”

If there was a future..

They had to fight, and they would Fight! But...right now, with the odds.. With the Alliance in the ascendant, and he had to walk the streets and smile, as if everything was -fine-, when everything was not. Everything was far from fine.

His fliers were…

He closed his eyes, wiping them with a gauntlet as he remembered the screams, the burning people.

They had done their best. And he could not ask more. But he had to. He had to. Their people needed more!

He had to send them up again.

Half of them sickened by the smoke inhaled from Darnassus, or the gases over Undercity. He had to. He had to send them up again. It wasn’t just the numbers…

He realised that with a sickness in his stomach, and his brows furrowed.

It wasn’t just the numbers. The Horde needed to see the First Escadrille flying again.
The Red Death too.

He swore. This War would get him killed. But then, what war wouldn’t?

The morning would see the First Escadrille fly, red banners trailing from their leader, as if inviting an enemy would-be Ace to make a move, to try, just try it….just try…

Then, then he would feel alive...

He saw them then...Gryphonriders screaming as fire engulfed them, the dull, black smoking comets that Gyrocopter riders made, the crackling Lightning as a Wildhammer fell, The stink of jet fuel as a Rylak, one of those beasts so abused by the Iron Horde, was laid to rest, free of its suffering...the smell was unmistakeable, five of them he had shot down, a Mercy killing, though truly he would rather have ten minutes in a locked cell with whoever crafted such horrors upon a creature, with but an iron rod as his interlecutor.

He sighed.

“So many dead, and yet I’m a bloody hero?” he growled

He shook his head and walked down the Royal Exchange.
“BIgger heroes than me, more famous ones, I need to get back to my wife and children… They need me now...”

He set his feet that way but the voice called him.

“Wing Commander Summerisle. You attendance is needed now”

His voice must have sounded like a whine… “now?”

“Now, Sir”

Where must a dog go, but to his master, where does the Hound go, but to the Huntsmaster.

Brigante set his feet towards the Sunfury Spire. The Game was Afoot, The Hound must be set loose.

Nothing more. Nothing.

“I expect you to be ready to deliver a full report on our aerial defences, should the Alliance come at us in full force, to the Conclave.

There was no leeway here...It was on him, or he looked incompetent….This was not -his- job!

He laughed slightly..It -wasn’t - his job. It -Wasn’t-, it now was, and he’d been playing too keen at leading the First Escadrille to forget that. It -WAS- his job….It was the Job he was supposed to be doing…

Suddenly it settled upon him, the mantle of responsibility, but also the dread certainty that he -was- the person responsible for the ensurance of the aerial defence of part of the nation, he had...kidded himself that someone else was doing it...But no one was...it was on him.

Part of the nation depended upon him doing his job right...As he worked out the figures, and aerial defence, and what the Alliance could send against them his brow furrowed “We can’t...Perhaps if we draw forces from...no, that will then need them to be reinforced...we can’t do it! We don’t have the numbers!” He shouted.

“Then Make the Numbers Work!” Was the rebuke.

Against which, there was no reply….

The Battle For Azeroth raged on, on so many fronts, and so many battlefields….

The Numbers had to Work.

Quel’thalas’s skies would not fall….
Dae'anneth leaned his forehead against the crisp white sheets, the soundless room was bathed in a soft glow emitted from the energy crystals hovering above the bed, golden strands of light knitting together, forming a veil that fell over its patient.

-------------------

Dae'anneth stood outside the ward holding the Second Escadrille, steeling himself for what lay inside. A nurse bustled out and stopped short with a small gasp of surprise.

"C-Commander Silverflare, I thought you had been sent to rest?"

He had been. So he had visited Vinemaster Suntouched, a glass or so of brandy later, he had made the walk back.

"Couldn't sleep knowing they're here. Any change?"

The nurse frowned softly for a moment. "We've done all we can. We are changing Mister Telarix's bandages every three hours, thankfully his skin on his arm and chest is no longer coming away in sheets, although that is due to the fact there is none left." She reasoned to herself. Suddenly realising she'd spoken aloud she continued in a perky false optimism, "But the salve is helping, we hope to see it begin to regrow in the next two weeks, perhaps a little longer, since he is of such a great age sometimes things take longer to repair."

Dae'anneth nodded as she spoke, keeping his concern hidden from his face as she flipped through notes on her clipboard.

"Mister Goldensun was up and talking earlier, admittedly to someone only he could see, but the head injury combined with the.... situational stress, and pain numbing potions he is taking means we are not unduly concerned at this juncture, I must admit it is one of the first times I have seen a broken jaw and cranium without the usual entry wounds you would expect in air combat. Mister Evergazer has been given a clean bill of health, given his wounds were not tainted by blight, the Light saw to them swiftly. He has now been handed over to Doctor Sunwake regarding his fitness to fly after the personal loss suffered."

Dae'anneth waited patiently as the nurse rifled through notes and observations. As she realised she could not find another to mention, to put off the grim news, she bowed her head, her voice lowered respectfully.

"Lady Sungleam remains comatosed as before. She is still being aided to breathe, however quarrentine has now been lifted after decontamination. So you may see her, should you wish."

The nurse lifted he gaze once more, eyes filled with sympathy and sorrow.

"We can give no promises here Sir. Only hope."

---------------

"You'll have them in the Skies Acting Lieutenant."

Magister Telarix, 'Spectre' as his Ace name denoted, swivelled his gaze from the battlefront to look at her. As they stood upon the ruined battlements of the City of Lordaeron, the Skies were just beginning to turn from midnight black to indigo hues, that promissed no man, woman or child would be able to halt the sun's rise, nor the battle that would greet it.

As the shadows of the great Alliance war machines and siege towers rumbled forwards through the decimated remain of Brill, their shadows were thrown into sharp relief by the flickered dance of the fires and torches of the Alliance Camp.

"You're remaining upon the Ground Ma'am?"

"I am, though my skills are little use to our forsaken hosts, the rest of our horde allies live and breathe, and I owe it to them to ensure they continue to do so for as long as possible. You and the War Hawk are charged with leading the Flames in the Sky, Assisting the First, and limiting the advance their Gryphon-riders can make over the Horde Forces."

"Yes Ma'am."

"Only the Brave, Spectre, let us make the Aerie proud of us."

---------------------

The day had passed in a haze, making his rounds on the ward that held the Second, murmered conversations with both staff and patients. Here, with the eternal spring of Quel'thalas beyond the windows, the horror of Lordaeron City and Tirisfal seemed nothing but a bad dream.

The Second fall of Lordaeron. When his "Flame Hawks" had first returned, he had been kept from them, contamination rife, quarantined to all but the medical staff working tirelessly.

He had taken to Ilex, soared out through the night sky towards Lordaeron, wanting to see for himself.

Rolled out below him the plague clung as a thick miasma, cutting off Alliance towers and machines of war. Within the fog the mindless dead rose, shuffling a few steps before they collapsed once more, trapped within the restless cycle, bones never to find peace.

But here, in the ward, it felt like some distant nightmare, a tale told to frightened children. He sat in a chair by the window, his mind wandered as his gaze flitted over towards the bed opposite. Asteril Telarix, the old yet stately battlemage, sat silently upon the edge of the bed, robes pooled around his hips, his expression blank, gaze fixed on some distant point thousands of yards away. As healers began carefully to unwind the bandages that ran from fingertips to shoulder, and out across his torso, a befouled scent filled the room with each layer that was peeled away.

When the last bandages fell, the extent of the damage lay exposed, the flesh beneath raw and skinless, here and there the fresh reds and pinks of healthy regrowth were dotted between the infected and necrotic. Spectre showed no reaction as the menders worked, though the process must no doubt have been painful. One used tools to lift away dead and blackened flesh, setting it into a pan to be disposed of. The other smoothed herbal salves over the infection, that stifled the odours of rot with harshly contrasted floral blooms. Only when bandages were replaced, his robes had been refastened, and the healers gone away, did the Scout-Hawk turn his gaze to Dae'anneth. Four words fell grimly from his lips.

"Was I too late?"

----------------------

An Equerry bustled through, finding Brigante Summerisle at his desk.

"Mister Silverflare, to see you Sir."

"About time, send him in."

With a curt nod the Equerry withdrew, moments later the door opened again, Dae'anneth stepped inside, his more formal braids wound over one half of his scalp before meeting the low tail at the nape of his neck. His eyes were deeply shadowed, skin pale and ashen as if he had not seen sun in weeks, his armour now a looser fit shifted as he moved, his appearance was strikingly similar to when he had first enlisted, near two years improvement unravelled in weeks.

"You sent for me Sir?"

"I did Drake, in fact I sent for you three days ago, but it seems you have been away from your office." Brigante watched him shrewdly before gesturing to a chair on the opposite side of the desk. "No matter, you made it eventually. Close the door, have a seat if you would."

Dae'anneth closed the door before taking the offered chair. He watched as Brigante poured himself a port and offered the bottle to him. Dae'anneth shook his head.

"I'm at my two for the day Sir."

Brigante arched an eyebrow as he set the bottle down.

"It's barely the ninth bell, is this going to become a problem Drake?"

"No more than usual, it takes the edge off the scars." His gaze flickered to the portrait hung behind the Commandant's desk, deftly changing the subject away from his own condition. "How fare the First?"

"You don't know? I would have thought you'd check in with the Starglows. And I also am yet to see a report on the Second."

Dae'anneth leaned back against his chair, his hand running over his hair, smoothing it flat, as he arched and stretched his spine.

"My apologies Magni, I have been somewhat preoccupied."

"I can tell Drake, I can tell."

"If you'll accept my report verbally? We lost two in Ashenvale, one rider one Hawk, heavy injuries were sustained throughout the Tirisfal Campaign, as for the battle of the city itself, our current losses stand at three, one rider, two hawks."

"Current Losses?"

Dae'anneth drags his head up to look at Brigante. Slowly he raised his hand and held aloft one finger.

"Asteril Telarix, Scout-hawk, he is of advanced age, but exposed himself to blight to rescue one of our own, all that can be done is being done, but should the necrosis and infections spread too quickly," Dae'anneth let out a low sigh "His was one of lost Dragonhawks already counted."
The skies thrummed, beat of wings and whir of engine mingled with the sounds of projectiles of all kinds, mechanic and magic, whistling arrow and explosive grenade. The chorus of the melody of battle lifted by hawkflame, harmonised with the screams of its victims, it all but drowned out the battle below.

The Second Escadrille swarmed the skies, picking off trade from both the First and their Wyvern-riding allies in the Skies. No flier could spare a moments glance down, severely outnumbered, the Escadrilles had to instead rely upon centuries of experience in the Skies, between them there was more than three millennia of of lessons learned the hard way behind those fliers eyes.

---------------------

Dae'anneth raised a second finger.

"Then there is Camus Evergazer, whilst Physically fit he is still being assessed by Doctor Sunwake, it was his Son who was taken down in Ashenvale by the mechanical "fel-silithid", he lost his wife back in the fall, now with the loss of his son and the horrors of the battle, he is on constant watch for his own safety."

---------------------

Almost as one, the Gryphon riders and Gnomish Gyrocopters turned all and fled. Whoop's and cries of victory rattled over the Comms

"Only the Brave Inherit the Skies!"

"Trade in full retreat! The Skies are ours!"

"Only the Brave!"

A Golden Dragonhawk streaked riderless upwards into the sky. Eyes wide it's panicked shrieks cut like glass sending it's brethren into a frenzy.

As every rider tried to reclaim control, they turned, and saw. All victory gone, for a moment there was only Silence.

The voice of Theadril Goldensun cut flat across the Comms.

"We are leaving."

"But War Hawk-"

The Golden Dragonhawk dived once more and stopped short above the roiling blight. Forces on both sides, horde and alliance fell to the ground as it's sickness took hold. The great hawk thrashed it's wings, bursts of flame escaping as it fought to clear the air below it. But nothing could stop the flow of the blight, the Dragonhawk screamed as all efforts to reach the figure below fell in vain. The fog crested over the walls of the City of Lordaeron, thickening on the ground by the moment.

"There is nothing to be done for them now." War-Hawk Goldensun turned his back on the City.

With Reluctance the Second formed Wings.

"Theadril, you cannot leave her!" Spectre's voice snapped over the comms.

"We cannot reach her -Scout Hawk- I will not risk an entire Escadrille against the -Blight- for one-"

Asteril had stopped listening, he paid no heed to the roar of orders, the shouts of protest as he broke ranks and dived.

Once more Battle Sister, once more into the breach, if this is the hill we are to die upon, we shall know we did not abandon one of our own.

---------------------

"Finally," he raised a third finger, before he dropped his hand to his lap. Eyes closed as he carefully picked his words, "Lieutenant Sungleam, 'Polish'. She was on the ground working as a field medic at the battle. When the blight was unleashed her Hawk broke free of the Handlers and rose shrieking, alerting the others. Had Telarix been but a moment..." Dae'anneth talked himself into silence. Hands trembled as he rifled through his pockets, finding the silver cigarette case and lighter. Extracting one he set it between his teeth and lit it.

-------------------

Telarix dove from the skies, in the back of his mind his own fears joined the cacophony of shouts from the Flame Hawks, calling him back, fearing for his safety.

The Escadrille do not abandon their own.

They plunged past the Golden who was hovering above the sea of death washing across the lands, and into the blight itself, within, Lieutenant Sungleam's barrier of light was already fading.

Telarix's own hawk began to shriek and cry out in pain, it's roar cracking and wheezing with every breath. Throwing himself sideways, trusting in the strength of the harness even as it began to corrode, he reached for her.

"Polish! Take my hand!"

She reached up, as she grasped the offered arm, her barrier faded and the blight swept in around her.
"It's not, good. How long has it even been? She... she cannot breath on her own, it took days to decontaminate her, her skin came away in sheets, slipped free as if it's attachment to the flesh and body beneath was no more substantial than a silk glove. The light is sustaining her, for now. There is the possibility that her lungs have rotten within her, but the necrosis and blight seems too have finally faded. Now it is up to her and the light."

------------------

As Telarix hauled Sungleam up onto his hawk they were already rising, but with each thrash of her wings, it became clearer and clearer his battle sister was not long left for this world.

They flew east, towards clear earth, beyond reach of the Blight, rapidly losing height by the moment.

Forgive me sister, but we must reach safe ground.

Ensuring his grasp on Esalria held her unconscious form close, he pressed his hand to the ridges behind his Battle-Sisters head. Flame ripped from his palm, pouring straight into the Dragonhawks skull.

Afterwards, he would recall that the worst thing was not the stench of Esalria's, and his own, rotting flesh, nor the burning of scale and bone of his hawk.

It was the silence as she died, the spasms of her death throes, wings thrashing to grant them height before he cut himself free. The parachute opening as he watched his loyal Hawk fall down into the blight, her scale, feathers and flesh eaten away to nothing more than bone.


As they glided to the earth, Telarix laid Sungleam upon the Ground, she was barely breathing.

Her great golden hawk landed beside them, it's shrieks of panic deafening in their full throated harshness.

Closing his eyes he murmured under his breath, runes formed around the stricken Lieutenant. Then with a hiss of arcane, she vanished.

----------------------------

The Sanatorium bustled. With the Escadrilles out at the front no-one stood idle, all waiting for that first call, preparing for the worst.

A scream shattered through the halls as an acolyte who had been preparing the rooms fled out of the door and promptly vomited on the polished floor.

Medics and surgeons ran toward her, she merely gestured towards the door, all colour drained from her face.

As they entered there were gasps of shock. Some fled to fetch resources, others to set up quarantine. The young acolyte found herself marched to another room and sealed inside for observation.

Upon the bed lay Lieutenant Esalria Sungleam. Or at least that was the assumption from her armour and rubied insignia, both of which were heavily corroded. The woman was near unrecognizable, appearing little more than a burned and rotting corpse. Her skin was burned or melted away, slipping aside in sheets to reveal muscle beneath, blight drifted from her like a haze.

The staff of the Sanatorium began as one to work as a well oiled machine, but the whispers spread like wildfire.

If this was the condition of the Lieutenant, how fared the rest of the Escadrille?

------------------

Telarix remained on his knees, eyes closed as he heard the buckles unfasten. Theadril Goldensun dismounted, and strode over towards the Magister.

"On. Your. Feet. Scout-Hawk."

Telarix pushed himself upright, his glare forged in millennia of battle rested on the War-Hawk. Beneath his robes he could already feel skin sliding, slipping as if it was unmoored, bloodied wetness marred his robe.

"You disobeyed a direct order."

"You would have left her behind."

"Yes! Do you believe you've saved her? That she will be cleansed? Healed? Have you not looked upon the scar of our homeland? Upon Gilneas still thick with the stench of it? Quite possibly all you've done is delivered the blight to the Sanatorium! You might as well have sent them a swivving Plague barrel!"

The Hawks and riders of the Second came into land, forming a ring around the pair. Keeping their distance. Watching. Listening.

A muscle twitched in Asteril's jaw. "The Escadrilles do not leave our brothers and Sisters behind."

"Do you believe she will -thank- you for whatever remains of her life, suffering that condition? That is even assuming she will wake up at all. She would be better off on the wall than what you've cursed her to. Flame Hawks, we are going home."

Goldensun had turned back to his hawk when the battle-mages fist struck.

Bearing the man to the floor Telarix pinned him, ignoring the shouts of protest from the riders around him, paying no heed to the jangling of buckles as they fought to free themselves. His plated gauntlet painted Theadril's face hues of purple and blue, until sanguine reds splattered over the dead earth.

It took three Flame-hawks to drag Spectre away. Theadril Goldensun lay unmoving and silent upon the ground whilst above his silver Dragonhawk faced off against the Lieutenants golden one. The Silver roared and shrieked in defence of his wingless self, the Golden answered to protect the rider who had saved hers.

Several of the Escadrille fought to separate the pair. Eventually after several minutes of noise and battling, a quiet settled upon the clearing, and all eyes turned to the Scout-Hawk.

Asteril kept his gaze on the prone form of Theadril Goldensun. "Get him back in the saddle." He looked pointedly at each flier in turn. "This never happened. Air combat is a dangerous game, full of perils for the unlucky. Not one among us saw which -alliance- struck the blows." He rested his hand upon the baton issued to all ranked between Scout-hawk and officer, to mete out discipline when needed. "I trust I make myself clear?"

Murmurs of worried 'Yes Scout-hawk's answered. Several elves bore the unconscious form of Theadril to his Dragonhawk and ensured he was fastened securely. Asteril Telarix climbed upon the Golden, wincing as he fought to hide his wheezing.

He looked down at his bloodied gauntlet and clicked open the comms.

"Let us go home."

--------------------------

Dae'anneth leaned his forehead against the crisp white sheets, bathed in a soft glow emitted from the crystals that hovered above the bed, as he had every night since the quarantine had been lifted.

The gentle golden veil of light encased Esalria, her skin healed, only thin pale scars determined where edges of regrowth had met. Dae'anneth's armour lay abandoned on one side of the room after his 'talk' with the Commandant. Instead only the thin shirt and light leather trousers adorned him still. He could feel it catch upon his still tender scars. Training had torn at them, but even with the war almost at their door, he could not bring himself to care.

He curled his fingers around Esalria's which rested above the sheets. He leant his head upon his hand, watching each enchanted breath rise and fall.

He did not want her to wake alone.

So he watched.

And waited.

And prayed.
The knock came late, the Elf set aside his papers and raised, adjusting his robes around him, setting down the quill, the writings fading from their arcane blue. He had no worry, as he made his way to the door. For someone to have gotten this far, past the security and Arcane Golems, they would have to be someone known, someone trusted, or someone well above his paygrade to worry about.

As it turned out, they were two of those things. The door opened to a craggy grey haired elf, dressed immaculately, in his lacquered armour, not a hulking figure, but one of implied menace, “Here is an elf who has lived long enough to ruin all of your tomorrows, for he has lived through all the yesterdays” it said. he looked briefly at Brigante’s robes before smiling wryly “You even dress like a politician these days” before he pushed the doorway open and stepped in.

“Tarri and the Children are asleep?” he asked, as he sat in one of the chairs.

“Forenth, it is late, and I don’t have time for this...look, a drink, we’ll talk whatever it is, and then you need to leave, I was finishing up and then going to bed, I really don’t have the time”

Brigante poured two measures of brandy out, setting them down on the table.

Forenth sipped from the Brandy, then the older elf looked at Brigante “You’re right.”

“I generally am, people would be amazed at how often I am, especially at damned Conclave, I mean I acted the giddy goat, and I -think- most of them bought it, but even s-”

Forenth held up a hand. It wasn’t a threat. It was his stillness, his absolute assurance that what he said, was important, more important than whatever crazy thoughts and words were coming out of your mouth.

“You’re right” He said, nodding slowly, sipping from his brandy “Ahh, hits the spot..” The aged elf smiled slowly “You’re right though, you don’t have the time”

Forenth nodded slowly, “And the thing is, you know it, up here…” Forenth tapped his temple, and instinctively Brigante did too, touching the scar tissue left from the attempted assassination in Darkshore, the wound that had plagued him ever since, the bulletwound tracing its way across the side of his head. The scar that he couldn’t help picking at...thinking that it was bleeding, thinking that it was making him mad.

“You don’t have the time...I’ve seen it before, my boy. Day by day, you know it. You’re flying too close to the glass mountain, and don’t don’t give me any platitudes about what it means, you know what it means”

Brigante shook his head “You’ve really got me at a loss there Forenth”
“You sent for me.”
Brigante stood and adjusted his robes “I really did not, You’re going mad in your old age, Forenth, perhaps you should take a break?”

“A Break?” Forenth laughed and sipped from the brandy, stretching his legs comfortably “if you were honest with yourself, you would know that you had sent for me”

“The Alliance will come for us in their full might and fury because of the Warchief’s actions”

“Your words?”

Brigante furrowed his brow and nodded “Yes, and I stand by them?”

“When was the last time, you allowed yourself a break? A Rest? A Time that was not spent with the Dragonhawks, or planning the next War? Those papers, about the upcoming threats I take it, The War?”

Brigante shuffled the papers into a pile and sipped from his own brandy. “We are the last bastion on the Eastern Continent, Quel’thalas is a logical target for the enemy.”

Forenth looked sympathetically at him “Oh my boy, you think I mean -That- War”

Forenth set his glass tumbler down on the table. “Don’t you understand it yet?”

Brigante bristled “Well as you’re all full of wisdom why don’t you tell me?” He set his own tumbler down, sitting across from the elf, his brows furrowed in annoyance.

Forenth sighed “You, sent for me. Not the you sat in robes and ready to retire to bed, but the -You- in a rookery nested on straw, the -You- that is not even an elf, but a Dragonhawk, don’t you even understand? There is such a thing as bonding -too- much...Don’t you understand that too is a Glass Mountain….?”

Brigante glared “You go too far.”
Forenth sighed slowly, “I am -Allowed- to go too far, thats the point”

Brigante glared and bared his teeth at Forenth “Not this Far!”

Forenth just stood and shook his head “Which -you- is it I am talking to? The one who lives in a house with a wife and children, or the one who lives in a Rookery? Is there even a difference anymore?”

Forenth collected his cloak and left looking over his shoulder. “I Know what you ordered at Teldrassil… what you did, what you ordered your fliers to do...thats why I came here with words, and not a dagger to put down a monster… Just remember that. This time I came with words. I serve Elves”

“Not Monsters”

The door clicked behind him as he left.

Brigante stood seething for a good few minutes, How Dare He! How Dare he come in and make such a claim!

Then the childs voices started crying from the next room, probably aroused by his angry ranting.

Was it him, or was it a trick of the mind that he was finding the crying of Elven children inseparable from the cries of Dragonhawk hatchlings?

Was it him, or did it sound like the scream of Teldrassil’s dying, as the flames rose and they could save no more. When they had to fly, knowing that those they left would burn.

His fingers scratched at the scar on his temple, setting it to bleed again.

“What have we done?” He whirled and turned into the room, the crib with the two infants filled with wailing examples of misery at the injustice of adults. Tarrithael shifted i her bed “I can’t’ Gant”

“No, No, I have them, my love, rest”

He Scooped up the two children, and held them close, two tiny moppets, as he jogged them in his arms, walking next door, to allow their mother some time to sleep, so fragile, so small, tufts of white hair like their parents, Their eyes...even as children, fierce and intense...what future of theirs was he fighting for?

He knew it then.

He knew it when they stopped crying, and instead reached out for papa’s face to touch it, and him stick his tongue out, and laugh, to slap each other with childish ineffectualness and giggle.

It didn’t matter what future he thought he was fighting for.

He was fighting for today.

Tomorrows problems?

He looked at the two infants rolling around in his lap, spiritedly trying to stick fingers up each others noses.

Tomorrows problems?

They were theirs. But no need to tell them that now, even if Forenth was right, he had...time yet...surely…

Surely?

Surely this world can give us a life without torment, with a hope that our children may grow up safe….That is not too much to ask, for such innocent children as these? He thought.

A Knock at the door.

Brigante set the children down, safely, before opening the door, he hoped his expression was of sufficient anger as to give the caller no misapprehension as to their welcome.

“Well?” He uttered.

“Sir, there have been reports of massed Alliance Aerial units out of Theslamar Sir.”

“Thats a long Trek…”

“Even so Sir, headed this way,”

Brigante pinched his nose “We’ll gather information later, Thank you for your expedient notification”

He closed the door. Walked back in the room.

War waited for no one.

He looked down at his children playing with each other and smiled. Perhaps it waited for these two. He scooped them up “HO, What Scamps have I here!” He wandered next door and set them next to their mother, before sighing, as she turned to embrace both the children.

He needed to say nothing, she said nothing, she knew. She just touched his hand and he nodded “We’re Up”.

She didn’t wish him ‘Good luck’, that was..hah, ironically, bad luck for fliers.....She just looked at him, as if this was the last time she would see him, which it might be, and simply said “Come back”. He smiled sadly “I’ll try to”

He tried to think of some words to say..some pithy or dramatic words, but he could not…

He stopped...his eyes suddenly filled with tears, he was a wordsmith beyond compare, but he had nothing? This most important of times and he had nothing?

He frowned, looked at his two infant children “Just...Tell them to be who they want to be, not what they think their father wanted them to be. Thats important” He nodded, before affixing his cloak and heading to the door.
Brigante stopped and sighed before turning back. “A Future is enough? Don’t you think?”
“I mean, it...isn’t a bad show for a life?”
“You’ll be back then, after your rough and tumble with the Alliance?”

“Well of course I will, Johnny Blue doesn’t have anything that can match even the rawest of my recruits.”

“But you?”

“They’ve got no one. No-One who can match me. Isn’t anyone in the world who can match me. I’m untouchable…”

No one is untouchable.
“This might just work….” he mused as he cast his eyes over the massed aerial wings of the Horde Forces. As he had hoped, the Queensguard had answered his request. Enemy air forces were sighted out of Theslamar, a long trek, but headed north.

Elven eyes were good. Damned good. But a Batrider who knew what they were doing, on a Bat that could sense things beyond the horizon….

They were better.

No one had given a name to it yet. It was just one of those mystical senses animals had. He didn’t know if giant bats were intelligent, they only had a few at the Aerie, and of course he could not try to Bond with one in order to find out, that would be disgusting...as vile as the idea of cheating on his wife, such a close relationship could only...he shuddered, and not just from the cold at five hundred feet as they crossed over the Thalassian Pass.

Grows Emotional, Wingless Self

The voice came unbidden in his head, before he leant forward and remarked
“Don’t tempt me to trade you in for a newer model” his voice whipped away by the wind, but his words heard, nonetheless.

They Stink.

“Not any of our faults how we are made, Sunspear, I remember you as an Egg, the Forsaken have proven good allies to us, and true”

Didst not mean the wingless ones.

Brigante looked to his left and right, behind him, his own fliers, to their left, and right, Forsaken. He had a plan, should battle be joined, but so much depended upon contact being made, and that depended upon…

He raised a gauntlet, for a moment struggling to remember the appellations the Queensguard fliers had given themselves. Some of them were clearly more expert than others, some he would have benched if they were under his command, Straggling across the skies like wayward pups, dipping and rising like uncertain Orca’s, their resolution was solid, if their skill was not, and some of them did seem to have natural skill...and beggars could not be choosers, and the Forsaken had much to fight for, they had after all, just lost their home.

Brigante intended to make sure the Sin’dorei did not lose theirs.

Again.

The names came to him, and he clicked his communicator “Fayewing, Roachwing, We need your Bats to tell us where to head, can you do that?”

A Few moments of silence to both Elven and Undead ears, before a voice came over the Comms, rasping, harsh, clearly one of the unliving gifted a communicator by his Lieutenant. “Over Andorhal, Headed North”.

Brigante nodded, before speaking again “All Wings, Head due West, initial point of intercept is Andorhal”

He smiled to himself, a crooked smile, half happiness, half grimace. He had watched them file in, his Fliers, all wearing their Flight Harnesses, the straps and buckles that would attach them to their Battle-comrades trailing, unwieldy on the ground, never worn normally except when flying. They held both state secrets and methods that made them a weapon unparallelled in the skies. The Queensguard would not have these of course, and it was above his paygrade to issue them, even if, which there was not, there was time to individually fit each rider to their mount. Did the Forsaken even -care- for their mounts the way his fliers did? Were they Battle Brothers and Sisters? Equals in life and death, or had that cold embrace stolen from them any empathy.

He had to believe it had not. Had to, else they would not have come to the aid of the Shining City, the one bastion of Hope for the Horde in the Eastern Kingdoms.

He had looked up from the briefing table, and seen them, stood in the Ranger’s Lodge. So Many…A Host such as less than twenty years ago he would have loosed arrow after arrow into their heads….Funny, the games that time plays with us… He knew there were mutterings, he had heard several, “Why are there Forsaken -Here-?” He did not care. Elves already thought him either a warmonger, a madman, or something in between.

He closed his eyes and thought of his children, of the world he wanted for them.

One day, people would see him as a saviour. Or rather they would not. They would never know.

They didn’t need to. This wasn’t about that…

He heaved in a breath. Not all Hope was lost. Their Allies were still true.

He had given a speech, it was probably a good one, he could not at this moment remember a single word of it, as his vision focussed and what was Brigante Summerisle faded, and the Predator took over, scanning the skies like an eagle.

Some of the Forsaken had wandered off, by accident or choice he could not know. He heard scattered reports “Stratholme is clear!” He grimaced and his scarred eye twitched, a sign of annoyance “Who asked them to go there!” he growled to himself.

“Get all your Wings in Order!” He barked down the Communicators.

“Fayewing, Roachwing, I need more information on those inbound, can you get me that?”

A Few seconds of delay, before the same rasping voice came back “I Have what you need Commandant. Thirty, Inbound, over Andorhal now, headed North, I would guess about five hundred feet”

The Same Forsaken...Useful piece of kit, whoever that lad was, he would have to find out, later...although….Thirty? If there was a later perhaps..

“All Wings head due North West, make approach to Mender’s Stead, climb to seven hundred feet.”

Whoever that Forsaken was...he was bang on the money, there they were, a formation, twenty Alliance Fighters, Gyrocopters, and ten of the twin engined bombers, headed north. No telling for sure where they were going, but no reason to take chances.

“Roachwing, Fayewing, engage the Fighters. Sunwing, engage the bombers” It was with bitterness he said the last, for that was the dangerous task, they would come under fire from both the enemy bombers themselves, and their escorts, and there were not enough Forsaken to occupy them all. The Alliance had the numbers, and as good as the Forsaken may prove to be, being an unknown factor, numbers always told. He was setting his Sun Hawks to be in the crossfire, but there was no other choice, it had to be this way.

In Thalassian he muttered down the Comms “Sunwing, hold one…”

The Forsaken Batriders dived down upon the enemy fighters, who broke and turned to fight, all of them eager for a kill, the Bombers carrying on.

He smiled. Good, that taught him all he needed to know, they regarded their lives as more important than the mission. Of course they did. An Invader never fought as desperately as the one defending their home, but still, he could use that knowledge…

The Bludgeon had smashed them in the face, now the time for the Stiletto in the ribs…

“Sunwing engage”

Unlike the bulky bats and shining Gyrocopters the Dragonhawks peeled off and turned, thin missiles diving through the aerial combat, as he passed through he saw a particularly daring Forsaken, slam his Bat at the tailpiece of a Gyro, ripping it off even as its Gnomish pilot fired a gun over his shoulder, as the Gyro bellied up, the Batrider had his steed grab the mechanical contraption and hurl it at the close by mountains over Mender’s Stead, an explosion of black smoke and red fire.

“Inventive!” He remarked calmly, as his eyes narrowed, the sky a sudden aerial bar fight, nothing of finesse, the Forsaken fliers obviously working off some tensions.. his Hawks however sailing serenely through it, their focus on the bombers. Callous? Yes. Practical? Yes. and the Sin’dorei were nothing but practical.

And then the bullets started to flash by his head, from a pursuing fighter as yet unengaged, and ahead, he set his sights on a target, and saw the human in the rear of the bomber swing around the gun mounted on the back and with a ‘Pom Pom Pom!’ sound, rounds lazily zipped towards him, only seeming to take on speed as they neared, when suddenly they were like lightning flashes around his head.

HIs fliers started to take hits, he could hear, through the lended Comms on a different frequency, the Forsaken were also. Didn’t matter to him right now, a fixed grin on his face, banners flying behind him proclaiming who he was, his kills, as if the red armoured Dragonhawk was not enough... the panic on the enemy gunner’s face even behind their goggles, it wasn’t that he didn’t care, but if he stopped to care, he’d get them all killed..

Sunspear’s flame washed over the left engine which started to trail black smoke, the pilot was clever, play to your strengths, He went with the damage, spinning the bomber, bringing his gunner into play again ‘Pom Pom Pom’ sounded the gun, trailing in closer to Brigante, he was still taking fire from behind., so dived even lower, below the Bomber, the gunner couldn’t hit him here, Before rising and giving flame to set the left engine not to smoking, but to explode, taking the wing with it, the bomber span over and over, before slamming into the patchwork fields below..

There were no parachutes.

“Bad luck” he remarked.

All over the Comms he was hearing similar, from Sin’dorei and Forsaken fliers alike “Enemy Down”. Equally, he was hearing that both Sin’dorei and Forsaken were taking Hits, they had to break the enemy morale, or lose this battle, they could not win it on numbers.

“Press On! Press on! Break Them!”
He span, confronting for a moment a grim faced Forsaken Batrider, chasing the the Gyro on his tail, he looped overhead and span, letting loose flame at a Gyro chasing one of his Sun Hawks, before a hail of bullets spat past him, a Gyro followed by another Batrider pursuing it, he turned and loosed an arrow at the Gyro rider, before spinning right to avoid a mid air collision with another Dragonhawk, themselves pursuing one of the stray bombers, He dived low, with a burst of flame raised up at a Gyro pursuing a Batrider, he couldn’t tell if it did any damage, but it scared them off his? Her? Tail.

The sky was full of bullets, spite, and fire. A twisting aerial melange of Dragonhawks, Bats, Gyro’s, and quite simply, aerial death. For all the meticulous planning, on either side, it had taken on the attributes of a tavern fight, where now it was all about hitting the other fellow harder than you were getting hit, and if that meant smashing metaphorical chairs over heads then so be it!.

As it reached a crescendo, Brigante noticed something, Even as he swiped his Dragonhawk left to avoid an incoming attack...they were fighting over Andorhal now… The Alliance air raid was...retreating.

He blinked. He was unharmed...untouched…How? That never usually happened….

Perhaps he -was- invincible…

Looking at his fliers, and their gallant allies, he realised the same was not true of many..of most..in fact...in fact...this battle had come at bitter cost..

He winced and spoke into his Comms. “Sunwing, Roachwing, Fayewing, Let them flee. We Won. WE WON!”

As the Horde Air Force headed north, to lick its wounds, and prepare for doubtless harder testing in the months to come, Brigante mused.

“Whatever the cause of this war, we will repel any invader to the High Home, so it has always been, so it is, and so it will always be”

Despite his words, it was sagging and bleeding Dragonhawks, Bats, and riders that made their way north.

But then, no one said War would be easy.
Brigante looked hard at the roster for the upcoming mission. His finger traced the words.. He did not have trouble reading..It would surprise many but he was a polymath, fluent in many languages, through his centuries of service. It wasn’t the language he had trouble with...it was what the words meant…

We all make promises..and we mean them.

He meant his. He just didn’t know whether the Fighting Starglows knew what...what it would cost him. He knew, or could only imagine, could only imagine the horror and importance this would have for them.

No.

He remembered Asharion. He remembered Durovante

He knew what they would be feeling. Or at least had an idea….

He slammed the pencil down on the desk, turning quickly to make sure he had not woken Tarri or the Twins.

This next mission...two of his fliers would have a vastly over inflated, and righteous fury towards the target...how could he manage that...should he even try to?

There was no swaying them, certainly not Yasmyr, When he tried to draw away from it, feigning indignation at Rainmaker’s words, she snapped into focus, Aiechi had said naught, but the pair, like focussed eyes on a target.

Fliers Eyes.

And he had made a promise.

A Promise that violated his very principles to his core.

A lesser elf would have asked why...he knew why...He hoped Rainmaker would have been killed by now, or would die in combat, but now...now there was a real chance he would have to uphold his promise...To just...walk away...and let it happen… To drop that last mask….to give up that one pretence that kept him who he was, that he was a Good Man.

He remembered...hells, more than a thousand three hundred years ago, he had only been nineteen. The sweep and clear during the tail end of the Amani Troll Wars. The Village, the inhabitants naught but bones, gnawed upon, and not by animals… They’d taken an Amani prisoner, bent down five saplings, tied them with ropes to the ground, then tied another rope to extremities, arms, legs, and the fifth? Well, it would not have worked if the prisoner was female, put it that way. Again and again the questions, where were the Trolls who had cannibalised that village, The prisoner refused to answer...they must have been in agony…

Brigante learned something then..They were in agony and said nothing. And then everything changed.

The Ranger-Lieutenant had lost his patience “Chop that rope”, The Young Ranger did and with a hideous tearing sound, like the swift tearing of a meat joint, the Sapling sprang back into place, taking with it the Trolls left arm, who screamed in agony. Brigante had been sick, an older ranger had patted his back, “they’d do worse lad, they -do- worse” Brigante looked up, his chin still covered in vomit “Does that mean we have to?”

The Ranger looked away, and pointed, “listen, he’s talking”
Brigante listened .

The Troll was talking, rapidly, as if his life depended upon it, as if he had only just realised that the Farstriders were every bit as cruel as his own people could be, but it was all jumbled and wrong...He was saying that commanders long dead were responsible for the attacks, and naming troops that they knew were already destroyed were responsible, there was nothing of worth in his words, he was just talking...a lot...almost in a frenzy to get words out.

Nineteen year old Brigante wiped the vomit from his chin and listened carefully...not because he believed the words, but because he wanted to know how not to be fooled. He almost had to be called by the Ranger Lieutenant three times before he answered “Yes Sir!” “Cut him loose” Thats what he heard, he took his hatchet and slammed it down on a rope, which sent a sapling spinning into the skies, taking with it a part of the Troll that they were likely dearly attached to

“I...didn’t.. Mean that” The Ranger-Lieutenant said, “Alright, Cut the ropes, Summerisle has set the trend for brutality, Kill him horribly”.

Brigante was sick again. Sick as the blood from the disjointed and gelded troll started to rain down on them. “I am -not- doing that again!” he growled, his eyes closed as the blood matted his hair.

He opened blazing blue eyes, even though his face was smeared with blood. “I am a Good Man”

Almost one thousand and four hundred years later, he hunched over the map, scarred, worn and weary, lamed in one leg, and opened blazing green eyes, looked at the latest map, and the roster…

“I am a Good Man. But that means I keep my promises.” He stabbed a finger on the map. “Our next deployment. I lead them in, I lead the fight, we get to Rainmaker and then….”

His eyes looked empty for a moment.

“Then I keep my promise, and I walk away.”

It never rained in Quel’thalas, but as he robed himself for bed, Brigante could swear he heard the rain of blood falling down as the sapling trees snapped into place, so long ago….

To the echoing sounds of screams...
The last day dawned, the same as any other. No fanfare, nor roll of thunder. The mists receded sluggishly from the scorched soil, the light of the Eternal Sun seeming pale and sickly until the fog burned away, revealing dead trees and wrecked Scourge plague-wagons reaching up like skeletal fingers towards the sky. Once there had been life in the Blackened Woods; once the sprawling, sickly weeds had been a garden, where once a child had gazed up and dreamed of eagles. Now only ghosts remained.

She stubbed out her cigarette in an overflowing ashtray, scratched the livid pink scarring where her left arm ended (the flesh of her stump cold, always cold, beneath her fingers), took a pull from her hipflask. In centuries to come, when they wrote her story, they'd claim Yazputor Silvergrab had been her making – more than Averdale taking her arm or Trinovante crafting her a new one, more even than the other Summerisle pinning increasingly gaudy wings to her chest as she climbed the Escadrille's ranks – and how delicious an irony was it, to think the armsdealer known as Rainmaker had crafted his own destruction by honing a grieving mother into a weapon, each step along the way tempering her from flesh to steel?

It was nonsense, of course. Brigante at least had to have come to realise that the Starglows had not been 'remade', so much as awakened from a decade-long slumber. Did he regret the promise he had made, before they enlisted, before he knew what lay beneath the veneer of respectable civilian life? Assuredly. He had begged – though without actually begging, frustratingly indirect as ever – to be released, and she had denied him. Since then? He had wielded I keep my promises as a flagellant might their scourge, as if the Rainmaker had not struck at the heart of the Escadrille – as if that had not been the point, and her family not so much incidental collateral damage in its wake. Feth, he should have been contesting for the honour of wielding the blade, not trying to tear it from her fingers.

Her skin itched where Aiechi had healed her burns, the shot she'd intercepted aimed at Narmë – at the precious cargo she carried, rather, the one that had earned them the location of Rainmaker's fortress. If she'd fallen then – if she fell tonight – she knew she could trust him to see their Mission through to completion, and hold Brigante to his word even if he tried to argue the pact had been with her specifically.

The last day dawned, the same as any other; the sun rose, the world turned, and the dead – the truly dead, not those shambling remnants that still plagued the scar - remained stubbornly silent. Soon either she or the Rainmaker would join them.
He felt empty.

The worst of it was, it wasn’t even his emptiness to feel. He wasn’t the aggrieved party here, that had been the whole point. The Promise.

He had never realised how hard it would be to just Walk Away.

Through all these years, fighting for the Horde, after so much of his life had been spent fighting for the Alliance, he had clung to that one truth, that one sweet little lie he had told himself.

“I am a Good Man”

He could not claim such anymore. He had looked Yazputor Silvergrab, the ‘Rainmaker’ in his eye, his shattered war machine now so much scrap metal... turned to the Starglows and just said “I keep my promises” and turned and walked away.

He knew what would happen. A Father and a Mother’s grief for a child killed, a death that had for his people sparked a war in Redridge, that had caused him to order the use of weapons so terrible that the Alliance had put a bounty on his head.

Played.

All of them. Like pawns. Rainmaker had set the stage, and they had played their parts.

Oh, it was over, but Rainmaker had done far more than simply attack the Aerie. He had attacked their souls. He doubted, but wondered, whether the Goblin knew what wreckage he left behind.

Something dark and terrible had been reawoken in the Starglows, Oh Yasmyr was the most vocal, but Aiechi was the one you wanted to watch. Both deadly in their own ways, both dangerous,

Both Ex-Sunfury.

It made him re-examine himself, was he so clean of sins? He remembered when Yasmyr had first came to him, with her request, to join, to fight, to avenge her daughter...He could have said no. He could have cited her personal investment, he could have cited her lack of experience.

He could have done -something-.

He hadn’t. He had made a promise, never expecting it to become real. “When the time comes, Rainmaker is yours”.

And then the moment had come.

And if there was one thing he always did, it was keep his promises.

He never knew what happened, exactly, he waited, he heard Rainmaker scream, a protracted wail, terminated by a final explosion, and then silently, Aiechi and Yasmyr had rejoined the other Hawks, and they left that old Blackfuse manufactory depot.

On the grander scheme of things, they had done a good act. Rainmaker had been repurposing Legion technology, selling it on to nefarious parties, he had tried to start a war just to…

No. Brigante shook his head.

He hadn’t tried to start a war.

He remembered Redridge, how sure his Hawks were, how sure the Horde were. The fire, the fury. The hunger for vengeance. He remembered turning a key, and the dreadful seductive allure of the Tactical Mana bombs within.

He hadn’t tried to start a war.

He -had- started a war.

He had almost wanted to know...had almost wished that his own personal morality did not impose such boundaries on him, had wanted to punch and beat the arms dealer, to smash bone and grind the twisted bones in their sockets, whilst screaming at him for an answer.

Had he known?

Had he known that which he did, what he had done to all of them, or was it all, all of it, purely motivated by coin. He almost hoped there was some sinister motive, some knowledge, there had to be, it couldn’t just be coin, surely not.. The ….damage...the deaths, even the collateral damage that his Hawks and he waved off as ‘Inevitable’.

He rubbed his eyes. Fliers had hit the Glass Mountain over this, so many had died, and something dark and horrible had been reawoken, some subterranean beast hidden away under the veneer of civilian life, in the Starglows, whatever it was, and he knew their records, it was awake again, and it was not going to pass back to sleep now that Rainmaker was dead.

And himself? He had authorised dread protocols and Use of Weapons on common soldiery, he had become death, a winged angel of destruction, He forbade torture, but he had left Rainmaker alone with the Starglows, ‘Theirs to deal with’. He hadn’t asked exactly what happened. Is forbidding torture the same as tacitly allowing it by turning a blind eye? In law, possibly not, in the harshest of courtrooms, and under the strictest of judges, the ones one stood before when you closed your eyes and tried to sleep, he knew the answer.

He hadn’t cared.

The Starglows could have tortured Rainmaker, they could have killed him swiftly, mercifully. He would never know. He couldn’t ask.

Because he was afraid of the answer.

Whatever they did, he had allowed to happen, and after so many centuries of fighting, there are certain things one needs to cling to, to hold tight and never let go, the things that let you carry on, day by day, year by year….decade by decade, and beyond.

He’d never know. He couldn’t know.

That knowledge would be Rainmaker’s last blow, last weapon, and even as he had talked to Yasmyr, he could see that she knew it, that even from beyond the grave, Yazputor Silvergrab, the Rainmaker, could still strike a mortal blow to the Aerie, or at least its commandant.

And that is why he could never ask her, and that is why she could never tell him.

Because she knew what it would do.

Because after Teldrassil, Lordaeron, after so many deaths, there was one thing that he could cling to.

He was a Good Man.

He had to believe that.

He had been pacing in his office, and every time, he made a slight detour around an area on the carpet in front of his desk. He remembered the look on an Equerry’s face when they had stood on that spot, he had paled, and with a roar of rage thrown a copy of Lourde’jan’s “On Guerilla Warfare” at them, that hefty tome striking true. Everyone knew now, you go into the ‘Old Man’s’ office, do not stand central, left or right, but never directly in front of the desk. No one stood there.

Foolish of him. It was a new carpet...much was, his office had needed to be refurbished after the…

He looked down, then knelt, his bad leg protesting with its signature aches, running his fingers through the fibres of the carpet.
“Is this it?” he asked empty space “Is this sins swept clean?”

He still remembered the explosion, and in moments of introspection his hands still scrubbed at his face, to wipe away blood long gone.
He frowned and stood, forced himself to stand on that spot, Where..

Where young Starglow had died.

Where the Sun Hawks had changed, from a thing of perceived justice...to a thing of Vengeance.

And he had let it happen.

The path of least resistance, some called it.

But it wasn’t. In the heat of the moment, the fury, it was easy to go with the rage, the all consuming anger that drove one on, but afterwards…

Afterwards, regret and a wish that you had stood firmer, “No, this we will not do” He could have said those words. He could have…

Done something….
He stopped touching the carpet, stood, and limped to his desk, sitting before the flood of reports and documents about the War in the isles to the West.

Would he stay silent again?
Teldrassil had been wrong, and his fliers had acted. Had acted well.

Lordaeron was...well, was Lordaeron. There was never going to be a happy resolution there, but even he was astonished at the green clouds that engulfed it, disbelieving, just barking orders “We Leave! NOW!”

He struggled with it all, and he looked at the series of reports, and he struggled with it all.

What the Hells was he fighting for?

What were they -all- fighting for?

What was the bloody point? Wasn’t this supposed to be IT? The Legion destroyed, Sargeras had done his worst and the world endured, and yet still like two savage dogs separated by a fence, once the fence was removed, Horde and Alliance had flung themselves at each others throats. Was it -that- simple? That no reason was needed anymore? We fought because they were the ‘Other’?

It affronted his ancient sensibilities, You -disciplined- Dragonhawks who acted that way...Hells, you -Disciplined- fliers who acted that way, a nod at a Subaltern and the baton would come out, and a whack around the shoulders or two, and the fighting would stop...

Who was going to discipline a World?

With a sinking in his stomach, he realised the real blow.

Oh it was clever. It was fiendish..Swive Rainmaker, he was a petty symptom, oh, no, this was clever. This was horribly clever. Oh he had used the phrase so many times himself,”Give them enough rope, and they’ll hang themselves” and never once considered that it applied to him, and everyone on the planet. The Irony? There was probably one entity on the planet who actually ‘Got it’, and it was the one whose name he bore as a mocking epithet for his aerial skill.

Incredible.

Incredible, and unchangeable...It was beautiful...Beautiful and horrible….

He limped to his drink cabinet and poured himself some brandy; ‘Greymane Reserve’ a remnant of a gift from their friends of the Queensguard,Spoils of War from Gilneas, the honey coloured liquid pouring neatly into his ‘Ace’ Tankard, almost perhaps mockingly engraved with the name “Magni” . “You clever caitiff” he growled as he sat, and looked at the plans of the attacks across the globe.

“Its a World War” he growled…”Beautiful...you’ve won, whilst losing… How did we miss this?”

The Cities were all but empty, the soldiers were sent. He’d done it...Brigante laughed and swigged his brandy. It didn’t matter the outcome, he’d done it…

Sargeras had won.

He was arrogant, Brigante, He meant undoubtedly Sargeras was also, but Brigante was not arrogant enough to think that his, of all the minds on Azeroth, just essentially a jumped-up Dragonhawk Jockey was the only one to have thought this way…Other minds in the Horde would have, there would doubtless be minds in the Alliance reaching the same conclusion...

-This- was how the world ended, not with a whimper, but a Bang….

A World War.

With his last act, Sargeras had caused, been the catalyst for the end of their world, the end of Azeroth. All the pieces were in place, it just needed the game board to be laid down for them. With the Sword, he had done that.

He’d torn away the veil, he had unlocked the fence, the two savage hounds, so long baying at each other, whilst united against the outside threat, were suddenly unleashed upon each other.

“It was never going to be you” He smiled wryly as he sipped the brandy and looked at the reports.

“It was never going to be you” he grinned sadly as he saw the genius of it, the horrible certainty.

“You were never going to finish your Burning Crusade…”

“We were”

Brigante shook his head in silent admiration.

“Magnificent”.
HIs hand juddered, the cigarillo in it falling to the ground in Bloodhoof village, cursing he picked it up again, inhaling. Bad for his health, he knew, but then so was his career. Fliers rarely made old bones.

Yet somehow, he had. He still ached, and felt a residual burning, the Warframe’s Light Cannon strike, agonising at the time, now the slow throbbing ache of a scalded hand placed on a stove.

Who, what, was the Herald of Dawn? Not any normal Warframe, that was for sure..

“We have come to your world, to bring the Light’s Grace” And then the screaming, the Horde soldiers, retreating across the Battlescar, blasted and sundered by The Light, only skeletons visible before they too were atomised, nothing but powder.

And they called -him- a monster...at least he did not kill and exult in it…..

Ah, but there was the rub. He leant back against Sunspear’s Saddle, the vast Dragonhawk whickering in acknowledgement.

He did exult in it.

He just never pretended it was an act of ‘grace’.

“Five years, Brother” he muttered. “Five years.” He inhaled on the cigarillo. “So many faces gone, so many new faces, So many battles”

“Thee love it, Wingless Self”

Brigante smiled. “Are right, Winged Self, for all the pain..I do love it.”. He felt the Dragonhawk coil around him, corded muscle that could constrict him and crush him in a heartbeat, yet he had never felt safer. He rested in his Battle-Brother’s coils. Inhaling again, before speaking.

“Five years, coming up, the seventeenth...an important date, I should mark it for them, but we will still be overseas, not at home in Quel’thalas”

“Thy Hatch-day also, Wingless Self”

“That isn’t important, the First Escadrille, my Sun Hawks, will be Five Years Operational on that day. They deserve a feast”

“Couldst do with feast for me, Wingless Self”

Brigante rapped a hand on the chitinous armour of his Dragonhawks body and laughed.

“Get your share you will, you and the other Winged Selfs”

“Five Years...Swive me, the things we have seen. No, they deserve it, even if it is in Orgrimmar, we will celebrate”

“Dost mean to prattle all night, Wingless Self?”

Brigante shook his head slowly “Nay, Tomorrow will be hard fighting, let us rest.”
The Elf lay coiled in his Dragonhawk, the flame breathing creature’s body temperature keeping him warm as they slept.

So Yeah, much to my astonishment and delight, we made five years, or will have, on the 17th, Anyone who wants some casual RP with a bunch of Fliers eating and getting drunk, we’ll be on the riverbank somewhere between the Wyvern’s Tail, and the Barracks, in the Valley of Honour. Sun Hawks Fifth Anniversary as a Unit, feel free to drop by and chill. Absolutely informal IC party, feel free to drop by any time after 2100 Realm time...
Grats on your anniversary Sun Hawks! You're among the best guilds on the realm. It's a pleasure to read your stories and interact with you IC.

Here's to five more.
Happy birthday ourselves! :D
Happy birthday! Congrats with 5 years!

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