Temple of the White Tiger - Kun Lai Summit
The first things he remembered, came from his time spent studying under the Green Dragonflight within the Dream, as Ashamane inhabited his body, in his cat form. Laronar remembered many friends, usually drakes, and their travels through the Dream to places that had truly deepened his appreciation for nature's mysteries. Five centuries had been spent making up on learning he had been lacking, as a druid, and it wasn't only his healing spells that became stronger. More than once, he'd had to call upon his cat form to face down an elder Nightsaber spirit, usually female, that wished to test him.
This had, evidently, left Ashamane in his elven form, and she was amused by many things about humanoids, but ultimately decided she preferred her shape. The only thing she desired, was thumbs. Thumbs were so useful. She'd been able to force the cat mutations down to a bare minimum, though his elven body would always bear the marks of one who'd crossed the line between elf and beast. Though, in Laronar's case, he often erased the line altogether, preferring to all but merge with the animal of whatever shape he took. After well over nine thousand years, they had become aspects of his conscious mind, and ones he welcomed, for he viewed them as a sign of his bond with the Ancients.
Roughly thirty years before he awoke in the Hinterlands, he recalled sensing an imbalance in the elemental planes. Within the Dream, he was contacted by the Spirit of the Wilds itself, and urged to head towards the roaming Tauren tribes. Some had established themselves in permanent settlements, in Stonetalon and Thousand Needles, but most, had been driven from the refuge of Mulgore by the centaur, left to wander the Barrens as their people's culture shrunk further and further from what it had been, and once more turned the Tauren into nomads.
Laronar's dream form manifested in a circle of Kodo hide tents, above a female who radiated the primal connection to the elements that Kaldorei simply did not have. The low-burning fire sputtered between them, as she raised her head, and seemed surprised to see a half-corporeal elf before her. She was young, but the druid recognized wisdom in her eyes, and Azeroth had brought them together for a reason. She spoke first, in her people's tongue. "This is the aid I am given? A sleeping druid of the Kaldorei?"
Laronar smirked, understanding her words, and the shaman's eyes widened as his half-heard words echoed in her head. "I am an old friend of your people, young Shaman...and even in the Dream we have felt disturbances. The elementals are growing restless. Something is stirring them up, weakening the barrier between this plane, and theirs...if they open into each other...chaos will reign."
"You tell us what we already know, sleeping druid." Another, deeper boom joined them now. A male Tauren, an older one, but also a shaman, and one much, much stronger than the female. "We called upon the Wilds for an answer...not more questions."
The female spoke again, before either of them could. "Do not dismiss him so lightly, Oreg...some help is better than none." She turned her head toward the fire, then. "Please, Earth Mother, we must have more…"
The young female's power was answered, and an overwhelming presence silenced the three, as once more it manifested at the shaman's call. "Watch...and prepare…"
A vision overcame the three mortals, as they bore witness to a ritual that had not happened yet, in a land neither of their peoples had a presence in or ties to, a mountainous region, tinged with red rocks. Their vision was dragged towards a truly impressively tall mountain, and within, they found eight powerful sorcerers performing a summoning spell, drawing from as deep within the Fire Elemental Plane as they could, and what they brought forth, was the Firelord himself. His entrance into the world ruined the surrounding lands, decimated cities, and turned the mountainous region black. As the incarnation of flame and fury raised its massive hammer, the vision's giver gave them one more word.
Then, the mountain within the vision erupted, and the strangely dark skinned dwarves who'd brought the Firelord to the prime material plane, the ones still living at least, fell under his thrall, embraced his power, and began smoldering with his touch. Their eyes burned with flame, and the Firelord put them to use as he hovered over the molten core of their mountain fortress. Of the dwarves who summoned him, only ash remained. For his part, Laronar felt the land, and knew that what this Ragnaros had wrought upon it was similar in scale to Mashan'she's devastation.
The vision faded, and the female Tauren spoke first. "That...that was…"
Laronar spoke then. "Probably the most powerful fire elemental in existence...and his arrival will scorch an entire region of the planet."
"What should we do, Kaldorei? Both our peoples combined could not fight a foe like that…" The Tauren called Oreg spoke, and the fear he radiated was genuine. The shaman had likely felt the Firelord's rise much more keenly than the half-corporeal druid, and he stroked his similarly incorporeal beard as he pondered.
"I will travel to the dwarves. I will try to prevent this...but there are other warnings in this vision. Dark portents of times yet to come. We are entering an age of instability...and the world itself is terrified." Laronar focused his eyes on the pair then, "Gather your Shaman. Do as the druids have done, bind them into a circle of as many fellow Shaman as you can...it may just be enough to counteract the imbalance that is to come."
Oreg frowned, and snorted. "And if it is not? If all the Shaman of Kalimdor band together, and we are still overpowered by this...Firelord...what then, druid?"
"Then Azeroth is surely doomed. But take heart Shu'halo, the Druids will aid you, in time...I will warn the Cenarion Circle of what I have seen here...for all the good it will do. We will not awaken for anything less than the Legion...a foolish sorcerer in a foreign land will not concern my people enough to act." Laronar glanced at the female then, as her eyes had again closed, and began moving rapidly beneath her lids.
"The Druid...is right…" She managed, sounding exhausted, "The Shaman of the world must come together...soon...we will know when the hour comes...but there is still time, Oreg. Some day...one will come, to lead us in our darkest hour, a Shaman of unmatched skill...and they will not be alone. Other heroes will fight with them...unity is our only chance." She opened her eyes, and looked again at the half-manifested druid. "You should do what you can to aid the dwarves under the mountain...but know this...it will not be enough to stop Ragnaros. His arrival is but the first in a long chain of calamities yet to come."
That made Laronar frown, but he had sensed a presence drawing him back to the Dream as he spoke, and had given his words a tone of finality. "Bring the Shaman together...restore the wisdom of your people. You will need it for such a tumultuous time. Train well, Farseer…" With that, he had vanished, and then dream walked from one continent to another. The Eastern Kingdoms, as they would come to be known, were foreign to him, but he could already sense turmoil. Troubled dreams and rising tempers drew him to a land covered in snow, and dwarven settlements the likes of which Kalimdor did not possess.
For over a year, he watched, learned, and lamented when the dwarves under the mountain fell into civil war. Ashamane had brought their shared body to the eastern continent as he'd requested, and while she made great efforts in aiding the dwarves under the mountain in their war against their Dark Iron cousins, the Farseer's words proved true. Ragnaros' arrival effectively broke the rebellious clan's armies, and the war between the three ruling clans finally ended. His patron had done what she could for the land, namely preventing the fiery shockwave from obliterating the entire range of red mountains, but the damage done was still a devastating loss of life.
What time remained of their bargain was spent healing the lands using her druid's connection to the wilds to help her, and eventually, Laronar's mind awoke to find she'd left him in the middle of the Hinterlands, the home of the Wildhammer Dwarves, a clan they had decided to help, in a roundabout manner, as they had strong ties to nature, and would need to prosper, before the apparent oncoming era of calamity.
His amber eyes opened in the real world once more, and Laronar glanced between Xuen, the White Tiger, and Naria, a fellow Ashen druid. "I...finally remember. The Spirit of the Wilds warned me of what was coming...but Xuen, that was almost a century ago by now…"
The White Tiger rumbled in his head as he responded. "The arrival of the Firelord is but the first in a series of events that will change the face of our world forever...and make no mistake, Stormclaw, his summoning was engineered by the powers I told you of. The Old Gods will make good use of the Elemental Lords, before their schemes culminate."
Naria looked at Laronar then, and the concern was obvious. Xuen had told them of the ancient conflict between the Makers and the Shadow, or at least, as much as he knew of it. One of the Keepers of the planet, by the name of Freya, had warned him, Ashamane, and many other Wild Gods of the dark shadows lurking below the surface of their world, trapped for eternity. She also warned that, were they to ever be freed, Azeroth would likely be doomed, as a result. What shape that doom would take remained to be seen. "We need to train harder, Laronar...we need to perfect what Xuen is showing us, and pass it on to as many druids as we can."
He nodded his green head. "The Shaman have hopefully been doing the same in the years since I spoke with them...you are right, Naria. We must all do our part...and perhaps, in some small way, what we pass on will be the difference between life and death for our world."
Xuen rose then, towering over the elves as his form sparked with blue lightning. "The time has come, then...I will teach you how to combine your abilities in the most effective way possible...from there, it will be up to you and your druids to make use of them. Watch closely, Night Elves."
The White Tiger shrank then, to roughly the size of Laronar's own cat form, and aimed himself at one of the training dummies that lined the courtyard within which they had been meditating, and speaking while Laronar attempted to recover his lost memories. He faded into the shadows, and then opened with a pair of claws raking down the sides of the dummy, and followed that with a whirl of claws that the druids recognized as one of the more useful skills that left multiple enemies bleeding. Three more times he shredded the dummy, before gathering his power, and focusing it into a single, perfect bite. The Ancient's sparking jaws tore the dummy in two.
The pair of druids spent the remainder of their roughly two decade long journey to Pandaria practicing the White Tiger's methods, and when the White Tiger finally declared that they'd learned all they could, he sent them back to the Dreamway, and from there, they returned to Val'sharah. The next two long centuries were spent training the Ashen, and Druids of the Claw, into Sharpclaws who would make good use of their techniques in the wars to come. The techniques of the White Tiger eventually caused the Ashen to further diverge from regular Druids of the Claw, whose bear forms used different methods of attacking, and soaking up damage, and the Feral Arts were essentially split in two distinctly separate branches over time.
Two Hundred Years Later - Stranglethorn Vale
Forty two hundred years had passed since Vehlar Stormclaw infiltrated the Vault of the Wardens, and spirited Illysanna Ravencrest from their depths. They had fled Kalimdor, as Maeiv and her little cult of warriors pursued them. They bleated about justice, and how demonic entities could never, would never, belong to their society. The leader of the Wardens had made it her personal mission to hunt down the vestiges of what little Illidan and his own cult had accomplished when it came to training Demon Hunters. All but four of their aspirants had been captured or killed, and they fled across the planet, to the jungles of Stranglethorn, to hide from the ever pursuing Wardens.
Luckily for them, the local troll tribes had taken great offense to the elven arbiter's presence, and had in turn hunted them, with their own shadowy skills until the overextended arbiters of elven justice were forced to retreat. Illysanna had captured one of the troll's more skilled warriors, and after some interrogating on the part of Vehlar, they learned how to manipulate the shadows as their captive had. To a degree. The satyrs within him had enjoyed extracting the information entirely too much, but with no demons to hunt, their Fel powers had waned in the long centuries spent hiding in a jungle cave.
Then, one day, far to the north, they sensed a disturbance. A rip in the very fabric of time and space, and once they moved north, positioning themselves atop the mountains that separated the vale from other regions, their spectral sight gave the six Kaldorei their people's first look at what would come to be known as the Dark Portal.
"It...it's corrupting our planet with its presence, Vehlar...you know this taint as well as I do." Illysanna had spoken first, but Vehlar kept watching, properly fascinated by the amount of energy his eyes were picking up. "Whatever made this portal...it is the Legion's work. I can smell their taint from here…" She shuddered, and glanced up at him. "The demon within is salivating...it's Fel energy."
"Then we take a closer look…" Vehlar said, before turning to their pupils, now each Hunters in their own right. The years had not been kind to them. Their bodies had withered with the lack of Fel energy, becoming gaunt reflections of the power they'd once burned with. He turned back towards the disturbance, eyes flaring as he sensed them. Genuine demons, as well as those bearing their mark. "Theras, Netharel...you two are with me… Illysanna, take Loramus and Feronas. Scout the disturbance. Try not to engage whatever is coming through until we know more. Information gathering only."
The trio nodded, and then began moving towards the magical disturbance. Vehlar led the other two towards the morass to the north, a massive, volatile swamp that they had avoided, after sighting the Green Dragonflight within its center. The last thing they'd needed was word of their hiding place getting back to the druids, and the Watchers. Over the long centuries, the elves had mastered the art of moving silently through heavily forested areas, but their quarry was not difficult to find. The sound of their logging efforts was raucous, and as Vehlar and the two aspirants with him laid their unnatural sight upon the orcs of Draenor, he frowned. Their Fel green skin gave them away as servants of the Legion, but some did not burn with their foul taint.
Indeed, most seemed almost part demon, but he knew the Fel. Whatever the hulking green skinned warriors had done to themselves to acquire the power coursing through their veins, it would eventually burn out, without a source of Fel. Their addiction to power was the Legion's most effective way of keeping their soldiers obedient, but Illidan's Hunters had solved that problem, though the solution drove them insane, more often than it produced a viable Demon Hunter. They watched the creatures create an encampment with disturbing efficiency and speed, that told Vehlar they were indeed an army. Eventually, they began moving towards the portal as well, to link up with Illysanna, but the invaders from elsewhere proved their competence, as the stealthy trio passed between the small gap in the mountain range that divided one half of the swamp from the other.
The only warning they received was the sound of a weapon, swinging through the air, almost singing as it slashed at their hiding place, and revealed Vehlar. Theras and Netharel stayed melded in the shadows, as Vehlar leapt from them, to confront the creature. He was tall for his kind, green, heavily muscled, with burning red eyes. An unwieldy pole bearing a pennant with a flaming sword hung on the creature's back. He wielded a blade at least as long as Vehlar. It didn't seem to be a hindrance, either. The creature growled something in a tongue he did not recognize, before falling into a fighting crouch.
Vehlar held up a finger, the universal signal for 'wait a moment', and traced a J shaped symbol in the air, before covering himself with a pinch of soot and salt. "You are not from this world, creature. What are you? Why have you come?"
The green beast blinked in surprise, as to his ears, the lithe knife eared creature began speaking perfect Orcish. He didn't lower his blade, but neither did he charge, as Vehlar unsheathed his own crimson and bluish black blades. The satyric souls trapped within them began clamoring, as they sensed Fel blood would again be spilled. By this point, they had all but gone mad with hunger, long since losing their once intellectual minds. Now, they sensed the Fel coursing through the alien warrior, and urged their wielder to sate that hunger. "I am Irogaidos, an Orc of the Burning Blade Clan. You do not look like the warriors Gul'dan promised we would find…" A grin broke the harsh features, and the red eyes flared. "You are not tiny, and pink, and weak...you...look like a challenge. I would know your name, warrior."
"I am Vehlar Stormclaw, of the Highborne." He answered, dropping into his own crouch, as he recognized what the warrior was doing. Exchanging names was usually a Tauren custom before battle, but he had never actively sought to fight the bull men. Large, lumbering foes did poorly against his tactics, and Tauren typically did more good than harm. He sensed no such weakness in the creature before him. His size would be an asset in their battle, rather than a hindrance.
"Your world now belongs to the Horde, Vehlar Stormclaw!" The orc's grin grew wider, and his face made his brutish features that much more intimidating, though for Vehlar, he ignored them, and focused on his opponent's stance. The orc was clearly experienced, perhaps more so than he was, with a blade. "Die well!"
With that, the orc charged, and as expected, his size did not make him as slow as a Tauren, but rather his well-trained muscles allowed him to leap into battle easily. Vehlar met the slash with both of his elven katanas, blocking it, and evidently surprising the orc when his slash was parried. Vehlar pushed up, knocking the orc off his center, and then spun, leaving a pair of horizontal slashes across the absurdly muscled abdomen. Black blood spurted, and then slowed in its flow, but the orc seemed undeterred. If anything, his eyes only burned brighter. "Finally! A challenge…it has been far too long…"
The orc's blade had several holes within the length, small enough to not weaken it, but large enough to ominously howl with every slash. Vehlar had no doubt it had been used to kill, but unlike his own blades, it was not a magical weapon. He didn't think breaking it would be feasible though, for the metals seemed evenly matched in their toughness. The orc made several slashes, and the Demon Hunter found that each one was unique. Then, as he awkwardly parried the strange variance of what was apparently orcish sword fighting, the sparks from the clashing blades caused the greatsword burst into flame, and the orc howled a war cry as he pressed the attack. Vehlar telepathically warned his aspirants to stay hidden, and learn well, for in the orc he too had finally found a worthy opponent, and he was lying if he said he did not relish the idea of dragging the combat out. The satyr within his head urged him to make the creature suffer, but Vehlar paid the demon as much heed as he ever had.
The trolls of Strangelthorn, while powerful in their own right, typically had no defense against the onslaught of strikes Vehlar and his fellow Hunters relentlessly attacked with, when skirmishes did occur. The orc was similarly befuddled, as he found each strike parried, or simply dodged with little effort. His rage grew as the elf continued to smirk, and remain untouched by the massive greatsword. For his part, the orc now had several cuts, and while they would've proved fatal to a human or a troll, the orc was burly enough to simply not notice them. Or so it appeared.
Vehlar gave credit where it was due. The warrior of the 'burning blade', a name that was evidently literal, definitely had skill, but he had no experience defending against the Fel based techniques the Demon Hunter employed. Vehlar once more danced around his guard, dodging the immediate counter slash, with one of his own as he again spun in place, and brought his katanas upwards across the orc's torso. And still, the creature did not falter, though he was panting now. Black blood had sprayed across the area, and as the orc angrily raised his burning greatsword for a powerful countering slash, his red eyes went wide, as the strange green ones the elf possessed flared under his ragged hood, and hammered him with the fury of the Demon Hunter's unleashed Eye Beam.
Vehlar had managed the trick when he'd first fused with the satyr, that even at that moment urged him to give in to the desire to rampage, and he had since managed to turn the explosive discharge into a weapon that seriously damaged whatever he happened to be fighting, assuming they survived the volatile beams of Fel that shot from his eye sockets. The orc staggered back a few steps, rasping heavily, as he gazed at the two holes in his bulging pectorals, and realized that this 'high born' would kill him if he did not claim victory quickly.
The orc's stance changed again, and Vehlar's brows furrowed, as the invader from another realm held his blade horizontally, and began spinning in place. It seemed absurd, at first, until his parry was overpowered by the orc's brute strength, several times. Vehlar leapt backwards quickly, avoiding the spinning greatsword entirely by gaining distance, though that didn't stop the orc from trying to close it, he moved slowly, continuing his spin as he advanced.
Vehlar smirked, and a trail of ruinous Fel energy burned behind him as he leapt into the air twice and then left a trail of burning Fel in his wake, dodging the whirling orc and simultaneously damaging him, as the ancient elf bypassed his technique entirely. He landed in the same spot the orc had started their little duel from, and then the only visible part of his face, his mouth, shifted to a smirk as the Fel glow under his hood once more brightened. The spinning orc eventually ceased, and his blade's tip sank into the murk of the swamp as he panted heavily, and realized this fight was his last. Refusing to give in so easily to so tiny an opponent, the hemorrhaging orc roared, tilting his head back towards the sky, before he charged again.
He might as well have been moving in slow motion, for Vehlar's eyes tracked him easily. His opponent was at death's door, nothing would change that now, but it seemed this last burst of orcish rage was intended to bring Vehlar into death with the orc. Unfortunately for the greenskin, he had no intention of dying in a swamp he didn't even know the name of. Vehlar dashed again, slicing his opponent, even as the orc made a similar slash at him. Their simultaneous charges collided, and then passed each other.
Vehlar smirked, and sheathed one katana, as he heard the brute's last wheezing gasp of air escape the now sliced lungs within his chest, but his smirk faded, as the trail the flaming greatsword had carved into his own muscled shoulder spurted with blood. The dark purple armor like protrusions kept his limb from being severed, but the orc had managed to do significant damage. Fortunately, Vehlar and the others had found a remedy for the weakness that came from wearing light armor.
The Highborne stalked towards his dying opponent, and gave him a nod, as he met the orc's eyes. The red fury faded from his brown eyes, as his lifeblood soaked the swampy ground, and he realized the knife ear would not be following him in death. "You were...a worthy opponent." Vehlar rasped. "But I am stronger…" He inhaled then, and the orc had a disturbing view of the Hunter's macabre eyes as dark blobs of what seemed like shadow, pieces of the orc's very being that had been hewn away by Vehlar's blades, swirled into the horned Kaldorei as he consumed the creature's essence, and used it to mend his flesh. He smirked again, and rolled his shoulder. The orc seemed enraged by the action, but all his failing body managed was a twitch in response.
Vehlar placed one of his katanas at the creature's burly neck, as his two aspirants melted from the shadows behind him, and came into the orc's vision as well. He looked between the three, as he realized whatever he had been bested by was not the only one of its kind. If there was an army of these creatures, the Horde would be hard-pressed to stop them. "You fought well. Die now, and return to whatever hell spawned you." Vehlar's arm moved, black blood sprayed, and the orc lay dead.
The Kaldorei's sharp ears each twitched as, not so far away, they heard something large lumbering through the flora. They dashed towards the gap in the mountains, and watched as more orcs came upon the sight of the battle. Most, seemed akin to the warrior Vehlar had felled, though they wielded dual axes, and sometimes a spiked shield, as well as proper metal-worked armor. The blade-wielder had lacked a shirt, and his legs had been covered in lighter armor, presumably so he could stay agile. While the other orcs certainly looked intimidating enough with their numerous armor spikes, Vehlar noted many weak spots that, if necessary, he could slice through. He already had a measure of the force required to sever an orcish limb, and since his blades hungered constantly, they would be all too eager to taste more of the black blood. It had reignited the souls within, and all they desired was more.
One of the hunched figures in particular caught the Hunter's Fel gazes, as the orc in question burned with Fel taint that, by comparison to the others in his group, was much, much stronger. He was hooded, covered in a dark robe, and Vehlar didn't have to guess that he was a spellcaster. He could recognize a fellow magic wielder easily enough, especially with his Spectral Sight, but this one did not wield the arcane, of that much, he was certain. Whatever these orcs were, it seemed only a few among them, and likely the smartest if stereotypes held true, had been the ones to actually gain the Legion's power, whereas the rest were simply being corrupted by it.
The hidden elves did not linger, and while the signs of battle were examined by the orcs, they were freshly arrived on this foreign world, and did not have any kind of clue as to what could have taken down a Blademaster of the Burning Blade Clan. Vehlar, Theras, and Netharel reunited quickly with Illysanna, Feronas, and Loramus, heading further west into the murky morass, before they exchanged information. The portal the orcs had used to reach Azeroth was heavily fortified, by an army of the hulking creatures.
They decided on a plan, then. They would strike at the army enough to draw out the spellcasters, as Vehlar assumed they would be able to sense the Fel emanations he and the others used for combat. They would drain the invaders of their Fel power, and with it, revitalize their energies and teleport themselves back to Kalimdor. He and Illysanna knew that they could not defeat an army, and they also knew that the 'humans' of the nearby kingdom would have the forces to match the orc's army. Though, each of the elves doubted the smaller, stout pink skins would fare very well against the demon fueled rage of the orcish Horde. The obvious threat was the portal, as they observed that prolonged connection between Azeroth and whatever world had spawned the orcs would kill their world, with enough time.
The consensus was that their continent was about to become much harder to hide on, and Vehlar had methods of getting information to their people. As long as they were ignorant of the source of said information, they could potentially make use of it, if the greenskins ever managed to conquer the humans, and sail to Kalimdor. Each of the surviving Demon Hunters was only too glad to return home, as at least in Ashenvale, though the Watchers would remain a threat, there were undoubtedly still satyrs lurking about, likely in greater numbers, since the zealously blind and egotistical Watchers drove them away.
Their group managed to slay four of the heavily tainted spellcasting orcs, before the Horde dispatched a force of forty armed warriors, and a much stronger spellcaster, to route them out. As expected, it had taken mounting losses before such a force was sent, and the Demon Hunters had replenished their depleted energy, to a degree. It was enough at least to help Vehlar empower the portal that would bring them to Kalimdor. The orcs never found whatever had slain several of their aspiring warlocks and their retinues of soldiers, and with the humans rising rapidly to meet them, as best they could, the Fel fueled army soon had other concerns to deal with, than some mysterious threat hiding in the Black Morass.
In the end, only Loramus stayed, to continue to hunt the orcs as often as he could manage. Vehlar and Illysanna agreed that his skill more than qualified him to keep an eye upon the portal, and he vowed to stay alive, until they returned. Vehlar had suggested that Illidan would know how to close the portal, but breaking him free of his prison would require a plan, and more Hunters. They returned to Kalimdor to attempt finding more aspirants, intending to storm Hyjal's barrows once they had enough to not be overwhelmed by the Watchers.
Feathermoon Isle - Feralas, Twenty Years After the Dark Portal Opened
It was always amusing, dragging her kills through the Sentinel's island bound army barracks. After being accused of 'stirring up the centaurs', Alaria had been required, more by the High Priestess than Shandris, to bring back evidence of her kills, and prove that she was not wasting resources on useless tasks. She often traveled alone, and always stood out among the army, mostly thanks to the shining silver sword, and lack of a glaive. Thus, it was with a massive, scaled head, decapitated by the glowing silver sword she was still gripping, that she traveled through the island strronghold's idling army. The beast's foul ichor still covered her purple and whitish gray armor, as she strode up the ramp to where Shandris usually handled day to day matters.
"General. We have a problem." The General of the Sentinel Army arched a brow at her, and then frowned, as the wet thump of Alaria's latest prize hit her floor, and began staining it. "These creatures just recently started appearing along Kalimdor's coastlines. I tracked them back to the Isle of Dread, just south of us. They have an entire coven there. Or rather, they did. This male was leading them. He claimed they were once Highborne, before trying to kill me."
The General nodded at her attendants, and the other women left the pair to talk. This was something Shandris often did with Alaria, and she liked to think they were friends, if not allies. It was hard to read Laronar's sister. Her fairly appealing face was as passive as the druid's, and much like him, she only broke it with a smirk, before defaulting back to that blank, indeterminable expression. "Highborne? I...find that hard to believe, sister. I see no trace of elven ancestry…"
Alaria nodded. She knew Shandris understood how Elune utilized her...odd skills, and she remained grateful to the General for continuing to give her the benefit of the doubt. It was more than the High Priestess gave her. "I figured I'd run into skepticism. I found these in the ruins as well." She produced a pair of statuettes then, one clearly much older than the other, and yet both seemingly weathered by ocean water. Shandris did not have to ask who was immortalized in the marble. She recognized the face of the Kaldorei's ancient Monarch, the very woman who had sundered the world and allowed demons the chance to corrupt it. Azshara.
Shandris looked between the figures, and her brows furrowed. "This second one…" Alaria remained quiet, letting the General realize for herself what the carving irrefutably proved. The second had the body of a snake, six arms, and yet that face...while changed, and sporting extra eyes, undoubtedly also belonged to Azshara. "I don't...she can't possibly be...Tyrande must know. At once." She whistled, and an owl joined the pair of Sentinels moments later.
For all the issues Alaria had with Tyrande Whisperwind, the High Priestess trusted the General of the Sentinels explicitly. Shandris Feathermoon's word was pretty much the only one the ruler of the Kaldorei trusted to that degree, as long centuries guarding the land from various threats had hardened the High Priestesses' demeanor. The only other opinion she valued was her mate's, but the druids had been sleeping for ages. "Zin-Azshari sank into the Well by all accounts...and yet Azshara persists. Her Highborne yet live...something in the depths of the sea turned them into those." She gestured at the severed head. "They called themselves Naga."
Shandris packed the statuettes into the owl's leather carrying case, stuffing in a short missive alongside them. "Quickly, to Hyjal with you!" The owl took off, and the General turned back to the unorthodox Sentinel. "You have done all that I asked you to seven hundred years ago. I think it is finally time I stopped avoiding your questions."
Alaria smirked, and Shandris flinched. The similarities really were uncanny between the strange war priestess, and her brother. "When last I saw Laronar, his skin had darkened, his features were feral...and the light of Elune did not reach him. You were close with him, that much I've figured out. What happened? What did my fool of a sibling do to earn the wrath of our race's staunchest patron?"
Shandris' brows furrowed, and she suddenly regretted not taking the woman's questions sooner. "I was more focused on war than skin tone when last I saw him...you're sure his skin turned darker?"
Alaria's smirk widened at the General's choice of words. "Yes. It was a deep purple, almost black. A void in the night's light. It was...sad to look upon. You must've been pretty determined not to look at him, General. Still carrying a flame, are we?"
Shandris' face turned several shades darker purple as Alaria's tone and words insinuated a lingering attraction. "It's not my fault he never wears a shirt!" She sighed, composed herself, and willed the flush to go away. "Whatever Laronar did to earn Elune's wrath, I doubt we can overcome it. Have you tried communing with the Mother Moon?"
Alaria nodded, the smirk fading as she did. "Many times. On that issue, all I have ever received from Elune is silence...not even a feeling, or a whisper of an answer. It is...concerning."
Shandris sighed, and then shrugged. "Then that itself is answer enough. His actions, or words, have earned him this...fate. It does seem a cruel one...to be denied the Moon's touch...I bet he hates it. He always enjoyed the moonlight."
The plate clad Priestess covered in Naga gore smiled, at the sudden softness in the General's voice. "You would know, I suppose. Come, tell me what else he enjoyed, while I clean up. I haven't properly spoken with him in almost ten thousand years."
The two Sentinels spent the rest of the evening chatting , sharing stories, and eventually coercing several other women to join them in a herb smoking session, once Shandris mentioned Laronar's favorite habit, and pulled out an ancient sealed jar of crushed green herb that was so potent, not even ten thousand years of being forgotten about in a desk could weaken the dank smell that came with unsealing it.
The session of mind expanding pipe toking ended abruptly, when Dori'thur flew into the General's office, with a message for Shandris. As she read the response, presumably from Tyrande Whisperwind herself, her face fell. She rolled up the parchment, and with a simple Moonfire, burnt it away, before turning to the gathered women. "Sisters, the skies over Stonetalon are darkening, and Tyrande senses a new threat...we are to mobilize the Shadowleaves, and join her in Ashenvale at once."
Alaria packed the hookah away, as the other warriors moved swiftly to gather their armor. As she was not part of the elite group of Sentinels, she met Shandris' eyes once the herb and hookah were once more stored away. "What do you wish of me, General? Elune has not offered me many visions of late...over the past few decades...it almost feels like her strength is fading."
Shandris' brows furrowed, at the War Priestess' words. Tyrande had mentioned something similar, though it hadn't been noticeable in the High Priestesses' ability to cast spells and safeguard the land. "Stonetalon Peak is overrun with outlanders. Watch their movements, figure out what they're after, and then meet up with us in Ashenvale...I have a bad feeling, Alaria...much has been happening in our world of late that we know next to nothing about. That magical emanation a few decades back, the growing strength of far off, ominous forces...I fear we will soon pay a heavy price for our inability to monitor the eastern continent."
Alaria nodded, and stood. "We were charged to defend the World Tree, and the wilds...yet Kalimdor is not the only land mass anymore. Elune only knows what evil has been festering in these lands free from our watchful eyes...but Shandris...we can face these threats. We have done so before."
The General gave the woman a nod, and in short order, Alaria retrieved her hippogryph, a rare pinkish purple variant of the usual breed the archers rode upon. She'd begun raising Kali shortly after realizing her brother yet lived, and now the magnificent creature was large enough to carry her to wherever she was needed in a manner much more timely than walking. She headed for the embattled peak, not knowing what to expect when she arrived. Outlanders were rare in Kalimdor, as the Maelstrom had a habit of sending travelers to their death beneath the sea.
Stormclaw Grove - Stonetalon Mountains
Centuries of practice had only increased the power of the techniques Laronar Stormclaw learned under the tutelage of the White Tiger, and Ashamane had further refined them, showing him methods of attacking that were truly ferocious. He was in the middle of one such demonstration under the late noon sun, when the skies began to turn blood red. Naria and Delandros Shimmermoon were leading the Sharpclaws and the Ashen respectively, while Laronar and Thaon had agreed that it was simply more practical for them to split new druidic students between them.
Thaon's self-named sect of Moonclaw druids had opted to stay within the elder Ashen's home grove in Val'sharah, and following his lead, Laronar had decided to split their operation, and return to Kalimdor. Time and training had inevitably soured things between him and Naria, as it always seemed to, and the ancient crotchety druid had withdrawn from Val'sharah soon after. He and his similarly named Stormclaw druids took up residence in the same stretch of forest he had spent millennia tending, in better days now long passed.
Between himself and Thal'darah at his nearby overlook, the druids who remained awake training more defenders of the Dream, and the Tauren of the Cliffwalker Tribe, had shared the sacred mountain peak for centuries, in a peaceful coexistence that was only strengthened by yearly harpy culling efforts. Red lightning sparked over the master druid's cat form as he showed his Stormclaws, and the few Tauren acolytes who had joined them, how one could use the berserk rage of the form to strike faster, harder, and spend less energy while doing so. It was a short boost, but a well timed technique could often turn the tide between life and death in battle, and Laronar now only sought to keep as many of his students as alive as possible.
He paused in what had to be the fifth rotation of strikes Xuen had originally imparted, and the red sparks across his form faded, as he looked to the sky, along with the other gathered druids. Most of them were novices, and those who reached a level high enough to not immediately die in proper combat typically soon entered the Emerald Dream, or returned to the Broken Isles to guard the Dreamway. The Tauren druids that mastered the arts, and there had been a few, typically returned to their tribes, and attempted to pass on the knowledge they'd gained from the elves. As strong as Tauren druids had proven to be, the centaurs were as relentless as they had ever been, and after the first sacking of their tribal homes, the creatures had displayed unnerving intelligence, turned their smoldering villages into proper fortresses, and became firmly entrenched in the area now known only as Desolace. Thankfully, they had also begun fighting each other over what little resources their home possessed, which kept them from testing the Sentinels in Feralas. They still raided the Tauren of course, but these raids were timed now, and always there were enough warriors left behind to guard their homes while they were off slaughtering in the Barrens.
A green comet burned through the skies above Stonetalon Peak, and Laronar shifted to his aerial form, as he knew what his cat form's eyes had seen, but if he was correct, it meant that once again the darkness had come to test his people. He spied an Infernal rising from the crater in the valleys and canyons below. More joined it, and soon, humanoid figures in striking red and blue colors he did not recognize began fighting the oncoming demons.
He flew in for a closer look, and recognized the pink skinned forms of humanity, as well as several pale, slim, and smaller versions of his own people, acting as their healers and casters. Evidently, the remnants of the Highborne had allied with the humans at some point. The other, bulkier green skinned figures were a mystery to him, and they seemed to be embroiled in combat against red skinned members of their race. Flying as close as he dared, Laronar confirmed that they had indeed been tainted by the Legion, which meant that once more, the Legion had returned to claim their world.
He fought down his emotions, a heady mix of panic, his owl form's instinctual fear, and the excitement of once more facing the Burning Legion in combat. These were not just satyrs hiding in the woods conjuring a few Infernals to aid their agenda. Doomguard filled the sky, and Felstalkers hunted the magic users with disturbing efficiency. He spied walking corpses among their number as well, and almost too late, saw the figure responsible for leading them.
The refugees of the War of the Ancients had possessed a fairly decent view of the final battle of the war, and many had been shocked when a titanic demon had wrestled one of the most powerful Ancients they had into submission, and then death. Malfurion Stormrage had stopped the archdemon, and in the end he too had been drawn back from whence he'd come, but Laronar recognized the beautiful, but twisted visage of the creature who had broken the White Stag. Archimonde, better known to many as The Defiler.
Laronar gave the demon a wide, wide berth of many miles, and thankfully, he seemed more focused on moving towards his goal, as his army of demons and dead corpses headed north. Laronar followed their trail of destruction, a great line of death and corruption heading for the only target an archdemon would find appealing on this continent. Their race's sacred charge. The World Tree.
Realizing that things were about to become rather desperate, Laronar winged his way back to his grove, and landed on the railing that lined the walkway up to the treehouse that served as a shrine to as many Ancients as they'd been able to make statues of, and fit within the topmost level of the structure. "Stormclaws, Tauren, allies of nature, hear me!" The typically unused baritone cut through the glade's typically silent air, and he felt their eyes turn to him. "The Burning Legion has returned. Archimonde the Defiler is, as we speak, heading towards Nordrassil with an army of not only demons, but the undead as well. Undeath is the antithesis of everything we fight for! It is a perversion of life's sacred circle! Those of you who are ready will come with me to find Master Thal'darah, and from his overlook, we shall head for Ashenvale, and offer the High Priestess our aid! We move out immediately!"
The sleepy energy of the grove woke almost instantly, as Keepers and Dryads strode from the woods, giving the druids of the small elven and Tauren encampment respectful nods. In minutes, the small force of druids in their flight forms, and the natural wisp-like shapes the Keepers used for air travel, descended on Thal'darah's Overlook. Five minutes later, with their force nearly quadrupled in size, the elves and their natural allies made haste to Ashenvale, flying up the continent's western coast, and then heading north-east as they sought their people, and simultaneously outpaced and avoided the Defiler.
As they winged their way over the shadowed forests of Ashenvale, they saw first hand the devastation the remnants of the Horde had already wrought, but most disturbing, was what they found lying amidst the stumps of ancient trees. Their natural allies descended first, radiating anger and loss, and Laronar took the druids down behind them, their faces somber as they retook their elven shapes, and bowed their heads before the corpse of Cenarius, the Forest Lord.
Cenarius lay face down with a massive gash in his heavily muscled back, a force of nature made manifest, brought low by a weapon of the mortal world. Everyone, Laronar included, was overcome with sorrow to the point that they momentarily forgot what was coming towards them even at that moment.
Luckily, they had one warning, a single, deep rumbling note echoed through Ashenvale, Moonglade, Felwood, and Winterspring, from where it originated. Wrathful orange energy rose from the demigod's corpse, and the druids suddenly found they all had amber eyes as intense as their Archdruid's. The leader of this Ashen branch rose first, and bowed in the elven style before Cenarius' dreamform as he spoke. "Archdruid...you know that sound. I do not need to tell you what it means. Go. We will meet again."
Laronar nodded as one of his ancient teachers simply faded into nothing, and then looked to the tear-stained faces of his amber eyed druids. He had not denied the few females of Kalimdor who had wished to learn the druidic arts and several had come with him from Val'sharah. Thal'darah shared his view that Nature did not discriminate with whom it endowed with power, and therefore, druids should not either. Despite their efforts to accept more females, few had advanced quickly enough to be ready for this conflict. "Brothers...Sisters...the Horn of Cenarius has sounded. The druids are awakening once more...we go now to Hyjal! We will defend Nordrassil with everything we have!"
They gave him an invigorated cheer, but he heard the anger underlying it. The Horn of Cenarius had woken them, as well, though they'd not been dreaming. The desire for vengeance, and the fresh loss of their most revered patron, had made them ready to fight. They wasted little time in ascending to Hyjal's topmost slopes, and reinforcing the Kaldorei Sentinels who were already there. Their numbers swelled as they joined the awakened Druids of the Talon, and then again, when the Druids of the Claw rose from the depths of Hyjal as well.
Laronar had a brief, and grim reunion with his friend and Shan'do. Malfurion seemed...off, after awakening. Slower. Lost in thought, and stressed by the oncoming form of Archimonde in the distance, though after he'd shared Cenarius' words, the other half of the Kaldorei's leadership seemed far more resolved. It would take little time for Archimonde to arrive, and his force of demons and walking dead would be upon them long before he was.
While Laronar personally had serious reservations about allying with the orcs, especially after learning that one of their Chieftains had willingly imbibed demonic blood, for the second time apparently, and then murdered the Forest Lord, the humans were, in his opinion, far more deserving of aid, a view many druids shared once the mortals explained what exactly had driven them to Kalimdor. The mixed forces of elf, human, and orc battled in the shadow of Hyjal, as the first waves of the Burning Legion came upon them. He was glad that his brothers were finally awake again, but he was also unaware of what else had been set loose from the depths of Hyjal's barrows.
Irontree Woods - Felwood
In the two short decades that Vehlar and the others had tried bolstering their numbers, they had only managed to recruit enough to push their little group into the double digits. Vehlar had despaired for quite a while, convinced that such a small force would be smashed apart by Maiev Shadowsong if and when they attempted to free Illidan from his prison. Luckily, it seemed fate, and perhaps even Elune, had other plans for the Demon Hunters.
Before them, after ten thousand years, stood Illidan Stormrage. In the end, they had not found him, but rather, he had found them. They had been strengthening themselves on the satyrs of Jadefire Run, and capturing several more for the aspirants waiting back at their barrow, when he appeared. Vehlar could tell Illidan's imprisonment had changed him, but Illysanna and the others were blinded by awe. Vehlar, for his part, had always seen himself as near, or on the same level as Stormrage, but seeing him now, Vehlar understood the reason for his grim expression. He had become stronger than the imprisoned sorcerer, over the long, long millennia. Illidan knew it too, but he would not be comparable to the withered Kaldorei that had led his little group, and more importantly expanded their knowledge of the Fel, for very long.
The elder Stormrage had taken control of the Demon Hunters without so much as a word, and just like that, Vehlar once again found himself playing second lute to Illidan. After ten thousand years of leading their little cadre, and being looked to for desperate guidance every time things turned dire, at some point, he had grown used to, even fond of, being in power. The satyr within him whispered constantly, playing on his greed and desire to lead, but he resolved that he would not be entertaining thoughts of a coup until Illidan Stormrage failed in his role as their leader. He was, after all, the man who had first discovered and employed these techniques. Nobody else had even considered using Fel against the Legion.
"This forest...is being corrupted." Illidan said, in his husky, unused baritone. "There is a great source of Fel power infecting it...weakening our people's defenses, as Archimonde approaches. He wants us to roll over and die for him…" The Warglaives of Azzinoth flared in his grip. "I don't intend to do that. I paid too steep a price to give our people the font of magic that has made their precious tree so powerful...I will not let demons taint it, as well...the time has come, my Illidari. The Legion is at our door...and this conflict will mark the beginning of their end!"
Vehlar's neck tingled, as he sensed the admittedly superior gaze of Illidan shift to him. "Some of you may be wondering if I am mad, after ten thousand years of being imprisoned...I tell you this...I have not spent my time idly. I have planned. I have thought. I have waited, so very patiently...follow my orders, and the Legion will fall. Follow my orders, and you will all have your vengeance!" He raised one of his glaives, and Vehlar glanced around under his hood, as he saw every single Hunter gathered cheer. They were enamored. He resolved to remain the voice of reason, and not let admiration for their returned leader blind him. "Our people have begged for our aid...and before this battle is ended, they will be forced to acknowledge our sacrifice...and the necessity of it. I go now to take this source of Fel power for myself...go, my Demon Hunters...scour these woods and hunt our prey!"
The other Kaldorei cheered, unsheathed their glaives, and then dashed into the woods in different directions, some solo, some in pairs. Only Vehlar and Illysanna remained behind. Illidan gave them a rare, and seemingly genuine smile, as he beckoned them closer.
"You two have done remarkably well, for spending ten millennia on the run...I did not expect to have so many Hunters by this point...but this battle will see our number grow. While I accomplish my task, while the others sate their desire to hunt, I would have you two out finding more for our cause...we must take as many as possible into our fold. I don't need to tell you two how bad the odds of surviving our rituals are." Though he spoke mainly to Illysanna, Vehlar saw his eyes shifting beneath the faded amber eye covering to him as well.
Illysanna gave him a salute Vehlar had only ever seen her give to her father, or one of his Generals. In fact, it was a motion he hadn't seen her make for quite a few millennia, and yet as expected, it was perfect. "We will not fail you. I will take the south of this forest...Vehlar, take the north, and then head into western Ashenvale. You know that area best."
Vehlar merely nodded, and seeing he was sticking around a bit longer, Illysanna left without another word. Once she was gone, Illidan exhaled, and gave Vehlar a small smile. "I don't know how you did it...but I am glad you did, Vehlar. I had a slim hope that you lived, during my long years in that prison."
Vehlar nodded. "Many of those we attempted to train were captured or killed by the Watchers. They liked raiding our hideouts...when they could find them. But it was the new recruits, more than once, that often led them right to our door. They can track Fel energy you know...and this power source...it's corrupting an entire forest, Illidan. If you take it into yourself, they will likely be able to hunt you down. Assuming you don't go mad before they find us."
At that, Illidan chuckled. "Do you not already think I am mad, Vehlar Stormclaw? Ten thousand years, and only ever able to move nine steps...I lost my claim to sanity long ago...but that no longer matters." He fixed the Highborne with a hard stare. "If we are to defeat the Burning Legion, I must become more powerful...eventually, to match Sargeras...but for now...I must be able to contend with one of Archimonde or Kil'jaedan's lieutenants. We will surely fail, if I am not able to match their strength. Tichondrius will be the bar by which I measure the power I'm about to take… Go now, Vehlar. Time is short, and we must bring the desperate survivors into our fold before the demons turn them into food."
Nordrassil's Summit - Mt. Hyjal
"Hear Me Night Elves! The Time for Reckoning Has Come!"
The deep baritone of Archimonde the Defiler rang throughout Hyjal, as it had several times before, on his march north. Hyjal's greatest defense had always been its height, but as the Archdemon approached, it was evident that he would have no trouble ascending.
Laronar and his Stormclaws had spent much of the conflict finding leaders among the Scourge and Legion forces, and decapitating them before they could fully understand what was upon them. Lesser Liches and Death Knights rode alongside demons, and everywhere they advanced, they had conquered. Hyjal itself, was different. The smaller forces of Archimonde's army had to climb the same way every other mortal did, and it was this that the Kaldorei took advantage of, as the titanic demon on the horizon loomed ever closer. There was a slight indent in his breastplate, but otherwise, the Defiler seemed untouched by the orcs and humans that had stood against him thus far.
They too had now joined the Night Elves, or had retreated to Winterspring, to await the culmination of the ancient race's plan. The Oracle of Stonetalon had convinced them to work together, but it had been Malfurion Stormrage who had come up with the plan...and its cost. Laronar was in the southern half of Hyjal's forests, striking from the shadows, and melding back into them each time the demons or corpses were brought down.
Around him, were other Kaldorei forces. Everything they had, from Stone Giants to Chimaeras was aiding them now. Even the natural forces of Azeroth knew that they had to defend the World Tree. An Infernal came down in front of him, taking out at least three archers, and then the sky began to rain more of them. Behind their position, a smirking Archimonde spared them a glance, and nothing else, as his mana-saturated prize was within reach. He began effortlessly scaling, and breaking through, the wall of mountain that surrounded Nordrassil. More demons, mainly Doomguard, saw where he looked, and joined the battle, for their senses seemed to indicate that little defense had been constructed around Hyjal itself.
As Laronar readied his form for the taste of yet more Fel infused stone to break against his fangs, his target was engaged by something else. It certainly looked like a Night Elf, and yet it had horns, deep purple tattoos, and a pair of reddish purple elven katanas, radiating foul Fel energy. A Demon Hunter then, one of Illidan's. Tyrande Whisperwind had overruled the Watchers on the matter of their Fel presence among the elves, claiming that defeating the Legion was all that mattered now. Those who would argue against their incorporation would have to wait until the end of the current conflict to demand their death, or banishment.
The admittedly capable figure seemed to have the Infernal under control, as his blades sliced away an arm, then a leg, forcing the burning battering ram to its knee. From behind the embattled Hunter, no less than six satyrs appeared, leering faces grinning with pure, undiluted hate. "We have you now...Slayer of Satyrnaar!" They raised their foul hands, and dark energy engulfed the Demon Hunter, locking his nimble and lightly armored form in place. Fel green cracks appeared on his skin, as the twisted demons, having once been Night Elves, urged the souls this particular Hunter had taken in to rebel, break free, and be reborn anew.
Or, at least, they would have, had they not suddenly recoiled, and shifted their focus from the weakened and now panting Demon Hunter. Laronar's ears heard the chants of Elune's warriors, and then, one he recognized took the fray. The Priestess who'd lost her Frostsaber in Desolace, when the centaur were still young, the woman with the strange sword. Two satyr heads went flying as the War Priestess executed them, and the Demon Hunter turned to deal with those not occupied by the Priestess' arrival. Unfortunately for both of them, they had forgotten the half-defeated Infernal, who raised its remaining arm, as the surviving goat demons forced the pair back to back, and lined them up beneath the demon's massive fist.
That, was when Laronar struck, as he often did, waiting patiently for a moment in the battle that he could turn to their advantage. He'd found that if he did that often enough, the tide would slowly turn, assuming everything on the other fronts of the conflict was going well. A single, perfect bite tore the rock demon's head into pieces, and the massive ashen furred Nightsaber rode the collapsing Fel boulders down, joining the other two as imps, Felstalkers, Succubi, and a host of other foul entities charged towards them. Other hidden Night Elves, seeing him leap from the shadows, also joined the battle, and soon, all was chaos.
It was in that chaos, that Laronar finally noticed who exactly he was fighting beside. The Demon Hunter's cowl had been burned by the Fel covered claw of a satyr who'd gone for his head, only to then be gored by the satyr-like horns the elf sported, and blasted into atoms by Fel energy from his macabre eye sockets. Vehlar's disturbing visage often entered the druid's thoughts, and thus, it was one he recognized.
The three melee specialists tore through the group that attacked them, and then charged towards Winterspring once the scouting owls reported the area around them was cleansed of demons. Their charge towards other embattled forces, who were using Stone Giants to combat the Infernals as they focused on the lesser demons, soon found themselves free of combat as the Night Elves began their charge down Hyjal's sacred slopes, and with their momentum building, they soon merged with the outlander's forces, and the Tauren. The combined armies soon began rolling over the demons, pausing only to burn down their temporary structures, before moving on to find more enemies.
By the time they'd finished, Archimonde had reached his prize, smashed down the final gate before the World Tree, and had begun to feast. He longed for Titan magic, and this tree was infused with it. The elves moved swiftly up the mountainside, and entered the forests around the World Tree. As expected, demons yet lurked here as well. They fell, usually silently, as Wisps of fallen Kaldorei settled in the branches above them, preparing the trap that would hopefully see Archimonde dead.
Dori'thur shrieked above them, and Laronar dispatched the three Felstalkers he'd been facing down with a pair of his students beside him. All around them, Priestesses and Sentinels began moving into the trees, and disengaging from battle as the time to spring the trap arrived. Laronar nodded at the other two, and they split off, easily outpacing those on foot, and matching those on mounts. As one, they roared, and the entire force of Kaldorei appeared to vanish, as the demons were suddenly left behind with nothing to kill. The tall rim of Hyjal's summit kept any from pursuing. All wanted to be present once Archimonde had more power to infuse them with.
The hidden elves who'd survived the lengthy attack while Malfurion laid his trap cleared the area immediately around Nordrassil, and hid themselves in the forests below and around the summit. Naturally, everyone had an opinion on the Archdruid's plan, but Laronar noticed that only Fandral Staghelm had the fortitude to question their Shan'do. In this, however, nobody agreed with him. The Legion had come over them too quickly to be stopped. But victory could still be attained, if Archimonde went down, and the corruption was contained.
The Horn of Cenarius sounded once more, and the massive demon soon found himself overwhelmed with wisps, distracting him long enough for the magic within the ancient draconic blessings to be ignited. The inferno of the explosive spell was brief, and druids surged towards the World Tree the moment it burnt out. Many, directed waves of water over the terrain, while others, masters of Restoration magic, went immediately to the roots. They poured every healing spell they had into the burned tree, and for four hours straight, none of the females who had stayed awake these long millennia could get the druids to focus on anything else.
Naturally, Tyrande did not waste time, and the forests to the south were purged, as she personally led her army of panther mounted War Priestesses into the sputtering remnants of the Legion. Many of Archimonde's surviving demons had been caught in the inferno of magic Nordrassil unleashed, and those who remained fell quickly under the blades of the orcs and the humans as well. The two army groups crushed the demonic remnants, and eventually, succeeded in routing the Legion completely.
Laronar did not hear what the High Priestess had said to the outlanders once they parted at the border of Ashenvale's ancient forests, but Shandris later told him that the orcs had been warned to stay away from Ashenvale's lumber. Nordrassil had survived, according to the druid's best healers, and after Archimonde's foul corpse had been removed, any lingering taint was purged by Hyjal's tenders.
Nordrassil lived, thanks to their efforts, but the blessings of power it had once possessed were gone, as was a large portion of the tree's trunk. New roots had been guided into the Well beneath the tree, as the island that had supported its base was obliterated in the blast, and from there, Nordrassil had spread out as it needed, in order to survive. Some had grimly remarked that the Betrayer's 'gift', bought in blood, was what had almost solely been responsible for saving the World Tree's life, as the mana-infused water had kept Nordrassil alive.
That no longer mattered though, for Illidan Stormrage had been banished, and his followers, while not immediately killed because of the aid they'd given, were encouraged to leave Kalimdor, and not cause tension. Many of the new aspirants had acquiesced to Malfurion's request, and were only too eager to follow after Illidan. If the druid knew, and understood that doing so would put them in the path of the rather zealous eyes of Maiev Shadowsong, he did not tell them so. They would learn, before long. Though, if they didn't pursue his brother, they'd probably live longer, and that, at least, they had earned.