The Temple of Ahn'Qiraj
The newest war on the shifting sands of Silithus had been going on for weeks, by the time word finally reached Supreme Commander Saurfang, and the rest of the combined forces that made up the organization now formally called the Might of Kalimdor. It was Saurfang's admittedly brilliant mind that had sent Laronar and Thaon to different parts of Silithus to enact stealth raids on the bug's breeding chambers, and it was Saurfang who, by his orders, kept many of their forces alive, even if they fell.
There were enough reagents and skilled spellcasters to bring back the fallen, and often, those who could use a Mass Resurrection spell were able to turn the tide on the bugs, as the warriors who'd faced them earned another chance to do it all again. As usual, the bugs adapted their tactics, targeting priests, druids, and others capable of reviving the fallen, while also killing the mortal defenders by way of ripping them apart. Not even high level healing magic could revive a body that was torn into five pieces, and partially devoured.
When the Supreme Commander announced to the rest of the weary forces that the random group of roughly eighty adventurers, forty from the Alliance, and forty from the Horde, had successfully managed to work together to gather and reunite the shards of the Scepter of the Shifting Sands, the only challenge that remained, was reaching Ahn'Qiraj itself. Before that assault began, Laronar found himself being summoned to Saurfang's war room, which was based in the Cenarion Hold's largest chamber.
The Supreme Commander wanted the knowledge of those elves who had seen the Scarab Gate before, and knew well the spells enchanting it. To that end, he'd been calling on veterans of that first war, to recount their experience. As Laronar approached the elven wood and stone building, the guards gave him their usual beady orcish glares, and he resisted snarling at the invaders from another world responsible for killing Cenarius. Old hatreds could wait, until the Qiraji were no longer a threat. They barked something in their barbaric tongue, and moments later, a lumbering form from within came towards the entrance, revealing the heavily armored badass that was Varok Saurfang, beneath the fading moonlight. Plate armor covered everything but his head, which was sporting gray hair in long braids.
Laronar eyed the orc, even as he knew the orc was eyeing him, in turn. After a tense moment, it seemed both had agreed that they would not wish to fight. Laronar fared poorly against enemies with so much plate, though even they could bleed out, and while Saurfang was sure he could cleave the absurdly well muscled elf in two, he also knew druids were clever opponents, and this one walked without making a noise. If he wanted, the orc correctly assumed the druid could sneak up on him, and strike something vital. He liked the intensity of the druid's gaze though, and grumbled a single word in common as he moved back into the tent. "Come."
Laronar got a look at the massive axe Saurfang was bearing on his back as he turned, a genuinely impressive weapon, with a skull placed between the massive curved blades, and a Horde-appropriate number of spikes jutting from the long hilt. The orc gestured to the map, and then spoke again, his rough mouth butchering the common based words as he did. "Forgive...I speak this tongue not...well."
The druid blinked, and then held up a single finger, as he started searching through his pouches. One of the four equally well armored and armed orcs stepped up behind him, and while the druid was very aware of him, he ignored the orc, and withdrew the required components. He held the pinches of soot and salt in one palm, as his other hand rose, to trace a glyph in the air. He snarled, as he felt the orc behind him grip his shoulder, and say something in orcish that he assumed meant 'no spellcasting' but he persisted anyway.
Saurfang, for his part, merely watched, one bulky eyebrow raised as he observed the druid carefully. The magic didn't seem hostile, and if it could help with the language barrier, he was willing to wait. As the orc behind the druid grew more agitated while Laronar traced the magic symbol in the air, the Supreme Commander held up a hand, and with impressive obedience, the overeager grunt backed off. Laronar released the magic, and sent the empowered sooty salty particles floating over Saurfang. "This spell will allow you to understand and be understood by Alliance forces for the next twenty four hours. I extended the duration, as I thought you might find it useful, Supreme Commander."
Both eyebrows raised now, the orc gave the spell a try, as he spoke orcish, and the spell turned it into common for Laronar's ears. "You...can understand me now?" The elf nodded, and the orc gave a rare grin. "This will help! Your...people have had difficulty understanding my Common. Now...we can focus on the bugs."
Laronar nodded again, and the Supreme Commander gestured to the map of Silithus drawn upon what the druid assumed was kodohide, draped over the circular table that sat in the center of the Hold's building, and took up most of the space in the stone room's center. "Your egg raids have done well. The bugs struggle to replenish their fallen, but we can see the city. It is overrun with them. You were there, a thousand summers past. How many does the city hold?"
At that question, Laronar sighed, brow furrowed. "Maybe a million. Probably more. The ones you can see are just the ones that can fly...and then there are also the Anubisaths...and the Obsidian Destroyers. You'll know when the Anubisaths show up, but if you see a Destroyer made of black obsidian, move your mages away from it. They eat magic, and can redirect it. Normal weapons don't work on them, so maybe assign some adventurers to killing a certain number of them during the conflict."
The orc nodded. "I have some in mind. Now...their General...I was told you fought near it. That you saw what it could do."
Laronar nodded, eyes on the map as he remembered. "Rajaxx...if he yet lives, he will be hungry for vengeance. Have the dragons still not agreed to aid us?"
The orc gave a heavy sigh that was more akin to a growl. "Anachronos is willing...but he is alone in his willingness. The Bronze Dragonflight guided us towards the shards of the Scepter...but defeating the Qiraji is left to us Mortals." He thumped his chest, and the other orcs present mimicked him as they chanted in unison. "For the Horde."
"For Kalimdor." An emphasizing voice said from the shadows, and all present but Laronar, who had smelled their new arrival, but had thus far been unable to pinpoint her, jumped and drew their weapons at the sound. Even Saurfang had a hand on his axe, which left it, as he recognized the female Kaldorei's sultry tones.
"High Commander Windstryke. I was just plying your people for information." Saurfang gestured to Laronar, who met the elven rogue's eye, then. To say there was a rivalry between the Ashen of the druids and the Shadowstalkers of the Sentinel Army was an understatement. The elves did not engage in pettiness though, preferring instead to outdo each other by deeds over pranks or other such tricks. From what he'd heard, only Thaon Moonclaw had been able to give the vaunted Sentinel Commander a challenge.
She gave him a nod, which was returned in kind, before she spoke again. "From what I hear, Stormclaw fought in the last war. His insight should be helpful. Though unless my ears deceive me, his magic has been of aid as well." The almond shaped silver eyes darted to the orc, and then back to the shirtless druid with the intense stare.
"I was almost a mage...in my youth. Eldarath had many useful cantrips and low level spells on their academy shelves." Laronar offered, without quite knowing why. "A simple spell, but useful, for this conflict." He dragged his eyes away from the Sentinel's and back to the orc leading them. "When we open those gates, hell itself will break loose. Expect Anubisaths, and wave upon wave of their Colossi."
"That is not the only threat." The High Commander added. "The zeppelins have reported odd sights as they flew in to us with the gathered supplies. The strange crystals my scouts found outside the Scarab Wall have been sighted across Kalimdor. If each one has a nest hidden beneath it, they may overrun us back home before we ever come close to breaching the temple."
If Saurfang was worried, the orc did not show it. He merely nodded, and gestured to a corner of the room. A young troll, too young for war, but just old enough to deliver messages, saluted Saurfang, as did the human messenger, who looked to be just as young, around Prince Anduin's age. The Supreme Commander scribbled something on a pair of parchments, gave one to each messenger, and sent them dashing off to find a mage of the Horde and Alliance respectively, to send them home and warn Varian and Thrall of what was potentially about to appear all across the planet.
Laronar paid little attention to that however, eyes shifting back to the not unattractive Sentinel, as he processed her words. "You're going into the temple? Willingly?"
The High Commander nodded, and Saurfang spoke as well, though he was amused by the seemingly building tension between the elves. "We are. The strongest of the adventurers who gathered the Scepter will split into two groups, twenty to scour the ruins of the city, and eighty to charge into the depths of the city, and end this threat at its source."
A slow smirk crossed the druid's normally passive countenance. "I'm in...if you're going into their hives, you need those who understand their tactics. I can watch for their tunneling tricks, and cover your back."
The High Commander had a smile of her own, though she seemed not to notice it. "Your aid is most welcome...Thaon Moonclaw was regaling me with tales of your skill. I look forward to seeing it in action."
Saurfang looked between the two elves again, and hid his smirk, while his guards did not. Neither of the elves seemed to pay his guards mind, but they both listened attentively as his rough tones filled the stone room, and were translated into an easier tongue by way of elven magic. The orc placed a small crystal on the war map before Laronar as he did. "This will tell us if you all die down there, and we need to send another group. I am not worried. The adventurers in the temple group are from the Horde and Alliance both, and many have experience facing down dragons, and worse. Your odds of survival are not likely to be much higher than they currently are."
Laronar nodded, and took the crystal. Half of the Alliance's crest, and half of the Horde's, was emblazoned on it, and as he glanced at the High Commander, he saw she had one as well. He pocketed his, and responded. "I'm glad to be of aid. The 'dark god' of the Qiraji must be felled if we're to win this war. They'll never stop, otherwise."
Outside the tent, the three around the map table flinched as an orcish horn broke through the silence of the early sunrise. Another horn joined that one, human to Laronar's ears, and then others followed. Dwarves, elves, tauren, even gnomes were all preparing. Saurfang's baritone cut through the growing cacophony. "Today...we break down the Scarab Wall...one way or another, this war ends here."
The hulking orc marched from the building then, his guards following him in even formation. The pair of elves, left alone, shared a glance, before following. Laronar shifted into his cat form, and didn't blink when the rogue jumped onto his back. After spending many centuries with Storm, Laronar knew when an elf understood the necessary hip motions for riding a Nightsaber, and he had to resist the urge to purr as they followed after the wolf-mounted orcs, and the mainly horse mounted Alliance soldiers joining their charge.
In minutes, the Might of Kalimdor had assembled before the Scarab Gate, and Varok Saurfang gave them his orcish version of a rallying speech, though Laronar was able to grasp his meaning, and judging by the cries that followed, the allied forces had as well. He hadn't known the Supreme Commander was kin to Broxigar, and there were several elven veterans from the War of the Ancients who visibly twitched, when the orc mentioned that name. As the speech ended, and several people tried, in the moment, to create a cry both Horde and Alliance could rally around, they succeeded in only silence. The High Commander had a better one though, and it caught on quickly as the front lines of orcish and dwarven fighters began to charge. When the High Commander gave her rallying cry of "For Kalimdor!" Laronar roared, though it was lost in the sound of the Scepter striking the gong.
The gates of Ahn'Qiraj opened and the entire world shook, as a millennium of pent up voidspawn anger flowed forth from the city, with General Rajaxx at their head. In the distance, not one, not two, but three massive Anubisaths rose from beneath each of the reborn hives the Silithid had managed to create. As they built up speed and charged the mortal forces of Kalimdor's Might, they were met by several bronze drakes, and Anachronos himself appeared, manifesting from the sand below as he took on one of the obsidian wolf-faced giants in single combat. Random mortal adventurers handled the other two, as well as the General of the Qiraji forces, and all was chaos, as once more, the feral druid charged into war.
Rajaxx's voice echoed in their minds as they charged, yet none of the Orgrimmar infantry or Ironforge dwarves making up their front lines seemed to falter. "Soon you will know the price of your meddling, mortals... The master is nearly whole... And when he rises, your world will cease!"
His roar had sped up the twenty five closest people, and it was nice having a Sentinel to watch his back. She didn't hit bugs through the eye sockets like Shandris and her arrows, but her daggers were timely all the same. Lynore had a bad habit of letting him tank the damage from the Colossi and Qiraji, while she stole the killing blow, but he was beyond caring about numbers and kill counts. In war, he had always focused on surviving, and keeping as many of his allies alive as he could, and this conflict was no exception.
For several long, blood-soaked hours the forces of the Alliance and the Horde fought as tirelessly as the minions of Ahn'Qiraj, and at the end of that period of time, General Rajaxx was dead, the Anubisath were in pieces, and no Destroyers had yet been seen wreaking havoc. If there had been some, Laronar hadn't encountered them.
Saurfang addressed the Might of Kalimdor, looking as gore spattered and tired as the rest of his soldiers, though the Horde's healers had his wounds sealing up even as he spoke. "The battle is won! Watch as they flee to the safety of their precious temple. Soon all will be razed...their leaders destroyed!"
The orc then gave a nod to a tauren that, by his garb, seemed to either be important, or exceptionally powerful. Next to him was a human paladin, who seemed much the same, garbed as she was in fine plate armor. They each brought out a horn, blew it simultaneously, and from the ranks of the Might of Kalimdor came eighty individuals, each with a humming crystal, signifying that they were the ones who would be entering the temple itself, and razing it to the ground. It would take no less than that, to finally end the Qiraji threat.
Though not all of the original eighty that had united the Scepter of the Shifting Sands were present, replacements had been found for them, and as the hundred chosen mortals charged the Gates of Ahn'Qiraj at a standard running pace, twenty of them broke off, and made for the ruins of the city itself, damaged heavily by the last time mortals had made it into the city, before being swiftly driven back towards the gates.
Laronar's group went a different direction, to the right, and towards the temple itself. The first of the many challenges awaiting them was five groups of Qiraji, designed to break their formation. They were slaughtered as handily as every bug outside had been, and the adventurers moved on with practiced swiftness, with only a few pausing to collect what the bugs had on them.
The Prophet of the bugs, an abomination calling itself Skeram, was the first real challenge they faced. His voice also filled their minds, as Rajaxx's had, as they charged. "Are you all so eager to die!? I will be happy to accommodate you…"
The plate clad warriors among their group split, as the Prophet opened with what would become his signature technique, a spell Laronar knew as Mirror Image. The bug's version seemed to have some tweaks though, as his images were real down to the foul scent, and figuring out which was which was all but impossible.
When the orcish warrior tanking the blows from the Prophet in Laronar's group suddenly ran off, charging at nothing as he shouted, "For the Horde!" And swung wildly at the empty air, the druid shifted to his bear form. He didn't usually call on Ursoc, but he had practiced with the Bear Ancient's form over the long millennia he'd stayed awake, and the results had been enough for the Ashen druid to deem acceptable. His skin became stone, and turned darker, moss covered his now rocky hide, and with a roar, he focused the Prophet's attention on himself, as the healers switched to keeping him alive, and freeing their warrior of whatever mind control he was under.
The magical images came out several times as the group whittled the Prophet down, but even in defeat, he had naught for them but laughter. "You have won...nothing. You only delay...that which is...inevitable." With a final hissing laugh, the bug finally died, and the same orc from before turned his head into orange bug goo. The raiding party took a second to catch their breath then, as the whole battle had taken almost half of an hour. Those who had fallen were revived by the top notch healers among them.
Being a druid, they overlooked Laronar's wounds, as he was taking care of them himself. As one of the damage dealers, he was easily overlooked, as their role was by far the most numerous. The High Commander appeared next to him from the shadows. She hadn't taken a leadership role in this endeavor, and had stayed near Laronar, as they both had similar styles of attacking. "You gave me a proper scare, when you faced that thing down yourself. I always forget how useful druids can be."
Laronar shrugged a shoulder, wincing, as he felt the cut upon it brush against the black fur and leather that made up the 'claw' that was his shoulder armor. He popped another Regrowth and Rejuvenation combo upon himself, and that wound, among others, began to close quicker. "Somebody had to. The orc went mad for a minute."
While the party recovered, some of the other stealthy members had scouted ahead of the group, alone, but had resisted the urge to jump into combat, as they instead reported back that below were three Qiraji, being treated like royalty by the bugs around them. The general consensus was that any dead bug was a good bug, and killing important bugs made the other bugs bug out. Without their leaders, the Silithid were much less dangerous, almost non-violent, unless attacked. Taking out the leaders would likely let them traverse the underground temple in relative safely, or rather, that had been the theory.
As the raid began to charge into the temple's depths, Laronar and others in animal forms all made gagging noises, as their stronger noses caught a whiff of what they would be descending into. Their first encounters within the darkness were smaller versions of the Prophet they'd just faced, with equally annoying magic. Against the blades, claws, spells, and arrows of eighty hardened warriors, they did not last long.
The bug 'royalty' was a different story. The warrior like Colossi variant colored a sickly orange charged them first, and it was he that the raiders focused on felling first, though as the guard died, the fury of the other two awakened. The healers began burning through their mana, and as they started to run low, the damage dealers went into their own overdrive, and brought down the smallest and evidently female member of the trio next. Last was the obvious leader of this band, though without his allies, the inevitability of so much damage hitting him made it obvious he was, eventually, going to fall. He appeared to intend to bring others with him, and almost succeeded, before finally falling to a well-placed hammerblow from a tauren shaman, limned with lightning. Said tauren reduced the bug to goo and parts, and after a moment of rest, the trek continued.
Silithid guardians waited, as the raid charged down the tunnel and further into the hive, and before they knew it, their next challenge was on them, alongside her warriors, shouting as they hovered above the ground, and charged them. "You will be judged for defiling these sacred grounds! The laws of the Ancients will not be challenged! Trespassers will be annihilated!"
A flying Qiraji leader of some sort, and her cohort, awaited them within a circular chamber that was reminiscent of the Hives outside the walls, though far more corrupted with whatever influence was driving the bugs. As the raiding party whittled the flying bugs that looked vaguely humanoid down, the Qiraji decided to jump among the healers and hunters and mages in the back, tearing through them in a whirlwind of death and blood with her scimitars, before being drawn back by the tankier members of their group with top tier taunting.
Once more, the healers struggled to keep up, but as the guards began to fall, the focus became the largest, and most vocal guard. This time, it was a Fireball from a gnomish mage to the face that ended her, and stifled her dying gasp. She tried saying something else, but burnt flesh made for a poor method of delivering words, and she expired before they came out.
The next tunnel they came to was filled with bugs, and went on for as long as they could see, in the foul gloom of the undertemple. The rogues, Laronar included, padded forward silently past group after group of warrior bugs, until finally, they found a room at the end of the roughly mile long tunnel that appeared to be empty.
Lynore made to enter, but Laronar stopped her, as his smaller fangs sank into the back of her garb, and held her up. She glared down at him, but he merely pointed from the shadows, at the slight but visible disturbance within the sandy bottomed room. Whatever awaited, was lurking below, and seemed to have sensed her, if not the rest of the stealthy members.
With a series of hand signals, they retreated, and the combined raid group formed a plan, then. The plate armor wearers and druids in bear form would charge the tunnel in two rows, the healers would keep them alive, and the ranged damage dealers would pick off the weaker bugs that the charge didn't finish off. Those who were better at dealing damage up close and personal kept an eye out for packs the scouts had originally not noticed, and when they tried to flank the advancing mortals, they found only death, though it didn't seem to unnerve them. Each of the Silithid smart enough to speak seemed to embrace death, as if they knew something that the rest of the group did not.
When the group finally cut its way down the tunnel, the massacre they'd left behind them was a small victory, and as they healed up again, the sand within the room before them started to rumble. It seemed the occupant wasn't going to just sit and wait for them. A massive brown Silithid shaped more akin to a worm than a Colossi or warrior bug variant popped up from below, and roared at them. With six legs, and a tail that would soon prove to be very lethal, the creature was seemingly easy enough to handle, that is, until it started summoning more bugs.
Smaller scarab variants crawled up from the sand and out of the adjoining tunnels, oozing through gaps in the hive the raid would never fit through. With them, came ferocious worms that, if ignored for too long, would start rampaging through the ranks of the raid. The Horde side took heavy casualties from those before they realized they needed to die quickly, and when they started coming for the Alliance, their group was better prepared.
Plate wearing damage sponges shifted off once the bug's tail left their armor in rent ruins, and they masterfully manipulated its focus, while managing to keep most of their number alive. By the time the beast finally fell, many members of the raid were on the ground, bleeding out or already dead, and the healers went to work on bringing them back. Laronar also helped, as his magic could pull them from death's edge, but for those already lifeless, the priests and paladins had to step in. Several of the Horde's shaman, after willing themselves back to life, started calling the spirits of their own fallen back to the mortal world, and the raiding party spent a good hour in that chamber, as the blacksmiths among them started making field repairs to what armor was still salvageable.
Nobody complained, as food and water were munched quietly in the low hum of the temple. The smell was persistent with every breath, and to scarf down his own Moonberries, Laronar had had to drop his cat form. Every inhale while shifted was an almost mind numbingly nauseating affair, and his eternal patience had started to erode. The bugs down here took longer to dispatch, and the constant distant hum of the seemingly endless hives was, by itself, enough to drive some of their group slightly mad. The priests kept them all sane, as well as they could, in a hive of madness.
Eventually, the raid split. The Alliance warriors wished to press further into the tunnels from the massive worm's cave, while the Horde wanted to press on, and get to either the leaders of the hives, or their 'dark god' as quickly as possible. Thus, they decided to split into two forty strong groups, who agreed to meet up later.
For Laronar's group, their next challenge was an ooze with a suspiciously troll-like skull, that the Alliance raiders attacked for a solid twenty minutes straight before they accepted they needed to pull back, and re-evaluate their tactics. Mages brought out their frost spells, as the ooze returned to a puddle after they'd retreated, frost oil was applied to claws and weapons, and the idea of freezing and then breaking the creature worked well enough...until it split into numerous globs, and reformed itself.
After that, it was a simple repeat process of freezing, and smashing the globules until nothing of the fierce creature remained. Not far from that room, they came upon the Horde, embroiled in a chaotic battle with a larger bug. It had wings, a stinger, and seemed to have already taken down several of the Horde raiders over the course of their own fight.
The Alliance poured into the chamber with refreshed reinforcements. The additional bugs went down, and soon, the combined might of both parties brought the 'queen' to death as well. The Horde divided up the loot, as it was technically 'their kill', and their refusal to share any of it with the Alliance was the first inter-faction tension that had risen thus far. If was the High Commander herself though, who suggested that, since the Alliance got some treasure from their own strong enemy, the Horde should be able to take the loot from this one. Several trades then occurred, but there was still grumbling from both sides, and hate in quite a few pairs of eyes.
The raiders recovered themselves in faction-separated groups, and once more they embarked into a long tunnel, full of increasingly stronger bugs, alongside what seemed to be smaller, but no less deadly, Anubisaths. It turned out that the bugs and stone guardians had been guarding the Twin Emperors, and as the raiders entered the chamber, they all paused, in shock. The Emperors were kneeling, and between them, floated a massive, disembodied eye. Dark power unlike anything any of the mortals had ever felt permeated the space, as the eyeball turned to look them over.
After several moments, there was dark laughter, and a voice echoed through each of their heads.
Naught but animated flesh... It turned back to the Twin Emperors, then. Eradicate the mortals.
Vek'nilash began chittering as the eye descended into the floor, and drew his greatsword, while Vek'lor hissed out an answer to their 'god'. "C'thun's will...be done." His hands began glowing with magic as he too examined the eighty mortals, come to claim their heads. "Only flesh and bone...mortals are such easy prey."
Vek'nilash flourished the massive greatsword with ease, and stepped down from his side of the room's altar. "Where are your manners, brother? Let us...welcome our guestsssss."
Vek'lor followed after him, and he chuckled as he started approaching the mortals as well. "There will be pain…"
Vek'nilash chittered again with glee. "Oh...so much pain…"
The Horde raiders split from the Alliance, and aimed for the greatsword-wielding bug emperor, while the Alliance grouped together, and moved for Vek'lor. The spellcasting emperor chuckled again, "Come, little mortalssss!"
Vek'nilash let out a similarly gleeful cry. "The feast of souls begins now!"
As the attacks started coming from both sides, the Horde's plate wearers weathered the first greatsword hit, and struck back, buying time for their casters of darker persuasions to inflict their curses. As fireballs and Fel powered bolts of shadow lanced towards the warrior, he laughed and chittered, as they bounced off of him harmlessly. For the Alliance, there were similar issues, of a different nature. Laronar found his claws were doing absolutely nothing to the magic user, and Lynore's daggers had a similar issue. Their own plate wearing fighters also appeared to do nothing, while their spellcasters were matching Vek'lor almost spell for spell, and appearing to have some sort of effect.
Vek'lor countered then, gesturing at a human mage, and lifting him into the air as dark magic tore at his buffs and protections, stripping them away, until finally, he was consumed by black-purple flames. "Your brash arrogance…"
"Shall be your undoing!" Vek'nilash crowed, as he speared one of the plate armored orcs trying to face him in honorable combat on the edge of the massive greatsword, and sent his corpse flying. Scarabs throughout the floor of the room piled onto the body, and began partaking of the foul orc flesh, uncaring that it was tainted by Fel. It seemed that only made them more eager to consume it.
Chaos ensued, as the raiders tried to compensate, and Laronar eventually switched from dealing damage, to helping to heal, as Vek'lor struck down their casters one by one with glee, some of which were healers. He shouted to Lynore, as the Horde was similarly embroiled in chaos. "This one doesn't take physical damage, and his brother is immune to magical strikes!" He said, as he watched one of the Horde's orcish warlocks cast a series of ineffective curses that only bounced off of the greatsword wielding bug. "Tell the Horde! We need to adapt our strategy!"
She nodded, and called for the Alliance's physical damage dealers to follow her, to reinforce the Horde. Having figured out what they already knew, the Horde was also shifting, and their spellcasters went to reinforce the Alliance, as the melee and physical damage dealers joined the Horde's efforts to bring down Vek'nilash. Through soul stones and shamanic rituals, several of the healers for the Alliance were brought back, and Vek'lor was forced into a corner of the room as the combined group of spellcasters hammered him relentlessly.
The physical fighters did something similar with Vek'nilash, albeit, slower, as he liked to randomly charge members of their group, who then had to brace for a titanic hit from the sword. They corralled the vicious warrior eventually, but it was Vek'lor who went down first, and his death made his brother shriek an ungodly noise into the chamber. "Vek'lor! I feel your pain!" Eyes burning with hate, he turned them on his adversaries. "Your fates are sealed!
Vek'nilash went into a frenzy of sword strikes, but the Horde's healers, more druids and shaman than priests and paladins, kept them alive. The other half of the raiders came down on Vek'nilash as well, for though their spells could not affect him, they could affect the ceiling above him. One particularly large chunk of weathered temple fell, crushing the bug as it did, and the combined might of the physical attacks finished the mostly crushed bug off, sending him to death alongside his brother.
It was a longer rest once quiet filled the chamber, but the eye of 'C'thun' did not reappear. Some of those who had fallen had done so in a manner that made reviving them impossible, and the raiders took their first real losses, setting the bodies in a line, once they'd pieced them together. The scarabs had left little but bones and clothes, and while one of the Forsaken priests offered to try reviving them into Forsaken, the overwhelming majority of the raiders were against that, on both the Horde and Alliance.
The raid moved on, finding yet another tunnel, but judging by the inhabitants, they were getting close. Champions of the Qiraji, along with smaller Anubisaths and even some Obsidian Destroyers were waiting for the raiders, and though they were all exhausted, battered, and were down several key members, they charged through the final defenses to what the Horde rogues claimed was the final guardian, before the chamber none of them had dared to even peek into, without backup.
Yet another giant worm turned out to be the final guardian, and while it regularly bashed their plate wearing tanks into walls, the more agile of them used the opportunity to brace against the impact, and then leap back at the worm. Scarabs appeared as it tunneled beneath them, but the remaining raiders were organized enough to dodge the suspiciously rumbling earth pile that preceded the worm bursting up through the sand.
Armor repairs were again set up, as both Alliance and Horde scouts reported that it certainly seemed like this C'thun was waiting for them next. The smarter minds of both raiding parties huddled together on the sand, encircled by the worm's corpse as a kind of privacy wall, as they concocted their strategy. The High Commander was also consulted, and she brought Laronar, who had gone with the scouts as extra, but ultimately unnecessary muscle.
After about an hour of deliberating, and guessing what kind of attacks a giant eyeball would use, they had some sort of solid strategy. One of the gnomish magi was convinced that it was going to shoot massive death lasers at them, and that they needed to be ready to move if that occurred. At the end of the discussion, it was a human paladin who gave the raiders the plan, and Laronar gave him a Comprehend Language spell to get the point across quickly to the Horde raiders.
"Listen up, people!" The paladin said as he began. He was what Laronar had come to recognize as something of a stereotype. Blonde hair, some of it gray, plate armor, a glowing two handed greatsword, and a jaw that was as chiseled as the druid's own abdominals. His baritone reached all of them, as Alliance and Horde alike came together for what many were convinced, or hoping, was the final fight of this long, smelly tour in the bowels of the Silithid's largest hive.
"We're going to be splitting into eight groups. From what we've seen of the chamber we're entering, we'll be able to surround the bastard on all sides. We don't know exactly what this 'god' of the bugs will be using to combat us, but we should all be ready to adjust our positions at a moment's notice. Your group leaders will be responsible for calling out when." Just then, the same gnomish mage interrupted, and her slightly panicked and high pitched tones made most of the raiders smirk. "You won't need to call it out! I'm telling you, EYE LASERS!"
The paladin pinched the bridge of his well-defined nose and sighed. "Yes, we are aware, thank you Glitzy. Anything this abomination summons to aid it should be focused down by our damage dealers immediately. Those of us who can take more of a pounding," He said, emphasizing with a fist bump against the chest of his own Alliance branded plate armor, "Should be ready to draw their focus, and the eyeball's. Pay attention to what the rest of the raid is doing, don't get trapped away from your group, and above all, stay alive...we've lost enough people already." The human looked at both Horde and Alliance members as he finished, and donned his equally well fortified helmet. "Are we ready!?"
The raiders roared in agreement, but Laronar was already readying a different kind of roar, one that paired well with the paladin's next order. "Charge!"
The sound his Nightsaber throat made echoed loudly, and he liked to think that this C'thun felt the rumbling of almost eighty well-armored adventurers, coming solely to claim victory over it, and its foul minions. Laronar's roar and the paladin's mounted speed sent him almost thirty yards ahead of the rest of them, and his horse deftly turned the corner into the chamber, as the paladin cast his shield of total protection. His faith held up before the unsettling green energy laser that arced towards him, and while the human survived, his horse was reduced to a skeleton. Already furious, he shouted, as he heard the raid arrive behind him. "Stay back, this energy wants to jump like a shaman's lightning! Spread out, surround it, and start attacking!"
And in short order, the seventy something heroes did, splitting off into eight different groups. Those with close ranges closed on the menacing eyeball as the plate wearers drew its focus, but what was most unsettling, was the whispers. In Laronar's head, he could hear them, though what they were saying was muffled, by the holy spells and buffs protecting his mind, and the minds of every raider present as well.
As the damage and spells began to increase in intensity, C'thun interrupted the bursts of damage with several well placed tentacles bearing claws. The dwarf in Laronar's group drew it away with an array of insults that made the cat chuckle inwardly, despite the eldritch horror they were facing down. He and the others with him made short work of it, and the tentacles sporting eyes that came after it. True to the gnome's words, they also fired 'lasers' at them, but their healer, a tauren shaman who'd established herself as one of the best healers the Horde had brought, kept them all alive.
Someone shouted, "Incoming!" As the eye focused on one group in particular, the one aiding the human paladin who'd charged in first. C'thun turned a dark, menacing crimson, and there was an audible 'bwooommm' sound, as the massive eye discharged an equally massive laser, and began moving it towards the fleeing group, slowly. The paladin shouted again, "Don't panic, stay ahead of it! He can't keep this up forever!"
The groups were on the opposite sides of the chamber from where they'd started by the time the 'god' ran out of juice but the slowly moving death beam hadn't managed to snare any of them, and once more, the damage came rapidly, focusing down tentacles, before shifting to the eye itself. With a furious howl, and a wave of energy that stunned all of them, the Old God assumed his final form, as a mass of flesh and toothy maws rose from the infernal pit he was situated in.
The raiders soon found that their attacks did nothing, and worse, the tentacles had returned, larger than before, and much stronger as well. Healers began running out of mana as eye beams and massive hits from equally massive claws started taking their toll. It was around that time that Laronar spotted the gnome from before, Glitzy, shouting 'I told you so' incoherently, over and over, as she desperately shot spell after spell at a tentacle that, for some reason, also had a toothy maw.
As it lunged to swallow the gnome, Laronar dashed, picked her up by the neck on the back of her robes, and kept running, only to mildly panic as the tentacle followed him, and dragged him within it as well. The pain was immediate as he was plopped out into a foul chamber full of what he assumed was stomach acid. Within the green haze were two tentacles, and the gnome shared a glance with her feline 'rescuer', before he set her down, and they both began tearing into a fleshy tentacle with spells and claws.
This deep in C'thun, the whispers were more clear, and insistent that he stop what he was doing immediately, and instead turn his fangs on his gnomish ally. They promised him power, and mentally, he declined, claiming he had enough power already. They promised him wealth, and he compared what wealth they offered to the endless bounty of nature he'd subsisted on for over ten millennia, and again preferred nature. Then, they turned violent, petty even, and he ignored them, silently mocking the whispers as he ripped and tore into the Old God's flesh at what his predator's instinct was telling him was a weak spot, on the otherwise impenetrable 'deity'.
It was as he mocked C'thun that he decided checking on his gnomish ally might be a good idea, and as he saw her hands, seemingly against her will, turn towards him and form a spell, other raiders were plopped into the acid of the chamber, one of which was another mage, also a gnome but this time a male, who cast a counterspell. The Eye of Dalaran appeared over Glitzy's head, and her eyes refocused, but she didn't have time to apologize, as the amount of gas within the chamber increased.
More of the raiders, from both factions, began joining them as they too were plopped out into C'thun's intestines, and while the plate wearers ran immediately for what turned out to be a portal, presumably to somewhere that wasn't an Old God's stomach, the healers who stayed kept them alive, as the acid ate at them. They had to leave eventually, but once they saw the damage they'd dealt, and how dire things were turning for the raiders up above, they had a new plan. Glitzy sent messages to each group, and before long, spare healers and most of the damage dealers were eagerly offering themselves for consumption.
That didn't stop the other massive tentacles though, as they were very intent on ending the raiders who stayed outside of the Old God. Laronar found himself dodging eye beams, and being driven towards a devastatingly powerful claw tentacle, when the dwarf from his group appeared seemingly from nowhere, to taunt it. "Oi, over here ye fekkin' spoopy marital aid! Aye, oi'm talkin' to ye', ye' feckless eyestalk. Yer piss poor lazers're a bloodeh joke. Oi've seen better aim from a Leper Gnome!" The dwarf paused in his accented tirade to wink at Laronar. "Oi've got'im cat-lad. Go an' prod 'is belly tentacles with them mass've fangs."
Laronar glanced at their healer, who gave him a nod with her horned head, and he nodded back, before moving towards another mouth tentacle. Lynore joined him as well, and it was all too happy to swallow them both, only to drop them once more into the bowels of C'thun's mass. It was somewhat crowded down there, and after about a minute of helping the raiders trapped in the acid deal damage, the call for a retreat came, and they all made for the exit at once, bamfing to the chamber once more, just in time to see C'thun become more thin than wide as it stretched higher. A final, keening cry tore into their minds, before the abomination finally collapsed, dead. A cheer went up, as one of the orcs tore into the corpse slightly, and shouted, "Loot!"
C'thun's corpse didn't react, the whispers faded to nothingness, and the raiders breathed a sigh of relief, as their long tour into the depths of Ahn'Qiraj came to a close.
Laronar watched as Lynore carved a piece from the eye, and then hopped down to join him. "Saurfang will want proof...and now the threat is ended, so too is the unity we have achieved thus far."
The druid looked over at the Horde adventurers, who'd decided to share the loot this time. He saw orcish barbarians interacting peacefully with human priestesses as they traded armor that wasn't suited for them, for something that would make them stronger, in true adventurer fashion. The elves turned to leave, only to pause, as three spirits, a gnome male and a pair of Kaldorei, appeared before them. Then, they became tangible, and as one bowed before Laronar and Lynore, as well as the rest of the raid, who'd started to queue up behind them in order to make for the exit.
As the elven male in red clothing addressed the group, Laronar blinked, and found his gaze falling on the softly smiling green-clad elf woman beside him. Her voice echoed in his head, and immediately, he knew he was addressing one of the green dragons. "You did well to aid them, Laronar Stormclaw...the druids contributed much to this victory."
Laronar inclined his head, and responded mentally, as was the custom with the green flight. Rarely did they actually verbalize their words, as even those tended to be ephemeral. "I merely wished to use my power in defense of Azeroth." He glanced back, at the pile of dead C'thun. "I would say I have succeeded."
The woman's smile shifted into more of a knowing smirk. Her good mood was infectious. "Quite. I would ask a favor of you, one of Ashamane's chosen. I have had...unsettling visions, lately. I do not doubt that the Old God had some sway over them...what I do not understand, is why. All I know, is that answers lie...or will lie...on Azuremyst Isle. Take several druids you trust, and scout it out, won't you?"
Laronar inclined his head again, by this point recognizing, and realizing in hindsight, just who he was speaking with. "For the daughter of Ysera, I can easily accomplish this. But you have earned your rest, my lady. Do not let us keep you from your long awaited return."
That, seemed to make her smile widen again, and she tapped the arm of the red-clad Kaldorei, presumably one of the other dragons who'd flown into Ahn'Qiraj at the end of the last war, right before the Scarab Wall was raised. He nodded, and then turned to the raiders again. "Bring proof of C'thun's demise to Anachronos, in the Caverns of Time. He will see you are sufficiently rewarded. We," He gestured to Merithra and the blue gnome whose name was escaping Laronar's mind, "will be returning home, now. You have our eternal thanks for freeing us, mortals."
The gnome conjured a portal then, as he glared at the raiders. "Everyone who wants a ticket to the Cenarion Hold, hop in." As seventy eager adventurers began queuing to leave, and embark on their latest dragon-given quest, Laronar waited patiently beside the High Commander, and walked with her to Saurfang, once they were back within the Hold.
A cheer went up from the Might of Kalimdor's armed forces, which by this point had withdrawn to the Hold, as three dragons, one red, one blue, one green, took to the skies, and headed in separate directions for their respective homes. Once Saurfang was apprised, and the Might of Kalimdor's purpose officially resolved, adventurers began flying and teleporting for Orgrimmar and Stormwind as well, for none were too eager to remain in Silithus.
Laronar did though, as did Lynore, and once they were alone in rejuvenating by the Moonwell, he finally spoke. "Merithra bid me to go to the Azuremyst Isle. Do you wish to come along?"
Lynore thought for a moment, and smirked at him. "Did she mention why?"
Laronar shrugged. "Something about prophetic dreams. That's about as specific as green dragons ever get, but their insights are usually worth looking into."
The lovely rogue thought for another moment, and then shrugged. "Why not. I can think of worse places to be, with far worse company." That, brought a smirk to Laronar's feral visage as well, and he shifted into a Stormcrow, one large enough to carry a passenger. Once Lynore had climbed on and situated herself, he too launched into the air, and flew in the wake of Merithra, towards Feralas, and then the coast.