Runemaster 2: Betrayers, Deceivers, and Twelve Foot Tall Chicks with Six Arms
Harry and company confront a rising tide of enemies as they aid friends and allies while making new ones as they venture into the shattered realm of Outland. The Burning Legion is not prepared! Sequel to Wizard Runemaster. (Predominantly WoW Level 60 to 70 content)
don't own Harry Potter in any way. JKR has those rights... Also, Warcraft is owned by Blizzard Entertainment, etc etc.
*Author's Note *
Inspirations: The Black Scorpion by etincelle047
Chapter First Published: 2019-03-03
Chapter Last Update:
Chapter 02 – Demons, Strange Wizards, and Despair "
Welcome to my former home," said Disidra with a strained smile after a few moments.
"Mine too," added Kudrii as a whisper.
"This place was once known as Draenor, the home of refugees fleeing the Legion," Disidra added in a bitter tone. "Now, after what Ner'zhul did, it is known as the shattered world of Outland."
The sound of war horns interrupted their introspection. Before they had crossed over to this side of the Dark Portal, their group had been distantly aware that some sort of incursion was occurring on the other side which had the locally stationed garrison in a low state of panic. The frantic movements that occurred around the debriefing from the horde and alliance leadership on the other side couldn't be explained in any other manner. But once through, it actually took a few moments to truly understand what caused the panic in the soldiers around them.
The distant desolate brownish orange landscape was dotted with the remnants of machines of war of the past. Directly in front of the portal, was the almost nauseating 'Path of Glory', a road dozens of miles long paved with the skeletons of hundreds of thousands of murdered Draenei civilians. And upon that road, just beyond the vanguard of a demonic army currently testing the Portals defenses, was an unknown number of demons who were very likely marching from portals somewhere in the distance beyond their sight towards their current position.
The Dark Portal was in a natural choke point for defenders, good in that it funneled all the approaching demons down a straight path towards the Portal, but Bad in that there was no way any reinforcements could arrive on the ground in any direction other than through the invading army.
"That's a pretty big army," Jessir stated the obvious aloud as she stared at the large number of demons being held off by the defenders..
"We need more information," added Sylvanas as she looked around at the scrambling defenders, trying to find someone of rank on this side of the melee who may know more about what was coming towards them on the horizon. She saw a human attempting to direct troops around, and to most of their group's surprise, even the Horde forces were listening to the officer.
Stalking off in his direction, the large group gathered notice of all of the defenders as they approached. When they were within a few feet of the human, Sylvanas spoke.
"We were briefed before we stepped through to this side, but this situation looks much more dire than we were told. What is happening?" she asked.
This particular human, if he had any problem with speaking with a member of the Forsaken, did not let it show in his reaction, or response, "Not good. We've just confirmed there are two portals about thirty miles out that our scouts identified too late for us to move in and destroy them. Both are belching out a constant stream of wrathguards, which accounts for most of what that approaching army is made of. They managed to march halfway here to the portal before we even noticed them. By then, they were already dug in around the portals and ready for an assault."
Harry knew immediately what the defenders were facing. It didn't matter if the defenders held numerical superiority or not here at the portal. The Legion's total potential number of soldiers they could throw at a target could dwarf entire worlds, and if those portals weren't stopped, they would face what was essentially a never-ending army of demons that would eventually overrun them through attrition.
The only thing limiting that number was how big the portals were they erected and how many they had. If there were still only a few, then a counterattack was still feasible.
"Do you have the resources to detail anyone to flank them and get to those portals?" Harry asked.
The human nodded, "We've sent word to both Honor Hold and Thrallmar via bat and gryphon rider. We've asked them to divert some of their forces from the assault upon Hellfire Citadel. But we have had no word back on whether word was even received from either of the outposts… or whether they'll respond."
"We may have to sneak through and take down those portals ourselves," said Arko into the silence. "There's too much riding on keeping the portal to this world in our control for us to not overcommit forces towards those portals."
"Agreed," said Jessir. She turned glanced at Sylvanas, and got a nod of acknowledgement and assent, then turned back to the human. "We'll do our own run upon those demons, then try and harass as much of their rear-guard as possible."
The human opened and closed his mouth a few times, before he shook his head, "Thank you, but I think you're going to need a full-fledged army to crack their defenses. No matter how powerful your members are, a dozen people isn't going to break through."
Jessir smirked, glancing at Ysondre, the only dragon amongst them who everyone agreed could be publicly shown, "And how much would a dragon help?"
The human's head snapped in Jessir's direction, then followed her gaze towards Ysondre. His eyes went wide when he realized that it wasn't a blind green haired Night Elf he was looking at, but instead a shape-shifted dragon.
"Aye, that might help," he said slowly with his eyes still wide and staring. "That might help indeed. Good luck, then."
They moved off to the side, gathering around an abandoned table showing troop positioning around, more importantly, up to date maps of the region. Harry sent spells at the parchment, detailing the possibilities that had been briefly discussed so far showing their options.
"He is right though," Harry started. "A direct attack would normally take an army, and a single dragon in the air is going to do nothing but give them one big target to focus on."
"How about two dragons?" asked Jessir as she gave Harry speculative glance.
Sylvanas answered for him, "Are we sure we want to reveal that at this time?"
"Not sure we have much choice," said Onyxia with a grimace. "Losing this beachhead is not an option. It's almost enough to make me seriously ponder transforming and revealing myself."
"No," said Jessir with a firm shake of her head. "Two dragons, especially with Harry's monstrous size and power, should provide enough of a distraction to allow us to get in and destroy the portals. Three may be overkill, and not worth risking your identity."
"Then what?" asked Disidra, eyeing the map closely. "Where do we retreat to after the portals are down? We will be deep in enemy territory, with an army already discharged from the portals, and I doubt Ysondre or Harry will be able to safely set down and arrange a pickup if we go in via stealth."
"Will your portkeys work here?" asked Sylvanas. "That would be the easiest way to retreat.
"They should," Harry said tentatively. He summoned a nearby piece of rubble the size of his fist, colored it red, then cast a timed portkey charm on it to make it travel roughly ten feet. A few moments later, the stone disappeared and instantly reappeared ten feet away.
"Good," said Sylvanas. "Can you make a portkey for each of us, with the activation phrase, 'To the Portal'?"
"Do you believe we'll need all of us out there on the incursion team?" asked Jessir, looking at Sylvanas. Sylvanas, in turn, looked over at Kudrii and Fleur with an appraising eye.
"I think," said Sylvanas after a few moments. "We may be served well leaving Kudrii and Fleur at the portal to heal the injured amongst the defenders. Anything to improve our standing with the major powers of Azeroth, especially since it looks like Stormwind will be causing us troubles."
"Are you sure it is wise to split up?" asked Fleur, uncertainty and no small bit of fear clearly visible on her face.
The harsh discrimination she and her fellow Veela had faced on Earth had seemed to repeat itself when she'd finally received her first contact with the humans of Azeroth back on the other side of the Portal. Staying behind now without the protection of her new friends did not seem like a very wise thing to do.
"If you face difficulties," responded Jessir, "Retreat through the Portal and return to Azshara. We'll be able to easily return to you there. The only reason we came through the Portal itself was so that we could get a good grip on what the true status is here. There's no reason to take any more risks than we already are with this assault."
"I agree with Jessir's plan," Sylvanas stated, who turned to Fleur and Kudrii and addressed them specifically. "I'll add to Jessir's instructions. If at any point you feel threatened at all, do not hesitate to leave. You should be safe within the defenders simply healing, but take nothing for granted. Watch each other's backs."
Fleur and Kudrii nodded their understanding, and moved off quickly towards the few long-term tents and encampments that the defenders had established around the Dark Portal, hoping any healers would be congregating there waiting for patients.
"Let's get this over with," said Ysondre, with a bit of annoyance. While normally she would be elated at the idea of transforming to cause havoc during a battle, knowing she would have to ferry the group to wherever their destination was had placed a damper on her mood.
She moved towards one of the more open areas nearby, and promptly transformed into her full dragon form, attracting attention from nearly all of the defenders within a hundred meters of them. A few looked to actually be debating the merits of attacking the group, but were held back by others soldiers, many of whom were veterans of earlier wars and had no desire to fight a dragon that wasn't attacking them first.
Ysondre took to the air, with Jessir, Sylvanas, Harry, Onyxia, Collette, and Disidra on her back, each person holding on tightly to the person in front of them.
"I hate flying like this," Harry heard Onyxia grumble into his ear.
"Hopefully this won't take long," Harry said, turning his head to speak into her ear. "When we're done, you can ride on my back then."
He felt Sylvanas shift in his grip in front of him. She turned her head, glowing red eyes narrowed, and Harry realized she had heard what he'd said with her sensitive ears even over the sound of the wind. "And when, pray tell, will the rest of us be afforded the same chance?"
Before Harry could respond, he saw Onyxia's grin flash wide with teeth, "I didn't know you were so eager to get a ride on Harry."
Sylvanas' eyes widen in realization of what direction the dragon was taking her comment, then arched a brow in annoyance. She was about to blurt out an annoyed statement over her shoulder at them, when she was interrupted.
"Focus!" came the booming voice of Ysondre over all of their voices. "In case you haven't noticed, there are thousands of demons ten thousand feet below us."
Harry glanced over the side and winced at what he saw. The 'Path of Glory' was plainly visible below them, and a constant stream of blue-armored, mottled-grey skinned wrath guards were marching in formation from wherever they spawned in the west towards the Dark Portal, which was now miles behind them to the east.
From the air, the particular portion of the shattered world of Outland looked even worse. It actually worried him that whatever magical phenomena was keeping a breathable atmosphere around the huddled remnants of Draenor would cease if Ysondre flew any higher. There was no 'sky' here, just the blackness of space and the fleeting remnants of Draenor's atmosphere shining like a sickening aurora borealis from the dim light reflected off of multiple nearby planets and moons Harry could see.
The land itself was horrible. He likened it in his mind to what a nuclear holocaust must look like, as there were simple endless jagged hills of red dirt, occasionally broken up by the remnants of some structure in ruins that had managed to partially survive the cataclysm that had struck this world.
By no means would this place ever be considered hospitable.
Jessir's voice broke his thoughts, shouted from beyond Sylvanas in front of him.
"We're twenty-five miles out. Somewhere up ahead is where they estimated the portals to be!"
The only person present with worse eyesight than Harry was Collette, so he doubted he would spot the portals from this height before any of the elves or dragons found it. He was right with his assumption when, not two minutes later, Ysondre roared out, "There it is!"
Harry nodded to himself, then shouted forward to Sylvanas and Jessir, "And that's my cue."
He felt an unseen armored hand grip his own hand that was currently around Sylvanas waist.
He looked up to see one of Sylvanas eyes again staring back at him.
The moment seemed too perfect, so he simply said, "Hey. It's me!"
…then he jumped off of Ysondre's back from an elevation of 10,000 feet.
"You can't keep quoting that movie like it makes it all better!" was the last thing he heard from Jessir before the sound of his answering own roar consumed all other sounds.
Vorakem Doomspeaker was in his element. He was overseeing the maintenance of four separate portals that were actively pouring reinforcements from the Burning Legion-occupied world of Niskara. He was genuinely surprised that neither of the forces that resisted them on this world had sent forces to harass his defenses, but that just meant more of his brethren could be deployed to take back the main portal to the east.
The mission he had been assigned by his superior, Doom Lord Kazzak, was to sow discord amongst the invading armies, as well as attempt to regain control of the Portal. Soon, shivarra and eredar infiltrators would transition through the portal and sneak into the strongholds to the northeast and southeast, bringing down their defenses from within. All of this would cause a massive distraction while his Master was summoned atop the Throne of Kil'Jaeden high atop the mountains to the north.
His thoughts about whether to order the construction of a fifth portal were interrupted by a massive roar from almost straight overhead. He looked up, wondering what could have made such a racket, when the black star-field above him shifted, and a shape emerged.
A shape that horrifyingly resembled a dragon as it drew closer and solidified against the backdrop of the sky.
He was well aware of the non-native reptilian monstrosities that had been introduced to this world during the last major campaign that had launched by the Burning Legion from the planet Draenor. The Legion's true target world in that campaign, Azeroth, had pushed the demonic forces back through the portal to this world. Amidst the counterattack hundreds of Black Dragons had snuck through on their own mission, led by that irksome, void-maddened behemoth who called himself Deathwing. Despite Deathwing himself being driven back to Azeroth once he had been tracked down by the counter-invaders, the dragon had left hundreds of his fellows and thousands of eggs behind on this world.
He growled and clenched his fist as, even as he watched, the shape of a second dragon became visible against the various moving auroras of the broken continent's sky.
This was not part of the plan. The dragons had found themselves to be the natural prey of the apex predator on Draenor; one which had decided to hunt them down for sport. The few that managed to make it to adulthood often hid in faraway clefts and mountain ranges. It was all to avoid the massive Gronn's that had once lived primary within Gorgond and the now within the Blade's Edge Mountains, as their hunting methods were cruel in ways that a demon envied. The beasts often pulled the wings off of still-living dragons and impaled them upon the spiky canyon walls of their homes like some kind of macabre decoration. But, even after being subjected to hunting for sport by the massive bipeds, there were still hundreds of dragons free to breed and mutate in the distant corners of this despoiled world.
Unfortunately for the Legion, there were no Gronns nearby to run off these two dragons, and the single solitary Pit Lord assigned to this part of the campaign had already been deployed to the Dark Portal in an attempt to use brute force to gain a foothold there. Unfortunately Vorakem doubted any other Gronn beyond Gruul himself could likely do something against the behemoth currently lining the portal he stood next to up for target practice.
Around him, the various demons, be they wrathguards, felguard, or succubi, all began running around wildly, trying to get away from the approaching flying mass of death that approached. Vorakem knew better, though. He had been one of the few members of the Legion that had seen Deathwing lead an assault upon the Expeditionary forces sent from Azeroth, and knew that nothing the Legion had deployed here could stop what looked to be the largest dragon he had seen since Deathwing himself had graced the skies of this world. Maybe if some of the artillery elements that had been positioned to fire upon Thrallmar had been instead positioned here, it would be different, but without them, the ultimate result of what was approaching was inevitable.
His frustration boiling over, he grunted loudly, angry at this plot of his masters' being foiled, and at the sheer unfairness of how he would likely be blamed by his Master for this failure.
The Herald of Doom Lord Kazzak looked up, a fist raised in defiance of the beast that approached, which paid no acknowledge at all to him. The black scaled dragon with blue lightning sparking among and beneath the scales, strafed over his encampment in one swoop, bathing the area in a firestorm of blackened flame and death two hundred meters wide. The portal ten meters behind him didn't stand a chance as it melted into slag then exploded, feeding the draconic fire further with its fel energies.
His masters would not be pleased with him when he awoke back on Argus in a new body when they forced him to report his failure here.
Harry found that, more and more, he wished he'd had an animagus form like this back on Earth during the Legion's invasion. With a single breath, one that wasn't even a drop in the bucket in terms of the total potential of this form, he had incinerated a quarter of this outpost's total numbers. Granted, they were scattering like ants after their anthill had been stepped on so that sort of attack wouldn't hit as many in the follow-up runs, but that initial destruction had been amazing.
Ysondre right behind him, and far more agile with her movements, belched her own poisonous green noxious fire, which easily picked up a number of the stragglers he had missed.
It didn't even look like their group would need to land to allow the others to move forward on foot. There were no defenses against an aerial attack here. From what they could see, the Legion had deployed their defenses westward, all under assumption that an attack against the portals would most likely come from the west, where the Horde and Alliance outposts of Thrallmar and Honor Hold lay… not from airborne attackers from the east.
A second Portal was only a quarter mile from the initially destroyed site, and their combined efforts took only a few minutes to add that one to their tally. He was turning back towards Ysondre, when her roar was heard by his ears.
"Jessir wants us to check the other site as well. They assumed there were two portals, but Jessir and Sylvanas believes it's more likely to be two sites with multiple portals."
"Lead the way," he rumbled in a scratchy deep voice that he was sure was barely recognizable. He had not quite gotten used to speaking as a dragon yet, and would need a lot more practice at it before he felt entirely comfortable with it.
The pair of dragons flew to the south. In the distance, he finally saw what looked like to be artillery emplacements, except these did not belong to the demons. Their appearance matched the engines of war typically used by the alliance and horde, not the Legion. Their close proximity to each other was quite telling, and told Harry that the opposing forces deployed to Draenor were fighting each other just as much as they were fighting the demons.
"Looks like this whole operation into Outland is just a powder keg waiting to go off," he heard Jessir say into the rushing winds, despite being more than fifty meters away. His ears when in this form were that much more sensitive than normal.
"Taking the demons away as a target for the two sides may backfire on us," added Sylvanas. "Removing their mutual foe may end up giving them even more excuses to fight each other."
"Building peace between the Alliance and Horde isn't our mission here," responded Jessir, and with only a little bit of thought, Harry found himself agreeing with her.
"No, it's not," he heard Sylvanas shout, "Thrall and Ghost are responsible for controlling their respective parts of the horde, and I think it's fair to assume that the orders given will be to only fight if provoked."
She said nothing about the respect and awe held for her by the Forsaken. Especially after the traitors had been rooted out. There would be no disregarding orders by any of the Forsaken soldiers.
"And the others factions?" he heard Jessir ask.
"The Tauren do not go out of their way to provoke anyone other than centaurs and quilboars, and Vol'jin will follow the lead of the others in this situation, at least with things as they are," Sylvanas answered after some consideration, then a sigh of annoyance could be heard, even over the rushing winds, "Our problems, at least from the Horde, will all originate from the Blood Elves… those loyal to Kael'thas infiltrating the Horde, and those that unknowingly blunder into Draenei possibly wanting vengeance for the debacle that crashed the Exodar."
"I know Tyrande and Malfurion will not be provoking things either," Jessir responded, "I don't know about the Prophet Velen. It will be the Humans and possibly the Dwarves that cause problems from the Alliance."
"And as usual, gnomes don't have enough numbers to be worth mentioning for anything other than flossing my teeth with their bones," said Onyxia, and the joking grin in her voice could be heard by Harry despite the distance they had.
Despite the joking, Harry found himself agreeing with the assessment. He was perfectly happy aiding Night Elves, Draenei, and the Forsaken, regardless of whatever faction squabbles each individually may have with each other. His small group's efforts coordinating with the leadership of the Horde and the few alliance sub-factions he'd interacted with were about as far as he was willing to risk himself, especially considering that he had apparently offended a human king who ruled territories he'd never once stepped within, let alone met in person.
"More portals ahead!" roared Ysondre, and he watched her begin to descend towards what he could now see as two more familiar black demonic structures, spilling out dozens of demons every few seconds through sickening green portals in a line of ants that spread out miles into the distance towards the Dark Portal in the east.
He roared his acknowledgement and dove, the black shadowflames already building in his throat and ready to be spread over the demons of this world.
Harry, back in human form, rested on the dry cracked red ground a half mile to the south of the Path of Glory, nearly halfway back towards the Dark Portal from which they had entered Outland.
Upon destroying the last two remaining portals and the defenders that surrounded them, Ysondre had turned and began to strafe the column of demons that were marching eastward towards the Dark Portal.
It was a slaughter. The demon army summoned had been focused upon a ground assault, leaving them completely open to an attack by air. While numerous almost beyond count, their army had been largely comprised of Wrathguards, who when faced with dragons breathing fire on them from above, were little more than large thugs with toothpicks.
"Guess we didn't need those portkeys to retreat back, huh? He asked aloud as he drank deeply of the water he'd conjured, then passed it off to Disidra who was sitting next to him.
"Thank you," she said, taking off her blue and grey helmet before gulping down what water she could then passed it on to Arko. "Are you sure it was wise to send Ysondre with just Sylvanas and Jessir to pick up Fleur and Kudrii? It worries me whenever we are forced to split up."
"They'll be fine," said Onyxia, who had been laying on the ground, staring up at the strange mix of magic that circled overhead in the sky. "If for no other reason than Sylvanas is with them. Add to that, a dragon that just demolished the enemy they couldn't fight will be visibly escorting them, and no one will be touching those two. Sylvanas and Jessir will just take the time to plot while together, anyways."
"They'll be safe at least until those paladins decide to get involved again," added Collete, before she shook her head. "My own race disappoints me more and more over the years. It was a lot different in the Second War against the invading Orcs. Now though, there's something else festering in their ruling councils beyond the chaos you initiated, Onyxia. I'm not afraid to say it worries me."
"Hopefully someone like Proudmoore will step up eventually and just run the whole show," Arko said as she stood up to stretch a bit more.
With the flight to the portals, the subsequent aerial battle, and the subseunt mop-up action, they had been essentially stuck on Ysondre's back for hours without the ability to do more than occasionally fire arrows or spells at the demon's below them. A warrior like Arko had little she could personally do from that range, and being on the ground again at least allowed her to move around.
"I still wonder at our purpose being here," said Onyxia. "There are numerous threats to Azeroth here, yet I'm not sure which we are pursuing."
"Primarily… closure," said Harry immediately, drawing attention to himself. "Sylvanas needs some closure on her sister. You all remember what she was like after we went through the belongings of her family estate and found that necklace. Even if we don't find Alleria, it will at least answer some questions she's had."
Then Harry glanced towards Disidra, who held his gaze firmly. "Disa needs something here as well. Don't think I didn't see the worry on your face when we were approaching the portal. This place has bad memories for you, and we'll make sure to help you too."
"I have no desire to see the Dragonkiller again," Disidra stated emphatically.
As the sole survivor of a failed attempt to remove the Alpha-Gronn from his stronghold within the Blade's Edge Mountains, Disidra had still taken over a month to recover from her injuries. It had been over a year since she had walked out of the infirmary and practically stumbled into Arko'narin and Jessir searching for additional adventurers to accompany them, but the nightmares of the slaughter she had seen in the Gronn's lair still occasionally woke her and her bedmates up at night.
Harry nodded, "We won't force you there, Disa. But it's something we'll all support you in if it comes down to it."
He glanced briefly to the east, where he knew the last Draenei member of their group was even now being picked up by their missing group members. "The last isn't nearly as complicated. Kudrii needs to see Shattrath again, if for nothing else than to put that part of her life behind her. I've explored a tiny bit of the place, and I doubt we'll find anything of her former home, but we should go anyways. Looked like most of the harbor city's outer districts were completely wiped clean from the limited bit of it I've seen."
"Is there even any possibility anything is left from her family?" asked Colette. "I remember what the Orcs were like at the end of the Second War, and I grew up with the rumors of what they did in the First. They destroyed everything they came across. I can't imagine anything not made of less than five foot thick stone surviving them, especially when they had just recently taken on Mannoroth's curse."
"Shattrath was beautiful," said Disidra suddenly, looking in the direction she knew the ancient harbor city to lay. "It had dozens of boroughs surrounding it, miles and miles of residences, shops, markets, all surrounding the city center, where the temple dedicated to the Naaru lay."
She looked down, as if remembering something unpleasant. "My family lived in Farahlon, in a small temple settlement called Enkaat. We were a thousand miles away at the time; an island separated from the mainland. It took weeks to hear the news that Shattrath had been sacked. Soon after, we learned that the Temple of Karabor, our people's capital city here, had suffered the same fate as well."
"I was part of a group that departed upon Fey Dragons at the time to check for survivors at Shattrath. We found nothing, just rumors of desperate women and children fleeing northwest into the swamps of northern Nagrand. We later found out the orcs had used fel-based chemical weapons, which slowly mutated everyone exposed to them inside of Karabor and Shattrath into 'Broken' wretches. The females all died, and the males… the males forever changed to lumbering behemoths."
She glanced at them, "I have no doubt Kudrii will find nothing. The fact she survived the attack is amazing in of itself, but I think that should be the only miracle you can expect to have occurred. I think the only thing she will find is newly awakened nightmares from the memories that will surface.
Harry wilted at the reminder of what had happened in that city. In his brief visits there while learning to utilize mage portals, he had seen a relatively clean city, albeit with a massive amount of ruins in the distance. It was only now that he realized that had had mostly stuck to the city center and the massive temple placed there. He had not ventured out further into the districts that surrounded it, where the stark reminders of the Demonic-Horde army had destroyed the city.
"Well, she has her heart set on it for some reason," Harry finally said. "We can only support her when she does go there. I have a feeling we'll end up going there anyways, as it's a fairly large hub for all the people who are on this world. There's a good chance any leads we have on Alleria will take us through there."
The mention of Sylvanas made Harry think of the summoning of his parents and how such a thing could possibly be the solution for Kudrii. He would need to speak with the Forsaken woman first though to get her opinion on the idea.
"I worry Alleria is already dead. Or worse, lost off-world," Disidra eventually said.
"Off-world?" asked Harry, and everyone interest was peaked suddenly by this new bit of information.
"The expedition that was marooned here after Azeroth's Second War did not have much contact with the survivors of my people. Their actions certainly did not endear them to us, especially after the pursuit of Gorefiend and Ner'zhul caused the city-mausoleum of Auchindoun in Talador to explode."
Disidra shook her head, and clenched her fists in anger, "Next to the temple dedicated to the Naruu that was in Shattrath, Auchindoun was our holiest site… a place to commune with our ancestors, and the battles between the Legion and Azeroth's Expeditionary forces ultimately destroyed it."
"Afterwards, the Draenei did our best to avoid those from Azeroth marooned here, but we did hear stories. Many spoke of how the Azerothians would send small units into the numerous active Legion Portals that were scattered across the husk of this world. They would scout, raid, and destroy whatever they found. It's very possible that Alleria Windrunner participated in those missions, and it's just as possible she never returned from one of them. The number who apparently went through and never returned was staggering."
"It would explain why Sylvanas' sister was not part of the group that immediately returned to Azeroth once the first invasion was driven back roughly a year ago," commented Onyxia with a frown.
"An even bigger problem is that, if she's lost and we manage to find out which portal she took, it won't do us any good," Disidra said bluntly. "When Illidan, Kael'thas, and Vashj arrived in Outland, the first thing they did was a systematic sweep of the entire continent, closing any and all remnant portals they could find."
"Have you told Sylvanas this?" Harry asked Disidra after a few moments of pondering just how difficult it could possibly to find Sylvanas' sister.
"No," she said with a shake of her head, her slowly growing hair shifting and moving in tune with the tentacles that grow from her head. "I did not wish to diminish any hope she had that she would possibly find information here about her sister."
"Damned if you do, damned if you don't," Harry said with a frustrated huff of breath.
He looked up at the strangely colored sky above them, hoping to receive some sort of guidance or answer from the heavens above on what they should do. More and more, he realized that they needed much more solid plans for their group while in Outland besides, 'Show up; kick ass; find Alleria; go home'.
He tried to review what he knew. The demons had a truly massive foothold here, and his new home of Azeroth would be threatened as long as that presence continued or so long as the Dark Portal existed to connect the worlds together.
Destroying the Dark Portal would be his first gut instinct move, but it was a short-sighted solution that would actually do very little good. The number of mages who could open up direct access to the world now was likely beyond count, so the actual effectiveness of destroying the portal itself would likely be very minimal at this point. There were also numerous individuals who would likely be against closing off access to the former world of Draenor by destroying the Dark Portal. It was the Orc's ancestral home, and the world which the exiled Draenei had called their own for a significant amount of time, despite it ending so tragically when the Burning Legion's agents had enthralled the world's indigenous orcs to wreak havoc upon their neighboring Draenei population centers.
"Once they're back," Harry began, "We'll send Jessir, Arko, Kudrii, and Disa to the alliance fort that's south west of here. That 'Honor Hold' place that the briefing we received from Tyrande told us about."
Seeing that he had everyone's attention, he continued, "Their goal will be to get some gossip from whoever they can on what's happening here, but more importantly, seek out any leads on wherever Alleria may be."
"After that," he said, seeing agreements all around to his first suggestion, "I think we should head straight to Shattrath when we regroup. This 'Khadgar' may have additional information on Alleria since he's basically the highest authority here for the remnants of old Expedition that's still in Outland, and I believe we need to get Kudrii's pilgrimage there out of the way as soon as possible."
"What about Illidan, or Kael'thas, for that matter?" asked Onyxia with a raised eyebrow. "You know people will eventually hear of our deeds on Azeroth, and will come begging us to help."
"Let's see if we can't accomplish the smaller stuff first, then see if it lends to aiding folks with the armies that are already dug in here," said Harry in response. "Don't forget, Thrall asked us to check out the remnants of the Orc clans here to see if any survivors could be tracked."
Collette wrinkled her nose at the suggestion, "That just sounds lazy to me. Asking us to research his own ancestors for them. Shouldn't their own people have a higher stake in it at this point?"
"And it's been some time since that request was made," added Onyxia. "There's always the distinct chance at this point that they've already found leads upon the surviving clans."
"Nagrand will likely be the best place to go for contacting orcs who remained loyal to their traditions," said Disidra. "After the collapse of the planet, most of the orc strongholds that resisted the Legion were lost except for there."
"The remaining orc clans in other territories; the Dragonmaw, Thunderlords, Shattered Hand, Bleeding Hollow," and as Disidra spoke the names of these clans, her mouth curled further and further into a disgusted snarl, "all were still allied with the orcs that sealed the pact with the Legion, even if they themselves did not drink the blood of Mannoroth."
"Yeah, let's avoid those clans," said Collette, bringing attention back to her. "I've fought members of every clan she just mentioned, except for the Thunderlords. I've no inclination whatsoever to chase down more of them."
"Not to mention what we saw in Sylvanas' vision," Onyxia reminded them. "If that orc does indeed exist, its likely he's somewhere in Nagrand."
The beating of heavy wings announced the return of Ysondre and company. The green dragon settled upon the ground not far from them, allowing Sylvanas, Jessir, Kudrii, and Fleur to disembark before she changed back into her Night Elven form.
"How'd it go back at the Portal?" asked Harry, looking towards both Fleur and Kudrii as he did so.
Fleur scrunched up her nose, "say something in French about the humans being weak-willed?"
Kudrii smiled, her translation spell letting her and everyone else know exactly what Fleur had just said, "It went well, at least until some of the human reinforcements came through the Portal. They immediately asked for Harry's location, and when they didn't know, someone mentioned that the two of us were members of your party."
"They tried to get me to go with them," stated Fleur with loathing. "I had to use my Allure to entrance them and force them away."
"Which caused a host of other problems," said Kudrii with a sigh. "We healed numerous injuries, and likely accrued much good will, especially with some of the more injured who had been allowed to suffer since they were apparently stable."
"But my allure's use on them was thought to be some sort of 'charm' or something that warlock's can order their demons to use…" added Fleur, trailing off into the silence as Harry could easily connect the dots and determine what had happened next.
"So now the humans there think you're a succubus," said Harry while he rubbed his eyes in irritation. "Okay, fine. We just need to ensure Fleur, or any of the Veela for that matter, back on Azeroth are escorted and given proper protection in the future when they leave Azshara. They should be fine around Night Elven settlements, but if they venture elsewhere, we'll need to ensure they're protected."
"So what now?" asked Sylvanas as she looked oddly at Harry, who she recognized was apparently in one of his rare moments of taking firm control of the group.
"Now," answered Harry as he turned towards her. "Jessir, Arko, Kudrii, and Disidra will be flown by Ysondre to that Alliance settlement that's nearby. They'll try and gather some gossip, and they'll also ask about any rumors regarding your sister. We also need to figure out what the Big Bads are doing around here as well. We'll decide what the group does when they return."
"I should…" Sylvanas began to say instinctively, but slowed and halted once her mind caught up with her. Despite somewhat good relations now with the Night Elves, there was no way a human-centric stronghold would allow a member of the Forsaken in, especially Sylvanas herself.
And she knew it.
She nodded reluctantly, then looked at Jessir. There was no need for Sylvanas to say anything, as Jessir immediately responded with a thin-lipped smile that spoke more to the solidarity and determination the Night Elf felt towards the current mission entrusted to her on her friend's behalf.
"If there's anyone who knows anything, we'll find them," Jessir said in a supportive tone.
Sylvanas accepted that she would have to leave this in the hands of others, then turned back to where Harry stood besides Onyxia. "What will we do while we wait to hear back?"
Harry glanced at the others, weighing in his mind just what they could do. "With Ysondre going to the Alliance stronghold, the rest of us can drop Sylvanas, Anya, and Collette off near the horde outpost. While I would take the risk of personally going into any of the Horde capitals back on Azeroth while we wear our sigils, I'm not sure I would want to risk it out here."
"The commander of the Horde outpost could certainly have another take on what's going on here within this territory," mused Sylvanas, before nodding. "I believe one of the Warchief's advisors, Nazgrel, was tasked with overseeing the Horde's initial outpost in Outland when the Horde first deployed its forces. He should still be posted there."
Onyxia nudged Harry with her shoulder and gave him a wink, "That just leave you, me, and Fleur."
"Minx," Harry muttered under his breath, although every non-human present with their heightened sense of hearing heard it. "I figure we can scout a bit. Flying on a carpet should be fairly safe while away from the northern demon encampments. I definitely saw the artillery emplacements there when we were first flying.
Onyxia seemed annoyed that her carnal hints about what to do with Harry and Fleur alone were ignored, but nodded reluctantly at the plan.
"We shall depart immediately then," said Ysondre as she rose and began to walk further away to allow for her true form's bulk to have enough room to appear. A few moments later, the Green Dragon's form reappeared and lowered herself to the ground enough for their alliance-friendly members to climb aboard.
"We'll contact you on the mirror when we need to be picked up," said Jessir moments before Ysondre vaulted into the air and changed direction towards the south.
"Well," said Sylvanas as she watched them fly off to hopefully find word about her long-missing. "Let's get going."
"Impressive what they've managed here," Arko said in a soft voice as they neared the gates of Honor Hold, the Alliance's initial base of operations within Hellfire Peninsula beyond the shared foothold with the Horde at the Dark Portal itself.
Jessir nodded her agreement, "Especially when the entire territory is pretty much a desolate wasteland.
Ysondre had landed about a mile east of the outpost so that a dragon's presence wouldn't overly alarm those inside the outpost on guard duty. Their slow approach after landing would allow them to hopefully judge them as not being a threat, especially as they were an all Elf and Draenei group. There was very little life or threat that they could see. Occasional wild piglike animals with a multitude of tusks and horns along with carrion eaters, but nothing that could be considered a threat. They were well beyond the Demon lines, and their own attacks had sent the demons into disarray.
The outpost was built upon a large hill overlooking the cast desolate plains of Hellfire Peninsula. Its high vantage point gave an excellent view of the path of glory to the north between it and the outpost's horde counterpart, Thrallmar. Also sandwiched directly between the two opposing forts was Hellfire Citadel, the demonic horde's primary base during the first two wars for housing the orc's invading armies.
"Much of it was likely salvaged from their original settlement," Disidra added, in just as quiet a voice. "A few dozen miles northeast of here, the Azeroth Expeditionary Force once had a settlement on the southern coast of the Tanaan peninsula. When the shattering occurred, half the base literally broke off from our world, and the rest was razed in minutes."
Jessir nodded, "So much of this was likely salvaged from that original outpost."
Disidra nodded, and Jessir still managed to whistle, "That is still a rather amazing achievement… to transport all of that stone miles away from where it had originally been laid."
They walked through the gates unopposed, the guards finding no reason to stop a group of travelers with a confident gait to their step and that were amongst the allies of the humans.
"Where should we go first?" asked Kudrii, glancing around. "The Keep?"
The stronghold didn't have very many buildings. A barracks, blacksmith and equipment area, a tavern, and a keep where the leadership likely was stationed. There were a few other buildings, one which housed a market place with food that looked completely unappealing, likely scavenged from the various fel beasts that populated the local wastes.
All in all, it was a rather bleak outpost, but it was filled with survivors, people who had endured.
"The inn," said Jessir after a few moments pause, gesturing for the group to follow. "Let's start there."
The small group followed the former sentinel into a dilapidated combination inn and tavern, which seemed to be in far better shape than anything else nearby. Apparently, the survivors of the expedition had wanted their place to drink alcohol to be in in somewhat good condition.
It was mostly empty, a few nearby patrons were in the corners of the darkened corners of the room drowning in their drinks, but for the most part it was as they expected. The conditions of Outland didn't likely lend to one having much time to spend drinking for most inhabitants.
They approached the bartender, Jessir in the lead. She popped a few coins down on the countertop, which quickly grabbed the woman's attention.
"We're looking for some information," Jessir said simply.
The bar wench stared at them for a moment, then nodded, sliding the offered coins into her apron. "I'll do what I can for ya, I can't guarantee I'll have heard anything about what you might be lookin' for."
Jessir nodded, placing two more coins on the counter, then asked, "We're looking for information on Alleria Windrunner. Where she was last seen, or her current location."
"Windrunner," said the barkeep, lost in thought a moment. "She didn't come round here much. Not after we all first arrived. Windrunner stuck with that paladin mostly, the one who went through almost all the portals they shut down. She went on even more missions after Lord Lothar's little protégé up and vanished. Not seen either of them in years… possibly a decade… probably more."
The woman narrowed her eyes though, and then gestured towards the back of the inn, where a solitary elf dressed in paladin's armor leaned against the wall while nursing a drink.
"You may want to try him though," she said slowly, as if measuring her words. "Half-Elf bastard child, abandoned by his parents. Rumor is that he was Windrunner's and Turalyon's. They brought him here when the expedition finally made this settlement after the world shattered, then left him here to rot. Barely came by to check on him, and now no one's seen his parents in years. Twenty years the kid's been stuck here, and more than half of it all alone. Life's always hard on the half-breeds, let alone one without parents."
That was a shock, one that rippled through the entire group present. Alleria Windrunner was a mother, and had apparently abandoned her kid in a barely functioning outpost to go jaunting through demonic portals with her paladin lover.
Sylvanas would not likely be pleased to hear this. Distantly, she wondered if she could convince Harry to disarm the Banshee Queen before giving her the news.
Jessir nodded, then slipped more coins on the counter, "What can you tell us about Illidan Stormrage, Kael'thas Sunstrider, and the naga who came through to Outland five years ago?"
Sylvanas wasn't pleased, although this mood had nothing to do with the knowledge that had unknowingly been presented to Jessir and her group twenty miles south of her current location.
"I can't believe this," she ranted as they left Thrallmar. "Illidan's forces captured a Pit Lord, imprisoned it in Hellfire Citadel, and are purposefully bleeding it so that they can make their own fel orc army? Did the orcs learn nothing from when they were enslaved to Mannoroth?!"
She had just returned from the Horde outpost of Thrallmar with Anya and Colette. Harry had dropped them within visual range of the outposts sentry posts and they had proceeded from there on foot. Leaving with Onyxia and Fleur, the trio of undead had proceeded straight through the outposts gates and had proceeded straight to the outpost's leader, one of the more well-known Orcs of the Horde, Nazgrel. Nazgrel originally partnered with Thrall in liberating the orcs captured throughout Arathi and Hillsbrad after the second war. He fought alongside the Warchief throughout the Third War, earning an eventual position as one of Thrall's most trusted advisors.
"Nazgrel did hint that many of these orcs were the reinforcements left behind when the portal closed, and not part of whatever rumored group rejected the corrupted blood in the first place," said Colette, gazing towards the sky for their transport away from the fortress.
After a few moments, she spotted a shape moving against the dark sky. She pointed at the sky, causing Anya and Sylvanas' gaze to follow.
"That was quick," said Anya. "We only just called him a few minutes ago."
"He was either close already, or apparated to a nearby cliff and then took off from there," said Sylvanas.
"Who cares how he got here so quickly," said Collette. "Let's just get out of here. I'm in no mind whatsoever to blunder into more fel-orcs after fighting so many in the Second War."
Harry landed, sitting beside Fleur and Onyxia. No one commented on the blush that adorned Fleur's face, nor the extremely satisfied smile that was on the Black Dragon's.
"Like rabbits," muttered Collette.
"Jealousy doesn't suit you, dear," purred Onyxia.
"So what did you learn?" Harry asked as the carpet took off and began flying towards the direction of 'Honor Hold' while avoiding many of the artillery found near the front-lines before Hellfire Citadel.
"The Orcs, at least those nearby, are all working with Illidan," said Sylvanas without preamble. "They've regressed back to their former behavior before they even left Draenor in the first place. They've consumed the blood of Magtheridon, just like they did with Mannoroth."
A wave of revulsion passed through them all. Drinking the blood of a Pit Lord was a horrifying act. Just by its very nature, consuming blood had all sorts of nasty side-affects when the blood was magical in origin. Drinking uncut and unfiltered Dragon Blood would literally turn a person to ash. It was only after a rather exhaustive process that it could be added as an ingredient to make things like Blood Replenishing potions.
Other magical creatures were just as bad. Consumption of Vampire blood would actually kill the drinker and raise them from the dead after a few agony-filled days. Drinking Unicorn blood would simultaneously heal someone and allow them to cling to life, though it would also turn their body into a quickly weakening wreck, drastically shortening their remaining natural lifespan.
Pit Lords though… they were on a whole new level.
The blood would turn all who drank it into berserkers, where rage and the need for destruction became the utmost emotions on their minds. The blood would connect them back to the Pit Lord who 'sired' them, making them easy thralls to serve the Legion's interests. Forever would they be under the servitude of the Pit Lord who cursed them until the first member of the race who drank the demon's blood killed their master in combat. If that lucky set of events happened, the shackles that bound their minds to the demon would be gone, leaving the transformed brutes behind, now in control of their minds, but with the constant reminder of their changed skin color of what atrocities they had committed in the name of demonic masters.
The first demon horde of orcs on Draenor had, after all, butchered millions of Draenei and paved a road a dozen miles long with their bleached white bones.
"This could be a huge problem," muttered Harry, echoing the thoughts of all around him. Fleur wasn't as well-read about the history of Azeroth, but she was well aware that consuming demon blood could never lead to good results.
"So we can't just kill the demon if we want to free these orcs from enslavement," said Onyxia with a wrinkle of annoyance to her nose.
"Indeed, we'd need to find the first corrupted orc and get them to willingly do it," Sylvanas replied. "For some reason I highly doubt that's worth pursuing over eradicating them all. Or if the orc is even still alive."
"You're suggesting we kill the demon, stop the flow of fresh blood, and let the Alliance and Horde sort it out what's left?" asked Anya.
It was a valid option, although Harry wasn't feeling particular agreeable to it. A glance around to the rest of the group, told him they weren't either.
"I think we pick up Jessir's group from the Alliance outpost, and then go over what they've found about Sylvanas' sister," hedged Harry. "I'd rather not make any plans without the others."
More than a few of them glanced at Sylvanas. Finding her sister was quickly taking priority over the other massive problems that seemed to lurk behind every other rock here in Outland. Knowing there was a Pit Lord being blooded to make Fel Orcs was just another problem to be stacked in with Illidan, Kael'thas, Lady Vashj's naga sect that was wandering somewhere around Draenor, Gruul the Dragonkiller, and apparently a legion of Black Dragons loyal to Deathwing that were stuck here when the portal closed."
"Head to Honor Hold," Sylvanas finally said. "I want to know what Jessir has found out, and then we can travel to Shattrath. According to what Harry said, most of the organized groups that are in Outland can be found there."
"No further comment on the big demon?" Onyxia said, reminding them of the nearest threat.
Everyone looked to Harry, who let his shoulders fall a bit in acknowledgement. "You all know me too well. I really don't like the idea of leaving a demon like that loose, even if it is captured at the moment. They're still empowering demonic orcs with it."
Agreement was quick now that Harry had finally weighed in with a decisive stance, and they set out immediately for the south, flying towards the ridgeline in the distance that held the massive Alliance fortification, the twin of the Horde settlement they just left.
[Location – Stormwind City: Royal War Room]
A cask of strong mead had been prepared for the visiting Monarch to Stormwind, but drinking had been the furthest thing on the mind of King Magni Bronzebeard during this trip to Stormwind, and the barrel lay forgotten in the back of the room.
The dwarves had been asked by the human leadership of Stormwind to discuss their new mutual problem. Blackrock Mountain.
The mountainous region squarely between Ironforge's and Stormwind's traditional holdings were the remnants of the Dark Iron Dwarves' territory, and it had been a sore spot for both Dwarven and Human Kingdoms for nearly a hundred years. While cowed into submission by numerous attacks from both sides, the would-be conquering dwarves had ultimately met their doom when they had brazenly delved into what little Titanesque knowledge they possessed from their forebears and attempted to summon aid from the Elemental Plane to fight their enemy.
The 'Being' that answered their call had, instead of aiding his summoners, annihilated almost all present, and then enslaved the remnants of the Dark Iron Dwarves that were not purged in the initial onslaught. To add insult to injury, the angry entity then slagged much of the surrounding territories, leaving dust, ash, and death in its wake.
Ragnaros, the Fire Lord, had not been amused when he had been partially pulled from his prison fortress deep in the Firelands of the Elemental Plane, but had taken full advantage of the first access to the mortal world it had seen since the Titans had locked it away so many millennia before.
The armies of the Fire Lord had been stymied in recent decades by unexpected incursions by the Black Dragonflight and the Blackrock orcs' 'true horde', but both the Human and Dwarven kingdoms knew that eventually, a winner would be decided, and then they would be forced to deal with whoever had emerged victorious.
Unfortunately, in a surprise move, a third race had appeared from nowhere. Not only had they consolidated their presence in the region far quicker than Ironforge or Stormwind could move to protest, but they had actually entrenched themselves before the humans and dwarves even knew they were there.
Initially, raiding parties had been sent to establish a foothold within the Burning Steppes and Searing Gorge surrounding the mountain once they realized that the Dark Iron and Black Dragonflight presences had almost completely vanished, but neither kingdom could gain any territory, despite realizing retrospectively that their former enemies had vanished weeks beforehand.
Watch towers were protected with magical barriers that none could breach with their native magics. The City of Dalaran to the far north was still closed to all as the Wizards of the Kirin Tor licked their wounds after the Scourge had routed them so thoroughly, which meant no magical aid would be coming to their aid. No attacks came forth from those who manned the outposts, and the few glimpses that had been seen were of heavily armed short creatures, with beards, long ears and sharp teeth, casually going about their business and completely ignoring the well-armed humans or dwarves that were attempting to break their way into their fortifications.
It was as much a statement of confidence in newcomer's protections, as it was an insult to the capabilities of their human and dwarven neighbors.
To someone like Varian Wrynn, such an action could not be allowed to stand.
Varian slammed his armored hand down on the table. "I don't care who they are, or whether they've not attacked anyone directly. They are invaders. Interlopers. I want that mountain cracked open, and these demons destroyed so we can finally use the resources there."
The response from his advisors and from Magni Bronzebeard was interrupted as the door to the meeting room burst open, and a messenger arrived.
"What is it?" the human king angrily bellowed. "I gave word that I was not to be disturbed here."
"Lord Fordragon reviewed my missive, your Majesty, and bade me to deliver this immediately," said the messenger. "He will be joining us momentarily as well."
A guard detached himself from the wall, and inspected the missive briefly for potential contact poisons, then handed the scroll to the king. The king reopened it, and quickly reviewed the information before snarling in irritation.
"The human," the king eventually said with a sneer to all present, who were all were focused on the missive that caused the King's men to want him to break council, "who gave information to the Horde about the Shadow Council just passed through the Dark Portal."
"How is that a problem?" asked Magni, with a raised brow. "The man helped us immensely. Found us no less than a dozen spies from the Legion just in Ironforge, it did. If he went through the portal it means that there will be a whole bunch of dead demons in his wake, which means less for us to deal with."
Varian stared at Magni, holding his tongue apparently when faced with a question from the King of a faction arguably just as powerful as his own, if not more powerful. One that was not handicapped from having to rebuild from the Orcs having razed their capital to the ground a two decades earlier. The Dwarves true greatest recent loss was the takeover of Grim Batol. Ironforge itself had weathered the Three Wars with the Orcs and Legion with surprising strength.
"He was travelling with a group of Night Elves, Draenei, Forsaken, and two additional blonde human females." Varian then slammed his fist into the table again for the second time in just the past five minutes. "He's actually travelling side by side with the Banshee Queen of the Forsaken!"
That finally caused a reaction from most present. Despite not truly agreeing with Varian's desire to reign in someone who was fighting Stormwind's enemies, the fact that this unknown and mysterious man was doing so alongside members of the Forsaken, and their most prominent member at that, was highly disturbing.
The King threw the letter on the table, not caring how far it travelled away from him or towards whom. One of the dwarven soldiers passed it towards Magni Bronzebeard, who began to read in interest while Varian ranted aloud.
"The witch actually reprimanded my men stationed at the Dark Portal. Like that banshee would know anything about how to properly secure a chicken coop after her people let the Scourge waltz right into their own lands while she was Ranger General."
Magni quickly finished reading the communique, setting it down. Then asked aloud of the human king.
"Was this man who sent you this missive… Raynor? Was he in charge of Dark Portal garrison?"
Varian, who seemed to come back to his senses at his fellow monarch's question, shook his head, "No. It was a joint effort between the Argent Dawn as well as forces deployed from Orgrimmar's Kor'kron elite. Marshall Raynor was one of my own who I placed there."
"The very same Argent Dawn forces that were redeployed after this human's group purged the greatest threats in the Plaguelands alongside a massive volunteer force of Sentinels from Darnassus?" wondered Magni aloud before he shook his head.
"So," stated Magni with a raised eyebrow when Varian seemed reluctant to respond, "This Raynor, who wasn't in charge of the joint Horde-Alliance Dark Portal outpost, made demands of a free group of adventurers, in front of Argent Dawn fighters that knew of the human warrior's past deeds and valor, as well as Horde troops who were very likely aware of the aid his group had provided them."
"By Amun'thuls hairy sacred balls, many of those soldiers may owe their lives to this human, and yet you agree with your man in his stance?" Magnia finally asked incredulously.
"I gave orders that this human was to appear before me," stated Varian coldly.
"Aye, ya did, lad" reiterated Magni, his frustration with the much younger King bleeding through into his voice, and the anger in his his tone started to match Varian's. "I asked you what authority you had to do so? He's not a sworn member of your kingdom, nor is the Blasted Lands surrounding the Dark Portal, nor the swamp that was there two decades ago, recognized as part of your sovereignty."
"I am the human King. That is all the authority I need," responded Varian, squaring his shoulders to look down upon the still seated Magni
"Aye, and I be a King too," said Magni, true anger starting to leak into his voice. "A King who knows ye cannot declare that someone will follow my decrees when not in me own territory or when they're not one of me subjects! Ye don't see me tellin Wildhammers or Dark Irons what te do, much as I would like to!"
"My Lords," said one of the nearby nobles who sat beside King Varian's adolescent son, Anduin. "We were here to discuss the threat of these abominations that have infested Blackrock Mountain. Not discuss a lone human who has been fighting our enemies publicly and reduced tensions between the Alliance and Horde."
Both King's briefly glanced at the man, then stared at each other, trying to force the previous issue. Eventually, it was Varian who broke first, although no one present knew if it was from weakness or from a sudden re-emergence of common sense.
"Stormwind will deploy a legion of counter insurgency forces that were earmarked to pacify the Defias in Westfall, and they will proceed north from Redridge," he said. "We will simply raise taxes again amongst the farmers there to cover the cost of the mercenaries that will need to be hired to handle the Defias instead."
"Father," interrupted Anduin Wrynn. "Would it not be better to negotiate with the former Stonemason's Guild at this point? Stormwind reneged on their contractual obligations. Perhaps the cost to pay off that debt would be less than hiring enough mercenaries to wipe them out. The resources and expertise they retain as the stonemason's guild would provide us the chance to fortify our borders that much easier, especially with activity from the Dark Portal so close to us."
"I will not appear weak in front of those who rebel against me," Varian said firmly.
Magni could not help but shake his head at this approach, and thought, 'Ye won't appear weak, for sure. Nay, ye will appear an untrustworthy tyrant cur who isn't worth his word even when it's written on a contract!'
Varian began to speak after turning away from his very young son, "I will hear no more discussion of settling with the Defias. Unless it's to decide where to dig the hole to throw their bodies in."
"Yes, yes," Magni said with an annoyed shrug. "But it's intruding on our talks about Blackrock. What do we do after we've moved troops into position? Mine are already there, and yet have found no weakness in these new fortifications."
Bolvar Fordragon had quietly slipped into the room after the last exchange, and heard the last question asked. When no one seemed ready to suggest a course of action, he spoke, "The current list of threat priorities to the kingdom has the Dark Portal incursion as our number one potential issue. With Naxxramus successfully besieged and taken as a spoil by the Forsaken in the far north, and the War of the Shifting Sands almost concluded in Silithus and the cleanup being perform by the Cenarian Circle and Bronze Dragonflight, we can retract many of our supply lines and refocus our efforts."
He paused, to look at his King, just falling short of a tone that bordered upon the lecturing one of an elder dealing with someone much younger than him, "The primary hotspot in our immediate area, besides the remnant Gurabashi trolls on our southern border in Stranglethorn, remains at the Dark Portal. These things inside Blackrock Mountain, however strategically valuable that site might be, are not attacking us at the moment and can be ignored in lieu of securing our borders and ending whatever threat the Legion is throwing our way this time. Yes, the resources we could exploit from the region are considerable, but neither are they something that we've had in the past that we are reliant upon."
The dwarves nodded along with this assessment, as well as a number of the humans present. Stormwind's King did not seem to agree, yet recognized the mood of the room was against him here.
"We will double our efforts to reinforce Nethergarde keep," the human King finally said. "If Dalaran is being lax with their orphaned outpost, then we will pick up their slack. Afterwards, we will reinforce the Portal again and take control of the outpost if we deem the current garrison there isn't up to the task. Then, we'll march on Hellfire Citadel and get our beachhead into the Horde's homeworld."
"Risky, and full of potential political pitfalls, your Majesty," said Bolvar slowly. "It might be preferable to bypass the Dark Portal garrison completely and work on securing our own beachhead on the opposite side and avoid any conflicts that would arise with the Horde at the Portal itself. Even a protected route to Honor Hold would greatly increase the ability to establish and maintain our Force Projection within the area. Control of this side of the Portal is simply a battle we don't need to fight, especially with intelligence on what's happening on the other side of the portal being so sparse."
"Ironforge can shift another two companies to the portal," said Magni. "When the remainder of our forces return from Kalimdor and have their required downtime from their engagements in Silithus, we can move them to Outland as well. Problem is, why we didn't actually have that many units deployed in Silithus. The Horde bore the bulk of the work in that bug infested desert, so with the conflict over, we don't actually have that many units to reassign. But, this will still quadruple our presence there."
"And this time, there will be no worries over our people being stranded on the other side if the Portal is lost," Magni's long-time friend and close Advisor Belgrum said. "The mages now have the knowledge to bring them all back home even if the Dark Portal is lost or destroyed."
"Yes, it will be nice to no longer worry about sending our people on a one-way journey through that abominable portal," said Varian. "I would still prefer we keep at least one full garrison at the edges of the territory these creatures have claimed around Blackrock."
"We'll strengthen the outpost we share with the Thorium Brotherhood and keep an eye on what the Horde sends towards Kargath," said Magni. "Bolstering Morgan's vigil is likely all you can do from your side for now with the Dark Portal threat. That would at least allow you to maintain control of the pass leading into Redridge."
Varian grunted, obviously unhappy with the need to focus on the Demons spewing forth from Outland, but ultimately realizing there was nothing else that could be done. Whatever had taken control in wasteland around Blackrock Mountain would need to wait until the problems from Outland had been dealt with. He just prayed it wasn't a group of hitherto unknown demons from the Legion that had somehow snuck past them, dividing the lands between Ironforge and Stormwind in two.
"Good," said Magni standing up. "Now, I want a drink."
He gave a great stretch of his massive arms, then turned to the last person to have arrived in the room, "Come Bolvar. Tell us some tales on how you were romancin' Lady Prestor before you found out she was a dragoness, and more importantly, are dragons good in the sack or not?"
"It's always very odd separating from you all," Jessir commented as she and the rest of the returning Honor Hold group rejoined with the rest of them, who had been waiting for them a few miles away from the walls of Honor Hold.
Sylvanas however, wasn't interested in small talk, "What have you found?"
"Let's get flying, first," Jessir said, then glanced towards Disidra and Kudrii. "Can you direct everyone towards Shattrath?"
"Can't Harry just make a portkey if that's where we're going next?" asked Disidra. "Or a portal? Would be nice to not have to fly there. I'm well-aware of how far away the ruins of Shattrath city lay from here."
They stopped getting settled on the carpet, and Harry said, "Yeah, we're doing that. This is like walking through Ashenvale and the Barrens when we could've flown."
"No comments about doing it the hard way 'adding character' to us?" Jessie said with a good natured mocking smile.
"You still haven't said what you've found," Sylvanas persisted, her gaze still fixed upon Jessir.
Jessir slumped, and Arko, Disidra and Kudrii looked no better. "Alleria and her lover Turalyon disappeared nearly two decades ago, just under two years after the closure of the portal from Azeroth."
"No," whispered Sylvanas, not wanting to believe that was the fate of her sister.
Jessir, still staring at the ground, continued, "The planet was shattered when Ner'zul apparently attempted to flee offworld from the Expeditionary Force. They eventually had him cornered at the Black Temple. Ner'zhul opened dozens of portals, compounded by the hundreds his surviving followers were ordered to open. I'm not sure what they did, but they fundamentally broke something with Draenor when they did that, which left behind the world we're on now. When that happened, the Expeditionary Force was left here with nowhere to go. It didn't help either that a bunch of active demon portals still remained everywhere around the remnants of the continent, letting sporadic invasions in for them to constantly deal with."
"So, some of the Expeditionary Forces apparently felt brave, and started going through the active portals, seeing if there were any portals to Azeroth on other worlds. Alleria and Turalyon began leading the missions into the more fortified demon-held worlds… until one day when they simply didn't come back."
"No," Sylvanas said, falling to their knees.
"There's only one bright side to this," said Jessir as she took a knee and hugged Sylvanas. "I'm not sure if it's good, or a condemnation of your sister. They had a son before she left. Kid named Arator. He's there in Honor Hold now."
Sylvanas looked sharply up at Jessir, "My sister gave birth to a child here on Draenor and then left him. With him likely still being an infant?"
Jessir closed her eyes and nodded in confirmation.
"I can't believe it," Sylvanas whispered.
"Did you speak to this Arator about his aunts?" asked Harry. "Better yet, did you mention bringing Arator here?"
Jessir glanced over to Harry and shook her head, "No. He was a bit out of it to be honest. When we asked, he kinda… went into a prophetic trance and started talking about seeing his father dying in a battle… well. It wasn't pretty."
"He mentioned something about fighting legions of demons under a red sky, and kneeling beside the crushed body of a man he thought was his father, all while being unable to understand his last words," added Arko solemnly.
The group took a moment to absorb this. Onyxia, being the ever-present definition of tact that she was, said, "Sounds like the life of a party."
Harry had to resist the urge to facepalm at the words, especially because of the look Sylvanas was giving Onyxia at the moment.
"Do you want to go back and see if Arator would want to join us?" Harry asked while placing a hand on Sylvana's exposed upper arm, trying to distract the volatile undead woman.
Sylvanas glanced towards him, then towards the direction where she knew her hitherto unknown nephew now resided… in a tavern of all places.
"No," she finally shook her head. "I will send word to Vareesa whenever we return to Azeroth. He deserves to know the living family he has. Not the cursed aunt that he's already likely heard nightmares about."
Harry bit his lip at her words and searched her face, half shrouded in her cowl, to see if that's what she truly wanted. He could easily see that the woman wanted to know more than just that she had another relative out there. To be in the presence of an actual physical reminder of the older sister gone for over two decades.
But he could also see there would be no convincing the woman to see the young man at the present time for precisely the reasons she just spoke of.
"I'll open the portal to Shattrath," Harry eventually said, waving his hands in the patterns taught to him by the Undercity mages to create a temporary unbound portal.
A moment later, a tear in the world appeared before them. Everyone started to step through, leaving Harry last with Sylvanas. She was still staring back to the southeast in the direction of where she knew she had now had a previously unknown family member.
"Hey," he said quietly. "When we get back to Azshara… do you want to use the Stone?"
Sylvanas' head snapped towards Harry, her molten red eyes wide in shock at the offer just given to her. She knew exactly what 'the Stone' being offered was, as Harry had already used it once in her presence, allowing her to converse with the dead former lovers and parents of the man next to her.
"I…" she said haltingly, before centering herself and forcing the proud woman she usually showed to the public to come forward.
She focused on him, and Harry could tell the words weren't what she wanted to say, but what was expected, even now when it was just the two of them amidst a rocky barren wasteland. "No, I will wait to see if there is word from Khadgar."
Harry nodded, then walked forward and gently lay a hand on her armored shoulder even as he chastely kissed her on the lips, "That's fine. But just remember, the offer is there for you. You're the only other one besides Dobby who even knows I have that thing. Or what it does. And it doesn't have to be just Alleria you try and contact. I'm sure Lilrath would want to speak to you as well."
She nodded, then glanced at the portal and started walking towards it, Harry right behind her. Before she took two steps, he was beside her, his arm around her waist in comfort. Briefly, she gave him an annoyed look at what he'd done, but made no movement at all towards removing his arm from her back.
The mention of Lilrath had taken nearly all of the wind out of her sails. The younger brother who had died at the hands of the Orcs at the start of the horde's incursions into southernmost boundaries of Quel'thalas at the start of the Second War. His death had driven the eldest Windrunner sister into a bloodrage, driving Alleria to blindly charge into battle during with her only goal being to kill as many Orcs that she should could in as painful a manner as possible. Sylvanas had taken over her sister's role as Ranger General in Alleria's absence, but there was always that tiny shard of the rage she knew her sister had felt present every time she saw a green skinned orc talk of honor, when the demonic horde that had slain her brother certainly had none.
The old horde had certainly constructed a monument to their lack of honor here upon Draenor with the Path of Glory. She wondered what the Tauren allies of the orcs would say to their Green-skinned allies if they happened upon the bones of hundreds of thousands of Draenei here on Draenor.
Harry and Sylvanas stepped through the portal and instantly found themselves within the ruins of Shattrath city. The center ring of the city, dedicated to the worship of the Draenei's deities, the Naaru, was all that really remained of the once sprawling former Draenei harbor city. They appeared just outside of that domed structure that was the centerpiece of what was once a sprawling metropolis where a few million Draenei had lived, worshipped, and worked at the nearby harbor.
"Took you long enough," said Jessir, but there was no heat to her words, her eyes searching Sylvanas' for a reason for the delay. There was no response from the undead woman, and the group turned back to the other member who was currently troubled.
The former resident of this now ruined city, Kudrii
Disidra was fully aware of the impact of returning here for the girl, and had an arm around her in comfort. Seeing that there was nothing else to be done at the moment, Harry tuned to Sylvanas and Jessir.
"From the last time I was here, it was hinted most of the people in charge are up in that dome structure at the center of the city. It's a good bet Khadgar is there, or that whoever is will know where he is."
The group proceeded in the vague direction of the central section of the city, be it through walkways or through ruined rubble piles that once served as raised promenades. As they walked, the central dome grew in size, and it was Kudrii who surprised them all by speaking.
"It was once beautiful," she said into the silence of them walking. "Gardens and viaducts over rivers expanding outwards from the city center. The dome itself had multiple levels, and the outside was completely solid except for the doors leading inwards to worship. There was a harbor on the north side where pilgrims would arrive for their journey to the Temple, or to rest for a bit before continuing on to the main temple at Karabor. All that you see here now is one of the inner structures. The outer dome is completely gone now."
She stopped and turned, glancing eastwards out into the forest in the distance beyond the ruins edges. "There was no forest in sight here then. As far as you could see, it was the markets and homes of my people. The horde crushed them all when they conquered the city and flooded it with that gas that killed and mutated everyone."
The priest looked like she would just continue to stand there and look into the distance if Disidra had not begun to carefully guide her back along the path towards the central dome. The rest of the group shared looks, unsure what to say into the uncomfortable silence that had emerged in the aftermath of Kudrii's words.
"Another who's lost their home to the Legion's proxies," Sylvanas muttered quietly before she began to slowly follow after the priest, dragging Harry along as his arm was still wrapped behind her back.
One of the entrances to the dome finally came into view, guards on either side of the door warily watching Sylvanas, Anya, and Collette specifically as they passed inside.
Inside was an open air auditorium, or at least the remnants of it. Everything appeared to have been long since looted, leaving flat hastily repaired flagstone as a base. There were crowds of soldiers, worshipers, and pilgrims dotted along the interior, and a large group at the center.
All clustered around a thirty foot tall crystalline being.
"A Naaru," said Disidra answering the unasked question that was on all of their minds. "Our people have followed and worshipped them since our exile from Argus."
"It's strong," said Onyxia. "Not quite the level of an Aspect, but it isn't much behind one."
"Harry could take it," Arko quietly said in a confident way with a grin and wink.
"Let's try and not make enemies before we've even spoken to them," Jessir said with no small amount of exasperation, all while ignoring the almost-affronted look that both Kudrii and Disidra were now giving Arko.
There was a certain magic in the air here, most of which felt, sounded, and looked to be completely foreign to almost all of Harry's senses. All that Harry actually recognized seemed to be a combination of the method the Naaru apparently used to communicate and just the ambient noise its crystalline bodies made. But, by some leap of logic, one that even he didn't understand, he realized that he was looking at the physically manifested polar opposite of his own shadow magic abilities.
A Being composed purely of light magic.
"I hope this Naaru doesn't have a problem with me," whispered Harry to Sylvanas.
"Why would it?" she hissed back. "You've done nothing to them… right?"
"I don't know," he said slowly as he hedged his response, even as he saw scenarios of him somehow wronging the Naaru running through Sylvanas' mind. "I'm a shadow mage, remember? How's a being of 'light' going to react to that? The so-called light wanted me dead back on Earth, remember?"
Sylvanas blinked at the statement. Harry didn't actually use his abilities all that much. Sure he knew more Runes than the combined armies of the Lich King, and his shadow magic was disturbingly devastating whenever it was utilized, but most of the time Harry's impact on events came simply through his presence and what he facilitated to occur through others.
But he had a surprisingly good point about being wary. The Being before them possessed no insignificant amount of power, and they definitely did not want that aimed at them. It was a battle they certainly didn't need at the moment.
They were waved forward, as apparently a few people recognized Sylvanas hanging out near the back of the group and decided it would be wise to not delay the her desire for an audience with Khadgar. Apparently having a rather volatile reputation served them well.
"Now, who might you all be?" a wizened voice said. It came from a tall man with a long white beard, big bushy eyebrows, and flowing white hair halfway down his back. Harry personally thought the man pulled off the 'wise mentor' look a thousand times better than Dumbledore ever did… and yet…
Jessir took control, breaking Harry off from his thoughts, and then spoke for the group, "We came through the Dark Portal, primarily to seek out information on Lady Sylvanas' sister… Alleria Windrunner."
Archmage Khadgar swallowed visibly as his eyes strayed towards Sylvanas. He paused for a moment, as if searching for a diplomatic method of speaking, before he finally replied, "I am sorry, my Lady. Alleria went through a portal with her husband in what is now the western part of the Zangarmarsh a little over fifteen years ago. Neither returned, nor did any of the rescue parties we sent in after them."
Sylvanas wilted at the news, and it was Jessir who asked. "Can we have directions to this portal?"
Khadgar nodded and gestured towards one of the nearby Draenei Vindicators to come forward, "We can provide that, but I must give warning that it will not likely do you much good now. That Portal was guarded, just in case an enemy incursion came through since it was known to be hostile. It was guarded, at least, until Illidan Stormrage, Lady Vashj, and Kael'thas Sunstrider made their sweep of Outland a bit over five years ago, closing all active portals they could find in an attempt to minimize the Legions presence on this world. You can go there, but it will be almost impossible to re-establish a connection to the specific world that it was once tied to."
"Do you have any information on the worlds beyond those portals?" Jessir persisted, dutifully ignoring the visible look of listlessness that grew on Sylvanas' face as the former leader of the Forsaken began to comprehend what her sister's fate likely was.
Khadgar shook his head, "No. Alleria and Turalyon were in charge of the operations to see if other portals could be found amongst the Legion-controlled worlds. They were in pursuit of an almost mythical active portal leading back to Azeroth. I thought pursuing such an unlikely goal the height of foolishness, as if such a thing did exist, the Legion would obviously already be using it, but Turalyon would not be deterred."
"He was rather zealous in his pursuit of not only finding a way home, but crushing as many demons as he could. Alleria was ever at his side while doing this. She seemed to substitute her bloodlust towards the orcs for eradicating any demons should could find after we were stranded here. But unfortunately, all information on what was found on their missions was lost with them."
Khadgar looked to Sylvanas again, "My Lady, the only solace I can offer you is that Alleria's remaining personal effects were transferred to Allerian hold in Terrokar Forest around a decade ago when it became apparent that she was likely not coming back. She founded that outpost, and often kept lodgings there with Turalyon. Despite going missing, no one has had the heart, to my knowledge at least, to dispose of their effects, hoping that they would one day return. What remains there is most certainly yours if you desire it."
Sylvanas nodded, only distantly hearing that all she would be finding of her sister was a few random trinkets and baubles that belonged to her sister in a shut-in room.
"Thank you for your time, Arch Mage," Jessir said, answering on behalf of Sylvanas when it appeared she would be unable to do so for herself, and only turning slightly to accept a map from an approaching Draenei Vindicator whom had the location of various closed portals, including the specific one which Alleria had vanished through.
Harry though, wasn't quite ready to depart yet. Something bothered him about Khadgar, but he couldn't put his finger on it until that very moment, and then couldn't help but ask aloud, "Were you aware you're currently under some sort of glamour that makes you look really old?"
Khadgar goggled at Harry, and shook his head, "I assure you, young man. I was artificially aged in a battle with my former master, Medivh while he was possessed by the fallen Titan, Sargeras. I have done everything I can to reverse the process, but have never found any possible leads."
Harry smirked, and held out his wand, "May I cast a very simple spell, sir? It won't hurt, and I think it'll take care of what's happened."
The old Arch Mage narrowed his eyes for a moment at the wand, and then shrugged, "It certainly couldn't hurt. Well, it could, but I'm certain the Naaru would likely not appreciate any malicious committed here."
Harry raised his wand, and incanted, "Finite Incantatum."
The effect was immediate. Where Khadgar was previously slightly hunched and balding old man with pure white hair and a long flowing beard past his waist, there was suddenly a solidly built man in his late 40's, salt and pepper grey hair.
The difference was night and day.
"How?" Khadgar said in a tone that was much stronger, staring at his hands which were now free of liver spots then towards Harry.
The Earthen mage shrugged, "Magic?"
The massive Naaru behind them all seemed to chime in laughter at the statement, drawing all attention to it. The musical bells and tone were almost a song as the Naaru's 'voice' seemed amused by the events that had just transpired, making Khadgar grumble a bit, in an almost whining manner, "Always a comedian, aren't you, A'dal?"
"I think that's our cue to leave," said Onyxia, giving Harry an exasperated look, even as the Naaru whose presence dominated the pseudo temple continued to joyously chime aloud.
"What?" he said innocently. "It was bothering me that he was under that spell."
"It could've been that way on purpose," Jessir said, playing devil's advocate, while glancing at Khadgar who was still staring at his own hands in bewilderment even as the group started to depart. "I'll join up with you all in a bit."
"What possessed you to cast a spell on Archmage Khadgar?" Sylvanas hissed into his ear a few moments later as she led the rest of the group away after they departed from the temple at the center of the city.
"It just seemed like the proper thing to do," Harry said, not really understanding the fuss. The man had a glamour on he couldn't remove, what had been wrong with dispelling it?
"He could've thought you were attacking him," Arko said.
Harry shook his head, "I doubt anyone wants to look that old and decrepit. And I was right. And I even asked permission first."
Then he reached and placed an arm around Sylvanas' waist and brought her closer. "Plus it distracted you for a bit. Thinking all the heavy thoughts you were is going to give you wrinkles from the stress."
Sylvanas turned her outraged burning red eyes directly upon Harry, all thoughts about her sister now temporarily forgotten, "Wrinkles!?"
Before they journeyed out towards what little probably remained of the ruins of Kudrii's family home, the group decided to stay within what was likely the largest inn within Shattrath for the night. The inn, like most structures within the ruined city, was located in the outer portion of the city's former temple district in the heart of the city, and was one of the few legitimate places that actually had walls and a roof. Most 'stalls' that sold goods were set up at the bottom of the now dry aqueducts that had once supplied water to the city. Now, they were filled with vendors who sold their goods upon makeshift carts that were lucky if they had shabby worn cloths set up over them to protect the goods from the elements.
There was little in comfort offered in the city, and the inn was one of the few places that did. Along with the local tavern, of course. Travelling warriors and adventurers had few needs besides a bed and a place to drink their fortunes or sorrows away.
But, beyond the walls of the Temple district, time had utterly and completely finished the job of the invading demonic orc army. Where once stood miles of residential and market districts, along with an expansive harbor nestled between the mountains of Nagrand, Talador, Gorgrond, and Frostfire Ridge, there now was literally nothing but overgrown forest. Not even the foundations of what had stood for hundreds of years remained. It was a city of burned foundations that had literally been shaken into oblivion years later by the earthquakes initiated by Ner'zhul that heralded the shattering of this world.
The next morning, Harry woke up to find that he wasn't the first one up as usual, besides the three undead who never slept. Arko'narin was just returning from the bathroom and already donning her armor.
He slipped out from between Kudrii and Jessir, and managed to make it behind the Night Elf before she knew he was there. She nearly shrieked in surprise as he wrapped his arms around her, but quickly fell back into the embrace. He ignored the sharp cool metal of her partially worn armor on his bare chest, and revelled in the feel of her long hair upon the side of his face and shoulder.
"Good morning, love," she said as she turned her head to give him kiss. He made his embrace tighter upon her, feeling the cool metal of her plate armor against his chest that had served her so well through their adventures.
"You're up early," he observed, and she merely hummed in response, commenting no further and leaning her head back to lean against his.
"Well," he said in amusement, "I'm going to take a shower… alone apparently since everyone else is still asleep. Too bad you've already strapped your armor on. Maybe I'll ask Fleur to join me."
Arko, who had been giving him a bemused look at the teasing, positively became radiant at the mention of Fleur, "Shall I wake Jessir too? She wouldn't want to miss that."
"Let's not frighten poor Fleur with Jessir," Harry said with a roll of his eyes. "Fleur's maintained her innocence this far, let's not tempt fate."
"Frighten who with me?" a voice said from behind Harry, and he felt the naked arms of Jessir wrap around his neck and her nude body press against his back. "I'm completely innocent, you know that."
"I'm not sure we have time for that at the moment," he replied to Jessir, glancing over her shoulder back towards where he could see Kudrii and Disidra waking up and struggling to get to their hooves, and a very dirty looks being sent to them both by Fleur and Onyxia for disturbing them as they too reluctantly rose from the bed, shivering a bit from the loss of heat the sudden exposure to morning air had upon them their nude forms.
He glanced at Jessir, whose eyes were now transfixed upon Fleur's shivering form, and had to actually reach up and hold her arms around him, as the perpetually horny Night Elf was already moving towards the unaware Veela.
"We have a lot to get done today," Harry continued as both he and Arko happily watched the nude women collect themselves and prepare for the day, while Jessir grumbled against his back. "I'm not sure we can really relax as much as we have been on this new world as well. Our home in Azshara spoiled us all a bit there; we need to get used to being on-guard again."
Without anyone around to see it, Jessir whined a bit in his ear, "But we already had a battle yesterday. I think we should all take a week off."
Unfortunately, Sylvanas, Anya, and Colette had not slept the night away. Forsaken, of course, didn't sleep in the first place, so they had sat at a nearby table playing cards all night long while the others rested and overheard everything that had been said.
At least that was the pretense of first establishing the game. Anya and Colette had spent much of the night trying, and failing, to lift Sylvanas' anguished mood over the confirmation of her sister's disappearance.
"Jessir, get your armor on," Sylvanas said, barely glancing at the nude Night Elf. "We can go on another vacation once we've finished our mission here in Outland. Like Harry said, we have a lot to accomplish today, and I want to get started."
The Night Elve in question would have argued for the sake arguing itself, but no one was willing to push Sylvanas when they knew she was eager to continue pursuing information on her missing sister, even if all involved knew it would almost certainly be a dead-end.
"You too, Harry," Sylvanas added as she strode past them and out the door.
He had to bite back a retort to the uncharacteristically rude Sylvanas, as he knew what kind of stress she was under at the moment.
Slowly, they walked out into the morning air of Shattrath. A thick humid fog seemed to cling to the Lower City levels where they had stayed for the night. Kudrii was maneuvered towards the front of the group, and it was her who began to lead them in the general direction of what was once her family home.
Within ten minutes, they had crossed out of the current outer boundary of the city, and were soon under the massive trees of Terrokar forest.
"This whole region was once called Talador," Kudrii said sadly as she glanced around, obviously seeing things from the past no longer visible. "When the world shattered, the mountains of Arak to the south slowly began to crumble away and were lost to the Twisting Nether. With Shadowmoon Valley becoming inhospitable, the inhabitants of Arak were forced to come here. As most were the cursed followers of Terrok, they renamed this place Terrokar Forest."
She continued to walk and lead them, and muttered in a tone which all of them heard, "It's not like there were any Draenei left here to protest naming it such a thing."
The overgrowth of trees quickly overtook any remnant paths that may have existed a few dozen years previous. The forest canopy wasn't the most oppressive he'd ever seen, as that clearly belonged to the trees of Felwood he'd seen so long ago when he'd first arrived on Azeroth, but there was a definite sadness in the air that was almost palpable. The trees were symbolic gravestones rather than merely a forest that rested upon the bones of a betrayed civilization.
Kudrii seemed to no longer be able to speak as her mood dipped further and further as they ventured deeper into the forest. It was Disidra who spoke for her instead.
"I may not have visited Shattrath often, but I remember enough to know that this entire area should have been a market district, not far from the harbor itself. I can't see anything I recognize," she said with a shake of her head. "It's like it was simply washed away."
It very quickly became very apparent that nothing of Kudrii's old family home remained. The demonic horde under Mannoroth had been very thorough when the orcs had razed the city to the ground. The cataclysm that latter broke Draenor apart then finished the job. Kudrii would find no remnants of her family here.
Harry felt a soft poke at his side and turned to see Sylvanas leaning in to whisper in his ear, "I'm not the only one who could learn something from that stone."
Harry nodded, and realized that he would definitely need to have Dobby retrieve the stone for both Sylvanas and Kudrii, and mentally chastised himself for not thinking of the fact Kudrii could definitely use it before now. Nothing further on the subject was said as Sylvanas wanted to keep the stone just as secret as Harry did.
In the end, it took Onyxia's inherited abilities from being the daughter of an Earth Aspect to finally find the long-buried roads and rubble that lay half a dozen meters below them. The Shattering had been that terrible on Draenor when Ner'zhul had collapsed the integrity of the dimensional walls surrounding it that, despite only twenty five years having passed since the Orcs had razed Shattrath, the ground had churned so much that buildings, roads, and monuments had literally been swallowed into land that had essentially liquefied during the earthquakes.
It was meticulous work, mapping out what was below them which they couldn't see on paper, but eventually Onyxia was able to identify enough of what was below them that Kudrii was able to get her bearings, setting off quickly in a direction northeast of Shattrath.
Straight to a lake which apparently now covered the residential district she had grown up in.
"You're sure?" Onyxia asked, her hands on the ground as her powers flowed outwards.
"Yes, it's just over there," Kudrii said despondently. "Right over there. Completely out of reach under the center of the lake."
Harry felt the offer had to be given, even if he really didn't want to do it, "We could dredge the lake, I guess."
"No," Kudrii responded immediately, her eyes still fixed upon the lake. "It's not worth it. Much of this area was set on fire as I ran away from it. There was likely not much left anyways."
All of them stared at the placid, waveless lake for a few minutes before Jessir spoke, "We should head for that portal that Sylvanas' sister left through. The Vindicator included the location of a small Cenarian Circle outpost we can rest at as well. It would take us almost until nightfall to reach the portal, but only 4-5 hours to reach the inn."
"It likely would be best to venture to the portal during daylight hours rather than at night when we're more tired," Harry diplomatically added, not willing to outright admit that the thought of going to a small settlement to rest up was very appealing after they had spent most of this day walking through trees and finding absolutely zero remnants of the city everyone knew was buried underneath them.
They had, after all, just fought a rather large number of demons the day before.
"I'm also not very keen on potentially having to set up camp at the base of demonic portal, even if it is dormant," Disidra added.
"Kudrii?" Jessir asked, and Harry, for some reason, knew she'd done so before Sylvanas could simply shout out 'Let's go!'
"Yes," she gave one longing look back towards the lake. "We're done here."
The sounds of cards shuffling were the only real sounds amongst the all but empty tables surrounding the bar of the inn at Cenarion Rest in Zangarmarsh.
For the second night in a row, the three members of the Forsaken kept a silent vigil on an inn as the still living members of their group slept on inside a tent erected within the single room they had rented for the night.
"If we have to play cards every night I think I'm going to go mad," Collette said with a sigh as she threw down another worthless hand, ceding this round to Anya.
"Are you saying you want to go sleep with the others?" Anya asked with a salacious grin.
Colette ignored the jibe, and turned to Sylvanas, "There's nothing else you can think of doing while we allow them to sleep?"
Sylvanas shook her head, "I'm sure we could entertain ourselves by watching a few of the movies Harry keeps within his tent, but we're no longer in a safe position under wards that could distract enemies."
"I still like Harry's usual method of asking for forgiveness instead of permission," Anya curled her lip. "It would've been so much nicer if he could have placed a few wards up to protect ourselves without worrying what the Expedition members would say."
"We have enough problems being undead around all of the druids here without screaming for more attention without using 'banned' arcane arts that those druids and Sentinels abhor for some reason," Colette countered. "We're lucky those we've met thus far are unbiased and seem to closely follow Malfurion's teachings. Tyrande did warn Harry and our Lady that there are still those out there who followed Staghelm's more… volatile views who were not arrested in the culling of the Night Elf traitors. There could be many of his followers here amongst the Expedition that blame Harry for Staghelm's fall from grace."
"But that still doesn't give us anything to do besides play cards," Anya almost wined, only to be hit in the head by a copper coin that Sylvanas was about to lay within the pot at the center of the table.
"A bit more decorum, Anya," she chided. "You're still a Ranger, whether Dark or Farstrider, in my mind."
"Well, hopefully it will be less boring soon," Anya said with a huff as she pulled the few bits of gold toward her she had won with this hand. "Although I do have to ask what we'll do after we see what evidence we can gather at the portal."
"I believe Kudrii still wanted to see some sort of mausoleum back in southern Terrokar," Sylvanas offered quietly. "Some place called Auchindoun where her people's dead were interred for generations before it was somehow blown up by the Azeroth Expeditionary Force while they chased Ner'zhul across the continent."
Collette winced at that, "I hope that certainly doesn't come back and bite us all in the future. Destroying a place like that can't be good for the Alliance's reputation, or just people from Azeroth in general," she said, then added. "First the demonic horde sacks Shattrath and Karabor, and then the Alliance was involved in a third site's destruction."
Sylvanas shook her head, "According to Disidra, the Draenei lay the blame fully upon the demonic horde and not the Alliance. Ner'zhul and that mad Death Knight creation of his… Teron Gorefiend."
The former Death Knight currently at the table opposite her shook her head, and there was no small amount of frustration visible in how her lip curled, "Ner'zhul still causes trouble, even to this very day. Sometimes I forget he's the mind behind Arthas' madness when we run into so many of his older plots so often."
Sylvanas stilled at the statement for a brief moment, then discarded two cards from her hand. "It's more difficult to hate someone who had been ripped from their body, tortured, and then eternally bound to a suit of armor that was encased in ice. Arthas was the public face of the Scourge before we died and learned the truth."
"He's also the one that personally killed both of us," Colette added, the curl in her lip developing into a full blown sneer.
The Banshee Queen's own mouth closed tightly, her teeth grinding at the reminder, "Yes, he was the one to kill me… and more-"
A knock on the door interrupted the now uncomfortable conversation. Each of the Forsaken placed their cards down and rose from their seats, spreading around the room so that they would not be a single target to a potentially hostile visitor.
Sylvanas opened the door, and standing there was a female night elf, clad in the typical organic armor utilized by the druids. A few paces behind her was an escort of Cenarion Wardens, but they did not seem to be overly concerned with Sylvanas' presence, and instead were focused on ensuring no one else approached their apparent leader.
"Good evening," the night elf said with momentarily wide eyes before they settled into a focused calm. "I had scarcely believed it when I was told, but you are in fact Sylvanas Windrunner."
"Indeed," Sylvanas said. "What brings you to us this night?"
"May I come in?" the Night Elf asked. "I do not wish to speak where I might be overheard."
Sylvanas hesitated a moment, then opened the door further to allow the elf to come in, where she immediately saw where Anya and Collette stood at attention inside, their eyes focused firmly upon the Night Elf, and each could not help but wonder why this woman wished an audience with three Forsaken. Despite aiding the Night Elves on multiple occasions, Harry's major diplomatic boons with the group had occurred largely before Sylvanas, Anya, and Collette had joined up. Which, unless she was here to speak with Harry, made the Kaldorei's reason for seeing them quite unusual.
The Night Elf quickly sat at the table which the three Forsaken had been previously idly playing their game of cards. A moment later, the three Forsaken were seated there as well, expectant looks on their faces.
The elf before them, obviously powerful and holding a position of authority in the Cenarion group that established the camp they currently rested in, actually gulped when the three different sets of undead eyes focused on her.
"I ap-... I apologize," she stammered, but then collected herself and began to speak. "It's just that the rumors that have made their way to our ears that surround this group are nothing short of fantastical since we came into Outland over a year ago. Our verifiable news from Darnassus is quite sparse. Our main source of information for the longest time was actually a Tauren Druid member of the Emerald Circle until only a few short months ago."
Anya quirked her head for a moment, then nodded at the information, and then glanced towards the others, "The Tauren whom Harry mentioned he initially passed the intelligence of the pending coup d'etat within the Undercity."
Then Anya turned to their visitor, "She is here?"
The Night Elf shook her head, "She merely passed through on her way north to Blade's Edge and our outpost there. But she did give us a large amount of rather shocking news that we had not heard even a hint of while here in Outland."
"I imagine there were a few events that would be relevant to a Night Elf which we played a part in," Sylvanas mused quietly before she refocused upon the Night Elf. "But I doubt verifying rumors is why you stopped by our room so late."
"Although I would like to inquire as to how exactly Fandral Staghelm was caught, you are right. That is not the most pressing thing we face at the moment."
The Night Elf then briefly winced, "Again, I apologize for not introducing myself. My name is Ysiel Windsinger," the Night Elf suddenly all-business. "I'm the overall leader of the Cenarion Expedition to Outland. We chose to come to Zangarmarsh because it was the last habitat on the verge of collapse here in Outland that could still possibly be saved. However, it was only after we'd fully began our investigations into the deteriorating conditions here that we found the true source of the decline."
She looked at each of the Forsaken, then said one word.
"So," Collete mused. "This is where Lady Vashj settled when she came to Outland with Illidan and Kael'thas?"
Windsinger nodded. "Not initially. They have another outpost in some of the caverns and ruins of eastern Shadowmoon Valley. But she herself eventually settled here after their group's sweep of the continent for active Demonic portals. Afterwards, Vashj came here, while Kael'thas has commandeered the various remaining Draenei ships that are holding position over the remains of Gorgond. We are unsure what his people are doing with all the magical energies they are extracting from the crumbling wastes. His people have been extracted more than enough energy to power the ships, yet they continue. And more and more agents of the Burning Legion are reported to be in the area as time passes."
"Finally, Illidan retreated to the Black Temple after he ensured his captured pet Pit Lord was being used to generate more demonically empowered Orcs within Hellfire Citadel. Even more odd is how a large number of demons flocked to his banner, alongside Naga and the more militant Broken. He has an army within the walls of the former temple, and it will take much to crack it open."
"That's all good," Sylvanas said as Windsinger finished, "And that information will be useful, I assure you, but why have you sought us out?"
"We have lost a few of our best scouts within the Caverns as we attempted to determine what in the Titans name the naga are doing in there. Something is going on in there, but we have little to no intelligence on what is really happening within the inner sanctum at the lowest levels."
"So you wish for us to investigate what Vashj is up to?" Anya offered.
Windsinger shook her head, "No. We know she's up to something in there. The Naga have been slowly destroying what little ecosystem remains in this marsh because of whatever they're draining the lakes for. We would have long since organized an assault upon the caverns, but we barely have the manpower to pacify the Naga above the ground, let alone invade their underground fortress."
"I've sent people to try and at least gather intelligence for a small surgical strike, but none have returned," she continued to say, frustration visible on her face. "We have no idea if they are alive or dead. We don't have the resources to fight them openly, but we cannot let them continue unopposed. Our worries now are that they will soon spread south into Nagrand and spark an open conflict amongst the Mag'har orcs."
"I don't foresee a problem with investigating," Sylvanas stated. "However, we will need what information you do have on the caverns. Also, I will warn you that I am not the leader of our group. In matters of tactics and politics, I share leadership with a former Night Elf Sentinel, Jessir Moonbow. However, our true leader, even if he doesn't like to see himself in that role, is a human named Harry Potter. Any decision on what course we ultimately pursue will be up to all of us, but primarily him."
"And of course that is after we finish our primary mission within the swamp," Collette added, with a brief grasp of Sylvanas' hand to emphasize the point.
The Cenarion Expedition leader blinked for a moment then quickly offered, "If there is anything my people can provide to aid you in your current miss-"
Sylvanas shook her head and held up a hand to halt the woman mid-offer, "I thank you for your generosity, but there is nothing that can be provided in this case. We have already consulted Archmage Khadgar while in Shattrath, and he provided all the information that was available about this… topic."
There was obvious curiosity in the Night Elve's eyes as to what the specifics of that mission were, but she held her tongue and nodded. "Is there anything we can provide you?"
Once again, Sylvanas shook her head, "We will need to discuss this with the rest of our group once they wake up. We may contact you then if any questions arise which would need clarification on."
Windsinger nodded in acknowledgement one final time and stood. Anya and Colette immediately rose to their feet as well, while Sylvanas remained in her seat for a few moments before she stood as well.
"Thank you for hearing me out this night, Lady Windrunner," Windsinger said before she bowed. "It was an honor to meet you this night."
"May-" Sylvanas began to speak before she hesitated, then continued, "May Elune's blessing guide you."
For a moment, Windinger seemed absolutely shocked and had no idea how to respond to a Forsaken giving a Kaldorei's traditional farewell, before the Night Elf smiled and said with a wry grin, "May the shadows watch over you all."
When she received nods of acknowledgement from Colette and Anya, and a final one from Sylvanas, Ysiel Windsinger bowed once more and left the room, quietly closing the door behind her as she left.
After a few moments of silence, Anya said, "If she said, 'May the Force be with you,' i may have had to go into the tent and smack Harry."
Sylvanas actually laughed at that quip from her long-time friend, "She may very well have if she'd had more contact with members of her organization that were on Azeroth for the past year. You heard how isolated they have been here in Outland."
Colette was the one to speak next, "Do you believe Harry will want to pursue this?"
Sylvanas and Anya didn't hesitate to nod in agreement that, yes, Harry would.
"There is something much larger at stake here than simply the drainage of some remote lakes in the middle of a swamp,," Sylvanas said as she mused aloud. "Naga do not normally work such obvious plots on the surface. They will attack sea vessels like pirates, or raid coastal villages, but they typically avoid long-term operations."
The former Banshee Queen began to tap a gauntlet covered hand on the table, the cards from their previous game laid down upon its surface now long-forgotten. "The entire idea of them even still being here years after their alliance with Illidan and Kael'thas began just vexes me. Why? After ten thousand years, why would Naga suddenly side with surface dwellers? Especially when that alliance meant they'd leave the plentiful waters of Azeroth for a dying world such as this with no oceans and only limited, scarce resources of water."
"It could simply be an attempt to hoard the resources themselves," Colette posed as an answer, but then grimaced when the argument sounded feeble to her ears.
"No," Anya said as she sat back down and glared at the wall in thought. "Naga care for naught but their worship of their Queen and the death of all Surface Dwellers, specifically the Night Elves. But they chose to ally themselves with Kael'thas, a descendant of Highborne…"
"But primarily with Illidan. Whom, despite his current demonic appearance, is still a Night Elve," Sylvanas added, pondering the line of thought. "It could have been the beginnings of a pact to attack the Kaldorei."
Then she shook her head, "But Illidan would never agree to such a thing, especially if it threatened Tyrande. By all accounts, including Tyrande and Malfurion's hesitancy to discuss the issue, Illidan is still obsessed with the High Priestess. He would not endanger her, no matter how much he apparently despises his own brother."
"Shadow save us from love triangles," Anya muttered, which earned a snort from both Sylvanas and Colette.
"Indeed," Colette said before she gave a sidelong glance at Sylvanas and tilted her head towards the tent. "What would you call what they all have with Harry?."
Anya glanced back towards the tent where the man in question was asleep with in a bed with the rest of their missing group. Before Sylvanas could answer the question posed to her, Anya complained aloud, "I'm getting a bit tired of just getting the occasional kiss from him. Thank the Sunwell Harry thought to ask whether the Flamels were still alive back on his world."
"Agreed," both Sylvanas and Colette said in unison as each of them reached for their cards.
Very little more could be decided until the others awoke, which left them to the drudgery of the now all too familiar pack of cards before them.
The only sounds made as the group walked up to the demonic portal was the soft footfalls of armor and leather clad feet upon the soft surface of the ground.
The Portal was on the westernmost edge of the Zangarmarsh, only a few hundred meters literally from the 'End of the World'. When the planet destabilized, the magics still present somehow around the shattered husk of Draenor maintained an atmosphere, despite the fact the continents of the world literally broke apart and floated into the cosmos, leaving places where the land simply ended. Tto traverse further would subject the unwary to the unstable tidal forces, and eventual death, amidst the energies of the Twisting Nether.
Here though, it was quiet. For all intents and purposes, it was the edge of an alien bog, with the small detail there was a twenty meter tall dormant demonic portal looming menacingly at the edge of a lake, with the nearest two hundred meter tall fungal tree base a few dozens of meters away.
Onyxia and Harry immediately started casting spells, trying to determine what, if any, remnants of magical energy may still be nearby which could provide some clues as to the last place the portal had connected with. It was a fool's errand, but one look at Sylvanas' blank stare at the portal's base let him know that he had to at least try.
After five minutes of casting spells, and a shared look between them, both realized they had exhausted all possible avenues and had come up with nothing. For all intents and purposes, at least to Harry's trained eye, the portal was now completely inert. There were no energies at all here, demonic or otherwise. On a whim, he began to search the surrounding area, hoping that a few random items may have been lost or abandoned surrounding the portal, but that search failed as well.
Finally giving up, he turned to Sylvanas and caught her eyes. No words were exchanged, and she merely nodded, knowing that it was likely a futile effort to come here and that Harry had confirmed that statement. With nothing else to do here, she began to walk away, lost in thought.
"Colette?" Jessir said. "Can you keep an eye on her from a distance? I doubt there's anything within a hundred miles that could hurt her, but she's distracted at the moment."
Colette nodded, with Anya giving a quick, "I'll follow too!" before they both quickly walked off, keeping Sylvanas visible in the distance as she wandered aimlessly.
"Well," Onyxia asked poignantly, louder than she would have if Sylvanas had been closer. "Now what?"
Harry glanced at her for a moment, then looked back east in the direction they had arrived from, "I'll admit, what Sylvanas said this morning about Vashj and the Naga has me a bit curious about what they're doing here in Outland. The fact they've managed to tie up the entire Cenarion Expedition into a purely defensive situation is also something I wouldn't have expected."
Harry glanced at Jessir, who pointed in the distance across the large nearby lake which the portal stood beside with her gauntlet covered finger, "Now that we can see them in person, those Naga off in the distance worry me. They're doing something with the water here, and nothing Naga do can ever be good. We know Lady Vashj is somewhere in this marsh, too, and that just compounds things."
"That could be good for Sylvanas," Harry said with a slight nod that hedged his feelings towards the suggestion, then gestured off into the distance where he knew Sylvanas currently was. "Put some enemies in front of her and let her work off some of her anger."
"My only other suggestion is to go to Auchindoun," Kudrii quietly stated, "Although visiting the ruins of a city-mausoleum may not be best for Sylvanas at the moment."
"The idea of stopping whatever plans the Naga have in the area sounds surprisingly compelling," Arko weighed in, then glanced at Kudrii. "We can go to Terrokar afterwards and see Auchindoun."
"So long as we don't go any further north into Blade's Edge, I don't care where we go," Disidra added. There were nods of understanding all around. Disidra did not want to tempt fate twice by going anywhere close to the home of Gruul and his Gronn brethren.
Eyes turned towards Fleur, who blushed in embarrassment, "You know I don't care where we end up. It's not like I still don't have to have half this stuff explained to me each time something new is brought up."
She wrinkled her nose and glanced towards Jessir, "I'm still trying to come to grips with the idea of a ten thousand year old handmaiden to your former traitorous Queen being here now… and she's now a multi-armed fish person."
Harry snorted, then glanced towards where he knew Sylvanas was. "Let's let her come back and then we'll go towards where the Cenarion Expedition folks back at the inn said that underwater caverns and cistern was located."
"Do we even have any idea what the Naga are doing here?" Arko asked, glancing around. Naga were the ancient enemies of her people, and knowing so many were close by was obviously waging havoc on her senses.
"Should've asked Khadgar while were in Shattrath," Onyxia said, while turning a gimlet eye towards Harry. "Instead, someone decided to cast magic on an Archmage."
"Fine, he said with a blatant eye-roll while he he snaked an arm around Onyxia's back. "It was a dumb idea. But it just bothered me!"
"Khadgar was always rumored to be an odd one," Onyxia finally said after she attempted to outwardly look angry with Harry for a few moments and then simply gave up. "I have no doubt that, despite apparently helping him, he'll find a way to tweak your nose at some point in the future."
"If he limits the response to just pranks," Harry smiled and kissed her on the cheek, "I think I can handle that."
"You forget, Harry," Jessir spoke up. "Khadgar is a leader here. Recognized by all factions in fact. He won't prank you. He'll simply find some amount of drudge work and find a way for you to end up doing it… thus we'll end up doing it as well."
At the looks he was now on the receiving end of, Harry actually gulped and was starting to have flashbacks to the moment all of the women read him the riot act over his rather impulsive animagus decision.
He glanced to the where Sylvanas had walked off to, and to his surprise, saw her returning with Colette and Anya in tow.
"Ah, look, there's a distract-, err, there's Sylvanas!" he said in a rather high cheery voice, ignoring the chuckles from Onyxia beside him, and annoyed glances from everyone else.
"We'll speak more about this later, Harry," Jessir whispered before she herself turned towards the approaching trio.
Ignoring the sense of doom that immediately dropped into his stomach at those words, Harry joined the group as they walked towards the woman who'd just learned there would be no further information found here as to the fate of her missing sister.
"So where are we going now," Sylvanas said abruptly, before anyone could ask her anything. "I assume we'll follow up on the Expedition's request?"
That very sharp question stopped everyone in their tracks. It became instantly obvious that Sylvanas' feelings on the matter of her missing sister were not up for discussion at the current time. Harry resolved to personally speak with the woman alone, just like the few times he'd joined her in her quarters over the past month or so. The banshee queen may no longer be the leader of the Forsaken, but she apparently still adamant to not show her emotions around anyone but Harry and Anya for the time being.
Maybe when Flamels restored her to life, she would take a different outlook on things.
"Well," he said, and giving her the smallest nod of acknowledgement to every unspoken request and demand that had been in her earlier question. "I figure we're going to have to deal with Kael'thas and Illidan eventually. Their partner in crime is this Lady Vashj woman, who all the folks back at Cenarion Refuge say is right here in Zangarmarsh. I'd like to see if we can take her out, as well as see what sort of information she may have on our two other friends."
Anya was the first to speak, "Are you sure you just don't want to add a Naga to our little group?"
The response received by her from Harry was a truly glorious stink eye, which caused most of them to giggle at the idea.
"How would that even work?" he couldn't help but mutter. "The logistics of it are mind boggling."
"Harry doesn't need a fish woman in our bed," Jessir said firmly. "But I agree. I may be speaking with a bit of bias, since the Naga have been my people's primary enemy for thousands of years, but I think we should remove this threat. If for no other reason that it's centrally located and will allow others to push further north without enemies at their backs."
"As long as it isn't us going northward," Disidra added.
"I can guarantee you, we won't be going anywhere near that wretched place, Disa," Harry firmly said while he walked over to the woman and held her from behind.
"Very well," Sylvanas said. "Let us take care of a threat that should have died ten thousand years ago."
"I'm going to make a request no one is allowed to deny," Arko airily said as they stepped off of the carpet Harry had used to fly them towards the primary pumping complex that they believed they would find the the leadership of the naga infestation within Zangarmarsh.
It wasn't very hard to doubt they would find something here. Many of the lakes they had flown over within the massive fungal swamp had a naga presence on their shores. But this particular lake, located in the central northern part of the territory, had the most they had seen yet. Plus, the very large, almost refinery like pumping equipment in the center of the lake meant that there was something very unique occurring at this particular body of water.
"And what would that be?" Jessir asked as she again looked around and assessed the immediate area for threats.
"No more swamps after this," Arko responded firmly.
"I think we can agree to that," Jessir said, laughter clearly heard despite her head turned away from her fellow former Sentinel.
"I don't know, this one has much better ambiance than the swamp we found Onyxia in," Harry added as he gave the black dragon a nudge with his elbow.
"I don't recall taking that long to convince to leave that swamp once you arrived?" she asked as she elbowed him even harder, then took a knee and placed a hand upon the ground, where upon she closed her eyes and grew still with her eyes closed..
"I vaguely recall you having a slight growing pest problem," Harry said airily as he took a knee beside her and mimicked her actions.
"Hush," she responded, tired of the by play as she used her powers granted to her as a member of the Black Dragonflight to peer into the depths under the lake and beyond.
Harry attempted to do the same with what he'd gained from his dragon animagus form, but he still needed to actually transform to gain full access to his powers. For now, as a mere human, he could only vaguely perceive a very large cavern underneath them… wait, is that a second?
"There are four massive underground caverns below the lake," Onyxia announced suddenly. "All of them have at least a few steel wrought additions to them. One, to the east, has almost none. Another to the west has just slightly more. A third has a fair amount in a central location."
Then she opened her eyes and looked abruptly at the group, "But the fourth has a massive amount of steel equipment added. It is also the deepest cavern, being no less than ten times deeper than the other three caverns. This one seems to be accessible through a very large elevator shaft just below us."
"It's too bad you cannot make another ward stone to track Naga and tie it to a map like you did back in Ashenvale," Disidra mused aloud.
"You understand why we can't, right?" Harry asked her.
"We have no map of the caverns from which to start," Disidra responded, which earned a nod from Harry.
"What do you guys think," Jessir suddenly asked. "More equipment equals greater chance of being where Vashj is hiding out?"
"I agree," Sylvanas chimed in from her spot next to Jessir. Both stood side by side, bows drawn with arrows notched and directed towards the lake. No one wanted to be blindsided in case a naga scouting party came near.
"Are there any access paths besides the lake?" Anya asked with a wrinkled nose of distaste. "I'd rather avoid getting wet for an extended period of time if we have to somehow follow all that pumping equipment out there to a cavern."
"Oui," Fleur said, her nose turned up in almost the exact same manner as Anya's.
Onyxia once again dropped down and touched the ground. It took only a few seconds for her to announce, "I am not sensing any alternative tunnels that lead to to caverns below us…but..."
She now placed both of her hands upon the ground and visibly pushed with her powers. Right next to them, a tunnel opened up in the soft ground of the swamp, solidifying quickly to not allow the nearby lake to seep in and flood it. In only a manner of seconds, the tunnel quickly grew into the distance, becoming far too long for the low light of the swamp to illuminate its depths.
"That tunnels going to hold, right?" Arko asked tentatively. "I mean, there is a lake right next to us."
"It will hold long enough," Onyxia said, showing no visible sight at all of stress or fatigue from digging them a tunnel to simply avoid getting wet. "I will close the tunnel behind us as we travel. I see no need to announce or presence down there by leaving it if there are a number of individuals congregated down there like I expect."
"Arko take point," Sylvanas suddenly announced. "Ysondre, will follow her along with myself and Jessir. The rest protect Onyxia in the rear as she closes the tunnel behind us."
"Finally," Arko announced with a smile. "Time to hit something."
"You're just jealous I got to breathe fire on things yesterday while you sat on my back doing nothing," Ysondre taunted her as they both proceeded down into the tunnel.
Their argument trailed off into the distance as the group slowly filed into the tunnel, ending with Harry and Onyxia being the last through as Onyxia walked backwards, a hand on the tunnel wall forcing the tunnel to slowly collapse behind them and leaving no trace that it had ever been there in the first place. Their way was guided by the extremely low level light of a few floating blue-ball flames that levitated near Onyxia, while Arko was left in near darkness as she creeped forward thirty meters forward at the head of the group.
"What is your goal in pursuing Vashj," Colette asked Harry a few minutes later as the slowly moved forward. "Intelligence on The Betrayer or Kael'thas Sunstrider cannot be all there is."
Harry was silent for a few moments, then said, "I want to try and figure out why the Naga would ally with anyone."
He turned to Onyxia and asked, "They've been your enemies for what… thousands of years?"
When Onyxia gave an absent minded nod as she continued to collapse the tunnel behind them, Harry turned back to Colette, "There's something going on there. Vashj working with Kael'thas, an Elf, and Illidan, who, for all intents and purposes, is an Elf too. So if they were traditionally their enemies, why work with them?"
Collette pondered that question for a few moments, and then slowly mused aloud, "You think there's something with Illidan or Kael'thas that interested the naga initially for them to join up. Or, something possibly here in Outland that has continued their interests beyond whatever it was during the Third War."
"Yeah, I can't see the naga having stuck with Illidan this long unless they're getting something out of it. I mean, they not only helped Illidan against the Lich King, but they followed him to another world," Harry said. "And Make no mistake, it has to be Illidan providing whatever it is they're after. I think Kael'thas has his own agenda and is ultimately just an incidental in all this."
"The loss of the sunwell and the wave of magical starvation affecting more and more Blood Elves," Collette agreed. "He's here looking for a source of magic though. Could Vashj be along for the ride in case he finds one… thinking maybe she could steal it for herself?"
Harry opened his mouth to reject the idea, but stopped once he pondered it, and then shook his head in frustration, "Yes, that could be it, which kills every theory I had."
"No, you're right," Collette said as they continued, "There has to be a reason. One that we need to know because it can ultimately be quite dangerous for us. Our problem is we're trying to debunk ideas without any true firsthand intelligence. Just conjecture."
"Your best bet is to simply interrogate Vashj," Onyxia quietly said, most of her attention still focused on the walls.
"Yeah," said Harry with a wince. "Because it's always easier to capture an enemy."
"You could always end up sleeping with her, too," Collette said with a lewd smirk. "All those slimy tentacles…. The multiple arms… the-"
"No," Harry quickly interrupted with a small glare that earned him an unrepentant smile back. "That's definitely not the goal here. I'd just like to get ahead of whatever plot may be there that we don't know about."
Colette was about to speak further when Onyxia held up a hand, "Arko, Jessir, and Sylvanas have reached the end of the. The ground around us is stable, so I see no need to collapse it further."
Harry nodded and walked cautiously forward until he was a few feet behind Sylvanas
"What have you found?" he whispered in her ear.
"Entrances to what we assume are the four caverns," she said back. "Not a soul in sight either."
"And it's not even subtle which way leads to the important cavern," Jessir said in derision. "Three dark tunnels, and a tunnel in the middle protected by a Elune-be-damned roaring waterfall with boiling water with tons of machinery driving it."
"Can we bypass it?" Colette asked, approaching from Harry's side.
"Don't know yet," Sylvanas whispered back. "If anything, we can always see if Onyxia can help us bypass it as well.
"Or I could just teleport us through," Harry said with a smirk. "I mean, if its water, I'll be able to see the other side."
Sylvanas, and Jessir both looked at each other and the annoyance on both of their faces at not having remembered about Harry's apparition and portkey creation abilities could easily be seen.
"If we're going to go, let's hurry then," Ysondre said as she hurried back from wherever she had run off to up ahead. "I've flooded the entrance of each of the other tunnels with my Sleeping Fog. No one will be coming from those directions for a while."
"Let's go then," Jessir said as she started to creep forward. "Harry get a portkey for everyone ready."
The common small cavern which connected all of the other caverns below Zangarmarsh had one unmissable feature. A worn path leading straight towards the scalding hot water fall, likely created from all the equipment that had been dragged back there for whatever the Naga had build in the depths below them.
"Portkey ready," Harry quietly said, showing everyone a transfigured hula hoop that would again provide them all transportation.
"I really hate these things," Kudrii said as she grabbed hold.
"They get better the more you use them," Fleur said from her side
"Alright, everyone got a hand on it?" Jessir said as she looked around and confirmed that all of their motley crew was touching the enchanted device.
She looked to Harry, who nodded and said, "Activate."
It was over even before most of them had registered it had occurred. One moment, they were before the waterfall, the next they were beyond it standing ten feet from an enclosed metal and machinery lined room. The centerpiece of the room was the gaping circular chasm in the floor, which a few dared to look down, and none could see the bottom.
"Look for something to control it," Disidra said as she started to search the room. Very quickly a simply control board was found, and upon pressing a button a whirl of machinery kicked in with blasts of steam pipes occasionally hissing over them.
"Did that do something?" Kudrii tentatively asked.
"If it called the lift," Harry said. "It's probably got a long ways to go to get here."
"Easily a mile," reiterated Onyxia.
It actually took three minutes for the massive steel platform to arrive. The group heard it long before it actually was visible to them. It arrived abruptly, at a speed Harry would say would never have passed safety inspections back on Earth, before stopping with a shuddering grind of steel that in no way made it feel safe.
"Hop aboard!" Arko said cheerfully as she stepped forward.
"No way," Kudrii said, with Fleur standing next to her looking wide-eyed at the steel platform of doom. "There's no way I'm getting on there. We could die halfway down."
"True," said Jessir as she walked forward. "That's why everyone's going to grab on to the portkey Harry still has in case something goes wrong."
Kudrii seemed to fight against the idea for a few seconds before slumping her shoulders. Both her and sole Veela in the group stepped to the middle of the platform, placing a hand each upon the portkey which Harry had once again produced.
"This is the stupidest thing we've done yet, Harry," Kudrii said, slightly trembling as the lift suddenly shook and began to lower.
"Well, I'm sure there-" was all Harry managed to say before the bottom seemed to drop out of the lift and they all began to plummet at a speed that Harry would struggle to match in on a firebolt in a dive.
They reached the bottom, which occurred after a nearly three minute drop that may have been the most harrowing experience a large percentage of the group had ever experienced.
The machinery was even more prevalent now at the bottom of the shaft. Large metal walkways suspended over monstrous pipes that likely extended out throughout Zangarmarsh without any of the inhabitants knowing. It was obvious now that the Naga, at the minimum, were pumping the water somewhere unknown for some unknown purpose.
It just added another reason to be down here, and a number of additional questions to ask once they'd managed to capture Lady Vashj.
The isolated area of pipes and equipment the lift had deposited them ended with another lift that rose up a few dozen meters to stop at the top of a wall that seemed to isolate the 'anteroom' to the large cavern they had entered. Cautiously, they took the lift to the top, only for all of them to immediately drop to the ground once they took in more than a glance of the massive cavern before them.
The Underground cavern was easily a mile across, with a somewhat placid looking body of water covering the bottom. Walkways and pumping platforms littered the water's surface, and the walkways branched off in at least two or three places to connect with further constructions built into the cavern walls. Periodically, at various places along the walls, there could be seen various placements of naga architecture, mixed with something Harry with entirely unfamiliar with.
And littered throughout the entire complex, both on the walkways and on the various visible open caves on the walls, were hundreds of Naga and other creatures, all of them obviously placed as guards and patrols.
"This is not going to be easy," Jessir said with her eyes wide as she tried to estimate just how many foes lay before them.
"This is unlike anything we've tried before," Sylvanas whispered. "No cover, and no way to block off passageways with Harry's magic. It'll be one big fight, one after another, with reinforcements constantly swarming us."
"I think we're going about this the wrong way," Harry suddenly said.
That caught everyone's attention. When he didn't say anything further, Jessir nudged him with a shoulder, "Well?"
Harry shook his head, "Sorry, was thinking of options."
He glanced at each of the people with them, and then smirked as his eyes fell upon Kudrii, Colette, Fleur, and Onyxia. Then, he gestured towards the massive amount of guards arrayed before them. "I think we should make them fight each other, rather than us. Let them clear themselves out. Plant a few bombs, then mind control a few others. Colette raises a few from the dead to fight the others. Illusions over even more of them to confuse them. Basically just turn the whole thing into chaos, then we take on whoever survives."
"That will still leave an incredible number of foes before us," Sylvanas persisted.
"True," Onyxia said, now apparently fully behind the plan. "But that's where Ysondre, Harry, and I transform and rout whoever remains."
"Harry," Jessir said in a serious tone. "Find us a spot up here on this overlook to set up some wards so we can plan this. We aren't going to half ass this. We'll need synchronized bombs, random attacks, and figure out where it'd be best to Mind Control enemies for maximum effect."
"On it," he said sliding over to the edge and quickly beginning to cast spells. The rest of the group slowly crawled over and joined him under the protections he had provided.
"Now," Jessir said once they were all safely behind the protective enchantments. "Disa, break out that Far Sight spying spell of yours. We need to map this cavern out."
Oh boy – A double chapter update and the first published in 4 years for this.
A lot has happened in Warcraft since I last updated. A lot that I really haven't enjoyed that much in terms of story, etc. So what does that mean for all of you reading this?
I like Sylvanas. She's one of the reasons I wrote this story in the first place (besides hot Night Elves). Expect me to actually try… you know… doing something besides the half-assed EVIL EVIL EVIL with her and the Forsaken that their entire storyline as a group seems to revolve around yet never goes anywhere in the actual game. Hell, that one Blizz writer even tried to retcon in that Sylvanas secretly was behind the Wrathgate mutiny… no, just no.
I'm going to have him go after the big-raid bosses of the expansion (Vashj, Kael'thas, Illidan, Kil'jaeden. Its Illidan which is the hardest to mentally deal with, as the massive story ret-con Blizzard did in "Legion" for the Illidari tends to make it a bit harder to attack and kill Illidan's demon and naga supporters who have, for the most part, outright turned on their masters to fight the Legion. I just need to reconcile a few of Illidan's actions in the pre-TBC timeframe in outland, like ordering the attack upon Shattrath which ultimately caused Liadrin and company to defect.
Kael'thas is gonna get smacked down. It's a given. Whether I have him drag any of the hundreds, if not thousands, of blood elves down with him for simply following orders of their Prince is something I haven't decided on. Whether Harry steals "The Eye" (aka Tempest Keep) for himself is also something I've debated.
If I can have Harry steal Naxx, he can most certainly steal a spaceship.
Oh – speaking of Tempest Keep…
Can anyone come up with some really cool shit that could be imprisoned by the "Good and Light" Naaru in that prison dungeon? We already learned from the end of the last expansion (Legion) that Alleria Windrunner was imprisoned by her own damned husband on the orders of a Naaru when she dared to learn void techniques, so the full gambit of light/grey/anti-hero folks from other genres / games / stories are available for them to have ended up 'offending' the Naaru.
What other "obviously evil" beings out there could've run afoul of the Naaru and been stuck in the Arcatraz besides the stuff we saw in-game because they were 'evol'? There's a shit-ton of prison spheres in that dungeon, and I want to come up with something cool that could ally with Harry when/if I get there.
Example that I 'won't' be using, but the kind of 'extras' I'd be looking for in a character. She'lob from that realllllly bad LOTR game series from last year. The idea of her 'seeing' her fate and allowing herself to be captured so she'd be one day rescued by Harry was an idea I had. A pocket Seer was something I could see being useful, especially with a spider form the size of half a dragon, but it's probably not really something I wanted to pursue at this point.
But that's the kind of thing I was trying to find in characters. Some useful talent / ability that would set them apart from the fact I have giant murder machines in Onyxia / Ysondre / Harry already in the group (with more Red Dragons poised to eventually join as well) that can already steamroll just about anything.
Kat's comments: No Harry apparently doesn't have enough in his harem. _ There are more planned. Because I can only talk so much sense into Plums. He's crazy like that. Also I made him shorten this crazy ass rant he had. That was like 3 pages long about Blizzard being dumb with lore. (which could be summed up with DUH.) So. Yay.