World of Warcraft
The Siege of Uldaman
Chapter 3: Dust to Dust
Brock coughed aloud. Dust and sand choked his lungs, and he was covered from head to toe in rocks that seemed to crush him. His brain was in a foul muddle thanks to a big bump on his head, and he probably had several bruises and probably some broken bones in his body.
The thing about Dwarves is that they are used to these kind of cramped quarters. Having lived almost all their lives in mountains and caves, Dwarves are far used to cave-ins. As such, Brock didn't mind being stuck in a position that could drive any other man mad.
There was a sudden cracking and grinding of stone; a sound one would hear if a huge stone pillar was being dragged across the ground by a giant. Suddenly, a large, stony fist broke through the layer of rocks that had fallen to the ground. This fist was fallen by another, which pawed through the ground and brushed aside the stray stones, rocks, and dirt that encircled the stony creature within.
With a mighty heave, the strange, stony figure pulled out the brown mass that was lying behind it. The bear was tossed aside with a startled groan, landing on the ground gently, though enough to knock the wind out of it. As Thor lay there, licking his wounds, the stony figure clawed through the earth until he found the stubby, three-fingered hand of the friend he was seeking.
Nerzan had thought he was dead. The darkness and the suffocating feeling were maddening. He could barely hold his breath, and every breath he did try to take was filled with choking dust. It wasn't long, however, before he suddenly felt the dirt around him slowly ease off, and his hand suddenly became free. On instinct, he twitched his hand to let whoever was on the other side know that he was still alive.
He did not expect the way the rescue turned out. With an almighty heave, Nerzan was suddenly dragged out from beneath the rocks, pulled out by his hand by a big, stony fist. The Troll felt himself land with a thud; butt first, upon the stony ground. The Troll, exhausted, fell backwards and almost drifted into unconsciousness.
A growl at his feet indicated he wasn't alone in his exhausted state. Opening an eye, he spotted Thor, licking a torn forelimb off to his right. He also saw the stony figure suddenly crack into pieces from behind the bear's big hindquarters, out of sight as the stone fell off in crumbling pieces. Nerzan's eyebrows raised as he saw a recognizable crop of long, brown hair from underneath some of the stone.
"Brock?" the Troll asked in a daze, "Is 'dat choo, mon?"
"If you look at me while I'm nakey, Troll, I'll poke both yer eyes out and feed your tusks to mah bear!"
The Troll took the hint and looked aside. As the naked Dwarf put his clothes back on from his resulted transformation, Nerzan could not help but turn a darker shade of blue. He kept his eyes closed for a little bit until he heard the zipping sound of a pair of jeans, and decided to look up.
Brock had just finished putting his vest on, shaking off the dust on his clothes as he did. He looked rather rejuvenated somehow, as if he had recently been healed by a priest's spell or by some other foreign magic. Grabbing a small cask that seemed to be filled with a bubbling liquid, he approached his big grizzly bear and grabbed his paw. The bear growled at first, but stayed still as Brock poured the liquid on the wound, rubbing it gently before adding a leather strap around the paw. The bear licked Brock's cheek in thanks before arising weakly to his feet.
"Wat just happen, mon?" Nerzan asked in confusion.
"Looks like a cave in," Brock stated, "Don't know 'ow it happened. Last thing I remember was that roar, and then we got knocked out…how're you feelin'?"
"Mah head feels like I drunk ten barrels o' Ogah Brew," the Troll said, rubbing the back of his head.
Brock nodded in agreement. Looking up at the wall of rock that had formed on the farther side of the chamber, he noted that the whole roof had collapsed, causing the stone to land in a specific alignment that seemed to block a specific area of the city. Brock guessed it must have led towards the other entrance.
Strange, he thought. How could something like that just collapse? The ceiling was perfectly fine when I last looked at it.
"We'd better look around and find the others," Brock said.
"Can't I just sit 'ere a li'll longah?" Nerzan asked.
Thor growled. One look from the mad bear's eyes changed Nerzan's mind.
"Nevah mind. We go."
Brock smiled. The Troll was a good person; even he could sense that. The two companions and the mighty bear shuffled their way through the cracked halls of Uldaman back the way they came, weapons out and prepared for anything.
As they did, they did not notice a dark, shadowy figure move off in the other direction.
High in the skies above Uldaman, two black monsters hovered in the air. The mountain passes that were once a part of the great Redridge Mountains were covered in the searing light of the sun, not far below them. The creatures circled about, just about a mile from the main camp of Uldaman, gazing down upon the crags and rocks below.
Smog looked down with a proud smile at the landscape. In a little under a month, they had made it. The Badlands were legendary for being unforgiving and deadly, and they were far enough away from the Searing Gorge and the rest of the land surrounding Blackrock Spire that the Orcs and their Dragon allies had to circle around in order to not be seen by Dark Iron Dwarf forces. Of course, Smog and his cronies decided to go off and do a little mischief while they were moving. He sighed in the satisfaction that there were to be more widows and orphans amongst the ranks of the Alliance after the six of them managed to pass one of their camps.
"The city's only a few minutes away," one of the Orcs shouted out.
"We'll land nearby for now," Smog shouted back, "Scumnose and Ashwing would be there by now. If they don't get back, it means they've found a way inside that the Dwarves don't know about. From here, we scout towards the Dark Iron entrance."
"Do you honestly think that the stupidity of Scumnose won't get in the way of the operation?"
The hissing voice of Smog's drake, Doomscale, could be heard easily even in the wind. Smog simply growled at the young dragon.
"You just do your job," he said, "We'll do ours. Now, dive! We'll wait an hour before we start looking; make sure we don't have any Dark Irons watchin' out for us. If anybody sees you…stick an arrow in 'is gob or bake him alive. I don't care which."
As silent as wraiths, the two black dragons tucked their orange wings back and dove. It took all of Smog's upper body strength to keep a hold of Doomscale's shadow. The mighty beast kept his diving posture for a few seconds until the ground was only 50 feet away before extending his wings and pulling sharply out of the dive. His partner, Rexclaw, did the same, barely scratching his mighty talons upon the surface of the mountain before climbing a bit to keep his distance from the sharp rocks.
The Black Dragons were coming…
Brock and Nerzan shuffled through the rubble. From what they could see, the cave-in only affected a specific area in the city. It was obviously placed on purpose; scorch marks on some of the roof tiles that fell indicated powerful fire magic; perhaps warlock magic; that destroyed it.
"I guess that Necrus must have torched it as they were escaping," Brock observed.
"Da' Necrus don' look like 'e's a kind one," Nerzan said, "He mit' 'ave trapped 'dem insaide."
Thor took a quick sniff at the rocks and gave a bear's equivalent of a whine. Brock poked at one of the rocks before picking it up and then tossing it back in with the rest of the rubble.
"I think that they're all trapped in there regardless of what 'appened," Brock said, "Come on, now…let's get going. The sooner we find our way around this place, the sooner we can get to our friends."
Nerzan nodded in agreement. The three of them began to make their way back the way they came. Every step that they made echoed on the stone, and the dust and sand shuffled whenever they moved across. Echoes throughout the ancient city sounded like whispers in the dark. As the two of them passed the spot where they were originally buried in rubble, they began to continue down the path until they reached a crossroads. By majority vote (Nerzan outvoted by Brock and Thor), the three of them went right and went deeper and deeper into the caverns.
The long and dark hallways were silent. Only whispered echoes of some unseen force seemed to break whatever silence that existed in the tunnels. The occasional lit torch kept the path from becoming completely pitch black, though the three would likely be fine even if they were in the dark. Nerzan, being a Troll, had a sense of smell that could replace his eyes if need be. Brock was a dwarf, and as such they were home in the cramped quarters of the mines and the depths of rock. Thor was a bear…they were equipped with the night vision that all predators were granted.
Suddenly, Nerzan stopped and began to sniff the air. Brock and Thor stopped as well and got out of the way. As the Troll continued his sniffing the air, he beckoned Brock forward and they both crouched down low.
"Ah smell death, I t'ink," the Troll said.
"Someone must 'ave come through 'ere," Brock said, "Do you think it was one of ours?"
"I dunno," Nerzan replied, "But 'dis I do…don' looken bahind us naow, but we is bein' followed. Maybe Necrus, but I can' say fah sure. Da' smell is comin' forwahd, no' back. I' maight be…"
The two of them went silent. There was something nearby alright; like the sound of breathing. Thor visibly tensed, but didn't react otherwise. Brock patted a shoulder on his bear before standing back up, followed swiftly by Nerzan.
"Let's get out of 'ere," the Dwarf whispered, "If we've got Trogs followin' us, I don't want to get ambushed from behind."
"Da' feelin's mootual," Nerzan replied.
The two of them continued down the tunnel, with Thor following close behind. It didn't take long before the scent of decay reached Brock's nostrils as well. The deeper they went in, the stronger the smell. It took a while before they found the source…
He was laying there, on his back. His body was originally clothed in the dress of nobility, though it was long frayed and tattered. The insignia of a Paladin of the Holy Order was still displayed proudly on his chest armor, though the rest of his armor had been scattered or tossed about. He was dead…at least for a few months, judging by the smell and the state of his body.
"This is odd," Brock said as he knelt down beside the corpse.
"No kiddin," Nerzan said, "What's a Paladin doin' in da' middle of Uldamahn? I t'ought we was da' only ones."
"He must have been a part of an earlier expedition," Brock said, "but what's odd is his current condition. I mean…look at the lad! It doesn't even look like the Troggs touched 'im, save for 'is armor!"
Thor took a sniff of the Paladin and backed away slowly, growling as he did. Brock took that as a bad sign. Thor never backed away from a challenge unless he knew for a fact that there's something very dangerous nearby. Brock looked at the corpse to see what the cause of the frightened animal could be, when he suddenly noticed…
"Hey, the lad's wearin' a necklace," he said.
Nerzan examined the corpse. Sure enough, a necklace with multicolored stones and a beautiful gem pendant was draped around the man's neck. The Troll took one look at the object and then suddenly backed away in a huff, making signs with his hands and speaking in his native voodoo tongue.
"What, lad? What is it?"
"Bad ju-ju," the Troll said, "Da stones is cursed. No touch, if ya valoo your laife."
"Oh, ah value it," Brock said as he gave the corpse a wide berth, "Come on, lad. Let's get goin'. The sooner we get out of here, the better."
The two explorers and the bear continued their descent into the darkness of the cavern. They followed the small torch lights of the dark tunnel deeper and deeper into the ancient and forgotten city. The remains of the paladin were left far behind, and were soon forgotten by the two explorers.
Nevertheless, the paladin's remains weren't alone. Something in the dark disturbed its rest as a black hand in the darkness reached down and yanked the necklace from his neck. His skull quickly became dislodged, and what was left of the skin binding it together came loose and ripped apart. The decayed head of the paladin slipped off and rolled on the floor. When it finally came to a stop, a black boot came down and crushed it.
The owner of said boot quickly put the cursed necklace into a pouch on his side, and continued journeying deeper into the caverns.
The sound of the explosion, followed by the avalanche of rock, could be heard for miles. The digging team outside watched in horror as a big dust cloud suddenly rose up into the skies of the Badlands. Prospector Darian watched as the cloud of dust began to settle upon the mountain roof just above where he calculated the second dig had to be.
"Aw, Hell!" the dwarf shouted as he threw his prospector's hat on the ground in anger, "I'll wager mah beard that there dust cloud was our teams. Dammit!"
Oggy Stonehammer, who had been hanging around camp after learning that a new team was going in, came up to the big Dwarf. The Gnome patted his friend's leg in an attempt to comfort him, before sitting down upon a rock and looking up at the big gates.
"Too bad there's not another way in," the Gnome said, "Otherwise, we might actually be able to help them."
"I'm regrettin' not goin' in meself," the Dwarf sighed, "Hopefully, the Light'll see them through. Ah just hope nothin' else this bad happens."
In a pass just outside of camp, in a neglected spot undiscovered yet by the eyes of the Explorer's League, the cave-in had revealed a small hallway covered in rock. The same checkerboard designs that were on the floors of the grand entrance hall to Uldaman were also upon the floor here.
Unseen by neither Dwarf, Man, or Gnome, a large, black drake with big orange wings was clawing upon the rocks in an attempt to get inside. A big Orc with blackish-grey skin was standing guard outside, keeping his eyes and ears peeled while his partner continued tunneling through the rock and earth.
The Black Dragons had come.
Caggar gave a great and almighty snort, expulsing the dust in his snout. He gave an almighty cough, spewing out bits of sand and dirt that had clogged up his lungs. Grabbing his staff, he gave an almighty heave, and picked up the rock that had landed flat on his back.
With a mighty shove, the tremendous stone was tossed off and landed against a cavern wall with a crash. The sound echoed throughout the city like a gunshot. The Tauren nodded in satisfaction before looking around at his surroundings.
They were in a very large chamber. Unlike the rest of the city, it was almost completely made of rock. Indeed, had it not have been the roof over their heads, Caggar would have mistaken it for a dried riverbed like in the Thousand Needles in Kalimdor. Only small sections of the floor revealed this sanctum's former glory, as several checkerboard tiles could be seen poking slightly through the rock. Caggar examined one of them now, and noticed, to his upmost surprise, that they had all been recently dug up within the past few days.
Caggar turned his head. Gamar was lying on the ground just adjacent to where he was earlier. A big bump had formed on the Orc's head where he had been struck down. Caggar quickly went over to Gamar's side. The big Tauren helped pick the greenskin up off of the ground so that he could recuperate, gently waving a big hand across the Orc's face to give him some air.
"Are you alright?" the Tauren asked.
Gamar groaned and gave the Tauren a mild glare. "Do I look alright?"
Caggar chuckled. "If I had seen you like that anywhere else, I'd say that you had been in one of the Taverns in Orgrimmar for too long. Come on…up on your feet."
Caggar lifted the Orc up, having the green-skinned warrior lean on his huge shoulders. Gamar silently thanked his Tauren friend for his help. The two of them looked around in the cavern, trying their best to get their bearings.
"Where the hell are we?" Gamar asked.
"Some kind of sub-chamber," Caggar said, "While you were out cold, I led everyone else inside. The whole tunnel collapsed behind us before I could do anything. I think we won't be going back that way for a while now."
Gamar coughed up some dust as he continued looking around. "Where are the others?"
"I didn't see them," Caggar said, "I guess we all got separated. I would hate to think that they are under there, somewhere. We'll find them…don't worry."
The two of them went deeper and deeper into the cavern, keeping to the main floor as they did. Rock ledges above would have provided good vantage points if Troggs decided to ambush them from above, so Caggar made sure he had a good eye out on everything. The spirits were very quiet in that place, and only the silent whisper of earth could be heard within the corners of his mind.
There was no wind, no breeze, not even a single indication that this room was getting a steady stream of air. Why the air was breathable still, Caggar could never know. However, he did know that there was something other than the spirit of earth whispering in his ears…he could hear something breathing, and it wasn't as big as an Orc, which meant that it couldn't be Gamar.
They were being watched…
"Gamar, get ready to defend yourself," Caggar whispered, "I fear that we are being followed."
"I see 'im," Gamar growled silently, "A little one…probably a Trogg. He may be alone, but I'm not countin' on it."
"Neither am I," Caggar said forlornly.
The two of them kept walking, though Caggar kept a tighter grip on his staff. Gamar felt around for the Rook, which had been conveniently placed back in its sheath; probably had been placed on after he was knocked out. The two of them kept going until they reached a fork in the road, and then stopped; as if wondering which way to go next.
"We must be quick," Caggar said, "If that thing runs off to get the others…"
"I'm way ahead of you," Gamar hissed, "On three…one…two…three!"
The two of them spun around with lightning speed. Caggar had called upon the power of the earth and could feel its energy charging into his staff, while Gamar, having drawn the Rook from its sheath, let out a mighty battle cry as he spun the great axe in his hand and brought it into an attacking guard.
The two of them could only stare at their attacker in disbelief.
"What in Orgrim's Hammer—"
Two strikes on the back of the head later, and the friends were unconscious once more.
"If we live through this, remind me to thank that damn cow-head!"
Tyrian was in a foul mood. There were two very good reasons. First off, he had awoken to find himself having been unconscious after a powerful cave-in, which blocked the only way out of their cul-de-sac of a chamber. The fact that he had been almost pushed in by that stubborn Tauren Shaman was more than enough to sting his pride. The second reason was because a Trogg was currently trying to make a meal out of the edge of his sword.
A quick flick of the wrist later, and the Trogg's head was lopped off of its shoulders. Two more of its comrades quickly climbed up the narrow ledge right away. Tyrian was trapped, between a rock and a hard place as it were, and there was seemingly no stopping these monsters.
"Don't call us cow-heads, frail one! Caggar could mop the floor with you if he chose to lower his guard and let his temper loose!"
Selvan Ashenfur launched a blast of druid energy, completely pulverizing a wave of Troggs from the legs down with powerful tree roots. The roots wouldn't remain for long as the beasts began to gnaw at the tree. Fortunately, Asterian was there to rectify the problem.
With a wild yowl, a black panther suddenly sprung up and clawed at the nearest Trogg, ripping its throat. The wild cat wasted no time in dealing with the other monsters, cutting them to ribbons and biting at their necks; tearing out their jugular veins. Only two of the six Troggs that had been trapped managed to gnaw their way free. As the panther dispatched one, the other came up and bit it hard in the hind leg.
The panther yowled and quickly fought back. Twisting the Trogg around, the cat got beneath the beast and proceeded to slice through its underbelly with its claws, scratching and clawing away for all that it was worth. The Trogg was dead in moments, its guts falling out in a vast array of rock and flesh that crumbled into dust.
As the panther tossed the creature aside, it limped slowly over to the main group. Kara quickly administered a healing spell on the leg, relieving the creature of its wounds. The beast began to morph; its black, velvety fur retracting into its body, and its posture changing dramatically as it rose on its hind legs. Clothes quickly formed around the naked skin of the creature as it morphed dramatically from a panther into the Night Elf.
"These beasts just don't know when to quit," he growled as he pulled out a bow and pulled back on the string.
"There's too many of them," Tyrian said as he fended as many off as he could, "I can see where their line ends, but we'll be overwhelmed before we kill the last of them!"
"I thought you guys were veterans of this kind of stuff," Asterian said.
Kara chuckled sarcastically. "Believe me…the Scourge are a lot easier to deal with than these guys!"
The four of them continued their attempted defense as the monstrous Troggs came ever-closer. The beasts roared and barked in a frenzy as they ran up the slope towards the cornered intruders. The four of them held out as long as they could, but even they would need a break eventually, and the Troggs just kept coming.
It seemed like all hope was lost for the second expedition.
Brock and Nerzan came to a very large chamber. This looked as if it had been naturally carved out of the rock, completely disguising the fact that it was a part of a grand and mighty city. The only thing that proved that it still was a part of Uldaman and not some side-chamber left behind during the construction of this place was a huge door made of stone, built in against the wall.
Brock examined the big stone door, feeling the cracks and placing his ear against it and knocking a fist on the stone. Nerzan and Thor sat and watched as he continued his work. Nerzan was rather perplexed at Brock's complicated attempts at examining the door, though he had no idea why he was doing it. It was just a door, after all.
"Alright," Brock said, backing away from the door, "We've got ourselves a standard, 20' by 40' door made o' Basalt and Granite, with a thickness of about 4 feet. It's got some kind of magic barrier protectin' it, so I don' think we can open it any time soon."
"Whay woold we wanna opahn 'dis door anywahy?" Nerzan asked.
"I don' know," Brock said, "Could be a way out, could be a way to our friends. Although, come to think of it, it could also be a vault with more Troggs. I just t'ought it would be a good idea to check it out."
Brock's eyes shifted back and forth. Nerzan could tell that he wasn't telling the truth. The two of them secretly knew that they were still being followed. Thor's hair kept standing up on end occasionally, and the bear often growled at random cracks or crevasses. Nerzan's nose detected a dusty odor of chemicals and random herbs; an apothecary's basic stores.
Brock and Nerzan both looked around; pretending to be interested at a strange scale model of what could only be the rest of the Titan City. As the two of them bent low, picking at the dust near the replica's base, Brock spoke in low tones.
"How good's yer sneakin', Troll?" he whispered.
"Yah'd be speakin' tah air if I's doin' it."
"A'right, listen up and listen good. I managed to catch a glimpse of somethin' behind us; about twenty paces back inside of a crack in the wall. Be a good lad and make it look like yer' goin' to do yer business somewhere, and I'll stay with Thor. We'll be the bait."
"And ah'll be da 'untah," Nerzan said with a smile, "Dis good plan. Be back en a liddl' bit."
Nerzan got up and fumbled with his armor for a moment, making it look as if he was going to take it off. Moving away from the two, he ducked behind a crevasse and sat for a moment or two, making it look as if he was going off somewhere to take a leak. Once he felt enough time had passed, he snuck into the shadows, and let his Rogue training do its work.
Nerzan was once an expert assassin. Considered to be a role model to many rogues just starting out in the business, he could disappear in an open field and steal the clothes off of a squadron of fully armed Centaurs out in the open plains of the Barrens. In the Thousand Needles, he was called the Silent Wraith, though in his home near Mulgore he was simply called Horse Thief.
Titles didn't matter in Uldaman. Nevertheless, Nerzan proved that he earned them well.
He took to the shadows and was like an invisible ghost in the dusty, rock-filled cavern. Brock didn't even see him go by as the Troll hugged the wall and crept as silently as a snake. The Jungle Troll quickly got out a series of tools that he attached to his fingers and toes, and quickly climbed up the tunnel wall, hugging to it as he crawled silently over the ceiling of the tunnel where they came. Continuing to stay on the wall, he kept crawling up until he reached the big crack in the wall before he came to a stop.
Nerzan was often prepared for any chance he could get at knocking somebody out cold. While hanging upside-down by his toes, he reached into his pack and grabbed a long, hollow tube decorated with feathers and the voodoo colors and patterns of his tribe. Un-fastening the loading mechanism, he promptly placed a tiny, poisoned dart inside. The dart wasn't truly poisonous; only enough-so that it could knock anybody cold for about five minutes. However, it was described to be quite painful for victims.
After quietly fastening the rest of the tube together, he brought it to his lips. Waiting quietly, he patiently let the seconds tick by until he could hear his quarry. Whoever it was down there was being smart; silent and unseen, completely camouflaged in the dark. However, that person didn't count on a Troll Rogue to be hanging on the ceiling just above him.
Nerzan let himself drop a few feet. Neatly grabbing the edge of the crack with his toes, he took a deep breath and blew hard into the dart gun. With a quiet whistle much like an arrow being launched from a bow, the dart flew out of the tube and straight towards a figure wearing red robes.
Brock watched in surprise as a shield suddenly appeared inside of the tunnel. The flash of light managed to catch the Troll off guard, causing him to fall from his position and land head-first on the ground. Brock wasted no time in pulling out his gun and whistling for Thor. The two of them rushed over to the Troll, who quickly got up and pulled out a pair of very sharp daggers from inside of his armor.
"A'right! Show yer'self, ye sniveling coward!" Brock shouted as he raised his gun.
A shadowy figure emerged from inside of the crack in the rock wall. As he approached, Brock managed to get a good glimpse of a set of red robes. He gasped in shock and lowered his weapon slightly as the figure approached the small party, holding a small dart between two fingers of his left hand.
"You know, you really should be more careful with stuff like this," the Mage addressed the Troll, "Poisoned darts have a habit of turning on their owners."
"Garadin?!" Brock shouted in alarm, "What the—what the hell?! Explain yerself, now!"
Garadin casually wiped dust off of his robe and emerged completely out of the crack. His robe looked a bit banged up, as if he had just gotten out of a brawl between two Ogres and a Furbolg. He walked with a slight limp, though he didn't seem to take notice of it for the moment.
"I suggest you explain yourself first, Dwarf," the Mage said darkly, "For starters, why did you and the Troll abandon us when we needed you, and why did you sick him on me?"
"Da' Troll 'as a name," Nerzan growled.
"We t'ought ye was someone else," Brock explained, though he didn't bother lowering his gun any further, "However, that doesn't mean ye'r out of the picture. Why were ye followin' us so sneakily? Ye could have shown yerself earlier an' let us know ye've been hurt."
Garadin didn't take notice of the fact that Brock was eyeing his leg. The robe near the Mage's left leg was damp, and if it weren't for the fact that it was red to begin with, Brock would have guessed that there was a lot of blood. Though the stain looked like it was there for a while, it still explained a lot about the man's limp.
"'Ere," Nerzan said as he approached the Mage, "Let me 'elp 'choo."
Garadin backed away for a second, but after Brock made a quick gesture, he stayed still. Nerzan sheathed his blades and got out a series of bandages and herbs from his satchel. Having Garadin hold still, he lifted his robe and began applying the stuff to the big cut on his leg.
"So," Brock said, "To answer yer question, we got knocked cold before we could do anythin'. Nerzan, Thor, and I woke up and found the tunnel blocked off, which is why we ain't with the others. What about you? What's yer excuse?"
"My…'excuse,' as you would like to call it…is that I tried to make sure everyone managed to get through the tunnel safely. There was a second cave-in after Necrus made the first one—"
"Necrus did tha'?" the Troll asked, "We suspectahd it, but…damn…"
Brock nodded for the Mage to continue. Garadin hissed in pain as Nerzan added some herb poultice to his wound, and then explained further. "Necrus was left behind. Asterian was the only one who saw him do it. I made sure that he went with the others before things got worse. I began to wonder why the Night Elf was so shaken up about an Undead sacrificing himself to save us. Anyway, that was about when the second cave-in happened, and it was only thanks to my magic that I was still alive. However, I had to teleport myself back outside when I found I was stuck, and that's when I saw that I was injured."
"Why didn't ye try and ask us for help?" Brock asked, "I mean, we were right there. We knew ye was followin' us."
"I only saw you guys recently," Garadin said, "I actually thought that Nerzan had taken you prisoner…though I guess that was the wound talking. I can see now that you both were just stuck between a rock and a hard place."
"Nice pun," Nerzan muttered. He pulled tight on the bandage not too gently, causing Garadin to wince a bit more. After tying it off, he stood up and let the robe slip back down over the man's leg. "Dat' shoo'd do et. No need ta' t'ank me."
Garadin tested his leg. Wincing a little, he stood up fully and used his staff for support. Nodding his thanks to the Troll, he moved out of the crack in the wall and made his way down towards the scale-model of Uldaman.
"Interesting," he said, "This scale model must have been made a long time ago, before this place was lost to the ages. It looks like a complete map of the entire city, kind of like the map that was given to Tyrian and Gamar…and I can detect faint traces of magic in it."
"Really?" Brock said in surprise, "How so? I didn't sense anythin'."
"When you are in the Kirin Tor," Garadin explained, "you get taught this stuff to the breaking point. It seems as if there are some ley lines heading towards the door, though I can't tell what they are for. What I can tell, though, is that there is another way to get to the chamber where the rest of the group went."
"Dat' shoo'd be da' firs' place ta' go," Nerzan said.
"Logically, yes," Garadin agreed.
The three of them gazed at each other in silence, with Thor yawning in boredom behind Brock. It was the Dwarf that broke the silence.
"So, what're we all standin' around fer? We've got an expedition to finish! Which tunnel leads to them?"
Garadin pointed his staff off to the nearest tunnel entrance. "That's the way to go. If we move quickly we can…what are you doing?"
Nerzan was on all fours; his right hand holding a stick with charcoal while the other held a piece of parchment. He scribbled furiously as he gazed closely at the map in front of them.
"Need map," the Troll explained, "Don' wanna get lost inna 'ere. Too dusty."
Garadin nodded in agreement. The Human and Dwarf waited patiently as the Troll finished drawing the makeshift map. When it was done, the four of them made their way into the tunnel, travelling deeper and deeper into Uldaman.
As they continued, they didn't bother looking back. If they had, they would have seen something with clawed feet approach the makeshift map. The figure gazed between the carving on the floor and the giant stone door. Tracing the ley lines with its clawed fingers, the figure began to search for their source. When he finally stopped, his fingers poked at a small circle, which was just barely large enough for a specialized staff or rod to poke through.
The figure gazed in the direction of the party as they left. After a tense moment of indecision, the figure followed, making sure it was as slow as possible so that it wouldn't be spotted.
The Troggs had ducked behind a series of rocks in the chamber. They were waiting patiently for the intruders to prepare their last defense. The Troggs knew that they were strong, and although they themselves were stupid they knew better than to risk their lives and get killed so easily. They sat silently, speaking to each other in the grunts and barks of their language, waiting patiently until their quarry made a mistake or accidentally slipped up in their defense.
The two Druids kept watch over the expanse of ledges, scattered rocks, and cavern walls as they guarded their two friends behind them. Kara was busy administering a healing spell combined with a salve of herbs provided by Selvan to a gaping wound in Tyrian's side. What would have proved fatal was soon gone as Tyrian's flesh sealed and arteries began to seal back where they belonged. After she was done, she quickly cleaned Tyrian's skin with a piece of his torn undershirt, revealing a small slit of a scar beneath.
"That's another one to add to the old collection," Tyrian commented aloud, "Too bad you can't conjure a repairing spell for this armor."
Tyrian's Judgment armor was torn in the fabrics. The robes were cut clean through in places, with the chains in some of the armor askew. Since Tyrian was in the front line of the attack, he had the most experience with the Troggs, who proved to be a bit more inventive than they seemed.
"Who would have thought that they could use simple tools to cut armor," Kara muttered, "It's a miracle that this didn't cut deeper."
"The stone here is ancient, and resistant to all that the Earthmother has given it," Selvan said, "Your Titans knew what they were doing when they built this place. I have no doubt that they were well aware of the dangers of the Redridge Mountains before building this place."
"Regardless of back then," Asterian muttered, "I have sincere doubts that they were prepared for now. These Troggs are sapping my strength greatly."
Tyrian got up and brushed the dust off of his armor. After helping Kara up, he began to speak his thoughts, "Haven't you noticed that you've been doing a lot better here than you were back in the grand chamber?"
Asterian turned and looked quizzically at the Human, "What do you mean, Paladin?"
"Your magic has been doing better here than it did in that one fight with that Trogg, Revelosh," Tyrian explained, "I could see it right away. You both aren't as hesitant. It's almost as if you gained some kind of aura in this chamber…or…"
The Tauren Druid understood, her usually timid demeanor long gone after the conflict. "Or an aura of darkness left us once we split up," she said.
Kara suddenly realized where this was going. "Does…does this mean that one of us has been draining our magic…or blocking it somehow?"
Tyrian shrugged. "I don't know," he said, "It could be. It could also very well be just the rest of Uldaman. I noticed that this place doesn't seem quite as dark as the rest of the city. There might be a reason for that."
Asterian was about to nod in agreement, but a nearby noise caught his attention. Turning, he suddenly flinched in surprise. "Talking can come later," he shouted, "They're coming back!"
Tyrian quickly got up in front of the two girls, alongside the Feral Druid. Sure enough, the Troggs decided that waiting could come at another time. This time, they weren't just coming in waves. They were coming in full force. At least 200 of the beasts were coming in full strength; grunting, barking, and roaring as they made the charge up the ledge towards the four defenders. Tyrian couldn't help but feel a drop of sweat fall from his head as he gazed at the line of approaching beasts. There was no way he could block a full charge. Not like this…
Time seemed to slow down as the Troggs rushed forward. Asterian transformed into a Bear and began growling ferociously at the oncoming Trogg attack. Selvan began charging her powers over nature, while Tyrian began to pray to the Light, causing his sword to glow as he cast a holy spell over his blade. Kara stood aside and prepared to heal her companions when the time came near. It seemed as if the end had truly come for the Uldaman Expedition.
Suddenly, something flew out from behind a lone rock. With a great hissing sound like a snake, a powder keg landed hard in front of the rampaging Troggs. The first Troggs ran right over it, too focused on their rampage to really care, while the others stared at the object inquisitively.
The fuse on the keg quickly hit bottom. Tyrian did the only thing he could do at the time. As quick as he could, he reached out with both arms and bowled the two Druids over, bringing them behind cover. Kara, trusting Tyrian's intuition, quickly followed suit and ducked behind the rocky ledge.
The explosion echoed throughout the chamber, rippling through the halls of Uldaman and causing the very ground to shake. The smell of ash, burnt flesh, and freshly smoked gunpowder hit the nostrils of the party. The four of them waited until the last of the dust and rubble hit the ground before standing up and taking a closer look at what had happened.
The Troggs were obliterated. Those that were closest, including the foremost in the charge, were completely reduced to piles of ash and skeletal waste. The rest were laying bleeding, burnt, and dead on the ground, while the few survivors crawled off as best as they could…or, for the most physically fit, began eating upon the carcasses of the dead.
"What in the Light's name…?" Tyrian asked.
"Such power," Selvan whispered, "What magic spell could have done such a thing?"
"Not magic," Kara said, "Though any wizard who used a magic attack like that would be suspect for Warlock magic. It's gunpowder; Dwarven make, judging by the size of the blast. What's the matter? Have you ever seen something like this before?"
Selvan shook her head. Tyrian sighed as he gazed at the destruction.
"That barrel didn't pop out into the open by itself," he said. He raised his voice into a shout. "Come on, show yourself! We know you are out there…why'd you help us?"
There was no answer. Bravely, Tyrian took a step forward. As he did, there was a gunshot, and the dust near the paladin's foot shifted aside as a bullet struck like a meteor. Tyrian wisely stood still, sheathing his sword and raising his hands in surrender.
"I'm not going to argue with a Dwarf," Tyrian continued, "Come on out. We aren't going to harm you.
"By der great Bronzebeard, how'd ye know me ould' self was a Dwarf, lad?"
A dwarf wearing a horned helmet and carrying a Blunderbuss popped out of his hiding place. He approached the four of them, though his hands were keeping a tight grip on his weapon. Tyrian could see why; the Troggs had begun eying him as he approached their would-be prey.
"Any commander of the Alliance would know the shooting capabilities of Dwarves," Tyrian said proudly, "My name is Tyrian Stormbreaker. I'm one of the leaders of the second Uldaman Expedition."
"Second?" the Dwarf asked in surprise, "'Ave der others given oop on us? We're still 'ere, ain't we?"
"We were sent here to rescue you," Kara butted in, "and to also continue the Expedition from where you left off. There was no saying that you and the other survivors weren't qualified. We just thought that you were in trouble."
The Dwarf eyed them all for a moment before giving them a smile, "Aye, lass. We're in a wee bit o' a pickle, naow. Them Troggs blocked aour on'y way oot of dis 'ere cavern. Thanks to ye and yer…destractin', if'n ye don' mind me sayin' so…I jus' managed to kill mos' of dem' off with the last of aour gunpowder. Come on, lads and lassie, and join us! Our camp isn't far from 'ere."
Selvan was about to step forward, but as soon as she moved the Dwarf raised his gun at her. The Tauren stayed still and didn't move. Tyrian gazed between her and the Dwarf and quickly tried to intervene.
"What's going on?" he asked.
"Yer prisoner's unbaound," the Dwarf said, "No Horde gel's gonna get awah from Eric the Swift, that Ah promise yoo!"
Selvan raised her hands in protest. "I'm not their prisoner. Tyrian, tell them I'm not. I'm a part of the Expedition."
"HAH!" Eric laughed, "So, ye arr, eh? I guessn's ye'd be agreein' with yon Horde friends, der Bull and der Orc, as well, aye? Ah bet ye didn't know we 'ad dem prisonah too!"
Tyrian knew that they were in trouble. The Dwarf believed that the Horde were being hostile. What's worse was that he also had Caggar and Gamar prisoner. Although Tyrian was still upset about the Tauren for what he had done earlier, he didn't want to lose any more good men than he needed.
"Take us to your camp," Tyrian said, "And show us your…prisoners."
Selvan looked at him as if he had just cursed at her. The Dwarf smiled.
"A'right, lad! Let's get a move-on! 'Ere, 'ave yer Elf help guard der prisonah. Don' wan' 'er to get away, eh?"
Asterian reluctantly got behind Selvan. Taking her staff, he grabbed her arms and began casting roots and vines over them. Tyrian grabbed her shoulder while Kara had the Dwarf's attention.
"We'll get you out of this soon," he whispered, "Don't worry…you won't be a prisoner for long."
"I can hardly contain my joy," Selvan said sarcastically.
With that, the Expedition was on the move again.
To be continued…
Kerian: Finally, I finished updating this! Phew, this fanfic's taking forever to write. Alright, so everyone's split up, at least six of the expedition team are stuck in a side-cavern in Uldaman, a strange bunch of Dwarves have taken our Horde friends captive, and the trio; Garadin, Nerzan, and Brock; along with their Bear continue going deeper into the cavern. Hmm...things are getting very strange lately in the depths of the Badlands...
Alright, so I've got some good and bad news all wrapped up together. The bad news is that I won't be updating this again for a little while; I'm going to finish updating my other fanfics first. The good news is that once I'm done updating those I'm planning on sticking to my 20-chapter goal fanfics for a while, which includes this fanfic. Huzzah! lol. Anyway, I've got some good reasons for getting back to this fanfic; most notably is that I've got great ideas for my characters soon; Tyrian, Gamar, Kara, and Brock for example. I've got lots that I want to do with them, but I don't want to do that until I finish this fic first. I just hope that it turns out okay in the end. People have commented that this is a great fic, and I don't want to disappoint.
Well, I guess that's it for now. I'll see you in the next update! Until then, me out!