Demon Hunter: Northrend, Sneak Peek

Most of the blood elves and naga managed to get out of the way of the frigid blast, or protect themselves with shields of metal or magic. A few near the center took the brunt of the blast and fell swiftly, cries seizing in frozen lungs.

Nex ran along the east ridge of the ravine, leaping easily from one icy outcrop to the next. The frost wyrm had finished its strafing run and was approaching his location, far faster than he could run, but that hardly mattered. It was starting to beat harder on its skeletal wings, intending to rise up above the two ridges of the ravine so it could wheel around for another pass, as it had the last two times.

Timing would be a fairly critical issue. But then, that was only to be expected.

In his hands he carried one of the blood elf warglaives, a weapon nearly as long as a quarterstaff meant to be held in the middle with a wide, razor-sharp blade at either end. He had infused the weapon with enchantments to burn away mana with every strike, which he hoped in this case would be more useful than the undead slaying his other weapons were enchanted with.

From the valley below the combined blood elf and naga casters replied to the strafing run with a barrage of spells, most of which deflected or missed. One massive fireball, however, caught the skeletal dragon directly at the base of its left wing and fractured the bones there. The creature gave a deafening bellow of pain and rage that sent waves of shattered ice crystals raining down from the ridges, but its upward flight was slowed for a few precious moments.

Thank you, Saire, he thought grimly as he sped up to a full sprint, leapt atop the outcrop jutting farthest out into the ravine, and sprang for the dragon's back.

As he flew he levitated slightly to increase his distance, but not enough to slow his momentum. His aim appeared to be true as well; barring any unexpected movement on the frost wyrm's part, he'd land on its spine halfway up its back, directly above the frigid swirl of blue magic that had replaced the creature's heart. He lifted the warglaive above him with both hands, and as he reached his destination swung it down in a powerful swing, wedging the razor point into the bone with all his weight behind the blow.

The creature roared and banked sharply, and his own momentum made him skid off the massive icy knobs of its spine and swing wildly, only his grip on the glaive keeping him from falling off completely and slamming into the side of the ravine. The beast banked again and he swung the other way, slicing his hand open as his fist slid down the middle grip and out onto the blade. He ignored the pain, and the blade slicing deeper into his palm, and held on like grim death.

After a few more banking turns by the frost wyrm he finally had the movement figured out, and on the next sharp turn he managed to get his feet wrapped around one of the jagged bones jutting out of the creature's spine. He held on tight and let go of his glaive with his injured hand, conjuring up a ball of shadow power and loosing it point-blank between the creature's ribs. The frigid light at the core of the undead dragon pulsed for the briefest moment and the creature gave another bellow, but that was all the effect his spell seemed to have on the frost wyrm.

All right then. Nex sank down to his knees, wrapping his legs up under two of the spreading ribs and holding on tight. Intense cold bathed his legs, numbing them instantly even through his demon skin, and it took an alarming amount of power to shield them from further damage. But the upside was he had a good, solid position that freed up his arms for more important things. Gritting his teeth he yanked on the glaive until it came free, then swung it with all his might down between the spine's links in front of him. It struck with a horrible shriek of metal on bone, and shards of ice went flying in every direction. The dragon roared and banked until it was flying upside-down, out of the ravine now and flying over the frozen peaks surrounding Icecrown Glacier. From this vantage point Nex could see the glacier itself ricing like a spiral staircase into the roiling skies above it, surrounded on all sides by a wide, bowl-like plain.

He didn't have long to concentrate on the view, however. Frozen sleet was pelting his face from the speed of their flight, and the dragon was sinking gradually lower to the peaks below, obviously trying to scrape him off its back without actually colliding with the rock. It was a tricky thing to do, flying upside-down with a damaged wing, but Nex wasn't going to take any bets that he had longer than a minute before the frost wyrm figured it out.

He swung again at the spine in front of him. His intention was to sever it completely, literally cutting the frost wyrm in half. He didn't know if even that would kill the creature, but missing its tail and back legs had to make flight almost impossible.

Unfortunately it didn't take him more than a dozen swings to realize that his initial signs of apparent success had simply been chips of the ice that sheathed the bone flying away. The dragon bone itself was harder than stone, harder than adamant even. His warglaive was well crafted, made of cobalt forged by skilled blood elf smiths, but even it was no match for the task. With every swing its edge grew more blunted, and he was swinging with all his considerable strength. As far as he could tell the spine was barely chipped, and his weapon was swift becoming useless.

In desperation he lifted it high over-or more accurately under-his head for one final swing, only to have it ripped away by a rock outcropping that passed by in a sickening blur.

Nex swore and pressed himself flat against the spine, ignoring the icy blast that rose up from the ribs beneath him. The ground skimmed by just inches below, and he ducked his head between two ribs just as the frost wyrm flew low enough to press his shoulders hard against a flat patch of ice. Cold pounded at his brain, numbing his thoughts as agony seared through him when the cloth covering his shoulders and then the skin itself was torn away by the jagged ice. The undead dragon abruptly rose slightly and the ground fell away until it was nearly ten feet from them. Nex panted in relief and looked up at the ground passing by below. The creature had broken away to avoid a jagged peak, and now they were skimming over a valley towards another ridge ahead, where the frost wyrm would presumably continue his relentless attempts to dislodge him.

"Shit," he said. Now was as good a time as any. With impressive concentration he managed to ignore the pain of his injuries and the sleet pelting him and the ground blurring by beneath him as he focused his thoughts inwards. Drawing on the Illidari stone and the Vortex crystal simultaneously, he summoned enough power to make the full demon metamorphosis. Heat seared down his limbs, partially blasting away even the frost wyrm's intense cold. The knuckles that gripped the ridge of spine in front of him bulged, then the thick leather gloves sheathing his hands tore as claws sprang loose. He could feel a pressure in his skull as more bulges formed beneath his skin.

The changes started to take effect, and he crossed his fingers and hoped to hell it worked this time.

As the seconds whipped by Nex had no way of knowing if the metamorphosis was working any better than it had during his last attempt, but the fact that his whole body now hurt worse than his shoulders had to be a good sign. Either that or a very, very bad one.

The undead dragon seemed to sense he was doing something major, because it abruptly broke off its attempts to smash him into the ground and soared high into the air, trying to crane its skeletal neck to see him. He caught a glimpse of a brilliant icy blue eye bigger than his entire head glaring at him malevolently just as his own burst into red flame and horns jutted out from his forehead and lower jaw.

He smiled at that eye, revealing a mouth full of wicked sharp teeth, as he felt his ears growing larger and longer and a tail fighting to break free of his breeches. "I hope you're watching this, Ner'zhul," he said.

Then he gathered all his energy and burst into immolating flames, pushing his way through two of the frost wyrm's ribs and throwing himself into the creature's frigid core.