Author's Notes: This story is only just a wishful idea. I know this will NEVER happen. I know they're gonna kill him off. And I know you WoW players will be getting "TEH EPIC LEWTZ!" It seems Blizzard just really hates its dragons. But just for this one story, what they plan to do will NOT happen. Yes, I realize the Coffer of Promise is also a quest and such as well. But for this story, what happened in the game, does not happen here. Oh no. This is pretty much Warcraft of a Different Sort! Enjoy.
He was wrapped in darkness. The only light he could see was a small tunnel leading to the outside, to reality. He watched as that reality bent and twisted, mocking him. He could hear muffled, but recognizable voices. The one voice that spoke out to him the most was his dear sister. He saw her face through the static, defused images, twisted, scowling at him in anger. She cursed him. He still could not understand why she did. He did nothing wrong. He was innocent. It was that monster, that monster that held him in his prison. That monster...it was his fault. The monster, born from horrible tortures in his mind from voices deep within Azeroth, took control when refused to do their bidding. He felt his own consciousness rip away and then locked behind a powerful barrier. The only contact he had to the outside world was what he saw through his own eyes as the monster commanded his body to perform unspeakable acts. The Shattering was the worst of them all. Everyone called for his death now, all because of that monster.
That monster who called himself Deathwing.
Neltharion curled up into a tiny ball inside his own mind as he watched the scene play out. Deathwing commanded his body, his tattered, mockery of a body, to strike at Alexstrasza and the smaller mortal known as Thrall. All around him was the Red Dragonflight, ramming into his form, spraying forth their flames at him. Alexstrasza shouted at him something, but Neltharion could barely make it out. However, he knew her tone. It was furious. She wanted to end him, kill him, get her revenge for what Deathwing made him do...the destruction of her eggs, her enslavement and the death of her Prime Consort. And Neltharion welcomed death. At least in death, he would be freed of the monster. However, he wanted to at least have one chance of telling the Red Dragon that it was not he who hurt her, but he wanted to apologize anyway. He wanted a chance to make it up to her before he died, to tell her that he loved her as his final words. However, he knew that there would be no chance of that. So, he resigned in his mind. Neltharion leaned over and closed his eyes, no longer wanting to look upon the angered face of his dear little sister for he saw the pain his body caused her. He wanted it to be over with.
Suddenly, there was a jolt. Neltharion opened his eyes again and felt his reality shake. The tunnel vision he had flashed blinding white. This was it, he was going to die! There was a flush of coolness all around him as the binds that held him withdrew. He began to feel pain. He knew what pain was like, Deathwing constantly whipped him if he even tried to gain control without permission. For all Deathwing cared, this horrible mixture of adamantine metal and black scales belonged to him and not to Neltharion. Neltharion was just a nuisance, a burden that will soon be eliminated. However, Neltharion could never understand why he had not been completely destroyed yet. He could only come to one conclusion, he was the joke of the voices that taunted him and tormented him. They needed someone to entertain them and that was his purpose.
Dance, pet, dance!
Amuse us, Earth-Warder.
That is all you are good for.
And he danced in his mind for them while Deathwing continued his acts of destruction. But now, the voices were disappearing and Deathwing's hold was weakening. Perhaps for a moment of sympathy for ten thousands of years of his bondage, they would let him one word to his sister before he died.
He could feel his body again, the wind on his back and on his wings. He could smell the fresh air of Wyrm Rest as he made his plummet. His vision became clearer, the sounds coming into his ears more distinct. He was gaining control of his body. For how long? Neltharion turned his head painfully and saw the ground suddenly rush up to him. His eyes widened and he struggled painfully to right himself. He flailed his wings and tail, trying desperately to catch the air. It had been ten thousand years since he had control of his wings, had he forgotten how to fly since then?
Then, he realized why Deathwing and the voices left him, he had served his purpose. He was of no use to them. He was nothing to them. Just as his body met with a sudden, painful stop, Neltharion resigned again. Alex would not be coming for him, not even for a quiet farewell. She would just shrug his death off. He wondered if she did the same to his dear brother and best friend Malygos as well. Did she shrug his death off too? He did not care about the fall, he just let the darkness wash over him again. This time, it was cool, inviting.
He waited for the bright light to fill his vision, the afterlife to invite him in. He hoped his afterlife would be good despite the horrible things Deathwing committed. He hoped that the Powers that Be would be understanding of him.
Still, there was darkness. Where was the afterlife?
"Deathwing..." said a familiar voice. "Neltharion."
Neltharion sniffed. He was still breathing. He let off a cough. His body was in so much pain. Neltharion opened his eyes and looked up. He saw the crimson-scaled form of Alexstrasza standing over him. Beside her was the shaman orc and ex-Warchief Thrall. Beside him was another orc with brown skin who he did not know of. However, he knew that Deathwing had entreated with her a few times. On the other side of Alexstrasza was Ysera and the new Blue Aspect Kalecgos. He passed his eyes between the group around him and his sister.
"The deaths you have caused, the fear, the pain, the agony...you caused," she said. "It has ended. Now and forever..."
She raised her claw, ready to strike, to end his life until Neltharion raised his head.
"Stop..." Neltharion said. "Don't...hurt...me...please...don't...hurt me..."
Alexstrasza stopped and then stared deep into his eyes. There was something peculiar about them. They no longer glowed with a fiery madness. In fact, instead of being the fiery orange color that they normally were, they cooled down to an emerald green. She remembered that color in his eyes, the color he had before his madness.
Much of his body also stopped glowing, though there were still some parts of him did through the splits in his scales between the plates. He stared up at her, tears beginning to form in his eyes.
"Alex...stra..sza..." Neltharion said, his voice barely making a sound. "Please...don't hurt...me...I've...suffered enough..."
"Y–you suffered enough?" Alexstrasza asked. "How dare you say that to me for what you've done! You killed my consorts, my children, you tried to mutate them into monsters, you enslaved me, you ripped Azeroth in two! You've caused mutations, sickness, and you say you've suffered?"
"Deathwing...killed your children...Deathwing...tore Azeroth apart...Deathwing enslaved...you..." said Neltharion. "Not...me...I tried...to stop him...he...hurt me. Then...he used me."
"What does he mean?" Thrall asked. "Why is he referring to Deathwing as another person?"
"How can you...blame someone else?" Alexstrasza asked.
"Because it...was someone else!" Neltharion said, forcing his voice to become a little louder. "Not me. I...I wouldn't...do these things. I would...die first. He...they...they didn't want me to die. They wanted me alive. They forced me...tormented me, stretched me...whipped me! Then, I told them no. I said no. I said I wouldn't...wouldn't work for them...do what they want...they said you would shun me. They said...you would take my position because...I'm worthless...I'm useless...no one needs me...I didn't...want to believe them. I fought them...as best as I could. Then, something happened. My body acted on its own...my voice sounded and spoke without my control. I was...doing their bidding...I made what they wanted me to make...I became...what they wanted me to become...but...I was not. My mind locked away, my body controlled by something that was born from all the fear, all the anger they made me feel towards you, towards everyone...all the hatred...the sorrow...the worthlessness...it took form in me. And it...it...controlled me." He closed his eyes tightly, letting the tears flow. "I tried to fight it...it wouldn't let me control my actions. I tried...tried to shout...to ask for help...it said...no one would believe me. I saw from my own eyes...everything it made my body do. It made you all look like...monsters...to me...to keep me afraid...to keep me subdued so...I wouldn't try to cry out for help...I'm so...scared."
He lowered his head and began to sob.
"You don't believe me..." he whispered. "No one believes me...Deathwing was right the whispers were right...I am worthless. I am in the...way. Just...do it now. Take my life...take my power...take it! I just...want to die with whatever dignity I have...left...that Deathwing didn't take."
Alexstrasza slowly lumbered over him. She had not seen him cry in such a long time. He opened those clear green eyes again. She looked deeply into them. This was not Deathwing, this was not the World Breaker, the Destroyer. This was Neltharion, the Earth-Warder. She began to realize what had transpired for ten thousand years. Deathwing and Neltharion were two different personalities. Neltharion was the main personality while Deathwing was all the negative emotion that Neltharion had inside of him amplified by the Old Gods themselves. The Old Gods had splintered Neltharion into two personalities, one that they knew they could control, while the other only served as nothing more than a memory, which held the Black Dragon together. She reached out to touch his side, surprised that his scales did not burn her. He was warm, but not as hot as a raging volcano. Still, from parts of his body where he wounds were and where some of his scales still split under the metallic plates, he oozed forth his lava-like blood.
"Why..." Neltharion began. "Why...did you not see...what was wrong? You could have stopped this if you would have seen. And I wouldn't have to had suffered. You...would have suffered. None...of this...would have happened if you..."
"We didn't know," said Alexstrasza.
"They said...if any...of you had shown any...true caring for...me...you...would have known..." he said. Then, he closed his eyes slowly only to open back up. They began to glow once more with the madness he once had. "It is too bad you never knew." His voice had changed to the one all were familiar with. Deathwing spoke once more. "You could have stopped it all before it started, Life-Binder. But there was one who...knew. One who just let it all happen. What a fool he is. With his head in the sand he would allow the inevitable to happen."
The Aspect of Death began to rise, ignoring the pain of the fall.
"Neltharion," said Ysera.
"Now that you know, I'm sure you are familiar with this phrase," said Deathwing. "Neltharion is not here."
The Black Dragon threw back his head and bellowed. Neltharion began to wrestle for control of the Black Dragon's voice and jaws from Deathwing.
"Alex...you have to kill me!" he shouted, finally gaining control of his body. "He won't stop. He won't leave! He's my creation, he...my darkness, my anger, my hate, my fears. Born from a simple concern for the safety of our world. Just a simple one, a fatherly concern of the un-nurtured ambitions of mortals. I...meant well...you know I did. I just wanted to save everyone...everyone...you...Ysera, Malygos...the mortals...save them...save everyone! But he does not! He doesn't care."
Neltharion got to his feet, shakily awaiting for his sister to strike.
"Neltharion..." Alexstrasza breathed.
Lava began to spew out from his jaw as he felt himself being forced to charge up his breath weapon.
"There is a chance to save him," said Ysera.
Alexstrasza looked upon the Awakened Ysera, her eyes sparkling with the myriad of colors. Her face seemed bright and hopeful, if not a little loopy. She cocked her head and just studied her elder brother, a childlike smile on her face.
"It's Nel's boogeyman," said Ysera. "He can be saved, but he has not to be afraid of his boogeyman."
"How can you say something like that?" asked the female orc standing beside Thrall.
"Aggra," said Thrall.
"That does not make sense," said Aggra. "Forgive me, Green Dream, you are speaking as if the Aspect of Death was a child!"
"He is a child," said Ysera. "In his mind. That is what Deathwing made him. That's what keeps Neltharion scared and helpless. That's why he says no one will believe him when he is at his worst. Only children say that because they are unsure if their elders will punish them or help them."
The Black Dragon's body shivered and his eyes glowed fiercely. But as he was about to leap upon Alexstrasza, but she reacted first. His wounds slowed him down and enabled her to pounce upon his body. She slammed both of his claws to the ground, pinning him forcefully down.
"Life-Binder!" Deathwing bellowed. "I will rip your heart out!"
"My heart has been ripped out," she said. "No thanks to you. You took my dear brother away from me, turned him into this mockery of metal and scales. You made him betray his closest friend, kill his mates or drive them insane. You made him kill my beloved and my children, and you let him watch as you performed those acts. You raped my brother, turning him into nothing more than a weakened whelp while you brought about your masters' destruction."
The Red Dragon snapped at Deathwing.
"I should kill you..." she said in a low growl.
"Kill me and you kill the pathetic Earth-Warder," chuckled Deathwing. "Of course, he's begging for death now. So, he wouldn't mind if you did."
"That is what you want, that is what they want," said Alexstrasza. "They want us all dead, so they turned all of us against each other. I never knew until now the meaning behind what the words spoken when Neltharion was granted the power over Azeroth." Tears began to flow from her eyes, splashing upon Deathwing's face. "I never knew. He was the thing that held the world together. Such a burden he had, but they picked the right dragon for the job. He was the strongest of us, not in body, but in heart, mind, and soul. The Master of the World, and all the Deep Places, those deep places was the heart. His heart. They made him the heart of Azeroth. And with every beat his heart made, Azeroth replied in kind. A rhythmic drum, now off beat because of you! By breaking his heart, you broke the heart of Azeroth, the heart of us all!" Her face softened. "Neltharion, if you can hear me in there...let me know you can hear me...you heard what I said..."
She heard the sound of a thump on the ground and turned her head. The Black Dragon's right claw tapped the ground in an uncontrollable twitch. A sign. He did hear her.
"It's not too late for you," said Alexstrasza. "Not too late. Never too late."
She lowered her chest upon Deathwing's chest.
"Feel my heart, brother," she said. "Feel it. Even if you cannot feel the heart of Azeroth anymore, at least feel mine."
Alexstrasza gasped in a sob. Once more, Deathwing had Neltharion locked inside. The only thing he could do was see, though even that was barely anything. He could hear, but the voices were once more muffled. Neltharion knew it was too good to be true. Deathwing allowed himself to let go only long enough to get the Life-Binder close. Neltharion was just bait. However, Alexstrasza was winning.
You are weak...
You are pathetic...
You are nothing...
No one cares...
No one loves...
They do not want you...
You are a puppet.
You are our puppet.
Dance for us, Neltharion!
No! Neltharion shouted from within his mind. NO!
Deathwing felt his renewed strength as the power from the Old Gods fed into him. He flipped the Red Dragon over, tossing her aside.
"We have to stop him!" shouted Thrall. "Whether or not he can be saved. It is better to just end him. End his misery."
"We will," said Kalecgos. "Don't worry."
"You are just as weak and pathetic as the Earth-Warder, Life-Binder!" Deathwing bellowed, laughing. "But you have more life in you, more defiance. He fell so easily to us. Delicious."
He pounced upon the Red Dragon and raked his claws across her chest.
Alex! Neltharion cried. No! Leave her alone! You've gone too far!
Deathwing grunted just as he felt a sharp pain inside his mind.
"Apparently speaking to you has given him a bit of your defiance as well, Life-Binder," he said.
"Good," she said. "Fight the madness, Neltharion. Fight him! Fight them! Don't let them win. You have a chance."
Neltharion let loose a bellow and began to close in on the darkness that surrounded him, his form glowing with a bright light.
"We all have a bad side, Neltharion," said Alexstrasza. "We need to accept that. Don't let its evil feed into you anymore. Fight him."
Deathwing reared in pain, his head aching. Neltharion once more fought for control over his body. This was his body, he was born to it, not Deathwing. He fell back, rearing and holding his head with his claws.
"You cannot get rid of me!" Deathwing bellowed. "I am apart of you!"
"You are only emotion, you are not my rational thoughts," said Neltharion, now taking control of his voice. "You are not me! I am. This body is mine, not yours!"
No one cares about you...
"Alex does," said Neltharion to the whispers. "Ysera does...I suppose...Kalecgos does as well. I know Malygos did."
You are weak.
"If I was, then would I be the Earth-Warder?" asked Neltharion, pitting his logic against the whispers.
You have not the power to save the world from its own destruction.
"Whatever destruction that will happen to this world will only be from your machinations, not the will of the mortals," said Neltharion. "And certainly not mine. My purpose is to stop that destruction. Even if that means I have to get rid of every single one of you slimy bastards!"
"You cannot possibly stand up against us," said Deathwing, wresting control of the Black Dragon's voice again.
"Not alone," said Neltharion. "But together. That is why were were made at the same time. To work together."
"You presume too much," said Deathwing. "You will never be together with the others. They hate you for all that you've done. We are your only company and you will die along with us."
"My misery..." Neltharion felt himself withdraw again back into the darkness. He tried. He was so tired from trying.
Thrall stood and watched the internal struggle, seeing the change in pitch the Black Dragon Aspect's voice gave off each time both personalities spoke. Deathwing's much deeper voice was grating and horrible to the ears where as Neltharion's was soft, kind, and gentle. But it was afraid, he could hear that. There really was two beings living in one body. One being, Deathwing, had the power of the Old Gods behind him and in that, he was stronger than Neltharion. Neltharion, after ten thousand years of submission and torment, had forgotten his own strength. Then, Thrall recalled the voice in his own head, the voice the Spirit of the Earth allowed him to hear when he was granted a bit of Neltharion's power for one split moment. He remembered in that instant, he did feel Neltharion as well helping him, the part of him not totally gone, the part that still fought just to exist in that metallic shell. That power was a great force indeed. Neltharion did not have the power over the earth, no, it was more than that. The Black Dragon had the power over the very ecology of the planet. He was Azeroth, its ground, it's sky, it's water, and of course, the molten core that flowed outward renewing soil so that life may grow. For Azeroth to be a planet to support life, Neltharion controlled the air around them, making it breathable. He gave water to drink for plants, for mortals as well, and used the water to mold and shape the earth. The surface of the earth was also granted by the Earth-Warder soil for which plants could be grown and cultivated. Then, for the deep places, he controlled the veins in the rocks to make sure there was resources of all sorts, plentiful so that no race fought over them. Because of that, he created peace for Azeroth. As Deathwing, he created war by taking away these gifts. That was Neltharion's base power, but then there was the power within, the power Thrall felt each time he connected to the earth. He felt he was connecting to the heart of every living being on Azeroth. He was connecting to the beating heart of the Earth-Warder.
Azeroth could go without the Steward of Magic for a little while until another one was chosen, but he feared what would happen if the Earth-Warder was killed and no one was there to take up the power. Would Azeroth itself just shatter completely? Thrall stepped forward, he knew exactly what to do. Yes, spare the Earth-Warder, but kill Deathwing. He knew how to do it. He closed his eyes and allowed himself to drift, becoming one with the Earth Spirit. He could hear the beating heart of Azeroth inside himself beating in time with his own. That was Neltharion's heart!
Neltharion...he began, trying desperately to get in contact with the struggling soul inside of Deathwing. Your heart. I can hear your heart. Listen to it as I have. I've listened to it. It is...beautiful. Strong. You are...strong. The Earth Spirit that I called upon that day...that was you. I called you. You are in me and I am in you.
Strong? Thrall caught the sound of Neltharion's own mental voice inside of his mind. No, it was not in his mind, he heard it with his heart.
Can you hear my heart beat with yours? Thrall asked.
My heart...and yours...beat together...the song, do you hear the song?
The song he knew very well. It was the song all who could connect to the earth heard. The song of Azeroth itself.
It brought me so much joy, said Neltharion.
Outside of their minds, Alexstrasza and Deathwing along with Kalecgos and Ysera continued to fight. However, both did not care, they were one in both heart and mind.
I used to hear Azeroth sing, said Neltharion. And I always had a smile on my face. Alexstrasza said I was just as merry as Malygos once, only with more snark.
Thrall allowed himself to laugh. The Earth-Warder had a sense of humor. If only Thrall had known him before the madness, before the split personality that created Deathwing. He almost saw himself just sitting down at a tavern with Neltharion and Malygos, sharing a pint and telling stories. These emotions Neltharion had, these were the emotions he wanted to get in contact with.
Then, the Old Gods whispered to me, Neltharion said, his voice growing dark. Thrall could hear the hint of sadness and the pain. They brought discord to the song. It was...awful. I cried each night. Then, I lost touch with my sisters and brothers. They did not see the change. They just thought I was being eccentric. They were blind. They...don't care about me. No one cares. I saw what the mortals were doing, and I feared for their safety for the mortals were the only ones who still cared about me. I began to see mortals as my family besides my flight. I just wanted to protect them. That's all. I didn't want them to hurt themselves. The Old Gods twisted those loving thoughts into what is now Deathwing who believes that only Black Dragons are superior. How callous he is. He turned my loving desire to protect the mortals who lived on the earth I ruled over into acts of genocide. I am so ashamed.
Don't be ashamed, said Thrall. You were doing what was best for everyone. You are right, not every mortal is wise enough to know when to quit. Sometimes what we do is harmful not only to ourselves, but to the people we love. All I wanted was to promote peace between two races because I know the follies of both. Don't listen to the Old Gods. Don't listen to the fears they give you. And don't be afraid of Deathwing. He is nothing more than a scary shadow created by the Old Gods to keep you trapped in darkness. It's time for you to awaken. As Ysera said, don't be afraid of the boogeyman. Now, let the strength of my heart and the heart of Azeroth find you, give you bravery. Do what you need to do to protect your world. You are Azeroth!
Neltharion heard the sound of the beating heart in sync with his. He could feel his strength renewing. His fears were slowly falling away. Then, he stared back at the darkness. He could hear the muffled sounds of the other Aspects as they battled Deathwing.
I am not afraid of you, he said to the darkness around him.
I am busy at the moment, insolent whelp, Deathwing growled back. Go back to your corner.
Yes, back in your corner, pet!
We grow tired of you...
Neltharion felt a swipe across his jaw as the darkness slapped him. But he did not move. He stood there as strong, as stately, as solid as the stone that made up Azeroth.
I said I AM NOT AFRAID OF YOU! Now, you will vacate my head!
With that shout, Deathwing lost control of the body just as Neltharion slashed at him. There was a horrible sound, a thousand screeches of nails upon a metallic surface. He leapt upon Deathwing and held him close. The two slowly began to merge within each other, becoming once more one mind inside of one body. There was no distinction between the two anymore. He was Neltharion again. Then, when all was silenced, Neltharion felt that he was slowly regaining control. However, unfortunately, he was in the air once more. His wings faltered and he desperately flapped them. He could not keep himself aloft. With that, he dropped like a stone.
"Alex!" he bellowed out.
Alexstrasza caught herself, realizing that was Neltharion's voice calling for her. She, Kalecgos, and Ysera all dove towards the falling Earth-Warder. Ysera reached out and took hold of his bladed, adamantine tail while Alexstrasza and Kalecgos caught him by his shoulders. They slowly eased his descent to the ground. The three dragons laid the enormous Black down onto the grass. Neltharion laid upon his back, his wings sprawled out around him. He reclined up slightly, laying his head upon a rock. His chest heaved in and out. Wounds once more continued to ooze out their lava from within his molten core. Some of the plates that were on his body were ripped off during the fight and the splits in his scales also bled.
"Deathwing is dead..." Neltharion said in finality.
"Is it true now?" Alexstrasza asked.
"Well, he was never alive to begin with," said Neltharion. "He was...just a part of me...now is apart of me, the bad part of me. Now, there is just me."
"Will you try to destroy Azeroth?"
"Why would I destroy myself?" Neltharion asked. He sighed and his eyes became downcast. "I am tired though...sad and tired."
"You think I am going to kill you," the Life-Binder began. "You are sadly mistaken. I cannot let you die, not yet, Earth-Warder. You may have been cured, but many members of your flight has not."
"They'll come around," said Neltharion. "After all, it was my madness that lead them down that path."
His face twisted and his eyes shut tightly as he felt a stinging sensation in them. He opened his eyes again and glanced upon his body, seeing the metal plates welded to his black scales. The plates on his chest split apart, revealing the dripping, burning, molten core inside. He was so bloated, so enormous he was surprised he could even move. He was by far more massive than the three other Aspects that looked upon him, his body longer, his horns bigger. But it was his mass that made him so enormous compared to them. Though some would equate his mass to power, it was more of a weakness. Like the mortals who suffered obesity, his bloated body caused him much problems, which was why he had plates welded to him. Now, all he wanted to do was rip those ugly plates from his body even if that meant he would ripping himself apart as well with the continuing expanding of his body.
"Oh, look what I've done to myself," he said. "Look. These horrible plates. My body. I used to be so...slender, graceful. I'm...fat! They did this to me. They mutilated my body!"
He slowly rose up, lifting a claw to his face to feel his metallic chin.
"What...happened to me?" he asked.
"Um, well, that metal chin," began Ysera as she lumbered over to him, propping his head up on her green-scaled shoulder. "I don't know if you remember, but a few years back after we destroyed the Demon Soul, I punched you in the jaw and broke it."
"Which is probably not the best idea to remove that brace," said Kalecgos.
Neltharion leaned against her, his breath breaking into a sob. Tears continued to flow freely from his eyes as he wept, a show of sorrow that Deathwing prevented him to have. He was not allowed to weep. Freed from Deathwing's hold, Neltharion could finally cry. Alexstrasza leaned down to inspect his body.
I can heal some of it," she said. "And have those plates removed, but I cannot heal everything."
"After all that I've done, would you want to?" Neltharion asked, focusing his now cleared, glistening green eyes on her.
"I am the Queen of Life," said Alexstrasza. "It is my duty to preserve that life, even one who has been brought back from his fall from grace. I cannot restore you to what you were once, but I can take away many of the plates you have now. For one, I can heal your chest." She turned her great head back to Thrall and Aggra. "However, I will need some help."
"Of course," said Thrall as he and Aggra approached the massive black body of Neltharion. They reached out and concentrated, combining their own energies with the Red Dragon. Alexstrasza touched his chest and then dug her claws deep under the plates. Neltharion growled as he felt the pain of the adamantine armor being ripped from his chest, allowing it to expand out fully. One by one, she tore away. The Black Dragon jerked and writhed. Ysera held onto him, laying her head on top of his, trying to comfort him. As the Great Red tore away, sparks of orange and gold flowed out from her mouth upon his body. The golden glow flowed out as well from Thrall and Aggra. The enormous gash that split Neltharion's chest wide slowly began to close up, his natural armored plates reforming over the wound. Finally, Alexstrasza let the last adamantine plate drop just as Neltharion's chest zipped up. She started working on the other plates as well, tearing them free and healing the rips in his scales. However, not all of the rips could be healed. His body was too far damaged and she was too weak to tackle it all in one go. She gasped and placed a claw on Neltharion's thick chest. The Black Dragon still wept. Ysera held him tightly, rocked him in her forelegs.
"Are you going to have good dreams tonight, big brother?" she asked.
Neltharion looked up at her, staring into her multicolored, faceted eyes. They whirled their rainbow hues in joy and delight at him. Neltharion pressed his head up against her chest, giving into his baby sister's embrace. Alexstrasza felt her own tears well up in her eyes as her bottom, scaly lip trembled. There he was, after ten thousand years of enslavement in his own body by his own fears and dark emotion, her brother had returned to her. She let loose all of her own feelings she had for him, everything and then threw herself upon his chest, wrapping her forelegs as far as they could go around it. All around her, her remaining flight dipped their heads, feeling their queen's sorrow in their own hearts.
"I've never seen dragons cry so much," said Aggra.
"After all they've been through," said Thrall. "They deserve to cry."
He turned back to Kalecgos who just stood there in silent vigil over the two female Aspects and their long lost brother.
"You're not going to join them?" he asked, walking over to the new Blue Aspect.
"Thrall, I was a whelp barely out of my egg when it was reported that Neltharion betrayed Malygos and destroyed much of our flight," said Kalecgos. "I know that is not Deathwing, but it is hard to not see him as Deathwing since that is all I've ever known. This...this will take some getting used to. I will tell the rest of my flight that the Earth-Warder has been redeemed, but, even without most of his armor, all I see is Deathwing."
"It's the chin," said Aggra with a smirk. "He'll never get rid of that chin."
"A brace to fix his broken jaw," said Kalecgos. He snorted and shook his head. "I will try to see him as Neltharion instead of Deathwing. I will try. But if he sets foot in my lands uninvited..."
"Something tells me you'll give him a good boot to the tail," said Thrall.
"A small one," said Kalecgos, turning to the orc and a toothy, sheepish grin appeared upon his snout. The smile faded when he turned back to the other three Aspects. Neltharion was tired. His eyes were closed and his face relaxed. Silvery, dried, salty lines came from his eyes and down his cheeks. He had cried himself to sleep. Ysera patted his head.
"His dreams are sad," she said. "But they are not terrifying like they used to be. One thing I would never do was visit Deathwing when he slept. He was even more terrifying asleep than he was awake. But Neltharion...such sad dreams. Regret, that is what he is feeling. Regret." She looked up at Alexstrasza just as her eyes began to close as well. "Keep an eye on him, Alex. I fear for him. Deathwing may be gone, but the emotional trauma he had caused has not. Healing the body is easy, healing his soul...that is different."
With that, she slowly lowered his head back onto the ground. Then, she nuzzled his cheek. Then, Ysera and the members of her own Dragonflight vanished in a flash of brilliant green.
"Ysera the Awakened has once more gone back to sleep," said Alexstrasza. "Just as well, she has a lot of work to do in order to fix the damage of the Emerald Nightmare."
She lifted a claw to her eye and wiped it free from her tears. Then, she looked back at Neltharion. Her head dipped down and turned towards her own flight.
"The Earth-Warder stays with us," she announced broadly. "I know many of you will protest this, but it is for the best. We can keep an eye on him, make sure that the entity that is Deathwing is completely gone. Also, we can protect him from those who would do harm to him."
"Who would do that?" asked a Red Drake.
"Deathwing's former allies," said Alexstrasza. "Without Deathwing to lead them, they will be wondering what to do next. And if they find out that he has betrayed them by becoming Neltharion again, we will have our hands full. They'll be coming for him. No doubt the Old Gods did not only speak to Deathwing, but they spoke to the others working for him. They may be informing them as we speak." She lowered her head. "I know many of you do not trust him. I understand this. But we must show him kindness...kindness that we did not show him before. We could have helped him then, we could have seen the signs of his growing madness, but we refused to. We were blind. I owe it to him at least."
There was a hesitant agreement among her flight, but at least they were satisfied that they could watch over him to make sure he behaves himself. Thrall and Aggra also nodded in agreement. It was the best thing for the Black Dragon. He would have to relearn things that he had lost after being locked away inside his own mind for so many centuries. Thrall noticed he had even the slightest bit of trouble keeping himself aloft, flailing his wings about. However, his time at Wyrm's Rest had ended. He had saved Azeroth from Deathwing at least. Still, there was much to do, other agents of the Old Gods to deal with. The Elementals for one. He walked towards Kalecgos.
"I was wondering if you would oblige Aggra and I a ride back to the Earthen Ring, Kalecgos," he said.
"Of course," said Kalecgos. "It would be an honor, friend Thrall."
"You will not stay?" asked Alexstrasza.
"There is still much I have to do, Dragon Queen," said Thrall. "Much of Azeroth needs to be healed and until the Earth-Warder is ready to take on that task, we of the Earthen Ring will have to do what we can."
He turned towards the resting body of Neltharion.
"I suppose it'll be a while before he will be ready again."
"We will do what we can to heal him," said Alexstrasza. "I thank you once more, friend Thrall. You've healed my heart when it was broken by death of my children and my mate, now, you've brought back my brother from the darkness that threatened to consume him. And with the Earth-Warder's return, there is hope for Azeroth. We are five Aspects again, strong, we can protect the world once more."
"If Nozdormu is correct," began Thrall. "You'll be back down to four again."
"Four is better than three," the Life-Binder said in a sorrowful sigh. "Neltharion was the wisest of us all. Maybe he can talk some sense into the Time Lord."
"Maybe," said Thrall. "But given how big and strong he is in his present state, giving old Nozdormu a good smack around wouldn't hurt as well."
The Dragon Queen laughed and leaned down to hold Neltharion close to her again.
"You don't know Neltharion," she said. "He was big back then, but he was also the most peaceful of us. The friendly, gentle giant, if you will. The very idea of raising a claw to anyone baffled him."
"Hard to believe that gentle giant became the embodiment of destruction," said Thrall.
Kalecgos lowered himself for Aggra to get on his back. Thrall followed her.
"I wish you well," said Alexstrasza. "And you as well, Kalecgos. You are always welcome here."
"Thank you," said Kalecgos. He dipped his head in respect and she returned the gesture. Then, he spread his enormous wings and took off, the two orcs holding onto his scales as tightly as they could.
Alexstrasza looked back down at Neltharion and held him close again. She folded a wing over his body and settled herself beside him, purring softly. Though she lost much in this war, at least she regained her brother.