Harry Potter / Warcraft Crossover. A Weapon. A Hero. And now… a loose end. Harry Potter resolves to destroy the enemies who betrayed him on his terms, only to find all his plans torn asunder when he's summoned to a new world plagued with the enemies of his own.
I don't own Harry Potter in any way. JKR has those rights... Also, Warcraft is owned by Blizzard Entertainment, etc etc.
*Author's Note *
Big update here – hope you're ready.
I recommend anyone who has enjoyed this particular story to head on over to Byakugan789's story entitled "World of Wheezes." Same concept of following the general events of the game is happening there, except in that story, it has George Weasley as the protagonist and the storyline of Warcraft 3 is turned on its head rather than World of Warcraft's level 60 content. Cannot recommend it enough… even if there aren't any blue goat women in it (one can always hope).
Regarding my lack of updates of late… I started a new job (contract) a few months back, and the hours are insane, so my writing time has been curtailed by quite a bit. Write fiction, or… hang out with the wife when I do have free time? I'm still focusing upon alternating updates between this and LSS, along with wasting time with my other unpublished stories. I saw FFX / X2 are being re-released in a bundle for the PS3, so that little plot bunny has gotten extra attention of late. No idea if it'll ever see the light of day. I may start posting an "ideas" story like many other authors just so I can get feedback on a few of them.
Updates will still be coming to all stories (nothing has been abandoned), just a tad slower than previously. All I can offer is apologies.
The soul-enslaved statues thing about Hogwarts that I mentioned in this chapter has been used in quite a few other stories. The only one I can specifically reference offhand is from "Rise of the Wizards" by Teufel1987 in chapter 30.
Inspirations: The Black Scorpion by etincelle047
Chapter First Published: 2013-09-28
Chapter Last Update:
Chapter 14 – They didn't teach that at Hogwarts
The smell was unbelievable.
Harry couldn't quite grasp how the stench somehow still managed to find a way past the bubblehead charm protections he used. The caustic vapors that seemed to stick to the inside of his sinuses like some thick paste seemed to be the only thing he could concentrate upon.
Andorhal had been razed to its very foundations. Where before there were still random houses and businesses that had half the walls present and even occasional second floors still intact, now the entire city was a mess of smoldered wreckage and pits that represented the stone foundations of former buildings. Ysondre and Onyxia had done their job well. Too well in fact.
The ever-present smog of decay that seemed to linger within the Plaguelands was actually overpowered by the massive black plume that had risen into the sky. It had sent a message for dozens of miles in every direction that something had just happened here. The group would have easily agreed to vacate the region immediately; if it wasn't for the fact their earlier flights above the city had identified a Lich at the center of the town.
Sylvanas had been adamant that they destroy whoever this Lich was, because they would be able to return to 'life' and report what happened once it had self-restored itself to a body. It was an extremely remote chance that the mindless 'grunt' undead would've been able to send nebulous images and messages back to the Lich King, but the Lich that was present here would possess the primary and most powerful psychic connection in the region back to their monster of a leader. Their group needed to remain under the radar for as long as possible while they travelled in Scourge territory, so this Lich had to go.
"How exactly does one destroy a phylactery again?" asked Jessir as she weaved between wreckage in the street that still smoldered with heat.
Sylvanas, who led the expedition quickly and silently to that point, turned around, "I believe we must simply destroy the container and set fire to the contents inside."
To Harry, they sounded like Horcruxes, yet were just slightly different. They weren't magically fortified and enchanted objects with a part of a soul bound to it. These Phylacteries were objects that contained 'something' which was an anchor to an entire soul and would eventually reform a body for the owner. Either way, it made little difference to Harry what the slight subtleties between the two kinds of cursed objects and what would and would not destroy them.
…Fiendfyre would always cure what ailed him.
It was the one pure Dark Arts spell he had no moral quandary about using casually. At this point Harry didn't even really believe it was all that dark. The spell required one thing, and one thing only besides raw power. Control. If you didn't have control in spades, it was essentially a suicide spell for you and anyone within five hundred yards of the spell's epicenter.
"I have a spell that will definitely destroy it if the Dragon Fire didn't. Let's just find it so we can get out of here," said Harry.
They all knew vaguely where they wanted to go, and they followed the now empty thoroughfares to the center of town. Harry tried to envision what this town must have looked like before the Scourge had conquered it. He envisioned a thirteenth century European city, with knights in full regalia on patrol while he casually viewed the windows of quaint shops as he passed through town.
Then the image of what it was now replaced the dream. Death, decay, and desolation.
They finally reached the center of once great city. There, they found the fountain that had been visible from the air. Blackened bones of random Scourge could be found everywhere around it, and they all seemed centered around one point. Arko led the way, as she cautiously used her sword to shift the immolated piles of dead… undead.
"This is disgusting," she eventually said aloud.
"I know," said Anya as the group watched the Elf sift through the carcasses. "Imagine being around dead bodies all day long. Oh, wait…"
Harry couldn't help but snort at the look of embarrassment on Arko's face. Anya was definitely in a class of her own amongst the Forsaken. Most seemed to have purposefully deadened their emotions, but Anya seemed to not believe a day had been successful if she hadn't insulted or made at least half the people she interacted with uncomfortable.
"Sorry," said Arko.
"Ignore her," said Sylvanas as she glared at Anya, who didn't look bothered for a moment. "Just hurry up, as most of us would actually rather avoid sifting through that pile of corpses ourselves. Though I believe Anya may have just volunteered to do so with her bare hands."
"Oh?" said her lead Dark Ranger, who then turned to stare up at the sky. "Nah, I'd rather watch our backs for the incoming Scourge swarm that'll be here any minute because of the fire column that's miles in the air."
"For the last time, we're sorry," said Ysondre, without any hint of remorse in her statement. Harry almost cackled at what wasn't said there. Ysondre and Onyxia had acted like hyperactive five year olds after they had been allowed to play with that much fire. He would need to remember that for the future if they ever needed to be cheered up. Just find a town or enemy fortress to set ablaze.
"Either way, let's see if we can't hurry up at all," said Harry as he started to float the searched corpses together into a pile to be burned. "I'd really like to get out of Scourge Central here."
"The entire territory is essentially 'Scourge Central'," said Anya.
Sylvanas visibly grit her teeth, "Must you try and rile me up as well?"
"Always, My Lady," said Anya with a very cheerful smile.
Ten minutes later, Arko reeled back after she had just kicked over a particular 'juicy' corpse.
"I think I found it."
It was a true figurative and literal 'soul jar'. The highly ornate and rune encrusted mithril and gold container was no bigger than Harry's fist, but gave off an evil aura that made the hair on Harry's neck stand on end now that it was visible to the group.
"Harry, you said you had a spell that could take care of this?" asked Sylvanas.
"Yeah, everyone get a good distance behind me," he said as he himself backed up. He levitated the soul jar a bit away from the pile of corpses, and dropped it in the middle of the road.
He turned around to ensure everyone was a safe distance before performed a complex series of wand movements and yelled out, "Fiendfyre!"
The familiar white orange flames burst from his wand and formed into a miniature dragon that pounced upon the ground once before it jumped and crashed into the phylactery. Harry grit his teeth with the effort of containing the spell within the small area around the jar. He let the flames feed on a roughly three meter circle around the jar for roughly a minute before he mentally crushed the sentient will behind the flames. The fire gave its usual resistance and attempted to flee its master, but Harry had long since learned how to dominate the primordial instincts that ruled this conflagration.
After a few moments, the cursed inferno vanished from existence, which left nothing more than molten slag upon the ground. There was no sign of the phylactery, and no sense of evil remaining in the area.
'Well relative evil,' he thought to himself while he rolled his eyes. 'I don't think I've ever been surrounded by more evil than I am right now.'
"That's the same spell you used on the corpse of Nefarian, right?" asked Disidra as he returned to the group. After he nodded, she looked at the incinerated patch of ground and said, "The spirits reared back from that spell. They were afraid of it. So much so that if that were a patch of forest, I'm sure it would take hundreds of years for life to even think of returning to it."
Harry looked at her, then looked at the rest of the group. Many watched the distance for enemies, but all occasionally glanced at the blackened ground with a bit of apprehension.
"It's cursed fire. The flames of hell. It doesn't feed on normal things that fire would use to sustain itself, like wood and oxygen. It feeds on one fuel only. Magic. It's even somewhat sentient. Once it's created, it has one purpose: To destroy the one who brought it into being."
"Then why use such a thing?" asked Sylvanas as she approached
"Because nothing magical can survive it. And it's safe so long as you have the mental control and power to subjugate it and snuff it from existence once it's done what you want."
"So more dangerous than Dragon Fire and would gladly turn on you and kill you if you don't control it?" Arko summed up for those who were still listening.
"Yep," said Harry eloquently.
"Good, that's all I needed to know."
Sylvanas nodded, took one more look at the ground before she raised her voice, "Alright everyone, we're done here. We're heading to the Isle of Darrow next. The Scholomance is still the Scourge's primary training ground for necromancers beyond the facilities found in Icecrown. We're going to loot what we can and then purge what remains."
"What route shall we take, M'lady?" asked Anya, all business now that the group was ready to move out.
"Head south. We destroyed the bridges, but we should still be able to cross there if we're careful. If anything else, we'll ask our mage friend to freeze the river for us."
The Scholomance was a school of Necromancy founded by the banished Kirin Tor mage Kel'thuzad. Located within the depths of the Keep of Caer Darrow, it was surrounded by thick walls as well as natural defenses. The fortress was formerly an outpost at a somewhat strategic point within the region before it became known as the Plaguelands. It sat in silent vigil upon an island within Darrowmere Lake, which provided a military presence for the Kingdom of Lordaeron between the Mountains of Alterac to the South, the civilian city of Andorhol to the west, and entrance to Eastern Lordaeron, which was now called the Eastern Plaguelands.
Disidra felt even more uncomfortable within these Plaguelands than she had on her excursion to her people's former sanctuary of Draenor when she had gone there with her Guild all those months ago. The spirits of Draenor were angry, vengeful at what the Orcs had done to their world. The planet had responded to the unnatural attempts to control it by striking back at its foes, and the spirits had nearly destroyed all life in their efforts to fight the Orc Warlocks. Here though, the spirits were quiet. Quiet not because they were calm and at peace, but quite because of fear. The very spirits of the land quailed in terror at the forces that had been arrayed against them in this land.
Enemies she now fought as well.
She found the last two weeks of travel with the forces of the Forsaken to be very interesting. It was completely unlike what she had expected when she initially heard they would conduct operations with the Horde to make strikes against the Lich King. That meeting in Orgrimmar was one of the most stressful things she had experienced in her life.
At first, the primary concern and focus of her mind was full-blown paranoia. Undead were something that all Draenei feared. They had faced the undead in numerous conflicts across the cosmos. They were a preferred psychological weapon that the Nathrezim had long used against their enemies on countless worlds where the Legion could not bring the full-brunt of its armies to bear. Her people had destroyed untold legions of mindless undead in the past. But this was the first time her people had encountered victims of the Legion's various plagues that had regained their minds.
She inadvertently looked to her right, and silently glanced at the Dark Ranger who had fought alongside her for at least a dozen skirmishes against wild and roaming Scourge. Kalira was an enigma, who she had happily taken on the challenge to figure out. Like most of her compatriots, the undead Ranger was almost fanatically loyal to Sylvanas. Kalira seemed to have a more practical reason that extended beyond the simple act of saving her from bondage and servitude to the Lich King, but the woman would not elaborate. It had something to do with her life before they Scourge had wiped out her people, but beyond that Disidra could not say.
Either way, despite a distinct reluctance to talk of her past, the woman had become a good travel partner. Far better than any random person Disidra had fought alongside while in her former Guild. The other Forsaken were just as personable as Kalira, it was only getting past their exteriors which was difficult, but one by one they fell.
Kalira noticed her occasional glances, and asked about it, "Does something vex you, Earthcaller Stormglory?"
Disidra shook her head, "I've told you before, call me Disa." She walked a few more steps before she spoke again, "And no… nothing vexes me per se. Just thinking about where we are now, who were with, and whether or not six months ago if I would have believed I would be here now."
The Dark Ranger nodded, "I too have thought the same. Not really from the presence of yourself or the Night Elves. Even Harry isn't that difficult to ponder. Fighting alongside Dragons though, that is another thing entirely."
Disidra couldn't help but chuckle over that, "It certainly has been interesting. Especially Onyxia. I never would've dreamed we'd fight alongside her. The talk we had to gain an alliance with her initially was the scariest thing I've ever done. I would have never dreamed the great Wyrm we thought would set us afire is the same blonde woman up there. She's even doing her best to corrupt Ysondre. I was a bit disturbed by her cackling after she set fire to that Graveyard south of Andorhal."
Kalira actually shuddered at the memory, which made Disidra laugh a bit louder. Kalira narrowed her eyes and glared at the Shaman without any real heat behind it. "She's the antithesis of everything I've ever heard about the Greens. They're supposed to be peaceful. Nurturing. And the first I finally meet in my long years that is a pyromaniac."
"I think she just doesn't like the idea of mindless subservience that the Scourge represents," Disidra said in an effort to correct the assumption on Kalira's behalf. "All the Dragons are still quite wary of Deathwing's actions in the distant path with the Demon Soul. The idea of having your essence tied to such an object absolutely enrages them. I believe the mere concept of the existence of the Scourge hits very close to that open wound. Instead of their souls and magic tied to an object… they're tied and enslaved to their own bones."
They continued in silence for another fifteen minutes or so. It had been three days since they had traversed the river south of Andorhol and headed directly east. The path they had chosen to reach the Scholomance had mostly been quiet, and Disidra spent most of her time in observation of her companions.
Most of the Dark Rangers remained on near constant alert, which told Disidra a bit about how much peril they must still be in despite the relative quietness and proximity to the generally neutral region of Alterac to the south, which they had drawn closer and closer to. Onyxia, Ysondre, and Arko were at the front of the column, simultaneously acting as the group's spearhead and laughing uproariously amongst themselves about something. All sense of stealth was lost with those three at the front, though with two Dragons present, the stealth probably wasn't needed.
Harry was in the middle. He had been unusually quiet since Andorhal. In fact, if she could recall, he had taken a back seat to many of their dealings since he assassinated the guards on the ramparts of the Monastery. He had offered occasional advice and help, but for the most part, he had remained rather aloof.
She narrowed her eyes at his face. His eyebrow furrowed in intense concentration, and she guessed that he was doing something magically that she simply could not sense. She turned to Kalira, and noticed that she too watched the Human. She returned her gaze to Harry, and finally caught a hint at what he was doing.
The shadows around him pulsed deeper and darker for an instant every five or so seconds.
"What is he doing?" Kalira asked quietly from her side.
"I'm not sure," she responded, quite lost herself. "I've never seen him use his shadow abilities except for back at the Monastery. He's talked about them once or twice, but I've yet to personally witness any more than you have. I would think he's either practicing something, maybe for training… or that pulse of shadows somehow senses things nearby with how often he does it."
Kalira nodded hesitantly, obviously not sure if either suggestion was the true one. Disidra turned her gaze back to the area surrounding them. The ever-present fog and mists truly made almost all of the lands appear similar to others here.
"Any idea on how much further this place is?"
Kalira seemed relieved for the return to a subject she was at least familiar with, "We have travelled three days east from Andorhal at a good pace. I would think we should be seeing something soon. If we do not wander right past it in these mists."
The words were prophetic. Not thirty minutes later, they encountered a sturdy stone bridge that extended from the southern edge of the lake they had followed out into the middle of the body of water. Disidra had suggested the group utilize her abilities to grant water-walking to her allies, but no one knew if any Scourge horrors lurked just beneath the surface of the lake. The bridge was a known variable. A chokepoint and potential trap, assuredly. But the water's safety was completely unknown.
Slowly they crossed the bridge. At one point, it must have been an impressive structure. But years of neglect were upon it, and the ever-present mists in the air gave it an even worse worn and decrepit feeling. If it held any adornments or regalia, they were long worn away through the sands of time.
Disidra felt the island they approached had a definite theme to it as they reached the shores. Their departure from the apparently safe bridge segued their emotions directly into trepidation as they stared at an equally decrepit gate, which showed obvious signs of warfare. Half of the large structure was torn down, while the other half had rusted in place halfway open.
The spirits were… tired here. As if they had toiled long and simply wished to leave.
"Hello?" she heard Harry suddenly say.
The group watched as Harry walked off on his own to the side of the gate to the long destroyed keep. He repeated, louder than the first time, and seemed to speak to nothing, "Hello? My name is Harry Potter. Can you tell me what happened here?"
The group as a whole seemed to be completely confused by what was happening except for Anya, "Is he seeing ghosts like he did back in the Ruins of Lordaeron? How he could see the spirits of the slaughtered civilians in Lordaeron Ruins that we couldn't?"
"It's possible," said Sylvanas quietly. "It's rare that anyone can naturally see or sense those spirits."
Harry interrupted their musings with his return, "They're in a state of confusion. There are two ghosts there… guards of some sort by the way they were dressed. They keep talking and reacting like they're still alive, and they think it's all one specific day. They keep talking about a visit from someone named Uther."
"Uther the Lightbringer," said Sylvanas with a bit of distaste. "One of the strongest paladins of the Order of the Silver Hand. He was one of Arthas' teachers, and Arthas murdered him in return. That was nearly six and half years ago, near the very start of the war."
"Problem with him?" Harry asked.
"The Silver Hand certainly talked big, but in the end they betrayed both my peoples. Both Silvermoon and the Forsaken have no love for their organization after their crimes against us."
Sylvanas walked off, and most of the party followed. Disidra watched as Harry stared after Sylvanas' form in quiet confusion as the Banshee Queen retreated further into the ruins of the fortress, then followed, which left Disidra alone with Kalira.
"Crimes?" Disidra asked her companion.
The undead Ranger winced visibly at the statement, "Not crimes per se by the entire organization, but their leadership earned the Lady's ire through their inaction and willingness to purposefully ignore things inconvenient to them."
The two started to follow the group up the hill towards the keep. Disidra could tell that Kalira was only silent due to lack of a way to convey the story she wanted to tell.
"There was a Human, Grand Marshal Garithos. He was part of a small contingent assigned to protect southern Quel'Thalas and Eastern Lordaeron from the Orcs in the Second War. Through his own ineptitude, a large band of Orcs circumvented his rather poorly designed blockade and made it to a Human settlement that was supposedly safe. Garithos' family was there and were all slaughtered."
It took Disidra a moment to realize how the situation might be misconstrued. "He blamed the Elves, I take it? The Orcs originally targeted the Elves, so he blamed them for the actions of the enemies he couldn't stop."
Kalira nodded. The group as a whole had stopped before the gates of the island's keep. Apparently, it had once belonged to a highly respected family known as the Barov's. A few members had escaped the Scourge occupation of the island, but most apparently were murdered or actually joined the Cult of the Damned. Harry, Sylvanas, and Jessir were playing with a lock on a gate that barred access to the catacombs beneath them. Harry was quite insistent he check the area for wards and protections before they simply barged in.
"Garithos was a fair representation of many of the individual species of this world," continued Kalira as the expedition slowly watched Harry check for magical and mundane protections upon the area. "Bigoted to the core. The Alliance that formed to fight the Orcs in the Second War apparently had a secondary goal not known to the allies partnered to the Humans. The slow elevation of Humans above the rest of us. The loss of the Human settlement set back their plans to spread their territory and influence along the southern borders of Quel'Thalas, and like usual, they blamed the Non-Humans for the incompetence of their own species that they insisted should be in charge of the war effort."
"Despite his failings, the Humans still managed to push forth a Peerage for him, and he gained control over a large portion of Eastern Lordaeron. When the Scourge came, he showed his true colors. With the living Humans he could find, he banded them together into a group meant solely for the protection of Humans and no others. He eventually was forced to join with groups of surviving Blood Elves for his own survival when his group suffered massive losses, but he never allowed them to battle unless he could use them as diversions to allow his own men to escape. He betrayed my former people, and cost us one of our greatest leaders, Kael'thas to frustration and eventual madness and betrayal."
"In the end, Garithos betrayed one too many people. Garithos asked to partner with Sylvanas and the Forsaken as they retook the Capital city in exchange for his dominion over Lordaeron itself. His duplicity and plans to then exterminate the Forsaken was so transparent to all of us it was sickening. He would have had us all exterminated on a whim after we had elevated him to rule over his new dominion. Once the final fight was over, Sylvanas ordered him and the rest of the Humans that were allied with the Forsaken put to death."
Disidra felt a bit sick, not at the double-cross, but mainly from the fact that Harry was Human, and the target of such obvious hidden hatred from those she had thought as her allies. She was about to speak, when Kaliran interrupted her, "Do not worry for your friend Harry. Word was spread as we left, that it was he who discovered the Legion's plots against us. He, along with Jaina Proudmoore, are likely the only Humans who will ever be treated with respect by my people."
A screeching noise caught their attention. Harry had stepped back from the massive faux-iron gate that was actually composed of magically reinforced Human bones. The gates that barred the entrance to the Scholomance, the Cult of the Damned's School of Necromancy, had been opened.
"I can't believe there's no one guarding this place," said Harry quietly as they descended into the Darkness.
He felt like he was in the bowels of Hogwarts, and around the next corner they might find a stairway that led two flights up to Snape's Potion lessons. He had rarely visited the true bowels of the school. There were storage rooms and other oddities down there, and even as he watched the Marauder's map on occasion out of boredom, he rarely saw anyone venture down into those often unlit and abandoned levels.
"The dead don't need eyes, Harry," said Sylvanas as they all stood upon a massive walkway that extended out above a crypt and led further into the subterranean catacombs. Suddenly, Sylvanas stopped and looked quickly around. "I can sense the Scourge that surround us moving rapidly. Be prepared to be swarmed!"
Afterwards, he realized the Scourge had been alerted to their infiltration when someone had looked over the side of the walkway and tried to discern what lay at the depths below them. 'Easy mistake to make, in all honestly. Its dark, and all their foes had to do was look up,' he thought.
"Stand fast!" shouted Jessir as the group began to get restless at the sound of what seemed like hundreds of footsteps approaching. "Rangers, line the edges of the walkway. Be careful to limit your attack profile to the area below us. Don't get a knife in the back from below."
Sylvanas' troops obeyed without question, and each took aim at the doorway where everyone knew their foes would approach from.
"Arko, Onyxia, Ysondre," Jessir barked again. "Get in front of the first archers and protect them. Don't get in their line of fire though. Harry, Disidra. Get in the rear-center and attack from range. Healers, back everyone up!"
The swarm appeared moments later.
The mass of undead and their living masters appeared from the next room. They had to traverse a set of stairs single-file to reach the door at the top, and the expedition used this bottleneck to their advantage. The Dark Rangers mowed down target after target, while Harry and Disidra threw controlled blasts of pure fire at the remains on the floor to deny the obviously hidden Necromancers the ability to use their powers to reconstitute the undead.
Their foes were mostly comprised of skeletons. Some were completely naked, without armor or weapons and only had the capability to claw their opponents. Others wore full battle armor and wielded long rusted claymores. The only thing that distinguished them from a normal Human soldier were the exposed joints where their bones could be seen, and the glowing red ember-like eyes that could be seen between the gaps of their helmet visors.
It was tedious, and mindless. The undead showed no cunning, and the Necromancers from the Cult of the Damned were smart enough to stay out of line of sight while they continued to raise the fallen back up to the offensive. This process continued for nearly twenty minutes, with the expedition becoming more and more weary, when the one of the Scourge's big guns decided to appear.
It smashed through the wall directly to the left of the doorway, and Harry could easily see that it had impaled and killed two living Necromancers without care as the wall exploded outwards. It was a monstrous skeletal construct made of multiple beings, and Harry wondered if most of the bones had come from Ogres and large fanged predators.
Arko met it first, but all she managed to do was raise a shield just quick enough to avoid a gruesome death. The force of the impact crushed the shield inwards, and the force sent her a full ten meters backwards and nearly over the edge of the walkway. She managed to grip the walkways edge with one hand while she screamed in agony as the imploded shield was still attached to her now broken arm.
Jessir and Sylvanas dove to save the Elf, while Disidra ran forward and slammed her hand down onto the ground. As she raised it, one of her Earthen Totems rose from the ground, and a massive Earth Elemental spirit formed from loose rock and debris around them. It charged forward and drew the primary attention of the skeletal behemoth, while the undead monstrosity used its two additional pairs of arms to swipe at Ysondre and Onyxia.
The Rangers at this point had changed all of their attacks to ranged explosive arrows, but every time a chunk of the monstrosity was blown away, it would almost instantly reform.
"There's a Necromancer behind the wall reforming it!" shouted Onyxia as she dove for cover between strikes.
"I'm on it," shouted Harry. He apparated past the Skeletal beast, and cast a Bombarda and a shield the moment he appeared. The Necomancer barely had a chance to turn her head and open her eyes in alarm before her body exploded into half a dozen chunks. Harry was about to apparate back when a massive broadside slammed into his back and he felt himself tumble down the stairs to the room below.
He heard a distant shout of "Harry!" but he didn't have time to focus on his allies. He dizzily looked up to see half a dozen ghouls sprint towards him from the stairs he just fell down and the room he was now trapped within.
Skeletons didn't bother him. Neither did undead zombies that still mostly looked human, except for the grunts and the way they shambled listlessly. In fact that always slightly disturbed him than anything else. Definitely no real fear involved.
Ghouls, though… Ghouls scared the living crap out of him.
Ghouls were mutated undead who had somehow reacted badly to the Plague. The biggest and most noticeable feature that stood out about them was they were still…juicy. They had one purpose to their existence in undeath, to consume the flesh of the living just like a zombie from some bad B-Movie Harry had seen as a child and given him nightmares for days.
He didn't have the time to concentrate on Fiendfyre, and with the way his back ached, he doubted he would have the mental control to survive it. He launched Incendio after Incendio at the Ghouls as they ran near. He augmented the flames with conjured oil to fling at them, and quickly apparated to the middle of the large room to avoid being cornered.
With a bit of breathing space, he glanced around. There were spectre's and phantasm's at the outer walls, but they seemed hesitant to join the battle. The other inhabitant of the room, which he distantly realized was some sort of library, was an incredibly tall Succubus, which now viewed him as if he were a hearty meal.
"Well well. It's not often a delicacy so fine comes to me willingly these days," she purred as she started to walk forward. Her hoofed feet clunked loudly over the sound of battle from above and the ghoul's groans. "Your energy will be enough to feed me for months."
Harry started to back up, despite the knowledge there were phantasms behind him. The Succubus, who Harry belatedly realized was almost fully nude, unhooked a large bullwhip from her purely ornamental belt and cracked it in his direction.
Hours of training at the hands of the Goblins had honed Harry's spatial awareness to a razor's edge. He could hear the crack of whip not two feet in front of him as he backed up. He could hear the groans and murmurs of the ghouls as they approached roughly five meters to right and behind him, and he could hear the shimmer and distant muffled sound of the phantasms ten meters to his direct left.
He was about to charge the Succubus when he heard a shout from behind him, "Harry!"
Arko had stormed the room, eyes wild with rage. With no thought whatsoever to her own safety, she charged the ghouls that neared Harry. With their attention occupied, Harry was able to focus upon the phantasm's and the oversexed Succubus in front of him.
He let his wand return to his holster after a quick curse was fired at the ground to blind the demon, and then he reached back for his sword. Absentmindedly, he realized he had still never thought of a good name for the sword. Every time he thought of a name, he realized it described either Tonks or Susan, but he could never determine a name that was fitting to describe both. He felt that was a necessary requirement to the name, simply because the sword contained runes empowered by both of their Magics.
The only thing that both had in common were that they were lost to him, and that was not a theme he wanted the sword to have.
With the succubus otherwise occupied for a few moments, he turned to charge the phantasm's. A sword by itself would have no effect upon the non-corporeal beings, but the enchantments within caused unholy screams of agony from the malevolent spirits.
The phantasms were short ranged fighters, and Harry knew that going toe-to-toe with them while he used a sword played right into their hands, but he unfortunately couldn't remember any spirit banishing charms at the moment that would be effective upon the entire group. Every one of which was a single target spell, and each took time and preparation for, none of which he had now.
The use of his sword against these particular foes wasn't perfectly ideal though. Non-corporeal foes weren't a usual foe for him, and he found himself over-extended on his swings on numerous occasions. The ghosts were able to get past his guard twice and deliver blows with their spectral hands and claws to his arms. He grit his teeth through the icy pain that followed and pushed on.
But each time the claws raked his arms, he could feel the life stolen from him. His breath was suddenly short, and the sword far heavier than he had felt it other than after a multi-hour training session.
When the last phantasm fell, he turned to wonder why the Succubus had not attacked him as well, only to see it breath its last few death rattles while spread-eagled upon the ground, surrounded by dozens of arrows. The rest of the expedition had made it into the room, and lined the upper stairs to shower death down upon the enemies that remained in the room.
Harry quickly found himself surrounded by healers as the Dark Rangers spread out and secured the room.
"Nothing broken," said Kudrii when she finished her examination. Then she shifted into a position eerily reminiscent of Hermione when she told him off for his stupidity long ago, "Mind explaining why you didn't simply apparate back up to the group when you regained your footing?"
Harry blinked at the question, and smiled sheepishly, "Uh… I forgot."
An armored fist with the force of a pile driver slammed into the top of his head at that statement. He actually saw stars as he was brought to his knees. The body attached to the fist then quickly hugged him and spoke in his ear, "I thought you would've been bitten by those ghouls when I saw you tumble down the stairs."
He opened his eyes to see the blue hair of Arko in his face, and knew her heavy-handed reaction was due more from the downward spiral of adrenaline when she charged into the room to save him than from any real anger she had with him.
"Sorry, but we were getting bogged down by that skeleton thing. I had to do something."
Footsteps on the stone floor marked Sylvanas' approach, "Try and be a bit more careful in the future, Mr. Potter. I would still like to see you live long enough to see if your conjectures on ways to restore my people to life prove themselves true. Dying here would be counter to that."
Harry nodded as he was appropriately chastised for his Gryffindor'ish behavior. He looked around the room, and transfigured the hallway that led further into the catacombs closed. The arch bricked itself over slowly and with random clinks of rock on rock.
As quite a few people noticed him do this, he explained, "That's the only way in or out, right?" At the nods of confirmation he received, he continued, "That means we can set up a base camp here and slowly move forward. Judging by how many books are here, we'll want to collect as much as we can before we move forward just in case something gets by and destroys all this."
Onyxia snorted, then grumbled "More information gathering."
Jessir was quick to comment, "Yes, Nixy. We all are well aware you could firebomb this entire tomb along with Ysondre. It would also mean we'd lose any information on the plague they have here, as well as any troop movement information their leadership here may have."
Harry left the girls to squabble over the pros and cons of setting the complex on fire and went over to one of the tables where the members of the Cult of the Damned had recently 'studied'. A few tomes and scrolls were laid out upon it, and Harry opened one up to read.
'A Treatise Upon Airborne Pathogen Dispersal' by Professor Pontificus Putricide.
Harry knew there likely wouldn't be anything in that document of interest to him, he opened the next:
'House-Breaking Your Pet Ghoul For Dummies.'
Harry couldn't throw that one back on the table fast enough. Finally, he reached for the last one there, which was an orange-colored book.
'Icha Icha: Zombie Style. They keep loving till their parts fall off.'
Without a second thought, Harry threw the book on the ground and pointed his wand at it to launch an incendiary spell. Before he could do that, Anya placed a hand on his shoulder, "Harry, what are you doing?"
Harry stopped, looked up, and quickly said, "This book shouldn't exist," before he ran over to Disidra, who hopefully had found a few safer topics to peruse.
'Just what kind of school was this?' Harry thought as he retreated.
The rest of the crypt was relatively uneventful to purge of the Scourge and Cult of the Damned presence. The swarm that had initially attacked the group represented the bulk of the forces within the complex, and the only ones that remained deeper within the catacombs were the local Scourge leadership and their personal guards and experiments. Almost all were apprehended without killing them, which meant more prisoners to interrogate for the folks back in Undercity.
The only member of the Scourge leadership that was purposefully put down without any attempt to capture him was Lich named Ras Frostwhisper. It was unfortunate that this Lich's Phylactery was not stored on his person, like Andorhal's Lich had stupidly done. Sylvanas had instead chosen to disembody the Lich and then clear the room of all possible bones, which would stall the Lich's reconstitution. Harry had mentioned that his former school used enchantments and Runes to keep Ghosts out of certain areas, and with twenty minutes of effort, Frostwhisper was ultimately bound eternally to his lab, which was then bricked over with transfigured bricks to permanently seal him within.
Ultimately, five prisoners were deemed worthy of the loving care of Undercity's interrogators: The prize catches were three undead members of the Barov family who originally owned the Keep. They would be able to provide information on just how the Scourge had originally taken control of the island and any infiltration methods that were originally used.
After that, there was a homicidal mad-man, who apparently was a cross between a lab assistant and a serial killer. Doctor Theolen Krastinov, according to Anya, had been a notorious fugitive of justice for years, known throughout all of the Eastern Kingdoms. Somehow he had been willingly recruited by the Scourge, and he used the opportunity to torture test subjects while experiments were performed upon them.
Then there was the 'Headmaster' of the school. A mummified corpse whose primary weapon was a staff with a glowing purple demonic skull on top.
'Dude's as creepy as Dumbledore,' thought Harry as he looked at last prisoner who had yet to be sent back to Forsaken's capital city.
"Ah, Sylvanas. The Master will be so happy to see you again. And you're heading in his direction, aren't you? How considerate of you to speed up your reunion," said Darkmaster Gandling in an oily voice. It reminded Harry of the one time as a child his Uncle Vernon had taken them to buy Aunt Marge a new car, and the used car salesman had spoken in the same kind of voice.
"I doubt his forked tongue will produce words so crooked after a few sessions with Clea," said Sylvanas, who did not even deign to acknowledge the goading of prisoner.
She gestured at the prisoner while she looked at Harry. He understood, and casually tossed the last contact portkey at the School of Necromancy's Headmaster. The traitorous former Human disappeared in a flash, which left the expedition as the only occupants of the Scholomance.
"Should we check in soon with Undercity and see if there's any new information from the Crusader prisoners?" asked Harry as he picked up a few pieces of equipment he had previously taken out to take readings of the magic present.. He would always take time in this new world to test for ward schemes and enchantments. Thus far he had been rather disappointed. "I can have a few of us portkeyed there and back within minutes."
Jessir and Sylvanas turned to each other, and it was a credit to how well the two worked together that no words were exchanged, only the subtlest of nods and shakes of their heads.
Sylvanas then turned back to Harry, "I would like to check in soon, but not right now. Let us make some progress away from this place and find a safe refuge in the wilderness somewhere. Then we'll worry about whatever intelligence the interrogators have gathered."
Harry smirked, "I should've portkeyed some of torture stuff the Crusaders used to Undercity. Would've been nice to use their own equipment on them."
Sylvanas actually smiled at the thought, which Harry found sexy and disturbing at the same time. The smile was simultaneously wistful and sadistic, but did not last long before she turned back to the group as a whole.
"Are all the books from the library that you wanted stowed?" she asked Disidra.
The Draenei shaman nodded and held up a shrunken trunk that Harry had provided her. "All of it's in here."
The Banshee Queen nodded, and looked to Harry. "Are your bombs placed?"
"Yep, will be just as big an explosion as the Andorhal bridges were, and we can detonate from a few miles away for safety. 'Ole Frostwhisper won't even feel a tremble as the place falls down around him."
"Excellent , I don't want that Lich released anytime soon.. Are we ready to move?" she asked Anya.
"Good, let's move out. I don't wish to be caught on the main roads into the Eastern Plaguelands, so we'll take a shortcut."
"A shortcut?" asked Disidra. "You'll have to explain, we aren't as familiar with the geography here."
"Our next stop is Stratholme, a city Northeast of here. It has a Scourge and Scarlet Crusade presence. The entire city was infected with the Plague, and Arthas did a half-ass job of killing the inhabitants before he truly turned traitor. The problem is, the only road through the Eastern Plaguelands runs three hundred miles east before it turns north and comes back west to Stratholme."
"Okay, so Eastern Plaguelands road…. Takes us two weeks at a somewhat hard pace. Longer if we conserve our strength," said Arko.
"..and we're exposed and out in the open the entire time squarely in the middle of Scourge held territory," added Jessir. "Not to mention those Scarlet fanatics and their additional bases in the region."
Sylvanas nodded. "Which is why we won't go around the mountain range that the road was built to go around. We'll go under it."
Harry felt himself shudder, as he remembered the line from a muggle book he had once read. That was not a reminder he needed at a time like this. "Are you sure this shortcut is safe?"
"The tunnel was only known by members of the Ranger Corp and Farstriders, which I once commanded. None are now left with the Scourge. It was a secret path that we long ago created to traverse Lordaeron and avoid the Humans on the main roads."
They were about to depart the lowest levels of the catacombs for the surface, when one of Sylvanas' Dark Rangers ran into crypt they had gathered in to meet.
"Lady Sylvanas!" the Ranger shouted as she emerged from the side tunnel.
The group's attention turned to the woman. "Ranger Loralen, Report."
The blonde Ranger, one of the few who didn't compulsively wear their hoods up, spoke without hesitation or acknowledgement of all the eyes upon her.
"We were searching the Headmaster's quarters a final time for hidden alcoves or other secrets, when we found something. M'Lady,. I believe you'll want to handle this in person."
Sylvanas' eyes narrowed, and she glanced at Jessir. Harry felt a bit of pride every time he saw that happen. By all accounts, Sylvanas Windrunner, was one of the most powerful and intimidating beings on this planet, and she now constantly cast subtle glances and inquiries towards Jessir before she made decisions.
"What have you found," asked the Banshee Queen as she pushed off from the wall she had leaned against.
"An undead prisoner in a secret passage."
"Scourge?" asked Sylvanas.
"No, and not Forsaken either. Non-aligned and not handing her current situation well."
Harry winced. He could well imagine someone not adjusting to their involuntary after-life while still constrained to the mortal plane of Azeroth. The woman apparently was lucky enough not to be enslaved to the Scourge, though if she was a prisoner here, the local necromancers were obviously up to something with her.
"Let's go speak with her then before we leave and see what she knows," said Sylvanas. She stopped and turned to Harry. "You're negotiating skills and flat out blind luck when you speak with new people is becoming legendary. I want you to come along with to see if she has any useful information that won't require an interrogation to extract."
Harry nodded, and followed. The rest of the group came along as well, though a few Rangers broke off at periodic points and assumed temporary guard duties. No one was taking any chances when they were almost done with this place.
The main group that escorted Sylvanas to the prisoner cells spread out once they reached the Headmaster's quarters. This particular Headmaster's quarters were nothing like Dumbledore's quirky room which was designed to keep people off kilter as he gazed at them magisterially from his throne-like chair that was set higher than all other chairs in the room. This room was straight out of some midlevel despot's wet dream. Iron Maidens, dark artifacts. The entire room gave him the shivers.
The previously hidden secret passage was accessed by turning a upside-down skull that had a candle in it. The passageway was relatively small, with two iron barred cells inside, one of which was occupied. The room had one other occupant; a second Dark Ranger who had been paired with Ranger Loralen.
"Her name is Lillian Voss, M'lady," the Ranger said as Sylvanas entered.
Harry heard Sylvanas' breath catch at the name, but she didn't explain further. The idea that Harry could somehow remember the names of so many hundreds of important people in a world where death in battle doesn't mean that person is truly gone had meant Harry only paid attention to the names of the people around him and the leaders of various factions.
The captured woman looked absolutely terrible, and that was something when Harry realized he'd been around corpses that walked and talked for weeks. She was dressed only in a loose fitting shirt that might be worn under armor. Her undead body was in generally good shape, and her original cause of death wasn't immediately apparent to Harry.
"Ms. Voss?" he said aloud.
The woman turned her head slowly to Harry, and he almost flinched at the soulless gaze of her illuminated blue eyes. He'd seen those eyes on people before. The eyes of those who had absolutely no reason to live and all the reasons to die
When she didn't acknowledge him further, he said aloud, "Would you allow me to run some checks on you while we bring in some of the priests that travel with Lady Sylvanas? This way we can undo some of the damage they've done to you before we get everyone out of here."
She didn't say anything, other than to return her distant gaze to Sylvanas, who motioned for a priest to step forward. When Kudrii began to take a few tentative steps forward, Harry pulled his wand slowly to make sure he didn't look like a threat, and began to check for any magic that he may be able to reverse.
He was so engrossed in his findings that he became almost completely oblivious to the conversation that Sylvanas slowly worked out of the girl. Apparently, the girl was rather well known since she had been raised from childhood as a Scarlet Crusade weapon to slaughter Scourge. She had not adjusted to Undeath well after she fell in Tirisfall glades fighting a Scourge swarm that members of the Crusade had tricked her into fighting when they thought they'd lost control of her. Her life as a member of the Crusade had made her a high profile person in death.
Harry ploughed this his diagnostic spells as Sylvanas recounted what history she knew about the woman. He recognized the after affects of torture curses and other magical forms of torment, but it was something completely unrelated to her imprisonment here that caught his attention. Something he never dreamed he would see in person, let alone on Azeroth.
"I'll be damned," he whispered to himself, though all the undead Elves with their advanced hearing heard it.
"What have you found, Runemaster?" queried Sylvanas.
"Hold on," he said, before he cast the spell one more time to confirm what he found. When he was finished, he walked to a nearby wall and sat in a dilapidated chair. He looked at everyone in the room, most of whom had directed their attention to him.
"I know how the plague 'brought you all back to life'," he said simply.
That got their attention quicker than anything he had previously seen. Even Lillian, who's unnerving stare had barely acknowledged them before, had her gaze riveted on Harry.
"To explain this, I'll have to give you some background information. You all know I attended a school of Magic back on the world I came from, right?"
He received nods of acknowledgement, and he continued, "Well, 1,300 years ago, the School wasn't there. It was a village, that one of the Founder's of the school lived in with his family. He returned home from a nasty three year war, and looked down upon the village as he reached the crest of a nearby hill, eager to see his home. What he saw though, was his wife, his children, and his other magical friends he had in the village, tied to stakes, and being burned alive."
It was a testament to the Forsaken there that there was no visible reaction to this. They had already all died. Horrible brutal deaths, so they were desensitized to atrocities of war. Kudrii raised her hand to her mouth, but the rest of Harry's group stoically listened.
"The man, Salazar Slytherin, was enraged by this. He was a hardened warrior, and borderline Dark Lord. A true army killer. A village of peasants who somehow got the drop on his family were nothing to him. He quickly incapacitated the entire village. He took the time to bury his family and friends, and then turned his attention back to their murderers."
"Killing these people wasn't good enough for him after what they had taken from him. He knew that his friends that he had travelled with for the past few years had wanted to establish a school to protect magical children from things like what had just happened to his family. He had always loved this village, and thought it would be an excellent place for the school now he was going to dispose of all of its inhabitants."
He gestured to his pouch, and brought out one of his trunks. "You've all seen these shrunken trunks, and know how much stuff can be packed in them. He had just come back from a war, and among his many spoils, he had claimed hundreds of suits of armor. He lined up a suit by each of the people who had cheered as his children died."
Harry swallowed, then closed his eyes, "Then he ripped their souls from their bodies, and bound them eternally to those suits of armor."
That got a reaction from the listening crowd. Harry didn't wait for any comments, before he plowed on, "Then he did the nasty part. He was an expert on mind-control techniques, so he then grabbed ahold of the consciousness of each suit of armor, and bound each soul to his will, enslaving them all."
Looks of disgust was almost uniform across every face present. "Essentially, that's what's happened to you all. Whoever designed this plague, made it in three parts. First, it killed you, then it made it so that your souls would be bound to your own flesh after death, and then an enslavement curse was applied to your minds."
"There are differences though between my world's magic and yours. The soul binding is different, in that my world's necromancers only ever figured out how to bind entire souls to non-organic objects. There are instances of it being done to people and animals," and here Harry pointed to his forehead for those in his party that knew his story, "but they are few and far between and not well documented."
Then Harry smiled, "But, then there's the silver lining in all this. The mind enslavement curse from his world is much weaker than things I've seen on my world. In essence, this world's curse requires that every time the controller updates your 'programming', his will must be greater than yours. If they ever attempt to give you orders and their focus slips… their attention wanders… If any of those happen, the spell matrix collapses. It just takes one time," he snapped his fingers, "and the victim is free."
Harry saw the light of comprehension dawn on many faces present, and figured that's what happened here.
"Illidan Stormrage performed some sort psychic attack halfway through the last war, and directed it at Icecrown," said Sylvanas. "No one is really sure what he did, but the result is that fully 1/3 of the Scourge forces regained their minds and instantly defected. When the Lich King ordered everyone to attack Illidan. Many of my people were killed trying to get to safety after they woke up surrounded by our enemies, but the Forsaken people is what resulted."
Harry nodded his understanding, before he looked at Lillian. "You have the remnants of a broken mind-slave curse, and I'm going to assume the remainder of you do as well. A symptom of the remnant will likely be whispers and nightmares caused by the original controller's attempts to regain control that will always fail."
There were nods of agreement from all around, and bits of concern shown. "Don't worry. You would have to be within a few feet of a caster for the control curse to be reapplied, and whoever cast this did a piss poor job of it originally, which is why it broke to begin with. The mind control techniques on my world are much more advanced, and I'm sure I can get rid of the remnants that you all have."
"How do you know so much about mind-control techniques?" asked Anya suspiciously. Harry swore he heard Onyxia growl at her tone, and he raised his hand to placate her.
"It's a valid question," he said, as he pointed to the scar on his forehead. "The dark bastard who gave me this scar used it to launch constant mental attacks against me. I get damned good at finding ways to block and then counter attack before I finally found a way to have the magic removed."
"You can remove the remnants from us?" asked Sylvanas simply.
"Yeah, shouldn't be that hard. I can also probably teach someone like Bethor back at Undercity the magic to remove it as well. This way you won't be dependant solely upon me to cleanse all of your people."
Sylvanas nodded, "Yet another service you can potentially provide us, Runemaster."
Harry shrugged, then turned to look at their guest. His movement reminded everyone of why they were they, and Lilian once again found herself the center of attention.
"When you were first raised, Ms. Voss," said Sylvanas slowly, "...you ran from my people. You were a high profile person, and since you've never actively opposed us, I would once again offer the chance to join us."
Lillian remained silent, before she eventually spoke up with a voice that sounded as if it had not been used in a while, "There's no chance of ending this curse?"
Sylvanas involuntarily glanced at Harry, before she shook her head, "No, there is no viable way to bring our people back to life, yet. It's always something our people strive for, but it's still an academic pursuit at this time."
"Will I need to attack humans?" she asked.
"Well, on this trip we're going after a possible Scarlet Crusade bastion inside of Stratholme," stated Sylvanas, and Lilian's eyes widened as she said it. "Will this bother you? Going after your former comrades? The same people who eventually ordered your execution when you grew too powerful for them to control?"
Lillian sat for a while again, while she thought, then slowly she shook her head, "No, it will not."
Sylvanas nodded to Harry, who waved his wand at the door, which caused it to swing open, "Welcome to the club then, Lillian," Harry said as he stood up.
"Yes yes," said Sylvanas impatiently. "Introductions come later. I'd like to move north and get some distance between us and these catacombs before we blow them up."
There was no further debate or conversation once Sylvanas said that. They placed additional bombs as they left the catacombs, and slowly but surely the expedition made it back to the surface.
Harry was brought up short as his eyes adjusted to the natural light of the surface, as he realized the group was no longer alone. Every ghost on the Isle was gathered in front of Keep. And he was no longer the only one who could see them.
"What in Elune's name?" muttered Jessir as she stared at the group.
The leader of the ghosts, a woman with a long grey skirt and a well endowed chest covered by a white top, stepped forward with a smile upon her face. She looked at all of them in turn, and bowed, and the action was then repeated by other ghost present.
The woman then spoke up, in an otherworldly and ethereal voice that echoed as if from a great distance. "Every person you see suffered and died within the walls behind you. You have freed us from our torment. Our end is soon near. With the destruction of this bastion of sin and depravity, the last bindings that tie our souls will be gone, and we will now finally know rest."
The woman bowed again and smiled, "We thank you."
Suddenly, a great wind blew through the town, and the ghosts faded away as the dust kicked up. Within seconds, nothing was left but cold silence.
No one spoke within the expedition for a few moments, the moment having affected all of them. Finally Jessir and Sylvanas stepped forward, and the company quietly followed.
"Please tell me animals like that aren't normal," Harry said as he pointed to a grub the size of a Great Dane.
Anya, who was nearest to him, shook her head, "No, the plague has befouled almost the entire ecosystem in this region. Aberrations like that grub are the result. They've evolved to feed on carrion as their primary means of sustenance."
Harry felt sick just at the sight of the thing. He shook his head and sipped a bit of fire whiskey from a hip flask to settle his stomach. The smoke and heat from his ears felt particulary good right now, thought it drew an amused look from his companion. "How much further is this hidden cave to the Eastern Plaguelands?"
The Dark Ranger second in command looked around a bit and seemed to focus upon one particular mountain. She said, "I would think no more than a mile or two more. We'll likely make camp on this side of the mountain range. Shadow certainly knows we won't find rest once we emerge on the other side."
She moved ahead and began to order the forward scouts to keep watch for the tunnel so they didn't miss it. Harry was left to his own thoughts by himself and forced to watch the desolation pass by as the group slowly made their way to the passage.
The cave was soon found, and the expedition ordered to set camp and a watch. They would rest here for at least the next day before they plunged into the nightmare of the true Plaguelands. Vague images of an ever-burning city and a floating pyramid of the dead were foremost on Harry's mind, and he decided that he needed to be alone with his thoughts for once.
He threw up a Notice-Me-Not charm, and lay down against a tree at the edge of the camp that was not far from the cave entrance. With the tree at his back, he took a deep breath and let his mind wander. He actually didn't remember the last time he hadn't closed his eyes and wasn't in close bodily contact with at least one of the girls. In fact, the only night he had alone on this world was the first night where Jessir and Arko watched in vigil while he was unconscious.
With an upwards glance, he was once again disappointed to see that the ever-present smog of decay blocked any possible view of the stars. This was such a unique world, with such a deep history. It disheartened him to know that so much of it had been lost recently to war and pestilence.
His thoughts upon the ruins of majestic locations he had recently seen were interrupted by a rustle of leaves to his left. Sylvanas was there, in apparent confusion as she tried to search for something. She would take a few steps, then turn to go, before she would shake her head and continue on. Finally, she was within a few feet of him, when she finally broke through the enchantment.
She was so startled by his sudden appearance behind the charm she almost drew her bow. "Harry? What was that?"
He chuckled despite himself, "Very impressive, Lady Sylvanas. It takes an incredibly strong mind to brute force your way through a Notice Me Not charm if you haven't seen them before or don't know how to break them."
"That was magic that made it so hard to find you?" she with a bit of shock.
A quick nod was her answer, followed by, "I just wanted to be alone for a few minutes. Did you need me for something?"
She stared for a bit with eyes like embers, before she shook her head, "No, I just wished to speak with you for a bit, but I can go if you require solitude at the moment."
Before she could turn away, he said, "No, please. Have a seat."
He drew his wand and applied a few cushioning charms to the tree and ground. He had no idea if such things were a concern of the Undead Banshee Queen, but figured it was proper manners to do so.
As she sat down, her eyebrows rose a bit from the unexpected softness of her impromptu seat, "Interesting use of magic."
"Have to enjoy some comforts whenever we can," he said simply.
She nodded, and removed her pauldrons and gloves just as Harry had done before he had sat down. As she leaned back, he felt her cool bare arms brush against his, and found he honestly didn't mind the close contact with the woman. She crossed her arms under her extremely ample chest, and Harry felt proud that he was able to avert his eyes from the sight.
He returned his gaze back to the sky when she did not immediately say anything. Eventually, he asked, "How do you deal with it?"
"Excuse me?" she asked with an eyebrow quirked.
"How do you deal with seeing so many places that you visited in the past lying in ruins? My minders never allowed me to visit many places before I gained control of my life. Afterwards, I had to move in the shadows because both sides of the wars always wanted me dead, and I never got to travel or really just sit and enjoy life."
He turned and looked at her, and found her face to have not betrayed any emotion as she gazed back at him. "Your people travelled throughout these lands for centuries. In fact you travelled through them for that long. I can't imagine going to someplace like Andorhal and seeing the smoking ruin that was left when we departed and knowing what it looked like before."
She nodded and followed his gaze as it returned back to the dreary sky. "I don't know if I have an answer for that. Cities come and go. Nations rise and fall. For a people as long lived as mine, it's a fact of life. Seeing Andorhal razed to the ground doesn't bother me. I've seen things like that before. Usually it was Trolls doing it instead of undead..."
A rattling breath escaped her. He wasn't sure if she needed to actually breathe if one considered what she was, but the intention behind the sound was obvious to Harry.
"But then… but then I saw Silvermoon. The path of destruction that led straight through Quel'Thalas all the way to the water's edge of the Sunwell. I didn't realize how bad it was while we fought the tide of Scourge that had swarmed and killed us. It was only after I regained my mind, and I revisited the region that I saw just how bad the damage was. In the end, it's not the ruins that bother me…"
He felt her eyes upon him, and he turned to meet her gaze. "It's fighting the Scourge, and seeing friends that I've known for centuries firing arrows and spells back at me."
The last was said quietly, almost in a whisper, and Harry easily heard the unspoken hint that she would forever deny that she had just spoken the words he had heard. They were behind spells and alone, which must be one of the few times Sylvanas felt she could drop the public persona she wrapped herself with. The sudden need to comfort the woman came to him, and he easily gave in and leaned in to place an arm around her.
She snorted in an undignified way as she put in a token resistance before she leaned her head against his shoulder. "No one will see us, Lady Sylvanas. Well, Onyxia and Ysondre might. I'm unsure if their eyes and senses would be fooled by such things, but they wouldn't say anything either."
There was no response from her. With his arm wrapped around her, he could easily feel her cold bare shoulder against his palm and wrist. In the back of his mind, he knew contact like this with her should bother him, but the reality was… it didn't.
"What are you planning to do after we've destroyed our objectives here in the Plaguelands?"
He sat and thought for a bit. Conversations with Kudrii and Disidra rang in his head as the past ideas rose to prominence once more.
"I'd like to find a permanent place for all of us to live. A base… a home. All of it rolled into one. Some place, that above all other things, is safe for us."
"Any idea where?"
"Well," he said slowly as he pondered the choices that Onyxia had once suggested to him the last time this was discussed. He reached for her pauldrons as they lay next to them and set them in his lap. As he thought of a response, he began to trace a finger along some of enchantment lines bonded to the metal.
"Karazhan apparently has a great library already, but…"
She interrupted him at the pause in his thoughts, "It would be highly contested. We would never know a moments peace after we had reclaimed the tower from the ghosts. Then there are the demons supposedly still locked away underneath the tower. Midevh was supposedly possessed by the Avatar of Sargeras himself. The atrocities he committed in the dungeons of that accursed place would forever haunt us if we lived there."
"We?" he said with a small smile. "Does this mean you'll definitely be sticking with us after we finish around here?"
"Yes," she said simply and without hesitation. "I meant what I told you back in Orgrimmar."
After a few moments silence, she asked, "Where else have you thought?"
"Azshara was thrown around a lot. Old Highborne ruins of the civilization from before the Sundering. Abandoned buildings and temples right on top of super charged Ley Lines that were originally connected to the Well of Eternity according to Onyxia. They'll be great for wards, and they're out of the way. That's the true reason for the attraction of Karazhan. You could place some damned powerful wards up to protect it with all the Ley Line convergences there. I'm hoping Azshara will offer something similar."
"We even pondered ransacking Karazhan… not just for the library that's there, but for the ward stones underneath it. Wipe the wards clean, move the stones, and they would be perfect for us."
"It's in the wilds though. It may be difficult to get to and from there."
"But you're forgetting. We have two dragons and a mage to teleport everyone around. And Portkeys if you need to go alone. Plus we can make some permanent outbound portals there like I heard they set up in that Outland City, Shattrath. Everyone would have a portkey to come back whenever they wanted."
She acquiesced that those were definite benefits. Then he added, "Plus, if we go back to Earth for a bit to acquire potions ingredients for your people, I can always bring back my family's House Elves to help rebuild and maintain the place. Heck I bet the Goblins from my world would love to come here. I can see them beating the Alliance and the Horde in a race to take over the remainder of Blackrock Mountain for themselves."
Sylvanas grew quiet again at the mention of the potions and what they could potentially mean. Harry knew that hope had long since waned for her people to return to life, and the mention of it must have thrown her down long forgotten dreams to be alive again. He focused upon the pauldrons, and drew his wand to add a few runes to the underside of both shoulder plates. A few deft movements had the inner padding moved aside so he could engrave runes that would increase the durability and make them lighter for the wearer.
"Do you really think that you can restore my people to life? Will that ritual really work?"
"I'm hoping it does," he said truthfully to her question that had broken the silence. "Though, I'll admit, I have no idea if your researchers will be able to adapt it to work with your people. Rituals, for the most part, are something I've never really had time to delve into. I've been fighting for my life for years. Education in subjects not directly related to that wasn't something I had the luxury to pursue."
He was quiet for a bit while he thought about his lack of information on that particular ritual. He shook his head and said, "Just another reason to go back to my world for a bit. I'm sure we could dig up more information on that ritual with the resources I have back there."
"Is it safe for you to go back to your world?" At his look of surprise at the question, she added, "I may have overheard Arko and Jessir discussing how they were glad some people from some phoenix were already dead because of the grief they put you through."
He nodded, "It should be safe. I'm pretty sure we can do everything we want through the Goblins without almost any contact with Wizards or Mundane Humans. Though, I may take you guys to see some sights. It's not often you get to visit a new world."
"And what sights do you know of that would impress us?"
"Could visit some of the cities around the world, sample some of the foods. There's plenty we could do. I'm sure there are some cities out there untouched by the war. We could just blend in with the crowds."
"Maybe after we've secured the resources for my people. It would be nice to walk around as a proper High Elve again."
Harry nodded. After the shared silence stretched on for a few minutes. He had finished his modification to the pauldrons. She accepted them only with a raised eyebrow. Not one comment had been made while he made changes to them, and he felt a bit honored by the trust she showed in him.
"They're now considerably lighter to you when you wear them. Their full weight will still be felt by anyone else if you feel the need to shoulder check someone. Also, their more durable now, and blows that might have shattered the metal before won't even scratch it now."
Her finger traced a few of the runes on the inner plates. Then, she lifted her head to look into his eyes and whispered, "Thank you."
She stood and slipped back into the pauldrons. A few moments later they were buckled back on to the metallic half-corset she wore. She ran a finger along the edge of the bra's metal, which definitely caught his eye, "You want the rest of your armor engraved as well?"
Her response was to give him an amused quirk of her lips, "Was that your best attempt to get me out of armor?"
He simply smiled, and pulled down his temporary wards, content to go and join Kudrii and Jessir as they leaned against each other by the fire.
The group finally left their small encampment after Onyxia had returned from an egg-laying excursion. She left as often as she could to travel to the Black Flight's Hatchery in order to continue to add to the eggs there. The efforts there had thus far been a resounding success, and the black flight's number of young whelps had skyrocketed.
It was immediately apparent when they entered the cave that the Scourge had discovered its existence, and it was completely infested with undead Nerubian arachnids from Northrend. The Nerubians were originally part of a massive empire that spanned the entirety of Azeroth before the Sundering 10,000 years previous. The collapse of the Well of Eternity split the empire just as it split the world's continents from one into three. This left the Qiraji faction in Silithus separated completely from their northern brethren.
"Arania Exumai!" Harry shouted for what felt like the 200th time. The spider-banishing curse he had learned in his second year of Hogwarts had worked wonderfully upon the undead spiders. Each made a rather sickening crunch as it was flung into walls of the cave and splattered against the rocks.
"Very handy spell," said Onyxia, who despite being at his side at the front of this particular segment of the journey, had not so much as done more than buff her nails while Harry did all the grunt-work for the expedition.
"Indeed," said Sylvanas from behind them. "When we reclaim Northrend from the Scourge, that particular spell may need to be taught to all our mages. Its utility here is a blessing from the Shadows. The Nerubians are extremely capable fighters if you allow them to close. Ranged combat spells that specifically target them alone will be very beneficial."
"Where did you learn that spell?" asked Arko. "I don't recall you mentioning spiders being problematic enough in your world that they warranted a spell designed specifically for them."
"Well," said Harry just after he annihilated another undead spider. "I learned the spell in my Second Year of school. A girl had been possessed by a dark object, though the school didn't know it at the time. I ended up with the object, and It actually took me into a memory that occurred fifty years in the past. The person in the memory used this spell on a spider. The spider later went on to infest the forest around school… started a colony."
"Were the spiders dangerous?" asked Arko, who winced as another spider flew rapidly down a side tunnel, only to crash into a wall and collapse the tunnel's ceiling.
"Oh, did I not mention that the spider, when fully grown, can be about half as tall as Onyxia is when she's in her normal form?"
Eyes rose at the implication of spiders of that size. "Oh, and it started a colony. There were thousands of them. Right next to a school, too."
"Well," said Arko. "That explains the reason for the spell."
The dank, winding tunnel meandered through the mountainside for an entire six-hour march. When they finally exited the tunnel, it was if they had entered a new world.
"Wow," whispered Jessir. The rest of the group was absolutely still as they emerged from the tunnel. There was no question now that they were firmly in enemy territory.
The very ground before them was dead. Lifeless. It wasn't dry, moisture starved grass before them with barren cracked soil. It was if the grass there had somehow changed into something else by its close proximity to the Plague. Everything was a uniform brown color, and all nearby trees looked as if they had been set upon by dragons and the charred husks were all that remained.
The sky was the biggest change. A foul scent lay upon the air, and it tinted the light that filtered through the clouds with an ominous shade of orange. This color illuminated the region in an unnatural light even at night, and clearly brought their attention to a bombed out town that was visible in the distance from the cave.
"That was once the Hamlet of Cinderhome," said Anya. "Now, it has been rechristened Terrordale. It is a fully occupied Scourge outpost."
"We should cut around the village to the North then make our way East to Stratholme," said Sylvanas. "We gain nothing by destroying this encampment and announcing to the region that we're here."
"How about a compromise?" asked Harry aloud. He really didn't like the idea of so many potential enemies left completely unscathed, even if the Scourge had hundreds of thousands of corpses at its employ. The true war against them had to start somewhere.
"What is your idea?" asked Jessir. She had automatically moved next to Sylvanas as she asked this. It had truly become a dual leadership role for the group between them.
"Remember the runic bombs at Andorhal? I can do the same here. Only this time, I'll capture and contain some Fiendfyre in one. There are a few rune clusters that will contain it, if only for a few days. I can put enough redundancies in it to make it last a bit longer before the containment array collapses and its unleashed. We'll set the entire cluster to go off in two weeks, and booby trap it if its moved at all. We should be long gone from here by then."
Sylvanas looked at Jessir, who looked back at Sylvanas. One would nod her head in a direction, and the other would shrug in response.
'It's like looking at the bloody Weasley Twins all over again,' he thought as he watched the two communicate silently.
"Do it," said Jessir after the silent conversation apparently had ended.
"Set them for two weeks," added Sylvanas. "That should be more than enough time for us to leave the area."
"Can you make more bombs?" asked Anya.
"We should come back later," she said as her gaze returned to the town. "Use that flying carpet of yours and just start bombing sites from the air. The Scourge here in this region tend to avoid using Frostwyrms unlike in Northrend, and the undead Gargoyles they do have travel notoriously slow."
Harry nodded, "But only after we're done with flying pyramid."
"Sounds like a plan then. Dark Rangers in formation!" said Sylvanas. "We head north, and follow the roots of the mountains east to Stratholme."
The trip from the cave to the Scourge-occupied city of Stratholme took the expedition two days. Along the way, and ten miles from the cave and Terrordale, they encountered the most obvious environmental consequences of the Plague Harry had witnessed yet:
The Plague had been allowed to run wild here. All semblance of the original ecosystem had been completely eradicated. Massive mushrooms grew in place of trees, and the ground was covered with an oddly covered fungus that Harry was extremely reluctant to step upon. Disidra insisted upon a conversation with the local elemental spirits before she would even think to walk between the mushrooms. Eventually, a spirit of the Earth appeared, and told them it was safe for mortals.
The Cult of the Damned was found throughout the area. Periodically, they would slip by fortified bunkers with open tops. Within each enclosed space, the zealous mortal followers of the Lich King brewed some sort of airborne pathogen which destroyed any plant life not infested with the plague. These were obviously the source of the red tint to the air. All had runic bombs placed within, set to go off simultaneously with the ones found in Terrordale.
The forest of nightmares ended abruptly, and the expedition found themselves on the shores of a large lake. A bridge traversed it, going from north to south, and the bold edifice of the main entrance to the city of Stratholme loomed over the lake like some dark terror.
Six years after it was sacked and purged by Arthas, the city somehow still burned. The Dark Rangers he had talked to had no clue why the undead had ignited magical fires that burned only the living within the city. It certainly made an extremely frightful atmosphere for those who possibly might enter the city.
"Where are the Scarlet Crusaders holed up at?" asked Jessir. "I've never visited Stratholme until today. The last time I was this far west in the Eastern Kingdoms was a thousand years ago."
Sylvanas spoke up. "The old headquarters for the local Order of the Silver Hand chapter was in the western part of Stratholme. Judging by some of the Scourge buildings you can see over that Eastern wall, I would say the heaviest Scourge presence is as far from the Crusaders as possible."
"Is there any way we can skip most of the Scourge between us and the Crusaders?" asked Onyxia in a bored voice. She had already voiced her opinion that it would be far safer and easier to simply burn the remainder of the city from the sky like they had done in Andorhal.
"There may be vital intelligence within the Crusader's outpost here," said Jessir. "I know, I really don't want to be here either, but we're losing an opportunity to strike at another foe that lives and murders within these lands without any thought of the consequences."
"Harry?" asked Disidra. The group as a whole turned to her. Her and Kudrii often did not participate in strategy sessions.
At Harry's acknowledgement, she asked, "Could you not fly over the city to scout out a good route to the Headquarters… like you and I did in Ashenvale when we sought out the demonic outposts?"
"We could…" said Harry slowly. He knew there was something else behind this request than a simply flyover that he didn't grasp quite yet.
"After we've done that, could you not make holes in the outer walls of the city like you did the ground in Ashenvale when you buried those wardstones," she said, a bit more nervously. "I mean, why do we have to go through the front gate at all?"
That certainly changed his opinion on the operation. It would definitely speed things up as well. He glanced at Jessir and Sylvanas with an eyebrow raised.
They looked at him, then at each other, then Jessir said, "Do it, be back in fifteen minutes. Don't get caught."
Sylvanas added, "There are eyes in the sky everywhere here, Harry. Naxxramus should only be a mile or two to the Southeast. Do not be seen."
Harry popped open one of his trunks and pulled out the trusty flying carpet. It was quickly unrolled on the ground before he beckoned Disidra over. "Your chariot awaits, my Lady."
It turned out to not just be a good idea to break in through an outer wall. It turned out to be an excellent idea.
"Is that everyone?" said Harry as he glanced back through the hole they had just made into a hallway of the Scarlet Bastion.
"Yes," whispered Arko, who had brought up the rear in case they were attacked from behind.
Harry sealed up the wall he had transfigured a hole. The bricks closed just like the entrance to Diagon Alley. It was a spell he had intimate knowledge of, mainly because he had sabotaged that brick wall in the Leaky Cauldron three times in the past to make sure that Death Eaters would be trapped inside the pub. Every time he had broken the animation charms on the bricks, he had to put them back exactly as they were to not arouse suspicion before he left.
The Scarlet Bastion was in the westernmost District of Stratholme, and it was placed right up against the twenty foot high outer wall that surrounded the city. There was a five foot gap between the wall and the Bastion's rear, and it was child's play for Harry to open holes within the unwarded outer wall and Bastion itself.
"Which way?" asked Jessir.
"I recognize where we are," said Anya. "The Crusader's throne was in this direction previously," she said as she pointed down the hallway to their right. "It's likely the Crusader's kept their leadership in the same rooms."
Their entrance was silent, yet patrols were active within the inner sanctum of the Crusade's presence here, and their infiltration did not stay a secret for long.
Paladin's poured from hallways, both in front of and behind them. They immediately set up a phalanx across the hallways with their shields, which allowed mages to launch fireballs and arcane blasts at the group with near impunity.
"We're sitting ducks here!" shouted Jessir, who along with the raid had hidden behind massive statues that adorned much of the hallway.
The Paladins alternated with the mages and used a spell on the Dark Rangers that caused them to give into their fears and panic. The victims ran in circles and would have been easy prey for fireballs if Harry had not summoned them back under cover through the use of summoning spells.
Harry tested a Bombarda against the phalanx, and growled as its effectiveness was blunted by the appearance of a near solid bubble-like magical shield around the Paladin which he had aimed for.
"Paladin's can become immune to all harm for a short period of time," shouted Anya over the noise as she addressed his confusion at the spell. "There's nothing to do but wait it out and take cover when they do that."
"And there happens to be a dozen of the bastards in both directions, great," muttered Harry as he tried to think of anything else he could do.
Well, there's always that…
He ignored the shouts of protest from Anya as he deliberately stepped out of cover into the hallway. The wizard raised his wand, and fired a spell he had not felt the need to utter in years.
"Avada Kedavra!" he roared as he stared down the Paladin who to that point had a triumphant sneer on his face at the thought of another spell directed towards him while he was invincible.
The burst of sickly green light streaked toward the Paladin, who didn't bother to move out of its way, since he was so confident in his safety within the bubble. The spell encountered the shield, and phased right through it. The killing curse struck the Paladin squarely between the eyes, and his body immediately crumpled to the floor and moved no more.
The Scarlet Crusaders on that side of the hallway panicked at sight of their ultimate Trump protection effortlessly cast aside by the unknown mage they faced. They lost all cohesion and the phalanx on that side of the hallway crumbled, which caused gaps to appear in the protective line. The Dark Rangers responded immediately with a hail of arrows that pierced every vulnerable opening, and within seconds the rear phalanx and all mages behind them lay dead on the ground.
"Nice spell," said Anya as Harry dove back under cover. "Haven't seen you use that spell before."
"Killing curse," Harry said. "Tears the soul from the body. Obviously can't use it on the undead we've faced, and there was no need to use it back in the Monastery."
"You think you can pull that off again?" she asked."
His response was to step out and launch three Bombarda's at the opposite phalanx in the hallway. Two of the Paladins used their Divine Protection shield to become impervious to damage. A third was a bit slow on the uptake, and suffered for his hesitancy when his reinforced metal shield exploded into shrapnel that buried itself into his chest along with the Paladins on both sides of him.
Two additional Killing Curses from Harry took care of the two shielded Paladins while the third and his companions screamed in agony upon the ground, while Onyxia, Ysondre, and Arko charged through the hole in the line to rip the squishier spell casters limb from limb that were behind the now broken phalanx line.
Thirty seconds later, the hallway was silent. Harry looked around to see if there were any injured from his group, and was relieved to see that, while numerous fighters suffered 2nd and 3rd degree burns from the fireballs, there were no casualties.
"Harry," shouted Sylvanas. "Seal the hallway behind us. I don't want anything to sneak up on us. Healers tend to the wounded. Everyone else, move forward and secure our position here in this hallway.
Anya escorted Harry past the remains of the rear phalanx, and watched as Harry closed the archway that led towards the Bastion's entrance.
"I'll never grow tired of seeing you close off doors like that," she said with an amused smirk.
He snorted, "Getting good at this was a product of necessity."
He walked over to the Paladins and mages that were on the ground. For some reason, these particular enemies really pissed him off. Maybe it was their blind zealotry, or their crimes in the name of the of the so-called Light. All he could think was that these would have been people that would have swallowed Dumbledore's Kool-Aid hook-line and sinker.
He started to summon their weapons from the bodies, then he started to strip the armor off of them.
"I didn't take you for one to be into necrophilia, Harry. Maybe we should spend more time together," she said huskily into his ear.
He gave her a deadpan stare, which only initiated her laughter. "For your information, I plan to try out new runes on this stuff. Why waste money buying new armor and weapons when I can just steal it from these fools."
She nodded, then said as she walked away, "Well, hurry up. We should be ready to move forward soon. Our healers are good at their jobs."
He continued to take the armor and pile it, and nearly broke a toe at Anya's parting comment.
"If you want me to take my armor off to enchant it, Harry, just let me know. I'd love to stand next to you and watch while you do it."
They had to fight for nearly every inch they gained in the Bastion. The Crusaders were truly loyal to their cause. They didn't surrender. They didn't flee. They held their ground and fought until their dying breath escaped them.
They could hear the Grand Crusader, Saidan Dathrohan bark orders from behind the enemy lines, but he always retreated further into the compound. Eventually he would have no where else to go, and would make his last stand. Most of the group mentally prepared themselves to fight against an extremely powerful paladin, maybe not at the level of the legendary Ashbringer that Fairbanks had told them all so many tales of, but nearly as good.
That all changed the moment Onyxia and Ysondre both stopped and sniffed.
"Demons!" they both said simultaneously as they looked at each other.
"There is a Nathrezim here. Their smell is unmistakable," said Ysondre.
"Are you sure it's only one," said Sylvanas. Onyxia nodded in assent.
"Could the Grand Crusader be in league with them? Or perhaps even be controlled by them?"
"I doubt it's a willing arrangement between the two," said Ysondre. "Nathrezim often possess corpses to infiltrate and perform their work. They certainly did so 10,000 years ago in their first invasion. It's possible that this Dreadlord has led the Scarlet Crusade for a number of years without any of his subordinate's knowledge."
"Another notch in the belt for the 'Dreadlord Slayer'?" said Arko, with a bit of mirth as she looked at Harry.
"Hey, I believe that you are only one behind me on Dreadlord kills now, Arko."
"Well, the notch is behind this door, I believe," said Onyxia as she ran a finger along the extremely thick wooden door that barred the entrance to the Crimson Throne."
"May I… May I lead the charge?" asked a voice they had not heard speak in days.
The group turned to see Lilian Voss shrink within herself when the attention focused upon her. Then she found her inner courage, and repeated, "I would like to lead the charge. This is the man… the thing that likely ordered my death."
There was a general consensus to let her do it. "Just remember," said Jessir. We really don't know how many people we'll find in there."
"Oh, that's easy," said Harry. "Homenum Revelio".
A wave-like wash of magic erupted from Harry and passed through the wall and door in front of them. One outline shown forth, a human… with the silhouette of a Dreadlord superimposed over it. Everyone immediately realized what the second image meant.
"Well, that confirms that," said Sylvanas.
"He's obviously aware we're here, and prepared to attack us the moment we go through that door," said Jessir.
"But he's expecting us to be prepared to fight a Human, not a Dreadlord," said Sylvanas. She turned to Onyxia, Arko, Ysondre, and...Lillian, "Are you four ready?"
The group of four turned to Sylvanas and nodded, and took position next to the door, a pair on either side of it. Onyxia gave the door a light push, and discovered that it was barred from the inside.
"I got it," said Harry. "On the count of three, I'm going to do a severing charm. 3.. 2…1…"
"Diffindo Maxima!" he shouted, and a completely vertical pink ribbon stretched forth from his wand and cut along the seem between the two great doors that barred their way. The spell passed through the door, and a great clanging was heard as heavy objects on the other side were cut and fell away.
"Now!" yelled Onyxia, who reared back with her fist and punched the doors. They flew off their hinges and sailed across the room. The possessed corpse that was once Grand Crusader Dathrohan leapt over the doors as they flew by, and stared down at the group that flooded his inner sanctum as if they were mere flies.
"You've made a great mistake challenging me," he growled.
The group spread out within the massive room. A throne was on the far side of the circular room, and the entire group of 32 was able to line the outer walls and stand no closer than five meters to the next person.
Sylvanas was the one that strode forth to answer challenge of a pre-fight verbal spar. "No mistake. We know exactly who we're challenging… Dreadlord."
The eyes of the possessed corpse widened, and its face broke into an ear-splitting fanged grin. "Ah, so it appears that the days of this charade have ended."
The Dreadlord threw the helmet he wore off into a corner, then gripped the hair on his head, He ripped apart the skin on his head as if he were about to unzip a winter coat, and a full-sized fifteen foot tall Dreadlord emerged in an explosion of gore from the fleshy prison it had hidden itself within.
"Balnazzar!" snarled Sylvanas, and Harry noticed nearly every Dark Ranger stiffen at the name. "I should have known Varimathras lied about killing you and your brother the moment his own treachery was revealed."
"Bravo for discovering the truth six years later. You're skills of deduction are simply marvelous, Banshee Queen. No wonder you stepped down from your post in disgrace."
Sylvanas widened her eyes at the statement, and the Dreadlord laughed heartily at her confusion. "Of course I know you had joined this group. You have not removed all of our pawns from your city. There will always be those willing to sell their souls for the merest glimpse of power."
Her response was to draw an arrow and notch it. "That will be the last laugh you ever have, Demon!"
Before it could respond, Lillian, Arko, Onyxia and Ysondre were upon him. The Dreadlord carelessly batted away most of their attacks by blocking them with his bracers, but the numerous archers that rained fire down upon him had much more success.
"Insects… Flies… That's all you are to me!" he roared in delight. "Earthquake!"
The Dreadlord slammed his hand down upon the ground, which cause part of the ceiling to cave in while every person in the room lost their footing. Balnazzar shifted faster than many could see, and suddenly held Sylvanas by the throat with one arm.
"Know that I am Balnazzar. Know, as I drink your life, that I will take up residence in this weak shell your soul once called home. Know that I will corrupt and destroy everything and everyone you have ever loved," he sneered as he prepared to drive a clawed hand through Sylvanas' chest.
The breath suddenly expelled from him in a wheeze that was barely heard. Sylvanas dropped to the ground as Balnazzar looked down at his chest, to see the tip of a sword protrude from it.
"I... am… avenged…"
The words were whispered, but all in the room heard them. Lilian Voss slumped down to her knees as she relinquished the blade she had plunged into the Dreadlord back. In a flash the raid regained their senses, and the stunned Dreadlord incurred numerous mortal wounds. Suddenly, the Dreadlord screamed at the heavens, and erupted into a shower of bats. All that was left of the demon's mortal form was the carapace like breastplate, which fell to the ground with large thump which echoed loudly in the silence left by the bats.
The spoils left by the Dreadlord disturbed those present greatly. First and foremost among them, was the 'Book of the Dead'. It was a detailed compendium on the processes used by the Nathrezim race to reanimate corpses. Bound in flesh of some forgotten race and written in green blood, it took an act of supreme willpower to even turn the pages of the vile tome.
It was sent with other documents found in the Grand Crusder's chambers back to the Undercity via portkey. The rest of the Scarlet Bastion was slowly reclaimed from the Crusaders. When the main entrance of the Bastion was reached, and it was revealed just how well maintained the building was when compared to the rest of Stratholme, Sylvanas made a request.
"Harry, is there any way to keep this building? Make it so the Forsaken could take this as an outpost?"
"I could place it under a Fidelius… similar to what I planned to place upon our base when we create one in Azshara. It simply wouldn't exist anymore to anyone who doesn't know the secret to get in."
"Please do so before we begin to take out the Scourge present within this city," she requested before the Dark Rangers deployed to guard the entrance from the Scourge who would periodically launch strikes against the Crusader's defenses.
The Fidelius was implemented without much fuss other than an exhausted Harry and some rather awe-inspired members of the group when the 'Secret' was revealed to them. Sylvanas had immediately taken a portkey back to Undercity with Harry, only to return twenty minutes later with fifty Forsaken warriors, priests, and mages, who promptly set up two-way portals and other necessities within the Forsaken's new forward base.
However, the push into Scourge occupied Stratholme barely took a half dozen steps away from the courtyard in front of the Bastion when everything went straight to hell. A midnight black specter emerged from the ground a dozen meters in front of them. It shrieked in an unearthly voice that likely reached the ears of every member of the Scourge within the city.
"The Living are here!"
A quick draw from a Dark Ranger put the spirit down with an explosive arrow, but the damage was done. Every Scourge within sight suddenly began to run towards them.
"This is so not good," muttered Harry as everyone stepped back in fear.
Cast of Characters:
Arko'narin – Alliance. Night Elf, Warrior. Former Sentinel of Darnassus.
Jessir Moonbow – Alliance. Night Elf Hunter. Former Sentinel of Darnassus.
Kudrii – Alliance. Draenei, Priest. Budding enchanting trainee.
Disidra Stormglory – Alliance. Draenei, Shaman. Former member of an 'infamous' guild wiped out attempting something a bit too much for them. An outcast looking for a home.
Onyxia – Black Dragonflight – Brood Mother. Most powerful daughter of Neltharian, Aspect of the Earth. Was caught impersonating the fake daughter of her father's fake human persona within Stormwind, and now has a death contract out on her head from the King of Stormwind.
Ysondre – Green Dragonflight – Lieutenant of Ysera. One of Ysera's four most powerful sons and daughters. Was corrupted in battle with the 'Nightmare', a power of the Old Gods to sway the minds of others.
Sylvanas Windruner - Horde. Undead, Hunter. Former Faction Leader of the Forsaken. Former Ranger General of the Sindorei, was killed in Arthas' invasion of Quel'thalas. Her soul stripped from her body, she was reformed into a banshee. When her mind was freed from the Lich King's control, she took control of a nearly dead High Elf woman's body, supplanting the soul inside and permanently controlling the body like a puppet.