Beyond the Dark Portal | Chapter 21 of 36

Author: Aaron Rosenberg | Submitted by: Maria Garcia | 4101 Views | Add a Review

Please hit next button if you encounter an empty page


Ner’zhul sat upon his throne in Hellfire Citadel, the brooding, nightmarish fortress the Horde had built shortly after the clans united.

He loathed this place.

It was hideous, a disturbing, disjointed creation of jagged angles, dark stone, and corridors and walkways that twined in and over one another like a maddened snake. If it bore any resemblance to a traditional orc village, which was a collection of small buildings, huts, and short towers, it was only the most twisted distortion of such a wholesome thing, much as the orcs themselves had become twisted and distorted. Whereas orc huts were fabricated from green branches and covered in bark, these buildings were dark stone banded with rough iron. Strange support pillars rose around them, topped with gleaming steel spikes, as if colossal clawed hands were erupting from the cracked ground to grip the structures. The twisting, connecting paths extended from one roof to the next, more as if the buildings had melted and shifted than as if the paths were intentional. At the back rose a taller tower with a peaked roof. It was here that they had shaped a throne room for Blackhand, the Shadow Council giving a puppet ruler a pretend throne. Now that throne belonged to Ner’zhul, the new Horde leader in truth, and the rest of the abomination that was the stronghold with it.

Ner’zhul did not glance out through the arching windows toward the portal. He had no desire to be struck, again, by how desolate his once-fertile world had become. But really, there was no avoiding it, was there? Absently his fingers went to touch the white-painted skull on his face. Death. The death of his world, the death of his people, the death of his own idealism. Blood was on his green, gnarled hands; the blood of so many innocents. The blood of orcs who had trusted him, whom he had inadvertently led astray.

You must stop thinking of it that way, came a voice inside his head. He ignored it. It was easier to ignore the voice of the dead Gul’dan when he was not in physical contact with the skull. Yet even as he vowed not to give it heed, he cast a glance at it now as it sat on a small table. Torchlight danced off the yellowing bone. He found himself speaking to it, as if Gul’dan could hear him. Which, in a way, was true.

“We did much harm, you and I. Deathbringers, doom callers, both of us. But now we can try to save them. And your skull, my old apprentice…your skull will be part of that. Dead you are better use to the orcs than you were alive. Back you have come, to your old master. Maybe together we can give them a new chance.”

But that’s not what you really want, is it, my master?

Ner’zhul blinked. “Of course it is! I have ever sought to aid my people! That I have become death to them…it sears me. It is why I wear this.” He touched the paint on his face yet again. Skulls: the one before him, the one he adorned his face with. Death’s heads.

Perhaps it once was, and Gul’dan’s voice crept into his mind, soft, soothing. But you are greater than that, mighty Ner’zhul. Together, we can—

A scuffling sound drew his attention, and Ner’zhul reluctantly tore his gaze from the skull, leaving the latest debate with its owner unfinished. Gorefiend stood before him, along with a human Ner’zhul did not recognize, a tall, slender man with dark curls and a neat beard. The stranger wore sumptuous clothing and moved with the manner of a leader, all grace and confidence. There was something about him that did not ring true, and Ner’zhul frowned, sensing the power around the stranger.

“I have the artifacts,” Gorefiend announced without preamble, holding up a large sack. Ner’zhul felt hope surge inside him and waved the death knight forward eagerly. Gorefiend approached the throne, pulling each of the items in turn from the sack and placing them in his ruler’s lap.

Ner’zhul stared down at them, lifting each one to admire it. A large, heavy book, its red cover trimmed in brass and emblazoned with a raven in flight. A crystal the size of a man’s head, its center faceted like a star and edged in deepest violet. And a long, slender scepter, silver and wood with a large white gem glittering at its peak.

“Yes,” Ner’zhul whispered, resting his hands atop the three items. He could feel the power radiating from them, immense power—power enough to tear open the space between worlds. “Yes, with these we will create new portals. We will save the Horde. We must begin work at once! It will take some time to craft a spell of this magnitude, and everything must be exact.” He allowed himself a smile. “But with these three things, we cannot fail.”

Gorefiend bowed. “I told you this would work,” he reminded Ner’zhul. He stepped back a pace and turned toward the human he had brought with him.

“We could not have retrieved the artifacts if not for the black dragonflight. Deathwing is their father and leader.”

Deathwing! Ner’zhul’s hands tightened on the arms of his throne. Skulls, death knights…and now before him a mighty being even named for death. Ner’zhul could see the dragon’s true form wrapped around his human shell like wisps of smoke, and shivered inwardly. Deathwing’s lips curved in a smile that was not at all warming, and he bowed with a hint of mockery. Ner’zhul tried to calm his racing heart. This, too, he had dreamed of—this shadow of death.

“He freely gave us the aid of his children in exchange for passage through the Dark Portal for himself, his kin, and certain cargo he provided,” Gorefiend said.

“Cargo?” Ner’zhul found his voice, though he winced slightly at how treble it sounded in his ears. “What manner of cargo?”

“Nothing you need worry yourself about,” Deathwing replied in the smooth, cool voice. It carried the subtlest hint of a deadly serious warning. For an instant the torches flickered as if a sharp wind stirred them, and the dragon’s shadow rose up behind him, filling the room.

You see? Even now you fly with the dragon, all unwitting. You fly with the shadow of death, Ner’zhul. Will you not embrace it?

Ner’zhul wanted to clap his hands to his ears, but he knew it would be a futile gesture. He took a deep breath and forced himself to be calm.

“I thank you for your aid, Deathwing. We are grateful.”

Lord Deathwing.”

“Of course—Lord Deathwing.” The human-seeming dragon stood there, not acknowledging the subtle dismissal. “Is there anything else we could help you with?” Ner’zhul said. He wanted this creature gone.

The dragon-man considered, lips pursed, long fingers stroking his beard. Ner’zhul got the distinct impression that his pondering was feigned.

“That is generous of you to offer, noble Ner’zhul,” he replied after a moment, managing to twist the words so that they sounded sarcastic. “And I would be lying if I said the skull you have over there did not intrigue me greatly.” The words were polite, diplomatic, but they surged with barely restrained power, and the dragon’s eyes glowed for an instant with a fire that put the torches to shame.

Ner’zhul gulped. Did Deathwing hear Gul’dan’s voice too?

Deathwing chuckled softly and extended a well-manicured hand. A ring glittered in the light. “Come, good Ner’zhul. It’s my understanding that with these trinkets I helped your friend Gorefiend obtain, you have all the power you need to achieve your goals. The skull is not necessary to you anymore. And I want it.”

Ner’zhul fought back rising panic. While what Deathwing said was true, he did not want to hand over the skull. Gul’dan had been his apprentice, after all, and if there was any knowledge still locked in that yellowed relic, surely no one had a better right to it than Ner’zhul.

“I grow impatient,” said the silky smooth voice of the dragon named for death. “I don’t think you want me to be impatient, Ner’zhul. Do you?”

Ner’zhul shook his head and found his voice. “Please, take the skull, if you wish it. It is a trifling thing.” A lie, of course, and both he and the dragonlord knew it. Deathwing smiled, showing sharp teeth, and strode to the skull. His eyes widened as it came into contact with his flesh, and for an instant Ner’zhul saw spikes and scales and metal plates where flesh had been, and smoldering red eyes in a long, triangular head.

“I must say, I’m pleased with our…partnership. It seems to benefit us both.” The voice was warm, almost gloating. “Know that, if you should have need of us, you have but to call. I shall leave you for now. Several of my children will remain behind and heed all your commands as if they were my own.” He nodded to both Ner’zhul and Gorefiend, then turned and exited the room, the skull in his hand, draped beneath a portion of his long cloak.

The orc shaman and the death knight watched him leave. “I wish he had not taken the skull,” Gorefiend said after they were sure the dragon had gone. “Still, if we do not need it, it is a small price to pay for the artifacts he helped us acquire.”

Ner’zhul took a deep breath, as if the air in the room was suddenly breathable again. “Do you have any idea what he wants it for?” he asked Gorefiend.

“None,” the death knight admitted reluctantly. Their eyes met. In Gorefiend’s glowing red depths, Ner’zhul saw something that alarmed him almost as much as the dragon’s presence had: worry.

“Time grows short, and our window is narrow. Let us make all preparations as swiftly as we may.” They needed to leave this dead world before it was too late.

<< < 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 > >>


user comment image
Great book, nicely written and thank you BooksVooks for uploading

Share your Thoughts for Beyond the Dark Portal

500+ SHARES Facebook Twitter Reddit Google LinkedIn Email
Share Button
Share Button