Beyond the Dark Portal | Chapter 23 of 36

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

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CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

“Finished!” Ner’zhul sank back onto his throne and closed his eyes a moment, before glancing down at the scroll that lay unrolled across his lap. It had taken him months of research, planning, study, and concentration, but at last the spell was complete! Once the alignment occurred, he would be able to open portals to the other worlds, and his people could once more have a world—many of them, even—as vibrant as they were themselves. And it would all be because of him.

“Good,” Kilrogg rumbled from his stance nearby. “A few more days until the alignment is complete, then we can finally abandon this forsaken place to the humans and begin the task of rebuilding our people!”

Ner’zhul regarded the one-eyed old warrior thoughtfully. Kilrogg had always impressed him, as much for his sharp mind and excellent tactical sense as for his fighting skills, and when the scarred Bleeding Hollow chieftain had limped back through the portal, Ner’zhul had seen that sending him back out into battle would be a waste. Besides, there weren’t many Bleeding Hollow warriors left—two years of hiding from humans and their allies had taken a heavy toll on the once-large clan. Ner’zhul had chosen to keep Kilrogg by his side instead, and to make the Bleeding Hollow clan his bodyguards. His own Shadowmoon clan had not been pleased with that, of course, but they were still numerous enough to be a force against the Alliance. Besides, Ner’zhul thought, he was warchief of the Horde now, not just chieftain of the Shadowmoon. He couldn’t show favoritism.

“We have a journey ahead of us first,” he told Kilrogg. He gestured at the citadel around them. “I cannot risk the spell failing. We have the skies cooperating with us; we must command the cooperation of the very land as well. I need to access the ley lines, as many as possible, so that Draenor herself will power the spell that releases us from her diseased grip.” He sighed.

“There is only one place that is ideal for such a task. The Temple of Karabor.”

Kilrogg’s one eye widened, but his expression did not change otherwise. “The Black Temple!” he said in a hushed tone.

Ner’zhul nodded. He did his best not to reveal the disgust he felt. He still remembered the war against the draenei with revulsion and not a little guilt, and the idea of entering their former temple sent chills down him, but he knew Kilrogg and the rest of the Horde did not share his sentiment. For them the death of the draenei was still a glorious victory, and the Black Temple a noble spoil. It was time for Ner’zhul to believe this also, if he were to lead them correctly. “If I perform the rite there, we cannot but succeed.”

“I will make arrangements for us to depart at once then,” Kilrogg said.

“Depart? Where are we going?” Kargath asked as he stomped into the throne room. The Shattered Hand chieftain had a broken arrow shaft protruding from his left shoulder. He reached up now and tore it out with a grunt. Ner’zhul had put Kargath in charge of the attacks against the Alliance stronghold, and the fool insisted upon leading many of the skirmishes himself. Most of the time they never even faced any of the humans directly—the Alliance archers rained death down upon them from above until Kargath got fed up and signaled the retreat. But at least it kept the Alliance occupied—and Kargath as well.

“I must go to the Black Temple when the stars align to cast the spell and open the new portals,” Ner’zhul explained, rolling the scroll and tucking it securely inside the pouch hanging from his belt. He rose from his throne and patted it absently. It was not the most comfortable seat he had ever had, but it was certainly the most impressive. He would have a new one crafted on whatever world they went to next.

“I will gather the troops,” Kargath replied, turning to go, but Ner’zhul stopped him.

“No,” he said. “Not yet. Summon Dentarg and Gorefiend instead. I will speak with the four of you here, and give you each your orders.” Kargath hesitated, and Ner’zhul barked, “Now!” Kargath raised his scythe-blade hand in salute and hurried from the room.

“I will send word to Hellscream,” Kilrogg said, and turned to leave.

“No.”

Kilrogg turned slowly, eyeing Ner’zhul. “They are still on Azeroth. We need to give Grom and his clan orders as well.”

“No, we do not. Grom Hellscream already has his orders. He is part of this plan as well.” At Kilrogg’s look of unease, Ner’zhul drew himself up to his full height. “You do not doubt my wisdom, do you, Kilrogg?”

The moment dragged out, heavy with tension, but Kilrogg eventually inclined his head. “Of course not, shaman.”

“Go gather your warriors,” Ner’zhul said to Kilrogg after Kargath had gone. “Tell them to make ready. We will depart shortly.”

Kilrogg nodded and left as well, and Ner’zhul began pacing the room. He wondered if the bomb had worked as Gorefiend assured him it would. It must have; Grom had not charged through, red eyes blazing, demanding blood. That was well. Hellscream had always been a difficult one to manage, but he had served his purpose. He was no longer necessary.

Kilrogg returned shortly, a simple nod confirming that his warriors would be ready. Gorefiend arrived a few minutes later, and both Kargath and Dentarg were right behind him.

“Good,” Ner’zhul said when all his lieutenants were present. “I have completed the spell,” he told Gorefiend and Dentarg, and the two smiled.

“I knew you could do it, master!” Dentarg said.

“You will be going to the Black Temple, then?” Gorefiend asked, and his smile widened to a grin at both Ner’zhul’s and Dentarg’s surprise. Ner’zhul realized he should have expected this. Gorefiend had been one of the most promising young shaman he had seen, in terms of ability and perceptiveness if not empathy, and he had grown into a powerful, confident, clever warlock even before his death. Since returning as a death knight, he had only grown in strength and cunning. He would become a danger soon.

“Yes. It is the ideal place to cast such a spell.”

“I can have the Horde warriors ready by nightfall,” Kargath reported. “We will leave behind a small force to man the walls here, and the rest will protect you along your way.”

But Gorefiend shook his head. “The Alliance won’t fall for our ruse much longer. And when they realize we have only been striking to keep them pinned up in their hold, they will attack with their full strength.”

Ner’zhul nodded—he had already guessed as much himself. “You will remain here, with your clan,” he instructed Kargath. “Hold off the Alliance forces when they attack, while we go ahead to the Black Temple.” He frowned. “I will need time. You must delay them as much as possible. If you survive, meet us there.”

Kargath paled slightly, then straightened and nodded. “The plains before these walls will be piled high with the bodies of their dead!” he promised, raising his scythe-hand. He nodded to the other three, and then turned on his heel and stalked off. They could hear him shouting orders once he’d left the room.

“They cannot win,” Dentarg commented after a moment.

“They don’t have to,” Ner’zhul replied. “All he has to do is keep the Alliance from following us long enough for me to complete the spell.” He shrugged. “This citadel is strong, and his Shattered Hand warriors are tough. They will put up a good fight, and the rest of our people will honor their memory on all the worlds we conquer in their name.”

“Of course.” Dentarg took the subtle rebuke with only a slight wince. “I do not doubt Kargath’s loyalty, or the prowess of his warriors. He will fight to the end.”

“Yes.” Ner’zhul eyed the Shadowmoon ogre mage. “And you will fight with him.”

“What?” This time Dentarg rocked back in surprise. “But master, you will need me at the Black Temple! My place is at your side!”

Sudden fury welled up inside Ner’zhul, hot and pure. “Your place is wherever I tell you it is!” He snarled, his voice deepening with his anger.

Dentarg’s eyes widened. “Your face…,” he murmured, cringing back, fear and shock on his own visage. “The skull…!”

The moment passed, and Ner’zhul felt the fury leave him. He reached to touch his white-painted face; it felt the same to him as it always had.

“They have magi of their own, these humans,” he said, his voice gentler. “Someone must be here to stop them, someone with enough magic to hold his own. Someone I can trust.” He stepped forward, stretching his hand up to place it on the ogre’s shoulder. Dentarg stepped backward, and Ner’zhul let his hand fall. “That someone must be you.”

Dentarg glanced down at Gorefiend. “Why doesn’t he stay?”

“I have far more knowledge of rifts and portals than you do,” the death knight said. “Ner’zhul will need my help with the ritual, or I would stay here and teach those humans a thing or two about magic.”

Dentarg’s small, piggy eyes darted back to Ner’zhul.

“I do need him with me,” Ner’zhul said in an avuncular, almost apologetic tone. “And while I would have you there as well, you can aid me far more by being here and lending Kargath your sorcerous skills.”

The ogre finally nodded. “I will do as you command, master. I will stop the human magi. And if I survive, I will join you at the Black Temple.” The desire to see that place and walk its halls was naked in his voice.

“Good.” Ner’zhul nodded and turned away. They both knew the chances of Dentarg’s surviving were slim. “I will leave the black dragons here to help in the battle. Go now and coordinate with Kargath.” From the corner of his eye he saw Dentarg nod, and listened as the ogre stalked out of the room. Once those thunderous footsteps had faded away, Ner’zhul turned back to Kilrogg and Gorefiend.

“Gather your warriors and your death knights,” he told them. “We leave at once.”

Less than an hour later, Ner’zhul was astride a wolf loping from Hellfire Citadel, surrounded by Kilrogg and his warriors. Gorefiend and his death knights scouted ahead on their reanimated steeds. Behind them, Kargath Bladefist and his orcs cheered from the citadel walls, chanting Ner’zhul’s name. The Horde leader rested one hand on his pouch, making sure the scroll was still there, knotted the other in his wolf’s thick pelt, and rode on.

He did not look back.

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Alice
Great book, nicely written and thank you BooksVooks for uploading

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