Beyond the Dark Portal | Chapter 27 of 36

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

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CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE

It was not an orc.

It was no race Danath had ever seen before. The figure was tall and broad-shouldered, with pale blue skin that nearly glowed in the dim torchlight. Its features were strong and noble, similar to an elf’s but more rugged, with smaller pointed ears and wide slanting eyes. A row of ridged plates covered the figure’s high forehead, ending just above the stern brow, and thick tentacles hung down from the jaw on either side of a small tufted beard. Silver hair swept back around the head and fell beyond the shoulders of the stranger’s richly brocaded but heavily worn robes, and he held a long, ornate staff in one hand. Cloven hooves emerged below the robe’s frayed hem, Danath saw, and a sweep of motion behind them told him this strange figure had a tail as well.

The figure spoke in a deep smooth voice, raising the staff before him, and its tip flared with a pale violet light that reflected in his eyes. Those eyes caught sight of Grizzik, who was cowering behind Danath, and they narrowed. He spoke again, in angry tones, and Grizzik replied in the same language.

“What is this creature? What’s it want?” Danath barked at Grizzik. “He certainly doesn’t seem happy to see you.”

“I tell him, I lead noble warriors here, that’s all.”

The being turned toward them again and impaled Danath with his gaze. Then he murmured something and his staff glowed yet again. He opened his eyes and spoke—in perfect Common.

“This…creature…tells me he leads you here. What are you, and what is your goal here, among the revered dead?

Danath lowered his shield and sheathed his sword, shocked that the other knew his language, but caring more about convincing him to let them pass than in finding out how he learned it.

“I apologize for the intrusion,” he told the stranger. “We would not disturb your dead, or yourself. But the orcish Horde has taken refuge in your tunnels, and has captured our friend. We seek to rescue him and to defeat them as well.”

The being—Danath assumed it was some sort of draenei, since Grizzik had said this was their temple—glared at the mention of the Horde, but nodded when Danath had finished. “Yes, the orcs have invaded our tunnels,” he confirmed, lowering his staff to rest its base upon the floor. “They have laid claim to the Shadow Labyrinth, the deepest part of Auchindoun and the least damaged. It is there they will have taken your friend, and there you will find the majority of the Horde forces.”

“The majority?” Danath asked, leaning forward eagerly.

“Some of the orcs did not arrive recently,” the draenei said. “They have been here for some years, since just before the explosion. They reside within a different tunnel.” He shook his head, a mixture of anger and grief on his noble features. “They have sullied this temple with their presence for far too long.”

“We’ll soon fix that,” Danath assured him.

“You have told me your purpose. Now tell me what manner of creature you are. Many places I have traveled, but I have never seen your like before.”

“I am human,” Danath replied. “We hail from Azeroth, another world—the orcs forged a portal between there and Draenor and invaded, but we have broken their army and pushed them back. Now we seek to seal the portal once and for all, to protect our home and our people.”

The draenei studied him, those large eyes unblinking, and Danath knew the stranger was somehow testing the truth of his words. At last he nodded. “That is a noble goal,” he stated, and stepped out of the doorway to stand before Danath. “I am Nemuraan, one of the last of the Auchenai,” he introduced himself. “We were the priests of our people, and cared for the dead here in Auchindoun.” Danath introduced himself and Talthressar, and both bowed slightly.

“I applaud your determination, both in rescuing your friend and in removing the Horde’s taint,” Nemuraan continued. “I can help you with both tasks, if you will allow it.”

“I’d be grateful,” Danath answered honestly. He showed the Auchenai the rough map Grizzik had sketched out. “This is all I know of Auchindoun.”

Nemuraan examined the crude drawing and chuckled, though it was a bitter sound. “Did that one draw this for you, then?” he asked, indicating the arakkoa with a quick jerk of his tentacled chin. Grizzik was no longer cowering, though he was carefully staying back among the Alliance warriors, Danath noted. “He has been prowling through our halls for years,” the Auchenai continued after Danath nodded, “but he knows little beyond where to search for items to steal.”

“I meant no harm!” Grizzik protested. “I not know anyone remained within Auchindoun! I never have taken anything if I’d thought—”

“If you thought you’d get caught?” Nemuraan interrupted. “Be careful with this one,” he warned Danath. “The arakkoa were ever a devious race, and a selfish one.”

“He has been true to his word thus far,” Danath replied, “and I believe him when he says he hates the Horde.”

“Yes!” Grizzik agreed fervently, his dark eyes glittering. “I hate them all! Please please! We have common enemy!”

“That we do,” Nemuraan admitted after a moment. “Very well, arakkoa, we will start fresh as of this moment.” The Auchenai turned back to Danath, taking the parchment from his hand and producing a small black stick from a fold in his robes. With several quick marks he altered a few lines, linked a few tunnels, and expanded the map considerably. “The orcs will be here,” he explained, indicating one section. “Come. I will lead you to them.” Without another word Nemuraan thrust the map back at Danath and turned away, starting back up the stairs, his hooves clopping on the stone floor.

Danath glanced at Talthressar and Rellian, who nodded. He took a deep breath, and followed the draenei into Auchindoun.

“Have you lived here by yourself all these years?” he asked softly as Nemuraan led them into a second wide hallway and then through a series of twisting corridors.

“There are others,” the Auchenai replied, his staff raised to light the way. “Several of us survived the Horde’s attack and fled into the tunnels. Other draenei joined us later, seeking refuge from the Horde’s sudden onslaught. Many of them died in the explosion, and others have been lost since. Only a handful of us remain.”

Danath glanced around, wondering where these others might be, but ahead of him Nemuraan shook his head.

“You will not see them. Though you seem noble and true, it would not be wise for me to put the rest of my people at risk. They will remain hidden while I aid you, so that if you do betray me, our race will yet continue.”

“A wise precaution,” Danath agreed. “I’d have done the same.”

They continued to walk for some time, finally stopping at another door. “This marks the start of the Shadow Labyrinth,” Nemuraan explained. “Behind it lies the Horde.” He turned and studied Danath closely, his face somber yet his eyes alight with…anticipation? Joy? “I would aid you further, if you will permit it,” he offered softly, “though I warn that the type of aid might prove unsettling to some.”

Danath frowned and raised an eyebrow. “What do you mean?”

The Auchenai bowed his head. “In my keeping are the souls of all our departed,” he explained humbly, hands clasped on his staff. “At times of great need I may call upon them. I would do so now—they would relish the chance to cleanse these halls of the orcs’ foul touch.”

Danath was a little shaken at the matter-of-factness with which this was presented. He knew the Horde’s death knights were orc spirits placed in human bodies, so clearly spirits could survive beyond death, although he’d always been taught the dead should be left to rest in peace. But if Nemuraan was a protector of the dead, it would be all right if he asked for their help…wouldn’t it? Danath had said to Turalyon earlier that the ghosts of the men who had fallen would fight with him when they found the orcs, but he’d been speaking metaphorically. It looked as though the ghosts of someone’s fallen took such comments literally. Finally Danath shrugged. Such questions were for those of a more esoteric mind-set, and from a military standpoint he could certainly use all the help they could get.

“I am honored,” he told Nemuraan. “And if it would not disturb or anger them, we would welcome their assistance.”

Nemuraan nodded and bowed deeply, clearly pleased with Danath’s reply, then straightened and raised his staff high. Violet light blossomed down the length of the hallway, filling it with light and awakening answering gleams all along the ceiling. These gleams grew brighter rather than dimming, their colors shifting from violet to blue to green to gold as they descended and expanded, gaining shape and definition. The one nearest Danath and Nemuraan altered to reveal a massive figure, clearly a draenei but burlier than Nemuraan and wearing ornate plate armor rather than robes, a giant warhammer across one shoulder and a long cape trailing behind him. Others came into crisp focus as well, filling the room.

And they were all staring at Danath and his men.

A wind sprung out of nowhere, rustling Danath’s cape, stirring Talthressar’s long hair. A deep coldness seized Danath and he began to shiver uncontrollably. The spectral warriors advanced, beautiful and implacable, and Danath was rooted to the spot in sudden terror. Their leader extended a hand and brushed Danath’s forehead with it. The human cried out as images filled his mind—young Farrol and Vann in the stables before departing. Vann’s words cut off as an orc club had silenced him forever. Crouching low over his horse, living so the dead could know peace. Sky’ree, returning riderless. Bodies…so many of them, my boys, my boys, I’m sorry, I’m so sorry—

The image of the Horde, strong and armed, racing over fertile fields that were not Azeroth. Hundreds of fields, hundreds of worlds, innocent people dying as a green wave that did not belong in that place snuffed the life out of it. Moving on to the next, and the next—

“Your soul is troubled, Danath Trollbane of the Alliance,” said the spirit, though his face did not move. The words were in his mind. “You grieve for the fallen. Though you have come here with grief and rage in your heart, the true reasons that drive you are good and just. Be at peace. I am Boulestraan, once known as the Blinding Light, and my army and I shall aid you in your struggle.”

The cold terror faded, replaced by an odd sort of peace. Danath blinked. He looked again at the spirit and saw with a start that its eyes were pure gold, and that a flare of golden light rose from its brow as well.

“We are in your debt,” Danath managed. It was difficult to force the words out, or to tear his eyes from the figure before him, and Danath wondered if this was what Turalyon meant when he referred to the glory of the Holy Light. For Boulestraan and his ghostly warriors were no longer terrifying in the least. They were glorious, golden and gleaming and beautiful. Danath realized he’d just been tested, and relief washed over him as he regarded the draenei dead hovering protectively around his men.

With a quick shake to clear his head, Danath settled his shield upon one arm. Drawing his sword, he gripped the leather-wrapped pommel firmly. He glanced at Talthressar and Rellian. “Once we’re out, you’re with me,” he told them. “We have to find Kurdran.” Turning to the men in his charge, he said, “The orcs are behind this door. They don’t know we are here, and are likely expecting a dawn attack in a few hours. We have the element of surprise—let’s use it to full advantage. Once through the door, attack the first orc you see. Shout and yell and kick things out of your way. We want them confused, panicked, and unsure of how many foes they face and where.” He grinned. “That will leave them easy marks for our blows.” The men nodded back, and raised their fists in a silent cheer. Danath raised his fist as well, the torch held high. Then he turned back toward the door, readied himself, and nodded for Nemuraan to open it.

The Auchenai eased the door handle, then slammed the door open with surprising force, the thud of stone against stone a sharp crack that echoed like thunder in the enclosed space of the ruins.

“For the Sons of Lothar!” Danath shouted as he leaped through the opening. The door had opened onto a medium-sized tunnel not far behind a makeshift wall, and there were perhaps a dozen orcs here, lounging and sleeping and repairing gear. They glanced up, startled, as he burst in among them. Several stumbled to their feet, scrambling for weapons. But they were too slow. Danath’s first blow took an orc in the throat just as it was raising its head to shout an alarm. He continued the swing around, cut another orc across the forehead, and stabbed the creature through the heart while it shook its head to clear its vision. By now several of his men accompanied him.

Then in came the glowing, golden dead, implacable and beautiful, their weapons spectral but lethal. The orcs panicked at the sight, bellowing in terror, many of them dropping what weapons they’d raised and falling to the floor, and they were quickly dispatched. Most of the orcs here had not even been fully armed yet.

“Go!” Danath shouted to his men even as the last few orcs fell. “Go! Kill every orc you see!” He glanced at Boulestraan. “Send your warriors with them,” he said, and the draenei commander nodded, his spirit-warriors already splitting off to accompany Danath’s men. “Nemuraan—show me to their prisoner!”

The Auchenai nodded and opened a door in the far wall, then led Danath and the two elven rangers through it and into a shorter, narrow corridor. Grizzik followed close behind them. They passed along that and into a larger room at the end, where more orcs sat or ate or slept. Fortunately, both rangers had their bows at the ready, and arrows flew from their graceful fingers, killing several orcs before the others even realized they were not alone. Then Danath was in among them, his sword biting deep, and the screams and groans of his victims mingled with the sounds of chaos he heard from the rooms behind them, where his men were engaged in the same grisly work.

Nor was Grizzik idle. The bird-man launched himself forward in a strange gliding leap that carried him soundlessly behind several orcs, his long taloned hands darting forward and slashing one orc’s throat open with a single swipe. A second orc turned, axe raised high, but the arakkoa ducked beneath the awkward blow and twisted around to the front, then pecked the orc’s eyes out before shredding his throat as well. Whatever else the arakkoa was, Danath thought, catching glimpses of the quick, silent carnage, he was no pacifist.

“This way!” Nemuraan urged once the room’s defenders were dead, and led them across the blood-spattered chamber to another door. The Auchenai had not attacked any of the orcs himself, though his very presence and the light from his staff had seemed to confound them and make them easier to dispatch. This new door opened onto a much smaller room, and occupying half the space was a strange wooden framework like a rough table with raised crossbeams.

Lashed to those beams was a short, muscular figure. Blood had dried in a pool around him, had caked on his flesh. He sagged, unconscious, against the restraints, and Danath, seasoned warrior though he was, stared for a precious moment in simple horror at the atrocities perpetrated on his friend.

A single heavy-set orc leaned against the wall nearby, a spiked club at its side, clearly set to guard the prisoner. It pushed off the wall as Danath came into the room, a look of surprise on its brutish face, and its eyes widened further when the elves put a pair of arrows in its chest. A third arrow struck right between the eyes, and the orc died before it could even speak.

Danath was already hacking at the ropes binding his friend. “Kurdran!” he shouted, grasping his friend. “Kurdran!”

Talthressar murmured something in his musical tongue, but he too was pale as he helped Danath lower the Wildhammer to the table. Danath was still in shock. Both of Kurdran’s arms bent in unnatural ways, and his muscular body seemed to have more welts and cuts than tattoos now. His hands and feet were utterly broken, as if crushed with a club; the only sign that he was even alive was a faint rise and fall of his chest. The dwarf looked like something they’d find in a butcher’s shop. What had the orcs done to him?

“Light…I don’t even know where to start,” Danath said, his voice thick, staring at the bloody, broken body.

“I do…if you will permit me.” Danath’s head whipped up. Nemuraan had come forward, his staff glowing. “I am a priest of my people. I would do what I can to heal him. But you should know—your friend’s spirit clings to life only tenuously. I can try to heal him, or I can ease his crossing. If you would rather let him pass—”

“No!” Danath cried. “I’ve seen too many—please. If you can heal him, please do it.”

Danath and Talthressar stepped back as the draenei extended a hand. He placed it on Kurdran’s head, matted with dried blood, and lifted his staff with the other hand. Closing his eyes, the Auchenai began to pray.

Danath gasped softly as a pure, gentle radiance limned Nemuraan’s form. He didn’t know the words, but they calmed his heart. The glow brightened at the draenei’s hand where it rested on Kurdran’s brow. The radiance increased, until it was so bright Danath reluctantly closed his eyes against it.

He’d seen this before. This being from another world, this draenei, so strange in appearance to him—he was wielding the Light. Just as Turalyon did.

A grunt made Danath open his eyes. “Eh? What?” Kurdran muttered, his head tossing from side to side. “Do yer worst, ye green-skinned beasties!” He opened his eyes and stared straight up at the blue figure bending over him.

“It’s all right,” Danath assured him before he could struggle, placing a hand on the dwarf’s shoulder. Nemuraan stepped back, the light around him starting to fade, and smiled. “He’s…will he be…?”

“I have done all I could. He is healed, for the most part. But not all scars can be erased, nor things that are broken made as they were before.”

“Who’s broken?” Kurdran snorted. He sat up slowly, flexing his hands and feet, touching his body. “Heh. Dinna know I had that much blood in me.” He peered up at Danath. “Ah, Danath, lad!” he said when he realized who was beside him, his broad face splitting into a wide grin. “It’s ye, then, eh? And about bloody time! Not to worry—those beasties got not a word out o’ me. Did ye bring my hammer?”

“He should rest,” the draenei warned.

“Bah! Rest is fer the dead,” Kurdran growled.

“And sometimes not even for them,” Talthressar said quietly, glancing at Nemuraan.

“He’s a Wildhammer,” Danath said to the priest; it was the best explanation he could come up with. “I brought it, Kurdran. Here.” The hammer had been on Sky’ree when the gryphon had returned, and Danath had possessed enough foresight to bring it with him into the tunnel. He handed over the weapon, and couldn’t help grinning as the dwarf took the ponderous hammer and hefted it, though Kurdran moved more slowly and stiffly than before.

“Good.” Kurdran inspected the hammer quickly, then nodded his approval. “Now then, what’s the plan, laddie? And who be yer friends?” A nod of his head indicated Grizzik and Nemuraan, and Danath didn’t miss the revulsion that washed across the Auchenai’s face at being considered in the same breath as the arakkoa.

“Nemuraan is an Auchenai, a draenei priest of the dead,” Danath explained quickly. “He is one of the last of this place’s guardians. You owe your life to him—he healed you.”

“Ah,” said Kurdran, putting the pieces together. “Thank ye, lad. The Wildhammers dinna ferget such debts.” Nemuraan inclined his head graciously.

“And that’s Grizzik the arakkoa,” Danath continued. “He hates the orcs and guided us into this place from the forest. And the plan?” He raised his sword. “The troops are storming the tunnel. The rest will attack soon and draw the orcs’ attention away. And we will find Ner’zhul and bring his head back on a polearm.”

“Aye, that’s a plan I’m liking. Where be this orc shaman, then?”

They both glanced at Nemuraan, who tilted his head to one side. “The most defensible room is our former prayer center,” the Auchenai said after a moment. “That is where he is most likely to be found.”

“Lead on, then!” Danath said, and Nemuraan nodded, taking them out of that room and down a short corridor to a wide, heavy stone door covered in elaborate designs.

“Here,” he told them. “Behind this door lies the prayer center.” Grief shone from his eyes. “We would come here to pay our respects and commune with our dead.”

Rellian tried the handle. “Locked,” he said.

“Stand back, lad,” Kurdran urged as he raised his hammer. “This may splinter some.” He was still unsteady on his feet, and Danath bit back a protest. He wouldn’t try to stop Kurdran; the Wildhammer needed to reassure himself he could still fight. Danath held his breath as the dwarf steadied himself, and then hurled the stormhammer at the barrier before them.

The thunderclap that sounded upon impact nearly knocked Danath off his feet. A loud crack and a cloud of dust followed, and as he waved that away Danath saw that the blow had shattered the door. Through it he could see a large round room beyond, and a mass of figures near its center. Several of them glanced up, surprise evident in their faces, but two did not—a massive one-eyed orc and an older-looking orc whose face had been painted white to resemble a skull. That had to be Ner’zhul.

Their eyes met for a fraction of a second. Then, before Danath could begin his charge, Ner’zhul said something to the one-eyed orc, turned, and slipped past him, racing through a door at the far end of the room.

“No you don’t!” Danath cried, starting after Ner’zhul, but the one-eyed orc strode forward, blocking him. A long scar ran down the side of the large orc’s face, and a patch covered that eye, but the other glared at Danath without fear.

“I am Kilrogg Deadeye,” the orc announced proudly in heavily accented Common, pounding his chest with one hand even as he raised a massive war axe with the other. “I am chieftain of the Bleeding Hollow clan. Many humans have I slain. You will not be the last. I am charged with stopping you from passing, and so…you shall not.”

Danath eyed this new foe carefully. He could see from the streaks of white in his hair and the lines on his face that this Kilrogg was older than he, but his body was still heavily muscled and he moved with the grace of a natural warrior. He seemed to have honor, too. For some reason, Danath was prompted to respond in kind.

“So be it,” he replied, raising his sword to salute his opponent. “I am Danath Trollbane, commander of the Alliance army. I have slain many orcs, and you won’t be the last. And I will pass!” With that he charged, shield braced before him, sword already moving in a vicious downward stroke.

Kilrogg blocked the blow with his axe, almost wrenching the sword from Danath’s grip as the blade caught between the axe blade and handle. Danath did not slow, however, and his shield slammed full force into Kilrogg’s chest. The orc staggered back a pace. Danath took advantage of the moment to set free his sword and swing again, this time low and to the side. The edge clipped Kilrogg’s torso just above the waist, and the Bleeding Hollow chieftain grunted as the strike drew blood.

The wound did not slow him down, however, and Kilrogg responded with an attack of his own. He slammed his heavy fist against Danath’s shield, denting the sturdy metal and making Danath falter on his feet, then brought his axe around and up with an almost lazy arc that drove it beneath the shield’s bottom edge. Danath had to jump back to avoid being disemboweled, and winced as the axe’s back edge bashed into the inside of his shield, driving it hard away from him and wrenching his shield arm in the process.

Danath glanced up, and their eyes met. The human saw his own grudging admiration reflected in the orc’s single eye as Kilrogg nodded. Each found the other a worthy foe.

The temperature suddenly plummeted, and Danath grinned fiercely. Cries rose from elsewhere in the room, sounds of not only pain but fear; once again Boulestraan’s spirit-soldiers, beautiful and terrible, had come to the aid of the Alliance forces. Talthressar and Rellian were firing arrow after arrow, dropping orcs with well-placed shots. Kurdran, meanwhile, was focusing upon the orcs in the front of the room, the Wildhammer single-handedly keeping them at bay with furious swings and throws of his stormhammer, his fighting spirit unbroken although the orcs had done their damnedest to break his body.

Kilrogg noticed all this as well. He roared in rage and charged—not at Danath but at a cluster of men off to his side. The heavy axe rose and fell with lightning speed and two of the soldiers dropped, blood spattering everywhere as their fellows leaped back, desperately trying to hold their own against the enraged orc leader. The draenei spirits floated toward him with dreadful purpose, but Kilrogg evaded their attacks, concentrating his efforts on the humans instead. As fast as Danath’s troops cut down the other orcs, Kilrogg carved a space through them in return.

Suddenly Danath winced. A strong droning noise was drilling in his head. What the—he looked everywhere but could not locate it. Then he realized that it was coming from the other door, the one Ner’zhul had disappeared through moments ago. And that the edge beneath the door was glowing. The sounds were a chant, Danath realized suddenly. Between the glow and the chanting, and the hairs rising on the back of his neck, Danath knew they must be working some sort of magic. By the Light, was he opening the portals right now?

“Get past them!” he shouted to his men. “Get in the next room! Now!”

But still Kilrogg blocked the way. The Bleeding Hollow chieftain was almost alone now, all his warriors cut down by the elves and dwarf and humans and draenei working together, but he showed no sign of giving up. Danath could tell that the big orc was willing to sacrifice himself to buy Ner’zhul the time he needed for whatever magic he was working.

A voice suddenly shouted from the other side of the door. Danath couldn’t understand the guttural language, but he didn’t need to—whatever Ner’zhul had been trying to do, he’d done. There was a faint bursting sound, and the glow under the door intensified suddenly, filling the room with light and sound. Then it faded just as rapidly and soon was completely gone, leaving the room even darker than it had seemed before.

Kurdran managed to get past the burly orc, however. Panting heavily, he swung with all his might, straight at the now-darkened door. The portal shattered with a loud crack and the Wildhammer leader kicked the fragments aside, revealing a smaller room with a rune-scribed circle set into the stone floor. The room was empty.

Kilrogg had glanced toward the door as well, and now he grinned. “You did get past me—I give you that. Well fought, but in the end, you have failed, human. My master has gone ahead to the Black Temple to cast his spell. You cannot stop him now, and worlds without end will know the trampling feet of the Horde.”

“By the Light, at least you won’t follow him!” Danath renewed the attack, fueled by his anger. He rained blow after blow, but each one was blocked by the wily old warrior. Kilrogg grabbed the shield with one hand, shoving it aside, and slammed his axe down with the other, knocking the sword away before it could reach his belly. Then he grinned at Danath, showing the long curving tusks that sprang from his lower lip.

“You will have to do better than that, human,” the orc chided. Taking his axe in both hands, again he swung for Danath’s face, then reversed direction and swung once again, forcing Danath to step back or lose his head.

On the next swing Danath ducked and brought his shield up hard. It smashed into Kilrogg’s arms, forcing them up as well, and threw the orc off-balance. Then Danath thrust, his sword catching the orc in the belly and sinking deep. He was almost surprised that he’d managed it.

With a roar Kilrogg slammed his forearms down, sending the shield crashing onto Danath’s head, and staggered back. He was bleeding heavily from the gut wound, but that only seemed to enrage him. Raising his axe again, Kilrogg brought it down squarely atop Danath’s shield, the heavy blade sinking deep into the protective metal. He yanked back and the shield tore away from its straps, leaving Danath defenseless.

“Now we face each other blade to blade,” Kilrogg told him, ripping the sundered shield from his axe blade and tossing it aside. “And only one will live to sing of the battle.”

“Fine by me,” Danath muttered back through clenched teeth. Taking his sword in both hands, he ran forward, straight for Kilrogg, sword held high over one shoulder. But just as the orc chieftain stepped up to meet him, Danath stopped short, using his momentum to pivot on one foot instead, one hand releasing the sword and the other arcing outward so that his strike came from the opposite side. Kilrogg’s blind side.

The flashing blade took the surprised orc in the neck, slicing through his throat, and Kilrogg toppled, his axe falling from his hands as they flew up to stop the blood spurting from his wound. But the Bleeding Hollow chieftain was grinning as he dropped to his knees.

“By my blood…the Horde…lives,” the orc managed to gasp out, his voice a bubbling whisper. “Ancestors…I come….” Then his eyes glazed over and Kilrogg Deadeye toppled sideways, to land heavily upon the carved stone floor of the prayer room. Danath was panting, but lifted his sword in salute to a fallen foe.

“Well done, lad,” Kurdran said, stepping up beside Danath and patting him on the arm. But Danath shook his head.

“I failed,” he said bitterly, glancing down at Kilrogg’s body. “He was right. He did what he was supposed to do—he gave them enough time to escape.” Danath scowled and gritted his teeth. “Whatever spell they used transported them straight to some place he called the Black Temple! How can we possibly stop them now? I don’t even know where this place is!”

The arakkoa turned, his eyes bright. “Grizzik know! Can take you there!”

“You know where—”

“Sir!” One of Danath’s men burst into the room, followed by Nemuraan and the flowing, drifting forms of the draenei dead. “We have the orcs on the run, sir! Some of them have fled deeper into the tunnels, though!” He paused, clearly expecting a reply, and seemed puzzled when Danath did not respond. “Sir?”

Kurdran nudged Danath. “Ye’re in charge, lad,” the Wildhammer reminded him quietly. “Even if ye feel ye’ve failed, ye canna let yer troops know it, eh?”

He was right, of course. Danath nodded and straightened. Then he met the soldier’s eyes.

“Let the orcs run,” he said. “We know where Ner’zhul went, and we’re going to follow him. We’ll be making for a place called the Black Temple.”

“The Black Temple?”

Danath turned at the anger he heard in Boulestraan’s spectral voice, and saw the spirit glowering, though not at him. “That was once Karabor, our holiest place. But the orcs defiled it, as they defile all that they touch.” His hands tightened on his glowing hammer, which was still completely clean despite the orcs he had slain with it. “I pray when you reach it, you will drive the orcs from its hallowed ground.”

Danath nodded. “That’s the plan. Thank you for your help. It has been an honor fighting alongside you.”

“For us as well,” Boulestraan replied, bowing. “You and your Alliance are noble warriors, and honorable people. I wish you well, Danath Trollbane. We go to our rest, until summoned again.” Then he and his warriors faded away, leaving only soft glows behind, until those diffused as well.

Danath turned to Nemuraan. On impulse, he said, “Come with us. This is no place to live, and you can serve your people more by leaving here and returning to the world. We would even take you to Azeroth with us, if you liked.”

Nemuraan smiled. “Truly your world must be a wondrous place, to have produced such a people,” he complimented, “and I appreciate your offer. But no, my place is here. Our dead remain in this world—honorably laid to rest in Auchindoun, or scattered in the forest, even paving the path the orcs misname the Path of Glory. Here they lie, in Draenor, and here I stay, to tend them. The Holy Light has placed us here for a reason, and some day it will triumph over all. Until then, I rejoice in the knowledge that I have aided you, and that you and your people carry the Light as well. Go forth, and let your courage and strength drive the orcs before you like chaff before the strong wind. And who knows? Perhaps one day our peoples will indeed battle such evil side by side.” He hesitated. “A favor, before you go?”

Danath nodded. “Name it.”

“Do not let that one undo what the Light has wrought. A noble and fierce warrior he is to be sure, but wisdom marks a warrior as much as bravery.” He indicated Kurdran, who scowled and colored slightly. In the midst of his worry, Danath managed a small smile.

“I’ll do what I can—but you see how stubborn he is.”

“Bah, the lot of ye.”

“Come on, walking wounded,” Danath said to Kurdran. “We’ve a Black Temple to take.” And with a final nod to the Auchenai, Danath Trollbane headed back into the corridors of the city of the dead, hoping that Nemuraan’s prayers for the Alliance would be answered.

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

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