Alternate Universe Azeroth 2: Lor’themar

There’s public outrage after Theramore comes to light in Silvermoon. Because it will, of course. The sentries haven’t been updated since Kael’thas’ betrayal, so they’re not monitoring conversations on human kingdoms – there are no people to update them, which is another cause for anger. Hundreds of families haven’t seen their relatives in years because of wars the Sin’dorei shouldn’t be involved in. Almost all of the Ghostlands are relying on the Forsaken to keep the Scourge at bay even after the Lich King’s defeat, and the Horde is forcing the Sin’dorei to keep fighting.

There are protests beyond anything seen before, about the military, the Ghostlands, the lack of food, the lack of transparency, the fact that the palace was rebuilt but there are still refugees in Quel’danas and the ruined western quarter. Lor’themar is forced to hold emergency meetings with the military brass because of the risk of riots. Protests devolve angrily into pro- and anti-Horde camps, and the Sunreavers become public enemy number one for allowing the blood elves to be complicit in one of the worst war crimes in recent history. During all of this, Thalen Songweaver and Fanlyr Silverthorn… disappear.

Aethas is held accountable, of course, but even he has no idea where the pro-Garroshians have fled to. The Sunreavers are hastily disbanded and re-absorbed into the Magisters, and Lor’themar forced to allow a people’s assembly to be elected to negotiate with a power-sharing council to avoid such heinous misdemeanours being repeated again. Relations with the Horde tremble, even if briefly.

Eventually, to sate the public, Lor’themar begins negotiations with Vereesa to allow the Quel’dorei an embassy. Lady Liadrin is sent to aid Horde forces, with more golems than guards, because the guards need a face more than ever, and the golems weren’t helping the case. In public, the reason is to aid the war effort and the draenei whom the elves owe a debt to. In private, Lor’themar is desperate to recapture Songweaver and Silverthorn before their escape turns into another public scandal.

Goodbyes

Keliera took one last glance across the bay as the golden strands of Quel’thalas drifted further and further out of reach. Her hands fiddled absentmindedly with the sheaf of papers she had with her.

“Havin’ second thoughts?” One of the goblin crewmembers stood next to her. “Don’t blame ya. Pretty sweet view you elves got.”

Keliera smirked. “Aye, but it’s just a front, really. The core’s not changed. I’m not sure it ever will. Better to go somewhere else, change things where they can be changed. If Silvermoon wants to stay rotten, I don’t want to be dragged down with it.”

“Well, there’s good folks in Pandaria. Best I’ve known. I’m sure you’ll find some friends.”

Keliera nodded. “Gonna miss it though. Met some good folks outside of it.” Memories flooded through her head – time-travelling in Netherstorm, drinks in Dalaran, blowing up Gallywix’s outhouse – as the coastline faded from view.

“Better to leave now, I think. I’ve got a lot more to do.” Keliera’s fingers rubbed over the surge ring she’d got in Northrend. She could feel it. Change. It felt good.

Well, I guess that’s a wrap. I said to myself that if there was no beta and no sign of Blizzard changing things by the time my subscription ended on June 3rd, I’d bow out. That’s a week away, and I feel like things have regressed, given the Rob Pardo comments we’ve heard about.

I can’t be sure whether I’ll ever return to WoW, but the continued lack of inclusivity and the poor jokes and comments seem to have learned little from the Cannibal Corpse fiasco three years ago. Blizzard as a whole is relying on the industry to back it up – but the industry is changing. Blizzard is the dinosaur in gaming right now, and somehow it thinks that by pretending it was twenty years ago, it’s going to coast by just fine. Change is hard, but inevitable, and it’s not going to wait.

Of Warlords, all I can say is that it looks pretty. The changes to LFR, the over-emphasis on Garrisons, the shoddy story ideas – none of them make me want to play it. I have said before, but Warlords is the only expansion I’ve seen announced where the information trickle after Blizzcon has made me like the expansion less and less.

I start Uni later this year. I doubt I’ll have time to play WoW. I doubt I’d be playing even if I wanted to right now. I can hope that Blizzard changes, but right now I feel like it’s best to move on and be thankful for the friends I made and the awesome times I had. It’s been great.

Alternate Universe Azeroth 1: Saurfang

I’m bored. Alternate Universes are fun.

Warcraft AU 1: Dranosh Lives

Context: Dranosh is not actually killed by Frostmourne at the Wrathgate. The Forsaken attack before he charges, and both he and Bolvar are kept barely alive by the Red Dragonfire until they are taken to Icecrown Citadel. Instead of Deathbringer Saurfang, the Horde and Alliance gunships encounter Orbaz Bloodbane, given renewed power by the Val’kyr.

Following his defeat, Muradin, Varian, Garrosh and Varok storm the citadel only to stumble upon the Lich King attempting to convert Dranosh into an even more powerful death knight.

LK: Dranosh… Heart of Draenor in the old tongue. How quaint. But I remember you. The shaman remembers you. Proud old Varok, who would not let the warlocks take his child… But I shall.

Dranosh: You’re… pathetic… I bow to no warlock magic… I am Saurfang… I am the blood of Draenor…

Varok breaks rank and charges towards the Lich King.

Varok: I made a promise to my wife before she died that I would hide my son, and keep him untainted! I will fulfill that promise. LOK’TAR OGAR!

Varok knocks the Lich King back with a cleave of immense power, and is then flung back against the wall by the Lich King slamming Frostmourne into the floor. Hordes of Val’kyr surround the Lich King as he disappears. The two Saurfangs embrace briefly, before Varok sags into his scarred son’s arms.

Dranosh: Father… Father, stay with me…

Varok: My task… is done. You are the Horde now, Dranosh… Lok’tar Ogar…

Varok passes away, cradled by Dranosh.

 ((To be continued))

Theramore, Tides of War, and Missed Opportunities

(For those of you following me on twitter, this is going to sound a lot like a rant you may have heard.)

Warlords of Draenor is approaching. Slowly. Very slowly. Despite its lack of visible speed,t here is a notable release soon, and that’s the upcoming War Crimes novel, written by Christie Golden (responsible for Twilight of the Aspects, Arthas, Rise of the Horde, Tides of War, etcetera). This is a novel around Garrosh, though it purports to deal with a lot of the main faction leaders and the actions of the Horde in recent years.

This is an incredible opportunity to get a lot of story into the game before the expansion, and it mirrors an opportunity missed entirely two years ago when Mists of Pandaria was approaching. At that time, Tides of War was released, centring around Jaina Proudmoore in the build-up to an all-out war between the Horde and Alliance characterised by the brutal destruction of her home city, Theramore.

This missed opportunity played a massive role in the misrepresentation of Jaina in following patches and the misunderstanding of her by a lot of the player base as ‘evil’, ‘crazy’ and all those other tags which just get added onto characters in order to shove them onto the formerly-good-boss-character assembly line. It’s a worrying prospect that one of the most influential female characters in Warcraft and one of the characters with the most potential could accidentally be endbossed because of this.

Had the campaign leading up to and including the Battle for Theramore been properly included as a pre-launch quest chain, it would be much, much easier to understand Jaina’s sudden characterisation shift from an in-game perspective without having to rely on external lore.

There was so much missed out of Jaina’s in-game characterisation as a result of omitting the key aspects of this campaign. Horde players (unless they detour into the tower) do not see any of the relevant characters in the Battle for Theramore scenario, and it stands to reason that a large section of Horde-only players would not know who was there and who died at all. Similarly, Alliance players do not see any of the Horde leadership or minor characters involved in the campaign – in fact, neither faction sees more than Jaina, Kalec, Rhonin and Thalen Songweaver. You’d be surprised to learn that Garrosh was involved at all.

But an incredible amount of characterisation goes on during the battle. No players get to see the intrigue between Malkorok, Garrosh, Baine and Vol’jin. No one sees Jaina literally break down after the event (in fact, she’s fighting with steely determination in the scenario) because everyone in Theramore that she knew is dead.

Pained, her bodyguard, advisor, friend. Dead.
Tervosh, her right-hand Mage. Dead.
Kinndy, the apprentice that Jaina had had for a week. Dead.
And it goes on. Rhonin, dead, Marcus Johnathon, dead, warriors donated to Jaina by the Kirin Tor and Sha’tar, also dead.

Can you even imagine how devastating that would be to have one one person’s conscience? Jaina has to go for the rest of her life (and mages are longer-lived than most) knowing that everything she did for peace was in vain, that all of those lives were lost because she was the one person to think positively of the Horde. She had to tell Kinndy’s father that she had died under Jaina’s protection, she had to see Kinndy and Pained and Tervosh’s corpses shatter into dust because of the effects of the mana bomb.

All of her closest friends died and she didn’t get to say goodbye, she didn’t get a funeral, and quite likely she thought that it was all her fault for being too trusting. I defy anyone to think that, in that context, Jaina’s change of direction in Mists was a surprise.

And therein lies the problem. It’s not a surprise at all, but none of what I just said happened in game. A vast amount of the playerbase will know little to nothing about these events. And so, really, Jaina gets short shrift. She and Kalec are the only ones to survive that bombing, and the Alliance remains reluctant to stop the Horde being able to do it again. And it is not only understandable, but agreeable, that Jaina is so angry at the Horde and the Alliance.

There is, of course, an easy way to resolve this. All that needs to happen is a monologue, a speech, a couple of flashback quests where it is actually said what happened in full. This brings me onto War Crimes and its relevance in light of Warlords’ eventual launch.

Garrosh Hellscream is put on trial, a trial in which his and others’ past deeds are shown via the Bronze Dragonflight and the Timewalkers. This is a way to literally show any and every piece of relevant lore to the factional conflict in one place, and it oh so desperately needs to be used especially to show what happened at Theramore.

It wouldn’t be the launch that Theramore deserved to be a part of. There should have definitely been a 4.4 with players sent between the capital cities, seeing the molten giants crush the alliance keeps in the Barrens, seeing the intrigue, participating in the whole battle for Theramore, seeing every detail and all of the events that happened afterwards (there’s little reason that it couldn’t have incorporated several scenarios a la thunder isle) That would have been better, and it would have gone some way to silencing the ‘nothing but cute pandas’ naysayers with a dramatic bang to start off Mists.

Consider the opening cinematics of the Jade Forest that you see on either faction. They set the tone for the rest of the expansion, but with a successful pre-launch and a more detailed Battle for Theramore, they would have been appropriate, stoked the tension and integrated Pandaria into a theme which already was geared for factional conflict. In fact, I’d argue that the destruction of Theramore should have been a selling point of Mists at Blizzcon way more than it ended up being, as it would have tied the story in.

A missed opportunity, but as I will stress again, one that doesn’t need to be repeated with War Crimes and Warlords. There is still a a chance to use the Warlords pre-launch event to incorporate the important and wide-reaching plot of War Crimes in a way that the Theramore scenario and the Mists pre-launch failed entirely to, especially as Blizzard is more skilled now at integrating scenarios, questing and unique events into one experience.

We don’t yet know what happens in War Crimes. But Blizzard do, and they should definitely be using it in-game. They cannot create an engaging story if they keep the best story moments outside the game, and with Warlords taking longer than expected to hit beta, they need to be keeping players engaged by integrating the upcoming story into the game rather than waiting until Warlords hits and just having Anduin send us a letter saying ‘oops, Garrosh escaped when he was on trial, sorry you weren’t invited!’ Because, really, it would be a public trial.

This is Blizzard’s opportunity to stop wasting story by restricting it to novels and it is a method by which they can ease the criticism of Warlords so far – by showing that the story is worth it. And it’s going to be their only opportunity to do so. They can’t launch Warlords twice.

On Torture

The last war taught me a lot. Certainly more than I ever thought war would teach me. The importance of friends. Family. Unity among whole peoples is necessary if we are to ever develop. It’s what allowed the triumph over Garrosh and his forces.

But too many died, and unless we go forward as changed people, too many will keep dying. I have learned, at great cost, the importance of maintaining one’s calm and focus, and of the necessities of hope, humility, and mercy, even in the heat of the strongest battles.

Mercy and understanding. There have been those in the past that defied mercy, that took victory at all costs and revelled in death and pain. Some say that such people do not deserve mercy.

I disagree. Some have committed horrible crimes, and it is these crimes to which I turn next. But if we commit horrible acts on these criminals – what makes us different? How do we rise above them? How can we claim a moral high ground?

There is inspiration for these thoughts. Recently, as part of an operation wrapping up Garrosh’s crimes, the Convocation of Elrendar – the organisation to which I belong – began a search for the Arcweaver Genmal, who under Garrosh had led a project known as Grom’s Blood, which had created a brand of orcish supersoldier.

As resources had become scarce, these orcs had become increasingly volatile and unstable, with random powers and hugely shortened lifespans. A heightened agility and resistance to magic turned into vulnerability to fire, and hugely unpredictable forces.

The project had been closed after Garrosh’s defeat, but Genmal had fled before the assault on Orgrimmar had even begun, and taken refuge within a goblin corporation responsible for a slave-trade which supplied Genmal with orcish refugees in exchange for soldiers. Exposing this trade after a skirmish with Kor’kron loyalists took us from the Barrens to Booty Bay. Genmal’s creations littered Jaguero Isle and the Ruins of Zul’kunda. Hastily allying with defectors from the ethereal prince Lexxal (former supplier of the Crimson Hand) and a nationalist group of ex-Hellscream’s Reach soldiers, we uncovered Genmal’s hiding spot at the Crystalvein Mine.

While we cleared Zul’kunda of the remaining orcs and set about destroying Genmal’s work, the Reach instead set about the troublesome task of breaking into Genmal’s hiding place – an initiative that resulted in all their deaths.

Eventually, we captured Genmal. But the charges stacked high against him, easily as high as those of Sorlain.

Torture, given the immense physical pain his test subjects suffered – all unwilling after Garrosh’s power system collapsed. Murder, certainly, and coercion, and his support of Hellscream through his projects.

But what punishment do his crimes deserve? I am hesitant to call for death. To one who has done so much evil, death is a form of mercy, a form of vindication – the kind of people who commit these crimes do not care whether they live or die. Death will not make someone understand their trespass.

But we cannot just do to them as they do to us. I have learnt enough from Pandaria, from Garrosh, to know that such an option is never right. There needs to be a separation between judge and culprit, or the judge becomes just as guilty.

It’s disappointing to know that so few among my colleagues agree. That they would put Genmal through intense mental pain, intense physical pain and intense emotional pain all at once – and that they did so without hesitation in the heat of battle. In the aftermath, Genmal looks like any old orc war survivor – beaten, broken, aged.

But I have to live with the fact that, when faced with him, my colleagues crushed his creations – potentially redeemable orcs – to break his spirit. That they broke his legs with magma to stop him getting away. That they inflicted intense hallucinations of pain on him to drain him mentally.

It is unacceptable, and it is unforgivable that I did not stop them.

To move forward, we have to know that we are better than those we fight – and act like it. As horrifying as war is, I cannot excuse torture, even in the face of all the suffering Genmal inflicted on dozens of orcs who we were forced to kill out of mercy. Genmal does not understand his crimes. But making him understand through making him a victim of similar crimes? How can anyone condone that?

So I am resolved. I was resolved when I left Booty Bay to find Liferoot to make into a poultice for Genmal’s legs. I was resolved when I induced sleep to try and ease his pain. And I will be resolved in resisting every attempt to further harm him.

I will not be damned to repeat the crimes I fought so hard against, and I will not let my friends and colleagues damn themselves by partaking in these crimes – or by looking the other way. If we ever learn anything from war, it must be how to improve.

Otherwise, what did we fight for?

Shattered Heart: Chapter 2

Chapter 2: Rapture

Cimmeria

Cimmeria looked out over the forest. Thanks to the efforts of the Evergrove druids, it had steadily expanded in recent years – which meant more hunting grounds for her brood. She was thankful. The brood had suffered hard times since the War in Outland had concluded, but things were beginning to pick up. It was a welcome boon, especially with Sabellian’s malaise.

A bright flash of light caught her eye from the canyon below, distracting her from a rather tasty basilisk. Opting to swallow it whole, she licked her lips and sauntered over to the edge, peering into the depths of the Bladespire territory.

An unusually large group of smaller humanoids gave her pause for thought. Figures in dusty twilight robes circled around a large procession of ogres, surrounded by tendrils of shadow magic.

They’re heading the same way as the gronn Sabellian noticed. And those are Twilight robes. Cultists. This is too coincidental to just leave uninvestigated.

“Nighteye, lead the others back to Sabellian when you are finished eating. I need to see what’s going on in the canyon.” Cimmeria barked her orders at the nearest drake, who nodded before turning back to a stag corpse. Cimmeria charged off the edge, gliding into a shaded gulch, where she landed and assumed her mortal form, a thin draenei with pupil-less eyes. She moved closer to the group, keeping to the shadows afforded by the large spires above.

Maybe Sabellian was right. I wonder if vindication might get him to stop his sleeping all day.

Although she did not let on, Cimmeria was concerned for Sabellian. They had been clutch-brother and clutch-sister, but since the freeing of Outland and the death of Gruul, Sabellian had… lacked purpose. Few required black dragons on the shattered world, and fewer wanted them.

Now, more often than not, Cimmeria had to direct and care for her brothers and sisters. Cimmeria suited leadership, but she would have preferred to have not taken over alone. On a good day, he had been the most energetic and logical of all the dragons on Outland, though his aggressive leadership style had left a lot to be desired.

This isn’t the future I had in mind either, brother. But if we don’t seize opportunity, what else is there?

The nonsensical proselytisation of the cultists was a dim murmur as Cimmeria followed, while all eyes were rapt upon the ogres. One, in particular, a two-headed mage wielding an elementium staff, held the group’s attention. The twisted and sickly metal hurt to look at, and Cimmeria glanced down, noticing a tome by the ogre’s feet. It was positively ancient, and the power it radiated made the young dragon feel sickly.

She was quickly getting a bad feeling about this situation.

Then the earth cracked.

Sabellian

Uninterested in the hunt, Sabellian remained atop the bluff, occasionally turning his head to shield his eyes against the dusty wind. His scales baked in the unending heat. A considerable number of his scales were cracked or scuffed, and his whole manner showed signs of a lack of personal attendance. There was no trace of a proud black dragon where he lay.

Once, Sabellian had aimed to free his brethren from the gronn and their overlord, Gruul. Thousands had died at their hands, and their corpses littered the mountains for years. But after the final victory, Sabellian felt empty. He had no more goals. No more aims. The only point of the black dragonflight now was to exist. Tales from Azeroth spoke of the evil of his flight, of how it served to destroy everything. That had only made him feel worse.

But one tale caught his ear. That of the noble dragons of old, who protected the earth and served the mortals. It was a distant hope. But it was hope.

The powers of the earth. The powers of Neltharion. The Earth-Warder of old. Sabellian scratched at the dirt with a claw, wondering. How does one claim such a power? Can it be claimed at all?

Sabellian had no idea. But he knew he had to try and understand the earth, to try and reclaim what the dragons had once been. The only problem was how to go about it, and so he remained where he lay, unsure of what path to take.

Several hours after they had left to hunt, with the evening sky now cool, the brood began to return, landing in small groups with their various meals. Sabellian counted them, as usual. He could name each as they flew overhead just from their scales. He had seen most of them hatch, and raised far more. He knew something was amiss from the anxious fluttering of the wingtips. Around ten minutes after the last batch flew in, he grew concerned.

Cimmeria’s not here.

Sabellian glanced around several more times, as half an hour passed without her return. The other drakes continued to eat, but glanced around warily. She had not said specifically what she was doing, and had given no indication of when she might return. Sabellian pushed himself to his feet, intending to go search for her.

Then the earth cracked.

Obessia

They took refuge in the mountains north of the Dark Portal. A majority of them had survived, but at a steep cost: They had lost two of their wisest and strongest fighters, and many more were injured.

Outland. This should be different. This should be what saves us.

The harsh red soil of Hellfire Peninsula was unlike anything Obessia had encountered in her short years. The earth did not cower or bend before her kind; if anything, she could feel its strength, constantly pushing back against the forces that could never quite tear it apart. It was as though her spirit was butting heads with the earth itself, an earth that was so strong it would not let a single speck of dust go.

It felt… liberating. The earth here was not her enemy – every day in Azeroth it had felt like she were destined to fight the earth. Within Draenor lay a new being, a foreign being – and it was a worthy opponent. She had never encountered the feelings of mingling with the earth spirits this way – though she doubted that any of her contemporaries saw the spirits in such a way. She was unsure if any of them could feel the spirits at all. It certainly didn’t seem like they cared for them.

Then the earth cracked. She could feel it gasp in pain, seeing the paper-thin rivulets opening between her feet as her vision expanded in a way she’d never known was possible. Her head felt like it was under extreme pressure.

The earth is crying out… in pain.

Shattered Heart: Chapter 1

Prologue

As the Hammer sought to strike Azeroth into pieces, Azeroth fought back. With Cho’Gall dead, Deathwing’s forces on the back foot, and the balance of the Aspects shifting to adapt to a changing world, the only thing certain was more change.

The Black Flight had been pushed back – decimated in Hyjal, shot down in Uldum, forced out of Deepholm, obliterated in the Highlands, and with their end, the Hour of Twilight was falling, dragon by dragon by dragon. The last broodmother lay dead, all their eggs destroyed. There was no hope for their survival. Few realised that then, especially with Ragnaros still ascendant, reaping the benefit of thousands of defections to his cause.

Those that realised that the end was fast approaching fled.

First they flew by day, and then by night, as the forces working against them became stronger. The forces of the world were more resilient, forged by the fires of destruction into untouchable iron. The civilians who would have cowered in their houses were now heroes who struck back by arrow, sword, dagger and spell. Flight became dangerous quickly, and cloaking became a necessity. Their millennia-long knowledge of hiding spots faded as the shaman gained the trust of the elements, turning every cave and cavern against them through the world-altering powers of Nordrassil. Even their powers of magma and fire waned as the Gods they once served abandoned them for other pawns.

Dreams of offensives and vengeance slipped away. Defense became barely possible, as suddenly every flight was a desperate struggle for survival. They relied only on fleeing. The proud Black Dragonflight was shattered, the remnants forgetting who they were, the power they once held, as the odds became insurmountable. They ran. From their allies, their enemies, their wounds, their heritage, their power, their control, their being.

There was only one place where they could hide. The one place where they had hidden before, sheltered by Deathwing, once a powerful manipulator, now a husk of chaos and destruction, more a force than a being.

Outland. Rumours persisted of dragons hidden away there, removed from time and concerns with mortals. As they passed over the Morass, only one problem spot persisted. The most militarised area in the Eastern Kingdoms, and for good reason. The Dark Portal.

~~~

Chapter 1: Escape

Serinar

“The Dark Portal! It’s there!”

Hush, young one. Stick to our telepathy. The mortals here are vigilant and will be alerted if they hear you.

Serinar was slightly impatient, but he could understand the fleeting joy of the young drake. Obessia was the youngest of their dwindling number. Their motley brood had experienced nothing but death and retreat since its formation following Obsidia’s death, and Obessia knew no true parenthood, having been stolen away before the clutch was obliterated by the Reds.

He shared internally in her blissful hysteria, angling down to signal the rest of the dragons to descend. The growing figure of the Dark Portal, illuminated by dim felfire and the occasional lightning storm, was an indication the brood had longed for weeks to see. It represented the hope that their lives wouldn’t be spent running away like rats – or end in soon, unavoidable death.

They had departed the Obsidian Dragonshrine with more than ten thousand in their number, but were now down to merely thirty. One would find fewer dragons in a brood lair. The falling numbers had been disconcerting even when they believed in the Hour of Twilight. When reality came, and the Hammer expected them all to die for a prophecy none believed would come to pass, they had abandoned the field. Now, the starkness of their situation was terrifying. An ironic fate for the bastard dragons who have wrought fear for ten thousand years.

Serinar was angled head-on with the Dark Portal, intending to head right through, when he noticed he could make out the shifting shadows on the Portal itself. The guards, crates and tents were illuminated by more than the occasional lightning bolt. And the illumination in the area was getting brighter.

The sun was coming up.

Serinar turned sharply in panic, heading instead for the abandoned depths of the Twisted Scar. Breaking the brood’s glide-only rule of the last twenty miles, he began to flap in a desperate attempt to pick up speed.

“We’re about to be seen!”

And you shall die, slaves to your worst imaginings.

The voice came from nowhere, echoing all around each of them, bouncing in their ears and roiling in their skulls. The prophetic ramblings of their scorned masters only served to push them on, but as they dove sharply over the portal and into the canyons below, they heard the bleary yells of orcs and humans, woken by their movements. A volley of arrows flew at them, felling a drake who had fallen behind.

“NO!”

Sabellian

Sabellian lay prone on the ground, as he did every day. With each circuit of the stars (the only way to tell time in Outland) he hoped and willed for some response. Some guidance as to what to do with his meagre flock. But there was nothing. No signal from the earth, the sky, from the voices in his head that had died away years ago.

Cimmeria, his junior by three years, nudged him with her claw. She was unamused. “You’re boring me with this, Sabellian. We need to go and hunt.”

Sabellian huffed at her, tendrils of annoyed smoke rising from his nostrils. “This is more important. These powers are ours by right. The lore of the mortals said so. We should use them.”

“We had those powers, Sabellian. Had. They were stripped from our kind before you or I were eggs in Sintharia’s brood. The longer you spend on this wild goose chase, the longer we go in these cursed mountains without food.”

“Anything we need, we hunt from the forests. Anything we cannot get, we steal from ogres. Are you happy with that existence? Because if we follow your suggestions, it’s all we’re ever going to be. “

Sabellian’s gaze shifted from Cimmeria, looking out over the Blade’s Edge Mountains from the top of their plateau. No one had reached it except migrating birds. A pack of dark spots on the scorched earth caught his attention. “The Gronn are on the move.”

Cimmeria cocked her snout derisively. “We are wild animals, Sabellian. We were born this way in a world that does not care, and we shall die so. And why should we care? This plateau is inaccessible for any others. We are safe here.”

Sabellian narrowed his eyes at her disinterest. “The Gronn never migrate. They always have enough food, and there’s less food in the north.”

“Perhaps they’ve come to join the Hammer. More food for us.”

Sabellian pushed himself into a sitting position, exposing his dusty and scarred forelegs. He shook his head. “No, the orcs and draenei hunted the Hammer out of Outland months ago.”

Cimmeria scratched the ground, sharpening her claws. “They’re probably just following migration patterns-”

Sabellian snapped at her, baring teeth. “The Gronn don’t migrate, Cimmeria.”

“Oh? What are you, a library?!” Turning her back on him, Cimmeria stalked off, flicking her tail in anger. “You may be old by our standards, Sabellian, but you haven’t been here long enough to see a gronn’s lifecycle!”

Sabellian grunted, returning to his position on the ground, gazing at the earth. He remained, starting at it, long after the sun had set and the others had gone to sleep. He barely felt the hunger.

Serinar

The midmorning sun glared down at Serinar and his tattered brood, licking their wounds in the salt canyons of the Tainted Scar.

One of the drakes closest to him grunted in pain. “What are we to do now?”

Serinar stared at the ground, leeting out a resigned sigh.

“We have no choice but to wait until nightfall. We can cloak ourselves and go through the portal.” The assembled dragons began searching for food and shade.

Obessia, however, walked over to Serinar, sitting beside him. It was a few minutes before either said anything, him staring at the ground and her gently picking at several loose scales. She focused her violet eyes upon his own until he met her gaze.

“Is there nothing we can do to heal the injured?” She inquired.

Serinar glanced at her, sighing again. He had had this conversation a thousand times over with broodlings in the Shrine, forced to drain the hope out of each one’s eyes individually. He shook his head at the young drake.

“We have no healing powers, Obessia. We are defenseless against war, because we are war. Our nature is to strike back, to hit first, to ensure that the enemy cannot get up and hit us back. And now we cannot do even that.”

The drake glanced down at the floor, narrowing her violet eyes before looking back up. Obessia’s appearance made him nearly jump. The hope he’d seen drift out of the drakes he’d sent to his death was still there, even as death lingered perhaps only hours away. A steely determination had wrapped itself around the glint of hope in her eyes.

“It is your fate, perhaps. But we are not consigned fates at hatching. We create them, Serinar, and I am not just a machine built to destroy. I breathe. I live.”

Serinar looked up into the sky, the bright sun blinding his vision. “It is too late for most of us to think about fates other than death now. Perhaps, if we make-”

A wild draconic roar sounded from the north, so unnaturally loud and omnipresent that it made the drakes screech and scatter in terror. It was the roar of an angry dragon, hungering for vengeance. Then another sounded, closer and louder. And another. And another.

Obessia’s mouth opened wide, but no words came out, her eyes flashing wildly in confusion. The dragons around had been shocked into silence by the number of the roars, which continued to grow.

Serinar was panicking as well. Years upon years of training and brainwashing to prepare the Black Dragonflight to destroy the world had never accounted for this situation. Never had any assumed that they could lose until it was too late. And now it seemed too late. “THE REDS ARE HERE!”

Sabellian

Sabellian clenched and unclenched his claws, staring over the horizon. He had tried for months to pull himself together, ever since the flock had come together in an attempt at self-preservation. Here, the dragons were wild beasts without powers, and they desperately needed each other to survive. Outland had become more aware. With the looming presence of Illidan and the Legion defeated, there was more confidence among the mortals. They were more easily able to defend themselves.

The black dragons were weak here, weaker than they had ever been, certainly weaker than the whelphood tales of black dragons that sowed terror on an alien world. A world that none of them would ever be able to visit, because the survivors spoke of the fury and the power that the mortals brought through the portal. The fear that gave way to anger in seconds when they sighted black dragons. The steel and magic that scales were powerless against.

Nesting in a mountain range with countless siblings impaled on spikes was not good for morale, but none of them dared leave him, dared challenge his word. For all his uselessness, Sabellian was the eldest among them – the only survivor to have hatched while Deathwing still dwelt on Draenor, the only survivor who was dragon rather than drake.

His survival gave him no hope. Sabellian felt like he was without purpose, without hope, without the power to affect his own destiny. Death would come soon enough. Cimmeria was strong enough to lead the others. She knew how to hunt and avoid detection. She could teach the others how to survive.

For now, the only thing keeping Sabellian going were the tales he had heard that the Black Dragonflight had once been protectors, masters of the earth. He had tried to protect people, tried to work for the earth, but there was nothing. But it was all he had – the glimmer of a hope of a possibility that he could recapture that destiny.

Serinar

“What do we do?”

“Where can we hide?”

“Do we fight?” “Do we run?”

“How many are there?” “How close are they?” How strong are they?”

The hysteric screeching of Serinar’s group rose above the approaching roars until Serinar regained his own voice..

“QUIET!”

The dragons stopped, each face a portrait of terror. Serinar looked around.

“There is nowhere that we can hide. There is nowhere left to run. If we stay here, we are all doomed. If we fight, we are all doomed. The only hope is the portal. But I cannot say whether any will make it through.”

The dragons went quiet, each immortal beast suddenly forced to consider a mortality that was minutes from ending. The silence was heavy.

The eldest dragons present, two wyrms named Nihalion and Pyrionis, stepped forward. Until its destruction by the Old Gods, they had guarded the Obsidian Dragonshrine.

Nihalion was the first to speak. His brow furrowed. “If some must die so that others may live, then I volunteer.”

Pyrionis nodded in agreement, his charcoal eyes wide with adrenaline. “We will distract the reds and the mortals. You will be able to sweep round and get through the portal before they notice.”

Serinar looked from one to the other, opening and closing his mouth in shock several times. “I will be sentencing more of my kind to death.” His desperation was read easily by the surrounding dragons.

“There is nothing left for us with you, Serinar. We are the remnants of a lost race. You may start anew. But we are old. ” Pyrionis intoned, his head bowed. “Let us go out in a blaze of glory. One last fight to show the mortals not to follow us.”

Serinar said nothing, almost catatonic. Obessia spoke up.

“Serinar, we do not have time to think or debate this. The reds are coming for us, and they will not wait for us to be ready. We go now, or we die.”

Serinar stared at the ground reluctantly for a few more seconds. Another volley of roars sounded, nearly overhead by now. He looked up and nodded grimly.

“Thank you, Pyrionis, Nihalion. We will remember you. Your sacrifice is not in vain.”

The two dragons nodded and roared as they rose into the air, barely drowning out the noise of the approaching red dragons. The remaining brood took flight and separated from the two wyrms.

As one, the brood flew out over the mountain range, the brood underneath the two wyrms. While the rest dove towards the portal, the two elder dragons circled upwards with a speed beyond their years, meeting the red attackers.

“You have each other. Do not give that up for any power. Goodbye, Serinar!” Nihalion yelled, on-course towards the red flight.

As the flock angled towards the Dark Portal, they saw the amassed Horde and Alliance troops awaiting them.

“Evasive manoeuvres!” Serinar called, twisting sharply. Magefire and arrows filled the air around them, and the roar of dragons and dragonfire echoed as the mortals scattered, their camps ablaze. Serinar shot head-on into the portal, ignoring the missiles flying at him.

This is our last hope. We can’t fail now.