Fresh Growth – Chapter 11

Most of Raynewood’s forces were asleep when we landed, covered in soot and ash and huddled under blankets and leant against trees and buildings. As I dismounted the hippogryph, Beltheron gave a welcoming purr to me and dashed over. I knelt down and stroked him. He was covered in ash too.

What’ve you been doing? You’re a mess.

You too. Helping. Many animals homeless – some dead.

Horde didn’t cause the fire. Someone stole the machines for the bomb. Set it off elsewhere.

Bad. Astranaar joined us. Raene.

Is she here? Does anyone know how Stardust Spire is?

Raene.

What?

“Not interrupting, I hope.” She cleared her throat from behind me.

“Oh – Commander Wolfrunner.” I sprang to my feet and saluted. She looked worn out, putting me at ease with a tired wave.

“No time for formality, Glowsong. Come inside, these matters are best discussed inside.” She led me into the tower itself, where we joined in the top room a small council of the leadership of the Tower and Retreat. Once assembled, Raene resumed her conversation.

“I heard you went flying off into Horde territory.” She gave a weak smile when I tried not to meet her gaze. “I’m not going to reprimand you – it was foolish and it’s a miracle you’re still alive, but I understand your reasoning. What did they have to say for themselves?”

I sighed a little, wishing I could give some better news.

“They had no idea that it had been detonated. They’d had no communication with Silverwind all night. There were no orders to detonate the bomb – from anyone. They even brought the second-in-command up from Orgrimmar.”

The Keeper, Ordanus, broke in at this. “But it went off somehow. If they have no proof then there could be a retaliation anyway.”

“That’s the worst thing. It was no accident. We can assume that much. But whoever did it wasn’t working on Horde orders-”

“How can you be sure?”

“The detonator was stolen from its vault at the Harbour. As was every piece of military info, intel, all commands, blueprints, movement, shipment and supply orders, every piece of offensive and defensive technology they had in the vaults at their command hall. No Horde agents were near those vaults all day except the guards, and they wouldn’t have moved everything in there out unnoticed. Besides that, there’s only one key to each vault. It was a break-in, and whoever broke in can be assumed to have set the bomb off.”

Halannia spoke up, nervously. “You don’t think – the Hammer-”

“It’s likely, but no one can think how they would have done it. Those vaults are the most well-protected in all of Azeroth now that Kezan has been destroyed.

Raene frowned.

“This is all well and good, but I worry that it might not be enough information for the Sentinels. They’re not known for being rational when the forest is harmed. If I can get to Feralas today then I may be able to convince General Feathermoon to delay any retaliations by Alliance leadership – the High Priestess may be content for us to find the culprit, but I doubt Stormwind will want us to sit here ‘in the face of unbridled aggression.'” She smiled weakly at her own joke. We all knew that we’d faced far worse aggression as a race than the Horde’s actions.

“And – are we to sit here twiddling our thumbs for you, Miss Wolfrunner?” Ordanus’ deep voice asked her.

“Absolutely not, Keeper. I fully expect that you and the rest of Ashenvale are going to try and find any possible remedy for this tragedy. Oriet, I have a request of you in relation to that matter.” Our eyes met. “If we are to succeed in this endeavour, then the cure may be better than prevention. You appear to have a knack for surviving in enemy cities. I need you to go to Thunder Bluff. Find Arch Druid Runetotem. If we have agents on both sides of this conflict working for the same aim it reduces the risk of hostilities and it may speed up the process of healing the forest. Besides, the sooner the other half of the Circle is made aware, the better.”

There was no dissent, so we headed outside and made our way to the hippogryph roost.

“I know it’s not going to be easy, Glowsong. You’re barely-trained. You do have things to take with you. But I doubt Garrosh will soon inform Thunder Bluff – and the tauren may be more receptive to you than the orcs. Good luck.”

“I’ll need it.”

“We all will. Goddess protect us.” With that, the commander took off into the¬†shady sky, and I was left under the dim rays of the sunrise – with my son, my sabre, and my task.

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Fresh Growth – Chapter 10

The damning silence and its implications seemed to last forever. Someone, somewhere, had a copy of every piece of Horde military and technological information that had once been located in these walls. Somehow, Mida regained her senses.

“Elf-girl, come with me a minute. Krogg, you’re in charge of the Harbour until I can get back to you.” Mida led me quickly out of the room and back through to the main building, both of us trying to keep from running – why we were so desperate to run, I wasn’t quite sure.

“Right, now we’re alone. Protocol dictates that you shouldn’t be allowed to go like this, but this is no time for protocol. I have to go and inform Orgrimmar. As soon as this all calms down, I give you my word that we will try and undo as much of the damage as possible. I know that’s not enough for your people. But given the circumstances, it’s all we can do right now. And I’ll make sure we restrict Horde movement in Ashenvale until this is all sorted. But I can’t guarantee the response of the rest of the Horde – especially if there’s any counterattack.

I know I’m the wrong person to tell you this, but the last thing we need in all this is retaliation. My cartel was neutral – once. We understand you as much as we understand the orcs. Up until a few months ago, our job was to know everything possible so that we could aid you both as best we could – profit played a large part in that, but we goblins keep our eyes on the future as well. There’s no point in us making profit off the world’s death today if the world will be dead tomorrow.”

“Thank you. Thank you so much. I’ll do my best.”

“Good luck.”

I sprinted out of the front door and leapt onto the gryphon. I was in the air before the guards could react. From below, Mida cried out.

“What are you lunkheads doing? That elf’s getting away!”

The racket of gunfire sounded from below harmlessly. It was too late to catch me, as Mida intended.

The hippogryph flew effortlessly back through the wilds of Azshara, goblin life sleeping below me. I envied those who had no idea how the world had changed tonight. But I did not envy those who had no care about it.

Kalandrios mumbled up at me. He looked disturbed by my sudden leave. I pulled him out of the carrier and into my arms, murmuring softly to him. Don’t worry. It’ll be over soon. We have to get to Raene.

Eventually, I saw the twinkle of the Southfury River, cutting its way south. As I flew over it dawn broke behind me and the light burst off it. I blinked, trying to accustom, as the light illustrated the depths of Ashenvale’s devastation.

The explosion had felled almost all of the Silverwind Basin and in the east, the fire had made it past Falfarren and began cutting into Nightsong Woods, but it looked to have struggled making it far in, and it was all extinguished there. Along the northern front it had stopped by Raynewood Tower, and in the west the area around Starfury Spire had been burnt out too – but the tower still stood. Hopefully the sentinels there were safe.

I looked down towards Splintertree Post as we approached it. The forces there were gathered, bleary-eyed and almost in shock, most able to see the devastation from the elevated structures. I noticed a few tauren gathered in a ritual circle. I had little time to identify what they were doing before the hippogryph began to lower in altitude. Of course – the hippogryph was from the Tower.