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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