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
“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.
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.
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 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.
“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..
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.