Chapter 3: Rage
Her whole body was flooded with pain on a level she had scarcely thought to be real. It stabbed at every joint, feeling like a thousand claws prying off her scales. A sickly screech followed the pain, and in the blistering heat Cimmeria realised it was her own mangled cry as she was shunted midway between her mortal and draconic forms. Scales erupted across her smooth skin and mortal-sized wings burst from her sides. She felt fangs push into a mortal mouth, making her neither dragon nor draenei.
What is happening?
Through blurred vision she saw the twilight cultists scattering, some cackling, dancing around the ogres.
They did this to me. They’re making this happen.
Cimmeria became aware of the earth’s surface cracking under her feet, her consciousness expanding with each crack. She could feel the tremors of a far-off earthquake beginning.
I have to stop them.
Blinded by pain, she leapt, snarling, at the sound of the laughter.
A low rumble signified a sudden earthquake, and Serinar’s surroundings were filled with yelps and screeching as the flock was struck down by some terror.
“What’s going on?” He yelled, frantic, glancing around for the source. A second rumble hit, closer this time, and pain flooded his skull, forcing tears out of his green eyes. He stumbled and collapsed upon the floor as the pain shoved him roughly into a mangled half-dragon form, torn wings fluttering helplessly.
You are ours now. No one runs from the Hammer.
From out of the earth rose a twisted creature, elemental material bound to humanoid form, slightly reptilian in stature. He’d seen them before. The Ascended, the upper echelons of the Hammer’s shaman, bound with an elemental in a terrifyingly powerful combination. Serinar clutched at the ground but the earth continued to reverberate, screaming pain at him louder than anything he had ever encountered. He could feel the earth pulsating, energy flowing like blood out of the cracks the Ascendant had caused.
Eventually, it became too much, and he gave in, head laid upon the ground, waiting for oblivion.
“No. You’re hurting the spirits. You must stop.”
Serinar saw the young drake push herself from the floor. Like the rest, she was caught in a half-dragon form, her violet eyes burning against her onyx scales and porcelain human skin. Somehow, she remained standing, pushing back against the power of the Ascendant. Serinar could feel energy racing out of the earth to meet her in a way he had only ever seen shamans master. It was as though they were acting in harmony.
The Ascendant let out a croaky snarl. Strong one. I shall enjoy breaking you.
Time seemed to slow as the flock fell to their knees, pulled into mismatched shapes of humanoids and draconids. Power rained upon his skull, making him suffer similarly. His claws shrank back into soft human hands, his heavy wings pulling his mortal form down.
What is happening? Why is the earth screaming?
You belong to us now, son of Deathwing.
In the middle of the ridge, Sabellian could see them. Twilight cultists, flanked by enslaved elementals. He had no idea how they had accessed the ridge. On hands and knees, he growled a warning, but the other dragons laid immobile, paralysed by pain.
“No.. We are free..” Sabellian drew upon every ounce of will he could, the same will he had once used to combat the voices, and pushed upwards, shakily coming to his feet. Unused to the half-mortal form, he swayed slightly, unbalanced.
They told us you would be strong of will. Those born of the Destroyer’s blood are the strongest. You shall serve us well.
“I serve.. no one.. but my flock.” Sabellian focused his gaze on the closest shaman, a tall elven figure. The shaman met his gaze head on, and more pain flooded his senses. The earth expanded around him. He could feel every inch, every speck of dust, every crack in the dry ground, and it screamed at him.
Sabellian took a step forward as his lucid blue eyes began to glow bright orange with fire, the scales on his face flickering.
“You will… stop. I will protect them.” Glaring at the shaman, Sabellian launched off the ground, propelling himself with his rough wings towards the shaman, claws outstretched.
The earth raced up to meet her, intertwining with her fingers. I’ll protect you. I’ll stop them. They’re hurting both of us.
Obessia lifted up off the floor with a few wingbeats, swinging the earth at the Ascendant like a whip. It bounced off, shattering into pieces.
You’ll have to try harder, little drake. Elementium spikes ripped through the ground and the screams intensified. Obessia weaved, the wings barely working with her mortal form.
“Then I will.”
Obessia mirrored the spikes, curving a trap around the Ascendant’s leg. It snapped the earth off and fired it at her. She blocked with a shield of earth.
Voices flooded her consciousness as she became one with the earth. Save us. Free us. Protect us. You were guardians once. Be a guardian.
Obessia hovered in mid-air, letting the voices wash over her. She weaved through the sky, dodging the elementium attacks of the Ascendant. She dropped onto the Ascendant and the earth rippled following her attack. The Ascendant hissed as she leapt back, the earth moving and obeying her thoughts. The Ascendant fired a beam of dark energy at her and she deflected it. At her request, the earth beneath the Ascendant became like quicksand, dragging it in.
I am their guardian. They are mine. You will not harm the earth any longer.
Obessia landed on the ground, approaching the trapped Ascendant, and snapped its head off with a claw.
It took four decapitated cultists before Cimmeria regained her sight. By then the cultists had reformed in a defensive position, protecting the ogres.
Her senses continued to expand. The rage of the earth flooded her mind. They hurt us. Destroy them. Free us.
She snarled, leaping from a rock and impaling two cultists on her claws, tossing them to their deaths on the bladed canyon edge. Her red eyes burned with fury.
“How dare you.” Cimmeria leapt once more, slamming down upon the ground. Spikes of earth came up, erupting through the bodies of three more cultists. Cimmeria took a step back in shock, staring at her claws, scales mixing with dark blue skin.
“Did I-” Cimmeria’s ponderance was interrupted by a stream of pain, as more of the earth cracked around her.
Never mind. I have to stop them. The cultists scattered, fleeing the spikes, and Cimmeria saw her opening. The ogres were focused on the grimoire between them, casting more spells to harm the earth. She braced for launch, leaning back on one leg, and springing up into the air.
She knocked one ogre clean over with a kick to the head, incinerating the other with her fire breath as she flew over. Landing on bent knee before them, she turned.
Both ogres smiled at her like possessed corpses as they toppled over, completely intact yet totally dead. Cimmeria turned to the book. Dark, sickly runes swirled over the tome, amplifying the pain she felt yet she crawled closer. As she was about to end the book, however, it blinked out of existence.
The pain disappeared. Cimmeria struggled to her feet, her sight sharpening. The cultists were nowhere to be seen.
I have to let Sabellian know.
Sabellian. She cursed. It could have been an hour. She raced up the canyon wall, springing from spire to spire, her form refusing to return to normal.
The dead cultist fell to the floor behind him as Sabellian turned, strong, to face the remainder. Elementium sprung out of nowhere, and though he had never seen it before he could feel its taint, taste the corruption it spread through the earth. Gritting his teeth, he clamped on to the metal with one claw, willing it to return to the underbelly of the shattered earth.
It complied, slithering back as the earth swallowed it. The cultists advanced.
You’ll regret that. The shaman muttered to themselves and the earth cracked more, the pain intensifying. Save us, son of Neltharion. Protect your domain. Your duty. Sabellian felt his knuckles crack as the pain continued to shove him into a half-mortal, half-dragon form. His wings beat stronger, lifting him up into the air with ease.
“You underestimate us. We are black dragons. We are free from you and your masters, and we will always be free. This is our home. We know the earth better than you ever will.”
The words sprang out of nowhere, but Sabellian knew them to be true. The earth rippled below his feet, working with him against the Hammer. He pulled the earth around him into a shield, barrelling into a second cultist.
You have made a grave mistake-
“No, you have! You and your masters will burn in the Nether!” Cimmeria leapt over the edge of the ridge, blocking out the sun as she flew overhead. Sabellian felt pride well up as he saw her glow with power, slamming into another cultist and kicking over a fourth.
“I was wondering when you’d turn up.” Sabellian smirked at her. Cimmeria bowed mockingly. “It’s good to see you, too.”
Between them, they quickly dispatched the cultists. Cimmeria began tending to the other members of the flock as the pain receded, the earth repairing itself. Sabellian glanced out into the Beyond – and found himself staring into the eyes of a dragon.
Struggling to his feet, Serinar felt relief as the earth’s pain washed away. Obessia glowed with power.
“I- I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Obessia remained in her half-dragon form, as did the rest. Something remained amiss, but she smiled. “I understand them. I can feel them in the earth. The spirits.”
Serinar was at a loss for words.
“It’s our old powers, isn’t it? I can control them.”
“Well, yes, but… Deathwing gave those up long ago.”
Obessia shrugged it off. “This isn’t the world Deathwing swore to protect. This is our world now.”
Serinar paused to dwell on her words. He, like the others, had felt the earth in a way he never had before in that fight. It was as though the Ascendant had unlocked something inside them – a hidden capability to understand the earth, long since hidden by older members of the flight. Even now he could feel the spirits of the earth as they moved, pulsating like heartbeats.
“Even so, we still have a lot to learn-” Serinar went quiet as he looked up, following Obessia’s gaze into the Beyond – right into the eyes of a dragon.