The group assembled today on the Windrunner: me, both Saurfangs, Liadrin, Edwin, Jaina, Mokvar, Dontrag, and Utvoch. I figured the way the Scourge have swarmed through practically all of Northrend, I’d just as soon not leave anything to chance, which is why we brought so much heavy-artillery personnel. Drok and his crew had the ship ready to go, and we set off for the Nexus in Coldarra. Once we had the Focusing Iris, we’d head straight for Dalaran, where Jaina’s Kirin Tor friends would be ready to port us straight to the Caverns of Time.
We arrived at the Nexus and docked the ship on one of the upper ring platforms that was equipped with a teleportation orb. One problem: the platform was swarming with Scourge – all the platforms were. Vargul and skeletons mostly, with a couple necromancer types lurking around the back.
I’ll tell you, Mokvar was right the other day. This really wasn’t fair.
Between me whirlwinding through skeletons by the bushel, Liadrin Diving Storming her way right through the heart of them, Jaina flame-roasting undead in bunches, and – yup – Saurfangs Young and Old cleaving down everything in sight, it didn’t take us long to clear a path to the teleportation orb. The only down side was that those necromancers kept summoning more undead, and every so often a proto-drake would fly by and drop another damn vrykul to help keep the influx coming.
GARROSH: They’re not getting anywhere, but neither are we if we just stay up here all day killing these fuckers…
The necromancers cast another summoning spell, and some hundred new skeletons appear on the platform.
LIADRIN: <slashing by one of the vargul> We don’t all need to be up here – you go, I’ll stay and protect the ship.
GARROSH: You sure? There’s still an awful lot of them.
Liadrin rushes into a cluster of vargul, dropping them all with another spinning Divine Storm. As she finishes her follow-through, she lands on one knee, slamming the Ashbringer down onto the platform floor; a shimmering flash of yellow-white light bursts from the Ashbringer and shoots out in a horizontal shockwave in all directions. The light rips through the skeletons and sends them spilling onto the floor, burning with holy fire. Still on one knee, Liadrin tilts her head up at Garrosh.
LIADRIN: I’m not worried.
Jaina runs to a clear area near the gunship and starts channeling a spell. A glowing blue runic circle begins to appear on the floor beneath her.
JAINA: I’m placing a portal marker here. Once we have the Focusing Iris, I’ll be able to teleport us directly back.
Several more vargul drop onto the platform. While Liadrin engages them, several val’kyr and gargoyles descend down over the Windrunner.
SAURFANG: <rushing back to the gunship and cleaving through gargoyles> I’ll stay back as well to help guard the ship.
MOKVAR: Well now you’re just running up the score on them.
SAURFANG: The rest of you – go!
DRANOSH: You all heard the man. Let’s get moving.
We took the teleportation orb into the Nexus. The sight that greeted us froze us all in our tracks. Around the circular room and down every hall, the ground was littered with the lifeless bodies of blue dragons. We all just stared for a minute while the sight sunk in. I think it hit Jaina the hardest, what with her probably having had some dealings with the blues over the years. She knelt down over one of the dead dragons and put a hand over its face.
JAINA: This… I know her. This is… Her name is…was Kirygosa. She was a daughter of Malygos…
UTVOCH: Wait, when you said there were going to be a lot of dragons here, I thought you meant they were going to be alive.
FARANELL: That’s got to be an act, right? I mean he can’t possibly really be that stupid.
MOKVAR: Dontrag and Utvoch: raising the bar on lowering the bar, since the dawn of time.
DONTRAG: Hey, I didn’t say anything!
DRANOSH: <surveying the halls> Most of the… <glances back at Jaina, then lowers his voice slightly> …most of the blood seems fresh. Whoever did this did it fairly recently.
GARROSH: Probably still nearby.
Jaina stands slowly, still looking down at the bodies.
JAINA: Kalecgos considered her one of his dearest friends…
DRANOSH: The next time you see him, you can tell him all about the world of pain we brought down on the ones who did this to her.
GARROSH: It has to be the Scourge, based on upstairs. Not sure why they’d be coming after the blue dragons, though.
JAINA: At this point, they’re one of the only major powers left between them and all of Northrend… It was only a matter of time before they struck here.
GARROSH: That’s the thing, though – yeah, they have the Horde and Alliance on the ropes, but why wouldn’t they finish them off first, THEN take on the dragons? The Lich King has to know he’s got the upper hand. Why divide his efforts?
DRANOSH: Maybe he wants to finish both off quickly?
GARROSH: All the time we were up here fighting him, did you ever know Arthas to be impatient?
JAINA: He’s not. Anymore.
DRANOSH: <shrugs> Either way. I am the impatient type – let’s go find that Focusing Iris and let it be finished.
We made our way deeper into the Nexus, finding more slain dragons all the way. As we worked our way down a long, descending passageway, we could hear sounds of combat, and reptilian cries of pain. I ordered Dontrag and Utvoch to make sure they kept Edwin safe under pain of so-much-worse-than-death-your-admittedly-limited-brains-would-melt-just-trying-to-imagine-it. The bottom of the passage was dark and filled with shadows. As the floor leveled out from the end of our descent, we turned a corner and came to a doorway.
The room was large and circular, with crystalline patterns in the walls and floor, like so many of the other rooms here. In the center of the room, hovering in the air of its own accord, was the Focusing Iris – an enormous blue orb, glowing with arcane power. On the far side of the room, four humanoids – a human, a tauren, and a pair of dwarves – all wearing armor like that of a death knight, stood over bodies of blue dragons. More bodies filled the room, and the air reeked with the smell of draconic blood. Two more death knights, a draenei and a troll, flanked the doorway on either side, and as we came around the corner they called out a warning.
And as the sentries cried out, in the center of the room, out from behind the Focusing Iris stepped Tirion Fordring. Covered in spiked black armor, wielding a runeblade, eyes glowing a deathly pale blue. I’ll tell you, I was never crazy about Tirion, but this was still horrible to see. Even Tirion deserved better than this.
TIRION: <grinning broadly> Ah, how serendipitous! It appears fate has set us all upon a parallel venture, and I find myself reunited with personages of no small familiarity. I greet you all, good orcs and humans, and welcome you to the curtain’s rise on the final act of this grand endeavor!
GARROSH: By the spirits…
Tirion gestures to his minions.
Tirion’s Deathbringers rush at the group, blades poised.
GARROSH: He still loves to talk.
Jaina casts a Cone of Cold that slows the death knights’ approach.
DRANOSH: <shrugs> Time to do what we do. Lok’tar!
GARROSH: For the Horde!
DONTRAG and UTVOCH: For the Horde!
MOKVAR: For the Horde!
JAINA: Um, actually…
Jaina exchanges a shrug with Faranell.
Garrosh, Dranosh, Dontrag, and Utvoch rush forward to engage the Deathbringers, and the two groups battle back and forth, with Tirion lurking by the Focusing Iris, watching and taunting.
TIRION: Good, my glorious vassals, unleash your fury and show these intruders the fate that awaits those who would interfere with the work of our dread lord the Lich King! Woe be to any who stand against us! Their ruined bodies shall be the latest paving the way to our inevitable dominion over this world!
GARROSH: <exchanging blows with the tauren> The hell are you even HERE for, Tirion? What do you fuckers even want with the Focusing Iris?
TIRION: Well could I ask you the same, young Hellscream! But as it will profit you naught, I will tell you, so that you might meet your end knowing the full scope of your failure, and indeed the hand you and your ilk have had in bringing forth this very hour!
DRANOSH: <aside> That’s it, get him monologuing…
GARROSH: <aside> He’s going to be monologuing anyway, might as well get him going on something useful maybe…
Dranosh and Garrosh continue pushing back the tauren and human. Dontrag and Utvoch spar with the two dwarves, aided by chain lightning from Mokvar, while Jaina launches a seething fireball that incinerates the troll.
TIRION: Did you truly believe your ill-fated ploy to deny the Lich King your precious Sunwell would go unanswered? That the master of the Scourge would be halted by your sad, trifling magician’s tricks? You merely delayed the inevitable; and now, with the Focusing Iris in hand, the Lich King’s mightiest seers will shatter the meddlesome bubble conjured by that poor, doomed, suddenly so very solitary dragon Kalecgos—
Jaina lets loose another pair of fireballs, finishing the dwarven death knights fighting Dontrag and Utvoch.
JAINA: Kalcgos’ flight had no part in this war, Tirion! The old you – the real you – he would be sickened to see what you’ve done to these innocents!
TIRION: Oh, Lady Proudmoore, do not be so naïve as to think the blues innocent – or yourself. It was Kalecgos who chose to throw in his lot with your kind and aid in your foolish charade at the Sunwell, and all of you who interfered in the Scourge’s march. The Lich King was content to leave these pitiable lizards be – for now. It was you who forced his hand, you who altered his plans, you who made the Focusing Iris a necessary implement—
DRANOSH: Spirits, he likes to talk…
GARROSH: Dude, you have NO IDEA.
TIRION: —and you, all of you, who helped bring this fate upon the Blue Dragonflight today! From their blood shall flow the coming of a new age for this world! From their deaths shall be forged a new future, bathed in carnage!
JAINA: <gathering a fiery glow in her hands> You want carnage? Arthas will have more blood than he ever bargained for!
Jaina unleashes a massive fireball that tears through the draenei death knight and badly burns the tauren and human – whom Dranosh and Garrosh quickly finish off – and hurls Tirion back against the far wall.
DRANOSH: Remind me not to piss her off.
GARROSH: No shit, right?
Tirion pulls himself up and faces the group.
TIRION: You all shall pay dearly for—
DRANOSH: <charging in and knocking Tirion a few steps back> Pro tip, Tirion – when your boys are taking it on the chin, might be a good idea to stop running your mouth for a minute and help them out.
Garrosh joins in, and Tirion begins scrambling to deflect both orcs’ blows.
TIRION: You think I fear you, boy? Through the Lich King I have seen power the likes of which you cannot comprehend! By his will I have cast off death itself, and risen anew, ascended, greater than I might ever have dreamed in my former, paltry, limited existence! You do not know what you trifle with, you—
As Dranosh and Garrosh unleash a flurry of blows from both sides, Jaina singes Tirion with a surge of flame, then freezes him in place with a frost nova, throwing off his footing.
Garrosh locks one of his axes in a parry with Tirion, then drops his second axe from his free hand and swings his fist under the runeblade and into Tirion’s gut.
Garrosh breaks the parry, forcing Tirion’s blade hand to swing to one side, where Dranosh hacks it away at the wrist.
Garrosh and Dranosh bring their axes down from either side, slamming vicious into the base of Tirion’s neck.
Tirion slumps lifeless to the floor.
JAINA: <looking down sadly at the body> You have been missed, old friend. May your spirit finally find its rest now.
MOKVAR: Okay, let’s get what we came for and go.
JAINA: Let me get it into a more manageable form…
Jaina holds her hands out to the Focusing Iris and begins channeling beams of arcane magic into it. Slowly, the Focusing Iris shrinks until it has been reduced to a shimmering blue sphere about a foot in diameter, hovering in the air.
There…now we just need to—
Jaina is interrupted by a shadowy, purple tendril of magic that lashes out at her from the doorway and yanks her back toward it. Her body flies backward through the air and – with a hideous slicing sound – into a blade held out from the dark hallway:
As Dranosh steps in to catch the falling Focusing Iris, the Lich King strides into the room, Jaina’s body still impaled on the runebalde.
LICH KING: Impressive…
The Lich King shakes Frostmourne, dropping Jaina’s body to the ground.
UTVOCH: Okay, this isn’t so bad, there’s just one of him against all of us…
The Lich King drives Frostmourne’s blade into the floor, releasing a shockwave that knocks the group back against the far wall of the room. As they recover, the Lich King hold Frostmourne aloft and begins channeling a spell.
LICH KING: Now then…a further test…
Crackling purple energy shoots out of Frostmourne in all directions. Slowly, the dozens of dragon corpses around the room begin to rise, eyes glowing a dull blue, bodies withered and gaunt.
DONTRAG: You really have to keep your mouth shut, Ut.
The nearest few reanimated dragons rush at them. Garrosh, Dontrag, and Utvoch step in to intercept them and start to fight them back, with Mokvar and Faranell casting spells at them from behind.
The Lich King continues channeling. After a few seconds, Jaina’s body rises from the floor; her hair has turned white save for a single blonde streak, and her eyes shimmer with a lifeless blue glow. She looks around the room, then faces the Lich King.
LICH KING: I have missed you…my Queen.
Jaina grins hideously, turns, and unleashes an enormous fireball that incinerates two of the dragons on its way toward Faranell.
UTVOCH: Look out!
Dontrag lunges at Faranell while Utvoch rushes in from the opposite side. Dontrag shoves Faranell out of the fireball’s path, just before the flames reduce both him and Utvoch to smoldering heaps of ash.
DRANOSH: Edwin! Jaina was our ride out. That’s your job now – port us out of here, and fast!
FARANELL: But— I’m not that powerful a mage!
Dranosh shoves the Focusing Iris into Faranell’s hands; a bluish white glow shimmers over his body.
DRANOSH: You are now. Fire it up!
Garrosh and Mokvar – both fighting dragons – back up toward Dranosh and Faranell. Faranell closes his eyes, mutters an incantation, and teleports the group away in a blinding flash.
We reappeared up on the ring platform where we’d docked – a few yards off from Jaina’s targeting rune, but hey, I’m not going to nitpick over a clutch save from Edwin. When we appeared, we were greeted by the sight of an enormous pile of Scourge corpses that formed a hill leading up to the Windrunner. Dozens of vargul, hundreds of ghouls and skeletons, val’kyr, geists, a couple frost wyrms…and sitting on top of the pile were Liadrin and Saurfang, taking turns drinking from a waterskin.
LIADRIN: <looks up at them> What kept you?
DRANOSH: We had guests.
GARROSH: Come on, everyone get on the ship.
SAURFANG: Where are the others? Lady Proudmoore, and the…cerebrally inexpansive duo?
GARROSH: They didn’t make it.
SAURFANG: What happened?
DRANOSH: Arthas is here.
LIADRIN: By the Light… Get on board, and quickly!
GARROSH: What happened to you not being worried?
LIADRIN: I wasn’t.
DRANOSH: Fire it up, Captain! Top speed to Dalaran!
The group boards the Windrunner, which disembarks from the platform. After a moment, the ship shakes and creaks, then begins to slide slowly backwards.
DRANOSH: Um, Drok? I don’t think I said anything about reverse.
DROK: We’re still on full ahead, sir, I don’t—
GARROSH: Uh, I think you guys might want to have a look at this…
They turn to look back at the ring platform, where the Lich King now stands, channeling a dark purple band of energy from his hand that grips the gunship, and using it to slowly tug the ship back toward the Nexus.
MOKVAR: He’s— he’s death-gripping the ship! How is he death-gripping the whole ship?!
DRANOSH: Drok, this would be a good time to give the engines a little extra – we’ve got to get out of here!
DROK: I’m giving them everything she’s got, sir! I can’t change the laws of physics!
Saurfang stands at the railing, watching as the Lich King slowly drags the gunship back toward him. Saurfang looks back at Dranosh, then to Garrosh.
SAURFANG: He’s looked out for you since you were children.
Garrosh gives a quizzical look, then nods.
Look out for him now.
Saurfang turns and launches himself off the deck, toward the platform below.
FOR THE HORDE!
Saurfang barrels into the Lich King and they both crash onto the floor. With the Lich King’s death grip broken, the gunship lurches forward again and starts to pull away from the Nexus.
DRANOSH: Father! No!
Garrosh intercepts Dranosh as he rushes to the edge of the ship and pulls him back.
GARROSH: Get us OUT of here, Captain!
DRANOSH: <spinning back toward Drok, still in Garrosh’s grip> No! Turn us around, Drok, we have to—
Garrosh spins Dranosh back to face him.
GARROSH: You know what he’s doing! DON’T LET IT BE FOR NOTHING!
Dranosh stops struggling. Garrosh releases him, and as the gunship continues its escape, he walks to the railing and looks down at the platform, where the Lich King knocks Saurfang away from him.
LICH KING: Foolish old orc! You dare stand against me? Do you know how many of your kind I’ve slain?
SAURFANG: You…murdered…children. <draws his axe> You answer to Saurfang now!
Saurfang charges the Lich King furiously, cleaving and slashing with his axe. The Lich King parries with Frostmourne, and the two grapple back and forth as the platform shrinks from view.
I’m writing from the Windrunner now. We should reach Dalaran soon. I’ll update again when I can, if the news is good. If it isn’t, I’m not sure how much longer I’ll be here to keep updating.
In the meantime, we continue on our way to Dalaran.
[Header image of the Nexus provided by regular reader and commenter ZugZug. Gunship image provided by Rioriel from Postcards From Azeroth; click here to see the souped-up Postcard version! Both images used with permission and many thanks.]