And now, finally and with no preamble (well, okie, only a really tiny short one), I give you As the Sun Sets – Part 3!
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“Moj solnysko?” My sunlight?
Effraeti started from the depths of her reminiscing and looked up to see Lazheward watching her, concern lining his face.
“My apologies, love. I was lost in my thoughts. What were you saying?” Effy smiled, and brushed his cheek lovingly with her fingers. She noticed the children were halfway up the hill between them and the inn, scuffling in the grass.
Lazheward chuckled. “No worries. The children and I thought to head home, and check on things.” He glanced protectively at them while he spoke. Once he finished, he kissed her softly.
Nodding, Effy took Laz’s hand and they headed up the hill, trailing a moderate distance behind Xandrea and Vyuriin. The children played a version of two person tag, and chased one another back and forth, making an irregular zig-zag trail before their parents.
Once they crested the hill, the Runeblade came into view, their inn. It was named for Effy’s other half, during her brief dual-existence as both herself and as a Death Knight version of herself in alternate timelines. Effy’s Death Knight half had sacrificed herself. She was much of the reason for Lazheward and Effraeti’s survival, and so Effy felt, eventually their children.
As they entered the Runeblade, Brizaeyl greeted them warmly. She was the inn’s hostess, and their close friend. The young Night Elf listened with interest as Xandrea and Vyuriin told her about their day in an animated fashion, bobbing her long silver hair with each nod.
Effraeti smiled, as much to herself as anyone in her distracted state, and walked to the fireplace.
Above it hung the sword for which the inn was named, her Death Knight self’s Runeblade. It was quieter these days, but it still hummed faintly with power and its runes still pulsed with a dull red glow. Beneath the sword Effy’s Shaman totems sat on the mantle.
Both were powerful reminders of her past, of what she had been, and inundated her with a litany of memories both happy and sad.
A large strong hand stroked the small of her back, and Effraeti looked into Lazheward’s luminescent eyes. A smile returned to her lips, but Laz regarded her questioningly. “You look troubled, love,” he stated.
“Not troubled, just remembering,” she replied quietly.
Vyuriin and Xandrea pulled him away before he could ask the next question on his mind, dragging him impatiently to Brizaeyl to further explain or perhaps demonstrate something. It left Effy with her thoughts again, and she furrowed her brows, wondering why her thoughts were so heavily in the past today.
She had never been more happy than she was now, but she supposed it was everything that had happened up to this point that allowed her this moment.
A slightly sharper comment from Brizaeyl made Effy look up.
“Did you hear something?” she had asked. The Night Elf did not meet Lazheward’s gaze as she asked the question, relying more on her sensitive ears. “Outside.”
“A traveler approaching, perhaps?” Laz asked, nonchalantly shrugging and still interacting with the children.
The next seconds passed like minutes, as Effraeti tried to absorb what was happening and come to the realization that it was more than her active imagination. It was difficult, because it was as if her memories of mere moments before had stepped out of her head. She was not even entirely sure where the forms had originated from, as there was a dreamy haze covering everything. It was not until later she would realize it was not haze, but dust – tiny particles of stone and wood from the pulverized fragments of the inn’s north facing wall, beside the fireplace, a mere twenty paces to her right.
Lazheward recovered from his surprise faster, thankfully, since he was closer to the children. He lifted one in each arm and set them both behind him, shielding them from harm with only his body, for he wore no armor and bore no weapon. He had not used either in many years, not since the Light had left him.
Effraeti swallowed at the lump forming in her throat.
Without another second’s thought, she snatched all four of her elemental totems off the mantle and whirled on the approaching demons who had just shattered her perfect world and now threatened her family. In the same motion, she tossed her Fire totem.
It struck the floor and exploded into a radiating wave of hot magma.
Effy let out a sigh of relief. The elements still heard her!
We are eternal and we never forget, the element of Water whispered to her.
Before the surprised demons could recover, Effy called upon the Earth. A great gout of dirt and stones rose from beneath the inn’s floor, shattering and scattering the wood planks as if they were toothpicks. The rocky soil crusted over in a large shield that protected her family, as well as impeded her view of them.
Snarls and shouts arose from the annoyed and singed demons, and they turned on their attacker. They seemed angered their surprise appearance had not crippled their prey in fear, and sought to instead exert the force necessary to apply the expected terror.
Effraeti was furious but in control of herself. She was also bolstered by the fact the elements still heeded her. They flooded her mind with their unwavering loyalty and their joy at hearing her call upon them once more.
The relieved smile on her face was short lived, as the danger to her family was still immediate.
She dropped her Air totem at her feet and as it clattered upon the wood she summoned a being composed of wind and lightning. Its entire mass was a crackling vortex which wasted no time in cascading a shower of electricity upon the startled demons.
It was then Effy noticed one of the demons had not turned on her with the others. As the air elemental battered the rest, Effy glanced around in a panic for the last. If it got around her earth shield, Laz and the children would be unprotected!
She could see nothing around the stone shell. She was just about to rush to them when a flash from behind it had her fearing the worst.
Out stepped Lazheward. He was shielded in a bubble of Light, and wielding a weapon so bright she could not see what it was. He swung the weapon at the straying demon, and as it clashed against the Eredar’s polearm, a pulse of Light exploded around them both.
Effy was mesmerized by the display.
The Light had returned to Lazheward!
She briefly heard the air elemental call to her. A warning. Effy remembered a second too late that she was not out of danger.
One of the demons, a Doomguard, was in the downward swing of a huge arc of its axe, looking to cleave the distracted Draenei in twain. Effy gasped, without time to even dodge away.
The Doomguard roared in frustration as its axe struck an invisible barrier before reaching Effraeti.
The woman remembered Brizaeyl, and thanked the Light for the young Priest. The protective bubble did its job, and faded, but gave Effy time to move away. She was glad to be smaller and quicker than the Doomguard.
Then, she remembered how close the fireplace was, and swore at her poor choice of flight direction. Her shoulder bumped against the mantle painfully, a sharp shout that Effy echoed in her head, How stupid of me! Now, she had no room to further retreat.
The fireplace was warm against her backside as the Doomguard smirked and raised his axe again.
The heat gave Effy an idea. She thought back on a manner of using the element of fire which she had not employed since her earliest days speaking with them. Back when she had been able to call upon fire only when it was already present.
Effy tilted back, as if to reach into the fireplace. Coaxing the element of fire with her dire need, for he was the most temperamental of the elements, she gathered her hands like she might form the fire as so much clay. Spinning around just before the Doomguard was on top of her, Effy flung her hands out in front of her, forming a cone with her palms. Through her hands, she redirected the fire into a torrent of rushing flames – right into the surprised face of the Doomguard.
The demon screamed as he sizzled, and though Effy ducked back out of habit, the fire did not touch her.
After her eyes readjusted from the bright flames, Effraeti glanced quickly around the room, trying to take in the remaining situation.
Lazheward had moved Brizaeyl and the children into the kitchen, not far removed from the greatroom, but more out of harm’s way. Their two tiny faces peeked from around the door, their eyes wide and watching.
As for Laz, he had dealt with the Eredar who had charged him, and was closing on the rest of the demons. He still glowed with Light and wielded the Light weapon.
The demons had reached the source of the stinging lightning bolts and were driving back her summoned air elemental. It hissed as the demons surrounded it, no longer able to strike them all with each bolt.
The towering Nathrezim smiled and banished the elemental with a cursory flick of its hand. Then, the Nathrezim commanded the other three demons to attack Lazheward.
Despite his protection and regained abilities, Effy winced. The thought of him throwing himself into harm frightened her despite how silly that seemed since she was doing the same.
As an added precaution, and to assuage some of her own fears, Effraeti summoned another elemental. This time she summoned the spirit of water. If she could not throw herself in front of Laz, she could at least make sure any of his wounds were tended.
Then, Effy returned her earthen shield into the ground, and used some of the stone to form a reinforcing protective layer on Lazheward’s most vital and exposed areas. She could further protect him from harm as well.
She hoped he would not need it.
Having done all she could to help her love, Effy forced herself to focus on the Nathrezim. To her surprise, he was watching her, smiling. She was momentarily frozen as she studied him and what he would do next.
“You know, it is so dreadfully boring to banish these pathetic elementals of yours,” he crooned as he flicked his hand and dismissed the water elemental while it was in midcast. “Not nearly as satisfying as melting the flesh from your bones will be.” His smile grew and transformed his entire face into something more sardonic.
“I will not give you the pleasure of my screams,” Effy spat.
“Oh, I think you will. And I think you will make a most interesting display of it for your mate.” The Nathrezim showed his pointed teeth clearly as he accentuated each word. “I would not want him to miss that.”
Effy had no retort and only continued to glare at the demon.
“I despise this little planet and being back here. We should have incinerated the whole thing the first time we were here.” The Nathrezim’s lips formed a snarl. “Though, where both Archimonde and Kil’Jaeden failed, I am confident that we will not make those mistakes again.
“This time, Azeroth will burn.” The last word the demon drew out in a long purr.
“The Burning Legion will never succeed,” Effy replied, smirking. He was killing time until Lazheward finished with the other two demons. She prayed the Light would carry him through.
“We always succeed!” the Nathrezim insisted. “Countless worlds we have burned, every one we have ever stepped upon – except this one!”
Effy flinched. The Nathrezim noticed.
“Yes,” he hissed. “Do you ever wonder what happened to all those planets you fled? We granted them no mercy for harboring you. Your race may have eluded us for centuries, but those you left behind were not so fortunate.”
“But they were innocent,” Effy whispered.
“Indeed. All the more delicious.” The demon looked beyond Effraeti and smiled again, reminiscing. “Often I think back upon their screaming as entire planets burned to nothing but cinders. Others were torn apart like your Draenor. Believe me, we have something much more drawn out and painful for you and Azeroth.
“But alas,” the Nathrezim chuckled, “You shall not be here to see it.” That thought seemed to make him impatient, flicking a glance in Lazheward’s direction. Effy wondered if he might end her sooner.
“You know nothing about the determination of the peoples of Azeroth. We will stop you again, as we stopped you before,” Effy said, pulling him back to the conversation.
Again, the demon chuckled. “How wrong you are.” He paused a moment, to let her ponder his words.
“The Burning Legion has been watching for centuries, waiting for the right time to strike. For we have nothing but time.” A laugh burst from the demon’s mouth.
“Your Fel-weavers are oh-so willing to give us ample opportunities to gather information. Thousands of years of pretending subservience to your Warlocks has taught us much. The arrogant fools actually thought themselves in control. Mere mortals cannot command the will of demons!”
The Nathrezim snarled, his clawed fingers tightening into balls at his sides.
Effraeti tried to hide her discomfort. “You underestimated us before. You will do so again. Your evil will never prevail,” Effy countered, her voice a hissed whisper. “I and others like me destroyed even Deathwing who also thought himself invincible.”
The Nathrezim’s smile returned. “You mean you sacrificed your bodies so the Aspects could destroy him. And now the Aspects are nothing! They cannot even hold their own flights together, let alone protect Azeroth! Pah! Dragons!”
“I am not of Azeroth,” Effy said defiantly. “I need neither the Titans nor the Aspects.”
A deep laughter burst from the demon. “Stupid, mortal! Do you think the Titans stopped at one planet? Why do you think Sargeras was so interested in bringing the Eredar to his cause?
“The Titans prance about the cosmos, thinking to create order from chaos. All they do is delay the inevitable. Sargeras knows otherwise! He embraces the chaos, feeds it! And the worlds bow before him for it!”
“You cannot rule ash!” Effy responded.
Before the Nathrezim could reply, a roar pierced the air from outside the inn, and Effraeti felt a comforting presence touch her mind. Relief flooded through her.
A blue dragon landed outside the hole in the north wall, and stuck her head inside to regard the demon. She was small for a dragon, young, but still far bigger than the chunk missing from inn. Only her head reached inside, her front talons shredding pieces of wall further in her fury to reach them.
“I will teach you to fear dragons, demon!” Iragosa bellowed. She battered the broken wall with her tail from the outside, sending fresh sprays of wood and stone particles.
The Nathrezim’s face had gone white. For a being used to inspiring terror in others, he could only gape as the tables turned on him. He frantically began the motions of a spell, sputtering demonic words to further fuel it.
Iragosa’s face lit up with a reptilian smile. She snapped forward with the speed of a viper, and came away with the Nathrezim’s entire right arm in her mouth.
A throaty laugh shook the dragon’s sides as the demon screamed.
With another impossibly fast strike, the blue dragon clamped her jaws down on the Nathrezim, halfway down his torso, and shook him like rags. Gruesome crackles erupted from the limp demon. Iragosa then tossed the demon into the air and caught it again, prancing around like a cat playing with a mouse.
“Xarzith!” Effraeti shouted, reverting to her ward’s egg-name without thinking.
Iragosa cocked her head, the demon’s body still hanging from her mouth. She dropped the limp remains, and said softly, “Yes’m?”
“Enough with him,” Effy said quietly. “See to Laz. Make sure he is alright.”
A toothy, apologetic grin broke across Iragosa’s face, and she turned slowly in the destroyed section of the greatroom her claws and body further destroyed. Lazheward was still fighting the second demon, another Eredar. He was holding his own, the Light still a brilliant shield around him, but he was obviously getting fatigued.
Iragosa reached out her front claw, and picked the Eredar up by the back of its armor. It dangled comically like a pup carried by the scruff of its neck. The Eredar growled fiercely and swung its blades in arcs around itself, trying to strike the dragon who peered at him with amusement.
Lazheward nodded thankfully to Iragosa, who smiled and purred at her adopted father.
Then, the smile turning to a wicked grin, the blue dragon smashed her clawed forepaw down on the Eredar as a person might crush a mosquito.
The youngster still had some learning to do in the tact department, Effy mused as she cringed.
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“Mom! Ohmigosh, Mom! Mom!” Xandrea shouted over the sudden silence. She and Vyuriin burst out of kitchen doorway and ran towards her.
“Children! Are you hurt? Are you alright?” Effraeti embraced them both, uneasily glancing them over and feeling along their small frames to make sure neither was hurt. When the momentary panic had subsided, she looked at Xandrea questioningly.
“Wow, Mom! Did you see that? The Light and the fire and the lightning and the dragon! Roar! Oh, wow! Can we do it again?!”
Vyuriin let out a great laugh at that, and nodded excitedly in agreement.
Iragosa – or Ireenia as she was known in the Draenei form she now used – laughed right along with them.
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As the sun set on the horizon, the day ended with a temporarily restored peace. How long or short the interim, Effraeti could not say. Though she was weary of the battling – she had left it all behind her, she thought! – it was never truly over. She knew that beyond a doubt now.
The setting sun held a bitter irony in that it also signaled a fall into darkness for all of them. The Burning Legion were once more a shadow upon Azeroth and the Draenei. When would their next day dawn?
Effraeti vividly recalled Prophet Velen’s words:
Even now, the true battle between the forces of Light and Darkness approaches. We will all be called to join, and in the face of this conflict, all mortal suffering will be meaningless.
Velen had long ago told of a war. Whether it was given to him in vision or from the Na’aru, or both, she was not sure. It was so far removed that Effy had forgotten his words until now. Was this the start of that war?
An unconscious shudder escaped her, and Lazheward’s arms tightened around her. She leaned into him, and took strength in his presence.
Thousands of years she and Laz had been fighting, but it was different now. Now, it was not so much about protecting her people or her guild mates or even Azeroth – it was about protecting her family.
It was all that mattered to her. Their safety must be maintained.
She knew whatever threatened that safety would receive the unwavering retaliation of both Lazheward and herself.
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As it turns out, this story ended much differently than I originally planned!
Originally, this was to be Effy’s retirement story – Laz, kids, settling down, happily ever after. But in reality there is no happily ever after, and even in stories it seems it is not to be either – not for true heroes. Instead of happily ever after, I was distracted by the Burning Legion invading Azeroth and beginning Velen’s prophesied war between the Light and Darkness.
Oh yah, and the return of Xarzith/Iragosa/Ireenia. Man, dragons have a lot of names.
Since the non-flashback part of this story takes place an undisclosed (okie, unknown even to me) amount of time in the future, I felt safe taking the liberty of using this out of the blue idea that came to me. I feel it gives nice symmetry to the story, a balance between past and present (well, past and future/story-present). I also like that it gave me the ability to further play off the story title, and instead of the original “retirement” theme “As the Sun Sets” refers to, it gave the title a meaning more foreboding.
No rest for the weary.
Note: An amusing alternate title I thought of: How Laz Got His Light Back. You notice, I refrained. :)
Above and Beyond – Sun and Moon (The Others Remix)
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This story is based on worlds and characters in World of Warcraft.
Awaiting the Muse by Jamie Roman AKA Effraeti is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at http://awaitingthemuse.wordpress.com/.