It would be almost embarrassing to explain exactly how many times I have rewritten the intro to this particular story. I began writing this while I was working on the 20 Days of WoW, on my former blog. This was to be my response for Day 20: If Today Were My Last Day on WoW.
A lot has happened between the start and conclusion of writing this – both for Effy and for myself. When I first began, this was to be not a reflection on my own leaving of WoW, but Effy’s eventual “retirement” from adventuring. It was started toward the beginning of my stories of Effy, certainly before Love and Sacrifice. It was before I myself left WoW, and grew to miss Effy.
As it turns out, this story was never ready to be finished until now.
P.S. = The second half is almost done, but I was getting impatient to post this.
P.P.S. = I drew a picture to go at the top, but I remembered my scanner is not hooked up, and I was not in the mood to set it up last night. Sorry.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
The smile that permeated Effraeti’s face shone like the sun. She looked upon her children as they played in the grass with an incomparable pride. No demon banishing, no dragon slaying, no Old God binding could ever compare to the creation of these two precious young ones.
The Draenei were a long-lived race, once referring to themselves as the proud and culturally-advanced Eredar, before that word became something as twisted as those who still bore the name. Effy could only vaguely remember her people’s home world of Argus – she had been but a child at the time. Only distant flashes of its shining cities remained to her, the buildings and walkways and even the waters lit from within as if living, breathing things themselves.
The happiness of her youthful innocence was a mere flicker. More clearly she recalled the resonating terror of their flight, a terror that followed her people to and from hundreds of worlds over thousands of years.
The cause of this pain and suffering? The genocide of Effraeti’s people by those they had once called their brethren before being twisted into demonic abominations by the Burning Legion. The evil Man’ari Eredar. They hunted the Draenei mercilessly, led by two whom had once helped to lead her people in peace and prosperity – Kil’Jaeden and Archimonde.
The third leader of the Eredar, the Prophet Velen, had been given a vision by their Light-born saviors, the Na’aru, only just in time for Velen to gather those few who would believe him and flee Argus. Many more innocents who did not follow were slain.
Even to this day, Effraeti knew Prophet Velen carried every life lost in their flight and following exile as a lead weight upon his shoulders.
Their longest home had been Draenor, until the Orcs and then the Blood Elves had nearly exterminated her race under the command of the Burning Legion – simply more tools for the demons and the vengeful Eredar.
Lazheward let out a long, deep laugh, momentarily breaking Effy from her thoughts. He was down on his back, with both children furiously tickling him. Effy smiled once more.
Long-lived meant Draenei rarely had children. A child bestowed on a Draenei couple was the greatest blessing they could receive – and Lazheward and Effraeti had been doubly blessed, with twins.
Their little girl, Xandrea, was bold and impetuous. She had been born a full fifteen minutes before her cautious but stubborn brother, Vyuriin. Both children were polar opposites, but the two were inseparable. There was no Xay with her mother and Vy with his father – activities included both twins or neither.
Laz and Effy did not mind their children’s closeness. Family was the most important bond to a Draenei. Being an exiled and hunted race, family was all they had at many points throughout their long sojourn.
Through many events over the centuries Lazheward and Effraeti had only had one another. Laz had lost his last remaining family – his sister – in one of the first Orc attacks on the outlying villages of Draenor. Effy, an only child and very close to her parents, had seen her parents tortured and murdered by the Nathrezim hundreds of years before that.
Laz and Effy’s meeting had been on a planet much like their newest home of Azeroth – green with growing things and canopied by a crystalline blue sky.
Lazheward was commanding forces of the Draenei resistance, and was pulled into the forefront of the action upon the Burning Legion’s discovery of their whereabouts and the death of a higher ranking commander. A militia force was gathered to assist the more seasoned veterans, and against the wishes of her parents, Effy secretly joined.
Inexperienced and scared witless despite her pride at making such a bold commitment, Effy ended up in Laz’s company in a covert assault of a Legion camp.
She fondly recalled her first interaction with Laz.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Fumbling with second-hand service clothing that was far too big for her lithe frame, Effraeti exhaled a Draenei curse. She frowned and continued to fight with her belt, trying desperately to make it hold up her pants, without making it look like she was wearing a tied potato sack.
A strange prickle on the back of her neck made her look up, and she realized it was not paranoia, she was being watched.
“Vindicator Lazheward!” she gasped, and stood at attention.
“At ease,” the Vindicator chuckled. He stood taking up most of the doorway to her room with his large, armored frame – a doorway Effraeti realized she had left ajar. “I do not usually seek out recruits myself, but I am here to check on our new arrivals, as it is most unusual for us to draft this way. How are you finding the accommodations and the supplies?” He raised a curious eyebrow.
“Quite fine, sir. The clothes and armor are a tad large on me, but I am making due. I am ready whenever you have need of me.”
“Excellent!” Lazheward replied without pause. “We leave this afternoon. Make sure your personables are packed and ready to go.”
“Yes, sir.” Effraeti gave an awkward salute, and Vindicator Lazheward returned it before turning and leaving.
The woman finally exhaled the breath she had not realized she was holding.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
The clothes were stiff and itchy and the mail she had been given was ill-fitting as well, but Effraeti stood as still and straight as possible while Vindicator Lazheward briefed the group on their upcoming mission. She tried to maintain a serious visage, and not let it show how excited and anxious she was all at once for such a mission so soon.
Burning Legion forward troops had begun to pour through a portal into a remote, forested area to the north. The goal of Lazheward’s group was sneak past the gathering forces and find a way to close the portal. A larger force would be sent in, upon completion of their mission, to destroy the remaining Legion forces and assure the portal would not be reopened.
Once their objective was outlined, Vindicator Lazheward led the group northward, sending scouts to the fore and aft of the column and calling for a quiet march.
There were occasional distractions – a passing bird or the wind soughing through the great old trees around them or the crunch of a dry twig – but mostly the quiet left Effraeti much room for personal thoughts.
She found herself starting to focus on what battle would be like. Many of the demons of the Burning Legion were abominations of types she had never seen before, but some would be Eredar. Some were those who had directly betrayed her people.
She wondered if they would still look like her and her companions? If so, how would she know who was friend and who was foe? How would she shed the blood of one who looked like her?
The Draenei woman watched a crimson-mottled leaf slowly drift past her and sway and swoop its way to the ground. When it touched the ground, with the delicacy of a mother brushing her infant’s cheek, Effraeti looked up and took in the surrounding forest.
The trees were still partially cloaked in leaves of various shades of red, yellow, and orange, and looked centuries old. Soon the remaining leaves would fall, and the trees would be bare in their skeletal glory. They were all bigger around than ten male Draenei standing arm-in-arm. They towered into the air higher than any building back in her small town of Habere, perhaps taller than even the lithe buildings of Argus.
Wincing, Effraeti found those memories painful, though they were far removed and it was hard to recall what the cities fully looked like. Sometimes, she saw them vaguely in her dreams, but those were dreams which ended as nightmares and with her waking with a start, shivering and sweating.
The male Draenei in front of her came to an abrupt halt, and Effraeti bumped roughly into his shoulder, bruising her collarbone. Giving quiet but profuse apologies to his disapproving look, she quickly came to attention when Vindicator Lazheward signaled the column, his countenance grim.
In a hushed tone meant to carry to his subordinates and no further, Vindicator Lazheward explained one of the scouts had returned with news that they were close, but there was a patrol of Man’ari Eredar who would be crossing their path shortly. So Lazheward distributed his soldiers into the nearby bushes and trees and bid them silent.
The waiting was torturous. Effraeti was wracked by conflicting feelings. She was mere moments from combat – and with Eredar. She steeled herself best she could for the unknown.
I am ready for this… Am I ready for this?
In an almost casual manner, the first pair of Eredar stepped into view, murmuring amongst themselves. Effraeti had to suppress a gasp, and covered her mouth as she gaped, her luminescent pupilless eyes wide. They resembled Draenei, but only vaguely in shape. They stood several heads higher than any of the Draenei, their faces were twisted, scowling visages, and their skin was the red of smoldering coals from dying fire.
The first pair carried jagged swords in both hands, though the weapons dangled loosely in their thick hands. The second two wielded long, deadly polearms. The final two were female, dressed in dark, scant cloth with tall collars and walking along with staves that glowed with black magic.
Once the Eredar were centered in his group of hidden Draenei, Vindicator Lazheward was the first to confront the patrol. He bore a mighty hammer forged of crystal and a glimmering shield bearing the symbol of the Na’aru. The man glowed in his polished plate mail, suffused with Light.
Effraeti thought he looked immortal in that moment.
Issuing a battle cry that rallied the remaining Draenei from their positions, Lazheward charged the first two of the patrol. Mere seconds passed between the appearance of the patrol and the scene dissolving into a chaos of weapons and missiles and spell auras.
Seizing her moment, Effraeti rushed forward with her second hand shield and hand-me-down mace and attacked one of the Eredar swinging a polearm longer than her whole body. The Eredar growled a challenge and lifted his weapon to parry her meager attack. The force of the collision between her mace and the polearm jarred her fingers, shot up her arm like lightning, and hit the back of her clenched teeth with the final shockwave, causing her to exhale in agony and stagger backwards.
A hideous cackle escaped the Eredar with the polearm, and he pounded forward on his thick hooves toward her before she could recover from her shock.
Suddenly, a shield was between Effraeti and the polearm, and a similarly broad shouldered figure lifted her several feet from where she had previously been standing to set her down lighter than she would have thought possible.
Vindicator Lazheward faced off with the Eredar, his attacks quick and calculated but not nearly as powerful as the blows from the demon and his brutal weapon. The shield deflected most of the strikes, and every time Lazheward knocked the polearm away, a burst of brilliant white light radiated from him, threatening to blind his demonic foe.
A few more of the Draenei came to Vindicator Lazheward’s side, including Effraeti, who had swallowed back the pain and lifted her shield and weapon once more. It took several of the Draenei to push the larger Eredar into submission.
From the corner of her eye, Effraeti noticed a flash of red and black and turned to catch sight of one of the spellcasters, bruised and bleeding in several places, but back on her feet and casting a spell. Effy was about to shout a warning and realized there was not time. She was closest to the caster, and so she set her shield before her and charged.
A look of surprise, then anger, then pain flickered over the female Eredar’s face, and she and Effy tumbled to the ground. Once both were down, Effraeti was sure it would not take the other woman long to recover and her mind raced at what to do next.
When nothing else came to her, Effy scrambled to her knees. Putting all of her weight behind the attack, she smashed her shield into the face of the rising Eredar woman.
There was crash of opposing bodies and an explosion of blood from the other woman’s face. The spellcaster dropped to the ground without even a cry of pain.
Effraeti was horrified, and yet relieved. She sank back to her knees, and fought to steady herself. She forced herself to not look at the front side of her shield.
Something touched her shoulder, and Effy spun on her hooves to face the challenger, her bloody shield raised before and her mace arm trailing behind, but ready to swing.
“Easy,” Vindicator Lazheward said softly, raising his empty hands before him. “The battle is over. I came to check on the caster you were engaged with, but it appears you handled yourself well. Just don’t get cocky, those Eredar warlocks will tear you apart and then reanimate you to their will.” He afforded her a brief grin.
Effraeti could not bring a reply to form on her lips. She glanced at the dead Eredar woman and shuddered.
Lazheward helped her to her feet. “Come, we must regroup. There is still much to do.”
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
The members of the Eredar patrol were dead, but several of the Draenei in Effraeti’s group had been injured. Only two Draenei had died, taken down by bolts of magic from the casters.
Lazheward said a brief Draenei pray over the two men, and touched each of their foreheads with a Light-infused hand. A magical shroud was placed over the two, to keep away scavengers, and communication was made with Habere for their return home.
Effraeti was disappointed in her part of the attack on the patrol, but forgot it once time came to tend to the wounded. She had brought bandages and some various healing herbs of her own accord, figuring she would need them for herself. Since she had come away mostly unscathed, only a bit shook up, she decided to use them to tend to her companions.
The group had a healer, but he was already overburdened and looking haggard from all of his spellweaving. So once Effraeti had created a poultice for the large bruise on her shield arm, she cradled her items within a small satchel in her arms, and stepped lightly among the other Draenei in a slow circuit.
Her eyes fell upon a Draenei woman with a vicious gash across her weapon arm. The woman held a tattered piece of cloth to the wound, and grimaced whenever she shifted her still-bleeding arm.
“May I help?” Effy asked.
The woman met her gaze and glanced to her bundle and back. A brief nod was her only reply, fiercely biting at her lower lip, and Effraeti knew it was the best she could manage without gritting out a sob.
Sitting beside the woman, Effraeti laid down her satchel of bandages and herbs. She took hold of the other’s arm as gently as she could, and coaxed away the bloodied rag.
It was a deep wound, down to the muscle but luckily not all the way through it.
Tempering the empathy the wound inspired in her, Effy set to the serious task of cleaning and stitching and covering the wound. Her patient was very quiet except for the occasional sharp inhale of breath when something stung. The grimace slowly faded, and once her arm was bandaged, she managed a grateful smile.
“Thank you, healer,” the woman said, the first words Effy had heard her speak. The other woman grasped Effy’s hand gratefully. A spark of warmth flowed down Effy’s arm and into their brief contact.
Effraeti bowed her head. “You are most welcome, but I am no healer. I only had the means to help out a little.”
Then, Effy gathered up her bundle once more and, returning the smile the woman gave her, continued on.
Seated apart from the others, most of them either sharing a meager meal or waiting for the healer to tend to them, Effraeti saw Lazheward. Despite the thick plate mail he wore, the man had several gashes across his azure skin in his less protected areas, the worst of which crossed his brow beneath his left horn.
“Has the healer tended to that, sir?” Effy asked, motioning toward the mark on his forehead.
“No, poor Grigori has enough wounds to deal with without me taking up his time,” the Vindicator replied with a chuckle. “I am not too concerned. Another scar won’t kill me.” A genuine smile crossed his face.
“I can assist with it, if you like,” Effraeti continued.
Lazheward studied her for a moment, and nodded. “Please, I would be most appreciative.”
Once more laying down her burden, Effraeti seated herself beside Vindicator Lazheward and gathered her hooved legs beneath her. She cleaned out the wound, apologizing profusely as Lazheward winced when it stung. With cool water from a canteen she was also carrying, she rinsed away the rest. Then, she coaxed the skin back together and covered the wound with a mixture herbs beneath a clean bandage.
The entire time, Lazheward watched her work in silence, and Effraeti did all she could not to reddened under his scrutiny.
“I cannot guarantee there will not be a scar, as I am no true healer, but it should heal without one,” Effraeti stammered.
“Either way, it already feels better,” Lazheward replied, his voice soft. His face was difficult to read as he bowed his head and thanked her.
Trying not to appear too flustered and anxious to be away, Effraeti gathered up her bundle and continued through the camp.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Vindicator Lazheward’s face was grim and serious when he addressed them later that afternoon. “There are demons guarding the portal we are here to sabotage – a lot of them. But that is information we already had. Our goal is to close that portal. Any demons we take down in the process are a bonus, and less demons we have to fight later.”
There was a somber murmur of agreement from the other Draenei.
“How will we get past so many, sir?” asked one of the younger militia soldiers, nervously. He was barely old enough to accompany them – not a year over a century old, Effraeti was certain.
The question brought Vindicator Lazheward’s scrutinizing look upon the boy. “We still have the element of surprise…” Then, a light seemed to flicker in his eyes. “And I think I know just the way to exploit it.”
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Zrekk knew that this gods-awful guard duty was because of the choice words he had for his superior the day before. Boring, mundane guard duty. He was stuck at the portal while the rest of the Doomguard were out causing general havoc among the Draenei and the other pitiful denizens of this planet.
Soon this planet would burn, and Zrekk was standing here – pacing here – watching a portal.
A displeased hissing sounded escaped him.
A clatter roused Zrekk from his brooding, and he turned his great helmeted head to see a young Draenei freeze in terror near the edge of the woods. The boy fumbled to retrieve a wooden sword he had dropped and then disappeared back into the trees.
Zrekk sneered. “What have we here? Something to break up the monotony?” the demon mused.
Hefting his huge axe from one hand to the other, Zrekk turned and crept into the edge of the woods where the Draenei had disappeared. He glanced around a small clearing and saw the boy’s blue tail melt into more trees to his right.
Zrekk hurried to overtake the youth, taking great strides with his much longer legs and raising his axe as he pushed aside mature trees from his path like saplings.
The next break in the trees greeted him, and Zrekk’s sneer broadened as he caught sight of the boy scrambling to once more pick up the play-sword.
“Why in such a hurry, boy? Don’t you want to play Demons and Draenei?” Zrekk guffawed deeply at his own joke.
“Indeed, demon. Let’s play,” said a confident voice that seemed to come from a patch of foliage behind the young Draenei. Out stepped an older Draenei, this one suited in plate mail from head to toe and wielding a crystalline hammer and a shimmering shield. An aura of the purest white surrounded him.
It hurt Zrekk’s eyes and made him squint.
“More fun for me,” he snorted with a careless shrug of his armored shoulders. He raised his axe, a weapon larger than the older Draenei, and charged.
The aura surrounding the blue insect deflected Zrekk’s axe harmlessly to the left, causing the demon to grunt as the blade collided and changed course, striking the ground. The Draenei looked unshaken, but the aura visibly lessened. The Doomguard was confident it would not so easily deflect his next attack, and raised his axe high over his head, planning to chop the defiant Draenei in twain.
Hot pain shot through the backside of Zrekk’s legs, and his knees gave out. The demon snarled as he looked behind him to see a crowd of mismatched and battered looking Draenei warriors surrounding him.
“I will slaughter you all, pathetic bugs!” Zrekk shouted defiantly, though he was unable to make his disobedient legs lift his weight. Growling in rage, he swung his axe in a great circle before him, but the Draenei were carefully out of the way.
The glowing male stepped before Zrekk, and with a seemingly effortless flick of his hammer disarmed the demon. “Not today,” the Draenei growled back, and brought the hammer back across from the right, into Zrekk’s skull.
To Be Continued in Part Two
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
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 https://awaitingthemuse.wordpress.com/.