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.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Two more wandering Doomguard patrolling near the demon portal were dispatched in a similar manner to the first – drawn in by the young Draenei, whose name was Wullam, and overwhelmed. After that, there was a clear path.
Vindicator Lazheward crept as silently as was possible in full plate mail. He positioned himself behind one of the columns that formed the frame of the demon portal, then he turned back to the others, and motioned them forward.
About a third of the group moved to join Vindicator Lazheward. The rest formed up in positions beyond the edge of the woods, to support their comrades as needed.
“Veksha, can you close the portal while we cover you?” Lazheward asked, his voice but a whisper.
“Yes, sir. I will do so as quick as possible,” the woman replied with a nod.
Returning the nod, the Vindicator peered back around the pillar, and kept watch.
Several minutes of hushed breathing passed.
Effraeti was in the woods with the other group, and watched Veksha with trepidation. Every time one of demons walked close to where Lazheward and the others stood behind the portal, she held her breath, wondering if that was the one that would discover them.
A commotion behind her made Effy turn around.
She gasped as a demonic polearm glowing green with fel energy impaled the Draenei standing beside her. Lifting him off the ground, the demon wielding the polearm flung him off to crash through the trees behind him. It then wasted no time skewering another in the confusion.
There were only four demons, but they had the element of surprise. A Doomguard cut swaths of blue blood through the unprepared Draenei. The Eredar wielding the polearm stabbed with abandon and devastated those who stood up to him. A winged Succubus cracked her whip, purred a few words, and immediately had the undivided loyalty of one unfortunate Draenei. He became as fierce an enemy as the demons. Worst of all, a Nathrezim, a Dread Lord himself, stood at the edge of the battle and sent green bolts of energy at the Draenei, some setting them on fire, others disintegrating them where they stood and leaving only blackened bones to clatter to the ground.
Effraeti gaped in horror at the sudden turn of events. If only she were capable of casting spells, or could do something more helpful than weakly swinging her second-hand mace. Most importantly, how could she alert Lazheward of the patrol tearing apart his team, before he needed backup that was no longer there?
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
With a frown, Vindicator Lazheward caught sight of a tendril of smoke raising from the edge of the woods where the majority of his team waited. It was just a small ribbon, but coming from a spot where it should not be.
Veksha was deep into her task of shutting down the portal, and would be finished in mere moments. When the portal suddenly winked out, it was certain to draw the attention of the remaining demons in the camp. He could not leave her defenseless, but something was certainly not right.
Whispering commands, Lazheward designated five others to stay with Veksha, and took the rest with him. He cautioned them to be prepared for anything.
Before his group got to the edge of the woods, the tendril of smoke doubled in size and then doubled again. His unease of a moment before grew with it as distant sounds of battle came to his ears.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Effraeti coughed, the smoke singing the delicate lining of her throat. Still not enough fire, she scolded herself. They probably cannot see the smoke. But the smoke was enough to force her a step back.
It also caught the attention of the Succubus. The demoness hissed at the Draenei woman, and purred a command to her hapless pet.
“Oh dear,” Effy whispered fretfully as the male Draenei advanced on her, his eyes glowing a vicious and dangerous green.
Her mind whirling, Effraeti brandished her mace and looked at the tiny fire, which was barely more than a smoldering pile of dry leaves. She wished it was larger – at least large enough to deter the approaching threat. She glared at the pile helplessly, frowning.
Then, something impossible happened – the fire listened.
Effy had to take a few steps back, as suddenly, the fire was nearly as tall as she was and fierce enough to make her face warm from several feet away. It also, to the woman’s delight, made the enthralled Draenei pause. She could not be sure, but the flames seemed to have burnt his hands and he now held the singed digits up before his face, protectively.
The Succubus hissed again, and cracked her whip, catching her pet with its stinging tips. “Attack!” she snarled.
The Draenei had backed up from the flames, and dropped his hands from his face. The green light in them was gone, and he seemed himself again. Drawing his two-handed sword, he advanced instead upon the demoness, anger at what she was and what she had done to him glinting furiously in his silvery eyes. The Succubus met him with her stinging whip.
Once more desperate to do something, Effraeti glanced at the flames before her. They seemed to be holding a static size and shape despite the scattered dry leaves surrounding them. She swore quietly and wished the flames were closer to the Succubus. If she could not defeat her, maybe she could at least push the demoness back.
Effraeti gasped. She could have swore the flames blinked at her, but as quickly as the mysterious fiery eyes appeared they were gone again.
A trick of the light.
She was still working at convincing herself of that when the flames rose again. This time the top portion detached itself from the bottom and a vaguely humanoid shape with drifting tendrils of flames instead of legs rushed toward the Succubus. A vacuum of rushing air followed along behind the fire being, and Effy had to exert a fair amount of backward effort to avoid being swept along behind it.
Seeing the form made of fire rushing towards her, the demoness’ face rippled into a snarl of anger that quickly broke into uncertainty. She flailed her arms in the beginnings of a spell, but was consumed the fire being. The male Draenei sprang away hastily and just missed joining her in her fate.
Her screams were horrible, and Effy had to cover her ears as she squeezed her eyes shut.
Effraeti nearly screamed too, when a moment later large hands grabbed hold of her shoulders, but they gently steadied her. Her wide eyes met Lazheward’s. His were questioning, but also exuding strength, and they immediately calmed her anxious mind.
“You saw the smoke?” she asked, her question and her voice both sounding weak to her own ears. She steadied her legs beneath her, and composed herself before the gaze of the other Draenei.
Vindicator Lazheward nodded.
“They appeared from nowhere… I did what I could,” she continued, shrugging with regret and fearing to disappoint him.
Taking in the stoic figure of the fire elemental, patiently waiting for further commands from above the charred remains of the Succubus, Lazheward looked back at Effraeti, surprise lining his sharp features. “I think you have done quite well. Will your friend attack the other demons if you ask it of him?”
Effraeti blinked. “The fire being?” she asked.
It turned its gaze upon her at the sound of her voice, seeming to recognize she spoke of it. Its gaze unblinking, it watched her just as they watched it.
Crinkling her brow questioningly, Effraeti looked straight at the fire elemental and said, “Stop the rest of those demons from hurting anymore Draenei.” To her utter surprise and elation, the creature of fire headed straight for the nearest demon – the Nathrezim.
Flaring brighter and turning a hotter shade, a yellow that was almost white, the elemental sped toward the Nathrezim.
The demon snarled and cast a few ineffectual fel bolts at the fire being. They merely passed through the insubstantial creature.
The Nathrezim frowned and spat more spell words. Clawing skeletal hands rose from the ground and reached for the fire elemental, but it slipped through the bony fingers, singing them and turning the hands to sooty dust in the process.
Another spell flung a small army of imps at the fire being. They cackled mischievously for the span of a few seconds, bouncing at the oncoming creature. Then those laughs turned to tiny high-pitched screams as the imps incinerated themselves upon the elemental’s body.
The demon let loose what must have been a curse in some unknown language. It gestured to shield itself, but to little avail, as the fire elemental was now upon it. To ensure the Nathrezim could not escape, the fire being summoned a wall of flame behind the demon, without pausing, and threw itself at the once more casting Nathrezim.
As the demon ignited and began to curse and shout, it finished its spell and banished the fire elemental in a swirl of grey-green smoke. But the Nathrezim was only a smudge of ash, and had no chance to celebrate the victory.
“Can you summon another to help us finish the last demon?” Lazheward asked.
“I would, but I am still unsure how I summoned that one,” Effraeti admitted.
Only a handful of those who had been with Effraeti in the trees were still standing, and those Draenei and the three who had come with Lazheward fought the sole remaining demon – the Eredar with the polearm. The weapon was slick with blue blood, and it looked as if black paint sprayed against the fiery skin of the enraged man’ari.
“Well, just try and do what you did again,” Lazheward suggested. He gave her a reassuring smile, and they hurried to join the others.
The Eredar fought like a cornered badger, and even as Laheward and Effraeti approached, he skewered another of the Draenei and shook him off the polearm’s barbed tip into the others, knocking down two more. He continued to press himself forward, ferociously cracking another Draenei in the skull with the butt of his weapon.
Vindicator Lazheward met the Eredar’s next attack head on with his shield, jarring the demon. White light enveloped the Paladin as a roar full of blood lust thundered from the Eredar’s throat. The demon swung at Lazheward while the man was still raising his shield back up.
With another burst of pure white light, Lazheward blinded the traitorous Eredar and knocked aside his blow with ease.
The other Draenei, rallied by the Vindicator’s presence, surged forward with renewed strength. It did not take much from their combined efforts and coordination to completely subdue the Eredar.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
“Hurry!” Lazheward assisted. “I know you are tired and we have wounded, but we must return to Veksha and see if she has succeeded. If she has, it will be in our best interests to make ourselves scarce.” He glanced around. “Help the wounded away. We will have to return for our dead once reinforcements arrive.”
To start the momentum, Lazheward helped a wounded Draenei to his feet, and supported his steps while the others did similar and the group hurried to the edge of the demon camp.
Effraeti helped the young Draenei, Wullam, the one who had served as their bait for the Doomguards at the portal. She smiled reassuringly at the boy, and he returned it, looking stronger for it.
Veksha was still standing behind the portal, glancing around desperately. She exhaled raggedly in relief when she saw the Vindicator and the others, as the swirling green light of the portal was gone.
The portal was dead.
The demons in the camp had taken notice too.
There was already a commotion starting, and slowly the demons began gathering and pointing and cautiously approaching the darkened pillars that had served as the doorway between whatever hell they originated from and the Draenei’s world. Their voices grew louder and more aggravated with each passing moment.
“We need a distraction to get away,” Vindicator Lazheward said softly. “Grigori! Do what you can to distract them! You as well, Veksha! Effraeti? Now would be a great time for another fire elemental!”
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Do what I did before? Effraeti asked herself. What did I do before? She wracked her brain. All I did was wish I had some kind of magic to be of more help… She had just come back out of the trees, waiting near the edge for word of what next.
When she heard Lazheward call out to her, she nearly froze. What if I cannot?
“Miss Effraeti?” the boy leaning on her whispered. “I saw you summon the fire. I know you can do it again.” He broke into a large grin, even though it looked to pain him and the cut across his cheek.
Blushing a deep violet, Effraeti nodded. She stepped away from the boy, noticing briefly he seemed able to support himself now, and she concentrated.
Hmm, first there was fire…
A whoosh of burning hot air hit her face, and she stumbled back as a raging wall of fire rose before the darkened portal. A few Draenei standing close to where the fire flared into existence also backed away quickly in surprise. An older male Draenei looked to have lost some of his eyebrows in the process.
Effraeti was too distracted to even sputter an apology.
More commotion arose from the confused demons who now had no view of the portal, and similarly no chance of spotting the Draenei, for now.
Then, I wished for the fire to move…
From the larger fire emerged a larger elemental, easily standing twice her height. It reached its flaming hands into the air, seeming to stretch, and uttered a crackling roar. Then, it stopped, motionless except for the creeping flames coursing along its body.
Effraeti blinked. What is it waiting for? Oh! “Attack!” she shouted, hoping it was only loud enough to reach whatever passed for the creature’s ears and no further.
Its body flaring, the creature advanced on the confused demons.
“That is our queue to leave,” Vindicator Lazheward stated, his face a mask.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
The Draenei pushed back into the forest, heading in the direction opposite of Habere. There was no good to come from leading their enemy straight back to the main city. Once their reinforcements arrived, they could more safely head home.
There seemed to be no pursuit, but Lazeward set scouts around the camp. It was only a matter of time before the demons dealt with the fire elemental and reorganized.
Veksha signaled back to Habere, and Vindicator Jurdan moved his larger force to meet them.
Then, the group was finally able to relax, albeit briefly.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
“Effraeti? Do you have a moment?” She knew it was Vindicator Lazheward’s voice before she even looked up.
“Of course, sir,” she replied, meeting his gaze. She set down the supplies that she had been gathering together, her satchel of bandages and healing herbs, so she could give him her full attention.
“May I?” he asked, motioning to the ground beside her. Effraeti nodded, and Lazheward seated himself nearby.
“I wanted to thank you for your assistance back there. I am not sure we would have been successful without you.” His visage was most serious.
“Sir, it was hardly worth praise. I did what anyone would have.” She gave him an embarrassed smile.
“Do not sell yourself short. You are obviously possessed of a gift. I assume it has never manifested itself before now?”
With a distracted shake of her head, Effraeti nervously tapped her fingers against her hoof. She had always been fascinated by magic, and mildly jealous of those who wielded it, but she had never thought she might one day be able to use it herself. Why now? Perhaps it was just that the need had never arose before?
Lazheward chuckled, and Effraeti glanced at him. “See the fire?”
The woman cocked her head curiously, and looked at the low burning fire. After a moment of silently watching, she whispered, “I do not see anything unusual about it.”
“Well, no, I suppose not. You stopped fidgeting with your fingers,” he replied with a smirk.
“Hmm,” Effraeti murmured, her brows furrowing. She once more tapped the nail of her finger against her hoof, and watched with fascination as the height of the fire lightly mimicked her motions. She then moved that same finger from left to right before her, and the tongues of flame followed. Up, and the fire leapt. Down, and the coals flared as the fire nearly guttered out.
“It is amazing,” Effraeti breathed.
After a moment of nothing but their hushed breathing, Lazheward spoke again. “I also came to ask one more thing of you.”
Effaeti raised an eyebrow.
“Someone needs to watch the demons between now and when the others arrive, to brief Jurdan on what they are up against and make sure that portal does not reopen in the meantime. Many of the others are too hurt and exhausted. I wanted to ask you to accompany me.” Lazheward looked from the fire back to Effraeti, the orange glow casting strange lines and shadows on his serious face and squared jaw. He was quite imposing.
“I was going to help Grigori with healing what small wounds I can, but I would be honored, sir. I appreciate you thinking of me.” She gave a small smile.
“As much as I think he could use the help, I would prefer if you got some rest first. It is going to be a long night,” Lazheward warned.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Effraeti tried to rest, but she was too anxious about what the evening might hold. So though she was curled up on her side, she was wide awake when Lazheward touched her shoulder.
“Are you ready?” he asked softly, as not to disturb anyone else.
She nodded and grabbed her pack, which she had already prepared before she laid down.
They stepped quietly through the camp and back in the direction of the demon portal. Both Draenei took on a more natural gait as the firelight disappeared behind them.
Silence hung between them, and Effraeti followed Lazheward, thinking much but not sharing all of her jumbled thoughts.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Effraeti sat with her back against an old, wide oak tree, her view of the demon camp unimpeded, though she herself was hidden from their view. They had circled the camp fully before deciding where best to set themselves. Their current position gave them an off center, frontal view of the portal and a good vantage of the demons themselves.
Lazheward contented himself with pacing restlessly.
“It will be quite a long night if you pace the length of it,” Effy said with a smirk.
The man stopped and regarded her. As the playfulness in her words settled upon him, he afforded a quiet chuckle. “My apologies,” he replied with a respectful nod of his head.
“None needed, but you should sit, before you begin to chase your tail in your unease.”
He nodded without further response, and settled himself with his back against the same large tree as Effraeti.
Silence descended again, and brought forth a yawn Effraeti quickly muffled. She would need to maintain her attention for the duration of the evening, and silence and darkness were not helping.
“Tell me about yourself, sir. If only for the sake of keeping us both alert.”
Lazheward smiled. “What would you know?”
Shrugging, Effraeti responded with, “How did you become a Vindicator, sir?”
A severe look crossed Lazheward’s face, and Effy feared she had gotten too personal. She was about to apologize when he stated, “Now if we are going to exchange stories, you must promise me you will drop the ‘sir’ and call me Laz.”
“Heh. Yes’sir… err, Laz.”
Once the conversation began, it flowed like a great river – smooth and strong and over the course of the rest of the evening.
They learned much about one another, including the fact that Lazheward was exactly 400 years Effraeti’s elder, give or take a few months. This struck them both odd as 400 was a lucky number in Draenei culture.
Lazheward explained how he had become a soldier young, to help the burden bore by his sister, who had raised him after the deaths of their parents. His strong connection to the Light was discovered early on in his service, and he was only a few millennia old when he became a Vindicator. Most recently, the death of his superior officer during the initial attack by the demons had led to his current promotion.
“I am sorry to hear about his death,” Effraeti whispered.
“As am I. It is not how I would have preferred to move up. He was a mentor to me,” Lazheward replied. His eyes cast downward, the emotion filling them was hard to determine.
Before she could stop herself, Effraeti squeezed his hand, and her eyes widened in surprise when a crackle of electricity jumped between them. It made every hair on her head stand on end. Laz obviously felt it too, one eyebrow raising curiously, but he did not move his hand away.
“Some strange side effect of the elementals, perhaps,” Effy mumbled as her face flushed a deep violet.
“Perhaps,” Laz replied. The word seemed much larger than its spoken reality.
Effy had trouble determining whether the following silence was awkward, but her thoughts along that line were interrupted by the harsh voice of an Eredar.
She stiffened. Every muscle in her body tensed as she silently berated herself for distracting them both from their purpose. Then, Effy realized the voice was not one of discovery. The Eredar was on the other side of the trees covering them, talking to another demon.
Strangely enough, the pause in her conversation with Laz had meant they were not noticed – yet.
Lazheward’s voice was barely a whisper when he spoke next, but it still caused Effy to jump. “If I can lure them into the trees here and keep them occupied, can you attack them with the help of your elementals?”
Effraeti scrunched her face up. “I think so.”
“Alright, it sounds like there are only two of them, but be ready.”
Nodding, Effy met his serious gaze.
Lazheward readied his hammer and shield and started to cause a commotion closer to the trees where the Eredar were hidden by stomping on some twigs and dried pine needles and scuffing his hooves along the ground. It had the desired effect and not two but three Eredar burst through the tree cover between Laz and the demon camp. The last must have been silent through the overheard conversation between the other two.
Effraeti was not idle as Lazheward confronted them. Her confidence in the responsiveness of the elements was growing, and she wasted no time in requesting the aid of another being of fire. As it joined Laz to batter and singe one of the demons, drawing its attention, Effy wracked her brain for what else she could do to help.
Laz let out a pained growl, and Effy gasped. The twin blades of one of the two Eredar not occupied by the elemental had broken through the Paladin’s defenses and pierced him at a joint between two pieces of plate covering his upper arm.
Elements? Can you protect him? Effy thought, desperately.
Almost as the thoughts formed in her head, the ground beneath Lazheward rumbled. Effy could tell he fought down the panicked thoughts of it being something the Eredar did, even as he became partially encased in stone. It melded to his arms and legs and reinforced his shield, but the stone armor did not seem to encumber him. For that, Effy was glad.
She caught the eye of closest Eredar, then, and he snarled and sprinted towards her as the other demon continued to assault Lazheward.
Effy made a surprised noise as he quickly closed the gap.
“No! Back!” she commanded, her voice a mixture of frantic and commanding. She was not entirely sure what good she expected the exclamation to accomplish.
The sky darkened and rumbled. Within seconds rain began to fall, and each drop that hit her skin seemed to wash away some of the weariness of the past few days and refresh her. The wind picked up, and though Effy and Laz remained unaffected, a great gust blew the approaching Eredar off his feet and crashing backwards into his companion.
The two scrambled to untangle themselves.
Laz dispatched the Eredar who had been thrown through the air with a quick downward motion of his hammer to the creature’s temple, but the second took advantage of his recovery. The demon sliced across Lazheward’s midsection with its two-handed sword. The Draenei tried to step back, but it caught him fully and cut through his chestpiece like paper.
Shock and anger hit Effraeti like a tidal wave as Lazheward stumbled backwards, losing his footing as he held his shield arm tightly across his stomach. A grimace pinched his facial features, and he seemed only partially aware as the Eredar approached him, sneering, his sword readied to swing again.
The rain fell heavier, the storm clouds reflecting Effy’s darkening thoughts. Thunder rumbled and flickers of bone white lightning jumped between the clouds, making the woman’s azure face pale and intimidating. Through clenched teeth, Effraeti growled, “Strike!” and at her request the crackling electricity that played among the thunderheads detached from them and struck once, twice, three times upon the Eredar.
The demon stayed upright through the cascading bolts, though its body convulsed violently, but once they retracted, the smoking form crumpled.
The moment the Eredar’s body struck the ground, Effy shook herself from her rage and gaped at what she had wrought. Her delicate eyebrows formed a jagged pattern of remorse across her crinkled forehead.
She attempted to remind herself she could afford no pity on these creatures.
The fire elemental had dealt with the third Eredar, and remained stoically nearby.
Swallowing at the dryness that was accumulating in her throat, Effy came fully back to herself and ran to Lazheward’s side. He was very still, but breathing. He appeared to have collapsed from exhaustion and blood loss.
Distractedly, Effy did notice the rain still fell, still infusing her with its calming effect. It cleared her mind further, and upon a quick examination, Effy realized it must be doing more than affecting her; Lazheward’s wound did not look as bad as she had expected.
Quickly and carefully, she unclasped and removed his breastplate. The wound still made her gasp harshly enough that she nearly choked. She argued with herself on how best to tend the wound – and if she were even capable of healing it. As it was now, the rain had somehow helped, but moving Laz at all would tear it open again, and she doubted he could stand to lose much more blood.
The rain continued to fall, now more somber in response to her own strained mood. The wind continued to whip around her, though, anxious, as if it were trying to get her attention.
Then, Effy realized a breathy voice hailed her. She tried to focus on the voice, curious.
Suddenly, many voices spoke all at once. They all seemed eager to be heard, and at the same time, surprised. The voices of the elements all became a heavy clamor inside her head until her temples began to throb.
She could not make out anything in the cacophony.
“Please, slow down, one at a time,” Effy begged. She held her head between her hands, her eyes tightly shut. The elements would not be deterred, they continued to speak fast and loud and with obvious excitement. “I must help Laz…”
That brought a temporary peace.
“Yes, help me. Help me to help Laz. Please,” Effy continued when she had to capacity to think clearly again.
Murmurs. The elements seemed to be anxious to not give up this newfound connection. Effy was surprised to notice she understood everything said, now that it was coming at her less jumbled.
“Once he is healed, I will listen to all of you,” Effy promised. “One at a time,” she quickly added.
“Please,” she asked again.
Finally there seemed to be a general consent. The elements seemed pacified with the agreement.
It was the element of Water who then told Effy what to do.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
“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.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
“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.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
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.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
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/