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-Beneath jade and golden boughs-

#1
-Early afternoon in Darkshore to its southern borders,on the main road rode three elves.-
 
 
Beneath jade and golden boughs, the elves were taught how to manipulate the energies that permeated the world and its surrounds: they learned magic. A matriarch,the queen of queens, ruled over them,Azshara,powerful and beautiful like a goddess.”


Said the old Demon hunter,Imrik last of the Drak’ash bloodline,known as Mentheus Nightsworn,Moondevil,half turned on his saddle. His tone severe and solemn ,proud and arrogant,if not totally ruined by half burnt vocal cords after events he will never forget.
Long wild hair falling upon shoulders and down to the middle of his back, as black as a night missing moon and stars. Of a spectral white skin,scaled forehead and burnt ,empty eyes sockets glowing of the eldritch fel magic he embraced ages ago,protected by a simple silk,black blindfold. The face was ,if scarred and half burn,holding a sort of noble shaped rigid lines only age and Highborne blood could gift to one of his race.
His hardened body,trained beyond mortals capacities and limits,protected by a leather and mail brown-golden armor,with few truesilver yellow scales. Spiked pauldrons with draconic motives and runes and a winged black and silver cloack ,holdt between those with a golden chain. Nude torso,showing the infamous ritualistic tattoo wards his brave,cursed kind heldt ever since centuries,ever since their rituals. Golden and silver scaled bracers,leaving his clawed hands free to hold the reins . Dark brown legguards with a single decorated truesilver yellow scale on each,as if two pairs of wings folded onto those, and boots,plated on the shin.


The old demon hunter rode atop a black warhorse which sight wasn’t inferior to the noble blood atop it. Towering normal horses,Khorandir rode ,sideing the main road,clad in war ,steel armor of a color scheme willingly used to match its rider’s aegis. Two naga crafted seabone spears at one side of its saddle,three black bags on the other side.

At his side rode Alania Moonwind,Priestess of Elune,martyr of Seradane. The priestess lost sight and part of her face skin under trolls harm and yet still she held the austerity and self confidence one would expect from one of her holy ancient order .Her ruined face protected by a simple elven made silver faceplate.She was dressed in mooncloth robes,white as moonlight of the brightest moon of the year shining in the darkest night and protected against physical means by mail padded pauldrons,flat short silver bracers ,a pair of fingerless archer gloves  and silver mail boots half hid by the long robe.
Her white elven bow waiting on the flank of her saber saddle and on her back a quiver with a mix of common arrows and a few white,magical ones.She gave a short command with an amused,calm tone and instantly Moonbeam, her white and black stripped saber slowed slightly and made space to the third of the small company,rushing ahead to flank Mentheus onto a black and blue scaled raptor ,while addressing him with a sharp , tired tone.


I just said I see smoke ahead…not the entire history of our people from the very beginning…Shan’do


Said Aethysra Stormfire while pointing the horizon where in fact three columns of smoke kept rising,straight into Ashenvale west side,not too far from the coast. Others near the small volcano,not yet noticeable by mortal sight. The kaldorei demon huntress ,athletic beyond comparisons and rather young for one of her race shared the same pale skin tone of her Shan’do. Her armor totally hid under long druidic brown robes,ruined by travels and forest hunting and on her back a pair of long emerald warglaives. All earnt under her training and after the war,the biggest most dangerous war they had to fight,on Azeroth and far away,were the legion headquarters were.
 
Before Mentheus could turn and give a proper answer to her,maybe even punishment if only verbally so,Alania Moonwhisper ‘s spectral owl and nowadays only way she had to “see” through the material world,Whisper the name..schreeched while flying and finally landing onto the priestess bent arm. The priestess nodded and :
 
Fire and smoke where we are heading to Mentheus…cut trees ,burnt,paths sideing the roads


Mentheus gave up any stupid and relaxed explanation he would formulate and offer to his Tero’shan and kicked Khorandir flanks,once and with such force the cladded sound made clear any conversation was –not important- from now on. The warhorse accelerated with inexorable resolve straight through the road and both the priestess and the huntress followed close on alert,no expressions.

The elven trio rode,fast,down into the west of Ashenvale towards the cliffs for under those was supposed to be Elunaar,the place housing a friend. The more they rode the more things started to get confuseing at first…and if each had fought wars, Mentheus fought more so and it was clear to him a large force marched trough the woods leaving nothing…a large regiment dislocated and marched towards Elunaar,now on sight and if half destroyed,not burning..the smoke came out from various burning things…or corpses..or Elune knows what.
 
The trio slowed while entering Elunaar,the village built at mountains feet on one side,strategically such and protected by the woods on the other. About twenty houses of elven architecture,none rich nor big and a small  moonwell  near the middle of the settlement.

Alania startled atop the saber,her owl circling around them mercilessly showing her the disaster..
Aethysra tensed and growled,sniffing air around while witnessing the massacre,throwing her druidic robe on the ground. Her black and bronze refined armor now visible,thin and flexible like a second skin…
Mentheus couldn’t believe what his spectral sight,impossible to deceive not even by the demons of the past,was showing him.
 
Orcs ,Forsaken bodies here and there..a good portion burnt,they assaulted the village and the result was here in front of them. Villagers slayed,elven blood feedeing the tortured earth..the moonwell had blood on it ,holy waters an elf has right and duty to die for….

Aeth spoke,fast and in hurry :
Those bastard massacred everything ,only few payed for it,some were burnt. Moonflame?


Alania esitated,holding one hand over chest and her sight,through Whisper the owl, fixed upon the back of the old demon hunter dismounting his warhorse,grim as death made flesh. She then spoke:
 “Elune bless those souls of brothers and sisters,and..daughters.”


Find survivors” .
Two words,no hope,no emotion..Mentheus spoke machine alike,addressing Aeth with a sign of his hand,one clawed finger pointing towards the road crossing the village. Aethysra Stormfire nodded and with superior sights and senses moved around,dodging corpses,swearing loudly,cursing gods.
He was walking around,searching for a track..a faint of magic,anything worth and at the same time fighting inside his very soul,again…
 
Hey,they are everywhere for real this time mh?

 The Nathrezim spoke,every single word spoke from soul to soul they did share since millennias. A satisfaction impossible to describe to mortals..sharp like ice blades. Mentheus looked around ,attempting to focus,attempting to find him,them…

We come,we are defeated…your people still dies…what a failure” 

Another blow,to pride and love,the dreadlord Khaine knew Mentheus,Imrik,ever since his childhood..before the fate had them togheter…a little vengeance,well performed if not planned,maybe. The demon hunter trembled,hands closed into fists,ghostly skin growing purple as fel and blood flowed faster,his heart broke for real…and yet hope came from the most expected one.

Alania spoke:
They fought…orcs and undeads died too and big…boulders? Moonbeam has something” .
Her tone half broke,barely holding the shock,well evident on her expression instead. Still the saber had found something…big tracks heading away.


Portal runes,shan’do.” 
Aethysra called out quietly from the road past the village…
Mentheus had not even notice his companions moveing around and only now realized he was stuck immobile ,his horse at his side,snorting.


He rushed forward,boots striding mercilessy through elven and orchish blood,through ruins. Runes had been inscribed on the floor..some had fled..Stormwind the destination,Anhagath Moonflame had to be alive and with him what he loved. A solemn nod towards Aethysra and a whistle while mounting up Khorandir,tall like a statue in a king’s garden and ready for battle. 


Alania approached,worried in face,impossible to discern if due to what happened or what words she was about to listen.
Mentheus,we must…pray,bury the corpses..Elune will sa-

Elune wasn’t here” 
The demon hunter stated.
 “Whatever plans she has,Alania,she was..not..here today.It is time we drag her blessing and attentions onto us with orchish blood.

Deaf to Alania answer,blind to Aethysra stern nod,all he felt was hatred…He fought millennias alone ,shunned by the very people he loved and didn’t care ,for as long as he could he would have continued done so,to protect. He did accept to aid Azerothians when they asked his people to do so…when even wardens accepted such…and versed blood on this world and another..
Yet…the very demons he fought for so long,the demons each of his fellow hunters keep inside and forever will…he saw inside those orcs who goal was to kill and subdue everything..for what? Why? Why now? Illidan Stormrage,again away…Mentheus Nightsworn..Imrik Drak’ash by birthname..was still here.
 


We follow tracks and kill as many as we can until night..only then we bury the deads.” 
Mentheus stated and thunder stroke Alania's heart,but for all he would do,whatever words of vengeance and foolishness,she would have followed him…for if those brothers and sisters were dead,he was still alive and in front of her.

The trio took few time to organize the manouvers,for the tracks headed to Astranaar and north from it,towards Felwood…stupid,stupid Horde..probably deaf to Sin’dorei tales,brave and foolish to challenge Fel taint in a wood,after slaying elves. None of them spoke much on their chase ,only with cold statements,the shock a fog in soul and body. A brief prayer over the deads,an hurried blessing and they were gone.
 
Astranaar had been raided,bodies everywhere,no mercy from the orcs. They only sided the village though,they had to be fast…the force that assaulted Elunaar smaller than the major one and scattered around,attempting to catch up with their kind,possibly. Here and there scouts ,those showed evidence of having been killed hours and hours earlier . Knife stabs,Aethysra recovered an elven blood shaped red gem fallen near the corpse of a young kaldorei huntress …Sin’dorei were here too?
 
 
It took the elves half an hour to catch up with the first orc alive. This one left sit on a cut tree’s basement,deadly burnt,panting in a rhythm that often preceeds death.Behind him the tree of the first grove of Felwood,versing venom liquids out the branches,Fel corruption,their strength.
Aethyra was faster than the other twos,didn’t even take position,her raptor predatorically leaping over the orc and biteing at the head,letting the bastard free of the few thoughts he may have had in his life,forever. Alania nocked an arrow,her owl circling around. 

Mentheus slowed the gallop and stated.
On a pike,remove eyes,keep an ear for yourself”.


No satisfaction,no emotion..only a strong sense of duty,sick one for most,to slay every orc and forsaken in the woods.
Aethysra didn’t took too long to perform all of it,not intent into doing a perfect job,she growled while mounting the now excited raptor. Alania stood there,fought inside,angry,and followed the duo for another fiveteen minutes ,until they found the remnants of the Elunaar assaulting force.

Eight orcs and a hooded forsaken ,sit around scorched earth,near the ruins of Constellas to the west…

They were lost and wound,the fel fumes permeating the cursed woods a fog all around,tall decrepit trees covering the light completely in that zone,preys.
Alania had Whisper land on her shoulder,her saber carrying her to safe position in the bushes,flanking a pair of dead trees..ready.
Aethysra landed,then took place above a tree,unnoticed ,feline,the raptor waiting under it,half crouched,leant long neck and reptile head. 
Mentheus took his time to dismount and observe them.


They were discussing directions. 
Six grunts,cut and burnt,scratching head,giggling and laughing now and then,probably speaking feats. Bare chested,a single red metallical spiked shoulderpad and leather pants into furred spiked red boots. -Green skinned,Azerothian orcs- Menth thought. Silencing them was a shaman of their kind,a bird large skull atop its head and a mace in his hand,metallical and flat round,elven blood made it purple. The silent forsaken was signing on the schorched terrain and pointing at direction with skeletal fingers,a thin claymore on his back,totally wrapped in a purple cloak.

Mentheus raised one hand,making sure Alania Moonwind noticed,then pointed at the shaman. He closed his hand into a fist and whistled once. The priestess didn’t need further guidance,nor more time. The arrow struck the shaman in the shoulder,just above the heart,his blodded mace unusuable from now on,widened eyes while falling on his back.

The grunts grabbed their double sided long axes and charged ,scattering in every direction,only half of them figuring out the general direction the blow came from. Aethysra gave order only then and the raptor ambushed one of the pursuers,cutting with feet claws,leaping and biteing with sharp teeths. Moonbeam growled and darted ahead instead,leaping upon one of the grunts ,keeping the orc down with a paw and swinging the other at the remaining twos.

Mentheus ,on the other side of the little grove,unsheated both swords,his expression tense and his whole body trembling of rage,Asur’iath and Druchi’ir ready to cut as he launched himself towards the forsaken,with the speed and impending doom of a falling thunderbolt cutting trough the sky.The forsaken sent a few yards away,rolling on the ground with unnatural silence.

Aethysra Stormfire knew her duty,the shaman already calling upon elements,but elements in those woods were half deaf to most…the huntress let herself fall from the tree and fell upon the orc,slashing the shaman with both warglaives in a guillotine alike verdant arch.
Another head took away.

The fight went chaotic,impossible to discern what was happening from an observer point of view..since the trio made sure the horde force was scattered on three close fronts and usually…orcs grunts ,common soldiers,lack the intellect of their commander,now lieing beheaded and punished on the floor. 
Alania aimed and shoot as a grunt raised axe against Moonbeam,the saber feasting upon the greenskin under her. It fell dead,elven arrow in one eye.The remaining one utterly teared apart by Aethysra's raptor. Only four orcs left,charging in a line,half stumbling over roots on their way back,and the forsaken now getting on feets and incanting.
Aethysra took Mentehus's side after a short nod,signal Alania did not need their aid. 
The old demon hunter pointed at the casting forsaken and she darted towards,incanting herself while charging forward,a yell savage as the approaching orcs one. Mentheus had it there,four of Elunaar bastards there,lost …though charging and yelling at once,he had to finish fast.
 
The forsaken vanished from normal sight with the amusement of Aethysra who took a fragment of an instant to follow up ,directing her charge towards the undead..he was reaching for his claymore. She did feint a reverse kick at head height,inviteing the forsaken dodge,then continued in her momentum to push him back with the hilt of one warglaive. What followed was a sequence of forward rising slashes a butcher could take notes of in admiration and the undead was made three pieces.
 
Mentheus crouched and growled,in his grasp the two magical elven swords flared of fel emerald flames,roaring and devouring the poisoned air around. The orcs circled the old elf ,one spoke in common,pale mocking imitation of it at least:
We kill you long ears,purple blood,like the others.Your kind is weak.

The answer took an instant,sharp and loud:

You shall see how strong flows the blood of my people in my veins. And when I open them, how weakly orc blood flows in yours.


A bestial roar,a barbarian chore ,and four giant axes fell upon the demon hunter. Mentheus spoke a single word in eredun while raising the sword Asur’iath and artificial night was made emerald blinding day for an instant as the spell was released,three of the four orcs hitting the ground around Menth,blind..one finding target,his deadly assault barely dodged at the last instant by Mentheus sidestepping. Purple blood spoured out the upper leg,a few inches and the axe would have cut the elf leg.

Mentheus bent a knee,aimed with Druchi’ir,roaring in fel flames,and impaled the fallen orc on the ground he was already facing,the sword burning flesh without stop. He then arose and held Asur’iath with both hands,three left and assaulting again. The first blows went weathered with parries and hurried dodges,though the hunter had to admit..orcs were made to slay. He started loseing ground,unable to recover the other blade,the orc dead and burnt under it,he had to pace back,rush and feint,dodge,his defense good but it would have been lethal to attempt an offensive.

Good for him,he was not alone..Alania’s arrow,a white one,glowing like a moon beam,crashed the skull of one of the orcs. Aethysra came from behind another,opening the flank with a slash,cutting a leg with the other…one left.
Mentheus stared the lone orc ,surprised by the instant loss of his allies but not scared enough to attempt a retreat,he charged forward,leaping towards the demon hunter with the full massive weight of his,enough to crash Mentheus probably…but not the leaping Moonbeam. The saber intercepted the orc mid air,leaping from behind the old elf,and the orc was made dead meat after few instants and screams.
 
 
 
The trio and their animal companions reunited after,panting and few of them blodded. Mentheus spoke ,firm like stone:
Make trophy of all those,impale,crucify on the trees,we continue until Moon raises and ask forgiveness only after.


Aethysra nodded once,mounting her black raptor and heading towards the main road to the east,not too far from the ruins,searching for tracks.Alania approached Mentheus,one hand reaching his.She spoke with sever,almost parental tone:
All of this is wrong,do not aggravate this,do not let us killed. We are not demons and dead corpses deserve burial.


Mentheus frowned,looking at her,ignoreing her owl. He moved as if to speak ,then simply nodded with a defeated expression,turning towards the road.
 
I must admit…this was fun.” 
The dreadlord’s thougt echoed inside and through Mentheus very soul,genously happy and satisfied.
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