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The Fall of Elunaar

#1
Retirement suited him.



He was curled in the window-bed of the second story bedroom. Once, long ago, this single room had been his home: the rest of the house belonging to Priestess Naralyna Nightwhisper. Even through the ages after their secret marriage, he'd pretended to merely be a houseguest, and many nights had been spent quietly curled in this window, a book in hand, but his eyes lingering on the moonwell across the path. He still sat here often, particularly when his wife was asleep; he found the place to be his sanctuary.


The sun was bright, the early morning's golden rays having sent the rest of his neighbors to bed hours ago. The sentinels would be out, but he would have the town to himself if he wanted a stroll, or a ride.
Long fingers drummed briefly, absently, on the book in his lap. With a grunt he unfurled himself from the soft mattress, rolling his shoulders as feet met ground. Was it his imagination, or was he finally feeling the effects of age..? At times he felt slower, now—or perhaps it was his paranoia telling him he did. The aches he felt could surely be from the battering—multiple batterings—he had taken in war. One did not, he thought to himself wryly, merely get thrown about by wrathguards and skip away whistling.


Not that he would be caught dead skipping and whistling.


He paused at his wardrobe, running fingers over his various robes, thinking. He wanted to ride, but did he want his armor, or robes? The armor would take longer to get into but by Elune, he still felt some thrill at putting it on and pretending to be a proper soldier once more. Perhaps he should take a trip to Dalaran later on, see how Unbroken were getting on. He had to check, regardless, how Crest was doing—if her trial was set...


Gods, he thought, I still cannot settle into peace.


Downstairs, Fireheart abruptly whined, and Anhagath smirked. Perhaps the wolf sensed his own eagerness to get out into the fresh air, to stretch his legs.


The old mage chose his armor for the day. He would suit up, Unbroken tabard and all, take a ride, then head out to Dalaran. He doubted any of Unbroken were about at this hour, but he could spend the day there, at the very least. When—
Fireheart growled softly. Anhagath snapped his head downward toward the ground floor, sharply at attention; the wolf rarely growled when in the house.


A bear..? Wild saber, perhaps?


With a frown, he pulled his armor on more quickly, settling the tabard and fluffing out his hair over his shoulders—as if the hair wasn't just a ragged mane. He had yet to get into his boots or gloves, but he would do that downstairs. There was a sound—scratching, he realized, as the wolf pawed at something—and Anhagath paused to lean in to Nara's room as he passed. His wife was sound asleep, the infant in the cradle beside her.
“Nara,” he said softly. And then, when she did not stir, more insistently: “Nara.” Silver eyes blinked open, and her face—beautiful even when groggily confused—regarded him bewilderedly.


“Anha?” she asked, voice thick with sleep.
“Stay awake for a few moments, in case I wind up fighting a bear, hmm? Fireheart is growling at something.”
Her brow furrowed, but as he left the room and headed down the well-worn wooden stairs, the Priestess was already rolling upright.


He found the white riding wolf—the size of a pony—at the back window of the kitchen, squeezing himself onto the four-foot-tall counter to stare out, his hackles all on end. The animal was frozen in place, staring fixedly, his bulk reaching nearly the ceiling at this height.
Anhagath peered out, but could see nothing, and ruffled the wolf's fur. Fireheart turned, staring at him with bright golden eyes.
“What do you see, hmm? Or smell? No fighting bears, now,” he said softly.
There was a bump against his leg as their black nightsaber, Ransom, headbutted him in languid greeting. Anhagath grunted and stumbled, then turned, gently shoving her away while rubbing her jaws. “Have at ye, foul beast; move along. Come on. Do you two need to go out? I intend to ride,” he added to Fireheart. “Want to ride?” The wolf pricked up his ears, tail briefly swaying, and Anhagath grinned. “Come on, then.”


He moved to the front door, swinging it open, and the wolf, closely followed by the saber, rushed outside. He watched Fireheart bolt around behind the building, and after a moment swung the door shut behind them. He sat, pulling on gloves and boots, the old hippogryph Aramanthea lifting her head from the living room.
“You go?” she chirped after a moment. Anhagath glanced up, and nodded, a kind smile on his face.
“For a short time,” he responded, tone reassuring. “Nara will be here.”
The hippogryph chirruped in response, laying her head back over her forelegs. She was an elderly creature, not one able to fly and fight, and was meek, sweet, and often weary. Anhagath had taken her in when her prior master—also a Highborne—had been murdered. He was glad, at least, that she had been spared, but often pitied her losing her twilight years with her only friend.
“Are you going out?” came another voice—this one small, young. Anhagath looked sharply up. Serendil was on the stairs, her silver hair shining in the sunlight, golden eyes regarding him curiously.
“Yes,” he answered, and with faint, amused sternness—“and you should be in bed.”
“...Are you riding?” she asked further, as if he hadn't just spoken.
“Yes. And you,” he repeated, “should be in bed.
“Do I have to?” She stared back.
He sighed, eyeing her with humor veiled by paternal solemnity. The girl was, despite her Shen'dralar origins, every bit the normal child—challenging to raise, but good at heart.
“If you wish to ride, you will have to go to bed an hour earlier tomorrow,” he warned.
She seemed to think this over, frowning, before nodding. “...I'll do it.”
He snorted. “Then go get dressed, and do not tell Nara,” he added, raising his brows at her with, again, humor.
She was halfway up the stairs when a knock—sharp and hard—came at the door. He spun, drawing his blade with reflexes born of instinct—and at once heard the voice of his blood daughter, Kataliya.
“Dad? Mom? It's me. Are you there?”
There was an unsettling urgency to her tone, muffled though her voice was, and Anhagath was at the door before he remembered moving, looking over her intently. No injuries, no blood, her saber looked unharmed where it stood behind her--
“Can I—come in?”
He blinked, and stood aside. Before he could speak, she was talking.
“The Horde is marching. They're sending Feathermoon south. I don't want anything to do with it—it's warmongering, that's all it is—but I came here to warn you that there might be fighting, at some point.”
Anhagath stared, heart sinking. “...After all of this?” he asked, a deep resentment flickering through him. After all they had done, in fighting the Legion together..? They were making war already? “Marching, how?”


Half an hour later, Kay was in the kitchen with Naralyna, and Serendil was listening intently as Kay spoke between sips of tea. She was in the middle of explaining that the night elven scouts had seen the war march moving south—direction Silithus. Undoubtedly, she'd added, more greed over this so-called Azerite. Anhagath closed his eyes, trying not to look too damned miserable in front of the child Serendil. She was too young to see her new adoptive parents looking anything but confident. He didn't wish to instill fear in her, let alone so soon after her upheaval into a new home. She had to know that she was secure here, and safe.


It was in the midst of these thoughts that he heard a wolf scream—a string of high-pitched yelping that turned into a savage, brutal growl.
He was out the door, blade in hand, in an instant—racing around behind the house, a snarl on his face. Whatever was attacking the wolf would be lucky to get away with its life, be it bear or saber or--
Horde. It's a fucking army.


He skidded to a halt, all thought burned from his mind. The forest behind Elunaar held a steep dropoff in a crescent, leading down to the woodland below—it was difficult to scale, yet he could see shapes approaching the cliff nonetheless. A mass of hulking orcs, and a shredder—and there was the wolf, snarling as it fought a huge brown worg with an orc on its back, the orc swinging a blade and uttering what were undoubtedly foul oaths in orcish. Both wolves had their jaws tearing through the thick fur of one anothers' necks, and other riders were fast approaching.


“FIREHEART!” Anhagath bellowed. He incanted rapidly, blind with fury, his rage numbing him to the fact that there were far too many for him to fight. He heard a questioning call behind him, and then, suddenly, he was being thrown hard right and down—down toward the cliff.
His barrier exploded, bursting in all directions in a crash of flame, and he felt rather than saw a dark shape flung away behind him and to his left. His fire-wreathed hands scrambled at the cliff's edge, barely keeping him up top, barely keeping his blade from flinging away.
He could see Fireheart rushing back toward the village, white fur drenched in blood.
Anhagath turned, gathering and unleashing the fireball he'd been forming toward whatever shape had dared attack him.
There was a hoarse cry, loud and masculine—and then a Forsaken, daggers in hand, leapt from the cliff to roll down. He went down in a torrent of flame.

Anhagath's bellow roared out in Darnassian. “NARA! GET THEM TO SAFETY! WE'RE UNDER ATTACK!” and then, in challenge to those below—“YOU WILL REGRET SETTING FOOT HERE!”


Then the orcs were scattering, splitting—riding north and south, and he realized at once they were intending to assault the village from both entrances at once. He could see Forsaken on foot, in the trees—and the shredder bolted right, lumbering with loud clanks.


There's far too many.


There was another impact at his side, but this one was light. The barest stumble and he was upright again, incanting, his barrier springing back around him in a shimmer of flame. Fireheart. The wolf was at his side, looking furious yet dazed, but Anhagath had no time to look him over. He had to move, and fast.
In an instant he was on the wolf's back, and even without the harness and saddle, Fireheart turned and ran the right way at once—back into town, straight toward the moonwell, guided only by tugs of his fur and leans of Anhagath's body.
He made it to the moonwell, which thank Elune was only just opposite his home, before the orcs made it into the village.


Perhaps there is a chance--


He stumbled down and into the moonwell, boots splashing haphazardly, and there he dropped his blade. He raised his arms in incantation, calling upon all of the arcane power present in the well itself.
He could not imagine the horror of the Sisterhood should they witness such an act, but here it was: the shifting of the moonwell from a sacred place into his own personal battery.

There were two safeguards Anhagath had placed on this town.
The first was extensive fire-warding on its buildings, perfected and added to over ten thousand years.
The second was a series of runes meant to fuel a powerful barrier—if only a mage were there to link it to a source of power. These runes were hidden—inscribed beneath stones, along the trunks of trees, and so forth—with the care of millennia. But once it was linked, it would save them... if only for a little while.


Grim concentration on his face, the old elf didn't even notice when the Horde poured into Elunaar.
A good thirty orcs on worg-back, flanked by a number of Forsaken on their ghastly skeletal steeds, charged in a terrible clatter of plate and mail over the path. There was a sharp, agonized scream to his left, and finally his attention was taken—he jerked his head, golden eyes widening.


Moonbranch.


As if in slow motion, he saw the elf fall: her silver eyes wide in shock, her simple blue dress already staining violet. The snarling orc on his snarling wolf jerked his arm back, and a blade slipped back out of sight, through her torso and away. She fell to her knees, and then forward, her elderly, ancient body collapsing in a lifeless heap. Her turquoise hair seemed to fan around her, as if she were sinking through water, as she fell. Behind her, her husband—Tenelyn—he was rushing for her, and Anhagath snarled too, desperately turning, fire pouring up over his hands.
But he was far too late to intervene. Orcish blades cut down Tenelyn Twigshield, and he was thrown forward, crawling a single step before an orcish axe crashed down on the back of his neck.
Ten thousand years.
Ten thousand years had they lived—here, together, a community brought together by the Legion's assault on this world, and by their own bond of survival through cooperation. Ten thousand years this had been their haven, their escape from hell, their sanctuary. Their home.
And now it was all crashing down around them.


I am a soldier, but this is—safe. This place should be safe, it should have been safe. War was never meant to come here. Ten thousand years.


His fireball hurtled forward, and the snarling orc looked up just as it impacted him, the sheer force of the magic engulfing him and several of his allies all at once. Anhagath saw the fur of the wolves going up, and felt nothing, no pity—they would all burn. They had to burn. They had to burn, and die, or the elves would be slaughtered. Instinct fuelled him as he turned, and now he could see the other villagers rushing into the streets—or away into the woods.
Thorinas Greenbough was the first outside: the eldest of three brothers and an old soldier, his long, green hair sweeping from one side to the other as he spun, drawing his blade. Behind him his two brothers—Brilinthor and Serinal—were tumbling from their home, still half-wakening from sleep, their eyes wide. Bril drew his bow, but Serinal, the mute, looked simply terrified.


Children, they were, not so long ago—children I tutored, children I know as well as my own.


Anhagath's gaze swept across the street, to where the impossibly old, senile Halthanas Stonewhisper was pottering forth, his own eyes wide with fear, white robes as yet unstained by blood. Behind him and to his right, in the next tree-home, the eldest huntress in the village—Allindria Arrowheart—was backing into the trees while nocking an arrow. In the open window above her, her apprentice Silverwind was nocking his own. Anhagath was, briefly, proud of them—proud that within seconds of waking into a surprise assault, they were ready to fight back, to fight to survive.


...Elune, let us survive.


Arrowheart's son, Moonheart, was slipping into the trees behind his mother—he was no fighter, old as he was. A simple researcher, a diplomat among the furbolg—and speaking of, there came the roar of a bear from somewhere behind him. A druid?
Anhagath turned, incanting once more—his observations down the street had taken place in a fraction of a second. In the other direction, the tall old fletcher Felithan Greyfeather was stumbling out of his home, staring about himself in horror. He, too, was no fighter. Behind him his son Malinar—also ancient—took one look out and leapt back inside, trying to haul his father back, but too late. Anhagath finished his spell, and as the orcs rushed for Felithan—who turned, ducking, to flee—he unleashed the spell. Again, he was too slow; an orcish axe cleaved down the old fletcher's back and he fell, his dusty lavender-silver hair—hallmark of his family—immediately slicked with his own blood. He stumbled and fell forward, Malinar still reaching for him, and then Anhagath's flames were arcing outward, slamming into the two orcs there with a sharp whoomph.


He could see Malinar flee, vanishing into his home before emerging once more, this time with bow in hand—and behind him, his wife, sons and single daughter. A couple had bows, another was unarmed, but before the old mage could take further stock of this, he realized that the orcs were heading straight for him. They'd identified him as the most dangerous among the night elves—the only one flinging magic about, the only one of them truly a soldier thus far. And they were coming for him.


The barrier.


Hell. It was probably too late, by now—the orcs were in, before he'd ever had a chance to raise it—and he bared his teeth, turning and raising his blade. Fireheart roared out a snarling challenge.
Several orcs were riding toward the bow-wielding elves, and the elves fired, and the axes swung. Orc and elf alike fell, the screams and bellows of Anhagath's neighbors' voices no longer those of a peaceful village, but those of a battlefield.
He saw the Forsaken dismounting, rushing around behind the buildings, daggers and swords drawn; he saw his daughter, Kataliya, an enraged snarl on her face as she wielded her own axe, and slammed with her shield, cutting a path through several of her opponents.
He had no time to be proud.
As the orcs impacted him, he felt his barrier go, felt them thrown—but the force was incredible. He'd never been knocked flying by a charging wolf before, and he was thrown clear off Fireheart, skidding over the path, dazed. He barely had time to start to push up before an orc was back over him, axe raised, and as he rolled clumsily out of the way he felt it slide powerfully down the armor of his back and punch heavily into the walkway below. He flailed an arm out, yelling wordlessly, trying to push the orc away. Tusks bared a few feet away, the dust of the fight rising around the armored monster, and an instant later the snarling green grin was engulfed in silver-white fire. Anhagath swore, turning his face sharply away to avoid being burnt, and heard the strong, feminine voice ringing powerfully out through the village.

“THIS IS NOT WHERE WE FALL!”


His heart leapt.


It was Naralyna, and he could see her, briefly—standing in the open window of the second floor of their home, wreathed in silver light. And her words—they were the same she had spoken ten thousand years ago, when these same settlers—and their ancestors—stood as mere refugees against the Burning Legion that surrounded them.

Hope blossomed.

He roared and shoved up, turning, swinging his blade out as he came to his feet. Those orcs thrown back by his barrier were charging back in, and beyond them he could see the girl with the damaged mind—Yithalyn—dragging first one, then another injured elf out of sight. Both seemed badly wounded, but she was moving quickly, determination set on her face. She had only ever shown a sort of blank, friendly enthusiasm, but now was moving with the single-minded purpose of a seasoned soldier.
Anhagath turned.
In the other direction, there was a huge bear—grey, with a hint of teal to its fur—charging into the fray. Crowleaf—she was a druid, he knew, and must have been the source of the roar—and behind her snarling charge lay her father, motionless in the dirt. The bear slammed into the orcs who had felled him, and there was a sharp cry in Orcish as six-inch claws ripped through green flesh. Axes swung for the bear, and she shoved up and stood, towering on her hind legs, roaring her challenge.
Anhagath wanted to help—to rush in and drive them back with fire—but the orcs were upon him, and it was all he could do to cast a simple translocation to blink away in time. He then turned, incanting further as they skidded to a halt and swung at thin air. Fireheart, he could see, was not far off—but before he could make his way to the wolf another had slammed into it, this one again with an orc atop its back. Fireheart leapt up, fangs sinking into the orc's arm and hauling him from his own mount, but together the two with blade and fang ripped further into the white wolf's flesh.


“ELUNE STANDS WITH US!”


Before he could release his spell, the wolf and its ex-rider were again engulfed in silver flame, both screaming, and Fireheart tore away; Anhagath turned, instead launching his flames toward those orcs that the bear was trying to fight off. They howled as the bright fire consumed them, and staggered or dropped engulfed in flames. Yet behind them, he could see something worse: the shredder, stomping forward with a massive whirl of its blade-saw.


Oh hell.


Ransom rushed by in the chaos, not seeing him perhaps, following close behind Kay's loose saber. Behind them ran two more, both with sentinels on their backs. The cats seemed to be running as a pride, and as Anhagath turned, he saw all four rip into a group of wolves and orcs, the snarling mass of blood and fur surging in a whirlwind of combat too quick to follow.
One of the sentinels—Glenyndra Moonstrike--was pulled down from her cat. He heard her scream, heard it cut off, and his heart wrenched—she had always looked out for his well-being, closely questioning would-be visitors before allowing them in. And now-...
Behind her the eldest of the village guards, Brightglaive, carved downward with her circular blade. A wolf's head dropped to the ground.
The sentinels did not strike at Fireheart, well familiar with him, and he was left unharassed as he came limping back to Anhagath—and collapsed at his feet.
The old mage swore.

There was a scream to the right, and he could see the shredder ripping into Theras Sagefang—a librarian, for fuck's sakes, and barely into adulthood. Anhagath seethed, fury taking him; he had educated Theras himself. Theras was harmless. Peaceful, thoughtful and kind. He was still in mourning over his father's death, and now this..? His brother would be left with no family. None at all.
His fireball hurtled outward again, once more fuelled by pure rage, the orcs engulfed in fire—and then something impacted him from behind, and blades were scraping into the joints in his armor. A cold pain lanced through his body, and it stiffened, and the world spun. His head hit the path and he felt the sharp heat of metal shoving into flesh; his cry of pain was strangled by the dirt.
He saw the brief movement of a half-rotted human foot pass him, and knew a Forsaken had cut him down. He could feel the warmth of his own blood soaking his back, and found with numb surprise that he could not move. It wasn't poison—it was something magical, or the bastard had, perhaps, found his spine.
He heard a cry from Nara, high above, and hoped beyond hope that she had the sense to get the children out. Frustration gripped him.
He could see the shredder stomping forward, see Thorinas step forward before his brothers, lifting a shield to try and confront the thing. He could see the two sentinels from the north side of town, still astride their sabers, as they came in behind it—and he watched as it spun, as it tore into Moongaze and ripped the armor from her flesh, leaving her in a heap of violet-stained meat. He watched as the young sentinel Silverblade let out a sharp war cry, lost to the tumult, and fired her nocked arrow straight for the shredder's pilot even as her saber charged past. The goblin shrieked and fell forward, tumbling out of the shredder—which fell forward, collapsing onto him.

Bodies lay strewn everywhere, and the fight was far from over. Anhagath felt someone tug at him, but he couldn't see who, nor did they speak; it might have been Aramanthea, he thought, or Nara, or perhaps even a Horde soldier trying to drag him back and finish him off.


All he could see was the sunlit dust, too bright and thick to pierce very far, now, and the chaos of shapes moving within. Grief gripped him.
“Stay,” he heard a soft voice from behind. He recognized the soft tones of the eccentric girl Yithalyn, and wonder took him. She had not stopped—throughout the attack, the simple gatherer, with her simple mind, had been dragging the injured to safety out of sight. She was darting in and out of the village, hauling back those too hurt to fight, leaving them in the cover of bushes and long grass.

Oh, I am not going anywhere, Anhagath thought wryly. He was still unable to feel his limbs. And then, more fervently—Elune guide you, child.


All he could do was watch, picking meaning from the tumult of shapes silhouetted in the bright dust, the smell of his own blood strong in his nostrils.


Another shredder crashed forward from the southern side, and this time there was no one to stop it: it trundled forward rapidly, the elves hurtling out of its way in a frantic rush, and reached the building north where the archer Silverwind was still perched. Anhagath heard the whining screech as it began to hack into the wood, heard Silverwind's startled, pained cry as it struck him—gods, he hoped it was not badly—and heard the harsh laughter of some of the Forsaken and a few of the orcs.
It was then that another pillar of silver fire crashed down into the orcish ranks—and into the shredder. This time, the goblin pilot survived—and after a few angry shouts from the cockpit, the shredder turned.
And headed straight for Anhagath's house.


Terror gripped him; he couldn't move. He watched, helpless, as this monstrous machine marched for the home which housed his wife, his infant son, his adopted nine-year-old-daughter. He heard Kataliya scream in fear and rage from the wrong side of the battlefield, knew that she couldn't make it there in time. He heard Naralyna's distant yet furious, fevered prayers as she gathered her energy for another strike, and he knew she wouldn't be quick enough.
The bladed machine moved with startling speed, and at that moment Anhagath heard another voice just behind him. It was masculine, strangely familiar, cold and quiet, and with it came a soft, yet clearly heavy, thud.
“That one.” There was a soft knocking sound, like knuckles rapping on a door, and then the sound of something like a deep inhale—and then strange, quiet roar, a rush of air.


Anhagath could see only the shredder, the way his head was turned—and what he saw was the thing crashing backward, something—a huge blur of brown-gray—slamming into it from high in the air. It near exploded, staggering back with metal flying in all directions, and Anhagath could see the orcs all look around, their voices again rising as the machine collapsed.


“Move, brother, if you are capable of doing so.”
Anhagath gritted his teeth, a flood of relief followed closely by furious frustration.


Zarill! ...I would fucking MOVE if I could MOVE, you fucking imbecile, I would not be lying in the gods-damned bushes--


There was a brief pause, and then he felt his boot roughly grabbed, felt himself being hauled backward, saw the village slip away as he was swiftly dragged to the cliff's edge behind it, into the forest. The world spun and he was on his back, Zarill staring down as if assessing him. He flicked his own eyes up to stare back.
Zarill nodded once, at this, then slipped past and out of sight.


There was the sound of snarling, of rushing footfalls, and then another whoosh of air, and Anhagath realized what he was hearing.


Snub!


He felt more joy at the realization than he had at his brother's voice. Snub, the massive red dragon turtle, a living siege machine. Perhaps they had a hope, then. A quieter voice, feminine—“Um, yes, just—keep firing on them? We don't—want them to reach us.”


Lyssa.


Zarill's handmaiden, taken into the Wrath agent's home only reluctantly. He heard a rustle of cloth beside him, and felt the soft glow of some sort of healing pulsing through him. He felt, too, the magic gripping him fade, and now he knew it was magic, and could sense the faint shadow in it. Lyssa had healing powers, he knew, though he'd never felt them firsthand while conscious and honestly couldn't tell, right now, just what the hell the powers were. But whatever they were, they worked, and he rolled upright with a groan. His muscled ached horrifically, as if he'd been battered and thrown about quite badly—a side effect of whatever the Forsaken magic had been, he was certain.


“Thank you,” he murmured groggily. A glance back, only the briefest, found her staring at him with wide eyes, and Snub grunted in a greeting—Anhagath thought—of his own. The old mage nodded back, then shoved unsteadily up and started forward, ignoring Lyssa's startled protests.
He was surprised to find his wife rushing for him—one arm holding Kalthanar tightly to her, the other half-leading, half-carrying a wide-eyed Serendil, the child's face tear-stained. Leading them both was Zarill, his face grimly, coldly set, and behind them Aramanthea was scrambling along, letting out quiet squeaking chirps that sounded disturbingly like sobs.


Naralyna rushed to Anhagath, wide-eyed as well. “He said you were down—”
“I was,” he answered shortly, cutting her off. “I need to get them out.”
Zarill started to snarl a protest, but Anhagath shook his head sharply, cutting him off, too. “I am the only one who can.” It was not arrogance—it was desperate fear. With that he again moved forward, rushing to the rear of the nearest building; behind it he could still hear the cries of the wounded, the laughter and battle-shouts of the orcs, the bellows of the elven defenders. “YITHALYN!” he called out, hoping that she could hear him. “BRING THEM HERE!”
“Kataliya?!” Nara cried abruptly, from behind him. “Where's Kay?”
Anhagath didn't know. He couldn't answer. He didn't know where Ransom was, or if Fireheart was dead. He didn't know if half of their neighbors still survived.


His arcane powder was out, and despite his shaking hands he managed the runes quickly enough, while speaking. “Nara, call them in, if you can, please by Elune do what you can to get them here. I will make a portal to safety.” There was a rustle and he turned, and saw that Nara had thrust Kal into Zarill's arms, and was rushing away. Zarill scowled down at the infant, the dragon turtle looming massive behind him.
Serendil was left behind with Anhagath, and she huddled down against his side, terrified, as he marked the runes; he murmured some vague reassurance that he did not in the slightest feel, so filled with fear, grief and rage, that he was numbed to nothing.


He ignored Aramanthea prancing to and fro behind him, her feathers rattling softly as she shivered in fear. He felt his soldier's mentality taking over, or trying to—to make sense of the madness, to prioritize. To actually act instead of just reacting in shock.


We need to alert our allies to get out without alerting the Horde. We need to get them out—I know. I know what to do.


“NARALYNA!” he roared, and his voice had her skidding to a halt. She turned back, and he continued, intense beyond all measure—“BARRIERS, on everyone that you can! AND QUICKLY!”
She bolted off without asking further, around a building and out of sight into the dust. He heard Zarill sigh behind him with annoyance.
For an instant, Anhagath waited, and the stress of even this brief delay had his mind racing along with his heart. They had dared. They had fucking dared, dared to break the peace, to move on those who knew only peace and joy, to slaughter the innocent, to bring ruin to what was good. To what had been good.
“I am going to fucking burn every one of them,” Anhagath growled, staring off at the dust rising through Elunaar.
Zarill spoke, words brisk. "Protect your family. Leave this to those with nothing left for war to take."
Anhagath glanced back at him, sharply, and to his surprise, Snub seemed to give a slow nod of agreement—the massive dragon turtle's beaked head bobbing once. Anhagath had no time to ponder the meaning of his brother's words, turning his attention back to his portal.
Zarill was still scowling at Kalthanar in his arms, as if irritated by the infant's mere presence. And by some miracle, for once the child was not screaming, not alerting every orc and Forsaken in a thousand yards to their presence here, crouched back behind the village, half-hidden in the bushes.
“...I'm someone,” Lyssa suddenly spoke up, a little indignantly—“And I'd rather you both just—avoided war zones!” A moment later she gave a sharp cry as Snub simply bucked her off, and she crashed into the grass. Anhagath glanced up, then back to his work, pushing up abruptly as he flooded the rune with arcane energies, ignoring the pain tearing through his limbs.
He lifted this magic into the air, its silvery spire whirling with a surge of power, and—incanting loudly and fluidly—sprang the magic open into a flame-wreathed portal.


The portal led to Stormwind.


Fuck them—fuck the orcs—if they wanted to chase, fucking let them. Let them be slaughtered by the gods-damned human soldiers.


He looked up, and could see Naralyna backing toward him—and falling to her knees, head bowed with the sheer effort of maintaining her barriers. A dozen or more figures were rushing toward her, some elven and wreathed in silver, others in spiked armor, raising their axes—and Snub grunted, and there was another whoosh.
Another boulder crashed down, flinging pursuing orcs in all directions as the few villagers, shielded by Naralyna, rushed safely past. They were thrown, yes, but uninjured, protected by Elune's grace. Anhagath gritted his teeth, fear gripping him.
He could see Kataliya riding toward them, mounted on her pale saber, with a blood-streaked Ransom running alongside. Kay had someone over her saddle, and he had no time to see who; there was still no sign of Fireheart. The wolf, he knew, was likely where he had last seen him: collapsed on the ground at the village center.
The Leafbough brothers, the eldest at the rear, were backing up toward the portal. Thorinas' shield and blade held the orcs at bay, and even as he backed away he cut another down with a snarling cry. Nara had called out to them, told them of the retreat, of the safety of the portal behind, and they had nearly reached it.
Yithalyn was hauling the last of the injured survivors to the portal, where others helped to pull them through—was that Whiterose lying wounded? Hell—
Anhagath spotted a few stragglers—two of them the eldest huntresses, still firing on the orcs as they retreated—and two of them the surviving sentinel guards. The youngest, Silverblade, was shrieking fierce war cries that seemed to make even the Forsaken pursuers hesitate. Anhagath drew his pistol without thinking, aiming down the sights at one of the orcs, and firing. He hit absolutely nothing, but the sharp report of the gunshot made the orcs jerk aside, and he hoped he'd helped to buy the sentinels just enough time to make their escape.


There was a scream as someone else was cut down in the village proper—Anhagath couldn't tell who, though he saw the silhouette of a fleeing male elf falling through the dust—and then a choking roar off to the left. The teal-grey bear was retreating, her crippled sister Tindra limping back behind her and to safety. Blade drawn, Tindra's husband Thalyn—the poor bastard was bleeding from head to toe, and did he yet know he'd lost his brother?—was also guarding her... and there was Silverwind, leading old Stonewhisper swiftly along toward the portal.
The fear threatened to choke him as he tried, and failed, to make a quick count of those present. Who would they have to leave behind..? Who hadn't made it? He could not just-... leave them behind. An idea struck him.


I know what to do.


With a sudden grunt he pulled forth a vial of moonwell water, and then another, uncorking both and pouring them onto the runes. They would power the portal, at least for a few moments.
“I will return momentarily,” he barked, and then incanted, vanishing from sight in a shimmer. He had to gently move Serendil aside before bolting off, ignoring the protests from behind him, his brother's sharply irritated words and Lyssa's more concerned ones. Zarill, he knew, was here for Anhagath, and Anhagath's family—not these villagers, these strangers to him, and this to Zarill was all likely a delay. But it was a delay that Anhagath had to make.
The sentinels nocked more arrows, cutting down the few orcs who dared rush into the open after the escaping villagers, and the orcs themselves pulled back some at the sight of the giant red dragon turtle in the distance, seemingly inhaling for another throw.


A white doe burst from behind the nearest building and streaked past, and Anhagath, as he leapt aside, recognized it as Sindara, the young Druid-of-the-Antler in training. On her back was Rynla, the ancient herbalist, and a rush of relief hit Anhagath that both had escaped serious harm. Sindara is far too fucking young to die. Run, Stagheart, run and don't you fucking stop.


He pushed up, still invisible, and as he rounded the corner, he saw only one cluster of elves still standing—the Greyfeather family. Felithan was still down—dead, by looks, or dying—and his son Greylake was still firing arrows from his doorway. Anhagath could barely see him from this angle, and in the windows he could see his sons—Breglin Greyrose and Vanithel Whitelake—both firing down as well, their dusty silver-lavender hair marking their identities clearly. A small cluster of dead orcs and their wolves lay at the doorstep, but the elves had no hope of escape, not from here.
Anhagath thought quickly; Naralyna was doing her best, some distance behind him, to shield them, but her angle was wrong.


“SNUB!” he called back. “CAN YOU AIM FOR THE FLARE?!”


A brief incantation, and a rocket of flame arced forward, down into the orcs. “GREYLAKE! GET THEM TO ME!”
The elves turned toward his voice, looking shocked as he shimmered into visibility at his cast. But they couldn't run, and they knew it—the orcs were right—


Whoosh.
THUMP.

The orcs and their worgs went flying in all directions as Snub's boulder crashed into them, the crunch of bones and armor and the orcs' howling filling the air, and the elves took advantage, turning and fleeing toward Anhagath. Toward his portal, and toward safety.


Anhagath took one last glance around.


So many dead-...


The village was in ruins. Several of the houses had been heavily damaged by the shredders. Blood slicked the moonwell's lip, and drenched the dirt; the bodies of orcs, worgs, sabers and elves lay strewn over the ground.


Violence had taken his peaceful home. All the fighting he had done to ensure the demons would never swarm over Elunaar, and now it had been decimated by the Horde.


He could see a few Forsaken heading toward the rear of the village, now, toward the portal, and orcs riding swiftly past. He quickly turned to follow Greylake and his sons.
This was everyone they could save, he knew that—there was no one left calling for help, no one in the village still clinging to life.
His gaze passed over a motionless mound of white fur lying near the moonwell, and grief twisted within him.


Fireheart...


Time stopped, for a moment—the wolf that had fought at his side through Argus, that he had raised since its orphaning at demon hands, was lying in the center of Elunaar.


He appeared to be dead, and Anhagath knew he'd taken a great deal of damage, and that there was no time to go to him. Even if he could, he could not carry the massive wolf. He hated to leave him, and he knew he would hate himself for doing so, but he was left no real choice. A brief prayer for the wolf's miraculous survival—or barring that, for his soul—and he turned, rushing for the portal. Stormwind shimmered within, and one by one, the living inhabitants of Elunaar fled from their home to the human city beyond.


Zarill turned, Snub already moving into the trees, and strode to Anhagath. He thrust the infant into his arms.
“I am required elsewhere,” he said simply. “Keep my family alive.” Anhagath took Kalthanar, and stared at Zarill for a beat, and for a moment his brother stared back.
“Thank you,” Anhagath managed, past the haze of confused madness in his mind and the pain wracking his body.


Is this all a nightmare..?

Before he had time to think, his brother had pushed him—infant and all—into his own portal. Anhagath barely had time to cry out, and the world was spinning around him—and then he was falling to his knees, every instinct keeping his arms wrapped around Kal, and his weight from crashing into him. Stormwind's mages' tower shimmered into existence around him, and then Nara was stumbling through, pulling Serendil by the arm and crying out in equal surprise. “Zarill—“
Kay was next, protesting in Darnassian as she fell through. “—PUSH ME!” She staggered and looked around, still rage-filled and miraculously unharmed, her blessed axe and warded shield still held at the ready. “...Was that my UNCLE?!”
Anhagath scrambled up, ignoring the startled human magi and struggling to keep the flaming portal open for those still on the other side.
The survivors were rushing past him, still silver-shielded, out of the portal. A few had been struck by Forsaken arrows as they fled, but they seemed likely to survive thanks to their silvered barriers, Naralyna pale with her effort as she knelt now beside the doorway through reality.


He turned. Kalthanar was silent, but appeared unharmed, as he glanced down to where he'd laid the infant at his knees; and Nara—he had no time to wonder at her, to think at how her faith and her love had helped to save them all once again. Or-... many of them, at least. There would be time enough for that later on.

Abruptly, Lyssa stepped through, looking around and blinking wide eyes before settling them on Anhagath.


“I'm the last. Um. I think he forgot me,” she said sheepishly. “Can I-...?”


Anhagath stared. “Come,” he said, and snapped the portal shut behind her with a hiss.




* * * * *




He closed his eyes as the medics worked. They were in the cathedral, being tended by several wielders of the Holy Light. He should have taken them to Darnassus—but he'd known, even in the chaos, that giving the orcish regiment an open gate into the Temple of Elune and its unsuspecting priestesses would have been unforgivable, even by his morally-lax standards.
A number of sabers were lying here, too, and Aramanthea the elderly hippogryph. They had been allowed, for now. The question was, where would they go? Kay had already departed, sternly worried, intending to warn Darnassus of the impending threat. Anhagath assumed they already knew, but he had acquiesced, holding his son tightly to his chest as he watched her go.


I cannot lose them.


His back had been torn badly; he had had no idea how bad the injuries were. The Forsaken blade, coated with some sort of shadow-infused toxins, had slipped past the joints in his armor and damaged his body as a whole, and would require, he'd been told, a great deal of healing. Lyssa kept lingering near, insisting that her duty was to keep him alive—but at least it freed up Naralyna to look after the others. There were those with broken or ravaged limbs, others with internal injuries; some had severe wounds down the entirety of their bodies—Silverwind had been struck by the shredder, and though he'd led Halanthas to safety, it was unclear whether he himself would survive.


After a good forty minutes of mending, his wife moved to his side, collapsing tiredly against him on his bench. The villagers, for now, were remaining together, and those coherent enough to do so were wondering just where the hell they would go.


Anhagath had no answer for them; he was only one of their many, equally distraught, and equally lost.


“We've lost Tenelyn, and Callindra,” Naralyna said softly, quiet grief in her voice. “No one knows where Forlyn is, but Felsyra says that Theras was killed. And we lost Laressa and Glenyndra both.”


Anhagath listened, dully, looking out over those in the cathedral. Some had, only after arriving, found that they had lost family. The mute Serinal was crying in a corner, despite his brothers' attempts to console him, and senile Halthanas kept quietly asking when they would all be going home. Anhagath's heart wrenched again, and he closed his eyes. So many friends, people he had known for millennia. He would never again see them in the village, wave to them in passing, greet them, ask about their day. They were gone, wiped from this world in an instant of mindless violence, their legacies lost forever.
“And we lost Felithan,” he murmured.
Naralyna sounded surprised as she answered. “No. Didn't you see? Yithalyn got him out, right at the end. He should make it, we think. She pulled—so many out. I never knew she had that strength, but she saved several lives.”
“She saved mine,” he agreed quietly. There was distant relief at the news of Felithan's survival, surprising Anhagath with how dull, how faint, it felt. He looked down at his son again, relief strong there, at least, that he was unharmed. And that his wife, too, had survived—and his daughter. His daughters. Serendil was asleep against his leg, exhausted with fear, and he didn't know what to tell her when she woke.
Where would they go? He could not merely retreat his family to his isolated tower, and leave the people of Elunaar on their own. They would have to find a place. He could not rush off to war, either, and leave his children on their own again. As bitter as it was, his home was lost, at least for now. War would have to wait, at least, until he had helped to resettle his people.


Elune, help us, he thought wretchedly.


He would need to write to Unbroken, to warn them of what had happened. He would need to write, he realized, to Aberwick. If Horde was heading south, Theramore would soon be a staging ground, and they were all as good as dead if they remained. He would have to write to Coldsteel, and warn him...


The old elf closed his eyes, and murmured; his familiar appeared before him in a flash of blue flame.
“Singe,” he said quietly. “I have some things I need you to do.”






* * * * *






The orc spat on the ground, glaring over the smoke where it rose. It wasn't nearly enough.


“Well?” he demanded.


He heard another growl behind him as they tried to wrangle the white wolf forward; the animal was badly-wounded, but a fine beast, and they needed replacements. He had no idea what a riding wolf was doing in an elven village, anyway—stolen, no doubt, after some raid. Well, they would steal it back! Their shaman had mended it enough to stand and walk, and that would do. It would learn who its masters were, soon enough.


“It just isn't working, sir,” came another orc's voice, at length.


“What do you mean it ISN'T WORKING? It's wood! Wood BURNS! BURN IT!” he barked. They had taken some losses, though not too heavy; the village was theirs, despite the surprising resistance it had put up. Bodies were being dragged to the side of the moonwell, to be piled up and burned. And the intent had been, at least, to burn this village—to provide yet another distraction to focus the forest's wisps on another target.
The problem was, the village didn't seem to want to burn.


Another torch was lit, bursting into flame, and carefully held to the wooden buildings. And again it did nothing, and eventually was tossed onto the growing pile of burnt wood, torches, matches and cloth that had refused to ignite a damn thing.
“HELL with it.” He spat again. “We ride.”


The bodies were left where they lay, and the orcs turned to march out. A few still struggled with the white wolf, and—... What the hell was that?


A tiny blue creature, strangely catlike though vertical and floating, legless and furless, waved a stubby arm at the orcs as it approached. A dozen sickly yellow eyes turned to watch as the Forsaken, too, noticed, looking up from where they'd gathered to examine several jagged, black arrows pulled from six dead Horde soldiers. As the creature began to babble, a single shaman among the orcs perked her brow.


“He's an elemental,” she noted in a rough voice, but her surprise was evident. She knelt before him, speaking in his tongue, and he wandered up, smacking both hands cheerfully onto her cheeks. She blinked, offering a bemused smile; the creature seemed friendly enough.


It then spun cheerfully away, and started wandering here and there; the Forsaken demanded explanation, but the orc merely shrugged. “The elements have been greatly disturbed here. There have been resurgences of fire elementals through the north, at least. It's possible the mage attracted it.”


A few curses, a few spits on the ground. The damned elf had taken out a good six of them on his own before they'd downed him, and was responsible, too, for the portal that had taken the cowardly elves away.
The little blue creature seemed not to cause any harm, however, instead wandering over to the large, white wolf. The wolf appeared to calm at its presence—and then the blue thing was drawing on the ground.
“What's it doing?” the commander demanded. “Are these elven tricks?”
The shaman paced over, and frowned. “It's—creating a small opening, a portal. I would guess into the Firelands.”
“Why?”
The shaman hesitated. “I don't know. To bring in more of them? Stop that,” she said at once, growling it. Then, she repeated this in Kalimag.


Singe looked up, smiled brightly at her, and responded clearly in the same tongue. “No.”


The portal sprang open.
A phoenix hurtled out.
There was a sharp, air-rending scream as the flaming bird crashed into the orcish ranks, scattering them. A pale elven figure shot through behind the bird, snagging Fireheart by the neck and—with a surprised snarl from the wolf—hauling him through.


Arrows and swords had no effect on the screeching, winged flame, and after a few moments of failed assaults, the remains of the Horde scattered into the trees.


With a triumphant screech the phoenix spiralled into the air, then vanished over Ashenvale in a shower of embers.
Below, the little blue elemental giggled.
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#2
As I said in PM, this is ACE! And I did not cry >.> NOT AT ALL.
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