Everything that is, is alive.
The words had become a mantra in his mind, a constant reinforcement of his newfound understanding. More importantly they were an epiphany, the key to unlocking a whole new universe of knowledge. And the epiphany was why he was here.
Nobundo took comfort in the words as he slowly negotiated Zangarmarsh's forest of colossal mushrooms, their spores glowing green and red in the early morning mist. He traversed the creaky wooden bridges that stretched over the shallow marshland waters. In just a few moments he found himself at his destination, gazing up at the radiant underbelly of a mushroom that dwarfed all others. There atop its cap, the draenei settlement of Telredor awaited him.
He progressed with trepidation, leaning heavily on his walking stick and cursing the pain in his joints as he stepped onto the platform that would carry him to the top. He was worried, for he was still unsure how the others would react. There had been a time when his kind had not even been allowed to enter the settlements of the unaffected.
They are just going to laugh at me.
He took a deep breath of the cool, misty marsh air and asked it to give him courage for the challenge to come.
Once the platform came to a stop, Nobundo carefully shuffled through the arched entryway, down several shallow steps, and out onto the landing overlooking the settlement's small plaza, where the assembly had already gathered.
He gazed down at the hard-set faces of the various draenei, whose disdainful, superior eyes stared up at him.
He was, after all, Krokul: "Broken".
To be Broken was to be outcast and vilified. It was not right or just, but it was the reality he had been forced to accept. Many of his unaffected brothers and sisters could not understand how the decline of the Krokul could have occurred, and especially, as in Nobundo's case, how one who had been so gifted and so favored by the Light could have fallen so far.
Though Nobundo himself did not know exactly how it happened, he did know when. He recollected with startling clarity the exact moment that marked the beginning of his own personal descent.
- Chapter 1 -
The skies wept when the orcs laid siege to Shattrath City.
It had been many long months since rain had graced the lands of Draenor, but now, almost as if in protest of the looming battle, dark clouds roiled overhead. Light showers drizzled over the city and the army outside its walls, increasing to a steady downpour as the two sides watched and waited.
There must be a thousand of them, Nobundo speculated grimly from his perch high atop the inner ramparts. Beyond the outer walls shadows moved among the torch-lit trees of Terokkar Forest. Perhaps if the orcs had taken the time to plan more carefully, they would have deforested the region outside in preparation for their attack, but these days the orcs cared little for strategy. For them there was only the thrill of battle and the immediate gratification of bloodshed.
Telmor had fallen, as had Karabor and Farahlon. So many of the draenei's once-majestic cities now lay in ruins. Shattrath was all that was left.
Slowly the orc assemblage maneuvered into position, making Nobundo think of a great fanged serpent coiling itself in preparation to strike... a strike that would surely spell the end of Shattrath's defenders.
Not that we are meant to survive anyway.
He knew full well that he and the others who had gathered here tonight were meant to be a sacrifice. They had volunteered to remain behind and fight this last battle. Their inevitable defeat would appease the orcs such that they would consider the draenei decimated and all but extinct. Those who had sought refuge elsewhere would survive to fight another day, a day when the scales would be more balanced.
So be it then. My spirit will live on, becoming one with the glory that is the Light.
Emboldened, Nobundo stood to his full height, his strong and athletic frame bracing for the events to come. His thick tail shifted anxiously as he settled his weight evenly between both leonine legs and ground the toes of his hooves into the solid stone masonry. He took a deep breath, tightening his hands around the shaft of his Light-blessed crystalline hammer.
But I will not go quietly.
He and the other Vindicators, holy warriors of the Light, would fight to the very last. He glanced to either side at his brethren stationed at intervals along the wall walk. Like him, they stood impassive and resolute, having reached their own peace with the destiny that now awaited them.
Outside, the war machines had arrived: catapults, rams, ballistae--siege engines of every description passing briefly through the torchlight. Their heavy apparatuses creaked and groaned ominously as they were positioned within striking distance of the walls.
Drumbeats sounded, sporadic at first, then quickly joined by more and more until the entire forest was alive with a rhythm that started soft like the rain, then grew to a persistent, thundering roll. Nobundo whispered a prayer, asking the Light to give him strength.
There was a deep rumbling and movement in the murky clouds overhead that echoed the frantic drumbeats below. For a second Nobundo wondered if perhaps the Light meant to answer his prayer with a display of power and fury beyond any he could hope to summon, a great beam of holy fire that would eradicate the entire savage, bloodthirsty army in one magnificent sweep.
A display indeed followed, but not of the holy powers of the Light.
The clouds thundered, swirled, and erupted, punched through by massive flaming projectiles that hurtled to the earth with meteoric speed and bone-jarring strength.
A deafening roar assaulted Nobundo's ears as one of the objects passed perilously close, obliterating a nearby buttress and pelting him with flying debris. As if awaiting this signal, the multitudes outside pressed forward, their bloodcurdling war-cries rolling over the city as they mobilized with singular purpose: to destroy all within their path.
The rain's intensity increased as the outermost walls shuddered from the strikes of massive stones slung by the crude catapults. Nobundo knew the outer walls would not hold. They had been constructed rather hastily: the wall sections extending above the depressed floor of the outer ring were an addition made in the last year, a defense made necessary by the orcs' methodical extermination of his people and the subsequent realization that this city would be their final bastion.
Several brutish ogres went to work on penetrating a section of wall already compromised from the meteor assault. Two more of the massive beasts swung a gargantuan battering ram against the city's main gates.
Nobundo's brethren cast several attacks against the enemy, but wherever the draenei struck one attacker down, two more would take his place. The damaged wall section had begun to crumble completely. A flood of crazed orcs clamored on the opposite side, climbing over top of one another in a frenzy of bloodlust.
The time had come. Nobundo raised his hammer to the sky, closed his eyes, and cleared his mind of the overwhelming cacophony of battle. His mind called out, and his body felt the familiar warmth of the Light wash over him. The hammer glowed. He focused his intentions and directed the blessed, purging holy powers into the ogres below.
There was a blinding flash that briefly illuminated the entire battle scene, accompanied by a startled bellowing from the front line of orcs as the Holy Light seared through them, stunning them into silence and halting them long enough for several draenei warriors to focus on bringing down one of the giant ogres.
Nobundo's momentary relief was crushed by the sound of splintering wood: the final successful thrust of the battering ram against the main gates. Nobundo watched as the Lower City defenders raced to meet the incoming tide of orcs and ogres and were immediately cut down. Nobundo called upon the Light again, directing his healing powers to whomever he could, but the opposition was simply too great. As soon as he healed a wounded draenei, that same warrior endured repeated, brutal attacks mere seconds later.
More ogres had gone to work on the weakened section of outer wall and were now succeeding in pushing through. The defenders, hopelessly outnumbered, were beset on either side.
The orcs were crazed, drunk on their bloodlust. As the outer ring filled with their number, Nobundo could see their eyes: they glowed, burned with a crimson fury that was at once mesmerizing and terrifying. Nobundo and the other Vindicators switched tactics, from healing to purging. Once again the city was bathed in brilliant radiance as scores of orcs were struck by the Light, the crimson glow dimming from their eyes momentarily as they slumped forward to be dispatched by the remaining draenei warriors.