The wall shook, and Nobundo's hooves slid on the rain-slicked stone. He steadied himself and looked down to see one of the ogres pummeling away at the base of the buttress to his left with a tree trunk-sized club. He raised his hammer to the sky and closed his eyes, but his concentration was quickly broken by another sound....
Not the ogre this time, but an explosion that originated from somewhere below but out of sight, knocking Nobundo off balance. He rolled to his side and glanced over the edge to see a fine red mist billowing out into Lower City. The few defenders who were left immediately began choking and retching. They doubled over, many of them dropping their weapons. The barbaric orcs made quick work of the sickened warriors, reveling in the carnage.
When the slaughter was finished, they glared upward, rabid in their desire to tear the defenders on the wall limb from limb. Several orcs climbed on the backs of the ogres, attempting to scale the sheer surface by hand. Their aggression and unbridled ferocity were staggering. The mist had spread throughout the entirety of Lower City and was now beginning to rise, slowly obscuring the bedlam below.
Nobundo heard a commotion behind him. Several orcs who had somehow broken through the inner circle's defenses now stormed onto the rise.
The wall shuddered again, and Nobundo cursed the ogre below, who had undoubtedly returned to pummeling the buttress. A second salvo of flaming meteors fell from the sky as Nobundo readied to meet the oncoming crush of attackers.
He directed the fury of the Light into the first orc head-on. The green beast's eyes dimmed, and he crumpled. Nobundo brought the crystal hammerhead down squarely on top of the orc's skull, then yanked upward and swung left, feeling a satisfying crunch as the orc's ribs shattered. He twisted and brought the hammer across at a downward arc into the side of another orc's leg, shattering its kneecap. The beast howled in pain and fell forward off of the rampart.
The mist had worked its way onto the rise now, where it rolled out and covered the stone like a carpet. Nobundo and his fellow Vindicators fought on as the mist rose to chest level, then finally to their faces, stinging their eyes and burning their lungs.
Nobundo heard the death-cries of several of his companions, but he had lost sight of them in the dense red fog. Mercifully the attacks on him seemed to have abated; he stumbled back a step, stifling the urge to vomit. It felt as if his skull was about to burst.
Then he heard a horrific battle cry from out of the mist that chilled him to the bone.
A shadow approached. Nobundo struggled to see as his body wrenched in spasms. He tried desperately to hold his breath as out of the dense crimson mist stepped a tattooed, fiery-eyed terror... a massive orc covered in the distinctive blue of draenei blood, out of breath, twisting a wicked two-handed axe in his grip. His raven-hued hair clung to his thick chest and shoulders, and his lower jaw had been colored as black as pitch, lending his face the countenance of a skull.
Behind him scores of orcs rushed onto the rise. Nobundo knew that the end was near.
The wall shook once more. The nightmarish orc charged. Nobundo arched back. The blade carved a gash across his chest, rending his armor and numbing his left side. Nobundo answered with a swing of his hammer that crushed the fingers of the orc's right hand, rendering it and the axe he held useless. Then, to Nobundo's horror, the terrifying creature smiled.
The orc gripped him with his good hand, and the twin furnaces of his eyes bored into Nobundo... bored through him. Nobundo was forced to gasp for air. As he did, he felt the veneer of his will being stripped away. It was as if some manner of dark, demonic magic was at work, as if a part of his very essence was being obliterated, and it was an assault he had no answer for.
Nobundo vomited thick blood onto the orc's face and chest. He closed his eyes and frantically, desperately hailed the Light, beseeching it to neutralize the orc long enough for him to mount a defense. He called out...
And for the first time since he had contacted the Light and been graced by its blessed radiance...
There was no answer.
Terrified, he opened his eyes and looked into the manic, fire-pit orbs of the orc, who opened his great mouth and bellowed, drowning out all other sound and threatening to shatter Nobundo's eardrums. It seemed as if he was suddenly plunged into some kind of terrible, silent dream. The beast reared back and slammed its head into Nobundo's face. Nobundo reeled backward, his arms flailing, the rain pounding down, those blazing eyes searing into his own as he fell... down, down, down through the mist, crashing into something large that grunted as it gave beneath him.
Still trapped in the silent nightmare, Nobundo saw the orc disappear from the edge of the wall. Nearby, the ruined buttress gave way, and a massive section of the upper ramparts fell, blocking out the rain and the sky and trapping Nobundo in a world of quiet darkness.
As he lay there, he thought about the ones who had gone into hiding, those he prayed would escape slaughter, those he loved and respected, those for whom he had given his...
Life. Somehow, he still clung to life.
Nobundo emerged from the black pit of unconsciousness only to find himself trapped in a choking, sightless confinement. His breath came in ragged, shuddering gasps, yet he still lived. He had no idea how much time had passed since... since the wall fell, since...
He reached out with his mind. Surely in the tumult of battle he had simply failed to concentrate hard enough to reach the Light, but now, now he could make contact, now surely he could...
There was no response.
Nobundo had never felt so helplessly lost and utterly alone. If the Light was out of reach and he died here, what would become of his spirit Would the Light not receive him Would his essence be condemned to an eternity of drifting through the void
He had lived his life honorably. Yet... could this be some kind of punishment
Even as his mind reached for answers, his hand reached out and immediately brushed against cold stone. He slowly became aware that he was lying in a very awkward position, that some softer but still formidable mass was packed tightly next to him, and that his left leg was most certainly broken.
He rolled to his right and took in a deep breath, trying to ignore the pain in his ribs and leg. Without recourse to the Light he could not heal himself, and so he would just have to live with the pain for now. At least the feeling had returned to his left side. And... he could hear the muffled noises caused by his movements, so his hearing had returned as well.
The fact that he was breathing meant that air was reaching him from somewhere. As his eyes continued to adjust, he spotted a pinhole, not of light, but simply a lighter shade of darkness than that which surrounded him. He reached out farther, and his hand landed on a familiar cylindrical object: the shaft of his hammer.
With what little strength he possessed, Nobundo gripped the handle just under the head, lifted and thrust in the direction of the pinhole. Chunks of masonry gave way, vaguely revealing a cramped passage created by the massive stone blocks and the angles at which they had fallen.
His ears were immediately greeted with the sound of muted screams, wails of pure terror issuing from some distance away. He used the hammer to pull his upper torso through the hole he created and into the tight space. As he did, he heard a deep moaning sound from the depths of the rubble behind him.
With a burst of strength he pulled himself the rest of the way into the passage, stifling the urge to cry out as his broken leg raked across the jagged stone threshold and sent lances of pain throughout his body. The labored moans continued. The stones around him shifted, and sand and dirt filtered down through the cracks. Quickly he dragged himself toward an irregularly shaped egress, where he spied the faintest hint of light.
Judging by the increased moans of the thing in the rubble, Nobundo guessed it was an ogre, and it was trying desperately to dislodge itself. Nobundo rolled onto his back and crab-walked with his elbows out into the night air while the ogre made another determined effort. Nobundo could see the full mound of debris now. The ogre bellowed in rage one final time, and the entire mass collapsed fully, sending a cloud of dust in all directions and cutting the outburst short.
Another cry immediately followed, however, from some distance away and above: the sound of a terrified female.
Nobundo turned and was greeted by a sight he would never forget, no matter how hard he tried from that day on.
The entire expanse of Lower City, lit by the moon and ambient firelight from above, had become a dumping ground for the bodies of the butchered draenei. And though the rain had stopped, the corpse mounds were still slick with vomit and blood and every manner of waste.
Nobundo's heart withered at the sight of children among the dead. Despite their youth, many of them had bravely volunteered to stay with their parents, who knew all too well that the orcs would be suspicious of a draenei city where no children dwelled and would hunt the last of their kind to extinction. Still, a part of Nobundo hoped and prayed with all his might that the remaining children could be defended, that they would stay safe in the hiding places that had hastily been dug into the mountains. A foolish hope, he understood, but one he clung to nonetheless.
Could anything be more senseless than killing children