Again his ears were assaulted by the screams of a female, accompanied by taunts and jeers. The orcs were celebrating, reveling in their victory. Looking up, he pinpointed the source of the noise: high above, jutting out from the cliffs of the Barrier Hills, the draenei had built Aldor Rise. There the orcs were torturing some poor female draenei.
I must try to stop them.
But how Alone, with a broken leg, one against hundreds... one who had been abandoned by the Light, armed with only his hammer. How could he stop the madness unfolding above
I must find a way!
Frantically he crawled over the corpses, slipping in the fluids, shutting the putrid stench and raw viscera out of his mind. He worked his way around the outer circle of Lower City, toward the base of the cliffs, where the wall met the mountain. He would find a way to climb up there. He would...
The screaming stopped. He looked up to see shadows silhouetted by moonlight. They carried a still form to the edge of the overlook and then swung, tossing the lifeless cargo down into the depths. It landed with a dull thud not far from where Nobundo lay motionless.
He crept forward, looking for any signs of life from the female... Shaka, he determined her name to be when he drew close enough to see her features. He had seen her many times before, though they had only spoken on brief occasions. He had always found her pleasant and engaging. Now she lay battered and bruised, her throat cut, her lifeblood drained. At least for her the pain was over.
Another scream issued from above, the voice of another female. Rage welled within Nobundo. Rage and frustration and an overwhelming desire for vengeance.
There is nothing you can do.
Desperately he gripped the hammer tightly and tried once again to call upon the Light. With its assistance maybe he could do something, anything... but once again his only answer was silence.
Something within urged him to get out as quickly as he could, to seek out the others in hiding, to live... to one day fulfill some greater purpose.
That is cowardice. I must find a way; I must.
But deep inside, Nobundo knew that this battle was over. If indeed some greater destiny awaited him, he must leave immediately. He would only die a meaningless death if he tried to make his way to the rise. Cries of anguish once more pierced the night air. Nobundo looked over to a section of the outer wall that lay partially ruined. It was a perilous obstacle, but not insurmountable, and it was not guarded.
The time is now; you must make your choice.
It was a chance. A chance to live and to someday make a difference once again.
You must make it through this. You must go on.
That long wail sounded again, but this time was cut mercifully short. Then the sound of orcish voices just around the bend of the inner wall drifted to him. It sounded as if they were rooting through the corpses, looking for something or someone. His time had run out.
Nobundo took up his hammer. Though it cost considerable time and effort and sapped what little strength he had left, he made it over the remaining bodies and through the gap in the wall.
As he shambled slowly, painfully into Terokkar Forest, female screams atop Aldor Rise began anew.
- Chapter 2 -
"Surely your survival is a sign, a message from the Light."
"It blesses each of us in its own way. When the time comes, you will find it again."
"I hope that is true, old friend. I just... I do not feel the same. Something within me has changed."
"Nonsense. You are tired and confused, and after all you have been through, you cannot be faulted for either. Get some rest."
Rolc exited the cave. Nobundo laid back and closed his eyes....
Cries. The frantic pleas of the females.
Nobundo's eyes snapped open. He had been here for several days now, in one of the few camps occupied by those who had gone into hiding before the battle. Yet he could not escape the heartrending screams of the women he had left to die. They called out to him every time he closed his eyes, imploring him to help them, to save them.
You had no choice.
But was that really the truth of it He was not so sure. Recently Nobundo found it increasingly difficult to think clearly. His thoughts were muddy, disjointed. He sighed heavily and got up from his blanket on the stone floor, groaning as his sore joints protested.
He stepped out into the misty marshland air and worked his way through a sodden reed bed. Zangarmarsh was an inhospitable territory, but for the time being at least, it was home.
The wetlands had always been largely avoided by the orcs, and for good reason. The entire region was covered with shallow, brackish water; many of the flora and fauna were poisonous if not properly prepared; and many of the larger wetland creatures would eat anything that did not eat them first.
As Nobundo navigated several towering giant mushrooms, he heard raised voices: a commotion near the edge of camp.
He hurried to see what was happening. Three battered draenei, two male and one female, were being assisted by camp members past the perimeter guards. Another, unconscious, was carried behind them.
Nobundo shot a questioning glance to one of the guards, who responded to the unspoken enquiry: "Survivors from Shattrath."
Galvanized, Nobundo followed the party back to the caves, where the survivors were carefully laid down on blankets. Rolc laid his hands on the unconscious one first, but was unable to awaken him.
The female, seemingly in a daze, was muttering, "Where are we What has happened I do not feel--something is..."
Rolc came and shushed her. "Just relax. You are among friends now. Everything is going to be fine."
Nobundo wondered. Would everything be fine Orcish hunting parties had already discovered one camp and wiped it out. And these four, how had they survived What horrors had the female witnessed What had driven the unconscious one to his catatonic state Even more, the way they looked and behaved... Nobundo wondered if their injuries went beyond the physical: they appeared drained, dispirited.
They looked the way he felt.
Several days later the survivors had recovered sufficiently for Nobundo to feel comfortable asking them about Shattrath.
The female, Korin, spoke first. Her voice broke as she recounted the experience. "We were lucky. We stayed deep in the mountain, in one of the few hiding places that remained undiscovered... at least for the most part."
Nobundo looked puzzled.
"At one point a band of the green-skinned monsters found us. The battle that followed was... I have never seen such things. Four of the men who had volunteered to defend our group were slaughtered, but they killed many of the orcs as well. Finally only Herac and Estes were left. They killed the brutal creatures that remained. They were savage beasts. And those eyes, those terrible eyes..." Korin shuddered at the memory.
Estes spoke: "There was an explosion. Moments later a putrid gas filtered into our hiding place, choking us, causing a sickness such as none of us had ever felt before."
Nobundo thought of the unnatural red mist and quickly forced the memory away. Herac broke in. "It felt as if we were dying. Most of us blacked out. When we awoke, it was morning. The upper levels were deserted. We made our way into the Barrier Hills, and from there journeyed into Nagrand, where we were found many days later."
"How many of you were there "
Herac answered: "Twenty, maybe more. Mostly women, some children. Others trickled in days later, like the one who lies unconscious in the cave... Akama, they said his name is. We were told he caught a larger dose of the gas than any of the other survivors. Rolc is still unsure if he will ever..." Herac broke off and fell silent.
Estes continued, "Later we were split up and sent to different camps throughout Zangarmarsh and Nagrand. A precaution, so that if one of the camps were discovered by the orcs, we would not all be killed."