As he made his way out of the cave, he noticed that the others were gathered, staring upward, eyes shielded. He walked out from beneath a giant mushroom, raised his eyes, and was forced to shield them as well. His mouth fell open.
A rift had appeared across the early-morning crimson sky. It looked as if a seam had opened, tearing through the very fabric of their world, allowing dazzling lights and some kind of raw, unspeakably powerful energy to intrude. The rift wavered and danced like an immense, slithering snake made of pure light.
The ground began to quake. Pressure built up in Nobundo's head, threatening to explode from his ears. Electricity crackled in the air; the hairs on Nobundo's body stood up; and for a brief, maddening second it seemed as though reality itself was coming undone.
As Nobundo watched, for the briefest second the gathered Broken separated into multiple mirror images: some older, some younger, some not Broken at all but rather healthy, unaffected draenei. Then the illusion was gone. The ground shifted as if Nobundo were standing on the back of a cart suddenly spurred into motion. He and the others were flung to the mud, and there they stayed as the trembling continued.
After several moments the shuddering slowed and finally came to a stop. Korin was staring wide eyed at the rift, which was now resealing itself. "Our world is coming to an end," she whispered.
Their world did not end. But it had come close.
When Nobundo returned to his familiar spot atop the mountain peaks the following day, he looked out onto a horizon gone mad. Smoke billowed into the sky, casting a black cloud over the land. The air burned his lungs. At the base of the cliff where he stood, a giant fissure had opened. Steam poured out, and when Nobundo leaned over, he could see a faint glow from deep within the earth.
Large chunks had been ripped from the desert floor and were inexplicably floating high in the air. And portions of the sky itself looked almost like windows to... something. It seemed as if Nobundo could glimpse other worlds in those windows, some distant, some seemingly nearby, but whether it was real or some trick of the catastrophe Nobundo could not say.
And everywhere, everywhere a palpable silence pervaded, as if all the creatures of the land had either died or scurried off to some remote hideaway. Even so, Nobundo felt as if he was not alone. For a brief instant he thought he caught furtive movement out of the corner of his eye. He scanned his nearby surroundings, half expecting to see Korin.
Nothing. Just his addled mind playing tricks.
Nobundo cast his eyes once more to the nightmarish vista before him, and he wondered if the near future would bring an end to all he had come to know.
But time passed and life, such as it was, went on. Reports filtered into the camp that entire regions had been utterly destroyed. Yet the world survived.
Battered, twisted, tormented... the world survived, and so did the Broken. They ate nuts and roots and what few fish they could find in the marshes. They boiled their water and sought shelter from storms the likes of which they had never seen, but they survived. As the seasons wore on, animals returned. Some of them were species that had not previously existed, but the animals did return. When the Broken were lucky enough to have a successful hunt, they fed on meat. They survived.
Most of them, at least. Just days ago Herac had disappeared. He had been distant and confused for many long months, and though Korin would not speak of it, both she and Nobundo knew that he had been close to joining the ranks of the Lost Ones. Herac was the last of Korin's defenders from Shattrath, and Nobundo felt for her loss.
And though Nobundo would not speak of it, he wondered if he too might someday lose all control of his sanity and set out into the unknown, never to return, becoming little more than a memory, if that.
He continued his daily vigil, making his pilgrimage to the remote mountaintop, somehow maintaining hope that one day, if he had served his penance and earned its grace, the Light would shine on him once again.
Every day he returned to camp disappointed.
And every night he suffered the same terrible nightmare.
Nobundo stood outside Shattrath City, pounding his fists against the closed gates while the screams of the dying shattered the night air. In his waking mind he knew that this was yet another dream, another nightmare, and he wondered absently if this one would be the same as all the others.
He pounded repeatedly against the wood until his battered hands began to bleed. Inside, women and children died slow, horrific deaths. One by one the screams died out until a final, tormented wail remained. He recognized that cry: it was the voice that had echoed through the woods of Terokkar Forest as he had made his escape from the city.
Soon that cry faded also, and there was nothing left but silence. Nobundo stepped back from the gates, looking down at his frail, deformed, useless body. He trembled and wept, awaiting his inevitable awakening.
There was a creak as the gates slowly parted. Nobundo looked up, eyes wide. This had never happened before. This was new. What could it mean
The massive doors revealed an empty Lower City, the inner walls and ramparts lit by a single large fire just inside the inner ring.
Nobundo stepped inside, drawn toward the warmth of the flames. He looked around, but there were no bodies, no sign of the carnage that had transpired beyond a few discarded weapons lying several feet in a radius around the fire.
There was a soft roll of thunder, and Nobundo felt a drop of rain hit his arm. As he took another step forward, the giant gates closed behind him.
He heard sounds then, shuffling noises emanating from beyond the firelight, drawing closer. He carried no weapons, not even his walking stick, and the knowledge that he was dreaming did nothing to diminish the danger he felt. He prepared to grab a cord of burning wood from the fire when he saw a female draenei step into the light.
The sporadic rain persisted.
At first he smiled, delighted to see that one of them had survived, but his smile quickly disappeared as he saw the bloody gash across her throat, the bruises on her body. Her left arm hung limp and useless at her side. She stared at him vacantly, yet something in her demeanor was... accusatory. As she drew nearer, he saw that it was Shaka. Soon she was joined by others, scores of them shambling forward from both sides, their eyes cloudy, their bodies bearing gruesome wounds.
The wind picked up, stirring the fire. The rain became a steady drizzle. One by one, the women bent down, retrieving the various weapons from the earthen floor, advancing. Nobundo grabbed a torch from the fire.
I wanted to save you! There was nothing I could do, he wanted to shout, but the words would not come. His movements felt slow, restricted.
The wind again grew stronger, blowing out the torch Nobundo held. The slain women drew closer, raising their weapons as the fierce wind whipped the flames of the campfire until it too died, leaving Nobundo in complete darkness.
He waited, listening... trying to hear sounds of their approach through the pouring rain.
Suddenly an icy grip closed around his wrist. Nobundo screamed....
And awoke. He felt drained, more tired than when he went to sleep. The dreams were taking their toll.
He decided the morning air might do some good. Perhaps Korin was awake, and they might converse.
He stepped out to where some of the others were gathered for their morning meal and enquired as to Korin's whereabouts from one of the newer members.
"Left Where When "
"Moments ago. She did not say where. She behaved strangely... said she was going to--what was the word "
The Broken paused, thinking, then nodded in recollection.
"That is right. She said she was going to 'soar'."
Nobundo ran as quickly as his legs would carry him. By the time he reached the mountain peaks, his lungs were on fire; he was coughing up thick green mucus; and his legs shook uncontrollably.
On the plateau leading to the cliff he saw her, standing at the edge looking down.
She looked back, offered the slightest hint of a smile, then turned and pitched forward silently, disappearing into a thick cloud of steam.