Note: This post contains possible spoilers for World of Warcraft: Legion. ~Ed.
I slumber, but this is not rest. This is not a peaceful sleep.
I sleep. I know that I sleep. And yet, my mind roams…seeing the horrors over and over again.
I keep reliving the coming of the Burning Legion to Azeroth, thousands of years ago. I feel my glaives thrumming in my hands, filled with power…hungering. I smell the blood of my people, the char of burnt homes, the smoke stinging my throat as I scream cries of fury, of primal anger.
How dare they come to our world, and seek to subjugate us? We are elves, we are immortal! And they think we will allow them to end our lives, take our souls, burn our world? I would give anything, everything…but I will see them destroyed. Somehow, they will taste my blades as they die!
And yet, I still sleep. I dream, but I know they are out there, waiting, building…plotting. Sargeras, that betraying Titan, will not rest until we are eradicated. I will not cease until his ashen corpse lies before me, lifeless, rendered harmless. I will not end my hunt until every last one of them is utterly destroyed, never to stir again.
I feel them. I feel the Legion, feel them close. How is that possible? We are suspended. We sleep, for an eternity, it seems. I dream…but I feel them…their taint, their chaos…their wrongness.
I shouldn’t feel anything. Maiev told me I wouldn’t know or feel anything unless someone woke me, probably to put me on trial for my “crimes”. What do I care if they hate me for sacrificing everything, for following Lord Illidan? Why would I expect those simple agents of law and order to understand fully the threat of the Legion, and give all that they have, all that they are to the fight? The fools would attempt to force the Legion to obey our laws and maintain proper order while Azeroth ignites around them. Conquering worlds and burning them alive is all the Legion knows. The Legion does not rest, they do not take time for anything but to march relentlessly across the stars, world after world left charred and lifeless in their wake.
I shouldn’t feel anything, but I feel demons. I feel them drawing closer, gathering in strength. They are coming, I know it.
I soar once again, across time and memory.
I see the training grounds that used to be the Draenei temple of Karabor. I see the chained demons, waiting to be used as tools of learning instead of destruction. I feel the blood rage through my veins as I strike, lash out, dodge an attack, and lunge forward to slice a demon’s head cleanly off. I gather my strength, and pour my magic, my essence into a shield to absorb the incoming attacks from the other three demons. I had managed to separate one out of the pack, and eliminated that threat before turning to confront the remaining trio.
Two of them are pounding my shield with fel magic, slamming bolt after bolt of evil essence into my defenses. I hold it strong, and prepare my attack on the third demon, the largest of them. He is using the casters as a distraction, planning to rush in for the kill with his huge axe. He knows he will eventually die here, and he does not care. All he wants is to kill, to destroy life.
He will not have mine.
I prepare a rune, and tie off my shield to resist the fel bolts for a few seconds longer. They think they’re clever, that I won’t see the intent behind their rather obvious strategy. I waste no energy on scorn or laughter, I merely prepare.
Once the rune is formed in my mind, I will it into existence on the ground, in between their forms. A couple of seconds pass as it coalesces and works my will, and suddenly the casters break off in mid-spell, unable to form the incantation for a short time. In their rage, they race forward to join the massive demon, hoping to kill me with their claws, if not with their magic.
I suppress a smile as they predictably crowd each other, nullifying the effectiveness of their numbers. The large demon can’t swing his massive battle-axe without cleaving his fellow demon. He might not care if the other demons survive this fight, because love and concern for anything or anyone is beyond their capability…but he knows his swing will be slowed dramatically if he has to cut through the body of the demon on his right. He once again falls into my trap, swinging the great axe in a rage, over his head, intending to split me in half.
There’s a reason why elves are suited to this calling, more than any other Azerothian. We are faster, more agile than anyone else.
This time, I cannot suppress my laughter. I chuckle as I sidestep the crushing swing and see the demon’s look of triumph turn into rage at missing me by a hair’s width. My glaives flash out, shearing attacks, and I cut into the demon three, then four times. I can feel rather than see the bits of the demon’s foul soul torn from his form. They seem to float, untethered from the demon like bits of flotsam from a ship run aground. I dodge a much feebler swing, then I cleave the large demon with a massive strike. As he dies, the fragments of its soul suddenly seek out a new home, and I feel vitality strengthen me again, healing my small wounds and suffusing me with energy.
Fully empowered, I thrust out my glaives and concentrate all my energy into my magical orbs, where my eyes used to be. The weaker demons’ eyes widen as they instinctively know they are about to die as well. Chaotic magic rushes from my orbs in a torrent of fury and will, and the lesser demons’ bodies crumble into ash.
The memory starts to fade as I remember how I calmed myself and stood straight, preparing for the next challenge.
Once again, I restlessly float on the sea of time and experiences.
I remember Lord Illidan himself, asking our team of hunters to give him our allegiance for one last hunt: Mardum.
I feel the anticipation building in me as I listen to Illidan tell us what we have discovered. We are needed, in order to infiltrate and send back word of what is being held at Mardum. He believes it is an item of such power, that this floating, lifeless prison world is the only place secure enough for the Legion to entrust its storage.
This mission will potentially cripple the Legion’s offenses, and myself and a handful of others are the only ones progressed enough in our training to stand a chance against hordes of demons.
This mission will also claim our lives.
In order to reach Mardum undetected, our best casters will open a portal to the prison world, through which we can enter. If they leave it open for any length of time, the Legion can use that same portal to enter our plane of existence. If they realize they can enter that portal, they can block its closing, and keep it open. They can summon their forces from across the stars to Mardum, and then pour through the portal unhindered.
The one chance we have for this to not happen is for our portal to be opened suddenly, and to close it just as suddenly. We cannot chance more than a few seconds of time with this link enabled, or demons will detect its presence and take full advantage of the error. Likewise, opening a portal to return to Outland would then be expected, so we cannot chance a second opening.
This will be a mission with no end, no return.
I don’t fear for my life, and neither do my fellow demon hunters. Only about one out of every five of us have been able to survive the training, because that few of us have truly immortal souls. All of us have had our bodies torn apart during the training we’ve endured, but those of us that remain are all capable of returning to our flesh if we die, and living once more. But even if I had only one life to give, I would gladly sacrifice it if I could help end the scourge Sargeras has built. I know that the rest of my team feels the same. I see it in their solemn grimaces as they realize also how much we may have to sacrifice for this mission, and pride swells within my heart as each of them stands, resolute, determined to succeed.
Mortals fear death, and well they should.
Immortals fear it worse, because we can live again to suffer even more.
I quickly banish such weak thoughts from my mind and focus once again on Lord Illidan’s commands. We listen to his stratagem, and discuss it briefly. I point out a small flaw I can see, and we all agree to adapt the plan to counter the eventuality.
The time comes, and we line up, ready to vault through the opening. Save for the uttering of our casters, preparing the spell that will connect Mardum and Outland, silence reigns. None of us have anything left to say, we are simply focused on succeeding in our mission, or taking as many of those foul creatures with us into the Twisting Nether as we can.
Our glaives sheathed across our backs, we stand one behind another, our fingertips on the shoulders of the elves in front of us. When the first in line starts to move, the one behind him will feel it, and immediately move as well. In this manner, we’ll bolt through the portal, twenty strong, in a mere instant. I am third in line behind Jace and Allari, and I calm my racing heart, and slow my breathing.
I am calm.
I am focused.
I am prepared.
Lord Illidan walks beside the line, thanking us each before we depart. There is a reason we follow him, and this is part of it. I nod, returning his respect as he passes me.
I feel, rather than see the energies building, and I can suddenly feel fate twisting, churning as our destinies unfold before us in a rapidly growing green cloud of demonic energy. The temperature drops noticeably as the connection between worlds begins to solidify.
I pour more energy into my tattoos, wards against both incoming damage and incipient madness. This last ritual is the same before every battle: strengthen my magical defenses, and focus my mind toward sanity once again. It’s a constant struggle to keep myself from succumbing to lunacy, just like every other demon hunter who has survived so far. My tattoos are magical talismans, and they help anchor me to my purpose, as well as to my sanity. I cherish them, for they are the bulk of my defenses. They won’t slow me down like a heavy layer of plate armor would, but they protect me from the two main sources of a demon hunter’s death: fel energy, and madness. The enemy without, and the enemy within.
The portal is nearly finished, and I mentally run over every last item on my checklist. I cannot think of a single thing that I could have done to prepare that is left undone. We are professionals, we know what we are about. We will succeed, and we will strike a huge blow against the Legion this day.
The portal shimmers, seconds away from fully penetrating the air of Mardum. I can already feel the fel taint seeping through. This world must be full of demons, if I can sense it this strongly.
I feel Jace tense up as he prepares to dart through the portal. I coil myself like a spring, preparing to explode into motion as well. The air is thick with anticipation as the time draws near. Even the ranks of demon hunters standing in a semicircle behind us feel it. They gather to see us off as well as to destroy any demon unlucky enough to make it through the portal while it exists. I don’t think they will be needed, but we take no chances. If by some cosmic mistake we do allow the Legion to enter through this connection, all of my brothers and sisters will be the first line of defense against the hordes.
I hear a sudden pop as the portal slams into place, and in the space of three heartbeats, all twenty of us have bounded through the opening, into the unknown.
It’s dark, and I feel myself falling into the cold sky of Mardum. We are a thousand feet above the planet’s surface, purposefully far off the ground to lessen the chances that a demon with sufficient power could notice the opening portal, realize it for what it is, and block its closing. I give my team a few seconds to scatter in different directions, and I unfurl my wings to slow my descent. As I glide, I see the rocky, lifeless terrain slip beneath my feet in the near-darkness. As it rushes up to meet me, I curl the tips of my wings forward, slowing my motion even further, and land silently on the gritty soil. This is the third world I have stood upon, and it will likely be the last. I can feel the fel taint suffusing the ground beneath my feet.
Around me, the team gathers in the darkness, preparing our infiltration, hoping to go unnoticed for a while, still. Glaives whisper as they are unsheathed, and I can feel their hunger building. Soon, we will feed them a feast like they’ve never tasted. We will try to satiate them once and for all on the bodies and souls of as many demons as we can dispatch. I crouch, ready to bound into the night with my fellow elves, seeking out the Sargerite Keystone, and the promise of hurting the Legion deeply.
Elune may have forsaken us, but I still send up a quick prayer to the heavens. Perhaps she will bless us regardless of our paths, since we seek to preserve the elves and the rest of Azeroth. Either way, we will do our duty.
I hear voices. Elven voices. We are supposed to remain silent, but I hear them insistently speaking. I look around at my compatriots, ready to silence whoever is breaking our stealth, but I see nobody talking. No one else seems to notice the noise, either. I check the strength of the wards held within my tattoos, but they are fully energized, so it shouldn’t be madness creeping in. Where in the fel are they coming from?
Suddenly, I am pulled from the dirt of Mardum. My confusion is palpable, almost completely overwhelming me. I know I must complete my mission, but what is happening to me?
“I understand your concerns, but the time has grown short, Warden. Open the rest of the cells now!”
I hear a voice arguing with the first, although at a lower volume. Wait…I heard that. How can I be hearing anything at all? I strain to hear more, but all I can make out is a lessening babble, as if someone is moving away from me while talking.
I hear a horrendous cracking sound, and I sense light suddenly pouring into my chamber, unseen for many years. The wards are quickly dissipating and bringing me fully into consciousness for the first time in several eternities, it feels. I have no weapons with which to fight, and I feel demons nearby. Unless the demons themselves have released our bonds, perhaps I will have another chance to hunt. My hands clench and release, pumping blood back into my fingers as my pulse quickens. I quietly flex my legs and prepare to fight.
An Elven voice calls to me. “Ariliam, I have no wish to free you, but I have my orders. Wake, and aid us…the Legion has returned!”
Blood and fire, it feels good to have a purpose again.
This is a work of fan-fiction. All rights for ideas and characters in the above story belong to Blizzard Entertainment.