Chapter 28: Why do we Fight?
If Addy had thought the Timeless Isle was warm, it was nothing compared to Tanaris.
It was a different sort of heat, not the wet heat that soaked you through but a dry burning heat. She had been given a sort of cream to smudge over her skin and had actually taken off her scarf in order to wrap her head, keeping the sun from burning her scalp.
Gadgetzan wasn't like anything she'd seen before. As a neutral hub she found herself surrounded by Horde, Alliance and everything in between. She saw orcs and taurens chatting alongside night elves and buildings were all low to the ground and round, and looking inside the open doors she could see that they had been cut into the earth. In the center of the town was a rather large cage, which appeared to be some sort of fighting ring with dozens of people crowding around it, shouting and cheering on whatever was going on inside.
She knew that the town had been changed dramatically by the Cataclysm. Half the coast of Tanaris had fallen into the sea, and the once inland settlement had become a rich, populous trading port.
She was walking beside Father Samuel who, for once, looked like he fit right in. He had forgone the usual mail and plate for a light cotton shirt and pants with a leather vest overtop. His dreadlocks were tied on top of his head and his large hammer strapped to his back. Every now and then he would nod in greeting to one of the many denizens of the neutral town and Addy wondered how he knew so many people everywhere they went.
Addy had her usual leather armor in her bag and was wearing a thin linen green dress which fit her much better than her old blue dress had, but which grew a bit sheer when wet. She wasn't usually very modest, but the way some eyes followed her as she walked didn't escape her. She wanted to change into her armor as fast as possible.
Addy stopped, turning and looking at Tirion Fordring. The man was wearing full armour, the Ashbringer still strapped to his back. Addy couldn't understand how he could stand the heat. He had stopped in front of a larger half dome building, moving to the door which was covered with a single ratty piece of fabric. He moved it aside and walked inside, the rest of the party following suit.
Inside was much cooler, and Addy sighed in relief. It was much larger than she had though, dug into the earth and with many underground rooms. Against the walls she saw goblin pipes pumping water, presumably from the underground river that she had heard ran underneath Gadgetzan, their source of freshwater and the reason it was settled there.
The people who occupied the large central room looked up as they entered, then straightened a bit, some smiling, as Tirion walked forward.
"Tirion." A human woman in an Argent Crusade tabard sighed in relief, "Thank the Light you've come."
Tirion walked forward without a smile on his face. Addy kept close to Father Samuel, walking along the side of the circular room. Eventually everyone had made their way in, leaving about two dozen Paladins and others standing around the small group who had been there before them.
There were two elves standing near the back. Addy at first assumed they were blood elf paladins, members of the Argent Crusade, but there was something...off about them. A tiny blonde haired gnome sat on a barrel beside them, kicking her legs and humming a bit under her breath. As Addy caught her eye the Gnome winked at her. Addy startled, looking around to see if there was someone else she could have been winking at, but nobody had glanced in the direction of the trio. Addy glanced back at the gnome, narrowing her eyes as she giggled lightly, then went back to her humming.
"Things haven't been going well." The woman in the tabard sighed rubbing her forehead, "The Legion has been hammering us constantly. There's been three attacks in the last week."
Addy snapped her attention back at that. Three in the last week?! The attacks used to be months apart!
All the newcomers seemed equally astonished.
"Three?" Tirion repeated, looking aghast, "I didn't realize things were that...dire."
"They're not." The woman continued, "At least not everywhere. We've received reports of another attack in Hillsbrad and another in Azsuna, seems the Legion has been focusing on the Horde."
Addy let out a small breath of relief, then felt terrible. It had been two weeks since they left the Timeless Isle and the entire time she had been a nervous pile of worry. They'd had no contact with the outside world on the ship. Her biggest fears that the Legion would move their attacks to Stormwind directly…
She swallowed, trying not to think about it.
"Their interest seems to be on the Caverns of Time." The woman continued, "But they're attacking all over Tanaris. Probably to split our focus."
Tirion made a sound of agreement, "And split our focus will be. We can't abandon the people in Gadgetzan and other settlements. We will need to group up. Chromie?"
Addy assumed he was talking to the Argent Crusade woman, but instead the gnome from before hopped down from the barrels and started to walk forward. She was wearing a very fine dress of gold and white silk and her blond hair was pulled back tight into two buns on the back of her head. She looked like any Gnome that Addy had seen in the past. The eyes that seemed a bit too large and the small pointed chins. She wasn't nearly as forlorn and down as the rest of the room. Instead she still hummed lightly as she walked over, barely tall enough to look over the table.
"Highlord!" The gnome, Chromie, spoke with a high pitched tinkling voice. "It's good to see you again."
Tirion Foldering chuckled, giving the gnome a smile, "You as well Chromie. Can you explain to the room what's been happening back at the Caverns?"
The gnome beamed at him and spoke in her squeaky voice, "We're not sure what they have done, but it has destabilized the caverns. Portals seem to be opening randomly, to random points in history. We suspect that the Infinite Dragonflight might have something to do with it, taking advantage of the chaos. However with the legion's intent to capture the caverns, we can't be sure."
"Is there a pattern?" Tirion asked, "With where the portals are going."
"We don't know." Chromie shrugged, "The portals are unstable. We haven't dared to go through them. We can tell that they're all on Azeroth and are portals to the past. However we can't quite pinpoint exact places and times. It appears that they're searching for something,"
"Like what?" The Argent Crusade woman frowned.
Chomie shrugged again, looking all the world like this was just a mild inconvenience, "We have no way of knowing. We're working on something to send through that will hopefully tell us when they're being opened too. But so far nothing has worked. The demonic energies are too...turbulent. It's been messing up our readings."
Tirion rubbed his head tiredly, "Well you keep working on that, and we'll keep the demons off your back."
"Our thanks." Chromie and the two elves gave a small bow, more out of formality than any deference.
Tirion sighed, looking down at the map on the makeshift table, "Alright, I'll be taking about a third of our number south to the Caverns. The rest will stay here under the command of Lieutenant Payne. This will be the base of Command, and from here we will send out small units to various towns." He pointed around the desert before him, "Dunemaul, Southmoon, Have local aggressors been an issue?"
"Not so much sir." The Argent Crusade woman, Lieutenant Payne, spoke, "Some of the pirates have been pillaging after the demons clear out, but most of them made themselves scarce as soon as the attacks began."
"Good." Tirion nodded, straightening, "Last thing we need is bloody pirates making our jobs harder. Alright!" He clapped and the members of the Argent Crusade stiffened to attention, "Let's go Ladies and Gentlemen. You all know where you should be."
There was a muttering of, "Highlord." And then everyone poured out the room, shouting directions and orders as they did in various languages. Addy opened and closed her mouth a few times, shifting nervously. She very much did not know where she should be.
She looked nervously up towards Father Samuel for instruction. He looked down at her, and placed a hand on her shoulder, holding her still. She took his instruction and waited for everyone to clear out.
Eventually the room was empty except for Tirion, the strange Gnome and elf pair, and her and Father Samuel.
Tirion saw them and gave them a weak smile, "Samuel, I'll have you come with me. Miss Fairchild can come too."
Addy jumped in surprised, trying to hide her excitement. She was going to the actual Caverns themselves?! She had thought she could be stationed at a small settlement, or maybe just Gadgetzan.
She didn't hide her excitement as well as she thought, because Tiron looked at her with amused eyes, "I wouldn't be so eager Miss Fairchild." He chided lightly, "This will be the center of the demons will fight tooth and nail to gain entrance to the Caverns. The Bronze Dragonflight will be focused on the closing of portals and the guarding of others."
She blushed, looking down, "Yes sir, sorry sir."
"No need to apologize Miss." He gathered up his gear, "Now let's all get ready to go. We leave at dusk, better to travel at night."
She nodded, bowing lightly again. She felt Samuel tugg her sleeve and she turned and looked at him. He looked amused and she flushed again, moving to follow him out of the small building.
Before they entered out into the late day sun she stumbled, recalling something Tirion had said but moments before.
"Wait." She muttered, looking up at Samuel with frightened eyes, "Did he say Dragons?!"
Tess was chilled in the evening air as she waited silently in the shadows of the forest. Why on earth she wanted to meet here of all places, Tess wasn't sure. The dank forests of Duskwood were on the southern edge of Alliance territory, but still very much Alliance territory. Although in these parts, the local threats were more dangerous than the Horde.
Tess had already had to deal with a few curious spiders that had been far braver in checking out the strange hidden human than she was comfortable with. She shuddered at the sight of them, preferring her bugs small enough to squish under heel.
She shook her head, once again wondering why she was here.
There was a small sound nearby. If she were anyone else she might ignore it, a shuffling of leaves in the wind, a small squirrel or mouse under a bush. But Tess was tense, and she was waiting for something.
She grasped her hand around the edge of her daggers as she scanned through the darkness. She had been told that even in their human forms the Worgan had superior night vision. It was something she was envious of. More than once she had considered the bite. To be stronger, faster, more agile. No doubt it would only aid her as a spy. But her father wouldn't have it. She knew that deep down he still held onto his old hatreds.
One day her father would pass, she knew, as all people did. And then she would take up the mantle of Queen of Gilneas. As a child she had never thought once about being Queen. That was always Liam's destiny. She had instead worked with Lorna Crowley, learning how to use swords and daggers and the art of subtly. When she had traveled to Teldrassil with her mother, she learned more from the Night Elves. They taught her to hide in the shadows and how to use magic to turn herself invisible.
Later she came to Stormwind, working with SI:7 to give intelligence from within the Keep. The King knew of her role, as did her father. She suspected that Anduin knew as well, however if he did he never said.
A crack behind her. She whirled around, unsheathing her daggers and crouching low. She briefly pulled the shadows around her, becoming invisible, only to drop it a moment later as the sight of a lone figure appeared in a small patch of moonlight, waiting silently.
Tess swallowed. The woman was tall, and strong, but leaner and thinner than most Orcs that she had come across. Her hair was pulled back into twin elastics, hidden behind a series of ridges on her forehead unlike anything she had ever seen on an orc before.
Tess stood up, not sheathing her daggers, but lowering them in a non threatening manner. "Garona…" She spoke without question. For a spy, the Half Orc was surprisingly obvious.
Garona walked forward, not moving to draw her own weapons, a pair of daggers at her hips that curved dangerously. The Kingslayers. The weapons that had killed King Llane Wrynn, the father of Varian Wrynn.
The orc seemed a bit amused as she studied her, "Princess Greymane."
Tess gritted her teeth, once again annoyed by their insistence of referring to her as such. She was in no way here as a princess, but as a spy, a soldier.
"Tess is fine." She spoke as cordially as she could. "I sense you know why I wanted to meet with you?"
It had taken months to make this meeting happen. Tess didn't want to get SI:7 involved, still unsure of who she could trust. Shaw was gone, on a small covert mission to the temple that Archmage Khadgar had spotted. It had given her a small space of time in order to meet with the elusive spymaster of the Horde.
"No." Garona grunted, her face giving away nothing.
Tess wished she was as good at hiding her emotion as she was sure that surprise flashed through her eyes, "Oh." She muttered, blinking a few times, "It's about the Uncrowned."
Garona raised a single eyebrow ridge, looking a bit annoyed but made no move to stop her from continuing.
"I got this message." Tess continued, "Which I assume is talking about a spy for the Legion in Stormwind."
"The demons are inside the walls." Garona continued.
Tess nodded, "Yes, it was signed by the uncrowned, so I assume they sent it. I hunted down a member, Admiral Tethys-"
A look of distaste crossed the half orcs face at that.
"He told me I could trust you." Tess continued, before pausing, "Did you...do you know why this was sent to me?"
Garona paused for a moment before sighing, rubbing her hand over her face, "In truth Greymane, no. In fact…" She trailed off, walking closer and a more serious look overtaking her face. "The Uncrowned didn't send that message at all."
Addy had the first shift sleeping in the covered caravans, which she was thankful for. Father Samuel and her had been up all day and she hadn't been looking forward to a full night riding in the desert.
Sleeping in the moving cart had been harder than sleeping on the ship, rougher and more jarring. She laid there away for about two hours before sleep finally took her.
Her dreams were full of dragons.
It was still dark out when she was awoken by a tired looking Argent Squire who barely mumbled something about a camel outside before he collapsed into what had been her cot and was snorting away.
She groggily wandered out into the night air, almost slipping on the sand under feet. She looked around, her eyes blinking. They were miles from anything, the only light came from a few lanterns on the caravans and camels. The two moons were missing from the sky tonight and Addy thought about her conversation with Anduin on the top of the skyfire. She sure hoped that the moon hadn't vanished again.
There was a small campfire set up, with a handful of people sitting around it, eating pieces of salted fish and dried meat. Addy wandered over, sitting on the sand next to Father Samuel, who wordlessly handed her a water skein which she drank from, and a piece of jerky which she chewed.
Tirion Fordring was there. She wondered if he had slept or if was still awake, or had just woken up like her. He was sitting next to the fire, chatting with various paladins and soldiers. Addy noted the Ashbringer was leaning against the try desert log he was sitting on. She was surprised to see him treating it like any other s3word. Something like that should be in a museum.
"Pretty sword isn't it?"
Addy jumped a bit, turning to see Father Samuel looking a bit haggard, dark circles under his eyes, "Have you been up all night?" She asked him.
"Yeah." He nodded, "Helped keep things moving while the Highlord slept. Even the mighty Tirion Fordring needs his beauty sleep."
The highlord snorted, "It's our curse that we must waste so many hours on sleep. Imagine what we could accomplish if we didn't need sleep."
"I'd say you've accomplished enough even with sleep, friend." Samual pointed out with a chuckle.
Tirion chuckled as well but Addy noticed it didn't meet his eyes. Instead he looked sadly at the fire while tapping on the edge of the Ashbringer.
Addy suddenly remembered what exactly he was famous for. Tirion Fordring, wielder of the Ashbringer, and the killer of the Lich King. She had been a child when it had happened, only thirteen, her grandfather recently dead and trying to make any kind of living on her own. She remembered feeling numb when she heard. She felt like she should be happy that her parents killer was dead, but she just...hadn't cared. A blank faced villain had died on the other side of the world, but she had still been there in Westfall, half starving and dreading when the winter snows would fall. It hadn't meant anything to her.
"My parents died in Stratholme." She voiced. She wasn't sure why she thought he would care.
The Highlord paused, blinking at her as sorrow sank into his eyes, "I'm sorry for your loss."
"I don't remember them." She shrugged, reaching forward to grab a stick to poke at a log in the fire, "My grandfather though, it wrecked him. I supposed what you did probably gave his spirit some rest, wherever it is."
Tirion gave her a half smile, his eyes a thousand miles away. Addy supposed he got hundreds of people coming up to him and giving him this message.
Her eyes flickered back down to the Ashbringer as he stopped his tapping, looking at the strange runes on it as they lit up, the golden disc alight with the silver hand floated on the light, maintaining its position in the sword. She wondered if it impacted how the sword swung. Did it make it heavier? It certainly didn't look very efficient for battle.
"Do you want to take a look?"
Addy looked up at The Highlord, who was giving her a soft smile. "I am looking at it. It's...an odd sword."
He laughed, "That it is." He paused, then lifted it off the log and held it out, "Go on, take it. Get a closer look. I promise it won't bite. Ashbringer is a mighty weapon of the light, but it is just a weapon. And I promise it won't turn you to Ash."
Addy already had her hand out to grab it when he said that and she pulled her hands back. Tirion and Samuel chuckled. She flushed and reached out, gently taking the handle with one hand, and then another, unsure of the weight.
There was a small flare of light as she grabbed the weapon, but then it settled. As she pulled the sword over to her lap it almost seemed to...shrink? She wasn't sure how to explain it but as she lifted it straight upwards it felt perfectly balanced, just the right size for her. She moved it around a bit and startled at how lightly it moved. Despite its strange design, Ashrbinger was a very smooth blade. She wondered how much was craftsmanship, and how much was magic.
"Interesting." Tirion muttered to himself as he watched her.
Addy shook her head, clearing her hand as she handed it back to the Highlord, "Is it not supposed to do that?"
"It happens." Tirion waved her off, "The Ashbringer isn't sentient in the same way that other weapons are. But sometimes it gives off a sense of...acceptance. It is easier to wield by some."
"Is it because of the light?" Addy thought out loud.
Tirion gave her an intense look that made her a bit nervous. Eventually he shook his head and looked down at his sword, "No, not the light. Many a paladin and priest have had problems with the sword."
"I find it a horrid, clunky, thing." Samuel chuckled and Addy jumped lightly, having forgotten that the other paladin was there. "Terribly unbalanced."
Tirion laughed, "Yes it looks rather uncomfortable. But aside, I've met several non light wielders who've had no troubles with the sword. They wouldn't ever be able to wield the full potential of the weapon, but as a sword they had little problems."
The highlord paused for a moment, looking for words.
"Every time someone new joins the Argent Crusade I have to teach them a lesson. What have you learned about the Light?"
Addy blinked, not expecting that, "The light is...it's everywhere. I don't know." She shuffled a bit, embarrassed at not knowing just a basic thing, "I know I can feel it, in my chest, and I can use it. I know that I am a tool the light uses to direct its will."
Tirion tilted his head side to side, "You have some of it. We don't know much about the light. We know some are more attuned to it than others, some can wield it as a weapon. But we don't really know its source. We attribute light to order, as we attribute void to chaos. But we can't mistake order for good, and chaos for evil. Being light does not make one good, and using the void does not make one evil. I know many priests who wield the void with various amounts of success. And I've known wielders of the Light to commit atrocities."
"Like the Scarlet Crusade." Addy muttered, utterly mesmerized by the Highlord.
He tilted his head, "Yes. The light isn't good or evil. It simply 'is', and it's up to us to wield it justly. We are tools of the light yes, but we are not slaves to it. We can still decide to do good, and not evil. We can still choose our battles, why we fight, what we fight for. We are not mindless minions here only to do Lights will and that is what Ashbringer looks for I believe. Those with a just cause in their heart. We all fight for a reason: for your loved ones, for power, for your people, your home. I am a warrior of the light, but I fight for what I believe is good, the future of Azeroth. Other warriors of the light fight for wealth or power or destruction."
"I fight for those I train." Samuel spoke up, "How can I expect them to fight if I can not? Every evil I kill is one they will never have to face. But perhaps that is selfish. I fight to avoid personal loss and suffering. So I don't have to live with the knowledge that I failed my students."
Addy gave him a soft smile, feeling somewhat emotional. She felt her throat well up and she blinked, trying to stop the tears from falling.
"I fight for Gryan." She spoke softly, "And the home that was destroyed. For my friends who were killed. For the people I couldn't save before. Because I didn't know how."
For Anduin, so that he may never have to know the horrors of war. Like Samuel she felt it in her gut that every single demon she killed was one less that Anduin might one day have to face on a battlefield. He was too innocent for that. Too good. The need to keep the evils of the world out here and out of Stormwind drove her with a passion she hadn't felt since she watched the legion destroy her home right in front of her. Not for home, for she didn't have one, but for Anduin.
There was a moment of somber silence. Things had gotten a bit more serious. Samuel downed something from a flask that likely wasn't water. Addy just stared into the flames, the heat feeling nice on her skin in the cool desert air of the night.
"We should get moving." Tirion broke the silence, "We've been here a while. The camels have been fed and the men have taken breaks and changed shifts."
Addy stood up, rolling her back. Her muscles were still somewhat asleep.
Samuel tossed her some more of the sun cream, "Come on girl. Get moving. We don't stop until the sun hits the highest point in the sky."
A/N: What's this? A chapter? I know it's been a while, school and life have been a bit insane and I was kind of off the wow train for a little bit for the end of BFA. But new expansion means renewed motivation! So I finally got around to finishing this chapter. This is what I consider to be the beginning of Act 3 of this fic. There's a chapter very soon that I've been excited to write since the beginning of this fic so stick around!
And thank you so much to all the lovely reviews, some of you have left the nicest things that always bring me back here. I'm glad that you all like Addy as much as I do and can't wait to see her adventures continue.
Thank you all so much,