2

Premonitions and realizations

Vyerna awoke from the disturbing dream with a start. Helpless rage, fear, anguish, and disjointed images of wanton senseless death; all of this assailed her as she sat shaking in the antonymic peacefulness of her room. Her hands clenched over her unsettled abdomen, tears rolled down over her confused features, and without knowing why, she began to sob uncontrollably. She felt trapped and lost, as if something out of her control were consuming all she held dear, and she was to bear witness to some horrific occurrence with no way to affect the outcome.

Having a propensity for prophetic visions, Vyerna was still shocked and uneasy at this one; the intensity with which it affected her was far above what she was used to. There was also a sense of duality that accompanied it, as if a part of her knew exactly what it all meant was screaming to be heard, but she could not quite -

( What the hell is happening?!)

She gasped involuntarily, her amber eyes flashing wide and her ears going ridged at the sound of the unfamiliar voice in her head.

"In the name of Stormrage, who is that?" she whispered to herself.

(What the hell is Stormrage?)

"Nonononononono…" she moaned. Grasping her head and doubling over, she rolled from her bed and curled into a fetal position on the carpet. Then she quickly sat upright, her eyes seeing the room as if for the first time, and she felt herself 'pushed' aside as another consciousness took over with powerful abandon. This new self seemed utterly and completely confused at where it was and how it had gotten there. Though she had no control of her eyes, she looked around the room, and could feel the other's sense of fear and bewilderment.

Taking advantage of the turbulent and uncontrolled emotions, she quickly forced herself to the fore and took control of her faculties again, but not without hearing one last indignant interjection.

(Hey!)

Shaking her head to confirm her grip on herself, the young Night Elf stood and resolutely gritted her teeth. Breathing steadily, she clenched and unclenched her fists, quickly regaining her composure. After a few moments of this calming ritual she headed to the washroom. .

In the middle of splashing some water on her face, the young Night Elf heard shouts of distress from outside. Being a normally quiet town, Vyerna knew that those sounds could only mean trouble. Without hesitation, she ran to her door. Grabbing her staff with one hand, she flung the door wide and sprinted toward the commotion, which seemed to be coming from the center of town. Once there, she found a group of guards and townspeople gathered in the road; one of the captains was shouting at his men and pointing off in the distance. Suddenly a roar erupted from the lower hills beyond the crowd, stopping Vyerna cold in her tracks. She immediately and unconsciously assumed a ready stance, her lithe form slightly crouched and staff clutched tightly in both hands.

Up over the rise thundered the one of the biggest Tauren she had ever seen, and the gun he carried matched him for its size. At first she thought he was crazed with some sort of battle frenzy or blood lust to be charging straight into the center of Goldshire, but as he reached the top of the ridge and stopped at the sight of the soldiers, she realized that it was terror and confusion that were affecting his actions. He looked over his shoulder at something behind him and back at the crowd, then brandished his weapon in the air, roaring something in his language. A moment later, the more astonishing sight of a raptor burst past him and toward the multitude, maw wide and tail lashing. Completely caught off guard at the sight of the huge reptile and already stunned by the abrupt intrusion into their quiet little town, the guards and people scattered like chaff in the wind. Then, almost as quickly, the Tauren yelled again, and the massive lizard swung about and headed back towards him. Having no recourse but to stand and watch with all the people fleeing around her, Vyerna assumed a shepherd role and made sure people got securely past her to safety with no one trampled. Most of the guards headed toward Stormwind along the North road while the few that stayed were trying desperately to muster some form of defense.

As the last of the people got to shelter in the shops and houses, the young priestess brought her attention fully back to the Tauren and what she then knew to be his pet raptor. They had both moved further down the road, and the giant bovine was looking around again in confusion while seeming to be conversing with his pet. Vyerna didn't know whether that was possible or not; the Horde was not a subject she was versed in as yet. Most of her priestly training thus far had more to do with defensive and healing magics, not Horde social practices.

The Tauren again looked in her direction, and as he did so his pet shifted to the side, and she saw what she first thought to be a human of short stature. Dressed all in black and from afar, she realized he could easily be mistaken for one, that is, until one caught site of the glowing orbs that passed for eyes. She had never seen one of the undead until that moment, but afterwards she knew why most spoke of them in such hushed and frightened tones. Even from so far away, she could feel the cold essence of death and decay emanating off the walking corpse. Her revulsion grew as she realized she could also see his bones at the joints of both arms and legs.

Suddenly, the forgotten presence in the back of her mind surged forward with a jolt; catching her completely unawares, it took full control and spoke.

"Rad?"


I had just one thought running through my mind: How the hell did I end up in a car accident? It was the simplest explanation for the complete disorientation I felt. I have had a few really good ones in my past, too. I should not have walked away from one of them, but I did. So, being accustomed to the experience, I was sure that was what had happened… until my ears stopped ringing and I heard noises that definitely did not have anything to do with automobiles. Sounds and vibrations… like a subsonic humming reverberating in my bones. Distant cries echoed in the cavernous maw of cotton-filled miasma that was my head. Even though it was slowly clearing, nothing I heard or felt was making much sense. It was not long before an increasingly painful ache clambered its way up my spine and was spreading throughout the rest of my body, as though I had been thrown from the aforementioned vehicle and slammed mercilessly into the pavement. A voice started to worm its way through the haze of soreness, a voice that was nowhere near familiar, but somehow I recognized it.

"Shmee are you alright?" The voice seemed to claw its way through wet sandpaper.

I groaned, my eyes still squeezed shut against the pain, and tried to sit up.

"Well at least he's still alive," a musical female voice floated through the noise, seeming to clear a path with its melodic tenor straight into the muscles that worked my eyelids, causing them to snap open.

" Jesus Christ , Mon!" I exclaimed in rustic Jamaican tones that were definitely not supposed to be coming from my mouth. I quickly tried to scuttle backwards but found that I was already against a wall. A quick glance showed me that I was sitting in the middle of a massive set of stairs, which led down to my left, and an overhang of solid stone stretched over my head. Eyes wide in shock, I stood quickly and cried out in pain as one of my legs, apparently badly injured, gave way beneath me, and I collapsed just as fast in a heap against the same wall.

All around me stood impossible nightmarish creatures with one impractically beautiful female… elf?!

Long, wavy, jet-black hair framed the pale, luminous features of a child-like face. Red, pouting lips sat under a small, perfect nose, whose somniferous shadows were enhanced by the luminous green eyes dancing in what looked like concern. Dressed all in black with a hood containing her hypnotic face and incredibly long ears, the young elf wielded two cruel looking daggers that pulsed with indelibly black promise.

Closer than her, and the immediate cause of my panic-induced antics, was another female. Well, I guessed from the slim form and obvious mammary-enhanced clothing that she was a woman, but that was the extent of the similarity. Her bearing suggested concern, if a little confusion, but her face promised only ghoulish insanity. All my memories of the classic undead movies did little to prepare me for an encounter with the reality crouched before me. Beady black coals burned out of sunken, wrinkled sockets, surrounded by graying flesh, and the straps of moldy leather that crossed her face seemed to keep everything just barely in place. Thankfully, other than the talons that adorned her grotesquely long fingers, the rest of her form was clothed in magnificently embroidered robes of some supple looking material that resembled cotton and Lycra. The top of an intricately carved staff jutted over her shoulder. All points and curves, the top of the ornate rod was adorned with multifaceted jewels and engravings outclassing any work I had ever seen.

" C'mon , Rain, get him fixed up and let's get moving; our time is limited here," a basso voice rumbled, causing the undead woman before me to look over her shoulder and drawing my eye to yet another living breathing impossibility.

Standing over the outlandish being before me was what appeared to be a cow on two legs. All armor and bulging muscle, the towering Minotaur-like being was glancing over its shoulder nervously and casually swinging a mammoth hammer by its side. Vicious-looking black horns jutted from each side of the bull-like head, a thick mane of dark brown hair covering the top and sides, ending in braids past each green-plated armored shoulder.

"He's right," growled another deep voice from down the stairs. "We need to keep moving; Capacitus is near, and his minions have no doubt heard the commotion we have created."

Looking down the stairs, I was greeted by yet another walking impossibility from a place I had seen just about every night in the past two years through the screen of a monitor. But now it was beginning to look like reality had slipped out the door for a smoke break, taking everything logical with it, and I was left sitting on a very real stone staircase, the sights and sounds of the fictional construct known as Mechanar splayed out before me in undeniable clarity.

" C'mon , Rain, get him fixed up and let's move." Rhok gestured toward me with his weapon, a huge bear claw that extended off his fist.

And suddenly I was just there; the creatures, the names, the sounds, the scents and surroundings. My brain just accepted or – what's the word – acclimated, like I was supposed to be there all along and new that what we were doing served a purpose . My leg throbbed and tingled as the magic flowed through it, knitting bone and flesh as a warmth coursed through me, energizing and revitalizing me. I stood cautiously, testing my weight before leaning fully on my leg, bouncing slightly. Reaching down I grasped my staff and headed down the stairs, a stupid grin curled around my tusks.

" I and I be ready , Rhok, mon," I said, the Jamaican accent now recognizable as this world's version of the Troll dialect. As I passed the massively armored and armed Orc, I spoke with gusto, "Let's do 'dis 'ting."

When it all began, I knew what I was supposed to do and even how to do it. For some reason, the magic part of it just came naturally, like I was already in touch with whatever forces controlled it. Blackfire - her name derived from the energy given off by her magical blades - was never seen until one of her weapons was protruding through the chest of an attacker, and then she was gone again, fading like the proverbial ghost. Rhok and Rainfendi would alternate between attacks, his mighty claws causing huge rents in the flesh of his opponent, and her little shadow fiend slashing and screaming , healing spells cast where needed. The Druid Cor shifted into his mighty bear form and, roaring loudly, charged into an oncoming enemy, bowling them over and tearing into them regardless of size or weapon swung at him. As for me, it was almost like the game again; I could pick and choose my target, call to mind whichever spell I could remember, and cast. A frostbolt here, a fireblast there - it was almost fun. It took me a little while to figure out that as I would cast, I could feel the drain on my body and that if I used the magic too much too fast I became dizzy and weak. I also started to perceive the bodies as real corpses when the smell began to build up. It was not obvious right away, as I was still getting used to being where I was in the first place, yet it was not long before I realized that what I smelled was not some new odor wafting from an unknown source within this indefinably strange place, it was blood and other bodily fluids; and it began to make me sick.

As the battle moved forward, deeper into the glass and steel nightmare of Mechanar, the smell got worse, and the screams of the dying began to build up like an echo that never released. It was like the inside of my skull was the far side of a canyon and the echo got stuck inside my head; this soon took its toll at precisely the wrong time. We had finally found and confronted the monstrosity of metal and flesh known as Capacitus; Cor was rearing back on his bear hind legs, swiping at the huge creature while both Rainfendi and Rhok were throwing all their concentration into keeping Cor alive. Blackfire was attempting to locate a weak spot somewhere in the armor of the beast, when one of his numerous minions came around a pillar and headed for Cor with a pike aimed straight at his back. I threw the frostbolt I was charging and then without any thought, cast an icelance at the minion to get its attention - and missed.

How could I miss?!

I stood stunned as the pike slammed into his back causing Cor to roar in pain and spin on his attacker. One of his fury-induced swipes sent the creature's head clear across the room, blood spraying from the stump in all directions as the body staggered a few steps and fell wetly to the floor. I immediately lost all strength and fell to my knees, retching bile and whatever was in my stomach. A female scream brought my head back up to see the nightmarish image of the druid back in his Tauren form, each of his legs grasped in one of Capacitus' monstrous hands. Rhok and Rainfendi were hurriedly attempting to cast some last minute spell, while Blackfire was racing toward the demon, with what in mind, I could not fathom. My instant reaction was to try and cast another spell to distract or hurt the monster, but I found I just did not have the energy. All of this happened in the seconds before we all watched as Cor, upside down, swung his weapon as hard as he could, catching Capacitus square in the face. Bone crunched, teeth flew, and the scream he let out told that it was the last wound he could sustain. With the last of his rage, he tore Cor completely in half, throwing both in opposite directions and fell with a deafening crash to the floor.

The only sound besides the constant background hum of this place was the quiet sobbing of Blackfire as she kneeled in despair. I heard a roared "NO" off to my left and turned in time to see Rhok in all his orcish fury hurtling at me just before he bowled me over and began throttling me. Acting on pure instinct through both personalities I 'pushed' Rhok off me both with my hands and an arcane explosion, the blast sending him skidding across the floor into Rainfendi, leaving them both in a tangled pile. As I stood, a grey red haze seemed to cloud my vision and an inexplicable rage filled me as I screamed each word, deliberately trying to pronounce them without an accent:

"I AM NOT SUPPOSED TO BE HERE!"


There was a cliff ahead. Jake's vague topographical memory recognized the fissure in the ground – its slope down and the far edge jogging hazy recollections – but could only think of three different locations where he could be. Though it didn't matter much, at least not at that moment, he knew all he should be worrying about was how long it would take the enraged gargoyle to catch up to him, and what he was going to do when that happened. His mind working in panicked overdrive, Jake merged the two thoughts together and formed a desperate plan to solve his gargoyle problem.

No…he thought. I wouldn't be able to pull that off, and even if I did, it's not like a short fall like that is going to do anything to hurt something that can fly.

"SHHRRIIEEEEK!"

Jake's eyes bulged at the chilling sound. Spinning around, he blindly swung his staff back and forth in a wide arc. Feeling the displaced air of the beating wings on his face, he realized the monster was right there in front of him, and, although it was a stupid creature, it had enough intelligence to learn from its last mistake; it caught Jake's poorly aimed swing right between its teeth. After a few seconds of a frenzied tug-of-war, Jake stopped thinking about everything and just did what came naturally. He wrenched the staff upwards, attempting to jerk the thing closer and attempt another desperate move. The shift in direction caused the monstrosity's head to snap up and back, temporarily confusing it for a few seconds. Jake took advantage of the opportunity, and lunged for the gargoyle's wing.

In the clarity of desperation, time slowed and he could see every minute detail of the appendage. Unlike anything he had seen before, the arm, elbow, and hand looked just like any other, but the bones that supported the large flap of skin making up the thick leathery material were not unlike a bird's. Light and hollow, the bones couldn't have much strength to them. Of course, it was all only an assumption, and with only seconds, he did the first thing he could think of.

Dropping his staff and grabbing the creature's arm just above the wing, Jake spun on his heal as quickly as he could, bracing his feet and crouching slightly. Using the momentum of the spin and bracing the elbow on his shoulder, he tugged down on the gargoyle's arm as hard as he possibly could. Happening so fast and being such an unusual maneuver, all the gargoyle could do was watch and see what his pathetically weak prey hoped to accomplish.

An agonized shriek was accompanied by an unsettling series of snaps and cracks as the creatures arm bent into an unnatural shape and direction. Jake finished the throw and slung the crippled gargoyle into a squirming heap on the ground in front of him. The gargoyle, mewling and shrieking as it writhed in pain, clutched at its broken wing and struggled to get to its feet.

So satisfied with the success of the desperate action, Jake almost let the creature get another hold on him. Wiping the grin off his face, he lifted his robe enough to kick the gargoyle somewhere in its torso, sending it back to the ground. Revulsion and pent up fear and frustration taking over, he continued to kick the writhing gargoyle until he had sent it tumbling off into the fissure. The gargoyle managed to cling to the edge of the cliff with its good arm, trying desperately to pull itself back up. A new source of panic seemed to be driving it to put every last ounce of effort into avoiding the fall.

It's only a twenty foot drop, Jake thought, it's not like it's going to kill him…Jake picked up his staff and strode quickly over to the struggling gargoyle, striking the hand it was using to cling to the edge of the drop. With a final shriek, the gargoyle tumbled the rest of the twenty feet and hit the ground with a collapsing thud.

He soon realized what had caused such a panic in the creature. Only moments after hitting the ground, seven hideous skulls animated individually by syrupy, gelatinous masses swarmed the broken pile of gargoyle with an impressive speed. After contact with the franticly moving globs, the gargoyle almost instantly dissolved into a mess of greenish gore and clumps of flesh left on a skeletal frame. Jake backed away from the scene, shuddering, as the memory of nightmares he experienced after watching the movie "The Blob" at an early age.

Jake quickly and silently took off in search for a safe area to get his head on straight and hopefully to avoid a fate similar to that of the gargoyle.

His legs seemed to be moving on their own, running without feeling and in a direction unknown to him. He was lost; he had no idea where he was, but he couldn't stop running. It was a mix of fear and adrenaline, both in doses larger than he'd ever experienced before in his life.

Jake finally caught himself, and staggered to a stop. He gasped, recognizing he was out of breath and hadn't even realized it. He'd never felt so alive, but with every passing second he could feel his high fading away as he caught his breath. His logic returned, and he took a moment to think to himself and frowned. What the hell am I running from?

Jake shook his head and with it, the last of his thoughts of the experience. He was exhausted, his hand was throbbing (and probably infected), he was acting irrationally, and he needed a place to rest so that he could get his head on straight.

He soon found himself sitting beside a menacing tree with a wicked-looking face that he wasn't sure whether had been carved that way or grown naturally. The face gave the impression of having once been alive, but seemed to be inanimate. Staring off into the distance at nothing in particular, the female mage with a male consciousness became lost in thought.

Unbidden images from his 'normal' life came to the surface and caused an uncharacteristic longing for something as simple as the chair in his room. From anybody's perspective other than my own, it would look like I had some kind of biological dependency to that chair. It's my cocoon, my shell - it's my God damned chair, and I'm always sitting in it. He smirked. His life was such a simple thing, mostly free of responsibility; it was fairly sedentary. He did little he didn't want to do, and when he did have to do something, it was usually at his own pace and discretion. Closing his eyes, he let himself drift with an almost dream sequence quality, back to the morning this all began. It had been slightly chilly that day and the clouds cast the usual foreboding over his mood.


"But I knew them! Not just recognized in passing or they looked similar, I knew their names, and on some other level that I can't explain, I knew them."

A look of helpless bewilderment suffused Vyerna's features with such intensity that the young Draenei Mage she was speaking to quickly grabbed a chair and helped her sit down. Pulling up one herself, she sat facing her and took her shaking hands in hers.

"Tell me again of the vision you had before all this occurred, young priestess," she asked, her intonation and lilting accent having a calming effect on the distraught Night Elf. Taking a shuddering breath with amber eyes blinking back tears, Vyerna relayed as much of the vision as she could to her long-time friend. Leaving out no detail and feeling, she included the 'second voice' in her head that she had heard and what she knew about the two Horde interlopers that had suddenly appeared in the quiet town of Goldshire.

Tilting her head with a quizzical look, her glowing blue eyes blinking slowly, Ravenbear sat back in her chair.

"That doesn't make sense," she said almost to herself.

"What doesn't?" Vyerna asked, looking confused.

"Members of the Horde don't run from a fight unless they are severely outnumbered, a trait I respect in them, and they would never call off one of their pets if they were. It is a basic tactic to sacrifice them as a distraction while they escape." She shook her head. "No, something about this is very strange and your vision is definitely tied to this occurrence somehow."

Her eyes became unfocused as she recalled the events with a new perspective, and the Priestess nodded. "I was so caught up in everything that was happening, I never even thought of that. You're right, especially the one I know as Radamantis. His kind, the Forsaken, is well known for their viciousness when they deal with humans in any form. Yet, he was reluctant to approach the battle at all, and I believe he actually advised his Tauren counterpart to flee with him."

They both remained silent for a few moments, pondering the events and their meaning to each of them looking for some solution. Looking up at the blue-skinned Draenei, Vyerna remembered again why she trusted the woman and the members of her race. Even with their alien appearance, the sweeping horns, tail, hooves, and goat-like legs, lent itself to their straightforward and open attitudes of acceptance. Life was a simple thing to them; it just was what it was. It happened the way it happened, and the reasons played themselves out to those that took the time to see them. They never jumped to conclusions about a situation and tried to always see all sides (time permitting, of course) before taking action.

Vyerna was one of the first on Azeroth to meet the recently displaced Draenei when their ship, the Exodar, crashed in the Azuremyst Isles. After much confusion and trepidation on both sides, the new residents of Azeroth agreed to join the forces of the Alliance. The Blood Elves became a part of the faction that the Alliance struggled against, even if they had joined for no other reason than hating their enemies. During this initial meeting, the much younger Vyerna had found a Draenei female among the wreckage, broken and dying, and had used what little abilities she had to save her life and nurse her back to health. During the next few months, the two became fast friends and could hardly be separated. It wasn't long before all the Draenei were called to Exodar and given assignments of their own in the ongoing struggle, and Ravenbear was no exception in that situation. She had chosen the powers of a spell caster and had not fallen short in her superiors' expectations. Over the years they both kept in touch as much as they could, but with a war on and their societies being so different, they barely got to see each other. The visit to the Exodar by Vyerna only reaffirmed the severity of the situation.

Seeing the Night Elf staring at her, Ravenbear mistook the searching look on her face to be an unspoken question.

"Well, regardless of what we can come up with, we are going to need help from a more learned source. I will speak to the Prophet Velen and see what he can make of this. You should also seek out your own superiors and see what you can find. As soon as I know anything, I will contact you." Her face cemented into a confidence that reassured Vyerna and helped to bolster her own confidence.

"Yes, that is a good plan. I will go to seek out Malfurion Stormrage in Moonglade and see what he can make of all this."

The Draenei stood, her robes rustling, and grabbed the staff leaning against the wall. Her eyes swung back to her friend with a look of caring and warmth.

"Travel safe, my friend, and let us hope that we can make some sense of this."


"So most of the House is out on various duties, attempting to make some sort of headway against the Burning Legion and their associates," Morticide explained as they walked though the Drag to the Valley of Wisdom.

"House?" Masharret asked, here eyebrows creased in confusion.

"Yes, the House of Exiled, to which you belong; it is one of the Primary Houses within the Horde. Thrall himself came up with the idea, one where individuals could find a commonality with others of like mind. Each of the Houses takes on a primary goal against the enemy and has their own internal system of government." As he spoke, he gestured nonchalantly with his hands in a very human manner. Then, just as indifferently, he pulled a burrowing insect from his arm and flicked it to the dirt covered street.

Covering her disgust with a cough, Masharret took in her surroundings as Morticide continued. As his voice gargled out more information, she noticed immediately that the buildings weren't as she had remembered them; there seemed to be more of them, compartmentalized upward from the bases of each main building.

Living quarters, she realized. Well that makes sense; they all need somewhere to live.

While scanning the buildings, a sense came over her that she couldn't quite place – a pressure at the back of her skull. It seemed to come from the buildings themselves in a slow pulse that washed over her, a seething frustration that combined with a metallic taste in the back of her mouth. She could almost see a flashing grid of current that ran from building to building, creating a matrix of energy overlay. She envisioned the small park in downtown Vancouver, dwarfed by the Granville Island Hotel behind it, overlapping the clay and wood dwellings in which an entirely fantastical populous dwelled.

What am I seeing here? She reflected on the emanations of confusion that seemed to swirl deep inside, as if from a source that was not her own.

It took a few moments before she became aware that the other two had stopped ahead of her and were waiting.

"My apologies," she pronounced with particular care and a slight nod as she gathered her robes and moved to catch up. "Some details are still slow in resurfacing."

Morticide gave a smile. "No apologies necessary, although this isn't a common occurrence; the use of high magics can be a very dangerous and fickle business. It is not unheard of that one could lose certain mental faculties if the conditions are not just right or interrupted at a crucial point."

Shaking her head slightly as she caught up with the pair, Masharret found that her sense of surrealism ebbed slowly the more she was around them.

"What was it you were saying?" She smiled apologetically.

With a smile, one of clear patience, Morticide resumed his stride and diatribe.

"I had begun to list some of the current operations currently in progress. We sent Princess Gasalyn to Lights Hope Chapel in the Eastern Plaguelands to see if she could gather some support from some of the factions there. We have high hopes that the Cenarion Circle will join us as well as the Argent Dawn. With her regal standing and ample conciliatory abilities, I believe Gas will receive good news from that division."

Masharret stopped short almost causing Safia to run into her.

"Gas?! As in Gasbag?"

He chuckled, the sound mimicking the dry rustling of crumpled paper and tin foil.

"Well very few people call her that to her face as she detests the melding of her family name with her proper one, Gasalyn Bageren." The first name was spoken with a soft G, making it sound like Jasalyn. "Hence the name Gasbag; you can see how she could dislike that title, being a diplomat." His knowing grin was meant to be friendly and convey the humor of the joke, but it still just looked ghoulish to Shelly, and as he turned to resume walking she shuddered. "But it is good to see you recognize her; there may be a quicker recovery then you imagine."

"Ja, Marett," Safia pronounced her name with the emphasis on the last syllable, making it sound like her name was something used to hold hair in place. "You not be callin' de princess dat wan she comin'. She bein' royalTAY and be wantin' respect." The last said with a quick, definitive nod.

"I understand; it was just unexpected to hear hi- her name and have it mean something." Morticide grunted an affirmative with a nod of his own and continued, motioning for her to follow.

"We sent Nutharen and Radamantis to scout Stormwind and the outlaying provinces for updates on the allied movements. Well, Rad will be doing the scouting as he…"

"…is the rogue," Masharret finished the sentence with a grin spreading across her face. "Yes, I remember him as well. I assume Nutharen's nickname is Nut as well and has a raptor as a pet."

"Ja," Safia chimed in with a snigger. "Oreo, he call 'im. War he got dat name, I be likin' to know."

That statement caused something to stir in the back of Masharret's mind, something insistent, but with no frame of reference other than the name and how she knew it, so she couldn't fathom what it might be.

"An interesting name no doubt," Mort continued. "I have often wondered that myself, Safia. Now, getting back to the house members; the list is extensive, and it would take too long to tell you where they all were and I would have to consult the duty roster for them all anyway. The other important one I do remember though is the group we sent to Mechanar to retrieve a valuable artifact there."

"You mean in Netherstorm?" Masharret shook her head, another of the familiar places from the game made real slamming home the insanity of her situation.

"Is there another? Morticide asked with a hideous grin. "Yes the one in Netherstorm, and hopefully we sent a powerful enough group; the artifact is a very important one and could make all the difference."

"What is it?" she asked hurriedly, curiosity overcoming Masharret's overwhelmed sensibilities.

"The Sun Eater – it is a sword of great power and, in the right hands, can even kill the most powerful demons. With any luck Shmeegun, Rhok, and the others will be able to retrieve it and get back without losing anyone."

Masharret stopped once more; a look of amusement mixed with amazement caused a battle to play itself out under the skin of her face.

"You sent Shmee to Mechanar? Who is the healer?"

"Rainfendi and Rhok both went to augment each other, why?"

"Nothing, just… nothing."

If Shmee were here right now, he would be giving me the finger, she thought with a smile.

Another thought occurred to her at that moment, "I'm curious Morticide. I have the ability to summon with help yes?"

"Yes, if you wish to summon someone, we need only get to the circle and cast the spell."

"Circle?"

"Yes, we have three in Orgrimmar and four in the Undercity. I'm not sure how many are in Thunder Bluff as I almost never go there. Do you know, Safia?"

"Dey have four der too, I be tinkin'." Her accent was so thick that Masharret had to concentrate to make out what the tusked female was saying.

"Well, where is the nearest one to here then?"

The Undead warrior motioned vaguely in front of him. "There is one right in Thrall's outer chamber as a matter of fact, which is convenient since that is where we are headed."

"Thrall," Masharret felt a slight panic form in her belly, "why are we going there?"

"It be wer we be getting' all de report from dem dat be out huntin' and such." Safia chimed in as if Masharret should already know this.

"Yes," Morticide nodded as if to himself. "All reports of the progress of what transpires outside these walls comes and goes through the Valley of Wisdom and Grommash Hold. Many people contribute great effort to continually keep us informed and conversely inform others about all that occurs throughout the realms of Durotar, the Eastern kingdoms, and Outland; an intricate network made of many races, including some allied forces." Morticide smiled.

"Do not look so surprised," he responded to Masharret's look of awe. "There are some sympathetic humans left from the Great War who see that working together against a common foe is a more sensible action than all this fighting. They understand that a constant battle only helps the demons in their conquest of Azeroth. The difficulties actually lie with some of our own races; The Burning Blade and others of their ilk who continually try to disrupt and cause general chaos among our ranks are just one of the many obstacles we must face on a day to day basis to keep this all from falling to pieces."

Suddenly, Morticide stopped and stood looking at Masharret almost expectantly.

"What?"

"We are here," he answered simply with a sweep of his boney hand.

Looking up, she saw the familiar buttresses and balustrades of the front of Thrall's fortress. She had been so absorbed with Morticide's monologue that it had been as if a bubble had formed around the three of them that had just dissolved, and the sounds of all the beings coming and going around her broke like a wave crashing on the shore. She swayed slightly on her feet, and Safia put a hand on her shoulder to steady her.

"You be feelin' ok?" She asked worriedly.

She put a hand to her face. "'Yes, I'm ok; just a bit of vertigo. This has been quite a lot to… remember."

"Are you sure you want to continue with your plan of summoning?" Morticide grated.

"Yes, I'm sure. I believe that if I can talk to one of the others that you have spoken of, it might be just what I need to clear the rest of this up for me and get me back to normal." She kind of laughed at her last statement.

"Wat you be laughin' at?" Safia asked, a quizzical look causing her tusks to protrude more prominently from her jaw.

She shook her head. "Nothing important; I'm just giddy I guess."

Back to normal, she grinned. That has a whole new meaning, now doesn't it!

"Well, who did you have in mind for the summoning?" Mort asked as they continued up the steps past a myriad of Trolls, Orcs, and Taurens, all fantastically dressed and now part of the 'normal' Masharret had to adjust to.

"I believe that Gas… alyn," she stuttered, catching herself, "would probably be the most logical choice, as her mission wouldn't be put in jeopardy if she left suddenly."

"Good point," Morticide agreed. "And no one else would be put in danger if she left as well. I see your common sense is certainly well intact." He smiled at that last.

"Thank you," she nodded graciously. "Now where do we get this started?"

"Right here," Safia gestured toward a circular depression in the floor ahead. A beautifully woven rug covered the entire circumference of the ring that was two steps below the floor they stood on. The base was dull sepia, interwoven with a cornucopia of vibrant color depicting no particular scene, yet offering a feeling of freedom and a scent of wide open plains.

"How will she know when we are summoning her?"

Morticide tilted his head and sighed with slight exasperation. "She will simply see the gate and us on the other side."

"Oh." Masharret knew that if she could blush at that moment she would be roasting them all from the heat.

"Now just think of Gasalyn, and begin the spell. We will join in as the gate starts to form," Mort assured her.

Masharret began to feel panic again. Wait; I don't know how to cast any spell! But a second voice seemed to join with hers almost as soon as the thought finished, and words like spun silk began to issue forth from her. Her movements were not her own as she began to weave and sway, arms upraised, and she could feel the tingle as a glow enveloped her. The pulse and ebb of magic flowing through her body was ecstatic and frightening at the same time. All at once, she knew two things beyond any doubt: the first was that the magic she used drained her of energy, and that she would have to rest after any extensive use; and the second – the more disturbing revelation – was that she was not alone in her body.