8

The Battle, the End, and the Beginning

It was an impressive sight to see so many Horde and Alliance flying together as we passed over the Blasted Lands toward the Dark Portal. The sheer power of the group aside, it was heartening to see the combined effort of two long time enemies working together, even if it was a situation of necessity. As we passed through the gates, Thrall signaled to us to veer off and take our separate route to the mountain top know as the Throne of Kil'jaeden. With a salute from Wolfgorr on his ethereal blue Netherdrake, we all pulled the rains of our respective mounts and adjusted our course. Up ahead I could see the spitting columns of fire and cracked red clay that covered the landscape of Hellfire Peninsula. Off to the right, towering over a Horde outpost below, were the craggy peaks of the Throne, and I knew that in the center of those jagged stones rested a valley filled with fire, twisted denizens of evil, and the Demon Lord Kazzak.

We landed on the southern edge and were greeted with the telltale clash of battle as the first wave began. Explosions of energy lit the sky and sent showers of dust and debris careening over our heads and down the side of the cliffs. Kazzak's booming voice roared out insults and laughter punctuated with grunts of pain as a hit was scored. Wolfgorr quietly reviewed the plan with all of us only once and assigned everyone a position for movement. Placing the rogue in the lead, he would follow with the Tauren behind him and then Masharret and me. Protective spells were cast just as the second wave flew overhead, and a new crescendo of battle sound was reached as they made short work of the lesser beings that followed the Demon Lord. I smiled slightly as I heard the familiar sounds of an Ice Storm being cast by Jaina Proudmoor and almost felt bad for his minions... almost. Then there was no time for thought as Radamantis disappeared over the embankment and the rest of us quickly followed.

I almost stumbled when I saw the other side.

The unbelievably immense size of the opponent we faced startled me, and battle raged around him at heights of ferocity that I had never dreamed could exist. The magic that was being used by both the demon and his attacker had, in just these few moments, built to such intensity that the air was charged with it. It made simple movement seem like I was hurrying through a cloud of wasps that had no mass or substance, yet their buzzing, insect anger had enough force to slow you down. Concussive shockwaves of heat, light, and sound mixed and exploded with shouts and bellows of rage and pain. At one point, while trying to stay focused on just Masharret's back in an attempt to remain sane, I caught a glimpse of Thrall. Through the pillars that were the demon's legs, I could see the arc of lightning that erupted from the end of his war hammer. In that flash of brilliance, his face showed his jaw almost distended in a bellow of rage and eyes that burned with the bloodlust of the Orcish race. Had I not seen and known the other side of the Horde leader, I could see how he struck fear and awe into his opponents.

The second group had done its job with clockwork efficiency as I stepped over and around the remains of numerous demonic and other unrecognizable corpses. One of the huge Fel Reavers still stood, but it was staggering and obviously unable to withstand the punishment it was receiving for very much longer. Amongst the bodies, the noise of battle, and the stench of death, I was beginning to feel that familiar feeling that I had experienced in the Mechanar building within the pit of my stomach. I was just about to ask my host how much further we had to go when suddenly we were there.

Radamantis was already standing by the stone and steel cage that held Vyerna, and she was pointing to something I couldn't yet see. Following her finger, I saw Gasalyn standing next to a huge pulsing blue stone that was set in an ornate, golden, four pronged stand. She placed her hands upon the artifact while Harley and Rad struggled to release the Night Elf. Masharret moved to help them while I saw Wolfgorr positioning himself for his attack. Shmee moved to join Gasalyn in her work with the stone when I caught a glimpse of something from above the cage itself.

Alerting the mage, I asked him to get higher so we could see what it was, and he quickly found a stone to hop upon. As the sight of the wraith-like form of my wife within her own prison came into view, I heard Vyerna faintly through the cacophony say something about the pulsing crystal and yell a word that sounded like she was coughing and spitting at the same time. Gasalyn placed her hands on the Void Stone and repeated the word, causing a rush of wind and a gateway to open behind it. All of this was enough to catch the attention of our enemy and cause all hell to break loose as he roared with surprise.

Seeing the progression of the events taking place, the demon wheeled and in sheer malice, slammed his hand down on the top of the cage. The crystalline prison of energy that held my wife popped with a puff of glass like shards, and Shmeegun grabbed his head as I screamed incoherently with pure disbelief and rage. Without thought, I pushed forward and began casting everything my host had at the demon. The unexpected onslaught of magic I threw at him caught him off guard, and he staggered backward a step.

Taking advantage of the moment, Wolfgorr ran full tilt at the monstrous being and leapt, Suneater raised above his head with its blade forward, and buried the weapon deep into Kazzak's chest. The earsplitting sound that followed that event was not so much a roar as it was a natural disaster. The Orc warrior was thrown violently away from the demon as a blast of light, heat and energy pulsed outward like a nuclear detonation. Everything nearby was flattened to the ground as a thunderous roar of pain and rage burst from demonic lungs. Everything slowed and became muted as my vision blurred from the impact. I felt someone grab me and turned drunkenly to see a bloodied and battered Harley pulling me up and toward the portal Gasalyn had opened. Stumbling behind him, I watched Kazzak thrashing about, minions and foes scattering in all directions, as he grabbed the hilt of the sword buried in his chest. Too small for his gargantuan fingers to grasp and it's magic causing sparks to shower down his torso from every contact with his demonic flesh, he was unable to do anything other than cause himself more damage.

I turned back to the portal to see Radamantis with a battered Vyerna in his arms jump toward the shimmering doorway. There was a flash of light at the moment of contact, and I shielded my eyes. When my vision cleared I saw the two of them on the ground in front of the portal and my heart sank. Behind them Kazzak had dropped to his knees and was about to fall directly on top of where they were. I tried to yell to them, but Harley pulled me once more and ran toward the portal. I wanted to scream to him that it didn't work and that we needed to get out of there when I heard Shmee in my head.

It been an honor knowin ya, Marc.

Then we hit it, and I felt a rush of violent wind. The last thing I saw was the massive body of the demon falling towards us before everything went black.


Kazzak awoke disoriented, his thoughts scrambled. He felt weak and quickly realized he was bound with his arms crossed over his chest. Some sort of garment encased his upper body, enveloping him in a strong white cloth material. His surroundings were equally white and the room he was in was nothing like he had ever seen. It was a box by all accounts; four walls a ceiling and floor, all covered in what looked like symmetrically stuffed cushions. One wall had a small opening in it and seemed to have the shape of a door in its center.

Struggling to get himself to his feet in the confining garment took a few minutes during which the demon saw that the body he was in was no longer his own. He was now supplanted in the frail form of a human, an older male from what he could tell.

They will pay dearly for this... the demon lord thought, a glimmer of rage beginning to form behind his eyes. A few more minutes and he had successfully gotten his balance and made his way to the small opening and looked out. He couldn't make out too much other than a supremely clean-looking hallway with more doors and their small openings, which he found, were covered with some clear hard material.

Suddenly a face was there, benign and wearing spectacles of some form the fiend had never seen, staring back at him.

"Back away from the door please, Mr. Beckket," the muffled voice came through the door.

Kazzak growled low in his throat. "Who are you to tell me what to do, human."

"Either you back away, or we will have to sedate you, Mr. Beckket. The choice is yours." The voice worked its way thought the door again.

Kazzak took a few moments trying to understand the situation while glaring at the bespectacled face in the tiny window. He could see the complete look of superiority there and knew right away that whoever it was, they were in charge at the moment. He might not have understood what was going on, but he was not stupid. Much as it galled him, he followed the human's request and stepped back.

The door opened and a large man in a white uniform came in before the skinny one with the strange eyewear. He stepped to the side, looking wary and alert, while the one in charge merely stood a few steps in looking at him with a detached curiosity.

"And how are we today, Mr. Beckket?" The condensation in his voice was clear, and it annoyed Kazzak to no end.

"How dare you address a demon lord in this manner?!" he snarled.

"Demon lord now, this is a new one." The doctor raised an eyebrow.

"I am Lord Kazzak, ruler of Outland, and no puny human will keep me restrained."

He began to recite a guttural spell, the raw demonic language causing the frail throat through which it passed to choke and bleed. He forced it to complete the passage with undeniable will, coughing out the last few syllables.

Nothing happened.

His eyes widened in complete shock. The spell was a simple one to him, and there was no way he could have mis-intoned it.

"Interesting sounds, Mr. Beckket, but I'm afraid I have heard children make scarier ones." An infuriating smile crossed the white coated figures face.

Desperation gripped Kazzak like an icy hand on his demon heart, and he looked at the large man flanking him, catching his eye and throwing all of his formidable will into a command.

"Kill him!" he roared, causing his already raw throat to pain him even more.

Something changed in the Orderly's expression, and he turned, grabbing the surprised doctor by the head with both hands and swung it completely around with a sickening wet crunch. As the lifeless body dropped to the floor, the Orderly stood over it for a moment, breathing heavily through a grin.

Looking up, the Orderly seemed to see his master for the first time and looked questioningly at Kazzak. The demon locked in the human body spoke, blood clogging his words and making them sound wet and garbled.

"Release me or suffer his fate," he chuckled slightly at this next irony. "The choice is yours."

As the man began unbuckling the harnesses of the straight jacket, Kazzak felt something wet on his face and looked down to see fresh droplets of blood slowly gathering on his crossed arms, feet and the floor below.

This body is too frail to contain my essence for long, he realized. It will weaken quickly any time I try to use my powers and soon expire.

The last of the buckles came undone and the jacket fell away. The man, who had undone it, hastily gathered it up and stood there unsure what to do. Kazzak settled the dilemma for him. Grabbing a hold of his head with both hands and placing his face within millimeters, he whispered a few guttural words then a sentence.

"Show me the way out of this place. I have much to do and little time."

The demon allowed a smile to crease his borrowed face as his mind dove into his victim's memories, giving the other man no time to even scream as his brain was burned. Synapse by synapse, the alien energy of the magic coursed over the grey tissue, absorbing what it needed and leaving a smoldering wasteland in its wake. When he was done, he found himself even weaker and realized that the body he inhabited deteriorated that much faster when he tapped into the power.

Looking to his newly acquired minion as it drooled onto the floor he grew thoughtful for a moment, and then released one side of the head to get a firm grip on the Orderlie's shoulder. With a quick lunge, he bit into the neck of the leaning behemoth; had there been someone there to witness the event, they would have seen the surge of energies pass quickly and violently from the former patient into the Orderly. He quickly left Mr. Beckket's corpse, blood slowly draining from every hole in his head and soaking the padding beneath, to sink down and lie on the floor next to the big man's rigid form. Eyes shut tight and teeth clenched, the Orderly jerked and twitched for only a few more seconds before the eyes opened and a contented sigh emanated from a broadening smile.

"Much better," the demon spoke with satisfaction as he stretched the larger frame and cracked his new neck. "Yes this vessel should last much longer." With that, the Demon turned and walked out of the room. Closing the door and locking it with the keys at his belt, he went directly to the guard station down the hall and, using the borrowed identity, informed them that the good doctor was going to be a while and had asked not to be disturbed.

Three days – that's how long we had been gone. A lifetime of experience that, for me, lead to an eternity of sorrow. When I came too, I was exactly where I had fallen in my room, and the computer was still on. Bleary eyed and stiff, I blinked a few times and rubbed my eyes to clear my vision. The monitor showed my Warcraft character Shmeegul. The logout screen where he stood backed with orange light, its pixilated features looking much less real since I had come to know his face. The digital clock on the dresser glowed red, and the numbers read 6:23. Being that my room was in the basement, AM or PM was interchangeable, and I jumped to my feet remembering Tanya was still upstairs. Pounding up the stairs, slipping twice and cracking my shins, I raced to the living room to find her still lying on the floor in a ball.

"Tanya!" I shouted as I fell to my knees beside her and felt for a pulse. The beat was steady, and I sighed with relief, but she still didn't wake up. I shook her and was about to yell her name again when my cell phone rang from inside my pocket. Pulling it out, I saw the name on it was Shelly and answered quickly.

"Shell? You ok?"

"Marc! Yeah, sore and hungry, but fine. Is Tanya ok?" Her voice was elated, and I understood the feeling.

"She's alive but not awake yet. I'm right next to her. Have you heard from..." Right then, the phone beeped, and I pulled it back to see that Jake was calling, and I heard Shelly say hang on and that Harley was calling her. I looked up at Tanya's monitor and saw the talk program Ventrilo, was still active and grabbed her headset while telling Shelly to do the same. In moments, we were all on together and talking about what had happened while I sat next to my unconscious wife.

The others continued to ask about her as we talked, and I explained that she looked ok; her breathing regular, her color normal, she just wouldn't wake up. I shook her gently every few minutes and called her name to no avail and finally decided to get her to the emergency room. Darkness outside told me that the clock downstairs had been showing me PM, and that meant less traffic. I carried her to the car and, after strapping her in, drove as fast as I dared to the hospital, all the while thinking of how I could explain what had happened. When I arrived, I simply said she had collapsed, which was the basic truth, and they rushed her into a room to begin tests.

They called it a coma, a term that always seemed synonymous with brain dead, and said they could find no evidence of how her condition had come to be. After weeks of tests and agonizing visits from all of us, the doctors continued to be baffled. I knew what was wrong, but there was no way to explain it, and even if I could, I had no idea how to help her. The others were as supportive as they could be and visited Tanya every chance they could, but they also knew the hopelessness of the situation. I knew my wife did not wish to be kept alive if there was no hope of her being a whole human being, and I shared her wish, but I refused to give up just yet. I had lived through all the hardships in my own life and experience ones belonging to someone else. If there was any lesson I had learned above all others, it was that everything works out one way or another. It may not be the way you expect it, and you may have to actively look for the solution, but it all works out in the end. With that thought firmly in my mind, I grasped my wife's hand and, for a moment, imagined I felt it tighten slightly for a second. Right then the hairs on the back of my neck stood up like someone was watching me, and I swung my head around to find nothing but the corner of the darkened room.

"I'll find you again, Tanya," I whispered as I turned back. "I have to."

And far off in the deep chasm of the unknown, seeing things unfolding precisely as he planned, Sargeras smiled.