Allied Races: WotLK Edition

Alliance: Frostborn Dwarves

Available Classes: Warrior, Hunter, Mage, Rogue, Priest, Paladin

Racial Abilities:

  • Breath of the North Wind: Breathe a cone of ice that deals X Frost damage to enemies with 8 yards. Enemies damaged are slowed by 25% for 2s, and any movement enhancing effects are canceled. (2m CD)
  • Resist the Elements: Reduce Fire/Frost damage taken by 1%.
  • Cold Fury: Maximum resource increased by 5%.
  • Stormcrest Salvation: Instantly summon a Stormcrest Eagle to slow your falling speed for 2m. (10m)

Racial Mount:

  • Ground: Frostmaw Warbear
  • Flying: Stormcrest Warbird

Horde: The Taunka

Available Classes: Warrior, Hunter, Shaman, Priest, Monk

Racial Abilities:

  • The Natural Order: Experience gained from killing Aberrations and Undead increased by 20%.
  • Spearfishing: Fishing skill increased by 15, and successful casts have a chance to provide additional fish.
  • Whalebone Whistle: Summon your fishing buddy Kub’iak, who will sell fishing equipment to you and buy your junk for 3m. (30m)
  • Tundra Running: After a brief pause, take on a distance running stance that scales with your Riding skill.

Racial Mount:

  • Ground: Tundra Blackpelt (Rhino)
  • Aquatic: Pygmy Frostsnapper (Ice Turtle)

Remixing The Wibbly-Wobbly Time Mechanisms of WoD

So… what was the initial conceit of Warlords of Draenor as an expansion?


Kairozdormu, having learned some new ways to manipulate time due to his research on the Timeless Isle, colludes with Wrathion, who is intent on creating a threat on Azeroth that will prepare the mortal races for the impending invasion of the Burning Legion. They plot to free the captive Garrosh Hellscream (under trial for his war crimes) and place him on Draenor in the past, where he’ll use his connections to the Old Horde to build a force that can truly challenge Azeroth in the present. Garrosh, refusing to be controlled, kills Kairozdormu but proceeds with forming the Iron Horde and invading Azeroth through a time-altered Dark Portal. In response, the Alliance and Horde send expeditions back through the Dark Portal to disable it, then begin a campaign to dismantle the Iron Horde on their home turf of the old Draenor.


So… part of what made this whole conceit screwy was the part where despite traveling to Draenor’s past, nothing we did in the past would change the present. This was explained as traveling to an alternate version of Draenor’s past, with notable differences (Rulkan is alive, Garrosh was never born, etc.) being explained as “blades of grass” that were just a result of Kairozdormu finding exactly the right circumstances for the scenario he had planned.


The explanation held water for the most part, but it got worse when the Legion got involved. Because now we have this scenario where despite us going back to past-Draenor, the present day Legion is communicating with Gul’dan there, giving him tips on how to combat us. Because the Legion now exists outside time.

Which creates a lot of weird headaches about the nature of reality in the setting. For example: part of what we do in the expansion is go back and interact with the past version of Prophet Velen, even knowing that the present-day Velen is sitting in the Exodar on present-Azeroth. So at a single point in time, there are potentially an infinite number of Velens to interact with given all of these alternate versions that exist (and we know they exist, because Kairozdormu scrolled through all of them to find the best one for his plot). Yet the Legion is explained as existing entirely outside the context of that, in the Twisting Nether. There is only ONE Kil’jaeden, ONE Archimonde, and they’re running the Legion. What does that do in alternate timelines where Kil’jaeden and/or Archimonde didn’t bow to Sargeras? Or the ones where Velen DID?


The conceit of the expansion requires us to go to Old Draenor, but the relevance to the modern Azeroth means that a present threat needs to exist. That’s why the Burning Legion is that threat (and it’s why Legion as an expansion was predicated off the events of Warlords) but making the Legion exist outside time in order to facilitate that is pretty screwy.

So… how can we remix the conceit to make more sense?


Using what he’s learned from his research on the Timeless Isle, Kairozdormu stages a coup in the Caverns of Time, attempting to kill Nozdormu and other leaders of the Bronze Dragonflight in the process. Rifts in time open, with orcs and Infinite dragons appearing to back Kairoz. Chromie and Khadgar join forces with a group of heroes to beat back Kairoz’ forces, then pursue him through one of the rifts.

On the other side of the rift, the heroes discover what Kairoz has done: he’s gone back to the past of Draenor with Garrosh, who has created the Iron Horde, while Kairoz himself has corrupted numerous bronze dragons into Infinites, who together are using their power to secure Kairoz’ hold on this point in time. While Khadgar and the heroes stay to combat the orcs and Kairoz, Chromie returns to the present to aid Nozdormu is securing the present timeline to prevent Kairoz’ interference from destroying reality.

Khadgar and the heroes succeed in destroying the Chronal Portal connecting Old Draenor to the present. Weakened, Kairoz withdraws, leaving Garrosh and his Iron Horde with the task of crushing the invaders from Azeroth so they can renew their assault on the Caverns of Time in the present. Khadgar’s quick thinking (and knowledge of Draenor from his past experience there) allows him to escape with the heroes, along with some newfound allies, to begin a campaign to retake Draenor from the Iron Horde and stop Kairozdormu.

Chromie rejoins the heroes, stating that all of the dragonflights in the present have joined their remaining power together with Nozdormu in order to protect the timeway from being corrupted, but they cannot hold out forever. Time is of the essence.


The core difference is this: we are in Draenor’s past, but the reason why the present isn’t being impacted is because Nozdormu and all of the dragonflights are ACTIVELY WORKING to make sure it doesn’t. The sense of urgency and impact on the present is because if we fail, the present Azeroth is wiped from reality when the timeway adjusts.

The rest of Warlords proceeds mostly as written, with a few tweaks:

  • Zaela’s takeover in UBRS is a last gasp of Garrosh’ MoP-era True Horde instead of part of his Iron Horde gambit. Wrathion is tangentially involved, since he’s trying to gather Nefarian’s research.
  • The end of the Everbloom dungeon doesn’t culminate in an assault on Stormwind, but instead on the player’s garrison.
  • Gul’dan and his Shadow Council were being used as fuel for the time portal, just as they were in the original scenario. However, we release them, setting up a three-way conflict between the Azeroth invasion, the Shadow Council, and the Iron Horde/Infinites.
  • Khadgar’s cat-and-mouse game with Gul’dan is intercut with Chromie’s objective of locating Kairoz’ lair and breaking the connection with Azeroth.
  • There are no blades of grass; the past we’re experiencing is the actual past, and any changes that take place are a result of Kairoz’ direct tampering.
  • The Legion Gul’dan is communicating with is the Burning Legion of that time, not the present day Legion. This is important later.

This allows the launch content and the 6.2 patch content to proceed as written, but then adds a critical third tier of raiding, where having defeated the Iron Horde and secured Draenor, we move against Kairozdormu’s Infinite Lair to break the connection between Old Draenor and present-day Azeroth, while also undoing everything Kairoz did to interfere with Draenor’s past.

When we defeat Kairoz and the Infinites, we’re told that Old Draenor should return to how it was before Kairoz started messing with it. We’re still able to access our garrison and Old Draenor’s content because game mechanics, but the big cinematic after killing Kairoz basically indicates that we go home. This prevents people from asking questions like “why isn’t Yrel/Grommash helping us fight the Legion?” or “why don’t we go to AU-Azeroth?”


However, that doesn’t mean that nothing from the expansion’s events comes forward.

A key part of Khadgar’s feud with Gul’dan is the part where Gul’dan is increasingly converting himself further and further into a demon in order to continue evading capture and maintain his fight against both Khadgar and Kairoz. Khadgar recognizes that if Gul’dan becomes a demon fully, he will be markedly more difficult to kill, and will be a distraction when the Azeroth invasion has to contend with the Infinites. So Khadgar refines his soul-trap into a soulstone that can be used to capture Gul’dan’s demonic essence, but it requires Gul’dan to be on the CUSP of becoming a demon.

Instead of Gul’dan being sucked into a portal during the Archimonde fight in Hellfire Citadel, Archimonde empowers Gul’dan, converting him to that cusp point. Khadgar springs into action, sealing Gul’dan within the soulstone and depriving Archimonde of his backup, allowing the heroes to defeat him.

As part of the events surrounding the raid on Kairoz and the Infinites, Cordana (having been turned to the Legion’s service by Gul’dan) steals the soulstone from Khadgar and flees back through the time portal into the present. Legion’s conceit (of Gul’dan returning to the Broken Shore and using the Tomb of Sargeras to open the rift) can then proceed as written.


This remix would have given us a third tier of content for Warlords, allowed the expansion as a whole to basically act as a Caverns of Time expansion (bookended by the fights with Kairoz), and would have sidestepped the problem of the Legion existing outside the pre-existing concepts of time travel that the franchise had already established. The notion of the Legion infinitely replenishing itself in the Twisting Nether can be preserved without the “outside time” component, since that’s a key element of what we’re doing against the Legion on Argus.

Moreover, making a more forceful point of showing Kairozdormu creating the Infinite Dragonflight puts that on display better than it was done in the short story. And combining that knowledge with an entire expansion where Nozdormu is channeling the remaining power of the dragonflights in order to keep present-day Azeroth preserved seeds the possibility of him eventually corrupting HIMSELF into Murozond. Because while we know that Nozdormu has foreseen his death, and that his death comes at the hands of Azeroth’s heroes after he has driven the Infinites in messing with time in key points, we’ve only seen one iteration of how that death takes place. Again, it’s seeding a future Murozond rematch.

So, that’s the concept. The conceit of Warlords upended a lot of stuff about the mechanics of the world of Warcraft in ways that weaken it structurally. Encapsulating it WITHIN those mechanics would have served to give the devs what they wanted (“let’s bring back all of these badasses from the RTS games for a rematch” + “let’s reimagine Draenor”) while also presenting the opportunity for a present-day threat for Azeroth and laying groundwork for future content (i.e. Nozdormu’s eventual corruption, Wrathion digging into Nefarian’s stuff, past-Gul’dan existing to enact Legion, etc.).

Tell me what you think.


As a response to last night’s horrific events in Las Vegas, I suspect that the narrative for this week will be dominated by the debate over gun control in the US. We’ve had this argument far too many times in recent years, but I have started to notice that when I get resistance to the idea of stricter gun controls, some typical responses get trotted out by people who don’t want stricter gun laws.

In the few hours I’ve been working on this, I’ve found counters for all of those responses that offer either a solid anecdotal account or extensive research and reporting. It’s by no means an exhaustive list, and I could easily spend a LOT more time compiling counters, but I need to salve my mental health and do something else.

So let’s get started:

“If you make guns illegal, only criminals will have them.”

The United Kingdom has stricter gun control laws than the US. People often point to the UK as an example and counter-example of the pros/cons of gun control in the US. So there’s this:

There’s more discussion to be had about black market availability of guns and how that factors into gun violence, of course, but the notion that “I have a perfectly valid civilian use for my gun” isn’t a reason for gun laws to be as lax as they currently are.

“If you take away my gun, I am defenseless.”

Crime is down, but gun ownership is up in the US because of the argument of self-defense. The two-fold cause is that a) the NRA wants to sell a product and b) our media industry has perpetuated a Pavlovian response when it comes to reporting violence, because they live off ratings and ratings go up when violent crime occurs somewhere, so they report it more.

“Guns are our protection against the potential tyranny of the government or military.”

This gets brought up a lot, and all of the arguments about the role of the Second Amendment and how it can/should be interpreted have been going around in circles for a long time. So it’s important to remember what the Founding Fathers considered a gun at the time they wrote it:

“We should be addressing mental health, not trying to take guns from law-abiding citizens.”

Funny you should mention that. (But it was a shitty rule.)

“We should arm more people, not fewer.”

How about them good guys with guns?

“‘Assault-style weapons’ is a misnomer used to flag perfectly reasonable weapons as more dangerous than they are.”

Let’s get our definitions straight. So yeah, I’ll buy that folks might be confused about what weapon does what and politicians latch onto talking points. That doesn’t change the fact that high-volume mags and semi-automatic fire is still pretty problematic from the “self-defense” position if you’re just walking into Wal-mart for milk and ammo.

“We need to do more research about gun violence before we fly off the handle making up new laws.” 

Oh but wait, the CDC can’t do that with federal funding, wow… So aside from the part where the NRA lobbies lawmakers to dissuade them from enacting gun control, they also lobby to prevent lawmakers from even asking a third party to run the math. It’s what they call a racket.

“We should be enforcing the existing laws on the books instead of making up new laws.”

Spoiler warning: the alleged gunman in Vegas appears to have adhered to local laws, had no notable prior criminal history, and while he was known to local law enforcement he wasn’t on any kind of watch list. It’s not clear yet if he had any history of mental illness.

And here’s a nice wall of data to look at, which assaults all of the above points in the context of the rest of the world.






Rosct (RAH-sht): Northern port town, servicing the seasonal Rashin nomads. Members of the five great Rashin tribes don’t make permanent settlements, but instead cycle between the seaport of Rosct and the mountaintop spiritual capital of Pahua Jihn. Each solstice and equinox is when the tribes cycle positions between five general areas:

  1. Rosct
  2. The cold coastlands north of Rosct
  3. The northern passes leading inland towards Pahua Jihn
  4. Pahua Jihn
  5. The warm southern passes leading to Rosct

Permanent residents of Rosct mainly consist of foreigners who have come to trade with the Rashin for the bounty of their travels, as well as as budding industry serving the needs of foreign converts to the Jihn faith making a pilgrimage to Pahua Jihn. The community in Rosct is known for being quite welcoming to travelers of all kinds but quite hostile to those who prey on pilgrims in particular.

Ercann (air-KAHN): River valley crossroad city, surrounded by farmland. Initially established as a trading post between the riverfolk and travelers along the old Imperial road, a budding community developed after someone learned that potatoes would grow to ludicrous size in the river valley soil. As riverboats (and later airships) made exporting the potatoes a more profitable endeavor, Ercann grew into a powerful city-state. Foreign gentry often paid a pretty penny to purchase country estates that were, in turn, quite profitable in terms of produce returns, so long as they were well-managed.

The more prominent estates around Ercann are called “caens.” It’s drawn from a riverfolk tradition about dowsing sites, but with a weird quirk: as Ercann boomed and these estates came into being, some builders established a trend of prefixing the name with “Caen ___” as a token of respect to the riverfolk traditions. The quirk is that any estates that didn’t have “Caen” in the name experienced all manner of ill-luck, from blights on the farmland to livestock deaths, and often fell into disrepair. In nearly every case, once a place was re-named a caen the land tended to recover over time. Notable caens include:

  1. Caen Tosca
  2. Caen ul’Erca
  3. Caen Boxer
  4. Caen Immakhaliduateva (so re-named by a foreign merchant who wanted to test the legend and somehow succeeded)



This is incomplete. Taking a break because hearing about a suicide always impacts my mood.

Role: Melee Support/Assassin?

Trait: Shards of Light
Yrel’s Basic Attacks deplete Shards of Light from her hammer. Various abilities and talents will grant her additional Shards of Light to empower her melee attacks.

Hammer of the Naaru (Q):
Yrel empowers her crystalline hammer with a Shard of Light. While at least one Shard of Light is active, Yrel’s Basic Attacks deal an additional 50% damage.

Judgment of Hope (W):
Yrel marks a target with the Judgment of Hope. When Yrel or her allies deal damage to the marked target, they gain life based on the damage dealt. Yrel can only mark a single target with Judgment of Hope at a time.

Avenging Wrath (E):
Yrel sprouts wings of light, charging forward and following up with a smashing attack. The first enemy struck during the charge will be carried along and take additional damage from the follow-up attack. Other enemies struck while Yrel is charging are knocked away. She is Unstoppable during the charge.

Heroic (R1): Call Vigilant
After a brief delay, Yrel summons Vigilant Maraad to aid her in combat. The Vigilant inflicts Judgment of Hope on enemy heroes within his initial impact area, then follows Yrel for 20 seconds, targeting her targets with AoE damage. Judgment of Hope expires when the Vigilant expires or is destroyed.

Heroic (R2): Divine Bulwark
Yrel calls down a wide dome of light centered on herself, which reflects 50% of the damage dealt by enemies within the shield or targeting allies within the shield. Allies within the shield are healed for a moderate amount and take 100% reduced damage from Basic Attacks while within the shield.



Crow says: So I’ve got an idea for a warrior healing spec.
Entirely Theoretical Team 2 Class Design Lead says: Oh no.
Crow says: Look, the D&D Warlord class was all about shouting healing into allies and directing them around the battlefield. That can totally work with a lot of Warrior’s existing tools to make a mobile frontline healer that weaves healing and absorbs into their own melee strikes and occasionally ping-ponging around the battlefield. And shouting at allies to get back up after they’re killed.
Entirely Theoretical Team 2 Class Design Lead says: why are there so many floors in this building WHY

Concept/Fantasy: Inspiration (Healer)

As frontline combatants, warriors have distinguished themselves as bulwarks able to withstand the most devastating blows, weapon masters who strike surgically to deal the greatest amount of damage to their enemies, or reckless berserkers who leap into the fray to maul their enemies into submission. Recently, a new kind of warrior has emerged; they lead their allies from the frontline, bolstering them against damage, directing their strikes as a group to where they’ll have the greatest impact, and even ordering fallen allies back into the fray.

Inspiration warriors are like other healers in that they have spells that cost mana in order to heal their allies, but they also still deploy rage like other warriors; they gain rage from taking and dealing damage, and they turn that into attacks that interact with their healing in different ways.

Similar to Discipline priests, Inspiration warriors are intended to have damage as a part of their rotation in order to optimize their healing. Unlike Discipline priests, though, that’s not a matter of damage conversion, where damage dealt is converted into healing. Healing improves the effectiveness of their attacks, while attacking supports their mana regeneration. They are certainly more aggressive healers, with greater mobility, but have to balance that against being positioned in melee.

Warrior (Inspiration) TL;DR

  • fight alongside the tank and melee allies while healing and attacking
  • use orders and shouts to support allies with health and absorption
  • resource/cooldown management very important

Offensive Abilities

Avenging Strike
Strike a melee enemy for X. Deals additional damage when the enemy is targeting an ally. Costs 30 Rage.

Dowsing Strike
Strike a melee enemy for X, recharging 2% of your max mana and applying Rend Mana to the target. Rend Mana stacks up to 5 times and lasts 5s. Gain increased mana regeneration based the number of Rend Mana stacks on the target.

Charge, Heroic Leap, & Heroic Throw
Inspiration Warriors retain these baseline abilities for moving around the battlefield, with some talents to modify them.

Healing Abilities

Focused Orders
Reduce the mana cost and cooldown of orders cast on the target of Focused Orders. If no other ally has your Focused Orders, the first order cast on an ally applies Focused Orders to that ally. You can toggle Focused Orders in order to apply it to a new target once every 30s.

Resilient Order
After 1.5 seconds, target is healed for x. 1.5s CD.

Bolstering Order
After 2.5 seconds, target is healed for a great amount. 2.5s CD.

Defiant Order
Dispel a Magic or Disease effect from an ally. 1.5s CD.

Marching Order (“walk it off ya pansy”)
Target ally is resurrected for 30s at 50% health. When Marching Order expires, the ally dies again (taking no durability damage) but is Exhausted and cannot be resurrected again until combat ends.

Brings a dead ally back to life with 35% life and mana. Cannot be cast in combat.

Valorous Shout
After 2.5s, heal the nearest six allies for X and reduce their damage taken by 10% for 10s. 2.5s CD.

Tactical Supremacy
Reduce the cooldown and mana cost of your mana spenders by 50% for 10s. 2m CD.

Fortification (passive)
When your heals overheal a target, the target instead gains an absorption shield equal to the overheal amount for the next 10s.

New Abilities



Invigorating Intercept
Charge to an ally and heal them for x. They take 30% less damage from the next attack made against them.

Victorious Cheer (replaces Victory Rush)
(Costs X mana) Heal all allies within 30 yards for 15% maximum health.  Only usable for 20 seconds after you or your Focused Orders target kills an enemy that grants honor or experience.

Heroic Leap heals nearby allies for x, and reduces the mana cost of your next mana-spender by 50%

Tier 5-1: Chant of Resilience
After casting Resilient Order, the next order cast within 6s also casts Resilient Order on the target for free.

Tier 5-2: Chant of Defiance
After casting Defiant Order, casting another order within 6s also casts Defiant Order on the target for 50% less mana.

Tier 5-3: Marching Chant
After casting Marching Order, casting another order within 6s extends the duration of Marching Order by 2s, but cost 50% more mana.

Rallying Cry (replaces Commanding Shout)
3m CD. Grant all party of raid members withing 30 yards an absorption shield equal to 10% max health for 10s and restores 25% of their primary resource.

Healing abilities build up stacks of Reprisal. Reprisal increases the number of Rend Mana stacks applied by Dowsing Strike to 2 and improves the damage of Avenging Strike by 100% per stack.

Concentrated Assault
Order your allies to concentrate their attacks on a single target. Attacks against the target heal a nearby injured target for a percentage of their missing health.

Mastery: Inspiring Strikes
Your mana-spenders has a chance to trigger a melee attack that deals 150% Physical damage to a nearby melee target and generates 5 Rage. Trigger chance increases based on Mastery.

Let me know what works and what doesn’t in the comments. (will be making some additional edits later, just wanted to get it up for feedback)


When: Four Years After the Dark Portal
Where: The golden fields of Westfall

Picking her first target was Tiffin’s least favorite part of waiting. The building adrenaline, the tension, the fear… it all made her mind race down little mental box canyons that distracted from the task at hand. She took a deep breath and blew it out slowly, keeping herself still on her shadowed bit of hillside, the crossbow loaded but her finger far from the trigger. Time to focus.

Someone who’s engaged with the group. When the task is to draw attention, it means you need to choose the person that everyone in the group is looking at, or at least has in the periphery. Every group has a talker, someone who’s trying to fill the drudgery of a patrol with entertainment of some kind. When you want to send a message, especially when that message is “look at me, i’m over here, killing you one by one,” then picking the one in the middle of talking about his last night’s escapades is a great way to do it.

Find the talker. This group was more cautious than the last one; five orcs rather than four, and three of them doing a passable job of actually surveying the fallow, dried-out fields around them. But the talker was right there in the front, and the green lunk next to him seemed completely engrossed in the story.

She went through other steps in her mind, keeping her movements slow so as not to give up her position too soon. Her eyes scanned the yellowed grass to get an idea of the wind. The sunlight was not a factor, though it was a bright, shiny Westfall day that belied her dark work.

Light forgive me. She squeezed the trigger, and her crossbow bolt flew off, arcing through the air, kissed by the wind.

The talker was mid-sentence when the bolt struck him through the head. He fell forward, carried slightly by the force of the bolt’s hit, and was dead when he hit the ground in front of his audience. The four other orcs go from shock to rage in under a breath. Tiffin was already sliding forward out of her perch and into the light when she heard them spot her.

Guttural shouts of rage followed her as she dashed at an angle down the hill. Give them quarry, and they’ll give chase. Getting them mad helped with forcing them to make mistakes, but as much as Vice and Hector made the orcs out to be thoughtless brutes, Tiffin insisted that they’re more clever than they seem. That’s why it wasn’t a matter of leading them into an obvious trap and hoping their rage blinds them to the clues; it was making them trap themselves.

Tiffin was not a tall girl for her age. The crossbow was heavy when she couldn’t shoulder it, a cinched sack of weighty steel bolts was troublesome even when strapped to the small of her back, and even the minimal leather jerkin wasn’t nothing when she needed to put down as much foot speed as possible. The orcs were twice her height and were crafted entirely out of muscle and rage, so it wasn’t even a contest about whether they could catch up, but when.

What the orcs saw was a human girl with a big crossbow running scared. They saw her turn her head to look back at them in terror, and then they see her ankle turn on a rock. They watch her tumble with a cry over the lip of a ridge that they knew sloped down towards a dried-out riverbed.

The four of them crested the ridge, expecting to see their wounded quarry on the ground. Instead, their quarry stood in the riverbed with her crossbow up, three other hunters with readied weapons alongside her, and before the orcs could stop their descent down the slope, the humans all fired once.

Only one orc was still alive when their bodies arrived at the bottom of the slope, and true to form, he was instantly up swinging with an oversized barbed mattock. His rampage was cut short, however, when Hector jumped off the rock he’d crouched behind and buried his axe in the orc’s shoulder. The orc went down in a heap, which Hector then victoriously stood atop to ensure his victim wouldn’t get a second wind.

Tiffin gave orders tersely as she walked towards Hector, and the other hunters moved immediately to their tasks. Hector, satisfied that the orc was good and dead, extracted his axe and moved to sit down and clean gore off his axe. He looked up as Tiffin approached, and spoke through the ready grin on his face. “Well met, rabbit.”

Tiffin wasn’t smiling. “They’re strengthening the patrols.”

Hector rolled his eyes. “You can’t take a moment to appreciate victory?”

One of the other hunters squealed as his assigned corpse reached up and grabbed him around the neck. Tiffin’s crossbow twanged, the bolt went thunk under the orc’s ear, and the hunter gasped for breath as he landed on the earth again.

Tiffin rounded on Hector. “It’s not victory until every single orc body is out of our city for good. Now listen: strengthening the patrols means they suspect trouble out here. We need a new plan. Picking off low-tier grunts isn’t a long-term strategy.”

Hector threw up his free hand in defeat. “You feel free to take that up with Vice. I just take orders.”

You should be taking orders from me. “Well, Vice ordered you along with us so we could haul the bodies back. I’ll keep an eye out.”

Hector gave a lazy salute, wisely choosing to not argue. Tiffin made sure her hunter was all right, then headed back up the ridge she theatrically tumbled down to lure the orcs into the trap.

It wasn’t the first time she’d done it, and she knew it wouldn’t be the last. But the orcs would get wise to the same trick if you played it on them enough times.

That’s why she chafed when Vice and Hector talked of the orcs as if they were merely brutes. We lost our kingdom to these brainless green bastards, so if they’re so stupid, what does that say about us?

She pushed the thought away and nocked another bolt, just in case.


This is what I do folks, this is my art

(words inspired by the art and earnest wonderfulness of Faebelina)

EXT – Wooded Cliffside. SKYCALLER FAEBELINA sits on the cliff, wind in her hair, smiling contentedly. SOMEONE haughtily clears her throat off-screen.

Faeb says: “?”

A GOBLIN appears. She is wearing shaman’s robes and has a rock in her hand. The ROCK appears to have a crude face scrawled on it with charcoal.

Goblin says: “I’m Glitzy Glimmerrock, acquisitions expert of the Earthen Ring! And YOU my friend are sitting on some parTICularly valuable merchandise!”

Faeb says: “What do you mean? It’s just this cliff underneath me.”

Glitzy holds up the Rock and says: “Well my friend here, this earth elemental, says that a vein of corrupted gold is centered on this cliff-face.”

Faeb says: “Forgive me for being suspicious, but goblins love blowing up landscapes for fun and profit and it looks like you just drew a face on that rock.”


Glitzy says: “And the fact that I’ll make a killing selling the gold as ingots in Undermine is entirely coincidental!”

Faeb says: “what?”
Allochthon says: “what?”
Glitzy says: “what?”

Whiteboarding: Capital City Refreshes

Train of Thought:

  • Step 1: Stormwind and Orgrimmar are pretty cool, but Suramar is the best city design ever.
  • Step 2: Suramar has World Quests, and World Quests are pretty dope.
  • Step 3: Suramar, like SW/ORG, has an instance nestled inside it.
  • Step 4: So what if we took faction capitals and expanded them to have level-scale-able World Quests and an instance?
  • Step 5: What if this was the catalyst for reworking the draenei and blood elf starting zones/capital cities to be flyable?
  • Step 6: Hey weekly event cycling is a cool way to keep content fresher longer, why not do that for these instances?


New Area: The Rafters. This is a new area situated above the current Tinker Town quarter, containing more of the gnomes’ workshop and mechanized production. Also includes the tunnel to the Ironforge Airfield. World quests would include assisting in gnomish experiments, and literally putting out fires because sometimes gnome stuff blows up.

New Area/Instance: Steelcut Granaries. Entered via the Wetlands entrance to Ironforge. Connected to the city via tunnels (which are collapsed b/c the Shattering, so there are gnome-maintained teleporters to access it from the city).

  • The open-world Steelcut Granaries area is a prelude to the 5-player instance. World quests include aiding in beer-brewing, breadmaking, repairing the trams that ferry in supplies from the mountainside farms overlooking the Wetlands, and countering the recruiting/sabotage efforts of the Fel Iron cult.
  • The instance dungeon version would involve the party rescuing the granaries from a large-scale invasion by the Fel Iron cult, including fights against a crew of fel-corrupted defense golems, a Felbrew Alemental, and the leader of the cult himself, renegade brewmaster Barfus Groghammer. (Abilities include Corrupted Keg Smash, Breath of Foul Fire, and Ramhorn Palm.)

The Exodar

The ship has been repaired and floats above the Azuremyst Isles, preparing for departure to join the Army of the Light and the front lines of the war against the Legion. A refugee camp has grown in the shadow of the ship, and the mountainside where the ship previously rested has become a quarry.

New Area: Refugee Camp Endurance. This is the camp situated in the shadow of the Exodar, where refugees from all over Azeroth have gathered in search of the Prophet Velen’s guidance. The draenei have taken it on themselves to aid the refugees in building fortifications to defend themselves, in addition to helping them learn trades to help them survive. World quests, consequently, center on the theme of teaching cooking and fishing (among other professions) to the refugees, as well as rendering first aid. In addition, draenei archaeologists are investigating more of the night elf artifacts and ruins that pepper the islands (because really what is THIS night elf boondoggle?)

New Area/Instance: The Arcatraz. Because the Exodar requires some hard-to-find parts in order to regain the ability to travel through dimensions, the Sha’tar have agreed to park the Arcatraz on Azeroth in order to facilitate transferring those parts to the Exodar. The Arcatraz floats off the coast of Azuremyst Isle, a short flight from where the Exodar hovers.

  • During non-active weeks, the Arcatraz is a small questing area, containing world quests centered on escorting newly-arrived prisoners, moving equipment for transfer to the Exodar, and dealing with minor prisoner disturbances.
  • During active weeks, the Arcatraz comes under attack from a Legion strike team attempting to break out the prisoners en masse in order to wreak havoc. The party faces off against both the rioting prisoners and the Legion strike commander in order to bring the prison back under control.


New Area: The Green Reaches. To better facilitate traffic with Alliance airships, the night elves have begun growing new structures on the outer boughs of Teldrassil as a kind of sky harbor. This has also become a proving ground for rookie druids attempting to earn their wings, a centralized location for hippogryph rookeries, and an attempt by the Gilneans to create a new home for themselves outside of the Howling Oak. World quests would center on adapting Gilnean recipes for kaldorei tastes, carp-fishing in the waters around Teldrassil, and rendering first aid to participants in underground worgen fight clubs.

New Area/Instance: The Heartwood. An extensive network of barrows that grant access to the Heart of Teldrassil has become a center of activity as the night elves and their worgen neighbors combat lingering elements of the Emerald Nightmare’s corruption within the world tree.

  • The open-world Heartwood area, accessed from an entrance near the Banethil Barrow Den, acts a prelude to the Heartwood instance. World quests include tending to sleeping druids, sniffing out camouflaged satyr infiltrators (literally, they turn you into a Gilnean Mastiff to do this), and transporting “fertilizer” to the surface (lol it’s a poop quest, crow so funny).
  • During active weeks, the instanced Heartwood becomes a battleground between night elf and worgen druids and a large-scale invasion by satyrs led by Saturnicus Gloomhoof. Enemy forces leveraged by Gloomhoof include a pack of fel-corrupted furbolg (the Felfur?) and a Nightmare-infused fragment of the Heart of Teldrassil itself, named Xyloss the Jaded Heart.

Horde cities later, hands are tired.




The Abbess of Stratholme

Sooooooooooooo once upon a time, Blizzard’s CDev group did these Creative Writing contests. I wrote this story for the first of those contests, but never really shared it broadly. I was reminded of it today when the @Warcraft Twitter asked about “what’s your character’s backstory?” and an art friend of mine pressed a little about the same thing.

I haven’t done anything to spruce up this story from how I wrote it eight years ago. I like to think my skill has improved since then, but I wanted to get this story posted some place where people could get to it if they were interested.

So allow me to present the origin of my primary character in WoW, Aerienne, in “The Abbess of Stratholme.”


Give in.

I dog the hunter’s steps as he tromps through the woods ahead of me, jogging down hills, sliding down drifts of late summer leaves. The dwarf sets a hard pace, despite his short stature. The highlands that house Stratholme are no longer safe. Whenever I stumble, whenever I cry out, or whenever little Pyra loses hold of my hand the dwarf stops.  He sets the now-orphaned baby boy down on the leaves and pulls some contraption from his backpack. The rest is brief, long enough only for me to catch my breath, for me to whisper another prayer that mends our many cuts, dulls our many bruises.

No prayer, no hymn could soothe the searing pain of the memories just made. The image of my home burning, set afire by the very prince who’d come to protect us… it stings.

Give in, the darkness whispers at me, but I close my eyes, drawing a deep breath. I opened them just as the hunter looks up at me and scoops the swaddled boy from the ground with barely a grunt. He says nothing, only nods. I nod back and squeeze Pyra’s hand tightly. This is our language now, for the dead hear everything, and the woods of Lordaeron’s highlands are filled with the dead.

The dwarf’s trap is set. Every time we push ourselves to the run once more, I hope against hope that every clever device of the dwarf’s strange craft ends the pursuit.

The darkness…it laughs at my hope.


[Hours ago, in the City of Stratholme…]

Shouts. The sound and taste of fear greet me as I run into the Abbey. A baby is crying. My heart is beating too fast to be torn by its wordless plea. I run through the narthex, into the sanctuary as dozens pray amidst the noise.

A woman’s voice cuts through the tense serenity of the sanctuary. “…and your petty hubris will be the death of us, Abbot!”

The Abbot’s response is as calm as he is portly. I want to shout, but there’s no air left in my lungs. “Our faith in the Holy Light shall protect us from this sickness. Only those who lack the purity of the Light in their hearts need fear.”

“The city burns!” I scream. Could they not smell the ash?

The eyes of many shoot my way. Standing before the Abbot of Stratholme, who is in the middle of his afternoon devotions, are Lady Eris and a Knight of the Silver Hand. Marduk is his name. They too turn, and Eris Havenfire towers over where I lay crumpled on the floor, catching my breath. She kneels, and a whispered prayer sends a ripple of the Light through me. I stand, shakily at first, as Eris holds my arm for support.

“Speak quickly, Sister Aerienne.” It’s a command and a plea at once.

“Prince Arthas has come to the city to fight the spreading plague. But he comes with the sword. He’s butchering people in the streets, setting fire to everything in his wake. I saw him cut down the first of them myself. A demon appeared, whom the prince named –“

“Speak not a demon’s name in the place of the Light!” The Abbot says imperiously, gaining a glare from Eris.

“Silence, you fool!” She looks back at me, and I go on.

“I heard not what they said, but the demon… he waved a hand, and the people whom the prince cut down… they rose up again! The Prince and his men hacked them to pieces! I could bear no more and ran here.”

Havenfire looks right through me, fear passing over her like wind from the high peak. It is there and gone when she speaks her command. “Blackpool,” she says to the paladin. “Use your vision. You can see further than any of us.”

Yet when I look to Sir Marduk, I see glorious Light fading from his dark eyes. “What she says is true. The prince fights the living dead, but slaughters the living as well.” He swings his plumed helmet onto his head. “Protect the people, Eris, and my children. I shall put a stop to this.”

Without sparing time for argument, Marduk strides down the steps, shouting for the Crusaders to rally in the square. Already, people are running out of the cathedral, dashing to their homes, hoping to gather what little wealth they have and flee. But suddenly the entrance is jamming as others rush in, confirming my story with their breathless tales of the terror from which they fled.

“This plague…” whispers Eris, anger cracking her silken voice, “and now the Prince… this city is a death-trap. We cannot stay here…” I watch as plans and plots flitter past her thoughts, conjured and discarded in an instant while I can only watch, dumbfounded. “We can leave the city through the western shepherds’ gates. From there we can pass over the mountains to Hearthglen.”

“Does fear turn you so easily, Havenfire?” says the Abbot.

“If you have no fear,” she says, biting her words, “go and meet the Prince yourself. Or wait here for the demon to come pay his respects.”

“Ha!” The Abbot claps the end of his staff on the step of the dais before him. “Any demon who sets foot within this Cathedral of the Light… yes, it shall be set ablaze by the radiance of our faith. But flee, Eris, if your heart so commands you. The Light keeps none who would cast aside its protection at the whisper of a threat.”

Eris says nothing more to him. She turns, placing an arm around my shoulders, and speaks to the gathering mob of panicking cityfolk: “Citizens! If you wish to live out this day, then have no fear! Keep the Light in your hearts, and follow me!” We walk together, Eris and I, for the narthex, and throngs of the people part to let us through, falling into line behind us. Eris Havenfire was a bastion of the Light – if she feels there is reason to flee, who would be foolish enough to ignore her?

Behind me, I can hear the Abbot casting his benedictions, as though this were the normal end of his devotions. “Return with the Light of a new day, my friends!”

The crush of fearful citizens swells as we pass through the narthex, but I stop when little Pyra runs to me, wrapping her arms around my waist. Tears stream down her face as she looks up at me, the dark eyes of her father Marduk mirrored in her own. “Sister Aeri, my father is gone! Where did he go?” Behind her, on a bench, the baby Randon, her brother, lay in swaddling clothes keening. Months ago, Marduk’s late wife had borne a son just before she died.

I look to Lady Eris for aid. As the panic in the throng increased, even Havenfire looks flustered. “The people need me to guide them. Blackpool’s children are in your charge, Sister. Follow me closely, and we’ll be safe soon.”

“But my lady,” I say, stroking Pyra’s hair, “is the Abbot not right? The Light of the Cathedral, our Abbey – is that not enough to protect us?”

Havenfire shakes her head, and despite the madness growing around us, a small smile breaks on her face, the last ray of light in a dying day. “The Abbey is just a building. It’s the Light of the people within that makes it a place of power.  It’s a leader of pure heart, a fountain of that Light that protects the people. Our abbot is a fool to think the stone and wood of this place will protect him. You want to protect the people, sister?” I would be a fool not to nod eagerly. “Then that makes you the Abbess of Stratholme. Now stay close. To the western gates!”

Heartened by her words, the people push past, flooding from the Cathedral’s doors. I stand still, statue-like, the words seeping into my heart, as Pyra buries her face in my robes, asking in mumbles for her father. I think of my family – my father and sister are in Dalaran on business. My mother, like Pyra’s, passed into the Light long ago. My grandfather… he’s in the city, isn’t he? I shake away the rising fear.

I kneel down and hug Pyra close, whispering a calming prayer to the Light. I pull her back gently, and speak fast. “Your father has gone to save the city, Pyra. But he wants you to stay close to me. We’ll follow Lady Eris, and when this is all over, your father will join us too. All right?” She nods, as I had to Eris. “Let’s get your brother and…”

I freeze. The narthex was silent with the people gone. We see nothing on the bench where the baby lay crying only moments before. Pyra shouts his name. As one, we rush outside, where the stench of ash is already beginning to descend. “One of the people must have picked him up, we—“

“It’s about time, Aerienne.” I spin to the source of the voice, pushing Pyra behind me. But my breath explodes in shock and relief when I see who stands there, leaning easily, the baby boy in his arms.

“Grandfather? What are you doing here?” There are reasons my father was always on edge around his father-in-law. I don’t know all of them, but I know how off-putting it is to have my grandfather simply appear without any preface. It was always such as a pleasant surprise when I was a child.

My grandfather Daedalan is haggard, but hale. He is as strong as my father, a fact he loves pointing out whenever possible. His arms cradled the baby like he was his own. I know those arms to be covered in sailor’s tattoos, though the sleeves of his coat concealed them now. In those arms, the son of Blackpoole sleeps despite the chaos around him. “Time for stories later, my child. We’ve a long road to go.”

“Lady Eris heads for the western gates, Grandfather,” I say, “If we hurry, we can catch up.”

“If the western gates were our destination, then that would be brilliant. But it’s the wrong way.” With that, he steps down and makes for the eastern gate from the Crusader’s Square.

Pyra’s question echoes my own unspoken one. “Where is he going?”

He speaks over his shoulder at me. “Now’s not the time for arguments, girls. Come now!”

What choice have I but to follow? He holds my charge in his arms, and is he not my kin, whom I can trust above all? What would be my fate if I follow Eris, as all my reason calls me to do?

I grasp Pyra’s hand tightly and give her another smile. “He’s just taking us on a shortcut. We’ll catch up to Lady Eris in no time.” She nods again, and we set off after my grandfather, our steps quick but quiet.

Lies are an affront to the Light, but…


The street before us is abandoned. Festival streamers hang between the houses. Nothing moves, though nothing burns either. I say as much to Grandfather, who stops short, peering at the stillness with sharp eyes.

“Hm.” He presses the baby into my arms, turns on his heel, and walks to the first door on the right. It is a florist’s shop. I came here for a flower arrangement to adorn the Abbey’s altar last Noblegarden. Grandfather pulls a leg up and kicks the door off its hinges without so much as a grunt.

All the assertions of his strength that I have heard in the past now have context. My father is a strong man as his trade requires, but Grandfather is an alchemist, a scientist. But I’m getting distracted – I ask a different question instead.

“I thought we were leaving the city. Are we hiding instead?”

“No.” As though he’d been here a thousand times before, he stalks up the wooden staircase behind the door, while I follow close by.  “We need the high road.”

“The high road?” Only half of me asks the question – the rest of me wonders if the old lady and her sons, who run the flower shop, have already fled. I don’t remember seeing any of them with Lady Eris, but there were too many faces to track. How many faces would I never see again?

“The rooftops,” he said. “We’ll be able to spot trouble further ahead that way. Just stay low, stay behind me, and watch your steps.”

Our egress to the ‘high road’ is a window on the florist’s top floor. Something is wrong… I know the florist is gone, but somehow the house doesn’t feel empty. The once-lovely scent of flowers is overpowering. Grandfather strides towards the window, likely to kick it out just as easily. He steps in front of the bedroom door.

The door explodes in a shower of splinters and planks, and while I cover my eyes I hear a low moaning, and the sound of feet dragging across the boards. Pyra screams. I hear steel leaving a scabbard, and when I look up my grandfather is stabbing a man in the chest – only the man is already dead, his face half-gone, bite-marks perforating his bleeding flesh. I watch as Grandfather uses his hilt-deep dagger as a lever, and with a turn and a shove, the dead man flies over the rail down into the flower shop below. Pottery crashes. Grandfather throws a savage kick into the next dead thing – it disappears back into the bedroom before I can mark it for anyone I might know.

Am I dreaming? The dead are walking again, as they did with the demon and the prince. And this is the old man who made flower-crowns for me when I was a child. Yet here he is, his dagger as fast as a bee-sting, his feet a blur as they plant on the chest of one corpse after another, sending them back into the room from which they crawled.

“The window, Aerienne.” Grandfather said. His command is clear, but he says it with all the urgency of asking me to pass the sugar at morning tea. I move like he’d shouted, clutching the baby to my chest and holding Pyra behind me, away from the melee. Another dead thing scrambled out of the room. I throw the latch on the window and push it open on well-greased hinges, and hold a hand down so Pyra can climb through. I follow suit, and as I look back through, Grandfather pulls a glass bottle from his cloak. He pulls the cork with his teeth and throws the bottle against the wooden floor. The glass shatters, but Grandfather fills the view from the window as he walks towards me, bending over to come through. As he straightens, I look past him and see a fire raging.

I fix him with a stare. “Fire oil? You’d burn the city too?” Maybe it’s petulant, but it won’t serve for my grandfather to do the prince’s work for him. I look back inside. One of the florist’s sons becomes clear to me as he flails about soundlessly, his flesh blackening from the unquenchable flame.

“The dead can’t walk if they are turned to ash, granddaughter.” He straightens his coat, and pulls out a white kerchief to clean the blade. “Say a prayer for them if you like, but we have only a moment here.” The dagger snaps into its sheath once more.

I turn and do just that. Behind me, I hear my grandfather kneel down. His voice takes on a quality that the old use with the very young – I cannot remember hearing it since I was Pyra’s own age.

“We have not been properly introduced, my child,” he says. “What is your name?”

This conversation was familiar. The little girl says what I said. “Pyra Blackpool.” The name is different, though.

“Lady Pyra, I am Daedalan Harcourt. I have served your father, the Lord Marduk.”

“You don’t look like a knight.” He didn’t look old enough to be my grandfather when we first met.

Like the first time, Grandfather chuckles. “Many men serve your father who are not knights. But they are men of honor, like your father. And often has he spoken of his pretty daughter, his little firefly.”

Her dark eyes blink. “Only my father calls me that.” What was the surprising thing he had said to me? I can’t remember now…

“I tell you this so that you may be sure that Lord Marduk has trusted me in the past. Will you trust me now, to keep you safe?”

Pyra looks at me for assurance, and I give her the small smile I’m able to muster. She needs to be sure of something, if just to stave off the panic. She looks back to my grandfather and gives a single, curt nod. How much has this little girl aged in just the hour of time since we fled the Abbey? What did I know of trust when I was but ten summers old?

“Then come. Take my hand. Aerienne shall keep your brother safe, and we shall leave this place together.”

She reaches up her hand, dwarfed by the scarred but skilled hand of my grandfather.  He straightens and starts walking, and Pyra looks back at me as I step up closely behind.

Briskly we walk along the rooftops of the city, following a masonry path that weaves like the spine of a great constructed snake. In the near-distance, columns of smoke rise up, strongest above King’s Square. The fires of the Prince to cull the city burn their hottest there, creeping further in the way that only flame can. From our vantage we can also see deeper into the city, and a different darkness hangs over the Promenade beyond Elder’s Square. And while I feel a growing sense of dread with every step, my grandfather is taking us closer and closer to that darkness.

No wonder he asked for Pyra’s trust, asking my own with the same speech. This did not seem to be a path to safety… more like a path into madness. Yet was not the whole world mad when the dead are still quick?


I hear the sounds of fighting, of swords and battle cries, and the shouted words of power uttered by Dalarani wizards. These sounds grow louder, until I creep closer to the edge of the rooftop and look down.  We are right above Prince Arthas and his company as they fight through the hordes of the risen dead.

The prince himself is a silver dervish, a golden-haired blur as his warhamme shatters the broken bodies of the dead. The power of the Light flies from him as arcs of golden paint, and he draws a portrait of righteous destruction with every swing. Beside him fight men and women clad in the armor of Lordaeron’s High Guard, the prince’s personal bodyguard.

I could spit. I want to exult in the prince’s presence, to cheer him on and bless him with the Light, but then again, had this not started when he entered the city? The plague came before, shortly before, but it is not the plague that makes the dead walk; it’s the demon. And even if the prince is fighting the dead to destroy the demon, he is killing the living at the same time.

The prince, the protector of the people, was slaughtering the innocent in the streets. I look away, and trail after my grandfather instead of bearing any more of it.

Before too long, we stand over the Promenade, the city’s northeastern quarter. Normally, the sound of people haggling amongst the finest shops of the city dominates, but now the place is still, unnaturally so. The sounds of the embattled prince are distant, but growing. Darkening red spatters the masonry, and more redness paints the cobblestones, but the bodies from which the blood has spilled are nowhere to be seen. The air chokes with the bitter flavor of ash and the balmy scent of terror mixed with death.

“Mister Harcourt, I can’t—“ Pyra coughs, and Grandfather stops. He pulls a kerchief from his coat and whips it open. “Keep an eye out, Aerienne,” he says as he folds the kerchief into a mask to cover her mouth.

I do as I am told, and look down the Promenade, seeing nothing familiar about the place I called home. A sound breaks the silence, though, and I step closer to the ledge once again.

Metal-clad feet stamp against the road as the Crusaders run by, Lord Marduk at their head. The darkness thins around the paladins, as though their very presence could cleanse the area. The dozen Crusaders fan out behind Marduk as they move through the Promenade, though Marduk himself stops. I see the plume of his helm turn one way, then the other, before he brings his shield up over his head. Something clangs against his shield from the nothingness, and he sinks, receiving the blow but standing his ground.

The demon appears, the leathery bat-wings unfurling to reveal an armored body over hoofed feet. Two great horns, black as night, tower from his forehead, atop a drawn but mirthful face. The fiend is chuckling. The low rumble of his voice rolls out like a torrent across the Promenade, his words laced with poison and honey. “Very insightful, my lord. I can see that yours is a brutal spirit.”

Lord Marduk shouts something back that I don’t catch. He leaps forward, wings of Light sprouting from his shoulders, and brings his sword crashing down on the demon. The demon blurs to one side, deflecting the sword away off his bracer. “We must do something about that pesky sense of righteousness…” With that, his clawed hands come together into fists, which he slams into the ground.

Cobblestones explode upward all around the marketplace, eliciting shouts of surprise from the gathered paladins. The dead rise, skeletons and the freshly dead, and claw at every Crusader. I watch in horror as the holes in the road spew forth the dead like ants from an endless hive. But my gaze is drawn back to the demon as he continues to dodge Marduk’s furious assault.

The creature laughs aloud. “Could you imagine having this power at your command, my lord? The power over death, and thus life itself?”

I grit my teeth. I want to leap down from the roof, bringing the Light to heal the Crusaders, to lay the dead to rest, and to bring down this demon, the true author of all this suffering. The Prince Arthas would have no reason to destroy my home if not for this beast! I am not Lady Eris, but my faith in the Light is strong! Strong enough to overcome the darkness of this monster, if I can get close enough…

I take a step forward to do just that, when the baby boy in my arms stirs, and I look down to see his tiny face contorting in discomfort. My grandfather chooses this moment to whisper: “Time to go, my dear.”

I look at him, my mouth forming words with no sound behind them. Does he see what is happening to Lord Marduk? How can we do nothing?

“We’ll have to jump to that roof yonder. It is not a far drop, but you must be careful. Keep your knees bent, or you might break your legs. I’ll take care of Pyra.”

No! Take the children and run, Grandfather! I will help Lord Marduk! I can’t simply –

“Are you all right, Aerienne?”

Give in.

Large hands grip my shoulders, and my grandfather shakes me, just once. Suddenly my mind clears, and I take in a breath of the awful air, regretting it instantly. “I’m sorry,” I say, “I don’t know what …”

“This darkness is getting to you,” he says. “You can’t stay here any longer. Can you make this jump?”

“Don’t worry about me.” I look at the alley he wants us to vault and shiver. “Please, Grandfather, lead the way.”

“Is that—“ Pyra stares at where Marduk fought with the demon. My grandfather wastes no time, and scoops the girl up in his arms. “Hang on, little one,” he says. With that, he takes a run at the edge of the roof, his feet sure against the tiles, and leaps.

I rush to the edge, and see Grandfather land in a roll on the roof below, a full storey down. Pyra is screaming for her father.

I square myself on the ledge, and look down at baby Randon in my arms, who has returned to his serene sleep. I close my eyes, and whisper to the Light alone, “Please, gracious Light, lift our spirits with your mercy, and lift our feet to the task of your holy service. This we pray.” With that, I step off the ledge.

With my eyes closed, my other senses light up. The wind between the buildings carries a stronger smell of the dying city, so strong I can taste it. Were there anything left in my stomach to purge, that scent would be more than enough. My ears hear the sound of men shouting in combat, of steel cleaving flesh, of bones snapping, the low lamentations of the endless dead. The sound of Pyra crying out for her father is a distant and saddening thing. The air around me, thick with evil, caresses my cheeks as I fall with Lord Marduk’s child held tight to my chest.

“Aerienne,” says my grandfather’s voice. I open my eyes, and find myself floating over the roof where Grandfather stands. I thank the Light with a thought and my feet drop to masonry.

“Daddy! Daddy!” the little girl screams, “Fight them Daddy!”

A new sound joins the clamor; dead bodies fly back into the Promenade as Arthas and his company join the battle. “Mal’Ganis!” The prince shouts, and again I dare the thought of leaping into the fray.

Grandfather touches my shoulder again, and I look to him. “It’s not far, Aerienne. Come now!”

Never had my grandfather looked at the battle, nor at the demon. He throws Pyra over his shoulder when she refuses to look away from where her father fights valiantly. He runs ahead of me, long legs taking long strides over the high road, looking no direction but forward, save when he looks back to me.

The more I stand here, torn between flight and coming to the defense of my city, the more I want to fight. A voice whispers the idea in my mind, begging me to set aside the child in my arms. But my grandfather runs back to me, and grabs my arm, pulling me away.

He is right, and I hate him for it.

I can’t spare another look. I hug baby Randon to my chest and follow Grandfather down the high road.


We drop from the rooftops into an alley, where rats go about the business of being scavengers, nonplussed by the death around them. Grandfather ignores them. Pyra has screamed herself hoarse, and does little more than stare blankly ahead as she is led by the hand.

I can’t smell the stench of this place. Will any normal thing appear rancid or rotten to me again, with what I have seen today?

We move quickly away from the din of battle, reaching a high wall that backs the buildings. A narrower alley runs behind, more an open sewer than anything else. This is the cleanest place in the city at the moment; hours ago I would have been disgusted by it.

A pile of crates covered with a ratty cloth stands against the high wall. Grandfather throws the great rag aside and sets to moving the boxes. He speaks roughly while he works:

“I made sure that this passage was open before I concealed it. I meant to place more supplies here, maybe tether some horses at the other end, but there wasn’t time.”

Why would he need an escape route from the city unless… something splashed down the alley behind us, but I was too busy realizing the truth. “You knew this was going to happen? The prince? The demon?”

He does not spare me a look. “I have my resources, Aerienne.”

“Why didn’t you tell anyone?” Why didn’t he tell me? “You could have prevented all of this!”

The boxes are cleared now, revealing a metal gate. A passage leads into inky darkness behind it, and a large lock holds together the chains that keep the gate closed. Grandfather pulls another vial from his coat and pours the contents on the lock. I hear a hissing sound as he turns to to me. “Please believe me, granddaughter,” he says, “Nothing could have prevented this.”

“How can I believe a single thing you say?”

He doesn’t bat an eye. “Because I have never lied to you. The Light lets you see the truth of things. If you don’t do as I say and go down this passage, you will surely die here. And I love you too much to let that happen.”

I held his gaze, adamant. I knew he was right again. I don’t want him to be right; I want him to be wrong, to be repentant. Has he not done wrong? Shouldn’t he feel some measure of guilt? Some responsibility for what he let happen to the city?

“Time is running out, my dear.” The sound of his dagger drawing brings me out of our staring contest. The knife flies from his hand, past my head, and I hear it sink into flesh. There is a groan and a crash, and I turn to see a corpse covered in tattered clothing twitching in a pool of filth. This is a new thing – there is a noose tied round its neck, and a single eye dominates its head; the eye houses my grandfather’s knife now, and is still.

He walks past me, drawing his knife out of the corpse and anointing the thing with fire oil. As the scent of burning ichor assaults me again, he speaks like nothing happened.  “More are coming. Go now, and I’ll cover the gate behind you.”

He’s staying here? Why? “But you’ll die here!” That can’t be the reason… it makes no sense…

“Leave that to me.” He kicks the lock on the gate, and it shatters. “When you get to the end of the tunnel, pull the chain to open the exit. Once you’re outside, you’ll be on your own. The eastern road to Tyr’s Hand should be safe, but don’t tarry there. Find a boat heading south, fast as you can.”

“There has to be another way…” Though I can’t think of one, now that the lock is destroyed.

“If you don’t go through that gate,” he says, and for the first time he seems concerned, “then it won’t matter. Please, Aerienne, go.”

The next moments were slow, as I struggled for something to say, something to give reason to the madness around me. The passage was dry, but dark as starless night. I step inside, and behind me Grandfather kneels down before Pyra, as he had done before on the high road. The little girl leans forward and whispers something I can’t hear in his ear. Then she pulls the kerchief away from her face and offers it to him.

“Keep it,” he says with a little smile, “and go. Don’t let go of Aerienne’s hand, all right?”

The little girl nods once more, and runs to me. Grandfather shares a last look with me, then sets to shoving crates back into place. The darkness creeps up around us, like the sunset on a cloudy day. In the blind murk, I turn down the tunnel.

I whisper a prayer, and a ball of light sparks into existence before me, revealing the passage. It’s barely tall enough for me to stand straight, but I do so, and grip Pyra’s hand tightly in my own. She tugs at it, and I bend down, bringing my ear close.

“What’s going to happen to Mister Harcourt?” Her voice is cracked and low, the sound of one who’s seen too much.

“He will be fine, Pyra. He is…” I need to convince myself, but how? “He’s very good at what he does.” Curiosity strikes me as a great way to escape my failure. “What did you say to him, just now?”

“I told him ‘thank you.’”

A pang struck me, like a fist to my stomach, when I realized I’d said no such thing to him. Even if he knew about the danger before it came, it wasn’t his fault, was it? He’d done right by helping us escape… he deserved at least a word of thanks from his kin, didn’t he?

I shook my head – we have to escape the city, or everything I hadn’t thanked him for would be fruitless. I give the little girl the strongest smile I can, and we set off at a run down the passage, the little ball of light leading the way.

We reach the end of the tunnel quickly. Every step we take away from the city lightens my steps – the Light has seen us through, and even though we have lost much, there is still some hope against this darkness. But I can’t allow myself to celebrate until Blackpool’s children are safe. That won’t happen until…

The end of the tunnel appears suddenly around a corner. The exit is covered in a metal grate similar to the one at the entrance, but no lock holds it closed. Instead, I find the small alcove set in the side of the tunnel, where a well-oiled chain hangs down. I check outside and see a serene forest, so I pull the chain. The grate slides open soundlessly. When I let it go, it immediately begins to reset; I rush through with Pyra close at hand, ducking my head as we go.

The grate is well-hidden within the disguise of a fallen tree-trunk, invisible unless someone was looking directly into it. The grate clamps shut behind us; how was anyone supposed to enter using this tunnel? I stop myself from the wandering thought: all the grate has to do is keep the dead inside.

“I think we can rest here, if just for a moment.” The fallen tree is a tiny blessing.

Pyra is looking back into the darkness. “Do you think my father is okay, Sister Aeri?”

“I have faith that he is.” Lies are an affront, but the girl deserved some comfort. “He is a very strong man, even against the evil we’ve seen today.”

She doesn’t look satisfied. I wouldn’t be. She sits for the first time in hours, and for a moment she seems like a child again.

A thought occurs to me. “Will you hold your brother for a moment, Pyra? There’s something I have to try.”

“What is it?” She takes the baby from me, rocking him idly.

Absently I brush dust and ash from my sleeves, adjusting how I was kneeling in preparation. “Your father is very strong in the Light, and can use it to see great distances. I’m going to try something similar, to see if I can check on him and my grandfather. So keep an eye out, and if something happens, just touch me on the shoulder. All right?”

Pyra nods. “I’m hungry…”

“We’ll find some food soon.” No idea how. “This won’t take long.”

The little girl cradles her brother in her arms and looks out at the woods.

I only learned this prayer a few days ago, and I’m not certain how it works.  But I have to find some way to communicate with Grandfather. I close my eyes once again, whispering the prayer and sending my vision to his eyes. This connection should let me at least send a thought to him, show him we’re safe.

Let me tell him “thank you.” I don’t know if those words are enough. I wanted –

I can see, though not through my eyes. My vision turned though I knew my head was staying still. I’m back in the city, in a different alley, fires burning all around me. Burning death fills my nostrils once again.

I look down and see my grandfather’s hands wiping blood from his dagger with a filthy kerchief. I’m seeing through his eyes! Something is wrong with the prayer!

I hear a voice behind me, and Grandfather turns to face it. Down the alley more of the noosed dead creep forward, stopping before drawing too close. A man in black robes approaches, undisturbed by the dead things which part before him. Thin white hair hangs from his head. Blood-red stripes decorate his face, intersecting his eyes. I have never seen him before, but Grandfather has.

“Having second thoughts, Harcourt?” His nasal voice has none of the honey of the demon, but is no less cheerful. He stands with arms over his chest, like an instructor chiding a wayward student.

“Not at all, Maleki.” Maleki? My grandfather sounds annoyed. “I held up my end of the bargain. The city burns, just as your master planned before his untimely death.”

The pale-faced man chortles. “Kel’Thuzad’s death was anything but untimely. He shall return at our true master’s hand when the time comes. Not that you’ll have a part in that glory.”

Grandfather sighs. “I wondered who would try to fill the Archmagus’ shoes as leader of this cult. Though I imagine you’ve already killed much of the competition, haven’t you?” Cult? Competition?

“You still think of death as an ending, don’t you Harcourt?” The man uncrossed his arms and took a ready stance. “Death is a gift, if immortality follows it. And I plan to delay your death as long as time allows…”

The noosed dead leap forward as one, and the vision goes blurry: Grandfather doesn’t have to look at his hands as they drive knives into the rotting corpses. His eyes are locked on pale Maleki, who stands back, blue energy forming around his hands. Grandfather is moving so fast, I can’t track what he’s doing. A thrown knife flits past Maleki’s head, and the necromancer laughs as his frozen energy shoots forth a bolt from his hands. It grows and grows in my vision, until suddenly there is nothing but blue darkness to blot out the dying city.

Grandfather, no!! I fail to shout, trapped in the prayer…

The blast of intense cold, like a bucket of ice upended over my head, throws me out of the vision. I fall back against the wooden trunk, suddenly in my own mind again. Tears stream like hot rivers down my face, and Pyra, her eyes terrified, knelt beside me. The baby is crying again. My shoulder aches.

“Sister Aeri! You—you were screaming! I tried touching your shoulder like you said but you wouldn’t stop and I hit you and then Randon woke up and… and…” And now she is crying too, sobbing, taking in deep gasps of air as I try to make some sense of what I saw. I take her in my arms, as much for my own comfort as for hers, and hold her and the wailing child close. The tears… the tears won’t stop.


That is how the dwarf finds us – my scream and the sound of the baby crying drew his attention. I nearly jump out of my skin with fright when he appears in front of the tree trunk, his rifle at the ready. He takes a hand from the wooden stock and lowers the weapon, telling us not to fear.

He wastes no time with questions. “If you’re waiting for anyone else to come out of that tunnel, ye can stop. The whole city’s burning. And these forests will be crawling with the same evil if we don’t run.”

How can I even gather the strength to stand, much less run?

Next to me, I feel a shiver. Pyra clutches at my robes, quivering, her eyes locked on the squat frame of the dwarf. They are rare enough in Lordaeron, but I had seen them before. The city and her family were her whole world before today. Aside from all the terrors she’s seen so far, anything new would be frightening.

Strength finds its way back into my voice again as I squeeze her shoulders. I think of Lady Eris. “Pyra, he’s here to help us. Come now, let’s go.” She is pale as death, her lips dry and cracked. I look back to the dwarf with a plea.

“Do you have any water? She is— oh, thank the Light for you…“ Before I even finish, the dwarf has pulled a canteen from his pack and handed it to me. I pull the stopper and hold it up to Pyra’s lips, encouraging her with calming words. I take a quick sip myself, and realize for the first time how dry my own throat is.

“Afraid I’ve got nothing suitable for a baby, sister.”

“We’ll manage. Please, lead the way.”

He gestures outside, and we walk past him. I hear the sound of metal clicking, and look back to see the dwarf setting a metal platter down on the ground in front of the grate. I ask him what it is.

“Just a little present in case something unsavory should find that tunnel.” He tucks the rifle under one arm and holds out his free hand. “Let me lighten your load there…”

I blink, but then hand him Randon, who has settled down once more. “This is the calmest baby in the world.”

He gives a wan smile. “Thank the Light for little blessings, then. Let’s get them someplace safe. Stay close, and stay quiet.”

We run through the woods, following the hunter’s surefooted gait every step of the way. The baby starts to wail as soon as we leave the trunk, and the sound is a cacophony in the silence of the woods. He tells me only that his name is Dain Redhall, promising his tale when we are safe. He focuses wholly on the run forward, his head darting this way and that as he scans for any movement that would belie something that should not be in the forest.

My thoughts are clouded by the darkness of the present, the fearful cries of the baby as it bounces in the crook of the dwarf’s arm. The wailing fades slightly as the dwarf slides down the hills into drifts of dead leaves, and I follow close behind, holding Pyra close.

I hear whispers again, from the darkness I felt while I watched Marduk battle the demon. It challenges me to stand and fight, to command the power of my faith and righteousness to turn the tide of death that has destroyed my city, my home. Still I run from its call. I am no hero, no warrior. I am not Eris. But the darkness is insistent.

You have that strength within you. It struggles to reach out and strike down your enemies, if only you would guide it.

A great bird screams in the sky overhead, and my eyes shoot upwards. I never saw a hunting bird like this one before; its feathers were blood-red, with a white tuft at the base of the neck, like a collar. At first I draw back, but then it lands delicately in front of the dwarf hunter.

The bird squawks, and Dain’s head snaps to the west in response. “Damn it.”

“What’s wrong?” Though I already know.

“We’ve been marked. Here—“ and he presses the keening baby into my arms again, “I’ll be needing both hands for this…” The bird takes flight at an unspoken command, and I don’t look to where.

They are coming for you. As if on cue, the distant moans of the dead draw closer. Over the rise to the west, I see shadows against the trees, moving against the dim light of the clouded afternoon. First come the noosed dead, the ones my grandfather died fighting, scrambling amongst the brush. Behind them, the walking dead, some little more than skeletons of bleached bone.

Behind them all, however, is the worst devilry of all: a great mass of flesh, made of the bloodied corpses of men, sewn together by some foul art into a mockery of humanity. Four great arms bear mattocks dripping with ichor, all orbiting a great distended belly of bones and rotting organs. The face of the thing has but two eyes that blinked, but many more decorate the head of the creature, staring lifelessly at nothing.

I will relish the day I pass from this world into the embrace of the Light, even if my only security is knowing that I will never see something of such unmistakable evil as this… abomination.

This is not the last.

“Keep running to the south, sister,” Dain says, pulling back the hammer on his rifle, *click* “I’ll be right behind.”

I tear my eyes from the thing as the hunter’s gun goes off, BOOM! Out of the corner of my eye, I see a noosed ghoul’s head explode from the bullet that punches through it. *click* All I can see now is the wood before me, stretching infinitely on in peace, as though the aberrations that chased us were no more than wolves coursing prey.


Is that all you are now? Prey?


I stop, and Pyra gets a step ahead of me before my hand holds her back. “Sister Aeri, why are we…?” I kneel down, looking around carefully. A hollow tree-stump stands nearby, and I run to it, handing Pyra her brother as I draw lines in the dirt. My training begins to flow back into me again as my fingers etch runes of protection, a ward against evil. The rifle click-BOOMs behind me again and again as I press the baby into her sister’s arms, giving him a kiss on the head as I do.

“We can’t run any longer, Pyra. I’ll be back in just a moment.”

She screams for me not to go. *click*I unclasp the cloak at my throat and throw it around the two of them, noticing for the first time how dirty it has become from the escape. I ignore that, and ignore Pyra’s pleas. I cannot run any longer. I cannot allow anyone else to die in my stead. BOOM!

The dwarf marks that I am walking back towards him, *click* his glances quick as he focuses on aiming his rifle again. BOOM! He shouts something that I refuse to hear, and I close my eyes, saying a last prayer to the Light for strength. When I open them again, it is to set my gaze on the oncoming wave of the dead. I command the Light to smite them, and I see a swath of golden energy blast into one of the walking dead. It crumples to the ground.

Not enough.

The hunter’s bird swoops in, tearing the skull from a skeleton like it was stooping for fish in a pond. Another ghoul gets taken by a bullet and tumbles in mid-leap. I paint the woods with the Light again, and another dead thing falls. The horde of dead men draws closer, but one by one, more and more of them fall. I try not to lose myself in the destruction, or to the darkness that riles within me, angry that I refuse to give in.

The abomination draws closer, rushing down on Dain. The blood-red bird is little more than a nuisance as it dives. The dwarf’s rifle explodes again and again, slug after slug punching through the great horror’s flesh but having no effect. I paint the creature with the Light, but it shrugs this off as well. Another prayer comes to me suddenly, and I shut my eyes against the guttural moan of the great dead thing and the repetitions of the rifle. I whisper the words quickly, and the Light lances from me, splashing against the monster again but now sticking. The Light forms into chains which latch onto the ground, onto a nearby tree, and hold the abomination fast. It toils against the shackles, and I struggle to hold my concentration, maintaining the strength of the prison with my own will power.

How long do you think you can keep this up?

Dain realizes that he focused too much on the abomination as the remaining dead things scramble towards him. The rifle *clicks* but does not BOOM, and he tosses it away with a curse. His hands go to his belt, drawing twin hatchets and twirling them in his hands as the dead bear down. One zombie goes down headless, while another skeleton loses everything from the collarbone up to the stooping red bird.

Each movement of the abomination strains my every thought, as impossible physical strength tries to break the hold that grips it. I can barely afford to acknowledge that the hunter has killed the last of the lesser dead. Dain shouts something to me that I again cannot understand. Then the shackles break, and the monster is heading for me. Dain jumps in the way, digging his two hatchets into the mountain of flesh, only for one beastly arm to backhand him. The blow sends the dwarf flying into a tree with a sickening crack. I can do little more than hold my arms up over me and whisper a prayer when the thing finally draws nigh, raising its four mattocks to strike me down.

The Light forms into a shield around me as my desperation reaches out, and the abomination roars as it fails to rend the flesh it so fervently wishes to strike. I go to a knee as the attacks hammer the shield over me. This is the end! I can do no more than this!

Yes you can! You have but to ask!

The shield dwindles, the Light fading fast. Soon there will be nothing left, and death shall claim me in my pride. What cursed existence awaits me now?

The Light has failed you!

The Light has… the shield shatters, and the abomination roars in triumph, raising two of its implements aloft. They come down, and I see them swing in as though they moved through molasses, cutting the air slowly. Then suddenly there is a flash, and blackness coats my eyes. Here, now, is the feeling of death…

…and yet I continue to feel, to sense. The huge creature goes flying backwards, as though struck by a great mauled fist. I feel the cold suck of air as the space before me empties of its awful presence. I look down and see that I am on my feet once again, that my hands are stretched out before me, and I realize that the blow came from me. I look to myself.

What I see confuses me at first. I imagine wood burning in a fire. Red blossoms of flame lick their way up from the crackling log, wisps of smoke trailing from their tips. Only now, the fire is not red and searing hot, but instead black and cold. Instead of a log burning, it is my arm. It does not burn, but it is still aglow with this dark shadow, covering my hands, flickering over my skin, rippling up my splayed fingers.

I should scream, but I don’t. I turn my hands over, this way and that, and see that the shadow truly covers everything. My senses feel dulled – my eyes see as though through dark gauze, my ears filled with cotton. The soft wind that belied a serene forest is gone, like I suddenly donned a heavy cloak.

The darkness is around me, within me, whispering the promises of power to me, begging to be unleashed. As the abomination rises up again, I see it differently – not merely a construction of body parts sewn together and animated through necromancy, but a roiling storm of the spirits of those whose bodies were used in the making. The mind of the thing is dominated by whatever dark master it serves, fulfilling a singular purpose, and the meager pain felt by the body is meaningless. But the mind… the mind remembers pain like the dead remember life: strongly.

The darkness shows me how to command pain, and the abomination stops in its tracks. The meaningless moan becomes a scream. The four arms drop their mattocks in unison, and four mismatched hands grab at the distended flesh of the skull. The fat fingers dig in, searching for an unscratchable itch.

I smile without mirth. The darkness becomes a hammer, and I drive nails into the mind of the accursed thing. The pain drives it into a frenzy, and it lurches forward again – and the darkness snakes from my hand like a whip, coiling around the creature’s head and squeezing.

The darkness… no, my darkness is a vise, and I turn the screws.

The creature still manages a step forward, then a second, but then falls to two uneven knees. Enough is enough. My darkness is a torch, and the mind lights afire as though it were covered in pitch. The abomination’s body, dead again, dead forever, falls before me, spilling putrescence on the fallen leaves.

The darkness is jubilant. The dead cannot stand against me. The demon’s guile cannot persuade me to mercy. I will sow the destruction of the unrighteous and reap a land of peace once again…

“Sister Aeri!”

What is that voice? I can barely hear it.

“Sister Aeri, Mister Dain is hurt!”

Pyra is tugging at my robes again. My eyes follow her path as she leads me to where Dain is struggling to get up. His labored breathing, the way he winces, the blood on his lips that dribbled into his beard… broken ribs? A pierced lung? He was struck so hard, but I’m not sure if…

The darkness burns around my eyes. There’s a city to avenge! I ignore it, or try. I whisper a prayer to the Light for clarity, but none comes. Pyra is crying, holding the dwarf’s hand in both of hers. His eyes sharpen and blur, and words try to eke past the blood but fail. What is one life against those who have already been lost? My hands fumble with the straps of his backpack, having lost the certainty from scants seconds before – he has to lay flat or the wounds can’t be mended properly. What is one life against those we can save together? The straps come loose unevenly – Dain lurches to one side and howls in pain. “Sister Aeri, what’s going on? He’s —“ I call on the Light again, begging for the power to close the wounds I couldn’t see, and get silence in return. The darkness whispers to me:

Think of your grandfather. And I freeze.

I think of him, and I remember him struggling against the dead and pale Maleki. He was a part of the city’s destruction, and I trusted him.

I think of how he comforted Pyra, telling her he had served Lord Marduk. Was it true? I didn’t know. But the girl needed someone strong to guide her forward.

I think of when he burned the bodies of the florist’s sons. Callous, but they would have followed us if he hadn’t done so.

When I was younger than Pyra and first attending devotions, I was confused about the Light as an entity and the simple light cast by a candle. It was Grandfather who made it clear to me, or clear as he could at the time. “The Light can’t exist where the shadow is, just as shadow can’t exist where the Light is. If you look to the Light, you’ll never fear the shadows.”

“Why would anyone look at shadows?” I asked him that question.

He smiled a knowing smile, and I know now that there was much he couldn’t tell me. Much that he would never tell me. “Sometimes the shadow can be useful. But it’s the Light that shows us the way, right?”

“Right!” He beamed at me proudly.

The Light….

The Light has failed you…

My eyes snap wide. I grit my teeth. My mouth and my mind scream a command, and the darkness over my vision cracks like a shattering lens, the pieces falling soundlessly away.

Like a match struck in the night, the Light washes over me, warm and perfect and glorious and cleansing. I take it in my hands, wrapping it like a cloth around the convulsing dwarf. He grows still, his breast slowing to a normal pace, his blue eyes blinking in shock. Gingerly he reaches a hand up to feel across his chest, his probing more insistent as he realizes that he is no longer about to enter the Great Dark Beyond. He laughs in spite of himself, and regards me with a nod.

“My thanks, sister,” he says, amazed, “I’m in your debt.”

I smile back at him, while the glow fades around us. “The Light’s not a lender, sir. There’s no debt.”

Dain laughs, more hearty this time. I thank the Light, and breathe the first easy breath of the day.


Far from the city, and far from the abomination’s rotting presence, I sit in the narthex of the Basilica in Tyr’s Hand. Other survivors from the city are trickling in. Many people are rushing to the gates now, hearing word that Uther the Lightbringer has arrived with more. Everyone struggles to find loved ones they thought they had lost, while some learn the fate of those who did not escape.

Lady Eris is not among them. No one who left with her has been seen. I know that Grandfather isn’t coming.

The steward of Blackpool’s house arrives, taking Pyra and Randon into his care. Pyra cries at our parting. I tell her not to fear. As acolytes of the Church escort the steward and the children to quarters, the Inquisitor of the Basilica approaches me. Fairbanks is his name.

“You have been through quite the trial, Sister Aerienne,” he says. “I wonder if you won’t reconsider your decision.”

“I appreciate your concern, Your Honor,” I bowed as I spoke, “but there is little time for rest. The plague is spreading throughout our nation, and Prince Arthas has no idea how to fight it. Somewhere, the secret of a cure exists. I will start my search at the libraries of Dalaran and Stormwind, and report to the Church as often as possible.”

The Inquisitor looked uncomfortable. “Take a care, sister. Ever have the Kirin Tor eschewed the Light in the name of darker studies. Our faith may not cure the plague, but–”

“Forgive me, Your Honor,” I interrupted, “but what I have seen today has shown me something important, something that I fear many in the Light’s service fail to recognize.”

“What is that, my child?” He keeps his voice free of reproach.

I choose these words carefully, and speak them the same way: “The Light guides us and protects us, and may even be a weapon. Sometimes, however, the shadow is just as necessary.”

Fairbanks considered this for a moment, and then nodded his assent. “Then go forth, with the Light at your side, Abbess.”