We didn’t sail for long before we came to face the mighty maelstrom that had claimed so many ships in the past. It was a bane for any sailor who drifted too far from the coast. Jaina’s fleet, however, had the power of several hundred mages, and the experience of sailors hailing from Kul Tiras, who all poured their energies into steering us through the terrible storm. I did my duty, using fire magic to keep us all warm and dry below deck, while the frost mages wicked water from the deck and threw it back to the sea.
It would have likely been one of the most exciting times of my life, this trip, if not for the images of the undead marching toward Southshore, the screams from those who had not been aboard the ships when we set sail, or the looks of shock on the faces of my fellow survivors… it was all too much. I couldn’t shake it from my head no matter how hard I tried. Would the undead take Stormwind? Would Uncle Maron survive?
The work kept my mind from wandering too far, so I focused on it.
When we cleared the maelstrom, the storms subsided and the sun appeared from behind the storm. The fervor of the past few days began to die away and I was soon racked with an overwhelming exhaustion. When I was certain that there was no food to conjure, no repairs to seal with my fire, and no one who needed my magic, I collapsed on several sacks of grain and fell right to sleep.
I woke to cheering.
The ship’s crew had spotted a shore, a landmass that was stretching on to the north and south as far as the eye could see, and we were all heading straight toward it.
“Kalimdor,” Jaina Proudmoore said proudly to the assembled passengers on the deck of the ship. “This forgotten continent will be our new home.”
I didn’t like that. This place was not my home. It never would be home, but as I looked around I didn’t see the brave faces of soldiers who had fled their lands. I saw scared families, mothers and fathers, children, and I started to understand that for many of these people, this was all they had left. This would be their home.
Several of the larger ships anchored just off the shore, while the smaller vessels practically beached themselves. They could be pulled back to the water if necessary, but assuming we decided to stay here, we would simply dismantle them piece by piece, using their wood for our first structures.
I helped load several small rowboats with supplies and then travelled with the expeditionary force up the beach and to the treeline where we found marshland waiting beyond.
“I hate swamps,” Appoleon said as he stood next to me looking into the darkness of the tree-filled area.
“Is it the smell?”
“The smell, the humidity, the heat, and the animals” he replied. “There isn’t anything fun about it.”
“We could scout around it.”
“One of the smaller ships already sailed up north a bit. They said there’s a relatively clear island up there, which I think we ought to relocate to for the sake of defending, and then more swamp.”
“What about to the south?”
“Cliffs,” Appoleon replied. “It’s a swamp for us. We’ll have to cross it, I imagine. At least get in there and start finding something to eat. Our supplies won’t last forever.”
“You ever had crocolisk before?” I asked.
Appoleon frowned. “No, why?”
I pointed out what looked like a log floating down one of the swampy rivers not far from where we were standing. “Because there’s one right there.”
“That looks like a tree in the river.”
“Trust me,” I assured him. “I’ve seen them.”
“When?” Appoleon asked. “You never left Dalaran for more than a few days.”
“Hardy har,” I rebutted. “Make fun if you want. It was a traveling circus.”
“Right,” Appoleon replied. “Well then, let’s go get us some crocolisk meat.”
The first few nights on the shore were rough. It mostly consisted of arguments about which way we should travel, or if we should travel at all. The island not far from us was large, at least large enough for a colony, and the waterway surrounding it would help prevent attackers from making a large assault. Almost everyone agreed that this was where the old and unhealthy travelers should make camp.
The younger survivors wanted to keep pressing, further north and perhaps further inland.
By the third day I was volunteering for almost any scouting trip I could get on. Appoleon and his fellow paladins had become the leaders of our “militia”, if we dared call it that. Angus was using his skills to keep everyone warm, and I got to watch as his skills with the flame were put to extensive use, using it to weld metal, burn through wooden beams, and even roast meat without burning it up.
That was the kind of skill I lacked. Kaellax had told me to not try controlling the fire magic, but Angus was clearly in full control when he used his powers. It was possible I was simply missing some of the finer points, but I wasn’t too eager to stay back and cook food either, so I ventured out into the swamps instead.
That was when I found her.
I watched an arcane missile swirl through the air and slam into some writhing vines that had tried to snap up a soldier. I quickly helped by burning the leafy tendrils away with a blast of fire. As it retreated with a loud squeal, I practically felt magical energy reach out and grab me. It was familiar, quiet, but practically calling out my name.
I turned toward it and saw a woman standing with a wand in her hand.
The wand, without doubt, that had been stolen from me back in Lordaeron.
“You!” I shouted.
The woman looked up and sure enough, it was Sellia.
“Seriously?” she asked aloud. “You survived?”
I flicked my wrist and felt the wand pulling toward me. She tightened her grip and held fast, suddenly pushing back with her own magical energy.
“What’s going on?” a soldier asked, confused by the sudden confrontation.
“Yeah, what is this—” Appoleon, started, stopping short when we saw the woman. “You!”
“Damn,” she grumbled. “Both of you?”
Appoleon was already stepping toward her with his mace held up. “I think we have some unfinished business.”
“Wait,” she said, her hands going up in a defensive stance. The magical energy pushing me back relinquished and I saw her draw up her energy to form a shield in case we decided to attack. “I’m not sure we should be doing this here, not now.”
“Oh really?” Appoleon started.
“Give me my wand,” I said, stepping toward her. “We’ll leave you be if you give it to me.”
She frowned. “Well, no, that’s not going to happen.”
“It is,” Appoleon said, his voice louder now. “That doesn’t belong to you.”
“Well it’s all I have now,” she remarked. “I need to protect myself, and Fÿnn. So I’m not just going to hand it over.”
“Who’s Fÿnn?” Appoleon asked. “A boyfriend?”
“No,” she said. “He’s my…my son.”
I took another step toward her and wanted to say something along the lines of explaining how frustrated she made me, but then I was in the air, spinning backward and completely out of breath, like someone had just slammed me in the chest. I hit the ground, facedown, in the mud. My initial thought was that Sellia had attacked, but then I heard a horn blow and Appoleon called out for defensive positions.
It was another group of attackers.
Green skin. Bulging muscles. We all knew who it was. The Orcs.
From birth until now, I had only heard stories. They were like images from a fairytale you had once heard, nearly mythological, but now they were here with hammers and swords in hand, attacking us in the swamp.
I struggled to my feet and lit a line of fire that cut through the enemy numbers, then stumbled over to where Appoleon was taking up his defensive position. Sellia was right there with him.
Magic snapped and whizzed in the air around us as soldiers grunted and clashed their blades together. An orcish roar made me jump ever so slightly, but it also gave me a direction and I wasn’t going to waste an opportunity. I gathered all the energy I could and swirled it outward, toward the call. Fire erupted from my arms and spiraled into the trees, lighting everything ablaze as it scorched outward like a tornado.
There was another roar, this one laced with agony. I had hit a target. As my spell died out I saw a flaming body as it rushed toward the swampy water nearby. Instinct called out to my mind, we had seen too many terrible monsters near the water’s edge, but I dared not warn the creature.
I heard a terrible smash and spun around to see Appoleon locked in combat with one of the largest orcs I had ever seen. I tried to line up a shot with a fireball, but I couldn’t risk burning Appoleon with the spell, so I decided for another tactic instead. Running straight over, I smashed the creature over the head with the crystal end of my staff.
It stepped back from Appoleon, stunned for a moment, and then whirled a bloody axe straight at me. I couldn’t dodge it. There was no time. I would die. Here. Now.
Except an arcane missile struck the axe, diverting it away from me at the last moment.
I looked to my left and saw Sellia with a devilish grin. “You’re welcome.”
The orc, caught off guard by the save, took a mace to the back of the head from Appoleon, and the fighting came to an abrupt halt.
We barely had a moment to take a breath before a horn called out from the shore.
“Our encampment,” Appoleon said. “They’re going for the others!”
I looked to Sellia and then to Appoleon. “I can teleport us there so we can help.”
They both nodded.
I reached out into the twisting nether and took each of them by their hands, then locked onto the magical energy swirling around our encampment. A moment later, we appeared in the middle of the battleground.
My heart was pounding. I felt like I was going to be sick, like my energy was bursting out of my body. I stood my ground and conjured my first spell.
I was all in now. Just like the generations that had come before me. It was us versus them and I wasn’t going to die here on this beach, not after all I’d been through.
In the end, the fire spells came all too easy that day.