Season 4 — Episode 4: Mount Hyjal (Pt. 1)

the_circle_of_cinders

 

Leaving Theramore Isle was painful for me. It had become a symbol of stability in an unstable time. We left the elderly and a small group of young men and women that could defend the small settlement from harm if they were attacked by a stray force here or there. Everyone else was put in armor, mounted on the remaining horses, including my precious Surfal, and we marched straight north to Mount Hyjal.

While we were allied with the Night Elves and Orcs officially, I would not say that we were eager to fight together. We marched in separate groups, avoiding contact altogether when able. I know Appoleon had grown into a brave man, but I still felt very much like an inexperienced child during this event.

Especially when I saw the world tree. Nordrassil was what the Night Elves called it. A massive tree that stretched up into the heavens with branches so large you could easily build a town out of just one. The mighty roots of the tree snaked through the mountainside, leaving only one clear path from the base of the mountain up to where the tree stood.

“This is the first place,” the Prophet announced. “Jaina’s forces must stop here. Prepare your defenses.”

“What?” Appoleon asked. “What about the others?”

“Trall will take his orcs higher up the path and build a second line of defense. The Night Elves must go to the tree’s base and prepare our final plan for Archimonde.”

“Why wouldn’t we want to hold them here?”

The Prophet frowned. “You cannot hold Archimonde. You can only slow him.”

It was in that moment, hearing those words, that I realized we were likely going to die here on this mountain. I had given thought to death a few times, mostly when thinking about Lady Sonea or Uncle Maron, but rarely had I ever really thought about my own mortality.

“You heard him,” Jaina Proudmoore said as the Prophet continued ahead with the orcs. “We’re building defenses. Let’s make this happen.”

I watched with pride as the young mages created spinning blades of fire and sliced through dozens of trees around the mountain’s base. With quick work and skilled magic, large pikes quickly came together to form our defensive boundary.

Appoleon developed a layout that would funnel the undead and demonic forces into a single area where they could be easily assaulted with arrows and magic. Another bottleneck would allow the dazed forces to push through where hundreds of swords would be waiting to strike them down.

The Night Elves had given us weapons to use in our fight; we were poorly equipped otherwise. The weapons were light as a feather and as sharp as a razor. They would be well served in our fight against the demons.

I was busy using my ability to teleport materials as directed and then kicking up a fire to heat the kiln where nails were being crafted to hold the pikes together.

We worked tirelessly. Our survivors were divided into several groups, each given shifts where they could work, then rest, then work again. We did not know how long we would have, so we did not stop our efforts.

In the end, it was five days before the demons arrived at Mount Hyjal, but we had used the time with great efficiency. When we saw their first wave of forces we dared to think that we could do this. We could fight them off and hold the mountain. The others would be so proud of us and we could all go home.

Then the second wave came through the forest.

The third.

Fourth.

Fifth.

It was like an endless sea of undead and demonic forces were approaching.

As I rushed to my position for the attack, I was grabbed by the arm and spun around to see Appoleon standing over me, his armor gleaming from a fresh polish. I almost laughed. Why had he polished his armor right before this mess.

“We are going to die here,” he said to me, his voice firm as he answered my unasked question. “I want to die in something nice.”

I would have laughed if I hadn’t believed him.

“Stay strong, Sepher,” he added. “We’ll win this.”

That, I did not believe.

I stood atop one of the rickety towers we had constructed stood over the first opening in our defensive grid. The base was protected with shark pikes, and in some places, pole arms tied to logs served the same purpose.

The demon sea before me shifted and churned as the enemy prepared themselves for their assault. Looking out at it, I could feel death breathing hot on my face.

“Katra zil shukil,” one of the large demons shouted.

Then, they charged.

I can’t explain to you, even begin to explain, how confusing and terrifying it is to watch an enemy behave in completely unexpected behavior. The demons didn’t bother to move around the pikes. They walked right into them, impaling themselves upon them. The forces behind practically charged forward, pushing the first victim hard against the pike and killing them in the process too. They clogged the pike with their own bodies until the sharp points were buried under lifeless corpses that the demons behind them could easily step over.

They came so quickly that we simply didn’t know how to respond. Our archers fired their first volley into the clearing and we followed suit with fire, arcane, and ice. We made a dent in their numbers in the same way that a rock puts a dent in the surface of a river. With a ripple, our victims fell and were trampled over by twice as many replacements.

I looked to the next bottleneck and saw the demons repeating their sacrificial behavior on the pikes, opening the way for dozens of demons to assault the men and women that stood at the rear with their swords drawn.

Then, there was a blinding flash from where Appoleon stood with his shining armor. “For the Light!”

I heard his voice from the top of my tower.

Golden lightning exploded from his weapon, striking out, it obliterated at least five of the attacking demons. Behind him, several more paladins followed his lead and crackling Light devastated the attacking forces.

Feeling bolstered by Appoleon’s show of force, I held my hands forward and thought of all the things that made me hate these demons. The fall of Dalaran, the death of Lady Sonea, the loss of everything I cared about… it bubbled up inside and sparked the magical energies within me. I focused that energy in the clearing where the second wave of demons were slowing as they waited their turn to attack.

Fire. Blazing hot blasts of fire erupted. The demons were caught in the explosion while I unleashed every ounce of energy I had within me. The destructive power of the explosion clears off several of the pikes, setting them ablaze as well.

In the aftermath, I collapsed, but as one of the other mages stopped to help me I waved him back to the clearing. “Keep it up! Everyone!”

A moment later, our rickety tower shook violently.

“They’re at the base!” one mage yelled.

“Hang on everyone!”

The tower twisted slightly, and then we were tumbling. The tower collapsed on several more demons and I was spared from serious injury when I was thrown through a simple canopy we’d put across the tower’s top spikes. The canopy slowed my fall and I rolled onto the ground with little more than a twisted ankle.

My world was spinning, but I knew I was nowhere near being out of danger. The tower had fallen right into the middle of the advancing demons. I used all of my power to shield myself with hot fire and I stumbled through the sea of demons, throwing fireballs at all of the demons that were looking away from me. I only knew I was working my way toward the remaining defense forces because I was following the flow of evil. I couldn’t see past them because of their numbers.

I heard a horn in the distance. I knew that sound. The Night Elves had signaled the distraction to allow us our retreat. Sure enough, from the forest I heard the roars of nightsabers charging into the fray.

The demons seemed unconcerned.

My shield started to fail. One of the marching demons glanced down my way. I scorched his eyes. He started to slash wildly, cutting down several of his companions in the process. I tried to rush sideways, but didn’t make it far before I collapsed on my injured ankle.

I would have died in this moment, if not for the vicious attack of a nightsaber that tackled the blinded demon trying to kill me. The cat’s rider, a large Night Elf male, grabbed my arm and pulled me onto his creature’s back.

He said nothing, but he didn’t need to. I went to work blasting demons with fire while he hacked and slashed at anyone that got too close. We punched through the final demons that separated us from the human defenses. I was more than impressed when we climbed the final pile of bodies to reach safety.

Appoleon and his forces had quickly killed hundreds of the demons.

It was worthless.

“Sionis!” I heard him shout when he saw me ride up. “We have your horse.”

“Thanks,” I said, sliding off the nightsaber. I was about to thank the Night Elf, but he didn’t give me the chance. He snapped his reins and the cat wheeled around, charging back into the fight.

“He’s going back?”

“Suicide group,” Appoleon replied. “They’re not expected to come back.”

“He saved me.”

“If you don’t get moving it won’t matter.”

I nodded, reluctantly turning from the sight of the dead demons. “Come on, Surfal.”

My horse stepped over to me and I jumped on the creature’s back. “Do we have everyone?”

“We have everyone that can go,” Appoleon replied. “Jaina is going to teleport those of us without horses straight to Thrall’s camp. The rest of you need to set the traps as you go. There are other Night Elves that are up the hill ready to help.”

“What will you do?”

Appoleon smiled. “I’m going to fight until Jaina is ready to pull us back. You go ahead, Sepher. Get up the mountain before we’re overrun here. We need those traps in place.”

I nodded and pulled on Surfal’s reins. We rushed forward with the other riders, making our way up the incline of the mountain path. Looking behind me, I saw the sheer numbers of the demon army stretching back into the forest and I felt a crushing wave of hopelessness filling my heart. I didn’t understand how we could win this.

Not far away, we reached the first trap, a deep pit that the Orcs had dug out. I quickly went to work, teleporting nearby pikes into the base of the pit so the demons would fall on it as they marched up the hill. Knowing how they reached to the other pikes, I imagined the pit would hold about twenty of them before the other forces would simply walk over the victims as though the pit didn’t exist.

I heard screams from where we’d traveled and looked back to see, but all there as to see at this distance was a squirming mass of demonic forces moving ever forward.

We rode further up the path to the next trap, this time a trap bound with magical energy that would trigger an avalanche once the demons marched over the ley line.

They triggered that one too.

It slowed them. It did not stop them.

 

TO BE CONTINUED…

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