We continued on our trek, setting up at least four more traps before we reached the wooden pikes of the horde defensive. When we rode in, orc warriors rushed to the gates behind us, but we had put a good distance between us and the demons below.
“Hail friends,” the chieftain Thrall said as he approached. “What news of the front?”
“The line is broken,” I answered. “Our defenses were collapsing when they sent us to—”
A pop and fizzle, then the sound of dozens of exhausted soldiers hit the air. I spun around to see Jaina Proudmoore at the center, with all the remaining soldiers surrounding her.
“Appoleon!” I shouted.
“Sionis,” he said with a smile.
He looked okay. The shining armor was stained with blood, charred from fire, and pock marked from the corrosive fel-blood, but he looked untouched beneath it all.
“Their numbers are too great,” one of the other survivors started. “How can we ever hope to hold them back?”
Jaina ignored the comment, turning toward Thrall. “I have a plan, but I must borrow some of my people. Lady Tyrande thinks it has merit. I would like to share it with you.”
Thrall nodded. “Let’s hear it then.”
Surprisingly, Jaina stepped away from us and the two went to speak privately about the matter. I would have been upset about that if I hadn’t already heard the first of the demonic battle cries coming from the base of the mountain. They were coming for us.
When Jaina returned, she looked more determined than ever.
“Forces. To me!”
We did as ordered. I wondered for a moment if she and Thrall had disagreed about what to do next, but if that were the case, the orc chieftain showed no sign of it. He ignored her call entirely, instead gesturing to his own military leaders toward the approaching demons.
“What can we do, my Lady?” Appoleon asked.
“When this place is overrun, we will not teleport to meet up with the Night Elves. Instead, we will teleport to the base of the mountain, behind the sea of demons. It is imperative that we are able to halt their retreat once the trap has been triggered.
Her confidence was overwhelming. She wasn’t just talking like we could win the fight. She was talking like it was a certainty. We drank from that certainty and it empowered us all.
The demons came to the horde base and again they threw themselves on us like a rising tide of death. We all fought, orcs and humans, dwarves and elves, as this terrible foe tried to bring us down.
I’ll be the first to admit that the orcs are an impressive people. I watched in fascination as one of their warlocks took two fel-blades to the chest and still managed to burn down a half dozen demons before he died.
The warriors were equally impressive, slamming into demons with their brute force so hard that you could hear an audible crunch. Meanwhile, their shaman leaders called upon the spirits of the earth and air to aid them in suppressing the enemy. I witnessed power there that shook me to the bones. My father had died fighting against the orcish horde, and witnessing their power first hand I wondered, momentarily, how we ever overpowered them.
Their power, however, wasn’t enough to stem the tide of demonic forces that pushed up the mountain. The first of the defensive lines fell, and then the second. We all started to back up as we fought, until we finally heard the horn blow from the mountaintop.
It was time.
Jaina was a short ways up the mountain. We would retreat so as not to make the enemy suspicious, and then she would teleport us all to a new position. I whistled and Surfal rushed to my side. I jumped on the horse and started my retreat.
Then a demon stepped into my path. He was massive and his polearm was easily the size of my body. The weapon caught Surfal across the side, barely missing my leg as I jerked it upward to avoid the blade. The horse reeled and I was thrown from the animal’s back as it bucked and then collapsed.
I hit the demon with a fireball and then tried to push it back with an arcane explosion.
The demon only laughed.
“You dare test the might of Xer’Thraxis?”
“I challenge any who try to claim my world,” I growled, standing to face my foe.
The painful whining from my horse drew my attention. The gash from the demon blade was deep. Surfal wouldn’t survive this.
“Come, let’s end your suffering,” Xer’Thraxis said, swinging this polearm toward me.
I roared. Surfal had been my horse for years now. I was going to lose him to this demonic creature? After I had lost everything else? What more would they take?
I felt my body heating up, as though every single piece of my being churned out fire. I summoned my greatest power and the demon was suddenly battered with fire balls, burning cinders, and electrical energy that sparked and ignited the ground beneath its feet.
He growled in pain, probably not expecting such an overwhelming attack from one small soldier, but with a powerful flap of his wings my magic was pushed back.
“Enough!” he shouted.
“No,” I yelled. “It will never be enough!”
I don’t remember if I took a breath, but I resumed my assault. My body felt like it might explode from the energy I was channeling, but I just didn’t care. I watched as the demon lord’s flesh started to burn, his armor started to glow hot, and his disgruntled sigh turned into a painful shout.
The ground beneath me was charred black and I was certain I’d destroy myself.
Xer’Thraxis lurched forward. His polearm planted in the ground just in front of me. The dirt erupted and I was thrown backward from the force of the impact.
“Insolent little whelp!” he shouted. “I will skin you alive!”
I rolled back onto my feet and tried to recover, but my energy was spent. The demon leapt into the air and lifted his weapon. He hit the ground hard and I waited for the final blow. When I wasn’t cut in half, I opened my eyes to see that a massive root had latched to the creature’s legs, locking him in place before he could finish his swing.
“What treachery is this?” he asked.
“I have no idea,” I said, honestly, as I harnessed the last of my power. “But I won’t waste it.”
The demon worked at the roots holding him in place, but he wasn’t fast enough. I hit him with one of my most powerful fire spell and it did its job well. He roared in pain in response, but he still couldn’t break free.
“This isn’t over,” he growled at me. “We will meet again.”
“No,” I replied. “We won’t.”
I conjured another spell, a twisting spire of flame and ice. Lady Sonea had tried to teach me the technique years ago, but I had never mastered it. Now it felt so easy. It was like I had found a target to take out my anger, from all the rage left over after the fall of Dalaran.
The ice spear slammed into him, punching through his leathery skin and causing him to writhe in pain. The swirling fire burst from the frozen spike, burning the demon from the inside out. As he slumped forward, the roots still clinging to his skin, he looked me dead in the eyes and gave a sinister smile. “I… will… return.”
Then he was dead.
The roots released his lifeless corpse and returned into the dirt where they’d sprung up. A moment later, I saw a Night Elf step into the clearing. She was dressed in an ornamental set of leather armor and she held a staff that glowed an intense green.
There was blood staining her outfit and despite giving me a quick smile when I saw her, she knelt down as though she might collapse.
“We must go,” she managed to say. “Can you take us?”
“I can’t,” I replied. “My horse…”
I turned to see Surfal, still suffering on the ground.
The Night Elf looked down the mountain path as the demonic swarm continued to approach us. “Desperation leads to great deeds,” she said. “Help me over to the creature.”
She walked to Surfal’s body and lowered herself to hold the creature’s head for a moment. Then, she pulled a small vial from her pouch and, with the pop of a cork, she poured something on the horse’s wound and started to chant as she held her stave over the animal. It glowed with a green energy, not the dark green of fel magic, but the calming color that reminded me of a vibrant garden.
I was shocked when the wound began to close.
I watched as it sealed up entirely and the Night Elf slowly opened her eyes. When she did, they glowed with a purple hue. She nodded to me and then gestured to Surfal’s face. I looked and saw that my horse’s eyes now also glowed the same color.
“What did you do?” I asked.
“I saved this beast, now let’s go.”
She slapped Surfal’s hindquarter and the animal jumped up.
The demons were nearly upon us. I jumped on my horse and she climbed on behind me. I spurred Surfal onward and we charged higher up the mountain to reunite with Jaina Proudmoore and her forces.
As the fighting at the fallen horde base intensified, we rallied together around our powerful mage ally. Jaina cast a mass teleportation spell that pulled us, the orcs, some night elves, a few of the demons, and a sizable chunk of landmass through the nether and down into the ashenvale forest.
The fighting ended after we dispatched the few demons that had managed to come with us. As silence fell over the troops, the inevitable question began to pound in our minds. Finally, Appoleon was the one to ask it. “What now?”
“We march toward Mount Hyjal,” Jaina replied. “Archimonde will trigger the trap soon and the Night Elves were very specific. We need to be prepared to assault the demons from behind.”
“We’re going back toward the demons?” someone asked.
“Yes,” Jaina said firmly. “We’re going to win this fight.”
I didn’t know where she was getting her confidence, but it bolstered my own. I had just slain a massive demon. I was ready for this.
Without a moment to lose, we rode through the forest toward the base of the mountain until we finally arrived at the forest’s edge a half hour later.
There we discovered how the demons had hidden their numbers.
Portals, at least four of them, open just at the base of the mountain. From each one a dozen demons marched through every few seconds, pausing for a moment once they were on firm ground and then starting their march in line with the rest.
“Can we close those?” Appoleon asked Jaina, gesturing to the portals.
“We won’t need to do that,” Jaina replied.
I looked up the mountain toward the world tree and that was when I saw him.
He was a massive being with tentacles on his face and a blue hue to his skin. He was clearly different from the other demons I had faced, but he was no less intimidating in his appearance. We all ended up watching him, it was easy to see him against the mountain since he was practically the size of the massive tree he approached. We waited for him to burn the life giving tree to the ground, to burn us all in fel flame, but that is not what happened.
Instead, a glowing white light began to build around the tree. It blinded us with its brightness, and it consumed the massive demon. The ancient Night Elf spirits gathered together and used their energy to defeat Archimonde, banishing him from our physical realm and saving the world. The salvation came at a great price, however, with the Night Elves sacrificing their immortality in the process.
For us in the moment, none of that mattered. What did matter was that the portals snapped shut and the demon supply was cut off. Archimonde had been holding all of the demonic gateways open with his own will. With him gone, there was no way for the demons to call upon their endless waves of reinforcements.
Jaina gave the order, and we all surged forward from the forest at once. We rode over the enemy as they had done to us just hours ago. We were still vastly outnumbered, but the demons experienced something that day that they had not experienced in millennia.
It broke their resolve. Thousands of them died by our blades. Hundreds more were burnt to a crisp or frozen solid by our mages.
The demons barely fought against their deaths. Some attempted to fall back from the mountain path that they had lost, but others just fell to our swords. From the top of the mountain, the surviving Night Elves pushed down to pinch most of our foes between the two sides. The Night Elf that had saved my horse rode with me through the fighting. She threw spells of purple and green, slashing down a stray foe here and there with a claw that was bound to the end of her staff.
When the fighting was over, and the victory flag was flown, everyone slowed down from their fervor, realizing at last that the death and destruction was truly at its end.
Many of us fell asleep on the battlefield with dozens of slain enemies within an arm’s reach. My first goal was to make sure that Appoleon was alive and well.
I should have known he would be fine. The paladin was a one man wrecking ball. He seemed far more surprised to see that I had made it through the day without so much as a single bruise.
When I finally fell asleep a few hours later, I couldn’t help but open myself up to a nightmare about the demons. They were still chasing me, still trying to overrun everything I cared about.
I went to Mount Hyjal with only basic combat training.
I left it as a battle hardened war mage.