Silver Tide Hollow was the boon that we all needed. It had been ages since the devastating sea monster attack that had left us stranded in the ocean, and our numbers had been growing thinner, even with the recent victory at the prison camp. We had been on the run, been hiding, for far too long.
The stronghold we had been told about turned out to be just that.
We were not the only ones that had made it here, either. The Earthen Ring had been collecting up survivors from all over the area, and many of our soldiers were reunited wiht someone that they had known back home, someone they had assumed they would fight beside on a very different front.
I also learned that of the thirty shaman the Earthen Ring had originally sent, only sixteen remained. The others had been lost on missions to discover the true extent of the naga plot down here.
Initially, I was put to work doing what you might expect. I gathered supplies, started fires, pulled oxygen from the water, or helped create drinking water for the famished soldiers that congregated here. It’s strange to think about it now, with all this behind me, but in those days under the surface… you didn’t think about the rest of Azeroth. You were so focused on here and now.
My routine was disrupted only a few days after our arrival when I was summoned by Erunak to speak with a particularly interesting member of the Earthen Ring. He was named Toshe, and I didn’t care for him.
“The time has come to push back the naga,” Toshe said as soon as I was within speaking distance. “You’re the man to help lead the charge.”
“I’ll happily lead the charge,” I replied. “You have an army around here that we don’t know about? Because none of these poor souls are going to launch a full-scale assault.”
“Salvation is at hand,” Toshe boomed. “Fathom-Lord Zin’jatar died at your hands, but his plans remained in motion. At last, the reward for his slaughter has revealed itself to us. All of the prisoners we have been unable to locate… we found them.”
Now I was interested.
“Where?” I asked.
Erunak gasped. I just raised a brow. “What now?”
“The creature you’ve seen outside of the hollow. The massive shell that demands our attention on the sea floor. That is a living creature, and it is named Nespirah.”
“Oh, right. The big conch shell. You’re telling me that’s alive?”
“Nespirah is a massive crustacean,” Toshe confirmed. “The shell is massive, and filled with many cavities. The naga have taken refuge within those crevices, and that is where they have held our allies.”
“Why?” I asked. “What does a giant crustacean do for them?”
“The portal,” Erunak said. “It is likely that the portal can feed off of living energy.”
“If they find a way to… feed Nespirah to the portal…”
“That’s bad, right?” I asked.
“So, now you can see,” Toshe said. “Our prisoners must be freed. The naga must be stopped. We have only one option.”
I sighed. “Alright. Let me gather our most capable soldiers…”
A few short hours later and we were outside of Nespirah’s shell. I had just fourteen men with me on this run. Toshe had suggested I bring at least a hundred fighters. I wasn’t sure how aware of our situation he really was.
The naga had definitely taken up residence inside of Nespirah’s shell. Our one benefit to being such a small group of individuals was that we were able to easily pass through the naga guards that loomed outside of the massive structure.
“The new Fathom-Lord will be a problem,” Toshe said, mostly to himself.
“Is he worse than the old one?”
“I cannot say,” Toshe replied, his eyes scanning the area with great frequency. “He is our primary target. As you have seen before, a quick decisive kill of the leader causes a momentary panic in the naga.”
I gave a firm nod. “Okay, here we go.”
Toshe looked shocked. “Should you go—”
Before Toshe could say anything else, I forced myself forward through the water. I had done this enough already to know that my ice bombs were devastating on the naga. They were not used to being attacked like that. I knew how to do this, and I needed to know we were going to win the day. The new Fathom-Lord was going down.
“Hey!” I shouted through the water, my voice not reaching very far. “I’m here for you!”
The Fathom-Lord, a fairly small naga, turned toward me just as my ice bomb reached his chest. There was a moment where the water turned a dark red, but the currents soon carried the blood away and all that was left was the shredded remains of another naga leader.
The panic that Toshe spoke of was instant.
Just like the prison camp, the naga scattered in fear.
“Flee!” I shouted. “Flee or fight. Your life ends today!”
The creatures immediately turned and fled.
I knew they weren’t going to run far. There were dozens of other naga out there, and plenty of angry Fathom-Lords that would want to avenge this death. I signaled to Toshe and we began the next part of the plan.
Stepping inside the moist, hot, air inside Nespirah’s shell was not unlike stepping inside the mouth of a living human being. There was a substance, a slime, all over the shell’s interior walls.
We slid through a narrow passageway, slime-coated, and I felt warm air blowing out while cold air was pulled in. I tried not to think of someone climbing through an ear canal.
We had just reached a rather large and open area inside of the shell when we were suddenly confronted by another shaman. I pulled up a spell, prepared to fight, but Toshe took hold of me and lowered my hand.
“He’s one of ours,” he explained.
“What are you doing here?” the shaman asked, sounding angry.
“Your time is up, Duran,” Toshe said. “It is time to end this.”
“We still have time,” Duran said, his anger turning to fear.
“Wait,” I said, stepping between the two. “What’s going on here?”
“My name is Duran,” the shaman answered. “I study living creatures. In this case, the largest living creature I’ve ever seen. I have attempted to speak with the creature, but I am not having any luck. It seems that the beast wants to remain silent as this damage is done within its body.”
“The time for study has passed,” Toshe said. “I have approval to do what must be done. We will end this creature’s life and halt the naga effort once and for all.”
“You’re going to kill it?” I asked.
“The portal feeds on living energy. The prisoners, Nespirah, even the local aquatic creatures… the naga are using them to sustain and grow the portal’s power. We must end this creature’s suffering and stop the naga.”
“We can fight them,” I said. “It doesn’t have to be like this.”
Toshe frowned. “You spoke of too few resources and weak soldiers before. How are we in a position to defeat the naga when we were not just a few hours before?”
“Fair enough,” I grumbled. “Let’s free the prisoners first. If their numbers don’t bolster us enough to turn the tide, then we will figure out how to follow through with your plan.”
Toshe took a deep breath, then nodded. “Very well. We fight. Then we decide.”
Nespirah’s shell is like most shells you might find in the water. Little segments, all growing into compartments, and getting bigger and bigger as it goes on. This design made our campaign feel almost like a game. We charged into the first room and barely three of us could fit inside, but in the next room we had space for five, then eight, then twelve… you get the idea.
The fighting was messy, but our team was used to messy by now. The naga still had trouble wearing this armor and swinging large weapons that got stuck in the living organic tissue all around them.
I leveled the attackers that approached us with ease.
Our soldiers took out the stragglers.
We worked our way through the shell, level by level, until we eventually found all of the prisoners that Nespirah was willing to offer up to us. I can’t recall the exact number, but I do believe we found over sixty able-bodied soldiers there.
Most importantly… we found our leader.
“Captain Taylor,” I said, looking at the man and offering a salute.
“Good to see you, Sionis,” the human replied. “I thought you might have been lost to the sea after the attack. I’m glad to see that isn’t the case. I owe you my life.”
“You’re a sight for sore eyes, Captain. The survivors will be happy to hear that you’re still with us down here.”
“Survivors?” Taylor asked. “There’s more?”
“More than you might think,” I replied. “Now, we need—”
The ground beneath us suddenly rumbled. I heard a horrible echo that carried across the air, bouncing every which way.
“What was that?” Taylor asked.
“Trouble,” I replied. “I think it is time for us to depart.”
“Shouldn’t we stay and fight the naga?” Taylor asked in objection.
“No,” boomed another voice, one I recognized immediately.
“Erunak!” Taylor shouted. “You’re alive too?”
“Captain, I’m glad to see you are well,” Erunak said, his voice sincere. “I wish I had time to explain, but the creature Nespirah is attacking everyone within its shell. We must flee now before we’re all killed.”
Taylor looked around and then nodded. “You don’t have to tell me twice!”
We went to work, helping the prisoners as they started following Erunak toward the opening in the shell. The whole experience of running around inside a living crustacean was a little overwhelming, to be sure, but when I slipped back into that icy salt water I couldn’t help but wonder if a mucus-filled membrane house really was worse than cold rocky caves.
I knew we had to be done with this.