The planning for the assault against the Eternal Palace went as one would expect.
The Alliance were given the west entrance, and the Horde the east. The two sides would lead their own military campaigns, separate from one another, but united against the common foe they had found here in the deeps. For some, like Iliera, the temporary stay of conflict seemed absurd, but for veterans like myself… it was practically expected.
Lady Proudmoore laid out her forces and groundwork with the help of Genn Greymane’s military expertise. The plan was simple, at least the first part. We would breach the entrance, at all costs, no matter what the Queen might throw at us. If she found our assault to be overwhelming, she would send the water surrounding this place to drown us all, and our efforts would be halted in a snap.
Proudmoore had a plan for that too, but it required us recapturing a magical artifact known as the Tidestone. Once in her possession, even if Azshara tried to pull the walls down around them, Proudmoore could keep her at bay.
With little more to plan, it was time to act.
The assault, as you might expect, went far too well.
The Alliance and the Horde pushed right through the weakened side entrance gates, and once inside, we swept over the main entrance like locusts on a fresh crop. The agents and minions that served Queen Azshara fled in every direction as our combined forces of the Horde and Alliance survivors fought and battered through each new fortification. We were strong in numbers, stronger than I had realized, and that gave me some hope.
It also made me suspicious.
No fight in all of our days had been quite so easy.
We stood at the doorway to the Queen’s palace, yet her guards withdrew rather than face us to the bitter end. It was clear that this was a situation where the enemy should fight tooth and nail to keep what little they have left… and yet… they did not.
There was more going on than I understood, and I made sure to highlight that with Iliera and the others. The Queen had a plan that we didn’t grasp, and that made the plan all that much more dangerous.
Of course, Azshara was the secondary objective right now.
As we cleared more of the palace, I was growing increasingly worried about the fact that we had not yet run across Lady Evanor. I wondered if the Horde might have found her by now, but there had been no reports of it. In all the chaos, would they really report one human killed among all the naga?
We reached another long stretch of hallway where there appeared to be no combat. I took stock of our group and gathered them together so that we could stay updated on our progress.
“In review,” I started. “She’s been in none of the experimental areas, the labs, or even the dormitory. She’s either avoiding us, or she’s working up close with the Queen.”
“If she’s with the Queen, we’ll know soon enough,” Fynn said. “According to scouts, we’re nearly where the Queen was last seen before our assault pushed through. It’s some kind of room filled with titan technology, but it’s unlikely she’s been able to leave without us spotting her.”
“Maybe Evanor’s knowledge of titan architecture was important after all,” I mused.
“It’s also possible—”
Before Iliera could finish her thought, Lady Evanor stepped into the hallway, looked at the group, and frowned. She didn’t flee, at least not right away. She simply turned away from us, and began walking down the hallway to the inner chambers.
Iliera bolted after her.
The whole crew followed, rushing down the hallways, making turns this way or that until we reached a massive chamber that was completely empty, aside from one human woman. Lady Evanor stood at the center of the room, looking at us, breathing heavily from running.
“Evanor,” I said, hoping that reason might finally win the day. “It doesn’t have to be like this. Stand down. We can go, right now, and you can be done with Queen Azshara.”
She reached for me, and I thought for a fleeting moment that she wanted my help.
Then, I realized the truth when I felt a tugging sensation in my pack, and the wand freed itself a moment later, spinning through the air and into her hand. She looked it over for a moment and then back at me. “What was the plan? Use this against me somehow?”
“Not exactly,” I answered.
“Well, then I shall use it against you. A wand bound with the magic of my Queen will help to make short work of you. I wish you’d gone after her rather than me, Sionis. You might have lived.”
I didn’t have time to offer a quip. She had already fired two arcane spells right at me.
I spun around, using an ice shield to block the attacks, and before I could return to my battle stance, Iliera was charging forward.
“No!” I shouted, grabbing her by the arm and pulling her back. “The wand. You can’t risk getting close to it.”
“I won’t stand by in this fight,” Iliera growled.
“Protect the others,” I said. “Stick to the plan.”
Iliera hesitated, but then moved to position herself between me and the other attackers.
By the time I turned to face Evanor again, I was forced to deflect another volley of magical energy that threatened to incinerate whatever target it touched.
I fired back with several spells of my own, one of them powerful enough to set her long cloak on fire. She tore it loose and let it burn, landing with a spin and launching another attack that Iliera blocked with her magical shield.
No matter what Evanor tried, she was heavily outnumbered.
I had just allowed my confidence to grow when I felt the room rumble.
The doorway where we entered suddenly cracked and crumbled, and a moment later an absolutely massive naga burst through the doorway with a mighty roar.
“Leviathan!” Fynn shouted. “Counter!”
My allies were forced to turn their attention off of Evanor as the creature slashed and clawed at them in a wild fit of anger. As they fought for their survival, I realized it was just me and Evanor now, a final showdown.
She seemed to realize it too, and her assault lessened.
“You can’t stop this,” she shouted to me. “The Queen’s plan is already in motion. All this energy you’re expending on me is wasted.”
“This isn’t about Azshara,” I replied. “This is about you and me.”
“You and me?” she asked, sounding incredulous. “You mean this is about you.”
“My life ended the day you sent me back in time with the bronze dragons. I sacrificed everything to give you and this world a chance, and I got nothing for it. A certain doom to look forward to every now and again… nothing else.”
“Evanor, I’m sorry,” I said, stepping closer, my voice as calm as I could muster. “I know you’ve been through so much. That doesn’t mean it has to end with this… with you selling your soul to a monster.”
“She’s the only path for me,” Evanor snapped. “She is my future, Sionis. You’re my past.”
“No,” she snapped, raising the wand toward me. “You won’t stand in my way.”
I knew I was close enough to grab the wand…
“When the day is done,” Evanor added. “The Queen’s darkness will spread over Azeroth in ways you’ll never understand. All that our empires have built, all that our kingdoms have established… it will all be hers to control. Hers… and mine.”
I knew what I had to do.
I reached up, and grabbed the wand in my hand.
“Fynn!” I shouted. “Now!”
The human paladin was there in an instant, and he threw a small glinting shard of purple life energy at me. Iliera’s life energy. Just enough to trigger the spell.
Evanor panicked when she realized what she was, but when she tried to pull away, I held fast, and the wand remained in both of our grips. She refused to let go, and so did I, so the two of us knew what was about to happen.
We became the anchors for the time spell, our life energy confused for Iliera’s.
It was like a lightning bolt shot through my veins.
I heard her scream, I heard her shout. “No! I won’t go back!”
I couldn’t say anything. It was all so agonizing. I simply arched my back and waited to die.
My body burned, Evanor’s must have burned too, but we were both trapped by the spell that was using us as a magical anchor, and as hard as it might be to describe, you could feel it. You could feel the spell pulling your life away from you, one day, one week, one year.
It was the worst thing I had ever experienced.
Then, it was over.
The chamber erupted with the blinding light, then Evanor and I were gone.
Iliera had no time to worry about it, as the Leviathan took a heavy swipe at her just before the blast. She rolled, using her shield to absorb the edge of the naga’s claw, and she slid across the floor, propelled by the attack.
As the creature attempted to recover, Fynn was there with his mace at the ready, he slammed the creature across the face before it could counter, and when it stood there, stunned by the attack, Syanna and the others launched their final attacks.
The creature fell to the ground, finally defeated.
Silence swept over the chamber.
Iliera looked around, seeing that everyone appeared to be up and moving around.
“Any wounded?” she called, stepping over to where she had last seen Evanor fighting. She stopped at a charred spot on the ground and there she saw the magical wand, splintered and broken, scattered on the ground. She winced, reached down slowly, and touched it, but nothing happened. The wand was nothing more than a shattered stick now.
“Just scratches here and there,” Ailynmarie answered Iliera’s question as she finished pulling her daggers from a fallen naga. “Nothing permanent, anyway.”
Fynn was wiping a string of naga drool from his plate armor when he saw Iliera stepping his way. He glanced around, confirming I was gone, then looked back at her.
“Where is he?” she asked, holding out pieces of the wand. “What did you two do?”
“The wand was still primed to channel your life energy,” Fynn explained. “We found a way to activate it again. Sionis sent Evanor back where she belonged… the past. I guess… well, I guess he got pulled back too.”
“Assuming they survived,” Iliera frowned.
“Sionis knew the risk,” Syanna said. “The job is done.”
Iliera didn’t really like that response. Of course he knew the risk. So, like always, she knew I had chosen to protect the ones I cared about, even if that meant I had to give up everything.
“Well, if he got sent into the past, perhaps—”
The palace suddenly shook with a violent tremor. Iliera looked to the others, but Syanna just shrugged in response.
“Are the water walls collapsing?” Fynn asked.
“No,” Ailynmarie said. “We have the tidestone.”
There was another rumble, then a deep voice bellowed through the chamber and the rest of the palace, as though being broadcast through the air itself, though Iliera wondered if it might have been a message sent directly to their minds.
“All eyes shall be opened!”
The tremors stopped.
“So, uh, what just happened?” Syanna asked.
“Another battle for another day,” Iliera said. “Let’s rejoin the others and end this.”
“Did you not just hear the deep spooky voice?” Fynn asked.
“I heard it,” Iliera said, retrieving her weapon and heading toward the main hallway of the palace where Lady Proudmoore and the others would be waiting. “Whatever it was, we will fight it. Whatever darkness might come, we shall face it. Now, come on, we’re not done yet. One monster at a time.”