"FJ!" The voice called out from across the flaming courtyard. "Try to hold that Ghoul!"
"On it!" The Night Elf warrior called back. She turned, her massive sword in hand, glaring at the twisted figure across the burning courtyard from her. Bigger and tougher-looking then the typical ghoul, its cracked skin and exposed bones seemed to have a fiery red tint to them - or maybe it was the flames around her merely tinting its skin. Around them, the city of Stratholme burnt, consumed by the unending magical flames that had kept it such for years. "Just be ready to back me up."
With a shout, she charged at the ghoul, swinging her massive blade at the twisted undead. The blade crashed into its side, slicing through skin and crushing bone, but not felling it as she had expected. She wrenched it free drawing back for another blow.
"TIMMEH!" the Ghoul shouted out, rearing back and swinging at her with a bizarre, skull-shaped mace. Ducking, she twisted to one side, a waft of hot air passing over her as the mace came within inches of her skull.
"I'll Timmy you, mate." She grunted back, then swung again, the sword glowing with brilliant golden energy as it scythed through the air. She could feel the weapons magic in action, strengthening her and empowering her swing. Nothing could stand against it. "Yeah." She added with a grin as the sword crashed down on the ghoul-
-only to be effortlessly blocked by its mace. As incredible as it seemed, this creature had stopped her blow dead before she could land a hit. With a snarl, the ghoul swung upwards, battering her sword aside and sending her staggering back.
"Now, guys!" She called out as she glanced around. "Damn it, get-"
"TIMMEH!" It repeated as it swung again, going high. There was a sickening crunch as the mace slammed into the side of her head, sending her reeling. Her vision filled with blood as the world swung around her, then went black as she crashed to the ground.
FJ hadn’t had much. And even then, she felt like she’d lost it all.
A Kaldorei warrior and one time Sentinel, she was one of the many of her people who had left their formerly secluded homelands to travel and see the world that they had hidden from for so long. Like many, she’d had he reasons; adventure, exploration, a desire to see what was out there, as well as to aid those causes that her people fought for; to restore balance to the world, to undo the damage that the Legion and so many others had wrought and maybe, just maybe, to find a way to restore their prized immortality.
It hadn’t been an easy path, she reflected as she looked around at the town of Astranaar, the first step on her journey. The Night Elf community remained peaceful and secluded, hidden within the dense, protecting forests of Ashenvale. In many ways, it seemed a small island of clam from all that was going on around it. However, she knew she couldn’t stay; there were things she needed to do.
Mounting up a Nightsaber, she headed off, reflecting on the events that has bought her here. Travelling to the Eastern Kingdoms, she’d at first felt isolated and alone. However, she’d managed to make friends and associates along the way, falling in with a band of adventurers who, like her, sought to do battle with those evils that so plagued the world. What had started as merely associates had become friends, bonds formed in travel and combat.
And then had come Stratholme. A group of them had travelled to the Scourge-held city in the hope of driving their forces out and defeating their leaders. Things had not gone well; they were ill-prepared for the sheer numbers and intensity of the forces they had faced. After a long and ardours battle, they had been confronted by a powerful ghoul – one that had almost ended her life.
Even though it had been months since that battle, and even though she had fully recovered from her wounds, FJ could still remember that night. While there had been no permanent damage done to her by the ghoul's attack, it had still cost her in many other ways. Badly wounded, her comrades had scooped her up as they beat a retreat. From there, they'd had her evacuated away from the conflict.
She'd wound up in Theramore, in the capable hands of the Alliance surgeons there. She'd later found that the wound had been very close to fatal; as things stood, she was very lucky to have escaped with no permanent damage save for a nasty scar on one side of her head. However, there had been more to it then that. She'd been as weak as a Nightsaber cub at first, and it had taken her months to get back in fighting condition.
But the problem hadn’t been the wound; the problem had been its consequences. In those six months, her comrades had moved on and gone off to do other things. She’d lost track of them; in effect, she’d pretty much lost everything. All she had now was the armour she wore and the sword on the back. She didn’t even have a name, she reflected. Everyone had always called her FJ, a nickname she preferred over her own real name. While it gave her a certain degree of anonymity that she liked, it also meant that tracing back to her old life was made that much harder.
Now she was back in action, up and about and reasonably capable again. However, there was still a lot of unfinished business to be attended to. She’d wanted to reconnect with her past, with those who had left her behind, and see what she could salvage of that time before she set out again. So she'd travelled back to Ashenvale to visit an old friend, one that she had neglected for some months. Her brush with death had made her remember the people she had known, and those she had left behind. It had also helped put things in a rather stark perspective.
It was a stark fact, one that had come to the forefront of her mind of late. More Night Elves had died in the third war and the few years since then had died since the war of Shifting Sands. A society that was engineered to preserve the status quo and survive for all eternity had changed more in the last five years then it had in the last thousand.
There was a small graveyard outside of Astranaar, one that held a degree of significance to her and the reason why she'd made Ashenvale the first stop on her trip. It was a small, secluded place, with a handful of graves. As was tradtional for Night Elves, the graves were not marked or assigned specific names. Instead they were simple round stones, decorated with carved abstract patterns.
Despite that, FJ did know who one of these monuments was for; a member of they small reserve unit that she’d once lead, who had fought (and died) in the third war. While FJ hadn't known the girl, she knew that she'd been a good friend of one of her other recruits, and, as a result, a link to those she had left behind all those months ago. And while many under her command had died, in many ways, it was this one death that stuck with her the most.
Xerille Fernleaf, she thought to herself as she ran a hand over the headstone. I'm sorry I failed you. She had died on the last day of the war, felled by a Legion group moving to assist Archimonde at Hyjal. FJ knew that the sacrifices of Xerille and others like her had helped save the world from devastation at the hands of the Legion, but it still didn't make matters any easier.
However, FJ also knew that there was at least a single member of her squad still alive. She'd made some enquiries in Astranaar, but it seemed that the woman had left the town many months ago. So now it fell on FJ to find her.
With her sword on her back, she set out, determined to catch up with a world that had left her behind.
One of the things that had surprised FJ when she began her search was how few of those who she was searching for had actually turned up. Some of it was understandable - Ever and Silver had been people who were very good at not being found when they wanted to, and Brun was surprisingly elusive for a Dwarf (even if very well dressed. She'd joked that he was the sexiest Dwarf Rogue ever). However, she hadn't been able to track down anyone at all from her past; not even Art, who she, Ever and Brun had called their "token human", and had been one of the shiniest paladins she'd ever known.
And so she'd travelled all the way to Stormwind, a city that had been her base of operations for some time (She'd spent a lot of time in Menethil Harbour as well, but that had to end after she apparently earned the ire of a local Fletcher) in the hope of picking up a few leads on people she had known. Stormwind was a big city and, more to the point, one of the key hubs used by adventurers like herself. It made some sense that the people she was looking for would have passed through there at least once.
The results were... mixed, to say the least. Despite her best efforts, she had been unable to find out much of anything. Of all the people she was looking for, only two of them warranted a mention. Even then, she could only find out that they had been in Stormwind and would pass through the city, not anything about their current whereabouts.
She'd been about to abandon her quest, when she'd managed to find, mainly by accident, another name. It was one that was rather low on her list of priorities, but none the less, it was someone from her past, something solid that she could go on. Furthermore, the information revealed something else that was interesting; this person seemed to be presently staying in Stormwind.
FJ knew that it was too much to pass up. A lead, no matter how tenuous, was better then no lead at all.
She casually walked through Stormwind's mage quarter, taking in the sights around her. It had been a while since she had been in the city, and she had forgotten what it could be like sometimes. The Mage quarter had always struck her as being a bit odd; its rows of high-rising but tightly-packed buildings looming over what was otherwise a pleasant park, topped off by the and the rather improbable-looking tower at its centre. But then, she didn't pretend to understand mages and their likes. For all she knew, they could like it like this. Of course, to her eye, Stormwind was already alien enough; a city of stone, built on top of nature, rather then working with it. Its weirdest district was, really, just a little odder then the norm.
Her contact was staying at one of the district's two inns; not the popular Blue Recluse, but instead the somewhat less popular - and rather ominously named, to her mind - Slaughtered Lamb. She didn't know what it was about that particular tavern, but she'd always heard that it was a 'bit odd' and that its customers usually took their drinks and moved along, rather then choosing to linger.
FJ stepped in the front door, taking the place in. She immediately spied her man, sitting at a table over one side of the main room, pouring over a collection of musty tomes and all manner of arcane paraphernalia. She smirked to herself as she walked over, looking over the mess. Even I can tell that most of this is junk, she thought to herself. He hasn't changed a bit.
He was a Gnome, and appeared pretty typical of the kind. Clad in black and green robes, he sported a broad moustache and a crown of spiky hair. At present, he was examining a small stone rune in one hand, while holding a cracker with a piece of cheese and sausage on it in the other.
"Hey Furt." FJ began. "Long time no see."
The Gnome almost dropped the rune as he spun around to look at her. "Gah!" He began, standing on the chair and looking around. "Don't sneak up on me like that! I almost-" He paused. "FJ? Is that you?"
"I see that time hasn't dimmed your amazing powers of deduction, Furt." She continued, glancing over the table, then smirking at the Gnome. "Still in the demon-bothering business?"
Furtwurtzler was a Warlock, which meant that, in theory, he would have been FJ's enemy on general principles. When she'd first encountered human and Gnome Warlocks, certainly she'd had that initial reaction. At least one Warlock had ended up with a massive, dark haired Kaldorei warrior looming over them, demanding that they explain themselves and surrender or risk immediate death.
However, as she learned more about the human lands and their peoples, she found that Warlocks were a tolerated and accepted (if only barely) part of their societies. She'd grudgingly learned to accept them, having realised that they were still aiding the Alliance in their own way.
That most of them seemed to be goony clods had helped to a degree; many of those she met were little more then fools prone to talking big and little else. Furtwurtzler, however, wasn't one of them. Instead, he was comically inept, had almost no talent with demonic arts and, most impressively, had never been able to summon anything beyond an Imp. All up, it meant that she found him somewhat more amusing then dangerous. When they had travelled and worked together, she usually spent her time extracting him from whatever situation he’d gotten himself into. He was pone to getting in over his head, both literally and figuratively.
"If you mean that I am a Demonologist, then yes." He explained to her. "I'm continuing to study all things demonic in the hopes of unlocking the secrets of Real Ultimate Power."
"Lots of luck with that." FJ commented as she looked over the table. It was a mess of musty tomes, arcane diagrams, incomprehensible figures and, of course, his collection of artefacts. Unfortunately, (or fortunately, depending on your point of view) Furtwurtler's idea of an 'artefact' roughly corresponded to most people's idea of 'junk'. He'd horde anything that he thought was even vaguely magical, then spend hours trying to unlock its secrets, pouring over old tomes and researching obscure and esoteric lore - only to find that it was, indeed, junk.
She also noted that he had a plate of assorted cheeses and crackers with a few cold meats handy. Say what you want about his skills as a Warlock, the guy did at least know how to pick his snacks.
FJ picked up the stone rune and peered at it. "Good to see ya, Furt." She continued, examining the rune. To her surprise, this one looked like it might almost be valuable. She considered pocketing it or ‘accidentally’ dropping it, just in case.
"I haven't seen you in a while." He commented. "I wondered what happened."
"Ghoul bashed my skull in. I've spent months recovering and picking my face up off the floor." She shrugged. "And you?"
"Continuing my studies." He noted. "My latest project is related to these runes that were recovered from Azshara. I believe that they contain secrets to summoning powerful demons."
"More powerful then an Imp, huh?" She asked, then put the rune down. "And when did you go to Azshara? I'd have think it too dangerous for ya, Furt."
"Actually, the runes were recovered by a friend of mine." He replied as he took the rune. "She's aiding me with my research."
"Oh?" FJ asked, slicing off a chunk of Dalaran Sharp and depositing it on a cracker. "Who's that?"
"Well-" Furtwurtzler began, but was cut off by a young, female voice form the door at the end of the room.
"Well, I found some Satyr blood." The voice began as a human girl walked into the room. Looking to be about sixteen or so, she had pale skin, long black hair and brown eyes, and was dressed in a rather ominous looking purple and black robe. "Satyr blood's great stuff. You can use it for all kinds of things like summoning circles and in making robes and stuff." She cheerily added as she examined a vial full of thick, red liquid.
"Uh..." FJ began.
"Ah!" Furtwurtzler beamed. "Thanks for that!" he took the vial and swished it a few times. "Yes, I think this will work just fine."
"Oh sure." The girl nodded, then turned to FJ. "Oh, and hi there!"
"Uh, hello." FJ began.
"My name's Verien." The girl continued. "I'm a friend of Furt's; we work together because we share common interests." FJ began to realise what those interests might be.
"That's... nice." FJ replied. "Uh, my name's FJ. I was just here to see him for a moment. Sorry to interrupt you." She indicated to the Gnome.
"Oh, not at all." Verien beamed. "It’s always nice to have visitors here. The Lamb doesn't get that many customers, which I always thought was a bit weird. I mean, it's a nice and cozy place, it’s got a terrific atmosphere, the food's great and its really convenient to the summoning-"
"So FJ, why are you here?" Furt cut her off. "How can I help you today?"
She realised that she didn't want to know about the facilities here, especially as it seemed to fit these two's particular interests. "I was just looking for some information, really." She offered. "I heard that Zogstra had been in town recently, and I was trying to track her down, see if I could find where she had gotten to." FJ shrugged. "I'm trying to reconnect to my past but... it ain't workin' so far."
"Zogstra?" Furt tilted his head and stroked his beard. "I do remember seeing her a while ago, but I couldn't say where."
"Oh!" Verien beamed. "You mean Anastasia Zogstra? Tall woman with red hair in a bun that's always impeccably neat and usually carries a reeeealy big hammer?" She stretched out her arms to indicate a hammer about as big as her body.
"You know her?" FJ asked, surprised. Zogstra was the last person she'd imagine associating with an immature girl of a warlock.
"Yeah." Verien nodded enthusiastically. "We're both members of..." She trailed off. "Well, I mean, we know each other from working together and stuff."
And again things she wasn't being told. But she was well used to it now, especially from Warlocks. "Right. So, uh, where would she be?"
"I heard she was up in Wepple, working with the Argent Dawn."
"The Western Plaugelands." Verien explained. "WPL. Wepple, next to Epple. Its a cute nickname for the area, but I don't think it suits as they're really kinda icky."
The Plaugelands are "kinda icky?", she thought. Now there's an understatement.
"Well thanks." FJ finished, realising that she was neither going to get any more help out of them, nor did she really want to hang around a pair of warlocks. Furtwurtzler may have been the only friend she had been able to track down so far, but apart form comic relief, he wasn’t that much. "You've been a great help, both of ya." She smiled at the pair of them. "I guess I'd better be off then."
"Awww." Verien began. "I was gonna ask if you wanted to stay for some tea."
She smiled an awkward smile. "Thanks for the offer but... I'll pass, at least for now. I got things I gotta do and places I gotta be." She gave them a brief wave. "But next time I'm in Stormwind, I'll be sure to drop by and see the pair of ya." It was a blatant lie, and she knew it.
"Sure thing!" Verien beamed. "And it was nice meeting you, Effjay!"
"Yeah." She finished. "Same." Weirdoes.
The Griffon ride from Stormwind had given her a lot of time to think about her plan of attack. As she'd travelled, she realised that she had none, really. Knowing what she did of Zogstra, she figured that the girl would have waded headlong into the Plaugelands, intent on bashing the living crap out of any Undead she came across. Of course, the Plaugelands were a big place, which meant that she could be anywhere.
Anastasia Zogstra, she reflected, had been her best friend during her time adventuring across the Eastern Kingdoms. One of the first humans she’d ever met, FJ was impressed that she wasn’t intimidated by the large, muscular, feral-looking Kaldorei woman. That Zogstra herself was large and heavily built for a human probably didn’t hurt.
But it was more then just that. As they’d travelled, she’d seen that Zogstra had a level of faith and devotion that was very impressive. One of the human Paladins, she not only was brave and loyal, but incredibly dedicated. The woman had dedicated herself to ridding the world of the evils that plagued it, and had vowed to do such by the most direct method possible – hitting things with a very big hammer. It was an approach that FJ heartily approved of.
After she arrived at the Argent Dawn forward camp at Chillwind Point, she began making some enquiries about her friend’s whereabouts. The officers in charge indicated that Zogstra had been there recently; in fact, she had set out a few hours ago, headed towards Andorhal. It gave FJ a good start on her location, which was a better lead then she could have asked for otherwise.
While she knew that Chillwind was hardly a permanent settlement, being more of a transient staging area, she couldn't help but notice a new face amongst the crowd of Argent Dawn officers. While she hadn't seen the individual before, she'd seen one like him; that was reason enough to avoid them, but rather watch them warily as she made her enquires. Instead of raising the issue, she delicately avoided him for the moment, but could not help but warily eye him. She'd have to figure out exactly what was happening there later; she had other things to do now.
Instead, she headed towards Sorrow Hill, a large graveyard that served as the entrance to the Plaugelands. As she approached it, she felt a sense of foreboding, moreso then what she usually expected out of such a haunted, desolate place. It was in the Plaugelands that she had nearly met her death once before; going back seemed to be a bad omen to her.
But it was her one shot at reconnecting to her past and her place in the world. And she was not going to let it go.
Sword at the ready, she ventured into Sorrow Hill, looking for some signs of her friend. Sure enough, as she travelled, she could see the bodies of recently destroyed undead; shattered skeletons and crushed ghouls. Even though she knew that none of them would be the one that had injured her so badly, she still felt a hint of amusement at the idea.
It was as she approached the far end of the graveyard that she finally realised where she was. The sole bastion of sanity in this area was a single site, the shrine to Uther the Lightbringer, hero of the alliance and Paladin of the Silver hand. It was a sanctuary, a rare place where one could gain a moment's respite from the chaos that surrounded it.
However, she could tell that today, sanity and reason were not on the agenda.
A trio of figures stood at the ramp up to the tomb, talking to each other. In the middle of the trio, clearly giving the orders to the others, was a large and burly Orc. He was clad in mail armour, and carried a pair of axes at his hip. As he talked, he was pointing to the tomb, then to the others. Finally, he slapped his fist into the palm of his hand, and grunted.
The figure on his left nodded, then replied, his voice making the rough Orcish language only sound even harsher. A male Forskaen, he almost looked at home in the ruins here. Tall and gaunt, he was clad in ragged, yet brightly coloured robes, topped off with a red hat, a staff in his hands.
The third figure, however, was the most striking of the three. A Jungle Troll, he had the tall, lanky form typical of their type. His leather armour and twin blades marked him as a rogue, but the image was offset by the jaunty red captain's hat that he wore on his head. He drew a thumb across his throat, then indicated to the tomb and laughed.
While she couldn't understand the language, their intent became clear as she watched them. And it was something that she couldn't allow to have happen. Three on one is never good odds. But then, this is something important. These guys are crossing a line, doing something that should not be done. Horde relations be damned, this just ain't right.
She smirked and then stepped forward, letting out a polite "ahem" as she did. "Hey boys." She began. "Now I can tell what you're planning on doing, and I can say now that it ain't right. So how's about y'all just move along and we leave this place in peace, okay? Because I'd hate to get violent at you."
The three of them turned to face her, the tomb momentarily forgotten. The Orc was the first to react, snarling, then pointing at her. he shouted something in Orcish, and while she didn't understand what he said, she got the idea. The Troll added something else, followed by a cackle, while the Forsaken mealy readied his staff.
"Yeah, three of you against one of me. Hardly seems fair, does it?" She smirked. "But then, that's your problem, not mine." As she stepped around, she sized up the three of them. The troll can likely do the most damage, but he can't last in a stand-up fight. Orc looks tough, and isn't messing around with those two meat-axes. No idea about the stiff, but most casters don't like it when you get in their face. No demon, so I figure he ain't a warlock.
And then she drew her sword, something she hadn't done in months. For a moment, it glinted in the sun as she pulled it out. It was a special blade, one that she had carried for over two millenia, one that was almost a part of her being.
"But, I see ya ain't gonna run. So, then, we fight." She finished. "Sorry."
With that, she charged forwards, letting out a fierce battle cry as she ran straight at the Troll. As she swung her blade, she could feel the magic within it activate, flowing through her body and making her so much stronger and more powerful. She felt invincible, now as she had then, the last time she raised it.
The weapon slammed down on the Troll, making a mockery of his effort to block it with his longknife. Flames leaped from the blade as it crashed through his weapon, shattering it before, driven by sheer power and fury, it cleaved through his wrist, effortlessly shredding flesh and bone. With a startled cry, the troll reared back, his hand gone and left with only a burning stump. Following through, she slashed through his torso, sending him reeling back and shouting with pain.
The Troll collapsed to the ground, clutching his chest with his ruined arm. FJ knew that he'd be able to regenerate the damage eventually, even going so far as to grow a new hand. However, for now he was out of action, which is what she wanted. Turning to the Orc, she grinned. "See this?" She asked as she held up her sword. "This is Destiny. It's a legendary blade, and it's mine." As if to emphasise the point, flames licked along the edge of the blade. "So want to keep trying or just give up now?"
Snarling, the Orc barked out an order, then drew his two axes. Behind him, the Forsaken's form shimmered, dissolving into a semi-transparent purple shade of its normal self. The Orc lunged forwards, shouting as he ran with both of his axes out. For her part. FJ stood her ground, ready to receive him.
She didn't get the chance, however. Something slammed into the back of her legs, sending her sprawling to the ground. At the same time, the Orc lunged at her, swinging down with his two axes. Recovering just in time, she rolled to one side, dodging a blow that would have gone straight through her chest.
Leaping to her feet, she turned to face the new attacker. It wasn't what she expected; instead of another Horde member, it was a large black boar, its body covered with armored plates. Shoulda figured him for a hunter she chided herself as she sidestepped the Boar, then turned back to the Orc. The situation changed dramatically; she now had to deal with both master and pet, plus whatever the Forsaken priest was going to do.
He grunted then swung again, leading with his right hand axe. FJ bought her sword up, parrying the blow and swatting it aside, then twisting to avoid the second blow. At the same time, she stepped around the Orc, trying to put him between her and the boar. Seeing a chance, she swung again, her opponent stepping back and only narrowly avoiding her attack.
She swung around, putting all her weight into the blow. The Orc bought up both axes, only just managing to block her strike as she bore down on him. Grunting, she drove herself forwards, pushing down on the Orc to smash through his defence. Despite her opponent's size and bulk, it became clear that she was winning, and breaking through his defence.
Suddenly, a searing pain ripped through her head, sending her staggering back, recoiling from the Orc in shock. She lazily turned, her body feeling like her mind was disconnected or not responding properly, glancing back to see the Forsaken priest. One arm was outstretched, a strange purple ray emitting from it and striking her in the back.
Can't give up. She thought to herself, managing to cut through the slurry and fog that was filling her mind. She turned back, swinging at the Orc again with her sword. This one was close, but just not enough, the Orc managing to deflect the blow away with one of his axes. As she turned away, the boar again barged into her, catching her off balance. She staggered, only barely able to keep her footing.
But it was enough of an opening for the Orc. He swung with his left hand, catching her off-guard. The axe slammed into her side, rending armour and flesh with a sickening crunch. FJ felt a sharp, tearing pain in her side as the weapon bit home, sinking into her. She wanted to recoil, to drop her sword to hold her side, but knew she couldn't. Instead, trying to remain focused, she bought up her sword and blocked his second blow, but barely; the force of the impact drove her to one knee.
Drawing back his weapons, the Orc muttered something as he strode forwards. His hulking form loomed over her, blotting out the sun. He sneered, his face twisted into a cruel sneer as he raised one of his axes to deliver the finishing blow.
And then came the light. For a moment, the world around her seemed to be eclipsed with a beautiful, white light that surged through every fiber of her being. She could feel the pain in her side decreasing, as if the wound had vanished, while the fog lifted from her head. Then, a moment later, another wave of light surged through her, energising and empowering her.
The Forsaken priest shouted out something, but was cut off by a sickening cracking sound. He tumbled forward from his perch, bent over backwards as if his spine had been crushed. He crashed to the ground, collapsing behind a decrepit headstone in a pile of limbs and robes.
Standing on the hill where he had been was a human woman; tall and muscular, with coppery-coloured hair tied into a bun. Her face spoke of fierce determination, and at the same time, barely-controlled anger. She was dressed in red and silver plate armour, and carried a massive flanged mace in her hands.
"I do not advocate violence between Alliance and Horde." She stated, a firm, commanding tone to her voice. "We should stand together against common foes. However... you come here, and dare to defile this sacred place. That is an unforgivable crime. Surrender now, or be destroyed!"
FJ smiled, and then turned back to the Orc. "Now you're for it." She began, then lunged forwards as she spoke, swinging her greatsword at her would be opponent. Again he bought up an axe to parry, but this time was less successful. Destiny came down, slamming into the shaft of the axe and biting into it, nearly slicing the weapon in half.
The Orc backed off, then shouted a command. The boar, waiting in reserve, charged up the hill towards the human, grunting and snarling as it surged forwards. She stood her ground, however, not flinching in the face of the enemy. As the creature bore down on her, instead, she swung at it with her massive mace, slamming into its side, crushing the armoured plates it wore over its flank. With a squeal, the boar was knocked aside, crashing to the ground.
Leaving it for the moment, the woman charged towards the Orc, readying her weapon for another strike. At the same time, FJ swung again, her weapon digging into her opponent’s arm, slicing through the flesh and tearing out with a trail of slick, wet blood behind it. The Orc cried out in pain, staggering back as she pressed the attack. A second swing glanced off his chest, but instead tore into his breastplate, crushing armour and severing the mail links.
Desperate, he shouted out a command, indicating to the Forsaken who had just stood. The undead priest, still in his ghostly shadowform, looked over the situation, then began chanting. A moment later, his form wavered and became even more insubstantial as he broke into a run, scurrying away and dropping out of sight. The Orc looked around, only to see his Troll companion running away, clutching his chest with his ruined arm. Despite the extent of his injuries, he was moving rather fast.
"Go on." FJ began, a confident look on her face as she raised her sword, holding it back with the intent to thrust it straight at his head. "Give me an excuse."
Instead, he ran.
"Well." FJ finished as she lowered her weapon, then turned to her rescuer. "Anastasia Zogstra. Looks like I found you after all."
They had left Sorrow Hill behind, instead stopping at the shores of a nearby river. They hadn't spoken at first, FJ still trying to collect herself after what had been a gruelling battle, one that had been far too close for her own tastes. "Thanks for helping me out." She finally spoke up.
"Not at all." Zogstra replied. "It is the least that I can do for you."
"Yeah..." FJ shook her head. "Pretty dumbarse move of mine, picking a fight with a trio of Horde thugs."
"Not at all." Zogstra replied. "I would have done the same thing in that situation. What they were doing was wrong; I couldn't have allowed it to happen."
"Yeah, but you're indestructible." FJ playfully punched Zogstra on the shoulder. "You'd have beat all three of them down, and their piggy too."
Zogstra sighed. "It’s good to see you again, FJ. Really." She shook her head. "I heard about what had happened to you, and came to see you in Theramore... unfortunately, you were well out of it. Even the best healers, both surgeons and those who world the Light's magics, can only do so much."
"No, I understand." FJ nodded. "You had your own life to get on with; things to do and the like. I wouldn't expect you to wait around for a comatose lump like me for months on end. Hells, I'm sure you spent every last minute of the last few months smashing Zombie heads in."
"Pretty much." Zogstra nodded. "Especially during the scourge invasion."
"I heard the stories. I'm kinda glad I sat that one out." She absentmindedly picked up a rock. "But now I'm back, one way or another. So you're gonna have to get used to healing my beat-up arse again."
Zogstra nodded. "Can I ask what bought you out here?" She began. "And how'd you find me?"
"Funny thing is, I got your whereabouts off a weird girl in Stormwind. I think she was a warlock, which struck me as really odd. I mean, you knowing a Warlock?"
"That'd be Verien." Zogstra smiled. "She's a little... odd, but is a good person, despite her... profession."
"Right. I won't ask how you know her."
"It's... complicated." Zogstra suggested."
"Always is." FJ smiled. "Anyways, I was told that you were around these parts, so I decided to chase you up." She shook her head. "Truth is, Zog, I've been trying to get my brain back in order and sort out just where I am and what's going on around here. I'm so out of the loop."
"I can help." Zogstra offered. "Really. if you need anything, FJ, you just have to ask."
"Well..." The Night Elf trailed off. "The world's changed a lot in the last few months. When I was last up and about, everyone was worried about the Silithids. Then it was the Scourge. And now... it seems a lot of things have changed."
"Okay, this is gonna sound really dopey but..." She shook her head, thinking back to all she had seen and experienced in the last few days. "There was a guy at Chillwind Camp, someone I'd never seen there before. And I'd know if I had, because he looked for all the world like a ferking Eredar."
"Ah." Zogstra began. "That's... not too much off the mark."
FJ furrowed her brow. "How so? I mean... what's with that guy?"
"He's an ambassador." She explained. "And no, he's not an Eredar."
"So... what the frel is he?"
She was taken aback by this. "A Draenei? I thought those were the weird-looking little guys in the Swamp of Sorrows."
"We all did." Zogstra shook her head. "It’s a long story but... they're on our side. They're members of the Alliance now, FJ. Just like your people joined us, so did they. So far, there's only a few of them, mainly ambassadors and advisors. But... they're definitely on our side, FJ. I know we can trust them."
"Even though they look like Eredar?"
"It'd be hard for me to explain, really." Zogstra offered.
"If its one of your mystical Paladinny things, then I'll believe you." FJ nodded. "You know I could never figure that sorta stuff."
FJ nodded. "So the big blue guys are on our side. Anything else I should know?"
Zogstra shook her head slowly. "I wish you didn't have to hear this, actually." She began. "But... the Horde has also added more members."
"What is it? Goblins? Ogres? Forest Trolls?" All three races had been a part of the Horde in past. Any of them joining the Horde en masse would be a significant shift in the balance of power.
"No." She shook her head again. "Instead... they're Blood Elves."
"Great" FJ muttered, anger clearly welling within her. "damn Blood Elves. I knew they were no good but... to join the Horde? Yeah, that tears it." To say that she didn’t like her race’s misguided cousins would be an understatement. To her, they represented every mistake the Highbourne had made, repeated anew. That she didn’t have any love for the Horde either didn’t help matters.
"My friend Aishen said that she'd seen some-"
"Aishen?" FJ asked, cutting her off. "As in... Aishen Thornewood?" There was a sudden optimistic tone in her voice.
"Scrawny looking girl, but is a good shot with a bow? Mutters a lot and looks at your feet?"
"I wouldn't say that." Zogstra shook her head. "She's one of the most confident and capable people that I've ever met."
"Wow." FJ shook her head, thinking about the one-time recruit she used to know. "The world really has gotten messed up since I was last here." She chuckled to herself.
It was some days later that FJ and Zogstra met again in Ironforge. Much like Stromwind, Ironforge had seemed very alien at first to FJ; the notion of an underground city, carved out of a mountain was one that she’d never considered; at the very least, Stormwind was above ground. Still, like stormwind, she’d gotten used to it to a degree in the last year.
Leaving behind the bustle of the city's main trade district, they instead headed to the War Quarter; the centre of the Dwarven military. To FJ's surprise, however, they were not headed into the cavernous command hall; instead, she lead them to a small tavern off to one side, a quiet place with only a handful of patrons. Heading upstairs, Zogstra directed her to a table in the corner, where a young Kaldorei women as sitting. As she approached, the young woman stood and turned to face her.
FJ recognised the woman immediately, despite the fact that it had been several years since she had last seen her. Of average height for a Kaldorei, she was a lot slimmer and less heavily built then FJ, but at the same time, not scrawny or underweight by any stretch.
‘’Compared to when we met, and she was just a stick,’’ FJ thought, with a small grin.
‘’”Ishnu’ala, seler”’’ she began with a small bow.
"Aishen Thornewood." FJ began, clearly impressed. "You've changed a lot since I last saw you."
"It is good to see you again" Aishen replied, a smile evident on her face.
FJ smiled at the girl. "Look at you. I can see that you've lead a most... interesting life these last few years."
"Well..." Aishen trailed off, but nodded. "We can talk about it later, but... but I am very glad to see that you are alive and well. I owe you a lot, FJ. And I hope that, from today, I will be able to repay some of that."
FJ shook her head in reply. “Not at all. In fact, I feel that it is I that owe you.”
“How so?” Aishen asked, clearly confused.
‘’You always were bad with people, Aish.’’ FJ mentally added. “No, I am indebted to both you and Zogstra for what you’ve done for me.” She smiled and nodded at her, then turned to Zogstra. “The pair of you have helped me to find my place, to reconnect with the world that had left me behind.”
“Things have changed a lot.” Zogstra admitted.
“I know.” FJ replied. “But at the same time, I think I’m ready to face it.” She smiled at the pair of them. “You go away for a little bit, and everything goes nuts. But with friends, good friends by your side, whatever may happen, you can face them.”
She grinned a toothy grin, that emphasised her fangs, a trait of her race that she found were great for intimidating others. “So let’s face this brave new world, and kick it.”