For a moment, the peace and quiet of the Ashenvale forests was interrupted by a rustle of leaves and branches as a shadowy form slipped past. Blending into the deep purples and greens of the woods, the figure was all but invisible in amongst the dense foliage. Pausing, it waved a hand to its fellows, indicating for them to come forwards.
Aishen Thornewood quietly waited as the other members of her 'squad' caught up with her. Sent ahead to scout their path, she had been taking great pains to remain undetected in the forest. While this land was her home, a place she had known for centuries, it had of late changed in sinister and unexpected ways.
For millennia, the forests of Ashenvale had remained a quiet, tranquil and serene sanctuary, isolated from the outside world. Bathed in perpetual, magical mists, it was a haven for the Kaldorei who resided within. Ages ago, they had chosen to shelter themselves from the outside world and its ravages, secluding themselves within the quiet forests.
However, that sanctity, that peace had been broken, and now the ten-millennia old culture of the Kaldorei was under threat.
The first invaders had been a race of brutish, green-skinned humanoids that appeared to be alien to the world. They'd invaded the southern forests and despoiled them, harvesting them for their wood. It was an act of desecration that was unforgivable, and had been enough to prompt the Sentinels to go to war for the first time in ten thousand years to force them off their land.
But that was nothing compared to what was to come. Waves of demons, the ancient enemies of the Kaldoeri race, had emerged, invading the areas around Ashenvale. They had their allies; nightmarish undead creatures, and more of the green-skinned humanoids from before. These ones seemed to be a different group, however, not allied with the first group. Rather, these appeared to be the servants of the Burning Legion.
At a little over three hundred years old, Aishen was only young; she would have been the first to admit that. However, in these circumstances, age was nowhere near as important as apparent skill. Aishen had spent years in the forests learning to track beasts and observe their ways. When General Feathermoon had drafted units into the ranks of the Sentinels to help protect their lands aginst this new invasion, she had suddenly become quite useful.
"Well?" Xerille Fernleaf, a member of her ad-hoc team asked as she ducked down next to Aishen. A little older, she and Aishen had been friends for a long time. With similar hair colours and face markings, the two looked a lot alike, enough to be occasionally mistaken for siblings.
"Warlocks." She explained. "A mixture of those foul Orcs and their demon allies."
"Not good." Xerille shook her head.
"No, not at all. It means they're on the move." The stories she'd heard suggested that the Legion was moving on the sacred Mount Hyjal and Nordrassil, the world tree. What they wanted with it was a mystery to Aishen, knowing very little of Demons and their ways. However, she did know that, whatever it was, it was bound to be bad.
Her squadron had been sent as a part of a scouting force to harry the Leigon's flanks and relieve the pressure on the main body of the Sentinel army. While they weren't expected to defeat the Legion’s army, their job was to occupy them and, hopefully, force them to split their forces.
"What shall we do about them?" Xerille asked.
"We fight." A third voice interjected. Glancing up, Aishen could see the squad's leader, an older woman who was know only as FJ. Taller then Aishen and with long, dark blue hair, she carried herself with a degree of confidence that the younger recruits lacked. "No matter what it takes, we will protect our homes form these alien invaders."
Aishen nodded, understanding the woman's words. The balance of nature must be maintained at all costs. It was a lesson she had learned when young, one that came back to her now. These creatures and their allies are unnatural and foul. They have no place in our home. They must be cut out at all costs. "I am ready, commander."
The rest of her squad added a reply of nods, enforcing her statement. "Very well." FJ began. "Aishen, lead the way."
She lead them deeper into the woods, away from the comfortable and familiar place into the darker, southern reaches of the forest. Around them, the landscape began to change; the trees became twisted and blighted, while the air took on a sickly, greenish tinge. Ahead, Aishen could see several stone columns rising out of the leaf litter on the forest floor, whole pieces of other ancient buildings were nearby. "How fitting." She muttered to herself as Xerille joined her. "They use a Highborne temple as their refuge. These greenskins seem to be determined to repeat their mistakes."
"Hopefully without as devastating results." Xerille added.
"Aye." Aishen nodded.
"Silence." FJ hissed as an Orc emerged from the ruins. Dressed in purple robes, he was trailed by a small creature, clad in brilliant green flames. "Aishen?"
"Of course." The younger Night Elf replied. Quietly moving forwards, she hid behind a bush, bow at the ready. The Orc continued his patrol, stalking forwards towards her location. Waiting for the opportune moment, she held the bow, and then released. Wirth a sudden thud, the arrow imbedded itself in the Orc's throat. Morally wounded, he staggered back, letting out a loud gurgle as he went down.
The imp let out a sudden, high-pitched chatter, which was silenced by a hail of arrows that impaled it. The small creature fell to the ground, then simply dissolved as if it had never been there.
Aishen moved forwards, keeping down as she penetrated deeper into the enemy stronghold. The taint of demonic energy was strong here, so much that she could feel it in the air. As she continued to advance, she could make out more of the green-skinned humanoids and their demonic allies, strange beings that came in a variety of otherworldly forms.
She patiently waited for her moment to act, hiding behind a demolished statue of some Highborne warrior. And again this place serves the Legion’s followers. Ironic.
"For the goddess!" FJ called out form across the way. "Attack!"
That was Aishen's signal to act. As the Orcs turned to react to this sudden threat from the front of their enclave, she opened up, sending an arrow into the back of one of their number. With a loud cry, they turned to face this sudden attacker; however, she was already prepared for them.
A fireball sizzled through the space she had been, obliterating the bush she had been using for cover. Instead, she continued moving, loading and firing while on the run. Another Orc collapsed, an arrow through his chest. Several more turned to face her, only to be suddenly hit from behind by arrows from the rest of her squad. Their ranks suddenly degenerated into chaos, the members of their force clearly surprised and confused by the attack.
All bar one, that is.
A single Orc, larger then the others and his face obscured by robes broke away from the pack, clutching a book under one arm. "After him!" FJ called out from the middle of the battle. "Aishen, don't let him escape!"
"Aye!" She called back, dashing into the depths of the woods after him, leaving the rest of the squad behind. The Orc was barreling his way through the woods, not aiming to be stealthy or quiet but instead to simply get away as fast as possible. Aishen stayed as close as she could to him, keeping on his trail as they descended further into the woods.
Around her the twisted plants intertwined with more Highborne ruins, growing over them or intertwining with them, as the sickly green atmosphere seemed to thicken. Ignoring the growing feeling of unease, Aishen continued to follow him. Is this the doing of the Legion? she asked herself. Or something else? Is this what they have in store for our world?
She stopped as she reached a new set of ruins, distinct form the others. While following the same architectural style as other Highborne relics, the white marble was scarred and etched with occult symbols, and had been stained a vile red colour. Around she could see other areas that had been similarly decorated, while other features began to reveal themselves to her eyes. Piles of skulls form both animals and humanoids had been gathered around, while several braziers supported brilliant green flames that cast haunting shadows on the area around them.
It was an eerie and disturbing place, one that combined the familiar with the alien and different. No longer empowered by the combination of determination and rage that she had felt before, she was now far more cautions, slowly moving through the shadows as she nervously glanced around, wary for any signs of danger. She'd heard that there were places like this deep in Ashenvale, ones where ancient magics still permeated and where foul creatures laired.
Ahead she saw what looked like some sort of shrine; a traditional gateway with an altar and other accoutrements. A pair of figures stood at it, the Orc from before and a second, larger one. This one had purple skin and red hair, while long, Elven ears contrasted with his curved horns. While humanoid, the figure also sported a tail, and cloven hooves.
A Satyr! Aishen thought as she recongised the creature. Foul, twisted beings that practiced dark and evil magics, the creatures had once been Highbourne who had been corrupted by the Burning Legion. Now it appeared that they were in league with these new invaders - a combination that horrified her.
This cannot be allowed to succeed. No matter what the cost may be, I will destroy these invaders. Dropping down, she began to slowly 'fade', melding in with the dark shadows of the twisted glade. This evil ends here.
She drew her bow, readying it and pointing it at the towering Satyr. Narrowing her eyes, she focused on it, trying to exclude all else around her. Then, confident that she had his mark, she released her bow. The arrow flew true, striking the Satyr in the throat. With a bellow, the creature toppled over, the Orc immediately spinning around to face her.
The green-skinned warrior shouted out an indecipherable command, black energy forming in his hands. Beofre she could react, he unleashed it, a bolt of Inky darkness striking Aishen in the chest and washing over her, Immediately, her whole body was wracked with terrible, unspeakable agony. She cried out in pain, stumbling as she fought to keep control.
Snarling, the Orc advanced on her, fire crackling across his hands as he muttered. Not understanding his words, she ignored them and again tried to ready her bow, only to find that she was fumbling and barley able to concentrate, her hands spasming as the pain washed through her. In frustration, she dropped it and ran forwards, pulling out the hunting knife that was her only other weapon. Running forwards, she ran at the Orc, implanting it into his gut just as he was about to cast.
With a surprised grunt, he fell back, the flames dissipating as he died. Aishen gasped, then collapsed herself, the knife clattering to the ground.
It was several minutes before she was again able to move. Picking herself up, she checked over the two bodies, confirming that both were dead. Then gathering her fallen weapons, she began to slowly limp up the path back to the shrine.
"Aishen!" Xerille shouted out as she approached. Her friend looked tired and worn, but appeared to be unharmed. She, and the rest of the squad seemed to have finished up here, the Shrine being littered with the bodies of fallen cultists. "Where were you?"
"Orc leader tried to get away." She gasped out. "He... was going... to meet a Satyr."
"Disturbing." FJ commented as she walked over to Aishen. "What happened?"
"Killed them both." She finished as Xerille helped her stand. "No longer a threat."
"Fortunately, the same can be said for the ones here." FJ finished. "You've done well."
Aishen nodded, then managed a weak smile. "Thank you." She acknowledged. But this isn't the end, is it? she mentally added. There are far more threats to this world then just this small group. I know it. And we will not be safe until they are eliminated, and things can be put to right.
And this is my mission. I must protect this world form all those who would threaten its survival.