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Desperation

Kohler's picture

The Broken Shore had been an unmitigated disaster. Mason was no stranger to the horrors of war, but had never before been so completely on the front lines. How many had been killed outside the Tomb? How many left behind? There was no way to know for sure. Too many, though. He had almost been among them.


The Legion’s forces were truly as endless as they said. For every demon that fell, another materialized to take its place. More than one, even. The air was filled with the acrid, sulfuric reeking of demonic magics, laden with the screams of the dying. The ground, stained and slick with the blood of the Alliance and the Legion alike.

 

As Mason pulled his blade free of a mo’arg’s colossal chest with a grunt, another rushed against him from the side, the massive blow of its hammer sending the smith flying. As he crashed to the ground, one of the ornamental horns of his helmet was shattered, and his sword flung from his grasp.

 

Scrabbling in the dust for a weapon - something, anything - he rolled away from another crushing swing of the demon’s hammer. His hand found metal - a shield. It would do, he thought, as he began pushing himself to his feet, only to be struck from behind by a felguard’s blade.

The rest was a red haze.


He rode his gryphon hard, only stopping for water and the occasional bite to eat, the entire way from Stormwind to Arathi, far to the north. It was a long journey, and by the time he set his feet on the ground again, he nearly collapsed from exhaustion. His gryphon squawked, stretched, and found a spot in the shade to rest at last.

 

He had landed in the rocky crags on the northern edge of the broad, flat land of Arathi, on an unassuming grassy cline leading up to a crevice in the stony slope. He passed through, shedding his armor along the way. First, his helm, then pauldrons, fell to the soft grass in the shadow of the rocks above.

 

When he exited the other side of the shaded passage into the clearing beyond, he wore only his undershirt and rough work pants. His armor, worn since the battle on the Broken Shore, beaten and broken, littered the path behind him.

A worn-down circle of stones surrounded a larger stele in the center of the open space, the crags of northern Arathi hemming in the little clearing on all sides. Mason, upon reaching the stone, fell to his knees and wept freely.


Westfall burned. The innocent and the blameless were always the first casualties of any war, and the Legion’s onslaught was no different. Farmers died defending their ancestral plots, and the struggling homeless who so earnestly were trying to regain their footing in life found the only reward for their labor was an inglorious end.

 

Mason, from his position on the ramparts of Sentinel Hill, looked out over the once-golden fields turned black and sickly green from felfire. That was when he felt himself grow cold, and his stomach twist into a knot. There, to the southwest, almost as far as Moonbrook, on an old farm turned shelter for the transients of Westfall, began to materialize one of the Legion’s structures, spewing forth demons and flame. In a matter of moments, those old timbers were no more.


The smith looked up at the stone before him, his tears abating. Months ago, he had come here seeking knowledge of his ancestor. What he had found was this tomb, this monument, inscribed with runes somewhere between vrykul and modern human language, adorned with an image of a winged woman looking down upon a triumphant warlord, and smaller carvings depicting the same stories mentioned in the book Mason had borrowed from the Explorer’s League. The tomb of Atli Giantslayer.

 

It was something more, though. At its foot had once sat the armor that, mostly preserved by the magic of Atli’s wife - or so the pictograms on the stele suggested - had been battered upon the Broken Shore, and now rested in the thick grass of this same clearing. From its peak, though, undisturbed by the years, thrust the hilt of a sword, preserved by the same magic, and encased in stone as Krimhyld’s final living act.

 

“Whether or not th’ stories are true - and they’d better be for me t’ be talkin’ t’ a rock - I need this strength now. I’ve seen m’ childhood home burned t’ cinders, I’ve seen m’ friends die screamin’ and bloodied.”

 

The smith’s tears began to flow once more, his voice rising steadily to a shout, “All for nothin’! We can’t win, not like this! M’ brother’s sword is lost on that fel-cursed island, m’ friends left t’ die! Your own armor, broken and barely recognizable!”

 

Mason stood, laying hands on the stone, his head resting against its cool surface, “M’ family and friends are all I’ve got. I need t’ protect them, protect m’ people, and I can’t do it. Not alone. Th’ Light’s abandoned us all - Light, even Tirion - and I need your strength. Grant me that, whoever y’ mighta been.”

 

He reached up to grip the hilt of the sword, and croaked, his voice hoarse from weeping, “Please.”

 

He shivered, a momentary feeling of being watched. And the stone crumbled, the sword secure in his hands.