It was painful for the paladin to see the Riverey in that state. He did not want to disturb her now. Therefore, he silently jumped onto his horse and rushed off to Stormwind. To Exodar, the path was clearly not close. And although the paladin did not know the exact road there, he knew that the path ran through the city of night elves Darnassus. And then he will find the way. He will ask local if something happens. Arriving at the marina, the paladin asked when the next ship from Darnassus would arrive. Fortunately, the ship was due to arrive in an hour. A whole hour of painful expectation, while a terrible clawed hand is creeping slowly towards Lassara, who wants to strangle her. But she does not even suspect about it. The paladin felt extremely nasty at the mere thought that Lassara could suffer because of him.
— Are you in a hurry? — A voice asked.
The paladin spun around. Behind him stood a night elf dressed in a fancy robe. She held a wand in one hand, and a book in the other. Out of the corner of his eye, the paladin noticed a torn sleeve on the mantle and a black spot on its side.
— You’re kind of nervous. Calm down, the ship will not run away from you. He still has to stand there all day and unload goods, — she smiled sweetly.
— What?! All day! I can’t wait so long! What other ways are there to get to Darnassus? Better yet, to Exodar, — the paladin exclaimed
— Are you in a hurry for a fire? What happened? — responded the elf.
Paladin did not want to talk about his problem, so he began to carefully select the words. And it took him a lot of time. For a while he simply remained silent, reflecting on every word.
— I suppose this is something urgent. Well. For a nominal fee, I can send you straight to Darnassus, — the elf said, winking slightly.
— Portal? Right? — The paladin asked dejectedly: he hated portals. — Then let’s go straight to Exodar.
— I’m sorry, but I won’t transfer you there. To be honest, I’m not a master at creating portals at such distances. I have not been to Exodar to accurately represent my destination.
The paladin looked at the elf.
— And it’s not you who recently set fire to a tower of magicians in Stormwind?
The night elf was embarrassed, blushing faintly. She looked at the torn sleeve, and then at the black spot on the mantle.
— I teleport you for free, okay? — Just don’t tell anyone.
— Sure! — Smiled the paladin.
Two minutes later, the paladin was already in Darnassus. A strange, floral scent hung in the air, making Bolingar grimace in displeasure. Such smells were disgusting to him: he preferred to inhale the aroma of a hearth, freshly forged steel and gunpowder. Oh, an indescribable feeling! Walking blindly and focusing only on the map, he was able to get to the tree in which the portal should be. But he was not there.
The paladin again peered at the map, twisted it up and down, but did not understand why there was no portal down in this tree. A growling voice called out to him suddenly.
— Can I help you? — Worgen stood next to Bolingar. — I have plenty of free time, I can take you to the portal, it is not far.
— What, ah. Yes, thanks, — the paladin was confused.
Together they slowly walked to the portal, which led to the foot of the huge Teldrassil tree.
Bolingar examined the worgen carefully. He was wearing black chain mail armor. Behind him stood two two-handed runic blades, but the runes on the blades were muffled. Worgen was clearly not a death knight. But most of all, the paladin was struck by the short horns on the worgen’s head. The real deer horns! Who is he?
— Maybe you can tell me what’s going on in the world? And here I am almost completely isolated from the world and I can’t leave this city. And here it’s terribly boring, — the worgen suddenly turned to the paladin.
— I do not even know where to start. The world is changing very quickly, — said the paladin. — Recently, the Scourge obliterated the Courage Fortress in Northrend. In Dalaran, the neutrality between the Horde and the Alliance. Everyone is trying to drive the Lich King from the ice throne. And, as far as I know, there is a silver tournament.
— Hmm. The world is the same longing as here — obviously disappointed worgen said. — What brought you to Darnassus? Here you are clearly the first time.
— I need to get to the Exodar, — and then the paladin remembered that he had no idea how to get to this damned island.
— Ah, Exodar. It seems that the ship goes there. Just now he is on the pier. Do not confuse the ships. How is Gilneas doing? Fang Fortress, Arhok, and Silver bor?
— How long have you been in Darnassus? — the paladin was surprised
— A long time, a very long time. Let’s not talk about it, — for the worgen it seemed like a sad topic.
— Undead captured Silverpine forest. The Arhok is destroyed. Shadowfang Keep is captured by the traitors of Gilneas. And Gilneas himself … — the paladin hesitated.
— Do not continue. I asked in vain. I wish I didn’t know about it. It hurts me because I am forced to sit here under the supervision of a guard and cannot help my people.
He shook his head, as if driving away unpleasant thoughts. The paladin still looked at his horns strangely. Although he had not seen the worgens before, except for the two sisters and the hunter Highgrave, something showed him that he was clearly not an ordinary representative of his kind.
— We have come, — a huge portal shone in front of the paladin and worgen: even a dragon would have entered it.
— Good luck, — said the worgen and wandered back.
— I hate portals, — the paladin said through gritted teeth and stepped into the portal.
Leaving the portal, the paladin asked the nearest guard where to find the ship that would take him to the Exodar. And after a few minutes, he agreed with the captain on the passage and nervously paced along the deck, waiting for the departure of the ship.
He remembered the voyage itself poorly, lost in his thoughts. And only getting off the ship, he realized what kind of jungle he was in. Bolingar immediately hated Kalimdor with all his heart: either Darnassus with his vines, flowers and other green muck, then the Jungle. Where is his favorite landscape: scorched desert or snow-capped mountains, at worst?
The paladin took a deep breath and exhaled. The smell was not like in the mountains. When Bolingar first arrived in Ironforge, he regretted that he was not born a dwarf. Oh this frost, this pure cool mountain air. And then what? The pressing smell of greenery growing everywhere, the moisture that he hates and the painfully familiar smell of burning …
Bolingar cocked his head. Where could he come from ?! Black smoke poured from behind the thick crowns of trees, causing the paladin to pull the reins of his horse.
— Well! Go ahead! — Cried the paladin, galloping his mount.
For several minutes, the paladin rode along the road until he came across a crossroads. Nearby stood a signpost. But damn it, the inscriptions on it were clearly not in the common language. Approximately trying to navigate the terrain, the paladin turned left. Gradually, the jungle began to thicken. And in the end, the trail finally disappeared. But the smell of smoke was stronger than ever. He is near. Bolingar dismounted and walked around, trying to figure out which way he should go. Сould go directly and get straight through the jungle, when suddenly a huge predator flew out of the bushes and crashed into a paladin, knocking him down.
Bolingar jumped up and instantly grabbed the hammer.
— Wait! I don’t want to fight you, — said the predator.
— Aah! Talking cat! — The paladin shouted and gripped the hammer even harder.
— WHAT?! Are you serious?! You…. Oh to hell. I don’t have time for this. The Scourge has attacked the Draenei settlement! I should at least bring someone to help. Follow me!
The cat had to stop periodically so that the paladin could catch up with him. For running through the jungle in a full plate kit and even with fur upholstery is horrible! However, the paladin continued to go ahead after the cat. He was already covered in sweat and dirt. The intoxicating smell of smoke penetrated his lungs, poisoning him. But he continued to follow the cat. Suddenly an arrow flew past him. A strange violet glow appeared ahead. A sharp explosion, and many dark fragments scattered from the epicenter: one of them flew right into the paladin, but he defended himself from it with a shield. The cat was just able to dodge it, and the splinter flew into a tree, scattering.
The paladin was able to get out on the road. There he was already awaited by two acquaintances of the worgen: Riverey and Drimurr, surrounded by dead Nerubians. The paladin looked around the battlefield. Although all the Nerubians lay dead, not all of them were injured. With a shot head there were only two Nerubs; the rest seemed to have gone into a deep sleep. At least the paladin did not see bodily harm on them.
He also noted that Drimurr already looked different: apparently she usually disguised herself as a wanderer, so as not to attract too much attention. Now her image is fully consistent with the level of her magical skills.
— How are you? Not injured? — The cat asked.
— It was an ambush: someone here was clearly waiting for us. Lucky we survived, — said the hunter.
— All roads leading to Er’teron are blocked by a Scourge. I tried to find a passage through the jungle to bring troops, but I met only this barbarian, — the cat replied.
Riverey looked at the paladin.
— What does feral do here? — asked River
— Who? — Asked the paladin
— Do you see the druid for the first time? — She asked, smiling slightly at him.
— Is this talking cat a druid? — The paladin exclaimed in surprise.
Feral punched himself in the face. Drimurr struggled to suppress a laugh, and Riverey leaned toward the cat with a smile on his face.
— Do not be offended by him. This is all new to him. At our first meeting, he called me a werewolf.
— Okay, let’s go, — the feral waved off. — My name is Zverago. And you … — His speech was interrupted by a huge roar. — Okay, we’ll get to know each other later. I will show you the way to Er’teron. I hope you can help the resistance forces.
A company of four heroes nevertheless reached the village. Although it was still modestly named. It was, at a minimum, the whole city. And now this city was engulfed in fire.
Had to break through with fight. But not in the first. The paladin drew his hammer again. Well, finally a fight! With a furious cry, he rushed right into the crowd of the Scourge army, with every wave of the hammer crushing anyone who came too close to him. However, if it was still possible to crush the skeletons, then the Nerubians quickly dodged his hammer strokes, inflicting their blows stealthily. The paladin would have already died if it weren’t for the translucent shield that had been absorbing the enemy’s attacks for some time. Behind him, arrows flew continually, instantly killing clever spiders with well-aimed hits right in the head.
When the last nerub remained, the paladin was ready to wave for a decisive blow, when suddenly a cry interrupted him:
— Wait! He is mine!
The paladin turned around. Drimurr supported some kind of spell. A nerub approached her slowly and bowed.
— Perfectly. Now say: where. Is. Knight. Of death. Hassara? — Dreamurr pronounced each word clearly with pauses.
— She’s here. She came to pick up what is rightfully hers. Because of one stupid draenei, the whole city will burn!
Blood poured down the back of the nerub, and he soon collapsed to the ground.
— Enough! — the feral cried out, wiping his bloody paw on the corpse of the nerub.
The heroes managed to break through to the commander of the resistance. She was a shaman, busy exploring the whole city with the help of special magic.
— Amberis! It can not be! — Cried Riverey.
The shaman shook with surprise and immediately got out of her trance.
— By the way. You seem to have lost something? — With these words, Riverey took off her wolf mask and handed Amberis.
— I never thought you would keep it for so long, thanks. It’s a pity that you arrived at such a gloomy time. Some kind of crazy dog leads the army of Scourge to us. And they came not just to destroy us. They are looking for something.
— Where is the death knight now? — Asked the Riverey.
She clearly did not want anyone else to know that this death knight was her sister.
— First of all, the Scourge army stormed the magical university. But then they crawled around the city. Mostly, libraries, laboratories and everything related to magic are destroyed. Someone clearly did not like magic.
— Or looking for a mage, — Bolingar finished.
— I saw you fighting. My soldiers cannot compare with you. Please help me.
— Don’t worry, friend. That’s why we arrived, — the Riverey encouraged her.
With a wave of her hand, Amberis invited all four heroes to the table. On it was a map of the city. Her small units were marked with small blue flags, and undead units with black flags.
— We are here, — she put a finger on the largest Exodar flag. — There are three fronts from us. On all three, my troops have already activated plasma shields. They will not let anyone or anything through themselves. But the energy to maintain them is not enough for a long time. If the reinforcements do not arrive in time by the time the shields fall, then we are doomed.
— There will be no reinforcements, — the feral said grimly. — All roads leading to Er’teron are already patrolling the Scourge.
— Dammit! — hissed Amberis.
— How was such a huge army able to come here so unnoticed? — Asked Riverey.
— Actually, she wasn’t so huge, — Amberis was clearly embarrassed. — But necromancy does its dirty work. If the enemies die, then not for long. And each of our losses is a replenishment in the ranks of the undead. And it all rolls like a snowball. Sooner or later, we will be crushed by a number.
— The Scourge has never used other tactics than to crush an opponent with quantity, — the paladin spat on the ground.
— In any case, the death knight himself and several non-Roubian guards left the portal. Someone summoned them here intentionally. That’s all I can say, — Amberis continued. — Now the death knight along with the giant nerub are in the square. Our situation is deplorable. The only way out is to eliminate the Scourge commanders. But this is beyond our power. We will not survive a long siege.
— How? Wait … you know what they’re looking for, right? — Amberis asked suspiciously
— Yes. It so happened that the death knight could not share the magic trinket with the mage Lassara. You know her?
— I know. She is still somewhere in the city center, hiding under a Invisibility field. Unfortunately, we did not manage to pull it out. Like half the population of Er’teron. Most likely, those whom we did not save have already been turned into undead. I hope they won’t find her. I was able to find her shelter with the help of distant vision. It is located almost near the border of the city. But that quarter is already completely lost, — Amberis put a red flag on the place where the magician’s shelter is located.
— The death knight hunts for Lassara. If we take her out of town, will the Scourge follow her? Do I understand correctly? — The shaman looked at Riverey inquiringly.
— Exactly. Are you with us? — with a hand on Amberis shoulder, the hunter asked.
— Of course, — Amberis turned back to the map. — One of my mage can open a portal to another part of the city. Right behind the knight and his tame nerub. From there, if we maneuver between the edge of the wall and the center, we can walk to Lassara.
— Who will take command while you are away? — The paladin asked.
— I will take command, with the permission of Amberis, — the feral said.
Amberis assessed the situation around her and sighed heavily.
— I hope you know what you are doing. You don’t look like a warrior, but if you’re sure …
— I’m sure. Trust me, — the feral reassuringly laid his paw on Amberis’s hand.
— Good. We will perform at night. It will be a сovert operation rather than a breakthrough in the mage’s hideout.
With these words, the shaman went away from the command desk and went into her tent.
— Zverago. Are you sure you can do it? — The Riverey asked.
— I lived longer than you. And be sure, I can command!
Bolingar was embarrassed that the cat would be the commander of the Draenei resistance. But if Amberis trusted him, then let it be so.
When Zverago left the commander’s desk, Riverey laid her hands on the shoulders of the paladin and priestess.
— Amberis is my old friend. We went a lot with her after the fall of Arhok. It was she who sheltered me when I had nowhere to go. It was she who gave me her goodbye mask so that the spirit of the wolf always accompanied me and helped me. And by the way, this thing was enchanted, — Riverey said, looking from the priestess to the perplexed paladin.
— But she does not know that her city, its inhabitants, all this carnage started a my sister. I ask you to. Do not tell her that this is my sister.
The Paladin and Priestess nodded silently.
— Thanks, — breathed River, clapping both of them on the shoulders.
— Wait, — Bolingar turned to the hunter. — Hassara came here for the medallion. She won’t calm down until she gets it. What will happen then when she finds out that Lassara does not have him? For whose soul will she follow?
— I don’t know, — Riverey said sadly. — I don’t know how to reason with her. But she will not kill me for the medallion, I do not believe that she is so plunged into darkness. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. To get started, just pull Lassara out of there and lead the Scourge away from here. And maybe there I can lure her into negotiations.
Riverey paused, but then again continued:
— She was not always such a monster. I still cannot understand what exactly pushed her to the side of darkness. I would like to know. Then maybe I could get her back.
The paladin did not know what to say about this. He never knew how to console people. But here Drimurr intervened:
— Everything will be fine, River. There are far greater forces behind us than you think. We can handle it. We will get your sister back, I promise. If necessary, I myself will purify her of this dirt. Believe me, I can do it, — with these words, Dreamurr acquired a hunter.
But the paladin was clearly in shock. Okay, still the Riverey. She does not know how the magic of light works. But he knows very well that it is simply impossible to heal a death knight!
The paladin frantically began to recall that all the strange events that happened to the priestess: her murmuring in the tavern; her strange behavior; her clothes. The captain of the guard in Darkshire also noticed that she was hiding something. But alas, he could not put all these puzzles into one whole. Until he raised the alarm. But he felt in his heart that they would still regret letting her go with them.
The paladin looked around the camp. The three main roads leading to the camp were guarded by guards: two on each road. Barricades were erected around the entire perimeter, on which a faintly visible mana shield flickered. Surviving residents were sitting by the fire, some of them were injured. Pus dripped from their dirty bandages. They themselves were emaciated, but still kept on their feet. The paladin glanced at the feral. He climbed onto one of the destroyed buildings and looked around. His eyes sparkled in the night like two faceted emeralds.
Feral turned toward the paladin and smiled mysteriously before looking away again from the camp.
The paladin looked again at the Riverey. She sat silently turning the locket in her clawed hands.
The paladin’s thoughts were interrupted by a commanding scream.
— We are performing! — shouted Amberis.
The mage walking behind Amberis immediately opened the portal. This time, the paladin decided to overpower himself and enter it first. Standing right in front of the portal, doubts ripped through him. But as soon as the paladin remembered that if Lassara died, her blood would be on his hands, he cast aside all doubts and took a step forward towards the Scourge army.