Fiction by Seth Johnson from Warcraft: Shadows & Light
(Blizzard Entertainment / Sword and Sorcery, 2004)
Trant tugged on his helmet and threw aside the sheath for his waraxe. Reaching up to the chain around his neck he ran his fingers through the dozens of claws he had taken as trophies in battle, a custom since his first battle, more than ten years ago. Had it really been so long? “I don’t know about you,” he growled, “but I think they’re more ready to die than I am!”

Reaching into her quiver, Haneth chose silently from the collection of magical arrows she had gathered over the years and nocked a trio to her bow. The infiltrator’s brown hair was cut by streaks of gray bleached by necromancy, reminders of their journey across the Plaguelands. She had lost her husband in the ruins of the Violet Citadel — to a simple gargoyle that any one of the arrows she now carried could destroy in a heartbeat. Trant thought back to when they had first met in New Stromgarde , her smile and dancing eyes, and wondered if he had seen anything but pursed lips and a steely gaze since Stovros’ death.

Vlac hunched behind them, his fur-trimmed robes gathered around him as red sand poured from his hand to inscribe intricate patterns on the floor. Trant couldn’t say if he would ever have called the shaman young, but he could remember a time when he didn’t call him friend. Now he trusted a one-time enemy more than anyone else in his life. The orc had always possessed a talent for tongues, and this time he chanted in what sounded like Eredun, each syllable of the ancient ritual thrumming like a plucked bowstring.

Trant heard the screeching outside and feared they might not have long enough for Vlac to complete his spell. “Now or never, Nuji,” he said, thumping the dwarf with his boot.

“Okay,” said Nuji. “Okay. I’m ready. It’s ready.” Throwing his tools to the floor, the tinker hefted a cannon almost as big as he was. “I probably shouldn’t even touch the trigger until you drop the shield. Don’t want to risk total alchemical discharge—”

“Enough, Kodosbreath. Are we going to fight or not?” complained Dolmont. One of the few humans ever trained by Horde assassins, he was at best a dangerous ally, but he still had the same unruly mop of black hair Trant remembered from when they were boys — and the same fire in his eyes. Now his short swords glowed with their own blue flame, as hungry for blood as their wielder.

Trant took one last look around the small hut at his companions, once a group of friends from the far end of nowhere, now the most wanted fugitives on another world. “We’re not going to be able to buy you much time, Vlac,” he warned, getting only the slight nod he expected in return. Then Trant snuffed the candle at his feet and the walls of the summoned building dissolved to reveal the dusky sky of Outland and the eight nether dragons circling around them. From beyond the dragons, a full-grown netherwyrm let loose a blast of green fire that splashed against the last of the hut’s dissipating protective aura.

Nuji fired a blast of his own that knocked back the wyrm and sent the tinker stumbling backward, almost into Vlac’s now-glowing runic circle. One after another, Haneth’s arrows sprouted from the drakes she targeted and coated them in waves of shimmering ice. As Trant hacked into the immobilized creatures with his battle axe, Dolmont used one of the frozen drakes as a stepping stone to leap astride another still in the air and ram his blades home. Skill and experience eliminated half their foes in the first seconds of the battle, but the others still remained and the mother was roaring to call more of her children.

“Stand back!” yelled Vlac, stepping aside as the circle he had crafted leapt into the air and reflected itself six-fold. Then the reflections connected themselves into another, larger circle and the air ripped with a pop. Beyond a shimmering veil, Trant could see a stagnant pool of water ringed by marsh grass. Dustwallow, perhaps… yet certainly somewhere on Azeroth. Vlac had already picked up Nuji and stepped into the portal, the pair stretching and pulling away as they crossed the barrier between the planes. Dolmont was close behind. Trant grabbed Haneth’s elbow after she took one last shot at the netherwyrm and ran toward the portal. “I’d give Azotha gold for a dull moment,” he grumbled as he tumbled across the void….

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