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Authors: Richard A. Knaak

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BOOK: The Well of Eternity
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Tyrande cut him off. “In there, he is capable of very little…and he is no beast!”

“No?” Illidan leaned down to inspect Brox. The orc bared his teeth but did nothing that might otherwise antagonize the night elf. Malfurion’s brother snorted in disdain. “Looks like no civilized creature to me…”

“He was merely trying to hand back the bowl. And if there had been any trouble, the guards were already standing by.”

Illidan frowned. “I’m sorry, Tyrande. Maybe I overreacted. You must admit, though, that few others, even among your calling, would have taken the terrible risk you did! You might not know this, but they say that when he woke up, he almost throttled one of the Moon Guard!”

The novice priestess glanced at the stone-faced sentry, who reluctantly nodded. He had forgotten to mention that little tidbit to her. Still, Tyrande doubted it would have made a difference. Brox had been mistreated and she had felt the need to come to his aid.

“I appreciate your concern, Illidan, but again I tell you that I wasn’t in any danger.” Her gaze narrowed as she took in the orc’s injury. The fingers were blackened and the pain in Brox’s eyes was obvious, yet the orc did not cry out nor did he ask for any healing.

Abandoning Illidan, Tyrande knelt again by the cage. Without hesitation, she reached through the bars.

Illidan reached for her. “Tyrande!”

“Stay back! All of you!” Meeting the orc’s baleful gaze, she whispered, “I know you didn’t mean me any harm. I can mend that for you. Please. Just let me.”

Brox growled, but in a manner that made her think he was not angry but simply weighing his options. Illidan still stood next to Tyrande, who realized that he would strike the orc again at the slightest hint of something gone awry.

“Illidan…I’m going to have to ask you to turn away for a moment.”

“What? Tyrande—”

“For me, Illidan.”

She could sense his pent-up fury. Nevertheless, he obeyed her request, spinning around and facing one of the buildings surrounding the square.

Tyrande eyed Brox again. His gaze had shifted to Illidan and for the briefest moment she read the satisfaction in them. Then the orc focused on her and gingerly offered up the maimed hand.

Taking it in her own, she studied the wound in shock. The flesh had been burned away in places on two fingers and a third was red and festering.

“What did you do to him?” she asked Illidan.

“Something I learned recently,” was all he would say.

It had certainly not been something he had learned in the forest of Cenarius. This was an example of high night elven sorcery, a spell he had cast with scant concentration. It revealed how skilled Malfurion’s brother could be when the subject excited him. He clearly enjoyed the manipulation of sorcery over that of the more slow-paced druidism.

Tyrande was not so certain she liked his choice.

“Mother Moon, hear my entreaties…” Ignoring the aghast expressions of the guards, she took the orc’s fingers and kissed each ever so gently. Tyrande then whispered to Elune, asking the goddess to grant her the ability to ease Brox’s burden, to render whole what Illidan had, in his rashness, ruined.

“Stretch your hand out as far as you can,” she ordered the prisoner.

Watching the sentries, Brox moved forward, straining to thrust his brutish hand beyond the bars. Tyrande expected some sort of magical resistance, but nothing happened. She supposed that since the orc had done nothing to escape, the cage’s spellwork had not reacted.

The novice priestess looked up into the sky, where the moon hovered just above. “Mother Moon…fill me with your purity, your grace, your love…grant me the power to heal this…”

As Tyrande repeated her plea, she heard a gasp from one of the guards. Illidan started to turn, but then evidently thought better than to possibly upset Tyrande further.

A stream of silver light…Elune’s light…encompassed the young priestess. Tyrande radiated as if she were the Moon herself. She felt the glory of the goddess become a part of her.

Brox almost pulled away, startled by the wondrous display. To his credit, though, he placed his trust in her, letting her draw his hand as best she could into the glow.

And as the moonlight touched his fingers, the burnt flesh healed, the gaps where bone showed through regrew, and the horrific injury that Illidan had caused utterly
vanished.

It took but a few scant seconds to complete the task. The orc remained still, eyes as wide as a child’s.

“Thank you, Mother Moon,” Tyrande whispered, releasing Brox’s hand.

The sentries each fell to one knee, bowing their heads to the acolyte. The orc drew his hand close, staring at each finger and waggling them in astonishment. He touched the skin, first tenderly, then with immense satisfaction when no pain jarred him. A grunt of pleasure escaped the brutish figure.

Brox suddenly began contorting his body in the cage. Tyrande feared that he had suffered some other injury only now revealed, but then the orc finished moving.

“I honor you, shaman,” he uttered, now prostrating himself as best as his bonds allowed. “I am in your debt.”

So deep was Brox’s gratitude that Tyrande felt her cheeks darken in embarrassment. She rose and took a step back.

Illidan immediately turned and held her arm as if to steady her. “Are you all right?”

“I am…it…” How to explain what she felt when touched by Elune? “It is done,” she finished, unable to respond properly.

The guards finally rose, their respect for her magnified. The foremost one reverently approached her. “Sister, might I have your blessing?”

“Of course!” The blessings of Elune were given freely, for the teachings of Mother Moon said that the more who were touched by her, the more who would understand the love and unity she represented and spread that understanding to others.

With her open palm, Tyrande touched each sentry on the heart, then the forehead, indicating the symbolic unity of thought and spirit. Each thanked her profusely.

Illidan took her arm again. “You need some recuperation, Tyrande. Come! I know a place—”

From the cage came Brox’s gruff voice. “Shaman, may this lowly one, too, have your blessing?”

The guards started, but said nothing. If even a beast so politely requested a blessing by one of Elune’s chosen, how could they argue?

They could not, but Illidan could. “You’ve done enough for that creature. You’re practically wavering! Come—”

But she would not deny the orc. Pulling free from Illidan’s grasp, Tyrande knelt again before Brox. She reached in without hesitation, touching the coarse, hairy hide and hard, deep-browed head.

“May Elune watch over you and yours…” the novice priestess whispered.

“May your ax arm be strong,” he returned.

His peculiar response made her frown, but then she recalled what sort of life he must have lived. His wish for her was, in its own odd way, a wish for life and health.

“Thank you,” she responded, smiling.

As Tyrande rose, Illidan once more interjected himself into the situation. “Now can we—”

All at once she felt weary. It was a good weariness, though, as if Tyrande had worked long and hard for her mistress and accomplished much in her name. She recalled suddenly how long it had been since she had slept. More than a day. Certainly the wisdom of Mother Moon dictated that she return to the temple and go to her bed.

“Please forgive me, Illidan,” Tyrande murmured. “I find myself tired. I would like to return to my sisters. You understand, don’t you?”

His eyes narrowed momentarily, then calmed. “Yes, that would probably be best. Shall I escort you back?”

“There’s no need. I’d like to walk alone, anyway.”

Illidan said nothing, only bowing slightly in deference to her decision.

She gave Brox one last smile. The orc nodded. Tyrande departed, feeling oddly refreshed in her mind despite her physical exhaustion. When it was possible, she would speak with the high priestess about Brox. Surely the temple would be able to do something for the outcast.

Moonlight shone on the novice priestess as she walked. More and more Tyrande felt as if she had experienced something this night that would forever change her. Surely her interaction with the orc had been the design of Elune.

She could hardly wait to talk to the high priestess…

 

Illidan watched Tyrande walk away without so much as a second glance at him. He knew her mind well enough to understand that she still dwelled in the moment of her service for her goddess. That drowned out any other influence, including him.

“Tyrande…” He had hoped to speak with her of his feelings, but that chance had been ruined. Illidan had waited for hours, watching the temple surreptitiously for her appearance. Knowing that it would not look good for him if he joined her the moment she stepped out, he had waited in the background, intent on pretending to just happen by.

Then she had discovered the creature the Moon Guard had captured and all his well-thought plans went awry. Now, not only had he lost his opportunity, but he had embarrassed himself in front of her, been made to look the villain…and all because of a
thing
like that!

Before he could stop himself, words tumbled silently out of his mouth and his right hand flexed tightly.

There was a shout from the direction of the cage. He quickly glanced toward it.

The cage flared brightly, but not with the silver light of the moon. Instead, a furious red aura surrounded the cell, as if trying to devour it…and its occupant.

The foul creature inside roared in obvious pain. The guards, meanwhile, moved about in clear confusion.

Illidan quickly muttered the counter words.

The aura faded away. The prisoner ceased his cries.

With no one watching him, the young night elf swiftly vanished from the scene. He had let his anger get the best of him and lashed out at the most obvious target. Illidan was grateful that the guards had not realized the truth, and that Tyrande had already left the square, missing his moment of rage.

He was also thankful for those of the Moon Guard who had cast the magical barriers surrounding the cage…for it was only those protective spells that had prevented the creature inside from being
slain.

NINE

T
hey were dying all around him.

Everywhere he looked, Brox saw his comrades dying. Garno, with whom he had grown up, who was practically a brother, fell next, his body hacked to pieces by the screaming blade of a towering, fiery form with a hellish, horned face full of jagged teeth. The demon itself was slain moments later by Brox, who leapt upon it and, with a cry that made even the fearsome creature hesitate, cleaved Garno’s killer in two despite its blazing armor.

But the Legion kept coming and the orcs grew fewer. Barely a handful of defenders remained, yet every minute another perished in the onslaught.

Thrall had commanded that the way be blocked, that the Legion would not break through. Help was being gathered, but the Horde needed time. They needed Brox and his fellows.

But there were fewer and fewer. Duun suddenly dropped, his head bouncing along the blood-soaked ground several seconds before his torso collapsed in a heap. Fezhar already lay dead, his remains all but unrecognizable. He had been enveloped in a wave of unnatural green flame belched by one of the demons, flame that had not so much burnt his body, but
dissolved
it.

Again and again, Brox’s sturdy ax laid waste to his horrific foes, never seemingly the same kind of creature twice. Yet, whenever he wiped the sweat from his brow and stared ahead, all he saw were more.

And more, and more…

Now, only he stood against them. Stood against a shrieking, hungry sea of monsters hell-bent on the destruction of everything.

And as they fell upon the lone survivor—
Brox awoke.

The orc shivered in his cage, but not from cold. After more than a thousand repetitions, he would have thought himself immune to the terrors his subconscious resurrected. Yet, each time the nightmares came, they did so with new intensity, new pain.

New guilt.

Brox should have died then. He should have died with his comrades. They had given the ultimate sacrifice for the Horde, but he had survived, had lived on. It was not right.

I am a coward…
he thought once more.
If I had fought harder, I’d be with them.

But even though he had told this to Thrall, the Warchief had shook his head and said, “No one fought harder, my old friend. The scars are there, the scouts saw you battle as they approached. You did your comrades, your people, as good a service as those who perished…”

Brox had accepted Thrall’s gratitude, but never the Horde leader’s words.

Now here he was, penned up like a pig waiting to be slaughtered for these arrogant creatures. They stared at him as if he had grown two heads and marveled at his ugliness. Only the young female, the shaman, had shown him respect and care.

In her he sensed the power that his own people talked about, the old way of magic. She had healed the fiery wound that her friend had caused him with but a prayer to the moon. Truly she was gifted and Brox felt honored that he had been given her blessing.

Not that it would matter in the long run. The orc had no doubt that his captors would soon decide how to execute him. What they had learned from him so far would avail them nothing. He had refused to give them any definitive information concerning his people, especially their location. True, he did not quite know himself how to reach his home, but it was better to assume that anything said concerning that might be hint enough for the night elves. Unlike those night elves who had allied themselves with the orcs, these had only contempt for outsiders…and thus were a threat to the Horde.

Brox rolled over as best as his bonds allowed. Another night and he would likely be dead, but not in the manner of his choosing. There would be no glorious battle, no epic song by which to remember him…

“Great spirits,” he muttered. “Hear this unworthy one. Grant me one last struggle, one last cause. Let me be worthy…”

Brox stared at the sky, continuing to pray silently. But unlike the young priestess, he doubted that whatever powers watched over the world would listen to a lowly creature such as him.

His fate was in the night elves’ hands.

 

What brought Malfurion into Suramar, he could not quite say. For three nights he had sat alone in his home, meditating on all Cenarius had told him, on all he himself had witnessed in the Emerald Dream. Three nights and no answers to his growing concerns. He had no doubts that the spellwork continued in Zin-Azshari and that the situation would only grow more desperate the longer no one acted.

But no one else even seemed to
notice
any problem.

Perhaps, Malfurion finally decided, he had journeyed to Suramar simply to find some other voice, some other mind, with which to discuss his inner dilemma. For that he had chosen to seek out Tyrande, though, not his twin. She gave more care to her thoughts, whereas Illidan had a tendency to leap into action regardless of whether or not he had hatched any plan.

Yes, Tyrande would be good to talk with…and just to see.

Yet, as he headed in the direction of the temple of Elune, a large contingent of riders suddenly bore down from the other direction. Edging to the side of the street, Malfurion watched as several soldiers in gray-green armor rushed by on their sleek, well-groomed panthers. Held high near the front of the party was a square banner of rich purple with a black avian form at the center.

The banner of Lord Kur’talos Ravencrest.

The elven commander rode at the forefront, his mount larger, sleeker, and clearly the dominant female of the pack. Ravencrest himself was tall, lanky, and quite regal. He rode as if nothing would deter him from his duty, whatever that might be. A billowing cloak of gold trailed behind him and his high, red-crested helm was marked by the very symbol of his name.

Avian also best described his features, long, narrow, his nose a downward beak. His tufted beard and stern eyes gave him an appearance of both wisdom and might. Outside of the Highborne, Ravencrest was considered one of those with the most influence with the queen, who in the past had often taken his counsel.

Malfurion cursed himself for not having thought of Ravencrest before, but now was not a good opportunity to speak with the noble. Ravencrest and his elite guard rode along as if on some mission of tremendous urgency, which made Malfurion immediately wonder if his fears about Zin-Azshari had already materialized. Yet, if that had been the case, he doubted that the rest of the city would have remained so calm; the forces at play near the capital surely presaged a disaster of monumental proportions, quickly affecting even Suramar.

As the riders vanished, Malfurion moved on. So many people clustered into one area made the young night elf feel a bit claustrophobic after his lengthy period in the forest. Still, Malfurion fought down the sensation, knowing that soon he would see Tyrande. As anxious as she made him feel of late, she also calmed his spirit more than anything else could, even his meditations.

He knew he would have to see his brother, too, but the idea did not appeal to him so much this night. It was Tyrande he wanted to see, with whom he wanted to spend some time. Illidan would still be there for him later.

Vaguely Malfurion noted a number of people crowded around something in the square, but his desire to see Tyrande made him quickly ignore the scene. He hoped that she would be readily available and that he would not have to go asking one acolyte after another. While the initiates of Elune were not bothered by friends and relatives desiring to speak with one of them, for some reason Malfurion felt more anxious about it than usual. It had little to do with his concerns about Zin-Azshari, either, and more to do with the odd discomfort he now felt whenever he was near his childhood friend.

As he entered the temple, a pair of guards surveyed him. Instead of robes, they wore gleaming, silver breast plates and kilts, the former marked by a crescent moon design at the center. Like all of Elune’s initiates, they were females and well versed in the arts of defense and battle. Tyrande herself was a better archer than either Malfurion or Illidan. The peaceful teachings of the Mother Moon did not preclude her most loyal children learning to protect themselves.

“May we help you, brother?” the foremost guard asked politely. She and the other stood at attention, their spears ready to turn on him at a moment’s warning.

“I come seeking the novice priestess, Tyrande. She and I are good friends. My name is—”

“Malfurion Stormrage,” finished the second, nearer to his age. She smiled. “Tyrande shares novice chambers with myself and two others. I have seen you with her on occasion.”

“Is it possible to speak with her?”

“If she is finished with her meditation, then she should be free this hour. I will have someone ask. You may wait in the Chamber of the Moon.”

The Chamber of the Moon was the official title of the roofless center of the temple, where many of the great rituals took place. When not in use by the high priestess, the temple encouraged everyone to make use of its tranquil environment.

Malfurion felt the touch of the Mother Moon the moment he entered the rectangular chamber. A garden of night-blooming flowers bordered the room and in the center stood a small dais where the high priestess spoke. The circular stone path leading to the dais was a mosaic pattern outlining the yearly cycles of the moon. Malfurion had noted from his past few visits that no matter where the moon floated in the heavens, its soft light completely illuminated the chamber.

He strode to the center and sat on one of the stone benches used by initiates and faithful. Although eased much by his surroundings, Malfurion’s patience quickly deteriorated as he waited for Tyrande. He also worried that she might be displeased by his sudden appearance. In the past, they had always met only after making prior arrangements. This was the first time that he had been so bold as to intrude without warning into her world.

“Malfurion…”

For a moment, all his concerns vanished as he looked up and saw Tyrande step into the moonlight. Her silver robes took on a mystical glow and in his eyes the Mother Moon could have looked no more glorious a sight. Tyrande’s hair hung loose, draping her exquisite face and ending just above her decolletage. The nighttime illumination emphasized her eyes and when the novice priestess smiled, she herself seemed to light up the Chamber of the Moon.

As Tyrande walked toward him, Malfurion belatedly rose to meet her. He was certain that his cheeks flushed, but there was nothing he could do about it save hope that Tyrande did not notice.

“Is all well with you?” the novice asked with sudden concern. “Has something happened?”

“I’m fine. I hope I haven’t intruded.”

Her smile returned, more arresting than ever. “You could never intrude upon me, Malfurion. In fact, I’m very glad you’ve come. I wanted to see you, too.”

If she had not noticed his darkening cheeks before, she certainly had to now. Nevertheless, Malfurion pressed on. “Tyrande, can we take a walk outside the temple?”

“If that makes you more comfortable, yes.”

As they departed the chamber, he began, “You know how I said I’ve had some reoccurring dreams…”

“I remember.”

“I spoke with Cenarius about them after you and Illidan departed and we took measures to try to understand why they keep repeating.”

Her tone grew concerned. “And did you discover anything?”

Malfurion nodded but held his tongue as they passed the two sentries and exited the temple. Not until the pair had started down the outer steps did he continue.

“I’ve progressed, Tyrande. Progressed far more than either you or Illidan realized. Cenarius showed me a path into the world of the mind itself…the Emerald Dream, he called it. But it was more than that. Through it…through it I was able to see the real world as I never had before…”

Tyrande’s gaze shifted to the small crowd near the center of the square. “And what did you see?”

He turned Tyrande to face him, needing her to understand utterly what he had discovered. “I saw Zin-Azshari…and the Well over which it looks.”

Leaving nothing out, Malfurion described the scene and the unsettling sensations he had experienced. He described his attempts to understand the truth and how his dream self had been repulsed after attempting to see exactly what had transpired with the Highborne and the queen.

Tyrande stared wordlessly at him, clearly as stunned as he had been by his ominous discovery. Finding her voice, she asked, “The queen? Azshara? Can you be certain?”

“Not entirely. I never actually saw much inside, but I can’t imagine how such madness could go on without her knowledge. True, Lord Xavius has great influence over her, but even she would never stand by blindly. I have to think that she knows the risks they take…but I don’t think any of them understand how terrible those risks are! The Well…if you could have felt what I had when I walked the Emerald Dream, Tyrande, you would’ve feared as much as I did.”

She put a hand on his arm in an attempt to comfort him. “I don’t question you, Malfurion, but we need to know more! To claim that Azshara would put her subjects in danger…you have to tread lightly on this.”

“I thought to approach Lord Ravencrest on the subject. He, too, has influence with her.”

“That might be wise…” Again her eyes moved to the center of the square.

Malfurion almost said something, but instead followed her gaze, wondering what could constantly drag her attention from his revelations. Most of those who had gathered had wandered away, finally revealing to him what he had paid no mind to earlier.

A guarded cage…and in it some creature not at all like a night elf.

“What is that?” he asked with a growing frown.

“What I wanted to talk with
you
about, Malfurion. His name is Broxigar…and he’s unlike any being I’ve ever heard or seen. I know your tale is important, but I want you to meet him now, as a favor for me.”

As Tyrande led him over, Malfurion noticed the guards become alert. To his surprise, after a moment of staring at his companion, they suddenly fell to one knee in homage.

BOOK: The Well of Eternity
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