Character: Rehgar Ironclaw, one of the chief Dark Shaman of the corrupted Kor’kron
A storm was brewing above the shores of Kargath Bay. Or rather, Grommashar Bay as “glorious Warchief Garrosh Hellscream” prefers to call it now. Ever since the Darkspear Rebellion and the Alliance failed to overcome their differences and lost in Orgrimmar, Garrosh went on an unprecedented offensive. From a villain with no popular support, he suddenly became a miracle worker. He turned the tides of war against his enemies despite overwhelming odds and all the loot-hungry adventurers knocking at his door. In his thirst for power, he ravaged Pandaria with the Sha of Pride he unleashed, and invoked upon the ancient and forbidden powers of the Old God Y’Shaarj. The creature was long dead, he thought, but Garrosh forgot the maxim the Twilight’s Hammer keeps repeating, which is ominously true – they do not live, they do not die, they are outside the cycle. Y’Shaarj will soon be reborn – in him.
Rehgar looked upon the brewing storm and in his mind, he went back to the “good, old times”. Back when he was a gladiator trainer. Back when he could call down storms himself. Although the power was still there, his heart was not the same. Garrosh personally struck him down during the Siege of Orgrimmar and brought him to his knees. But instead of slaying the powerful shaman and once Thrall’s top advisor, he decided to use him. Garrosh gave Rehgar a choice – he would either die here, or live and serve Garrosh and train his Dark Shaman. While Rehgar was about to refuse that offer out of honor, a thought was born in his mind. He decided he would accept… only to work against the “True Horde” from the inside.
Even now, Rehgar “Ironclaw”, dubbed as such by Malkorok after the Blackrock brandished the shaman with new claws, fused into his body, was not looking out into the bay just out of nostalgia. A familiar voice interrupted his concentration. It was none other than Eitrigg – the old warrior who fled Orgrimmar and hid with the Argent Crusade in Lordaeron. Many called him a coward, and even Eitrigg himself knew that this new Garrosh would not spare the Argent Crusade, but he told Rehgar he had to do what was right, at the cost of his own honor.
The two orcs looked in each other’s eyes. “How do you feel, old friend?” Eitrigg finally asked. Rehgar just looked away.
“As well as I can while I am this… metal monstrosity. As long as I have to twist the elements to befit this madman… I will not feel right.”
Eitrigg came closer and rested his hand on Rehgar’s arm. “It will not be long now. Have you undertook the steps I told you to do?”
“I did,” Rehgar said, looking back through his twisted visage, “but it was a dark, twisted power. Almost as dark as what Garrosh himself now wields. Where did you get such powers, friend?”
Eitrigg looked down for a moment, but then looked back at Rehgar with renewed confidence. “I have sacrificed much to see this through. The Paragons feed their power into Garrosh every day, and make him stronger and stronger. If we tarry for much longer, there will be no power left that will be able to stop him.”
“But surely,” Rehgar replied, “there are things less dangerous we can turn against Hellscream. We should perhaps wake Bolvar…”
“No!” Eitrigg yelled out. “The human paladin is still far too weak. If we wake him now, we risk he succumbs to the fate of the previous Lich Kings and the power turns him into another Ner’zhul.”
“What of the dragon aspects?” Rehgar continued to inquire.
“They no longer brand themselves ‘aspects’. They are now mortals, like us. They could only provide another army, and those no longer would be of any use against what Hellscream became.”
“I see,” Rehgar replied, resigned to the dark powers he had to invoke. “Then so be it. The next time those honorless bugs try to infuse Garrosh with Y’Shaarj’s power… he will die.”
The time was getting late. As sun was setting over Kalimdor, the top elites of the Kor’kron stepped aside from the road to Grommash Hold. A daily horrid procession was just beginning, as every time at sunset since the Siege. When the roads cleared out, a whole small army of mantids marched down them, headed by some of the most distinguished of their kind. The Paragons, they called them, the ancient mantid warriors who were so great at killing non-mantids, they were magically preserved in amber for “future use”. All these millennia in their long sleep they awaited the return of their god, Y’Shaarj defeated by the Titans at the dawn of creation. But now, at long last, the time has come. The God of Sin is returning in the mortal shell of the one they knew as “Hellscream”. A fitting name, they thought.
The orcs both feared and reviled the mantids. After all, this was the pure, orcish Horde. These… bugs had no place within it. And yet, they had to bow before and step aside so that their corrupt ritual can continue unimpeded. Many began to suspect Garrosh has turned from the original ideology that drawn them to him. Some even tried to kill him, but with the blessing of Y’Shaarj and the protection of Malkorok, ever watchful over the enemies of his Warchief, they all failed. They had to live with those mantids and their foul rituals, for the time being.
Rehgar sat on a terrace overlooking the “throne room” deep underneath Orgrimmar. Visitors were welcome to sit and watch the infusion ritual. The Paragons believed that the spectacle would make their enemies – both within and without – truly believe they are now unstoppable. After all, if they can see the kind of power manifested here, they would have to be fools to oppose it. Few, however, wished to see it. Some were just disgusted by the ritual itself. Some were disgusted by what their Warchief has turned into. Some just preferred not to think of it.
As Rehgar Ironclaw looked down on Hellscream, he almost saw the man he once met, so long ago. The young orc, despondent due to the fate of his father, who damned his entire race. One vision from Thrall was enough to turn him upside down. Now, years later, he did just the same as his father – he damned the orcs all over again. Except now, the power was even darker and stronger. While Grommash could kill the demon lord to free himself and the others from the binds he forged himself, there was no turning back for Garrosh. The creature that looked like him that sat upon that throne was just an empty shell. Well, not an empty one anymore – it was Y’Shaarj now, waiting for the restoration of his full power.
At the call of Kaz’tik the Manipulator, the Paragons raised their hands together towards an amber receptacle at the core of the room. A dark, orange energy flowed out of their mandibles towards the receptacle, which glowed in response. Hellscream stood up wordlessly and simply marched towards the receptacle. Suddenly, a dark, twisted power erupted from every inch of his body. The Warchief grew in size many times over. Eyes and tentacles appeared where they should never be. His own armor fused into his skin and the twisted, purple flesh covering his limbs. He did not transform. He merely revealed his true, present form, so that the ritual can empower him. When he reached the receptacle and raised his arms towards it, the same energy the mantids fed into it now flowed into him, as he simply stood there, basking in the power.
Suddenly, the eyes of one of the paragons widened. “Wait!” Iyyokuk shouted, without stopping his part of the ritual. “Something is different!” Rehgar shifted uncomfortably on his seat. Could they realize what I did? Could all this have been for nothing?
Korven concentrated all his might on the ritual, barely able to speak. “Silence, Lucid” he spoke up for a moment, “you know we cannot stop.”
Rik’kal clicked his mouth and snarled at Iyyokuk. “Do you wish to kill us all?”
But all the mantids began to look at each other, slowly realizing that something has indeed been tampered with. “He’s right,” Kaz’tik spoke up. “The receptacle has been tainted.”
“Who could have!?” Xaril shouted, barely able to maintain the link.
“I do not know,” Kaz’tik continued, “But… we cannot stop.”
“But this will kill us all!” Hisek yelled after him.
“If we stop…” Kaz’tik considered, straining his mind. “…we die. And so does the Avatar. But if we don’t stop…”
Xaril growled. “… if we don’t stop… we all die anyway.”
In this instant, the transfer stopped. The receptacle’s glow died down and all the mantids, together, just collapsed. For a moment, the bloated Warchief groaned and wobbled around, looking at his arms. “How… What…” he only grunted, as the purple mass of corruption began to melt off Garrosh. Rehgar looked down upon this scene, hoping to see a pure, redeemed Garrosh… but little did he know the corruption went too far. There was very little left of Garrosh under that mass. Not enough to sustain his life.
Rehgar Ironclaw stood up and looked down upon the dead Paragons and the few remaining bones of Hellscream, sinking into a puddle of purple goo produced by the corruption. The boy couldn’t be rescued after all, Rehgar thought, but at least I ended a tyrant.
But then, something shook the ground. An earthquake, now? Did the elements break free of the Dark Shaman in the moment of Hellscream’s death? But no, it was not a natural earthquake. Something far more sinister was happening. Before Rehgar could start guessing, the floor beneath the throne room began to crack and split open revealing… nothing. Just a gaping void, a black nothingness. The complete entropy creeping upon the world. How could this have happened? Rehgar thought he was stopping the Old Gods, not unleashing them.
He couldn’t understand what was happening. He ran towards the surface, through the cracks opening up in the world itself, and over the new, yawning chasms of darkness. He hoped to see light when he reached the surface, but there was nothing like it. Sky itself was cracking open, against all reason. The sun had disappeared and people ran in panic and fell right into the cracks, only to be completely annihilated by them, body and mind. Rehgar could not comprehend how was this possible.
And then he looked around and saw one person who shouldn’t be here. Eitrigg. An outsider who should have been killed on sight in Orgrimmar.
“Eitrigg!” Rehgar yelled out to him. “Do you know what’s happening?”
“Yes,” he responded in a strange voice. A smirk that would never befit an orc appeared on his face.
“Then what is it? Eitrigg, please…”
“I am not Eitrigg,” he responded, his voice splitting and multiplying. “I was never Eitrigg. It was simply a shell I used to bring my plan into fruition.”
“What?” Rehgar only uttered, as he felt a crack pull him into the nothingness. Just in time, he managed to grab the wall of a building that was still somehow standing.
“I am Infinite. And your world was doomed from the start. This..” the newest avatar of the ‘Infinite Master’ said, looking upon the devastation, “…this is mercy.”
Rehgar was about to resign himself to his fate, clutching onto the wall with the last of his strength, but something changed again. Another voice appeared, booming in his head.
“This isn’t the end,” the voice said. “Look behind you.”
Rehgar couldn’t help but look. And there it was – a rift. Different, beautiful. Through all the other rifts, he saw only darkness and the end of all things, but through this rift… he saw a realm. A world of marvel and magic. A world of unending life. A… nexus of power and impossibilites all gathered into a promised land.
“What?” the dragon shouted, looking at the rift. “Who dares to disturb my plans?”
But Rehgar no longer listened to ‘Eitrigg’. The voice boomed in his head again. “Enter” the voice said. And then, Rehgar let it go and let the arcane flow drag him into the portal – into his salvation.
Moments later, Rehgar woke up in outside a castle. Four strange people stood nearby, all just as shocked as him – a woman dual-wielding crossbows, a human in an extremely large power suit, with an even larger gun, a murloc and Chen Stormstout wearing strange armor. Then, the voice returned, and all the heads were turned behind Rehgar’s back. So he turned around as well and saw a large, faceless, white figure dressed in flowing, white robes.
“Welcome to the Nexus.”