For some time, Mr. Krasha was looking for people interested in going to one potential mission, one that wasn’t very popular among most here. Ever since our crews started going out into the other worlds, we all heard about the Xa’tac and the terror they sown across known worlds. This “Space Scourge” was furthermore rumored to recently re-emerge after centuries of presumed extinction at the hands of the Burning Legion. So when the boss was informed by the Gnadra that our gnomish friends, Captain Matus T. Manks’s crew, was abducted and held on that world, few were interested in actually going there. I know it’s common among the adventurers to quote Draenor for being so savage, but this world was the home of an interstellar empire of terror and undeath. Even if they are presumed to be dead, who knows what kind of terrors still lurk within? And we weren’t too far off.
I don’t know if our primary away mission crew was looking for excuses to get out of this mission or if they were genuinely busy with research projects, but in the end we got a group of three people assigned to at least scout out the situation. Yes, we could send an Eye of Terokk to scout and we did but those small constructs are incapable of defending themselves – we needed someone to actually fight monsters that we knew were there, but who we didn’t know what were they. So I was assigned to go with the darfellan porter, Kaoka, and the shivarra alchemist, Angana Mayasura (although I am not sure of her last name, I heard it in reference to her). For the two of them, it was the first official away mission, although both had off-world origins and were not unfamiliar with the inhospitability of alien worlds.
We emerged from the rift in a gray, temperate desert that reminded me the most of Bone Wastes. It was a very appropriate comparison since the Xa’tac made heavy use of bony undead in their armies and after they were gone, most of their dread empire would crumble to dust. On the horizon, we saw ruins similar to Scourge buildings and embarked on the journey there. We did not have the Shuttle with us – in part because not one of us was able to pilot it, in part because we were meant to remain undetected from whatever sentient creatures might still control this world. So we walked, for over a mile, to the sound of Kaoka’s complaining about being sent to, essentially, hell. Darfellans never met the Xa’tac in battle but plenty of stories about their campaigns reached their world and stories like that are often more terrifying than first-hand accounts or personal experiences.
Still within the wastes, we were attacked, presumably by the same creature that attacked the Eye of Terokk – or at least an identical one. We had the first good look at it, and it wasn’t pretty. It looked like a skeleton of a snake, an extremely large one, except with the skull of a human on top of its neck, with the jaw broken in the middle and opening up like two mandibles of an insect. This terrifying creatures jumped us from beneath the bone sands and attempted to constrict Angana who, however, kicked it back, breaking one of the ribs and quickly chucked an immolating concoction at it. For the next couple of minutes, we were fending off the monster’s attacks, me throwing elemental magic (weakened by this world’s state), Kaoka kicking and punching at the bones, and Angana throwing bombs at the creature. Ultimately, the creature was defeated and the bones fell apart.
While continuing walking towards the ruins, we discussed the true nature of the creature we fought. The first guess was undead, because it was made of dead tissue and was moving, but undead are merely reanimated creatures. This thing had parts of various different original monsters, cobbled together. Therefore, our second guess was some kind of a bone golem. But that prompted another question: bone golems need to be constructed and animated – and there was no one here to animate this one. After we reached the outskirts of the ruins and saw multiple small bone monsters, randomly cobbled together from various non-fitting bones, we realized that these creatures must be “natural”, if such word can be used for undead. Although the Xa’tac themselves were gone, the dark energies used by them couldn’t have disappeared completely. The necromantic energies continued to blow through the ruins and occasionally animate random collections of bones into these strange creatures. A truly tragic coincidence.
The small, humanoid bone monsters weren’t aggressive towards us. They appeared rather skittish and continued to elude us, but I observed a pattern in their movements. Many of them were running towards one specific point. We decided to investigate and to our horror, we discovered a large congregation of these creatures in an abandoned temple. We snuck around them, fearing that this large group might be bolder about attacking us, and entered the inner sanctum of this temple, discovering another terrifying bone monster. This one appeared nearly ogre-sized, humanoid in shape, but with the hooves and antlers of some kind of grazing animal and the skull of a canine. This monster was wielding some kind of scepter and its rudimentary intelligence and power were a source of authority among the smaller monsters.
We hoped to continue to observe this congregation from behind cover, but Kaoka sneezed due to inhaling some bone dust circling in the air. The “jersey devil”, as Kaoka dubbed it, noticed us and waved its scepter at us, bellowing some unintelligible command. The smaller monsters gathered in a horde of skittering, cracking bones, embarking in our direction. Luckily, we were not bad at area effect damage and we carpeted the room with fire, both from my spells, as well as bombs thrown by Angana. When a large amount of the smaller creatures was defeated, many of them ran away in fear, gathering their strength only in numbers. The jersey devil, unfortunately, remained and charged at us with an otherworldly roar.
This one proved more dangerous than the small ones, and even more dangerous than the bone snake. Kaoka bravely resisted its attacks and continued to crack its bones with a cavalcade of punches and kicks even some pandaren monks would envy. Me and Angana used that chance to pellet the monster with our attacks. At first, I was tempted to use lightning, but seeing as these might work like bone golems, I refrained. I concentrated on lava and earth attacks, while the shivarra throw some innovative bombs, including one that briefly disoriented the monster. In retrospect, we should have taken someone more capable of healing with us, as Kaoka was beginning to show some wounds. She bore them bravely, however, and didn’t complain once. In the end, the monster kicked her back and started to show some shadowy power gathering inside it. Before it could finish, Angana drunk something called a “mutagen” and briefly transformed into a hulking, muscular creature that quickly tore the jersey devil apart.
The two of us were wounded and tired, so we decided to get on our way back home. But before we did, we heard the sound of footsteps. We hid again, and to our shock, we saw two felguards and a felhound enter the room and observe the smattering of bones on the floor. The demons didn’t think much of this, but continued to patrol the ruins just in case, lengthening the time it took us to return home. After sneaking away from their sight and overhearing nothing of use (unless knowing that one felguard wanted his own squad after what happened the previous night is useful) we made our way through the bone sands towards our rift. On our way back we luckily avoided further combat – it would probably not work in our favor this time.
We returned and informed Verroak Krasha of the events that unfolded there. He noted everything about the creatures we encountered, and confirmed that we will need to send our main team there if we wish to find the missing gnomes. Like some suspected, the Xa’tac homeworld appears to be under Legion supervision and although we do not know how many demons are stationed there (for all we know, these two might be the only ones) caution is always advised when dealing with the Burning Legion, in a world full of bone monsters no less. One thing I will remember from this mission will be to always take a healer into a dangerous situation.