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Planet Aman’thul

14 Apr

MenrimOur boss’s latest project caused some consternation. After Jhuuton announced he found a way to the Titan Pantheon, we thought it would be something best to remain far away from. Alas, Verroak had to insist on actually going through it. He was giddy with anticipation of the things he could learn from the Titans. He was sure nothing could go wrong – that even if the Titans would prove hostile to us, we could just get away quickly and close the gate behind us and pray – his exact word – they do not follow. He was always possessed with the idea of gaining more knowledge but many of us thought knocking directly on the Pantheon’s doorstep was too dangerous. As it would turn out, all of us – those expecting the Titans to be hostile and those expecting them to be friendly – were proven wrong.

This was a big mission. We wanted a lot of people in it, so we crammed the shuttle full of crew with the most experience and ability. This time, there were twelve of us there. I was piloting the shuttle, as Yu Gwai, our other pilot, refused to go because he felt this was a sacrilege. While I do not harbor particularly devout religious views, I was slightly concerned about that. Boss’s nephew Orkan sat beside me, directly overseeing the operation in Verroak’s stead. Jhuuton was standing behind us with the device and maintain the operation. With us was almost everyone with off-world experience, including Karnak, Mehrzad, Frlngath, Aeresham, Zovaar, Podric, Vikoka and even the shivarra alchemist Mayasura. Yib also came with us, hoping to represent us diplomatically in meeting the venerated Titans. As you might imagine, the shuttle was absolutely packed.

As we were preparing for departure, apparently some of us didn’t feel uncomfortable enough with the crowd and Karnak decided to break the ice.

“So, how exactly does it work?” he asked Jhuuton, who was eyeing his device with the focus of a child waiting until he can open a box of chocolates. I guess demons have very single-minded priorities. Jhuuton looked up like that child was just disturbed from his passionate impatience. “It forces the gateway open,” Jhuuton just barked back, not wanting to get into details. But Karnak raised his hand and asked again, “how exactly does it work?”

Jhuuton literally growled. “I will try to dumb this down for you, warrior. We are flying to planet Hodir on the edge of your solar system. There lays a Titan gateway, buried in ice for countless millennia. That gateway clearly links very far away. Much further than any of your planets. We think it goes right to the Titan homeworld. This thing” he said, tapping the device, “forces the gateway open.”

“Okay,” Karnak replied, “few points. I’m not from this universe, so I don’t think it could be further than that. Two, I’m not just another warrior, I can understand complicated concepts.” Podric muttered something along the lines of ‘here we go again’. “And lastly, you still did not explain how it forces the gateway open.”

“Fine!” Jhuuton yelled back, waving his chainsaw-arm carelessly just behind my head. “The omnitronic recall system has a few feedback subsystems. The regalithic connector can be manipulated through an energon discharge to release a pulse which will…”

“Okay,” Karnak interrupted him, “I get it. It will force the gateway open.”

“Yes!” Jhuuton yelled, loudly hitting his legs with his arms, “At last you admit your limited intellectual capacity.” I could see it in Karnak he was about to burst out with a few choice insults of his own, but if anything, he was a master of self-control. He simply ceased the conversation and awaited departure.

 

The flight to planet Hodir through the Twisting Nether took a few hours. It seems Azeroth’s solar system is far less compact than Anzulekk’s. That or perhaps the tethers joining the planets through the nether are looser here for some reason. The Nether is a chaotic realm; few can expect any rhyme or reason in how it works. Perhaps it was even our belief that this trip should take longer that influenced its length… but I’m sure that if that was possible, the space dwarves would just tell everyone travel through the Nether is instant and interstellar civilization would have a huge (albeit dwarf-sized) problem on their heads.

When we finally reached it, we dropped out of the Nether fairly low above the planet’s surface. Unlike Azeroth or Anzulekk or other habitable planets, Hodir doesn’t have a large atmosphere or a strong gravity well, so there is little to prohibit ships from dropping fairly close by. You can still materialize inside a mountain if you’re not careful enough, but if you keep a healthy distance, there is nothing to be afraid of.

Planet Hodir is… peculiar. A distant, cold world, it’s covered in ice. While some would expect it to be a white snowball, it was actually rather red. Hodir’s ice is not in fact water ice, but methane. While there were still whiter plains with dunes of water ice behind us, in front of us laid craggy peaks of red ice with smooth valleys that were never touched by wind or water. At the end of this valley, we could see the tips of our gateway, resting deep under the ice cover.

“Just think how much time must have passed since the Titans were here,” Zovaar asked seeing this image. “We are looking at an abyss of time. The stone in this gate has seen thousands of our lifetimes, and mine is not exactly short either.”

“It’s stone,” Aeresham replied, sitting nearly motionlessly on the bench. I think he’s still uncomfortable with the idea of sitting. As a botani, he mostly just stood or walked, and even rested by rooting into the ground while standing. “Stone doesn’t see much.”

Zovaar raised his eyebrow. “I’m surprised you say that. We are both from Draenor. You should remember the Breakers. The gronn and the magnaron – they were creatures of stone and could certainly see much.”

“These are not gronn,” Aeresham responded, annoyed, “this is a building.”

But Zovaar remained steadfast. “Ah, a Titan building. Who knows what the Titans gifted unto it?”

Aeresham made some kind of facial expression. It may have been an approximation of human shock. “It’s a building. Why would they make an aware building?”

“For the same reason they’d make an aware manual laborer such as dwarves,” Zovaar reasoned, “It is just what they do.”

At this point Yib interceded to break off this discussion. “I am surprised you even came,” she said to Zovaar, “You do not come to away missions often.”

“We came here to see the mighty Titans. I could not miss such an occasion.”

As it would turn out, the intercession was not necessary. I finished steering the shuttle into the predetermined position and Jhuuton stood up and began unpacking his device. “Okay!” he yelled out, “Shut up now. We’re here and I want to launch this without your chatter.”

“Okay, everyone,” I spoke up and motioned for them to sit closer to the walls to give space to Jhuuton and his device. “Move it to the back compartment.”

“I know!” Jhuuton replied, as angry as always, “I helped devise this plan!” He pushed the machinery back with his pincer-hand, and planted it at the back door. Vikoka looked at him in the back and asked me. “Is he going to stay there?”

“Are you stupid?” Jhuuton asked, coming back to the front. “Sorry, wrong question. How stupid are you?”

Vikoka shrugged. “You’re a demon. I figured a little cold wouldn’t be much of a problem.”

“My comfort is irrelevant,” Jhuuton replied, “the cold can still damage my skin and some of the more delicate machine parts of my body.”

“It’s that cold?” the naga continued.

“What do you expect it’s like out there?” Jhuuton said, shoving Yib aside and planting his toothy face right next to me, staring through the front window. He looked back at Vikoka for a moment. “It’s not just winter. It’s so cold, air falls down as snow. It’s so cold, water ice forms mountains as solid as rock. I doubt even gelugons could survive there.”

“In fact, they cannot,” I added, continuing to operate the shuttle into the perfect position.

“See, the egghead agrees with me,” Jhuuton ended, looking back into the window. “Now, release.”

As instructed, I began the operation. The door to the back compartment closed and soon afterwards, the shuttle’s back door opened, releasing the device into the frigid atmosphere of planet Hodir. Within moments, we could see the device fly to the gateway’s location and then, it landed on the ice. We observed, mostly in silence, as the device began emitting energy and ice began to melt. Soon, the gas emanating from the sublimating methane ice was covering the view of the spectacle and the crew began crowding behind me to watch it. Orkan almost spilled Balerok’s foul drink over the machinery, which finally irritated Jhuuton, which isn’t exactly very hard to do.

“Back, back, you mindless mass!” he shouted, pushing people back. “This is not cinema! It’s a scientific experiment!”

Karnak still tried to squeeze through between Orkan’s seat and the wall. “Still beats watching the green mist outside the window for two hours.”

Jhuuton waved his pincer-arm just behind Orkan’s chair. “Now you’ve got a white mist. Hella entertaining.”

Orkan grumbled. “Please don’t say ‘hella’. It sounds… dumb.”

Jhuuton paused for a moment. “Fine. It’s ‘very not entertaining’. Better?”

The warlock shrugged. “Eh, better.”

The mist of subliming methane and water ice persisted for some time more. Personally, I did not see it as particularly entertaining. From an aesthetic point of view… it was just gas. From a scientific point of view, nothing new happened. We know what happens to these substances at low and high temperatures. This wasn’t exactly splitting atoms. Indeed, the big discovery was yet to come. When the mist subsided, the device was sitting at the bottom of a pit, next to the now uncovered – yet still very much closed – gateway.

Frlngath poked his hand right next to my ears. “Look,” he said, “it didn’t work.”

“Shut up, fake elf,” Jhuuton responded with his usual tact, “it’s just stage one. We needed to burn away all the ice so the gateway is free of all obstruction. Void only knows what would happen if we tried to open it while still buried.”

“Okay, cyborg-zombie-man,” Frlngath responded, “then when does stage two begin?”

Jhuuton just waved at the front window. “Right now.”

The device was floating and glowing with power once again. The lights that were previously inert turned on and began flickering like a goblin sapper who just found a target for his suicide mission. That moved the crowd behind me once again. I had to remind them I do not actually sit on a chair and the thing they were trying to sit on ‘behind me’ was, well, me. Regardless of temporary discomforts, the gateway started to finally come to life. The pylons on top glowed and energy poured all through the ancient Titan device. “It’s working!” Jhuuton yelled, raising his arms up like a preacher in the middle of a speech. “Finally, my work finds its end at last!” The characteristic pillars of light appeared inside the gateway’s frame itself and before we could blink, a watery substance burst forth from it. After a few seconds, it calmed down into a waving surface of something between water and mercury. We did it. We opened the mythical gateway to the Titan homeworld.

Orkan cackled and looked at me. “I bet uncle will regret he did not get to say this.” He looked through the window and towards the glowing gateway to what some would consider Heaven. “Go in.”

Our shuttle moved in, slowly approaching the gateway through the still dissipating mist. If you pardon a bit of poetic description on my part, it felt like a truly magical moment. When I came to work for Krasha, I distrusted portals. I took the long way around through the South Seas in order to avoid going through portals. However, after all the time I spent here, I got used to them. Going through portals became commonplace and I no longer balked at the sight of magical transportation. And yet, at this moment, when I looked at the ancient Titan portal which led to them, seeing it through these vapors, no matter how easily explainable scientifically, I felt like a veil of arcane mystery was parting before my eyes. In a few moments, I would see what none had seen before me – the home of the Titans. Not even the Keepers had seen that world, or their makers, and yet I would. For all the evil Verroak’s science causes… at this moment I felt like it was all justified, because it would bring us all forward in ways we never imagined.

In a moment, we passed through portal’s surface. We expected it would be like any other portal – a brief flash, nary a feeling of any sort of transportation and an instant arrival on a new world. But this one was different. When the shuttle crossed, all we could see beyond the windows was a dazzling array of colors hard to describe in any of the numerous languages I know. It was not even the Twisting Nether, with its otherworldly chaos being still… perceivable in common understanding, though perhaps thanks to getting used to it. Stars, galaxies and nebulae danced around us as if the universe itself could not decide where or when are we, as if the majesty of entire Great Dark arrayed itself before us. Stars were given to us on a plate, in a kaleidoscope our tiny minds could not properly read. Perhaps only the Titans themselves would know what they were looking at if they saw this magnificent image – or perhaps even to them it would be just as wondrous.

But enough with the philosophy. The far greater wonder was what I saw when I looked at the shuttle’s instruments. All the readings were going off the charts. Irden dwarves gave the shuttle a fair bit of leeway when it comes to navigation. Some of their xenophobic elites doubtlessly expected to rule over the entire Galaxy one day. The instruments were ready for any coordinates anywhere within our galaxy. And yet, that was still not enough. We were going off the charts. Very far off the charts. The gateway – I am not even certain anymore if we can still call it a portal – was propelling us millions of light years away.

“This is impossible,” I couldn’t help myself from saying. Orkan looked at the instruments and, though he learned to operate them, still preferred to ask if what he saw was right.

“What’s wrong?”

“We’re leaving the Galaxy,” I responded. “We’re going… to the other end of the observable universe.”

 

The stunning splendor of the universe did not last long, or at least we did not perceive it as long. As the trails left on our horizon by stars seemingly speeding past us grew fainter, the watery, shimmering substance of the portal surface returned. With a flash, we emerged out of an identical gateway on the other end. We finally reached where none had gone before us, and yet… there was no fanfare. No crowd standing at attention at the children of Azeroth finding their way to where it all began. Not even a confused scientist shouting for alarm. All we could see in front of us was a gargantuan, dark room standing in deafening silence with few scattered rocks casting shadows in the faint light coming from the antechamber. There was no one there to welcome us. No friends, no enemies, just an echo of our engines eerily bouncing off the walls of the dilapidated room.

Mayasura grabbed a hatch just over my head with one of her arms and looked around. “Where is everyone?” she finally broke the deadening silence that befell us.

“Great,” Jhuuton snarked, “we came all the way here, halfway across the universe, and they’re not even home?”

“Calm down,” Zovaar said, raising his arm to silence us, “perhaps they simply ceased to utilize this room.”

Frlngath closed his eyes for a moment and reached out using his n’raqi senses. “No,” he stoically responded, “I sense not a living soul anywhere within miles.”

I couldn’t help myself. “They’re dead,” I exclaimed, “they’re all dead. Ra-Den and Melektas were right. They’re all dead.”

Zovaar still tried to control the situation. “Let us not jump to conclusions. Thousands of years have passed. Entire races came and went in that time. We do not know what happened out here.”

“Exactly,” Mayasura interrupted him, “they died.”

“Or perhaps,” he continued, “they left. Perhaps when they came to Azeroth, their entire race came to order worlds.”

Mehrzad was sitting very silent until this point. “So why did they leave that gateway?” he finally said. “Why lead us on if we wouldn’t find anyone here?”

I was getting my bearings and thinking of the next most rational step to take. “Okay, listen, not everything is lost.”

Jhuuton cackled briefly. “It looks pretty lost to me.”

“Not everything is lost!” I repeated for emphasis. “We have many theories on why it is like that, but before we proclaim any of them as gospel, let us continue on and survey more of the situation.”

 

Unfortunately, what awaited us beyond that faint point of light in the doorway was not much more promising. As soon as the shuttle drove out of the building, we saw a barren, ruined landscape. There was no vegetation, no life, anywhere in sight. Dusty, dry land housed only broken pieces of what was once a great civilization. Cyclopean monuments, shattered by the passage of time, towered above us. Although colossal in size, they were barely big enough to house a Keeper, let alone the enormous size Titans must have been. The sky above us, poking out between the sky-scraping ruins, was covered in gray-brown clouds. These were not friendly white clouds of a life-bearing world. These were not even black clouds of an incoming rain. These clouds were dry and choked with dust. Air, as I read on my instruments, was filled with exhaust. It was as if someone simply strangled all life from this world.

For a moment we thought we were mistaken, that we arrived in a wrong planet. This cannot be what was left of the Titans. It was hardly any different from any random Titan ruin on the thousands of lifeless globes in our Galaxy. But no, we were there, on the other side of the universe, staring at our hope slowly dripping down between our fingers and streaming down the gutter into the storm drain. “What happened?” we asked ourselves. “Has the Burning Legion got here first?” But no, they leave a trail of destruction everywhere they go. This world simply died.

Orkan scratched his nares. “Actually,” he said among the horrified gazes, “this is good news.”

Mayasura glared at him with a malice only a rogue demon can muster. “How is this good news? Our only hope to find someone of power equal to the Burning Legion is dead.”

Orkan was his uncle’s nephew. Either in his timeline Tarakan was closer to Verroak than to himself of this timeline, or he simply got that from some earlier common ancestor. “If they’re gone, and there are no demons here, this all belongs to us now.” Everyone fell silent. “Think about it. The crowning achievements of Titan civilization. The height of their power. Left undisturbed, merely a little tattered by time. If we take the time and manpower necessary to study this… we will become as Titans. More, we will learn from their mistakes and perhaps, we avoid their fate.”

As the discussion was going on, I was continuing to steer the shuttle in the narrow streets snaking between the crumbling stone behemoths. Vikoka was finally speaking up in more than grumbles and hisses. “Do you really think,” he said to Orkan, “that were Titans failed, we can succeed? I think I would have a better chance going back to Azshara.”

“Why not?” Orkan replied, shrugging off the naga’s accusations. “We are not them.”

“We are less than them!” Vikoka barked back.

“We’re not less. Smaller maybe. But we are different. That difference is what gives us chance.”

Aeresham, usually together with Orkan on the cynical side of the arguments, found himself opposed this time. “Do not give me that ‘age of mortals’ crap. That mortals are somehow special. Besides, few of us here are really the ‘hero’ material. A botani,” he said, pointing at himself, “arakkoa, a tol’vir, human from another universe, elf-turned-faceless, rogue demons… We’re not what all the god wannabes mean when they say ‘fate of the world is in your hands’.”

Orkan shook his head. “No, no, you should know me well enough to know I’m not into this kind of idealistic nonsense. I’m following a simple, logical conclusion. We do not have their flaws. We have our own flaws, but we can learn from them how to overcome some of them. We can learn from their failures how to overcome their mistakes. By merging our two unique perspectives, we gain a chance to win.”

“Even if we grab at it,” Jhuuton spoke up, “do you know how much it would cost to really dig into this? I was once left alone in the remains of a Titan facility on Xetloth. It took me, ME, fifty years to catalog everything there. Catalog. Not to research it in detail. This,” he said, waving his bladed arms around, “this is a work for centuries for an entire civilization. We do not have that kind of time.”

Before the discussion could continue, I drove the shuttle out of the narrow streets into a large plaza, as desolate as everything else. What drew my attention, however, was not the plaza but what lied on the other end of it. I couldn’t help but point it out and break the argument. In front of us was an enormous palace, or complex, or facility. It is hard to even describe a construction of such an enormous size. It was easily the size of a mountain and at long last, something that could house what we imagined Titans were like.

The front of the building was decorated with a cavalcade of columns, each so titanic – if you pardon the pun – in size, one could stack three Cathedrals of Stormwind on top of each other and they would still not reach the top. The doors were so enormous it would probably take a demigod to push them open. Luckily for us, they were not closed. The stone, ornate slabs that constituted those doors were wide open. I did not dare to speculate why that was so. Perhaps whatever killed this entire world in one fell swoop barged in and took everything of value inside. Or perhaps this was an invitation to the Children of the Titans, to the pilgrims from the worlds they ordered. Of course, there were a dozen different ideas about what it meant, but with Orkan we decided we had to investigate. This is what we came here for.

The inside of the building reminded of Ulduar. Not so much the style of the architecture, although that was similar as well, as much as the sheer colossal scale of it. When our shuttle flew down the main corridor – that’s right, an entire ship packed with people flew down that corridor – I saw a palace built not for men but gods. The corridor stretched for miles. Tiles on the floor were the size of our shuttle. The relief on the walls, usually a tiny representation of the artist, had figures bigger than us. I felt like an ant who dared to walk into a man’s house and poke around his books, hoping to glean his knowledge. I wondered if we even could hope to understand what was left here. What the Titans left on Azeroth was meant for us, it was digested and cut into tiny pieces our minds could comprehend. This was their homeland. What we saw before us was meant for them, not for us. Even if they were gone, I thought, we had no more chance of understanding this great cosmic knowledge than a cockroach would have of learning to light a fire.

But enough of me waxing poetic about how small I felt. When we finally reached the end of that corridor, we entered through another wide open door into an enormous, nearly empty room. One would expect such a room to be furnished in some way. Even temples have various appliances the priests use to commune with their deities, and this palace was feeling more and more like a temple when we went in. One detail however was standing out. A light was still blinking in front of us. A magical light shining on a pedestal, as if it was waiting for someone to react.

Yib stood fixated on it for a moment. “I think we are meant to investigate it.”

“What if it’s a trap!?” Vikoka yelled out, pointing at the light.

“Everything is dead,” I responded to them, “what’s the worst that could happen?”

This is when Karnak decided to share his experience with tombs and pyramids of Luxoria. “Actually,” he said, “it’s not an uncommon practice to place traps in tombs. If the Titans wanted to keep their knowledge safe from prying eyes of unwanted guests, they could have planted traps we cannot even detect.”

“This isn’t a tomb,” I had to reply, “Titans lived here. They left us the gateway which linked right here. We were led straight here. Not just to this world. We were led to this very spot. To this light. This…” I looked away and gazed into the light for a moment. “This is the answer to everything. Answer to all the questions we may have had about the Titans, or even the universe. I just know it, this will tell us why this world is dead. What were the Pantheon’s plans for Azeroth and the universe? This is it.”

Aeresham cringed, or at least did something approximating a cringe. “If we were lead here, that’s all the more reason to keep away. I don’t trust them.”

“No,” Orkan responded, “We’re going in. We came here for knowledge and we’re getting it, even if we’re doing it over the Pantheon’s dead bodies.”

We quickly prepared for leaving the Shuttle. Frlngath and the demons wanted to stay behind because the Titan systems might react violently to them, but in the end, the Shuttle was of Titan design as well – leaving them alone in there might have tripped something as well. The biggest problem was the air – it was filled with exhaust, or “carbon dioxide”, the byproduct of animal breathing. Luckily, I found enough masks for all animal, non-demon members of our party. Aeresham began complaining about a mask for him, but I quickly reminded him he’s a plant and exhaust is what he normally breaths in. Moments later, we were out of the Shuttle and slowly approaching the blinking light.

I went first, most of the group coming slowly behind me, weapons in hand just in case it was a trap. As I came to the pedestal, I realized this wasn’t a technological device in the slightest. There were no buttons to press, or screens telling me what to do. All I had before me was what looked like the base of a statue and a shining, swirling light emanating from it. I needed to think about magic, about ways mages could enchant something to work. It could work by speaking out a word, I thought, or it could work by simple proximity to the intended target. In the emotion of the moment, I could not think of any word in Titan that could be the password here. Finally, I rested my hand against it and sighed.

To my surprise, the light began moving and reorganizing. I doubt it was the sigh. It must have been the touch of a Titan-forged that activated the object. We all went silent, as the light formed into the shape of a humanoid figure. Moments later, before us was a translucent giant figure of an elderly man with a metallic skin, long white hair and beard, and long, flowing robes. “Aman’thul,” I couldn’t help but speak out.

“Yes,” the figure seemed to respond.

“You… can hear us? You understand us?” I began stumbling upon my words. I was speaking to a god… no, to the father of the gods.

“Yes and no. I am not all of Aman’thul,” the figure responded. “I am but the tiniest sliver of his force and memory, left here for you, children of the Titans.” He looked out to our group and clearly noticed some of the corrupted creatures among us. “Even if some of you faltered in your convictions at one point or another, you are here now and that is important.”

Orkan tried to shove me aside, but I stood my ground. He nevertheless spoke up to the illusion. “Where is the real Aman’thul? Is he somewhere on this world? Why is everything here dead?”

The image stopped for a moment, as if it needed to process its thoughts. “He is here. He is all around you.”

“I don’t get it,” Vikoka exclaimed, “is this some spiritual bullshit? Where is the actual man?”

The figure responded with the same calm demeanor. “You would find exploring spirituality very enlightening, if you tried it. However, that statement was not meant to be philosophical. I… Aman’thul is literally all around you. You are standing upon him.”

“The planet,” Yib spoke up, “I heard these theories. Titans are planets. World-souls, as it was sometimes described.”

“Not literally the planets,” the illusory Aman’thul responded, “We were world-souls. Spirits born in the fiery hearts of planets. But we were not merely the round stone objects. We were worlds. We were the union of spirit of the entire world, all of its inhabitants, all of life, put together. And once we awakened, we left the worlds of our birth and explored the cosmos seeking more of our kind. We left our cribs behind, still intact and full of life, but still intimately tied to them.”

“Were,” I noticed. “You’re speaking in past tense.”

“Indeed,” it replied. “We have fallen. We were betrayed by one of our own.”

“Sargeras,” Zovaar said through the teeth.

“Then you know of him. If he reached the Final Titan…”

“The Final Titan,” I interrupted him. “I heard this. This was part of some message Highkeeper Ra received…”

“We have fallen,” the vision replied, “We must rebuild the Final Titan. Do not forget. I remember sending the message. I was already dead. Sargeras refused to listen to reason. Despite our best efforts, he tore through us like Light through Void. In the final moments, our fleeting spirits executed Norgannon’s great plan… to try to possess the Keepers we left watching over Azeroth. If you are here instead of us, proper us, then we have failed yet again.”

Yib continued in her curiosity to query the Titan vision. “But who is that Final Titan? Did one member of the Pantheon survive?”

“No, not as far as I know. The Final Titan is none other than Azeroth. If you are here, then there is still hope. Then he did not reach it yet.”

Jhuuton came closer to the vision. “I served the Burning Legion for eons, but I still don’t know one thing. One thing no one ever told us. Why? Why is he doing all this? Why purge all life?”

“Because he thinks he has all the answers and thinks he can save the universe. Yes, through destroying it. I do not understand his warped logic. But you must remember, there is something far greater, far darker. Something even Sargeras fears. That is why you must do everything in your might to stop him and save Azeroth.”

“Look,” Aeresham interrupted, “we’re not exactly heroes here. We came here for knowledge.”

“Then acquire all knowledge still left within these halls,” Aman’thul responded, “But know this, it belongs to all children of the Titans. All of Azeroth must share in it. If you fail to make it so… then Azeroth may fall and with it, the entire universe.”

“Wait,” I reached out to the illusion, “what is it that Sargeras fears? What do we have to save Azeroth from?”

The image flickered for a moment. “My time is limited. I am but a tiny portion of the great Titan, tinier even than any of you.”

“This is important!” I shouted at long last. “What is it? Tell us!?”

The image began flickering more and more. It stabilized for one last moment. “The Void.” After those words, the image disappeared and the light from which it formed was gone.

 

Silence fell for a few moments. We all waited to see if the image was completely gone, but it seemed to be. Immediately, I grabbed at the materials that projected the image and looked for a way to bring this recording with me in some way. I called Zovaar over to help me detect any enchantments that could be locking it in and certainly enough, he found a disk embedded into the pedestal and enchanted with magic far beyond his reckoning. With more help from some of the heavy lifters, we took the disk out and decided to head back.

Unfortunately, our return could not be that peaceful. Just as we were about to bring the disk into the Shuttle, we felt the ground shake.

“What was that?” Frlngath asked, looking down. “Earthquake?”

“No, that was not a natural motion of the ground,” Yib explained. “I would put in serious doubt whether this world is still capable of geological activity considering what happened to its…” She visibly struggled to find an appropriate word. It’s not a usual thing for her. “I frankly don’t know what to think about this revelation, but it seems this world is dead, in all possible meanings of the word.”

“Then what is shaking?” Frlngath asked again.

We did not wait long for an answer. Ground shook again, much stronger this time, and right beside us. Green light appeared barring our way out of the room and it appeared the shaking was centered on that green light. The shivarra alchemist frowned. “Fel magic,” she said, sensing it far too well from her experience. The green light formed into two large, stone-like arms extending from the ground in upwards-curving shapes. At this point most of us probably recognized what was happening – a demonic gateway was forming.

“Impossible,” Orkan exclaimed upon this realization, “demons, this far out? No amount of conventional magic can get you here in such a short time.”

Jhuuton grabbed the Shuttle’s side with his pincer-arm, but the shaking stabilized just after that. “This is one of Sargeras’s most closely guarded secrets,” he said, “he must have had some emergency plans.”

The gateway’s arms closed and the portal within shone with the light of a hundred candles. Demons began emerging, and I would not be able to recollect exactly how many there were if it wasn’t for Yib’s perfect memory. Per her report, there were four imps, two felguards, two inquisitors, three demonic gargoyles, a jailer and a dreadlord. The demons gathered in a battle formation as the nathrezim measured us all from afar.

“What is this?” the demon asked, “More of that fool’s Illidan’s servants messing with things beyond their control?”

“Take a good look at us,” Karnak responded, readying his weapons.

The dreadlord probably did not understand what the Luxorian meant. “I do not care what weapons you bring. Was Nathreza not enough for you?”

I finally spoke up to clear up the misunderstanding. “We are not Illidari. Do they have tol’vir or n’raqi among their numbers?”

“Then you are even more foolish than I anticipated. Some random monster menagerie poking their fingers into one of the greatest secrets of this universe. Minions, disperse with his rabble!” the demon hollered to his underlings.

Then I heard something that chilled me. “Yes, Lord Detheroc,” the jailer responded. In that brief moment we all exchanged worried looks. Mehrzad took a few steps back and asked me “That Detheroc?”

“Yes,” Jhuuton responded, readying his weapons, “now I recognize him.” He charged in, cackling as mo’arg do. Karnak began waddling through the imps as well.

Mehrzad was still standing back, and I was quickly taking up the position near him. “Aren’t we the slightest bit concerned who we’re fighting?” he asked me.

“Yes, we are,” I answered, “but there is no other way out now.”

We continued in silence, or at least as much silence as a heated battle can be. We did not talk, but we cast spells and crossed arms with the demons attempting to keep us from bringing the secret back. Thankfully, most of us were not afraid of the dreadlord at the helm. In fact, he wasn’t doing much but watching the battle from his initial position in front of the gateway. I tried casting a Purge spell on him, but it bounced off in a way I’ve never seen before – though I cannot say I have a lot of combat experience.

The imps died first, of course. Karnak, Mayasura and Podric made quick work of them. Karnak simply slashed them with his khopesh, the shivarra bombed them with her concoctions and the human simply summoned bog-standard blizzards. The jailer was a bigger problem. It was right in the middle of the fight and disrupting us in various ways. It kept summoning a fel-green cage on Frlngath or Yib, and we had to break it down multiple times. At one point, he linked me and Mehrzad with a magical chain. We ran in different directions to break it and I’m not certain if it was the right decision as the magical explosion upon breaking hurt as all hell. Thankfully, through our concerted effort, the jailer died next.

One of the felguards and two gargoyles fixated on Orkan who was fighting them off in vrock form the whole time. Once the jailer died, many of us turned to help him. Gargoyles were slightly problematic because unlike Djedsuti mortal gargoyles, these could fly, but it wasn’t a problem we could not surmount. We finally whittled the demons down to a felguard, two inquisitors and a gargoyle, and Detheroc began looking concerned.

The inquisitors made me wonder if they are the origin of the “demonic eye” constructs we’ve seen. Many people attribute it to Kilrogg but he was hardly an innovative warlock and he could have taken the idea from many sources – either ancient Apexis oculi our boss uses, or from these inquisitor demons. The eyes were… mostly just annoying. I destroyed a few and still hope they are not separate entities, as they would be my first victims.

Despite our worries, the demons fell soon enough. The room that once held the great secret of the universe was now littered with demonic bodies and their green, boiling blood seeping into the rocks. Detheroc looked across this image with a concerned look. “You are more capable than I anticipated,” the nathrezim said, “Yet still, my Lord Sargeras cannot allow you to escape this world alive.”

Orkan stood in front of the dreadlord, still in his metamorphosis form. “You cannot stop us.”

“Are you so arrogant to assume that just because you defeated these lowly minions you can take on me? You are clever, but you are no match for me!” The demon yelled out and charged at Orkan. “I. SHALL. BE. YOUR. DOOM. ANACH. KYREE!”

Orkan was knocked flat on his back, losing his focus and transforming back into the fragile arakkoa form. None of us waited long to react. Karnak was right at the dreadlord in seconds, though it seemed the demon parried every hit the Luxorian could muster. “What kind of warrior are you?” Detheroc taunted him. “You cannot even clap the ground with a thunder? Bah!” The nathrezim kicked him away and turned back again. I began healing Karnak immediately, while Jhuuton grabbed the demon’s plate, pulled it up and drilling right into his back. Although Detheroc let out a bellowing, infernal roar, he turned right back again and enchanted his claw with dark energy which hurt Jhuuton. Frlngath’s shadow spells seemed to not affect the demon at all. Mayasura’s mixtures didn’t seem to be doing much either. Things looked grim.

Only when Zovaar charged in shielded himself with Holy Light, the nathrezim started to pause. Zovaar concentrated on his spells and began hitting him without a stop. It visibly strained the draenei, but he did not let off. We used that chance to recuperate and quickly redoubled our efforts. I cast another enchantment on Yib and her bullets finally lit up with holy energies. Orkan transformed again and began clawing at the nathrezim. Although Zovaar finally stepped back and took a few breaths, we were now assaulting Detheroc at a speed even he could not withstand. At this moment, the dreadlord flattered me and decided I was enough of a threat to put to sleep, so I missed the next minute or so, but eventually, Karnak helped me get up and I saw Detheroc, beleaguered and bleeding, backing off towards the gateway. I saw Zovaar strike the gateway down and the demon wobbling on his feet. Finally, he kneeled and groaned with pain.

“You rush headlong to your deaths… Even if you’ve defeated me today, the Burning Legion will not take this insult lightly.” He looked up and took a good look at every single one of us. “I will remember all of your faces and when I get my reckoning your pain shall be legendary.”

“Enough talking, demon,” Zovaar interrupted him and slammed the side of his shield into the demon’s neck. Detheroc yelled out again as a fountain of green blood poured down. Zovaar groaned lightly and hit the neck again. This time, the head fell off and rolled down towards Orkan before it dissipated. The entire armor of the dreadlord collapsed as his body dissipated into dark energy swirling in bat-shaped particles, and then disappeared.

“I cannot believe this,” Orkan said, still looking at the burnt spot where Detheroc’s head landed, then looked up at me. “We defeated Detheroc. I remember being scared of just hearing his name.”

Zovaar pulled out a piece of cloth to clean the blood off his shield. “Hold your pride, friend. They have merely suffered a setback. Soon enough, we shall have him on our tails again.”

“It doesn’t matter,” I responded, “they do not know where to look for us, and we shall be out of here before they can make another one of these. So let’s move it.”

I shall spare you the details of our return. We managed to pack everything up, including the disk with the message and even Detheroc’s armor. After we returned and reported the entire event to our boss, I sat in my room thinking about the implications of this. The Titans are dead. Also, they were planets. And the Burning Legion now remembers us for uncovering one of their greatest secrets. Also, together our group is strong enough to defeat powerful dreadlords such as Detheroc. The last part gave me hope. If we can show that kind of strength, perhaps there is hope for Azeroth. But if the Titans could not deal with the Legion… perhaps we can. With the right tools and time, which we can find there on… Aman’thul. It still feels strange to say that. I only hope our boss’s greed will not cloud his judgment and he will let forces of Azeroth through.

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Posted by on 14.04.2016 in IC, Memoirs, Menrim

 

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