Monday, April 20, 2009
Anchorite Vesta sighed, her face thoughtful in the fire’s dying light. I sat across from her, looking out into the darkened wastes, particles of dust and bone swirling in the low wind.
“The Sha’tar do know of these refugees. They are beyond our help for now, our forces are just spread so thin!”
“They’re all busy fighting Illidan and the Burning Legion?”
“Among other threats. We may be able to shift some of the burden to the Aldor and the Scryers for the war effort. I feel so terrible for them. I will tell Khadgar what you told me, though he probably already knows. Perhaps he can do something.”
Vesta and her two companions, a vindicator named Solon and an orc warrior called Verg, were part of a Sha’tar effort to learn more about the Bone Waste. Their group originally numbered six but had lost half their number after a fighting a Cabal patrol. Vesta was leading them back to Shattrath City, and it was pure luck that I'd encountered them.
I bade farewell to Vesta the next morning and continued north. My destination was the Alliance town of Allerian Stronghold, another remnant of the Expeditionary Force. While Honor Hold struggled for survival, Allerian Stronghold enjoyed a degree of peace and prosperity. The settlement was attractive enough to retain its population even after the pacification of Shattrath City.
Life struggled back into the world as I walked, tufts of pale grass peeking out from the dust. I smiled in gratitude upon reaching the splintered trees of the forest’s edge, happy to see a color other than gray. Sounds came to me: birds chattered in the high branches and the waters of a stream rushed somewhere in the distance. Returning to the forest felt like waking up from a long and troubled sleep.
The sparse woodlands south of Allerian Stronghold make for easy travel. Allerian Stronghold stands in a narrow pass between the Terokkar Hills to the west and the lofty heights of the Skethyl Mountains in the east. People in Shattrath had said that the town fills the entirety of the gap, and is impossible to miss.
The Skethyl Mountains menace the otherwise idyllic locale. Nearly impossible to scale, rumors speak of shadowed arakkoa citadels in the high places. The arakkoa themselves refuse to give a clear answer, though it seems that a city called Skettis does exist on some distant plateau. No draenei or orc has ever seen it.
While sinister, the Skethyl Mountains do provide a grand vista to those traversing the pass. Green strips of forest run along the lower slopes and narrow waterfalls crash down into clear pools. The grand Tautai River once flowed south from the Skethyl Mountains, skirting the eastern edge of the Yellowblight Desert before emptying into the icy waters of the Brinesink. The draenei once planned to colonize the Tautai River Valley but never got that far. The river dried up at some point after the Horde War. No one knows why.
Rivers still run north from the mountains, terminating in what was once called the Devouring Sea. Today it falls over the edge of Outland. Magi and scientists theorize that a spherical shield surrounds Outland, and that the water collects at the bottom and is somehow returned to the environment. However, this is only speculation.
Allerian Stronghold is an echo of the Alliance’s glory days at the end of the Second War. A graceful elven spire emerges from behind the thick limestone walls, reminding the world that some Quel’dorei still hold to the Alliance. A curious mix of emotions welled up as I recalled my childhood, spent in awe of the living legends who repelled the old Horde. I saw nothing of the grim suspicion that shadowed Honor Hold, though I reminded myself that first impressions are not always accurate.
The rustle of leaves jerked me back to reality. A snow white mare emerged from an olemba grove to my right, walking towards me with almost dainty steps. A young elven woman rode on the horse, studying me with bright blue eyes. Though dressed in plain forest garb she carried herself with regal comport, her lovely face lit up by a playful smile. Only then did I notice the sword at her side.
“Many months have passed since last a stranger came in from the Bone Waste.”
I expected her to follow with a question, but she remained silent.
“Considering its dangers I can see why. My name is Talus Corestiam; I am a recent arrival from Azeroth.”
“I am Rileena Everdawn, and I welcome you to Allerian Stronghold. Please, follow me. You shall find peace within our walls.”
She dismounted, walking the horse towards town.
“How much do you know of Allerian Stronghold?” she asked.
“Not a great deal, I’m afraid.”
“Judging from your reaction you must at least know that the elves here still honor their debts to the Alliance.”
“I do. Some high elves in Azeroth do the same.”
“Really?” Eager hope broke her cool demeanor, though she soon regained composure. “I know that most of our kindred now march with orcs and the rotting dead. We are no friends of the blood elves.”
“The Alliance is honored to have you,” I said. “Does Alleria Windrunner live in your town?”
Horde veterans of the Second War still shudder when telling stories of Alleria Windrunner, the ranger-general of Silvermoon in those days. Many of them believe that she killed more orcs and trolls than any other individual soldier.
“I regret to say she does not. Lady Windrunner left seven years ago, and we do not know her location.”
“Why did she leave?”
“That is known only to Khadgar. Turalyon, her husband, left with her and is also missing.”
Turalyon was a paladin whose faith and charisma galvanized the fledgeling Order of the Silver Hand during the Second War. Though lesser in stature than Uther or Lothar, he was still a figure of great respect.
“We shall always await their return. In the meantime, we honor their memory by upholding peace and justice.”
“Forgive me if this question is too prying, but how are the Quel’dorei able to sustain themselves in Outland? Did you find a replacement for the Sunwell?”
“That replacement is all around us!” she laughed. “The arcane energies of Outland give us strength; it is an inferior substitute to the glorious Sunwell, but an acceptable one. We know what happened to the Sunwell, by the way. The news came as a terrible shock though that does not excuse the actions of the Sun King.”
Rileena led me past the guards standing at the southern gate and into a pleasant town square. Tidy homes with roofs of blue slate look out onto the commons. Nearly every house is connected to an enclosed vegetable garden. Domed elven structures intermingle with the human-built ones, integrating better than one might expect. Humans and elves walk the cobblestone paths, some of them children. A great water wheel turns in the western edge of town, its utilitarian mass looking a bit out of place.
Rileena excused herself, saying she needed to report to her commanding officer. I walked to the inn, an establishment morbidly named the Arrow’s Rest. The Arrow’s Rest is a white rotunda done in the elven style, capped by an azure dome.
Gilded floral patterns twist along the walls of the parlor room. The patrons sit at polished tables, quietly discussing the business of the day. I was amazed at how the people of Allerian Stronghold maintained such a high standard of living.
“Life is good now, though things were rather less pleasant after the Breaking. We lost many good people in those days. Fortunately, things improved once we established ourselves.”
I was speaking to an old human soldier named Regimor Lensworth. Every adult in Allerian Stronghold serves in the town militia, but his age relegated him to less taxing duties. Regimor usually spent his time doing odd jobs around town, mostly repairs.
“Where do you get your food?”
“Walk north of town and you’ll see our farmland. Elven magic improves the crop yields, though we had trouble with food until we made friends with some of the Broken in Terokkar.”
“From which tribe?”
“None. The Broken in the forest never formed their own tribe, they just lived in these tiny villages deep in the thicket. In those days you had demons burning through the woods. There wasn’t much those poor folk could do to defend themselves, so they came to us. They helped us cultivate some local crops, which made our work much easier.”
“Interesting. How did they know about crops? The draenei get their food via prayer.”
“Heh, that news sure surprised me when I heard it. I guess they figured it out on their own after the orcs wiped out the draenic cities. Maybe the draenei still knew something about local plant life; they’re a smart bunch, to be sure.”
“Do any Broken still live here?”
“Sure, a few families do, by the river. Some drifted over to Shattrath in the past few years.”
“How did the people here react to the reopening of the Dark Portal?”
“Came as a relief. The Illidari never attacked us directly but we were all worried about it. I don’t think Magtheridon ever noticed us, and the Cabal never made more than a few probing attacks. Now Illidan, he has an actual interest in Allerian Stronghold, or at least Kael’thas does. They do not like the fact that the elves here are still loyal to the Alliance.”
“Did any elves join him?”
“No more than a few.”
“Good. Though I must admit to being a little surprised; the Quel’dorei hold their king in high regard.”
“It helped that Alleria was still leading us; we all loved her in our own way. From what I hear, the change from high elf to blood elf was kind of a gradual thing on Azeroth. Here, the unchanged high elves saw all the changes of the blood elves at once. Gave them pause.”
“How are relations with Shattrath City?”
“Decent. We’ve got this arrangement with them. How much do you know about Wildhammer Keep?”
“Only that it stands in Shadowmoon Valley.”
“The Expeditionary Force built that during the war and abandoned it after the Breaking. Nowadays it’s in a good position to block the Illidari armies. Some of us, our best fighters, joined up with the Alliance newcomers to reestablish the place. Now our farms produce the food that feeds Wildhammer Keep; in return, Shattrath City sends us free saba. Tastes awful but we’re no strangers to sacrifice.”
“Saba alone isn’t enough.”
“That’s why we have the vegetable gardens. Only problem is that the free saba from Shattrath made the Horde feel left out, so the Sha’tar has to deliver some to the orcs in Stonebreaker Hold as well. Diplomacy’s a funny thing, as long as you have a dark sense of humor,” he smirked.
“You don’t mind fighting for the Alliance?”
“Why should we? The Illidari are going to fight us no matter what we do. The Alliance helps us defend ourselves.”
“Do you ever want to return to Azeroth?”
“I can’t speak for everyone but most of us want to stay here. We made homes and families in Terokkar Forest. Besides, if what they say about Lordaeron is true, I want no part of it.”
According to the Allerian Stronghold authorities, only a small portion of the Wildhammer Keep garrison comes from their town. Most of the Alliance soldiers in Shadowmoon Valley are new arrivals. Even so, the presence of friends and family on the battlefront is a source of concern for Allerian Stronghold, and they work hard to support Alliance efforts in Outland.
The people of Allerian Stronghold hate the new Horde with a seething passion. Though they acknowledge the greater threat posed by the Burning Legion and Illidari, they consider the Horde unreliable allies at best. Some doubt the Horde’s dedication in fighting demons, suspecting them to be in league with the infernal forces. The blood elves are a particular sore point.
“They say that the Horde is not aligned with Illidan, but the elven armies march alongside the Betrayer! I know the loyalty the elves hold towards Kael’thas. The Quel’dorei here still call him the Sun King, even though they do not serve him.”
I was speaking to Hilda Adenauer, a middle-aged seamstress. Hilda came through the Dark Portal with her husband, who died in the first month of the campaign. She later remarried, and had lived in Allerian Stronghold since its inception.
“My understanding is that Silvermoon City is a separate political entity from Kael’thas’ armies,” I said.
“Why would that be?”
“Kael’thas has been in Outland for some time. Silvermoon took steps to improve its position in Azeroth.”
“If you say so. The Alliance Expeditionary Force marched into Draenor to ensure that the orcs never again troubled Azeroth. Going through, we knew there was a good chance that we would never see our homes again. We sacrificed our livelihoods, our homes, our friends, many sacrificed their lives. Through all the years we stood our ground, against orc, demon, or mutant, we took pride in thinking that Azeroth, at least, was safe. Now we find out that the orcs have an entire nation of their own, and half of the human lands are ruled by the living dead. What happened?”
“The orcs escaped from internment at around the same time the undead attacked. The Alliance could not cope with it all at once.”
“We should have killed the orcs when we had the chance,” she sighed. “I’m sorry, I do not mean to sound bloodthirsty. It is simply frustrating. I am proud to live in Allerian Stronghold. I’m happy to call Outland home.”
Allerian Stronghold’s residents have reason to be proud. They built a stable society in the most daunting circumstances imaginable. While Honor Hold stagnates, an unwilling prisoner of Outland, Allerian Stronghold made itself a home. A few even asked if I would like to take up permanent residence in the town. If Outland ever stabilizes (an admittedly dubious prospect), I suspect that Allerian Stronghold will become the Alliance's regional capital.
I arose early the next morning to find what looked like the entire elven community of Allerian Stronghold in front of the town hall. The mood was clearly festive; banners of limp yellow silk had been raised over the night. A good number of humans and other races joined with the elves, filling the morning air with lively chatter. Then, an aged Quel’dorei man in white robes stepped behind a podium. Closing his eyes, he raised his arms and the crowd fell into a respectful silence. Starting from a nearly imperceptible hum, the man’s voice raised in pitch until it rang like a golden bell. Two female voices joined him, entering a complex melody. I did not understand the Thalassian words in which they spoke, though there was no mistaking the emotions of hope and longing. I noticed Rileena standing at the edge of the crowd, her eyes brimming with tears.
The celebrants held a modest party after the song ended. Elven harpers strummed gentle tunes, and cups of Brightsong wine were passed out to the townsfolk. Brightsong wine is derived from the skethyl berries native to the region. Someone offered me a cup. As far as I could tell, it tastes similar to Telaari wine. Spotting Rileena, I asked her about the occasion. Her face was spotless, as if she had never wept.
“The Phoenix of Victory Rising from the Ashes of War,” she said with a smile. “An old holiday that commemorates the Battle of Elthrendar Falls.”
Fought against the Amani trolls, that battle was the last major fight in the campaign to establish Quel’thalas.
“If memory serves, House Windrunner led the Quel’dorei forces to victory.”
“Your memory is keen, Talus. All elves celebrate the holiday, and it is especially sweet to those who serve House Windrunner. Our hearts still pine for Lady Windrunner. Many noble souls marched with the Expeditionary Force, some even from the Great Houses. Yet House Windrunner was the only one to go so far as to send its favored child.”
“I take it you are from a retainer house?”
“Everdawn has served House Windrunner since the beginning, and shall do so until the end. Her promise to the Alliance is our promise, and that is why we do not heed the Sun King’s folly.”
While the blood elves in Azeroth gradually fell into a more centralized society, the isolated population of Allerian Stronghold kept to the old ways. The institution of the Great House still serves as the core of their collective identity. Despite their adherence to tradition, they mix well with the other Alliance races. Much of this arose from the necessity of cooperation, though Alleria Windrunner’s liberal attitude towards humanity also played a part. Should Allerian Stronghold survive the next few years, it may grow into a new Tranquilien where the Quel’dorei mingle with non-elves.
Curiosity impelled me to ask about Lady Sylvanas Windrunner, my liberator. I was surprised that no one expressed open hostility; most simply made a half-hearted statement about the unfortunate situation on Azeroth.
The celebration only lasted until late morning. Allerian Stronghold cannot afford to spend an excessive amount of time on luxuries. I visited some of the Broken families living near the water wheel. Their residence at that somewhat noisy location seemed mostly accidental; the townsfolk appreciate the help offered by the Broken, and repay them with security and acceptance. The Broken are zealously loyal to the Alliance. One of them, a former priest who took the human name of Duron, said that the Alliance was the perfect vehicle for the Broken to strike back against the Horde.
Allerian Stronghold’s history with the draenei is actually more extensive than simply incorporating the Broken. The Alliance first encountered the draenei during the siege of Auchindoun; a draenei named Nemuraan actually freed Kurdran Wildhammer from captivity. Nemuraan was part of an isolated but unmutated group of survivors. The Alliance did not meet with Velen’s forces until twelve years after the Breaking. The two groups first contacted each other in the wilds of Terokkar. Most of the unmutated draenei were hiding in Zangarmarsh at that point. Later, a draenic envoy came to Allerian Stronghold where he signed a pact of friendship with the Alliance. This was the genesis of the draenic entry into the faction.
Thick fog blanketed Allerian Stronghold the next morning, obscuring the glow of the olemba seeds. Lantern lights bobbed in the mist like lost fairies. Fog is frequent throughout Terokkar Forest, especially along the river banks.
An elven magister named Selemnar Dawnchaser came to the Arrow’s Rest every day at noon. He’d sit at a table, nurse a bottle of Brightsong wine for a while, and then leave. Explaining my own arcane studies, I managed to engage him in conversation. Selemnar was the younger brother of Auric Dawnchaser, the interim leader of Allerian Stronghold. Selemnar’s rough features and haggard expression made him look somehow non-elven.
I caught him as he was leaving, and he invited me to go with him to the spire. I followed him through the fog into the spire’s base, a lavishly appointed room lined with bookshelves.
“I bid you welcome to Allerian Stronghold’s library. Here is every book brought by the Alliance Expeditionary Force not confiscated by the mages in Kirin’var. You can choose from a wide selection of dreary histories and ridiculous novels.”
“You make it sound so impressive.”
“Sarcasm’s my last refuge. I should not say that; Allerian Stronghold’s a fine place. We Quel’dorei are terrible at adapting to adversity and I’m bad even by my race’s standards. My work here does reflect well on House Dawnchaser, and House Windrunner by extension. Such was my reason for joining the expedition.”
“What do you do here?”
“I train other mages; I’ve got one very promising human student named Stessa. She was born here in Outland. I also maintain the arcane security. Magic devices look down on the land from atop this spire. It’s my own invention, an improvement on the basic watchtower enchantments you see in Azeroth. The spire alerts me to unusual movement for miles around. I used to be responsible for communicating with the mages at Kirin’var Village, until our Sun King murdered everyone there.”
“Did that happen before or after the Sun King tried to recruit the elves here?”
“After, of course! Soon after, actually. I warned Kirin’var about the Sun King but the elves simply overpowered my friends there. Then came the whole incident at Tempest Keep, and then the Dark Portal reopened. I’ll assume you know the rest of the story.”
“I’ve lived it.”
“I designed this tower for the purpose of communicating with Kirin’var. With this, I could speak to my friends across Outland any time I wished.”
“How did you manage that?” Mages have long been able speak to each other across long distances, though it is too costly in time and energy to do very often. Easy real time communication represents a huge leap in progress.
“I managed it by being a genius. Granted, Outland offers unique opportunities: more ambient mana being the most important of these. This tower’s built on a leyline and has mana receptors all along the surface. Mana’s very common here, giving me more than enough energy. My designs also make the tower incredibly efficient in terms of mana expenditure.”
“Does that interfere with the tower’s observation protocols?”
“No, those run on separate circuits. I didn’t want to include the watchtower function, but my brother pointed out that it would be impractical to build such a large structure without it. Here, follow me up to the top.”
Selemnar flicked his wrist and a shimmering portal opened up in the center of the room. Going through I stepped onto an ornate blue pattern set in white stone. I emerged in an open-air gallery at the top of the spire, under a pointed roof supported by four pillars. Strands of some blue Outland metal wrapped around the alabaster columns. A golden railing encircled the balcony, or rather a wooden railing painted with gold leaf.
“Normally the place gives a marvelous view of the forest, though you can’t see very much today. I used to stand here, speaking with my friends. I badly wanted to go to Kirin’var but I was needed more in Allerian Stronghold.”
“I suppose Kirin’var had plenty of arcanists.”
“And Allerian Stronghold had very few. Now the Magister’s College is corrupted and Dalaran in ruins. Where shall I go?”
“You aren’t happy with Allerian Stronghold?”
“I’m not the sort of person who’s very happy anywhere. A place with mages is preferable to one without, however. I hope more mages will come here once things settle down, I need people who understand me! Do you think you might live here? My complaints aside, it’s really not a bad place. Besides, you seem good at speaking with the lay folk.”
“I’m afraid I can’t stay.”
Selemnar rolled his eyes.
“Perhaps I’ll pay the arakkoa a visit. There are great sorcerers amongst the bird-men, or so they say,” he snickered.
“Has there been much contact with the arakkoa here?”
“No, not very much. We first encountered them back in the war, a lone arakkoa named Grizzik. Danath was actually the one who found him. Grizzik was a strange sort and I don’t think anyone ever felt very comfortable around him. He hated the orcs, but I got the distinct feeling that he did not much care for us either.”
“So just an ally of convenience?”
“He led us to Auchindoun, and disappeared after the Breaking. The arakkoa returned to the forest about five years ago, as far as we can tell. One of their wizards somehow picked up on my transmission, cut right into conversation. I was talking with Eppian, a dear friend of mine in Kirin’var, when this horrible squawk interrupted us. Gave me quite a scare.”
“What did the arakkoa say?”
“Nothing we could understand. It sounded just like Grizzik though, which is how I recognized it as arakkoa in origin. Two nights later one of the bird-men appeared in my tower, the projection of one, I should say. I don’t know where the caster stood; the tower didn’t pick up on him. He probably concealed himself somehow. The arakkoa called himself Akliss.” A look of unease came over Selemnar’s face.
“Have you ever met an arakkoa? Something about the way they look bothers me. I don’t want to sound provincial, but I know I’m not the only one who thinks so. The arakkoa look sick. Hunched over, one shoulder always lower than the other. It’s as if the weight of history is crushing them, yet they walk on all the same. As if they should be long dead, but somehow still live. They’re almost primeval, somehow.”
“Did Akliss say anything?”
“He warned me not to interfere. Akliss also showed himself to Alleria, Turalyon, Auric, and some others before vanishing without a trace. We had no intention of interfering; all Akliss really did was attract our attention.”
“So you investigated?”
“Not thoroughly. Nobody knew where to look. Honestly, I don’t think anyone really wanted to find them.”
Selemnar shook his head, staring out into the forest.
“I remember that Grizzik had this trick. Well, not a trick really. He could follow two tracks of thought simultaneously. For instance, he could hold a conversation with a person and read a book at the same time. Grizzik said this was normal for arakkoa. He pitied us for having single-track minds!”
“Grizzik once made some reference to there being problems with such an arrangement. I asked him to elaborate but he gave some cryptic response. I don’t trust the arakkoa. Those eyes stare at you like you’re some kind of useless insect. I do not care for it at all. In fact, even though I brought it up, I’m going to insist that we stop discussing that damnable race.”
I lingered in Allerian Stronghold for another day, wondering if I really wished to contact the arakkoa. Selemnar’s words nurtured the seed of doubt that had been growing ever since I left Shattrath. Nobody else in Allerian Stronghold knew much about them. Most regarded the arakkoa as, at the very least, a potential threat. The arakkoa are often blamed when scouts disappear on patrol. The dread has worked its way into the culture of Allerian Stronghold. Children sing rhymes urging the listener to “beware the ugly bird-man.” While I am normally skeptical of such unfounded fears, I could not quell the suspicion that the citizenry’s distrust was somehow justified. From the (highly subjective) outsider’s perspective, there is something tangibly alien and disturbing about arakkoa behavior. Even the arakkoa in Shattrath City keep to themselves, to the relief of their neighbors. Part of me feared that my anxiety made me a hypocrite; I have criticized the living for having the same reaction to the Forsaken.
I walked to Raastok Glade wondering if I was headed for a trap. The tidy farmlands north of Allerian Stronghold soon give way to misty forests. I followed a narrow path sometimes used by hunters, partially overgrown with pale grass. Light from the olemba seeds show the way, almost as if for the traveler’s convenience. This only served to increase my worry. Terokkar’s eerie placidity felt like the calm before the storm. I heard the sounds of life, though always muted and drowsy. Dangerous animals roam the deeper reaches of the forest, such as the snub-nosed draenic basilisk, but I never saw anything more threatening than the occasional giant moth.
The forest gets wilder in the north. The trees thicken, sometimes to the point of blocking out the sky. These dark thickets are lit only by the strange glow of olemba seeds and root crystals. Particles of vegetation drift in a slow rain to the forest floor where pale flowers bloom. There is a timeless quality to Terokkar Forest, as if it exists outside the rest of the world. The Breaking did little to damage the region, though the devastation of the Bone Waste shows that the forest is as vulnerable as any other place.
While walking, I watched for an anvil-shaped boulder on the right side of the road. An Allerian ranger had informed me that the eastbound trail to Raastok Glade diverged from the main road at such a landmark, and that I would find it three days north of town.
I’m not sure when, but at some point I realized I did not know how much time had gone by since leaving Allerian Stronghold. I was sure it was no more than a few days, yet a nagging doubt suggested a much longer stretch. A mental haze clouded my recent memories, clarity lost in the forest’s weird half-light. Allerian Stronghold seemed very far away, a memory of the wakened world in the forest’s dream.
Suddenly worried, I stopped and looked back from where I came. The lonely path stretched back under the spectral olemba lights, disappearing when it curved around a patch of dense foliage. Perhaps, I reasoned, only a day or two had gone by. After all, I never saw the boulder, though it was entirely possible that I had simply overlooked it. I remembered seeing large rocks, though none in the shape of an anvil.
Without much choice, I continued walking north. I reached an old draenic bridge a little while later, arcing over a rapidly flowing forest river. Gnarled white roots dip into the dark waters, the seed lights a faint reflection on its surface. The ranger had never said anything about bodies of water beyond the Allerian River just north of the farm belt. I crossed the bridge all the same, nearly convinced that I'd missed my destination.
A towering olemba tree grows up past the thicket on the other side of the bridge, its leafy branches reaching like fingers through the air. The shell of a crumbling draenic house hides the base of the tree, though roots grow through the flagstones and lower walls. Another wrecked building stands farther down the road and I saw an overgrown temple in the distance. After giving it a moment’s thought, I realized I stood in the city of Tuurem. A sizeable settlement in north central Terokkar Forest, Tuurem was the first city that the Horde destroyed. Attacking Tuurem was a clever move on Ner’zhul’s part, catching the draenei completely off guard. No one expected an assault on a relatively unimportant city like Tuurem, which lay far from the major orc population centers.
I approached the ruin with caution, not knowing who or what lived inside. Not even the much-lauded sanaum could resist the forest’s constant advance. A slender branch poked through a window, occupied by a owl-like bird who watched me with green eyes. Then it took flight, swooping low over the forgotten city.
I walked to the end of the street before seeing the signs of new construction. Canvas tarpauling cling to the tops of roofless houses, sometimes raised high by wooden supports in a poor imitation of traditional draenic architecture. I knew then that either the Broken or the Lost held Tuurem.
A fearful cry sounded out from the vine-buried ruins to my left. Turning around, I scanned the gutted houses for signs of life. Then I heard it again, from behind. A third came out, from farther down the street, followed by silence. My eyes darted from side to side, not knowing precisely where to look. The forest grew deadly still.
A stone the size of my fist flew out from a darkened recess ahead of me, hitting the ground with a resounding crack. Startled, I jumped back as another rock shot past my face. I was not prepared for the jarring force of the third, slamming into my left shoulder blade. I stumbled forward, trying to regain my balance as more projectiles sped my way. At that moment, a spindly-legged Lost One clambered to the top of what was once a wall, staring at me under a hood of reeds and branches. He pulled his right arm back and I saw the stone in his wrinkled hand.
I moved to fire an arcane burst under the Lost One’s feet, a rock hitting my arm as I aimed. A bright blue flash detonated the wall to his left, leaving the Lost One unharmed. He threw, and the impact of the missile on my chest knocked me off my feet and into the ground. Realizing my bad position, I rolled to the side, grateful for the dulled pain sense of undeath. I scrambled to my feet, narrowly avoiding the projectiles flung my way. A javelin pierced the ground a few feet from me.
I blinked through space, trying to get closer to the bridge. Stones and spears hurtled in from every direction, from shadowed nooks and piles of rubble. It was as if Tuurem itself was trying to kill me. Sometimes I caught glimpses of deformed Lost Ones lurking in the dark, though never clearly. Warbling hoots and cries came from the sides of the street as I ran. I cast more arcane explosions, not really aiming at anything. The brilliant flashes at least scared the Lost Ones, slowing their attacks.
A howling mutant jumped up from behind a wall and ran out to tackle me, a stone dagger in his hand. I leapt out of the way just in time. He stumbled, but soon regained his balance and continued his pursuit, his headdress of old bones clacking as he ran. Others peeked out from the darkness, jabbering in hateful voices. Another tried to intercept me, standing in my path. I leaned to the side and threw my left fist at his face, hearing a crunch and a groan as I landed the blow.
Seeing the bridge, I used the last of my mana for another blink spell. I bounded across the bridge, hoping I could lose them in the forest. While running, I looked back to see the Lost Ones falling behind. The weak structure of their legs prevents them from running very quickly, a fact I used to my advantage. They finally gave up as I entered the forest, throwing a final volley as a parting memento. The cries of the mob faded into the background.
I stopped running once I thought it safe to do so. I took stock of my injuries. Forsaken sometimes have difficulty determining the severity of wounds, due to the weakened sensations. Internal damage is particularly elusive. A quick check convinced me that I was able to continue.
Not knowing what else to do, I went back south. Perhaps I'd simply missed the path to Raastok. Time again stood still as I walked the forest road. The darkness seemed more prevalent, the shadows coiling around trees and creeping from the thickets. Olemba seeds dimmed to memories of their former selves. Only my footsteps disturbed the unnatural silence.
Then the trees parted and I walked into a wide clearing. I looked around in shock; where a moment earlier the trees grew together as dense as walls, they suddenly stood far apart from each other. I could see the gray skies of Terokkar above me, and a limpid stream flowed at the edge.
Was I in Raastok Glade? I stood on damp earth, unmarked by any road. A warm wind from the north rustled the dark leaves. I was sure I'd stayed on the road, though I saw no sign of it.
Bewildered and a bit worried, I decided to wait there until midnight. I lay down on a stretch of grass near the stream and tried to rest. With nothing else to do, doubts began to wear down my resolve. The whole endeavor began to seem ridiculous. I was to wait in some location to blow a horn three times, summoning three messengers, two of whom I had to ignore?
Ikireekilok had claimed she could say nothing of the Time-Lost without attracting Terokk’s attention, but was that true? I found it difficult to believe that Terokk could somehow spy on a Naaru sanctuary. Why would she even wish to help me? Would it not be easier to lie about her race’s history, if she were so reluctant to explain it? The three messengers sounded like something from a fairy tale.
Greed finally convinced me. Nothing can satiate my hunger for knowledge and ideas. I am certain that this trait will eventually result in my death. This is a sacrifice I am willing to make.
Night came, and with it the Blue Star. The peoples of southern Outland use the Blue Star to tell time during the night hours, the way Azerothians use the moon. The Blue Star is a new arrival in the night skies; no one saw it until after the Breaking.
I stood up when the Blue Star reached its apex. Dense fog clung to the ground, making it impossible to see beyond the edge of the clearing. Taking the horn out from my pack, I raised it to my lips. The resulting blast of sound nearly jolted the horn from my grip. I had the sudden impression of having done something very foolish. I looked around the clearing for any disturbance, though the thick fog rendered my efforts useless.
Something fast and heavy crashed through the underbrush behind me and I hopped to the side. A bloodied orc burst out from the mists, ax in hand. He raised his weapon as if to attack, only lowering it at the last minute.
“What are you doing here, undead?” he snarled. “Alliance rangers are tearing through the woods, you need to get out of here!”
“I will stay,” I said, hoping he was just one of the messengers. The orc narrowed his eyes, obviously thinking me a fool. I was not sure I could disagree with his conclusion.
“Are you mad or stupid? Do you want to die in glorious battle? You’d get more honor by serving the Horde to the best of your ability.”
“I know. I will stay.”
“Then you are a fool. Good luck to you.”
The warrior turned from me and vanished into the mists. Silence returned to the forest and I blew the horn a second time. I tried to peer through the fog, half expecting an arrow to lodge itself into my head.
Seeing the second messenger seemed to validate my madness. His appearance was less reassuring; a filth-coated arakkoa dragging himself out of the haze. He glared at me with one golden eye, its mate a dripping wound.
“Sent by Ikireekilok, perhaps? Yes? You hold the horn, so I think it must be,” he croaked.
“And you must be the second messenger.”
“You are not easily tricked, dead one. We follow the words of others, yet you do not. Very well then, to you a warning I shall give. The Truth is not for you. Not for any thinking creature.”
“What do you mean?”
“Seek the truth, yes? A truth I shall tell. I am a phantom, created as a warning. Cast the horn in the stream, leave it be. What sins have you committed? No matter their wickedness, the truth is not a punishment you deserve.”
“I’ll take the risk.”
His talons darted forward and grabbed the front of my coat, pulling me forward so that his jagged beak hovered less than an inch from my face. The arakkoa screeched, his mottled tongue flecked with blood.
“For your protection do I exist! Some things you must not know! To me the truth was told, solely so that others I would warn. Is my pain worth nothing? To forget what they told me, I would destroy the world! How will you fare?”
“I’ve made my choice,” I stammered, trying to extricate myself.
“No! Turn away! Turn away!” he cawed, his hoarse voice almost painful to hear. The pebbled skin on his hands broke into glistening red lines and oily feathers dropped from his body. He screamed warnings as his flesh rotted, still yelling when he collapsed into a shivering heap, his limbs jerking and melting. Soon, only his yellowed bones remained.
My earlier confidence was gone, replaced by dread. The messenger’s warning fit in with my own doubts, reinforcing them. Why such an elaborate process just to speak with this Egorak? At its core the process was not really so different from navigating the sea of bureaucracy that surrounds many Azerothian luminaries. Was this simply the arakkoa equivalent?
I looked down at the bones, which crumbled to powder as I watched. Deciding to go ahead and finish the job, I sounded the horn a final time. A distant fluttering sound, like a flock of birds passing overhead, manifested itself before the sound of the blast faded. Looking up, I saw a densely packed army of black birds flying across the sky, blotting out the stars with their numbers. I felt a chill seeing so many; no flock could be that big. Birds filled the air as far as I could see, the sound of their flapping wings almost deafening. A vast and living darkness gripped the forest, hampered only by the failing light of the olemba seeds.
Flapping black shapes flitted across the lights, brushing me with their wings. More appeared, circling around me until I could see nothing beyond. I detected a stale and charnel odor, faint but unmistakable. Small black talons gripped my sleeves and shoulders, lifting me off the ground to carry me far away.
I do not know how long I spent suspended in that living tempest. I could not catch a single glimpse of the outside world, or hear anything beyond the rapid flutter of a million wings. Hours or days passed, or so it seemed. Each second made me regret my decision even further.
Then it stopped. I noticed a hard, irregular surface beneath my knees as the birds ripped themselves from my vision. Shielding my eyes from a sudden flare of blue light, I lifted myself from the ground. My foot kicked something that clattered across the floor.
The light came from a battered metal brazier, filled with a blue flame that emanated no heat. A hopeless jumble of bones lay on the warped wooden floor. The ground was slanted, like a ramp, and curved into the shadows above.
I saw the idol once my eyes finished adjusting. Blackened with dirt and neglect, it stood just beyond the brazier, almost lost in darkness. The damp rags of its body hung on crossed poles, capped by a screaming arakkoa skull with a headdress of black feathers. Despite the clumsy workmanship, the surrounding darkness added a visceral quality to the idol’s appearance.
Not wanting to spend any more time near the thing, I walked up the hallway. I soon realized I was in some kind of spiralling ramp. Blue fires lit the halls at distant intervals, the areas between as black as pitch. I kept a hand on the wall as I walked through the shadows.
I wondered if I was trapped in some infinite passage when the ramp came to an abrupt stop at a round wooden door. Wavering flames cast their dying lights on the portal, its surface peeling from age. Expecting the worst, I knocked, the soft wood bending to my fist.
“Enter,” croaked a voice.
I gripped the rusty knob and turned it, the metal squealing in protest. Opening the door, I stepped into a circular room lit by violet candles. Sagging bookshelves lined the walls, bulging under the weight of moth-eaten tomes. Holes dotted the fabric of the green rug spread out on the floor, amidst old bones and stains. A jagged stripe of luminescent purple ran along the walls of the room, casting an unhealthy glare. A lone arakkoa stood across from me, behind a desk covered in cracked flasks and rotten meat. He turned the pages of an ancient book, his eyes set on the text.
“Are you Egorak the Old?” I asked.
“Orcish. I have not heard that language in a very long time. I spoke it well, once. Perhaps much has been forgotten since then. Who are you? So few go beyond the veil of time.”
“I am Destron Allicant, a scholar.”
As we spoke, I noticed that he did not once look up from his book. Egorak sometimes scribbled notes with a quill pen, and I remembered Selemnar’s comment of the arakkoa being able to hold two lines of thought at the same time.
“You are neither orc nor draenei. An Azerothian, I am thinking?”
“That is correct.”
He cawed in laughter, a harsh and grating sound.
“I still know what happens in Outland, as they call it. Who sent you here? Answer truthfully.”
“Clever Ikireekilok. Is that the word the orcs use? So many of their words are strange, without purpose. Now, why are you here?”
“I was told you could tell me of the arakkoa race, and of the time-lost. Where am I, exactly?”
““Nowhere, though some would say you stand in Geaak, the Infinite City.”
“Geaak is nowhere?”
“Orcish is a most inelegant language, Destron. Not even I can easily explain the concepts of Geaak with it. Suffice to say, it does not truly exist. Geaak is a lie given form and shape. We fled here, to surround ourselves in lies. Deceit and delusion are the twin paths to salvation. But we have been here for so long. No time passes yet we feel each minute, each year, each century.”
“Geaak is a pocket dimension?”
“Pocket dimension? What a strange term.”
“Orcish has evolved since you learned it. Do you remember when you first stepped out from time?”
“The world was still whole when I left it. I was a priest in Skettis, the Hidden City of Tainted Dreams. The draenei built Shattrath a few years before my departure.”
“Why did you leave?”
“Because I could no longer believe Terokk’s lie, in his words of returning to power. I needed more than the lies of a single man, however great. Only a world of fiction would suffice.”
“I’m sorry, I don’t think I understand. Why do you prefer lies to truth? How does it help you if you know it is a lie?”
Egorak paused, turning a page in his book. For a moment, I feared he had forgotten me. Then he closed the book, and for the first time his ancient eyes met mine.
“Perhaps it is best that I show you around Geaak. Ikireekilok did send you, after all.”
“May I ask how you know her?”
“Arakkoa sometimes come here to learn from past lies, that they may strengthen their own deceptions. Tell me, what do you call it when someone believes their own lies?”
“I suppose that depends on the type of lie, and the level of belief. Madness might be one answer.”
“Most here are mad. Inconsistencies weaken even the best lies. The early ones were quite elaborate, and suffered because of that.”
“Do you consider yourself mad?”
“Only because I could not convince myself to believe in the Lie of Geaak. I have given up trying. My fellows drown in seas of half-forgotten symbols.”
Moving with the weird, uneven walk characteristic of the arakkoa, Egorak went past me and opened the door before slipping into the darkness. I hurried after him; he moved quickly considering his physical state. He paused when he reached the idol that met me on my arrival, offering it a quick bow.
“What does the idol represent?”
“Terokk. We no longer follow his lie, a deceit of rising power and retaking the world. Yet elements of his deception have their uses, and his city, Skettis, gave us what we needed to create Geaak.”
We went past scores of shadow-choked galleries, footsteps muffled by damp wood and moldering rugs. I focused on the spotted mane of red feathers behind Egorak’s head, not trusting myself to look too closely at my surroundings.
“If Geaak is timeless,” I asked, “why is everything so old?”
“To create the illusion of antiquity.”
The hallways contorted, the floor rising or sinking at odd points. Ancient bones scraped the floor as they caught on Egorak’s rotten garments.
Egorak finally led me to a narrow exit opening up onto a balcony looking out to the arboreal metropolis of Geaak. The architecture resembles the arakkoa neighborhood in Shattrath’s Lower City, though on a larger scale. Wooden houses and ancient balconies ring the olemba trees, connected by decrepit suspension bridges. Looking behind me, I saw that Egorak’s home is much bigger than its neighbors, a rambling structure straddling across three trees with precariously narrow turrets that seem ready to break away.
Geaak goes as far as the eye can see, and probably farther still. The surrounding environment looks like the denser patches of Terokkar Forest. Despite being a city, few seem to dwell in Geaak's moldy confines. Arakkoa huddle on the balconies in groups of two or three, their presence revealed by flashes of alchemical reactions. Solitary residents creep along the bridges, muttering to themselves.
“Geaak is not so different from Skettis, at this level,” announced Egorak.
“Could you tell me more about Skettis?”
“Skettis is the last breath of the Third Dominion. Terokk came to us, ages ago, and crafted the city with his talons. Through him, he said, the arakkoa would reclaim the glory of the First Dominion. He was God. Hateful truth intruded on his lie once he departed. The world had changed, and our trembling hands could do nothing to control it. Draenor was so vast, and our race so old.”
“What do you mean by the Third Dominion?”
“Follow me, I will explain.”
Egorak stepped onto one of the suspension bridges. I examined the fraying ropes with unease, though he seemed unperturbed. I wondered if I could survive a fall to the forest floor, barely visible through the swirling mists under the bridge. Egorak shoved his way past a cackling arakkoa standing in the center of the bridge. Patches of yellow skin dotted his body where the feathers were missing. He took no notice of us.
“Who was that?”
“I do not care to remember.”
“How exactly did you meet Ikireekilok, if you do not mind my asking?”
“She came seeking advice. Ikireekilok doubted the Lie of Terokk, and wished to see if our lie was preferable. I warned her of Geaak’s shortcomings, told her to look elsewhere.”
“Ikireekilok now follows the Holy Light of the draenei.”
“Interesting. A few of us considered it, yes, but illumination is not to our liking. Light can often reveal truth.”
“Unless the light blinds you.”
“Well said, Destron. Those were the words, more or less, of Vizzikt, a proponent of following the draenei. The servants of Terokk killed him for his lie disrupted the Lie of Terokk. His death helped inspire Geaak.”
We reached a balcony where alchemical rubbish collects in heaps on the soft floor. Everything in Geaak is in miserable condition; the ink on the documents runs together, and the vials are cracked. Despite this, wizened arakkoa study the materials, hissing to each other as they work. Peculiar cruciform metal apparatuses are set on the floor of some huts, a brightly colored orb placed at the end of each arm. One arakkoa knelt before it, waving his talons over the crystals which sometimes glowed in response.
“What is that?”
“Apexis crystals. The Apexis were also part of the Third Dominion.”
“I’ve heard of them before. They enslaved the ogres.”
“The Apexites thought to perfect and perpetuate their lie by forcing menial concerns upon the ogres. This tactic failed. The arakkoa mind is an inquisitive one, inclined to learn. In trying to perfect the Lie of Apexis, they only grew more aware of its flaws and contradictions. In the end their nation fell to the advancing desert.”
“What do you mean when you speak of Dominions?”
Egorak went to the edge of the balcony and pointed into the distance. At first I only saw the mist. With measured slowness, the haze fell away revealing an arakkoa house made of pure gold, built around the trees like its wooden neighbors. More angular than the other arakkoa structures, whorls and glyphs decorated the metallic surface. I was impressed, though not inordinately so. The arcanists of Dalaran and Silvermoon can make entire mansions float with their spells, and I reasoned that similar enchantments supported the arakkoa home.
“What is that?” I asked. Studying the bas-reliefs on the walls made me feel strangely dizzy, and I made myself look away.
“A remainder of the First Dominion. The arakkoa in those days lived in such buildings. The one you see is only a rude imitation, borne by faulty memory.”
“I take it that mages enabled the existence of such a building?”
“Nothing so crude. The alchemists of the First Dominion had no rival. Their formulae did not turn a wooden house into gold; rather, they allowed the house to simultaneously possess the qualities of wood and gold. Our perceptions need not be fixed in place. A house you do not see could be made from all manner of materials; it only settles into one when you actually lay eyes upon it. The alchemists mastered the principle of controlled fluctuation, now lost to us.”
“Was this alchemy real? Or a lie?”
“Closer to reality. Our cities covered Draenor in those days. The greatest of our number harnessed the power of uncertainty to create spheres of air and heat in which they traveled the Twisting Nether.”
“So the First Dominion alchemists could render an object to have two states at once, neither state canceling out the other?”
“Such was their wisdom. The First Dominion ended in madness and terror.”
Egorak resumed his walk, stepping onto another bridge.
“Almost nothing of the First Dominion’s philosophies survive today. What remains discusses a concept, probably believed by many arakkoa of the time, that the material world is a marred reflection of the True World. The alchemists already bent the edges of the material world in their studies, bringing it closer to the essential nature of the True World. Alchemy and theology were inseparable. Some of the arakkoa finally discovered the True World and learned that the material realm is not a pale imitation, that in fact the hateful material prison works to protect us from a reality of infinite horror.”
“Is this why the arakkoa place such an emphasis on lies?”
“Word of the truth spread across the planet in hours. The arakkoa destroyed everything they could, including their brethren. Only a few survived, huddled in the ashes of the old world. They still knew the truth, but somehow withstood it. To protect themselves, they began to create elaborate fictions. Thus began the Second Dominion.”
We reached another treehouse, void of occupants. Egorak stopped before a wooden totem on the edge of the balcony, carved to resemble a bird. Bright gemstone eyes peered out over a painted beak. It reminded me of the art I’d seen in tauren lands.
“Why didn’t they attempt to conceal this Truth from their children?”
“Because the arakkoa mind exists to learn. The survivors knew that, in time, the mistakes of the First Dominion would be repeated.”
“Though not for quite a while.”
“Irrelevant. It can never happen again. Do you understand that? I speak not of some purely material disaster, which we would be willing to risk. The Truth is a catastrophe that goes far deeper. The survivors told their children aspects of the Truth, enough to keep them from seeking it.”
“Were any intrigued, rather than frightened?”
“A few, yes. The Second Dominion created detailed mythologies, populating the surviving forests with a myriad petty gods. A deity might rule a tree, or a pond.”
“Did the arakkoa of the Second Dominion genuinely believe in these gods?”
“Such was the goal. Yet the stories of the gods did not always satisfy the arakkoa. Their minds saw through the fictions to the underlying motives of their creation. Still they feared the Truth, and forced themselves to believe. Do you see now our curse? To believe in something we know to be a lie?”
“What finally happened to the Second Dominion?”
“The deception was not enough. Isolated though the communities were, the arakkoa traveled and learned. A cabal of scholars and mages realized they were on the road to the Truth; that though it was still distant, its return was inevitable. They attempted to expunge their weary race from the world and conjured terrible sorceries to make this so. Better that all arakkoa die than for them to rediscover the Truth. I do not necessarily disagree with this statement any longer. Needless to say, they failed.”
“And then the Third Dominion came to power.”
“In time. So few survived. Those who did saw where the mythologies failed; too complex, too gentle. Hate and fear must rule, lest the Truth be relearned. Worship and sacrifice went to the state instead of to the spirits, kings and priests made gods.”
“Is Terokk an example of this?”
“Yes, though he came late. Sometimes the deities of the Second Dominion survived as the guiding spirits of the city-states; Rukhmar the Raven was one example, and countless were the atrocities done in his name. The arakkoa of the Third Dominion fought each other until only a handful of nations survived. Too exhausted to risk many wars with orcs, surrusil, or newly arrived draenei, they fed on their own people.”
“Were these lies more believable?”
“Not in any significant way. Madness still runs rampant through the arakkoa. Scribes record the words of lunatics, hoping to find in them a stronger mythology. The rulers tolerate this; though they fear a loss of power, they have difficulty believing their own lies. They too would benefit from the perfect deception. Such was our quandary.”
“Is this how Geaak came to exist?”
“We did not follow the ravings of any one madman. Rather, we were inspired by many. Geaak failed. I once thought we stood at the beginning of the Fourth Dominion, but Geaak is stagnant. We drown in cast-off lies from other eras.”
“It is known that the arakkoa fought against the ogres, and later on against the Horde. Clearly there is still some survival instinct,” I said.
“The fictions of Terokk and his ilk need enemies. To let them win might usher a total collapse, perhaps bringing us closer to the Truth. That is why the priests of Skettis seek to revive Terokk. Battered by the Horde, the Illidari, and the Burning Legion, their beliefs are threatened.”
“Do they pose a threat to Shattrath?”
“They may. Terokk’s power is a lie, and lies are not always consistent or logical. His return may amount to nothing, or it may herald a dreadful new epoch.”
A raspy sigh escaped Egorak’s beak.
“The arakkoa of Skettis often try to tap into the illusory wisdom of Geaak. They summon our lunatics to exist as ghosts in their world, consulted for advice they cannot deliver. As such, I learn of the events unfolding in Outland. They fear that the new races and their influence on the orcs will result in a revelation of the Truth. If, say, a human finds it, so too might the arakkoa relearn it. They see Terokk as the solution to this problem.”
“The rulers of Skettis wish to conquer Outland?”
“Their dream is to convert all peoples to the worship of the Lie of Terokk, and most likely to seal off Outland from the rest of the universe. Even if Terokk returns and fulfills the hopes of his petitioners, I doubt they will succeed.”
Egorak resumed his walk, going down a bent wooden staircase to another suspension bridge, one under the shadow of a twisted olemba tree shorn of leaves and branches. Fogged purple windows reached up the walls, betraying nothing of the interior. Three arakkoa sat at the other end of the bridge, looking for all the world like heaps of trash. Only their rocking, back and forth movements showed their true nature.
“Forgive my tactlessness, but how can you be sure that the Truth is so terrible? Are you certain that what your ancestors saw is actually the Truth?”
“Nothing is certain. Perhaps it too is a lie.”
“If this is the case, why not make another attempt at it?”
“A potential return to happiness is not worth the risk. Do you see? Our current state is indeed a miserable one, yet unleashing the Truth will inflict worse miseries. Weighing potential, normal joy against the possibility of an eternal nightmare, I must err on the side of caution and convince others to do the same.”
“But wouldn’t such happiness be worthwhile?”
“It would not make us immune to fear or sorrow or rage. If our fears are justified, however, then the Truth will destroy the few joys we do possess. I cannot risk that.”
“Could you explain what you know of the Truth to me? Of why you fear it so much?”
“The records say little of the specifics. Maddened by what they saw the writers could only bring themselves to hint at the nature of the Truth. Those descriptions lose something when translated to other languages. Perhaps no tongue has as wide a vocabulary for fear as does Arakkese.”
“Would you be willing to make an attempt?”
“The blessed illusion of the material realm hides the horrors of the True World; a place of burning darkness, rusting forests, and corrosive seas. This is the universe emanated from the thoughts of a cruel and indifferent creator. Endless pain is the nature of Its dreams.”
“Do you fear that I would attempt to discover the Truth, with what you have told me?”
Egorak’s jaundiced eyes widened for a moment.
“From what I know of your kind, you already seek it. My warnings may dissuade you; most likely, they will have no effect. Ikireekilok must have sent you here to warn you. Does she live in the renewed Shattrath?”
“Doubtless that is why you are here. She sees the doom to which your kind is headed.”
“Ikireekilok said that she could not speak freely in Shattrath City, that Terokk was watching. That’s why she sent me here.”
“Terokk’s eyes are everywhere. Geaak is nowhere. They call us, but they cannot see into our prison. I know my warnings fall on deaf ears. Does not the Lie of the Light seek harmony and compassion? Perhaps this inspired Ikireekilok to send you to me. Your time here is done. Travel with care, Destron. The Truth is not something you wish to find.”
Geaak faded to white, replaced by the gray skies of Terokkar. It was morning, and a light mist fell from the clouds over Raastok Glade. Lying on the grass, I propped myself up on my elbows and saw my position inside a circle of blood, the thick red gash punctuated by black feathers. The horn lay just beyond the circle. Scrambling to my feet, I jumped out and grabbed the horn. Despite the weird sense of unreality, I knew my visit to Geaak was no mere dream.
I cannot truly believe that Egorak’s fears were justified. Too much of his world view depends on a moribund obsession over ancient texts and legends. While only a fool dismisses the past as unimportant, a rarer type of fool considers it the only thing of importance. If what he said about the First Dominion’s power is true, even partially, it suggests that the arakkoa are capable of great things. Instead, they lose themselves in a mire of despair.
Such massive pessimism seldom bodes well for a culture. Those who long for a lost golden age (Egorak and the First Dominion, the Kaldorei and pre-Sundering Azeroth, and many others) often find it a convenient way to escape or avoid the problems of today. Even a cursory study of history reveals that these long lost utopias were far from perfect, and perhaps just as confusing as our own age. History is only ordered in hindsight. A better choice is to improve the world in which we live, though always with caution, skepticism, and moderation. Blind optimism is, of course, as harmful as eternal pessimism.
I apologize for the pedantic tone of the above paragraph. Perhaps I wrote it, in part, to assuage my own doubts. For though there is little concrete evidence for Egorak’s claims, neither is there much to disprove it. In his words I could hear the echoes of the Twilight’s Hammer Cult in Silithus. I can only hope that this similarity is mere coincidence.