faloon vs a vargul by ~cptndunsel on deviantART
At the Wrathgate, it was only a matter of time before the Lich King pushed back the initial Charge. Poor Aely was a witness, away from the Riders, to that counter-attack.
For the Riders on the Hill, we have another italics post. This post provided the context for the next series posts….
The fact that she’d tossed and turned all night in her tiny cot, dreaming of death and climbing trees, didn’t help the 4am Reveille call.
Aely stuck her nose out of the corner of the borrowed field tent. It was wetter than it had been the previous day, and the fog was thick and swirling in the pre-dawn light. The hushed noises of the night before were replaced with shouts and movement, tents packed up – even the medics seemed infected with a desire to keep busy, to stay moving, and to try and avoid thinking about the horrors they all knew were coming. They were understaffed, thanks to the earlier attacks, and the impending dread didn’t help anyone’s mood, particularly the two dwarf priests who seemed eager to battle /each other/ instead of worrying about the soldiers.
They say there’s always a lull before the storm, for battle or for weather, and that day both the wind and the army was rising.
Men and Dwarves and Elves moved in formation, an assortment of drummers keeping march, and somewhere she heard Goblin planes roaring in the growing wind, the whir of the machines mixing with the solid tramp of booted feet on snow. Not even the clear, rhythmic ring of hoofbeats sounded without an element of anticipation as they marched on Angrathar. Time stretched as an eternity for the Combat Medic Unit, each carrying as many supplies as they could, and two poor donkeys with a wagon behind of whiskey, water, linen, and firewood.
The closer they got to the gate, the worse the wind became, and the first flurries of snow blew in and among the soldiers, whipping their cloaks into a frenzy of multi colored flags. Angrathar loomed over them, a brooding menace that spoke to horrors within – it cracked, and hordes of scourge came into full view, pouring out of the gate, shambling towards them with the odd, shuffling gait of the mindless dead.
Then stillness settled over the Alliance forces, as tangible as the soft wisps of snow falling from the thickening clouds. The wind held its breath.
A shout, muffled – silenced. Two shouts, and a musket misfired. “HOLD FIRE!” Silence again, only the sound of each heartbeat in straining ears. “STEADY!”
And then, as suddenly as the silence fell, it vanished in a rush of swallowed heartbeats and voiced adrenaline, shouts of battle and the percussive roar of cannonfire and musketry overhead. Somewhere an elven battalion sang their arrows into the sky, and with the sickening crunch of metal on reanimated flesh the two armies began to dance.
There was a moment where the battle-cries lost their volume, where the collected sounds of swords on shields, maces on flesh, and arrows hissing through iron-grey skies all dampened down. Magic stopped searing the air for a heartbeat. This is not to say that all fighting stopped, that anyone on the field had the time to anything more than lower a sword to ease an aching arm, or wipe sweat from a dripping brow.
It was merely the brief lull that comes when one wave ends and another begins, and the armies pause to take an eyeblink’s assessment of who has fallen, what flanks are weak, what lines need to be reinforced.
There was little enough of any of that; the Lich King had sent forth his expendables, to test their mettle. Lines reformed, standards converging. Somewhere down in the throng, Highlord Bolvar Fordragon shouted encouraging words to the gathered forces.
Those words, of course, did not carry to the camps of irregulars up in the hills, lining the passes under their own standards and makeshift flags. No matter. Those words weren’t for them, anyway. There were only two words that rang in their hearts, spoken in varied tongues as they cut down the wave of Scourge that broke itself on their line: Never again.
For the Riders, the lull was filled with the sounds of professionals taking stock: the rasp of cloth cleaning gore-covered blades, the restacking of ammunition, ballistae being reloaded. Matches flared as new cigarettes were rolled and lit. The healers counted heads once, twice, again.
There was no signal, no rallying cry to alert them that the Bloody Prince had unleashed his next nasty surprise, but as one, the Riders’ eyes seemed drawn back to the lines.
The colossus gained the top of the hill, a towering thing of skin sewn together from the gods only knew how many. It was held together with rotting leather and titanium chains. Its eyes glowed with demonic fury as it sought out its enemies. It rose and rose and rose.
“How fuckin’ big is that thing?” someone asked.
“We’ll measure when it falls.”
Betting and bullshitting followed… until it roared.
The sound of it, low and deep at first, could be felt in their bones. Some laid hands to their chests, they way children at parades do as bass drums pass by, feeling the sound give their hearts pause. Then it grew to a pitch their ears could hear, and it was the warcry of a hundred dead things, stolen vocal cords ripping anger and agony from a patched-together throat.
Behind it, a row of necromancers gained the rise, some with magic already winding its way around rotted, bony fingers, others quite alive, pale faces painted with the markings of the Cult of the Damned.
“CUT THE FUCKERS DOWN!” came the cry, but even that was drowned out, by the maw that was the gates of Angra’thar opening. Chains screeched their protest, and out from the sharp-fanged mouth of the Lich King’s fortress poured the towering champions of the Vrykul, heads covered in horn-tipped helms, the furs of massive beasts adorning their cloaks. One of them raised a rune-carved horn to his lips, and others picked up the notes of the shout in their ancient tongue.
They surged forward, meeting the Alliance lines once more.
“Fuck. Me,” said ap Danwyrith, summing up the sentiment for them all.
It was the dwarf who pulled them back to the moment. “Get yer eyes front, lads an’ lasses! They ain’t our problem just yet.”
Down below, Taborwynn shared the thought. He clapped the massive Tauren beside him on the back, steel clanging on steel. They nodded at one another, and made ready for the fight.