Welcome to another edition of Wrathgate Wednesday. This week, we continue to explore the writings of various Wildfire Riders. Today we have two stories, both on the same theme: Bellesta and Illithias throw themselves at Lich King’s soldiers.
What the enemy was meant nothing to Bellesta.
All that mattered was they were the enemy.
Claws sang through the air and cut through flesh, bone, and muscle. Back to pack with the towering warrior behind her, they twirled and twisted about, anticipating each others movements perfectly.
Twist, bite, kick, tear down, throat-rip. Rotting flesh and blood sprayed her fur. The waterskin around her neck swung wildly like a hungry beast on a chain.
Feliche twisted around and slammed his shield into something that was once a ghoul. It shattered on the spikes from the blow. Movement caught the corner of his eye, forcing him to quickly turn heel and catch a glimpse of Illithias in the air. He gritted his teeth and began to move in to be back to back with Bellesta.
Who wasn’t there anymore.
A bark the roared down the line. A response in the form of a rolling fug of white black-powder smoke, which hid the view of the shot and shrapnel doing it’s work. Skin, snow and sod torn apart in equal measure. A wet chunk of dark black matter spattered across Illithias’ shoulder and hair – it could have either been ichor or mud. The slow bank of powder residue hung in the air for a few more seconds, the moment held with baited breath. Then, with less fanfare than it appeared, it dispersed, revealing the next wave of walking dead. Illithias rolled her wrists, rolled her head forward and back. Bittertongue yelled something else, but Illi was too far gone at this point. She raised her axes, raised her voice, and sprinted forward.
The trick to fighting with axes is all in the wrists. When you are swinging about what essentially amounts to a sharpened wedge propelled on a handle, you must remember there are two parts of the equation. The first part is the easiest – make wedge go in. The second, making wedge come out, is slightly harder. And usually glossed over in favour of the first part by those inexperienced in axe wielding. Ideally, one wants to be already reducing momentum and reversing the swing as contact is made – so the axe head enters, and then is pulled free again without being trapped deep through it’s own inertia. A snapping motion timed right, and executed well, can have the wedge enter and leave the target in moment. All in the wrists.
Right, overhead. Pull in, down to the collarbone. Pull out. Use momentum to spin right. Use left as a gashing weapon. Pivot on heel. Lead again with right, backhanded. Exposed neck. Halt with right foot. Remove from barely severed neck, use momentum to turn back to the left. Arrows, duck. Left, backhanded, knee. Rise. Right, follow-through, other knee. Standing. Left, thrust forward, lodge blade in face. Let go of haft, punch to the left. Broken teeth and shattered jaw, interrupted sorcery. Grasp haft, up and out with well-timed kick. Jump, twist, pull legs up. Wide sweep, hit as many as reach and momentum will allow. Land, steady. Parry left. Block right. Take the laceration and keep moving. Use momentum to swing left, low. Right, overhead, down onto sternum. Follow through.
The shifting currents of flesh shifted in their imperceptible patterns, opening a brief clearing around the berserker and her trail of ruined bodies. Her armour was stained, her hair matted to her forehead and face, the white imperfectly dyed dirty red. The red haze ballet stopped, Illi looking from side to side to get a feel for the state of play. In the maelstrom she could just make out certain things, who had the upper hand was not one of them. A tauren was visible, back to back with the surly Northerner. Turning slowly in circles, they hacked at all directions. White fire marked out where Sungale was fighting – Scourge incinerating themselves before her advance and drifting up into the air like discarded paper dolls. Back, against the tide, more corpses pressed forward, a titanic construct of rotting meat and corroded iron bringing up the rear like a literal column.
The fleeting moment of calm then disappeared, and the walls of flesh on either side flowed back to fill Illi’s clearing. She spun, lashed out – corpses returned to the dirt, limbs freed, bodies splayed open. A thundering volley of bolts howled overhead, scribing a path towards the towering monstrosity. Illi followed them as best she could, clearing a path before her. The hairs on the back of her neck would’ve stood at this point, had they not been plastered down to her skin by dirt and sweat and gore – the sky lit up with manifestations of the arcane. Another roar of missiles overhead, and the volatile streaks of frost and flame were dragged into the golem also. She was not moving through the melee with much speed, not seeming to get any closer to the undead giant, not matter how much she struggled forward.
Ahead, and slightly to the right, she saw the ursine form of Bellesta, rearing above the mass before her, bringing her great claws down on top of the Scourge arrayed before her. The warrior started to fight her way towards where she was, half of an idea forming in her head. There wasn’t much time to think it through. Swinging and elbowing her way forward, she closed the distance between the two of them, until a lull in the fighting opened up a short path between them clear of enemy and foe alike. Dropping down into a sprint, she tore towards the druidess, before getting within a few yards, and then jumping; right foot landing and pushing off a paw in the act of being raised for another swipe, left foot landing and leaping up from a shoulder. Running up the druid and leaping, Illithias soared above the horde of undead, three meters high through the air. The behemoth was falling to all fours, howling in frustrated rage. Illi dropped back down towards her foes – axes raised high and ready. A netherdrake screamed down from the sky, at the giant – Illi was too late.
Resuming her balance after barreling into the wave of flesh, Illithias looked her next goal amongst the chaff – the giant was down, being finished, and still too far for her to be able to do anything. Swinging an intricate helix, she cleared the press around her, giving her enough room to consolidate her stance. The lichling was visible as a geist fell away in pieces, the semi-dead necromancer chittering and giggling and grinning it’s death’s head grin as it advanced on Illi. She brought herself back into a fighting stance, readying her axes and wrists, and moving up, ready to spring at the Scourge sorcerer. Shards of ice and slush burst off her chest, breastplate squealing and frosting over as the ice magic leeched the heat from where it hit. Illithias stumbled slightly. The lichling was upon her quicker than it’s skeletal form would have suggested, runed spellblade whistling down for her neck. Illi dropped her axe, and lashed out, punching at the necromancer’s wrist. The sword went flying, end over end, away from the two of them. Then with a grunt, she pulled herself up from her knees, swinging her other axe up and in, arcing towards the lichling’s ribcage. With a shattering crash, the axe imbedded itself in the ribs, as the necromancer flash-froze it’s body in self-defence. The axe did not come free. Unbalanced, the two of them looked at one another, as they toppled down to the slurry of snow, mud and blood which made up the ground.
Legs and feet and talons and boots flashed all around them as they struggled with one another. Illi desperately trying to pull her axe from the lichling; the lichling trying to push Illi back off itself. One emaciated hand clawed at Illi’s face, pushing and scrabbling, with the other hand punching into Illi’s flank. Blood seeped into Illi’s eyes, obscuring her vision. With a snarl, Illi released her hold on the axe, rearing up. Howling, her free arm rose and then slammed down, again, then more. She didn’t stop lashing down until the death magics finally bled out of the necromancer, and it’s loose form released it’s grip on her axe. Shakily, she stood, pulling both axes up from the carpet of mud and corpses. She spat two fingers from her mouth.
Horns signaled the next act of the war from back at the Gate. Wolf howls and horse cries could be heard from behind the press of meat still bearing inexorably onwards. Screams and screeches of ice, metal and mortals cut the air from back to the camp – an insectoid bulk rose over where the ballistae resided. Conflicted, Illi looked from side to side for a sign – she didn’t know in which direction now to head.