Thursday, September 30, 2010

[RP] Battle for the Echo Isles, Part 1

I wrote this story with my friend Hammaryn. While our friendship is not nearly so insufferable as the average bromance, we still have a wicked case of the BFFs. Now, she's quite self-deprecating in general, especially so when it comes to her writing. In spite of what she says, I think she's a fine writer. I'm especially envious of her speed. Hammy can crank out a body of text that gets right to the point in about 1/4 of the time it would take me working alone (or less), because I tend to get hung up on all those damned trees, and she has a good idea of how the forest looks. Together we accomplish a lot more than I ever could on my own. Thanks Hamm-Hams!

I'm glad I have the chance to work with her on a regular basis. This story is sort of a launch into a hefty story arc and there will be lots more leading into Cataclysm. Part 2 comes tomorrow. Hope you like it!

Authors: Zana'zua & Ambika (Hammy & Me!)

Zana’zua felt uncomfortable in his own skin until the battle began and the blood began to flow.

The Battle for the Echo Isles was a jumble of instincts and memory. His body moved in familiar ways, disease flowing out of him into the reanimated corpses that poured from the jungle like a flood. His limbs moved ceaselessly, his runeblade a cleaver that sliced up through the air and sank down into bodies. The taking of life was a rhythm he knew by heart, and he did it without thinking of the slaughter before him.

In his mind he was on the beaches of another time, far from the copper taste of death, the sweet stench of sun-ripened flesh and the screams of the dying. He walked along the shore where the gentle blue waters of the sea lapped endlessly over his bare feet. Leggy palms swayed in the breeze, casting spindly shadows over him and the basket full of silvery fish he carried. Someone he loved waited for him at home. He mounted the steps as he always did in such dreams, eager to see her face.

A woman caught his eye in the fray and snapped him out of his thoughts. Her eyes lingered on him with a dull species of flat, unwelcoming recognition, then returned to the battle ahead. Zana’zua looked just as he did so long ago, yet so different. He was needed here now, needed to fight for the capital city of his own people, but he would never belong here again. He was an Other, guilty of the most unforgivable of sins. In their eyes he was no better than any of the cursed undead that the enemy launched against them, mindless though they were.

They breached the tide of zombies to a central hut near Zalazane’s spiny ritual altar and the surrounding commune of rickety grass-thatched driftwood dwellings. It was smeared from hearth to helm with layers of dried, flaking blood, some fresh, some ancient. Bones and skulls from countless sacrifices, mostly trollish but with no small amount of human and orc remains among them, were silhouetted against the brilliant orange of the evening sky. This was the serpent’s den, and the stink of longstanding black magic rituals permeated the humid air.

The floor of the hut was littered with the corpses of the fallen. Darkspear warriors pushed in, as well as zombies from the Echo Isles. The room began to hum audibly with energy. Zana’zua felt like the air was closing in around him, and he grabbed the neck of his tabard and pulled on it futilely, gasping for breath he no longer needed. A light flashed in the front of the hut, and the Loa of Death stood before them. Bwonsamdi’s entrance was greeted with a hush. Zana’zua felt as if the floor was falling out from beneath him, and his knees buckled a moment before he remembered that he was no longer old and weak. He stood upright again, unwavering. He was no longer safeguarded by this Loa, but very much under its jurisdiction. Life had a sense of humor, as did death.

Vol’jin approached the Loa to speak, but Zana’zua could not concentrate on what he was saying. A small trolless near him appeared to be extremely distressed and fixated on the Loa. She had familiar golden eyes that burned with impatience as she gripped her upper arms tightly enough to leave bruises on her skin. Zana’zua shoved people out of his way to get to her and nudged her with his shoulder. “Ambika,” he mumbled. The woman jolted out of her trance and greeted him with a death glare that was none too friendly.

“Quiet, you old fool,” she hissed quietly in his direction before returning to her state of agitated concentration.

He fell back a step, his features twisted into a stark expression of surprise and hurt. The crowd was moving out now to make war on Zalazane. Bwonsamdi disappeared in a flash, the same way he came in. Zana’zua felt rooted to where he was standing, people giving him a wide berth as they departed. They were careful not to touch him. Ambika went out with them, and Zana’zua waited a few seconds before following her.

The undead were everywhere. Dire trolls surged out from behind bushes. Vol’jin engaged Zalazane. The rhythm began again. The ground beneath Zana’zua began to rot, grass dying beneath his feet. Shadow coursed through him as he resurrected the corpse of a Darkspear warrior. It shambled obediently behind him, then leapt onto the back of a dire troll, throwing itself ineffectually at the monstrous creature. Zana’zua turned just in time to see a tall, bone-thin troll woman staring at him. Her cracked and bleeding lips formed a whispered curse. In an instant he froze her mind with cold and she grasped her head with her hands, screaming in pain. Another thought and the woman was gasping for air, her hands around her throat as she dropped to the ground. Zana’zua moved on. The runeblade went up, and then it went down. His mind didn’t wander this time.

The crowd shifted, following Zalazane’s trail as the withered old witch doctor fled to another island. Shamans stilled the waves that washed the shore and bade the waters hold their allies aloft. The Horde army poured across the narrow channel between the westernmost islands of the tiny archipelago. Zana’zua followed closely behind, keeping an eye on Ambika, who raced across the water ahead of him on the back of a sleek gray wolf.

They found Zalazane amid crumbling troll ruins, surrounded by a glimmering shield of shadow magic. His lips curled in a wicked grin punctuated by rotted, decayed and twisted tusks as Zol’jin’s makeshift army bore down on him. In an instant, the shouting, axe-waving warrior at Zana’zua’s side went silent and turned on his neighbor, cleaving a young shaman in two in a single motion. As the pieces fell, the traitor turned toward the old death knight. His eyes were dead.

What happened next was chaos. When all was said and done, there would be nearly as many accounts of the battle as there were witnesses, but there was one thing upon which they all could agree. As the bent old troll cackled madly beneath his protective shield, doubled over with the force of his glee, dozens of Vol’jin’s soldiers turned against their brethren and began hacking through the crowd of horrified recruits.

Many fell under the blades of their own kin, too stunned at the involuntary betrayal to react. Mates cried out, launching assaults against their allies who had the presence of mind to attack Zalazane’s newest minions. Many were struck down at the hands of those they sought to defend. Unhindered by distracting sentiments, both Zana’zua and the priestess fought through the surge of bodies, helping to weed out the unwilling, unwary betrayers. As they fell one by one, a great wail rose up from the battlefield from the wounded and from those who, in their grief, could only mourn the fallen.

Through it all, Zalazane laughed.

A familiar resonance diverted Zana’zua’s attention and he paused in the act of heaving his runeblade into someone’s chest. Bwonsamdi had reappeared and now hovered several feet in the air, directly behind Zalazane. One by one trolls stopped fighting, Darkspear warriors, zombies, and the mind-controlled alike. The Loa was terrible to behold in his full power, and he was angry. Zana’zua scanned the crowd for Ambika. She was pale and breathing heavily but seemed otherwise unharmed, though she once again focused on the death god’s avatar with such feverish intent she looked unwell.

The Loa began to laugh, a low rumble that seemed to come from all around them. It was at once both jolly and extremely menacing. Zalazane began to tremble and his shadow shield faltered. For the first time that long, bloody day, Zana’zua heard fear in the necromancer’s voice. “Who...who dat be?”

ZALAZANE. What you tinkin' takin dat which be mine? De Darkspear dead are MY domain, sorcerer... and now you gonna be one of dem!

The shield disappeared, and the corpses of the Darkspear fallen rose up from the ground, shambling towards Zalazane. They fell upon him, obscuring the witch doctor from sight, though the grisly sounds of his own reanimated army tearing him to pieces was still quite audible even before his tortured screams died down to nothing. Bwonsamdi raised a ghostly hand and the writhing pile of bodies fell to the ground like puppets with their strings suddenly cut.

Vol’jin, the newly triumphant Darkspear leader, stepped forward and bowed deeply before the ancient god, giving him thanks for his aid. Zana’zua watched the tiny priestess inch forward as Bwonsamdi said his piece and turned to leave.


Some of the crowd turned toward the sound of that cry for a moment, then Vol’jin called for their attention and began to introduce the Horde’s newest addition, Darkspear druid Vanira. Only Zana’zua seemed to notice as Ambika broke into a dead run and chased after the rapidly retreating Loa. She disappeared into the undergrowth, frantically calling his name.


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