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Old 05-01-2020, 12:22 AM
Kyalin V. Raintree Kyalin V. Raintree is offline

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Author's note: Consider this a "how it should have ended" epilogue in context to my prior commentary regarding BfA.

Shadows of hulking figures amidst the orange, red, and yellow flames stalked the village. It was supposed to have been safe – far away from the open paths and spacious groves that the Horde used to rend the forests apart, guarded by holdout sentinels like so many other settlements like it. But as the beasts fled the wrath of the Night Warrior – the children of the stars in this tiny hamlet’s luck had finally run out. The Ancient Protector, Gobu, strode towards the flames at the goading of the young druid Talin – who rode on his shoulder, frantically scanning the expanse of forest before him.

“We are too far ahead.” The ancient observed. “We must wait for the sentinels to join us.”
“No, Gobu…” Talin disagreed – suddenly not standing quite so eagerly, drawing back from his forward lean. “We’re too late…”

Gobu stopped before a clearing. He had known well before the druid did, he just didn’t have the heart to tell him what waning screams and the soft orange glow of Kaldorei buildings burning before them were telling him now. But then – suddenly – the Talin spotted one of his own – a small one aged no older than ten – darting out from the brush into the clearing. He was followed by a more sinister presence: a rotting corpse, whose bones hung with putrid dead flesh and tattered black leather. He was hobbled by an arrow in his thigh, but such did not divert him.

“There are more.” An evergreen whispered. “They are amongst us.”

The small elf in the clearing below tripped over a rock, landing face first in the grass before him. With a straight arm, the forsaken trooper slowly raised his gun. Before Gobu could pass on his warning – the young druid on his shoulder cried out as he shifted into a raven, diving for the corpse as its gunshot rang out. The trooper suddenly found himself on the ground – the raven was furiously ripping out the innards of his face with its beak and talons. Blood oozed from a large hole in the small elf’s head. Suddenly the raven perked its head up. Before him: Orcs, Trolls, and more Forsaken, were tearing towards him through the undergrowth.

Talin froze in surprise – but his enemies were equally surprised by the crisp, windsplitting sounds coming from the treeline opposite them. The sentinels had caught up, and the young druid’s reckless action had been saved from consequence. Talin rose from his transformation with his eyes fixed on the slain boy’s head – downcast and seething. His fists were balled. He grit his teeth, not even noticing the approach of one of the sentinels.

“Get out of the clearing!” The sentinel barked, trying to nudge him away.
“You waited too long…”
“I tried to warn him, child, the forest whispered…” Gobu started, being ignored.
“I’m not going to charge in and get half of my sisters killed because you can’t follow orders, Talin.” She said, angrily dragging him towards the village. “If you wanted to save people, maybe you druids should have given a damn about us before they torched the world tree. This is clean-up by now, get it? They’re trapped in the valley now – the most we can do is make them pay.”
“Whatever, Starleaf. Whatever”

The elves never listened to Gobu anyway.
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Old 05-01-2020, 12:23 AM
Kyalin V. Raintree Kyalin V. Raintree is offline

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“We’re badly out of position, commander.”

“I know that.” Starleaf said, assessing the carnage rendered to what once was a goblin artillery and ammunition dump from the treeline. Elven, Orcish, and Goblin bodies littered the clearing. Siege-glaives and great druidic roots had torn into the goblins’ machines, and amongst the wreckage, there were even a few destroyed gnomish creations amid the grim reminders of an attack – successful in that the enemy had been driven from this place, failed in that it appeared that the attackers didn’t live through their triumph.

“Signal Talin to get the ancient in motion. I want a three/two formation, moving through the wreckage on either side. Pick up what you can, but we’re not sticking around to rummage.”
The sentinel just nodded, mimicking a swallow call. A thunderous crash then marked the ancient’s emergence from the safety of its concealment.

“With me, with me” Starleaf whispered to the sentinel, gesturing for the three others to take to the other side. She held an arrow at the ready, moving amongst the twisted steel hulks and trying to ignore the smell of decaying flesh and oil. As she picked a handful of unused arrows off of a fallen sister, she froze at hearing a faint noise that she wasn’t expecting – the ratcheting of a wrench.

Someone was here.

She was committed to the plan. The ancient was already moving. Why hadn’t shots rung out? Perhaps it wasn’t too late. She motioned to the other sentinel – starting with her fingers pressed inward before ‘exploding’ back out before gesturing in the direction of the direction of a great lumbering machine that closely resembled – no it was a gnomish style tank.

They were close enough to Stardust Spire, perhaps it wasn’t impossible.

Either way, Starleaf’s squadmate appeared to get the message and did as expected: she hung back and waited. Starleaf took a deep breath and then cautiously moved forward, carefully contorting her way through the twisted-metal, sharp-edged split-in half wreck of a goblin shredder on her way to the source of the ratcheting. It was coming from inside of the machine – of course it was - meaning she’d have to enter it with whatever manner of shrapnel laced explosives the goblin surely had waiting for her. She also could already see that her quarry claimed a victim.

The first thing she could see, slumped against one of the vehicle’s interior walls, was a druid of the claw – holding his hand in futility over a hole in his stomach that had long ago finished its work. She peered further around the corner, readying her bow and hoping that she could get a shot off before the greasy green goblin could grab his pistol – but she didn’t see one. Instead, a creature with pigtails, overalls, and bubble-gum pink hair labored over an engine. That’s where the ratcheting was coming from.

Ever concerned about breaking cover, Starleaf resisted letting out a sigh of relief – but she did notice that the piping of the machine was intertwined with dying and deadened roots and leaves. They seemed to come from the core of the engine itself, which struck the sentinel commander as odd – odd as the momentary relief from the smell of oil. Briefly, she slightly backed off to signal her sentinel again – moving her hand in a motion that looked she was twisting a wrench, pointing back to the wrecked tank. She had to glance back for a moment, studying the sentinel’s confused, questioning expression. Slightly frustrated, she just motioned for the sentinel to move to her position. Then she re-entered the tank, coming face to face with the gnome, who had now turned away from the engine and spotted the sentinel upon her re-entry. The two regarded each other silently. The gnome had gone pale as a ghost at first but was seeming to collect herself. Faking a warm ‘I’m-here-to-get-you-out’ sort of smile, Starleaf reached out to her. “Come on – time to go.”

“What? Nonononono!!! I can’t!” The gnome frantically replied, turning back to the engine. “I must get back to…”
“The area’s not secure, we’re behind their lines. We need to get back to our own before…”
“You don’t GET IT!” The gnome shouted, ignoring the sentinel’s subsequent whispered pleas for her to keep her voice down. “This is the world’s only photosynthetic electric phase transformer. I MUST recover it!”
“Photo-what? Look, I don’t care, we can’t stay he-“

In that moment the tank suddenly felt as though it was struck by something. It shuddered and groaned, the gnome was frantic and Starleaf felt like darting out. Before she could the top of the tank was ripped away – and the culprit was visible in an instant. It was the ancient – staring curiously at the amalgam of half-dead roots intertwined with the tank’s mechanical guts and iron plating. Bits of the engine swung from cables, including a strange module with a socket wrench still attached to it.

The gnome was mortified. “WHAT ARE YOU DOING!?” She screeched in ear-shattering fashion, attracting the attention of the other sentinels – who regrettably broke their careful formation to investigate. The lumbering ancient of course, wasn’t moved by the hysterical gnome. He turned the mangled monstrosity over in his wooden claw, the tank’s turret limply swiveled according to gravity. The ancient turned it over again, remarking. “It was screaming…”

The sentinel’s eyes widened, and she turned an interrogatory glare to the gnome. “What are you doing?”
“I told you, I’m trying to recover the…”
“What IS the photo-whatever-it-was-you-said-it-was?” The sentinel demanded.
“Look.” Said the gnome as a sense of worry finally started to paint her expression. “I worked with the druid on this before he was killed…”
“I don’t need you to tell me HOW you did it! Just tell me, in simple words, WHAT in Elune’s name you’ve been…”

The gnome didn’t have to. While she and Starleaf were arguing – the sentinel could hear the gnashing of roots and the grinding of gears. She spun around – the barrel of the turret was rising. The roots she had spotted before – crisscrossing their way through the guts of the machine – had now fused to Gobu’s arm. The plating, the module, the suddenly very lively turret had all become a part of him. The ancient staggered momentarily. “I feel… weaker.”

Starleaf had seen a steam engine before. It was an exhibition that had been laboriously shipped to Darnassus years before. Even she found herself fascinated by the speed at which the giant pistons moved. It was an understanding of speed and intensity that could only be compared now to the speed at which the gnome behind her would blaze through seven syllable words. The sentinel turned around again, completely bewildered and downright annoyed with everything happening around her. “I’m sorry…. what?

“The machinery has integrated with that…!” The gnome strained to point to Gobu, occasionally jumping. “That! That tree golem!”
“With the ancient?” Wondered Starleaf, turning to look at the strange apparatus again.
“YES!!!” The gnome cried excitedly. “The modules are drawing power! The mechanisms are moving, and the golem is moving them!”
“The ancient” Corrected Talin from his perch on the ancient’s other shoulder.
“WHATEVER!” Insisted the gnome. “The point is that it’s got a big gun on its arm!”

The ancient simply looked contemplative, watching the turret move.

“Well how do we get it off!?” Talin exclaimed.

“They had a compact…” The ancient mused – an island of his own thoughts in the argument.

The gnome looked stunned. “Get it off!? Don’t you see what you’ve got here? This field is littered with guns and plates and wiring and gears!”
“It’s draining his vitality!” Talin exclaimed, pointing back to the ancient’s canopy. Even Starleaf could see the problem – you certainly didn’t have to be a druid to get it – the vibrant green spring leaves were slowly turning, starting from the outer edges, to amber, orange, and brown. It would be months now until summer, let alone fall.
“You’re a druid, aren’t you? Can’t you revitalize him? It’s drawing on his natural energies to power the mechanism. That’s the point!

Starleaf was dumbstruck at the sheer arrogance of the creature. “So it’s a parasite, is it?”

“It is a compact!” The ancient boomed.

No ancient Starleaf had ever worked with had done that before. Their role, normally, was constant and silent. Never had she seen one wade into a disagreement like this.

“It is OUR compact! Those were the words of Elder Bramblebreeze.”
“He knows his name…” The gnome muttered in awe. Starleaf found her eyes falling upon the corpse of the slain druid she’d spotted earlier – and his wizened, bloodied, unfulfilled face. Before she had a chance to think of why, Starleaf’s eyes darted to the once dead and dying roots she had seen twisted around the machine’s piping before – but they weren’t dead any longer. They were alive! In places they were pressed against gears, in others, they were turning them.

“Gobu, please ... you are withering. This is sapping you of your very life!” Talin implored.
“There will be sacrifices.” Gobu stated, turning to stomp his way back towards the treeline. “But there have been many sacrifices already. You know this too well – children of the stars.”

She knew what he was about to do. Ancients were known for eating the great trees of Ashenvale to restore damage from battle. Presumably there would be much, much more of that ahead. She again looked to the gnome, who seemed to not be able to contain her excitement. Perhaps she was entitled. Perhaps even the sentinel could be entitled to relax, if only for the moment. After all, if they were ever going to be attacked – it would have happened by now.

“What is your name?” She finally asked.
“Huh?”
“Your name – I never asked it.” Starleaf repeated.
Within an instant, the gnome snapped to attention. “Chief Engineer Britney Cliptonwrench! Engineer, Emerald Class of the First Stonetalo-“
“Good.” Starleaf interrupted. “Call me Starleaf.”
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Last edited by Kyalin V. Raintree; 05-03-2020 at 08:02 PM..
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Old 05-01-2020, 12:26 AM
Kyalin V. Raintree Kyalin V. Raintree is offline

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Talin Brightbloom of Astraanar had gone to fight the Twilight’s Hammer and the forces of Ragnaros. Orcs, Tauren, Humans – fantastic peoples of every type had arrived to join him on his mission. Many had died for it, but the victory they sought – that of the elemental lord of fire himself was finally won.

Yet, there was no hero’s welcome. Detested glares met him in the streets – an empty, bombed out town awaited him upon his return, inhabited only by disdainful husks, maintaining what they had left. He knew that the Horde had struck out during his absence, but never would he have imagined that it would have struck home. No one had told him that it even had. He picked up his pace and proceeded towards a familiar house – it was still intact. There lived Celeste – who he said he would commit himself to fully upon his return from Hyjal. He raced to the door and knocked on it frantically. A grizzled woman was there to answer it – Celeste’s mother, a former sentinel bearing a few more scars than she had the last time he’d seen her.

“Missus Briarthorn! Ishnu’alah! Please, if she’s here – I’m here to call on Celeste.”

“She’s dead, Talin.” Missus Briarthorn said bluntly, angrily – staring at him. “A tauren ripped his halberd through her stomach and left her to bleed to death a few miles from here.”

His heart sank, and the words wouldn’t come easily from his mouth. “Th-that can’t be… she was…”

“Alive before your friends came!?” The woman, a mother who had so warmly regarded him before all of this, accused. “Well they did. She was one of the ‘little people’ – who I guess nor you or Malfurion cares about.”

“Missus Briarthorn, I swear I…”

The door slammed in his face. He could hear the woman crying on the other side. This wasn’t supposed to happen. He did the right thing. He had saved the world from the void and from the Firelord. I don’t understand. The young druid thought, recalling the herculean effort against the Firelord in particular - an effort that surely would have failed if not for his so-maligned: 'friends'. We saved them… we saved them all…

Didn’t we?
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Old 05-01-2020, 12:27 AM
Kyalin V. Raintree Kyalin V. Raintree is offline

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A machine, put simply, is an apparatus that can apply mechanical power. A lever is a machine, a pulley is a machine, a bow is a machine, and an internal combustion engine is a machine. Complexity aside, contemporary literature now favors petrochemicals, but, as this research will explain, it is not only possible, but practical, to achieve similar results using methods that employ natural, replenishable energies – given the help of those who know how to tap them.

For prior research, please see the attached schematic (Exhibit 1) for the photosynthetic electric phase converter, and trial run results (Exhibit 2). The late Druidic Elder Nahim Bramblebreeze, to whom this research is dedicated, prepared a series of notes which have also been incorporated (Exhibit 3).

HYPOTHESIS: A Tree Golem (Also referred to as an “ancient”) can be transformed into an effective combat walker with the use of photosynthetic converting devices, and strategic attachments featuring electrically and naturally powered machines.

METHOD: Test Parameter 1 was completed already by the golem prior to experimental design, through the integration of a long-range two-hundred millimeter cannon equipped to fire high-explosive rounds.

Test Parameter 2: Affix a rotating apparatus of six barrels, held together by six circular support disks, (Eighty-eight millimeter cannons – shrapnel-rounds) to the other arm of the golem – verify adequacy of system against fixed targets. See results section for testing details.

Test Parameter 3: Integrate comprehensive armor plating. See results section for further details.

Test Parameter 4: Secure sustainable power solution. See results section for further details.

Test Parameter 5: Execute proof-of-concept run with completed prototype. Research confederates spotted a large concentration of enemy troops approaching the field in which the prototype was assembled. The prototype engaged the enemy with the assistance of the confederates.

Post-Evaluation Criteria: The success of the prototype was evaluated based on kill-ratio in relation to the unit evaluated. This study excluded the kill-ratios of study confederates, except in the case of assisted kills, so as to not confuse the results. Additionally, as this study was intended solely to evaluate the effects of the combat walker, this study does not include information as to the deaths of the research-confederates.

RESULTS: ….
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Old 05-01-2020, 12:29 AM
Kyalin V. Raintree Kyalin V. Raintree is offline

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“Lok’tar, friend! May we find glory and victory this day!”

Garbok didn’t return the kindness. He couldn’t. Sitting astride his wolf, he grasped tufts of its fur in his fist as a means of distracting himself. He didn’t want to do this. He had been there to relay the order to his unit to fire the catapults upon the tree that his foes were there to avenge. He did it without thinking. The great machinery of war churned as it always does and he was just another cog – acting upon the impetus from some other cog so that another cog could turn too. If his cog froze, the others would have spun in unison. No one would have been spared. He merely would have been singled out and hanged as a traitor, leaving his family to starve in his absence.

“But how many…”

How many? How many deaths truly lay on his conscience? Things were outside of his hands, but maybe if he hadn’t fired, some would have been able to get out. Maybe his comrades would have seen and have not fired? Maybe, in some fanciful dream in which he could truly be the Orc he yearned to be? He could have said no, and by the force of his denial the others could have taken notice and maybe, just maybe, the Horde could have been saved from itself.

But that was just a dream. Every front was collapsing now and the task ahead was clear: save what’s left. The elves would not show mercy – why would they now? He murdered their children and they would now murder his. Every one of his soldiers knew the same. Each one would perform to the best of their abilities. They had to – so many settlers now were trying to make a life in Ashenvale. It wasn’t a military post any longer: families were making their lives there. Women and children now worked and played in the freshly-laid streets. A victory for the Kaldorei here would as devastating as a sack of Orgrimmar. Everyone knew that.

Then why is morale so low?

He dismissed the thought from his mind – as he had dismissed thought entirely. Only orders mattered now. Orders were clear, they were simple. They didn’t bother with moral dilemmas and they weren’t so difficult to understand. Maximal death was the order of the day – the Warchief sought to make her message clear: all who oppose the Horde must die – their soldiers, their civilians, and anyone who in any way supports the war effort. Children of the enemy would one day become the enemy, and they would – especially now – merely carry on the work of their parents. No Night Elf could be spared, for no Night Elf could be trusted. Kalimdor must become the sole domain of the Orc and the Troll and the Goblin, and the Tauren – or each would be extinguished in the flames of vengeance. There were no middle ways now, no Hyjals. “Now my brothers…” He said, shuddering as he did so. “This will be a fight to the end.”

“Is everything alright, general?”

“Yes, I’m fine” The orc replied “Are our scout rotations still in order, have there been any absences?”

“None, general.”

“Good – keep your eyes open, they’re out here somewhere. Mind the treelines, they like to attack from ambush.”

“General… shouldn’t we order out a few patrols to try and sweep out their hiding places? Right now we’re guaranteed to be surprised with everyone massed up like this.”

“No” The general said immediately – because many an Orcish army had been defeated this way. The main force would move into the forest and dispatch patrols. Some patrols wouldn’t return, so they’d send more patrols to find the missing patrols, and then those in turn wouldn’t come back. Eventually a commander, seeking a quick, decisive solution, would strike out towards a supposed strongpoint, find it empty, find more missing patrols, and before he knew what was happening, find himself surrounded by elven fighters. This situation was made worse given the expenditure of heavy weapons during the war of the thorns. It had happened too many times already in the months since – it wouldn’t happen to him. “They’ll just whittle us down that way – if they want to join us in battle, we must force them to do so all at once.”

His lieutenant nodded, moving off to relay the orders. The Orcish general straightened his posture. Today he would meet his death in combat with the Night Warrior – but he would take as many of the Kaldorei as he could with him, and his reinforcements would avenge him.

“INCOMING!” Another orc suddenly screamed. An artillery shell screamed towards them – it bore the sound of a goblin munition, but it bored through his forces all the same – he observed casually before the full nature of what had just happened became clear to him. The explosion ripped through his right formation amidst a chorus of panicked and surprised screams.

“WAIT! BILGEWATER PERSONNEL, STOP!” Shouted the general. “We’re of the Horde! You’re firing on your own!”

Another flash of light erupted from the dense forest – and another shell burst into the general’s careful formation. The still-living body of a Sindorei landed near him – there was mangled meat where his knees should have been, and bleeding out, the elf looked up at the general desperately. When another hurtled from the treeline into his forces, the truth was clear. This wasn’t a friendly-fire incident, someone had commandeered a goblin artillery piece.

The general raised his axe and held it high. “The enemy is before us! Go to them and cut them down! Cut them down for your families!” Another shell crashed. “Cut them down for glory!” Another shell crashed. “Cut them down for the HORDE!” Another shell crashed.

The situation was turning into a rout. The soldiers weren’t interested in dying anymore, they were interested in surviving. No one cared about Sylvanas or her war or the hatred of the elves. Everyone just wanted to go home and see their children again. It was easy to understand, but the general knew what this situation meant for them.

“You are all going to die if you run!” He desperately cried to them. “If it’s not them, it will be the warchief! Treason will not be tolerated! We must fight! If we fail here, there’s no life to go back to!”

The general’s words simply weren’t a match in the face of the monstrosity that soon approached them. It was crude, disheveled, grey, and green – a monstrosity of metal intertwined with what must have been an ancient.

Is this how desperate they’ve become?

The creature swept its left arm before the wave of grunts coming for it – they scarcely had a chance. A platoon of them at least were mown down with a casual sweep of the ancient’s turret-bearing arm. The creature roared and soon another high explosive round from his other arm had crashed into another platoon – then another. But a flicker of hope interspersed the misery – the ancient was recoiling, drawing back before having to draw its turret on something closer – his troops were moving in.

This could still work – only one of these to the general’s knowledge existed – and that point aside, only the general’s army could stand against it. It clearly was doing so already. The thing was distracted – but even knowing that, the Orc knew that a mere command would not work. Even with an army of this size, against a singular target, that with no siege weapons his army would be liable to rout. He drew his axe and goaded his worg on towards the target. He sped towards it until, suddenly, the base beneath him gave way – the worg had been struck by an arrow, and the orc tumbled on into a clearing. He quickly got to his feet, axe raised, heartbeat increasing. His eyes darted from place to place – he was unsure of where was best to stand.

Then, like a punch with a spear at the end, an arrow slammed into his shoulder. Another struck him hard in the abdomen – the general doubled over, falling to his knees and groaning. For a moment, he thought that he might survive the blows, but his legs only worked for a moment. Soon, the orc fell to earth, panting – unable to pick himself up again. Was this the warrior’s death? He couldn’t even see his assailants. There was only the pain, the forest clearing in which he now lie, and his own fading vision.

The forest floor gave way in that moment to one simple image – a woman and a child, standing in the threshold of a modest dwelling in Razor Hill, smiling and waving back at him – well before this war and its… carnage. It faded before his eyes, and in its place lay unyielding pain, torment, and blackness.
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Old 05-01-2020, 12:29 AM
Kyalin V. Raintree Kyalin V. Raintree is offline

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A bullet whizzed by Talin’s ear, another dented into, before ear-piercingly ricocheting off of Gobu’s armor plating. Talin ducked behind the ancient’s branches, trying to keep him rejuvenated using what he could without getting his face shot off. Meanwhile, Cliptonwrench was shouting at him from her claustrophobic (even for gnomes), but metal-encased chamber on the ancient’s back. “Pick it up out there! I have six gauges in the red already!”

“Lay off!” The druid spat, trying to heal a damaged branch. Hopefully he could do it without being shot. Every step that Gobu took aged the ancient, and it was a constant battle for Talin to draw what he could from the surrounding vegetation to arrest the rapid decay. A collection of six mismatched goblin cannons, haphazardly strapped together using whatever other parts the gnome was able to scrounge, rotated and fired unstably, it’s aim getting less and less precise.

“We gotta retreat!” Cried the gnome. “Full reverse!”

The ancient backed away into the field of dead, sapped vegetation that lay behind him – and the diminishing wave of attackers grew bolder. Talin’s eyes fell on a sentinel, who was tracking rather close to the ancient. “Sentinel! We’re pulling back!”

She suddenly was struck through the abdomen, doubling over according to that point from the hit. She collapsed to the ground. The enemy didn’t care so much about her however. Their sole concern was seeking to get close enough past the turret-fire to do something to the monstrosity. The sentinel looked helplessly back at Talin – as though begging for help. He cast fields of brambles before the attackers in-between his rejuvenation spells – slowing their progress and often dooming them to being blown apart from the ancient’s relentless fire. The waves of attackers continued to pass by the wounded sentinel. Maybe she could survive this? – but then she precluded that, picking up her glaive and thrusting it into the gut of a nearby Tauren. Ignoring her blood loss, she tried to lunge towards an adjacent goblin before a troll speared her through the chest.

“NO!” Talin helplessly screamed. His was joined by the gnome’s. ”TAAALIIN! I can’t let another gauge go into the red! You either concentrate or we all go down!”

It was still an indefensible sort of feeling. He stole one last glance towards the sentinel as the lights left her eyes and closed his own, trying to concentrate on his spellwork. Bullets and arrows continued to strike the armor-plating around him. Those eyes – that look of betrayal – burned into his mind’s eye.
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Old 05-01-2020, 12:30 AM
Kyalin V. Raintree Kyalin V. Raintree is offline

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Starleaf’s squadron regrouped formally an hour or so later – despite the triumph the mood was somber. The strict numbers of the losses when compared to the scores of the enemy they’d killed didn’t matter so much when you could put names to the dead. But, the Night Warrior wasn’t far now, and Cliptonwrench’s monster had blunted the fist of the Horde’s expected counterpunch. A real victory was in reach. There was now only a lonely, but critical lynchpin standing in their way – the ammunition and explosives depot located in the center of Silverwing Refuge. It was the beating heart of the Horde’s logistics in Ashenvale – without it their armies couldn’t be supplied, nor fed, nor reinforced.

It was also the site of a chaotic mishmash of hastily built, wood-framed structures, each standing between two and four stories high. Clotheslines hung between them, soft candlelight flickered from their windows, children in played their jagged evening shadows, women swept their porches. Protected by a ring of fallen trees that had been lashed together to form a wall, these ‘civilians’, themselves having left the overcrowded, sweltering, starving streets of Orgrimmar, had good reason to believe themselves safe from the forests that surrounded them, which were largely cleansed of the Kaldorei anyway – at least for the moment.

“Elune be praised…” Starleaf remarked in awe. “The ancient yet lives – and the end to all of this is in reach.”

Talin could follow her gaze, but still he asked. “Commander? What are you thinking?”
“One well-placed shot could send the whole thing up.” She remarked. “All of it.”
Talin’s eyes were drawn immediately to the grimy, slightly-rusted old tank cannon strapped to the ancient’s left arm. Knowing what it could do, he turned immediately to the sentinel. “You couldn’t… there are children down there.”
“So what? They murdered my children…” The sentinel remarked. “… and my husband. Why are they special? … and why do you care? I know you didn’t care about us until…”
Talin snapped at her immediately, not being able to bear another word while the images of the child he couldn’t save and the sentinel he abandoned forced themselves to the front of his mind again. He found himself angrily pointing at her, holding his finger as though it was a dagger “Now you look here, I’ve had enough of that! I lost people too, Sentinel – but I went to Hyjal to save people!”
“You hung us out to dry.” The sentinel interrupted a terse, hateful, but verbally steady and measured riposte. “You cavorted with Tauren while their braves were slaughtering our families. I don’t care what else you have to say.”

Gobu looked down at the two with an indifferent curiosity, observing the two small creatures below him silently. Cliptonwrench at the same time poked out of her hatch, looking at the argument with bewilderment. “HEY!? Can’t you two save this for some other time!?”

Neither of them listened. Taken aback by the commander’s accusation, Talin stood there for an incriminating half-moment in silence, his mouth agape. Then seeking to paper over this moment of doubt, Talin shouted back. “They didn’t have a choice! Garrosh had…”

“It was Garrosh then.” She said, stepping towards him, her glare furious – but her tone was still even - and she was right.
“It was Grom before then.” She added, taking another step. She was right.
“It’s Sylvanas now.” She finished – her silver eyes and grim, questioning expression piercing through his own unprepared, wanting-to-disbelieve expression.
“When do we stop making excuses for the Orc who laughs as he beheads our children, druid?” She cut. “When do we stop believing his lies that he’s honorable, or that he’s teaching his children to be ‘honorable’?” Starleaf demanded. “He cries for forgiveness in public, but in private he brags about the innocent lives he took. No – no, I will not forgive them this time.”

“Sentinel, please!” Talin tried to cut in – his desperation evident in his voice. He was trying to convince himself – and the both of them knew it. He looked at Starleaf and he saw Mrs. Briarthorn, standing disappointedly in the threshold of her miraculously-spared home in Astraanar.

The sentinel softened her tone, placing her hand on the druid’s shoulder. “Sometimes I think you look at people like me the way you’d look at a shrub. Maybe to you it doesn’t matter if one is destroyed, because you could always regrow another one…”

“No!” The druid suddenly said, stepping away, trying not to face her. She kept talking.

“… but we’re not plants. You can’t replace the hopes and the dreams, and desires of a person with any other person. You..”

“Don’t you think I know that!?” The druid finally shouted, turning to face the sentinel and fighting back his own tears. Starleaf just coldly watched him sputter. “I’m not… we’re not…” He didn’t have anywhere to go with this, so the druid tried something else. “Are they not people as well?”

“No.” Starleaf said with that same centered, still calmness. “No more than Satyr.” She said as the ancient rumbled to life behind her, stiffly raising his cannon-bearing arm – training it on the settlement. “They are pointless vessels of hate and destruction.” Starleaf continued – as though she didn’t notice.

“Gobu! Wait!” Talin screamed – panicked. The sentinel then looked up with surprise at the ancient. Cliptonwrench shot her attention to her levers and gauges. “He’s moving on his own!”

“Gobu, stop! There are children!” He vainly, and impotently protested. But the ancient himself moved surely, inevitably. Creaking as he steadied his aim, he replied curtly and simply: “You are all children to me.”

The shot erupted from the cannon and screamed for its target. The center of this new city erupted in a column of flame. The shoddy tenements caught fire immediately, and the screams wove their way into the air. The sentinels around him hooted and cheered as the ancient shot off round after round into the once-formidable, how hapless burning city.

Talin had heard screams like that before. Behind them he knew lie the agony of some poor soul who knew they were going to die and nothing would save them. Many were in the process of dying and the screams were just the pain of being taken apart by the uncaring, inevitable fire. Feeling sick, he stumbled backwards, but the waning screams and the soft orange glow were so captivating that he couldn’t look away.

It was disturbingly sweet this time. A small part of him was happy. A small part of him was at peace.
__________________

Last edited by Kyalin V. Raintree; 05-03-2020 at 08:57 PM..
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