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Into the Depths (Deeke's Part in the Assault on Arthas.)
#1
((Sorry this took so long to get turned in. Real Life took some priority, as well as being able to get my mind into the tale now and then. It's not quite as smooth as I would have liked it, nor quite as long and detailed... But this is supposed to be a combination of storytelling and debriefing, so... I guess it works. In character, the delay of posting this scroll on the board in the guild hall was because his superiors needed to allow him to finally release this info to the Tribe itself. I hope you enjoy the read.))


Into the Depths

We were at the moot. Others had gotten their orders already... in a week’s time preparations by the Ironsong Tribe and other select groups was to have been completed, for the planned assault against Arthas himself would be coming soon. Among the last, a messenger handed me a missive bearing a black ribbon with a crimson band down the middle and sealed in black wax imprinted with the mark of Highlord Darion Mograine.

Despite my life, or unlife possibly, under Arthas’s forces being a bit of a haze in my memory, some missions or things you learned will burn bright in your memory regardless of anything else. And this was one of those things I had seen many times. This particular ribbon was a style I had seen many times around orders I had been sent and its meaning was one certain Death Knights knew all too well. The black meant that we were receiving a “dark operations” order... or “dark ops” to some. The crimson band meant that while it wasn’t designated as a suicide mission, it might as well be one for all the chances of survival we were expected to have.

I cracked the seal on the note and read:


Death Knight Deeke,

You have not been deemed of sufficient power and rank to join into the assault on the Citadel. However, we have been watching you and know both of your past talents for flexible strategy and tactics, experience with special missions, and your newfound expertise for engineering and mining. Your assignment will make use of your recognized abilities.

Five days from now and at the striking of the fourth hour past noon, you will be at Ebon Hold in your former briefing room for further instructions. Until then, you will construct as many demolitions charges and trap devices as you can carry without overburdening yourself.

~ D M ~


On completing the reading of the note, I tossed it along with the ribbon and seal into a nearby fire and watched as it flared briefly in a sickly greenish flame before being consumed. After a brief farewell to those still at the moot, I left to make my preparations.

*****

We waited, sitting at the large stone table. Carrok Hellbane, an Orc and fellow death knight but one with powers borne of the blood, I knew. We had been on a few of these types of assignments together before as well as having fought in the same unit for larger battles more than once. A handful of the other six people at the table I knew by reputation at least, though had never met them formally.

The human in the smoked grey plate mail blazoned with a silver half moon was a paladin by the name of Brother Jacob Tycho who had a talent for wieling the Light of the Holy in combat. His skin was well tanned with an unlined face, the only hint of his age was the slight graying at the temples in contrast to his black hair yet accenting his clear blue eyes. Sitting beside him and in whispered conversation with soft smiles between them was Sister Marisha, a Troll priestess of utmost discipline. Her robes matched his armor in color and blazon as both were members of the Grey Brotherhood... a small faction within the Argent Crusade who cast aside racial divisions and even the factions of the war between Alliance and Horde in unity of what they feel are greater evils to face, the Scourge being among them. As there are no vows of chastity or celibacy for the Brotherhood, it was known that Jacob and Marisha had cast aside racial enmity even further and were betrothed.

Looking around the arc of the circular table I saw Ashenrose Darkhorn, a comely female Tauren with a feral streak to her. Her light tan hair set off her chestnut eyes nicely, the color almost exactly matching the mane gathered upon her head in a complex braid. She was a druid, unlike her twin brother, Sirocco, who’s coloring matched her own closely but who followed the shaman’s path and called the very elements to fight for him. Both had short curving horns of midnight black that was the source of their family’s namesake. Though I had never met them, I had seen them before and knew of them as their clan was affiliated with Greyhoof, the clan that had taken me in shortly after I had found myself in the mountains with no memory of who I was.

Of the final two I knew nothing, other than that they sat apart from one another and each eyed the other with some suspicion. From their garb, along with the array of blades and pouches each wore, I judged them to be rogues by trade. The first was a male Blood Elf in loose fitting but still closely gathered leather of mottled hues of grey. His midnight colored hair was gathered in a short ponytail, and his angular face sported a neatly trimmed goatee. Across from the Elf, as if repulsed by the thought of getting any closer to him, was a female of the Forsaken. Her greenish hued hair was cropped short and while she held the pallor of death to her features she had the mostly unblemished look of one who had been dead merely for a few days rather than months. Her clothing was pure black and tight fitting as though attempting to replace whatever skin she may have lost to the plague.

The door was opened by a pair of honor guards and through the portal strode Highlord Mograine. As he sat down, the doors were closed again by one guard as the other placed a small sheaf of papers before each of us.

“I am going to cut through the meat to the bones of the matter and of your mission,” the Highlord stated, his deep voice resonating in the small room. “While none of you will be assigned to the assault on the Citadel, your skills and experience have been deemed to make you valuable for another assignment. In particular, each of you have experience in small unit squad combat, skill in engineering and demolitions, and a knack for surviving difficult situations.”

His gaze moved around the table. “Our agents have managed to uncover the locations and layout of two underground compounds which house sizable units of reinforcements, over one thousand in each, we expect him to call to his defense should the assault on the Citadel turn against his favor. Another unit has been assigned the smaller of the two.” Morgraine’s eyes turned to me. “You will be leading this team to ensure that the larger of these units is not able to reinforce Arthas.”

“If you examine the first of the documents in front of you, you will see the layout of the compound you are to deal with.” While he spoke I examined the rough blueprint. “As you can see, there are two tunnels that allow access to the compound. I expect that the details provided will grant you enough information that you will be able to determine the best course of action to take in achieving your objective. The other documents contain what little additional data we have.”

The Highlord stood. “While I expect that few if any of you will return from this assignment alive, I do sincerely wish that you do.” With those parting words, he turned and exited the meeting room.

Introductions were made among the members of my squad, and through this I learned that the final two members of my team were indeed rogues by nature. The Blood Elf bore the name Garreth d’Or and was an expert in the arts of fast combat, while the Forsaken was Shandra Eldreth, a woman who preferred a more subtle approach to her profession.

Once this was done the discussion turned to analyzing what information we had at hand and how best to not only complete our assigned mission, but to come out of it alive as well. We would only have two days to prepare and reach the compound, so we wished to make the most of what little time we had.

*****

Our squad was in place. We had finalized our plans the night before and had decided it was worth the slight risk of giving ourselves a chance of getting out alive. With this in mind we had decided that instead of trying to set charges on our way in and on our way out, we would split up for the initial phase of our operation. Because of their skills in stealth, Garreth, Shandra, and Ashenrose would proceed down the larger main tunnel to set charges that were set to detonate from the outer end of the pathway towards the main compound to prevent its use as an escape route for the forces within. The rest of our squad was to proceed down the smaller of the tunnels and place charges to detonate outward, trusting in our array of individual abilities to silence any guards we might encounter along the way.

Once inside, both teams were to make their way to the designated meeting point, a large supply room at the northern perimeter almost equidistant between the two tunnels. From there, we would place the remainder of our timed charges and any trap devices we felt were necessary or viable without jeopardizing our mission.

Looking at the angle of the sun and shadows I judged the time to be right. It was shortly before the main assault was to begin, which gave us only one hour to get in and back out with all of our explosives placed and the compound eliminated along with the Scourge inside. With a brief hand signal to my team, we split up. Ashenrose’s body warped and shifted as she quickly assumed the form of a dark furred lioness before disappearing into the underbrush alongside the mountain. Moments behind her, the two rogues vanished as well without so much as a whisper of sound or footprint in the dirt to betray the passing of the three.

Waiting for a count of a hundred heartbeats, the rest of my squad started for the smaller tunnel as quietly as we could manage. I had no illusions about our stealth compared to that of the three who had preceded us in their departure, but the closer we could get to a sentry before striking, the better our chances of preventing an alarm being raised.

At the tunnel entrance were stationed two sentries. At my motion, and with a timing come from much training, Carrok and I pulled in our dark wills and each cut off the voice of our sentry at a distance by swelling their throats to strangulate them before calling their forms to us with the inevitable grip that calls all to their fate. With five of us working together, the sentries were dispatched in quick order.

As we proceeded into the tunnel itself we began to place our demolition charges at designated points. Along the way Sirocco periodically placed small totems in hidden nooks to act as sentries and alert us to anyone approaching from behind. Moving our way along, we were able to quickly eliminate those guards we encountered. Many times Sister Marisha’s ability to subjugate the will of another to her own proved invaluable in dividing patrols as she would control the mind of the leader and, through him or her, have the unit spread out. This allowed for patrols to be picked off in smaller groups that could be eliminated with less risk of alarm being raised.

The natural tunnel itself was a good thousand yards long, twisting or turning now and then as its meandering path was simply smoothed for easier progress rather than having been bored into the rock itself. This was a boon as it provided many places for us to place our charges as well as giving concealed locations from which to strike against sentries. At a few point along the path I revised where explosives were placed as my mind seemed to easily calculate angles, stress analysis, and blast shapes... the numbers and projection of data leaping to my vision as though I were looking at a sheet of glass with figures of light placed over what I was seeing.

Upon nearing the end of the tunnel, I turned a portion of my focus to the blueprints. The images we studied leapt to mind clearly, forms once again superimposing themselves over my sight as lines of dim light with notations and important data being supplied as I looked around, the information being corrected or verified by quick calculations comparing the images with what was currently present.

I motioned for my team to move to our left, down the hallway leading to our meeting point. Here the only being we encountered was a small imp who appeared to be on some errand or other. With a quick murmured prayer of exorcism from Brother Jacob the little infernal vanished in a puff of foul smelling smoke without so much as a whisper.

Once inside the storage room we had to wait only for a heartbeat or two before Garreth, Shandra, and Ashenrose stepped from the shadows. The lioness that was Ashenrose sat on her haunches and looked at us.

“What kept you?” she asked. “You all took long enough that the charges are in place in this room and these two have been occupying themselves with poisoning the food supplies here with darkblood.”

“We don’t all have the ability to sneak through the shadows and avoid patrols, sister,” Sirocco replied. “Learn a bit of patience. We’re still on schedule.”

Ashenrose sniffed. “You need to learn humor, brother mine. You still haven’t learned to tell when I’m teasing after all these years.”

“Stop with the chatter,” Carrok growled quietly. “We have a misson to complete... quietly... and can use all the time we can get if we want to have the best chance of getting out with our skins intact.”

I simply nodded, showing the squad that their leader was in agreement on this as Shandra silently scouted out the exit from the room to ensure the coast was clear.

Working in unison, the rogues scouting the way, we swept towards the western portion of the compound, placing our charges as we worked our way southward and around the perimeter. With our squad intact, we were able to avoid the majority of the patrols and idle wanderers. Those we could not avoid, we dispatched efficiently and without much difficulty, carefully concealing the bodies.

By the time we had completed the perimeter and were preparing to place the charges for the main barracks, our countdown was getting low. We had only fifteen minutes left to place our remaining charges and get back to the surface. With this in mind, we split up again with intent to meet back at the same point at which we divided our squad.

The going was slow for our team, but as we neared our return to our new meeting place, we heard the sounds of combat within the last barracks room Ashenrose and her team were supposed to set for charges.

Entering the chamber, we saw the final moves of what had been a small but furious fight. Dark, putrid blood splattered the walls, even ruining a large tapestry on the south wall, as a dozen members of Arthas’s reinforcements lie scattered around the large chamber.

“Is anyone injured?” I asked.

“Not us, but they’re pretty bad off,” Garreth joked from where he stood, the tapestry behind him in bright colors forming an odd contrast to his dark garments as though sunrise behind a shadowy mountain. “An unexpected patrol caught us by surprise, just as we were finishing with this room.”

“Good. Then let’s head out.”

“Right with you,” he said, a little out of breath from his exertions.

As we turned to leave, we could clearly hear a slithering sound, which we realized was the tapestry falling to the floor. From a darkened entryway now exposed loomed behind as exposed by the fallen fabric. Everything seemed to slow down for the next few heartbeats, the look of momentary confusion on Garreth’s face at the sound was quickly replaced by surprise as a rather large sword blade sprouted from his chest, one through his heart and the other impaling a lung. The elf coughed up a gout of blood before his body relaxed in death, the stunned look never leaving his face.

Slowly, the blade withdrew as his body slumped to the floor. From the concealing shadows stepped a form familiar to me. Though her skin held the pallor of death and the stench of the Scourge itself surrounded her, I knew her to be the High General Abbendis of the Scarlet Onslaught. The thick and pustulent scar that encircled her neck showed that her decapitation by Carrok’s blade when we had been ordered to kill her had been a temporary thing. Her gaze turned to the Orc, a rictus grin forming on her face.

“I had thought my opportunity to pay you back for what you did to me would be forever lost,” she said in a coarse whisper. “It looks like being raised by Arthas to serve him does have its benefits as he claimed.”

Glancing at Carrok, I could see the blue glow within his eyes begin to boil with the crimson bloodlust with which he was sometimes claimed.

“You will get your chance,” he growled to her, his shoulders flexing as he limbered up his arms. “And I will deny you that victory as I see you in the grave for good.” With that he charged across the room at her, bringing his great axe around in a sweeping ark that would have taken her head a second time had her own blade not come up and parried the blow with an almost contemptuous flick.

“Finishing me off will not be as easy as the first time, you will find.” She gave a piercing whistle, and at the signal the doors to both sides of the barracks opened and scourge began to enter the large room. As she parried another blow, entering her own fight with Carrok in earnest, she called to her troops “This one is mine. Kill the rest!”

A loud roar sounded as the swarming undead surged toward us. As they did, Brother Jacob knelt and quickly slammed the head of his warhammer against the stones of the floor, shattering them as he struck and sending out a wave of light, consecrating the very ground beneath our feet. Taking a cue from his actions, I exhaled a fog upon the ground, as red as blood to bring the powers of death and decay upon any foe to enter the twin rings of death.

The mindless Scourge came on and we lay about us with blade, hammer, and claw. Spells from Sirocco and Sister Marisha crackled in the very air as they helped to secure a path towards the nearest exit.

Sparing what glances I could towards Carrok and Abbendis, I could see both were laying grievous injury upon one another. The Orc’s lifeblood flowed freely from his wounds despite his blood borne ability to heal himself, the crimson fluid mingling with the bile black ichor seeping from the many cuts that laced the High General’s body. My eyes met with those of my fellow death knight for the briefest of moments, but in that instant I could see Carroc’s fate, confirmed by the slightest of nods. Neither he nor his foe would survive this battle.

I returned my full focus towards our own escape, my own footing becoming somewhat precarious with the mingling of pus and ichor upon the floor, with the skill and attention of those able to shield and heal within our party being all that kept my team from serious injury in the chaos of battle despite the skill of our warriors. I could hear a call from the middle of the room and could see that Shandra had somehow gotten separated from us.

“Keep going,” she yelled. “Don’t worry about me. I’ll find a way out...” As soon as she had finished speaking, there was an explosion beneath her feet, with a bright flash of light and great cloud of smoke. When I could see into the area once more, she was gone and the Scourge present were looking about in confusion.

On managing to make our way through the door, Sirocco quickly dropped a totem that pulsed with power, warping the ground itself and causing the stone to turn to sand beneath the feet of all our foes within ten yards about the small figurine and slowing their pursuit as we managed to break for the escape tunnel... the way mostly cleared but for a few Scourge who were easily dispatched.

Deep within the complex we could hear the first of the charges detonate, the sound quickly traveling down the main tunnel to the cavern itself as the explosives at the back began to go off as well. The entire complex began to shake as though an earthquake had struck beneath our feet.

“Here they come... My earthbinding totem has lost its power...” Sirocco called to us as he glanced back behind us. “And they’re gaining on us...” As we reached the opening of the only remaining exit, the Tauren briefly grabbed my arm. “Get my sister out of here... Carry her if you can spare the strength. I know she won’t agree with this, and I won’t see us both die for this. Swear on your honor.”

I simply nodded, not knowing what he had in mind, but having no time to discuss it. “So I swear...” I replied as he turned away.

Without so much as a glance back at us, he stopped at the tunnel entrance and began dropping figurines to the ground. I recognized another earthbinding totem. As another hit the ground I saw a bright flash of fire bringing forth an elemental.

Ashenrose looked back, sensing something was amiss. Realizing what her twin was doing, she tried to turn and join him. With the ground still shaking and little time to do anything as the explosions and Scourge both grew rapidly closer, I ducked my shoulder and kept going, taking her in the gut with my upper arm and knocking the wind from her as I scooped her up, losing only a step or two in the action.

“no... no....” I could hear her gasp in my ear as she began to catch her breath. Her scream grew louder, becoming an inarticulate roar as I could feel her body shift, claws raking along my armor with screeches almost as loud as the noise which followed as she shifted into the form of a lioness and tried to claw her way from me to join her brother in his final stand.

I could feel the heat of the explosions as they reached the base of the tunnel, the concussive force beginning to push us along as if aiding our escape.

Ashenrose suddenly screeched, an eerie, banshee like sound before she suddenly fell limp in my grasp.

We finally made it out of the mountain, barely scrambling our way out of the earthen confines and managing to find cover behind a number of large boulders that dotted the mountainside. The sound was deafening as stones the size of cannon shot exploded from the tunnel entrance, shattering like hail against our covering rock or sailing hundreds of yards out over the mountain face.

Once the chaos subsided, we took stock of our surroundings.

A crater hundreds of yards long now marred the north face of the mountain, as though some angry god had smashed it in with a single blow from a massive club. The power of the explosives we had placed had even caused some of the sand to fuse into glass from the heat.

Looking around, I saw that Brother Jacob and Sister Marisha had survived... each bloodied and a mass of bruises, but apparently alive and intact. Of Shandra I could see nothing and could only hope she had made good her escape from the devastation. Ashenrose had resumed her own form and was still behind the boulder, crying her grief.

Sister Marisha made as to move and comfort her, and I shook my head to warn her back. “I will take her back to her clan,” I said. “They are what she needs right now.” Both she and Brother Jacob nodded their understanding.

“Come, love,” the paladin said to his Mate. “We need to make our reports. Let us be off to heal and attend to our own duties.” With a last farewell wave to us, they made their way to flatter ground where they could summon their mounts and depart.

I sat quietly with Ashenrose until her weeping subsided and she fell into an exhausted slumber. Then, picking her up, I carried her to where I could summon my own mount and get her back to her clan before I went to report in at Ebon Hold for debriefing.
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