Dueg collapsed against the trunk of the scrawny, dead tree, grunting against the impact. His head swam and multicolored stars flowed through his vision as he weakly looked down to the arrow jutting from his chest. He could already feel the blood pooling at the back of his throat telling him that his lung had most definitely been perforated. He reached up, grabbing at the shaft as blinding pain shot from the wound, causing him to abandon the idea of pulling the arrow out himself until he had stabilized the ruined area of his chest. “Ren-” he coughed violently, the blood at the back of his throat costing him his ability to speak his prayer to the light.
Everything had gone wrong.
* * * * *
The small group had left Vengeance Landing three days earlier, traveling due north towards the Grizzly Hills. The first day had been uneventful, a small escort of militia had seen them to the wooden elevator which brought them from the base of the sunken valley Vengeance Landing was hidden in up to the flat plains of the Howling Fjord proper. Once there, they had met with a group of Forsaken agents, who provided them with a map of the local area and some mealy, unappetizing rations to sustain them for a couple of days. After gathering those supplies they had snuck their way past a Vyrkul village and began to follow the coastline, always keeping the sea to their right. During the third evening, however, Reyk approached Dueg while he was setting up his tent for the night, feigning as if to help.
“We’re being followed,” he said in a low voice as he raised the mallet to strike Dueg’s tent stakes, “I can’t tell by how many, but I’ve seen enough to know we’re not alone.”
Dueg kept his eyes focused on the canvas, adjusting the way it hung from the tent pole as he whispered back, “You are certain?”
Reyk snorted slightly, “I’ve been in the field long enough to recognize shapes on the horizon that stay the same size no matter how far you move from them, priest.”
“Very well, what do you suggest then, with your expertise?”
“Pray for Scrat and I, fortify us with the light’s power, for tonight they’ll come. After we eat we’ll retire to our separate tents, you’ll know when they’re here.”
Dueg nodded as Reyk stood and walked away after finishing with the stake, settling in the center to whisper with Scrat as they lit the evening cooking fire. Once finished, Dueg ducked into his tent, opening a side pocket in his travel bag and producing a thickly proportioned candle, placing it in the center of his tent and sitting cross legged in front of it. He closed his eyes and relaxed, feeling the cleansing power of the light flow gently through his mortal frame and reach out to the candle, which slowly lifted into the air on currents of power.
Dueg had to hold himself back from reaching for that power and drawing more through his soul than he could handle. He knew that to do so would sear his soul with so much divine power he would either simply burn into nothingness or become a simple fool, like those wretches who couldn’t handle their addiction to magics. But the draw was powerful, he wanted it to sear his soul, to fill him with a power that would burn his consciousness till nothing was left. The thought of entering oblivion by that method brought a shudder of anticipation to Dueg’s rigid frame.
NO! he thought, I have not spent years mastering myself to burn out now on this horrible lump of frozen rock! He gritted his teeth and allowed a small tendril of power, a simple trickle of the possible torrent, to flow through him into the suspended candle, causing it to flare into life as Dueg whispered, “Fortify.”
The flame on the candle burst into sudden brightness as it melted the wax into nothing, drawing from the previously whispered holy prayers infused into it and creating a glowing sphere. The sphere immediately shot forward driving through Dueg’s chest and out through the tent, similarly depositing energy into Reyk and Scrat. Dueg heard them gasp softly, but otherwise do their best to ignore the sudden infusion of the light’s blessing they had just received. He hoped that their unwanted shadows had not seen that little display, but knew that from such a distance it would be difficult to notice the blindingly fast mote of light that delivered the blessing. He stood and went to sit at the fire with his companions so that he could take dinner.
The meal was a tense one as the three kept an eye on the horizon and their plates at the same time. Little talking was done and when they finished their bland meals, they had each retired to their tents in order to partake of their daily rituals. Dueg began his meditations as the sun slipped below the horizon, bringing darkness to the small group of tents except for the quickly dwindling flame of the fire. The wind continued it’s mournful song as the stars began to blink into life once more and the moons of Azeroth rose, inciting a symphony of exotic insects that had been waiting to greet the White Lady and the Blue Child as they awoke from their slumber. With the flap of his tent slightly open, Dueg witnessed all of this and allowed the music of the plains to flow through him, refreshing his soul with the light’s energy.
Then the attack came.
The arrow came first, making a low whistling noise as it landed with a quiet fwoomph, blasting out some sort of smothering dust and causing the last of the flames to die. Almost immediately he heard the thumps of heavy feet accented with the jingle of plate and mail armor as their attackers rushed the camp, thinking them blinded and defenseless. Suddenly Dueg saw Reyk burst from his tent in full plate armor, decorated in symbols of Silvermoon City and the Horde, a gleaming blade bursting from his sheath as he smoothly jumped the distinguished fire and brandished his shield.
“This is sacred ground!” he screamed as light flared from him, consecrating the camp site as Scrat and Dueg both tore from their tent flaps. Scrat immediately threw a sharpened, wooden idle deftly into the fire pit where it burst into a torrent of flame, causing the fire to grow to mammoth proportions. Dueg called upon the light’s power to create a glowing shield of power around Reyk as the first attacker whirled in, his sword flaring against the divine barrier. Reyk suddenly kicked out, taking a foot out from under the armored attacker as he whirled around, using his opponent’s off balance flailing to sneak an elbow above his guard and smash into his helmet. As the first one reeled away, Dueg saw a second attacker rush in from behind Scrat’s tent, diving for his back as Scrat was planting his second idle into the ground.
“Light’s shadow, find purchase in this fool’s brain and enlighten him to your sacred power,” Dueg prayed as he stepped forward, unleashing dark energies into the human’s, and Dueg could see that the attackers were indeed human, brain at the same time as a burst of flame shot from the magically enhanced fire at the center of their camp. The fire wavered for a moment, then split as the top portion raged forward, becoming a living element of the fire’s raw power. Confident that Scrat could clean up this interloper on his own, Dueg looked back to Reyk to see that he was being sorely pressed by a third human and the first, who had recovered enough to split around and try to flank him. Dueg began to step forward to assist Reyk until a blast water caught him hard in the chest, flinging him backwards onto the ground.
Another elemental being, this one composed of water, flowed into the melee, darting past the battle dance that Reyk was engaged in and bared down the flaming elemental that had incapacitated Scrat’s attacker. Calling on the elements once more, Scrat fired a burst of lightning at the water elemental, causing it to contract in agony as the electricity flowed through it and the living fire shot burning pitch at it. Steam began to fill the area, clouding the site in a swirling fog as Dueg recovered from his fall and rushed forward once more, until the ice flowed up from the ground, grasping at his ankles and jarring him to a halt.
Quickly he speared his staff into the ground before him and yanked his wand from the sling at his belt, aiming and firing a violet bolt of shadow energy that pierced the closest combatant’s mind and gave him pause. Reyk tried to take advantage, but his second attacker stepped, diving in under his shield and slapping Reyk across the ab section of his armor, leaving a deep crease behind and stealing the wind from him. Thinking the fight won, the human closed in for the kill when suddenly Scrat burst from the thickening fog of the elemental’s battle, his mace raised and charging in behind the would be victor. However, as Scrat brought down the weapon, his forearm suddenly froze itself solid and shattered from the vibrations of impact against the human’s back. Scrat stepped back, grasping at his now halved limb.
“Light’s blessing,” Dueg prayed, “have mercy upon this champion’s w-“
The world changed. There were noises! Loud and frightening, Dueg had to run! Large shapes moving quickly, danger! A tree! He charged away, his hooves digging little furrows into the this grass of the Fjord. He stood before the tree, safe, for now. Grass. He bends to ea-
Dueg stood in elf form once more, spitting blades of grass from his mouth, he looked back to the camp, seeing that his companions were not faring well. Suddenly, pain blossomed in his chest and his knees went weak. Dueg collapsed against the trunk of the scrawny, dead tree, grunting against the impact.
* * * * *
Dueg looked up as the blood bubbled from his lips, seeing the lithe form step from the darkness towards him, bending as it stood before him. A female night elf, her violet face framed by the brightness of the white moon as her large, quizzical eyes studied his face. He also became aware of a sniffing noise immediately to his right as he looked over to see a large, striped saber cat staring intently at him. He turned back and spit a glob of foamy blood onto her cheek. As it rolled down, she sighed slightly and suddenly struck out, smashing against Dueg’s temple with the base of a hunting knife.
Everything went black.