A low rumble of thunder disturbed the young void elf’s sleep. Blearily she opened her eyes, taking in unfamiliar surroundings. For just a moment, she could not remember where she was, but the warm presence pressed against her back brought it into focus. Smiling, she stretched languidly and turned to face the one with whom she shared the bed. He was still asleep, snoring very lightly. She wanted to wake him, but his long face was so peaceful she didn’t have the heart. She settled for lightly rubbing the charcoal fur of his muzzle and placing a gentle kiss on the tip of his snout. Carefully, she slid out from beneath the old blankets and stood beside the bed.
She shivered, the sea winds combined with her nakedness was a little much after being curled up under the quilts with Frank.
Frankie, she thought, smiling. He said people close to him call him Frankie. She giggled inwardly, thinking, A wolf named Frankie. Or Francis! The final thought almost making her laugh aloud. Biting her lip to stifle the laughter, she pulled on her trousers and shirt. She made her way to the front door and pulled it open, stepping just outside. Off the coastal cliffs, she could see the storm that had woken her. She shivered again. The air here was colder than she’d thought it would be. Growing up on Quel’danas, she was used to thinking of the sea as warm and inviting, but here was a land of gray clouds, mists, and chill air. Taking a few more steps into the small courtyard, she looked up and down the road that ran before the small cottage. Sure enough, the mists swallowed everything a few hundred yards in either direction. She frowned, thinking of the empty lands hidden by those mists. Gilneas, once a thriving nation, now less than a tomb.
“Lædra?” came a gruff voice behind her.
Turning, she saw Frank standing in the doorway, wearing naught but a loincloth. She bounded back to him, crying “Baby!” as she wrapped her arms around him and buried her face in the soft fur of his chest. She inhaled deeply. She loved his scent. He smelled like the earth and the sea.
With a happy whine, he returned the embrace and said, “I woke up and you were gone.”
“I’m sorry”, she replied, her voice muffled by his fur, “Thunder woke me up. I didn’t want to disturb you.”
“You wouldn’t have disturbed me, little elf.”
Grinning, she toyed with the end of his loincloth and said, “How about now?”
Frank started to emit a low, husky growl, but suddenly his head snapped up, his eyes going wide. He leaned into the wind, sniffing urgently. His ears twitched for a moment then went flat against his skull.
“Baby?” said Lædra softly, concern edging her voice, “What’s wrong?”
“Worgen,” Frank said, sounding worried.
Confused, Lædra responded, “Is that a problem? Would they object to you being here?”
Frank simply looked at her with a bewildered expression. He shook his head, saying, “No, not like me,” he said ominously, “Feral.”
“Wild. Mindless. Teeth and claws and always hungry.”
Her eyes going round with understanding, she looked out into the mist, asking, “How long do we have?”
“A few minutes at least. Come on, we have to move.”
Nodding, she followed him back inside. Opening her kit bag, she spread her armor out on a nearby table. As quickly as she could, she began to strap various pieces on. As she suited up, she watched Frank. He quickly put on undergarments and pulled his robe over his head, followed by tugging on his gloves. His ceremonial dagger still hung on his robe. Pulling a green-glowing crystal from his belt-pouch, he whispered arcane words to it. With an audible pop, a duo of imps appeared, capering and laughing in a circle around Frank. He gave them a stern look, and they quieted, but still fidgeted, like chastened toddlers. Setting his hand on the hilt of his dagger, he closed his eyes and muttered a foul chant. Coalescing from the air, the shattered, flaming skull of a demon appeared, floating in the air near Frank’s head. He whispered something to it, and it flew out the door.
Seeing Lædra’s questioning look, Frank said, “He’ll keep watch.”
“Can you trust it?”
Shrugging, Frank replied, “Serving me is a cushier gig than the alternative. He doesn’t like it, but he’ll do what he’s told.”
“You keep calling it ‘he’,” she said curiously.
“That’s because before he was a flaming skull, he was a very male Eredar on old Argus.”
“Eredar? You mean a Draenei?”
“They were Eredar first.”
Grinning at her, he said, “Let me guess, you skipped history classes for weapons practice.” She blushed, obviously embarrassed. He said, “Don’t feel bad, your skill with that axe is about to be a lot more useful than my taxonomical knowledge.” Standing straight, he set his hands before him and wove a complicated pattern in the air, muttering dark speech all the while. To one side, a swirling pattern of fel energy appeared and through it stepped a horned, armored demon wielding a fel-enchanted spear. The thing glared at Frank, who simply gave him a cool look and nodded, unconcerned.
“He looks angry,” noted Lædra, fastening her shoulder pads on.
“He is. He always is. Wrathguards are bad-tempered on their best day. They were Eredar deemed too stupid to be anything other than cannon fodder.“
“It can hear you, right?”
“He’s heard it before,” said Frank, who gave his big pet a little slap on the cheek. The Wrathguard fumed but made no move.
Eyeing the thing warily, Lædra finished checking the straps of her armor, hefted her great axe in her hands and said to Frank, “I’m ready. You?”
Frank nodded, said, “All my little friends are here. Let’s ride.”
Outside, Frank unhitched their mounts from the posts in the yard. Lædra’s cat, a big striped thing she’d acquired in Panderia, stretched and yawned as she waited for her mistress. Frank’s horse snorted and stamped a foot. He knew something was up. Frank stroked his neck and said, “Easy, Blackjack. We’ll be ok.”
Lædra went over to her cat and ruffled the fur behind her neck. She leapt into the saddle, hooking her feet into the stirrups and saying, “We’re ready.”
Frank nodded and swung himself onto his horse’s back. He raised his snout to the wind again and said, “Take the north road. It’ll curve back west towards the city, but just then we’ll cut off-road around the seaside cliffs. Just beyond there’s a strand. They don’t like the water. There’s a rocky island we can ford over to, and from there we can get to Hillsbrad.” Lædra nodded and they both snapped their reins, urging their mounts up the road.
They heard them first. Long, keening howls that carried on the wind. The mist played tricks with the sound, made it hard to be sure where it was coming from, but Frank never changed course. The howls might fool the ear, but never his nose. Lædra checked over her shoulder constantly, only to be confronted again and again with a featureless wall of gray mists. She was a veteran of many a battle, but she was more nervous than she’d been in years. Something about this place put her on edge. The silence and emptiness wore on the nerves.
“There!” shouted Frank, pointing off to the left and back, off the road. Lædra turned in the saddle, peered into the mists, and gasped. Low shadows bounded through the mist, running on all fours with long leaping strides. Her keen elven eyes strained to see in the haze. The beasts went naked, eschewing any appearance of their old lives, and they were ragged and unkempt, with ribs showing. That and their slavering jaws made they hunger apparent.
“I count four,” Lædra cried out. Frank nodded and they both urged their mounts to greater speed. Without warning, a fifth came leaping in from right, flying out of the mists like fury. It barreled into the big cat, knocking the animal on its side and tumbling Lædra into the grass. She rolled with it, regaining her feet with practiced grace even as she drew her great axe over her shoulder. “Make that five!” she bellowed, and charged the beast.
Frank had pulled back hard on his horse’s reins the moment he saw her get flanked. Yanking his mount around, he rolled from the saddle and set his hand on the ceremonial dagger at his waist. Lædra had closed with her assailant and dealt him a vicious blow with the butt end of her axe. His claws had slashed at her but thus far her armor held. As Frank watched, the other four worgen streaking across the moor at them closed, two of them breaking off to join the one attacking Lædra. Muttering arcane words, Frank summoned a pair of felhounds and dispatched them to harass the two remaining worgen. He then had his two imps joined by a brace more and had them all do the same.
Turning his attention back to Lædra, he was horrified to see that she had been surrounded. She was locked with her first attacker, who had seized the blade of her axe between his massive paws. The other two worgen circled, waiting for an opening. Frank turned to his Wrathguard and bellowed, “Khil-Barash! Protect her!” The demon sneered at him, looking as if it meant to disobey, perhaps to claim it owed the woman no service at all. Frank snarled at the thing and hissed, “If she is harmed, you will be summoned in the Cathedral of Stormwind and burned by the Light until your demonic flesh peels away from your bones. Every day. For a year.”
The threat penetrated the demon’s usual cool demeanor, and with ill will it charged away. Closing with Lædra and her assailants, it hurled its spear into the nearest worgen, skewering it and pinning it to the ground. Roaring by, it seized the spear, pulling it from the soil with its victim still impaled. Without breaking stride, it whirled the spear around, bludgeoning the second worgen with its howling companion. The worgen locked with Lædra was momentarily distracted by the demon’s antics, which gave her an opening. She rocked the butt end of her axe upward, striking it hard on the chin. It staggered back, stunned by the blow. Lædra spun, putting momentum behind her axe, and took off its head in a clean sweep.
Nearby, a surly Khil-Barash had finished off the other two worgen, plunging its spear through their necks. It looked at Lædra a moment, then at her victim, and nodded, almost respectfully. Meanwhile, Frank’s felhounds had slain one of the other worgen and were busy pulling its entrails out. The remaining one had a troop of imps on its back, singing its tail, causing it to run in frightened circles as they cried out in their piping voices, “Oi, boss! We got our own mount now!”
Frank bellowed at them, “Just be done with the damn thing!” Giggling insanely, the imps crawled all over the creature, setting it alight. They hopped away, the flaming worgen running off into the mist, howling in pain. Frank watched it run off, scowling. He called out to the imps, “If the thing comes back you are dealing with it.” They just laughed at him and winked out of existence with a pop.
Lædra, wiping the gore from her axe as best she could on the grass, called out, “Why do they seem more…insubordinate?”
“They are summoned temporarily,” Frank explained, “And only manifest in our world a short time. They are pressed into service but they know it is short-term, and they can get away with more.”
Lædra indicated the Wrathguard, which had curiously stayed near her, “And what about him?”
“KB is different. I know his true name, and he is bound to my service. If he acts up, he is punished, and he knows it.” The demon snorted but said nothing.
“Well, he helped me out back there,” said Lædra, “so…” and she stood and leaned over, planting a kiss on the demon’s cheek. The wrathguard stood stock-still, his toothy mouth hanging open.
Frank winced and spoke with a warning tone, “He’s not your friend, Lædra. I had to threaten him to make him aid you. He’s dangerous, remember that, ok?”
Grinning, she said, “Maybe he’ll come around.”
“Demons don’t come around, Lædra, they patiently wait for you to slip up so they can kill you and run wild.”
She laughed brightly, taking a few steps away from the still-shocked demon. She raised her hands in surrender, saying, “All, right, all right. I’ll be good.” She grinned hugely at Frank, adding, “Sorry, I’m always a little frisky after a fight.”
Franks ears perked up and he grinned, but the grin faded quickly and he said, “As much as I want to discuss that, there could be more of them, we need to leave this place.” She nodded, catching his serious mood. Together they regained their mounts and crossed the moors.
Hours later, they stopped for a rest on a small island set between the coasts of Gilneas and Hillsbrad. It was craggy, with a ruined tower set atop the highest point.
“This place gives me chills, Frankie” said Lædra, shivering and looking uncomfortable. “Where are we?”
“It’s called Purgation Isle. Some nasty shit went down here way back.”
“Can we leave?”
Frank nodded, said, “Yeah, just wanted to catch our breath. We’ll continue on across Hillsbrad, hug the coast, avoid Forsaken settlements. Before you know it we’ll be in Arathi. We can catch a flight from there back to Stormwind.”
Frank started to shake his head, but thought better of it and said, “You know what, word is, The Alliance has retaken Stromgarde. They may have established portals there, we’ll check.”
Smiling, she said, “See, I’m helpful.”
Laughing, he drew her to him, touching his furred forehead to her smooth one. “You’re a lot more than helpful, little elf.” She stood on her toes and kissed the tip of his snout.
“Let’s go home, baby,” she said.