Black Fathom Deeps - In Real Life

Pearlhunt in Blackfathom Deeps


As we neared the entrance of Blackfathom Deeps, the Naga, that were a menace here along the shore of Zoram Strand, became even more aggressive and seemed determined to keep us away from that smelly pit. Even though they themselves never went in there. So, a quick run inside freed us from their attacks.
But not from the stench. It was revolting. Every benefit we had from our previous meal vanished instantly and the mere thought of eating would make our stomachs turn.

The heaviness of the stench was attacking our health, as well as our will to live, so in order not to waste away there and then, we hurried down the stairs.
They were slippery from sand and scum, that had been deposited when the water-level had been higher and the walls were covered with dead seaweed that was responsible for most of the overwhelming smell.
Our Priest put a Spell of Renewal on each of us, to counter our declining health, but the Warrior said that it was of no use, because soon we would reach the bottom and were to go into that pool of filth that is down there. There would be enough healing to be done, once we would get out of that, nearly half dead.

It became more and more dark, the deeper we went and at the same time the stairs became more treacherous. We told the Warrior to slow down a little, lest we fall all the rest of the way down. But she kept going and we tried to keep up with her as best as we could.
No-one would like to be caught without a Warrior at your side, in a place like this. Save perhaps for the Shaman. He carried a shield of his own and was looking pretty grim in his Dark Leather gear.

He was bringing up the rear and helped the Priest as good as he could.
The poor Priest! He was struggling to keep up, his bony legs not used to running.
At least he was not bothered by the smell. I think being Undead does that for you.
They say that the whole of the Undercity is filled with green slime that stinks at least as bad.

I looked at my Spirit-level and saw it was still quite a bit in the safe zone, so at least I would be able to cast unimpeded, we should be nearly there anyway - and slammed into that damned Rogue. Why was he standing still in a place like this?! There were no traps here, people had been going down these stairs countless times. Oh, sure! A great time to loot a crystal! What would he need that for?! This guy was going to be more trouble than he was worth, just as I had told them before we went.

We should have taken that Warlock-girl but nooo, she was tooo inexperienced, they said. But at least she had a Void-Walker with her, which could have given us an edge in case the Tank was going to have a hard time. Who ever wants a Rogue in their group?
Well, at least one less Clothie to roll against, I guess.

We neared the Warrior who was standing at the edge of the pool of slime, all that was left of the water that had been in here. For some reason, it was no longer being replenished, as it had been, long ago. Strange, that such a deep pit, so close to the shore, would not fill back up with water.
I took a deep breath - it was agony filling my lungs with that stank - and saw the Priest, being bodily dragged along by the Shaman, come into view. We were about to face the worst bit so far.

The Warrior had already stowed all her metal gear and was looking rather frail and sad.
She would be of little use once we would emerge on the other side.
It would all come down to me, to make the fire and the Shaman and the Rogue, to keep the Priest and me alive.

"Ready?" I said, looking at the Priest.
He nodded with a big grin. I suppose he can't really do much else, can he?
"You have your daggers still out", I snapped at the Rogue. But he said that OF-COURSE he does not need to stow them since they ALREADY have poison on them.
Sure, whatever, this water is more like acid, but who cares?!

"Let us go." said the Shaman, his deep voice resonating between the walls, as he strode into the goo. I quickly followed him.
The others should follow right behind us, if they knew what was good for them.

From the corner of my eye, I saw the Priest get into the wake of the Shaman and then the water level made me close my eyes. It was just a few yards and not even very deep, but it was only by touch and you had to not lose your way. We had explained it to the Priest as well as we could, while we traveled to reach here. It was the best we could do. Everyone, whose first time it was, had to go through this unsettling and nerve-wracking feeling of not knowing where you had to go, while being unable to breathe.

There! My hand grabbed the edge. That welcoming edge! And I dragged myself out of the sludge.
Wiping the goop from my eyes, I saw the Shaman putting down a fire-totem.
Fire! We need to have a fire as soon as possible. I found the bones, the stones should be right in front of it.
But these were not the right bones! Someone must have died here since the last time. Where was the place with the stones?
Frantically, I felt around for the stones, until a flash of the fire-totem made me see them. I had not advanced enough. But there never used to be more bones here! Quickly, I grabbed in my bag for the wood. It was not a good sign that the fire-totem had already found something to shoot at. They would be upon us any moment.

The Warrior was still busy getting on her gear and where was that Priest? He had been right behind the Shaman. No time to think of that now, we need to have a fire! I had put the wood in the circle of stones and started to cast.
The Rogue was emerging, finally! He really had taken his time, didn't he? And why did he get out, all the way over there?! He might attract more Naga, if they would spot him!
Speaking of Naga, there were already two that were attacking the Shaman. He was doing OK keeping the male at bay, but the female was casting some nasty bolts onto him, that were eating up his health way too quickly.
"Get that Naga-Seabitch off of him!" I yelled at the Rogue.

That was too much for my casting and it failed. It failed!
Quickly, I re-casted, a small fire-bolt, it had to do. There was no more time to cast a big one.
It caught, thank the spirits! The fire was burning!
I started to cast onto the Sea-witch.
"Get ready to heal." I told the Shaman. "I will take care of her."
The Rogue was moving towards the Sea-witch. Why?! Could he not see that I was already taking care of her?! She was quite far in the back. In the time needed to reach there he and the Shaman could have finished off the Naga-Warrior.

All in all, we were doing reasonably well, I even had time to lob a quick bolt onto the Naga-Warrior, who was nearly dead. If only the Priest would show up! The Shaman could not be expected to do serious healing, not for long, at least.
"Don't worry! I can have him!" I heard the Rogue shout and looked up. Oh-h no! He had ran into another Naga! This one was clearly no match for him and he was dishing out appalling amounts of damage. It should be illegal for someone to be able to do so much damage so easily.

But then it happened! The Naga threw a net onto the Rogue and made a run for it.
He was well out of my reach so I quickly ran towards him, he could not be allowed to escape!
"Find the Priest!" I yelled. "He is getting away!"
The nearly dead Naga made it round the corner and was gone, permanently out of my reach.
That meant that a flood of Naga would soon be upon us.
Oh! What a great start this was.

I ran back and saw the Warrior sitting by the fire, trying to get her Spirit back up. She, having to get in that awful pool with no gear, was the most affected by the plunge and also had to put her gear back on without being able to clean it all off. I did not envy her the least. We Trolls are pretty clean, when it comes to it and we don't like to smell.

Unlike the other races! If I had to choose, I would think that the Tauren smelled the least bad. It was strong, but not a bad smell, like the Orcs. They said they had been cured from the blood of Mannoroth, but they never got rid of the stench, it seems.
And Undead, well, they are actually smelling very dead-dead, all be it more faint.
At least the fire was burning fine.

But where was that Undead? He still had not emerged from the water!
"I should go get him, don't you think?" I asked the Tauren.
He nodded, while he was bandaging his arm.
"Are you guys gonna be OK?" I asked again. He nodded again.
I knew what they were going to face and they knew too.
"OK then." I said and ran towards the water.

Getting back out was much easier, but still yech!
Why do we even go here? I thought.
But everyone knew the answer to that.















When I surfaced on the other side, I did not see the Priest.
That was not good. Had he got stuck somewhere, perhaps?
They can stay under water for a very long time, since they do not have to breathe the same as we, but it had been a pretty long time.

I started to cast a fireball into the wall, an old trick: it would light up the whole place like the inside of a Core-Hound.
Whammmm! The impact echoed deafening against the walls. If he could not see the light, he surely must have heard this!
In the decaying glow, I quickly looked around. Was that a leg? It was, but not of our Undead friend. This friend had been dead-dead for quite a while.
That must have been a bunch of pityful noobs, that went in here, leaving someone like that, brr.

Suddenly, there was a bony hand on my shoulder and I let out a little yelp.
"It is only me," he said, "I can't seem to find the other side."
"I knew that", I snapped, "that's why I came back to get you. We must hurry, they have already run into some and more are coming soon. Grab the end of my staff and don't let go and try to feel where I go and to not slow me down, since I can not stay under like you can and I can actually die here!"
I spat it all out in one go.

"Sure, no problem," he said, with his grin, "and if you die, I will make sure to resurrect you."
I did not say anything and took a deep breath. I really did not wanted to die here!
I went under and started to feel my way with one hand, whilst holding my staff in the other hand. This was going much slower, but at least I did not have to drag him along. I could not feel him holding the staff, much, if at all. Had he let go?
Don't think about that, I told myself, you have to get out of here.

My heart was pounding at my temples, as I inched forward, not wanting to lose touch with what I knew was going to lead me out of here. We were nearly halfway and I was getting tired, doing it all with one arm. I kept my breathing-wish under control, further! Soon you can breathe, just a little more.
I reached, trying to find the edge, a bit further then?
I started to see stars in front of my eyes. The edge must be right here, where was it?
I had to come up for air, there must be air here, please let there be air here! I thought.

Gasping, I broke through the surface.
More dead than alive, I dragged my body halfway out of the water.
I felt so sick and miserable, I was ready to throw up.
"Where are they?", said the Priest while he was climbing onto the shore.
I wiped my eyes clean and when I opened them, it was just as black.

"Oh no," I groaned, "the fire is gone. They must all be dead."
"Uh-oh" said the Priest, "it seems there is work to do."
"You don't understand", I said in a raspy voice, "without the fire, our Spirit will be too low to do any serious magic."
"But you can light the fire again, can't you?" asked the Priest with an anxious yelp.
"I don't know where we are," I said, "or where the fire place is and there is little hope to find it in this darkness."
"So what can we do then?!" Shrieked the Priest.

"You could come over here and toss me a heal, Carebear!" It was the voice of the Rogue, all the way to the left.
"Are you at the campfire?" I yelled back. "And where are the others?"
"Dead.", came the Rogue again.
If I could find my way back to the fireplace, we would have a chance, but getting there, in this blackness, was not very likely.

"We should try to get over there," I told the Priest.
"Oki.", he, said and he rummaged in his bags. "I have this nifty wand", and a timid green glow sprang into life at the end of a thin stick he was holding. It lit a pale green circle on the ground.
This was looking much less impossible, all of a sudden.
"We are coming your way!", I yelled at the Rogue.


















We still had to move carefully, staying clear from pits, of who knew how deep and treacherous rocks hanging from the ceiling, but we got at the fireplace without too much troubles.
I saw the circle of stones and it was as I had expected: all the wood was gone. The Naga must have kicked it away in their hurry to put out the fire.
"Can I borrow your wand for a while?" I asked the Priest, "So I can find the missing wood?"
"Sorry," he said, "I can not give it, it is bound to me. But, I can cook and therefore I also can make a fire." Again that toothy grin.

An Undead that can cook? I thought. Who ever heard of that!? They were rumored to eat their fallen victims!
But he was already busy stacking wood in a nice little pile and went on to hit with a stone against something. What was he doing? Was he going to make fire with stone??
But then it struck me: this was ancient! That stone must be a Flint! An ancient, magical stone, that could make fire!
I always had wondered how such a stone could make a fire and now I was going to see it for real!

He was still hitting with the stone. Nothing much else happened. Sometimes a tiny flash sprang from the place of impact. That was all.
But he seemed undeterred and kept on hitting. Till suddenly he stopped.
He must have given up. He bowed his head towards the fireplace, was he crying?
I heard him make a slight noise. He was blowing, onto something he held in his bony hand.

A tiny wisp emerged from his hand. Smoke?! How was that possible?
He kept on blowing and the smoke became more and more, until he gingerly dropped the bundle of smoke onto the wood, where it suddenly caught fire!
Never before had I seen such a thing! This must be some powerful ancient magic!
I looked fascinated how this wondrous fire started to eat the wood, just like normal fire would do.

The light filled up the place and I could see the Warrior, lying at the edge of the circle of light.
She had fallen onto her shield and her crushed helmet was lying beside her, her Axe gone. The fire is burning again














"Do you feel you can resurrect her?" I asked the Priest.
"He should heal me up first," said the Rogue, "I have been waiting long enough!"
He did not seem to be hurt that much, but since he had been through this ordeal, I decided not to say anything. And really, I felt too weak to argue about it anyway.
"I could do with a Renew too, if possible." It was nothing more than a whisper, but there was just not enough left in me for more.

The Priest started to cast and I felt the desperation lessen in my body. But my mind was still a black void. I shove more towards the fire and shivered.
"Oh! You have a Gloom-Orb in your hair!" said the Priest. "Can I have it please?"
A Gloom-Orb! I must have picked it up with my hair dragging along the rocks while I tried to get back up in the air.
"Yes, take it", I said weakly. "Why would you want to have such a thing? Do you want to become a Shadow-Priest?"
"Perhaps", he said and untangled the Orb from my hair.
Those bony hands, so close to my head! I shivered again, but I could notice the difference, light started to dawn again in my mind.

"Where is the Shaman?" I asked the Rogue.
"They killed him first", he said. "We were here, defending the fire and he had used up all his Mana, so..."
He did not finish his sentence. He must have run in and tried to slay or wound as many as possible, buying time for the others. An Honorable deed, but I felt more like crying. But I was not going to cry! Not with him being so matter-of-fact.
"They started to cast bolts of Lightning onto her", he continued, "from many sides, all far away. There was not much she could do, or I, for that matter. Anyway, she went down pretty fast."
Again this cold measured speech.

"Then they started to cast Lightning onto me, while a bunch came running towards the fire. I had taken quite a few hits already by the time they reached the fire and was ready to take out at least a couple of them, but they kept coming, there were more than eight at least. They basically ran me over and I had to jump out of the way. They did not seem to care about the fire at all! I had to Vanish and saw them kick the wood away and quickly run off, while the last glow of the fire died."
"The cowards!"
I could tell he said it out of habit, but I sensed doubt in his voice.
He must have noticed it too.
These attacks were not like their normal behavior...

















I saw the Priest, next to the body of the dead Warrior. What was he doing to her? He should not raise her as an Undead or something unnatural!
"Should we not get her next to the fire?" I asked him. But he shook his bony head,
"No need", he said.
I really had my doubts. Our priests always used fire.
Had he not said that he wanted to become a Shadow-Priest? A Face-melter! They are more scary than Warlocks even!
They can make people shed so many tears, from desperation and fear, that the skin of their face bloats, until it completely drops off from their naked skull. If the poor souls had not already clawed off their own face, out of sheer existential dread.
You wanted to stay away from someone like that, as much as possible.
There was little anyone could do against that shadowy magic, that came from beliefs from inside. Warlocks were more like us Mages, in that regard. They would cast Shadow and Corruption onto their targets, like we do bolts of Fire or Ice.

He started to cast the Spell of Resurrection.
It was going to be a long cast, much longer than any Spell I had.
I kept watching, holding my breath without realizing it, not wanting to risk anything that might cause it to fail.

That was it! She was surrounded by a golden aura and light was emanating from every part of her body.
It quickly diminished and was gone.
Had it worked?! I could not see any difference, had she come back to the land of the living?

Then he started to cast quick Healing Spells onto her, in rapid succession, to help her Spirit take hold again and mend all the damage that she had sustained when she died.
She was going to be OK! I felt such a relief! I quickly got up and went to her.
"Welcome back!"

"Thanks," she said weakly. "I've not been of much use so far, haven't I ?"
I wanted to reply, but I was cut off: "Yer not gonna be much use still, with no Axe, Lady."
That damned Rogue!
But he was right, without her Axe, she would not be able to tank.

Maybe we can find your Axe, I wanted to say, but I held it back. They easily could have dropped it just about anywhere and we would never be able to find it.
"Shall we go find the Shaman? I need to resurrect him too, I think?" Said the Priest.
He seemed eager to go, I, however, felt no such eagerness at all.
But yes, we should go find him, even if we would decide to get out of here.

"Do you remember in which direction he went?" I asked.
"If you could light up, we can go look", said the Rogue.
He was right, again. I went to the fireplace to create a Fiery-Orb, that I could attach to my staff. With the fire burning, it would not be such a drain on my Mana to create it and keep it alight.
It was a feat I was particularly proud of: a well-prepared and well-studied Mage would never find herself left in the dark. It was my great desire to reach the mastery-level of this spell. Then I would be able to cast it instantly, no matter what circumstance and never be caught off-guard again!

We searched and found just his shield after a while.
Why had he thrown off his shield? Shaman don't do Berserk.
On we went, looking on either side, until we found the ground slope down and become sandy.
There were marks in the sand, something heavy had been dragged along here.
The track was going out of sight, round the corner, where I had lost that Naga.

"I don't like this", said the Rogue, and I agreed wholeheartedly.
"I go to check it out. Be ready in case things turn bad."
And he Vanished, right in front of our eyes.

Since we could not see where he went, we could only wait, in anticipation of his return.
The Warrior had stashed her shield and was wielding a Battle-Axe. It was an old Axe and it looked terrifying and she looked really menacing, but I knew it was mostly show. She was not as trained, nor skilled for that matter, in the use of such a weapon. A lucky hit would probably kill an opponent, but to have to depend on luck does not let you grow old.

She was practicing swings and stances, to get into the feel for her weapon.
"I wish that he would hurry", she said, "I could do with some real practice!"
I smiled: you could see that holding a big Two-hander did do something to a Warrior.


2H-Warrior




















"I found him", said the Rogue, stepping into the light, "and I don't like it.
They have laid him on some makeshift altar or something.
It is too dark to make out anything else, so we have to take position around the corner.
If you girls would go in front, then I can keep an eye on our life-insurance", he chuckled, pointing at the Undead.

I wanted to protest, but this was his area of expertise and it would not do to speak against it.
Still, I did not like it one bit, how he commandeered us 'girls' around.

We went past the corner and we could see a pile of stones with the great bulk of the Tauren on top. There was nothing else to see, so we checked both sides of the tunnel. When those seemed clear we advanced towards the Shaman's corpse. They hadn't been very careful with him and he was going to need some serious healing, once he got resurrected.

"Well, there are no Naga here," said the Warrior, "let's get him ress'ed and then we can go on."
"Perhaps you forgot how you got killed, Lady. I told you how I don't like it here. So I suggest we be very careful."
What was going on here? The Rogue being all concerned all of a sudden and she was so impatient, I hardly recognized her.
I looked at the Priest, was he noticing anything? It was his first time here, it could all be normal as far as he would know.

But it did not feel normal to me at all. "He is right," I said to her, "we must be careful."
"Are you going to say the same thing now as your Rogue-friend?"
She said it in such a way, that left little doubt about what she meant. What had gotten into her?
"I think you behave strange", I said.
"And I think that I am going to pee, if we are not going to ress him quick," she said.
"I think I am going to do that anyways."
And she walked out of the circle of light.

"I can start the preparations while we wait for her to come back", said the Priest in an effort to defuse the situation.
"Can you see if there is any Magic hidden in that pile of stones?"
I casted a Magic Detection spell. It came up empty. "It's clear", I told him.
"Great!" He said, "that saves us a lot of work, dragging him to the side." "I can begin once she returns, OK?"
"You can start, as far as I'm concerned, darling! I'm nearly done."
A few moments later she stepped back into the light.
"I'm fine now," she said, "I really needed that. Let's get our fuzzy friend back, OK? Then we can go."

The Priest looked at the Rogue, who said; "Are you sure you are OK?"
"Yes, I'm fine!" she said. "I will shut up now, OK? Then we can get going at least."
"OK, then", grumbled the Rogue.
The Priest started to cast.

"I get sooo pissed when people keep asking me if I'm OK, that I really have to take a piss.
But now I have pissed and I still feel pissed."
"I thought you were going to shut up, Lady," said the Rogue in his familiar cold tone. "He is casting, you know?"
"He is casting, he is casting", she echoed. "Let's see how he is going to cast this!"
And she swung her Axe onto the Priest, but the Rogue was quicker and blocked her swing.
"Mind-Control!" he shouted.

Mind-Control! That was why she acted so strange and now she was trying to kill the Priest!
I did had my doubts about the priest when he said he might go Shadow, but she was attacking him now! And he was still casting the Resurrection-spell.
So where was it coming from then?!

She came in for another swing and the Rogue had to parry.
He was in a disadvantaged position, due to the Priest limiting his movements.
"Don't kill her!" I shouted.
"Find the one who is doing this!", he said with a grunt.
A flash of panic struck through my body. Then the training took over.
Detect Magic would be of little use here. The caster had to be in Line of Sight, but still we could not see him.
So he must be Stealthed.

I ran towards the side of the tunnel, casting explosions of instant Arcane damage around me. Nothing here.
To the other side.

Beng!
Beng!
Beng!

The explosions lit up the wall, but there was nothing.
That left the far end of the tunnel.
I ran again.

Beng!
Beng!

The noise reflected on the walls and rang in my ears.

Beng!
Beng!

I saw them!
"There's two of them", I howled.
"Satyrs!"






























I had to make them stop casting, in whatever way possible.
They were too far apart to hit with an explosion, and that would take too many hits anyway. Not to mention the huge amount of Mana. How could I take out both of them at the same time?

Only recently, I had learned a special Spell, to turn an adversary into a harmless sheep.
But just one and only for a little while. It had to do. Luckily it was not such a long cast and poof! - one fluffy sheep was walking up and down, aimlessly.

Now for the other one! I started to cast a fireball, it burned him, it was effective, but it was not going to make him stop casting. Not until he would be dead.
I tried a volley of Arcane Missiles, every hit of which interrupted his casting, but only for an instant. They costed too much Mana anyway and I needed Mana to re-cast the sheep-spell, before it would run out.

Frustrated, I swung my staff at him and I hit him with a satisfying bash.
That interrupted his casting too!
And so I settled into this weird routine;
Bash!

Bash!

Bash!

Sheep!

and again Bash!

I was not used to fight fights in melee. My arms started to hurt and I ran short of breath.
This Satyr was like a statue, enduring my hits as if he was in trance.
He had taken quite some damage, but still not enough that I could risk to finish him off quickly.

Bash!

Bash!

How's the sheep!?

Bash!

Bash!

"Guys!" I wailed, "Hurry up!"

Bash!

Bash!






















"Welcome back!" said the Warrior, "You really saved my skin!"
"Thanks! You're welcome," I said automatically.
What happened?
"Yes. Welcome back", said a deep Tauren voice.
"You were dead when we found you", said the Rogue.
"I have ress'ed you" smiled the Priest. "I told you I would do it!"
"You probably ran out of Mana," said the Rogue, "or one broke free from his Sheep-Spell early. It does happen sometimes. But you did a good job. We got her out of the Mind-Control!"

It started to come back to me, The Mind-Control! Was it really over? The Rogue was still saying nice things!
"And the Satyrs?" I asked? "There were two Satyrs!"
"We did not see no Satyrs", he said. "They must have run away. The Cowards!"
He was back at his cold behavior, but I was too happy to be alive again to complain and I had seen that there was more behind that cold facade.
"Five more minutes, OK?" I said.
"Yes. You rest now. He is going to cook something for us" rumbled the Shaman, pointing at the Priest.



"Fish! It's good for the brain", said the Priest. Happy smiles and all.
Fish! I did not want to spoil his good mood, but fish?! I was not going to eat that!
Those cold and smelly things!
But this was not smelling bad at all, actually...

"Sagefish!" He declared. "The food of the Wise!"
"It brings Health to the body and Power to the mind.
And it is a good source of Mana too", he added.
He passed the Sagefish around and soon we were all sitting, munching down on warm, deliciously smelling fish.

"Why can you even cook?" asked the Warrior mouthful.
It was as if she had pushed a button, and he sprang into action.
"I was an apprentice cook in the kitchens of Lordaeron, the seat of the King."
His voice had a different ring to it, all of a sudden.

"A coveted place of work, where I was to become a Master Cook, in the fullness of time.
I used to dream, of how it would sound: Gregorius Raleigh Burch, Master Chef, at Your Highness' service!
But you can call me Gregory, or Greg," he said and went on:
"I was named Raleigh after my fathers best friend, Raleigh Andrean, who was the greatest Chef of all of Lordaeron!"
His rattling came to a sudden stop.
"And then we all died", he concluded.



"I will cook some more, for later, if you guys want?"
There were sounds of agreement coming from all of us and he went back to his cooking.

Cooked Sagefish





















It was strange to think that this Undead guy, Gregory, he must have been quite young still, at that time and at the same time, it all had happened so long ago, that he was very much older than any of us.

"My Name is Lah'Mawhani, I volunteered, Hani for short, and she is called Lah'Wilani, we just call her Wilani, or Lani, if she is nice." I smiled.
"Hani and Lani hmm? Nice to make your acquaintance", he replied. "Are you related? Your names being so similar?"
"She is my mothers youngest sister, but I am older than she is", I said with a big grin.
"Not even by one Moon!" She blurted out.

I smiled again. "We grew up together," I continued, "we were inseparable, until she decided that she wanted to become a Warrior and had to leave for her training. They must have bashed her on the head a few times too many, because she never was the same after she came back!" And I dodged out of the way.
"And your Mom never bashed you enough, young lady!" She sprayed bits of fish and tried to hit me, but I was already gone.
"Yes, I can see the resemblance, you two are evenly matched", he said wisely.
And that ended the hostilities.

















The Shaman had been sitting quietly, eating. Tauren get their names from the Earthmother and those are sacred, not to be revealed to anyone but family or the closest of friends. And everyone knew that it was no use to ask a Rogue for his name, they had so many, they changed names quicker than they changed their clothes.

He had gotten up already, not getting as much sustenance from the fish as we Mana-users did and was doing something with his bags.
Probably putting poison onto his daggers again. I could not tell, he was sitting with his back towards us.
They never did anything into the open if they could prevent it.

But turning his back to us, that showed lack of concern. I did not expect him to trust us, a Rogue does not trust anyone, but that meant that he felt we could not be of any real threat to him and that meant that this guy was really not what we thought him to be when took him in our party, back in Orgrimmar. But if he was indeed that good, he would not give away any information like that.
It made my brain start to hurt. This was a dead end.
I could not figure this guy out.























"One Silver for your thoughts?" said the Warrior with a smile.
It shook me awake.
"None of your business", I said, airily.
"Are you thinking about your Rogue-friend again?"
"Are you being M-C-ed again?" I retorted.

He is not my friend, I wanted to say, but that would be just oil on the fire.
She looked disappointed, that I was not giving her more leverage, it was almost as if I could hear her say: Your Mom will hear of this!


"She must be a strong Spirit to have both you as a sister and her as her daughter", said the Shaman.

I could not believe my ears! Was he reading my mind?!
Tauren never spoke much and when they did it was always in some mysterious way.
It was things like: "Ah! I have just the thing for you." Or: "I have been expecting you."
Sure Lady, you sell things, that is why come I to you. Something you say to all your customers.


"Had," said Lani flatly, "she was killed by Murlocs."

By nightfall my Mother had still not returned from the other village.
I wanted to go find her, so desperately that they had to lock me up; I was not allowed to go out in the dark.


"They found her after four days", said Lani.

What was left of her!! I screamed internally. Murlocs were never to pass over an easy meal.
They could not even find her skull! How was she going to be taken up amongst the ancestors!?


"She is in the care of the Earthmother", spoke the Shaman again.

Yea, sure, I thought, whatever!


"I only heard of it when I came back from my training", said Lani with a bitter tone in her voice.

I had wanted to go tell her!
Oh! how I wanted to go find her, but we did not know where her training was held or when she would return.
All those Moons that I was unable to speak to her! We had always shared everything!

And when she had come back, it was not the same as before. Nothing was the same!
She was always out, practicing this stance or that weapon or whatever they did!
All I had left were my studies.
















"Anyway," said Lani getting up, "it is time to get a move on."
"Yes," said the Rogue, returning to the fire, "I have been thinking about that."
"I think we should have a vote on it," he said, "but only after you guys have heard my concern."
This guy kept amazing me: an Orc, who was thinking and spoke more than one-word sentences. Incredible!

"You all may have noticed the strange determination shown by the Naga.
Although they are sentient, they never behave any different from aggressive animals, much the same as Murlocs do and that is not what I have seen here today.

And then there is the Mind-Control." He looked us over, sitting around the fire.
"The odd Satyr-Rogue, perhaps, stealing from the Naga, minding his own business, who would not dare to attack a group of five. That is all of the Satyr we have seen in here for many years.

And now suddenly there are casters who can do Mind-Control and risk to attack us! What reason might they have?
And then there're the little things: her missing Axe, that makeshift altar where they dragged you onto. Uncommon behavior, all without a clear reason.

We could go back to Orgrimmar, report it and everyone would laugh it away and not take it serious. But we would be alive and well, save for some cheap jokes about our lost Honor.
Or we could go on and see what we can find out.
This is a good group, even though she can not tank, unless we find her a suitable weapon.
We can work around that, if we care to do that.
But it is up to you all", he concluded.


"I can make a Portal to Orgrimmar right now, but I can also do that later", I added unsurely.
"Yes," he said, "but what do you want yourself?"
"I, I don't know."

I was thinking about those boots that I hoped to finish soon. They only needed a pair of Iridescent Pearls. It was the main reason I had come here. Foraging Murlocs often found pearls that they kept without doing anything with them. I would put those to much better use. And it would be quite some time until I would feel the urge to make another trip here.

"I would like to go on," said the Priest, "it is my first time here, but that means I can't really say much about it."
"I would go on, if you guys would go", said Lani.
"The Earthmother has given me a small task", said the Shaman.
"She is patient and forgets not. I will find again a group, if I must."

You had to get used to Tauren-speak: He would go in here for sure, today or on another day, just to do some simple thing, like putting a flower somewhere or pouring some water over a stone and it would be done when it was done and that was then the right moment.
They sure lived their lives different from us, I thought.




flowervial









Everyone was getting up and went on preparing their bags and things. Somehow a silent agreement had formed. I had seen this before, in groups that had been together for a long time, like Lani and me, but this group was only made today!
Even so, it was miraculous and a good sign too.

I had nothing to pack, so I went to the fire to replenish the Fiery-Orb.
While the fire was still burning, it was like free Mana.

"Here, for later", said Gregory, and he put a Cooked Sagefish in my hand.
"Thanks!" I smiled. I was not used to be given food.
Mages were always asked for food, since we can magically create it, and drinks, too.
 
The drinks would replenish Mana, like nearly all drinks do that aren't booze, but the food was only good for keeping you alive. It did not give any other benefit.
Unlike these fish. He was right; They were really good for the brain.
I smiled, I think I had become a fish-convert!

















We set off, Wilani in the front, at the edge of the light, the Rogue behind her at her flank.
They were casting long shadows that merged into the unknown blackness.

I held the Fiery-Orb on my Staff high in front of me, making it shine as bright as possible, in order to have a decent gap between us.
The Priest and the Shaman were right behind me, ready to spring into action if those in front got jumped by something nasty.

The ground still sloped downwards and was covered with sand everywhere, so there were no hidden pits to fear and we made good progress.


From time to time, or when there was a sharp turn, they signaled us to a halt, to listen.
Our ears were peaked and we tried to stop our breathing and if we could have, our heartbeats, to pick up any sound in this stifling silence.
But only sounds that we had brought with us were heard.


Only after a long time, we started to hear a sound, a constant drone.
It was the surf and the accompanying ground-swell, conducted all the way down, here, through the great weight of rock and water above us.
We were going under the sea!







Other sounds of water added themselves to the drone, drips in unseen pools and such.
The sand was now wet and this made the going a lot easier. The air was also markedly cooler and a tension that had been unnoticed left the group.

I dimmed the Orb a bit, the walls here were shiny and wet and had their own pale glow of blue light.
That was a welcome change and quite bright after that long walk in complete darkness.

We moved along more freely and I dimmed the Orb some more, to let us get used to the different kind of light and to not alert any nasties from far away.


The ceiling got higher and the tunnel narrower and it started to branch out.
Most of these branches were dead ends, some literally so, there lay bones of unfortunate ones, who had taken a wrong turn whilst trying to flee, or they might have been ambushed with no way to escape.
I looked around while we waited till our vanguard had checked them all out.

This then, must be the right tunnel but I don't remember it being so narrow.
But it widened soon enough.
The sand here was covered with a thin layer of water and there were huge shallow puddles that held big blind crabs.
They were harmless and quite tasty. We really should get some on our way back.
But first, pearls!





Iridescent Pearl










We must be getting close to where the Murlocs would be, there was more and more water everywhere.
But it was not the Murlocs we found.

"Naga!" whispered Wilani back to us.
The Rogue Vanished on the spot, ready for an ambush, while we held back a little more.
And poor little Lani was there all alone, it seemed.





2H-Warrior






It was an Elite patrol, big, gleaming scales, one with a trident, the other a huge saber.
They rushed in, ready to slay this trespasser fast.

She blocked the incoming trident but was too late to completely dodge the one with the saber.
It hit her on the shoulder and slid off her armor.

He closed in to flank her and was nearly hit by her enormous Axe-blade.
She spun the Axe round like a madman, but they were undeterred.
Much heavier than she was, there could only be one outcome.
A well-trained Warrior could have given them a run for their money, but she was not going to be a serious threat.


Trident-guy was harassing her, forcing her to lose ground while Sabre-guy was moving around, looking to get closer.
They were working to pin her to the wall.
That did give her some cover, but it made escaping virtually impossible.



Sabre-guytrident-guy



It seemed they had found their positions now and they began their onslaught in earnest.
Perhaps they felt it had taken long enough.
Someone else had the same thought and Sabre-guy reared up with a dagger in his back.
It put his throat in the path of the oncoming Axe and he was nearly decapitated by it.
The Rogue finished him off quickly and took his daggers back.

"Let me have this one, OK?" panted Lani. "I need the exercise."
She changed tactics, mostly parrying now, her Axe was so much slower than the Trident.
She choked up on the Axe-blade and started to use it more like a shield.
A very edgy shield, that she could put forward suddenly with her other hand.

It suited her tanking instincts much better and I was surprised to see the fight turn around.
Up to now I had been a bit concerned for her safety and could not see her win this fight at all.
Of course, we were ready to step in if needed.


The Naga was spending a lot more energy with his long slashes and his arms were losing scales, but he was still so much stronger. How long was this fight going to last?
I was flexing my hands, ready to cast, a Frost-bolt or something, but I would not interfere, nor make her lose her concentration.
Come on,Lani! I thought.

















The Naga was slowing down, unable to keep up his frenzy but his blind determination was not affected.
It was slowly becoming a spectacle instead of a fight.

Suddenly the great bulk of the Shaman stepped past me and towards the Naga.
He was carrying a Staff now and not his shield and mace.
An instant Frost-shock hit the Naga and was followed by a Lightning-bolt.

"Mine!" Shouted Lani.
"The Tide of your opportunity has passed", rumbled the Shaman.
He flung another Lightning-bolt while Lani swung onto the Naga once more.
The Frost-bolt I had been keeping at the ready hit him at the same time.
The Rogue stepped in to finish him off, but I think he was already dead when he hit the ground.

Lani was steaming! Her body as well as her anger.
"I was going to finish him myself!" she shouted at the Shaman.
His silence made her even more angry. Fearing she was going to attack him, I called her Name: "Wilani!" on which she directed her anger to me. And she was still holding that big Axe!
"Please," I said, "put down the Axe, Lani, before someone gets hurt."

A tiny bit in me was afraid that she was going to say something like: "I will show you who is getting hurt!" but to my relief, she tossed the Axe aside, only to pick up the Trident that the Naga had used.
"It is a bit dinged," she said, "but I can have that repaired", talking as if she was at the market of used goods! Her anger had left her without a trace as if nothing had happened!
I looked at the Rogue and I saw him put away his Sap, he had been ready to hit her on the head!
He felt my gaze and came towards me, "We must talk soon", he said quietly.

I looked at the Priest. He had not said anything and looked like he was nailed to the ground.
I went to him and said: "Hey Gregory, could you perhaps check on Wilani if she needs any healing?"
It seemed to unfreeze him.
We went on, leaving the two dead Naga behind.


2H-Axe-L












Lani was talking to Gregory, probably explaining to him all the benefits of her new prize.
The Rogue came to walk beside me and handed me her Axe, if I could put it away for now.
"Sure," I said, "but I think that was not what you were going talk to me about."
"Those two Satyrs," he said, "can you remember how you were killed?"
"That was not what I was expecting, either", I said.
"I will come to that", he replied. "You were not visibly hurt, so I would like to know how you were killed."
"I can really not remember", I said. "I had one Sheeped and I was hitting the other one with my Staff and I was getting pretty tired. Then I woke up."
"Just tired?" he asked. "It is important", he added.
"Well," I started, not very happy to speak about it, "I was feeling very much alone and desperate. I did not know how long I could keep up the fight."

"You know Wilani for a long time", he said, it was not a question.
"You feel she is not the same as before and it makes you feel alone."
"What are you getting at?!" I exclaimed irritated.
"Hmm", he said, "I have to ask you to keep this a secret, for your own safety as well as for hers.
But I think that she was not Mind-Controlled and that you were killed by enhanced desperation and loneliness. Let me finish.

This Spell is called Induced Insanity and there are a few Satyrs that have gained this tremendous power.
That they would be here is so unlikely, I can not even begin to think about it, but it seems to be the case nevertheless."

"Why do you think she was not MC-ed?" I said, "We all saw her trying to kill the Priest!"
"Mind-Control takes over a persons will instantly and makes him act against his own will.
Induced Insanity makes use of what is already present and enhances it till Insanity is reached.
You saw how she gradually worked herself up to the point she was ready to strike, didn't you?"
"Yes!" I said, "And you fed her even more until she flipped!"
"Well, yes," he said, "I had to, to see if she was willing to go through with it."
"That is terrible! Do you mean to say she is a murderous person?", I said, getting angry.
"No," he said, "I don't think that she is. It was planted in her, most likely at her Training. We are not exactly sure how."

Her Training! I thought, I always had known she had not been the same after that.
I said: "I know you are not going to tell me who 'We' are and to trust a Rogue is a sure way to lose your life and everything, but I can only say that I think you´re right.
This outburst of hers, that vanished without a trace, that is not normal behavior. And I don't want to lose her completely to this Insanity.
What must I do, to make it stop?"
"We don't know", he said. "All I can ask is to keep an eye on her, knowing that she can not be expected to be her own self all the time."

"Are you going to inform the others?" I asked.
"No," he said, "Gregory is still pretty young, if you can call it that, and he," pointing behind him, "he knows things without the need of anyone telling him.
He will be our greatest help in this, just because he is who he is."

"You knew about this, when we were picking you up in Orgrimmar," I said accusingly, "and you made them not choose that Warlock-girl."
"I expected it", he said, "and no, it happened like that.
You have my word", he said with a grin.
The word of a Rogue.
I showed a sparse grin too.









I saw how Gregory and Wilani were chatting.
It is always a good thing when the Tank and her Healer have a good understanding. The performance of the whole of the group, and not to forget, it's survivability, depend on the synergy between those two. They are the core of every successful party.
Since the ground was covered with water, ankle-deep only, we made a lot of splashing noise. It was unavoidable. So our voices were hardly to blame, if we were heard.

"I have been thinking", I said to the Rogue.
"Those Naga at the start, they must have used a shortcut. There is no way they took that same long path over the dry sand that we have followed. Especially that nearly-dead Naga, he would have been dead even before half-way."
He looked at me in a way that was hard to describe.
"And we didn't see anything." I continued. "We were so occupied with the altar and the dead Shaman and the attack that followed, that we have missed it."
"Very sharp!", he said.
It was my turn to show a grin.
"Maybe, there is a hole in the ceiling that they use, if it is high up, we would never see it."
"Or a Portal, perhaps?", he said.
"Those Sea-witches are not real Mages", I replied, "they are Shamanistic."
"Hmm. Intriguing", he said, "and very sharp of you!"
I showed an even bigger grin.
That was the moment that Lani turned her head towards us, to tell us that soon we would be running into Murlocs, and if we could be more quiet from now on.
Oh! I could hear her already, as soon as she would have the slightest opportunity.










There were caves here, along both sides of the tunnel. All filled with deep pools of water. The ideal place for Murlocs, so we approached quiet and carefully.
But there were no Murlocs. In one cave we found three Naga Sea-witches.
It was a short fight: they were startled and tried to get away to be able to cast from afar, but the pool was too small for that and they succumbed quickly to the onslaught of the Rogue and the Warrior, aided by the casting of the Shaman and me.
All the other pools were empty.
Till, after we checked yet another empty pool, we heard a sound.
Quietly again, we moved closer, Rogue in front, this time.

It was clearly talking, in strange harsh voices and I had no idea of even what language was spoken.
"Dwarves!" Whispered the Rogue, and signaled us to stay back.
He slowly went closer while we waited.
Dwarves! I thought. They are very dangerous! I only had seen them from far away. Short but strong and always busy and not to be underestimated. They were as clever as any old Troll Witch-doctor!
The Rogue winked us to come to him and we silently reached by his side, at the mouth of a big cave.











Quite a bit inside, there were two Dwarves, clad in Naga-scale armor.
One was sitting and the other one standing over him and doing most of the talking.

He had gray hair and beard and his armor clearly showed that he was of higher rank than the other Dwarf.
His subordinate had brown hair and a shortish beard. He was sitting down, his bare feet hanging in the water and he seemed not so much bothered by the dressing down from his boss.
He had taken off his gloves and shoulder-pads and was only holding a burning torch.



Bare-footed DwarfBoss Dwarf



They were fairly loud, not trying to be quiet at all while they argued. So they must feel pretty safe here. That was a thing of concern.
We all moved back, away from the mouth of the cave, to make a plan.




"They are heavily armored", said the Rogue, "something to be expected of Dwarves, of course, but it is clear that someone is spending a decent amount of gold on their gear. Naga-scale armor is not cheap to make and since it is always wet and shiny, it is highly resistant against Fire." Here he looked at me.

That was bad news, because Dwarves are by Nature resistant to any Frost-damage. One of the many reasons why they were so dangerous.
"They also wear chain-mail-cloaks", he continued, "which is bad news for me."
"So, what to do?" he concluded.

I was surprised, I had expected him to come up with a plan, but it was the Shaman who spoke:
"The Earthmother has showed me this cave in my Dream.
It is here where I must fulfill my task."

Well, that ruled out quietly sneaking away and leaving them be, I thought.
"Here is not their righteous place, they must go."Said the Shaman again.
Wilani said: "I will take on the barefooted Dwarf, if you can keep his boss busy."
"OK," said the Rogue, we will take out the younger Dwarf first."












So, we had a plan.
We moved into position and the Shaman started to cast a Lightning-bolt onto the boss-Dwarf. He wavered but swiftly gained his composure and readied his shield and a short sturdy Axe.
With a loud cry, he stormed at the Shaman.
Wilani stormed past him, to charge at the younger Dwarf, who was getting up hastily.

She hit him with her Trident flat on the back while he dodged to escape her fury. Staggering, he swung his torch in her direction while she came in for another hit.
The torch left a swirling string of fire behind that coiled around her arms and head. She screamed in agony and went clear past him, backing off in pain.

"Wilani!" I shouted and went all-out, casting Arcane-missiles onto her assailant. "Get away from him!"
She was badly hit and I heard the Priest casting Healing-spells onto her while I shot more missiles. The Dwarf did not like that at all and came running towards me.

I engaged him and casted my Fire-ward-spell; we Mages can endure a decent amount of Fire this way.
He whipped me with Fire while I kept casting volley after volley.
When he saw how little it affected me, he took his Axe from his side and advanced towards me. He would chop me to bits with that thing! I quickly casted a Frost-Nova and Blinked, out of his reach.

Even though the Frost had little effect on him, it froze solid the shallow water he was standing in. He used his Axe to cut himself free but he had to be careful not to chop off his own toes!
I looked around. Wilani had moved to the boss-Dwarf and was taking turns with the Rogue. They had little impact on the sturdy Dwarf but he was becoming more and more agitated.

"Help me finish off this one!"I called out to the Shaman. The younger Dwarf had freed himself and was now hell-bound on turning me into fish-food. I had to run for my life.
The Lightning-bolts of the Shaman, made him stagger a bit and that gave me a chance to cast another volley.
We were getting him down!

In the meantime the Rogue had received a nasty gash and the Priest had to heal him a lot. This upset the boss-Dwarf so much that he decided to go kill the Priest first.
Foaming with anger he ran to poor Gregory who froze on the spot.
But I had underestimated him. He casted a protecting Shield onto himself and sprang out of the way.
That shield would only hold one or maybe two hits, so he had to run for his life.
Now everyone was running!

Except the Shaman. He threw another Lightning-bolt at the Dwarf, who fell to the ground.
I ran towards him to cast an Arcane-explosion. And that was the end of him.

I took his Axe and shouted: "Here! Wilani! Take this!" I waved the Axe in the air and she came running to me.
Now she had a weapon again that enabled her to use her shield.
She dropped the Trident and took out her shield.
Then she let out a blood-curdling Challenging Shout!
Our Warrior was back in business!!


Wilani challenges








She ran to Intercept the boss-Dwarf, blocking him from reaching the Priest.
This was a language he understood and he let out a Challenging Shout of his own.
Shorter and sturdier, he was difficult for her to handle, but she was backed-up by a healing Priest while he wasn't. She could take more risk than him, and it seemed to cool him down from his anger, having to parry most of her attacks.

Backing up now, he saw how the odds were, definitely not in his favor.
I started to cast Arcane-missiles on him and he made a run for it, deeper into the cave.
Lani was on his heels and we were all running behind her.
But then, suddenly he stopped and bursted out laughing. The laugh of a madman.

He started to talk now, in his strange, coarse, language and winked us to come closer, while he went back, carefully.
We followed him, deeper into the cave and then we saw what he had seen: Murlocs!
Dozens of Murlocs!
They were walking and sitting around in the knee-deep water.
So, that was were all the Murlocs had gone; they were imprisoned here by the Dwarves.
And now their warder was dead. It was all to clear what would happen if he would run into there and stir up that big group. Once they had killed him, they would not stop there. They would be free!
Nothing would keep them from running into poor us.
He laughed again, seeing how we were taken aback. And even louder when he saw our anxious glances over towards the Murlocs.
He was clearly mad and it made him the more dangerous.

Lani backed off a little, by the time she would catch up with him, they both would be spotted by the Murlocs. This was cause for even more joy to the Dwarf and he laughed again.
"He must not be allowed to escape" said the Shaman.
And I shot a Sheep-spell at the dwarf.

It was a desperate act: once he would turn back into a Dwarf, he would be his own fresh and undamaged Self again. But this way at least, he could not laugh any-more.
We all went back a little more while the sheep wandered aimlessly about.
The Warrior ran her new Axe along a Sharpening stone, but that Dwarf-made Axe had little to gain, so sharp as it was.
The Rogue applied new poisons onto his daggers.
The Priest topped-off everyone's Health.
And the Sheep wandered over towards the Murlocs!

"Run!" I said, while I casted another Sheep-spell onto it, just to be sure.
If we were lucky they would only kill the sheep and be busy eating it.
It would buy us some time until the first inquisitive Murlocs came wandering this way.




Wandering sheep










I felt a stone in my stomach.
No-one had said anything. No-one had blamed me for acting impulsively.
I wished we could run away. So many Murlocs!

The Shaman looked at me and said: "You are in Touch with the Earthmother.
She works through you. Know that you are blessed."


It felt as if a bomb had gone off inside me!
I stepped away for a bit to regain my composure.
Those Tauren! Always so unexpected!
I let out a deep sigh.


Big emotions were wrestling inside me to gain the upper hand.
I wanted to cry!
I wanted to scream!

But there was no time for that now!
We were going to have an enormous fight on our hands soon.
It HAD to wait.














I felt anxious, what could we hope to bring to bear, facing so many Murlocs?
A mage can indeed fight many when they are in the same spot, by casting spells that cover a greater area and do damage to all in that reach. But this was such a big group, what if I would miss some?
Those not affected would certainly come to grab and kill me instantly.

Frost-nova, yes, and then Blizzard to make ice-shards rain down on them.
I was going over the actions in my mind.
But such a big group! I never had taken on so many, ever!


I was pacing up and down, whilst thinking it over, when my foot hit the torch that the younger dwarf had used. It lay in the shallow water, extinguished.
Perhaps I could light it again and use it to keep the Murlocs at bay!
I picked it up and went back to the others.


"Where is the Rogue? I asked."
"He went to have a look and maybe draw the attention of a few wandering Murlocs." said Gregory.
"We are waiting for him to return. He won't be long."

So they had started without letting me know!
Or had I been in thoughts so much that I had not heard them?
I looked at the others, they were all watching the spot where the Rogue would show up again, on his way back.
How many Murlocs would he bring?
What if they would come all at once?!




This uneasy feeling was still there.
I looked at the Shaman. He seemed calm enough. Even Gregory had spoken with just excitement in his voice.
The only one who was some kind of tense was Wilani, but she had to spring into action as soon as the first Murloc would show up. Her normal Warrior's job.

So why was I so nervous then? No-one had suggested I should take on that whole group.
It did not matter, I still felt a stone in my stomach.















There he is! I wanted to shout, but I did not want to make a spectacle of myself and I was able to say nothing. He was running towards Wilani, who was standing in front. "Four!" He said, a little out of breath, while he ran past her and then he Vanished.
The Murlocs ran straight towards Wilani and since they could not see their former target, they went to assault the Warrior.

This was what she had trained for, making sure all the Murlocs would attack her and only her.
I targeted the one that was closest to her and casted a fire-bolt onto it. The Shaman and the Rogue were doing the same and the Murloc was going down really fast. Gregory was tossing many heals onto her, since she was getting hit from four sides, so he was really busy. When I saw she turned to the next Murloc, I followed her lead while the first Murloc died at the hands of the Rogue. With one less, it was a little easier and number two was going down even faster. When it was the turn of Murloc number three, I saw that Gregory was using his wand, in between the now fewer heals that he had to do. The last one died almost directly after the third.

That was a well-executed fight! Nothing had gone wrong! I gave a cheer of relief.
"There are at least ten times more, Lady", said the Rogue. "I don't think we want gamble on being this lucky, ten times in a row!"
Ohh! This guy! What was I thinking?! He was just the same as before!















"Well I have found this!" I said and held up the Dwarven-torch. If we can light it again, we can keep those Murlocs at bay!"
"Do you know how to light it?", he asked.
"Well, it is a torch...", I started.
I looked at it closer: the handle was made of wood, but the wood was un-burned. The part on the top was made of metal and that was blackened by fire. Had they used some magic to keep the fire in-place? It had been different from my Fiery-Orb, that did not whip-out strings of fire.
"But it is unlike any torch I have seen before. I don't know."

I felt deflated, my initial enthusiasm had vanished without a trace.
"Perhaps I know", he said, "if I may have a look please?"
"Sure", I said. "But wait, what is this?"
As I held the torch upside-down, I saw on the bottom of the metal part a sort of button. I pushed on it, in the hope to light the torch, but something fell out instead. It dropped in the shallow water where it left an oily circle that slowly became bigger.
I picked it up from the water: it was a small glass vial, nearly empty, only a little oil and water was in it.

"Well, now we can be sure it is not going to work." said the Rogue.
"I can put it back in." I said hastily.
"That's not the problem, Lady", said the Rogue. "The oil is finished.
And by chance I did not happen to bring any oil with me." He added wryly.
"In my bags there is some fish-oil." came the deep voice of the Shaman.
"Shaman need it to Water-walk." he clarified. "It is for future use that I gather it."

"Well, it is not Fire-oil, but it might still work." said the Rogue. "I probably have to adjust the burner."
Since he seemed to know what to do with it, I handed him the torch and the Shaman gave him a vial, somewhat bigger than the one that had fallen out.
"I need something from my bags for that." he continued and turned away.
"Keep watching out for any Murlocs!" he said over his shoulder.
















"Even if we can keep all the Murlocs in one spot, I can not kill all of them on my own! They have too much health, I will be Out Of Mana before they are dead."
I was explaining to the others that I could not be expected to cast area-damage-spells onto all those Murlocs. But I think I was just trying to convince myself that I was not going to do that.
Somehow a pity. It is the trademark of a Mage to slay many in one go. But one has to be realistic.

"To kill without need is not the way of the Earthmother." said the Shaman.
"You can say that again!", said Wilani.
"There was nothing to Need for: empty shells and broken stones! Nothing worth anything, we threw it all away."
She and Gregory had searched the dead Murlocs for pearls.
"Not even a fish-head", said Gregory. "They must be as hungry as church-rats!"
I had no idea what kind of rats that must be, but if bony-Gregory thought they were hungry, they certainly must be starving.


"Their freedom is in their hearts", said the Shaman, "They will be glad to leave from here. Then Her task can be fulfilled without disruption."
"Hah!" we heard and we turned towards the Rogue: He was holding up the flaming torch. It was giving-off a lot of black smoke and did not look at all like how it had been burning when the Dwarf had held it.
And not just smoke! There was an enormous fish-smell coming from that thing!

"You guys go hide out of sight, quickly", said the Rogue "while I will go round them up and herd them out of this cave. I don't know how long this thing will keep on burning, so I don't want to waste any time.
Now go quickly! And don't worry about me, I can always Vanish!" he told us while he ran further into the cave.

We all got up, like stung by a bee and scrambled to find some good hiding spots along the side of the cave.
Oh! To run in without preparation is a sure way to die!
But it could not be helped. He was already gone.



















I had only just found a spot when we heard the Rogue scream. His voice was getting louder, he was coming back towards us! "Out of the way!" he yelled as we saw him running back. He kept on running and instead of herding the Murlocs, they were chasing him! The fish-smell from the torch was irresistible for the ravenous Murlocs.
More and more Murlocs were running past us, even when he already went out of the mouth of the cave.
I could not help wondering if Vanish would help if you smelled like fish.


Murloc



The last Murlocs had ran out off the cave but we all stayed where we were. What if they would come back?
The Shaman was the first one to get up from his hiding-spot.
"Now that they are free, they won't come back." he said.
"This has been a bad place for them. However, for your comfort, I will inspect the tunnel outside this cave."
"I will come along, in case you need Healing." said Gregory.
"We all come" said Wilani, standing up.
There was not much else left to do, so I followed without much enthusiasm.



At least we did not get killed because of that brash act. It could easily have gone bad.
Very bad indeed.
As for Mr. "Lee-rogue Jenkins" himself, it still had to be seen if Vanish had saved his skin.
Of-course I did not wish him to be dead but such an irresponsible act would warrant some kind of repercussion, would it not? And what would we encounter if we had to go look for his corpse?
No, it would be best if he would show up soon.



















But the tunnel looked empty in both directions.
Wilani bashed on her shield with the flat of her Axe and shouted: "Hey Rogue!"
I held my breath, but there was only silence.
"Since we have to wait for him, we might as-well go back inside, so you can do your thing." she said to the Shaman.
That was a good idea and we all went back in.


We came to the part where the Murlocs had been.
The water was a bit deeper here, nearly knee-deep and we were sloshing about.
At the back of the cave there stood a rough Altar: a big boulder that rested onto three smaller ones. If it had not been for the flattish top and the gigantic pearl that was lying on it, it could well have been just a pile of rocks.

But that pearl! It must be as big as a Murloc! That thing would be priceless!
But so big, no-one could hope to take such a thing anywhere.
And for what? Who could even pay for what it was worth?

The voice of the Shaman ended my dreams of boundless riches.
"The Earthmother had showed me this Altar in my Dream.
I will prepare for my Task, now. Please leave me until I return."
So we turned away, back to where we had come from, while the Shaman slowly neared the Altar.




altar













Owwaargh!! We heard the Tauren scream.
Shocked we quickly turned back and saw an enormous Murloc standing on his chest, clawing at his armor and biting his shield. He tried to cast a healing-spell onto himself, but he was greatly hindered. He had to keep his head above water and was unable to get up.
Horrified I watched how this monster was tearing patches of leather with it's flat fingers, out from the Shaman's armor.

But Wilani was already charging in, shouting and bashing her shield. Did she not know any fear?
Gregory was casting heals onto the Shaman and all I could do was watch.
Lani was slamming her shield on the Murloc's head, to make him let go of the Shaman. She was really going all-out.
And I started to cast the biggest fire-bolt I could make.


















At last, the Murloc turned towards the warrior and the Shaman could get back up.
"Strength of Earth!" he roared and planted a totem and a fire-totem too.
Wilani was having a hard time just to keep standing, while the Murloc was clawing and biting at her.
"Help me heal her!" said Gregory to the Shaman "I can not keep this up for long!"
He had to equip his Staff to be of any use for Healing and then they were taking turns healing the Warrior.
I was casting great balls of fire and my Mana was draining fast. I was the only one now, doing any kind of significant damage to that monster and it had still more than half of it's Health left.

Suddenly, the Murloc tossed Wilani back and jumped back towards the Tauren. Whilst also kicking down the totems; it happened so fast. He quickly had to take up his shield again. Gregory had to switch his heals fast and was trying desperately to keep him alive.

Wilani was back on her feet and tried with all her might to make the monster turn back to her. It finally worked and the Shaman was able to crawl out of reach. He was badly hurt and only managed a little heal onto himself, using up the last of his Mana. My Mana was also reaching it's end and the Murloc was still far from dead.
The last bit of Mana from the Priest and the quickly diminishing health of the Warrior was all that separated us from a grueling death.

"Sheep him!" shouted Gregory. "I have no Mana left!"
"I am OOM too" I replied.
"You have to take a potion!" said Gregory again.
There was no other choice. Mana-potions were a last resort. They were not cheap and could only be used once. In order to take one, you really had to make it count. There was not going to be a second chance.

I quickly took one, even though they were not used often, they were always held at the ready.
Then I quickly casted the Sheep-spell onto the Murloc.
If it would fail, it would all be over fast.



Mana-potion











And poof!
All the danger and horror was now contained in this harmless looking sheep.
It was verily a time-bomb!
Everyone was getting away from it, taking cover behind the Altar. But poor me had to stay in reach, to be able to cast the spell again, before it wore off.


Sheep


Bandages were used now, to help to heal, since Mana was scarce and needed to be conserved. The fight was not done at all!
I was OK, except for the little Mana I was left with. And the terrified feeling inside me! That monster had been so fast, I was not sure if there would be time to cast a new sheep-spell, in case it would fail prematurely.


I heard exited voices coming from behind the Altar. It seemed they had found something special.
"Guys!" I called. "It is not dead, yet!"
Lani came running towards me. "We found all kinds of nice things there!" she said enthusiastically. "But we have to kill that thing first, of-course."
The Priest was coming this way too, followed by the Shaman who was wearing some kind of dress now instead of his badly damaged armor.
"I had not expected to wear the ceremonial dress into battle", he said.
And I had to smile: it is not often that you heard a Tauren say that he did NOT expected that.






Shaman















They were all back to full health now and Mana too and even I had regained some of my Mana. I would need more time, though, before it was full again. They came to stand around me, the Warrior between me and the sheep, the others behind me. It made me feel quite a bit safer now. But I was not forgetting the sheep!

"It is clear that we can not take him head-on."said Wilani.
"Yes, he hits too hard" said Gregory. "We must stay away from him."
"He is too fast for that" I replied.
"And he does not seem to be so eager to bite on metal all the time." said the Shaman. "I need to think about this."
"Don't think too long!" I warned him, "I can not keep him Sheeped forever!"
But as time passed, my Mana went up slowly, bit by bit.





"The Elements are powerful allies," said the Shaman, "however, sometimes Strength is not the answer. The Earth, that supports everything, also has the power to hold things in place. And even Water, that flows everywhere can be used to freeze something to the spot, as you well know." Here he nodded towards me.
"I can clearly see before me, the Path that the Earthmother is showing me. The Earth-bind totem and Frost-shocks will slow the Murloc down, so I can stay out of it's reach. You can assist me with your Frost-nova and your Frost-bolts." he said again to me. "But don't overdo it," he warned, "you don't want him come over to you. And you both should stay prepared in case something goes wrong." he said, talking to the Warrior and the Priest.
"It is going to be a very long fight and it will test all my powers to the limit."

I was speechless. Never had I heard a Tauren talk so much in one go. But Gregory said brightly: "I can use my wand, yes? It won't cost any Mana" "Sure", said the Shaman, "all help is welcome."
"It is best if we all would stay on the side", said Wilani, "so you have room to maneuver. Cast one more sheep-spell onto him, Hani, then we get out of the way."

So I did and we all took cover behind the Altar. Except for the Shaman. He planted an Earth-bind totem in the center and readied himself to cast a Frost-shock spell onto the Sheep. It would instantly break the Sheep-spell and turn it back into that monster of a Murloc again. Taking position so the totem would be between him and the Murloc, he unleashed the Frost-shock.
















The Murloc ran immediately towards the Shaman, but markedly slower than before and the Tauren started to run in a wide circle around the totem. I looked fascinated how the Murloc tried to catch the Shaman, but he was able to keep his distance.
I knew this game, Mages did practice it too, it was like juggling Death. One mistake and you were in big trouble, if you were not killed on the spot.

I started to fire my smallest Frost-bolt, to slow down the monster even more. Gregory had begun to use his Wand, which casted Shadow-damage onto the Murloc. Only small amounts and together with my small Frost-bolts and the Shaman's occasional Frost-shock, it was only nibbling on the Murloc's health. This was indeed going to be a long fight!




























All the time, the Shaman was running, keeping an eye on his totem to see if it needed to be replaced. Those were the critical moments where I assisted by casting a Frost-nova, to give him a moments respite. We needed utmost concentration, not to make a mistake. It was definitely nerve-wracking.










The fight dragged on, endlessly it seemed. I felt like in trance; everything around us was vanishing from my awareness.
We were nearing the point where the monster's health had diminished to half. I looked at my Mana; there was still at least three quarters of it left. So somehow we were in a better position than in the first fight. But the Shaman was visibly getting tired; he had been running non-stop.

I was tense like a bow-string, what if the Murloc decided to loose interest like he had done in the fight before? He would certainly throw himself onto me! Not wearing any Leather or metal-armor, he would tear me to shreds instantly.
"Lani!" I said with a hoarse voice.
"Don't worry, dear," she said "we can have him, he is already half-way down."

I don't know if it was his tiredness, or if our talking broke his concentration, but the Shaman stumbled and the Murloc was able to almost grab him. He had to run for his life and would not have any time to spare to put down a new totem again. It was disaster waiting to happen.
"You have to save him, Wilani!"
"Keep your shirt on.", she said and charged in.








She expertly landed right between the Shaman and the Murloc. Even tossing the Murloc back a little due to the impact and blocking him from reaching the Shaman who was able to create some more distance. He quickly planted a new Earth-bind totem and readied himself to continue his rounds like before. But Wilani was not having any of that.
She blocked the Murloc's every move while he tried to get back onto the Shaman.
"You're too tired!" she shouted, "Help Greg with the healing!"

Her Fury burned with a white flame, that she unleashed onto the monster in front of her.
All this waiting on the side had made her explode like never before.
It made me cry, seeing it.
Lani, Lani, I thought, what have they made you into?!















Faced with such primordial wrath, the Murloc had to give her all his attention. There was no longer the risk he would attack someone else now and I started to cast for serious. It was now or never!
Bolt after bolt flew towards the Murloc and the Priest and the Shaman were tossing heals onto the Warrior.
We had to get this monster down!








"You have quite a fight going on here.", I heard a voice beside me say. It gave me such a fright that I failed my casting.
I turned to the side and saw the Rogue. "What do you want me to do?" he said.
"KILL IT!!" I screamed. And he ran into the melee. I was foaming with anger! This guy again! If we would survive this, I would, I don't know what I would do to him! Something bad, turn him into a frog, I don't care!

But an angry Mage is not an effective Mage. I had to get myself in check. Mages were not known for their temper. On the contrary, Icy Veins is as what some of us are referred to.
So I checked the health of the monster and how much Mana I had left. It looked all good, so I upped the damage a little more.
We were going to win this fight!

As it's life neared it's end, the Murloc tried to flee and the Warrior had to run after it. The Rogue set in a sprint and was immediately back on top if it, while I fired off a big Frost-bolt, slowing it down. Nearly dead, this monster was still dangerous.
But then, it was dead. Finally! And somehow also suddenly, although that seems weird, isn't it?
It is dead! It is dead! It sang in my head. We had won! We were alive! Yes! I felt elated.

I was so happy that I could even hug the Priest, undead and all. I didn't of-course, but I turned towards him to congratulate him with a job well done. But what I saw made me scream in terror. "He's dead!" Gregory was lying face-down with a Dwarven-axe in his back.
"Gregory is dead!" I shouted again, before it started to dawn on the others that there was something amiss.

Then we heard that maniacal laughter echoing against the walls of the cave.
We looked around and saw the insane Dwarf standing at the far end of the cave.
And then he was gone.
The Warrior and the Rogue sprinted after him, only to return some time later, they had been unable to find him.
The Dwarf had escaped and had left us a nasty surprise.
















Everyone was talking in chaos: "Where had that Murloc come from?", "How could that Dwarf kill Gregory without anyone seeing him?", "How had he been able to survive all the Murlocs?", "How have you been able to survive all the Murlocs?","Why did it take you so long to come back?", "Why did you have to sneak up on me like that!?", "Who is going to ress Gregory?","What are we going to do now?", "What about all that loot that we found?", "What loot?", "We found lot's of things behind the Altar".

"Gregory is DEAD!!", I yelled at the top of my lungs.
"We can not leave him here, like that." I continued on a more normal volume. "It is his first time here and he could not even get in here without my help. There is no way his Spirit would be able to find his corpse again."
All seemed to agree with this account of the situation.
"So what can we do about it?", I continued.

"All Shaman can resurrect the dead." said the Shaman. "However, I am not trained in this, nor did I ever perform this on anyone. Therefore I am hesitant to offer my help. Furthermore, I have not finished the Earthmother 's task. Perhaps her guidance will come to my aid."
"I will need to meditate on this." he concluded.

"Yes people, let's give the guy some room. And hope he will not attract any more of those monsters." said Wilani grimly.
The Rogue and I followed her into the front part of the cave where there was less water.
I felt dead tired and was looking for a place to sit at least.

We settled down at the spot where the barefooted Dwarf had been sitting. It seemed ages ago.
I missed Gregory. And his cooking!
A fire would have been nice but there was not enough room to make a fire here. Except for the bit where we were sitting, there was water everywhere.
Oh! How I wished to get out of this cave and make a camp in some nice spot.

Wilani and the Rogue were talking about how he had escaped from that big horde of Murlocs and what had happened in the fight with the big Murloc, but I did not really hear it. I had not even the strength to be angry on the Rogue.
Somehow, I dozed off.


















When I woke up, I saw Wilani lying, with her head on her Shield, fast asleep it seemed.
The Rogue was nowhere to be seen. I did not know how long I had slept, but it felt as not enough.
I decided not to wake her, she had really gone deep in that fight with the Murloc. She could do with some rest.
As I got up, my splashing steps alerted the Rogue. He was standing at the mouth of the cave.
So he had not left us unguarded.

"How long has he been in there?", I asked the Rogue, pointing to the back of the cave.
"Must be almost two hours." he said. "He is just sitting there, in front of that Altar.
I went to check on him, maybe half an hour ago."
"Do you think he can ress Gregory?", I asked.
"I certainly do hope so." he said a bit mysteriously.

"That was quite some fight, with that enormous Murloc.", he said.
"Yes, I don't want to talk about it right now. I am glad it is over." I replied.
That left an uneasy silence between us.
So be it. I thought.
He went back to mouth of the cave again and I sat back down, my knees pulled up and resting my chin on it.
I stared over the water, waiting.
















I had come here, expecting to find pearls and perhaps something nice and useful. But now I just wanted to go home. It had been disastrous from the start and although everyone was doing their job as well as could be expected, it had been one unfortunate event to the next. And now the Priest was dead and we were not sure if we could resurrect him. It could well mean the end of this adventure and as far as I was concerned, I would not mind it at all.
I had already had my doubts by the time I had proposed to make a Portal to Orgrimmar, but everyone had wanted to go on, so....

And now I was sitting here, thinking gloomy thoughts. That was not good. I wished something would happen!
"Be careful what you wish for, lest it come true." came into my mind, but it was if I heard it being said by the voice of the Shaman!
That was it! No more thoughts!
I got up and went to have a look of what was going on over there, in the back of the cave.
But before I reached there, I saw Gregory and the Shaman coming towards me, their arms full of things.
"He is back!", I shouted.




I ran towards them to greet them.
"Welcome back!", I said. "You have been away for so long, I was afraid it would be the end."
"Yes! I got lost again!" he said with a big smile. "The spirit-realm is só different, long winding passages, all alike".
"It was a long search before I found him." said the Shaman. "His Spirit had drifted far away." They looked at each other. "The Earthmother's guidance helped me to bring him back to life." he said finally.
"Yes, thank the Earthmother!" exclaimed the Priest.

That made me raise an eyebrow! Both eyebrows!
An Undead giving praise to the Earthmother?!
Something special must have happened there, in that mysterious realm.
Unlikely that I was ever going to hear the details of that.



















"There is a much smaller cave, on the opposite side of the tunnel," said the Rogue, "a bit further up. I checked it out, it has only a small pool of water and the rest is dry sand. If we can make a fire there, we can have a good look at what you guys have found."
"That's a splendid idea!" I said. The prospect of a place to sit, next to a nice fire and probably some fresh cooked food filled me with renewed enthusiasm.

I went to wake up Wilani. Tapping her Shield gently with my foot, I called her name.
It was always best not to roughly awaken someone who carried such a sharp weapon.












Once there, we found that the pool held several big blind crabs, that were watched by Wilani and Gregory with a shared interest. And I found the remains of a big old chest. It had been broken open long ago and given up its treasure, but the wood was still good enough to make a big fire.
I broke off some pieces and lit them, Mage-style.

Wilani threw a big crab-body onto the fire, after she had broken off the shears and the many legs. This to the dismay of the Priest who complained that she was throwing away the best parts and that she probably never had had any Cooked Crab Claw. He would show her what real cooking was, not just throwing food onto the fire.

With the fire burning and the preparation of the food on the way, I looked at the Rogue and the Shaman, who were ordering the things that we had found in the other cave.
Among them, I could definitely see some nice big pearls!

Eight pearls, four of them Iridescent Pearls and four smaller ones. The Shaman said he would forgo on them, so that meant one for each of us. Then I needed at least one more for my boots.
A Pearl-encrusted Spear, that none of us could use, except for the Warrior, who said that she had no particular interest in it, since she had already the Trident, that she liked better. So that went into the pile with other, less significant things that were going to be divided later.

Clearly the two best items, as far as I was concerned, were a Staff and Ring, both of which were well-suited for casters like me. But that meant that Gregory and the Shaman would also be interested. The Staff would be of more use even, for a Priest, than for a Mage, so if Gregory was opting for that, then I had a good chance to get the Ring.
The Shaman already had a Staff, a lot nicer-looking than mine, so, most likely, it would be between him and me for the Ring.

I had long hoped to find a good Ring. I could make all my cloth-gear myself, if needed. And, not being rich, all that I was wearing was self-made. Except for my Staff, of-course, which I had been carrying around for a long time. A better Staff would be really nice but a good Ring was hard to find. Most were not of much use for Mages. It was if all the other Classes were much better off, if it came to Rings. So far I had not even found one.



ring























Lani was not rich either. She spend all her gold on her gear; that needed constant repairing, or to be replaced. The little she was left with, went into Potions and some food, for when I was not around to magically make it for her. No, to be rich, you did not want to be a Warrior!

Rogues were often rich. They always seemed to have gold to spend. And looking at his Daggers, those were definitely of above average quality.
"All what you don't want, I can Disenchant." said Gregory, from his place at the fire.
I was speechless. Enchanting! That was such a costly affair, it was only practiced by those who already had everything. And now this Priest, younger than me even, could afford to destroy items that could be sold for good silver or maybe more!

Somehow, it looked so obvious, how Wilani and me were from some insignificant village, while the others were all so world-wise, living in their capitals.
We Trolls did not have such a thing as a Capital City. Of-course we were welcome in Orgrimmar, but that was an Orc-place. And I did not feel quite at ease there.
Thunder Bluff, where the Tauren-Capital was located, was nice and quiet and the Tauren were nice too, but it was out of the way and it being so high up in the air, made me feel uneasy. I knew, it was done for safety, but it meant that one wrong step there could have you plunge to your death. That made it unsafe again in a different way.

"How can you even afford to practice Enchanting!" I exclaimed.
"If you come with me to the Undercity, I will show you a little secret." he said.
The Undercity! The hidden Capital of the Undead. I was told to go there some time, if I wanted to learn more of Tailoring. More than the Tailors in my village, or even those in Orgrimmar could teach me. But it was so far away! Hardly anyone I knew, would risk the long trip in such a dangerous thing as a flying Zeppelin! Flying was for birds! What if it would fall to the ground? Everyone would certainly die!


zeppelin









I heard the Rogue and the Shaman argue over a pair of Naga Battle Gloves. Even I could tell it was a very nice pair of Leather gloves and I could see how they both would like to have it. But to my surprise they were trying to convince each other that it would be best if the other one would take them.

"They gave me this complete set of gear, to use these Gloves, good as they are, would break the set and therefore give not much of an improvement. It is best if you take them." said the Rogue. "You can take them and keep them for later." insisted the Shaman. "The Earthmother has shown me a new path. Therefore I shall no longer need Gloves like these."
"We still might need your assistance in melee" said the Rogue again, "and besides, I am not sure if they would appreciate me using something other than what they have issued me. I did not come here to find things, but to find things out."

It ended with the Tauren putting the Battle Gloves in his bags.
"The Mage would like the Ring, perhaps", he said. "The Staff being best suited for the Priest."
I was happily surprised, that was just how I had hoped it would go. And Gregory was content too.
"I will have to finish that Robe now, that I have been working on." he said, "Then I will really look like a Priest."


Gregory in dress











An unremarkable Scroll was left, together with some even less attractive looking bits of stone.
I knew better than to not value such a piece of writing: It could harbor knowledge of how to create some useful item or perhaps a powerful Spell. It turned out to be a Cooking Recipe: How to make Murloc Fin Soup.
"I think Greg should get that," said Wilani immediately, "he has been cooking for us all the time and he even showed me how I can improve mine."
Since none of us were doing any Cooking, we had not much say in it, but I said: "But Wilani, you have not gotten anything, other than one Pearl!"
"It doesn't matter" she said, "I have a new Axe, what more can a girl want?"

"Now you speak of that," said the Priest, "I had been planning to give you this, and now that you gave me this nice Recipe, I am sure that you should have it. Even though I had not much say in how it was 'given' to me, I think I can rightly say that I want you to be the one to have this." And he handed her the Dwarven-Axe that had killed him. "You can use two, I think?"
"I sure can!" she said with a big grin. "Watch me!" She got up and turned into a whirlwind of sharp, blinkering steel that ended with both Axes buried into an unfortunate Crab, killing it instantly.
"He he heh" laughed the Rogue, "it looks like we got some real competition there."
"I'm never gonna use a Shield any-more!" she shouted happily.
"That was a generous gift!" I said to Gregory.
"Time to eat, guys!" he shouted "Now we have to eat that other one too!"


Everyone was happy, and there was lots of food. It was the perfect setting for a story.

"Yes," rumbled the Shaman, "we should not let it go to waste, that is not the Way of the Earthmother."
"Do all Tauren live by Her rules?" asked the Priest.
"All Tauren hold Her in great esteem. It is everyone's choice, to what extent one wants to pay heed to the consequences of ones actions. She does not demand and everyone is free to do what they want, but understanding enables one to avoid the creation of sorrow.
Perhaps I can tell you, how I came to decide to serve the Earthmother."















How the Shaman had decided to serve the Earthmother.


"Now, already three moons ago, I was asked by an Elder of my Clan to go and find some Star-wood. A rare type of wood, that is used for Enchanting. The stock we had was running low and it would be a dishonor for the Clan to have to say that we were unable to provide. The Dawnstrider-Clan has always Practiced, Taught and Sold anything related to Enchanting. It was the Honor of our Clan, that I had to uphold, not just another errand and I felt proud that our Elder had thought me worthy for this task.

I would have to travel, all the way south of the Barrens, into this ravine, commonly known as the Thousand Needles. Many, who have not been there themselves, think that the name refers to the many stone pillars that are left standing there. Our legends say, that there used to be water there, coursing through that deep valley, leaving nothing but the hardest stone.
The water has long since gone, none of the other races even seems to remember. Now, dry, hot winds lash the stone, shaping it even thinner. It is this hot wind, carrying dry dust and stinging man and beast alike, like thousand needles, that gave rise to the name.
It was here that my journey would lead me. A harsh place, dry and unforgiving, but with life in unforeseen places. One of these places was harboring the trees that were the source of Star-wood.





Thousand Needles













I had been in the Thousand Needles once before, visiting family in Freewind Post. But this time, I was going there alone. I prepared myself thoroughly, knowing that this could be seen as a rite of passage. I left Thunder Bluff and by sunset I had arrived at southern-most part of the Barrens. Here was the Great Lift that was used to bring and haul travelers to and from the bottom of the ravine. In the company of the brave Tauren that were guarding the Lift, I waited till the early morning, before making the descend.

The light of the sun had not yet reached here and it was still dusky. It was prime hunting time for the great cats and that meant that the hyena's would not be so bold yet. Those went in small packs, of three or four and needed to be avoided at all cost. I had to proceed carefully. This was no longer the Barrens, anything that was able to survive here, would pose a serious threat and more than one opponent could well mean my end.

My destination was on the opposite side of the canyon and just as far to the west. I followed the road southward, till I came to the East-West road. The signpost showed Freewind Post, to the left. That was not the way I would go this time. I had to go west. From here on-wards, it would be all unknown terrain for me.

















So far, I had been lucky and had not have to fight any Cougars or any other dangers. To stay on the road is always advisable; creatures tended to avoided the road but it did not mean you could depend on that. Even so, I reached Whitereach Post unhindered.
There were three Tauren here and only a small building, used for trade, not for defense.
They had a fire going, so I sat down, to have some food.

They looked me up a bit, slightly amused, how one so young and inexperienced as me, had ended up here.
"Are you sure you are going the right way?" they said. "Going West?"
I assured them that that was my plan.
"Then you better watch out," they went on, "we had a Merchant here, who only just made it. His Pack-Kodo was attacked on the road, by a pack of Hyena's."


Pack-Kodo


That a Kodo was attacked, was bad news. Kodos were so big, they could trample a hyena with ease.
"And the Centaur have made a camp close to the road too", they said.
Centaurs, being our mortal enemies, would hunt me down and kill me, if they were to spot me. I would rather take my chance with the hyena's.
I had to be very, very careful.


















I thanked them for their advice and told them that I planned to return here, later that day.
Then I went, Westwards again.
After some time, I saw where the Centaur had build their camp. They had guards at the gate but no patrols outside and so, I dared to risk it. I had the choice to run and possibly draw more attention, or to go slow and careful, but be exposed for a longer time.
I chose the careful way, I could still run, if they were to spot me.
It took a long time, before I was out of sight of the camp.

Soon, I needed to go more to the South. I was still not at the opposite side. A small path left the road, going in the right direction. Walking there, I saw the wall of the ravine coming closer. Ahead, there was a big Winged Serpent hovering above the path, blocking my way. There were Winged Serpents in the Barrens too and I knew them and their dangers well, but this one was bigger than I had ever seen! Twice bigger, if not more. What this magnificent monster could do, I could only guess.
It was best to stay far away from it.

Windserpent


Perhaps I should find another path going South. There must be many ways, weaving between the stone pillars. But on the next path, I found myself confronted with a Cougar. It had already seen me and ran directly at me. I was able to kill it, without getting hurt too much, myself. Then I went on-wards and spotted a Hyena. It was only one Hyena and it had not seen me, so, I decided to leave it be.
It is always good to not kill unnecessary.

The wall was now very close and I looked for the road that was going up. I could see it, winding up the side of the canyon, but where did it start? It turned out that it was not far from where I had been before and the Winged Serpent was flying in front of it.
I had to get up this path, so as soon as the monster had moved away a little, I made a run for it. Only a few yards up the path, I was struck by a tremendous lightning bolt! I fell to the ground, but managed to get away before the Serpent could launch another bolt. Luckily, it was not following me.
I could only hope that it would be gone by the time I would return.

Windserpent












Finally, I arrived at my destination. The place where the Star-wood trees grew. It was a secluded place, surrounded by high walls of rock. This was the realm of the Wyvern, that flew around and had their nests here.
The Star-wood trees were growing in a very strange way, the branches staying low and to the sides, not upwards like normal trees. It must be due to the harshness of the place, that they grew in this way.

I could spot several Wyvern-nests, many of them were in use. Luckily, none were too close, and I set out to gather the Wood. Below the trees, there were dead twigs, of which I made a bundle that I put in my bag. This would last us quite some time, but would it not be better if I brought home a decent branch? That would certainly make a difference. Then this arduous trek needed not be made so soon again.

I set out to break off one of the lowest branches, but the living wood proved to be enormously tough. The dry heat had caused the wood to grow to be nearly indestructible.
As I was tearing at the branch, I heard a thunderous roar behind me. A Wyvern was flying directly towards me! I prepared to defend myself and was able to make it fly away.
As soon as I had this branch loose, I would be out of here!

Wyvern



I could not see the Wyvern any more and renewed my attempt to break free this terrible branch. Then I felt a sudden sting in my back. The Wyvern had returned and had struck me with the end of its tail! I felt the poison spreading though my body and I fell to the ground.
I tried to get up, but all I managed to do, was to turn myself on my back.
The pain in my back exploded in a multitude of colors and the poison took control of my body.















There, I was lying, staring up into the sky, being carried by the face of the world.
The poison was altering my perception.
The Sun, the Eye of the Earthmother, was watching me from above. And I saw myself, through Her Eye, far below, as an insignificant little speck.

But there was no malice or contempt in her gaze, just attention. She had Love for all her children and was watching what I was going to do. But I was unable to move and could only look back, to that bright Eye in the sky.
I slipped in- and out of consciousness during that long day, till finally the Eye left and the night fell. But the night had it's own Eye, that looked down on me, with that same unspoken question. A question that I did not know the answer of!
Stop tormenting me this way! I exclaimed in my mind.

I knew that I was going to die. If not this night, then surely tomorrow. Another day exposed to the Sun would bring the end.
I hoped, it would not have to come to that.
I did not fear Death, but I could not say the same thing of dying.





Through the Eye of the Earthmother, I saw myself, walking towards the tree and trying to break off a branch. My thrashing about alerted a Wyvern, that took silently to the air. From his high perch, it had seen me as soon as I had entered his territory, but now, this trespasser was disturbing the peace. He had several females with nests in the area, who depended on him for their protection.
In a long flight, he went closer to assess the situation.
The intruder was trashing about with the branches and it was making the females nervous.
He went for a new approach, to scare it away.

Roaring loudly, he announced his presence, but instead of fleeing, the intruder tried to attack him! He could not risk to get hurt, lest he would be unable to fly, but the invader had to be dealt with.
He readied himself for an attack and lashed out with his tail. The trespasser fell to the ground and the danger was averted.
He went back to his high seat, to again oversee his domain.

The next thing I saw, was how it had been my unawareness, that had caused the Cougar to mistake me for an easy prey.
A mistake that had cost it it's life. I could see how we have responsibility, for everything that we do.













Seeing all this, I knew what I wanted, to live life with the ability to not make any more mistakes.
But there was no life for me to live any more. I was on the brink of Death. It did not matter, I knew now, the answer to the question that had been torturing my mind.
I could die in peace.

The white light of the moon was in my eyes and peace was in my mind. And dying seemed the easiest thing in the world. Lying there, peacefully, I awaited the end.
The Shaman is dying

It was, as if the Earthmother spoke to me: "When a mistake is made, it need not inevitably lead to it's fatal conclusion."
And the white circle of the Moon became bigger and bigger, till it filled my view completely.
I was taken up in Her care. "









-
The Wyvern patriarch had been waiting for the trespasser to leave, but it was still lying there.
Not their type of prey, it was not considered food. Hyena's were his favorite.
He would take the corpse and drop it back into the ravine, so the Hyena's could get to it.
For reasons unknown, his flight, that night, was longer than expected.

-














"In the early morning, I was found by a guard, lying behind a tent, on the high flats of Freewind Post.
With their great care and healing skills, the people there were able to nurture me back to good health.
I gave them many thanks, for saving my life and was able to return home, after several days.
Back in Thunder Bluff, I had a lot to report and the Elders listened attentively.

Then, one of the Elders spoke:
"Every creature that decides to attack, hopes for gain, without getting hurt, or tries to prevent loss, possibly to the brink of Death.
We do hunt, out of need and sometimes to prove skill and bravery, but to kill many, all in the same manner, without need and letting go to waste, is a sign that one has lost the connection with the World and it is to ones own peril. Dwarves do come to mind, they celebrate their greatest hunters by the number of useless kills they make.
We can only hope, that they will once again, return to ways of the Earthmother.
Any other reason to attack is a sign of Insanity.
That includes greed, revenge, fear and anger.
There is great risk in that."

I told the Elder that I understood this. That I had seen, how we are responsible for all that we do and that I wanted to live by the guidance of the Earthmother. They told me that She would find her own ways, to show me how I could help Her lessen the suffering of the World.
Following Her advice, I came to see that by doing that, I helped myself even more.

And now I have to eat this Crab," he concluded, "there is still a lot left."
"That was a great story!" exclaimed the Priest. "I wished I was a Tauren too. Being Undead, I have nothing to expect, but Death."
"Yes, and No." said the Shaman between two bites. "I can tell you about that later."

Why did I never see anything like that?! I asked myself. I had died and was ress'ed and had never seen anything, other than that misty place, where I longed to be alive again. It was like a bad dream, with no substance at all. And he talked about things and the Earthmother, as if it was all real. The only real things we had, were the skulls of our ancestors and the power to defend ourselves. Our magic depended on that, and Fire. Fire was always needed.

Fire













I saw that Wilani had fallen asleep. It had been a long story and we were underground for so long, night must have fallen a long time ago. "We all should get some sleep." said the Rogue, while he brought some more wood for the fire. It was good. Once a fire was burning, I could keep it going with only the littlest use of Mana and very little wood.
But the others would need to feed the fire during the night. If you could call it night.
Here, underground, it was dark all the time.


"I will take the first watch.", said the Shaman.
"I will take the second!", I said quickly.
"Wake me when you get tired", said the Rogue.
The Priest had put away all his cooking things found himself a spot, away from the fire. He dared not his risk to have his dried out bones catch fire while sleeping.
As he lay there, he looked like a parched and long dead corpse.
And I though of what he had said.







The Shaman was still eating and I was too much awake to go to sleep any time soon. What a story that was!
I went over it again in my mind. "So you are of the Clan Dawnstrider" I started. He "Hummed" in response.
"Would you be OK if I called you like that?" He "Hummed" again.


I fell silent and looked into the fire.
There was a lot to think about.
fire

The flickering flames created images in my mind.
Images of things that had happened in my life.
One scene was quickly followed by the next.
It was like a whirlwind with me in the center.
Sometimes, I was still very young,
while others were more recent,
but I always felt myself as 'ME'
and the same one.


Not the same were the feelings and emotions connected to these images; the happiness in my childhood, the competition and connection between Lani and me, the fear when my mother went missing and the desperation and loneliness when she was gone and Lani also not being there.
All the way to the moments of intense fear when I was holding that terrible Murloc sheeped.


And then the whirlwind dropped me somehow into my body sitting by the fire.
I regained my composure and looked up. Had this been a dream?
I saw the Shaman looking at me intently, had he done this, in some way?
Seeing my reaction, he said "I looked after you, while you were away.
Call the Rogue if there is anything. I must sleep now."
And with that he closed his eyes and slumped backwards.
"But.." I started to say, only to get a sonorous snoring as a reply.




























Well, he's not going to be much of a help, then, I thought. What am I supposed to do now?
I looked again at the fire and at the pile of firewood; it looked about as much as it had been before, so how long had I been 'away' then? Somehow I felt it was quite a bit longer then it seemed.
My legs argued that I had been sitting in this posture for way too long and I wanted to get up but a peculiar tug at my mind made me look in the direction of the mouth of the cave. I could not see anything in particular and wondered what it had been that made me look that way.

But then I heard it: the soft flaps of webbed feet: Murlocs! They had come back! They would kill us all! Fear rose up in me like lava in a volcano, ready to burst forth but it had me frozen to the spot at the same time.
In panic I Blinked, away from the fire, where I was in clear view. Now in the shadows, I saw a Murloc coming towards the circle of light, but hesitant to get any closer: it feared the fire.
My heart left my throat to take it's normal place and I was able to think again. Was it only ONE Murloc? It seemed so. Why did it not attack? Yes, the fire. Thank the spirits for fire!
Could I wake the others in time or should I try to kill it myself? Could I kill it by myself?

Then came into my mind what the Tauren-elder had said: to attack out of fear is the sign of insanity.
Well, I had fear all-right, no doubt about that. But what should I do then?! There was no possibility to run away and moreover, I could not leave the sleeping others unguarded!

I looked again at the Murloc; it's attention was not at all at those sleeping by the fire, there was something much more attractive: the rest of the mostly eaten crab. It must be really hungry to go so close to the fire.
For a moment I felt pity for the poor Murloc, but that vanished on the spot: those monsters had killed and eaten my mother! Suddenly the lava in my volcano had changed into anger!
I was going to kill at least THIS one!


















But the Elder spoke again: to attack out of revenge or anger is the sign of insanity.
I looked at the Murloc again and could feel its longing for the pool in the back of the cave, but that was even beyond the much feared fire. I hoped it would take the crab and be off and not make a run for that pool. I would not know what to say in the morning when the others would discover that we had gotten a new house-pet during the night.
And besides, cooked crab was really delicious, but not so much the next day.

And so I found myself wishing for a Murloc to steal our food. The thought made me smile.
Come-on! I thought. Perhaps if I magically made the fire a bit less. I was a Mage after-all.
As the fire burned lower, the Murloc seemed more hopeful, till suddenly it made a quick dash and was gone. The crab also. That could have been someone's head, I reprimanded myself, but somehow I did not really believe that.
I let the fire flare up again and could finally get up.

My legs were not amused.
"Owww", I let out a groan that immediately woke the Rogue.
And now him again, I thought. I wanted to go sleep.
It must have been long past my due time and he was the next one anyway, so I did not feel guilty about waking him at all.
More annoyed. He would surely want to know every little thing that had happened when he would discover the Murloc-footprints all over our camp.

"There was a Murloc. I let him have the left-over crab. There were no problems.
I want to sleep now. Wake the Warrior if there is anything."
If the Shaman could be short and go to sleep, so could I!
I stretched my painful legs, it was wonderful.
* I * felt wonderful and very amused with myself.
And off I was.

















I heard the Rogue talk to the Warrior. It was about our nightly guest, of-course. Wilani sounded not so much impressed but the Rogue spoke as if he had to make a big deal out of it.
"She let it steal the rests of the Crab!" His belittling tone made it sound not how it had happened.
I let it go. - A part of me made a note of that: Was I changing?
I decided to act like I had not heard any of that and acted-out a convincing yawn-and-awake.

"Get ready to be going", he said to me.
"Good morning to you too!", I said.
"We can't stay here for much longer, we nearly ran out of firewood", he added, to clarify himself.
"Yes, I can see you've been stoking the fire quite a bit", looking at the big pile of ashes.
"I had to make sure no Murlocs would be coming back" he replied, "after you let one run off with our food!"

"I can see why it had you worried, since you still smell like fish", I said, half jokingly.
"I do?!", he asked, turning towards Wilani.
"Just a bit", she said.
"I would not worry about it!", she called after him, while he ran off towards the pool in the back of the cave.

He quickly got busy cleaning himself and his gear.
"He should use his Vanishing-Powder!" I said quietly to Wilani.
That made us bust out in badly contained giggles, like we were little girls.
"You ladies seem to be having fun?" said the Priest, getting up, like a corpse from the grave.
It felt so good to have this connection again, with Wilani, I said, "Yes, life is just great."

"I have to take your word for it", he said. "I hope to experience that too, some time."
"I am sorry! I did not mean to make you feel bad", I said.
"No worries" he smiled, a bit of a thin smile. "Do you two care for some breakfast?"
"I am afraid you can't cook now", I said, "we have no more wood and we have to be going soon."
That prospect seemed to make him more sad than what I had said before.

"Why don't you go wake Dawnstrider?" I told him.
"You call him Dawnstrider??" he asked surprised.
"Yes, he said he was OK with that", I replied with a big smile.
"I will conjure some bread and water for all of us, then we have something to eat on the way."

"No water for me!", called the Rogue from the back.
"Yes, I know, darling!" I called back.
Wow! I must be feeling really good today, calling him that!
"Since I will be casting from now on, I could use some more water", said the Shaman.
"So, you two finally got married, then?", said Wilani.
That made us giggle a lot again.














"There are still these things we have to divide", said the Priest, pointing at the heap of spoils that were still left.
"Pick it up, we will have to do that later!", came the Rogue again.
"Oki", he said. "You should take one of these stones", he said to me. "I can not take more then one." I looked puzzled. What was so special about these stones? They did not look very interesting at all. And why could you not take more than one?

"These are bits of a broken gravestone", he explained. "If you bring a piece to the Undercity, you can have yourself a tremendously good Wand made there. It's called The Gravestone Scepter, which is unique in it's kind. I specially came here, in the hope to find this, but I did not expect to find it so soon. So, be sure to take a piece and keep it safe, you won't find anything coming close to this, anytime soon", he concluded.

That must be some Wand then, I thought.
We Mages could use a Wand, but it was never used much, other then as a last resort, for when you were left without Mana. Our Spells were so much stronger than any Wand I had ever seen, but if this was going to be such a great thing, I guess taking one piece along would not hurt.

I started Conjuring the bread and water and reminded myself to dig up the Fiery-Orb, from the ashes of the campfire. It had been lying there in the white-hot blaze, soaking up light and was now filled to the brim. Verily, a dazzling little Sun. Of all the Elements, Fire was really the most useful, I thought. I took it and quickly dimmed it a lot to attach it again to my Staff. I was ready to go.

The Shaman came to stand next to me, asking if I would be so kind as to give him the water, which I did. It was a bit strange to see him as a fellow caster now. Somehow it made me feel a bit protective towards him, being new. "Here you go", I said kindly. "Let me know when you need more."

Standing so close to me, I could get a good look at the Staff that he now carried.
By the Spirits! It was so much better than the Staff I had!
It must have been obvious to see me gaping at it, because he said that was from a dangerous place, far in the south of the Barrens.
"Perhaps we could go there some other time", he went on to say, "but for now, you all want to find some more Pearls, I think."

Yes, Pearls! That was why we came here for. At least Wilani and me.
"Yes!", I said, "but I don't expect to find them now, since all the captured Murlocs had nothing on them."
"We should go on!, said Wilani. Further up there must be more of them and I can't wait to get to use these two beauties!"

She was carrying both of the Dwarven-axes and therefore no shield.
"Are you sure you want to go without a shield?", I asked.
"Let the girl have some fun!", said the Rogue. "We have less in melee now, since he has donned the robes and he can heal too, right?"
"I can, but I am not trained in this yet.", said the Shaman.
"See!?", said the Rogue again. "Everyone is ready? Then we can finally go."

I wanted to say that it was he that needed to go scrub and make us wait, but I felt it was no use.
He was the first to step out of the mouth of the cave that had been our small campsite, followed by the Warrior and the Priest. Dawnstrider and I were last.
















It was quite a bit colder here, our fire had warmed-up our cave and the difference was noticeable. A quick shiver ran over my spine. I wouldn't have mind staying a bit longer. Why was he pushing us to leave so quickly?

Dawnstrider was walking next to me and Gregory alone in the middle.
Somehow it did not feel right. I had felt much more at ease with a big Tauren carrying a shield behind my back than to be the last with an inexperienced caster beside me.
It made me go through all my spells, even though I could ready them blindly.
But 'a sensible Mage is a prepared Mage'.
The ones that had taught me had repeated this so many times.

Wilani and the Rogue were setting a good pace and we had to step up a bit to not fall behind.
We did not check any of the smaller caves here and there, if there were any Murlocs in there, it was unlikely that they would have found any Pearls yet. We had to go on.
With this tempo I did not feel cold any-more!

Walking behind Gregory, the distance to the two in front grew unnoticed.
And so we found that, quite sudden, we had lost sight of our vanguard; they had gone around a corner and we were still some distance away.
I urged us to close the gap quickly and on a trot we neared the corner.

Then, while going round the corner, I bumped into a Naga Oracle!
She was as much startled as I was and hissed her foul breath into my face.
Her two Priestess attendants were appalled that I had dared to touch their mistress and rushed in to attack me.

I wanted to shout for help, but her suffocating breath had made it impossible to bring forth any sound. I readied my Staff to protect myself from their long clawing hands.
In desperation I looked to where the Shaman and the Priest had gone, but they were out of sight already. If at least this silencing would end, then I could finally cast and scream!

I managed to cast an Instant Arcane-explosion. Beng! Under their constant attacks it was the only thing I could do.
All coolness and composure had gone but it did not matter, I was going to die!
Beng! Beng! The sound was deafening in this narrow place.
The priestesses were taking turns in Smiting me and healing their beloved Mistress. And she started to cast some Spell to finish me off, but before it hit me everything went already black.
I had died.



























[Naga with Saber][Naga with Trident][Naga Sea-witch]

Naga Warriors & Naga Sea-witch


[satyr1][satyr2]
Satyrs


[murloc1][murloc2]
Murlocs!


[enforcer][enforcer-boss]
Dwarf Enforcers


[Wilani][Wilani 2H]
Female Troll Warrior
Lah'Wilani, but we call her Wilani, or Lani


[Morgrin]
Male Orc Rogue
Morgrin A.k.a. Orgrim etc.


[Mawhani][Mawhani]
Female Troll Mage
Lah'Mawhani, Hani for short



[Gregory][Gregory with Staff]
Male Undead Priest (new)
Gregory, or Greg for short


[Dawnstrider][Dawnstrider with Staff]
Male Tauren Shaman
??? Dawnstrider

The whole party.
[The party.]























[Dawnstrider][Gregory with Staff][Mawhani][Morgrin][Wilani]