I write this from the inn and I’m still coughing up blood. It was brutal on the ever unyielding battlefield tonight.
The battlefield, where there’s no room for weakness. Even more so, there’s no room for foolish pride. Those who attack alone are destined to be stricken down, and that’s how it should be. I didn’t sign up to fight in this war so that I could wait in the infirmary and patch up fallen comrades. Aiding the Horde is all about asserting a tenuous balance and situating myself on the front lines.
Fortunately I wasn’t the only one who recognized this. There was another out there tonight who understood and felt the need to watch my back, just as I watched his. He happened to be a feral druid. He took on the form of a cat and hid in the bushes as we waited at the lumber mill. The lulls in battle… so strange. I observed how he looked strangely half-cat, half-dog. And how he smelled as though he had been rolling through a pile of corpses. Do they all smell like that? I never really noticed before tonight. Every now and again he would ruffle the leaves and shake the bush in which he was mostly hidden, his green eyes peering out at me.
It was unsettling in some ways. For one, he said nothing to me. I didn’t know his name but deep down inside I don’t think I even cared to know. Chit-chatting would only provide a distraction; a complication that would surely weaken us in battle. We had a silent understanding, he and I, and I suppose that was worth some peace of mind. I was alone but not really. Not tonight. This druid wouldn’t let me stand alone.
To some, the Basin is not the most glorious of battlefields. It’s as frigid as Northrend and nearly as desolate. I tried not to let the workers distract me. The workers, steeled by years of feuds that have interrupted their livelihood. The naïve often fail to understand that these workers and the resources they produce are everything in war. We lose without lumber and metal, no matter how many Generals are killed or how many bases are infiltrated.
And that’s why I couldn’t leave the mill. I knew eventually that the Alliance would come to claim these resources for themselves.
It was staggered at first. I spotted a warrior on the hill and took up my position, shielding myself in a protective barrier. My heart pounded in my ears, just as it did every time. I was the bait. I was the distracting force meant to lure the enemy into a false sense of security. And as he charged at me, I didn’t feel fear. Merely a strong resolve that was reinforced as my companion leaped at the human, claws and fangs sinking into the exposed flesh between his armor. The warrior swung blindly, unable to pierce my barrier. Within a few moments he crumpled to the ground, his neck in tatters, blood pooling into the soft grass.
The druid prowled beside the warrior as he gasped out his last few breaths. There was a wild gleam in his eye and a low growl rumbling in his throat, and I was grateful that he was on my side.
That surge of adrenaline eventually faded, and I found myself wishing I could reclaim it. Wishing I could aid the others. I surveyed the other nodes and I watched them down below, bravely defending the blacksmith and the farm, launching assaults on the stables. Thirteen other fighters, here with the same purpose. Although this druid was here with me, I felt so out of touch with them all on the edge of that lumber mill cliff.
To join them would mean I’d have to leave the druid. The druid… my only source of companionship but yet I knew not his name. And I couldn’t do that. I couldn’t allow him to fall. With renewed focus I would sporadically draw forth the light energy from the air, strengthening it until it shone in a bright nova, sure to illuminate any rogues lurking nearby who were ready to sap my ass.
I would protect this druid, no matter what came upon us.
But it wasn’t rogues, in the end, that troubled our post. Instead, the warrior again. This time he brought a shaman with him. The shaman’s totems struck hard into the ground and lightning scorched through the earth, narrowly missing my druid companion. Concentrating my energy, I shielded him and offered the Light’s blessing, helping to heal the singes streaking through his fur.
The druid flew into a rage. With a fierce roar he leaped for the shaman, just as he had for the warrior. But this shaman was far smarter, hefting his shield to block the druid’s attack. My companion was relentless even still. He struck at arms, legs, and anything he felt he could sink his claws into. Little by little, the shaman grew weaker, but I knew where his reserves would rest.
Thinking we were totally fine, I struck his totems off base. I swung my mace into the water totem first, knowing it would provide him the most benefit. The wood splintered and the elemental magic seeped out. I moved to the next, occasionally switching focus to the druid, shielding him against the shaman’s command of earth and fire. I didn’t flinch. I knew we were safe.
My mace was poised to destroy the last totem when a colossal force smashed into my chest. I could scarcely feel the weight of my weapon as it left my hand, or the crack of my ribs from the impact. My vision grew hazy and all I could grasp was that I was hurtling backward with no way to stop myself.
I was totally caught off guard. Somewhere in the back of my mind I realized the cliff was nearby. What the heck was happening here? One second I was la-dee-da-ing away at the totems, having a grand old time. And then here I was mid-air. I knew I should have levitated myself, or at least shielded myself from the inevitable. But the wave of energy shattered through my body, tearing through all rational thought and leaving me helpless as I fell to my death.
I don’t know how long it was before I regained consciousness. I saw the cliffs of the mill towering above me, and I felt a sharp pain every time I drew in a breath, but beyond that I have no recollection of the time between waking for a moment in complete and total agony and recuperating at an inn, opening my eyes once more to see an unfamiliar Tauren by my bedside. Unfamiliar… except for that faint, feral gleam in his eyes.
His deep, rumbling voice filled in the details of what I had missed. It turns out that the shaman had called forth a thunderstorm, pulling bolts from the clouds and concentrating them directly into me. I was lucky to even be alive. I asked if the Alliance had taken over the mill, but I already knew the answer.
That wild look returned to his eyes and he smiled at me. I smiled back and felt blood rushing to my cheeks. I tried to hide my blush. He’s gone now and I wonder if I’ll ever see him again.
I rest for now. It’s best to approach the field of battle in full health, not only for my sake but for the sake of my companions whose lives depend on my focus and discipline. Tomorrow I’ll resume my post. I will defend the lumber mill from more warriors and shamans, but next time I will reach into their minds and make them understand just what it feels like to be thrown from a fucking cliff.
And perhaps I will have company once more, rustling in the bushes, ready to pounce.
Artist: Andrei Barba