Doradrassil surveyed the land below as her hippogryph soared into the Blasted Lands. She had left Hearthglen promptly after the mission briefing, but still, a number of Templars were already massing. She saw many familiar faces who, by way of portals, had managed to arrive here even sooner than she. While some were unknown to her, the majority of the faces she saw made up some sort of "dream team" in her mind. They were the very people she would have hand-picked if she could assemble Azeroth's mightiest heroes to fight an impossible war. And here they were, gathered by chance, circumstance, and a pressing need to save their world. 


"I have to hand it to you, Garrosh," she muttered to herself as she swooped toward the ground, "You brought everyone together, and not like you thought."


As she dismounted, Cordana Felsong nodded in her direction. Beside her stood Archmage Khadgar, Thrall, and Lady Liadrin. Before them stood a regiment of Alliance and Horde forces fighting side-by-side. Doradrassil shook her head in near disbelief. The sight still surprised her, even though it had been happening since shortly before the siege of Orgrimmar. She said a quick prayer to Elune in hopes that this truce would hold. 


"Are you ready?" Doradrassil asked the others. 


"Ready for anything that portal can throw at us," Cordana remarked. 


Thrall eyed her and simply nodded. Khadgar's eyes were intently focused on the portal, and he seemed to have not yet noticed the Warden's presence. Doradrassil reasoned that he must have a lot on his mind… She supposed that he must never have imagined he'd be here again, trying to push through to close this same portal from the other side once more. 


More Templars began to arrive, and with each one, Doradrassil felt her spirits rise more. Azeroth's mightiest heroes indeed… The Iron Horde wouldn't know what hit them.


For a warm-up, Doradrassil rushed the front lines, almost at the portal's very steps, to help stem the tide of incoming enemies. A dodge here and a slash there… These particular orcs certainly hadn't been chosen for their brains. 


One of them parried her umbra crescent. Doradrassil smiled… Finally, a foe with the wit to fight back.


"I'm not afraid of you," he growled.


"Well, nobody's perfect," she said, before cleaving his skull in half. 


* * *


"You be careful out there," Mallory pleaded. 


"You have my word," Emma answered.


The two sisters embraced tightly before Emma pulled away, making her way to a nearby gryphon. Emma knew she should just get this over with, even if she did come across a little cold. If it was up to Mallory, she'd never get to the fight. Even as she took off into the air, she could tell her sister was watching, and would continue to until she couldn't see her anymore. The sensation was painful, and she shook her head as if shaking off any notions pricking the back of her mind that she wouldn't see Mallory again. She had to focus now, and focus on each moment as it happened. 


As the Dark Portal came into view, Emma swooped down to a relatively clear spot at the crater's ridge. Dismounting and then giving the gryphon a light slap on his hind quarters to send him away, Emma secured her pack and surveyed the area. It seemed the ridge had already been cleared, and more Templars gathered around the perimeter with each passing minute. Doradrassil was already fighting her heart out at the Dark Portal's steps, though Emma worried that the Warden might prematurely exhaust herself at that pace. It was several more long minutes before she stopped and backed away from the front lines a bit. 


* * *


"That should make for a decent warm-up," Doradrassil mumbled to herself. "Then when it's time to charge I can really cut loose." She surveyed the ridge, seeing numerous Templars and others gathering about the perimeter…a sight that surely was as foreboding to the Iron Horde as it was hopeful to her. 


* * *


"A letter for you, ma'am." 


Mallory shook her head, realizing she wasn't sure how long she had been staring at the place where she had seen Emma vanish over the horizon. She turned to see a courier bearing a small envelope with her name on it. 


"Thanks," Mallory said, taking the envelope. She started to open it, but was distracted as she noticed a high cliff face not too far away. If she took her hippogryph up there, she should be able to watch the Dark Portal from that vantage point. She whistled for her hippogryph and immediately began the flight up. When she reached the mesa above, she could clearly see the Dark Portal's ominous red glow in the distance. She was much too far away to identify individual people, but could see the gathering forces well enough. A few distant noises of battle reached her ears, though indistinct. 


One more person landed in the crater, dismounting and making their way on foot toward the center. People parted and heads seemed to turn. As Mallory squinted, she saw salutes toward the figure. 


Her fingers idly finished tearing open the envelope in her hands and withdrawing the letter.


Mallory – 

I have something that might be of interest to you. I was going through this book and found something I'd like your opinion on. Can we meet for tea? Stormwind's Old Town has a good place.



Now? Mallory thought. She would be headed for Stormwind soon enough, she figured, and the time was probably flexible. She didn't say when. She was probably already at this tea place, just waiting for Mallory to show up. She'd have to wait a short while longer. Mallory put the note back into its envelope, folded that in half and put it into her pack as she turned her attention back to…




Khadgar's cry had rung out clearly, likely enhanced by his magic, and also carried through Mallory's guildstone. She tensed, watching the team ascending the steps as she dug into her pack and retrieved her guildstone, holding it to her ear, able to hear now through several other Templars' stones. 


It was mostly the fury of battle, clashes of steel and battle cries, along with the death groans of orcs. 


"For the Rose," came Arialynn's voice. And then static.


A shiver swept over Mallory as she lowered the guildstone from her ear. The Dark Portal's crater, now, was eerily empty, the only sign of the invasion being the ruins of Nethergarde, the ruins of the Iron Horde camp, and that ominous scarlet glow.


Team Vanguard was away. The waiting had begun.


She lost track of time, staring at the Dark Portal. A warm, dry wind teased her hair now and again, and she wondered what she was still doing here. Had it been a minute or two? An hour or three? It had just been a blur, watching the swirling of that awful portal, still emanating its wicked glow. She wasn't sure what she was expecting to see, but she wasn't quite ready to go yet. 


Suddenly the portal field warped. It was unmistakable and unmissable. Something was happening to it. The red along the rift's edges crept towards the center, as if bleeding from inside and out. She squinted and leaned toward it, not quite daring to hope.


The scarlet glow from both outside and center crept together, the portal field itself wobbling as if losing its balance, and then began to shrink. It took only seconds, and the red disappeared, shrouding the Dark Portal's structure in the darkness of the night.


She tightened up her leg straps and took off, making her way back to the camp below. They wouldn't have been able to see the Dark Portal from this vantage point… 


"The Dark Portal's gone out!" she yelled with glee. "The Portal's gone dark! They did it!" 


She felt her spirits rising as people turned toward her upon hearing the news, until her eyes locked on one solemn face.


Koryander looked pale as a ghost, but swallowed hard and nodded.


"For the Rose," she said.

Author Rann
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