The hallway leading down to the catacombs flickered with a faint light. Most of the candles had been blown out during the chaos, and what little light that flickered against the wall cast nothing more than eerie shadows against the concrete.
He ran his plated hand against the wall, noting the recent signs of battle and how his boots stuck in the fel blood that was splattered across the floor. He had missed the chaos in the corridor but clearly not by much. As he approached the landing that lead down to the catacombs a familiar staleness assaulted his senses.
He drew his weapons in preparation to descend.
As he crossed the landing at the top of the stairs, the block wall to his left cracked and partially collapsed as a large hand broke through. He quickly turned to face the demon and reflexively drove his sword through the palm of the grasping hand, causing the demon to roar in pain.
The demon lowered its shoulder and charged, bursting through the wall, throwing Jarrick back against the wall behind him. His head rocked against the wall and his vision stirred briefly. The demons weapon swept wide through the corridor, grinding against the block wall behind Jarrick. He dropped below the weapon just moments before it reached his head. Keeping below the weapon, he circled behind the demon and looked for his window of opportunity. When the opportunity presented itself, he severed the demons left achilles tendon, forcing it to drop to a knee. The demon cocked its head back in anguish and Jarrick leapt onto its back, driving his blade through the back of its skull and effectively ending the threat.
The demon slumped over at the top of the stairs. As he climbed off of its back, the body shifted and began to slide down the staircase, thumping against each step on the way down.
He followed closely behind the body, sword raised and shield at the ready.
An eerie green glow painted shadows across the block wall as he descended, and it was when he had finally reached the bottom of the stairs that he could see once more. A twisted fel green portal awaited him at the end of the hallway, as did the silhouette of two people standing before it.
“Identify yourselves.” He demanded, casting his voice through the darkened catacombs, blade forward.
“Hey, he’s got a sword! Come over here, quickly!” One of them squeaked, as if commanding him to step forward. “I can’t break it with my daggers and her spells are useless.”
He furrowed his brow, his expression stern, though none of this was obvious as the catacombs were nearly pitch black against the strange glow that the portal gave off.
“They’re not useless, they’re just not useful for this particular thing you want me to do, Beep.” The other silhouette said.
It was then that a trio of fel hounds burst from the fel portal, leaping at the two silhouettes. One shrieked while the other let loose a string of expletives. “Damn fel puppies! It’s always something!” One of them snarled, struggling with the fel hound.
Demons could be erratic, but they followed a hierarchy. He thought to himself. If they were attacking whoever these two were at the end of the hallway, they clearly weren’t in league with each other.
He grit his teeth and broke into a sprint.
His shield connected squarely against the hounds face with a sickening crunch. It reeled back in anguish, letting go of one of them. In the same swift movement he brought his sword up on his right side with such force that it sliced directly through the jaws of the hound and continued on through the back of its head, freeing the other one. He then stepped between the two strangers and faced off against the final fel hound that stood between them and the portal, shield high.
It was when he had settled between the threat and the two strangers that he felt the inviting warmth of the Light as it enveloped him, shielding him from harm.
“Quick, break it! Before more come through!” The small one urged. “Won’t it explode if we destroy it, though?” The other asked. “I dunno. I didn’t think of that.” The first one admitted. “If it explodes and we’re all down here, we’ll murder not only ourselves but the people upstairs. Demons aren’t dumb, they knew what they were doing when they put this stupid thing down here.” The second one growled.
“Uh, is that true? Kaboom? How do we get rid of it without destroying everyone?”
Before he could speak the remaining fel hound lunged at him, snapping angrily and grinding its teeth on his shield, finding no flesh to latch onto. He swept his shield aside, striking the hound with such force that it stumbled off balance. He struck again; this time with his blade, driving it deep into the hounds neck. Fel green blood gushed from the wound and it slumped into a lifeless heap.
Afterwards, he pointed his sword at a small green crystal suspended near the portal.
“Destroying that crystal will destroy the portal. The backlash of fel energy will be incredible, however. We would not survive the blast.”
He fell silent for a moment before speaking again.
“If you are able to shield all of us though, we may be able to make it work.”
One of them spoke up. “There’s no way I can.. not if it’s as powerful if you say. But more than one priest could.” She said, already stepping towards the entrance of the catacombs. “I’ll be right back! I need to get more priests!”
And she was gone, leaving him with the gnome. He kept his attention focused on the portal before them to assure no other demons entered the catacombs until she returned.
“Uh.. lucky you were here, otherwise we might’ve gotten killed by those dogs. And then if we had destroyed the portal – which I was totally going to – we would have killed everyone!” The gnome exclaimed, swallowing hard as she paced back and forth.
The woman reappeared at their side with two more priests, both older gentleman judging by the sounds of their voices, though their features concealed in the darkness.
“Bartholomew, at your service.” One spoke, the sound of robes ruffling as if he bowed.
“Cedric.” The other muttered.
“Now, let’s get that shield up.” She said.
With their combined strength, the three priests summoned a shield of light to protect all four of them.
“It won’t last long.” Cedric warned them.
His eyes were still trained intensely on the fel portal before them – or moreso, what was coming at them from within the portal. The silhouette of a massive Nathrezim slowly took over the portal as it approached their world.
“Prepare yourselves.” He said as he moved towards the crystal. Just as the Nathrezim reached the portal, Jarrick smashed the fel crystal with the hilt of his blade, the driving force shattering it into a thousand pieces. As he stepped back towards the group, all eyes were trained on the portal.
At first it flickered and then began to shake violently, ultimately imploding. The silhouette of the Nathrezim disappeared as the portal sucked itself into nothingness, and then; the explosion.
The explosion blasted the group with such incredible force that it shook the entire base of the Cathedral. Their light drawn shield managed to keep them safe and contain the blast to a small corner of the catacombs, effectively thwarting the threat and saving them all from a terrible end.
As the thick green smoke began to clear, he lowered his shield and let his eyes linger on where the portal once was.
No more Dreadlord. No more demons. No more portal.
His chest fell as he exhaled and he let his weapons rest at his side.
“That was exhilarating!” The gnome cheered. She crowed a few more times and even did a little victory dance that was barely visible now that their only source of light was gone. Bartholomew and Cedric grunted as the shield collapsed. They may not have been the most spry men in the Cathedral but they got the job done.
Bartholomew clapped a hand on the other two priests shoulders and squeezed. “Well done, Cedric! Well done, Sarah!” Cedric repeated the gesture though he was less than enthused.
The gnome grabbed the priestesses wrist and tugged her along. “Thanks for the help, big guy!” She said to Jarrick as she was already exiting the catacombs. “Thanks, you two! Yeah! Go team! Go Alliance! We showed them! Great!” Her voice echoed down the hall as she continued to pull the priestess with her, despite her protests.
“H-hey, wait! We can’t go just yet!” The priestess yelled.
It was at that point that it clicked.
Something tugged at the back of his mind when he had first heard her voice, but it had been so long since he had last heard it…
It was when Bartholomew said her name aloud that it truly struck him.
His chest tightened and he was unable to draw a breath. His heart pounded and his blood ran hot in his veins. His eyes fell to the floor as his mind churned.
He thought to himself.
It is impossible.
His heart raced as he turned on his heel, peering into the darkness of the catacombs.
“…Did you say.. Sarah?“
“What? No, no! You must have misheard!” She squeaked, squeezing Sarah’s hand so hard that she yelped in pain.
“Why are you acting so oddly? More oddly than usual, Beep.” She frowned in the dark at Bipsy who seemed to be in a chaotic state of malfunction.
The two priests were confused, but affable as they approached him.
“Yes, yes. That’s Sarah, she’s an adept here.” Bartholomew stated, fumbling to relight a candle. “She’s been making great strides lately, all things considered. Thank you lad, for being here when you were, or else our entire Cathedral and all of the kind-hearted souls within would have perished.” Bartholomew bowed to Jarrick again and relit the candle, placing it on the candelabra nearby.
Somehow, amidst the swirling storm of emotion, he managed to answer Bartholomew straight. “Aye.. though it was your willingness to answer the call of unknown danger that saw us through.” He said.
Bartholomew chuckled waving his hand dismissively in the dim light. “The sentiment is appreciated. You are too modest.”
Next to Bartholomew, Cedric was hardly chuckling. He narrowed his eyes. He knew something was off.
“What’s going on here? He demanded. Before Jarrick could respond the gnome interjected.
“No, no, no! Dammit! It wasn’t supposed to happen like this!” She sputtered behind him.
“What wasn’t supposed to happen like this, Beep?! You’re not making any sense!” Sarah said as she pulled her hand from the gnomes grip. “I want to hear what this man has to say.” She stated as she walked towards Jarrick.
It was when she stepped into the only light in the darkness of the catacombs that he knew the truth. The past twenty four hours had been a whirlwind of blood, battle, and strife, but in this moment, he had been liberated from his worldly woes. The world around him ceased to exist as he gazed down into the starry eyes of the young priestess that stood before him.
In her eyes he saw brighter days under cerulean skies, heard the jingle of wind chimes as they played in the soft, warm sand of the bay, and felt the frigid mountain air that swept through the cabin while the hearth crackled and kept them warm as they snuggled under a blanket.
Most of all, he experienced the rush of emotion and the overwhelming love he had harbored for her then, and for all of these years since.
It had been five years since he had lost his light in the dark.
Five long years… and against all hope… he had found it once again.
He withdrew the gauntlet from his right hand and ever so gently caressed her cheek, as if somehow his touch would prove to him that this wasn’t a dream.
“It really is you…” He said, his voice low with a hint of doubt lingering in the words.
Her smiled faded into a look of concern as he caressed her cheek. Her eyes searched his, looking for answers, but there were none to be found.
Behind her, Cedric bit his bottom lip and glared at Bipsy.
“What have you done to this child, girl?” He addressed the gnome. She put her hands up defensively.
“Nothing! I didn’t do anything!” She protested.
“…Beep, am.. I supposed to know this man?” She said, casting a glance down at Bipsy who was nodding very, very slowly.
“Um. Well.. He.. was your boyfriend, I suppose. I can explain! I CAN EXPLAIN!” She roared, briefly running in a small circle. Sarah furrowed her brow and looked back at him, her cheeks flush.
“..Please forgive Bipsy. She can get a little manic from time to time.” She sighed. Bartholomew and Cedric shared a look of concern.
“Perhaps we ought to talk upstairs.” Bartholomew suggested. “I’m sure you have questions.”
He slowly snapped back to reality, finding himself in the dark catacombs with the others. “I.. think that would be wise.. aye.” He said, his voice full of question and doubt.
He followed up the rear as the group turned and made their way through the catacombs and up the stairs. Past the dead Fel Guard, past the rubble of the wall that had collapsed at the landing, and into the main hall where the last defenders of the Cathedral took refuge.
The Cathedral was still in chaos as many of the denizens were shaken, hurt, or unfortunately, dead. Some of the corpses were in the process of being moved by paladins while the priests were tending to the wounded. Many of the survivors were crying into their hands while others comforted them.
It was truly a heartbreaking scene.
“Sheesh. This is.. horrible.” Sarah said quietly. Bartholomew and Cedric both sighed sadly.
Another young priestess ran up to the group, panting. “Brothers! Sisters! Are you okay? We were so worried when you went down into the catacombs and had not returned. We would have come searching but we have had our hands full with the wounded up here.”
Sarah smiled. “Thank you for your concern, but we’re fine. How many wounded? Dead?” She asked.
“…We’re still counting. There are still bodies not recovered from the rubble yet. It’s going to take us a while unless we can get aid from elsewhere. Unfortunately, everyone seems to have their own problems. Demons have been attacking Dun Morogh and Westfall without showing any signs of stopping.” She said, finally catching her breath.
“Alright. We’ll be with you shortly.” Sarah nodded to the younger priestess before she ran off.
“Really puts things into perspective.” Bipsy said. Sarah looked down at her and blinked.
“You’re not off the hook yet.” Cedric scowled at Bipsy, pulling her aside and out of earshot. Cedric started off sternly but soon escalated into yelling at her. There wasn’t much to be heard from their argument except for a few words here and there.
“‘Good ta’ see yer’ still in ship shape, Marshal.” Granis stated as he approached. “Judgin’ by yer’ armor it looks like ye’ found some action down in th’ catacombs after all. Who’s yer’ friend ‘ere?”
“Granis.. This is Sarah.”
The dwarf sized her up. “Ye’ know, ye’ remind me of ah’ priestess that I used ta’ see pass through Kharanos on o’casion. Matter o’ fact, she used ta’ accompany th’ Marshal ‘ere on many o’ th’ trips. Ye’ know ah’ll never be able ta’ give ye’ enough o’ my condolences on that, Mason.”
He simply looked at Granis as he spoke. It took a moment for the dwarf to realize after he finished speaking.
“..wait ah’ sec. WAIT ah’ sec!” He bellowed, taking another good look at Sarah before turning back to Jarrick. “Ye’ dun’ mean ta’ tell me.. naw.. THIS ain’t THE Sarah, is it?!”
He simply nodded. Granis must have read the expression that painted Jarrick’s face. The dwarfs jaw dropped.
“Oh, hello. I wish I could give you a more enthusiastic greeting.” She said as she clasped the dwarfs hand into her own and squeezed it. “I can’t tell you how much I appreciate that you came when you did. You’re all so quick! And so strong!”
Behind her, Bipsy was still getting chewed by by Cedric.
“I’ve been here for five years now and nothing of this magnitude has ever happened before.” She said as she looked around the room and frowned.
Bipsy walked back over to the group glumly, her eyes pinned to her feet. Cedric looked cross with his arms folded in front of his chest.
“Well, I never. Bipsy, you owe Sarah an apology. You owe her MORE than that, come to think of it. As well as Marshal Mason. Actually, I don’t think words will quite cover it, but it would be a good start.” His words were harsh but level. She looked up at both of them and swallowed hard.
“I’m sorry for keeping the truth from you both. I didn’t mean to hide her out of malice. I was trying to keep her safe.” She muttered.
He looked down at Bipsy, his forearm resting on the hilt of his blade, his gazed locked on her. “Five long years I have lived with the notion that she was taken from me the instant that the mana bomb struck Theramore. Five long years I have searched for the body that was never granted proper burial. Five long years I have lived with her ghost, and the regret that I could have done more.” The weight of his words were real and he could see their weight piling onto Bipsy’s shoulders.
“…but I suppose you have your reasons.” He said. “After all, you are her sibling, and even if I disagree with the method that you chose to protect her, you did what you thought was right. What I do not understand is why she has no recollection of who I am.”
Bipsy barely had the strength to match eyes with him.
“..well, the obvious reason that there was no body to bury is that she wasn’t in Theramore when the bomb went off. She was with me. In Dalaran. Where I planned to keep her, but she’s mischevious and got away from me.” She said as she gave Sarah a look.
“You said I was kicked in the head by a horse.” Sarah said flatly. “This is new.”
Cedric placed a soothing hand on Sarah’s shoulder and frowned. “What you are about to find out is going to be difficult for you to listen to.” He murmured. Sarah flinched at his words. “Okay, but I still want to hear it.” She said. Bipsy sighed.
“Well, you weren’t kicked in the head by a horse. You were knocked out by an orc and nearly killed until the rest of the Alliance military showed up to look for survivors. You were accounted for, but you didn’t wake up for several days. When you did, you had… poof. Nooooo memory.” She explained, gesticulating with her hands. Sarah cringed.
“And why did he say you were my sister?” She asked. Bipsy groaned. This was clearly not a topic she wanted brought up.
“Well, you know. You’re my sister.” She said.
“Oh, like we’re so close, we were sisters?” Sarah pressed. Cedric coughed loudly.
“Bipsy, it will be much easier to hear it if it comes from you. You know that.” Cedric said, raising an eyebrow. Bipsy huffed but continued.
“Once upon a time, you were a gnome. Loooong story, now you’re a human girl. Somewhere along the line you met this guy over here.” She motioned to Jarrick. “And you fell in love!” She said, the words babbling freely from her lips like running water.
“WHAT?!” Sarah clutched her chest and looked as if she was about to fall over. He instinctively placed a hand against her back to catch her from falling, but realized that this must be incredibly foreign for a man that she had ‘just met’ to be acting as such. He slowly withdrew his hand.
“You said my parents died in Westfall years ago! You said I didn’t have any lovers! Every memory you’ve planted since Theramore was a RED HERRING?!” She screamed.
His chest was tight as he watched the woman he loved discover that her entire life was a lie. He could not find the words to comfort her.
“I’m sorry!” Bipsy put her hands up defensively and flinched. “Really!”
“You say sorry as though it’s suddenly going to fix everything. You smash a plate and say sorry to it. Is it fixed?! No.” Sarah crossed her arms over her chest, glaring daggers at her sister. “Why?! Why did you lie?!”
Cedric was waiting quietly for Bipsy to answer. When the gnome looked away, pouting, he stepped forward.
“I understand that you must be experiencing all sorts of emotions right now, Sarah. But do try to stay calm.” He said. His voice was soothing – years of practice speaking to fightened people, she supposed.
“Very well. You’re right. Though I am truly alarmed. It’s as if I fell asleep and when I woke, I found that my entire life was encapsulated in a dream.” Her voice was soft, but there was still a slight edge to it.
“I think your sister merely wanted to spare you the pain of reliving your past. Isn’t that right, Bipsy?” Cedric was looking at the gnome now and giving her a firm look that said if she didn’t start talking, she was going to be in a heap of trouble. Again.
“R-right. Well, you see.. the healers said that as long as your mind was active and you were exposed to things from your regular life, like people and places, that you’d get your memories back. So I thought that if we didn’t expose you to those things, you wouldn’t have to remember.” Bipsy said quietly.
“Remember what?” Sarah asked.
“That our entire family was wiped out during Theramore’s destruction.”
It was at that moment that it all made sense. He dipped his head slightly in acknowledgement of the truth. Foreign or not, he placed a comforting hand on Sarah’s back as he looked between the two. “Sarah.. Bipsy.. I am sorry.”
The air was thick with emotion as all of these things had come to a head.
The look on Sarah’s face devastated him. Her head hung low and it was if she had lost all sense within her being.
Cedric enveloped her in a comforting hug. “I’m sorry. You were supposed to find out years ago so that you might recover your memories. I’m sorry that did not happen, child.” He said gently into her ear. She sniffled. Bipsy rubbed the back of her neck sheepishly.
“Listen, Jarrick.. I’m really, REALLY sorry about all of this. I was kind of hoping that seeing you here would magically bring her memories back, but I guess that didn’t happen.” Bipsy flushed, clearly humiliated.
“Am.. am I broken..? Sarah sniffled. “If I didn’t remember him, maybe I’m just too badly damaged…”
“Don’t say that. You were removed from familiar faces and your normal routine for a long time. You need to give it time.” Cedric said as he pulled away. He looked at Jarrick with a raised eyebrow, as though asking him a question.
He took Sarah’s hand into his own and gazed deeply into her eyes. “The Clergy willing, perhaps we can retire to a place more private for the evening and I can catch you up on all that you have missed these past five years.. as well as where you were.. where we were, before the destruction of Theramore.”
Sarah looked back up at him as tears welled in her eyes.
While she was meeting this stranger for the first time, he was reuniting with the greatest gift he had ever known.