She was the fourth one through the portal, after Shaw gave the order – “Reports are in that the Horde is moving on Silithicus -they’re taking the sword.  I need to know where they are, and how long we have.”   The Alliance mages may not have had the raw might of the Kirin Tor?  But they could certainly open a portal – and hers?  Hers brought her just south of the Crossroads, in the heat and dry of the southern Barrens – tucked up in the hills near where the Qullboar still held sway and their giant thornvines marked the edges of their territory.

Joilinn brought with her the gyrocopter – folded and stowed to fit through the limited space the portal allowed – it was the work of a half-hour (a half-hour she chafed at and cursed) to get the thing unfolded and operational, and at least to be reasonably certain it wouldn’t fall out of the sky at the first provocation.  She checked on the surprises she had folded up in the undercarraige, stowing her meager weapons and gear aboard.  That was the worst part about this kind of mission – it always was.  Never having exactly what you needed, winging it in the field – she hated it.  

It didn’t matter, though.  One final check and the engine coughed to life, then roared – above her, the blades went from a slow spin to hacking their way through the air.  She went high, trying to get lost in the blue… and turned north.

When armies marched, it was always the smoke that gave them away.  Smoke from cooking fires and lanterns, the dust of marching feet, the haze above braziers, the scent of burning oil from siege engines.  It wasn’t hard to find the column, moving south out of Orgrimmar; she was surprised just how little air cover it had.  No wind riders, no goblin Hellions.  But the Demolishers were there, and so were the orcs.  Foot, calvary, all of it.  

Across the sky she saw another SI:7 scout – Reese, probably – in his own gyrocopter, holding long station.  

She decided her best bet was to cheat – a flick of a switch dropped Victory, and with a muffled thud the mechanical axebeak fell from the rear of the ‘coptor, unfolding as it went.  The gnomecorder in front of her… and the matrix that still made her head ache when the weather turned.. let her see what it saw as it traced a path above the army proper.  

Hundreds of orcs.  Tauren.  Darkspears.  There were forsaken there too, with their plague wagons, but only a few – no rangers.   Where were the rangers?  That worried her.  There were always rangers – she’d met them in the Lodge.  Cold.  Professional.  Dead on with a rifle and dead inside.  Fanatics always bothered her – and they were the worst kind of fanatics.  Loyal to the point of unquestioning obedience – and absolutely fantastically good at their job.

Her gnomecorder crackled to life – and Reese offered, in his gravelly whisper – “What are they waiting for?”

“Don’t know.”  Her reply was curt. “A signal from somewhere.  Stay remote – I have eyes.”

“Maybe.  I’m going to sweep west – see if they have outriders.  Out.”

She saw his ‘copter turn, and go higher, and then lost him in the blue.  She raised herself – the air getting thin enough that breathing was… interesting.   It wouldn’t do to get seen /now/.  Not with a whole army under her, bored and waiting.

Joi was getting low on fuel when the column finally started moving – it was almost with relief that she thumbed on the ‘corder and called, “Hey, Reese.  They’re heading out.  Watch the south roads.  ANy stragglers from Mulgore will probably join up with them there – see anything?”

Static.

“Reese?”

And then the column turned -NORTH.-

They weren’t supposed to go north – north was… nothing.  Trees, the Felwood – and nobody went into the Felwood if they could possibly avoid it.  And… Darkshore.  Why would the horde go to darkshore?

Her thoughts ran wild.  There’s nothing up there but woods and .. woods.  And elves.  A bunch of druids.  Teldrassil.  Nobody’s stupid enough to attack Teldrassil – what.  Trees?

She tilted over and followed the column high, looking for anything that would make sense.  Boats?  Drillers?  Something?

At the edge of Darkshore, the ‘corder woke and scouts reported in – the horde was driving north.  Skirmishes were already happening – they were attacking the wood.  Their footholds were expanding… several scouts reported heading for return portals.  Most didn’t report at all.

The Hellion shot her down at the edge of the wood – she had no idea he was there, intent as she was on the orcs spreading out into the forest, and even if she had known, her fuel would have made any protracted maneuvering impossible.  The gyrocopter came apart around her after the rocket hit;  she had enough presence of mind to jettison her surprises before control went to crap, and, dangerous as it was, she ducked over the side and did her best not to get cut in half by the rotor before it came apart.

That part went pretty well, all things considered.    And she had time to consider – it was a heck of a fall.  She waited a long time before she yanked the cord at her belt that spread her cloak like wings, that slowed her fall, and gave her a direction to head – for the water near Astranaar.

… which was on fire.

When she landed, it wasn’t lightly – a great spray of water ruined any chance she had at stealth.  Joi struck out for the elven city regardless, battered – making the shore and drawing Skinner with an easy grace, looking for the defenders.  For a place to hide.  SOmewhere to help.

There weren’t any.  

There was only the horde, and the forsaken that appeared out of the smoke came with knives that dripped green that burned when they cut her.  

The horde moved through Astranaar.  And the city burned, sending smoke above the trees to mark its death.

Author Aunne
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