For the Glory of his People
Ormel? Oh, he was my superior, that’s right. Vindicator Talaak, at your service friend. I was actually his adjutant for a long time, I like to think I knew the old demon better then most,. As I could prove by calling him an old demon and retaining my head.
The battle of Shattrath? That’s a sore subject to my people, but…very well. What is it you want to know? Everything? Alright, best settle down then my friend, I tend to go on, and it’s quite a story even without my ranting.
Well, as you may or may not know…the war against the orcs lasted around, eight years, and it was a war that cost us dearly, oh we fought, light…we fought, and we made them suffer for every life they took, every inch of land they marched across was paved in as much orc blood as Draenei blood.
I was one of the foolish ones, I believed we could win. I soon had such delusions beaten out of me of course. Mostly by Ormel, he often rode out with a squad to escort refugees to Shattrath, more then once we came upon a refugee group already dead, sometimes soldiers. sometimes families. The condition the bodies were left in… Such sights quickly quelled my belief that we could win.
I served alongside Ormel for thousands of your years. He was a difficult man to get to know, his wife was far easier to talk to, his direct superior, Exarch Alahnna. Ahh..I’m rambling. My apologies my friend.
Ahem…After the Orcs had systematically wiped out most of our towns and villages, all of us gathered in the city of Light, Shattrath. The holy Prophet had formulated a plan, it would ensure the survival of our species but the cost, an army would remain, and many civilians, all volunteers, would stay and fight, and die in order to buy time for enough Draenei to escape in order to sustain our species. Why then were civilians needed to stay if it was only a delay? It was simple, the Orcs had to believe they had wiped us out. Or they would have kept hunting us.
It saddened me to see it, non combatants taking place with the Harbingers and Vindicators who offered to stay. My heart only truly broke when I saw the children stepping forward to do their part for the survival of our race. I tell you now friend, I am not ashamed for weeping. It was sadness, there was also pride. A sense of rightness in what we were doing. We would die so that others would live, and let me tell you. I fought a thousand times harder knowing those children were there.
The Orcs gathered, set up camps, some got over eager and made little raids, they didn’t do any harm really, Archers and mages shot them down as they came. The waiting was bad, but the worst part was that every single day more and more Orcs arrived. A green ocean waited outside the walls of Shattrath city, and like the ocean it would not be denied its natural course.
A few days after the plan had been finalised I got a rare glimpse of the Harbingers personal and family life. I’ll admit it fascinated me to see that he too, had such simple desires as seeing his child to safety. Though, at nearly five hundred years old Miss Elani was no child. An Anchorite in training, and devoted healer. Most of the time I had known Ormel, it was as an aloof, silent, warrior. He wasn’t one to mince words and socialise. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to really, or that he felt above it. He was simply singularly devoted to his duty. Elanis’ birth changed a lot of that though.
I had been sent to his home with a dispatch from the Hand of Argus, he was given section command alongside Alahnna at one of the eastern walls. The home wasn’t really his, but he and his family had been assigned it after the original inhabitants had left with the Holy Prophet. I arrived at the doorway and he greeted me with a slight smile.
- Talaak, welcome. I was hoping you would show up. The last refugees leave today don’t they?* he inquired of me.
- Yes sir, Harbinger.*
- Really now, considering the fate that swiftly approaches. I think you can call him by his first name for once Talaak.* Alahnna had come from one of the adjoining rooms and smiled at me. Light she was beautiful. The smile, the eyes that shone so much brighter then other Draenei, or at least so it seemed to me.
- Ah, you’re right, Alahnna, come Talaak, join us for a meal and prayer. We have a favour to ask of you afterwards. If you are willing?* Ormel said and ushered me inside.
I nodded and followed them into the room Alahnna had come from, we sat around a small table. The meal, consisted of conjured foods and a small amount of wine. I remember asking why, when the final battle of our lives approached so swiftly, he spurned a little luxury still. He smiled at me and said
- I would rather go without something I could get used to.*
We spent some time talking, I went over the details of the dispatch I had been sent with, Ormel and Alahnna nodded and seemed happy, I think the knowledge that they would face the end together gave them some degree of peace. Still, to this day I don’t understand how they could smile, and talk and joke so casually. The only reasoning behind it I managed to conjure up, was that they had both seen so very much, that they truly were, ready to die.
I was content to sit there and simply answer whatever they asked of me. I allowed myself the delusion that this was a passing thing. That I would leave this house and return to my own. That I would sleep and then wake up tomorrow and go off to trade with the orcs, and they would not be the blood crazed savages that waited outside our city, preparing to kill us all.
The blissful delusion collapsed around me when I turned in my seat and saw Elani standing in the hallway, dressed in travelling gear. I knew immediately what was to be asked of me.
- Talaak, take our daughter to the gathering area, she is leaving with the last group of refugees.* Alahnna whispered to me, I think she did not trust her own voice, which shook even as she whispered.
Ormel stood and walked past me, embracing his daughter, he said something, and I never did find out what it was. When he released her, Alahnna stepped over and did the same. Elani smiled, a forced smile but she smiled anyway.
As I led her away from the house, I looked back at Ormel and Alahnna, stood in the doorway, their arms around each other as they watched their daughter walk away for what was to be the last time. Thinking back, I recall as I walked away, when I looked at Ormel, I could have sworn that I saw him crying. I never did have the nerve to ask him.
Elani walked quickly, I think she was struggling to keep herself moving forward, I can only imagine how it must have felt for the poor girl, to be walking away from her parents, knowing what would happen. I didn’t envy her, nor did I envy Ormel and Alahnna, sending their daughter away like that.
I left her with the refugee caravan, just as they began moving out of the city Elani turned to me, and she blessed me. I’m not sure why I believe this but…to this very day, I believe that her blessing kept me alive through the trials that followed. I never did get to thank her.
As the gates closed, the last of the Draenei who were to survive the purge had left us, and the city was eerily quiet. My heart was already heavy, I could face no more for that day and so I retired. I was blessed with a dreamless sleep.
The following morning I was awoken by a rolling thunder, only the thunder was speaking. It was calling, for blood. The Orcish horde assembled around Shattrath were baying for blood, they were calling to us, hoping to break our spirits. It was not going to happen. We knew we were to die, we only needed to take as many of them with us as we could.
I ran into Ormel as he was running over some combat exercises with the rest of the unit. Precision drills, theory, sparring… he was working them hard. As if he thought it would make a difference. When they were given leave to rest up and disperse I approached Ormel and saluted.
- Harbinger, I apologise for not returning to you yesterday. Though, as I’m sure you know Elani was among the refugees who left the city, she will no doubt be safe already with the others.*
- Thank you, Talaak, and there is no need to apologise. Except for calling me Harbinger again.* Ormel smirked at me and offered me his skin of water.
- What do you think, Harbi…..Ormel? Will they attack today?* I enquired before taking a gulp of water and handing the skin back to Ormel who then folded his arms across his chest and clucked his tongue .
- I think not, they will leave us a few more days I believe. They will want us truly on edge when they attack, it’s bright, the weather is clear, such conditions are not ideal for them to storm the walls of Shattrath.*
- Is this how you imagined your end? On a world so far from Argus, turned on by a race who even if not our closest friends were far from being enemies…*
- I’m not the kind of man who ever, imagined his end at all, Talaak. I lived before the troubles that have befallen our people, I suppose that lent itself to my belief that things would improve again, eventually. Still, everything ends I guess my life must do so before our people find peace.* Ormel chewed his lip and looked up at the sky.
I made my excuses and left, the rest of that day was dull, rather fruitless…combat training, civilians trying their very best to go about their lives as though the world was not about to end. That night however, the world did in fact, end.
I was woken by vindicator Zlek, and hurriedly donned my armour and made for the wall section I was to be stationed at. The hundred or so other Draenei who made up Exarch Alahnnas unit were already assembled.
The unit split into two and deployed along the walls, mages stood at the ready with priests to the rear, already casting shields to repel the inevitable storm of fire. I was given a crossbow and took my place at the walls, I stared out into the forest, the undergrowth was alive with movement, or so I had thought, the undergrowth and grass, small trees no longer existed, what my eyes had first perceived as the forest of green, was in fact the Horde that had come to claim our lives.
I heard shouting to my left, and managed to tear my eyes from the sight below long enough to see Ormel walking along the walls, Mages and archers stepped back to allow him to pass unhindered and as he bellowed at the top of his voice.
- Brothers, Sisters! Do you see this?! Do you see the army they send before us?! They would drown us with numbers where their meagre skills fail them!* Bravado, typical of Ormel, he was in his element now, and I knew what was coming, the rousing speech, a joke or two, then a sombre tone as he would explain what was needed of us, then he would continue on to lift our hearts with promises of glory and a place with the Light. I was absolutely right about that. He was predictable, or I just knew him too well.
- My friends, allies! We stand here on the edge of the abyss, the Orcs are here for blood! And they will have it! There are many Draenei here tonight, many who will die! But for every life they take! We will take ten as payment! For the Glory, no…for the very survival of our species! Stand tall, stand proud! Fight like you have never fought before and when you die! You will be embraced by the Light! When you die! Look for me, I’ll owe you a drink!*
The troops cheered, the weight on our hearts lifted. The enemy was below us, and it was time to fight them, the time for raids, skirmishes, intimidation was over. Now there was only the white hot horror of battle. I glanced at Ormel, stood next to me, he gave me a reassuring pat on the shoulder. He then gave me the best advice anyone had ever given me,
- Talaak.* He said, *Whatever you do, don’t let them take you alive.*
I nodded, I was about to reply when the sky caught fire.
I looked up at the flames in the sky, and they began raining down on our lines, even as Alahnna gave the order the Anchorites had shielded us.
- Anchorites! Keep the shield up!* I heard Alahnna roar, *Archers, the casters will be near the front lines! Put them down!*
Against the sea of flame, our return of arrows seemed feeble and weak, but the return was precise. As Archers found their targets the Warlocks fell back and before long, the siege engines were brought forward. Never in my long life, had I seen a battle on this scale. Catapults launched boulders into the city, at the walls.
One of the boulders crashed into the courtyards behind our position. I took no notice of the missed shot until a warrior next to me cried out in alarm, looking back I saw how far the Orcish race had fallen.
- INFERNAL!* The shout was mirrored across the battle lines and mages immediately felled the demon spawn with a barrage of magical attacks. Word was given for the reservists to make their way through the city destroying as many infernals as they could. This meant however, that we had far fewer soldiers to call on when our forces on the wall began thinning.
My head was swimming, trying to take in everything that had happened so far, and the Orcs had not even begun the assault yet.
Satisfied at their handiwork so far, a horn sounded somewhere in the sea of green, and like a tidal wave that had been building momentum, the Orcish Horde crashed into the walls of Shattrath. The ground shook as the Orcs charged screaming and crying out for blood. The first Orc I lined up, did not receive the blood he craved so dearly, he received only a crossbow bolt to the heart. My first kill in this war. And already he was obscured from view, as if it had never happened, as if I had done nothing…fired wide…there were so many.
Ladders were being brought forward, our mages were exhausting themselves setting the ground beneath the Orcs on fire, countless Orcs died and not for a second did their furious assault falter. As the first of them reached the top of a ladder, one of the vindicators collapsed its skull with a blow from her mace. I risked a look down the line, to watch for more ladders and I couldn’t understand what I was seeing, along the walls, a number of Draenei lay, dead or wounded. I had been so absorbed in my own fight, I had failed to notice the return fire from Orc archers.
For a moment, I considered giving up, throwing myself to the Orcs and putting myself at their mercy. A moments weakness I still atone for to this day. I saw the Vindicator who had claimed the sections first close combat kill dragged over the wall and despite the efforts of others she was taken and fell into the Orcish Horde…another thing that still haunts me to this day are her screams. Cut short when Ormel managed to get a look at her long enough to shoot her himself.
Another Orc had scaled the ladder and attempted to drag Ormel to the same fate, the cretins eyes were blood red, it truly looked like a demon come to drag my old friend into the nether. Ormel was having none of it, he caught the Orc by its ponytail and instead, dragged it over the wall onto the rampart. The orc stabbed at him and he parried the blow with back of his hand stamping the life out of the thrashing Greenskin with his hoof.
And still, they kept coming, there was no sense of unified soldiery. Every single orc seemed only focused on its own individual need to spill blood, and by the Holy Light they were spilling it. The warrior to my right slumped, his arms still resting on the walls gripping his crossbow. It was like he had fallen asleep, I knew that no sleep could relax the body the way he had however, only the embrace of death. Shoving the body of my fallen comrade aside I took his sword, as yet unspoiled in this battle, I would do him a final service, his blade would taste Orcish blood.
The, ladder he had been trying to knock over before he had been killed was weighted around the centre, it must have been nigh on impossible to raise it, and it would be nearly as difficult to drop it again, especially with the innumerable Orcs constantly working to gain purchase on it and climb to face the defenders of shattrath. My mind raced as I tried to think of a way to drop the ladder, all the while the screaming, yelling, the crying was going on all around me. A mage ran to my side and conjured a stream of flame which he sent cascading down the ladder, his efforts were rewarded with the smell of cooked flesh. I managed to push the ladder away from the wall, and he ensured it fell with a gust of icy wind from his hands. A small victory, one less ladder to worry about. I was so foolish. Almost immediately another ladder was raised in place of the one I knocked, the look of dismay I wore was mirrored by the mage. All the while infernals continued raining down upon the city.
- Healers, tend the wounded! Ease the passing of those whose wounds are fatal and get back on the line!* I heard Ormel roar from a few feet away. As I looked back along the wall I saw Orcs amassing along it, the combat was close and bloody now, an Anchorite was tending the injuries of an archer when an Orc scrambled up onto the wall in front of them. Neither seemed to notice, and I watched on horrified as the orc drew its axe. I glanced at the sword of the fallen warrior clutched in my hands and threw it with every ounce of strength in my arms. The orc was impaled and toppled, screaming back over the wall.
I was too busy celebrating this tiny victory to see the Orc who had mounted the wall in front of me. He grinned viciously and I still had my blessed hammer slung over my back. The Greenskin leapt on top of me and we both crashed onto the floor, by sheer terrible luck I had fallen in such a way that my arms were pinned beneath the scum as he laid into me with his fists, I tried to move my head to even semi avoid some of the blows he rained onto me, I felt myself slipping away as I watched the Orc raise a dagger, only to lose its arms at the elbow and then its head.
I was dragged to my feet and thrown into a healer who sank to her knees and began channelling her holy magic into me to slow the blood loss and clear my head. I was told later that my saviour had been Ormel, and he had manned the wall in my place screaming oaths and challenging all who scaled the ladders within reach of his blades. Just like him, to give into his rage.
By the time my vision had cleared and I was fit to return to the battle, only a few minutes had passed and the situation was deteriorating rapidly. The Orcs were swarming the walls faster then we could kill them, our numbers were beginning to thin as more and more Draenei were felled. I reached my former position to see Ormel skewer an Orc and hurl it back down the wall toppling a few of its fellows.
- Brother Talaak, good of you to come back to us so soon. We’re getting ready to fall back to the centre of Shattrath, The walls are lost, we can’t hold out for much longer.* Ormel was breathing heavily, his armour was dented, chipped and torn in places and around his midsection was a brutal looking gouge that was spilling blood down his armour.
- What are your orders?* I asked, trying to just, say anything to take my mind off the pain in my head.
- Tal’ek here is going to give them something to remember us by, and give us a moments respite.* Ormel said, with a slight smile creasing his face he turned to the mage who had helped me earlier toppling the ladder and clapped him across the shoulder.
- Tal’ek, we will remember your sacrifice, Light keep you brother.* Ormel saluted stiffly and Tal’ek nodded, I still had no understanding of what was happening, all the while Orcs were scaling the walls and the remaining Draenei strove to keep them from overwhelming us. I was about to ask what sacrifice was to be made when a few mages ran to Tal’ek and began channelling their magic into his body. He held up a hand after a few seconds to stop them and turned and leapt over the wall to the Orcs below.
I was dumbstruck, but just as he dropped out of sight, his robes had been smouldering and beginning to catch fire, a mere millisecond later the night was lit up with the explosion of magic and fire that erupted from the young mages body. For the briefest moment, the world was silent, I had actually been temporarily deafened by the blast and was dragged away from walls by Ormel as the defenders leapt down into the courtyard and made for the centre of the city.
We were to meet the remaining defenders for a standoff in the terrace of Light, but it was not to be. I turned to look back at the walls and a green mist was settling upon the city, the sickly colour, the odour stirred a dread inside me, I saw those who had been too slow to leave their post coughing and choking in the mist briefly before they were swarmed by Orcs and slaughtered.
From the look on Ormels face I gathered he had reached the same conclusions as I had. The Orcs had unleashed devastating fel magic upon the city. Our path was cut off and we were forced to take a winding route through the city streets as we ran, the twenty or so of our section who remained alive. I could barely make out any of them so caked in blood, both Draenei and Orc. Most looked dead on their feet, I imagined I must have looked far worse.
We reached a storehouse and Alahnna ordered us to take a moments respite there. We sat, and gathered our thoughts as our remaining healer tended the wounds of those who needed it most. Ormel stood at his wife’s side gripping her hand tightly in his own.
- We fought well, my friends. By now the refugees will be well hidden and our species’ survival will be assured. Some optimistic sorts might even call this a victory of some kind. We won’t be able to make it to the Terrace, the Orcs have us cut off and stranded. Anchorite Krel’a would you lead us in a final prayer to the Light, for our lost comrades and for our own souls?*
The Anchorite smiled faintly and nodded, she began reciting an oath of devotion to the Light and the rest of us joined in, for a few minutes there was silence as she blessed each of us, then the war came back to find us.
We were making our way through the streets of the city, stepping over the bodies of Draenei, no longer only the bodies of soldiers now, I kept my eyes focused on the back of Ormels head, I couldn’t look at the scene below me. Then from behind us, an explosion of rock and mortar as one of the walls of a home exploded out and killed three of the unit instantly with debris. From the ruined a home an ogre stomped out, its mace slick with blue blood. The creature seemed to consider us for a moment before roaring and swinging its mace nearly crushing the Anchorite who barely skipped aside.
The commotion was bound to draw more attention and we readied ourselves for the Orcish reinforcements. As the ogre raised its mace again, an armoured shape charged past me and launched at the beast, shouldering into its stomach Ormel knocked it off balance and tore a gouge in its side with his blade.
- Go! The city is fallen! Get out and try and join the others! Defend our people with same devotion you defended this city!* Ormel roared as he dodged and countered the Ogres attacks, the beast was not slack and managed to lift Ormel from the ground with a backhand that sent him sprawling.
Most followed this order instantly, Alahnna led us as we made to take our leave through the city. A few Draenei launched into battle with the Ogre alongside Ormel, and they had backed into the home the ogre had emerged from, I dared stay a moment longer, I had to see. The sound of battle from the building was awful, Ormel was screaming oaths and cursing the Ogre and his entire species.
Then the infernal struck the building they were inside and it collapsed on top of them. The sense of cruel injustice I felt, my superior, my friend. A man who was in my eyes a hero. Crushed under tonnes of rubble. I glanced at Alahnna and from the look on her face, well I now know the look on a persons face when their heart breaks.
The sound of Orcish shouts and footfalls shook us all back into reality, we made for one of the sewer entrances and our remaining two mages collapsed a section of tunnel behind us as we made for the exit into lake east of Shattrath city.
We rested for a few hours in the tunnel, some managed to sleep, others, simply sat there and others still wept. We had fought with everything we had, and we had lost our city. The fact that we had survived made it all the worse.
When we emerged from the lake, it was midday, and Shattrath still burned. Of the twenty of us who originally managed to fall back from the walls, six of us remained. Those who had not fallen against the Ogre had perished from their wounds.
Alahnna led us into Zangarmarsh, nobody spoke, we marched for most of the day before we were spotted by a Draenei scout who guided us through the marshlands and as far as Telredor. We were welcomed as heroes, valiant and brave. Of the six of us who made it to Telredor, one took his own life.
Oh yes, it fills me with sadness to recall those times, my friend. I’m sure you see what makes it a sore subject now? Ormels survival? That is a story for another time. I have duties to attend. I hope what I told has been what you were looking for.