Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Broken Front (Requiescat)

Originally intended for the LoreCrafted/Too Many Annas Midsummer writing contest. Didn't finish in time, but a handful of Netherbanes insisted I finish, so here it is.


Jezriyah could still hear the proud laughing behind her as she unhitched her nether ray from the posts. She tucked the ceremonial torches into her bag and slid up onto his sleek back.

"Brotha' Keltan?" She turned towards the priest, who cast her a curious look. She opened her eyes wide, trying her best to look earnest. "I was'na told tha' your people were among th' fallen, but... should I find any... have ya some token of th' Light or ritual I could perform f'them?"

"Of course, sister troll," the elf replied, a bit taken aback, but appearing grateful. He gave her an amulet he'd kept around his wrist, and recited to her a simplified form of their traditional last rites. She repeated it to herself as her mount glided over the side of Orgrim's Hammer -- the name of the ship made her want to spit now. She'd never known Doomhammer; she had no idea how proper it was to do what had been done here in his name. She wished she did. If he'd have approved of this "glorious assault", she could save herself the trouble of respecting his memory.

She'd gotten clearance to go back onto the field to provide funeral rites for the fallen. She knew her own people's ceremonies by heart, as well as those of the orcs, and the druidic rituals of the tauren were similar enough that she could wing it. The Blood Elves received the piecemeal blessing of the Light, best that she could recall it... she was still unsure by whom exactly its power was granted, but the naaru, at least, she felt confident would overlook her haphazard attempts. After some hesitation, she delivered this to the Forsaken as well, on the basis that their souls and bodies had originated in human form.

She worked as quickly as she could while maintaining proper reverence, and kept a careful eye upwards. As soon as the zeppelin was far enough away that she couldn't be effectively observed, she slipped back onto the ray's back and headed towards the northern end of the battlefield, where the remnants of the Scourge forces were still picking over the remains of the slaughtered armies.

Upon reaching the first Alliance corpse -- a gnome -- she hesitated. From what little she knew of them, they seemed like slightly less malicious goblins, with no real gods or allegiances beyond themselves. What would be the agnostic engineer's equivalent of a funeral pyre? A pile of saronite grenades and a crisp salute? After a few minutes of deliberation, she decided if they didn't have any gods, she'd appeal to her own. Hopefully whatever higher power judged the souls of gnomes would forgive them. It couldn't be any worse than being left to rot on the battlefield and picked up again to serve your enemy's master.

With that confusion handled, the rest of the "enemy" rites were easy. The blessings of the Light to all of them, save the small number of night elves; she couldn't quite force herself to invoke Elune's blessing, so she appealed to Mu'sha and hoped for the best. She fell into a rhythm after some time, looking up to see which races lie three or four bodies ahead of her and mentally organizing which words and gestures came next. The slow, methodical pace of the work made it that much more jarring when the plate-clad hand shot up to grab her wrist.

"Nether... take you," the dwarf hissed, blood dripping between his bared teeth. "Beasts!"

"Calm yourself, paladin," she replied softly, not pulling her hand away for fear of startling him into attacking. "I am not part of this offensive."

"You wear their colors," he growled, trying in vain to sit upright, his weakened body unable to move his plate armor.

"They wear our colors, dwarf, and disgrace them," she snapped, anger flooding her. She wrenched her hand from his, rubbing her wrist. After a brief pause she leaned closer to him. "I know I speak your language poorly, but please listen. The Horde does not seek war."

The paladin's eyes narrowed. "Then what was this? Why would you attack us instead of joining the assault on the Scourge?"

"I do not know." Jezriyah closed her eyes, taking a deep breath. "There are some among my people who think honor comes in battle, no matter what battle it is. And some are so proud of the Horde they refuse to put aside old grudges for the greater good."

"Then they doom us all." His voice was hoarse, thickened by blood pooling in his throat.

She was silent for a long moment before looking back down at him. "Some," she whispered. "Not all. There are still some clear minds among our ranks, the Warchief and Saurfang... and plenty who follow them. And Lady Proudmoore, and the Argent Crusade, and all of us who still love our home and want it to be safe." Her voice cracked softly. "And I swear to you we will fight until we can fight no more."

Their gazes met for a long moment, her deep red eyes surely as alien to him as his squinty blue ones were to her. He took a few more labored, rattling breaths. "Then fight on," he whispered, barely able to force the words out.

Tears pricked the back of her eyes as she lifted Keltan's amulet, whispering a string of Thalassian words that neither of them understood, but the paladin seemed to recognize. He closed his eyes, the pain on his face subsiding. "Light be with you, soldier," he murmured, as his breaths slowed.

She slipped the token back in her pocket as she pushed to her feet. "Light be with us all," she whispered, before walking down the battlefield toward the rest of the fallen.


Kelly said...

Wonderful story. I had tears in my eyes by the end... o>_>o
I really felt the heaviness of the battlefield...many died, and you did a wonderful job portraying that.
I sincerely hope you keep writing more!

Richard said...

It covers the "this was really bad, wasn't it?" side of the Horde's PoV on the Broken Front quite well, I think. It's one of those events that truly define where the conflict is going.
And as I mentioned over Twitter, I think my favorite line has to be "A pile of saronite grenades and a crisp salute?" Because, honestly? That's pretty much what Lokker would wish...

Klinderas said...

I can understand not liking this war. Strategically speaking, it's a waste of time and resources.

But MAN do I still dislike the Kal'Dorei and the humans. The rest can be a bit irritating, but the Night elves and the humans are a disaster. Once I'm done slaying Arthas, those two are next.