The Divine Bell: The Horde Story

Note to the reader: this post is entirely about World of Warcraft lore.  If this doesn’t interest you, then there isn’t anything else for you to see here.

The recent patch (5.1) to World of Warcraft introduced a new faction in the form of the Dominance Offensive (for us Horde players; Operation: Shieldwall is the Alliance equivalent).  As you grind out reputation with them, you receive once-off quests that advance the plot and lore of the Mists of Pandaria expansion.  As Anne Stickney pointed out, it’s brilliantly done.

Not to be content with that alone, Sagara over on Maintankadin has written the Horde story out from the perspective of his role-playing paladin.  As this is even more brilliantly done, I’ve decided to reproduce it here for posterity (with just some minor spelling and grammar errors corrected).

This does contain spoilers for content that some folks may not have seen yet, so I’m putting it behind the break.

Chapter 1: Dagger in the Dark (Day 0)

On Patch day, we were given the “honour” of escorting Garrosh and secure the island that would become Domination Point. With construction underway, we were surprised by an unexpected guest: Vol’jin had arrived on Pandaria by his own means.

The divide between the troll and the orc was evident when Garrosh extolled the virtues of his war of conquest, while Vol’jin reminded him of exactly how he was viewed from the outside. Still, Vol’jin was sent on reconnaissance with an orc party and ourselves as the “local expert”.

While the orcs secured the northernmost point of the Veiled Stairs, Vol’jin and us explored the cave that leads to Kun-Lai, stumbling upon a saurok nest containing mogu relics discussing the creation of the sauroks. Vol’jin was disgusted, while the orcs wanted to exploit the mogu’s ideas for their own. Discussions heated, accusations of betrayal were made and a fight ensued where the orc party was wiped out and Vol’jin wounded. Vol’jin went under the radar, officially killed in the cave.

Chapter 2: The Voice of the Gods (Day 2)

We were summoned to the Shrine of Two Moons, where Lor’themar and a band of Reliquary archeologists had set an advance base. We were sent to an excavation site on a plateau in the Vale of Eternal Blossom around the time a quilen statue was unearthed.

Sadly, no-one had cared to warn the elves about the quilen’s unique properties, and we had to put the beast down, looting a mogu tablet describing some kind of weapon: “A bell cast from the makers’ flesh, shaped by stars’ fire, and bound by the breath of darkest shadow. This bell, when rung, could shake the world and call to the heavens.”

Needless to say, Garrosh was overjoyed at the discovery. More importantly, the Reliquary provided us with a transcript of the tablet, mentioning they trusted “that you will not share this sensitive information with just anyone.” Whether the Reliquary is aware of Vol’jin’s duplicity is unclear at this point.

Chapter 3: The Horde Is Family (day 4)

Chen has been a friend of Vol’jin’s for a decade now, so when Chen called us to Kun-Lai, it should have been a small surprise to know he was tending to a bedridden Vol’jin, poisoned in the battle a few days before. After some treatment, Vol’jin was aware enough to hand us a hearthstone — that served as a distress signal to the one person Vol’jin trusted above all.

We thus teleported to the Valley of Trials, where Thrall and Aggra were teaching orclings. The Hearthstone’s meaning was clear to Thrall — Vol’jin feared for his people, and trusted Thrall to help them in his absence. To Thrall, the Horde is a family that protects one another. Garrosh, not so much: the Echo Isles were under martial law, with orc warrior and warlocks keeping the trolls under constant watch.

To his chagrin, Thrall asked us to break the occupation by force. With the trolls freed, Thrall took over leadership in Vol’jin’s stead, mulling whether he has any right to force the Horde away from Garrosh’s vision. He asked for our silence until he has found his own answer.

Chapter 4: Blood For Blood (Day 7)

A week since the Horde made landfall, we were again summoned to Kun-Lai Summit. Only this time, we were called to the mogu ruins near Eastwind Rest, by Lor’themar Theron himself, who had gotten into trouble. Garrosh was underway, but after all, WE were the specialists in Pandaria.

To say the climate was chill was an understatement — the Reliquary had been dispatched by Garrosh with a few Blood Knights for support to excavate the mogu ruins. What he forgot to mention was that the mogu very still very much active. It was in the middle of the dead and wounded that Lor’themar called Garrosh out, who merely replied that the blood elves should have been capable of handling it, information or not.

And so, the local expert (that’s us) were sent to gather data about the local mogu (the Korune) and free any captive Blood Elves we could find. The Korune were led by a spellweaver using sha magics that might be linked to the Bell we had found before. The disaster had been stalled, and valuable data gathered, but the cost in bad blood was evident.

Chapter 5: The Korune (Day 8)

After yesterday’s debacle, it seems Lor’themar has decided to shift into higher gear. An anonymous letter summoned me to the Valley of Emperors, where he and a handful of Blood Elves had set up a forward camp.

The plan was clear: flanked by Orestes of the Farstriders and Aenea of the Blood Knights, we were to gather any intel we could on the Korune, and capture their leader, all without Garrosh the wiser. The first part was a resounding success: the Korune had returned due to the return of the Thunder King, and were clearly up to something sha-related.

The second part, sadly, had a fatal flaw — Garrosh got wind of the plan. His presence guaranteed the defeat of Shan Kien, but his brashness almost cost us our quarry, when he almost slew the leader while prying the location of the Divine Bell from him. The quick intervention of Fanlyr Silverthorn spared him, but did not diminish Garrosh’s anger, to the point of threathening the elven mage.

The very next day, a secret letter arrived to us from Vol’jin himself. He was in contact with Baine, who was keeping a close eye on Garrosh’s plans. Apparently, he was determined to exploit both the Sha’s and the Bell’s power. But Garrosh did not trust the tauren chieftain — and so Vol’jin had to remind us — stay close to Garrosh. He trusts us. That may very well be his downfall.

Chapter 6: Pride (Day 10)

Baine has spent little time enjoying the vistas of Pandaria — a single day has passed since Vol’jin’s letter that Baine has already sent word that he required aid from the champions of the Horde. Requesting specifically someone capable in combat, as well as discretion.

Nevertheless, the arrival at the Shrine of Two Moons was… surprising, to say the least. The sight of grayish grunts, clearly affected by the sha brought frightening memories of the Jade Forest to mind. But the sight of Garrosh, Lor’themar and young Baine debating around a Sha claw was even more chilling. Where did it come from? Was this the Sha of Anger’s claw?

Baine’s request was clear — Garrosh had experiments made with the power we found in Kun-Lai, most probably the claw. He had hoped it would strengthen the troops. The grunts had grown randomly violent as a result. Our task, then was to interrogate the grunt, and contain them if necessary.

The grunts had indeed gone berserk, producing Sha claws and the very same magic we saw the mogu wield. Which eventually begged the question — were the Korune truly in control of the power they wielded? Which is basically the question Lor’themar asked — the sha had empowered the mogu, yes. “But their empire fell. Perhaps to the sha, perhaps to the pandaren, or perhaps… to their own pride.” Garrosh did not take well to the veiled critic, but refrained from going further than reprimand the Lord Regent. For now.

Chapter 7: Rise of the Blood Elves (Day 13)

Garrosh never earned any awards for patience. I guess it’s a miracle, to a point, that it took him so long to lash out and demand RESULTS from the Blood Elves investigating their finds in Kun-Lai. I could almost picture him petting a white cat while slamming on his throne, DEMANDING results from Nazgrim, before pushing a button and throwing him in a wacky slide outside Orgrimmar. The look on Tak-Tak’s face when I jested about a kite for Silvermoon was worth my while as well.

Anyway, Lor’themar didn’t enjoy the Warchief’s silliness quite as much — I guess it’s hard to lighten up in his position. Sadly, he had little to offer — Rommath and Aethas were hard at work on a box that had been captured from the Korune. It consistently corrupted anyone that handled it with raw negative emotion. That probably rang quite a few bells, divine or not, so they asked for, you guessed it, the Pandaria expert, yours truly.

But Jaina and Dalaran was on everyone’s mind, and Rommath was more than a bit distrustful of Proudmoore’s “neutrality”. I guess facing death in Dalaran’s cells does that to you… Aethas was more hopeful, and in fact, did not believe we should throw everything away for Garrosh’s puppy eyes, especially if it required absorbing powers like the one the Korune wielded, or like Kael’thas wielded. Looking at the very room M’uru had been locked in, a faint chill went up my spine…

Still, the box was ready to be opened, and our presence was required because we had faced the worst Pandaria had to offer. And the worst did the box offer — a Sha spirit, in the middle of Silvermoon, right next to the two greatest archmages the Blood Elves had to offer. Disaster struck, and it took every bit of the guard’s will to focus on the beast and bring it down before Aethas and Rommath destroyed one another and Farstrider Square along with them.

The report to Lor’themar was fairly short, as he had arrived as soon as word had reached him. We… had a conversation on the way out. Garrosh had been crossing lines on a nearly daily basis, and we had nearly lost another square of our already weakened city. The Blood Elves had fled the Alliance that had threatened to slaughter them — the resemblance was too uncanny to ignore. The elves’ support was waning, even if the Horde had Lor’themar’s respect. Maybe someday, old alliances will be reconsidered.

Chapter 8: Secrets of the Past (Day 14)

If Silvermoon’s trouble affected Garrosh in any way, it clearly did not show at all in his actions today. Still, it’s hard to believe he had not heard about it, considering a talking monkey from Pandaria was aware of Lor’themar’s growing discontentment of Garrosh.

Nevertheless, it was Chieftain Baine that called to us today, sending us to a small encampment in Kun-Lai where he and Garrosh were trying to gain the location of the Divine Bell from Shan Kien. As was par for the course, Garrosh was more than eager to proceed with shortening the mogu’s extremities to hasten the process.

I’m beginning to realise why so many of the Horde leaders have grown so collected recently — I’m guessing trying to cajole an eight-year-old holding a mana bomb does that to you. At least Baine managed to curb Garrosh’s tendencies long enough to formulate an alternate plan — he had learn a recipe from the pandaren that allowed one to witness another’s past. This “Memory wine” was all but ready, and only required the essence of a being that witnessed that time. With Baine busy keeping Garrosh and Ishi in check, it fell to us to gather that essence in the local mogu ruins.

The memory wine was… interesting, to say the least. Shan Kien had been responsible for the hiding of the Bell, in a ruin in Kun-Lai. We got a pretty good idea of our surroundings while the mogu was busy burying his own men alive inside the tomb. Gee, a leader that sacrifices his own men, where have I HEARD that just yesterday?

Anyway, we had a description of the tomb, and a general idea of its location. Scouting parties were underway, and not a moment too soon – Vol’jin was still in Pandaria, and had witnessed Alliance scouting parties in contact with the Shado-Pan. It seems we are not the only ones after the Bell. As Vol’jin stated, even if we would be in trouble should the Horde grab the Bell, we would in even bigger trouble if the Alliance grabbed it — there are rumours of Varian having lost his bloodthirst, but even then, all it would take is one overeager general to use the Bell. The endgame was coming, and between the Horde’s rock and the Alliance’s hard place, we would have to make hard choices soon enough.

Chapter 9: The Divine Bell (Day 15)

The Horde scouts have reported today: the entrance to a mogu tomb looking suspiciously like the one we saw in Shan Kien’s past has been discovered, and Ishi, a Blademaster close to Garrosh is on its way to the tomb. Considering the likelihood of traps inside the tomb, they requested my help in exploring and locate the Divine Bell.

The journey was fairly calm, but the night elven corpses before the tomb, as well as the blood on the orc’s armour was a dead giveaway — the Alliance had somehow found out about the Bell. Ishi confirmed our suspicions, but had even more dire news — they were already inside, and closing in on the Bell. The orc platoon stayed outside to secure a way out, while Ishi accompanied us inside.

I cursed a bit inside — alone, it would have been simple to destroy or bury the Bell somehow and keep it out of everyone’s hands — neither Garrosh nor the Alliance could be trusted with such a weapon. But with Ishi along, there was no way to keep the Bell hidden, and killing a fellow Horde, even a follower of Garrosh was nothing short of evil in a way that would have shamed even the Blood Knights back when we were founded.

I was so lost in thought and trying to dodge the now-familiar Mogu pressure plate traps that I never saw the attack until the first arrow bumped on my shoulderplate. The night elves had prepared an ambush — six against two, but there was no way they could have stopped us. I should have guessed what their point was…

It quickly turned in a wild goose chase, as both groups tried to exploit all the traps — columns of fire rose, interrupted by the mighty swing of a mogu statue, knocking arrows out of the air. We were battered when we made it to what seemed like the main room of the tomb, that housed a… portal?

Delaying tactics — it had all been a setup to make us lose time until the Bell could be teleported away. The gate closed before our eyes, framing the lithe form of a night elf who began in rough Orcish — “Very well, I will face you myself. Face Sarannah Skyglaive — for the Alliance!”.

Sounds of battle echoed in the silence of the tomb, with my eyes, a lonely wisp, and the clashing of steel as only sources of light. She was good in the darkness of the tomb, but Ishi was better. A woman’s shriek, steel clashing on the ground. Sarannah sat in a mix of our bloods, cradling the stump of her severed forearm — Ishi had not been kind to her.

“My death… means… nothing! The Bell is already in Darnassus! You filthy Horde will never have it!”

Ishi was not listening — his eyes focused on the pedestal where his prize had vanished.

“Maybe. You’re bleeding out, Skyglaive, and you deserve a better end. Show your neck, so that I can ease your pain.”

As my blade fell, I couldn’t help but wonder if everything had not gone for the best.

Chapter 10: The Darnassus Operation (Day 16)

The Horde’s reaction to the loss of the Bell was swift and relentless — Nazgrim had an unusual job for me the very next day. Access to Darnassus had been closed off both by sea and by air — the proverbial fortress that was impassable from any physical angle. Betrayal, however, had opened a pinpoint hole in their defences, allowing entry.

Members of the Sunreavers (which remained unnamed for security reasons — not that I would love to hear the names of blood elf traitors) had hijacked a Silver Covenant portal that connected Dalaran to Darnassus. With some mumbo-jumbo about arcane channelling or whatever, they had managed to slip a portal of their own that led to the night elven city. The portal was small and weak, so they had to send as few people as possible through. That’s what they wanted us for — infiltrate Darnassus, and recapture the Divine Bell.

Fanlyr Silverthorn had already been dropped on-site, as were a handful of Sunreavers. This was a delicate diplomatic situation — should anyone learn of their involvement, the Kirin Tor would be enraged. As if Jaina wasn’t already pissed enough about Garrosh already… The plan was clear and simple — I would enter the city under the cloak of the Sunreavers’ magic, abscond with the Bell and get out without anyone noticing anything until we were long gone. Fighting was not an option, detection was not an option.

The city was relatively quiet — the patrols had been reinforced, but the bulk of the troops had probably been stationed at the various entry points by sea or air. Still, most civilians were out and about, unaware of the monstrous thing hidden below the city. Locating the Cenarion Enclave, then, was fairly easy.

Still, something was odd — but not on the Alliance’s side. Even though using the Sunreaver portal to reach Darnassus was the only reasonable option, it was risky at best to have Sunreavers on-site — they could not provide any magical abilities the Magisters, or even the Forsaken or Garrosh’s own orc mages could not. Their presence was at best a political disaster waiting to happen.

Another though crossed my mind as I delved inside the Enclave — fighting was strictly prohibited. Why then, send a full-plate wearing, wielder of the fury of the Holy Light Paladin on a stealth mission? It was with a heavy mind that I skipped past the last guards and finally found the centre of all this show — the Divine Bell itself — a massive hung bell similar to those used by the Pandaren, that seemed to have been made of some dark-green material unlike stone or metal. How easy it would be to just smash the thing to bits there and then. I tried to scratch the surface with my glove — nothing. It would take a magister of the highest calibre, or some Light-forsaken Goblin contraption to destroy this behemoth.

Better keep the Bell close to home, and think of something later. I used a mini-portal back to Fanryl, who was already preparing another portal. Right, this might have been why Sunreavers had come along. We got the Bell to Silvermoon, and left the tree with another portal to Domination Point. Fanryl stayed behind a bit, to clean up our traces. Mission accomplished, and even though the night elves could trace the theft back to the Horde, or to myself, the Sunreavers were safe. But I could not help but wonder whether they deserved it…

Chapter 11: The Purge of Dalaran (Day 17)

I held a dead girl in my arms. She couldn’t have been out of her teens, yet there she was, dead on the cold stones of the city that had been her home her entire life. Her face and left side was marred by terrible burns of magical fire, her flesh cooked by fury as well as fire. Dalaran was burning, and in my heart of hearts, I could not blame anyone but ourselves.

“We’ve got a situation”, Nazgrim had said. Few greater understatements have been uttered. The Night Elves had discovered our theft, and someone had slipped — Jaine Proudmoore was — rightfully, to a point — certain the Sunreavers were behind the deed. The sleeping Lioness had been awoken, and she was starving for justice — she and the Silver Covenant had begun a pogrom to imprison or stop all Sunreavers in Dalaran. People had resisted, violence had exploded. Grand Magister Rommath himself had started a rescue mission, to evacuate as many Sunreavers as he could. Before Nazgrim could formally request my aid, I was already running for the portal.

I’ve spent years in the rebuilt Dalaran, while we were preparing for the assault on Icecrown. It had always been a bustling city in that time. The Sunreavers and the Silver Covenant were in an overt power struggle, but everyone was focused on the war at hand. I had returned a few times since then, mostly to gaze on Icecrown on the horizon, or see the tauren and humans statues encircling Fordring. The city had grown quieter, but there was still the hustle and bustle of people. When I arrived in the sewers, the city was in frightening silence. No piercing children scream, no merchant peddling his wares. Not even the familiar sounds of war.

Rommath was expecting us. He had scouted the sewers a bit — the Covenant had taken over the sewers, and he heard sounds of struggle further down, the Covenant was mostly content to keep every Sunreaver unarmed, and under guard. We started pushing, dodging and weaving between patrols, freeing as many Sunreavers as we could, until we reached the old Arena in the sewers.

A fight had broken out, and elves were dead or dying left and right, too caught up in a fight for survival to try and take care of the wounded. Rommath pleaded with his eyes — we didn’t have time for continued fighting, just enough to strike a few telling blows and keep moving. Still, we got a lucky hit when the Covenant leader of the assault showed himself in the black market. The man had nowhere to run, and even if the Horde was responsible, I would not let fellow Blood Elves be murdered for crimes they did not commit. Take the hydra’s head, and hopefully the rest would scatter and give the Sunreavers time enough to run for Rommath’s portal.

We had made it to the North exit of the sewers, and we were beginning to hear the sounds of more fighting above. Rommath had a daring plan up his sleeve — take the central plaza, launch a handful of lightning raids to save as many as we could, then use a quick portal back to the sewers. The dash to the plaza was simple, and it seemed like everyone had forgotten about it in the chaos. We made a quick list of targets: Krasus’ Landing, the Silver Enclave and the Antonidas Memorial were the most likely places to hold the highest priority target — Aethas Sunreaver, leader of the faction.

Have you ever seen an execution? Krasus’ Landing had been without a hitch, but as I turned the corner to reach Antonidas, I was met with the most unlikely sight: Jaina Proudmoore, her face a mask of rage en-framed by her white hair (White? By the Light, what happened to you?), teleporting a Sunreaver to some unknown direction. Then another ran to her in a fighting stance, probably trying to grapple her to stop. Poor fool — he probably didn’t have time enough to register the pain before he was dead, a charred husk tumbling besides Jaina that kept walking without a glance.

I considered facing Proudmoore myself. I would fare little better than the poor man, but maybe hearing my confessing and burning me to death would calm her enough to retake control and sort this out peacefully. I had made a step forward before I realized it would have been pointless — the Sunreavers would have been held prisoner under Dalaran regardless, and people knew how that fared the last time. The Sunreavers would panic, and a riot that would end in wholesale massacre would be all but assured. I sighed, begged M’uru for forgiveness, and kept running for the Silver Enclave.

Aethas was nowhere to be found, so we focused on the Sunreaver’s Sanctuary that had been overrun by Silver Covenant troops. I bade them a last chance to let me through. They denied. They died. I’m note exactly sure how many died there, but every Covenant downed only opened the view to more Sunreavers bodies, stacked on the sides. I gathered everyone I could and we made a run for Runeweaver Square. That’s when the fireball struck. Was it Proudmoore? I don’t know. One second, the girl was running though the street. The next, she was a half-burned corpse bumping on the walls of the city, silently sliding on the cool stones of the Square.

I prayed for M’uru, felt the Light still shining in my weary soul, but the light in her eyes was already out. I lifted her and brought her to the garden on the side of the Square. I covered her left side and face in my old Sunreaver tabard and composed her the best I could. Rommath had already called me again. Mourning later. Fight now. There was one last chance to find Aethas, and Rommath supposed he was in the Violet Citadel. I guess he did not mention the Violet Hold because it was a clear deathtrap for all of us.

We struck like lightning, and the Covenant never saw us coming — the Mage-commander was dead in moments, only able to utter of few words of power before my blade found him. Aethas was chocking just behind him, gasping for air, but we had no time — the sounds of struggle were sure to attract Jaina. And if she saw us over a Covenant corpse… I shuddered. Rommath teleported us back to the sewers, where the fighting had died down. Faces young and old, all wearied and sad looked up to the three of us. Rommath quickly took command, and all of us were dashing through the long sewer pipe to a portal to Silvermoon.

I closed the march, making sure everyone was through. So few of them had made it here. Hopefully, a few more had fled their own way. I cursed a bit for not having lingered in the Square — that probably was the last time I would ever see Tirion’s statue. My thoughts drifted again to the girl’s corpse laying there. Would they give her a decent burial? Too late to think about that. I crossed the portal, bidding Dalaran a final farewell. And I still could not blame Jaina.

The last time Silvermoon had looked like this, it was shortly after my mother died, shortly after the Sunwell had been taken from us — refugees everywhere, soldiers trying their best to keep order, priests giving what little comfort they could. Lor’themar had already arrived, and, ominous reminder, the Divine Bell stood, overlooking the chaos like a sated predator overseeing his prey.

Aethas could report what little he knew — many Sunreavers had been sent to the Violet Hold, and the Alliance had indeed sent troops to help clean up the city. Lor’themar was enraged – we were being abandoned on all sides, despite trying our best to repay our blood debts. Garrosh using us as canon fodder, Jaina pushing us away from the Alliance against all reason. Well, not WITHOUT reason, but the damage was done — the Sin’dorei were on the ropes, and from Lor’themar’s tone of voice, something would give soon enough. I thought about the girl on Dalaran’s grass, and of all my loved ones in Silvermoon. I prayed to M’uru again, hoping I was still worthy of his blessing.

Lor’themar took the reins and the orders flew out his mouth — Rangers and Magisters alike were to mobilize, and the Sunreavers’ magi would be integrated in the Magister’s chain of command. As for the damned bell, it would return to Garrosh post-haste — the thing was soaked in elven blood, by the Warchief’s command. By all means, let the damn thing destroy him. Rommath mused that Lor’themar certainly proved himself more worthy of the Warchief title than Garrosh ever was. I saw hesitation in Lor’themar’s eyes, then steel.

“It may come to that. Bring me my blades. The next move is mine.”

Chapter 12: Breath of Darkest Shadow (FINAL DAY)

The Bell had returned to Kun-Lai, but I wryly wondered if Lor’themar had sent insults scribbled on its sides for the Warchief. I guess that even in the face of extinction, humour remains our greatest armour. Garrosh was ready to use the Bell, and the heroes of the Horde had been invited to celebrate.

Tak-Tak was worried as well — and when a talking monkey is wise enough to fear something, something is definitly not right. Did you know the hozen had a name for the Sha? They call it “ikk”, and it is one of their two big taboos, alongside the “dook”. (Which you do not want to see or talk about either. Suffice to say it’s something they like to throw when nothing’s available). I smiled when I realized he was scared shitless, but bade him to fly as far and as fast as he could — this was no place for a loyal man… monkey… person.

Malkorok, Ishi and Garrosh were already waiting, with a contingent of Kor’kron… and that was it? Let me be clear — despite the sacking of Silvermoon by the Old Horde, I’ve learned enough to not judge someone by their race. But considering the past few weeks, this was way beyond odd — I could get why Forsaken, or Trolls would not be welcome, but the absence of Tauren, Goblins and Blood Elves was conspicuous in the extreme. And when I gazed on the bell, feeling the tinge of sludge on the wind, it dawned on me.

No matter how weak the darkness of the Bell, it had already worked its evil on the Horde. It had sown chaos and distrust among us, and where the Horde had been weakened under Garrosh’s edicts in the past, it had snapped like old wood under the winds of change the Bell had blown. Garrosh had summoned orcs because he trusted no one else. And no one else was there, because no one trusted Garrosh any more. Despite the bravado in his speech, the situation was self-evident — Garrosh needed power, now more than ever, not only for the Horde, but for himself.

He spoke that we were slave to nothing or no one. Not even slave to the ghost of a dead parent, driven to success beyond reason? That the bell would burn away our inner weaknesses like fear, despair, anger or doubt. Which one, I wonder, defines you the most, Warchief? That while the lesser races would crumble under them, WE would control their power. Lest the powers master you. I thought it was a common saying, but who would expect wisdom from an orc? That together, we could destroy the Alliance and claim our rightful prize. Together? Unlikely words from an isolated buffoon playing Warchief.

“Let our song of victory begin!” And as the hammer struck, the world burned away on the waves of the Bell.

Let’s be painfully honest — I may be a wielder of the Holy Light, but a choir boy I haven’t been for over a decade. The Blood Elves are aptly named in more ways that the official one. In our pain, we lashed out against a world we thought had abandoned us. We swore petulant revenge on the Alliance over the acts of a corrupt paladin and a xenophobic leader. We devoured the essence of the Light itself, believing we had been Forsaken by it, and forced to such evils.

Even when the Sunwell returned to us, when Velen and M’uru forgave us, it was clear as day we were still responsible, and would bear those burden into our graves. In many ways, I am still the Blood Knight that wilfully drained M’uru because I believed only the path of darkness could save my loved ones. I am still full of anger, of fear, doubt and despair — the Light cannot burn that away. I was not ready that day, and I came awfully close to falling again.

But there was one thing I remember the day Kil’jeaden was beaten back, even clearer than the Sunwell’s power, or Velen’s crystalline voice. It was M’uru’s final thoughts for all of us Blood Knights: “The only way to lose redemption, is to believe there is no redemption for you any more.” We fell many times. I fell again when I chose to fight the Silver Covenant instead of saving that poor girl. But that did not mean I had a right to give up.

And as I felt the Light’s courage rushing through me, I could finally see the gray flooding from my body. The Sha. The Bell had unleashed the Sha upon us, and it would have taken me if not for the Light’s blessing. But the screams all around caught me from my reverie — madness had come to Kun-Lai. The orcs had not withstood the Sha, and their bodies warped horrifically, turning them in the very same Sha that had devoured them from within.

The fight was desperate, and I did not have the luck of having the Sha fight amongst themselves — they had all felt the uncorrupted soul, from the likes of it, and it had drawn them like sharks to blood. What that implied about Garrosh, who stood there hammering the damn thing, spouting on about “a test to overcome” and to “conquer our fears and hatred”, I had neither the time nor the wish to contemplate.

As I stood over the Sha’s remains, solace came in the most unlikely form — a human boy rushed alone to the Bell, clumsily carrying some sort of large hammer. Was it a trick of the light, but he shone with courage and honour, remaining regal in the face of this carnage, focused only on the bell. As Garrosh registered his presence, I realised who the boy was.

“So in the end, it is not Varian, but his whelp who comes to face me. You run bravely to your death, young one.”

I guess he was considering which choice insults to throw at Anduin, but he never got the chance — Ishi was not only gray, but had grown to ogre proportion before charging us. This time, I was ready, and sparks flew as our blades met.

Poor Ishi. Shame notwithstanding, it slowly dawned on us how much the orc had suffered in service of the Warchief. The Sha had loosened all inhibitions, and he rambled how he doubted we could ever survive another war, not after all we had lost. Then the bloodlust kicked in, raving and screaming about murdering Alliance children. He was going mad and it took all of my skill to keep up, and even then, things were going south — instead on focusing on combat style, he was all about overpowering assaults and poisoning with the Sha’s darkness. I was about to falter when Anduin’s voice rang, strong and true:

“Stand fast, paladin! The Light WILL protect you!”

A Paladin? Me? I had met the prince a few times, in Krasarang, and here in Kun-Lai. He was a fine boy, if a bit naïve. Still, did he really believe in us? In the Horde? Just like he said months ago in the Temple of the White Tiger? Xuen had said “Fight with strength. Fight with honour.” The Light rushed back, an unstoppable tide that dwarfed anything the Sha could throw, and in an instant, I was but witness to the fury the Light unleashed by my hand. Ishi faltered, his form almost diminishing in my own radiant aura. I could see the fear in his eyes — the terror of the guilty conscience facing Final Judgement. I saw my own eyes reflected in his despair and Light forgive me, I wanted to stay my hand.

I tried to wrest control of my own body back, but it was far too late — my sword found purchase in his, and it snapped in twain like reeds. In seconds, he was lying on the floor, coughing his own blood — a lung had been pierced. It was over. He could only mutter how he had failed Garrosh before he died. And as the Light left my body, my legs gave way. I could only look on as the young Anduin faced the towering Garrosh. But he was not dwarfed by the orc. There was steel in his eyes. No, not steel. Gold. Steel is uncaring, unbending unless heated. Gold was fiery, but malleable. Pure and uncorruptible, yet yielding to the wise touch. But Garrosh did not see it.

“Your interference has cost me a great warrior, young prince. You’ll pay with your life.”

“That is where you are wrong, Garrosh. The mogu made the Divine Bell to create chaos, but the pandaren created a special mallet to turn the echoes of that chaos into perfect harmony. That mallet was hidden for thousands of years, until now.”

And the darkness lifted from my soul, chased by the echoes of harmony. I started getting on my feet again, haltingly. Garrosh’s fury was unmistakable — in a fit of rage, he charged the boy, who flew like a ragged doll, striking the Bell. But the resonance changed into shrieks of death. And just like that — the bell shattered, toppling over the young prince.

I was finally on my feet, but the shock was still not gone from my body as Garrosh spoke again, overlooking the carnage.

“There is much I do not know about this artifact. The weak-willed cannot control this sha energy, but I WILL master it. At least the human prince is dead. King Wrynn now knows the price of his continued defiance. Leave me. I have much to think about.”

And just like that, he jumped on a wyvern’s back and lazily flew away from the disaster. I was a bit out of it, and tried sifting through the rubble for my sword. I looked back at the bell, and the poor prince underneath. Garrosh had not bothered to check whether the prince was dead. I was about to have a look when I heard a gryphon’s cry above me. The Alliance was there — if the prince was alive, he’d be better off if we did not know it. And if he was dead, I was better off not being found near the corpse. I called to my mount, and let it ride me back to Binan. I was in sore need of peaceful minds, and maybe Chen could cook something up to get me back on my feet.

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