into the eye
Humans, elves of different natures, ores, dwarves, trolls, tauren, gnomes, draenei, undead, and more continued to struggle against a tide that proved relentless. Warriors, druids, magi, priests—they and those of other callings added each of those skills that made their particular path a worthy addition to the defenders' force.
Varian's dreamform army continued to sacrifice itself at the forefront, striking down the endless enemy and perishing not only by the satyrs' claws but also the increasing deaths of their physical hosts. Hamuul, who monitored all this, pondered hard on why the dreamforms did not live on despite the deaths of their physical bodies—as happened with druids—and could only assume that the Nightmare's terrible magic flowed from those killing blows back in Azeroth into the dreamforms by the inherent link between the two parts of each victim.
The druids fed their spells into the onslaught. Here, seeds exploded into cleansing silver fire. There, other druids in bear, cat, or other fearsome shapes used their magic-enhanced claws, teeth, and even roars to wreak what havoc they could on the servants of the darkness.
But still the tide slowed, stalled...and began to shift.
And then both those who remained on Azeroth or fought in the other realm discovered the next wave of evil. From the mists in either plane marched armies composed of shadow-possessed drakonid, lesser drakes.. .and other corrupted dragons.
Then.then came something that no druid, not even Malfurion could have expected.
The barrier between the Emerald Dream/Nightmare and Azeroth began to break down.and the two slowly started to meld into one.
The seemingly impossible melding caught Eranikus by surprise. He briefly lost control, then battled to both regain it and keep Thura and Lucan with him.
But as the dragon struggled, Lucan heard a voice calling out. It was not necessarily to him, but to anyone who would listen. There was something familiar about it, something that reminded him of those lost days when his slumber and his dreams had been gentle. He was drawn to it.
And, without thinking, he slipped from Eranikus's back. Yet he did not fall. Instead, Lucan dropped only a foot or two in the air, then felt as if something invisible tugged him along. Eranikus and Thura vanished—
And a moment later, the cartographer reappeared in an area most definitely part of the Nightmare. The shrieks and gibbering assailed his ears. Horrific shapes moved in the mists around him.yet they no longer disturbed Lucan so much. He picked himself up off the vermin-infested ground—ground that should have been hundreds of feet below the dragon and his riders and yet now was not.
Then...Lucan realized that there was something just ahead of him in the mists, something that, even though it lay in the midst of the Nightmare, still inexplicably filled him with some hope.
Daring the dangers of the Nightmare, he ran toward the sight. As he neared, he marveled at his find. The structures—an arrangement of vast domes—had not been built by men. They were too perfect. While he could not be certain from his angle, the "smaller" domes seemed to flank or surround an even greater one that, despite the foulness of the Nightmare, retained a wondrous golden color that strangely comforted him.
The cartographer was drawn to the golden dome. Despite his previous weariness, he picked up his pace. Lucan became so focused on the golden dome that he now barely even noticed the Nightmare. He only knew that he had to reach the structure.
How long it took him to reach it, the cartographer could not say nor did he care. A few minutes, hours.. .time meant nothing. All that mattered was that at last he came to the entrance.only to find it sealed by a darkness that he recognized as from the Nightmare.
The foul discovery brought him back to his true circumstances and almost made Lucan turn and run away again.. .but then he sensed that what had drawn him to this ethereal place was inside.
The beating of wings from another direction made him suddenly dart around to the side of the structure. No sooner had he done so than a massive shape loomed overhead.
Though Lucan would have thought it impossible for him to identify any dragon by face, he was certain that it was the one called Lethon. The dark-scaled leviathan, his ghostly form shimmering with the same sickly green glow of the Nightmare, peered around as if suspicious.
The black, bottomless pits that were Lethon's eyes turned in Lucan's direction. The gaze stopped just short of where the human hid.
Lethon snorted, then departed the area.
The dragon vanished in the distance. Letting out a sigh, the harried cartographer leaned against the wall.
The wall shimmered.
Yet it was not into a room that he ended up, but rather a swirling mass of constantly bombarding magical forces that left him spinning out of control as he flew through it. Worse, Lucan felt his strength also beginning to fail him. He knew that soon he would not even have enough to stay conscious.
Be at ease, young Lucan.. .1 will stave off the effects long enough.. .1 hope.
He knew the voice, knew it even before his body turned in the direction of the source.
As with the human, the great dragon Ysera floated in the midst of the churning forces, albeit clearly more assailed by them. Her wings were spread wide and she was surrounded by a very thin emerald-green aura that constantly flickered, as if seeking to vanish. The long sleek dragon's eyes were shut tight, but she seemed to see him nonetheless.
Lucan sensed that the dragon was far from helpless, despite her captivity. She was still fighting—
But that was wrong. He had seen her utterly defeated. The Nightmare had taken her, bent her to its will...
Trust only lies to come from the Nightmare and its lord, Ysera answered to his unspoken question. I am a prisoner, yes, but with some resistance., though fading, I admit...
What is this place? he silently asked.
Her head twisted to the side. Long ago, when Azeroth was new and we were first sent to protect it and the Emerald Dream, those of my flight honored me by naming the field and that created within it the Eye of Ysera.this became the place from which we watched over everything.Her expression saddened. Now, through Lethon's betrayal. it has become my prison...
The Great Aspect suddenly rumbled in pain. Her body shook and for a breath became as that of a ghost.
Though the effort was futile, Lucan yet reached out a hand to try to comfort Ysera.
The line between the embattled Dream and Azeroth is blurring! she proclaimed in terrible worry. Though I still fight, they are quicker and quicker leeching my will and adding my powers to the destruction of all!
What can we do? the cartographer pleaded.
Drawing from what strength remained to her, Ysera replied, Know the truth, Lucan Foxblood. .I have been aware of you since Eranikus found you when you were an infant. .I decided to see what could become of your unique birth. if anything. .even Eranikus did not know. hie simply acted as I knew his heart would make him...
Lucan gaped. To his tired mind, the Aspect could have prevented all his troubles, kept him from this ability he had—
There was nothing I could do to change the circumstances of your birth, but perhaps. .I acted with hubris in not giving you some. .some sort of protection from early on.. Ysera gasped again, then continued, But there is no time for thinking of the past..I have been attempting to.to contact another..and nearly given up hope..but your very uniqueness may help me to reach him after all...
Again, the dragon suffered great agony and all but faded. We are—reaching the point of no return! she managed at last. You may be the way to circumvent the Nightmare's spells that keep me from communicating with Malfurion Stormrage..
Malfurion? I'll do anything, if it can help, even if it costs me my own life! the cartographer responded. He realized that he meant it. What was his life, if all else fell to the Nightmare?
Let us hope it does not come to that, the Aspect commented, again appearing to read his thoughts. Eyes still shut, she added, Are you certain, Lucan Foxblood? Are you certain you understand the risk to you?
I will seek to be as gentle as possible...
Ysera opened her eyes. Her gaze met the human's.
To the human, it was as if every dream that he had ever had began again. The eyes of Ysera carried within them a kaleidoscope of images all tied to Lucan...and every other creature that dreamed. He became a part of each one of those dreams and by doing so opened up the most hidden parts of his subconscious to the dragon
Lucan Foxblood stared in awe as he was engulfed by the Aspect's will.
We must return to Azeroth, Varian warned Hamuul. Tell Malfurion Stormrage it must be so! They strike our bodies down even as we fight them here!
The tauren acknowledged his words but did not otherwise reply. However, he immediately sought for Malfurion, seeking to warn him of the looming disaster.
Hamuul's concern reached Malfurion even as the night elf came to grips with the truth behind Xavius's astounding power. He had felt that ancient evil before and could never forget it. Small wonder that Xavius had accomplished so much; an even greater darkness worked through him.
But Malfurion still kept his wits about him, aware that to lose all hope was to lose everything. He listened as Varian's demand was relayed through Hamuul to him. The archdruid understood what the king desired and why. Malfurion cursed himself for having allowed it to happen; he had feared that Xavius would do just what he had —strike the unprotected mortal forms of the defenders.
As he drew Tyrande back, he told her what was happening and what he had to do. She nodded understanding, though her face filled with dread for all of them and pity for all that Malfurion had taken upon his own shoulders.
"Are we lost, then?" the high priestess bluntly asked, clearly having considered matters as he had. "Is all Azeroth lost?"
Before he could answer, another voice touched his thoughts, a voice he had prayed constantly that he would hear before it was too late.
Malfurion Sormrage.. .can you hear my words?
A living image suddenly filled his mind. He saw Ysera in her confinement, the Aspect struggling to hold back her full abilities from being utilized by Xavius and his secret master.
And in seeing that, Malfurion came to a realization about his foes and their nature. He understood that he had been about to make a critical mistake.
Malfurion did.he also sensed that he was not alone with her in this conversation. There were two others. One was the human, Lucan, who somehow acted as Ysera's means by which to at least bypass her imprisonment enough to speak.
The other—the other was not supposed to be a part of this, but he had somehow sensed the communication .sensed it and been driven to fury by the discovery.
It is you! I feJt it immediately! They keep you at the Eye! I shouJd've known! The audacity.. .and the foolishness of them in the end...
Eranikus. Malfurion sensed that he had just set Thura down near where Broll would find her. Now, though, having sensed his queen's desperate contact with the archdruid, there was but one pressing thought in the male dragon's head.to free her.
Heed me, my mate, Ysera pleaded, seeking to stop him. Your place is with the efforts of Malfurion—
No! I wiJJ save you! Eranikus interrupted, his words coming so forcefully that they gave Malfurion and Lucan pounding heads. I swear so!
Ysera forbade him, but Eranikus refused to listen. Malfurion, caught between conflicting choices in the matter, started to speak with the male. However, before he could, a hand violently shook him, breaking contact.
"Mal! Beware!" Tyrande cried.
He focused on his surroundings again.
No.these were not shadows. They were very solid, very real. These were living satyrs, including those of Queen Azshara's Highborne servants who had followed Xavius into damnation. Seduced by the power the reborn Xavius had wielded, they had given up their handsome forms for these monstrous ones, all to serve the ultimate cause of the Burning Legion's lord, Sargeras.
And their numbers seemed endless. Malfurion was stunned. Clearly, all this time, the satyrs had been hiding the truth, no doubt gathering in long preparation for these dire events.
My children have awaited their chance for glory! the Nightmare Lord gleefully mocked. I have deigned to grant them such...
The satyrs had horns and though their faces retained most of their original features from before their corruption, there was a bestial touch to the demons' expression. Savage grins revealed sharp teeth. Coarse brown fur covered their arms, backs, and hooved legs. They had shaggy manes and beards that added to their grotesque appearance and their eyes had a foul green cast.
It is him, indeed! Xavius declared to the oncoming satyrs. The cursed Malfurion Stormrage...
Several of the satyrs let out howls of anticipation as they charged the pair.
Tyrande took up a stand in front of the archdruid and threw the moonlight glaive.
"I know that you must focus on the true battle!" The high priestess shouted as the spinning weapon slashed through the first of the satyrs. The three sharp blades cut deep into two of the sinister creatures before returning to her. The glaive's victims fell, the upper halves of their torsos nearly severed from the bottoms.
The merciless and efficient strike caused the satyrs to falter somewhat as they tried to divine how best to get around Tyrande and the deadly blades.
But Malfurion did not want to leave her to face them by herself. "You can't hold them all off!"
"With the others' help, perhaps I can at least delay long enough!"
Before Malfurion could ask who she meant, Tyrande brought the glaive up in a salute and murmured something in the hidden tongue of the Sisterhood. At that moment, the satyrs regained their courage and charged.
The Mother Moon's light shone down in front of Malfurion, bathing both Tyrande and the areas to each side. As Malfurion stared, a line of glowing figures somewhat resembling priestesses in battle garb took up a stand with Tyrande. Indeed, each even bore some resemblance to her.
Tyrande had prayed to Elune for aid and it had come as she needed it, in the forms of guardians created from the moonlight. With glaives, bows, swords, lances, maces, staves, and other weapons, the gleaming line decimated the foremost satyrs. Yet more continued to pour forward.
Malfurion did not remain idle while Tyrande and those she summoned defended him. Aware that she was correct in her assumption that he had to focus on the true battle, Malfurion turned his attention on two things.
The first was to reinforce his original decision upon Varian and Hamuul. The Nightmare must be fought in the Dream! he pressed. The core of the Nightmare's strength comes from the sleeping and from what it has thus far managed to tear from Ysera! Force it to draw its power there to defend itself!
To their credit, they acquiesced. Still feeling guilty that so many would likely perish despite this being the best hope, Malfurion then reached out to Broll.
Have you found Thura?
Broll Bearmantle's response was immediate. Yes, Shan'do! But she's not able to fight effectively here! Let's return her to Azeroth, then—
No.you know what I need her to do.
As with Hamuul and King Varian, Broll agreed.
Malfurion looked to Tyrande again. She stood defiant against the odds, just as she had so often during the War of the Ancients. Face so very dark—the night elf version of being flushed—she threw the glaive again and again. The gleaming weapon severed limbs, cut deep into chests, and even removed the head of one satyr.
But the archdruid noted that the moonlight around her had grown slightly dimmer and as it did, so dimmed Elune's guardians beside her. It was not merely physical foes that the high priestess battled; Xavius was feeding his gathered power into the satyrs, strengthening especially those that fought Tyrande. She was the nexus around which the guardians drew their substance. If she fell, they would quickly dissipate.
Malfurion turned to the second of his problems. He quickly sought out the mind of the male dragon. Eranikus! Think this through!
No! I will not leave the Eye without her!
The night elf's view shifted. Malfurion saw through Eranikus's gaze as the Aspect's consort descended. The dragon was nearly at his destination.
The Eye was not as the archdruid recalled it. Even as Eranikus approached, its appearance wavered. The structures became jagged, toothy things that looked ready to impale the dragon. The buildings began to change places with one another.
They can't fool me! Eranikus said to him. Hide her in a thousand such places and they will fail! She and I are linked again and this time nothing will ever sever the bond! I will always find her!
Be wary! Malfurion called futilely.
Eranikus dove toward the least impressive of the structures. As he did, it suddenly began to grow.
You see? he said triumphantly. She is in the great building, though they tried their best to make it look other—
Malfurion, paying more attention to matters in the Eye beyond that of Ysera, noted a shift in the Nightmare. Eranikus—
Lethon materialized above the fixated dragon, then dropped upon him.
Welcome back, brother Eranikus! he mocked as his talons dug into the other leviathan. The corrupted dragon sent entrails of dark green energy into Ysera's consort.
Eranikus shrieked as his body pulsated madly. His scaled hide twisted and shifted as if some great worm bore through flesh and bone and sought to now burst to the surface.
Your greatest nightmare comes true... Lethon cooed. Welcome back to the fold...
Malfurion sought to maintain a link to Eranikus's mind, but although he managed to do that, the link was so weak that he could not sense what, if anything, the dragon thought. Moreover, none of his attempts to make Eranikus understand him succeeded, either. The archdruid feared that Lethon spoke true; Malfurion was well aware of Eranikus's dread concerning once more becoming one of the corrupted.
Indeed, the dragon moaned loudly as the foul energies of the Nightmare sank into him. Although still aloft, Eranikus curled as much as possible into a ball.
And then, with a raging roar, let loose his own power upon Lethon.
Caught overconfident, the corrupted behemoth hurtled back as the attack struck. With a painful roar of his own, Lethon went spiraling from the Eye of Ysera.
Again without hesitation, Eranikus returned his attention to where his queen was imprisoned. He sank all four sets of claws into the structure.
The prison shimmered. The green dragon was assailed by more of the Nightmare's taint. Eranikus's shape twisted, perverted, as the corruption sought to overwhelm him. Yet he steadfastly held on, pouring his own might into the edifice.
Already focused on so many directions, Malfurion could do little, but he gave Ysera's consort what support he could. Between the two of them, the spread of the taint toward the male dragon halted.
The prison shook. The attack on Eranikus abruptly ceased. The leviathan let out a triumphant growl.
But then a powerful force ripped him from Ysera's prison. Lethon, aglow with the Nightmare's awful energies, swooped down to batter his adversary.
Malfurion tried to help Eranikus regain his momentum, but the dragon now refused his aid, shouting in the archdruid's head, No! She's nearly free! I'll hold him off while you finish it!
The night elf could not argue. Freeing Ysera was far more important. She was the mistress of the Emerald Dream, bound to it and versed in its very essence. The Nightmare needed her to strengthen its connection to the Emerald Dream in order to manipulate its magic even more. Whatever the cost, Ysera had to be freed; the act would surely weaken the Nightmare's hold and, thus, further the defenders' chances. Indeed, Malfurion could now sense the Aspect herself testing her weakened cell. Eranikus was correct; there was far greater hope now of success.
Concentrating, the archdruid attempted to draw from both Azeroth and the stricken Emerald Dream as much as he could. He was surprised at how easy those forces, especially from the latter realm, came at his request. Then Malfurion decided that it could not be by his doing alone; Ysera had to be assisting somehow.
As he struggled alongside the Aspect to free her, Malfurion felt Eranikus's battle continue. The two dragons grappled, their power washing over one another. Neither at first seemed to have the upper hand, though the night elf feared that before long their surroundings would finally grant that to the corrupted beast.
He felt Ysera pushing harder from within. Yet her concern was not for herself, but rather her consort, Malfurion, and Lucan.
Save him first, for he is not bound by any of the Nightmare's spells as I am, she commanded of Malfurion, indicating the human. Although he had been able to enter the golden dome, it seemed that now Lucan was too exhausted to make use of his odd abilities. His rescue was the least of problems for Malfurion, who was able to bring the cartographer back to Azeroth and near where Hamuul stood.
Ysera pressed harder. The barrier weakened. Malfurion could feel it straining...
No.not quite! Lethon, manipulating the powers of his master, nearly crushed the efforts of the pair. Malfurion's mind became awash in fear-stirring images of all his actions creating greater disaster for those he sought to protect. The archdruid knew that they were nightmares raised up by the darkness, but it took tremendous effort to not only deny them but still maintain the assault on the Aspect's cell.
Lethon abruptly cried out. Through his own thoughts, Malfurion caught images of a very scarred, half-distorted Eranikus gripping his corrupted counterpart through both claw and magic. Eranikus had clearly been much ravaged by the other, but sheer determination for the moment swayed the fight to his direction.
But that could surely not last long. Reluctantly, Malfurion started to abandon the efforts to free Ysera.
NO!! Eranikus thundered in his head. She must be saved! I will finish with Lethon!
Lethon apparently caught this, for the tainted behemoth laughed at such hubris. The power of the Nightmare filled him. He was now larger than the consort.
It is you who are finished, Eranikus! Give in to the Nightmare! Let it embrace you! The walls between Azeroth and here are also weakening! Soon, I and the others like me will be able to fly Azeroth s skies unimpeded.
Azeroth's skies... Eranikus repeated.
A glow suddenly surrounded Ysera's mate. The dragon's face bore a grim aspect. At the same time, Lethon's expression grew uncertain.
What do you do? he demanded of Eranikus.
But the other dragon said nothing. Instead, Malfurion sensed him drawing upon other energies. Only then did the archdruid understand Eranikus's ploy.
And as both titanic figures began to fade, so, too, did Lethon understand.but much too late. You cant! Do this and you'll destroy yourself, too! I swear! The instability will take you with me!
So be it, then, Malfurion heard Eranikus reply.
My mate! Ysera called...but too late.
The Nightmare sought to make both this realm and Azeroth one. Then the power of this realm would be impossible to overcome.
But that shift had not yet completed.and here, in the vicinity of the Eye, a nexus of the Emerald Dream, Malfurion saw that the shredding boundaries between the two realms were so unstable that to be at the center was to invite annihilation.
Eranikus refused to release the corrupted creature. The pair crossed into the instability suddenly existing between the two realms.
As Lethon had warned and Malfurion and Ysera feared, the desperate villain drew the power of his master into himself in a futile attempt to avoid the inevitable, but it was too late.
The monster howled as he was torn asunder. The fearsome forces that he in turn had been summoning were unleashed.
A fiery maelstrom erupted where Lethon had been. That maelstrom swallowed up Eranikus, who made no move to escape it.
The wild forces struck out everywhere. Malfurion felt Ysera urge him to do something to contain them. Not certain what she expected of him, the archdruid nevertheless tried.
A desperate plan came to him. He managed to steer those energies to a chosen spot.
They struck Ysera's prison, reducing the center of the Eye to nothing but vapor.. .and freeing at last Ysera.
Roaring her relief at her release, the mistress of the Emerald Dream rose above what remained of the place of her confinement. An emerald aura surrounded her, an aura that briefly brightened the entire Eye.
But mists began converging on her, seeking to recapture. Ysera let out another roar and the aura trebled in scope. Whatever it touched suddenly returned to the full, lush life and beauty for which the Emerald Dream was known. The mists immediately retreated—
And in that precious moment, the Aspect vanished.
Malfurion no longer sensed her in the other realm. Instead, Ysera had retreated to Azeroth. Aware more than any how the bonds between the two places worked, she materialized near the druids fighting out of Darnassus.
Thank you. .Malfurion Stormrage... she said with much sadness. You...and Eranikus...
He did what he had to, the archdruid replied quickly, honoring the male dragon's sacrifice but aware of so many other sacrifices taking place even now. Still, his hopes were high, now that the mistress of the Emerald Dream was free, Xavius had no powerful captive. With Ysera's power to guide them—
No—Malfurion—I fear—I fear that there is little I can offer you. .the effort to keep the Nightmare from utterly using me has drained me more than—I—imagined.
The words so stunned Malfurion that he almost lost his link to the others. He had waited for this hope! What power was greater than hers when it came to the Emerald Dream and the taint spreading through it? The only reason that she had not been able to vanquish the Nightmare before had been due to his own foolish capture. If not for Xavius being able to draw upon his meager abilities, none of this chaos would have happened—
Un-untrue, Malfurion! It was clearly an effort for Ysera to stay conscious. You know the forces at work here and how Jong that they have been in pJay!
But what does it matter? he retorted. If even you are not able to put an end to this, we are Jost!
The Aspect was losing consciousness. It was all she could do simply to protect herself. There is hope. .I am ...I am of the Emerald Dream. but you. you are of the Emerald Dream..and Azeroth! In that. there is a chance—
She broke contact. The Aspect had failed in her battle to remain conscious. The strain had been too much.
And as her thoughts vanished, the Nightmare Lord's laugh seemed to echo in Malfurion's head.
Ysera had left the fate of both realms to Malfurion.. .who had no idea what he could do.
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