Note: This is a World of Warcraft story based around the actions of my player characters during the recent narrative event, the Burning of Teldrassil. A basic understanding of World of Warcraft’s world is recommended when reading this, though I will leave a map of Darkshore below for others who may be interested.
Furthermore, I’d recommend reading the first volume of my World of Warcraft Character’s Lore as it features the backstories for many of the characters you’re about to see.
“Zeverys. Thank you for joining me.”
The blood elf demon hunter inclined her head before sitting down awkwardly in the chair across from the druid. He smiled amicably across the table towards her, and she relaxed a little. “Kritigri,” she greeted him.
“I believe I still owe you a drink for the Broken Shore,” he chuckled.
Zeverys was certain that the night elf could have saved himself well enough from the three hulking felguards that had cornered him that day, but she was never one to turn down a free drink. She cast her fel gaze around the Legerdemain Lounge. People of all races sat together and murmured quietly. In the weeks that had passed since the Legion’s defeat, many were still coming to grips with the newfound peace. “What do they even serve here? I admit, this isn’t one of my more frequent locales…”
“Nor mine,” Kritigri admitted, and Zeverys noticed how he was somewhat hunched over in his seat in an attempt to meet the height of the table between them. She stifled a smirk. They’d chosen this inn due to its neutral location in the centre of Dalaran. They had not considered that the place had originally been made to accommodate humans.
“How much longer do you think it’ll be possible to talk like this?” she asked.
Kritigri sighed. “Forever, if I had anything to say about it. But I’m sure some new spat will tear the factions apart once more.” He eyed her curiously. “What do you intend to do now that the Legion is defeated? Will you pledge yourself to the Horde’s efforts?”
It was a big question, but he put it to her so easily. She was caught off guard. “I… suppose I will go to my Warchief.” As if she hadn’t spent every waking moment pondering this.
“Sylvanas,” the druid huffed. He could barely keep the sneer out of his voice. The druid may not have hated the Horde as a whole, but Sylvanas… that one definitely seemed to leave a sour taste in his mouth.
“She was my Ranger General, once. In another lifetime,” Zeverys mused.
“I imagine she is much changed since those days.”
“As am I,” she retorted. Kritigri glanced at her anew, taking in her tall horns, her ruby tattoos and the eerie green that glowed behind her blindfold. He opened his mouth as if he was going to ask a question, but then averted his gaze and frowned. “What?” she prompted.
He looked at her hesitantly. “Is there really no cure to your vengeance and hatred? To live out the rest of your days as-“
“Virizard,” she said. The druid stiffened. “That’s what you were truly going to ask about, wasn’t it? Your brother?”
“How do you-“
“I have fought beside him. He is an exceptional demon hunter.”
“So it’s true.”
Kritigri’s long estranged brother Tolidar had appeared before him one night, not long after the armies of Azeroth had begun their campaign on Argus. The mage had spared no time on pleasantries, nor deigned to make note of their thousands of years of separation. All he had told Kritigri was that their brother, Virizard, long ago captured by the Legion in the War of the Ancients, was alive, was a demon hunter, and was cleaving his way through Argus. It was quite an evening.
“Where can I find him?” The question had passed the druid’s lips before he’d even had a chance to consider it.
Zeverys tilted her head sympathetically. “I do not know. After our return from Argus, he stole away, saying only that he needed time to recall who he was and if he had a place on Azeroth after all these years.” She frowned. “Rather irresponsible, if you ask me. He wasn’t exactly expendable within the Illidari.”
“Darnassus,” Kritgiri muttered. “He’ll have gone to Darnassus. To Teldrassil. He’d want to see the new bastion of night elf civilisation for himself.” He nodded to himself. “Zeverys, would you-“
At that moment a courier arrived, out of breath and wild eyed. “Archdruid,” the young night elf spluttered. She saw Zeverys and her eyes widened in alarm. “I have… sensitive information.”
Kritigri spotted the royal seal on the courier’s letter. His heart sank. “Zeverys,” he began, turning to address her. “It appears-“
But the blood elf was already marching away.
The Horde were marching on Teldrassil.
Kritigri slammed a surge of astral energy into an orc beserker and then turned to evaluate the situation on the beach. He had emerged from a portal into Darkshore, not far from the ruins of Auberdine. He had turned to the mage. “You told me I was needed to defend Ashenvale!” he had roared.
“Ashenvale has fallen! Defend the World Tree!” was the only reply he had gotten before the portal snapped shut again.
And now, it seemed that Darkshore was falling, too.
Kritigri snarled, advancing on a troll and an undead who were closing in on a wounded sentinel. The druid had only ever killed the Horde in defence, and whilst that was true of this situation also, he found himself empty of the quiet remorse he usually felt at snuffing out life. Seething, he threw his arm into the air and called down a beam of lunar magic onto his foes. The undead fell apart like a badly made toy while the troll yelped, shielding his eyes and slapping senselessly at the newly raw flesh on his arms. While he was distracted, the wounded sentinel twisted on the floor and threw her glaive at his throat, killing him instantly. By the time Kritigri reached her, she had died of her wounds.
“Why?” he hissed over her body. “Why are they attacking us now? Why, when we were so close to a lasting peace?”
He knew, obviously. He’d visited Silithus and investigated the emerging Azerite in the area. He knew what power the mysterious new material held, and that there would be opportunists who would seek to destroy the Alliance with it. But he also knew that Azeroth was dying, and that in times like these the Horde and Alliance often came together to overcome whatever existential threat was upon them. So why-
“Brother! Watch out!”
Kritigri snapped out of his reverie just in time to notice the rogue that was almost upon him. He twisted out of the blood elf’s lunge and elbowed him in the throat, dropping him to the beach. The druid pinned him there with a foot and put his hand to the squirming rogue’s head, slowly roasting it with solar energy until the squirming stopped, and the fel green eyes dimmed.
Not a very druidic move. Not one he was proud of. But not one he had time to contemplate right now.
“Brother!” the call came again, this time without the warning. Kritigri lifted his eyes to see Jerrek standing at the edge of the forest, bow in hand, his face wrought with concern and pain. He took one step towards the beach and tilted downwards, crimson spurting out from behind him and onto the grinning orc that had struck him down.
“Jerrek!” Kritigri roared, and shifted into cat form to sprint towards him. The orc raised her axe, but before she could complete her kill a nightstalker leaped out of the woods and sunk its teeth into her throat, tugging aggressively left and right. Kritigri felt relief and hope blossom in his heart, and pressed himself even faster to reach his youngest brother. He shifted out of cat form as he skidded to a stop to examine the wound.
The gash was deep, and blood was pooling around his brother at an alarming rate. But the cut had not reached the bone, and while Kritigri was no priest, druids had their own ways of mending wounds. He’d never been all that adept at healing, but he forced himself to soothe, to feel the beating heart of the forest, to call upon the essence of life found within the boughs and branches around him and to channel the essence back into his brother.
It worked. Flesh knit itself together before his eyes, and his brother’s breathing became steady once more. “By Elune’s grace,” he breathed, and slumped down next to him.
His brother groaned and sat up, pale from loss of blood. “Thank you,” he managed. He cast about him, and his nightstalker came slinking up to him with his lost bow in her bloody jaws. He scratched her affectionately behind the ears, and she dropped it into his lap. “Nala,” he said to her. “You have saved me again. Please keep watch while I recover.” Obediently, the nightstalker faded back into the trees.
“Brother,” Kritigri muttered. “I had hoped you remained in Silithus, with the rest of our misguided forces.”
Jerrek gave him a rueful look. “I was on compassionate leave.”
“Compassionate… Jerrek, what happened?” But his brother’s downcast eyes told him all he needed to know. “Wyllum… your falcon. Jerrek, I’m sorry.” He meant it. A hunter’s bond with their beast was legendary. “Was it quick?”
Jerrek gave a taut smile. “Old age. The old bird lived longer than he had any right to, anyways. But enough idle talk.” His face hardened as he glared down the beach. “We’ve Horde to kill.”
Zeverys dashed between two sentinels, cutting their throats faster than the eye could follow. Alliance blood was indistinguishable from her red garb and ruby tattoos as she darted from foe to foe, a crimson blur on the battlefield. She felled those she vaguely recognised, likely from working together to defeat the Legion mere weeks ago. But unlike some of her order, she hadn’t forgotten her roots. Yes, she was a demon hunter. But she’d been a blood elf first. And so when her warchief had called upon her to join the assault on Darkshore, she had hesitated nary a moment before diving into the fray.
She did not hate the Alliance. She didn’t even think they deserved to die in such a manner. But as her warchief said, they could not be trusted to maintain a presence on this landmass from where Azerite was burgeoning like a plague. They had to nip this arms race in the bud, before a lasting war could truly begin. As a demon hunter, Zeverys was all too used to making hard decisions, and bargaining the value of individual lives against the greater good.
This wasn’t personal. This was necessary.
And the kaldorei had exiled her people and left them for dead all those years ago. Admittedly, that made the job easier.
This roar of outrage came as she was stepping over yet another spasming sentinel, and she might have written it off as some old ally recognising her from Argus. But something in the voice spelled a deep, rending betrayal, and so she turned.
And met Archdruid Kritigri.
In moments he had crossed the battlefield to meet her, and she stood, emotionally disarmed, all of her resolve to fight for the Horde fleeing before the betrayal in his face. “Archdruid-“
“Why?” he implored her. The rage in his face contorted into sadness, bewilderment. “I expect it of them-” he pointed to a screaming orc in the distance – “But not you! I thought the Illidari saw above these petty squabbles? Wasn’t defeating the Legion your goal? To bring peace to Azeroth?”
Zeverys found herself fumbling for words. “I… it is! Your people abandoned us!” she spat clumsily.
It took him a moment to grasp what she meant. “Thousands of years ago! You weren’t even born then, were you?”
As if that exempted her from being affected by their exile. She scowled. “That’s not the only reason…” she saw the fury on his face, and stopped. “You know what? I don’t time to explain this to you. We have our reasons, that’s all you need to know. I’ll explain later, if I can. Now step aside, you’re in my way.” She moved to shoulder past him, but he placed himself in her way. She locked eyes with him. “Move.“
He shook his head. “If you were betraying me alone? Sure. But how many more sentinels are you going to kill if I let you pass? How many more of my friends will you butcher for your fallen Ranger General?”
She snarled and whirled, ready to storm away. As she turned, a vine gripped her by the ankle and slammed her to the ground. Before she could yank herself free, more sprung up and began to curl around her.
He’s attacking me. After all the battles we’ve fought together. She immediately reprimanded herself for the thought. She was hardly blameless. But still, for him to turn his rage on her…
Having maintained her grip on her warglaives, she used them to hack at the roots around her. “Is there really no cure to your vengeance and hatred?” she sneered, repeating his words back at him. In return, thorns sprouted from the roots and began digging into her, scratching agonisingly across her flesh.
He’s going to kill me.
Not if we kill him first, a voice growled back at her. Reluctantly, she gave herself to the demon within.
Kritigri continued to will the roots to tighten, the thorns to sprout sharper, ignoring the part of him that was screaming from within. For Darkshore and Darnassus, he repeated to himself, for the sentinels she has killed, for the homes she intends to claim. Tighter, tighter.
Zeverys was darkening.
Too late, Kritigri realised she was transforming. His roots fell away, scorched and withered. A hulking demon now stood before him, warglaives in hand. It was still Zeverys, but her petite blood elf form had given way to a towering, muscled beast wreathed with a smokey darkness. He watched in horror as she unfurled herself, glowered at him… and charged.
Upon later recollection of the fight, Kritigri would admit that he was dead for sure. She was faster than him, within melee range, and empowered to frightening levels by the fel energies that coursed within her veins. He’d unsheathed his staff just in time to parry her first blow, while the second cleaved it in two; this was no Scythe of Elune. The next few moments of their duel had seen the archdruid darting around, getting some weak blasts of solar, lunar or astral magic in while he spent most of his efforts evading her otherworldly agility. Eventually, though, she followed him into a building and pinned him against the side of a wall. She raised her glaive, going for the throat.
The blade stopped a millimetre from his jugular.
The demon form melted away, but her grip did not soften.
They stood there for what felt like hours, her glaive to his throat, his gaze meeting hers. Behind the blindfold, it was impossible to gauge what was going through her mind.
Eventually, she removed her glaive, and simply walked away.
He did not follow.
The sounds of war grew more and more distant, until it became apparent that the fight had overtaken him, moving towards Lor’Danel. Kritigri pushed himself from the wall, hissing at the pain from his wounds, and realised his fight with Zeverys had taken him to the ruins of Auberdine. Around him sprawled the fresh corpses of too many sentinels, and not enough Horde. Wincing, he limped out of the battered inn, and continued limping towards the sound of battle until he had reached the coast. Here, the murlocs of old had long since been driven away by roaming adventurers, leaving only a few crawlers to skitter aimlessly across the beach, oblivious to the cataclysmic events happening around them.
Kritigri continued to limp down the beach. He could no longer hear the sound of battle.
A portal appeared a ways from him and Tolidar stepped out of it, with Jerrek on his shoulder. The youngest brother had overexerted himself after taking his wound from earlier, and Tolidar had clearly decided to pull him from the fight before he became another casualty of war. The pair were arguing – Jerrek was shouting that he should be fighting until the Horde killed him, that this was desertion, that Tolidar would burn for this. The latter brother was quietly but firmly overriding his brother, telling him that he’d been put on evacuation duty, that as far as he was concerned Jerrek was just another lost soul that needed rescuing, that he wasn’t going to leave his brother for dead even if he had abandoned him all those years ago.
Jerrek looked up in surprise. Tolidar met his gaze and said grimly, “They have taken Darkshore.”
Kritigri nodded. There was no more room in his heart for horror. He put his grief to the side. “Then take me to Darnassus. I would make sure that their occupation costs as few lives as possible.” Quietly, he feared for Virizard. He had seen no sign of his long lost brother in Darkshore.
“I’m coming too,” Jerrek cut in.
Tolidar nodded sombrely, giving in to his youngest brother. “We’ll all go. I’ll-“
Whatever he was about to say was cut off by the sound of a blast. Slowly, so slowly, Kritigri turned to the source of the explosion. A trebuchet had launched a firebomb into the bough of the World Tree.
Before he could comprehend this, another blow landed, and then another. The flames took hold with frightening efficiency.
“No,” Jerrek breathed.
“They’re… attacking Teldrassil?” Tolidar asked of nobody. “But why? What strategic advantage would that earn them? Don’t they know there’s only innocents left in the tree?” His voice pitched higher. “Elune, do they not know there’s innocents left in the tree?!” He immediately turned to begin working on a new portal.
Kritigri sank to his knees.
“NO,” Jerrek shouted. Nala appeared by his side and whined softly, but nobody heeded her.
A massive branch came loose and began its slow descent to the waters below.
The flames were enrapturing.
“Virizard is in there.”
It wasn’t until Jerrek snapped his head towards Kritigri that he realised he had spoken.
“Virizard’s dead,” Jerrek squinted.
“He’s not,” Tolidar replied dismissvely. “Kritigri, what do you mean? Why is he in Teldrassil?”
“He abandoned the Illidari,” the druid said, his voice hollow, his mouth dry. “Where else would he be?”
“The Illidari?” Jerrek snapped. Neither brother replied.
“We have to do something,” Kritigri muttered, but his body would not move. Jerrek’s own body suddenly slumped down next to him.
“Brothers,” Tolidar said, “I am sorry. I cannot lose any more of you.” And then he vanished, transporting himself to Darnassus and leaving no portal in his wake.
Zeverys stood on the coast of Lor’Danel, her warglaives jutting from the sand, watching with a hollow feeling in her gut as the World Tree burned before her. She could feel its heat from here. It took an effort to stand with the aches that the druid had given her, but she felt she owed him this much. To ache and endure at least a fraction of how he must be feeling right now. If he was even still alive. For his sake, she hoped not.
She did not exactly feel ashamed by her actions. The plan had never been to burn the World Tree or to kill innocents. Indeed, she was quite concerned by the actions her warchief had taken here today, and she did regret that it had come to this. But she had come into this conflict believing that she was serving the greater good, and if she had to see this through to the end to justify her bloodshed today, then… so be it.
“Look what you’ve done to my tree.”
Zeverys whirled – nearly falling – to see a night elf demon hunter approaching her. He had sooty black hair pulled back in a braided tail, and his bare chest bore his glowing purple scars to the world. Zeverys glanced around, but she had been standing here for hours; the rest of the Horde had all left to celebrate, or flee.
“Slayer,” she greeted him. “I had not thought I would see you again.”
“Nor did I, to be honest.”
“Are you here to kill me?”
“I should, shouldn’t I?” he unsheathed a warglaive and studied it for a moment, before snorting and replacing it. “I think not. Demon hunters should not concern themselves with the affairs of squabbling children.”
“So… the deaths that have occurred here mean nothing to you?” she asked carefully.
“Not nothing,” he admitted. “I am far removed from my people, and you and I have seen worse horrors than this. But it is still daunting.” He beheld the burning tree for a moment, and shook his head. “There’s more at play here. I have my suspicions as to what motivates your warchief.” Zeverys winced as he said it. “And, truth be told, my King.”
She eyed him. “Truly?”
“Truly. Or maybe I’m just hoping for some other existential threat to justify these scars and the nagging demon inside my head.” He shrugged. “Who knows. Either way, nothing good can come of demon hunters turning their glaives on one another due to a spat between some undead whore and a chastened boy king. Personally, I’m headed to Silithus.” He grinned. “There’s some bugs to kill down there, that’s for sure. Coming?”
Zeverys felt something odd then, something she’d felt before. It was as if she had come to a crossroads in her life, and her destiny was pulling her in two different directions. She turned once more to the tree, still burning all these hours after the Horde’s onslaught. And she measured her Slayer once more, in all his disturbing amiability. He hadn’t always been like this. Not for the first time, she wondered if the Legion hadn’t driven him mad.
It wouldn’t be the first time, the voice in her head leered.
“Of course I’m with you, Slayer Virizard,” she said, inclining her head. She turned her back on the burning World Tree and followed her mentor down the coast. She did not look back.