"Just one more good push, and we’ll have them back through the portal!"
Was that so? Vaud narrowed his eyes at the struggling figures in the bowl-like crater which the Dark Portal commanded. He stood in his hastily repaired armor, coated in a layer of sweat and unfortunately, red dirt. He was weary, and his muscles ached with exertion, to say nothing of his shoulder. The joint might have been made whole and functional once more by virtue of magically forced healing, but the ghost of that injury burned painfully, still. It wouldn’t if Hal had tended it. But Halayn was far too busy to drop everything and tend to such a wound; the sort that was not life-threatening. It was true that he’d taken a crushing blow from a massive orcish warhammer, his shoulderguard crumpling and the bones below snapping. His sword arm had been useless. If not for Rivin…
His sharp gaze picked his brother out of the melee below, even now; a whirlwind of saronite, dark magic, and death. Apparently, Rivin had been slaying the Iron Horde nonstop since his arrival at the front nearly four weeks ago, and why not? While impressed, Vaud did not envy his brother’s condition, regardless of what few perks it afforded. The dead had no need for rest, for food, and the undead, in Rivin’s case, specifically, death knights, needed only violent killing, and it was this that the elder Evernight gorged himself upon.
A messenger approached the officers gathered on the ridge, and with a hasty salute, handed over a missive to the ranking officer.
"Archmage Khadgar wants us to press the advance," the ranking officer read aloud, eyes shifting to the fight below. "Notify the volunteers," he ordered the runner, who saluted crisply and darted off toward the camp.
Several of the other officers glanced in Vaud’s direction, but he was focused on the fight below. The plan had been laid out several nights previous, and volunteers were requested. Everyone knew who would be going, and just what the stakes were.
Rolling his sore shoulder, Vaud glanced back toward camp, where those who would make up the vanguard now roused themselves, heading towards the Dark Portal. He continued to watch, until Halayn appeared from the infirmary tent, belting on his sword. His attention shifted back to the fighting. The Archmage had been right to call for the advance. It seemed that the enemy was no longer pushing through the portal en force. Likely, they’re ramping up for a big assault… Vaud thought grimly, and began to pick his way down the incline. He had strapped his shield to his arm and sword in hand long before he reached the bottom of the crater, and many of the vanguard had passed him on the descent. Eagerly seeking glory, he supposed. But he did not fault them. Reasons weren’t important, action was. And right now, Azeroth needed their action.
Any further pondering was quickly swept aside as the bulk of the vanguard had arrived, forming up ranks at the base of the stair. The Archmage called out for the assault to commence, and suddenly, everyone was charging toward that massive, malevolent looking red portal. Vaud’s innards swam at the thought of the disturbing magics involved in powering such a thing, but he forced himself to focus.
Scanning the charge, he thought he caught sight of Halayn and began angling in his direction. The front of the vanguard closed with the last of the Iron Horde still on this side of the portal, and pushed, up the cut-stone stair. Soldiers of both the Horde and Alliance broke free of the press, charging forward into that swirling pane of blood red energy, passing into it. If Vaudious felt any fear or hesitation about pressing through, he did not allow it purchase in his posture, or his deeds. He mounted the stair, and after the briefest of pauses to cast a furtive look over his aching shoulder for Halayn, he turned and charged through, holding his breath.
His heavy greaves skidded on worked stone, stomach and jaw both clenched against the assault on his equilibrium that always seemed to accompany traveling by magical portal. Gone was the dry, tortured landscape of the Blasted Lands, traded for a sight as foreboding as any the warrior had seen in his travels. An army, quite likely the entire Iron Horde, was positioned at the foot of a far larger stair, below his position. Sultry, humid jungle air made even breathing uncomfortable. He took a moment to assess the situation, he counted far too many tanks, ballistae, and siege machines, to say nothing of monstrous creatures amongst the sea of well armed and armored orcs.
"Light…" Halayn breathed beside him, taking in the terrible scene, and Vaud wasn’t sure if he was cursing or praying. Did it matter? With a roar, the orcs began pressing forward, a riotous sea of hideous faces rising toward them. The forces of Azeroth charged down the stair to stem the tide in a thunderous crash of bodies. Vaud rushed forward to meet one of those who manged to squeeze past the vanguard, hoisting his shield to deflect an axe swing so powerful, he thought his arm would come out of it’s socket. With a growl, he lashed out with his own blade, opening a vein on the orc’s arm. That axe came at him again, and again, he deflected it, lifting a heavy greaved boot to kick the brute off balance. The orc shrieked as he teetered backward, and fell down the stair.
"Someone get that portal down!" Came an authoritative cry from behind as Vaud rushed forward, down the steps and toward the still recovering orc, not giving him the chance. A decisive thrust ended the struggle. He had scarcely had time to pull his sword back out of the orc’s chest when another was upon him, quite literally. Monstrous and deformed, the orc wrapped arms as big around as Vaud’s waist about him in an attempt to crush him. A downward punch of the hilt of his sword through a skull had the creature off him.
Vaud wheezed, staggering backward, and suddenly felt the warmth and peace of the Light infuse his body. His poor newly bruised ribs and that aching shoulder both felt good as new, and he straightened, choosing his next opponent; a hideous female orc with a pair of wicked looking daggers. She roared like some kind of rabid beast while lunging at him, the points of her blades skittering across his plated armor, seeking a seam. He moved with her lunge, stepping back and to the side to lay his sword down her back, splitting leather, skin, and muscle. She flailed as she hit the stairs, cutting toward his knee, but he lifted the greave and stomped her skull with a sickening crunch.
An explosion knocked him from his feet and he skidded, rather painfully down the stair toward the furious fighting at the vanguard. Scrambling upright, he turned to see a blackened and burning scar across the stair, but there! Halayn stood whole and well, surrounded by a golden penumbra, hands extended as he channeled the Light down to the fighters below. Suddenly, the massive portal, above and behind where Hal and the other casters stood, caught his eye. It was dim, blackened and translucent around the edges, as through collapsing in on itself. And suddenly it dissipated before his eyes. He began to climb, toward Halayn, toward Thrall, and the Archmage Khadgar, and a gathering of others.
Khadgar was rounding them up, warning of the falling vanguard, of making their sacrifice count. He was leading them away, and Vaud intended to go with them. He took the steps two at a time, glancing over his shoulder to the remnants of the vanguard, his brother among them.
He froze. Rivin was alone in a sea of orcs. There was maybe a dozen left alive and fighting, but Rivin was surrounded, and he wasn’t going anywhere. Vaud felt torn, watching helplessly as time ran out for all of them. And for the briefest moment, Rivin met his eyes, and laughed as he spun into another whirlwind of blood and unholy magics, his twin blades killing with impunity.
Vaud snapped out of it, turned and sprinted up the last of the steps and after Halayn and the others. That undead bastard would probably outlive them all!