She lay on her back for a moment, resting her tired feet, crunching the rather tasteless wafer Wrynna’d summoned for the group.
“Everyone is doing great,” Taslor re-assured them. “Scourgebane and the others have secured the wing behind us, and the Argent Crusade is clearing the scourge from the ramparts.”
“He’s got the easy work, then,” Poundlord said, wiping his mouth of water with the back of his wrist. Kadrian smiled, but the paladin shrugged. “You volunteered, Poundlord,” he reminded. Poundlord shrugged absently and stroked his hand lightly across the hilt of his mace, emblazoned with images of the Light, bright and powerful…and yet, after all their battles, untarnished. Kadrian took another piece of the flat cakes and nibbled on it. They were nourishing, to a point, refilling, albeit tasteless, yet in some magic manner her weary muscles and heavy heart felt somewhat renewed. For indeed, her very soul felt weighed down. She could tell it was not just herself. Supernovay and Chrystal, the two youngest of their group, seemed to have made it their job to keep the spirits of the group up, but even they were flagging under the heavy atmosphere of death and despair. It was hard to believe there were places still where the sun shown, where there grew grass or flowers when surrounded by the terrible horned, grinning skulls of some dead animal, when whispers of error and far-off screams of agony echoed in the strangely silent cathedral of death. She shivered and sat up, shaking her short, black hair out of her face.
“Did ye see what be around that bend,” Casthor murmured to Majicah. “A creature like I’ve never seen!” Even the normally raucous dwarf was uncharacteristically silent and cowed, which spoke more than anything else.
“An abomination,” Majicah agreed. “But unlike any I’ve ever seen…” Her eyes slid to Taslor, where some silent message seemed to pass. The paladin stood and hefted his shield upon his forearm.
“Come on. It does us nothing to sit here, dreading what Arthas throws at us next. We’d better move on, before we loose what tentative foothold we have.” Knowing sighs greeted this unfortunate truth, but the group stood. Taslor glanced at Kadrian and motioned his head forward. She nodded.
The shadows of the citadel were heavy and dark, doubly beneficial to her slow slink forward. The hallway was wider than the old streets of Ironforge, and that was saying seomthing in itself, and taller than even Dalaran’s spires: their voices, low as they were, were not lost in the cavernous depths, but rather taken and tossed among the bladed architecture like scraps of paper in a heavy wind. As she moved further from the group, scouting their direction, she still heard the murmurs of the ended conversation slithering around her like ghosts. She slid against the wall, her body gathering in the angular arches as naturally as wind, as she gazed forward. Words failed her.
“It is enormous!” She whispered to Taslor as the other crowded in around her. “I…”she gestured wordlessly. “There are mouths in the wrong place, it is huge, and, everything about it is wrong… it is…it is just all…wrong!” Kadrian could articulate how unnatural the creature was she’d seen and threw her hands up, frustrated she could not describe the abomination.
“Does it appear to know we are here?” Taslor asked worriedly. She shook her head.
“No, its just…standing there, in the room. As if– he was waiting for us…” Galinal exchanged a glance with Chrystal, the former unnerved, the latter forcing a smile on her face to show she wasn’t.
“What else?” Taslor pressed.
“There are large vats around the room, and a tall window upon the left side. The entire place is circular; he simply stands in the middle.”
“What’s in the vats, then?” Casthor asked. Kadrian shrugged.
“I dn’t know. Nothing pleasant, I’m sure–it might be some sort of poison, or wastewater. It is…” she cast her mind for some way to explain the nauseating feel she got when faced with it. “It reminds me vaguely of the waste in the deepest sewers of Dalaran, except for worse. Nearly makes me nauseas to think of having it touch me.”
“So this…thing stands alone in the center, with, you said 4–?” She nodded.
“Ok, 4 large vats of, poison, lets say, on the periphery. And then the window up top. Did you see anything there?” Again, Kadrian shook her head.
“It might be a lab of some sorts-alchemical experimentation is nothing new here. This thing certainly sounds like a byproduct,” Poundlord added. Taslor ruminated on that.
“That makes perfect sense. Physical, and likely, chemically mutated.”
“…lovely,” Wrynna muttered. Kadrian stifled a grin despite herself.
“Anything else?” Kadrian brought her mental picture back up in her mind. Her training had given her the ability to memorize a place, and recall it with perfect precision. She mentally tallied through the room, notating the various curiosities—and of course, the massive abomination in the center.
“That’s it. There was nothing else to see. But—“
She didn’t finish her sentence, and didn’t need to. Everyone had found out the hard way that every monstrous being who had blocked their way had been more than what they simply observed-so much so that almost all of them had been on the brink of death, brought back only by the grace of the Light. But there was nothing else for it. They had to go on.
“Let’s go, then,” Taslor whispered. Majicah tapped her fingernails against her staff nervously, and Chrystal was bouncing on her heels, her movement not that of excitement, but of clear anxiety. Kadrian slunk back into the shadows, falling behind the group as she endeavored to stay hidden. There was power in beginning an attack from the shadows, even against one being such as the abomination before them.
“Light protect us,” Taslor prayed.
With a great cry, he dashed into the room, calling the attention of the great abomination to him, as the others spread across the entrance, wary but determined. A look of surprise entered the face of the creature, if it could be called a face, misshapen and broken lumps of flesh though it was. A shrill scream of glee echoed into the high ceiling, and she was unable to determine which, if any of the mouths it came from. Lumbering on uneven legs, the creature dove towards the paladin. Taslor took the brunt of the heavy body on his shield, and stumbled back several feet, barely keeping his balance. The creature slammed angry fists down at him, squealing and yelling unintelligible words, and Kadrian saw bright bolts of arcane energy course through the air towards him. Majicah stood behind the creature now, her face contorted in concentration as she channeled the destructive magic. She looked to her left. Wrynna, her normally smiling face was scowling too, her hands enveloped by the growing power of her incantation. Kadrian took out her barbed garrote, wound it around her wrist, and took a running start.
Her leap, powerful though it was, barely caught the creature at his upper back, but she was prepared—and instead of choking the harsh wire around the vulnerable neck of the abomination, she kicked out with her boot blade and her dagger, anchoring herself onto the creature’s back for a swift moment, and slammed her other dagger deep into its back.
“NOEARGHHHH!!!!!” The abomination twisted around and screamed in anger. Kadrian was thrown off his back and landed heavily on her back on the floor, even though she took the fall rolling. She got to one knee, prepared to rush back into the fight, when a gleeful voice called out above the growing cacophony of their battle.
“Good news, everyone! The slime pipes are flowing again!!” Taslor ducked under a heavy blow and took anther on his shield, his strong arms barely keeping the beast at bay. But everyone else froze for the briefest moment, and Kad looked up. There-in the tall window, a man: undead, he had to be, tall, bent over with the same, rotting, cadaverous appearance. It was his happy grin that sent a chill through her spine. Then he reached up—and yanked a lever. A massive squelch, like the suction of a sea star multiplied a thousand times came from her right. Kadrian scrambled away, as one of the vats began to let flow a quickly growing puddle of sickly-green-brown slime. She ran back to the creature, somehow knowing, intimately, she must avoid it. Galinal leapt out of the way of the expanding slime, disgust and horror clear on her face, and everyone frantically scattered to clear away from its rippling surface. His attention wavered for that brief moment, Taslor cried out under the heavy blows of the abomination and fell to one knee, barely able to keep his shield up. Casthor made a frantic motion, panic clear on his bearded face, and a bright light, almost blinding, enveloped the paladin. The next blow from the creature skittered off an ethereal shield of glowing sparks, resulting in an angry screech, and Taslor took the brief second to nod a breathless thanks to the dwarf. Kadrian slammed both daggers into the abomination’s back, and was immediately inundated with the most foul stench she’d ever smelt. She, and Poundlord, who had been next to her, gagged and choked on the putrid smell, and her eyes watered thickly; both barely managed to stay upright.
But she forced herself to keep fighting. She’d been in worse spots. She’d been left for dead, and recovered. She could overcome this. SHe didn’t have to see to know where the creature was to dig her steel blades into it-she could hold her breath for two minutes without loosing concentration. She could work past it. Until the next moment– that shook her to her core.
Poundlord suddenly screamed with agony, dropping immediately to the floor, his mace sliding away from nerveless fingers. Kadrian stood, shocked, her weapons coated with the viscous, cloying greenish blood of the abomination, frozen in horror. She’d never heard anyone, let alone the valorous paladin, utter such a terrifying sound. He began to convulse, his heels drumming against the stone floor, his fingers clening into fists with such strength she saw them going white.
“Poundlord!” Somehow, Supernovay was able to speak from the form he’d taken: he’d transformed into a treant, a form powerfully connected to the earth and its restoration powers. He rushed forward, both a tree and a night elf, dark brown eyes embedded in the bark-skin fixed upon the convulsing paladin. Poundlord continued to scream, and Supernovay frantically called upon his druidic powers, the scents of flowers and the moist earth after a shower, out of place among the blood and undead stench falling over the paladin. Kadrian tore her eyes away from them both. There was nothing she could do.
Until the unthinkable happened. Poundlord suddenly collapsed, the rigidity in his limbs falling away. And slowly, oozing from his very skin, a vile, boneless, somehow alive sickly-green oozeling left the limp body of their companion. And immediately, Kadrian stumbled, unable to hold back tears of pain as her stomach twisted and curled within her. Like her own poisons, her insides twisted and screamed, and she fell to her knees, curling over her midsection in agony. Barely conscious of her surroundings, she saw Taslor barely able to hold off the abomination, her pain reflected on his face, too. A gleeful cry came from the creature, who seemed to think it had won, and it raised bloated arms to the ceiling.
It was like being stabbed again, rolling waves of agony throug her middle and she moaned, trying to force herself up. Get up, keep fighting. But could barely think to breathe. SHe curled up around the pain, and prayed, Kadrian, not even an adherent to the Light, prayed for relief. It did not come from the arena she expected.
Sonuvalich growled the horase rasp of his voice feral with fury and hurled his bone axe into the oozing side of the green, living, slime. And somehow, the oozeling, impossibly aware, attacked the death knight, who backpedaled, drawing it away from Kadrian, Poundlord, and Taslor, who were all almost unconscious from its debilitating power. Kadrian gasped for breath, barely able to understand what had happened consciously. But her subconscious kicked in for her and she found herself on her feet. Poundlord stumbled to his, teetered a bit, but quickly found his balance, somehow recovered from whatever infliction had been cast upon him. Together she and the paladin broke back upon the abomination with renewed vigor.
Time seemed to slow, and her vision centered on the simplest of things: the broad, misshapen and discolored flesh of the monster, who, despite all she could throw at him, still beat furiously upon them all, the faint screams of agony from others who in turn, felt the agonizing pain of the terrible infliction that Poudlord had first experienced. Bright colors of arcane magic, pink and red, and fire, the growls of Chrystal in her panther form, her claws swiping chunks of grey-green flesh. Wisps of her own poisons lingering in the air as she slashed and tore into the vulnerable skin of the creature. The sweat in her eyes, the slipperiness of the ground beneath, sprayed liberally with slime and blood did not enter her mind. She had become an automaton, lost to all things except her determination to kill the rotting, mutated thing.
The abomination screamed and whirled around. Her vision broken from the monotony of his back, she gazed up to see the wide mouth upon the hunchbacked shoulder open.
She dove between his legs. She did not know what dreadful thing could come of his retching, but she was positive she did not want to be covered in it. Slime covered the floor as she dragged herself to her feet behind the undead creature, and began to panic as she saw the sickly-green slime begin to east away at her leather boots, even as it dragged upon her steps and slowed her escape.
“WOOAEEEGHAARGH!!!” The creature yelled again, bashing down upon Taslor, who seemed to be flagging. Sweat covered his face, and his long blond hair was wet and limp from underneath his helm. Behind him, avoiding the growing puddle of ooze, Casthor was barely standing, the strain showing clearly on his face. Like a moment frozen in time, Kadrian gazed across the room: Majicah had collapsed; Galinal was standing over her, her hand upon her back, her face frantic. Chrystal was still gamely attacking the creature, but even through the fierce yellow eyes of the cat could she see the rapid hope failing. Sonuvalich struggled through the ooze as well, his attention fixed upon the growing ooze that had turned bulbous and blood-red. Kadrian surged out of the goo, scrambling on gloved hands that no longer protected her skin from the acid green that smoked and ate her skin away. She gripped her daggers so tightly the etchings dug into her palms, and threw herself at the monster. Hundreds of wounds crossed the back of the monster, yet still he stood.
She fumbled with injured hands at her waist and pulled out a flask. It glowed with a inner light, red, not the blood red of injury or pain, but the orange-red of a late sunset or Redridge rose. She tore the cork out with her teeth and poured it into her mouth, doing her best to ignore the green blood and ooze coated on her hand and skin, still swallowing as much of the potion as she did blood.
The healing potion was not much, still her hands blistered and burned, and an overall weakness dragged her limbs, but it was enough. She lifted her eyes, her breaths heavy in her chest, and threw herself upon the monster with a snarl.
It seemed everyone who still could had made their last stands-great glowing wings of pure Light appeared from Taslor’s back, the strength of the Light bolstering him for as long as the vestiges of his power could hold out. As if sensing their renewed determination, the abomination screamed again and spewed more of the acidic saliva from his mouths, and she dived away again, rolling through his wide legs, slicing her keen blade across his hamstring as she rolled. She heard Wrynna’s high-pitched scream of pain as the gnome collapsed, infected by the creature’s deadly slime, but Kadrian did not let her attention falter.
And when the creature tottered and fell heavily to the floor, shaking the ground beneath already tentative feet, she was not the only one to fall to her knees.