Zhalar's blog

Author's Note: This story was written for a server writing contest on my then server (not Wyrmrest Accord) with the prompt of "Alterac Valley." That is why this story is specific to that battleground.

"Lose Some"

© 2007

Nasira stamped and snorted her disapproval, tossing her proud head with a jingle of tack and harness. Her breath fogged in the freezing air, wreathing her muzzle in a fine mist that dewed then froze upon the chamfron protecting her head. Gingerly, she tested the bit in her mouth, trying to catch it in her teeth for a plunge down the snowy hillside.

“Sebat, Nasira,” her rider counseled patience in a soft voice, preferring his native tongue. With an irritated grunt and flick of her tail, the sleek white mare settled down and waited for the Priest to loosen the reins.

Zhalar’s shrewd gaze tracked the Horde through the screening cover of trees. A pair of Trolls, a Tauren and a Blood Elf rode hard and fast along the road, making a beeline back to Frostwolf Keep. The tingle of his prayer for renewal still coursed through his body. He gave the blood spattered snow a sour look. His swift charge through the Horde lines and past Tower Point had only earned him three arrow wounds for his efforts. Gasping in pain and shock, he had hauled on the reins and drove his horse through a heavy drift and behind a tree where he could recover for a few precious minutes.

He was not a violent man at heart. He did not have the burning hatred of Horde that many cultivated. But, he would not forsake his adopted land. Surprisingly, he found he enjoyed the rush of warfare and proved himself to be a skilled battlefield healer. Even without the best training and gear, he rose to the challenge and served to the best of his abilities. It felt good to contribute to the war effort and he grinned in anticipation, waiting for the Horde to get out of sight before breaking from cover.

The clarion calls of trumpets echoed from the mountains. Heralds called out the progress of each side. The icy wind clawed at him, cutting through his clothing and stealing the misty thread of his breath. Gouts of snow and ice flew behind as Nasira thundered along the frozen path. Rejoining the vanguard, he reined in alongside a Gnome mage upon her squeaking, hissing and whirring Mechanostrider. Zhalar smiled, amused at her bright green hair pulled up into two saucy ponytails that bounced with each stride of her mechanical mount. She gave him a cheeky grin and together they charged into Frostwolf Village.

Blood splashed across the snow in abstract patterns. It was a gory sort of art, the kind made by Warriors as they cleaved their foes with axes and swords. The wounded cried out in agony. Nasira bucked and kicked and Zhalar jumped free of his thrashing mount, slipping in the muck and falling hard. A Draenei hoof found his ribs and he grunted, rolling away from the accidental kick and getting his feet under him.

Rising, the dark-haired man spotted a Dwarven Paladin engaged with an Orc. The stout Dwarf shouted epithets and called upon the glories of his ancestors as he swung his mighty hammer at the retreating Orc, heedless of the Forsaken Warlock raining fire down upon them both. A quick prayer shielded the Dwarf, buying Zhalar time to chant another prayer for healing as the Gnome Mage retaliated against the Warlock with a freezing hail storm. The Dwarf downed his foe and turned upon the Warlock, making quick work of the undead abomination.

“Rush the Relief Hut!” another Paladin called, riding past upon his glowing charger. Zhalar gave a sharp whistle and scrambled into the saddle as Nasira drew near. Excited, she whinnied, rearing before leaping forward with ground eating strides. He tried not to think about the bodies trampled beneath her steel shod hooves as they pelted up the winding path into Frostwolf Keep.

A hail of arrows met the invaders. Nasira squealed in pain and outrage as an arrow found a chink in her armor and lodged itself in her flesh. Zhalar ripped the barbed head from her shoulder, casting it aside then soothing a hand over the bleeding wound, closing it with a prayer. Swinging a leg over the horse’s neck, the Priest hit the ground at a run, shielding himself and dashing forward, trying to make sense of the chaotic melee taking place upon the frozen stream before the Relief Hut. It was hard to tell friend from foe amidst the writhing bodies and flailing weapons.

Bellowing his rage, a huge Tauren Warrior hacked at his Human counterpart. Zhalar focused upon the man and began chanting, his hands glowing with holy radiance as he begged the favor of whatever gods smiled upon him. In these moments, he had no questions or doubts. Regardless of his lack of faith in what the people of Azeroth called the Holy Light, some greater power heard his plea and answered. Throwing out a hand, Zhalar released the healing energy upon the severely injured man, hoping it was enough to save him.

It was too little and far too late. The man went down in a fountain of blood. The angry Tauren turned upon the Priest, raising his axe and charging. Diving to one side, Zhalar cried out as the heavy blade bit into his leg. Dazed and limping, he tried to escape the Tauren. Another heavy blow laid open his shoulder. His blood ran out, staining the snow in a crimson arc and his vision swam and darkened. Would this truly be the end of him? Would he finally find the answers he so desperately sought? Gagging as his stomach lurched, the Priest succumbed to oblivion.

“Wake up, laddie. ‘Ere der, ye ‘ear me?” The gravelly voice broke through the fog of unconsciousness. It certainly was not how Zhalar imagined the voice of whatever deity might come to collect him. In fact, it seemed to have a distinctly Dwarven brogue.

Heavily lashed lids fluttered then finally lifted, revealing the startling blue of his eyes. “Oy! Der’s a good lad!” praised the Dwarven Paladin, beard bristling as he beamed a smile at the prone man. Zhalar squinted, trying to bring his rescuer and his surroundings into focus. The close stone walls and heavy scent of hot metal in the air proclaimed it as Ironforge but the Dwarf was a stranger to him.

Patting the Priest’s uninjured arm, the Paladin grinned. “Owe ye a pint or three, laddie. Ye saved me back der. Thorbald Halfaxe dun ferget ‘is debts.”

Zhalar nodded faintly, feeling weak as a kitten and nowhere near up to the required constitution of proper indulgence in Dwarven gratitude. Licking parched lips, he croaked a question, “Battle?”

“Oy, we lost the field,” the Thorbald replied dolefully, filling a cup with water from the pitcher on the bedside table and passing it to the Priest.

Sighing, Zhalar nodded again and raised a shaking hand to accept the cup with a grateful smile. It was a constant struggle for Alterac Valley. Sometimes the Alliance gained ground. Sometimes they lost. Sometimes Zhalar felt an urge to attack his supposed allies when they sunk to bickering and name calling, mocking his accent and failing to understand the necessity of good tactics. He might not be a Warrior or Paladin, but he still had a good head on his shoulders and understood what it took to break through the Horde lines and win the day. Eventually people would learn and work together instead of trying to forge their own paths to glory at the expense of their comrades.

“Ye rest, lad. Ye durn near chopped ta bits out der,” the Dwarf chortled, impressed by the plucky Human who managed a wan smile. Giving the man another gentle pat, Thorbald took his leave, thumping up the stairs carved from the heart of the mountain to the modest living room above. He had given up his bed to the Priest, priding himself on being a good host.

Zhalar returned the cup to the squat table next to the bed, panting with even that small effort as he collapsed back against the pillows. The subterranean room felt stuffy and too small to the Priest. The bed was barely large enough to accommodate his tall, lean frame. Although he spent most of his time traveling the Outlands, he still preferred to return to his home in Stormwind City to sleep. He missed his cat. She had been his only companion in bed for a long time and he had grown accustomed to her purring warmth curled up at his side.

Exhausted, Zhalar squirmed around in the bed until finally coming to a somewhat comfortable position. His injuries throbbed with a dull ache that would be gone with a few more hours of rest. However, he would graciously accept the Dwarf’s hospitality for another night and nurse the hangover that was sure to follow the promised pint or three that would likely become a dozen if Thorbald Halfaxe had any say in the matter!

© 2006

Panting, gasping for every sulfurous breath, the man traversed the nightmare landscape. His gait was not the easy, long-legged lope of a man accustomed to dancing for hours on end or distance running for pleasure. It was the ragged, panicked flight of a terrified animal.

Blood oozed from numerous shallow cuts and scrapes, each burning as sweat found those wounds. Every step was agony to his lacerated feet. Stumbling across the broken ground, he cast a fearful glance over his shoulder. Dark things pursued him. They stayed just out of sight but he knew they were there. The flash of glowing eyes or a braying laugh let him know all too well that they were toying with him.

Still, he doggedly fled the pack of demons set to harry him. He would play their game for as long as he could. Time was his currency. The more time he could afford, the better it was for his friends to make their own escape.

Dim faces danced through his mind. Friends. Lovers. Even acquaintances who had joined together on this perilous journey into the depths of the abyss took up a moment of his thought. How many of them would survive? Would they accomplish their mission?

Looming above them all was the darkly handsome figure of the demon lord of this particular slice of the nether planes. He had a surprisingly graceful figure despite being nine feet tall and well muscled. Even now the fleeing man felt an unwelcome pang of desire for that black-skinned demon whose eyes gleamed with baleful green light.

Names eluded him and this strange omission gnawed at him like a starved rat. At the very least he should remember the names of his lovers! But, he could only conjure forth blurred faces as though seen through a frosted window. Once more the fanged visage of the demon lord intruded upon his thoughts, shattering his already fragmented memories.

His body responded like a trained animal. Burning hands. Hungry mouth. Pleasure and pain intermingled. These fleeting sensations hovered at the edges of his conscious thoughts. Desire and revulsion warred in his gut. Had he willingly given himself to this nameless demon? Or was he a victim of some terrible seduction?

Leaden feet seemed to grow heavier with every shambling step. The demons circled him, gibbering and hooting their derision of his human weakness. Their hunger was a palpable thing. It was a miasma that hung in the air, choking the man until he staggered to a halt. Swaying on his feet, he ran a hand through his unkempt mane of black hair. It was an unconscious gesture and somehow soothing to him despite the inanity of trying to make any improvement upon his scorched and dirty locks.

The demons inched closer. Some drooled, licking their fanged maws in anticipation of dining upon manflesh. Others were obviously aroused and flaunted their unnatural endowments, be they grotesquely large, prehensile or even barbed. The man trembled, more with sheer exhaustion than fear.

He faced the yawning void of his own mortality and prayed. Stillness filled him even as the demon lord approached. The demon’s underlings parted like the ocean before the prow of a stately and elegant ship. Richly dressed, the demon’s fine cloak billowed behind him like a crimson sail. The lesser demons cavorted about their master in a pitched frenzy. The towering demon lord surveyed his prey, taking in every injury that marred the bronze flesh. It was with both amusement and pleasure that the demon met the man’s bold gaze. Eyes the color of a cloudless summer sky caught and held those which gleamed with viridian light. Even in this moment of utter despair, something caused the man’s mouth to quirk with a barely suppressed smile and the light of mischief to dance in those crystalline blue eyes. That subtle and unconscious defiance was a siren call to the demon lord and he looked forward to a long future of breaking the man.

With a faint nod of his head, the demon lord unleashed his minions. Howling, they pounced upon the man. He thrashed, trying to escape the many clutching hands which splayed his arms and legs wide. Sharp claws dug into his chest, bringing forth a startled cry of pain. He bucked and there was another jab of claws to his belly, this time accompanied by a plaintive yowl.

Gasping, Zhalar bolted upright in bed. The sheets were a damp tangle about him. Scrubbing at his eyes with the heels of his hands, he sucked in great draughts of air. Clean air. Untainted air. Blinking, he struggled to make out the room in the darkness. Only a thin blade of light from the streetlamp outside penetrated the shuttered window. A scolding meow came from the far corner where his cat groomed herself indignantly after making her escape from the bed.

A nightmare. It was only a nightmare. Only one of hundreds he had dreamt before and would probably dream again. It was almost always the same. Sighing, Zhalar flopped back against the pillows and kicked at the sheets in a feeble attempt at neatening them without rising and making the bed again.

“Tch, jelmek, Jumanah,” he crooned to the cat in his native tongue, patting the bed next to his hip.

The feline paused, one paw raised in mid-swipe over her head. She considered her pet human’s request with all the dignity reserved for royalty. With a twitch of her delicate pink nose and pristine white whiskers, she deigned to grant him the pleasure of her warm, furry company. Purring, she kneaded the mattress and his thigh as he obediently massaged her ears.

“Iyi kizlik,” Zhalar praised his cat in a sleepy voice. Closing his eyes, he soon found a deep and dreamless sleep.
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