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     The blunted arrow smacked against the ice and promptly exploded. The creature staggered out of what little remained of the ice trap, hissing in agony. It lunged at Shalvaris and a tentacle slapped the silver trap she’d planted.

     Fire burst from the floor, enveloping the blood beast. It screamed. It actually screamed. Stringy arms and legs flailed as it staggered across the floor toward the hunter. Its skin fell off in burning blobs of gel but it kept coming. A hiss grew to another scream. Shalvaris notched another arrow, this one shorter and thicker than the last one. She fired and the rounded tip buried itself in the creature’s skull with a crunch. The beast hesitated, its head weaving like a drunken dwarf. It wasn’t much of a hesitation, but it was enough.

     Jaybird’s arms tightened around Saora’s shoulders. His voice whispered against her ears. Darnassian, he was whispering in Darnassian. His skin gleamed and a faint red mist formed just above his arms, hovering in front of Saora like an early morning fog. But where Saurfang’s red magic felt like the chill of death, Jaybird’s was alive, warm. It reminded the priestess of forests, cozy fires and...wolves.

     Saora jerked her eyes to Jaybird’s white wolf at the edge of the platform. Power flowed over Rocky’s fur as his skin rippled in waves. His muscles bulged, stretching and reforming into something larger, something savage. He snarled, his massive jaws snapping at the air, his fangs lengthening. Saora gasped and he whirled his enlarged head to face her. She’d spent many nights with Rocky curled at her feet as they slept. She knew the wolf as well as a best friend. But she didn’t recognize the wild look in his eyes, that glare that said Rocky was less of a pet and more of a bloodthirsty animal. It didn’t help that Jaybird’s voice had forced the wolf’s entire body to double in size.

     "Andu-falah-dor!" Jaybird cried and pointed at the stunned blood beast.

     Rocky snarled, almost a coughing roar, and pounced on the stunned blood beast. The creature screamed again. It tried to bite, tried to rake those tentacles across that white, soft fur. Too little too late. Jaws clamped over two of the tentacles. The wolf didn’t pull, didn’t bite down. He tore into the beast. His massive head wriggled, his jaws still clamped on their prey. Blood sprayed around them like the mist of an ocean wave, staining that pristine fur.

     A small shadow darted across the platform and stuck to the blood beast’s back. Saora had time to see the wink of a silver blade before it plunged into the creature’s neck. It screamed and flailed. The knife dragged through its gel skin, leaving fountains of blood behind it. Two more silver flashes and a tentacle flopped to the stone floor, separated from its host. Rocky’s jaws locked on the top of the blood beast’s head. The wolf pulled. Flesh parted reluctantly, bits clinging together. Through the pulsing blood, Saora caught a glimpse of the inside of the creature’s neck. No bones…

     The head bounced across the stone platform. Blood splattered and stayed on the ground, unable to heal its master. The shadow cackled and only then did Saora realize it was the rogue Zapz. He flicked his daggers around his fingers to fling away the strangely thick blood. He lowered his mask enough to spit at what was left of the corpse and toss the stunned priestess a lascivious smirk. The crisscross of scars across the gnome's face sent a shudder down her spine, and she felt Jaybird's arms tighten around her. Zapz laughed again as the mask slid back into place. He hopped away from the corpse and rushed back into the fight with Saurfang.

     "The curse," Jaybird's soothing voice cut through the priestess' shock. Right, back to work.

     She took a breath and swirled her fingers in a graceful circle. Golden light shimmered across the skin of Edriane, Katrina and Vendaci. They all moved a little faster, attacked a little harder. Saora stepped out of her husband's arms and whispered a plea for protection. More shimmering gold appeared, now forming bubbles around the marked fighters. Saurfang roared in frustration. With no blood beasts alive and the shields in place, he was cut off from his blood supply.

     Benediction, carefully strapped to her back, pulsed with yellow light. Magic gleamed along Saora's fingertips. She brought her hands up, almost in a gesture of prayer. Her palms never touched. They hovered an inch apart and Light flowed between her hands as if she could hold fire. So much power, it took her breath away.

     Saora let herself feel that pressure build, feel the force so strong it could have been metal. With a thought, she reached out to her shields around the marked fighters, the shields already weakening from the Deathbringer's curse. They felt her thought, felt the pressure between her fingers, and brightened to match it. The shields were stronger. They could hold. But not for long.

     "Teagin?" Saora breathed, careful to keep her attention on the shields. "You need to heal."

     "I can't, Saora. I just can't. I'm so tired."

     She kept her voice calm, just this side of a whisper, "I have the cursed ones, Teagin. Heal the others. Keep the blood from Saurfang."

     "He's cut off from his power," Jaybird said.

     "Not for long. Can't do this forever."

     Jaybird laid a hand on Saora's shoulder before drawing his bow again, "Teagin."

     "I can't, Jay! I can't do it!"

     "The Keeper of Benediction gave you an order."

     "I do not worship the Light, hunter. Her yellow stick makes no difference to me."

     Saora turned to face the distraught druid, "Teagin. Do it. Please." She could finally see Teagin's face. She watched as the elf's face faded from desperate and haughty to stunned and afraid.

     "Your eyes," Teagin whispered, "they glow with the light of the sun." That was new. One problem at a time.

     "Help me, Teagin. Heal them."

     The druid clamped her lips together and nodded a little too fast. She raised a shivering hand and waved at Celesi. A ragged cut along her forehead closed instantly. The paladin wiped away the blood and gave Saurfang a fierce grin. She raised her mace and screamed, bringing it down on the orc's shoulder with such force his black armor buckled. Saurfang jerked away, off balance and startled.

     "Human bitch!" he snarled. But his anger couldn't hide the flash of fear in his eyes. The lack of blood left him weakened. A thrill passed through the fighters as they realized something they almost didn't believe before. They could win.

     Jaybird's voice roared above the sounds of fighting, "Finish it quick!"

     Teagin took another breath and whispered in Darnassian. She flung an arm to the sky and a shimmering rain appeared from nowhere. It cleaned away all the hurt, all the aches and worry. She dropped to her knees, barely conscious. But it was enough.

     To Saora's right, Shalvaris flung a silver trap at the orc and notched another blunted arrow. Pips muttered under her breath, that same wicked language from before. The smell of death raised from the gnome's tiny body as the spell grew. Jaybird threw back his head and howled, bringing an echoing answer from the still enlarged Rocky. The wolf charged and the hunter, pulsing with red power, aimed his bow.

     "Now!" Celesi yelled.

     Vendaci spat something in Darnassian and swung her sword at Saurfang. He blocked it easy, but didn't see the ice that burst from the elf's hands until the magic enveloped his feet. It held him in place for half a blink, just long enough to leave an opening for the others.

     Edriaine opened his jaws, his massive fangs elongated further by his power, and clamped down on the orc's right shoulder. Black ooze burst from the armor and Saurfang screamed. Katrina's sword swung low and pierced the orc's leg behind his knee. The Deathbringer's leg buckled, bringing his throat into Zapz's reach. Those knives blinked again and it was only Saurfang's reflexes that kept his delicate veins from being sliced open.

     The hunters fired their arrows. The warlock flung her dark spell. Jaybird’s arrow hit first, the incredibly sharp edge burrowing its way through the armor at Saurfang’s back. Shalvaris’ blunted arrow hit the same spot, following the shaft of Jay’s thin arrow past the armor. The end hit flesh and exploded, blowing apart the metal protection. Saurfang jerked back and screamed, spinning so nothing else could enter the opening. But Pips’ power didn’t to follow the arrows.

     The warlock’s spell slapped against the Deathbringer’s chest and spread, like paint splashing across a canvas. The blackness spread and reached, encircling the struggling orc. When Saurfang threw back his head in agony, Saora knew that spell had crept along his armor until it found the opening made by the hunters. The orc dropped his axe to frantically scrape at the spell on his chest. It ignored his fingers and spread up and up until it touched his neck. Black ooze bubbled up between Saurfang’s lips. It wouldn’t kill him, but it was enough. He stumbled to his knees and stayed there, trying to breathe.

     Celesi stepped forward. The mace in her hand rested against her shoulder, its crystals gleaming in the winter sun. The blond human looked down at the fallen orc with pity in her clear blue eyes. She dropped her shield to lift her weapon with both hands.

     “May your soul find its way to the Light,” she said. Saurfang blinked up at her, the red blood magic fading. He looked at her with the pale brown eyes he’d had when he was alive. He coughed away the black ooze and managed to breathe through his chapped and quivering lips.

     “I...am...released…”

     The mace dropped, and Deathbringer Saurfang breathed his last.
I could never get into the Horde side of the lore, not if it didn't involve Thrall, so I didn't have the attachment for Saurfang the Younger that many of the Horde players had. He was one of the few non-leader NPCs that I did recognize, however, and Blizzard did such a great job with him in the Battle of the Wrathgate video that I hated to see him die. It was really the tearful reunion of father and son that really moved me. That won't happen until next chapter, but remembering the Deathbringer's death always makes me think of his father. Blizzard's writing hasn't moved me in a while, but that moment really did.

Saora needed a moment where she stepped up. She's the wielder of Benediction. She's a leader, whether she wants to be or not. That moment with her and Teagin was likely as close to giving orders as Saora will ever get. However, she needed that moment of assertion to help her get through what's coming next.

Zodiac love!

Zapz was a...unique personality. He had a wicked sense of humor and no patience for idiocy. He loved to troll everyone around him, whether they deserved it or not, and nearly every interaction between him and a female included several sexual comments or jokes. But he'd been with Zodiac long before I joined and is, literally, the last player to hold that guild name on our server. When the guild died, he kicked every player from the guild and refused to allow anyone else to own that name. He even refused a HUGE payment for it, saying he'd only hand the guild back to Kasino or myself. He didn't trust anyone else. That was Zapz.

He was a talented player, a loyal guildie, a devoted single father and a good man. If you proved you were a competent player and not a "c**ksucker", as he liked to say, he would help you in any way he could, giving freely what he worked hard to earn. Need potions? Rare materials? Gold for repairs? Zapz was the man to talk to. He manipulated the auction house (online marketplace) and knew the best places to farm for resources or special items. He was rude, abrasive, sexist, crass and inappropriate. He was also hilarious, loyal to a fault, honest, dependable and generous to those he trusted. I miss him.
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August 11, 2014
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