It had been days since they’d arrived in Gorgrond. How many, Maeorra couldn’t be sure. She’d forgotten how many had passed since she’d had more to eat than a hunk of moldy bread or piece of rancid meat. It had been hours even since her ‘hosts’ had deigned to offer a sip of the foul-smelling slurry that passed for water in this hell. More recent, and more frequent, were the prods, the jabs, and the lashings with whatever implement of pain happened to be lying around whenever one of the felguards or demon-tainted orc watchmen passed by on a round.
She let out a whimper at the thought. Everything ached, though even when she was struck, the pain was more a dull throb than it might have been if she’d been lucid, healthy, and properly nourished. As it was, she barely clung to consciousness, to life. Even in her delirium, she knew she was dying.
And yet that, she knew, was the whole point. They were all dying, and being kept alive–barely–only long enough to be used to fuel some weapon she’d heard called “Stonehand,” though she’d never heard any of her captors say precisely what it was or how precisely it was that half-dead captives were used to power it. It didn’t really need much explanation; these were servants of the Legion. No doubt there was nothing pleasant or dignified in store.
She’d done what she could to keep the morale up among the other captives that languished in the crude camp, comprised of a few small shanties crowded with up to a dozen miserable, starving beings each. The prisoners were comprised mostly of orcs–traitors, she’d heard the guards call them; deserters–and draenei, but there were a few scattered members of the alliance and horde races mixed in. When they’d arrived here, there had been forty-nine. Now there were twenty-three. Now and then, the guards came to take a few of the prisoners to a nearby tunnel that lead deep into the mountain. None of them had ever returned.
The Iron Horde deserters had been taken first. After that, the guards began to take those who had refused to eat or drink in an attempt to hasten their demise from dehydration and malnourishment. Maeorra knew she was the prize of the flock; a Prelate of Karabor, she was the highest-ranking of the captives. The only reason she could conjure in her mind as to why she hadn’t been among the first sacrificed was because they wanted to torment her with her powerlessness to save the rest. She would be the last to die, she thought. They’d make her watch as the others disappeared, a few at a time. Over the last couple of days, she hadn’t had much presence of mind to spare to give it consideration; the imminence of her own fate, and the toll taken by maltreatment left little headspace for consideration of anything else. But when she found enough, as now, the burden weighed heavily.
Suddenly, such thoughts were jarred loose by a commotion. There was shouting. The ground shook with the thump of explosions. The side of the mountain that loomed over the camp echoed with the dackdack-dackdack-dackdack of the air defense emplacements stationed there. These sounds, and others, filtered their way through the haze, but not sharply enough to draw her out of it completely. She tried to stand, but was too weak to manage. A flurry of activity soon found her. Shouts. Hands reaching to lift her up. A surreal parade of faces, many of which were familiar, she thought. Katalin. Braeval. Neninu. Buran. Lena–was it Lena? Hard to tell. The hair was different, maybe. Their voices struggled to seep through her delirium. She couldn’t understand what they were trying to tell her.
“Wh–wh–whfff.” Maeorra tried to speak, but her throat protested. Everything was fuzzy. Everything hurt. There seemed to be an aerial battle raging overhead; flying creatures swooped around the exploding clouds of green felflak, and around each other. The great roars of an immense creature bellowed from the crater on the other side of the mountain. The figure that so closely resembled Lena made gestures with her hands and a glimmering portal appeared; one by one the other prisoners staggered through. Then she felt herself being gently directed towards it by the hands that held her up. “Tmmm t gmmm,” a voice said. She understood. Time to go.
Reaching out clumsily, weakly, she stumbled forward, urged by whoever was holding her on her feet. The hands released her as she found her way through, and on the other side, she would have collapsed, had there not been other hands–belonging to anchorites, she thought, judging by the robes worn by the people to whom the hands were attached–waiting to catch her on the other side. She didn’t know where she was. But she was safe. She wasn’t sure how she knew, but she was safe. It was over.
Her body quaked from the exertion and she gasped for breath as those who had received her began to fuss and clamor. It was all too much. Weak as she was, she soon was overcome. Everything began to fade as she passed out.