"It is unusual to see so many of the Empire here.", said Shalkis.
The four trolls on their raptors stared at her, and blocked the entrance to Everlook. The snow under their raptors' paws was slowly melting. The animals had been ridden hard recently.
"Humm...Well..Oi Shalkis...How are we today?...", said the masked figure. A priest, from the looks of him. The voice belonged to Zepe, a witchdoctor of the Second Gurubashi Empire. The other three were unmasked, and their warm breaths formed small clouds in the air. She knew most of them. On Zepe's sides stood Umkankik, the legendary berserker, the chosen of Shirvallah the Tiger God. On his other side stood Keljin and Mashu, acclaimed hunters of the Empire.
"As well as can be expected. Why am I "honored" by such a presence?", Shalkis asked the trolls. Her voice was as cold as the snowy peaks, and her face was hidden by the veil, as usual. Her eyes wandered lazily, looking at each of the trolls, one by one.
On Shalkis' feet, Slayrith the spider nudged on Shalkis' robe. She glanced at the spider and nodded slightly. Slayrith skittered away towards the inn.
As by a common agreement, the four trolls grinned and dismounted.
"Well.. Ya know da Empire don't take lighleh on deserters.. Ya fool!"
The four trolls lunged at Shalkis, their weapons drawn.
Shalkis held her left arm towards the attackers while taking out a carefully carved whistle from her pocket with her right hand.
"I think not."
The four trolls' weapons were stopped inches away from Shalkis. Frost creeped along the weapons, racing towards the hilts. The ice barrier gave her enough time to blow on the whistle. A roar was heard from outside. Windclaw, Shalkis' trusty raptor, ran through the trolls, knocking them over. Shalkis grabbed the reins and climbed on her raptor's back. There was no need for words. He understood what the mistress wanted. He turned around, took a few running steps and jumped over the dazed trolls.
Zepe was the first to get back on his feet. "Get her!"
Windclaw was puzzled. Mistress wanted him to run again, but away from prey. And why did she want him to run slower than usual? The tusked ones were making some sounds far away, and Mistress made some sounds as well. Then Windclaw understood. Mistress smart. Mistress lured tusked ones away from pack of small green ones. Few easier to kill than many. But why Mistress wanted to go to towards stinking valley? Best not to worry. Mistress knows best. Bah, slippery thing! Why does Mistress want to go past this? Ah, now she wants to go that way. Big furry things live here. Maybe if Windclaw be nice, Mistress lets Windclaw eat. Yes! Now she lets me go hunt furry ones. Windclaw will come back when Mistress done with tusked ones.
The voices of the pursuers grew more and more angry. This was working well. Once she had let Windclaw go, she walked calmly towards the cliff. A dwarf's tomb lay here, tormented by the elements. Soon the dwarf would have company. She turned around, knelt and bowed her head.
She heard them approach, accompanied by growls. Despite their skill as hunters, the dire bears were apparently a match for them. She stayed still. The prey would reach the bait soon. She went over the illusion spell once more. It had done it's job.
"Any last words?", she said, still keeping her head down.
"Today it will not be me falling.", replied Keljin, confident as ever.
Keljin growled at Shalkis. She smiled behind her veil, and slowly removed it. She uttered the last words of the incantation, dispelling the illusion. The blue colors of her robes seemed to flow to the ground like wet paint, revealing her true attire. A robe in the color of ash and cold nights. Her staff, crackling with newfound power, revealed itself. She stood up, letting the last drops of the illusion flow away. She was ready.
"Shalkis! In da name o' da Emparor!", bellowed Zepe.
"Who are you to speak for Him?"[/i}, snapped Shalkis back.
[i]"Silent!", growled Umkankik.
"Ya 'ave been sentenced te death fer yer treachery!", Zepe continued.
"You may try.", she replied.
The four trolls were all now facing her. Some of them had claw marks on them. The bears obviously had caused some trouble for them.
Mashu growled at Shalkis.
"You.", she said, and pointed at Mashu. "You will fall first."
"Now...Dis be da last stand o' da great frost wizard..", Zepe proclaimed and grinned.
"Boys! Kill her!"
"You are not only a traitor to the Empire but also a heretic to Dambalah!", Keljin yelled.
"Cut her head straight off, brodda!"
Mashu lunged at Shalkis, his weapon already colored crimson from the blood of the bears. He swinged at Shalkis, but struck only thin air. He almost lost his balance, expecting there to be troll flesh to stop his blade. A giggle was heard from behind the trolls.
"We wouldn't want any of you to fall, now would we?", she teased. Umkankik ran after her.
"Ya tink ya can outrun us?", bellowed the berserker. He swinged with both of his fiery blades, but had no more success than Mashu. An ice giant in the glanced up at the furious troll, expecting him to fall. She was once again behind them.
"Outrun you? Why?"
Mashu had regained his footing, and swung once again at Shalkis. She avoided the bloody blade and slowly walked backwards towards the edge. She waited for an another swing, ducked and touched the ground.
Like a wave, the snow erupted from her. Mashu felt his feet being frozen into the ground. She was again behind him. The gusts of wind on the ledge flowed towards her, and then exploded towards Mashu. The razor-sharp ice shards tore through his armor, piercing his lung. He had to get loose, and fast. He started to hack away at the ice holding him helpless, but he had little time. Frost was already forming on her hands. He tried to swing at her legs instead, but she was just out of reach. The frostbolt hit him right on his chest. His wounds were frozen shut. The ice inside his wounds was too much, and he slumped over, his legs still frozen.
"Keel her! NOW!", Umkankik roared. Shalkis calmly turned her head toward the raging berserker, and pointed towards him.
"Heck! Kill her! Kill her!", shouted Zepe.
"Gah! Kik be next and will finish da job!", Umkankik spoke with determination. "Time ta die, sista."
"For one of us, yes."
"Got any smart stuff ta say before ya do?", he replied.
Shalkis began incanting ancient words, but Kik knew what she was doing. With a roar, he cut his own arms with his flaming blades. The pain would remind him what he was. Shalkis finished the incantation, but it did not have the intended effect. A furious troll still stood before Shalkis, not a ruminant. The berserker's eyes were blazing. Hers were as cool as the air.
"Catch me if you can."
Shalkis casted a frostbolt, but Umkankik barely noticed it hitting his shoulder. The berserker lunged at Shalkis. He caught her off-guard, and his blade sunk into Shalkis' right arm. As soon as the blade hit, frost extingushed the flame momentarily and raced along the blade and along the berserker's arm, all the way towards his legs.
She heard a snarl behind her. Zepe. The pain hit her instantly. Every sinew of her cried in agony. The berserker had already melted his legs with his other sword, and closed on her in a veritable whirlwind of blades. Shalkis closed her eyes and focused.
The tornado of metal did not reach her.. A thick shell of ice protected her. Inside, she opened her eyes. The berserker in front of her continued hacking on the ice with his burning blades, but inside the ice, there was no sound. She had a moment for herself. The troll with his blazing rage was not easily frozen. Blazing? Perhaps..
The next blow shattered the crystal-clear ice, but the blades did not hit flesh. She was back at the ledge. The berserker raced towards her, but failed to notice that the winds had died down. For a moment.
The freezing winds erupted from her hands. The berserker was pushed back momentarily, but his burning rage would not be quenched this easily. He leaned against the wind and with sturdy steps, inched his way closer to her. But suddenly the wind stopped, and flickers of flame danced in her fingertrips. The column of fire engulfed the berserker, who uttered one final roar and fell to the snow, still smoldering.
She barely dodged the spear aimed at her skull. The chosen of Bethlekk finally saw his chance. She took one step backwards on the ledge, and again touched the ground.. The frost crept up Keljin's legs. The winds died down again.
Zepe saw this move coming. Just as the razor-sharp shards were about to hit the careless hunter, a glimmering shield appeared around him. It flashed violently, trying to hold. The onslaught of wind and ice finally tore it down, but the hunter was unharmed and hacking away at the ice. Shalkis was already within safe distance. She held her arms up towards the sky.
"Bow down and despair, for Mother North comes for you!"
Keljin heard a crackling sound from the mountaintops. He looked up. massive blocks of ice were falling straight towards him. The onslaught forced him to his knees. He would not last long.
Thoughts of torment and death filled her mind. Zepe grinned. Her concentration was broken, and the onslaught on Keljin stopped. His grin was quickly wiped off his face when her eyes snapped back at him.
"This is not over yet!"
Zepe was not as familiar with the mages' tricks as the berserker, and failed to recognize the incantation in time. He found himself on all fours, with a strange urge for fresh grass. She looked back at Keljin, who had managed to lift himself up, using his spear as a support. Shalkis took out a small box from her pocket. She pressed the button on it.
"Come, my creation!"
An unnatural screech echoed in the valley behind them. Something whirred into life at a nearby snowbank, and two ruby-red eyes shone through the snow. The mechanical beast shrugged the snow off him and in a cacophony of squealing servos and whirring machinery, lifted itself up in the air.
She pointed at Keljin. The eyes of the metallic beast flashed, and it headed straight for the wounded hunter. A sharp pain tore through her legs. Betherrar, Keljin's panther. She turned toward the animal and touched the ground. The poor beast was frozen in mid-action, and never had the chance to avoid the whirlwind if ice shards. It's own blood colored it's fur crimson, and with a weak roar, the animal succumbed to the cold.
"You.. did.. well.."
Shalkis fell on her knee. She was breathing heavily. Just one more enemy to go.. The wounds on her arm and legs still bleeded, and her vision began to blur. She heard a groan from behind her. She forced herself to stand up. Zepe. The stage is ready for the final act.
"I'll get ya..", he said and let out a hacking cough.
The priest was not faring too well, either. After the hunter fell, the mechanical beast had done quite a job on the Zepe. His robe was frayed on several places, and a crimson stain was spreading on his abdomen. He lifted his staff, ready to strike. Shalkis dove towards him, with his arms outstreched. The winds died down again.
The priest saw this move coming all too clearly. He spun to the side, beyond the reach of the lethal wind. He used his momentum and swinged his great staff towards her. The blow hit her right on her left temple. She held her head briefly, and forced herself up again. She lunged again, but Zepe was ready for her.
Another mighty blow sent Shalkis dangerously close to the edge. She coughed up some blood, and slumped on the snow. A stain of blood was spreading underneath her.
"Yer dead now, Traitor.."
Zepe staggered towards Umkankik. The flames on the berserker had died down.
"Kik, get up! Ya'll hack her head off."
Zepe casted a spell to tend to the burns, and the mighty berserker staggered to his feet. He readied his warblades. The mage still lied on the ground, but.. she was laughing.
"Ever wondered why I chose this place?"
She pulled herself up, supporting herself with her knee. She dug into her backpack.
"Die!", roared the berserker.
"You will not stop me!" She was holding a bomb. Not just any bomb, but the pride of goblins, the Big One. Flames flickered on her fingertips. She quickly muttered the necessary incantations, and a barrier of ice formed around her.
The Berserker did not reach her in time. She threw the bomb at Zepe. The explosion echoed in the valley, and shook the closest peaks bare of their snow. Zepe did not have any time to avoid the blast. It threw him over the edge. The berserker was more fortunate, and got thrown into a snow bank. When the smoke cleared, she was standing there, looking at the depths where Zepe fell. The berserker quickly regained his footing, and Keljin tried to pull himself up using his spear as well. Mashu was groaning on the ground.
"Ya keeled Zepe! No ya die twice!", roared Umkankik. He charged and hacked at the barrier. Shalkis turned her head slowly, and looked Kik straight in his eyes. The blazing warblades were quickly turning the barrier into a cloud of steam. The blood loss from the wounds was becoming severe, and she began to falter.
"Her arms await.."
With those words, she fell over the edge.
Clouds whizzed past her. Cliff faces almost scraped her. The freezing ocean was closing fast. The final act has been played out. There is no need to pretend. She took a mana gem from her pocket, and held it in her hand, until it absorbed into her. Against the deafening winds, she whispered an incantation known to even most apprentice mages. She stretched out her arms. Her descent slowed down, and she went past another layer of clouds. She looked forward. The hazardous coastline of Azshara was in sight. Everything was going as planned.
They would have come to her sooner or later. She had made no efforts in Orgrimmar to prevent herself to be followed. The would-be predators had obiediently followed her. The trap was perfect. No means to escape, except through her. The inane taunts did their job, and enraged them not to realise their mistake until it was too late. But the first trap was just a smokescreen for the real trap. The fight had to be convincing. They had to believe that she gave all she could. To make them believe that she was insane enough to finish off one opponent just to d**n herself. To convince them that she had chosen to kill herself instead of being executed. If the body of Zepe did wash up on a shore later, it would suit her well. He did not survive, so she couldn't either. And if he lived, that would be acceptable as well. He would have only an inch of his life left, and she was supposedly in worse shape than the priest. He could save himself by walking on water and thus avoiding hypothermia. She could not do that. Even frost mages are not immune to the cold.
She landed gently on the northern cliffs of Azshara. The coughed up blood one more time, and bandaged her wounds. She would have to stay out of Orgrimmar for a while. Let the hunting party spread their tales about their epic battle against the "betrayer". Nobody would be interested in tracking down a dead troll. And after when she resurfaced, the act would make sure that the Empire would think twice before sending so many trolls to get her. Trolls are stubborn, yes. But no leader would spend so many troops for just one enemy. The Empire had bigger troubles than she, and they could not spare any more warriors on a wild goose chase. She started casting a teleportation spell. Using the whistle would be too risky now, someone other than Windclaw might recognize the sound.
"It is unusual to see so many of the Empire here.", said Shalkis.