Previously: The Crash
Weipon helped Akabeko to her feet, and they jogged to where they could hear ground troops assembling, directed by General Nazgrim's incessant shouting.
"Take them out!" he roared after a trio of grunts, watching them hustle up the stairs to the Alliance base. "Leave none alive!" Nazgrim noticed Akabeko's approach and summoned her with a quick flick of his wrist. She and Weipon hurried to his side. "The Alliance captain has barricaded himself in on the top floor of this stronghold. I've got troops clearing the path, so you get in there and get yourself to that captain. I'm taking a small team up the walls for a surprise attack from the rear." He nodded matter-of-factly, waited for Akabeko's salute, followed by Weipon's belated one, then turned away to another group of soldiers.
Still slightly disoriented, Akabeko followed the stream of Horde soldiers fighting their way into the heart of the Alliance base, Weipon dutifully tagging along behind. At their heels ran Fu, snapping at any ankles that came to close to his master. Their path was briefly blocked by a crowd of humans backing a wide-shouldered tauren down the stairs. Weipon moved to assist, but Akabeko stopped her. In the next moment, the tauren stomped ferociously, stunning the humans and using the brief respite to dispatch them one at a time. Akabeko led Weipon around the growing pile of dead, tossing a heal to the tauren as they passed.
They passed unharried all the way to the central structure of the base. Around them, Horde soldiers were dutifully slaughtering Alliance and burning or salvaging their supplies. Weipon gaped openly at the gore, but Akabeko tugged her along, trying to avoid the more grisly details.
Inside the temple-like structure, they ducked around the last remaining skirmishes and chased down two humans attempting to flee up the stairs. Without a thought, Akabeko flowed into her lion form and pounced, taking most of one human's face off with a swipe of her paw and finishing the second with her jaws around an unprotected neck. She shifted back, stepped delicately around the bloody mess, and continued up the stairs. Weipon stumbled after her, eyes haunted.
The top of the building had a covered pavilion surrounded by open platforms. They could clearly see the human captain across from them, although he appeared to be looking out into the forest. The unpleasant sounds of steel clashing and soldiers dying drifted up from below.
"Stay behind me," Akabeko cautioned Weipon, worried about the expression on the pandaren's face. "I'll take care of him." Without waiting for a response, she shifted and charged, claws out and fangs bared for slaughter.
The human nimbly jumped onto the wall surrounding the platform, turned, and smirked at the druid as her pounce landed short. Then, calmly, he stepped backwards off the ledge. An arrow whistled by Akabeko's cheek, and she whirled to see Nazgrim and his soldiers arriving on the platform as well.
"Damn him! Did he just--!" Nazgrim bellowed, swinging his fists in fury as he ran to peer over the ledge.
A gyrocopter rose up over the wall, and the Alliance captain saluted them sarcastically. "You and your filthy Horde will not destroy this land as you destroyed Kalimdor," he said solemnly.
Nazgrim's team were already firing arrows at the gyrocopter as it turned away. The air was suddenly filled with a loud drone as more gyrocopters took to the sky.
"Impossible!" Nazgrim cried, watching the thickening trails of smoke as the gyrocopters converged around Hellscream's Fist, undermanned and defenseless in the treetops. "They had an airbase, a hidden airbase," he gasped. The small team atop what remained of the Alliance base watched as the remaining Alliance airfleet opened fire on the Horde vessel. After a very long, loud moment, the airship caught fire and slipped out of the trees, weeping burning timbers and smoldering chunks as it crashed to the forest floor.
The Alliance copters pulled away, leaving behind silence.
"My ship..." Nazgrim gripped the edge of the wall, eyes unfocused. "Hellscream will have my head." He tucked his chin down low, shoulders trembling visibly with rage. Then he let out a sigh, a tiny hiss similar to air escaping slowly from a tire. His chin rose and fists relaxed, and when he turned to face his soldiers they could see that his face had taken on an ashen hue. "They all must die," General Nazgrim said calmly.
Wisely, Weipon began to back up, plucking at Akabeko's sleeve as she slowly edged away from the orc.
General Nazgrim rolled his head slowly, cracking his neck audibly. His eyes flashed, irises covered by an unsettling silvery sheen. He took several great, wheezing breaths, noisy in the stunned silence. One of his soldiers reached out to him, perhaps to take him by the elbow. Nazgrim caught the approaching wrist calmly, squeezing until the soldier cried out in fear.
An unfamiliar voice shouted, stopping the escalating scene. A thick figure, moving too fast to discern any features, landed on the platform and made short work of General Nazgrim. A flick of a staff released the captive soldier, then sent Nazgrim to his knees. The figure laid a great hand on Nazgrim's forehead and began to chant. Now, the assembled group could see that it was a pandaren, but clearly not one of those that had come over with either Horde or Alliance assault forces.
His chant finished, the pandaren stepped away just as a crackling black shadow erupted from General Nazgrim's mouth. The pandaren shouted something, then attacked with his staff. Too late, the other soldiers moved to help, but the creature was already writhing, screeching in its death throes.
General Nazgrim clambered unsteadily to his feet, looking much more like his old self. He frowned at the pandaren suspiciously. "Who are you?" he challenged.
The pandaren responded, unintelligible to the Horde members but evidently angry. Only Weipon reacted.
Nazgrim pointed at her. "You there, pandaren. Make yourself useful and translate for us."
The pandaren followed the General's gaze, looking with obvious curiosity at Weipon. Then, he began to speak again, gesturing urgently at her.
"He--he says that the creature was your own doubt, made corporeal. He says that this place is different from where you come from. He says that you must be careful with what energy you bring."
Nazgrim sniffed indignantly. "We bring only our honor and the desire to crush our enemies. Has he been aiding the Alliance?"
The pandaren looked askance at Nazgrim's aggressive posture as Weipon relayed the message. He responded shortly, then took a running leap over the wall. Nazgrim rushed to the edge, shouting obscenities as they watched the pandaren disappear into the forest. He rounded on Weipon, looking murderous.
"He doesn't understand what you mean by Alliance," Weipon gasped, backing away. "He said he wants no part in our battles!"
Akabeko stepped forward, subtly blocking Nazgrim from getting any closer to her friend. "It seems we have met our first local, General," she said in what she hoped was a nonthreatening tone. "He may want no part in our battles now, but we may be able to convince him to join us." She held up a hand to placate him. "It does no good to hurt the messenger. We need a translator."
His rage left him as suddenly as it had come. "You're right," he allowed, sighing in annoyance. "Very well." He waved his team to him to dispense orders. "We will find the nearest pandaren settlements and bring them into the Horde. From there, we will be able to expand our foothold in this continent and commandeer supplies." He pointed at Weipon again, making her jump. "You will assign the pandaren troops as is necessary to act as translators in the war effort."
"Yes, yes sir," she stammered faintly.
Rolling his eyes, Nazgrim jerked his thumb at Akabeko. "Go with her and oversee the groups," he ordered.
Akabeko saluted promptly before dragging Weipon away, eager to escape from the general's bad mood.
Next: The Ambassador to Honeydew