The Siege of Tempest Keep

100 Draenei Paladin
7565
With the story contest now being over, I figured I would share this here. Comments/constructive criticism is appreciated as I am trying to improve as a writer.

TLDR? Let me read it to you instead: http://vocaroo.com/i/s1XhFCQGwM1E


The Siege of Tempest Keep

Massive bolts of energy crackled violently around the crystalline structures, illuminating each of the five floating platforms enough to be seen from far in the distance.

“There!” Maraad yelled over the whirring of conduits and the thundering of lightning strikes for which the region earned the name Netherstorm. “Our salvation lies just ahead in Tempest Keep!”

Of the few hundred assembled, almost all responded with silence. There were a few murmurs among the crowd, and several younger members of the group started to applaud, but instead thought better of it.

“Friends!” A different voice now broke the silence.

From within the crowd the source of the voice emerged. In many ways he looked like the others, tall with a skin of subtle blue, forehead plated and formidable, his eyes a glowing white. With resilient hooves and powerful legs, his movement was effortless over the mountainous terrain, his tail maintaining his balance with ease. What distinguished him from the others was his long, almost impossibly white beard, his bright white golden robes that seemed to emanate light at the seams, he wielded tall staff adorned with jewels and crystals, and an ever-present runic symbol which hovered just above his forehead. People parted to clear him a path towards the front of the group as he ambled towards Maraad.

“Prophet.” Maraad said reverently, bowing his head.

Prophet Velen extended one hand and placed it on Maraad’s shoulder, afforded him a smile, and turned to face the mass of people.

“Friends!” he repeated, “This is a time of grieving for all of us. I know our hearts and our minds are with those who remained in Shattrath.”

Maraad spotted many children scattered throughout his people who were now overcome with tears. Others rushed to their side to embrace them, but it was not enough to quell the pain that the newly orphaned young experienced.

“There are those, as there have been for millennia, who wish our very race enslaved, corrupted, destroyed. In the struggle to merely exist, we have been forced to make unthinkable sacrifices. But, we are Draenei – and though exiled, we are not lost. Our every tear is a defiance of the evil that would see us destroyed. The Light showers us with hope and illuminates our path yet again.”

Maraad felt his grief begin to erode as he absorbed the inspiration of the Prophet’s words. Surveying the crowd, he sensed that he was not alone. Desperation seemed to melt away from those in attendance and as he looked out at the weary and sullen faces undergoing a reinvigoration, Maraad noticed the sounds of weeping begin to subside.

“We must have faith that in the future we will find those who stand with us and share in our defiance. Where there is faith, hope is never lost.” Velen extended his arms as a gentle sea of warm light washed over the crowd. Those who had been sobbing stopped as the light all but evaporated their tears. “Today, we shall take Tempest Keep and use it to leave this world. In so doing, let us move closer towards salvation and closer towards the end of evil.”

Applause erupted, and for a brief moment it was all anyone heard.

***

Valaar wanted to join in the cheers, but his duty as a Shield of Velen required him to remain constantly vigilant. He allowed himself a smile as he surveyed the crowd and noticed Maraad quickly approaching. Both paladins were clad in heavy plate armor, though Valaar’s lacked the colored gems and runic markings which identified Maraad as a Vindicator, one of the Draenei’s most elite fighters. Valaar saluted.

“We are ready to move out. Take your position.” Maraad motioned towards the Prophet and the three other Shields that were now assembling around him.

“The Prophet has given us courage again” Valaar said, securing his shield to his arm.

Maraad smiled. “Courage is ever-present. It need only be found. We are fortunate to have the Prophet’s wisdom.”

Valaar watched as Maraad unstrapped his warhammer from his back. It was formidable, with a head composed of a large glowing purple crystal. Valaar recognized it as the weapon gifted to his people by the noble Naaru thousands of years ago. It had been present on Argus when the Naaru assisted the Draenei in fleeing their home planet as it fell to the corruption of Velen’s brothers. The weapon was now a symbol of the Draenei’s faith and perseverance and though Valaar was grateful for its presence, he couldn’t help but notice the Naaru’s absence as the Draenei prepared to find a new home yet again.

“May the Light give you strength, Shield” Maraad said as he hefted the warhammer over his shoulder.

“And to you, Vindicator” Valaar replied.

***
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100 Draenei Paladin
7565
The Draenei arrived at Tempest Keep several hours later. Maraad led the group of paladins, priests, warriors, technicians, and civilians cautiously across the bridge as they approached the center spire. Maraad saw little distinction now between those who were in the military and those who were not; all were needed to fight, and all were ready to fulfill that duty.

They encountered no resistance as they approached the doors of the structure. Maraad surveyed the area with suspicion, straining his senses to detect anything that might reveal this to be a trap. But he found nothing, and so he signalled for Engineer Talaan. Tempest Keep was of Naaru design, which meant the architecture and operation of the Keep would be familiar to the engineer.

Talaan hurriedly moved towards the operation panel on the side of the entrance. As he took a small device from his belt and held it up towards the panel, he froze. Eyes growing wide, he began to tremble. The device slipped from his grasp as he stumbled backwards.

“Talaan, what is it?” Maraad shouted as his eyes darted around the platform

Talaan continued to stumble backwards. His mind seared with pain and his vision was beginning to darken. Through the dark he could faintly make out large, winged demons, some circling the battlefield and others leaning over fallen and injured Draenei. They were still alive, though barely, and were desperately striking with fists and hooves struggling to prevent the horrid creatures from chewing the flesh off their bones. Talaan let out a horrific scream and whirled around violently to try to wipe away the image. He frantically put his hands over his eyes to obscure his vision but it only became clearer. Talaan witnessed over and over again the mutilation of those he once knew as friends. The demons were not content to merely let them die. As they neared their final breaths, their skin turned from blue to red, their faces contorting in pain, their bodies transforming. Talaan was forced to watch one Draenei after another either be consumed or transformed into a torturer of the others. The vision repeated over and over until there were no Draenei remaining, until all of his people had transformed into demons. In desperation he took off at great speed towards the edge of the floating platform and then over, falling into the Twisting Nether.

“Warlocks! Defend yourselves!” Maraad’s command came just as bolts of sickly green flame flew towards the platform from above.

Maraad heard more screams and had no doubt that they were from those now seeing the same vision as Talaan. More took to leaping from the platform while others collapsed to the ground, desperately pulling and clawing at their face to remove their own eyes. Those who escaped being struck by the bolts of flame had to scramble quickly away from the impact as the ground ignited and the flames crept towards them.

Over the commotion Maraad heard a shout: “The western platform! Strike to the west!”

He glanced west to another floating platform, high above where they were now, and finally laid eyes upon the enemy.
He echoed the shout, “Blood Elves! Western Platform!”

Now with a target, the Draenei began to fight back. Some aimed their crossbows skyward and fired bolts rapidly. The bolts were joined by orbs of ice and missiles of arcane energy as the magi acquired their targets and let loose their power. Others who could not strike from such a distance away shielded the younger members and dragged the wounded aside.

The Draenei barrage hurtled closer to the Blood Elf warlocks on the upper platform but never reached their targets. The arrows combusted and the magic dissipated as it struck a barrier of flame. The warlocks now, three that could be seen, seemed to be working in tandem. They gestured wildly and muttered in a demonic tongue as a huge flaming boulder began to descend from the sky.

Maraad’s eyes widened. He recognized it immediately. The warlocks had summoned an Infernal, gargantuan demonic constructs seemingly bound together by the sickly fire that covers their bodies. The Draenei had faced such creatures before. These Infernals descended upon Argus, the Draenei home planet, in massive numbers before the Draenei could escape and wrought devastating amounts of damage. Saying nothing, Maraad scanned for Velen among the chaos. Velen was already aiming his staff towards the descending boulder, his eyes closed in prayer. Maraad followed suit and pointed his glowing hammer skyward, closing his eyes he recited:

“My allies are my weapon
And I am their shield.
While I still draw breath,
Let no harm befall them.”


Beams of white light exploded from both weapons and rushed to meet the falling Infernal. The impact shattered the flaming rock into several smaller pieces. The flames ceased, and the pieces of rock that still fell towards the platform were swung swiftly and safely aside as the magi manipulated their gravity.
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100 Draenei Paladin
7565
Focused in prayer, Velen did not notice the shadowy figure emerge beside him. Valaar dove and caught the dagger strike on his shield. They had appeared during the commotion and now the Blood elf rogues were emerging out of nowhere in great number. One of the magi recovering from exertion fell limp to the ground as a rogue appeared behind her and tore into flesh with a pair of blades. Without armor, the single, precise strike of the elves was fatal. Valaar parried the rogue’s next attack and tried to retaliate, but his mace found nothing but air as it swung down. The rogue appeared behind him, striking at the opening between chest and shoulder plate. Valaar shouted out in pain and quickly swung around, but the rogue had vanished again. Valaar and the other Shields of Velen now surrounded the Prophet to protect him as he worked with holy magic, sealing the wounds of those who were struck and enveloping the young in light that seared any rogues who came near. Despite being caught off guard by the attack, the Draenei had gained an upper hand over the Blood Elves. Several rogues lay crushed by Maraad’s mighty hammer, emblazoned and quickened by the Paladin’s focus. Some of the rogues found themselves encased in ice after attacking magi who, though unarmoured, were surrounded by an unseen barrier of frost. Opportunistic warriors used their swords and maces to shatter the frozen enemies. The attackers finally began to retreat into the shadows.

Before the Draenei could regain their composure, walls of red and orange flame shot up in front of the entrance to the Keep and at the mouth of the bridge, sealing off their retreat. Above them, the Blood Elf warlocks began their channeling once more. Maraad looked skyward as another massive rock fell from the sky. Bolts, arrows, and magic were once again sent skyward, only to be incinerated by the warlocks’ barrier.

“Prophet!” Maraad shouted.

Velen looked weakly at Maraad, supporting himself with his staff. His eyes were still determined, but weary. The efforts he had taken to keep his fellows alive had taken its toll. He lifted his staff again, pointing towards the falling rock, and gasped.

Where before there was a single Infernal plummeting towards the platform, it was now joined by several others.

“No.” Velen whispered as tears began to cloud his vision.

Those who had seen the prophet looking up looked up as well. Some roared out in defiance but many, like Velen, merely stood in sorrowful awe.

Suddenly, the sounds of despair were broken by the calming melody of musical chimes in Velen’s mind. His spirit reinvigorated, he gazed up to the highest eastern platform. The light was so blinding that he nearly had to close his eyes. There, floating near the edge of the platform, stood several crystal shards rotating around a bright pulsating golden sphere. The chiming grew louder even as he watched the being. Others seemed to have heard it as well, and though the source of the sound felt internal, their gaze was drawn away from the falling destruction and towards the platform.

The Naaru spoke, not with voice, but with a direct sentiment to every Draenei. The calming melody was replaced with a simple thought: Where there is faith, hope is never lost.

“Open portals to the eastern platform,” Velen commanded. “As many as you can hold open!”

The magi responded quickly, and within just a few moments the portals stabilized. The first Infernal was bearing down on the platform, close enough now for Velen to make out the features on its head. Shards of rock and orbs of flame arranged to give the appearance of a face jeering at their misery.

“Through the portals, hurry!” Velen ushered his people.

The Draenei rushed to the portals and were teleported to the eastern platform. Aftey they had teleported the remaining engineers hurried into the structure and bolted for the control room. The Blood Elves had not expected the Draenei to survive the assault and so there was no military presence inside this wing of the Keep.
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100 Draenei Paladin
7565
Outside, the first Infernal crashed into the platform, setting it ablaze as it landed. One Vindicator had managed to grab two children who, had become paralyzed with fear. The platform tremored, the Infernal landing just shy of a portal. The Vindicator quickly tossed the children towards the portal. Scrambling, they entered the portal and emerged safely on the eastern platform above, but the paladin was not so fortunate. He was spared of the flames as he was picked up by the Infernal, who cackled happily has it tore him limb from limb, relishing in the sound of tearing flesh and ripping bone. It discarded the pieces of Draenei over the edge, roaring with glee as they fell into the Twisting Nether, but its celebration was stopped short. The crystals that composed the Naaru began to glow and spin more rapidly. The being generated an enormous flash of light and the warlocks who had summoned and were in control of the Infernal now burned from the inside. Their skin parted like the desert ground beneath the blazing sun and golden flares shot through the newly formed cracks as they crumbled to dust and a sudden breeze blew them into the Nether.

The remaining Draenei entered the ship along with the Naaru. The doors sealed with a hiss and the ship began to rumble. The engineers had succeeded in starting the engine and soon the otherwise rigid structure of the crystalline interior began to flux. Light and sound started to stretch and whirl within the vessel. To any inside still observing, their surroundings would have appeared to move much slower than usual, almost fully stopped. To any on the outside, there was simply a flash, and one of the Tempest Keep platforms had vanished.

Light and sound returned to their normal behaviour aboard the ship and as the interior ceased its state of flux. As solidity returned to the architecture, one of the ship’s massive crystal support pillars cracked, and several ceiling plates tore off. Those that weren’t blown out into the sky held tightly as the Exodar plummeted towards the land below.
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14 Dwarf Hunter
10645
(( Forgot to reply to this because I wan't sure if you were finished. I rather enjoyed it, thanks for posting. ))
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100 Draenei Paladin
7565
Thank you!
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Fantastic story AND voice acting! Very captivating from beginning to end.
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90 Blood Elf Priest
2965
Fantastic!!! Thank you very much for posting <3
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100 Draenei Paladin
7565
Thanks you two, that's very kind. =]
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100 Draenei Paladin
7565
*bump, always look for feedback*
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90 Human Warrior
6790
Not sure how I missed this

Awesome read man. Gonna check out the recording now
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1 Orc Warrior
0
I think it's awesome that you recorded yourself reading it.
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100 Draenei Paladin
7565
Thanks guys!
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How does one enjoy their Dra--- squid cooked? Yes, squid.
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100 Human Paladin
18430
@Verelina - I liked my old hide tender.
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