Quest for Pandaria

Part 4 of 4

"You are a disgrace to the Horde, Talithar Swiftwind!" roared Karrig. "Backstabbing, worthless elf!"

"I fought for the Horde on the snowfields of Icecrown," Talithar replied calmly. "And I was proud to do so. But the Horde does not claim all of my loyalty."

"Get out of our way," Karrig snarled, "or die."

Talithar lifted both his hands, red balls of flame hovering above his palms. The harsh light brightly illuminated the contents of the hold. Lining the walls were barrels full of gunpowder, extra ammunition for the cannons.

"Oh," Talithar said, smiling peacefully, "I have made my choice."

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***

The fire had spread to the Elwynn's mainsail, the rain doing little to thwart it. A handful of sailors frantically worked a bucket brigade to contain the blaze, but their effort was futile. Eventually the entire ship would go up in flames.

"Nita," Lintharel cried, "you need to get out of here! Take one of your forms and escape!"

"You saved my life," the tauren replied. "I will not let you fight alone."

"She's not alone!" Li Li shouted, wedging herself between the two druids.

"Aye, we're here tae help ye!" Trialin called, expertly swinging two axes. Lintharel hurled bolts of yellow magic; Li Li parried sailors' weapons. The dwarf, night elf, and pandaren pushed their attackers aggressively, clearing a small space.

"Now's your chance!" Li Li yelled to Nita.

"I am forever in your debt!" Nita called back. In a single massive stride, she broke the line of sailors and hurled herself overboard. Moments later, a sleek sea lion disappeared beneath the waves.

Li Li's breath heaved. She gripped her sword tightly, standing shoulder to shoulder with Lintharel and Trialin. Rain pounded against her face and neck. Now that Nita was free, they too had to escape.

Trialin lifted an axe, nodding to the other two. One, she mouthed. Two

A massive explosion rattled the Elwynn from bowsprit to stern. The ship shuddered violently, wooden hull groaning with the force of the blast. Every single person was thrown to the deck. A plume of black smoke ballooned into the air, while globs of burning pitch fell from the sky, adding to the flames that already burned in the sails.

"By Elune and Ysera!" Lintharel cursed. Li Li rolled to one side, trying to see what had happened. Smoke poured from a gaping hole in the Warchief's Fist, where the explosion had taken place.

"Baenan," Trialin whispered next to Li Li. "Oh, Light, please let him be alive…"

Lintharel was the first to her feet, offering her hand to Li Li. Li Li reached out to take it, and caught a blur of movement from the corner of her eye. Captain Heller had snuck behind Lintharel, his sword drawn.

"Look out!" Li Li cried, but the warning came too late. Lintharel's body arched, her eyes widening with shock and pain, as the captain ran her clean through.

Lintharel hiccoughed, the corners of her mouth reddening with blood. Her knees cracked against the wooden deck as she fell onto them and slumped over, gasping.

Heller withdrew his sword, the red on its silver blade already running in the downpour.

"The penalty for treason is death," he said quietly, and he raised his weapon to deal the final blow.

A shadow moved alongside him, unfolding into shape, and a curved, embossed blade pressed against Heller's throat.

His face bloated with rage. "Traitors!"

"Shut up." Atropa's eyes blazed murderously, twins of Lintharel's. "The penalty for harming my family is also death."

Lintharel was the first to her feet, offering her hand to Li Li. Li Li reached out to take it, and caught a blur of movement from the corner of her eye. Captain Heller had snuck behind Lintharel, his sword drawn.

***

Pouring rain greeted Baenan and Chen as they finally reached the main deck. Nobody seemed to notice them; everyone was too preoccupied with the battle. Across the water, the Elwynn was burning.

"We got tae get over there," Baenan declared. The pandaren and the dwarf sprinted toward the lifeboats. Chen could see his tol'vir craft among them.

Chen's feet were torn from the solid wood beneath them. The roar and heat of a great explosion engulfed him, throwing him and Baenan across the deck, where they crashed into the lifeboats.

The battle to retain consciousness was one Chen knew he could not afford to lose. Each joint aching, he forced himself onto his knees. A short distance away, Baenan lay face down, his helmet lost in the blast. Chen noticed his own staff rolling a few feet away, and he lunged to grab it, ignoring the pain in his legs. Nothing seemed broken, at least.

"Baenan!" He shook the dwarf sharply. "Now's our chance!"

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