(( Co-written with Berwick‘s and Kit‘s players. ))
Xyliah Amberlight joined the others congregating at the edge of town. Tonight was the night. The plans had been made. Now all they had to do was carry them out. She shivered in the cold air as she neared the group. The dragonhawks had been readied. Three of them were tethered next to the group of people. She was to ride one to one of three points in the city, hers being the location for the mage to open a portal to. The other two were going to two different places along the planned route.
Llosson Fairsun, the ranger in charge of the mission, nodded as she approached. He handed her a satchel. “The scrying glass is inside. Contact us as soon as you get there and know it’s clear. The others are ready as soon as you are.”
They were to leave together, flying low until they were under the city then straight up from below it to minimize their chances of being seen. Xyliah nodded. She was as ready as she would ever be. She took the satchel, and said, “Tell them we leave now.” The corner of Llosson’s mouth bent in a small half-smile as he nodded and headed towards the others.
She bit her lip as she turned and headed towards the dragonhawk. They had done everything they could to prepare for this, but so many things could go wrong. She and the others had spent long nights watching the hold from outside, watching guards enter and leave, taking notes of the times and the faces. If there was any deviation in the guard’s regular schedule tonight, they could all be caught. She swung the satchel over her shoulder, making space for it next to her quiver and shortbow, and she climbed onto the dragonhawk’s back.
The ride there was uneventful. Her companions were as silent as she as their dragonhawks’ wings whispered in the cold air over the snowy landscape. They followed a chasm formed in the ice as they neared the forested area just north of Dragonblight.
She looked up as soon as they passed out of the canyon. The mage city floated above. “I’m coming for you, Berwick.” she whispered. All three dragonhawks picked up their pace, flying low and fast to just under the city where they began their ascent.
As they neared the floating city, they broke away from each other, each going to their assigned area. Xyliah halted her dragonhawk on the grassy area outside the wall near the hold. She dismounted and opened the satchel, taking out the small mirror. She quickly activated it as she had been shown. Llosson’s face appeared. “It’s clear.” Xyliah stated. Moments later a mage portal opened nearby. The rest of the rescue party came through one by one.
One of the other dragonhawk riders had taken position on the wall over the prison. He had to first incapacitate any of the guards posted outside and on the walls, but within minutes the second part of his job was completed. The rope dropped down near where the party was waiting. Two of the scouts went up first, followed by Llosson and then the others. Xyliah sent her dragonhawk through the portal, just before it closed, sending it back to Venomspite. She followed the others up the rope.
There were guards outside. They slept standing as they leaned against the walls. Xyliah smiled. It was working. She glanced towards the opening in the stone wall that led to the rest of the city. As long as there were no deviations in their routines, they were clear to get in.
The scouts had been sent ahead to unlock the outer doors and make sure the guards would be no trouble. Some of the rangers took strategic positions along the wall, others waited with the mages. Xyliah smiled at Kit as they went down the ropes to join Llosson and the few others going into the hold. They were here. They were going to get them out.
His ears didn’t really hear the voices at first, somewhere far-away, like in a dream. Berwick didn’t dream often anymore, but he did sleep — there wasn’t much else to do. So he believed it was only the remnants of a dream, his ears hearing things that weren’t there. One of them even sounded like Xyliah, and he wished he could remember the dream if she had been in it. He glanced up to the little window and saw that the sky was an inky purple. Berwick got up from his cot to approach the bars of his cage, but he couldn’t see anything unusual. In the dark shadows near the doorway, he could see the silhouette of the sleepy guard, but nothing else.
Teniron, the jeweler who shared his cell, had awoken as well. “What is it?” he asked, a whisper hardly above a breath. They weren’t permitted to talk to each other, so they’d found a way around that. The prisoners had some hand signals as well, a system that had developed naturally in their time in captivity. No one knew exactly how long it had been, but they all showed the physical signs — if he lifted his shirt, Berwick could count each rib, and it was difficult to find a comfortable position to sleep because everywhere felt too bony. Eventually, he supposed, they would all waste away to nothing, but it wouldn’t matter because they had already been forgotten.
“I thought I heard something,” Berwick whispered back, watching the guard warily. But there was something off, something unusual in the way he stood. It was as if someone was holding him up. Berwick knew which guard it was — he’d seen him come in earlier that evening. His hair was cropped short and he had a notch in his right ear. He usually fell asleep during his shift, that part wasn’t unusual, but it was strange that he seemed to still be standing up. The door creaked open with a jarring squeal that seemed impossibly loud in the darkness. Other prisoners heard it too, and stirred awake to see what was happening. But still the guard slept. Berwick’s heart picked up its pace. Was something really happening? Had someone really come for them?
Kit rolled her shoulder impatiently, and shifted the helm, moving it slightly to clear her vision. She could feel her muscles pulling her forward into a slouch, so she tightened her shoulder blades to set her back and ease the tension in her neck. They’d been waiting for only a few minutes, but it felt like hours. Captain Fairsun held up the small group on a side street, across from the nondescript building where the prisoners they were here to free were being held.
The streets were unusually quiet for this time of night in Dalaran. The small city was always active, even in these hours before dawn. She could remember thinking how much louder it was here compared to most other cities that she’d been. Teniron had thought that it had to do with the close proximity of the buildings, and they’d both agreed how lucky he’d been to find a home with thick walls.
A subtle flicker of light low to the ground, caught her attention. She snapped her head around to watch the streets. There were no guards in sight, the scouts had done their job and the faint pulse was their signal to move. With a nod, the captain hurried over the cobblestones, followed close and in near silence by the rescuers.
She shifted her grip on her hammer, holding the massive weapon near its head as they slipped through an open door and began to follow the narrow hallway. It wasn’t her first choice for combat in such a closed in space. She’s have prefered a smaller mace or axe, but her choices had been limited. She envied the ranger walking ahead of her. Xyliah had outfitted herself in leather and mail, and moved with a grace of an experienced hunter. Her new friend had looked at the plate she’d chosen with skepticism. Kit knew it wasn’t as practical, but she was a knight and the weight of the heavy armor brought a sense of comfort and familiarity with it. If there was fighting, she wanted every advantage at her disposal.
No one wanted that, though. The primary plan was to go in and get out quickly and quietly with no casualties on either side. It was agreed that further bloodshed in this city would only agitate the Kirin Tor. They were all willing to let the battle be fought elsewhere in order to save as many lives up here as possible.
A tall mage passed her, hurrying to the end of the corridor where it branched to the left and right. He peeked cautiously both ways, then turned back to the group and nodded. At that, they separated into their assigned positions. Kit grinned with excitement at Xyliah and whispered, “Almost there.” She crept with the others, swallowing hard when she saw the number of doors in front of them. Each one held at least one prisoner, maybe more if the reports were correct.
They moved down the hallway, and began carefully opening each cell in turn. The prisoners were cautioned to silence, and were herded to the waiting portals that had been opened to Venomspite. Kit helped the best that she could, letting the sickly looking men and women lean on her as the walked. Her heart raced, and she tried to concentrate on her job. It was extremely difficult to not study every face for the only person she cared about. So far, she’d not spotted him, but she didn’t know if he was at the other end or this one. She blinked back tears. Every soul they were setting free was thin, as if they’d not eaten well in a long time. They were filthy, and the stench of rot was making someone somewhere gag. She shook her head. If they couldn’t stand this, they had no place in the middle of a real fight. She felt sorry for whoever it was. War was not for the weak, and she felt sure that this was only the beginning.
She helped a small woman through the portal, and stepped to the side to let another pass through. As she turned, she looked up at the scruffy man making his way towards her. He looked like all the rest, dirty, bruised, and he walked with what may have been a limp, or perhaps he was simply weak. She ducked her head to stop staring, when he walked by her. She took a few steps, then stopped dead hearing the man speak a muffled thanks to the mage. “Teniron!” she gasped. Whirling around, she whimpered upon seeing him vanish through the shimmering lights. She started towards the portal to go after him, but a sharp cough brought her attention to the scouts standing guard at the intersection. A flurry of hand signals set the rangers to a faster pace. Kit set her shoulders again. They had to hurry. The sun was rising, and they were almost out of time. With one last glance at the portal, she hurried to help the next prisoner from his cell.