|The Order of the Awakened|
May 35 L.C.
Sad for everyone involved.
The cowled High Arakkoa that has been seen around the Redoubt had up and vanished one evening, along with the Highguard's banners. Upon discussing such over the beacons, the creature spoke up, claiming to have taken them for his nest because they bore Rhukmar's image -- which was sacred -- and because he was soon to be a father, and found the cloth of good quality. Birds. He seemed irritated that the elves had taken what his people viewed as a holy symbol and so brazenly displayed it.
The Arakkoa introduced himself as Val'ir, a former High Sage of Rhukmar's adherents, but that he had left the order upon its migration to Tanaan Jungle. He now claims to be one of the Order of the Awakened - Arakkoa both high and low that believe the key to their survival to be in the technology of their forbears, the Apexis.
During the conversation over the beacons, a fight errupted, where Val'ir claimed that the "red and gold ones" had arrived. Thalassian shouting and steel-on-steel almost snuffed out Val'ir's caws and words to the High Elves; that the green-eyed ones were digging for something.
Derian Silverblade lead a party of engineers and a scholar to the ruins of Skettis to dig up any information on what the sin'dorei were attempting to get their hands on. The result? Skyreach's technology that turns the power of Draenor's sun into a large lazer.
A few days after the first expedition team went to Skettis, Val'ir - feared dead - made contact again. He told the Highguard that he was forced to flee to Skyreach, and that the sin'dorei were looking for something that he called "the Apexis under the mountain", near the Howling Crag. With that clue in their hands, and an objective to find replacement parts to an Apexis Construct that lay in pieces in the Redoubt, another party went out to scour the Crag, and discovered key-like discs in the bellies of Pale Orcs that had been glowing. Two discs had odd notches on the edges, bearing each a different phrase in the ancient Apexis language. When one of the Rangari spoke a phrase on the darkness and the light, the disc in Ara'lith's pocket began to heat up and glow, until she removed it. The disc projected a holographic message of a cowled High Arakkoa, claiming that it was his job to archive the technological advances of his society, and something about the Age of Order falling at the hands of their own creations. The hooded Arakkoa made mention of their only hope being the Temple in the Sky, and for whomever finds the message to tell his son to carry on his legacy, before he came under attack by a flash of light, where the hologram glitched out.
With two keys in hand, the Highguard searched out for any Apexis ruins near the Crag, and came to an underground tunnel that lead to a cavern. In the middle of the cavern was a large, hologram seemingly imprisoned by three structures with crystals that utilised sunbeams. Upon venturing further into the room, one of the Apexis Guardians activated, but was quickly defeated and examined for parts. Ylandra noticed that the centre of the guardian bore a strange latch, and attempted to pry it open to no avail. Ara'lith utilised the two recovered discs in opening the construct's centre compartment, where a third disc resided.
Three discs, three pylons, and a mysteriously broken fourth with an equally-broken disc jammed into the slot, but it would work. In unison, the Highguard placed the discs into their respective slots, and the hologram woke with a startle. He claimed himself to be Val'ir the Elder, of the Apexis, and a Seer of All Things.
Val'ir answered many questions the Highguard put forth, and proved his abilities by speaking on their pasts, on the coming future to a very vague degree, and even offered some insight as to the lives they were living in alternative universes as well. Val'ir the Elder knew what the sin'dorei planned with his technology, but did not share the details with the Highguard, yet whatever it was convinced him to help them. Numerous times he spoke of the future of the elves in relation to the future of the High Arakkoa, drawing parallells between sin'dorei, eredar and his own people. This harrowed the expedition, but the remained on-point with the objective to recover the knowledge of Apexis technology before the sin'dorei did. Val'ir made them promise to destroy him and the cavern before giving over the information, and warned them that once the pylons were down, he would have no control over his image, and transferred the information into the discs connected.
As a final gift and farewell, Val'ir adjusted the hologram to show the Highguard their alternate-universe selves. They were all given a glimpse into the life they would've lead if Silvermoon, and Argus, did not fall. Mixed reactions were had, but he was thanked, and the pylons were deactivated. Before the last fell, Val'ir the Elder exclaimed out in defiance of his captors - his creations - before the portion of his consciousness was deleted and the hologram lashed out.
It was destroyed quickly by the Highguard, just as the sin'dorei were closing in on their position, and Xinatha caved in the underground lab as Raphah teleported them, and the defeated Apexis Construct, back to the Redoubt.
After the harrowing experience of the holograms, the Highguard garrisoned themselves in Southport, where they received shocking broadcasts from Val'ir the Youngest on how the remaining Adherents found him. He gave the alliance quick information on how the Adherents were flocking to the call of a High Priest Ikzan, who traded information for power promised by Gul'dan. The final thing he shouted was 'Veil Akraz', before the Adherent Commander compromised his position.
The Highguard sped out to the Veil, finding it destroyed and quite literally cut down the middle by Skyreach's laser system. The alliance gathered up the fallen Outcasts and piled them high in one of the slightly-more-intact huts for Sir Shindo to provide Last Rites, and Sunflame to burn in a blaze.
With the slain Arakkoa at Veil Akraz put to rest, they continued westward to the location of the Apexis Excavation site and were greeted by a sight upon the ledge; one of the Apexis Sun Crystals, fully activated by Val'ir. He was descended upon by the Adherents and their Commander, yet managed to fire the solar beam to the approaching Apexis Constructs behind the line of Highguard, buying them time to fight off the advance. Unfortunately, Val'ir was apprehended and taken to Skyreach as a traitor. The Highguard rushed to destroy the attacking constructs and return to their mounts at Veil Akraz, hoping to intercept Val'ir's exile to the Dead Pools before the Blood of Sethe would corrupt him.
Unfortunately, they were too late, and Val'ir the Exiled rose crippled and mutated, maddened by the Curse. The Highguard struggled to apprehend him but managed to, and took him to Veil Sethekk where the Eye of Anzu was used by the Outcasts to free his mind. Val'ir the Exile was grateful, yet saddened by the turn of events. He spoke on how the Adherents would find his mate and egg, now that he was condemned as a traitor, and that they were in mortal peril. The Highguard agreed to set out to find the two, but before they retired for the night, a voice crept into their minds. The voice spoke on a great battle in the Dead Pools, hidden in the Shadow Realm, between the Sons of Sethe and the Dread of Anzu. This voice asked the Highguard to intervene, for the Dread of Anzu were weakening the longer they spent fighting. Many speculated as to who the voice belonged to, but no name was given.
The next day, the Highguard spoke with Val'ir the Exile once more before they would set out to find his mate and egg. The only help he could offer as to her location was that Outcast Priests had moved her to Veil Zekk for safety. With that knowledge in-hand, they rode out to Veil Zekk, only to find it had faced a similar fate as Veil Akraz. Skyreach's laser had carved a path of molten destruction through it, which scattered smouldering Outcast corpses and left little resistance for the Adherents and their Commander to tear apart the rest in search.
During the fight with two Adherents, the allied force noted the booming baritone of the Adherent Commander shouting for someone to be brought before him, and as they gazed on, Sil'ia was forced to kneel, and the Commander held her precious egg high. The Highguard quickly dispatched the Adherents, and rushed over to rescue Sil'ia, yet found her and the Commander guarded by two Adherent Zealots. They were not quick enough to slay the guards, and Sil'ia was doused in pitch before being lit on fire. Raphah Sunflame, in quick thinking, encased the burning Arakkoa woman in a block of pure ice, leaving the Alliance force to engage the Commander who held the egg.
Their initial assault was merciless, but finding himself outnumbered and outmatched, the Commander took to the skies and began to channel a solar beam down upon them. However, the magics did not answer him, and he became frantic. Rukhmar soared overhead, not bothering to stop for her loyalist, and soon the area darkened. "Shadows gather" was whispered in the minds of all present, and the moment the saying was finished by the Highguard, the Commander plummeted to the ground dead, but with fear-stricken eyes in his last moments.
That left the egg. Falling, falling, falling...With Sir Shindo sliding across the ground to grab it -- safe. Egg and frozen mate acquired, the lot ported back to the Redoubt to thaw Sil'ia, and mend her. As they all gathered in the bottom floor of sickbay, the egg Shindo held began to hatch. Val'ir was eagerly awaiting the birth, and it inspired awe all around. He insisted Shindo care for it until the mother was able to, and condemned his own ability to care for his son now that he was cursed.
Intel was received days later on the Reliquary having moved in fully to the Apexis Excavation, with intent on harnessing the sun laser technology for their employer, Setrien Dawnlight. The Highguard sped out, and encountered quite the force on the bridge over it, thankfully defeating the blood elves and moving up to where the crystal Val'ir used to defend them was. They were attempting to utilise it in stunning Rukhmar in order to capture, or outright wound her for her fiery essence, and the blood elf at the control pad was encased in a shield.
Rukhmar, on her patrolling of the area, swooped over the battling Silver Covenant and Reliquary. Val'ir the Exile threw himself at the massive fiery bird, using all of his power to shield her in an impervious layer of shadow as the beam was fired. It punched a hole through the Outcast's figure, causing him to collapse in instant death, and Rukhmar had vanished entirely.
From high in the sky however, dozens of firewings descended, and helped to battle the Reliquary and destroy the shield surrounding the control pad. Eventually, the sin'dorei were fully defeated, save for the controller, who gave up information on an excavation of the elaborate mirror system used to harness solar rays into resin crystals. He was transported to the Redoubt's holding cells, and the Highguard moved on.
What they found in the excavation was shocking. A High Arakkoa was present, attempting to activate a very large, very dormant Apexis Guardian. He turned to address the newcomers, and it was Val'ir. Val'ir the Betrayer went on to detail how it was all part of his elaborate plan to enlist the help of the Highguard by tugging at their heartstrings, their empathy and sympathy, to secure the artificial intelligence that resided within the excavation, for Gul'dan. He expressed no care for his wife or egg, calling them collateral damage, and activated four smaller Apexis Constructs to defend him while he worked at the massive one in the middle.
Needless to say, everyone was bloody enraged, and the fury mixed with a flurry of attacks to the centre power crystal took each construct down. Unfortunately, the massive construct was somewhat online now, but Val'ir couldn't do much more as the Highguard began their assault on him. With a cry of rage, he began to summon a massive wave of solar heat....But the cavern went entirely dark. "Shadows gather" was heard in each of their minds, even Val'ir's which terrified him as he began to plead for Rukhmar's blessing. The cavern was slowly lit back up by the little firewings that flooded into the darkened area, and with a target clear, the frustration and heartbreak of the Alliance was put into action. Val'ir was executed in a gruesome display.
The large construct was online, but could not move. It believed the Highguard to be "master", and gave its name; Zer'ak. Zer'ak mentioned a 'son', who was simply a prototype he had tinkered in his spare time. The prototype was away in a corner, powered down but fetched by the Highguard. Zer'ak gave his 'sons' name, a long string of numbers ending with a -D, and said he calls him Dave for short.
Dave, powered on with intruders in the room, activated its weapons systems with a declaration to kill the intruders, to which Zer'ak responded, "I cannot let you do that, Dave." Plainly put, the Highguard was fascinated by the level of intelligence displayed to the point that Zer'ak did crack some jokes, but their time in Arak was coming to an end. A portal to the Redoubt ferried Zer'ak back to be repaired, and Dave along with it.
Having made a promise to the mysterious voice much earlier, the Highguard set off towards the Dead Pools with their finished Shadow Elixir in hand. It was imbibed, and the group set off towards the Broken Spire, where they found many Dread Ravens - some crippled from the curse - engaged against Sethe's wind serpent children. They quickly took to the battle, having care not to touch the Dead Pools. One by one the serpents fell, and the ravens freed from combat flocked to pair up with a Highguardian. Those cursed to the land were able to walk freely in the pools, while the others offered aerial advantages in diving towards the remaining serpents. When they had been felled, the mysterious voice had warned of "the awakening", and the ground churned. The Dead Pool by Sethe's remains began to boil, absorbing the flesh from the fallen Wind Serpents, before the skeleton of the Death God tore itself from the mountainside.
A massive erruption of shadow was unleashed, but the shadow-encased Dread Raven that observed pulled them into a safe pocket of the Shadow Realm, cleansing them of any infection by the Blood, and protecting them against the destruction. With the Raven-mounted Highguard spat out once more into the fray, they engaged the avatar of the Death God with full fury. The Dread of Anzu were all too happy to bear the allied assault against their nemesis, and thus a massive battle was waged on. Elesethia was snatched up in Sethe's maw, and it took many of the Dread Ravens smashing into the side of the skeleton's skull to pry it open for her freedom. Once freed, she leapt onto her circling raven, and the lot cleared the area right as Derian fired off the Arcane-Cutter beam.
Project: Silver Engineer absolutely dismantled Sethe's ribcage, causing bits and pieces of the god to fall into the pools of his own filth as he rattled a death rattle of shadow and power. The Highguard was promptly thrust out of the Shadow Realm with his death, left back on Draenor with a load of unpleasant side effects.
The mysterious voice returned, thanking them for their aid, and promising the Dread of Anzu each had paired with to accompany them to Tanaan in order to mete out the Justice of the Shadows against the Arakkoa who turned to Gul'dan for power.