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Dawn of the Dragon

By Kim Trenkler

Adventure / Action

Chapter 1

The smell of fresh rain tickled her nose as she took a deep breath. She stared out over the lush green land of Ashenvale. The forest had returned, thanks to the combined efforts of the Druids of the Cenarion Circle and the shamans who followed Thrall, or rather, Go'el (he went by the name his parents had intended to give him on his Naming Day now, rather than continue to use the name given to him by Aedelas Blackmoore, the man who'd found, raised, and trained him) and his wife Aggra, along with a few others who simply wanted to help. There, a sort of peace had been brokered, one that had been promised with the fall of Garrosh Hellscream and the rise of Vol'jin of the Darkspear as leader of the Horde. With King Varian Wrynn seeking to maintain peace not only among the leaders of the Alliance, but also the Horde, it created an environment where new friendships could be forged and the world of Azeroth could heal from the devastation from both the Cataclysm and the recent destruction of Pandaria.

Karidormi spread her golden wings and launched from her perch, riding the morning thermals above the foliage of Ashenvale's great forest. A light headwind blew, and she breathed deep, filling her lungs with the scent of trees, fires, and the far off ocean. She glided over Astranaar, turning slowly toward Silverwing Refuge. There had been work there of late, both from the Horde in removing themselves from the area and the Alliance in trying to restore the night elf base to its former glory. She watched tiny figures move to and fro beneath her, and she circled the area before she turned toward Splintertree Post. It hadn't quite been abandoned yet, as the Horde was loathe to give up any holding they had, but there were fewer people than before. It was a good sign, one that proved that the peace the two sides were working toward wasn't false.

As Karidormi turned to circle the Post and then head toward the lumber mill, and Orgrimmar, she felt more than heard an ominous rumble. She craned her neck, looking left and right for the source of the sound. On a hunch, Karidormi tilted her wings and circled around toward Thunder Peak, which had recently gone dormant once the elementals there had been brought peace. She wondered if the volcano had become active again, and if it had, she was curious as to why. Her curiosity about Azeroth and the world beyond the Dark Portal, as well as the wonders her own world contained, had grown since the Aspects had given up their Titan powers to save Azeroth from Deathwing. Their loss had resulted in their flights finally being able to pursue their own dreams and happiness, rather than remain stagnant and worry about things like the timeways, in her case. Of course, the powers hadn't fully gone away, only had changed, become different. While before, the bronze dragons always had had a certainty about the paths time should take and kept from meddling, that certainty was now gone, and many had wondered if it wouldn't be better to make the timelines work for them rather than let time unfold as it should. Kari wasn't sure which way was better - getting involved and shaping things to her desires, or letting things play out as they were wont. She probably wouldn't know for sure until she found herself faced with such a situation.

Karidormi had always dreamed of seeing the world beyond the Caverns of Time. Now that she had the opportunity, she wanted to see everything. Her first stop had been here, Ashenvale. She wanted to see the moonwell, as well as the ancient ruins that had been both unearthed and buried. But for the moment, her focus was the volcano that was steadily starting to belch black smoke into the air.

Karidormi winged toward the volcano, feeling the heat rising up even as far away as she was. She craned her neck, looking for something out of the ordinary. It was what she didn't see that made her nervous. The shamans that should've been there monitoring the volcano weren't in their usual spot. She also couldn't see or hear any wildlife. It was as though the whole world had suddenly gone silent, like a void had opened and swallowed everything but the heat and the constant belching of black smoke.

Slowly Karidormi folded her wings and angled herself downward. As she descended, she became aware that something was terribly wrong. There was no sound. There wasn't even the slightest rustling of the leaves. She alighted on the ground and sat back on her haunches. A moment later, a young female high elf was in the dragon's place, dressed in golden cloth robes. Long golden hair flowed down her back, and wisps of it curled around her, like an invisible wind was drifting around her. Carefully, Karidormi moved through the underbrush, surveying everything. That was when she felt it, a rumbling under her feet. She grabbed onto a tree to keep herself upright, closing her eyes until the shaking subsided. She let out a sigh and opened her eyes. When she did, she couldn't believe what she saw.

It was as though the earth had expelled every tree surrounding her. Roots stood naked in the sunlight, still dripping clods of dirt and crystalline sap. The earth was cracked and charred, much like the Great Divide that now separated the Barrens. And still Karidormi couldn't see the cause of such destruction. Despite her instincts telling her to run, she slowly ventured deeper into the affected area.

Then she heard sobbing. Deep, guttural, male sobbing.

She wanted to call out, but for some reason, her voice wouldn't work. She kept moving forward, and finally came to the epicenter of the destruction.

"Earth-Warder?" Karidormi questioned in surprise, staring at the Orc called Go'el.

He didn't seem to hear her. He continued to sob, his green skin covered in cracking wounds and black burns that showed flowing red, though he wasn't bleeding. Karidormi started to approach, then paused. She looked around and covered her mouth and nose in surprise.

Eight bodies surrounded Go'el. Once shamans, if their charred remains could be identified properly. They looked as though they had been trying to stop something - or contain something - but had been overwhelmed. They had been burned to blackened husks, as though all of their juices had been squeezed from their flesh. The corpses formed a macabre ring around Go'el who knelt in the center, clutching to the body of what had once been a pregnant female Orc. She was still recognizable, and Karidormi realized the female Orc was Aggra, Go'el's wife.

"Oh," Karidormi whispered, "oh, Go'el. What happened? Who did this?"

As if noticing her for the first time, Go'el turned toward Karidormi. Her scream stuck in her throat. Go'el's face had been burned away, leaving only blackened bone cracked with red lines. His eye sockets burned with fiery light, and magma tears dropped durn his cheeks, burning even more of his flesh away.

Somehow, she managed not to be sick where she stood. Somehow she managed to back up a step, her hands already weaving a spell of protection. She recognized all too well that kind of visage, for it had only been a few years ago that she had the rest of her kind had fought against another creature who'd worn the same cracked face.

"Deathwing," Karidormi whispered. But it couldn't be! Deathwing had been destroyed and with him the influence of the Old Gods. How had they reached Go'el, a mortal, the only person in the world who was powerful enough to control the awesome powers a dragon once wielded? Certainly he wouldn't fall prey to the whisperings of the Old Gods! Go'el was more powerful than that! "Go'el, what happened to you?"

"They killed her."

The words were filled with so much pain.

Karidormi shivered, though, because with each word more molten lava fell from Go'el's lips, as if his very insides were turning into molten rock. "Why?" she asked. Go'el looked away from Karidormi, back to Aggra. He squeezed her tighter, then started to rise.

"They killed her." Go'el repeated. "These fools who followed me. They told me I was far too powerful, that I needed to be curbed. Do you think I asked to be Earth Warder? That I wanted this? My Aggra tried to stop them, and they killed her and my child!"

"But that's no reason to be like this!" Karidormi protested. "Look at yourself! You've become just like Deathwing!"

At the mention of the corrupted black dragon, Go'el began to laugh. "Deathwing? I think that mad son of a bitch had a good idea of how this was going to play out. Everyone on Azeroth was afraid of him, for what he could do. Even the other Aspects. Now that fear has been turned to me, because I inherited the mantle he left behind."

Karidormi sucked in a breath. "They didn't kill her. You did."

Go'el's broken lips cracked into a smile. "You would accuse me of murdering my own family, dragon?"

Karidormi raised her hands. "You've become corrupted. Why? You were always in control of the power of the Earth Warder. Why have you done this?!"

Go'el dropped Aggra's body and wiped his hands on his smoldering robe. "Why? You ask stupid questions, bronze. Why? Because I can feel every bite of the axe, every score of the hoe. Every fallen tree is like a knife to my soul. Every fire, every rock wrenched from the ground, it's like a burning wound that never heals. Every upheaval of the earth echoes inside me. And I'm supposed to simply stay quiet, and be a good little shaman?" Go'el laughed again, and this time the mountain shook. "It wasn't the Old Gods that drove Deathwing mad - it was the whole of Azeroth and everything living in it!"

Karidormi bared her teeth. "So you killed your fellow shamans, and the woman you loved?"

Go'el expression shifted. Molten tears began to flow. "Aggra... I told her to stay behind, but she didn't listen! And now... now she's gone! And my child too!"

Karidormi started edging forward. If she could contain him, here and now, perhaps she could manage to send word to Nozdormu and the other Aspects. They had to know what was happening. They would know how to fix this. Even if they didn't have their powers anymore, between the four of them, they would know how to help Go'el. "Go'el, everyone on Azeroth has to till the ground to make food. They have to cut the trees to make homes, and dig in the mines for minerals to make ore. Even the earth itself has its own rhythms and seasons. You were able to ignore these things before. You can do so again."

She was so close she could almost touch him. He looked at her, and Karidormi realized it wasn't the former Warchief and shaman standing there, but the maddened Earth Warder. He smiled at her. "And be a good little mortal and pick up the slack Alexstrasza and the rest of them left behind? I don't think so. I gained these powers because I took them from Deathwing. And while I fought, the Aspects gave up their powers and left me to forge on alone. This," he spread his arms, "is what they'll have to deal with. I am the Earth Warder, blessed by Alexstrasza. I will stop my pain, one way or another."

"You can't!" Karidormi protested. "You would be undoing everything you fought for!"

"And will you stop me, bronze? Your Aspects abandoned you. The rest of your kind is scattered across Azeroth. This is the era of mortals." Go'el spat. Overhead, the volcano rumbled, billowing smoke and ash into the sky. "And who will fight against me? I was the Warchief. The Horde once belonged to me. They will again. Vol'jin will gladly follow my advice."

Karidormi didn't hesitate. She started to transform, assuming her larger form. Go'el's hand shot out and wrapped tightly around her throat. Her transformation stopped abruptly. She clawed at his hand, struggling to breath. She could feel her skin starting to burn just from Go'el's grip alone. He pulled her close, so she could stare into the fiery pits of his eyes.

"A mortal cannot handle the powers of the Earth Warder." Go'el said, his voice eerie and grating. Smoke billowed from his throat, as though his very insides were burning. "A mortal's mind is too fragile. If a dragon went mad over tens of thousands of years, a mortal would go mad in only a few."

Karidormi gasped. She clawed at the hand wrapped around her throat. "No one..." She gasped, "no one is going to let you succeed in destroying Azeroth."

"They don't have to 'let' me." Go 'el said, his voice grating like the earth itself was crashing together in his throat. "I will destroy everything in Azeroth." With that, he drew back his hand and curled it into a fist. Before Karidormi could do anything to defend herself, Go'el drove his fist through her chest -

- Karidormi woke suddenly and nearly fell from her perch. Her wings flared and she dug in her talons, scrabbling to stay on the stone outcrop she'd chosen as her night perch. She shivered after she righted herself and looked around her. She was in Ashenvale, just like in her dream. But she was closer to Felwood, instead of further south where her dream had taken place. She shifted, and as she did so, pain lanced through her chest. She angled her neck and looked down.

What she saw there frightened her.

The bronze scales above her heart were blackened and flaking, as though they had been burned. It was the same area where, in her dream, Go'el had punched through her chest. Her thoughts reeled. It wasn't possible. There was no way that her dream could have crossed the barriers in time. But... It had felt real enough.

There was only one person in the entire world who could give her any answers now, so Karidormi spread her wings and launched into the air, flying with all haste toward Northrend.

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