Sir Eran Heskin leaned up against the entry to the Idyllia in Oribos, having received word from Bastion that the covenants were going after the Jailer at last. There was a portal in the upstairs ring, opened via a waystone, much like the way had been opened to the Maw and to Korthia. His grandson Donal, beginning the growth spurt that boys of his age often endured, was standing next to him. He was waiting.
Bolvar and his Ebon Blade had led most of the forces forward, but Eran had spent a lot of time back home in Stormwind, before coming back through to the Shadowlands. He had a duty to perform, and it was not done yet. Katerina understood that. So did Donal, which is why he wanted to see this new place for himself - even though it would likely be crawling with Mawsworn.
I can’t insulate him from it all forever, he thought. If he intends to be a knight one day, he will need to see all of the horrors that might wait ahead of him. He’s been a strong enough lad so far… Light willing, that will hold.
“Well met, Sir Eran.” That was not a voice he had intended to hear after the Fourth War. He looked up to see a well-fleshed man in his mid-30s, with tousled brown hair and a beard wrapped around his ample chin. He wore gold-rimmed spectacles, and well-cut Kul Tiran garb… with the sigil of the Order of Embers on his tabard. He carried a staff of burning flowers.
“Inquisitor Underwood, I presume. Decided not to sit out the war after all?”
Gabriel Underwood had the decency to look abashed. “After a great deal of soul searching, and rumors I’d heard of the corrupted drust resurfacing in Ardenweald, I answered Lucia’s call and decided to come through.” He smiled a little. “She’s certainly begun influencing me in a number of other ways, too…”
Eran could not help but smile back. “She can be persuasive at times. Speaking of…”
“She’s on her way,” Gabriel confirmed. “Things she had to tend to back in Ardenweald. Personal matters.” He glanced behind him, noticing where Eran was looking. “Ah, here she is now… and with a friend, too, it would seem.” His tone became distinctly neutral, which surprised Eran, as he expected venomous hostility.
Lucia Zherron rode up on an Ardenweald runestag, wearing her ceremonial robes. “Sir Eran. Gabriel.”
“Archdruid,” Eran returned, then looked at the other and bowed slightly. “Lord Vendross.”
Lord Randarel Vendross wore dark, raven-patterned armor, and carried a massive shadowghast runeaxe crafted for him by his new comrades in the Ebon Blade - whose tabard he now wore openly. A venthyr runeblade hovered behind him. He inclined his head. “A pleasure, Sir Eran.” He perked an eyebrow upon seeing Donal. “You are bringing your young kinsman along?”
Eran nodded. “The Maw was one thing, but what I’ve heard about this other place makes it sound very… different. Almost pleasant, if it wasn’t swarming with the Jailer’s minions.”
“I have heard similar from my brethren,” Randarel agreed, a hint of sadness in his expression. “Another place of beauty to despoil with war.”
“Da path of death always be both beautiful and terrible, for dem who have da eyes ta see it.” All turned at that voice. Zulimbasha the Collector was standing behind Randarel, his Laughing Skull mask in one hand, his glowing bone-staff in the other. “Dere be nothin’ pleasant about what needs ta be done, but all of us be soldiers in a common cause. A sorrowful heart still be a beatin’ heart… and we wanna keep dem beatin’ until it be da proper time, which don’t be da Jailer’s right ta decide.”
Eran had to admit he was shocked to find Gabriel nodding in agreement. Other than the night elves, the Kul Tirans had probably suffered most in the war among the Alliance, and similarly for the Zandalari in the Horde; both nations had savaged each other. The fact that a Kul Tiran witch-hunter and a Zandalari death-priest seemed to be on the same page was nothing short of astonishing.
“I think we’re all in agreement here,” Lucia said, smiling in her wolfish way (literally). “Shall we ascend?”
The group walked to the teleporter to the Ring of Transference, and looked upon the glowing waystone portal in front of them. They all glanced at one another one more time before they finally nodded… and stepped through.
Time seemed to stand still for Eran, as it always did whenever he traversed through the realms of the Shadowlands. But soon his vision cleared, and he found himself standing in a verdant cavern… looking out at probably one of the most unusual and spectacular landscapes he had ever seen. Standing at the entrance to the cavern, arms folded across her bone-armored chest, was Nyssha Swiftblade, who had gone in with the first wave. Her slightly-decayed face creased in a smile.
“Welcome to Zereth Mortis, folks.”