Episode 18: A Gift from the Twisting Nether
I had been walking for two days and it was not turning out to be a very rewarding form of travel. I was constantly making fires to keep warm, which then led to feeling tired, and so on and so forth. Thankfully, my ability to conjure up a tent, a fire, and food meant I wasn’t going to die anytime soon, but the chilly air of Northrend was much easier to ignore when I knew I wouldn’t be in it for very long.
Still, just as I was starting to wonder if I was going to have any drive to press forward, I came over a large hill and laid eyes upon something I had never seen before.
It was the forest of the Crystal Song, a place I had heard about while I was at Amberpine Lodge, but had never expected to actually see. As I looked at it, I was immediately captivated by the sight. The trees that grew out of the ground appeared to be solid crystal. I found the path that I had been trying to stay on for the past few days and started to follow it into the tree line. When I came to the first tree, I felt warmth. The crystal bark seemed to be emitting heat. As I got closer, I saw the trees appeared to be like glass on the outside, a container filled with a glowing light. The trees had been changed somehow, into a form of pure energy.
Suddenly, I started to understand Dalaran’s position near this amazing forest.
Years ago, dabbling in extreme arcane energy led to the discovery of a plane of existence called the twisting nether. Much like a void of energy, its potential for fueling a mage’s power was limitless. The archmages, such as Rhonin, were fearful that tapping such a potential power source could cause unwanted attention, as it had done with the Burning Legion thousands of years before. Of course, with the destruction of the Legion in Outland, Rhonin’s thoughts had softened, as new power was needed to fuel a war against Arthas. Knowing the potential danger that this forest could pose, Dalaran had been placed here strategically.
Life, as I had come to discover, had a strange way of working back to a repeating issue. Two weeks ago, getting away from Stoutmantle was my only real concern. Now though, as I was walking among these trees, I was only starting to get a grip on the full depth of Northrend. I had my head so wrapped up in my mission to get to Dalaran that I had completely forgotten that the danger here was greater than even the most powerful monsters I had faced in Outland.
I walked on through the trees that warmed the air around me until I finally came to the foot of a tree larger than anything I had seen before. It was large enough to be a young world tree, but it too had been converted into energy, creating a crystal-clear shell of bark covering the swirling energy inside. Feeling mostly captivated, I stepped up to the tree and was about to touch the warm exterior when I heard someone walking up behind me.
I twisted around and was surprised when I found Xevozz standing in the forest.
“Hello Sionis,” the escapee said as he stepped closer. “That was a crazy thing you did back in Dalaran.”
“I would have helped you escape,” I said without moving from my spot.
“You couldn’t have,” Xevozz replied. “The magi were already closing in. I had to take my chance.”
“At what cost?” I asked angrily. “Letting Surfal die may have just cost a druid her life.”
“Who said anything about letting Surfal die?” Xevozz asked.
I glanced wearily at Xevozz, unwilling to trust his words.
“Seriously,” the ex-prisoner said with a grin. “I can prove it too.”
Xevozz stepped back for a moment and then gave a strange whistle sound. As he did, I saw a glint of something in the trees above, and was suddenly fascinated when the creature that came down from the sky was none other than a winged horse, with a body formed of swirling energy like the rest of the crystal trees around me, touched down on the ground and stepped up to Xervozz.
“This,” he said looking to Sionis, “is Surfal.”
“You mean it worked?”
“It did. I know it did particularly because I had to fetch this beast, and that druid’s soul, from the brink of the twisting nether itself!”
“So she’s safe?” Sionis asked.
“Aye, she’s safe,” Xervozz replied. “Now that Surfal has been transformed he doesn’t need the elf’s soul to survive, which is good.”
“She won’t be in danger anymore,” I said.
I looked toward the horse and held out a hand for it to smell me… if it could smell.
The horse immediately stepped away from Xervozz and came over to my side.
“Still remembers you,” Xervozz said proudly. “That’s a strong connection you’ve got.”
I moved around Surfal’s new wings and then mounted the horse and looked around for a moment at all there was to see in the forest.
“Where will you go?” Xervozz asked.
“To Wintergarde Keep,” I said firmly. “It’s the only direction I have.”
“You’ll want to head southeast then, to the Dragonblight.”
“Yeah, it’s some graveyard where dragons have gone to die for thousands of years.”
“That must be something to see.”
“Yeah, head into that mess, swing east, then just look for the human keep.”
“Well, I guess I’d better head out.”
Xervozz laughed. “Surfal should be able to get you there pretty quick.”
“Faster than before?”
“Could Surfal fly before?”
Xervozz slapped the horse on the rear and Surfal jerked up onto two legs, spreading its wings out and flapping them a few times before it set down on the ground and took off running. I held on tightly as the beast hit a full run and then suddenly picked up off the ground and started to clear the trees of Crystalsong. I couldn’t help but cheer loudly as I twisted the reins in my hands and pulled. Surfal responded without hesitation and we turned toward the south. Together we pushed past the forest and continued on into the enormous snowy tundra that was littered with dragon skeletons.
“Well Surfal, we made it to the Dragonblight… now let’s find this keep.”
The horse gave a loud whinny and pressed harder into the cold wind that was blowing against them. Sionis wasn’t sure what awaited them at Wintergarde, but he was glad to be on the move once again, and nothing made him happier than knowing that his horse had managed to escape death twice now.