Episode 36: The Unending Push
Tranquil Wash Outpost, Deep Ocean
The freedom that Captain Taylor received was quickly put to good use. Upon leaving Nespirah’s shell the human commander organized his squads, helped to rearm those he could, and put together what he believed would be an excellent force to keep pushing against the naga. I, on the other hand, was not really sure what was being done to ensure survival. The Earthen brothers had become bent on finding out what was happening with Neptulon, another one of their enormous creatures that was feared all over Azeroth for the devastation it could cause if someone made it angry enough.
In reality, I understood what everyone was concerned about. The naga had attacked pretty much out of the blue, and their direct connection with danger and devastation for all of Azeroth no doubt put a large group of people on the defensive now that they were dealing directly with the snake-like water creatures. Still, nearly two weeks in on the devastating shipwreck and no one seemed to be directly discussing the idea that being saved should be the highest priority. Finally, realizing that no one was going to discuss it, I decided I would take the forefront and see what became of it. Erunak and Taylor usually loitered around the strategy table that the Captain had recovered, so I waited until they had gathered for one of their serious talks and then came over to face them both.
“We need to get out of here,” I said bluntly, hoping that it had come across that way to them. There was nothing else worth sticking around for as far as I was concerned. “Captain Taylor, I understand you want to fight the naga until your dying breath but our forces are tired, hungry, and weak.”
“You think I don’t know that, Sepher?” Taylor spat back at him. “I’m tired and hungry too. If I could put these soldiers on a boat and ship them home don’t you think I would? Well, guess what, I can’t. There is no magic button to make all this right. We’re pushing on and on because at the end of all this nonsense we believe there is something to gain. We have to keep moving because if we stop now, we lose. The naga are always watching us and if we leave an opening they’re going to use it.”
I frowned. An excellent dance around the problem. "I apologize," I said.
“Good, because I have a job for you,” Taylor said with a wave of his hand. I cringed. That outburst had cost me some of the Captain’s respect, which only set me back in my goal of convincing him to seek rescue over open war. There could be another exchange of comments, but I knew that wouldn’t get me anywhere. Instead, I just waited until Taylor realized I was keeping my mouth shut. It took a solid minute before Taylor finally decided to speak again. “I want you to draw off their attention in the old ruins not far from here. Meanwhile, I’ll be sending a major offensive against their forces in the kelp field not far from here.”
“You’ll be utilizing me as a distraction?” I asked. “I assumed I would be better on the battlefield with your offensive.”
“You would,” Taylor conceded. “Your powers also make you capable of creating a distraction for my forces. It’ll be one powerful enough that it will actually scare them and hopefully shatter their ranks. They’ll assume we’re attacking from two directions and they’ll weaken the true front.”
Potential suicide. Fine. "I’ll do as you request," I said flatly.
“Sionis,” Taylor said, sounding a little more calm. “I know you care about our survival and I know that it’s been weeks since any of us have been to the surface of the ocean, but this needs to happen. When that monster took down the cutter I didn’t know what was going to happen to us, but now I feel like we’re fulfilling a purpose. Maybe we’re not fighting the Horde, but we’re stopping the Naga from completing whatever it is they’re up to down here and that seems good enough for now.”
“I understand,” I admitted. “I know we need to fight on. I just hope we live to see what it is we’re fighting to accomplish. I’m not comfortable with continual bloodshed without a cause. Survival is one thing; an offensive is another.”
“Then let us hope this last attack pushes our enemies into some kind of situation where they’ll be more open with us.”
Captain Taylor turned away, a sign the conversation was over, so I headed for the entrance to the outpost when I was stopped by a wounded woman in armor. She pulled her helmet off and I immediately recognized her long ears and Night Elf features.
“Hello Sionis,” she said. “I hear you’ll be making a scouting trip?”
“You heard correctly,” I replied.
“I think I have a target for you to strike.”
The night elf explained the ruins of an underwater city near here, part of a civilization lost to time. The naga had been seen hording around that area and it was assumed they were researching something. When it came to attacking an enemy to catch them off guard, hitting a place like the ruins might be enough to throw them into a confused state. I didn't like the idea of attacking researchers, but I had yet to meet a peaceful naga so I consoled myself with the fact that these researchers were probably just as dangerous as the soldiers.
As I swam into the darkness I couldn’t help but wonder who the night elf had been and why I had not seen many of them on this trip. I knew that the fight at Mount Hyjal had required a lot of attention so I tried to force the thoughts from my mind.
It didn't take long to find the ruins that the night elf had mentioned. They were packed with hundreds of naga, but I couldn’t tell if they were researchers, magi, warriors, or all out berserkers. All I knew was that they were all carrying weapons. I would have a few good hours to set up my distraction, and now the ruins looked like a great place to make my stand. The underwater buildings stood tall, but they looked old and fragile. A few well-placed explosives and the entire city could come down, killing many naga and trapping more. I would have to be careful, but it was worth the effort.
I swam in and out of pillars and columns, avoiding contact with the naga as they patrolled around me. I could hear them speaking to one another in their evil language and the serpentine sounds of their voice gave me the creeps. Onward I swam, shoving the explosives I had crafted under specific weight bearing beams. While water reduces an object’s weight, it does not eliminate it. These key pieces of rubble were holding tons of stone and metal in place and it was all going to come down.
I was just thinking of the death trap at the bottom of the sea when I caught sight of something metal in the distance. I swam over to it and looked it over. It was a long kind of spear-blade that looked bigger than any of the naga weapons I had seen, but was still reminiscent of these underwater weapon designs. Unfortunately, my distraction lasted long enough to be spotted by one of the naga.
My distraction started now.
I triggered the explosives; the watery world boomed and heat streaked through the fluid like lightning through the air. I didn’t wait for any kind of confrontation in the matter. I swam away as fast as he could, cutting back toward Tranquil Wash Outpost. Not more than ten minutes into my retreat I felt an urgent thought rush his mind.
The attack wasn’t working; the humans were being overwhelmed.
I changed direction and swam toward the retreating Alliance forces. When I caught sight of them they were swimming as fast as they could while a few brave soldiers stayed the line to defend their retreat. I rushed to the front and quickly added my skills to the attack, catching many of the naga off guard.
“Your distraction didn’t work the way we’d hoped,” Taylor said as he fought his way next to me. “They must have figured that the distraction meant an attack was coming because they were ready and waiting for us.”
“How many did we lose?”
“Where are we retreating?”
“I’ve ordered everyone to get back to Tranquil Outpost. We’ve been preparing balloons and ropes as a kind of system to lift our people to the surface of the ocean.”
“How will that help?”
“It’s our only hope,” Taylor replied. “We’ll fight as long as we can in the cave and then we’ll use the lift system to move our survivors to the surface.”
“That’s not a very hopeful situation. If we don’t have any kind of ships up there…”
“Sionis, I’m aware of the problems.”
I caught another three naga with a large ice spear and then froze a large section of water and forced it forward, slamming into another dozen or so of the attackers; in the time since I joined the fight, the naga had taken heavy losses, so the sound of a horn and the naga’s sudden retreat was enough to make me sigh with relief. I pushed Taylor back and then motioned to the cave. “Come on. We need to move.”