The first signs that the deep sleep was waning came very subtly, in the form of ungraspable fuzz at the edge of consciousness, undefined intrusions of a long forgotten reality outside the realm of dreams, like a hum too faint to hear or a light too dim too see. It could have almost been ignored, so complete was the slumber, but the waking process accelerated, grasping for attention, penetrating into thoughts, demanding a reaction. The mind obeyed, firing up areas that had not been required for a long time, anticipating the unavoidable requirement to process outside stimuli and send signals to still dormant muscles. Mild and tranquil heartbeats increased in strength and pace, and the lungs filled deeper with air as the body sluggishly tried to match the vigor of the awakening mind. And then, with a final rush, sleep was over.
Cyndahar found himself awake. With his mind weary from what seemed like an eon of sleep, he remained passive at first, lacking will and strength to move even the smallest muscle. So he absorbed whatever his senses presented him with. There was a definitive hue of green filtering through his closed eyelids. A delicate sound, reminiscent of a water trickle, was barely audible. The air was clean and slightly cool, and carried a hint of an unspecified earthy scent. For a brief moment, he tried to recall where he was, and what had brought him here, but apart from his own name, nothing was palpable, only a diffuse set of far away memories. Curiosity nudged him to ponder the duration of his sleep, but faded quickly back into sedateness. Yet he knew he was not going back to it, not for a while. He had awakened for a purpose.
He was in a decidedly foul mood. Not the grumpiness people usually associated with him, but a seriously deep irritation that had him muttering silent curses into his non-existing beard. Things had not started too bad, to be fair. He did care for magical artifacts, the more powerful the better – he was a mage after all. And he also did care somewhat for the old Archmage and her obsession of finding those long lost and forgotten. So his curiosity was piqued when Dumas offered him a task originating from Modera, a task of considerable difficulty and of somewhat dubious and delicate nature. He did, however, not care so much for the dwarven archeologist, which he had to talk to in the musty Ironforge library, mostly on account of his disrespectful and snotty demeanor. He also did not care for arduous journey to the ruins of Eldarath, which involved a bumpy ride on a funny smelling gryphon, and the continuation on foot, all on account of remnant fields of arcane power still running amok, even millennia after the destruction, making any teleportation attempts a silly idea. But most of all, he did not in the least bit care for the big blue fucking dragon that caught him unearthing one of the shards he had come for, and who now roared angrily and menacingly at this committed atrocity.
Cyondor held on tightly to the shard, spun around so his back faced the dragon, and in a blink teleported himself a good twenty paces away, only then noticing that he was already quite close to the cliff. He almost got out of reach of the dragon’s tail, almost. It caught him with a big smack across his backside and sent him flying right towards the edge. As he hit the ground a few moments later, he dug his hands into the soil, violently pushing with his arms in an attempt to deflect his momentum upwards. Would he have been a warrior, or any other dullard more focused on upper body strength than intellectual brilliance, that might have even been a successful maneuver. Instead, he only managed to scrape is palms bloody, earning a sarcastic laugh from his puny arm muscles for even trying, and flew out over the cliff.
“What of the Shan’do?” Remulos gazed with intense expectation at Cyndahar, a trace of urgency in his voice. “Do you bear any news of his whereabouts?”
Cyndahar calmly met the Keepers gaze, not in the least due to his weariness from five hundred days of sleep. His memories from the Emerald Dream were fading fast, seeming so clear only moments ago, just as a regular dream would fade after a regular night’s rest. So he shook his head, slowly and deliberately, concentrating on the receding memories. “I did not come across him or his party directly,” Cyndahar replied, sensing an immediate disappointment in the Keeper. “However,” he continued, “I did…”
Just then, a scream echoed through the chamber, abruptly cutting off their conversation. Remulos sharply turned his head towards the entrance and threw a grim look at the sentinel who had been quietly standing there the whole time. “Melorelyn, how many today?”
“That is the fifth, my Keeper” the sentinel replied with some exasperation.
Cyndahar frowned. “The fifth of what?” he asked.
“The fifth sleeper to suddenly awake from the Dream in a burst of panic,” the sentinel explained. “Yesterday, it was just two, and that already seemed bad. But five today, and it is not even nightfall…” His voice trailed off.
“We have not been able to understand what is causing their anguish,” Remolus injected, turning towards Cyndahar once more. “None of them can recall the events leading up to their violent expulsion from the dream realm. So we are at loss as to what, or who, has gripped them with fear.”
Cyndahar nodded slowly as a he brought his attention back to the fading memories, reaching inside to hold on to them for just another moment. “Master Remulos,” he said quietly. “I believe I may know whom they fear, and if I am right, then they have every right to be afraid, as he is a formidable menace indeed.”
“Druid, tell me, who is it!” demanded Remulos, his eyes narrowing.
“Deathwing” came the somber answer.
Cyondor’s body was in an uncontrolled spin as his stomach lurched with the downward acceleration, and his view oscillated wildly between blurred images of the sky, the cliff-side, and the sandy shore. He suppressed the urge to mutter a long curse that would have most certainly extended past impact. Instead – and just before slamming into the beach – he managed the correct invocation to slow his fall. While that did avoid the worrisome cracking of bones and squishing of organs, he still thudded ungracefully onto his stomach, his face burying itself into the beach. And just before he slammed his eyes shut, his peripheral vision caught the gleam of scales covering a fat body at only an arm’s length away. Unmistakably, he had just landed next to a Naga.
He rolled himself away from the retched creature, anticipating the gut skewering impact from a trident. Thankfully, that never came, and somehow he managed to get on his feet. Still blinded by the sand in his eyes, he found the split second focus to blast out a frost nova. Cyondor blinked furiously to rid himself of the grains of sand, and through teary and burning eyes tried to locate the foe, already conjuring a sphere of fire in each palm. He identified a blurry shape some steps away, brought his palms together, and send a ball of fire on its way as a warm welcome. The sizzling sound of melting ice mixed with crackling of burning skin, and a fierce howl from the blurry shape confirmed the spell had hit its target. In his palms the next round of incinerating energy was already forming, but the Naga collapsed onto the ground, so utterly destroyed that the body did not even twitch a final time.
Cyondor quickly scanned his immediate surroundings, as well as his compromised eyes would let him. He could not detect any fat shapes moving about, and no cries of fury reached him. Exhaling strongly, he willed his hammering heartbeat to slow down, wiped his hands off his tunic, and then carefully rubbed the remaining sand out his eyes. Finally, with his vision clear again, he first checked the above for any signs of the dragon – but apparently the brute had decided that throwing Cyondor off the cliff was punishment enough, the sky was clear. Next, he glanced along both sides of the cliff, trying gather in which direction the closest ascent would be – there certainly were more shards to be found. To one side, the cliff ran approximately north-west, towards the ruins of Eldarath. To the other, it ran close to the beach, but then curved out of sight.
Just as he was about to turn north-west, having decided that there probably was some form of path from the beach to the old city, a movement on the water caught his eye, towards the east. It was some hull shape, just coming into his field of view from behind the cliff-side. He squinted, trying to make out details against the reflections of the water’s surface. It was most definitively a ship, small build, of a kind he had not seen before – but then he was a mage and not some drunken sailor. Actually it was more like a large boat, with a row of rudders extending from its side, pushing it through the water. As it came fully into view, Cyondor noticed a second boat, same build, tagging behind the first one, and then a third and a forth. Some sound bites reached his ears, unintelligible, more snarls than words. Cautiously curious, he took a few steps forward, wanting to catch a glimpse at the creatures aboard – at this distance, he was too far away to be concerned about a direct assault, and he could easily burn arrows or bolts aimed at him.
What he then saw surprised him, to say the least. The boats were full of goblins. Green ugly goblins, armed to the teeth, bizarre machinery cramped in among the bodies. And it looked like they were heading towards the shore with a purpose. Suddenly, he was not so keen on staying around, and his gut was telling him these creatures were not just out for a picnic. “That… spells trouble!” Cyondor mumbled to no one in particular, and then started to recite the proper incantation for the portal back to Dalaran.
After hearing the rest of Cyndahar’s tale, Remulos had left to visit the other awakened Sleepers. Neither Melorelyn nor Cyndahar spoke for a while. Finally, the sentinel broke the silence. “What are your plans now, brother?”
Cyndahar stared ahead. He did not answer immediately – his mind was wandering, still trying to piece together his episodic memory. “I am not sure,” he finally replied, “I reckon I need to collect my gear first and foremost.” He glanced around the cavern. “Apparently, it is not here.”
“No, you left everything with Laaryla!” the sentinel said, with a strange emphasis on the name that implied more than the simple sentence would make-believe.
Cyndahar nodded quietly, strands of memory weaving together, guided by the mentioning of her name. Again a silence settled among the two druids. And again it was Melorelyn who broke it. “She was here, you know. Several times, to watch over you while you were in the Dream. She did not say anything, simply sat by your side, meditated for a while, and then left again, swift footed as her tiger companion.”
“Be that as it may be,” Cyndahar replied after some consideration. “I must pay a visit to Northrend first, nevertheless. I am certain that my companions in arms are still up there, fighting relentlessly against the Lich King’s minions. And hopefully they are closing in on that abomination itself.” He started rising from the bunk, ignoring his protesting muscles. “But now there may be an equally vicious and dangerous creature unleashing itself upon us, and nobody knows what havoc it will wreck once that happens. And in these situations, it can be tremendously advantageous to have a fine, a very fine, guild around.”
With those words, he straightened himself to full height. Determination grew strong in his face. “Let’s see if they still remember me!”