Stormclaw @sahqoreyth
The Unstoppable Swarm

The Unstoppable Swarm

Chamber of the Emperors - Ahn'Qiraj

The Eye appeared before them, and once more, they knelt before the awakening god of the Qiraji, Silithid, and even hapless the mortals, unaware of his magnificence. C'thun.

It has been seventy cycles. What delays the work?

Vek'nilash spoke, as he was the one who was, technically, safe from the Old One's power, should he grow angry. But his dear brother had a short tongue and a hot head. Especially after so much failure. "The contents of Zora, and Regal are not enough. The elves can match them with large area attacks, and their bears focus their simple minds while the others cut them to pieces. Even against our Qiraji, their roars prove more powerful, and, we are unable to take the Crater in which their base lies. It wards away those blessed by You, great one."

A pause. Then. Send the Titanforged.

The brothers shared a glance, and Vek'lor began chittering excitedly, as he always did before certain victory.

The silence stretched into another pause. They'd almost risen, when the voice's power forced them, with more than a bit of pleasure, back down to their positions of servitude. Go around the Crater. The Titans are gone.

And then, so was their God.

Horns sounded throughout Ahn'Qiraj, and once more, the Anubisath marched to war, supported by the additional forces of Hive'Vekniss, the 'main' hive of the Qiraji, and the one that produced the largest number of the fierce flying warriors.

Border of Un'goro Crater - Silithus

The horns called for retreat, and Laronar's sharp ears heard Fandral, once more using several choice swears he needed to remember for later, taking a position on the mountain ridges as once more the wall of insects and their winged overlords covered the skies around the crater. Few dared to go above it, and those that did were taken down by the winged inhabitants who were, to the Qiraji's growing confusion, aiding the elves far more than coincidence would allow.

The Anubisath had broken their lines easily, and though a great many of the stone slaughterers fell, their tainted remnants seeding all across the sands of Silithus, there had been more than enough to drive the elves back into the Un'Goro Crater from their hard won outposts. Then, fear entered their hearts as they saw the intelligent bugs start to circumvent the Crater entirely, leaving a wall of winged warriors to prevent their heavily decimated aerial forces from pursuing.

The obsidian giants took up positions on the crater's rim, and did not appear to have the same reluctance to enter, though the further in they went, the easier they were to kill. Some, had even gone mad and started attacking their allies, before then facing the elves while speaking some strange tongue, and repeating the word "Ra" over and over. Fandral Staghelm had personally put those few down himself with a massive earthen interpretation of his fist. It was a new spell, and one that had thus far proven effective in helping continue this war, by keeping the bugs from breaking their lines every other minute.

For Laronar's part, his Ashen had been relatively lucky compared to some of the other druid packs that had been caught up in the war. If one could call losing half their number, luck. The elves were hurting, and this latest offensive had depleted what fighting forces they'd received from Nighthaven and the Dreamgrove.

It was becoming clear that this war would be an 'all or nothing' fight if they wanted to keep the bugs contained. The hour had arrived to call in Shan'do Stormrage, and the High Priestess. Staghelm had been outnumbered and outmatched from the start.

"They're flanking the Crater!"

Both Archdruids caught the female Sentinel's warning, and Laronar moved. No other unit had the numbers left to repel an advance on the mountainous and southern tip of the continent. Not in the air. Those who could, followed.

Upon hearing about their newfound saurian 'allies', Fandral had wanted to march them onto the front line, and while several Devilsaurs had salivated at the idea, many others had not. Laronar had not forced them, and even with the aid of the saurids, they'd only managed to get a few miles beyond the Crater's edge, before the Anubisaths had appeared, and broken all of them.

He called on their aid now, sharing the urgency that he'd been suppressing. He'd had a feeling things would turn worse before they got better. Pterrordax and raptors began swarming through the south of the Crater, and battle broke out as the skies were filled once more with blood.

He soon saw the mistake of mixing wild allies with regular forces, as the saurians fought with savagery unmatched, seemingly enhanced by the strange environment they'd grown in. Even with their army camped in the Crater, the elves had little time to explore it. That lack of reconnaissance came back to bite them.

One particularly large pterrordax, that was also somehow sparking with the power of lightning, cut a swathe through the sky wherever she flew. The clever saurian dipped back into the Crater's protective influence after each pass, but on the latest, she found herself swarmed. Before Laronar, or any of the other engaged Ashen or Druids of the Talon could aid the powerful creature, the flying Qiraji tore holes in her wings, despite being constantly blasted with electricity, and brought the flying saurian down.

Laronar promptly tore one pair of wings from one of the more humanoid, and apparently female Qiraji, letting the fall end her, and followed after the pterrordax. She had brought the bugs inside the Crater with her fall, and he knew all too well how fast they could infect the land if they were left to do so.

He came upon her smoking corpse beneath the boughs of the jungle, but still nestled well within the mountains of the southern part of the crater that were even more treacherous than the northern edge's. She had landed upon some kind of stone pylon, surrounded by blue, glowing crystals. The strange pylons around the Crater had caught the notice of the army, but had proven little more than slightly magical distractions.

The druid shifted to his cat form, and tore through the majority of the swarm that had brought the creature down. The few that did not outright die would soon, as the bleeding wounds his claws left ensured their death.

The creature leading them proved tougher, and she and the large panther faced off before the smoking corpse of the saurian. He'd seen bugs like her before, they referred to her kind of bug as a 'Colossus', and that caste was usually the one leading ground charges, but some had, apparently, proven they could take to the air as well, for short distances.

She charged, and he left her bleeding and wounded for it, following up on his success with a flurry of shredding claws that ultimately crushed her brain, making everything else useless. He roared, thinking he'd won, but then glanced around, and noticed the numerous tunnelling bugs already infecting the earth, preparing it for a hive.

The large cat moved, slashing through most of them, before being surrounded both in the air between the massive, ancient trees and on the ground by the swarm of the Silithid and Qiraji forces. They were, finally, making ground in the Crater, it seemed.

One of the 'female' bugs flew towards him, chittering as it spoke. It took him a minute to realize it was laughing, and indeed, most of the bugs were copying her. His eyes narrowed as she spoke. "The Crater iz ourz now, mortal. Fleeeee before the might of C'thun!"

He'd leapt for her throat midway through her speech, and tore it out with the saber fangs just as she finished. His victory was again short lived, as the trees of the surrounding jungle cracked and groaned. The ground shook, and he knew that tremor. He'd felt it on the sand, the first time they'd taken the field.

Arrows filled the area immediately around him. Arrows burning with moonlight. He half expected them to burn him, but their mistress' aim was true as ever. She hit only bugs, and before the light of the Goddess, their foul taint burned away.

He glanced over to see Shandris covering him, firing even as she shouted, "Hurry up, fuzzface! We're pulling back!"

The Anubisaths proved somewhat vulnerable to the arrows as well, and held off on charging into their spread of death. They knew this archer, for the cunning constructs took note of all the elves that had managed to slay their kin, and they also knew her attack would eventually run out of steam.

A roar shook the area, withdrawing the surviving druids and other aerial forces that had backed them up with what they could give, and simultaneously causing the bugs to flee in terror, back towards their hives. The giants seemed unaffected by it, and took up a position around the part of the Crater that was, apparently, now under their influence. The locals who tried to remove them, died, and once more the taint of Ahn'Qiraj spread.

The forming hive drew much of the bug's attention, as it was in their nature to put the creation of such a thing as a first priority. Their forces were essentially stalled, for the moment, as they reinforced what they had claimed.

It gave the elves enough time to flee into Tanaris, though that was as good as a death sentence. Un'Goro had at least been humid. The desert, much like Silithus, was totally dry, and unforgiving with its heat. Laronar found Staghelm sitting on a dune. He was exhausted, as they all were, but the shadows around his eyes made his hackles rise. He could never figure out why. As novice druids they'd never had an issue. Only in later centuries had the laudable elven elder begun to embrace ideas that were, at best, racist. Fandral pulled back the green hood that sported, for show, a pair of blessed antlers from one of Malorne's favored, and met the other druid's gaze with a scowl that had become the norm in all their unfortunate interactions. "What."

Laronar crossed his arms, and Shandris came up behind him. A priestess joined as well with nods of respect to each of them, and soon, the exhausted army coalesced around their eldest surviving figureheads. They'd seen war before, and lived. Sticking to them meant a higher chance of survival. Probably. "We need to move, Fandral. We can't survive in this desert. It's as good as theirs. There are Tauren tribes in Thousand Needles. We can seek their aid, food perhaps, as we pass through to Feralas."

The scowl deepened. "I do not listen to your commands, stray cat. I will not abandon southern Kalimdor to-"

Laronar snarled in irritation. "The south of Kalimdor is lost! We know how we fare in desert combat against the bugs. Listen, oh Fist of the Earth. The tremors. They are coming, even now. Regrouping is our only remaining option." He gave the Archdruid his best sneer. "Unless you can manifest an oasis out of a desert."

There was a silence, and more than a few O shaped mouths as the glare the Archdruids shared burned with genuine hate. Then, the ground began shaking. They swore, in unison, surprised at the sudden syncricity. The sky darkened with a familiar sand cloud, and obsidian wolf-faced giants strode across the sands towards the remnant of the army that had stalled them for so long.

The Qiraji could appreciate a strong foe as much as any of their kin, but they all shared a unified understanding. The world would be C'thun's, and nothing was going to stop that. A sandstorm manifested from nothing, and the surviving elves' remaining courage broke as they glimpsed a single, terrible Eye in the sand, looming above the distant bug city. The line of Colossi types and Anubisaths that had made up their front for the majority of the second offensive began chanting their God's name in their strange, buzzing tongue as they charged the fleeing elves.

What little they had left in the way of siege weapons was abandoned, and they followed Staghelm, as he claimed he knew a place that would aid them, maybe, and had refused to say more of who this aid would be coming from.

The Caverns of Time - Tanaris

"No. We do not meddle in the affairs of...lesser creatures."

The negative, and slightly insulting, answer rang through the ears of the huddled elven army that, in total, now only numbered a few thousand. Not one of their specialized forces was above fifty percent strength, and the survivors were flagging. Fandral had wanted to come here, to the Caverns of the Bronze Dragons, to beg their aid. Laronar had wanted to head for the Tauren, but ultimately, the advancing Qiraji had forced them towards the caverns. Had they diverted to the tribes, the faster moving bugs would've caught them, and likely pushed them all the way through Thousand Needles, slaughtering Tauren and elf alike.

Fandral had been sure this was their best, last hope. Hearing it fail broke what was left of the man's confidence. He gained the visage of one who knew he, and everyone around him, was doomed. "Then Kalimdor will fall. You're the defenders of this world! You self-important lizards hesitated against the demons, too and look how that ended for you! Damn it all, help us!"

The massive maw of the golden beast that called himself the 'Heir of Nozdormu' came within inches of Fandral then, and the ancient beast growled, low. "What do you know of our fall, little saw only the climax of our cannot understand what Deathwing did to us, to the blue flight." A golden claw slammed down beside the leading elven general, and the dragon tilted his head to better examine the gathered mortals before him. "As your world-breaking race knows all too well, empires rise, and empires fall...but worry not. You may weather the storm in these caverns, and in time, you will become part of their history as well…"

The dragon rumbled with laughter, as did the other bronze scaled members who'd gathered to hear the elve's request. The leading wyrm flapped into the air then, as he was evidently done talking with Fandral. The general gave the order to move out again, to leave the caverns entirely. He had no intention of residing with such arrogant lizards until the bugs arrived to tear them all apart.

It was as he had that thought, during the long spiraling walk to the surface, that he had a terrible idea. One that should've made his stomach curl in disgust, but after losing so many, chiefly his son, he knew it needed to happen, if the dragon's anger was to be roused. The elves marched quietly past the whelps chirping and playing without a care in the world by the entrance to the caverns. Sensing the distressed elves, a few flew over to comfort the soldiers, druids, and priestesses as they passed.

The tired elves gave them scritches, treats, and then sent them on their way back to their carefully watching caretakers. One of the priestesses, Shiromar, had kept those very drakes from slaughtering them outright when they'd first arrived. They gave her a nod of respect as she too walked past, looking just as defeated. Even among dragons, it seemed, the Moon Goddess was respected.

None of them questioned where Fandral was leading them now, not even Laronar. They all understood, they would be caught, and then likely torn apart like the rest of their forces. The sand simply made travel on foot too arduous. Fandral took them north of the caverns, into the mountainous area that made up their back side, and then gave the order to camp, and rest.

Shandris was the first to consult their leader on whatever this new strategy was, but as the grim-faced Fandral spoke, a look of genuine horror came over her features. Having never once seen that on her face, Laronar moved towards the two, as did the rest of the remaining leaders. He met Shandris' eyes as he came close, and his hackles rose. She was genuinely upset, but he had no earthly idea what Fandral had said to make her so. Once they'd all gathered, she told them, in hushed tones, what the Archdruid planned.

The Qiraji were on an ever-east moving course, though apparently the mountains between Feralas and Silithus had been more than enough to stop their advance. Their attention had focused on the east, and once they reached the sea, the wave of bugs would likely move ever northward in one expanding mass of death, but before that, they would need greater numbers. The only thing that could stop them were the dragons, but the greens were on another plane, a few surviving blues resided to the far, far north in their Nexus, the reds lived who-knew-where, and the bronzes had refused outright to help them, thinking this was just the latest in a long, long line of mortal calamities, and thus beneath them.

Fandral had claimed that the 'bronze lizards' did not understand the gravity of their foe, and for the prideful beings to gain that understanding, they would first need to experience loss, as they had against the demons, before they would actually get off their titanic rears to do something about the threat. Thus, the elves had retreated behind the caverns, and using them as a shield, they would weather the Qiraji, and counter when and if the dragons saw fit to do so as well. The whelps and their guardians would undoubtedly fall, but the dragons would learn first hand what the elves already knew too well. The bugs were relentless.

"You're insane…" The words came from Laronar before he could stop them. Shandris had finished outlining the barbaric plan, and silence had reigned over them. Until, naturally, Laronar had spoken.

Fandral glared back at him. "What would you have us do then, Stormclaw? They will not aid us until they have a reason to."

Most of the elves looked nauseous, after hearing the whelps they'd passed would likely be dying, but the feral druid had an entirely different look in his eye now. "You have the right idea, but the wrong method. A dragon's respect is earned, not given. We should help them weather the bugs, long enough at least to hide their whelps, and when they see us flagging right in front of them, they may decide to help before we perish. The potential threat of their caverns being invaded will be more than enough to draw them out."

"And what if it isn't?" Fandral countered, "What if we all perish before they decide to intervene? The caverns will be invaded anyways, the whelps will die regardless, and we will have lost more forces that we cannot spare."

Laronar gave him a grim smirk. "You can spare me, can't you?" Fandral looked like he'd like nothing more than to feed his irritating contemporary to the bugs, but he shook his head anyways. "I'm not giving you a choice. I refuse to sit idly by and watch young ones die. I don't care what their species is." He turned to the rest of the leaders then. "If you want to join me, i'll be waiting at the top ridge by their entrance. I'll convince them to shelter their young, once the swarm arrives. They might listen when it's right in front of them."

Laronar, and several other druids in flight form, proceeded to fly then to the top of the Cavern's entrance, alighting as a flock of grim eyed birds. One of the watchers of the whelps flapped over to Laronar's relatively flat perch on the remains of what looked unnervingly like one of his people's own buildings.

The bronze drake shifted forms then, something Laronar had seen greens do, on occasion. Laronar's own interaction with draconic entities had been limited, but he liked to think he knew enough to be properly courteous to the ancient beings. He returned to his own elven form, as the drake took on the appearance of something that certainly looked elven, but seemed more like a corpse with its inferior size, musculature, and deathly pale skin tone. The male, for that was the form the drake took, bowed. "Ishnu-alah, druid. What brings you back so quickly?"

Laronar nodded at the horizon. "The oncoming swarm. Fandral bid us guard this place, just in case you and your young needed aid against them."

The now pale-skinned dragon in what apparently passed as a mortal form shrugged. "Bugs are beneath our notice. It is kind of you to worry, but we can handle what dangers the desert holds."

Laronar kept his increasingly hard amber eyes on the horizon. "You haven't experienced this one. We have. Thoroughly. Thousands of our kin litter the sands of Silithus now."

"That is unfortunate to hear...and Silithus? Hmm...what is your name, Night Elf?" Laronar gave it, and the dragon gave a slight bow, more polite than respectful. "You may call me Kairoz. I must be honest Laronar, part of me hopes what you say is true."

The elf eyed the pale humanoid. "Really? You would wish danger on your home and your charges?"

The dragon chuckled lightly, and gestured to the endless expanse of sand. "My breath manifests the power of the Timeways. Little can stand against it. Most days watching these…" He gestured to the whelps below, "Are boring. I would kill for a...change of pace."

Laronar raised a brow then. "Is watching the young not a respected duty among the bronzes? The greens argued over who got the privilege, from what I saw in the Dream, at least."

Kairoz rolled his eyes, which upon inspection were unnervingly similar to his own, save that they were blue. "The greens would...Soridormi and the others may believe this an honored duty, but…" He stretched his unfamiliar humanoid limbs, wincing as they creaked in response. "It is thankless...and boring. I could do so much more, if they'd but let me guard the Timeways."

Laronar's hackles rose, and on the horizon he hadn't stopped watching for a moment, he saw the first telltale signs of the storm that ever accompanied the bugs, at least since their renewed offensive, which drove them from Un'Goro. "Well, I have good news for you Kairoz. You may just get the chance to prove yourself." His thumb and pointer finger entered his mouth, and Laronar whistled sharply. The Ashen among them took to the skies, and the Druids of the Claw, namely Koda and several others, lumbered to the slanted, narrow entrance of the caverns, forming a line between the sands, and the whelps within.

The dragon looked skeptical, until the sandstorm began growing on the horizon. It would cover the sky by the time the bugs came into sight. Once they did, for it did not take long, Kairoz leapt into the air, returning to his true shape, and flying high above his post. The two other drakes with him soon joined him, having left conversing with the mortals to the bored Kairoz.

There, they became the first of Azeroth's strongest defenders to understand exactly what kind of menace was encroaching on their home. One of the bears, Koda as it turned out, shouted up at them after briefly regaining her vocal cords with a quicking shifting of forms. "You have little time! Get the young ones to safety! Now!"

The drakes shared a look, and then the smallest of the three roared. The whelps, who had continued doing whelp things with blissful ignorance, came when the roar summoned them, and the drake herded the honking babies deeper into the cavern. A few had ignored the call, as children do, but the defenders could no longer herd them back as well.

Thundering over the sands of Tanaris, came the unstoppable swarm of Silithid, Colossi at their front. The two remaining dragons watched in horror, the same horror the elves had, when they saw the intelligent bugs form a wedge, as they sighted the obvious druidic resistance guarding the entrance to the home of the only beings that could challenge them.

An oppressive, thundering mental presence echoed in each of their minds. It could not be ignored. Slaughter the Titan's hounds...and claim their nest as our own!

Kairoz was not the oldest bronze dragon in the flight, but even he could recognize when foul, foreign mental entities, with enough power to penetrate a dragon's mind, posed a serious threat to the timeline. These bugs were, true to the elve's words, unnaturally empowered. They had not known by what, but as the drake vaguely sensed what fueled these minions, he snarled at his remaining guard. "Get Anachronos! Now!"

The line of bears roared as they met the Colossi bugs, and tore their front line apart. Then the next. And the one after that. But for every line of the hard-hitting bugs they smashed to gooey pulp under their paws, four more came to replace them. The sky above them filled with Qiraji, but Laronar and the Ashen were there, alongside several Druids of the Talon, who had been so decimated, they had simply merged their remaining unit with the most capable shapeshifters yet living.

Despite their efforts, the skies above the Caverns of Time became clouded with the ever-present sandstorm that aided the bugs. The bears began being pushed back, and the bugs overwhelmed them, swarming around the bulky, hard to kill foes as they went straight for the prize their God ordered them to take.

As they did, the bugs found themselves flying, and skittering, in reverse as a roar filled the air, and the power of a bronze dragon forced the threats away from his home. Grains of sand cleared the aerial warriors, and aided the flagging druids in bird forms. True to his word, Kairoz had proven he could keep the menace away...for the moment.

Several of the whelps who had remained suddenly found themselves in the midst of combat, and while the druids and their one remaining draconic ally tried to stop them, the reversing bugs, ever merciless, disemboweled the young dragons, ending their chance at a life of time travel and aged wisdom.

Kairoz roared again, and sand bathed the front lines of Silithid, reverting the imposing Colossi to mere grubs. Koda and her druids stomped them into sandy paste, but more came. Three of the unwise whelps fell to the bugs, and two managed to flee into the caverns as their defenders slowly backed towards the tiny entrance.

Laronar gave a shrill shriek, and the Ashen joined the bears on the ground as they focused the bugs in the narrow entrance, and let the stealthy cats slice into them from the sides. This, combined with Kairoz's sandy death breath, kept the uncounted mass of bugs from entering the caverns, but the defenders could not hold forever.

They took down an impressive number of the bugs, but smaller ones simply dragged the corpses away, as living warriors moved forward for their chance at glory. Laronar glanced back as he felt the ground shaking from below them. "On my mark, move away from the entrance...or you will cease to be!"

The slaughter continued as the bugs battered away at the defending druids, but they pressed on, relentless. The massive form of Anachronos thundered closer, and as it did, the overwhelming mental presence faded from the defender's minds. In fact, it faded entirely, though the sandstorm remained.

The massive form of the elder wyrm shifted into incorporeal sand as it approached the entrance far too small for anything even remotely resembling a grown dragon. The sand passed over the elves, restoring their bodies to the health they'd had at the start of this defensive fight, and as the grains touched the bugs, they withered to dust, adding to the sands of Tanaris.

The elder dragon's form was large enough to tear through the first few ranks with ease, but as the golden eyes amidst the swirling sand vaguely shaped like a dragon fell upon the slaughtered whelps just outside their home, it became a cyclone, and roared with a chilling, windy noise. Anachronos, for Laronar knew it had to be him, or another easily as large, swirled through the bug's ranks, and in the space of a few minutes, they and their Anubisath allies had been reduced to nonexistence. The remaining bugs retreated, presumably heading for the Un'Goro Crater.

The elves, and Kairoz, had joined the furious sandstorm, sweeping away what it did not. As Anachronos once more became corporeal, Laronar melted out of the shadows beside him, and resumed his elven shape. "There will be more, Heir of Nozdormu. Much more."

The dragon tilted his head towards the elf, giving his right side eye a better view of the mortal addressing him. "They did not seem so...difficult…" He turned his gaze back to the horizon as Laronar pointed a finger at it.

All along the shimmering line in the distance, shapes began appearing. "Those big blobs you see. Those are their wolf-faced giants. That faint gray stretching the entire horizon behind them is their air support. The Colossi won't be visible until they come again." The dragon had turned his head back to the elf at this point. "They will keep coming, again and again, in ever larger numbers, unless we stop them. They will overrun the entire continent. Please, wise one. Aid us."

The dragon responded by lifting his neck higher, as high as it would let him raise his head, and then, the Heir of Nozdormu roared, and all of Tanaris shook in response. Across the dunes around them, Laronar spied several titanic pairs of wings rising into the sky, and then with a unified flap, they cleared the sand that had built around the sleeping forms of the massive dragons who'd been resting beneath the sands. The area around the Caverns of Time became a bit flatter, but the result was several wyrms around Anachronos' size aiding them.

The rest of the bronze dragons came soon after, flying into the setting sun as a swirling tornado of sand, from which, individual dragons manifested, and then landed beside their Aspect's blood. "The Prime Consort shall remain to defend the young, and keep the flight alive should we fail." The massive wyrm leapt into the air then, and circled the gathering dragons. From behind them, the rest of the elves were coming now, Fandral Staghelm at their head. "As for the rest of you...let us put an end to this menace. They will not have another chance to strike at our young!"

The gathered golden scaled dragons roared in agreement, and a sandstorm of their own began rising around them, and the elves. It moved with Anachronos as he roared, and began flying full speed towards the Qiraji menace.

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