The Heroes ascended Castle Nathria, knocking down threats as they went with nothing but the end goal in their minds. Giant troll, down. Waves of enormous bats, dead. Militaristic gargoyles, shattered. It was only as they stood on the top of Castle Nathria where Ald, Kobi, and Tommy had met with Denathrius and where Ald had been thrown down into the Maw, that the team stopped and prepared themselves for the upcoming battle.
“Listen to me very carefully,” Ald told the team as they huddled together as a group. “Denathrius is not someone to underestimate. Yes, he talks a good game, but he is also one of the most formidable enemies we’ve ever come across. Don’t let his flowery words stop you from putting a sword in his throat.”
“Or a staff,” Anda added.
“Or my axe,” said Trelander.
Everyone chuckled uneasily. Every single one of them was nervous about facing the ruler of the Venthyr. Even the common vampires had taken extra coordination and skill to slay. There was no telling what the team would discover beyond the door into Denathrius’s chamber. The only certainty would be a lack of tea and crumpets. And that wasn’t even all that certain.
“Ald, what’s the plan here?” asked Cald as he looked from team member to team member.
The pandaren rogue nodded. “I know Denathrius by this point. Or, I know some of his tricks at least. He likes the sound of his own voice, and he talks with a pleasantry that hides his vicious nature. Let me do the talking. Let him focus on me. Tommy, Anth: block his direct attacks, but don’t taunt him or try to gain his focus. He likely has the same burning anger towards me that Frieda did. Let him focus that rage on me while everyone else uses that opportunity to take him down.”
Ald turned to Cald. “And I’ll leave that to you. Call the shots. Organize the team. Strategize our victory. I’ll duel him my words. You lead the team to our actual victory.” He placed a paw on Cald’s shoulder. “If we want to survive this, it’s best that we don’t multitask.”
Cald nodded as Renathal and Draven appeared, leading a small group of rebel Venthyr.
“Maw Walker. Heroes. You have made it to the final confrontation. In what way can we aid your battle?” Renathal gestured towards the group behind him.
Ald looked towards Cald expectantly.
“Umm. Yeah. Okay, watch our back, Prince,” Cald responded after a few seconds of silence. “Make sure that none of Denathrius’s reinforcements make it into his inner lair.”
Renathal nodded. “As you wish,” he said, waving one arm towards the gates on either side of the raised platform. The Venthyr stood guard against any coming threats.
Ald watched them go before turning back to the team. “Keep your eyes and ears open. Let’s do this,” he said. The group turned towards the door of Denathrius’s sanctum. Ald slowly raised his paw and knocked on the door.
It slid open before Ald could knock twice.
“Look, Remornia!” came the drawling voice of Sire Denathrius. The Venthyr was facing away from the Heroes towards a portrait of himself hung on the rear wall of the circular room. In the center of the room where the table had been set out on Ald’s first visit was the Venthyr’s talking sword, suspended in midair and absorbing anima from the floor.
“These daring mortals have persevered through every obstacle put before them. It seems we have little choice left but to surrender.” Denathrius’s words were tinged with fake fear, and Ald could still hear the smile on his face. The Venthyr’s vaudeville act was not reciprocated by Remornia, however. Her next words were calm, collected, and clear – very unlike Ald’s previous experiences with her.
“I have a better idea, Master!” she said. “Let me carve them up instead.”
Denathrius teleported closer to the portrait, his back still to the Humpday Heroes. From behind, Ald watched his curled horns move as the Venthyr spoke. “Now there’s an idea. We could destroy them. Defeat them. Use their bones to build the stairs to our ascension.”
“Please, Master,” the sword begged, her voice becoming more like the squealing, screeching monster Ald had come to know. “LeT mE SkEwEr tHeM! SliCe tHeM! SLasH ThEm! ViVisEct ThEm! CuT riBBoNs fRoM tHeiR-”
“Pace yourself, Remornia,” Denathrius interrupted. “Rushing one’s work is so…unflattering.”
“oH, MaStEr! LeT mE tAsTe tHe BlOoD oF tHe pAnDaReN oNcE mOrE!” she screeched, and Denathrius took this opportunity to teleport directly in front of Aldineri.
Though the sudden movement was startling, Ald looked at the Master of Revendreth without fear in his eyes. His body was tensed, ready for action, but he knew that if he showed any emotion to Denathrius, the Venthyr would exploit it to the detriment of all those around him. Instead, Ald cocked one eyebrow at Denathrius and responded as casually as possible.
“Theatrics done? Got it out of your system?”
Denathrius let out a small chuckle, turned from the group and sauntered back towards Remornia. “Ah, Maw Walker. You never fail to surprise me. All these long years in the Shadowlands, in my beloved Revendreth – you and your ragtag group are a breath of fresh air. Do you intend to defeat me? Kill me? Send me screaming down to the Maw in some form of poetic justice?”
“That all depends on what you do next, Denathrius.”
Another chuckle. “You see, everyone! This is exactly what I mean. The Maw Walker has been banished, kidnapped, imprisoned, and tortured by my own hand. Yet he does not desire revenge or retribution, like so many other souls who have traveled through this land of mine.”
It was Ald’s turn to chuckle. “You’re right, Denny. I just want justice.”
“Justice?” Denathrius repeated in a hollow tone, one eyebrow raised.
“Justice for the Venthyr. Justice for the Shadowlands. Justice for your betrayal and your crimes. That’s what we do. We hold tyrants accountable for their actions,” Ald said. He was beginning to lose his composure, his mind awash with images of the weakened and hungry denizens of the covenants. The Kyrian, Necrolords, Night Fae, and Venthyr were all suffering because of the actions of the Jailer and Sire Denathrius. Their weakened bodies and the deaths he had already seen weighed heavily on his mind as he stared into the disbelieving face of one of the aforementioned perpetrators.
Denathrius stared back at Ald, his expression vacant of any emotion. Then, he suddenly threw his head back in a raucous laugh. “Now who is the one being theatrical?” he said, gesturing at the group. “Alas, poor Maw Walker. Our time for over-the-top fun is coming to an end. Are you all prepared to do what is necessary to survive the next several minutes?” Denathrius extended one large hand towards Remornia. The talking sword immediately flew to his waiting fingertips, and he gripped her firmly around the hilt.
“Always,” Ald replied.
“Excellent,” Denathrius said. He lifted one hand into the air, and a heavy yet invisible grip was placed on the throat of each raid member. Using the power of his stored anima, the Venthyr hoisted each and every hero into the air. They all struggled for air against the dark magic, but without anything solid to fight, they were stuck without recourse.
Denathrius chuckled again, and Remornia began her screeching in earnest, the promise of blood and flesh coming to fruition. With a heavy grunt, the Venthyr released the spell, and all of the heroes were thrown backwards, many falling unceremoniously on their behinds.
“I tried to convince you, Maw Walker,” the Venthyr continued. “I asked you to atone for the lives of your friends. You refused. Perhaps now, the atonement of your entire group is at hand. And once we finish the ritual, I will let Remornia have her fun before throwing all of your pitiful bodies into the Maw for the Jailer.”
The team jumped from the floor and engaged him as one, furiously slashing and swinging at him. He was able to sidestep the majority of their attempts, and the weapons that connected simply pinged off of his armor. Ald had been worried that he’d have trouble holding Denathrius’s attention once the fighting began, but the Venthyr remained singularly focused on him, ignoring the chaos that had erupted in the circular room.
With Remornia in hand, Denathrius swung a vicious downward strike at Ald’s head, but Anth parried it off of his own weapon. Careening away from her target, Remornia scraped the floor, sending sparks flying around the chaos. The sword continued her screams of rage, throwing expletives at every person in range along with frequent threats of bodily harm.
“I meant to thank you, Denny,” Ald called over the tumult as Tommy blocked another swing of Remornia. “For giving me back my body, of course. I could never have done it without your help.”
The Venthyr grimaced and leveled a kick at one of the hunter pets that had attached its jaws to his boot. “I wish I fully understood how you were fully reinstated, Maw Walker. I’ve never seen anything like it in all my years as Master of Revendreth. But, of course, I know how to easily reverse it.” Another slash. Another parry by one of the tanks.
Golin managed to connect his weapon on Denathrius in a small piece of unarmored skin near the Venthyr’s knee. Denathrius let out a small grunt of pain and finally looked around to see the chaotic fighting of the team. His eyes flicked over the raid team as they attempted in vain to take him down.
Denathrius tossed Remornia back to the center of the room, and she sliced at the floor, opening a hole in the ground that acted as a sort of doorway to the floors below the highest tower.
While she worked at it, Denathrius gave the heroes no time to react to his second spell, which gripped their throats and lifted them up high towards the domed ceiling. “If you all wish to defeat me,” he said through gritted teeth, “then there is a price of blood to be paid.” He ended the spell again, and every member of the team was thrown backwards to the room’s circular walls.
The distraction of every member being pushed away allowed Denathrius to look downward into the hole that the sword had created. “Thank you, my dear Remornia. Let us delve into my true inner sanctum.” And as the members ran and clawed their way back to the center of the room where the villains were standing, Denathrius grabbed Remornia, and the two jumped down the hole.
“It seems the pleasantries are over,” Ald said, panting heavily as the team gathered around the hole. A small fit of vertigo overtook him as he stared below. Down what must have been thirty floors, Denathrius stood in the center of a platform designed to look like a giant “X.” The Venthyr looked up and offered a “friendly” wave at the heroes still on the top platform.
“That’s a long way down,” said Opie.
“We’re not leaping down there, right?” Trelander asked.
“Actually, we are,” Cald responded. “Healpimp?”
The priest nodded in response and mumbled a few words under his breath. Soon, each member of the team was levitating a few inches from the floor. Ald looked at his friends hovering above the ground. “Healpimp, why didn’t you just levitate me when I fell in the ballroom when Frieda dropped me?”
Healpimp shrugged. “You didn’t ask,” he said as he dove headfirst down the hole towards a thirty floor drop.
“That guy’s crazy,” said Fuzzy, pointing down the hole and following the priest’s lead by diving downwards headfirst.
Everyone else decided feet-first was the best option. They all hopped into the hole, one after the other, and gently levitated to the floor below. The journey was surreal. Large red swirling mirrors decorated nearly every inch of the claustrophobic and circular tunnel down towards the large room. Ald wondered what they were for. Was this a strange teleportation room? Were these backups in case the other ones around the castle shattered?
The journey took about half a minute, and when Ald finally touched ground, the team stood before Denathrius. The Venthyr was smiling widely, leaning casually on Remornia whose tip was hovering three inches above the stone ground. “Welcome to my sanctum sanctorum, heroes,” he said. “This is where my greatest ideas are fleshed out. Where even the most minute detail is accounted for. You should all feel highly privileged to be invited to such a private domain.”
“Enough banter, Denathrius,” Ald yelled. “Let’s get this over with.”
“As you wish, Maw Walker,” he replied. As he said this, a dozen of his Venthyr loyalists appeared through nearby mirrors and floated to the ground at each end of the “X”. As soon as they appeared, Denathrius stood to his full height and released Remornia. The sword immediately pointed towards Ald and flew directly at him at an incredible speed. At the last second, he threw himself to the ground, which proved a foolish move as the sword was already spinning in the air to reorient itself on the fallen Pandaren.
Anth blocked the sword’s second charge with his shield, and Remornia’s pointed tip scraped across the tiled floor before finding its furry target again and taking aim. “Ald, hide!” Anth screamed as he braced his shield between the sword and the rogue.
Ald didn’t hesitate. Using his roguish training, the Pandaren pulled the shadows around his body, focusing his will as best he could amid the fighting and yelling. He vanished from sight just as Remornia flew over Anth’s head in search of her target.
“I’LL fInD yOu, MaW wAlKeR…aNd I’LL bLeEd yOu OuT fOr mY mAsTeR’s dEsSeRt!” she screamed as she ran wide circles above the “X”, scouting for the invisible rogue.
The rest of the team was fighting off the waves of Venthyr who were attempting to drain them of anima. Tommy held Denathrius’s attention, and the two were hopping in and out of transportation mirrors at each end of the “X.” Ald felt bad that he couldn’t join in the fight, but Remornia was still flying above their heads. As long as she was looking for him, she wasn’t engaged in fighting anyone else.
The Venthyr casters were falling quickly as the team focused on interrupting their spells. As the last one was being downed, Fuzzy turned his bow to focus on Denathrius. He released the arrow, which was pointed directly at the back of Denathrius’s neck. But, it was as if the Sire could see behind his own head. Just before the arrow connected with its target, Denathrius teleported to the center of the room, and Tommy was forced to duck the projectile. The demon hunter shot a mean look at the Worgen hunter who wordlessly replied with a sheepish grin.
“Oh, heroes. How disappointing you all are. Imagine being so full of pride that you believe you can take down the Master of Revendreth. Remornia,” he called to the sky above him, “strike them down!”
The sword cackled with glee as she swept low and began slicing through the raiders. Anth was able to deflect a few more hits with his shield, but she was tenacious. As the heroes ran towards Denathrius at the center of the room, Remornia had succeeded in wounding every single one of them with slices to their arms, legs, and torsos. She was sharpened to such an unbelievable degree that even plate wearers had bleeding cuts across their bodies.
“I warned you, Maw Walker. Your friends will die because of your selfishness,” Denathrius said. The wounded raiders were dealt second and third blows from the sword as she seemed to speed up in her bloodlust. Like a wild dog, she was screaming and slicing as more blood was poured around the room.
Ald was the only hero untouched as he was still hidden from sight. I have to fight now, he thought to himself. But if I go visible, what’s going to stop him from killing everyone, including me? If only there was something that could…
Remornia hovered at one end of the “X” as she watched and waited, knowing that Ald would appear soon. Her pointed tip lusted for Pandaren blood. While she continued to turn side to side in an attempt to target him, the rogue crept through the shadows to Fuzzy, the nearest hunter. And without unstealthing, he whispered his orders into Fuzzy’s ear. The Worgen was bleeding profusely from a cut on his lower right leg, but he nodded all the same, ready to do what it took.
Invisible, Ald sprinted to the opposite side of the “X” from Remornia with Denathrius between them.
“Eighteen, nineteen, twenty!” Fuzzy finished counting aloud. He pulled his bowstring and let loose another arrow at Denathrius. The Venthyr teleported to the side of the room away from the hunter.
“Pathetic really,” he said, chuckling. “You, dog, will die in this room. My Venthyr will bleed you of your anima and throw your corpse to the Maw.”
“Now!” Ald shouted as he popped back into sight. Remornia both saw and heard him instantly and flew towards him, at the speed of a gnome’s rocket. Fuzzy heard Ald as well and immediately fired another arrow at Denathrius. Denathrius let out a hearty laugh at the projectile soaring in his direction, and without thinking, he teleported back to the center of the room just as Remornia was crossing the middle of the “X.”
A sickening squelch echoed in the room. It was a sound from the Stormwind butcher’s shop, of meat being cleaved in two.
Ald opened his eyes, which had found themselves closed when Remornia began her final attack. Standing in the center of the room stood Denathrius, his eyes wide and bulging, with Remornia sticking out of his heart. The Venthyr stuttered and gasped.
“This is impossible…I am eternal,” he said aloud in barely a whisper.
Remornia was beside herself in worry. “NoOoOoO! WHaT hAvE tHeY dOnE?” she screamed. “ThIs iS NoT tHe EnD. LeT mE pReSeRvE yOu, MaStEr.”
As the heroes watched, anima surrounded Denathrius’s body and within seconds, he was pulled completely into the sword, which hovered again in midair, sharpened tip pointed to the floor.