No one spoke.
Falais kept himself busy, hovering over the map spread in his lap. The dangerous blood elf barely offered Sutera a glance as she peered over his shoulder. Even when she pointed at Northrend, he ignored her outstretched hand. While he struggled to maintain a sense of calm, of control, his thoughts flitted back to the encounter with the dreadlord. In truth, he wanted nothing more than to curl into a ball on the floor, so brutal and callous was the psychic intrusion.
Sutera approached the wondrous, translucent dome, leaving Falais to maintain his façade. She watched the seaweed and fish drift past with her strange, golden eyes. Thanks to her amnesia, each new creature she saw coaxed forth a smile. Gone were the lines of worry that marred her elven face, for here she felt safe, watched over.
Teake, of course, could not speak. Out of the three of them, he was the only one who felt a stream of words crawling up his throat. He tried gurgling on several occasions, but neither elf paid him any heed. Despite his reservations about their “rescuer”, the tauren took his place in the rear of their dome. Head bowed, eyes forlorn, he submitted to his fate.
Each assumed the dreadlord sent his armies of naga in pursuit. So, though Falais wanted very much to turn towards Northrend, he kept the rift ray skirting the sea floor. He allowed the creature to wander where it would at a cautious pace, only giving it a slight nudge when they veered off course too much. The assassin worried little that the naga would spot the ray’s passengers, for seeing into the dome was a much more difficult endeavor than peering out.
A few minutes more he would allow them to wander. The sharp edges of the curo pricked against his skin, reminding him of the awards waiting within the Lich King’s citadel. Eternal life. Unimaginable power. Despite his best efforts, impatience gnawed at him.
Movement in the dark caught his eye. He squinted, barely able to make out the swimming shapes, but soon swore under his breath. This caught the attention of his companions, both coming close. Falais pointed at the growing mob. “Makrura,” he said, searching for a place to set down.
He hoped they had not seen him. The shelled creatures were defensive of their territories, usually attacking any outsiders on sight. This proved doubly true for naga and murlocs. The only way to avoid confrontation, given that the route behind was blocked by the advancing naga, was to become as still and docile as possible.
The rift ray bumped the sea floor as it came to a halt, giant, leathery fins slowly flapping.
The makrura chittered to one another as they approached, so many of them that none of the trio could spot the end of their line. They would stop only when skittering close to a giant clam, enormous pincers gripping the shells and ripping them asunder. Scooping out the meat, they slid this into their net sacks.
“Do not move,” Falais whispered as their advance brought them to the ray.
It seemed an eternity before the makrura crawled by them, continuing their harvest with little thought as to the sitting creature. As they moved off, shelled legs scrabbling over the hard coral, Falais moved to nudge the ray forward.
Sutera put a hand on his shoulder.
“They are here.”
Far above, Warlord Shyv and his troops gathered along the ledge.
“He is near,” the naga leader hissed, pain pulsing from his side. Though the gash had healed with nary a scar, the Warlord felt it as if Teake still plowed his horned head into him. He found whenever he neared the druid the pain began anew.
A soldier scoffed.
Shyv’s reptilian eyes narrowed, but he said nothing. Standing at the edge, he gazed out over the dark waters. He knew the three hid nearby. Over the rigid coral his gaze slid, piercing the hiding holes of the eels, foraging through the tall anemones. The stomphia, as if it could sense his anger, unlatched from its rock, bounding away.
There it was.
The rift ray hovered, fins rippling as it maintained its position. Though he could not peer into its strange dome, he knew they were there. He raised his weapon and pointed, offering a toothy grin to his doubtful soldier.
What was a ray doing, sitting out here?
Shyv froze, smile draining from his face. The sounds were unmistakable to all but the youngest naga. Makrura. Dozens, maybe a hundred of them. The clicking sounds erupted from all around.
Not angry. Not yet.
He realized they were coming from below, climbing the vertical face of the cliff his troops stood on. This meant they were between Shyv and the escapees. A few eye stalks poked over the rocky lip, spotting the gathered naga. The Warlord made a motion to his men.
Overhead, the Maelstrom sparked, issuing a groaning rumble. So loud was it that both the naga and makrura paused, looking towards the glow. Energy sparked, bolts cascading through the waters, down towards the two forces. They froze, waiting for any sign of where it might strike, knowing the damage such a bolt could do.
Falais remained unperturbed. The rays were used to such discharges, small spikes on the edges of their flippers deflecting such energy. It was, of course, one of the reasons he chose the ray as their method of escape. Yet the ray shifted, agitated. Something was wrong.
The bolt slammed into them, striking the top of the dome. In that instant, both the makrura and the naga could see inside, spotting the three figures. Teake tumbled backward, striking his horned head against the rear of the dome with such force that stars exploded across his vision. Sutera slammed into Falais, the assassin making little effort to catch her as he tried to maintain his own balance.
Neither noticed, but a good portion of the energy flooded into the curo. At the moment the two elves touched, this magical power blasted into Sutera, knocking her away and across the small dome. She regained her feet, only to collapse as pain seared her brain. Teake struggled to his feet as Falais sought to take control of the frightened, injured ray.
Blood ran from her nose, her face pale. The tauren took her in his arms, grunting at her in order to keep her conscious. Tearing a good chunk of cloth from his ragged clothes, he held this to her nostrils, stemming the flow.
The makrura were simple, not stupid.
The revelation only informed them why the naga dared cross into their lands. What the naga wanted, the makrura wanted, if only to thwart their centuries-old enemies. They cared little why the three skirted Mak’aru.
They dropped their nets, swarming over the edge. Shyv and his naga were ready, the two mighty forces slamming together. While the naga shouted and screamed to one another, the makrura seemed to operate as one. No orders escaped their mouths, as if some psychic bond flowed between them.
Shyv met the first and impaled it upon his trident. A second grasped his arm in one strong claw, intending to rip him asunder as another claw descended. The Warlord howled, releasing his grip on his weapon. Balling his hand into a fist, allowing the spike on his wrist to protrude a little more, he punched the creature in the throat. Bluish-green blood spilled over his hand as the makrura grew weak, allowing the naga to wriggle free.
He ignored its death throes, retrieving his weapon. Just over the writhing throng, he saw the rift ray flit into view. It limped along, one fin damaged from the Maelstrom’s blast. The Warlord smiled as he saw this for, no matter how long this battle took, he knew where they were going. There was only one area close enough that the ray could carry them.