A Call to War
The blood-red and black bird circled the Netherbane Site of Lessons, as he did on many days. His shadow passed over the roofless ruins, casting a deeper darkness wherever his wings blotted out the moon. His screech, while familiar to most, was still jarring to those who had never fought alongside him.
On most days, his presence was a comfort--a silent sentinel that patrolled the skies above the Netherbane camp. When he was above them all, there was little need to worry. Only when he descended upon the ruins was there a reason to fear.
Today, the massive carrion bird, much larger now than he had ever been, alighted onto one of the massive branches of the Tree of Remembrance, the tree that marked the bodiless graves of the fallen members of the Netherbane. Its beak, black and razor-sharp, opened.
The scream could be heard for miles, a piercing shriek of announcement, of warning, and of command. Its echo bounced between the trees of the Ashenvale, startling the citizens of Astranaar. It soared its way to the north, forcing the lesser demons of the Felwood back into hiding. It crawled its way south, deafening the orcs who still clung to the Warsong Lumber camp's crumbling defenses. The screech even crossed the turbulent waters surrounding the continent of Kalimdor, piercing its way through portals of both arcane and fel and roaring through the laboratories of both mages and warlocks. It could be heard in Darnassus, Stormwind, Ironforge, and even from within the Exodar.
For those far away from the dense woods of the Ashenvale, the screech was just another sound of nature--just another bird of prey announcing its dominance of the skies. For a very select few, however, it meant something entirely different. It was a call to action; an invitation to death.
The call to war had been sounded. The assault on the Umbral Eclipse was to begin.
* * *
Sraath moved through the twisted corridors of the Umbral Eclipse, his flagship for countless millennia. Once thought lost, the demon lord had retrieved it from deep within the Twisting Nether and wrenched control of it from the wayward brethren of that traitorous pit lord, Daeloth. The three demons had been exiled from his presence for their hubris and sent to fight on the front lines of Argus's defense. He cared little for their fates. They were likely dead now, fallen to the foolish onslaught of so-called heroes from Azeroth.
He cared little for such things in general. The heroes were nothing more than a distraction to what was truly important.
The demon's hoof-falls were loud as he walked through the empty chambers of the vessel. An amalgamation of many of Sraath's ancient conquests, the Umbral Eclipse had become a misshapen monstrosity. The core of it had been old even when Sraath had assumed command from Xonath, his former master. The dreadlord had given over his ship when he had given over leadership of the Shadowed Sun. Since then, Sraath had added to the fortress's bulk, merging it with other Legion vessels, and even with the varied architecture of the worlds he had consumed.
This was why the layout of the ship now made little in the way of sense. Twisting corridors gave way to straight and narrow chambers which gave way to rough stone hallways that looked more organic than artificial. Legion structures had been fused with kaldorei structures which had been fused with eredar structures. Armies from across the cosmos had fallen to Sraath's forces in the past, and select towers had been plucked from those worlds and fed into the beast that was the Umbral Eclipse. It was Sraath's way of honoring those civilizations--it was his way of preserving them. They should be thankful.
They should all be thankful. They were immortal now because of him. Their memory would live on in his mind, safe from the coming ravages of the Void.
The demon lord soon found himself standing at the head of a misshapen corridor that looked like it was cut from a dark stone. There was no door, but he knew that no door was needed in this section. He walked the short distance to the circular chamber--more of a cage--until he could see what he had come to see.
Malfias. Another traitor. But this one had its uses.
"You have successfully lured them here," Sraath's rumbling growl echoed up and out of the cage. It, and many others like it, were placed within a huge open chamber on the outer edges of the Umbral Eclipse. Almost appearing as if they were held outdoors, the entire section had a field that dampened unwanted magical influence. Sraath had made sure to lock his most prized possessions in here. Malfias, his former lieutenant, was one of those prizes. "They move against me as we speak. Good work."
"You mistakenly attribute these actions as my own," the eredar said in a half-laugh. He was kneeling, near naked, in the center of the cage. Tall spires of fel-wrought steel reached up around the circular platform, each one able to twist the psychomancer's powers to Sraath's will, and each one acting as a dampener against the eredar's own. "It would be as if I praised a dagger for piercing your heart when I was the one who thrust it."
"A dagger is a mindless tool, Malfias. You are more than that to me. You are more akin to a pet hound, and hounds deserve praise," Sraath replied. "You are my hound now, and so I praise you."
Malfias remained silent, but his slumped form seemed to shrink further. Sraath knew that he was almost broken. The psychomancer's will was strong, and he had been able to resist Sunbreaker. The Mindclaw Spires were a second line of defense, and they drew from the power at the heart of the Umbral Eclipse itself. They had taken far longer to do their work than had been anticipated, but the breaking was almost complete now.
"I will leave you in your pained silence, pup," Sraath chuckled as he turned around and left. "I have another who needs attention."