His name was Francis Durrat and his reputation preceded him. Commander, Second Stormwind Legion. Veteran of the campaigns in Outland, Northrend, Pandaria, and Draenor. Twice decorated by the king for valor. Thrice mentioned by name in the bardic epic of Lorth’ramar. Durrat faced down the Lich King. He fought Onyxia in her lair. He once even went toe to toe against a Titan and lived to tell the tale.
When Vasp arrived in Ashenvale, it was Durrat who first approached her with an extended hand and remarked, “It is good to see the Army of Light well represented.”
Francis Durrat had lived a remarkable life. He was a hero among heroes. A one-man army. A walking wrecking crew. Well respected, well liked, and formidable. So when Vasp saw him burn to death at the hands of a random front line orc warlock in a small skirmish outside the Elven town of Astranaar, her immediate reaction was one of incredulity.
Heroes weren’t supposed to go out in meaningless border clashes at the hands of rank-and-file peons, they were supposed to die in grand sacrifice saving the world.
As what had been Francis Durrat crumbled into ash, a cry went up from the Alliance soldiers, who immediately rallied and lept on top of the Horde raiders with the intensity of furies. The orc warlock, Durrat’s killer, was dispatched before Vasp could climb out of her warframe. The rest broke and ran for the woods before she could charge up a single spell.
“Run them down! Kill them all!” screamed a human paladin. “For Francis Durrat!”
Vasp paused a moment at what was left of Durrat. Here lies a man… or at least the ash pile that had once was a man. Here lies an ash pile…
The Lightforged warmage ran into the woods, eyes quickly scanning the forest for any signs of movement. And suddenly there she was: a nightborne hunter, running on foot, weaving between the trees, unnoticed by any of the Alliance pursuers.
Vasp jumped, then blinked thirty yards, reoriented and blinked again. Within seconds she was on the hunter’s heals, hooves digging into the soft moss-covered ground, twigs and branches snapping beneath her.
The nightborne hunter, to her credit, noticed the mage immediately and without losing a beat turned and fired off a quick volley from her bow. Vasp dodged the arrows with ease and fired off a scorch spell in return. It missed, painting the bark of a tree.
The hunter zigged, then zagged, turned east, then suddenly north. She fired another volley of arrows. Missed. She fired again. She missed again.
Vasp kept on her. Matching every turn. Responding to every arrow with fire.
Deeper into the woods they ran. Over a fallen tree trunk. Around an outcropping of rock. Under branches. Through thick undergrowth filled with stinging needles and poisonous plants.
After several seconds the hunter and mage came to a clearing. Vasp, seeing an opening, blinked ahead another thirty feet, placing herself directly in front of her prey. The hunter, again to her credit, saw the move coming, and threw herself hard right before Vasp landed.
The nightborne spun mid-air and came down on one knee, bow drawn, bowstring taught. She let loose.
A venom-tipped arrow flew through the air, closing the few yards between them. Time slowed. The clouds parted. The sun illuminated everything. A fireball shredded the arrow before it could hit its mark.
“That was a nice shot,” said Vasp, in Common, with a respectful nod, hands in flame.
The hunter, a new arrow drawn and ready to fire, frowned at the mage, clearly taken aback by the sudden break in combat. For several heartbeats nothing happened. The only sounds were of insects chirping and birds singing.
“Maybe you come as my prisoner…?” suggested Vasp.
“Maybe you come as mine.” came a quick angry retort, also in Common, equally accented.
More silence followed. Insects chirping, birds singing.
“In a few minutes Alliance will come,” said Vasp, “then you will be my prisoner yes?”
The hunter scowled, bow still taught. “No. I will not be your prisoner. But when the Horde arrive you will be my prisoner.”
Vasp considered the hunter’s words and replied. “In all likelihood if either come one of us end up like Francis Durrat, yes?”
The hunter said: “Who the fel is Francis Durrat?”
Vasp nodded at this and said, “Yes, who indeed is Francis Durrat…”
The hunter, seeming suddenly exhausted, said irritably, “Either fight or leave. Make your choice.”
Vasp raised her brows at the nightborne. She’d win the fight of course. There was no question in her mind she’d prevail. Despite that the only direct evidence she had to support her conclusion was that in several thousand years of existence she had, for the majority of that time, not been murdered. The hunter for her part was equally certain of her chances and much for the same reason.
Another longer silence followed. Insects chirping, birds singing.
“Do you mean for us to sit here like this all day?” asked the hunter, testily.
The Lightforged mage considered the question before responding, “I think we have had enough Francis Durrats today, no?”
The hunter again snapped: “Who the fel is Francis Durrat?”
Vasp extinguished her flames, and in response the nightborne eased her bowstring. For a moment they stared at eachother. Newly minted Alliance and newly minted Horde both. Then, unceremoniously, without another word, the hunter broke for the woods, and seconds later disappeared among the trees. Vasp tracked her for a second and then, once she was certain she was alone, closed her eyes and turned her face toward the sun.
Vasp smiled. It was a blessing to be alive.