The moment I passed through the gates, I knew I was in over my head. But this was my first real outing with Nocturne; they’d given me a trial by fire, and though I felt small and awkward in my hand-stitched robes beside these scarred veteran adventurers, I was bound and determined not to fail. The blast of saronite bombs and the screeching of Common over the radio comm they’d given me hurt my head so that I wanted to cover my ears, and as I took in my surroundings I was awed and bewildered by the sheer size of the rumbling Titan-built siege vehicles. I heard a shout, and turned to see others of the company scrambling into these vehicles… and I suddenly realized I didn’t have the slightest clue what I was supposed to be doing. So much for not failing…! For a split-second I thought about slipping away before they could notice, and simply finding a place to cry… and any who know me, know how rare that is.
But the next moment, I felt a familiar heavy hand on my shoulder. I looked up into Ashmaw’s grey and weathered face, and he gave me the cold snort that passes for a warm smile with him. “With me,” he said gruffly, and strode off towards a grumbling, rattling demolisher. I had to run to keep up, and when we got to it he hauled himself up into the driver’s compartment. “Take the guns,” he ordered me, and I didn’t dare argue; I scrambled up the side of the machine to the turret, and found the most secure perch I could on a rickety seat… where I was immediately overwhelmed again.
“Which button do I push?” I shouted desperately down to the death knight over the roar of the engines.
Ashmaw chuckled, his laugh almost louder than the rumbling machine. “All of them!” he shouted back as the demolisher belched and lurched forward.
I looked down at what passed for a dashboard, took a deep breath, tried to mentally block out the chaos around me and began trying levers. A few moments later, I had figured out how to rotate and aim, which was the big gun and which the small, and where the turbo was. I took another deep breath, looked around, and began to listen.
“…’ey,” came a voice over the comm. “We be goin’ de wrong way, mon.”
Before I could ask, a response came. “Yoo shaddup, I be drivin’ here. I know de way.”
“Ya be drivin’ like ma greatmudda. Turn lef’.” Another demolisher rumbled past us, and I recognized the two trolls inside – Zul’rohk and Zen’Hakar – as the two speakers.
“Yoo blind as a bat; we goin’ lef’ already. Yoo shaddup an’ let me drive.”
“More lef’, den. More lef’ – no, no, mon, de odda lef’!”
A blast landed next to them. “Shi – gimme de turbo, now!”
“We ain’ got de turbo! I couddun get de canister, ‘cause SOMMUN din’ go lef’!”
“What?! Dere were tons of ‘em to de right!”
“An’ I tolja ta go lef’!”
“Yoo mudda go lef’!”
“What? What dat even mean?!”
“It mean yoo shaddup an’ let me drive!”
The two trolls resorted to bickering in their own language then, and I heard Ashmaw give a short, barking laugh. I leaned over to look at him. “What’s so funny?” I asked.
“They do this every time,” Ashmaw replied. “One would think they might choose not to ride together anymore. Eyes ahead, elf.”
I sat back up and tried to focus on my controls. One of the trolls shouted an insult in Zandalari I actually understood – a slight to the other’s sister – and the other responded with something I vaguely grasped to be an order to perform sexual acts on a kobold. Yet even as they argued, they were bombing the hell out of our tower targets, and shooting flying machines from the sky with astonishing precision.
I smirked. Then I grinned, and I outright laughed. I took the controls again, and narrowed my eyes as I drew in on a target. It was going to be okay.
* * * * *
My forays into the Titan stronghold of Ulduar were ultimately altogether few; although I had learned much from books, I was still terribly green in some ways – entirely inexperienced in advanced operation – and as Nocturne pushed deeper into Ulduar I was benched often, and mostly for my own good. Of course I was later able to further develop and prove my skill in the Icecrown Tournaments, and by the time we moved into Icecrown Citadel I was so far progressed from the sophomore warlock who blustered her way into a Storm Peaks operation the previous year as to be nearly unrecognizeable – never mind the fresh child who left Silvermoon ten years before. Still, I’ve precious memories of Ulduar as the place I first bonded and learned to work as part of the amazing team that is Nocturne. Two events from that tour stand out in particular: that first day, when my fears and concerns were allayed by a pair of trolls arguing like an old married couple, and I realized that I could be both competent and casual… and a dark night much later, when I was called in to replace an injured comrade despite my inexperience, and I caught my first sight of an Old God.
Days ago I learned that Liealia Luminiar has been suffering bewildering ailments as a result of an odd artifact she has uncovered – an artifact known, curiously enough, as the Puzzle-Box of Yogg-Saron. She is searching for solutions to her problems, and what better place to find answers to a relic of Yogg-Saron than in the place where that god was last seen? When the topic of returning to Ulduar was raised, I volunteered without hesitation – not only because I would go anywhere to attempt to aid Lia, but because a part of me secretly savors the idea of returning to that place.
I know Lia is assembling her own team for this excursion; she has asked me if I think Kuvasei is suited to join, given recent events, and after a day’s consideration I believe the answer is yes. She’s stabilized considerably in recent weeks, and her skills in stealth and machinery will be invaluable. But I have been thinking of who else might be a beneficial addition to the group as well.
I wonder if I can contact Ashmaw before we depart.