“Get inside, quickly!”
Thrall, and the members of the Earthen Ring escorting him, had reached the base of Wyrmrest Temple. Safely concealed within his robes was the prize he and others had fought so hard and suffered so much to obtain: the Dragon Soul. Stolen from the twisting passages of Time itself by Nozdormu and the other Aspects, the golden disc represented the world's last, best hope to stop the rampaging Aspect of Death, Neltharion – or as he was known now, Deathwing.
Thrall had tried to carry the Dragon Soul to Wyrmrest without incident, but somehow, the Twilight's Hammer – and the Forgotten Ones, monstrous minions of the insidious Old Gods – had known they were coming. Thrall and his companions had battled fiercely to win through, and now their goal was within reach. Help seemed to have come at last, as Archbishop Benedictus frantically waved them over. A Forgotten One suddenly rose up near the side of Thrall's escort and, before anyone could react, crushed a screaming Draenei shaman to the ground. With a muttered curse, Thrall moved to strike down the beast with a bolt of lightning, but the Archbishop had already swung his golden staff, incinerating the monster with a blast of holy fire.
“Hurry! I'll hold them off!” he yelled, and rushed to defend Thrall's retreat into the base of Wyrmrest. As Thrall approached the enormous pillars and archway that made up the entrance to the underground level of the enormous, towering pillar that was Wyrmrest Temple, he felt a sense of foreboding that he could not explain. The entrance seemed somehow ominous – threatening, even. He thought he knew why – once he passed through that arch, this step of the journey would be finished, and the final step would begin: slaying Deathwing himself.
Thrall's escort had remained behind to help Benedictus cover Thrall's escape. Now Thrall saw Benedictus hastening back into the Temple – but where was his escort? There – he saw them, still fighting, a distance away from the temple entrance. Why was the Archbishop returning without them?
Then the Archbishop was through the door. He turned, pointed his staff at the opening – and a blazing wall of golden light appeared in the entrance, blocking it. A powerful defense, surely; but why had he left Thrall's escort outside?
“Archbishop, what-” began Thrall, but Benedictus had already levelled his staff at Thrall, and the Orc shaman was suddenly overwhelmed with pain, a pain so excruciating that the sheer sensation of it sent him to his knees, gasping.
Benedictus walked closer, until he stood directly over Thrall. Grinning viciously through his neatly trimmed grey beard, he spoke in a new voice, a voice Thrall recognized with a start of horror... as the voice of the Twilight Father.
“And now, Shaman, you will give the Dragon Soul... to me.”
The pain had not subsided in the least. Nonetheless, Thrall managed to gasp out his defiance. “I will not... Archbishop. It will... never be yours.”
Benedictus gave a melodramatic sigh. “Then I suppose it has to be this way. If only you had seen what I have seen... then you would understand. Still,” the grin returned. “I am not entirely disappointed with this outcome, either. It will give me great satisfaction to see you writhe in pain like the worm you are, Orc. Aspect of Earth indeed!” Benedictus gave a derisive snort. “As though a beast such as yourself could ever hope to match the power and majesty of my master!”
Benedictus once again pointed his staff at Thrall. “I serve the true masters of this world, Shaman. Your mighty Dragon Aspects? Guard dogs left behind by usurpers to ensure that their false rule went unchallenged. The elements? They once served as lieutenants to my masters, and will do so again... once they have been whipped into line. Now, Shaman, once again, I command you: give me the Dragon Soul!”
Thrall felt his arms moving with a will of their own. His mind shrieked at them to stop, but against every fiber of will he possessed, his hand reached into his robe, and slowly pulled out the golden disc. Benedictus had won; wracked with pain and weakened as he was by the ordeal of simply getting here, Thrall was powerless to stop him as the Twilight Father used his nefarious magic to force Thrall to surrender their one, last hope.
Just as Benedictus reached out an eager hand to take the Soul from him, Thrall heard hurried footsteps. He caught only a glimpse of steel and a shouted curse; next thing he knew, the puppet strings forcing him to hold out the Soul were cut, and his will was his own again. Glancing hurriedly around, Thrall understood two facts very quickly: first, Archbishop Benedictus was bleeding from a wound in his side, no doubt caused by a small, thrown dagger; second, Varian Wrynn was descending on the traitorous Archbishop, sword in hand, and rage plainly written across his face.
Benedictus barely had time to raise his staff to block the sword blow before it came down with stunning ferocity. Whatever Thrall may have thought of Varian's combative nature, there was no denying that he was an enormously skilled and powerful fighter. The sword blow was stopped by the staff, but the metal stave took heavy damage; the next blow shattered it down the middle.
Benedictus was far from beaten, however. He thrust his hand out, and a blast of purple energy emanated from it, hitting Varian hard and throwing him back. Varian slid across the stone floor, managing to keep his footing but sinking into a kneeling position as he did so. Benedictus raised his hand for another blow, but Thrall had regained his own footing by now, and a gale of wind assaulted the Archbishop, hurling him backwards. Before the Twilight Father could move to get up, Varian was standing over him, sword at his throat.
“You were a figurehead of the light, Benedictus,” Varian spat bitterly. “How could you betray your own people?”
“There is no light,” choked the Archbishop. “There is only power... power, and those strong enough to wield it! When the world's true masters take Azeroth back, you will dine on ashes in eternal torment!”
“Then you had best save some for me,” retorted Varian. A second later, Benedictus' decapitated head rolled away from his body. The Twilight Father was dead.
Thrall moved toward Varian, and the King whirled on him, rage still seething in his eyes. Thrall began to feel apprehension – he was strong enough to defend himself from attack now, but he did not want to spoil this brief moment of alliance with Varian by engaging in a battle with him.
“Varian, calm yourself!” shouted Thrall. Varian took a step forward, his breath coming heavy, his eyes intent, like a wolf's. Like a wolf's....
Thrall understood. It wasn't Varian he was seeing. The King's anger and shock at Benedictus' betrayal had momentarily broken his self-control, and Lo'Gosh, the gladiator, was in full control.
“Lo'Gosh!” Thrall barked in a commanding tone. The advancing warrior paused. “Lo'Gosh, it is done! He is dead!”
A brief pause. Then, slowly, rationality returned to the King's face. Lo'Gosh receded, and Varian returned. His breathing slowed, and his savage expression became simply curt recognition.
“Thrall... the Aspects are waiting for you atop Wyrmrest. You'd best hurry.”
Then Varian turned and raced out the door, now freed from Benedictus' golden wall, sword in hand, ready to defend Wyrmrest from the agents of Deathwing.
Thrall turned and looked for stairs. There were none.
Thrall turned back and saw a small gnome, dressed in bronze- and white-colored robes, approaching. He recognized her; Chromie, one of the bronze dragons in mortal form.
Thrall nodded. “Let's go.”