Boz took a deep breath as he stepped out of the portal and into the fresh air of Dalaran, taking a moment to rest on a bench near the central fountain. He stretched his arms wide across the bench and slid down, flopping his head back to look skyward, taking a long, deep breath. It felt good to clear his lungs of the rot that permeated Icecrown Citadel and the warm air felt wonderful on his skin as the ice melted from his spaulders. Though Sindragosa would no longer threaten the world, the Frost Dragon’s effects were not so easy to dismiss from his exhausted body so soon.
It was then Boz saw it descend and light upon the grass of the park: A steed woven with stars. They twisted and swirled inside its body, which seemed bound by the very essence of the universe. He rubbed his eyes with his thumb and forefinger, but there was no disputing the image before him, and its soft whinny confirmed what his eyes told him. On its back rode – of all things – the filth of the Horde. The same Horde that had that very day attempted to prevent his assault on Icecrown Citadel. Their pettiness in the face of obliteration was disgusting. How did they not see that the Alliance was trying to save everyone, Horde and Alliance alike?
The star pony seemed to agree with Boz, as it buckled under the weight of the fat Tauren stressing its spine. At least, he imagined it had a spine, or possibly a constellation. It was difficult to say, but he imagined briefly the pony’s cry for release; to be free. Where had it come from? What was it, exactly? His heart ached to help the poor animal. Cows were not meant to ride horses, let alone such a majestic creature!
The Tauren dismounted clumsily, and took from his pack a blue stone with unusual markings that looked like a cross between portal marks and demonology scripture, but Boz was no expert in such matters. The star pony swirled, coalesced, and faded. The blue stone began to glow softly. The Tauren put the stone back in his pack and slung it around his shoulders before heading off in the direction of the Sunreaver’s Sanctuary, a respite for members of the Horde.
Boz sighed inwardly and took a long look at the fountain. He had not the energy nor the reason to pursue the Tauren; the oversized cow probably didn’t even speak the same language, regardless. Boz rose and picked up his gear before heading towards Langrom’s to drop his armor off for repair. It had seen a lot of stress in the past few days, and needed an expert hand before he turned in for the night.
He walked under the archway to the main thoroughfare of Dalaran, and his eyes opened wide. There were dozens of the star ponies with their riders, landing, and whinnying alongside the usual array of rams, bears, and other assorted mounts. He ducked into The Magical Menagerie, Dalaran’s pet stables for adventuring hunters like Boz, to visit his pets. His bear Iorek leapt up at the sight of him entering the stables, bounding over the gate and toppling the dwarf.
“Easy, Iorek, easy!” Iorek leapt on top of Boz, lapping excitedly and matting his beard against his chestpiece. “Go on, now, you big teddy!” He rolled Iorek over and rubbed his stomach vigorously. With such a display one would never guess the bear capable of viciously tearing a dragon apart at Boz’s direction. But there he was: practically purring under the affectionate patting of his master.
Addressing the Stable Master nearby, who was looking on bemusedly at the scene, Boz asked, “Tassia, where’d all those ponies come from, the ones that look like they’re made of stars?”
“The way I hear it, they found a whole lot of them up in Ulduar. The Alliance, Horde, Venture Company; they’re all stripping whatever they can from the old Titan city now that it’s been cleaned out. These creatures are just one of the Titan’s relics.” said Tassia.
“Aye, I clear the place out and everyone and their mother loots it.” Boz complained.
“You were there first; you should have stuck around for more than five minutes before heading off to Icecrown. Maybe you could have snagged a pony for yourself.”
“Harumph.” Boz muttered. “Take care a Iorek, I need ta git some shut eye.”
On the way to Langrom’s he saw more of the star ponies landing around the Eventide. Everywhere it seemed more and more adventurers were riding the creatures, Alliance and Horde alike. His mind weary, though, and he dropped his armor off before he arrived at the inn. To be fair, he did visit a couple Brewmaidens along the way. Maybe it was the long, dark hair; Coira Longrifle was such a sweet lass. He couldn’t go to bed before saying hello, and buying a couple pints.
Boz was awoken only a few hours later with a start. It seemed the Horde had taken the fortress of Wintergrasp, and the Silver Covenant was rallying the Alliance to retake the lost ground. He hated the distraction when the real threat – The Lich King – was omnipresent, but the loss of the Titan Artifact to the Horde would substantially weaken the Alliance. Wintergrasp was not just a treasure of Titan resources, but served as a strategic staging area to assault Icecrown Citadel. With this in mind, Boz pulled himself up, sucked down a spare Thunderbrew Ale he’d forgotten when he’d passed out, and took his second set of armor out of his trunk.
He briefly mourned the necessity of the armor before clasping its various straps and links, picked up his rifle, and headed to the Wintergrasp portal in the center of the enclave. For the second time in as many days he be looking at the wrong people through his scope. As much as he hated the Horde, they were not the people he should have in his sights.
The air was more crisp and cold here in the assault staging grounds of Wintergrasp, but tasteless. Dalaran had the smell of people, somewhat dirty in parts but also reassuring. Here was the emptiness that preceded battle. Tactical Officer Ahbramis was already organizing the gathered volunteers for the assault. Boz put his fingers to his lips and muttered a simple incantation that summoned to him his least trusted companion: A Silithid. He had captured the beast years ago in Silithus, saving it from an Orc with whom it had crossed paths. The Orc had been collecting Silithyst for the Horde when it began its tangle with the creature, but Boz had seen fear in its eyes and took pity. Still, the Silithid were temperamental and vicious creatures of little brain, and more insect than beast. Of all the Silithid his was of the warrior caste, and though they had saved one another’s lives many times he still worried, especially in the cold regions where the beast was out of its element.
The call sounded, and Boz mounted his own riding ram, hard won from his former battles in Alterac Valley against the Horde. There was a lot of blood on its reins. Alongside the rest of the volunteers they headed for the closest workshop. The workshops were spread throughout Wintergrasp, and its capture would allow them to pilot siege vehicles to assault the fortress.
They rode, however, into a trap.
The Horde were not so willing to give up their territory and – though he hated them – he gave them credit for their tenacity and strategy. A contingent of Tauren, Orcs, and Trolls were lying in wait on the roof of the workshop, and dropped into the center of the ragtag team of Alliance volunteers. That was when Boz saw him from the corner of his eye: the Tauren from the park. He swirled in a green whirl of energy and transformed into a tree of life, casting protective spells on the Horde ambushers and frustrating the Allies. His comrades, focused on the melee, did not see him.
Boz had hung behind, never being one for sword and board himself. He circled the melee and called to his pet, pointing at the tree. The Silithid tore into its bark, interrupting his ability to cast. Boz knew that he had to act quickly. Boz quickly loaded his rifle with a special bullet that would inhibit the Tauren from healing itself. The Silithid was impeding its ability to aid its comrades as well, tearing into its bark and stunning the Tauren. He leaned against the tree and took aim, squeezing off the shot. Boz could already see the Horde melee looking over their shoulders, wondering what was happening to their healer. A Troll had heard the gunshot and blinked out of the melee. The troll readied a spell, the blue energy coalescing between his hands.
Boz had continued to fire round after round at the tree, but had seen the mage, and instantly fired his own frosty surprise, just as the Troll loosed his frozen bolt, which Boz took full force in the chest. Boz fell in a slump to the ground, but a smile crossed his lips as he saw ice enveloping the unsuspecting Troll, who had been too busy preparing a second volley to notice the freezing trap Boz had fired at his feet. Incapacitated for the moment, Boz turned his attention from the Troll back to the Tauren.
Boz gathered what magic he possessed to empower his pet. He felt the energy, gathered it and pushed it into the battling Silithid, causing it to grow and swell, black eyes burning with an inner rage. In this state the Silithid was terrifying, and it slashed at the tree with a bestial wrath. Boz squeezed off several more shots and realized that his crippling of the tree had turned the tide. His comrades had slain several Horde defenders, and were advancing. The Troll Mage that had been trapped was being felled by an angry Gnome Warlock. Another Hunter loosed an arrow at the Tauren, who shifted forms in an attempt to flee.
As a big cat, the Tauren would be faster and able to cloak itself, but several hunter flares prevented him from hiding, and the remaining Horde had been dispatched quickly without the aid of their healer. Boz loaded an explosive charge into his rifle and aimed at the fleeing cat. He fired, the crack of the bullet splitting the air deafening even after all his years as a rifleman. His aim was true, and the cat exploded in a mess of fire and flesh, its remains shifting back to its Tauren form even before hitting the ground. Then there was a flash of light.
The Tauren had been carrying the blue stone, which cracked and splintered when it hit the icy ground. Its glow faded, and the star pony came into view like a mirage on the horizon. The melee had died down, and the Allies were celebrating a brief victory over capturing the workshop, but Boz was focused on the pony; it was not a happy creature. It slammed its feet against the ground and whinnied angrily. It was confused; the pony must have somehow been bound to the stone, and without it was leaping in circles, staring blankly and rapidly in every direction. It threw its head back and whinnied into the air, a metallic echo of its horse relatives.
The Silithid that had reappeared at the side of its master hissed at the unnatural sound, clicking its legs and snapping its jaws. It spat at the steed and rushed forward, pincers flairing.
“No, stop!” Boz shouted, and muttered the incantation to undo his original summons. The Silithid vanished mid-stride, inches from tearing into the pony’s torso. “Calm down, lass.” Boz said quietly to the pony, “calm down.”
He moved slowly towards the steed, speaking in a calm, even tone that conveyed understanding. “I know yer confused, just calm down. Ye kin have a carrot; if ya don like carrots, I’ll figure out what it is ya do like.” Someone had to know; there were enough of them around after all. The pony seemed to calm, looking out of the corner of its eye at the approaching dwarf, who held his palms open. Its whinnying slowed.
“I’m not gonna hurt ya, jus’ calm down an’ we’ll figure this out together.” He stood only a few feet from the pony, who butted against Boz, not quite sure what to make of the person that stood about waist-high relative to its former master. “That old cow won’t be botherin’ ya anymore.”
Boz rested a palm on its side, and the pony did not flinch. Removing a glove, it was as smooth as glass. He peered closely at its body, which continued to shimmer.
“By the light,” Boz said, “It’s full of stars!”