Ten seconds of terror. Naz was so focused on getting to the free cab on the other side of the road he became oblivious of everything. It wasn’t the first time his brain froze, focused on a single thing in a busy world. Experts – he had read about it somewhere on the arcnet – diagnosed such a condition as Azertism, a potentially severe handicap. Naz sometimes wondered if he was aflicted with it. Tunnel vision – or, as some called it, Boss Eyes – was his ”thing”. Most people took it as stubborness. Stubborn as an orc was a videly popular saying. He became aware of everything around him way too late.
Tenth second: Naz heard a scream, highpitched, paniced. ”LOOK OUT!!!”. The last syllable rose to a feverpitch broken sound. Then, in the ninth second, he heard the roaring engines. In the eight second the blaring horn started, a foghorn signal growing ever closer, ever louder. It kept on screaming all through the rest of the ordeal.
Seventh second: A filament of purple light snared him across his waist. In the sixth second he looked down at whatever is was. The chain, or tentacle, or rope – the thing around his waist! – tugged tight, sliding up over his t-shirt and settling in a vicegrip around his chest. In teh fifth second he saw the purple fleshiness tightened over a filament of what appeared to be iron. A thin chain coated with a fleshy substance, pulsing with dull purple and violet light. The links of the chain inside writhed around each other.
Fourth second: He was yanked backwwards, hard. He felt his ribs grind against muscles, his breath pushed out of him as he was sent flying head over heels, backwards. The rest became a blur; the three seconds to salvation was almost silent. The whoosh of air around his head. The pain in his chest. His heartbeats drumming in his ears. The far away sounds of traffic coming to a screeching halt, the blairing horn going silent. He was twisted around in midair and then collided with the ground.
He slammed into the pavement with his arms raised before him. The jolt sent painful vibration through his very bones. He scraped his elbows on the conrete, crashed over on his side and smacked his knees hard against the pavement. At irst he couldn’t even breathe, feeling the panic of suffocation creep up on him through his aching lungs. Then whatever it was that had trapped him disappeared, in an instant.
He pulled a deep, ragged breath, gasping for air. The sweetness of air rushing into his lungs made him dizzy. Fear and panic had dried out his mouth – he coughed, hard, almost choking. With his arms and legs trembling from shock, he rolled over on his back, feeling half dead. For a few moments he felt bliss: The air was clear, the turquoise sky bathed with sunlight. The pavement was hot underneath, but he still felt comfortable. He was alive – that was all he could think of. Alive!
Then the haggard face of a female death knight blotted out the sun, throwing her shadow over his eyes. He became vaguely aware of quite a commotion around him.
”Light! Did you see that!?”
”Missed by a hair he was!”
”Help! Someone! Call the police!”
”An accident. The orc nearly got run over!”
”It’s a death knight! You monster!”
”She saved ‘im she did, saw it all y’all!”
”Is he dead?”
Naz gasped another mouthful of air. He managed to raise a weak hand and waved. It felt like a futile movement, he wanted to stand up, brush himself off, give some short, funny punhcline. Wasn’t that what people did in movies? Instead his hand fell back and he coughed.
The death knight held out her gloved hand in a ”hel you up?”-gesture. As the throng of people around him grew larger and came closer, mumbling and shouting about everything that had just happened, he managed to grab hold of the death knights hand. She yanked him to his feet, hard. She was very strong, it terrified him. His shoulder ached from the pull, his feet felt wobbly. That’s when she put a steadying arm around his waist and let him lean on her. She was cold, so very cold. Her muscles felt hard as iron underneath the scarred, greyish skin of her arms.
”You allright there, bud?” she said. Her lips parted in a smile; blackened teeth and fangs.
”I’m … ” Naz coughed, nearly doubled over but managed to stay up. He raised his voice even though his throat hurt: ”I’m fine, people! Thank you!”
”Light and crystals damned and holy!” someone yelled. The bus driver, a rather bulky, overweight male draenei dressed in a bulging white shirt and black trousers, pushed his way through the crowd. He was wringing his black baseball cap between his hands; nervous sweat trickling down his temples. ”You allright there son? You just ran straight out! Never had a chance to stop! Woulda run you over, buddy if not for … ” He trailed off, giving the death knight a scared, nervous look. Then he added in a small voice, taking a step back: ”That … thing.”
”She saved’ im she did, saw it!” a dwarf said, carrying a briefcase, dressed in a red velvet threepiece suit. He nodded. ”Damnest thing I ever saw! Yanked ‘im ri’te back she did!”
”She gonna kill him!?” someone called from the back of the crowd. ”Sweetness!”
The death knight let go of Naz – he stumbled but remained standing, feeling dizzy – and spun around. Then, as if an afterthought, she slowly raised her hands in the air and said:
”I’m a firm believer in the Light! A good deed a day keep the darkness a’bay!”
”Never seen a deathie before though,” someone in the crowd said. ”Not in these parts.”
”Thought they were extinct I did!” someone else said.
”Yeah,” the death knight said and lowered her arms. ”I get that a lot.”
The commotion eventually died down. The bus driver returned to his bus, urging people who had filtered off to get back onboard. In a few minutes time the traffic returned to normal; cars and trucks whizzing past. People on the sidewalk trickled away. The only one remaining besides Naz and the death knight was a little blood elf girl, dressed in a flowery dress. She carried a backpack, shaped as a bear cub, on her back. The little girl carefully eyed the death knight, sucked once on a lollipop and then said:
”Are you a monster?”
”No … ”The death knight smiled. She hunched down and seemed to be mindul not to smile with teeth showing. ”I’m a dark angel, that’s what I am, child.”
”Ok,” the girl nodded, then thought about something. She smiled and held out her lolly. ”You like candy? I just licked it but I think you’ll be okay.”
”I do actually,” the death knight said, grinning. The little girl took a half-scared step backwards when seeing the row of blackened teeth. ”Did I scare you?”
”Nah,” the girl said. ”I need to go now.”
Ske skipped off down the sidewalk, chanting ”orc and monster sitting inna tree! Kay Ai Ess Ess Ai Enn Gee!”.
Naz stiffled a chuckle. Then he took a careful step back as the death knight straigthened up and moved the lollipop from one side of the mouth to the other, giving him a look that at first seemed to be angry, then faded into a worried expression that spread across her face. He was too stunned to even ask what she wanted, or why she had been there, or how she knew his name. His hands ached, his elbows hurt, as did his knees. His chest heaved as if his lungs wasn’t sure they actually had oxygen again. Cold sweat trickled down his spine, his armpits felt ablaze.
”Naz …” she said. ”Nazgrim. Nazgrim Nightwind … ”
He made a strangled noice. Then he cleared his throat. Even if it took quite the effort he managed to wheeze a question:
”Who … ARE! You!?”
”My name is Zavannah,” she said and raised a hand in the air, whipping it fast and ending the motion with a quick snap of her fingers.
There was a faint swishing sound. Air sucked into an invisible space right beside her. The air shimmered for a second, then it appeared to bulge back as if a droplet had hit the surface of a pond. It happened very fast. In the next instant a skeletal horse stepped out of nowhere, shaking its head back and forth with a echoing neigh. She mounted in a single, fluid motion and turned the horse around, facing Naz. Then she leaned forward, her head cocked as if listening. There was a faint rumble somehwere. Growing louder. Engines. Getting closer.
The death knight, Zavannah, leaned forward, one hand outstretched. She fixed her eyes on Naz and said, in a no bullshit-tone:
”Come with me if you want to live.”