He opened one eye, staring upwards. Green.
He blinked the eye several times, and the green swam into focus: leaves, a jungle canopy.
Knight-Captain Ringo Flinthammer sat up, then wished he hadn’t: He was so dizzy, he thought he might pass out. When he took his hand away from his temple, there was blood on it.
“Khaz’goroth on a cracker, what happened?”
There was a roaring noise from somewhere nearby in the jungle, but the ringing in Ringo’s ears made it hard to determine what it was, or where it was coming from.
A wolf, a large one with an empty saddle on its back, raced by. Someone nearby called out a name.
Ringo turned his head, and wished he hadn’t — the pain was excruciating.
There was metal debris everywhere, twisted and burned. Patches of ground were burning — no, not ground, corpses.
Ringo remembered entering the red field that now filled the Dark Portal and — nothing. His memories stopped there. He slapped at a mosquito and climbed unsteadily to his feet.
A dwarf’s leg stuck out from under a pile of twisted scrap. It wasn’t moving, but it still had good color — its owner hadn’t bled out yet, might even still be alive. Feeling he ought to do something, Ringo staggered over and tried to move the debris off the dwarf.
There was that noise again. A roaring or maybe a grinding. An iron star?
“You don’t seem afraid at all,” someone nearby said. “I don’t understand that.”
“Fear’s a funny thing,” he said, attempting to shift the metal. When he saw he might crush whoever was trapped underneath, he moved around, and tried to lift it. The other person moved to the far side, doing the same. “Ah make a choice: Ah let the fear in, let it take over, let it do it’s thing, but only fer five seconds. That’s all Ah give it. So, one, two, three, four, five.”
On “five,” he and the other person lifted the metal, revealing the prone form of Baelan Grimaxe. Of course: He’d borne the brunt of the blast when the Iron Horde …
When they crossed through the Dark Portal, the Iron Horde had been waiting for them, had unleashed guns, cannons, throwing axes and more.
“Are you OK, Ringo?” Sgt. Widge Gearloose looked concerned, lowering his half of the debris to the rich red clay beside Baelan’s body. Another gnome, Vamen D’barr, knelt beside the fallen dwarf paladin, checking for a pulse. “You’ve got a nasty head wound there.”
Before Ringo could answer, there was that noise again and a large white bear, streaked with gray smoke and blood, burst out of the forest, almost bowling Ringo over.
“Frostmaw!” Ringo clung to the bear, hugging him tightly, without embarrassment.
“Dude,” Baelan groaned, sitting slowly up. “This isn’t Hellfire Peninsula.”
“Guys,” Vamen asked, his expression a mix of confusion and frustration as he looked around the jungle here on the far side of the Dark Portal. “Where are we?“