My eyes flutter open to see that I am nowhere near my home. All I see is a vast, open stretch of beautiful green grass and the various, vibrant-colored leaves of the trees. I stand up and look around me in disbelief. How did I get here, in the middle of nowhere, when I was just in the comforts of my home?
The fluttering of wings snaps me back into reality. An enormous shadow lingers over me, blocking the cloudless sky and golden sun. I look up to see a tremendous green dragon flying in circles miles above my head. Her iridescent purple and green scales catch the light of the sun, projecting exquisite shapes onto the ground beneath her. Her long snout puffs as she lowers herself to the ground.
The dragon stands up tall and raises her head, revealing a heavily armored purple chest and glimmering periwinkle eyes; her eyes are closed, but shimmer different shades of blue. Her long, transparent wings are luminous with cascading colors of blue and lavender. Her jagged, golden horns protruding from her emerald head are adorned with large, medallion-like earrings. Gauntlets with sky-blue gemstones shimmer on her arms. Her long, talon-like claws flex as she looks down at me.
“Ysera,” I breathe.
She starts convulsing, her wings shrinking back into arms. Her horns retract to reveal pointed ears. The medallions disappear. She begins to transform, her body slowly turning into a human’s. She soon falls to the ground in a heap of clothing.
She rises from the pile of robes, revealing an attractive young woman with emerald green hair, shimmering green eyes, and a dark green cloak with a hood covering her face. Her neck is embellished with bright green jewelry. Gray horns poke out of the top of her hood.
“I am Ysera,” she announces, “the Awakener. I am the protector of this realm, assigned by the very titans that created Azeroth.”
I watch how she holds herself there, eyes closed but flitting constantly, as of she sees all of the Emerald Dream and the world at once. Her bright emerald hair cascades down her back. Her thin lips compress together as she looks out into the distance.
“Beautiful, isn’t it?” she asks, audibly sighing as she turns to stare blankly at me. “This is the way it should have been, and this is forever.”
I can’t speak. Words stick to the inside of my throat, unable to form sentences. I feel like I’m going to throw up from anxiety and nervousness. I blink, unable to fathom the fact that believe I am speaking to one of the five Dragon Aspects, the protectors of this world.
“All of these rolling hills, colorful tall trees, and mysterious creatures are simply.. breathtaking. There are many interesting parts to the world.” Ysera smiles at me. “You, Cadrys, are one of them. I can feel it, just as I feel the pain of the Nightmare. You are the one who can stop it.”
“Stop what? The Nightmare?” I ask. “How? That’s nearly impossible. I’ve read all the historical textbooks; the Nightmare comes back, just as Xavius does with his malicious satyrs. He has betrayed everyone, and there is no way of stopping him.”
“Child, you must understand that the Nightmare is corrupting the Emerald Dream, and everything outside of it,” she snaps. “In Val’Sharah, sacred forests have been tainted by Xavius and his minions. Animals and mortals alike have been affected, their minds corrupted. We cannot let him think he has won.”
“What of the World Tree, Shala’drassil, in Val’Sharah?” I ask. “What has happened to it?”
“I do not know. It is the one place I cannot see in the Dream. I must be in the physical world,” she says. “I’d have felt it if Shala’drassil was destroyed.”
“If a World Tree is destroyed, its blessing is lost. Nordrassil’s blessing was lost in the Battle of Mount Hyjal, and the night elves lost their immortality. Everyone felt the tremors of the World Tree as it was destroyed.”
“What happens if the World Tree is destroyed in Val’Sharah?”
“Shala’drassil is the gateway into the Emerald Dream. If the tree is lost, it is much harder for druids to enter the Dream. If corrupted, Xavius and his minions could destroy the Emerald Dream, as well as the physical world itself,” she explains.
The ground starts to shake. The sun flickers behind a dark storm cloud, turning crimson as it disappears altogether. The wind picks up, blowing my hair into my face. I collapse to the ground, holding my head in my hands. My forehead throbs as the world becomes blurred, the emerald landscape turning gray and colorless.
The plants around us wither and die, turning red and black and gray. The emerald green grass fades. The vibrant fuchsia trees vaporize into ashes; the rivers and streams dry up. The people living happily in the forest begin to disappear; the wildlife fades into the darkness.
Ysera looks worried as she twists around the clearing. “No!” she murmurs. “It cannot be. I have protected this area for millennia!”
She turns around and sheds the cloak from her body. Her arms begin to transform into wings. Her body grows bigger and larger as she shifts into the emerald dragon. Her purple stomach and long wings sprout from her body; her feet and hands grow talons.
She raises her head and shakes her body as she tucks her wings back. “Get on,” she says. “We have to leave.”
I leap onto her back and lean forwards, holding onto her neck with my arm. “Hold on tight,” she says. I shut my eyes tight, leaning into her cold, scaled body.
Her wings spread out, shimmering in the dark shadows. She flaps her wings, creating a large gust of wind. Her body lifts from the ground and advances into the sky. The wind rushes in my ears, blowing my hair behind me as I look below us.
“What’s happening, Ysera?” I ask.
She shakes her head. “Soon, child, you will discover why you were brought here.”
Above us, the sky is painted with streaks of scarlet clouds and dismal, gray smoke. Dark, malevolent-looking ravens follow close behind us, half-hidden in the smoke.
Below us, Ysera’s shadow covers the withering forests and fading wildlife. Malicious plants sprout from the ruins of the Dream, ravenous and clad with large, jagged teeth. Fires spread across the decayed forest, burning rotten wood and lifeless plants. Trees fall into decay, their leaves scattering across the withered plain. The sand is covered in ash, appearing gray instead of golden. The lakes transform into cloudy pits of charcoal despair, no longer made of clear, pure water.
“Ysera, what’s going on? Everything is withering and dying!” I yell, pointing at the ground below us. The withering plants follow us as we glide across the ruby skies.
She looks down to survey the land below us, her eyes flitting beneath her closed eyelids. Her head swings around to look behind us. “We’re being followed,” Ysera whispers. “Hold on.”
“What are you doing?” I ask as she flies in a circle around the charcoal-colored ravens. “You’re going to get us killed!”
Ysera doesn’t answer. She takes a sharp turn, causing my body to jolt to the side. Her body tilts upward as we disappear into the colorless clouds. Her scales eerily glow in different shades of red and gray, reflecting the dim light of the sun.
“Hold on!” she shouts. The wind pushes us forward. Ysera’s scaled body tilts. My arms slip, and my legs clench onto her stomach. My upper body dangles above the landscape, hanging upside down.
“Ysera! Help!” I yell as my legs start losing their grip. The wind blows harder, and rain pelts onto my bare arms. “I’m about to fall!”
The water loosens my grip, and then I’m falling, falling through gray clouds and passing black birds. The withered and decayed earth seems to draw nearer as my arms flail above my plummeting body. The wind blows in my face, causing my hair to sweep across my face.
The wind roars in my ears, thundering in my head. It echoes, sounding like a thousand drums pounding inside my head. I scream as I fall; down, down, down, closer and closer to the withered plants and decayed ruins. My heart thumps in my chest, beating as if it would never make a sound ever again. I felt useless – helpless – as I fall through the clouds.
The ground is closer; I’m almost there. I spot the heads of the distorted deer and tails of the blackened squirrels.
I scream as I plummet to the ground, my useless body flailing in the air. The screeching of the ravens echo in my head as everything fades away, the dull landscape turning into a blurred, black smudge.
The light from the sun grows stronger, blinding me as my eyes flutter open. My forehead throbs with a pounding headache. I gently rub the back of my head with the tips of my fingers. My body aches with exhaustion. My arms and legs feel like lead – heavy, useless, and thick. My bdy trembles and shakes. I can barely move.
Above me, the blood-red sun sets on the blackened horizon, sending streaks of orange and yellow into the colorless sky. Dull, fading stars flicker like fireflies in the night sky. Large black birds fly in circles above me, their feathered bodies gliding through the dark clouds.
I look down at my legs, which are stretched out at an awkward angle. My feet hide in the bare, leafless bushes, tangled in the foul-smelling brambles. Thorns wrap around my toes.
I pull on the leg of my thin, linen pants. My leg doesn’t move, stuck in the chestnut-colored mud. I slowly lean forwards, my bones creaking with every move. I grab the bare bush and yank it out of the ground, its roots covered in dirt.
Long, scarlet thorns wrap around my ankles, cutting into my skin as they tighten. I lean over and tug on the thorns. My fingers grasp the tendrils and pull as hard as they can. The scarlet thorns dig into my fingers, leaving long cuts across the side of my hand. I pull my hands back and wipe them on my pants, gasping in pain.
I search around for a stick, anything to help me out of the ever-tightening thorns. My hands feel the ground around me, investigating for any signs of untouched brush or sharp objects.
I spot the thick, charred root of a tree, an arm-length away. I reach out with both hands and pull myself away from the bushes with all of my strength. Thorns graze against my legs, pulling me away. I grunt and ignore the pain in my ankles, clawing into the ground with my nails. I scream in frustration, concentrating on pulling away from the thorns’ grasp.
My arms reach out to grab onto a mossy boulder covered in blood-red ants and charcoal scorpions. I shudder, reluctantly clenching onto the edges of the rock. I pull myself away, feeling the thorns’ grasp slip. I breathe a sigh of relief as my feet come free.
The sky above me darkens. Shadows cover my face. Leaves crunch in the woods. The wind picks up. Branches snap in the distance.
My head snaps up to see a tall figure standing over me. I scream and scramble to my feet. Thorns latch onto my wrists and ankles, holding me in place. The figure snaps his fingers.
“Ah, you must be Cadrys!” he says, a malevolent glow in his ruby-like eyes. “We’ve been expecting you.”
I look down at his hairy, goat-like legs and cracked hooves. Large gray horns protrude from his head. Patches of dark gray hair fall from his head, matted and dirty. His eyes glow in the dark like light in a tunnel, red and compelling. His skin is pale and violet, similar to a night elf. His lower fangs poke out of his mouth, curling over his dark lips and revealing pearly white teeth. His bare, violet chest glistens in the red and orange light of the setting sun, covered in white scars. A long, lavender tail extends from his backside, embellished with a patch of cherry fur at the end.
“Xavius,” I hiss, spitting onto the ground. “You’re a monster.”
His laugh thunders through the forest, sending birds flying across the plain. “A monster? I’m a satyr,” he scoffs, reaching toward my face. His talons graze my cheekbone, lightly grazing my pale skin. I struggle against the grip of the thorns. “It would be a shame if you were corrupted by the Nightmare.”
I lean back, attempting to avoid his touch. “Don’t touch me, Corrupter.”
He laughs maliciously. “I am the Nightmare Lord, the First of the Satyrs. A lowly night elf like yourself can’t tell me what to do.”
His hand grazes the sleeve of my shirt. It blackens and turns to ash, the wind blowing it away.
“All of these beautiful plants withered away, just gone to waste! How could you?” I scream. “What could cause a night elf like yourself to do this?”
He opens his mouth. “Hatred,” he answers. “Hatred and jealousy. I convinced Fandral Staghelm to plant a branch of my own twisted tree into Teldrassil, ensuring that the new world tree would be corrupted from the start. I am the servant of something bigger, better, and stronger than you can imagine.
“I wanted to bind Azeroth and the Emerald Dream into one plane, seizing control of Azeroth’s residents while they slept and shaping their nightmares. I nearly succeeded, but I was defeated by the re-awakened Malfurion Stormrage,” he says, making a face of disgust. “That god-forsaken druid has ruined all of my hard work for Sargeras.”
“Malfurion is an honored druid, and he’s defeated you more times than you can count!” I blurt. “Sargeras has to be an idiot to appoint you as his top commander.”
He glances at me and clicks his tongue. “There is only one who controls, and his name is Sargeras. Only he can judge, and his word values more than yours, Cadrys.”
He looks up at the sky. “Looks like your green dragon friend has come back for you.”
My face lights up as I spot Ysera’s golden horns. I turn around to look back at Xavius, but he disappears with a puff of scarlet smoke.
Ysera’s form drops onto the ground next to me, transforming into a tall woman. “What happened?” she asked, bending over and pulling a sharp rock out of the charred ground. She slices the thorns off of my wrists.
“Xavius,” I say. “He was here. I sensed his power, and he revealed himself to me.”
Her head falls in defeat. “This is far worse than I could have imagined.” She turns to survey the charred forest of bare trees and animal corpses. “You have to go back into the physical world.”
“No. I’ve made my decision. You must leave,” she says, kneeling on the fire-stricken ground. “Cadrys, you have been awakened. Go now, into the physical world. I will not be far.”
Her fingers graze my forehead. “Good luck, Cadrys Swiftblade.”