Thursday, 4 October 2007

Hellfire Peninsula Wildlife - Up close and personal

I described my arrival in Outland a few months ago. Almost as soon as you gain your bearings after setting foot through the portal, you are sent off on a gryphon ride to the outpost of Honor Hold. It's a town under siege, with regular attacks from the skies as it is bombarded by what appear to be small meteors, shaking the buildings and forcing all those in the vicinity under cover.

Honor Hold sits in the centre of the Hellfire Peninsula, a barren and uninviting wasteland. Rumours are that it was once a beautiful land, but there's no evidence of that now. Its rocky, rust red terrain show the ravages of war and years of abuse by the Orcs that now inhabit and control the majority of the region.

It is no surprise that the Peninsula is an extremely dangerous place for any adventurer even putting aside the various warring factions, the local wildlife is understandably aggressive. Two-headed vultures can be found near the many bones that scatter the area. I watched in horror when, after I had killed one of a flock, another bird wasted no time in swooping down on the corpse of its recently departed brethren and began tearing it apart with little more than a warning "Caw!" in my direction.

Helboars roam the wastes and provide both a good source of food and of course soulstones for a wandering Warlock like me!

However, Ravagers are by far my most disliked of the local Hellfire fauna. Ravagers are brightly coloured, four-legged creatures, that bring to mind a bizarre experiment crossing an insect and a sand worm. They skitter and scuttle in a manner that makes even this hardened Gnome's skin crawl. You can imagine my dismay when they were appearing all across the lands as hunters trained them as pets. People think that Warlock's have pet related issues, but I can assure you that we have standards, it seems that Hunters, some at least, do not.

The inhabitant of Hellfire that strikes fear into the heart of any sane and life respecting adventurer though is the Fel Reaver. They are massive machines that stalk the wasteland at an alarming speed. As they approach the very ground shakes and vibrates and the air is filled with a haunting metallic noise. The only sensible thing to do under such circumstances is find out where the creature is coming from and run as fast as you can in the opposite direction!

Sounds simple? Well somehow, despite their great size these creatures are supernaturally stealthy and seem able to creep up on even the most alert explorer. I mean we can't be constantly looking around us can we? Maybe you're helping to cull the local Helboar population, or watching a flock of Bonestripper Buzzards peck at the flesh of one of their number, or maybe just running away from Ravagers....

Either way most people will feel the ground shake, hear the grinding of metal on metal and desperately twirling on the spot to judge where its coming from glance up just in time to find a giant Fel Reaver foot about to squash them into the ground..... least that's what happened to me one fateful day. My warrior friend, Aggrion, could only stand at a safe distance and watch as his favourite Gnome was ground into the red dirt of Hellfire Peninsula. As soon as it was safe to do so he helped me, grumbling, to my feet and stood at a prudent distance whilst I dusted myself down as the air about me turned a subtle shade of blue from the words pouring out of my now very grumpy mouth. After giving me time to calm down Aggrion stepped forward and tentatively suggested we continue on our way to the nearby Temple of Telhamat where I could recover fully perhaps over a cool drink...

A few skins of Filtered Draenic Water later and I was almost ready to laugh about it. Aggrion, however, kept his peace, knowing better than to laugh at my misfortune before I was ready to join in. "You just watched me die!" I pouted at him teasing, "You should avenge my death!" The serious nature of the look he returned to me sent me into a fit of giggles as I practically fell off the comfortable sofa on which I was perched.

So, feeling much better we set off into the wilds once more to continue running errands for the local population. We were getting a lot done and exploring much of the western side of the Peninsula, meeting all sorts of strange people and creatures, but nothing that came close to the elite monstrosity that had so unceremoniously squashed me!

I had all but forgotten about the earlier instance when to my horror I heard the haunting noise in the distance. As the ground shook I looked wildly about me, determined not to fall victim again. Then I spotted the great Fel Reaver not more than 100 yards away. I had to rub my eyes because I did not believe what I was seeing, had I taken too much of my life source through Life Tap? Had we had one too many Filtered Draenic Waters? Blinking quickly I looked again. No, my eyes were not deceiving me. Aggrion was indeed the small figure, sword slicing at the tree-trunk like ankle of the Fel Reaver .

I watched, mesmerised as the Warrior spun and jabbed, feinted and thrust at the monster. It became clear that this was no mistaken battle, Aggrion had consciously initiated this fight. I feared for him, he couldn't hope to best this creature, and yet I knew I would be be no help, so I stood, mouth open in shock as he put every ounce of energy into doing at least some damage to the beast.

It was a scene that I shall never forget, it lasted but moments and yet seemed to stretch for hours. Finally, as though tiring of this game, the Fel Reaver raised a great foot, which seconds later came slamming down on the bothersome Night Elf at its feet. Without a backward glance the demon continued on its seemingly mindless march across the wasteland and was lost from view.

I ran to the broken and battered body of Aggrion and he must have seen the question in my eyes. "What on earth were you doing!?" I shouted at him.

"I was avenging your death" he stated simply before losing consciousness.

I made a mental note never to joke with Aggrion where honour and combat were involved.

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