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Acherus: The Ebon Hold
Posted: 08 Jun 2010 07:17 pm
The citadel hung like a dark and twisted god in the twilight sky, its shadow encroaching on the town of New Avalon. Its sudden appearance two days ago had ignited a frenzied panic in the Scarlet Crusaders inhabiting the town. The unnatural stillness that had fallen across the Plaguelands since its arrival had only further panicked the people. When the Argent Dawn and Scarlet Crusade, along with their champions, had finally driven the Dread Citadel back, a glimmer of hope had been born in the Plaguelands. The belief, however impossible, that the Scourge could be defeated. It was a hope that had been smothered with the arrival of Acherus, the Ebon Hold.
While the citizens of New Avalon knew that the Scourge war machine was grinding into action inside those blasphemous halls, the Scarlet Crusaders had little understanding of the hell that was about to befall them.
The elf’s cold eyes fluttered opening, his soulless gaze peering back at others who were watching him with great interest. There was a… familiarity to those faces. One the elf could not place, like a fleeting dream. Nonetheless, although he could not recall them, he still felt as if they were comrades. Brothers in arms. And in death.
“He is awake at last?” a deep voice growled. “It certainly took you long enough, acolytes.” The elf turned around, finding a hulking figure clad in cobalt armor gazing down at him. The elf tried to meet his gaze, but found himself instinctively lowering his head in respect, as a student might do to their instructor. “Tellaen, is it, hmm? I’m sure Koltira would welcome another veteran of the siege of Quel’thalas,” the instructor added with a dark chuckle. “Get him suited and ready. The master is growing impatient with our progress. Hopefully these ones are worthy of the gift.”
Tellaen and his four comrades knelt before their king. The Lich King’s mere presence commanding – no, demanding – their respect and fealty. All other thoughts and feelings were pushed aside before their king. His two winged attendants were regarding the five new death knights curiously. Had they any will of their own, they might have scoffed at the initiates.
“All that I am: anger, cruelty, vengeance - I bestow upon you, my chosen knights. I have granted you immortality so that you may herald in a new, dark age for the Scourge,” their master’s voice echoed in both their ears and minds. The Lich King turned his back to them to gaze out over the town of New Avalon. “Gaze now upon the lands below us. The Scarlet Crusade scurries to undo my work, while Light's Hope stands defiantly against us - a blemish upon these Plaguelands. They must all be shown the price of their defiance.” Behind them, the death knights could hear the heavy footsteps belonging to their instructor. Still, not one of them moved to even acknowledge his presence. The five waited obediently, each one instinctively knowing that their lord was not yet done with them. The silence lingered in the air, as if it were a testament to the absence of life that haunted the halls of the Ebon Hold. “You will become my force of retribution. Where you tread, doom will follow. Go now and claim your destiny, death knights.” The Lich King did not even bother to acknowledge the new initiates as they rose and followed their instructor from his presence.
A fleeting thought entered Tellaen’s mind as he glanced at one of his comrades. Champions. That was what they had once been. Soldiers and warriors of the Alliance. They had fought against the Orcish Horde and their troll allies and later, the Scourge. They had stood as allies against the tides of darkness that had shattered the kingdom of Azeroth. At the door of Lordaeron, they had fought and bled to deny those savages the city.
But that was a lifetime ago. His comrades told him that much at the very least. He stood with his back pressed against a troll, one of his kin’s most hated enemies. But there was no animosity between the two. In life, they might have been enemies. In death, they were brothers. It was an irony. In life, there could be no possible common ground between the two. And now the two trusted one another implicitly in battle.
The thought was stamped out by Razuvious’ cruel bark. “You disappoint me, students!” he called from above the gladiatorial pit, his eyes glaring at what was left of the former dozen former initiates, the ones who had failed their trials and had become food for the bloodlust of Tellaen and his comrades. “Stand and fight!” he ordered.
One of the remaining failures lunged at Tellaen, shouting a war cry as he swung his sword down with all his might. It was trivial to sidestep the charge and Tellaen whipped his own blade around, neatly severing the failure’s head from the rest of his body. Before the head had even landed on the floor, two ghouls had leapt from the top of the pits onto the body, biting into the flesh like wild, starved animals. Idly, Tellaen wandered if he should feel revulsion at the scene.
His attention was drawn away from the scene by the screams of another failed initiate. He was crawling for the side of the pit, desperately trying to get away from Tellaen’s orc comrade who was grinning wickedly as he stood over the fallen opponent. Tellaen watched as the orc raised his sword to deliver the final blow.
The ghouls this time didn’t hesitate, leaping upon the fallen warrior before the death blow had been delivered. The orc’s sword swung straight through an arm of a ghoul, severing it completely. The ghoul didn’t seem to notice. The failed initiate’s wails echoed down the corridors as the ghouls devoured him alive. Figuratively, at least. The orc snorted in contempt and kicked the ghoul arm away before leaving the fallen initiate to his fate.
A triumphant laughter echoed from above, drawing the attention of Tellaen and his comrades. “As expected, my chosen knights have triumphed!” Razuvious laughed. His pales features tightened into a smirk. “You are ready. The Lich King has called for you. Go now! Suffer well, brothers.”
Meanwhile, above the town of New Avalon, the eyes of Acherus drifted listlessly, watching. The Scarlet Harvest was about to begin.
So, it's been a long time since I've done any writing. Long time. But during the downtime, I rolled up a new death knight on another server and played through the intro quests. The death knight starting story really is one of the better ones in the game (not the best, mind you, but still a good one). I figured, "What the hell," and opted to try and craft a story around it. Not sure if I'll ever successfully finish it, but it gave me something to do during the downtime at the very least.
Re: Acherus: The Ebon Hold
Posted: 17 Jun 2010 07:08 am
I like. And yeah, the DK story is pretty amazing.
Re: Acherus: The Ebon Hold
Posted: 17 Jun 2010 04:27 pm
If. Amongst the death knights of the Scourge, “if” was an important qualifier that defined much of their existence. Although possessing intelligence, it would be somewhat of a lie to also claim they possessed a freedom of choice. While amongst the living, scholars and philosophers would debate if such a thing as “free will” existed or if everything that transpired was done so by some divine clockwork of “fate,” the soldiers of the Scourge knew the answer to the question.
If they had free will, they would chose to feel.
If they would feel, they might recognize the hellish limbo they existed in.
If they knew what this hellish existence was like, they would seek to entrap others within it.
As for Orin Coldsteel, he would be drinking a keg of Thunderbrew, if the choice was his. It might have even made the burden of being a death knight at least tolerable. Originally a member of the Argent Dawn, Orin had died an abrupt, brutal, and shockingly sober death when the Scourge descended upon his caravan en route to Light’s Hope to prepare for a siege on the Dread Citadel. And, if he could, he would return to Acherus and set his axe right between the eyes of the Lich King. That was, if he could recall the delight that was being denied to him.
In the interim, he settled for the skull of a crusader who was trying to crawl away. The dwarf looked down at the dead crusader. The man was missing a leg. A ghoul probably took it. They were like desert scavengers, except instead of digging up some long forgotten relic from the sands of Tanaris, they violently gnawed the limbs off the living. In that regard, they were similar to the Blood Princes of Northrend.
Oh, certainly, those dead elves liked to act like they were sophisticated, cultured individuals – even in death – and could carry on a conversation with their peers for hours without actually saying anything. But if you looked past all their fanciful clothing, stuck up attitude, and smugness, they were little more than ghouls that didn’t finish their meals like some spoiled child. Orin snorted. Why the Lich King entrusted them with this assault was beyond Orin’s understanding. There were some things even death could not smother. Like the dwarf’s contempt for all things elven.
Perhaps all the more insufferable was the injustice that Prince Valanar had essentially regulated him to sentry duty. Him! A death knight of the Scourge, amongst the mightiest warriors in their ranks! And here he patrolled between the ranks of cackling skeletal archers, initiates, commanders, and wraiths, killing the few Scarlet Crusaders that made it past their front lines. As effective as the ghouls were at hunting the living, they were remarkably simple minded and it did not take much to sneak pass their ranks. That was why Orin and his other knights had been ordered to make up the “true” frontline. A frontline made up of foot soldiers that would gleefully run off a cliff in pursuit of prey did not make for a dependable frontline. The geist were slightly more intelligent and less feral, but still dumb. As if to reinforce this belief, Orin watched one leap off the side of the hill at an approaching Crusader, only to be caught through the neck by an arrow from the archers he was meant to be protecting.
While Orin’s bitterness could be palpable if he could express it, Prince Valanar’s mood more closely resembled something of an ecstatic high. The fresh smell of blood stained grass. The anguished screams of the Crusaders. The maddening cackle of the skeletal archers. The soft, sweet whispers of death. The stench of the panicked living. War. It was as if he were alive again, every fiber of his essence ignited in a wonderful harmony of the slaughter.
The Scarlet lines held, pitiful as they were. It was through their tenacity, need, and zeal that the line held. Their fear of death was their shield. Their precious harvest, lumber, and minerals were their purpose. And their faith was their sword. It was these three attributes that kept their line together. It was not through any sense of leadership – barely controlled panic and chaos rippled through their ranks.
Prince Valanar sneered. It was a simple law of Scourge warfare: If chaos drives, let suffering hold the reins. If they were to break any one aspect of the Crusader’s front – their shield, reason, or sword – their ranks would dissolve. “They make their stand now, outside of Death's Breach, futilely attempting to push us back in hopes of saving their horses, mines, lumber and citizens,” he explained to the new death knight initiates. “This will be your first lesson in Scourge warfare: Terror.” His eyes drifted over the impassive faces of the knights. That was the problem with recently risen death knights. They had no appreciation for the finer things in life. “Go to the front lines, south of here, and destroy Scarlet Crusaders. Leave their corpses so that we may utilize them for the death march. But most importantly: kill the fleeing villagers. Soldiers dying are an affordance, but villagers?” He grinned. “That is what strikes fear into the hearts of man.”
With a wave of his hand, he dismissed them to let them revel in the glory of war. Out of the corner of his eye, he could already see Orithos of the Sky Darkeners and Salanar moving to intercept the initiates. No doubt they had their own tasks for the death knights. It did not particularly concern Valanar – let the death knights run their errands. It would simply result in the Scarlet lines collapsing that much sooner.
“You did not test them, Valanar,” a voice whispered listlessly on the air. Had it not been for the frigid iciness of her tone, Olrun might have almost been seductive. Valanar looked up and watched the Val’kyr slowly descend, her angelic wings serving as an ironic subversion of the supposedly heavenly beings that mortals had reportedly seen during the grimmest days of the Tide s of Darkness as the Orcish Horde descended upon Lordaeron. Where once those supposed wings heralded peace and salvation in the final moments of the dying, now they promised only an eternity of servitude towards the Lich King. “You know of the importance of Death’s Challenge, Prince Valanar. It is a rite of passage all prospective champions of the master must undertake. You do not have the authority to waiver the challenge.”
Valanar held open contempt for the Val’kyr and their fanatic, religious devotion towards the Lich King. They were recent additions to the Scourge army, their people found by his brother, Keleseth, and quickly and easily deluded into believing the Lich King was a god. While Valanar held nothing but reverence for his master, the extremes of the Val’kyr made them unsuitable for war in Valanar’s opinion. Why the Lich King allowed them to retain any lingering freedom given their disgusting adherence to honorable combat was beyond Valanar’s understanding.
“I have no need for champions, little vargul,” Valanar sneered, delighting in watching the Val’kyr bristle with rage at his insult. “I am in need of soldiers. This is not the field of your precious Valhalas. We are not here to judge the worthy from the damned. They are all damned, like the rest of your miserable race.”
“It is not your place to decide such!” Olrun hissed and raised her spear at the Darkfallen.
Valanar stood unimpressed. “Unlike you, I do not have the luxury of meeting such low and pitiful standards. The Lich King did not task me with finding a champion amongst all this rabble. Make no mistake, Olrun, I will grind the Scarlet Crusade into dust, even if it means grinding your precious honor and traditions along with them,” he threatened. “Do not think because you’ve been empowered to judge the initiates you have the power to interfere in my affairs. If you are so determined to test the initiates, do so after the Scarlet Crusade lines are broken. Until then, these soldiers are mine. Do you understand?”
Olrun simply glared at him as she floated away, mentally vowing that this power struggle was not yet over. Valanar simply watched her drift away back up towards the Ebon Hold. “My, my, my, you ever did have a way with words, Prince Valanar,” a twisted voice interrupted. “I did not know that Acherus allowed such wasteful expenditures of such precious resources. Truly, Razuvious must feel as if his work and talents are wasted here.” Valanar spun to meet the new comer. There were precious few that could command his respect. Before him stood one such man, the grand necromancer of the Dread Citadel. “Kel’Thuzad sends his regards, San’layn,” Gothik the Harvester greeted.
“Gothik,” Valanar greeted with a slight bow. “You honor us with your presence. May I ask why Kel’Thuzad has sent one such as yourself to grace us?”
“I’ve simply been sent to deliver a gift,” Gothik explained. “A farewell gift, you might call it, courtesy of Noth and Heigan.”
Valanar could not help but grin. Yes, they would grind the zeal of the Scarlet Crusade into dust.
Re: Acherus: The Ebon Hold
Posted: 18 Jun 2010 06:28 am
Well done Ike. I like it.
Re: Acherus: The Ebon Hold
Posted: 22 Jun 2010 03:15 pm
There was a spray of blood as Tellaen wretched the saronite arrow from the corpse of the man, making a point to ignore the screams from the horrified wife that was watching him. The living Scarlets were unbelievably loud. In fact, it seemed the closer they came to death, the louder their shrieks became. Even if he hadn’t been given orders to kill the civilians of the outlaying township of Havenshire, Tellaen probably would have simply to end their horrific shrieking.
The younger ones were not so bad. The ones who, when confronted, would opt to try and fight, still believing themselves immortal in their young naivety. Unless, of course, a stray arrow got to them before the death knight could. They would start screaming loudly too then. Tellaen hated that. With his sword, he could finish it quickly, if not necessarily cleanly. The screaming was kept to a minimum.
Even the ones who would whimper and beg and plead would shriek in their final moments. It was particularly bad amongst the ranks of the supposed battle hardened soldiers. For having such hatred against the Scourge, they seemed to throw themselves at the naive belief that if they surrendered, mercy would be shown. Such absurdity was usually answered with an easy kill. A few would hold fast to their beliefs, even in the face of death, and fight with every last ounce of strength they could muster while shouting praises to the Light. Those were the satisfying kills.
Tellaen placed the arrow in the quiver Orithos had given him. It was nearly full again. The Sky Darkeners were shockingly poor marksmen. Most of the arrows Tellaen had collected were clean, having been found simply lying in the fields or sticking out of trees or buildings. Only a few had found their mark. Even a ghoul might have been able to outperform them, if it had the dexterity needed to operate a bow. Tellaen and two other death knights had been asked by Orithos to take a group of giests and collect saronite arrows from the field. Given the finite supplies they had, it made sense to retrieve the arrows if possible.
The giests were surprisingly good at the job, leaping across the fields of the township to collect arrows with a quick efficiency. A number of them had several arrows already pinned into them, an unfortunate consequence of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Not that any of the giests were smart enough to realize their error or care about it.
Tellaen turned back towards the woman whose screams had finally stopped. Not that one fewer voice made much of a difference. She had crawled over to her fallen husband. Ignoring the death knight standing over her, she cradled the man’s head in her lap. She was whispering something to the corpse, although Tellaen couldn’t tell what. Not with the other shrieks coming from the field. It didn’t particularly matter, however. Taking his blood stained blade in both hands, he rammed it through the woman’s chest. The woman’s sobs instantly stopped. Tellaen ripped the blade out of the body, doing his best to keep it as intact as possible. Ghouls were already of fairly limited use. Shambling ghouls even more so.
Idly, he examined his blade. He would have to clean it when he returned. As appropriate as a bloody weapon might be for a death knight, bloody weapons almost always became damaged weapons and damaged weapons almost always became discarded weapons. He imagined the runes etched into the blade would help in that regard, but there was little sense in wasting the magic of the weapon frivolously like that.
Tellaen was jerked out of his thoughts by a battle cry from a Scarlet soldier who had witnessed his murder. “You monster!” he roared as charged at the death knight. Tellaen took a defensive stance. A stray arrow took the Scarlet in the back, piercing through his shoulder. The man gasped at the unexpected developed, but refused to let it stop his charge.
The nearby single-minded giest, however, did as it slammed into the man’s back with all of its tiny, contorted body, knocking both of them down. Gleefully, it pulled the arrow out of the man’s shoulder, made a strange sound, and leapt off having already completely forgotten about the Scarlet as it went to retrieve another arrow. Had the man not been wearing armor, the force of the ghoul’s leap might have broken his back.
It didn’t protect against the enchanted runeblade as Tellaen plunged it through his back. With a quick twist of the blade, Tellaen pulled it out. If the man had survived, he would lose consciousness soon enough from the blood loss before simply bleeding to death. Bloodless corpses were just as easily animated into service. He’d be service of a new king soon enough.
Tellaen looked across the field towards the Havenshire stables. With an exception of a pile of Scarlet corpses, they were empty. Several of his comrades had led a raid on it by request of lord Salanar, who had wanted the horses for some twisted purpose. Given the number of bodies piled up around the place, his comrades had no doubt succeeded and had returned. He should get back to their lines as well, he reflected. Orithos and his archers were running low on arrows when he had left and it would do no good to let them run out. The skeletons were too simply minded to realize the number of arrows they had left and to ration them.
One aspect of warfare that the Scourge could not be challenged in was discipline. While to the living, the undead armies might seem a disorganized rabble driven only by a hatred of the living and desire to kill, discipline in the Scourge ranks was actually unmatched by any mortal army. The rank and file did not have the ability to disobey or even question the orders of their masters. With a quick mental order, Tellaen recalled the giests and indicated to his fellow knights it was time to return. The giests responded instantly, forgetting whatever had previously held their attention, leaving wounded Scarlets and the occasional arrow still in the field and leapt back towards the undead lines.
“It is about time you returned,” grunted Jubei’Thos in greeting. “We were wondering if the Scarlet dogs had gotten the better of you. You elves were ever so weak in life.” Tellaen ignored the taunt. There was little reason to rise to the former fel orc’s taunt. Had he known the circumstances surrounding the orc’s death, Tellaen would have pointed it had been Sylvanas’ fallen elven rangers that had killed him.
“Ah… the champions have all returned,” a voice above called out. The death knights looked up to witness Olrun descend with slow, methodical flaps of her spectral wings. “Born of the Lich King’s victory over Illidan Stormrage in the heart of the frozen wastes, Death’s Challenge is a rite of passage that all death knights must undergo.” The battle maiden looked down at the knights. “You must each duel another knight. They must accept. There can be no mercy, no retreat. You must fight until a victor emerges. Fight, and bring glory to the Lich King!”
Jubei’Thos laughed. He would enjoy this. An excuse to cross blades with a hated enemy. A chance to avenge his failure in life. “Remember this day, Tellaen,” Jubei’Thos said. “For it is the day you will be thoroughly owned!” Before he had a chance to turn around, however, a runeblade erupted from his chest. “What…” Jubei’Thos gasped, turning his head as far as he could to find the elf standing directly behind him. “Coward…”
“I’m sorry. I was under the impression you were challenging me, Jubei’Thos,” Tellaen answered with more than a trace hint of contempt on his face. With a horizontal swing, Tellaen brought his sword carving through the orc, nearly cutting him in two. He ignored his fallen comrade and looked up at Olrun. “I do believe I am the victor.”
Olrun simply stared at this death knight in disbelief. He had made a mockery out of Death’s Challenge. He had attacked his challenger in the back, disregarding all notions of fair and honorable battle. What sort of Scourge champion would resort to such underhanded tactics? This man had spat on their most sacred challenge, striking like a coward without allowing his comrade a chance to defend himself. Olrun hefted her spear. The whelp had to be punished.
And came to an abrupt stop, her features taking on something that resembled genuine terror as something reached out and grasped at her soul. “Yes, of course, master,” she whispered to no one present. “It will be done.” Her gaze returned to Tellaen, but her eyes kept their terror. “Go and see Salanar. Tell him you have emerged victorious from Death’s Challenge,” she said.
Valanar watched the entire ordeal from a distance with a smirk. Some humility would do Olrun good. In the future, she would remember that this was a war zone. Not an arena. The Lich King had seen to that. Now, if only he could find others that shared that elf’s bloodlust.
Re: Acherus: The Ebon Hold
Posted: 08 Jul 2010 12:55 pm
Orin climbed out of the mine cart, a small part of him marveling at the absolute blindness of the Scarlet Crusaders. He had been convinced that Valanar’s plan would fail. It had to be the oldest trick in the book. Apparently, the chapter was old enough that the Scarlets had never bothered to read it. Under the command of that new initiate, Tellaen, a group of death knights had plunged into the depths of the nearby mine the Scarlets relied on for all their ore, massacring the miners and spreading the plague. Their animated corpses only further spreading the chaos of the battle for the mine.
“In their haste the Crusade will make one fatal error: forgetting to check the mine cars. You are to return to Havenshire Mine, east of here, and locate the mine cars that my minions have planted near the outhouse. Climb inside the mine car and a Scarlet miner will unwittingly see to it that you are placed safely behind enemy lines. Once aboard one of their ships, use the cannons against them!” Valanar instructed him. “Slaughter them all!”
Orin and two of his dwarf brethren and two of his gnome cousins had done exactly that, not a single one of them believing for an instant that Valanar’s mad scheme would actually get them to the Scarlet ships. Remarkably, they were wrong. Whether out of sheer stupidity, terror, haste, or some combination, the Scarlets didn’t bother to notice the extra weight in the carts.
Orin took quick stock of the situation. The boat was shockingly empty. There had been a couple of sailors, but they were dead now. Their death cries had been what prompted Orin to get out. His gnomish companions had made brutal work of the much taller crusaders. One of the sailors had his kneecaps completely shattered; another was missing one of his legs. Orin couldn’t help but wonder what the two gnomes had done with it.
Orin never quite understood why the gnomes in their ranks always were amongst the most sadistic.
“We’re ready. The cannons are loaded. On your signal, we’ll let loose,” a dwarf companion said.
Olrin nodded. It was good that he had least some with him that could focus on their actual goal. “Do it. And have the gnomes blow the bloody plank. I’d rather not have entire Scarlet armies scrambling onboard.”
The hulking tauren circled above the Scarlet fleet with his companions, waiting for the signal to extract the infiltration team. The death knight’s massive form looked absolutely silly on the fragile appearance of the skeletal gryphon, but they needed at least a little bit of stealth for this mission. The Scarlets might sense something was amiss if a massive frost wyrm was circling above them. Tarl doubted it. They were dumb enough to remain after the appearance of the Ebon Hold, after all.
Tarl knew relatively little about humans. His knowledge of them had been framed almost entirely by his former Horde allies’ tales. He had fought alongside the forces of Lady Jania Proudmoore at Hyjal, but coming to understand his momentary allies took a much lower priority than avoiding having his head torn off by a demon. In the past years, he had little interaction with Forsaken. Their presence amongst their ranks had chilled and disturbed him. Indeed, he had not bothered learning much about them or interacting with them in any manner until he had been sent with other Horde forces against the Scourge in the Plaguelands when Kel’Thuzad renewed his assault.
He had learned quickly the futility in facing the Scourge. Foolishness or tenacity, Tarl did not know why the Scarlets persisted. In the end, the same fate awaited them all. When Death came, there was nothing else to do but submit. Tarl was baffled by their stubbornness.
He was pulled out of his thought by the echoing blast of a ship’s cannons below. From above, he could see the chaos and panic ripple out amongst the Scarlet ranks. A second salvo sent most of the Crusaders rushing for the boat, only to pause as they realized they no longer had any way to board the vessel. An entire rank of men was blown away by another blast, sending mangled and broken bodies skidding along the beach. Another salvo sent the Scarlets fleeing in a broken mess, their thoughts turned full well to survival.
The sailors on a second boat finally seemed to be waking to the seriousness of the situation. Grappling hooks flew onto the commandeered and Scarlet sailors began swinging across, hoping to retake control of the captured vessel. Not that it particularly mattered at this point – their ranks were broken and fleeing back to Havenshire. Right into the waiting armies of the Scourge and their necromancer overlords.
A green flare shot into the sky. Their signal to extract the infiltration team. Yanking on the reigns of his gryphon, he followed his commander down. An advantage of using the dwarves and gnomes in their ranks was that they fit snuggly inside the talons of the gryphons. It made extraction so much smoother.
Olrin’s cursing made it clear he disagreed.
Re: Acherus: The Ebon Hold
Posted: 09 Jul 2010 12:25 pm
I eagerly await the rest of the story, Very Well Done!
Re: Acherus: The Ebon Hold
Posted: 11 Jul 2010 10:39 pm
The group of refugees did their best to ignore the screams coming from above the surface. They had not made it to New Avalon in time. With no other options available to them, the group had taken shelter in the old crypt just outside the gates of the town. Barely less than a quarter of a kilometer from the new front lines, they could hear the sounds of battle. The Scourge armies had descended upon the city with a savage hatred, the ghoulish armies led into battle by their former neighbors, friends, and family.
The group offered up fervent prayers to the Light, begging for salvation from their plight. Their disjoint whisperings were the only thing that kept their minds from snapping under the weight of despair of the situation. The constant moaning sounds of the zombies and ghouls from above ground were an ever increasing mental stress, threatening at any moment to overcome the defenses their faith had erected around their minds and drive them to madness.
Against the zeal of the Scarlet Crusaders, the Scourge lost a few of their key weapons in war. Whereas many others, despite being bloodied by battle, would find their resolve faltering when faced with the recently risen corpse of an old comrade or friend, such encounters only drove the Scarlet Crusades into a greater righteous fury, vowing to free the soul of their damned brother or sister or strike them down for their treachery. The armies of the Horde, Alliance, and Argent Dawn operated by traditional means and maintaining them meant keeping an every watchful eye and guiding hand upon the supply lines. The Scarlet Crusaders, long having become accustomed to fighting the Scourge in only a loosely formed army, were sustained and guided more by their fanatical faith in the Light than the dutiful forethoughts of their commanders.
Ironically, despite being viewed as outcasts, they were at least the best prepared to fight the Scourge on a psychological front. But before the shadows cast by Acherus, even the light of their faith dimmed and their resolved weakened. Even those with the strongest faith found it tested against the tireless armies of the undead. While there many within the world one could label as brave, deep down they all kept a fear of death tightly bound and under control. A fear the Scourge delighted in digging up.
For those gathered in the crypts, their own fear was brutally torn to the surface by a sound that could faintly be heard above the battle: the sound of footsteps slowly and methodically descending into the crypt.
“Crusaders,” the cold voice resonated from the stairs. “I am convinced they are a unique lot amongst the humans. My theory is that they lack higher brain function, unable to logically assess a situation and calculate an outcome. One has only to make mention of the Light to get them frothing and battle ready - at which point they will rush headlong into any engagement with complete disregard for their own well being. Most humans would have fled the moment a Scourge necropolis took residence in their air space. Not the Scarlet Crusade!”
“It would certainly explain a great many things. It is that strength of conviction that is their greatest weakness. But I suppose that is good, in its own way. It makes them so much simpler to control,” a softer voice agreed.
“I must confess - I rather enjoy our exchanges with the Crusade. Through the years, Scourge battles against them have resulted in several of the most tragic events in human history. Yet here we stand - AGAIN - locked in battle! We shan't deny them the pleasures of eternal servitude to the Lich King!”
“Indeed,” the second voice echoed as the two invaders finally came into view. Their strides broke for but the briefest of moment, a quick expression of surprise flashing across their pale features before being overcome by something that could best be described as devilish mirth. “In fact, it looks as if we may offer some that pleasure sooner rather than later, Baron.” Prince Keleseth grinned as best his twisted features could manage. The bloodlust was evident in his eyes.
The huddled Scarlets flinched under the gaze of the two undead. Keleseth’s anticipation at the impeding slaughter was evident; whereas Baron Rivendare’s cold eyes seemed to betray a sense of amusement at the situation. “Would you prefer the pleasure, your highness?” Rivendare asked.
“It has been quite some time since I’ve last dined, but we’re pressed for time. The Lich King did not send for me simply so I could feed off this rabble,” Keleseth sighed of disappointment. “Make it quick, but leave their skulls intact. Noth will need them if your men ever succeed in gathering him what he needs for the plague cauldron.”
“Gladly,” Rivendare said as he drew his blade from its sheath. His approaching footsteps echoed seemed to echo unnaturally loud to the Scarlets, drowning out the sounds of the battle above as the herald of their death approach.
“There are only two of them,” one of the Scarlets whispered. “We can take them!”
“Don’t be a fool!” another shot back. “That’s Baron Rivendare, the Scourge lord of Stratholme! We can’t defeat him, he’ll kill us!”
“He’s going to kill us no matter what! I’d rather go down fighting!” the first retorted.
Their argument was interrupted as one of their comrades tore himself from the group and fell to his knees in front of the baron. “Please! Don’t kill me!” he begged. “Give me… Give me a chance to prove myself! Let me join the Cult of the Damned! Please!”
Rivendare’s advance paused as he regarded the Scarlet, uncertain what to make of the man’s plea. “Marvelous! Absolutely marvelous!” Keleseth laughed.
“Traitor!” the man’s former comrades hissed.
“I’d rather live on my knees!” the man spat back. “The Light has abandoned us! Why should we continue our service to that which abandoned us in our dire hour of need?”
“Well spoken, Scarlet,” Keleseth applauded. “Baron Rivendare.” Baron Rivendare promptly plunged his runeblade through the chest of the Scarlet. “You all appear to be under the mistaken impression that you have a choice in service,” Keleseth said darkly as twisted magics flooded the room, pouring into the impaled Crusader. “But do not worry. You will not have to suffer much longer in the ignorance of life.” Keleseth made an extravagant gesture – appealing more to his sense of drama than any need of the arcane ritual. The impaled Scarlet moaned and pulled him – itself – off the runeblade.
The corpse turned towards its comrade, it’s pale and cold eyes glaring hungrily at its once brothers and sisters of faith. A moan resonated from the chamber – although not from the corpse. The Scarlets turned in horror to a casket behind them and could hear the pounding against its wooden frame as its reanimated occupant tried to claw its way out.
But Rivendare was impatient and did not want to waste the time of continuing the psychology torment. In a few quick strides, his blade found itself driven through the back of another Scarlet, the death cry cut short as the Baron broke the Scarlet’s neck.
Keleseth simply grinned in delight as he watched the lord of Stratholme move through the defenseless Scarlets. “Prince Keleseth?” a voice asked. Keleseth glanced back in annoyance, checking the urge to promptly slaughter whatever insolent whelp had dared to interrupt his entertainment.
“What is it?” he growled.
“Prince Valanar sent us,” the death knight answered.
Ah, yes. The promising champion, Tellaen, that he had heard so much of from Valanar. Undoubtedly the elf and his comrades were the reinforcements his brother had promised him. They certainly did not look to be as great as the tales Valanar wove. No matter. As the good Rivendare had so easily demonstrated, it did not take much to break a Crusader on the verge of despair.
Re: Acherus: The Ebon Hold
Posted: 01 Oct 2010 10:02 pm
Subtlety. It was not a word that one readily associated with the Scourge. After all, when the bulk of your armies are composed of mindless beings, incapable of rational thought, it is hard to go unnoticed. Indeed, the ghouls assaulting the gates of New Avalon did nothing to hide their presence, gleefully moaning and screaming as they charged blindly at the defenders.
But to think them entirely incapable of deception would be a grave error. The Cult of the Damned was, after all, perhaps the largest and most successful infiltration ever performed in the history of the world. In a blink of the eye, they had crippled the once proud Alliance, turned a beloved Prince against his kingdom, shattered the Order of the Silver Hand, and chased the survivors across the sea to Kalimdor.
But in more recent times, infiltrating the Scarlet lines had proven laughably easy. Under Keleseth’s orders, a group of death knights had raided the town hall and made off with most of the town’s records and had opened up a second front on the assault on New Avalon when the corpses they left at the town hall reanimated. Contained within the town records were ramblings about a “Crimson Dawn” and Keleseth, being curious, had sent Orbaz Bloodbane and his men behind Scarlet Lines to discover the truth.
That attempt at infiltration… had been less than successful. Orbaz Bloodbane was not a man of subtlety and had butchered his way through the lines. Which was part of the reason the Scarlet’s barracks had erupted in a bloody battle. While Orbaz had originally sent a group of death knights into the Scarlet barracks to steal the patrol schedules for the Scarlets, one of the original death knights – Thassarian – had seen it also a prime opportunity to free some of their captured brethren.
While a group of death knights had ascended to the command room in the barracks to find the schedule, Thassarian had led another group into the dungeons. “You were foolish in coming after me. I failed. I should have been left for dead - now all of us might be killed,” Koltira scowled and shook his head. “We are death knights of the Scourge. This flies in the face of the dark brotherhood's covenants. Thassarian, you blasted fool!”
Thassarian ignored him as he continued his efforts to free Koltira while a group of acolytes fought back a steady stream of Scarlets that were pouring into the dungeons trying to stop them. Tellaen, on the other hand, was fast reaching the limit of his patience. “Just cut his hand off and let’s get out of here!” Tellaen snapped as he dodged another sword swing. “He doesn’t need it!” Thassarian ignored the whelp as well.
Tellaen wasn’t sure why they were bothering with saving Koltira. Thassarian had made some nonsensical argument towards Orbaz about them being brothers or something. Orbaz had made a strong counterargument: “To hell with you, Thassarian.” After killing his sixth Scarlet since entering the dungeons, Tellaen was finding himself thoroughly convinced by Orbaz’s eloquence.
“There,” Thassarian said, finally freeing Koltira from the Scarlet bindings – far too late in Tellaen’s opinion.
“I'll need to get my runeblade and armor... Just need a little more time,” Koltira commanded. Thassarian nodded in understanding and turned to join the other death knights in warding off the Crusaders and to prepare to make their counterattack to escape. A booming voice gave them all pause.
Surrounded by a small army of Crusader priests and soldiers was one of the many High Inquisitors of the Scarlet Crusade. “The Crusade will purge your kind from this world!” the inquisitor roared. “You have come seeking deliverance? I have come to deliver! LIGHT PURGE YOU!”
“I'm still weak, but I think I can get an anti-magic barrier up. Stay inside it or you'll be destroyed by their spells,” Koltira muttered as dark purple sphere expanded to encompass the room.
Thassarian nodded in understanding. “Stay in the anti-magic field! Make them come to you!” he commanded the acolytes. “Kill him and take his head!” he shouted in challenge as the Crusaders charged at the death knights.
Even with the protection of the anti-magic barrier of Koltira, the spells of the inquisitor were still potent. One unfortunate acolyte who had stepped out of the barrier in his bloodlust had been reduced to a charred husk. Even within the barrier, the Light that radiated from the Inquisitor’s magic burned as it seared the very evil from the death knight’s blackened souls. For many of the death knights, it was the first time they had felt pain since their rebirth. Their screams made that much evident.
The scream from the Inquisitor also made it apparent it was the first time he had a sword plunged through his chest as Thassarian finally managed to overpower the Inquisitor’s protective barrier and ran him through. The scream was short lived as Tellaen’s sword decapitated him.
Long after the death knights had fallen back with their prizes, the bodies of the dead Crusaders began to twitch. One by one, the shambling corpses roses and stumbled out of the dungeon. A third front had been opened in the siege of New Avalon.
And from the Ebon Hold, the Lich King’s malicious grin could not help but betray his amusement. It was almost time to end this charade.
Re: Acherus: The Ebon Hold
Posted: 23 Oct 2010 11:04 pm
Lady Eonys paced about their makeshift prison. She and her companions had been sent as emissaries on behalf of the Argent Dawn to warn the Scarlet Crusade of the approaching necropolis and to see what aide the Argent Dawn could provide. The Scarlet Crusade had not been entirely hospitable. Having already forgotten the gains the united front of the Argent Dawn and Scarlet Crusade had made in reclaiming a large portion of the Plaguelands, the Scarlet Crusade had locked them away when the necropolis had begun its assault.
Then their “liberators” had come – a force of death knights and skeletons that had set the chapel they were being held in ablaze in retribution for the death knight acolytes the Crusade had executed.
The sound of the wooden floor creaking betrayed the arrival of their end. Eonys whirled around to meet their executioner. “Come to finish the job, have you?” she scowled. “I trust you’ll look me in the eye when…” Her voice caught in her throat as the death knight approached her. It couldn’t be.
“Tellaen?” she whispered in disbelief. “It is you, isn’t it? I recognize that face anywhere… What… what have they done to you, Tellaen?” Tellaen’s only response was to tighten his grip on his blood caked sword as he took another step forward. His pale blue eyes glowed with a murderous intent.
“Think back, Tellaen!” Eonys half pleaded, half demanded. “Remember the splendor of Silvermoon, our home, brother! Remember how we used to play in the palace gardens when your parents would attend Sunstrider’s court? Damn Arthas! What has he done to you? You were a champion of the sin’dorei! This isn’t you!”
This couldn’t be happening. Her mind reeled at the sight of Tellaen. She had been prepared for death… but not for this. It couldn’t be happening! Tellaen had died years ago during the defense of the Sunwell. Was breaking the spirit of her people not enough for Arthas? Would he offer not even their dead the rest so many of them had earned?
Tellaen’s grip slackened and his sword nearly dropped from his hand. Countless images whirled in his mind – foreign and yet familiar, as if they were remnants of a dream from long ago. Voices whispered and echoed in his head, lingering memories of his life before he awoke in the Ebon Hold.
“Come on, Tellaen! You’re going to be last again!”
“Have you never ridden a dragonhawk before? Well, come on then, hold on tight.”
“They say that Trollbane is leading an Alliance force to help drive the Horde out of Eversong!”
“Good work capturing Zul’jin. Alleria will be impressed.”
“Did you see Kael’thas upstage that little mageling? I thought that Kirin Tor archmage was going to have an aneurysm.”
“Don’t worry, Tellaen. No matter what happens, we’ll always be friends.”
“For the Alliance! For Quel’Thalas!”
“Fall back to the second gate! Don’t let the Scourge through!”
“General Sylvanas will do her best to delay them. Help the Kirin Tor with evacuating the city. Make sure her sacrifice isn’t in vain! Go, quickly!”
“Eonys…” Tellaen whispered.
Eonys’ eyes brightened. “Yes!” she exclaimed. “Tellaen, you must fight the Lich King’s control! He’s a monster who wants to see this world – our world – destroyed! Don’t let him use you to accomplish his goals! You were a hero! You can be again! Fight!”
“What’s going on in there? What’s taking so long, Tellaen?” a voice cackled from outside.
The light faded from Eonys’ eyes. No, it was too much to hope for. “There’s… there’s no more time for me,” she resigned. “I’m done for. Finish me off, Tellaen. Do it, or they’ll kill us both. Tellaen… remember Silvermoon. This world is worth saving.”
Tellaen clenched his teeth as he struggled with himself. Part of him raged at his hesitation to kill her, while another was repulsed with the thought. It would be unthinkable. He had grown up alongside Eonys – how many decades had he known her? He gripped his sword hand firmly, as if he didn’t trust the decision he would end up making. “Eonys… run…” he managed to whisper. “No guards… in the back…” Eonys looked up in surprise, unable to believe what she had heard. “Run!” he demanded. Eonys backed up hesitantly, still in disbelief. The glow in his eyes seemed to have dimmed somewhat. “Why are you still here?” he growled, his sword arm visibly quivering as he fought the impulse to impale her. Eonys turned.
Eonys gasped as Tellaen’s runeblade slid through her back, extinguishing the glimmer of hope she had held onto. In the end, he had just been a coward who couldn’t look her in the eye.