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The Lore of Poldaran Chapter 3: Death is Relative.Follow

#1 Feb 25 2009 at 2:52 AM Rating: Good
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Commander Keynes walked through the inn's dim interior. "Innkeep, we'll need to shelter a number of refugees from the countryside here. Prepare some extra blankets for the night, and you might as well start a bit of extra food on the fire. Keep a report of the food eaten, and deliver it to me in the morning. I'll see that you're reimbursed when this is over. Try not to cheat me too much," the Commander said with a smile. His face was marked with scars from illness he had as a child, but it was still not uncommon to see him smile kindly upon the folk of the towns he was stationed in. The fat innkeeper nodded grimly. Keynes turned and walked out of the inn, but took note of a figure seated at one of the tables in a dark corner.

He was unsure whether the person, who was sipping from a bowl of soup, was man or woman due to the fact that their face was hidden by a hood that matched the gold trimmed deep purple robes they were wearing. It did not help that the figure was slender, as was common to those of their profession. All he knew was that they had been at the inn for almost a week and had only really spoken to the innkeeper, and even then rarely.

"Mages..." he muttered in disgust. He stepped outside and surveyed the skies. Though it was just past noon, dark clouds made it seem like dusk. Lovely skies for fighting undead. A shiver crept up his spine. He was approached by a smaller, though battle-hardened man in steel plate armor that matched his own. The man saluted. Commander Keynes returned the salute. "At ease, Sergeant. What news?"

"Commander, scouts have returned and are reporting that a mob of refugees approaches the town with packs of snarling ghouls at their heels. They should be here within the hour."

"Good. Take a detachment and see that you can get them here safely."

"Yes sir." He saluted again and left to do as he was ordered.
Keynes sighed internally. He knew that those men would likely not return. But if fifteen or so soldiers' deaths would save the few hundred civilians fleeing from the neighboring villages, then it was worth it. He continued on until he reached the wall. A light rain began to fall as he reached the top. He stood in the rain and watched, waiting.

He did not have to wait long. Soon he saw the flood of refugees fleeing towards the city gates, and not too far behind was an enormous host of undead, ranging from mere ghouls to horrible crypt fiends to monstrous Abominations.
He could see that no soldiers stood between the peasants and the howling swarm, so he assumed that they had been cut down already. Thunder rumbled through the skies. Other than that, it was quiet. Refugees made it to the gate and were directed to several different inns that had been designated as shelters for the night.

The scream of a small child cut through the silence. Commander Keynes looked off in the distance to see a family that had been straggling caught by an Abomination, a horrible giant creature sewn together from the parts of many corpses. The father tried to put himself between it and his fleeing wife and child, but he was cut down. Soon after, the child's scream was cut off as suddenly as it had begun.

"Close the gate. The last are inside," he ordered.

As the gate closed, the undead stopped their approach, a few hundred yards from the walls. A necromancer walked to the front of the host. "Open the gates and succumb to the Lich King's will. There is no escape, and any resistance will only prolong your pain."

The Commander responded. "We will fight you until our last breath."

"So be it. I shall make sure that you do not die before you are eaten."
And so the siege began. At least, Commander Keynes thought it was a siege. But he soon saw the lie of that. The sounds of great wings could be heard on the cooling air as the rain and wind died. Then the roar sounded, and he saw them. Frost Wyrms. The great skeletal dragons took up a holding position above the throngs of several thousand undead that had begun to encircle the city. What was worse was that the Wyrms were not alone in the sky. Hundreds of gargoyles flew amongst them, screeching horribly.

It was eerily silent, save for the few sounds of the wings and screeches of the gargoyles. He knew there had to be something they could do against these foes, but he was ill equipped to fight them. And then it hit him. "The mage!"

A commotion stirred in the town square near the inn where the mage had been staying. He looked and saw a figure in purple robes mounting a snow white gryphon and several peasants pushing to get on with them. The mage kicked several of them back and the gryphon took to the sky. The mage was abandoning them.

"Mages..." Commander Keynes muttered in disgust and spat.

But the mage did not do as he expected. Instead, they flew directly at one of the great Wyrms. Gargoyles attempted to swipe at the white gryphon darting past them, but the gryphon was too agile and dodged their attacks easily.

When the mage was in range of one of the great Wyrms, they leapt from the gryphon and stood on the beast's back. The gryphon disappeared into a cloud and eluded the gargoyles.

The shrieking of the gargoyles continued, but a new sound could be heard. It sounded like the voice of a woman whispering through the hills. The murmuring grew louder, and was finally punctuated by a voice at a near yell. "Emfury scedahris scedahr!"

One of the Frost Wyrms began to glow red, and then exploded with a deafening roar. Keynes could see the mage fly through the air, propelled by the explosion, onto the back of the other Wyrm. Shattered bone sprayed the undead upon the ground and destroyed hundreds of the foes. A cheer erupted from upon the city wall.

The murmuring began again and soon the other Wyrm had met the same fate as the first. The mage, having no where else to land, perched upon the wings of a gargoyle that had been flying by. She spoke more words of power, and, one by one, the flying gargoyles returned to their stone form and plummeted to the ground, with forceful impacts, destroying more undead and filling the sky with dust. The mage's perch took the same fall, and in the cloud of dust, Keynes could not see what had befallen her. Regardless of her fate, she had won a great victory. The few hundred that manned the city's garrison could not have held back the swarm of airborne foes, but those on the ground would be slowed by the city walls, and now the survivors had a chance. Everyone observing held their breath.

When the dust cleared, over a thousand undead had been destroyed, and the mage stood on a hill a bit further away. Her hood had fallen back, and her shoulder length Auburn hair blew in the new breeze. Keynes breathed a sigh of relief. The remaining hordes of undead, however, were less than happy. The separate columns charged her.

The mage pulled a small object from her belt, threw it onto the ground nearby and spoke another word of power. A great portal shimmered into view. Keynes wasn't sure, but the portal appeared to open into Stormwind City.

Or rather, from Stormwind. A warrior in black armor wielding a large black shield and runed-sword of Elven origins stepped through. Several others followed him. More followed them. When the portal finally closed, a couple score people had come through. The group was varied, containing stout Dwarves, diminutive Gnomes, mysterious Night Elves and valiant Humans. Keynes even thought he saw a couple walking trees among the group. Surely this was an interesting bunch.

The warrior in black addressed the others. Keynes could hear his powerful voice calling out across the field. "Stand fast. We will cleanse this blight from the land!" He unsheathed his sword. "For victory! For Blurred Reality!! For the Alliance!!!" With the last, he raised his sword, prompting others to do so as well. Their shouts filled the air. They turned to the undead and awaited the grim onslaught.

All save one night elf...a hunter who drew the most interesting goblin contraption Keynes had seen, and fired an explosive shell into the swarm. The blast knocked dozens of undead into the air. The defenders on the wall cheered again.

Battle was soon joined, and the stalwart men and women upon the hill began cutting down the undead like so many blades of grass. Pillars of flame seared hundreds, sheets of ice fell from the sky and crushed many more, a rain of arrows slew others. Paladins exorcised the great monsters and priests both healed their allies and smited their foes. Warriors in full plate and more agile rogues cut through the masses of undead. Night Elves in the form of great bears swatted their foes, and the sky rained green fire as warlocks summoned great Infernals into the fray against the undead. Even the walking trees seemed to have some kind of magic, as they were casting spells of healing upon all those who were wounded.

When the battle had finished, none of the great champions had fallen, though none of the undead survived. A mage opened a portal of some kind and, just as quickly as they had appeared, the heroes of the day were gone.

But the people of this land would not soon forget them.
*** ***

The carriage pulled up to the front gate of the walled estate. A middle aged Archmage draped in the finest crimson robes stepped out and walked through the open gate.

A small, red-headed child squealed in delight. "Uncle!" she yelled as she sped towards the man.

"Well hello, Poldaran," he greeted her as he scooped her up. "How have you been? Have you been a good girl?"

"Uh huh," she said as she nodded seriously. "Daddy says I've been real good."

"Good girl," he said, touching a finger to the tip of her nose. She giggled again. "Now, where are your mommy and daddy?"

"They're up in the nursery. Mommy had babies!"

"She did, did she?" The child nodded seriously again. "Well, let's go see them."

** * **
During the time I spent in Kalimdor before and after the Battle of Mount Hyjal, I had some good times with friends, both old and new. Shortly after arriving, I ran into my friend Pasiran, who was an apprentice with me back at Dalaran. She and I were assigned to the same unit by a kindly old mage who was assisting Jaina Proudmoore. It was one of a few units that integrated Night Elves, Orcish soldiers and those of Alliance member races. My knowledge of both Common and Orcish meant that my presence was invaluable as an interpreter as well as being able to serve in the capacity of a mage. Pasiran joined me in this group and we made another friend amongst the Night Elves with us.

This new friend was a strange one, to say the least. Hyperactive beyond reason sometimes, but completely focused and incredibly deadly at others. Neldara is a true friend and one I'm glad to have met during that battle.

Our unit was sent out to into a small pass that lead to the great path that Malfurion Stormrage had funneled the invaders to. A Night Elf commander was put in charge, but somehow, he decided that I would be best to truly command the group due to the respect the humans held for me after my tirade a few days before as well as the reverence paid to me by the Orcs due to the tales of my destruction of a mighty Nathrezim. So he made me his second in command. He planned fortifications and formations, and I made sure his orders were followed.

We joined battle against a scouting force of demons and undead led by a lesser Eredar warlock just as the main enemy force stormed Thrall's defense line. We managed to defeat them, but many of our unit were grievously wounded and killed. Having since analyzed the positioning of that pass and where it led, putting our small force there was folly. Had the enemy bested us, they would have had the perfect vantage point to observe and learn of Malfurion's plans, which would have led to our undoing.

But we held.

In the end, I guess that's all that matters.

** * **
The night was quite dark on the small estate and the night air reeked of smoke. The young child sat outside the study, nervously listening at the door. The men inside were talking about her, she knew.

"Silas, what happened only proves that the time has come. Her power is much too dangerous-"

"I know this. It's just that she's much too young. None will want to deal with..."

"This is a special case and it requires the aid of a special mage. I've spoken with someone and he's agreed to take care of it."


The child could not hear the name.

"Ah, he's agreed to handle it? Well then, as much as it pains me, then it is for the best."

"He thinks she might be " the sound of someone coming up the stairs caused her to miss what was said. When she finally managed to get back to the door from a hiding spot, she'd missed a bit of the conversation.

"If that's truly what he believes, then this isn't the task for just one."

"Yes, Silas. It has already been arranged."

"Fine, then she will return with you." There was a moment of silence. "Poldaran, you can come in here now."

The child, startled, fell through the opening door. One of the men looked at her sternly. The other smiled, amused by the child. "Am I in trouble, father?" she asked the stern looking one.

"Well, you certainly should not be eavesdropping, Pol," Silas Wintermoon responded.

She turned red, embarrassed. "No, Father, I mean..."

"Oh, that. Of course you're not in trouble for that. What you did saved your sister's life. The problem is that your gift is much too powerful for you to remain untrained. You must go with your uncle to Dalaran when he leaves in the morning. He has arranged for you to become an apprentice to a very skilled Archmage who will train you to control your power.

"Understand that you will find yourself much younger than any other apprentices in Dalaran. Most do not begin training until they're about three years older than you are now. However, due to the events of the other day, it has been decided that you must start your training earlier so that you can learn to control the power you possess."

Her uncle spoke, "This is very true. You may find yourself ostracized for being so young and so different from the others. Do not let this bother you. I will be in town and will check up on you as often as your Master allows."

"Speaking of your Master, he is a very stern man, but he is a good man. He will teach you what you need to know and much more. You mind him and do what he says. In no time, I foresee you finding your place in Dalaran and I'm sure you'll love it there. Now go pack. You leave early tomorrow."

She hugged both men and rushed off to pack a bag, excited at the prospect of the upcoming apprenticeship in spite of her fear and sadness at having to leave her family.

** * **
The mage entered the large office of a member of the Kirin Tor. She bowed before him.

The old man smiled. "Greetings, Poldaran."

"Greetings as well," she responded, pushing back her purple hood, revealing her auburn hair, light skin and hazel eyes.

"Have a seat," he said, indicating a chair in front of his desk. "I have another mission for you." He handed her a folder. "Inside is information on the target. We believe that the forces of the Scourge in Stratholme are responsible for the recent attack." He took a sip from a steaming mug of tea. "As you know, our agents and those of the Argent Dawn have slain him on numerous occasions. You yourself have slain him on several occasions as I recall. Yet, despite our best efforts, Baron Rivendare always rises again."

"Will slaying him again accomplish anything?"

"In a way, yes it will. More than just killing him, we want you to analyze the magic that fuels his un-life. We believe that you are the most qualified mage to do so at this time. Further, we need this done with as few members involved as possible. We do not want word of what we are doing to leak out. This must look like just another attempt to slay him."

"I understand. I will need a few days to assemble the few I need to accomplish this, and it is almost time for my yearly gathering at my parents' old home."

"Ah yes. I understand. Bring me the results within two weeks, in that case."

"Thank you, Archmage. I will begin immediately."
** * **
The young apprentice mage was sitting in her room in her master's tower, studying one of many magical tomes he had tasked her with learning that day. A girl of twelve, she had grown like a weed in the past year. Her auburn hair was still as silky and beautiful as ever and her hazel eyes still shone with warmth and curiosity, but she was gangly and incredibly thin, having grown quite a bit in the previous year.

Her brow was furrowed in concentration. Her friends often commented on her over-serious nature, but her Master said that she was the best apprentice he had ever had the joy to train. She also seemed to learn the most complex of magical concepts faster than anyone he had ever seen.

She was thoroughly engrossed by a dissertation on Arcane Ley Lines when she heard a knock on her door. "Come in," she said.

One of her Master's servants opened the door. "Young miss, you have a visitor."

Her uncle stepped through the door. "Hi there, Pol." The servant showed himself out. She carefully set the old book down and hugged her uncle. "Arcane Ley Lines, eh? I always found that subject boring beyond belief. So, what do you have planned tonight?"

"Pasiran wants to go to an inn on the other side of the city. She says there's a musician playing there that has an illusionist that illustrates all the songs he plays, and that the songs are incredible. Not to mention that the singer is incredibly handsome, from what I hear," she added dreamily. "However, I need to study, and I'm sure that my Master would not approve."

"You're young yet, Pol. You should go out and have fun with your friends. How about this: I'll get your Master's permission for you to visit me tonight, and you can go with Pasiran to see this singer."

Her eyes grew wide with excitement. "You'd do that for me?"

"Of course, child. A little mischief will be good for you." She hugged him. "Now you had better get back to your studies. Just because you're going to have a night out on the town doesn't mean that you can shirk your responsibilities," he said with a smile.

** * **

Poldaran sat on a hill near the ruins of her family's estate waiting for the others to arrive. She knew it would not be too long before the others arrived, as they traditionally met at noon this day every year, and it was definitely late in the morning. Her hair and simple violet robes fluttered in the breeze as she sat in the grass next to her tent.

First to arrive were her sister Alexandrine and her friends Xelsia and Thanoris. With them was another figure, a man in red robes who rode with Thanoris. Alexandrine was a beautiful young woman with long blonde hair and tanned skin. Just as her sisters, she was slender and tall, but unlike the others, her lithe figure was accented by dense muscle from years of training in the arts of the Order of the Silver Hand. She wore silver mail armor and a white cloak with a shield slung across her back and a sword sheathed at her side. She dismounted from her holy charger and greeted her sister with a hug.

Xelsia was the second to greet her, shifting from the form of a black panther into that of a tall Night Elf, fair violet skin glowing eyes and all. She wore a simple green leather robe and boots, the uniform of a druid.

Thanoris dismounted from his large Mistsaber tiger and saluted her in greeting. He too was well muscled and wearing mail armor, though his was green and appeared to be Barkmail, a type of mail armor crafted by the Night Elves. Slung across his back was a huge axe.

Poldaran learned from their discussion that the man in the robes was Horsdouvres, another member of the now disbanded Order of the Silver Hand.

The next arrivals were two warlocks on fiery Dreadsteeds. The first was her sister, Sindara, a slender woman in black robes with steel grey eyes, pale skin, and her black hair tied back in a ponytail. Her face was serious. It always was. If anyone could be said to be more focused and serious than Poldaran, it was Sindara.

The other appeared to be a gnome. Sindara explained that he was called Skweek, as that was the nickname given to him by the warlock who trained the two of them due to his high pitched gnome-like voice.

The final arrivals were a human in crimson robes with long brunette hair and brown eyes and a Night Elf woman in black leather with blue-green hair cut short. The human woman rode a Talbuk; a gazelle like creature with long horns, and the Night elf woman rode a white tiger.

Poldaran waved at her two friends. "Pasiran, Neldara, it's about time you got here!"

Pasiran dismounted. "Neldara had to stop to chase butterflies."

Neldara dismounted, her face excited. "Pol!" she threw her arms around her friend's neck and hugged her tightly.

Sindara looked around, trying to figure out what the sound was she was hearing and finally asked. "Is she...purring?"

Pasiran laughed as Neldara let Poldaran go. "She's always done that... since we met her on Mount Hyjal long ago. We haven't figured out why, though," Pasiran said.

Thanoris, who had watched the exchange from his seat on a nearby tree stump, cleared his throat. "I can explain that."

Everyone turned to him. Neldara's eyes lit up. "Thanny!" She rushed over and hugged him too.

Thanoris continued. "Neldara is my cousin. Long ago, when we were all children, she wanted nothing more than to become a druid. She got it in her mind one day to try to shape-shift into a panther, just as you've seen Xelsia do.

"For those who don't know, what happens when you shape-shift is that you not only gain the body of an animal, you also gain its instincts, reflexes, and even a bit of your mind changes into that of the animal. Neldara, however, had received no instruction on how to do so, so her early efforts were less than successful. We'd often see her spend hours sitting in a glade just concentrating and concentrating, until one day, it happened. She managed a partial transformation, pushing her mind through the Emerald Dream partway and taking on the instincts, reflexes, and part of the mind of a cat." He paused for a moment. "Then she got stuck."

Everyone gasped. Thanoris continued. "Many druids tried to help get her free as did several priestesses. Arch-druid Malfurion Stormrage even attempted to help her by entering the Emerald Dream and helping her from that end, but it was to no avail. So, her parents, making the best of the situation, enrolled her in training as a rogue to best make use of her heightened senses, instincts, and reflexes."

Poldaran thought for a moment. "You know...Neldara makes a whole lot more sense when you think of her as a cat." She giggled. Everyone else joined in the laughter...except Neldara, who had run off to stalk some rodent she had seen run through the grass.
** * **

Wow, he is cute, Poldaran thought to herself, looking that the singer on the stage set to one side of the inn's common room. His head was shaved and he sported a light black beard. He had to be in his late twenties. He wore the blue and white robe of a battle mage.

On the stage with him were a few gnomes and several musicians, one playing drums, another some kind of string instrument and the third yet another type of string instrument the likes of which Poldaran had never seen. The three gnome men sitting on the stage appeared to be some kind of backup singers, and the gnome woman was likely the illusionist that Poldaran had heard about.

Poldaran received the glass of red wine she had ordered just as the drummer began to play.

Images appeared in the air, much like a scrying. They showed the singer, in red robes slow-falling from a cliff and launching a great ball of fire at an orc guarding some kind of structure.

The singer began to sing. "I've been kicking ***, since the dawn of time," images appeared of a boy using his magic to train, launching fireballs at Kobolds and other nuisance creatures. "I'm just a killing man that's reached my killing prime. I burn and I plunder as it suits my desire." The images shifted to that of the young man in red robes killing Orcs on the field of battle. "My weapon of choice is great balls of fire! So, 'Why?' I ask, 'It just doesn't make sense that a man of my stature should have to wear a dress.' So 'What,' may I inquire, 'were you thinking on that day when you conjured up for a man like me a robe that looked so ***!?'"

The illusions stopped and the gnomes began to sing. "Aaah, aaaah, just sit right back and your troubles melt away. Aaaah, aaah, he uses fire but his robes look so ***!"

The song continued, as did the illusion. Poldaran watched, enthralled, as the mage in the image continued to decimate his foes on the field of battle, going through several changes of robes through the process.

It was not a song she would soon forget.

** * **

The group of friends sat around a fire and cooked some rabbits that Neldara had caught while telling stories of their journeys through the past year. Alexandrine, Thanoris and Xelsia told tales of their battles against the Horde in the contested zones of Arathi Basin and Warsong Gulch. Pasiran told of her alchemy business and how she had become a big supplier of many of the potions used on the battlefield by the armies of Stormwind. Neldara spoke of forays into the Shadow Labyrinth of Auchindoun in an attempt to rout the Shadow Council forces therein.

The friends continued their stories well into the afternoon, but shortly before dusk, they saw two figures running through a field nearby, chased by undead. They rose to aid them, but Neldara, Skweek, and Horsdouvres reached them first.

The others arrived just in time to see the figures jump into a bush. Thanoris engaged the foes alongside the others and the casters began casting spells upon the undead legions. Poldaran was attacking with her wand, hesitant to use her magic.

An explosion rocked the ground near them, and Skweek ran by, on fire. "I'm burning! I'm burning!!" Alexandrine cast a spell of healing upon him and cleansed the fire, but he collapsed to the ground.

Poldaran turned to Sindara. "Interesting gnome there," she said.

Sindara grunted. "He's not a gnome." Her Fel-guard, a brutish blue demon wielding a wicked axe, charged their foes as she turned to face Poldaran, who was staring at her skeptically. "He's about as good with chemicals as he is with explosives," Sindara explained.

Neldara received a large gash from one of the undead as her daggers weaved in and out through the swarm. She looked at Horsdouvres. "Paladin, HEAL ME!" she yelled.

"Wait!" Alexandrine cried out, but it was too late. Acidic corruption engulfed Neldara, who fell to the ground in agony. Alexandrine healed her.

Poldaran and Sindara both looked at their sister. "That was a Warlock spell," Sindara said. "I thought he was a Paladin, like you."

Alexandrine looked at her sheepishly. "He was a novitiate at the same keep as me, but one of the older Paladins trained him a joke," she said with a shrug.

Poldaran and Sindara looked at each other for a moment.

Horsdoevres, oblivious, cried out, "Come to me, my noble steed!" An imp appeared and looked at him in terror as he jumped on its back, flattening it.

The undead were vanquished in short order. Thanoris approached the bush where the two that had been fleeing them had hidden. He called out. "It's safe now. You can come out." He waited. "No, really, come on out." He tapped his foot impatiently and then reached in and pulled out an Orc and a Troll, both completely naked. They squealed in terror and began beating on his mail clad chest with their fists. "Wait," Thanoris said, motioning for them to stop. "Wait," he said again, making another motion. "Wait!" he said again. He sighed and rapped the troll on the head with his plate gauntlet. The troll collapsed to the ground.

The orc fell on his behind in terror and curled into a fetal position. Poldaran placed her hand on Thanoris' shoulder. "Hold on. You're scaring them." She turned to the orc and spoke to him in his native tongue. He looked at her, incredulous. She repeated her words. He responded, albeit reluctantly. She nodded. "It seems his name is Eggoh. He and his friend, whose name I'm not even going to attempt to pronounce, were out doing a delivery for someone to the Undercity when they were attacked." She turned to the orc and spoke again. He nodded, a little less fearful. "Everyone stand back a bit. I'm going to open a portal for him and his friend to Orgrimmar." Everyone looked at her as though she had sprung a second head. "Yes, I can open portals to Orgrimmar, and no, I'm not going to explain how I can do it."

She opened a portal for him, and he dragged his unconscious friend through. As the portal closed, an undead rose from the pile nearby. Without a thought, she cast a blast of fire at it.

The resulting shockwave literally shattered the bones of her target and reduced the remaining pieces of undead lying all around to ash. It also knocked the party to the ground. Poldaran sighed and sat up.

"So...who is ready for some roast rabbit? I'm starving."
** * **

In a camp on a hill above the main Alliance camps sat a lone girl. Her fire burned brightly, though her tent showed inexperience in its construction. The night sky of Kalimdor was beautiful beyond words to the young girl, though she was not in a state to really appreciate it.
It seemed that she was always either seething with rage or filled with a bitter sadness. Tears came to her more freely than smiles these days, though they had just won an amazing victory against the Burning Legion.

Worst of all was that it was affecting her magic.

In the past few days, Poldaran had caused no less than three near-catastrophes. The first had been when she had been attempting to conjure a bit of food. A simple trick for mages, but the giant loaf of dough that appeared nearly killed three people. The second had been an attempt to polymorph someone on the practice field. Instead of a sheep, he had turned into a gnat. Thankfully that spell had worn off before someone crushed him. The final, and the reason she had decided to exile herself to the lonely camp, had been when she had tried to create a campfire. She had only been trying to create a simple spark, but the resulting inferno nearly destroyed half the camp. Certainly several soldiers would have to deal with blisters and no eyebrows for at least a few days. Weeks was more likely.

Her new apprentice-master, a kindly old mage that had followed Jaina Proudmoore to Kalimdor, was at a loss as to the cause of her magical malfunctions. High Elven mages with centuries of experience attempted to fathom her problems, but to no avail. She was casting the spells perfectly, but the magic was going haywire. Poldaran had no idea what to do, so she sulked. The night is long when you are not sleeping much. Poldaran spent much of the night sitting on a log facing the fire, just waiting for morning to come.

She was sitting like this when she heard the snap of a twig and heard a voice... an Orc voice. "Greetings, Demonslayer!" the voice exclaimed merrily. "May I enter your camp?"

"Come on in," Poldaran said, less than excited at the thought of company. She looked up, and immediately stood in respect as the figure entered her camp. "Greetings, Warchief," she said.

He motioned for her to sit. "Just call me Thrall. Mind if I use your fire there? I brought a couple flanks of kodo that could use a little more cooking." She nodded. "Thanks." He pulled up a log to the fire near her. They sat in silence for a time staring at the fire and enjoying the smell of the roasting meat. "So," Thrall said after handing her a piece of well cooked meat. "I hear you're having a bit of trouble with your magic lately."

Her face was stricken. Seems that everyone knew about that, even the Warchief of the Horde himself. "I, uh," she muttered to the floor.

His smile was warm. "It's okay, child. We all have problems sometimes." They ate in silence for a while. "You know," he said, breaking the silence again, "Your friends speak of a strong young woman with extraordinary talent for magic, a warm smile, and a love for life." He looked at her with one eyebrow raised. "You know, I'm disappointed that I'm not greeted with that smile."

Her face was apologetic. "I'm sorry, Thrall, but I just don't seem to have any smiles left."

"Truly, that is indeed sad news. 'A smile as radiant as the noon day sun,' was what I was told. It will be missed." He looked at her. "You know, sometimes it helps to talk about what troubles you." He held out his arms in an offered embrace. "Perhaps you can tell me about it."

She took the offered hug and began crying. She told the wise young Orc all about what had happened...from her sadness at the deaths of her parents, to missing her sisters, to her anger at her Uncle's involvement in the Scourge invasion. When she was done, he continued to hold her as a father would his child.

He looked down at her. "Feel any better now?" he asked. She nodded, the tears still flowing. "Come now. Let's dry those tears." He smiled. "I understand more than you know the sadness you feel. Many around you do. We've all lost friends and family to the Scourge and Burning Legion."

"Even you?"

"Yes, child, even me. Just before you arrived here, I lost one of my closest friends in a fight with Mannoroth. Grom Hellscream was a great warrior and an even greater friend." He thought for a moment. "You know, my people have a ritual that we perform when one of our loved ones dies. Perhaps it may help you."

"What is it?"

"When we mourn, we allow our emotions to build beyond our control, and we unleash a primal roar that cleanses us of the sadness that has built up. Some believe that it is a last farewell to the spirits of the fallen before they pass from this world."

"I'd be willing to try."

"Good, but not here...too many are trying to sleep in the camps below. Let's find a place away from them so that your anguish may not wake them."

They traveled deep into the woods and found a nice clearing. Poldaran stood upon a great rock in the center of the glade and allowed her emotions to build to levels they had never reached before. When they were at a breaking point, the tears began to flow - not regular tears, but rivulets of flame streamed from her eyes. She looked to the sky and roared. Great shards of ice flew into the sky and a vortex of flames erupted around her. Waves of arcane energy morphed all the creatures around her into all manner of other creatures, though did not touch Thrall, who had taken refuge behind a tree at the far end of the clearing.

When she was done, the magic quieted and all was silent. Thrall walked to the exhausted girl. "Well, so much for not waking anyone," he said with a smile. "I'm sure they heard you in Stormwind." She smiled at him sheepishly. "Ah, so that's the smile I was told about. Definitely an improvement. Come; let's get you back to your camp."

As they walked through the woods, Poldaran saw Thrall stumble into several trees. She laughed. "Problems?" she asked him.

"It seems that your display back there has caused me to lose my adjustment to the darkness." He picked up a stick and wrapped it with several dry leaves and a bit of resin from a pouch at his belt. "Here, why don't you light this for me?"

"You did hear about my magic problems, right?" He nodded. "And you still want me to try to start a small fire?" He nodded again. "Alright...your funeral." She cast the incantation for a small spark. The torch erupted into a small flame, just as she had intended. Her eyes grew wide with excitement. "I did it!" she exclaimed. He smiled knowingly at her. She looked at him suspiciously. "Wait a minute...did you have something to do with this?"

"I believed that your lack of control had a simpler cause than what the mages did. Your emotions were interfering."

"But emotions don't play a part in control of magic, so long as you can concentrate enough to cast the spells."

"That may be the case with most mages, but Vi'krosh says that your father believed that there was something special about you. I figured it was worth the time to try something different."

They walked in silence for a time. As they approached her camp, she spoke. "Thank you, Thrall. Tonight has meant a great deal to me. I will learn to control my emotions and thus my gift. You have taught me much and I will always consider you a friend." She hugged him.

"Do not be afraid to release your emotions when you must. In time, they will become your servants...yours to control. But they must still be let out once in a while."

"I will remember, Thrall," she said with a smile.

"Grak'thar was wrong," he said. She looked at him questioningly. "The sun is certainly not that radiant." She blushed.

He bid her farewell and headed into the woods towards his own camp. As he passed the shadow of a large tree, a voice spoke from the shadows. "A moment, if you will, Warchief."

Startled he spun and drew his weapon. "Who goes there?"

A figure in a crimson robe stepped from the shadow. "Greetings, old friend," she spoke, pulling back her hood. "I have just come to thank you once again for what you have done this night. She sleeps now, the first good sleep she has had since the fall of Dalaran, and the peace she has achieved is all thanks to you." He moved the torch closer to see the shadowed figure. Her face and auburn hair were certainly familiar. She smiled at him and embraced him. "Thank you again, Thrall, for all you have done for me this night," she said, and was gone.

** * **

It's funny, really, when I think about it.

Everything I've ever been taught is that magic is not affected by one's emotions, at least not directly. The only way emotions can affect one's magic is through messing with concentration. Everything I've ever experienced, however, shows that to be false.

When I saved Sindara, I communed with my gift, my magic. Somehow, through the fear for my sister and my need to save her, it showed me what I needed to do, and acted to protect me when I called upon it. When I fought with the demon as a child, it was anger that gave me the required strength and magical power to defeat him. During the Battle of Mount Hyjal, my fury unleashed wave after wave of magic that my foes seemed unprepared for.

It wasn't until just before my second apprenticeship ended that I learned to encase myself in ice, and to this day I would have trouble safely doing so to another to protect them. The magic is complex at worst, it's nigh impossible. And conjuring a Phoenix, even an unstable one, is magic that can only be handled by a select few mages who have devoted years of research to it. Yet I, as a girl of fourteen, freshly a journeyman, conjured one in my anger.

The same happened after the Battle of Mount Hyjal. My raging emotions caused every one of my spells to go completely haywire. I could cast the spell perfectly, indeed several of the more experienced there said I was indeed casting the proper spells, but the magic would so vary in scale and intensity that a simple spell could cause devastation.

My father and uncle believed that there was some special magic about me, that I was something different, not an ordinary mage. I'm starting to believe that they're right.

So, as I have since the first time Thrall taught it to me, I go to my family's estate, or rather, what's left of it, once a year and allow my emotions and magic to overflow into a crescendo of power. I feel cleansed when it's over, and more importantly, I regain full control of my emotions and my magic so that no accidents happen like those that happened so long ago.

Looking back, however, I can't help but laugh at the time I polymorphed the entire Alliance force in Kalimdor simultaneously. The smell was horrendous.

** * **

Poldaran, Neldara and Pasiran closed the gate to the service entrance of Stratholme quietly behind them.

"So, what's the plan?" Pasiran asked. "We going to sneak up on Baron Rivendare like we usually do in these raids?"

"Actually," Poldaran said, "I have a more direct idea."

"Oh?" Pasiran asked as Poldaran pulled something from a small sack she had brought with her. "What's that?"

Poldaran held up a small crystal etched with arcane markings. "Portal beacon," Poldaran said cryptically.


"I've created a system where a portal spell can be cast just by activating a portal crystal. However, to create a portal from here would do us no good. So instead, what I've done is cause the portals to not be directed, and leave them at home. I can activate a portal crystal by instead activating a paired crystal elsewhere, allowing a single person to sneak into somewhere and summon others in without tapping into Warlock magic."

"I thought we weren't allowed to have too many people," Neldara declared.

"Indeed true," Poldaran agreed. "However, I have a different kind of assistance in mind this time." Poldaran activated the portal beacon, and a portal appeared in front of them, coming from her tower. "You see...I've been studying the magic used by the Blood Elves to create their Arcane Sentinels." A crystalline figure appeared through the portal, followed by another, and another, and still more. "So I decided to create my own army."

** * **

Thrall, Warchief of the Horde, sighed. He just could not understand the bickering amongst the parties present at these important peace talks. He wished Jaina Proudmoore could have come, but she was having trouble with Naga near Theramore Isle and had to send some old wizard as a representative. She might have been able to steer these talks to a more productive topic, but the old man was worse than any of the others.

And this was not good. These talks were an attempt to prevent the collapse of the truce between the Alliance and the Horde. And these people could not even agree on simple matters.

"There can be no talks of peace until we stop the harassment of our people by the so called 'League of Arathor!'" the Forsaken representative declared.

"You've intruded upon our lands, undead!" a human representative shouted. The crowd became a cacophony of argument. Thrall was quickly developing a headache.

He watched as the argument played out. After a short time, the old man Jaina had sent threw his hands in the air in disgust and stormed out. The voices trailed off to a murmur, and one of the humans said, "How can we protect the peace with these constant raids on the border towns? Our peoples are getting bloodthirsty and small adventurer guilds are blowing off steam by attacking smaller towns. This will eventually lead to war. We cannot end the conflict. As much as we hope to avoid it, war is inevitable." The room burst into argument once again.

But one voice was not argumentative. Thrall could barely hear it, but he heard it nonetheless. "Excuse me," the voice said. Thrall looked around. Then he saw her...the old man's apprentice. She had grown since he had last seen her. A beautiful young woman this was, hair of auburn and eyes like emeralds. "Excuse me," she said again, still fairly quiet amongst the shouting.

"Silence," Thrall ordered the room. "SILENCE!" he yelled. Understandably, the room became quiet. Thrall smiled at the young woman. "You may speak, Poldaran."

"Thank you, Warchief." She smiled at the room. "Surely we cannot prevent a war by degenerating into war amongst ourselves. Now, I agree that there are problems, but I think we have a solution lying before us." She paused a moment. "The greatest reason we have to prevent a war is that any fighting amongst ourselves will weaken us when the true enemies strike again.

"And mark my words. The Burning Legion and the Scourge WILL come again."

The room broke into hushed muttering. The young woman waited for quiet again. "You see, killing each other is what they want us to do. We won a victory on Mount Hyjal those years ago not by fighting each other, but by working together."

"And just how do you propose we avoid fighting, girl?" the Forsaken emissary said, his tone dripping with sarcasm.
She looked at him with one raised eyebrow. "It's quite simple, actually." She paused for dramatic effect. "We don't." The room erupted once again. Once it quieted, she spoke once more. "Everyone is angry after the events of the invasion. Everyone has lost someone dear to them. This pent up anger is what will lead to all out warfare. Sometime, somewhere someone WILL go too far, and we will be unable to prevent a fall into war. That is, of course, unless we give them something else to do."

"I'm intrigued," Thrall said. "What exactly did you have in mind?"

"Let's give them fights. Let's give them somewhere to vent off this excess energy in a controlled war, but let's wash our hands of the whole ordeal. We can do it properly so that it appears that the Alliance and the Horde as a whole aren't involved in any way, but instead some small factions of peoples within the Alliance and the Horde." She took a sip from a glass of water on the table before her.

"My idea comes from the conflict in the Arathi Highlands. This League of Arathor harasses the efforts of the Forsaken there. Perhaps we should draw up a boundary, divide the land between the Alliance and the Horde." She looked at the Forsaken emissary. "Do you have a map of the region handy?" He nodded and handed her a large map. "Now, I don't know what border would be fair, that will be for you gentlemen to decide. However, for the sake of this discussion, let's say something like this." She drew a line through the middle of the Highlands. She then removed a section of the border that went through a large basin. "You see, I'm leaving this part unmarked on purpose. This will be the site of the new battleground. All will know who owns what, except for that one spot.

"That's where the League of Arathor and some faction we create amongst the Forsaken come in. Both will claim that their side owns that section of land and will immediately begin recruiting amongst the people of the Horde and the Alliance. The Horde and the Alliance will both take the stance that this small piece of land isn't worth fighting over, but will say that because of the mistake, there is no reason that the League of Arathor and the other faction can't fight for it as separate factions. In this way, we create an outlet for some of this pent up aggression and anger without risking a general war.

"In fact, perhaps we can even formalize it into almost a game. Create something like five shops, blacksmiths, farms, etc where the two factions fight. Faction that has used the facilities to craft the most supplies wins for the day. However, we will want it to slowly become like that so that the people do not suspect that this is anything other than actual war."

Cairne Bloodhoof spoke. "But, countless young people will die there and their deaths will fuel anger between the people. We'll lose some of our best soldiers and will be weakened when the next invasion comes. I agree it's the best solution we've come up with thus far, but it is still flawed."

Poldaran nodded. "Indeed, this is true. However, I believe that there may be a way to enchant the land. In dealing with the arcane, I've often enchanted items with certain magical properties. Perhaps we could set up some kind of magic upon the land so that the bodies of the dead are teleported to a safe haven in their own strongholds and resurrected by magic like that used by both practitioners of the Light and those most in tune with Nature and the Elements?"

Thrall thought on it for a moment. "It might be possible. We will need the help of some of the most powerful wizards and healers alive to accomplish it, but it might serve your purpose."

Cairne smiled. "This might just do the trick to save our peoples."

The Night Elf ambassador spoke. "Will this one conflict be enough? I doubt that our youth will all be enticed by just a battle in the lands of Azeroth."

Poldaran smiled. "I thought of this as well." She paused. "However, we have two other conflicts just waiting for this. In the Forests of Ashenvale, both the Night Elves and the Orcs claim a tract of forest and fight bitterly. This conflict would draw in others that the first would not. If we can settle on a border treaty, and perhaps the Night Elves would be more willing to do so if the Horde will learn less destructive lumbering practices from the Cenarion Circle, then there is a nice gulch that is clear cut halfway through that we could 'smudge' the border on as well. I was thinking that the commander of the Horde faction could come up with a mischievous plot to steal some object from the Alliance faction's base... something of little actual value but with some value to the Alliance commander. Perhaps a portrait of the commander or some such that the Alliance commander has shown pride in. This will lead to an effort to steal it back.

"Perhaps, even, it could be the base's flag. Eventually, this could be formalized into a game of flag capture."

"You spoke of a third conflict," the Dwarven ambassador said.

"Indeed. This would be the culmination of it all. You see, the size of the other two locations will limit the amount of fighting that can go on in those. This one will not be in a small basin or gulch, but will take up an entire valley.

"In the Alterac Mountains, the Stormpike Guard and the Frostwolf Clan are already in conflict. Let's fill them with two fortresses and countless defenses. The final objective will of the games will be to slay the enemy commander, someone of great import...Drek'thar and Vanndar Stormpike, perhaps. Always it will end at a stalemate, and always, the generals and the picked guards in the field will be resurrected by the magic we imbue these places with.

"But, even more importantly, can you think of a cheaper way to train troops for warfare? Let them fight for these factions, and when the real threat comes again, they will be ready. And now, ladies and gentlemen, I must leave it to you all to figure out the details."

Poldaran left, smiling. The idea her father had concocted those years ago had been well received, just as she knew it would.

** * **

"Kitty!" Neldara yelled while chasing gleefully after the fleeing skeletal steed. Pasiran chuckled. One of Poldaran's arcane sentinels bounded after the target, preparing to crush it.

Poldaran laughed. "Well, he should be reanimating soon. Never seen the horse get up without him, though."

Baron Rivendare arose. "Intruders! More pawns of the Argent Dawn, no doubt!"

"Told you, his memory is never very good when he wakes up," Poldaran said with a smile. "Sentinels, take his weapon and restrain him." The creations pressed him against a wall and tossed his blade to the ground. Poldaran placed a scrying crystal upon his chest.

"Unhand me! You shall know the full might of the Scourge!"

"In a moment, I will surely have them unhand you." Poldaran cast her spell and recorded what she learned. "Okay, sentinels. Tear his arms off and beat him to death with them. I am through here." Pasiran looked at her, confused. "We waited for him to reanimate so that my instruments can record that process."


"We know that the greater Lieutenants of the Scourge cannot be fully destroyed. I think that if I can find out what happens when they come back, I might be able to devise a more permanent solution. At least, that's the theory."

"They always come back?"

"Yes, I've tried many different methods to try to destroy this one. I've cut him to pieces and had them spread across Azeroth. I've tried having Priests and Paladins purify the corpse. I've even tried using a giant mortar and pestle to crush his bones to powder. Each time, the remains disappear and reform here."

"So, why did you have those things rip his arms off and beat him to death with them?"

"He said to unhand him. A girl's got to have some fun."
** * **
Alexandrine of Wintermoon, known as the Merciful to her fellow paladins, walked through the forests of Ashenvale along with a band of friends. Prominent among them were the warrior, Thanoris, and the druid, Xelsia, though there were others. Their destination was the battlefields of Warsong Gulch, where the Silverwing Sentinels did battle with the Warsong Outriders. The general mood of the party was light, as though they were only on an afternoon outing. Most of the party was green to the ways of battle. While all were extremely well trained in their particular styles of combat, few had ever been on a battlefield, let alone witness the death of friends or foes in armed combat.

They were a few miles from the town of Astranaar when a bloodied Night Elf crashed through the bushes at the side of the road. He fell to the ground, unconscious. Alexandrine ran to his side and immediately began channeling the light to heal his wounds. His eyes opened.

"There is no time. I will be fine. But the Horde is attacking Astranaar! Women and children are being slaughtered! Please help them!" With that, he fainted.

Alexandrine looked at the man. He would indeed recover. She stood and addressed her comrades. "You heard the man. Astranaar needs our help." She drew her blade. "This is not a battle we can withdraw from. We are members of the Alliance, and we must aid our comrades." She looked at one of the druids. "You are the most fleet-footed amongst us. I want you to hurry back to Auberdine and secure aid." He nodded. She then turned to a young dwarf paladin. "I want you to stay and tend to the wounds of our friend here," she said, indicating the injured Night Elf. "Everyone else, let's go. Astranaar needs us."

They reached the town within twenty minutes, at a near dead run. They found that much of the town was burning, everything on the east side, at least. Near the center of town, a bloody battle was being waged. The party sprung into action. Alexandrine began to heal the wounded while barking orders out at those around her. A night elf and a dwarf from the party began firing upon the foes from range. Thanoris strapped his shield to his arm and began to wail upon attackers, while Xelsia and a priest began dragging the injured to the relative safety of a nearby building.
The situation, despite the reinforcements, remained grim. The defenders were outnumbered nearly three to one. If they could not find a better position to fight, they would fall.

Alexandrine gestured at one of the townsfolk. "Is there a building with a basement here? Something that we can fall back to and defend ourselves within?"


"Xelsia!" Alexandrine called out. The druid ran to her side. "Go with this man and begin moving the wounded to the building he takes you to. I want them all safely within the basement. We can have a mage shield the building against fire, and at least then we'll have a defensible position." Xelsia nodded.

The battle raged on for nearly twenty minutes before Xelsia returned. "We are ready," she said simply.

"Thank you. Fall back to the building and help lay down suppressive fire with your powers over nature to help the defenders retreat to the building. Take as many hunters as you can with you." Alexandrine gave Xelsia a few minutes to do so before she called out to the forces. "Fall back! We cannot defend ourselves here in the open! Go now!" The defenders began a retreat. One of the townsfolk received a great wound. "Thanoris!" Alexandrine yelled, rushing the fallen man's side. She drew her blade and shield and began fighting the mighty Tauren that had struck the man.

Thanoris approached. "Whatcha need, Alex?"

"Carry this man to the shelter. I'll be along shortly."

"Okey dokey." He picked up the large man like a twig and bounded off. And then Alexandrine was alone on the field of battle. She cast the power of the Light into the ground, making it painful for her foes to approach. Many had seen this before, so they simply waited. It would not last forever.

But it did not have to. Alexandrine pulled a grenade from her belt and encased herself in a Divine Shield. She tossed the grenade into the mob of foes, and they all dove to escape it. This gave her the diversion she needed to make it safely to the defended position.

And then they waited. It was only a matter of time before someone came to their aid. They could only hope that it would be before the enemy was able to breach their defenses and press the attack.

** * **
Poldaran once again entered the office of the Archmage. He looked up from the tome he was reading. "What have you discovered?"

"It appears that the magic is indeed bound to an outside source. The magic of his resurrection could be traced all the way to the necropolis of Naxxramas, and further beyond, I'm willing to wager. I believe that it is possible that there is a nexus point of sorts that ties all the greater lieutenants together, and binds upon Kel'thuzad. It may be only possible to destroy our lesser foes by utterly annihilating him. I understand that many have accomplished such a goal, but that he always rises. It may not be possible with conventional means to destroy his phylactery."

"Do you have something else in mind?"

"I believe it may be possible to do so with proper usage of a specific magic."

A young mage in brown robes burst through the door. "Archmage, I do not wish to interrupt, but your agent in the Cult of the Damned in Northrend sends dire news." He handed the old man a report.

"Thank you, Leviticus." The mage read the report as the young man left. "This is grave news indeed. Poldaran, read this."

Poldaran read it, a look of dread crossing her face. "This is not good, sir. If they manage to reach the Guardian's Cache, the Scourge will gain an immense advantage."

"I agree, it must be destroyed. The destruction will be your top priority. Take what resources you need. This is to be the Kirin Tor's top priority until it is accomplished."

"As you command, Archmage. I do have one concern, though."

"What is it?"

"Kel'thuzad was once a member of the Kirin Tor. If we attack Northrend, might it not occur to him what we seek to destroy?"

The old man thought on it. "I believe you may be right. We may need to blind them to his knowledge. How confident are you on your spell?"

"I believe that the spell has the possibility to destroy him. And even if it doesn't, I believe it will scatter his mind to the winds for some time, making resurrection difficult, which will buy us the time we need."

"Good, then go to it. Gather what reagents you need for the spell. Oh, and one more thing," he said this last with a smile. "We had intended for this honor to be bestowed upon you in a grand ceremony, but circumstances indicate that it may be a long time before we can do so." He handed her a small box. She opened it, revealing a chain of mystical silver on which hung the emblem of the Kirin Tor. Her eyes grew wide and her jaw dropped in shock. "Welcome to the Kirin Tor, Archmage," the old man said with a smile.
** * **

Edited, Feb 25th 2009 4:17am by Poldaran
#2 Feb 25 2009 at 2:53 AM Rating: Good
29,424 posts
It had been hours since the group had fortified the shelter of the building on the western side of Astranaar. Tensions were high as everyone knew that another attack would come now that night had fallen. Motion could be seen at the edge of the light provided by smoldering of several nearby buildings. It was only a matter of time.

Alexandrine sat and contemplated their predicament. It was possible that seeking refuge inside would prove to be the doom of all who had stayed. It might have been a better choice to have had a group stay and fight while another took the children and fled. But it was too late to unmake the decision.

She stood from where she was seated and looked out a window facing into the town. It was quite eerie outside as thin clouds veiled the full moon in the sky and a near silence stifled the normal sounds of the night.
Alexandrine did not know how long she stood there before Thanoris approached her and placed a hand on her shoulder. "Alex," he whispered. "There is something outside you should see," he said, motioning to a window that overlooked the water.

Xelsia stood at the window. Alexandrine looked at her inquisitively. Xelsia pointed outside. "The mist that comes in over the water is not natural." Alexandrine looked outside. Indeed, a thick mist was obscuring the water. "Something comes!" Xelsia said sharply.

"What?" Alex asked.

"Listen, you will hear it soon enough." Sure enough, through the stillness, Alexandrine could hear a cracking sound. It almost sounded as if giant ice crystals were forming upon the lake. She heard another sound as well.

Cries arose from the Horde camp. It was obvious that they had just heard the sounds too and were calling out across the water, trying to determine whether this was a friend or foe.

A single voice cut across the water, speaking in Orcish. Alexandrine could barely hear the words and was having trouble understanding them. One of the children in the house began to wail. Her mother hushed her.

"Is it a foe?" Thanoris asked.

"I can't quite make out what's being said," Alexandrine replied. She listened more intently. "The Horde warriors are trying to get the voice to leave or join them, but the voice is saying that 'Death comes and all shall know its cold grasp.'"

"The Scourge?" Xelsia asked, alarmed.

"It's possible, but I am not sensing any undead around us for some ways, save for a few Forsaken within the Horde camp." Alexandrine pulled out a gnomish scope and looked across the water. All she could make out was a shadowy figure standing upon ice. As it walked forward, each of its steps upon the water caused ice to form, creating a walkway. The figure drew a blade and touched the tip to the water. The entire lake froze with a loud crack. The child screamed in terror and bolted out the door, straight towards a waiting troll.

Alexandrine's mind went blank as she drew her sword and bolted out the door. Within moments, the Troll, who had been trying to abduct the child, was dead, half of the its head lying ten yards from its body. She scooped up the child and ran back towards the safety of the building, arrows striking the shield upon her back. When she thought about what she had done, she lost control and began to weep.

She did not know what happened across town, though Thanoris and Xelsia told her there were sounds of panic as the figure swept through the town from the lake, utterly destroying any Horde member that was foolish enough to stay. She did however, remember as the figure approached their stronghold. She thought that death was coming for them, so she once again charged out of the building at the figure, who deftly dodged each of her attacks.

The figure caught her wrist and held up her hand, motioning for Alexandrine to hold. "Wait," the woman said softly. She drew back her hood. Alexandrine took one look at the woman and then one more at the corpse at her feet. The life she had taken. She collapsed into her older sister's arms and began to weep uncontrollably.

** * **
I remember the day, long ago, when I first entered the walls of Stratholme. The Kirin Tor had sent me to offer my assistance to the Argent Dawn, an organization borne from the ashes of the corruption of the Scarlet Crusade following the death of the Ashbringer. I was tasked with many missions into the Plaguelands, duties ranging from smiting the undead and thinning the ranks of the Scourge to the cleansing of the plague spewing cauldrons to gathering samples of the creatures living in the area.

After a long period of such aid, and several forays into the halls of Scholomance, I found myself tasked with slaying Baron Rivendare and bringing his head to the Dawn as proof of the deed. It would be a task I felt finally would challenge my abilities in the service of the Dawn.

So I did as many do when tasked with missions that they cannot handle alone: I ventured into the taverns of the great cities in search of adventurers seeking others for similar tasks. I was lucky to find a group of sturdy adventurers who needed the services of a mage to deal with the hordes of dead within the ruined city. Envinyata, a dwarf priestess devout in her faith to some dwarven god whose name I cannot pronounce led the band. With her was a Night Elf rogue that reminded me of a more serious version of Neldara, a dwarf paladin wielding a stout axe and shield that lusted to cleanse the vile dead and a Night Elf priestess that bent dark energies to her will in the same way I turned the chill upon my foes. Archaeus, Boramir and Icyis were their names, and all four remain to this day my true friends.

We traveled to the back gates of the city, which one of my companions opened with a key they had obtained somehow, and entered the high walls. The dead were everywhere around us. I could tell that this would require application of a high amount of magical damage in large areas so that we were not overwhelmed by the sheer numbers that surrounded us.

We slew each of the guardians of the Scourge ziggurats and made our way to the center of town, where we faced Baron Rivendare himself in combat. I was tasked primarily with slaying the skeletons that the Baron raised from the piles of corpses around the room. The fight was intense. But in the end, we were victorious.

With the Baron dead at our feet, Envinyata extended an invitation to me to the Adventurer's guild that the four belonged to. I was a bit hesitant to leave the one that Pasiran, Neldara and I had founded long ago, but in the end, I found myself wearing their tabard and joining them on their adventures into the Molten Core under Blackrock Mountain.

I met many friends within the ranks of Blurred Reality. The human paladin, Tylevic, brother in arms to Archaeus; the Night Elf druid, Sharlot, Envinyata's closest friend; even an old friend of mine, my fellow mage Yadier and his brother, Yoxutre; indeed, the list goes on. And more than just those that I've mentioned as being there already, there are many friends I made amongst those who would join at a later date. These true friends have been there with me through many hardships, and I am glad to have met them all.

** * **
Alexandrine sat with her older sister on the roots of a large tree just outside Astranaar. "Poldaran, I just can't believe that I've shed the life of another living being. How can one ever get used to it? I don't think I could ever function in a large scale battle like this."

Poldaran placed her hand upon her sister's shoulder. "You never get used to it, really." She sighed. "Last night, when you slew a single foe, I was forced to slaughter nearly thirty." Alexandrine's jaw dropped. "Indeed. It was not something that was easy. I tried to scare them off. I didn't want to have to kill them. But my hand was forced. I cannot allow the Horde or the Alliance to begin to think that such actions will go unpunished."

"How can you sit here calmly after having done so last night? I can barely cope with the one death last night. Just the thought of what I did...of my sword..." she wailed and began to sob once again.

Poldaran hugged her again. "It's not so much that it doesn't hurt for me to do what I have to do. It's that I have learned instead to focus on why I'm doing what I've done instead of what I've done."

"I don't understand."

"I know that the killing I did last night may mean the difference between tomorrow dawning in peace, or the sun rising upon the drumbeat of war. A few deaths now is worth it to me to prevent that conflict. In the same way, what you did was for a greater good. You saved the life of another. Not just another person, but much more than that, you killed to protect the life of a child, one who is defenseless to protect herself.

"It is never okay to kill for greed or to satisfy a bloodlust. But to kill to protect yourself or others is something completely different."

"But how can people do something so wrong as to kill others unjustly?"

"I once asked Father about that. He was teaching me about the second war, and told me about the destruction wrought by the Orcish Horde upon simple villages and those defenseless within. He continued to insist that the Orcs were inherently a good race and that we should forgive them for their past. I asked him how a good race...a good person...could perform such actions. That obviously someone who could do such things had to be evil."

"What did he say?"

Poldaran paused a moment. "He sighed and told me that everyone has the power to subjugate their fear, their emotions, their compassion if they must do so. And that the Orcs had been forced to do so by their circumstances. 'A man who makes a beast of himself rids himself of the pain of being a man,' he said. It took me some time to understand that. It was when I melded my will with my magic and suppressed my fear to save Sindara that it became clear what he meant, in a way."

"I'm not sure I understand."

"It's about giving yourself to something within. For some, this manifests in them suppressing their humanity for their baser, more animal selves. For others, it's about communing with a greater power that lies within you. For me, my magical gift is both more and less than myself. It is a font of power from within, but it has something of its own will, its own intentions and I can tap into its wisdom and power when I'm afraid or lack the will to press on. In the same way, perhaps you too have some kind of power you can tap into. One that will bring you comfort and give you the strength to carry on."

"You mean like the Light?"

"Exactly. As a paladin, you have trained hard to walk with the Light. Perhaps it is time you spent some time communing with the Light within yourself. Bathe in its warmth, allow it to tell you if what you did was wrong, if the life of that child was worth the life of another. I think you'll find that your actions were good ones, and in time, you will come to terms with what you were forced to do. And in time, even when you are afraid, you will be able to feel the reassuring warmth of the Light within and be able to carry on. But for now, I think rest is the best course of action." Poldaran pulled a small bottle from the pouch on her belt. "Here. Drink this."

"What is it?"

"Something Sindara made. It will help you rest."

Alexandrine took the bottle and drank its contents, immediately collapsing into a dreamless sleep.

** * **

Kael'thas Sunstrider, leader of the Blood Elves in Netherstorm, sat at a table studying a tome given to him by the Legion. The spells he would be required to learn were immense. He could hear a commotion and saw several guards run down the hall next to his room. Curious, he stood from his book and stuck his head out the door.

"We need some Spell Breakers in the main corridor!" someone shouted. Several of the armored wizard-slayers ran past.

"What's going on here?" he asked a wounded guard he passed.

"Someone has infiltrated the keep."

"How many? Pawns of the Naaru?"

"Just one. There's no indication who she serves."

"Just one?" Kael'thas asked, surprised. "How is this a problem? Surely a few guards could handle her."

"I'm sorry, your majesty. She's strong, this one. The Spell Breakers should be able to handle her, though."

"I think I shall still see what is going on for myself." Kael'thas continued onward to the main foyer.
When he entered the room, he looked down from the top of the stairway to see a lone hooded figure in purple robes surrounded by a score of his greatest Spell Breakers. "Surrender!" the captain ordered. "Or we will be forced to kill you."

The woman laughed at him. "You'll certainly try, Captain." She waved her fingers at one of the men to her right. The attack was so fast that the trained wizard-slayers could not react. The man she had indicated burst into flames. "You'll have to be faster than that!"

Tendrils of magic snaked at the woman from all sides. They were thin strands intended to gain control of her power to subdue her. But something was wrong. Kael'thas saw her tense just before they reached her. She then lashed out a single hand and grasped at each. "Fools. Now your magic belongs to me and bows to my whims," she said. "Writhe!" she commanded. Each of the Spell Breakers collapsed to the ground in pain. She allowed their agony to continue for a few seconds before she spoke again. "Now, sleep!" she ordered.

The Spell Breakers, elite guard of Tempest Keep, fell asleep as one. Prince Kael'thas began to clap. "I thought I recognized your style, Poldaran. Come finally to join us?"

She pulled back her hood and smiled wryly. "Sorry, Highness, but I still feel that your work out here is madness. But that is not why I've come here."


"I'm actually working on an attack against the Scourge and could use a little assistance. I was hoping you might help for old times' sake."

"Come, let's have some lunch and you can tell me about this plan of yours. Perhaps I could indeed offer some assistance after all."
** * **
Poldaran sat in her master's study working on the assignment her teacher had given her. He was a handsome elf, she had to admit. And his skill with magic was definitely great. His teaching style was a little impatient, but she was a quick learner and did not incur his impatience often.

Her master had felt that she would benefit most from training by multiple instructors. So she trained with him and others, including this man, Prince Kael'thas Sunstrider, future king of the Quel'dorei.

Her study with him involved more complex spell-forms and various forms of arcane magic that few humans had mastered. He had even promised that he might train her to summon constructs, from various elementals to mighty phoenixes, even though the mastery of such magic had been a closely held secret of the Quel'dorei for years. Her lessons with him were her favorite, as she learned the most from this elf. "So," he said. "I believe you have mastered the spell properly. It is time to cast it for the first time. Draw a warding circle." Poldaran did as she was told and warded the room from any effects of the spell outside a certain radius. "Good. Now draw the incantation in charcoal upon the floor." Poldaran did as instructed. It took several minutes to complete the complicated spell form. "Good. Now gather the reagents and cast the spell."

She gathered the Core of Earth and began to chant the words of the spell, sprinkling the crumbled reagent about herself. The runes of the spell-form began to glow. She continued chanting, and a small Earth Elemental began to appear. She smiled at her instructor, but that momentary lapse in concentration was enough. The half formed elemental crumbled into dust.

"Quite good until you got sloppy at the end. Erase the spell-form and try again." Poldaran began to work on it, but was interrupted by a polite knock on the door. "Keep working." He opened the door to see a man dressed in the livery of a messenger of the Kirin Tor. "What is it?" he demanded impatiently.

"Excuse me, your Highness. I do not mean to intrude, but your presence is urgently required. The raid on his holdings has been completed and we have found evidence that -" he stopped as Prince Kael'thas motioned for silence, indicating the girl working at scrubbing the charcoal from the stone floor.

"I will go at once. Let Antonidas know I will be there momentarily."

"Yes, your Highness," the messenger said, departing.

"Poldaran, today's lesson must be cut a bit short I'm afraid. The Kirin Tor calls."

"Thank you for today's lesson, your Highness," she responded.

"As always, child, it has been my pleasure. Finish cleaning up this mess and see if your master has further need of you today before you continue reading the tome we were working on." The girl nodded and he left.

** * **
Poldaran laughed. "Surely you can't be serious!" she chuckled.

"Oh no, I'm serious. He managed to turn himself into a goat," Kael'thas said. His face grew more somber. "About your planned attack on the Scourge, I think you might just be able to pull it off. As such, I'm going to give you the assistance you have requested." He motioned for one of his servants. The man brought in a small box. "Inside is what you have requested. Additionally, I have something else for you. An old wizard left it in my care to give to you at the proper time. As I'm not sure that another time will present itself, I feel that now is indeed the proper time." He handed her a small scroll case.

"It won't open," Poldaran said.

"I know. He said that it will not open until the ice burns and liquid flame scours the cold dark. I'm not sure what he meant, but he said you would likely have an idea." She nodded grimly. He continued. "I have one more gift for you. I had meant to give it to you at the end of your lessons with me, but in the chaos of the trial of Kel'thuzad and the Scourge invasion, I managed to forget." He produced another box, much smaller than the first.

Poldaran opened it, revealing a small chain of mystical silver on which hung a small, irregular crystal of some sort. "It's beautiful," she said. "But I am unfamiliar with this type of crystal."

"It's one of the rarest crystals in the world, actually. You see, as the great phoenixes of the world continue their existences, they are occasionally brought to tears by horrible events. As I'm sure I've already taught you, the tears of a phoenix have healing properties, capable of healing the most grievous of wounds and restoring the dead to life. Such a valuable substance is highly treasured and well taken care of.

"However, occasionally, mistakes happen. Sometimes a few tears are improperly stored and the tears dry out and crystallize, forming what you see today. The drying process renders all magic within the tears null, but there are many who believe that such items are filled with great luck and are capable of protecting the wearer from harm."

"And you wanted me to have it?" Poldaran said, touched.

"Indeed. You see, just as with these crystals, a young mage such as yourself only materializes once in an age. I felt it fitting that you have it." Poldaran's eyes watered, moved as she was by the gesture. She hugged her old mentor. "I want you to understand that this changes nothing, young one. If you do not join us, then one day we will likely have to do battle. I do not relish the thought of having to destroy you, but that does not mean I will not do so if that comes to pass."

She released him from her embrace. "I know, old friend. But I fear we are on different sides. I am glad that we could speak as friends this one final time."

"As am I. It is probably time you were on your way. The Scourge proceeds ever closer to something which we know they must never attain. Good luck, child."
** * **
The Blurred Reality guild hall was immense. Hundreds of people would meet here on occasion, though usually not all at once. Poldaran knew that she would need help to gather some of what she needed to fulfill her duty to the Kirin Tor. Her friends would likely be here, so she figured that it was a good place to start.

Immediately upon entering, Poldaran knew something was wrong. The main hall was quiet, with a decidedly downcast feel. People were quietly sitting at their tables, drinking and eating without the normal boisterous banter that usually filled the place. Poldaran saw two of her fellow mages sitting in a corner near the fire and approached them. Yadier, a thin, white-haired mage in robes of crimson looked up. "Hey, Pold."

Grus, a decidedly creepy little gnome with black hair looked up as well. "Hello, Poldaran."

"What's going on around here, guys? Someone die?"

"Alericc's yelling at Sharlot again," Yadier said. "Envinyata threw her tabard in the fire and left earlier. I'm not sure what they're arguing about."

"There have been a lot of arguments lately. Mostly just they both have different ideas for where the guild should go," Poldaran said grimly.

"Envinyata did say something about Edgy when she left," Grus offered.

"Ah, I think I know what it's about, then," Poldaran responded. "I had better go in there."

"Good luck," Yadier offered.

Just as Poldaran approached to door to the conference room, it opened. Sharlot stood in the doorway, her eyes red from tears. Poldaran looked at her sympathetically. Sharlot shook her head and fled out the front door of the guild hall.

Alericc, a large Neanderthal of a man, stepped out of the conference room. "Go ahead and leave! I don't want you here anyway!" he bellowed after Sharlot. He looked at Poldaran. "What are you looking at?!" he barked. Poldaran shook her head in disappointment. With a wave of her hand, a parchment appeared. Words began to form on it, seared in by small flames. "What are you doing?" Alericc snapped. Poldaran walked over to the message board on the wall and affixed the parchment with a small knife. "Answer me when I address you!" Alericc bellowed, a vein on his forehead pulsing. Poldaran responded by just walking towards the door. "Don't you dare leave, you COWARD!" Alericc demanded. Poldaran shook her head and strode out the door.

Everyone slumped at their tables, avoiding bringing Alericc's anger down upon them. Everyone except Yadier and Grus, who continued to sit where they were. Alericc glowered at them. "You see! All she was in the end was a coward without the courage to face me!" Alericc said to Yadier.
Yadier stood. "You just don't get it, do you?" he said in disgust. He looked across the hall at his brother, Yoxutre. "Let's go, Yox." The muscular sibling nodded and the two strode from the hall.

"Fine! Leave!" Alericc shouted after them. He turned to Grus. "So, you going to leave too?"

"I'm sorry, Al. But I am going with my friends. Poldaran has taught me much and has always been there to help me."

"So be it." Alericc said. As Grus left from the hall, Alericc stormed out the other end. "I'll be in my quarters. I am not to be disturbed."

** * **

Leaving Blurred Reality was one of the hardest things I've ever done.

It had become a home, a family to me. Unfortunately, as in many families, the love was gone and only sterile duty remained. Arguments had occurred, friendships were lost, and in the end, we had to leave. But that didn't make it any easier. We spent some time adrift, lost and looking for a home.

One day, we found ourselves in an inn discussing what had happened and how to move forward.

Grus was entertaining some children with various gnomish devices. But the biggest hit was a small mechanical monster, horned and somewhat bear-like. The children cackled with glee as it chased them.

"As I was saying," Sharlot said. "I think we can found ourselves a new guild. All we need is some kind of name."

"Indeed," Envinyata began, "but what kind of name? I'm having trouble thinking with all this noise," she said. "Grus, you mind not messing with that yeti while we're trying to think?"

"Sasquatch," Jeriix, another gnome Envinyata had known before Blurred Reality, said.

"What?" Envinyata snapped.

"It's a sasquatch," Jeriix said. "You can tell by the brown fur and the different size of the horns as compared to the skull size. Yetis are larger and white in color."

"Okay, fine," Envinyata said. "Grus, please stop messing with that sasquatch."

Poldaran began to laugh. Yadier and Yoxutre looked at her strangely. "What?" Yadier asked.
Messin with Sasquatch!" she laughed. The others looked at her like she had sprouted another head. "The's perfect."

One by one, they thought about it, and it was agreed. Within the hour, a new adventurer's guild was registered with Stormwind.

** * **

The Kirin Tor had its agents in the Cult of the Damned almost immediately after the fall of Dalaran. When I finished my training with my new master, I received a letter from Ansirem Runeweaver, requesting my presence.

It turns out that his agents were having trouble sneaking their way deep enough into the Cult of the Damned to gain information that he sought. He believed that I would have the power to impress those around me within the cult and rise high enough up their ranks without being recognizable enough to be found out.

I took the assignment and began my training in Necromancy. I joined the cult shortly after and began to serve them. Those in the cult took note of my natural magic affinity and talent. It took less than a year before I had risen higher in the cult than any other agents ever had.

I was even able to learn of the plot to assassinate the Ashbringer, Highlord Mograine. Unfortunately, I was unable to get the information to Dalaran in time and the Highlord fell to his own blade at the hands of his son.

My time within the cult came to an end during an expedition called by the Arch-Lich. My feelings overcame my better judgement when I attempted to meet with my uncle within the Necropolis that had been summoned for the use of the present Liches.

You see, my uncle had become one of them, a dark being serving the power of the Scourge.

** * **

The young woman in the black robe lightly pushed upon the door and entered the dark room. She heard a voice, filled with anger. "Who dares intrude upon me?!" it said.

"I apologize, my lord," she spoke. "I do not mean disrespect, but I bring you news."

The room was lit by arcane fires. "Speak it then, worm. I would know your news so I can decide whether I should destroy you or not," the lich said, his skeletal face engulfed in the light of shadowy flames burning within his eyes.

"I have word of your niece."

The lich looked startled. "Shut the door," he said quietly. The woman complied. "Tell me, how is she? How is my darling little Poldaran?" he asked, almost whispering. His voice was thick with emotion.

The woman pulled back her hood. "Not so little anymore, I'm afraid, Uncle," she said as she hugged him, a strange gesture considering he was not much more than a floating skeleton.

"What are you doing here?!" he asked incredulously. "It is not safe here, Pol. I have managed to keep the information about you a secret from the Lich King, but your presence here will surely lead to the discovery of this betrayal. You must flee while you can!"

"Uncle, is there a way to free you of this curse?"

"Not that I know of, Pol. Normally, with a lich, you destroy his phylactery and he is destroyed, his soul freed. But the Lich King has bound all his Liches together, making it nearly impossible to permanently destroy a phylactery. Another method must be devised to permanently shatter one. It is only then that -" he cut the last sentence short with a hiss. "You must flee, Poldaran, now! The Lich King knows of your presence here! If you are captured, you will be turned into a lich like the rest of us, unable to break free of his control or to even die!" The girl nodded. "GO!"

She ran out of the room and had to destroy several undead that were closing in on her. She continued to flee, but ran straight into the arms of a waiting abomination. Her hand struck its chest and it became encased in ice. She hurried past it, seeing an army of Cultists waiting right in front of the door.

She blinked past them, and dove into the sunlight...and out of the null magic field around the Necropolis. A quick word of power and she was gone.
** * **

The Kirin Tor still does not know how I was discovered. That secret I kept hidden from them. The Scourge has hidden it too, for me to be in the same building as their Arch-Lich and not be discovered for so long was something they didn't want to become general knowledge.

But they have been waiting for an opportunity to capture me. Something my uncle knew about me is now known to the Lich King, and it has given him pause. When the Black Citadel of Naxxramas took flight over Azeroth, I took part in the destruction of the smaller Necropoli that joined it. Afterwards, I marched outside of Naxxramas itself and swore that should the Scourge ever attempt to invade my homelands again, I would make sure that it was the beginning of the end of the Scourge's presence in the Eastern Kingdoms and Kalimdor. The visage of Kel'thuzad laughed at my foolish declaration, but there was a look on his face that indicated that he was taking me more serious than he would have me believe.

Strangely, there has been no further invasion. Either my vow had an impact, or there is another, more sinister reason for their lack of aggression. Either way, I am soon going to take the fight to them, in a way they could never imagine.

** * **

"What are we doing in this stupid place?" the young warlock whined. "There's no loot in here! Everything's been picked clean by all the previous adventurers and all that's left is some weaksauce gear that no one would be caught dead in nowadays. And it's sooo hot in here! I'm gonna have to bathe for a week to get all the sweat off of me!"

"Aura, if you don't shut up soon, I'm pushing you into the lava," the paladin in silver armor said.

"Honce, Mom said you're not allowed to be mean to me anymore."

"What are you, six? You can't go crying to Mom every time someone says something mean to you. You're a man now, act like it." The warlock stuck his tongue out at his older brother. "Careful, Aura, your face will get stuck like that."

"You're a meaniehead." The two began bickering in earnest.

At the front of the party, Poldaran and Sharlot exchanged glances. Sharlot mouthed the words "Your turn" at Poldaran, who sighed and walked back to the two. "Okay, boys, I don't know who started this argument, but it's over right now."

"But," Aurafox began, but was cut off as Poldaran raised her hand.

"I swear to Elune that if I hear another word out of either of you today that isn't related to the tactical situation at hand, I will personally tie you up and deliver you to Lady Sylvannas as a test subject for the Forsaken's Royal Apothecary Society. She knows me well and the present will be well received. Do we have an understanding here?" The color drained from their faces, but the two nodded. "Good." She began walking towards the front of the group but suddenly stopped and turned to face them. "Remember. Not. Another. Word." Satisfied that they had the message, she returned to the front of the marching group.

They approached to top of the hill where their next foe would be. Poldaran steeled herself. If all went well, this encounter would be a test of wills, and nothing more. Nine serpent men stood across the plateau from them.

"Hello again, Executus," Poldaran said in greetings. "It has been some time."

"I suppose I should know who you are, little mage?"

"I am going to offer you a proposition, Executus," Poldaran began. "Either you can go wake up Raggy for us without us having to resort to violence, or Neldara here can kill you and make your skull into a puppet and summon him by using ventriloquism."

Executus laughed. "Foolish mortal, if you were going to threaten me, you should have brought a larger force than this. My men and I have wiped full groups of 40 people before, and the size of the cavern makes it hard to bring more than that."

"There may only be sixteen of us, but we are more powerful than the adventurers you've faced before. We do not boast foolhardily. What say you to our deal?"

"That will not be acceptable. The master would not be pleased, not to mention that you are surely bluffing."

"Have it your way," Poldaran said with a sigh. "Archaeus, show him." One of Executus' minions gasped in pain. His eyes grew wide and he collapsed to the ground. A single Night Elf stood behind him holding a bloody dagger. He smiled and faded into the shadow once again. "So," Poldaran said, "who is next?"

The remaining guardians exchanged worried glances, then fled. Majordomo Executus sighed. "Fine, let's go wake the master," he said.

Upon reaching the core, Envinyata and Yoxutre approached Poldaran. "So, lass," Envinyata began, "do you have some kind of plan when Ragnaros appears?"

"I'm gonna need you all to distract him for a few minutes."

"Distract the Fire Lord?" Yoxutre asked skeptically.

"Yeah. Trust me on this, it's gonna be great!" Poldaran said with a devilish smile. Yoxutre and Envinyata exchanged worried looks.

Executus began the summoning. "Behold Ragnaros, the Firelord! He who was ancient when this world was young! Bow before him, mortals! Bow before your ending!"


Executus flinched. "These mortal infidels, my lord! They have invaded your sanctum, and seek to steal your secrets!"

Ragnaros looked enraged. "FOOL! You allowed these insects to run rampant through the Hallowed Core, and now you lead them to my very lair? You have failed me, Executus! Justice shall be met, indeed!" With a great swipe of his fiery hand, he struck Executus down. "Now for you, insects. Boldly you sought the power of Ragnaros! Now you shall see it FIRSTHAND!" He drew his giant mace, Sulfuras. He swiped at Yoxutre, who blocked the blow with his great shield.

"So, uh, Pold," Yoxutre shouted. "Just how long do you need me to hold this guy?!"

"About 3 minutes!" Poldaran shouted back, dashing for the tip of the rocky spiral surrounding the fiery pool.

Yoxutre sighed. "Something tells me that this isn't gonna be the best three minutes of my life."

Poldaran knew Yox was supported by the restorative powers of the party's healers and would be fine. She just hoped that the casters in the group wouldn't hurt Ragnaros too much while distracting him. When she reached the tip of the spiral, she pulled a bottle of glowing blue liquid from her reagent bag. She opened the stopper, poured a little onto her fingers and began drawing an arcane rune. She continued this, working all the way around the spiral drawing differing symbols, knowing her time was short.

Ragnaros continued unleashing his wrath upon his foes. "BY FIRE BE PURGED!" he yelled, throwing a fireball at Aurafox, sending him flying.

Poldaran caught the young warlock just before he crashed into the wall where she was drawing a symbol. "I swear to Elune, Aura. If you smear any of these symbols I will make more of this paint from your blood."

Poldaran completed her work with only a few seconds to spare. "Come forth my servants! Defend your master!" Ragnaros yelled and began to submerge himself in the lava. Poldaran responded by shouting out an incantation, causing the runes to glow and the lake to freeze solid. Ragnaros, the Firelord, servant of the Old Gods, was trapped in solid rock up to his elbows.

"Ok, now that was a neat trick," Yadier said.

Poldaran smiled and approached the Firelord. "WHAT IS THE MEANING OF THIS?!" Ragnaros shouted.

"Nothing major, elemental lord. I just need your heart," Poldaran said, donning a pair of runed gloves.


"I already know how to do it. Just as you consumed Thunderaan, your power now belongs to me, great one." Poldaran plunged her gloved hand into his chest. She pulled out a fiery red stone the size of a quail egg. She showed it to the others. Phreeze absentmindedly reached out and touched the stone. "NO!" Poldaran yelled, but it was too late.

"BY FIRE BE PURGED!" Phreeze yelled, grabbing the stone. He knocked them back with a ring of fire. "TASTE THE FLAMES OF SULFURON!"

"Aomir! Quick!" Poldaran shouted. The night elf nodded and tossed a freezing trap under the gnome. The gnome became trapped in a block of ice. Poldaran reached inside and took the stone from him. She quickly placed it into a rune covered box. The ice melted and the gnome shook his head.

"Sorry about that."

"Ok, I want everyone here to understand that we don't touch the stone. In fact, don't even open the box it's in until you can write a dissertation on the danger inherent in the stone and its proper handling procedures." Poldaran smiled as they nodded. "Alright, now let's get ourselves out of here.

Edited, Feb 25th 2009 4:03am by Poldaran
#3 Feb 25 2009 at 3:09 AM Rating: Good
29,424 posts
After capturing the essence of the Firelord, I had almost everything I needed for what I had planned. All I lacked was a few scales from a powerful red dragon. I knew one who would aid me, but it meant that I had to travel away from my friends for a time to meet with him. While I was gone, things happened, and I returned to find the guild that had become my home hurting.

We did what we could to try to patch it up as best we could, but in the end, we could not save it. So many of us went different ways, though a few found homes in new guilds together(one simply does not accomplish much without a guild).

However, when the final preparations had been made, I still sought out these friends for our assault on Naxxramas. It wouldn't have felt right without them.

** * **
Young Poldaran sighed. "What's wrong?" Her teacher, Prince Kael'thas Sunstrider, asked.

"I'm worried about Uncle. He hasn't checked in with me in some time and I'm beginning to worry that something bad may have happened to him," she confessed.

Kael's brow furrowed. "I'm sure he is alright, Poldaran. He's probably just away on a mission for the Kirin Tor."

"I hope you're right," she said. "It's not like him to miss my birthday."

His eyebrows arched. "Birthday, eh? Well then, it seems I have forgotten to get you a present. Can't have my favorite student thinking I don't care about her birthday, now can I?" he said with a wink. He stroked his chin for a moment. "Hrm..." He snapped his fingers. "I know just the thing!" he exclaimed with a smile. "The games keepers at the palace in Silvermoon have been breeding a new type of Dragonhawk. Much smaller than those we ride to war, these make perfect pets." Poldaran's eyes lit up. "How about tomorrow I'll send over a servant with a couple and you can pick one?" Poldaran nodded, grinning. "There, now that that's settled," he said, looking more serious, "I would like to teach you magic that no mage not of the Quel'dorei has ever learned. This will take an intense amount of study on your part. Do you think you can handle it?"

Poldaran's face grew more serious to match his. She nodded, her missing uncle forgotten for the time.

"Good," Kael'thas said. "Let's get to work."

** * **

They arrived outside of Naxxramas in the dusk of the Plaguelands' perpetual haze. The band of adventurers was large by no means and was certainly a bit of a ragtag bunch, wearing the colors of a number of different guilds, but their eyes were focused. They knew their purpose.

Kel'thuzad had to be destroyed.

Most of Poldaran's dearest friends were there. This fight would be dangerous, and she hoped that none of them came to harm, but it was a distinct possibility. But the risk had to be taken. She had hand picked people she knew could handle the task before them.

"Ok, is everyone clear on what we need to do here?" Poldaran asked the party. Everyone nodded. "Good. Now, there is one more thing I need to add. Kel'thuzad, as a former member of the Kirin Tor, knew enough about me that he may find a way to thwart our plan here if he finds out it is I leading this. I need you all to refrain from using my name during this battle. Just call me Archmage."

They made their way through the dread citadel, destroying enemies where they had to, sneaking past those they could. In a short while, they found themselves in a large chamber before Kel'thuzad himself. He was speaking to the image of the Lich King before him.

"Our preparations go as planned, master," he said in his ghoulish voice.

"It is good that you serve me so faithfully. Soon, all will serve the Lich King and in the end, you shall be long as you do not falter."

"I see no complications..." he paused as he noticed the adventurers. "Wait... What is this?"

"Your security measures have failed! See to this interruption immediately!"

"Yes, master!" He turned to the grim band before him. "Who dares violate the sanctity of my domain? Be warned, all who trespass here are doomed."

Poldaran stepped forward, her face hidden by the cowl of her crimson robe. Something was different about her. She seemed taller, and slimmer. She spoke, her voice also completely different. "Kel'thuzad, for your crimes against the mortal races and especially your crimes against Dalaran, the Kirin Tor hereby sentences you to immediate and final destruction. It will be easier upon you if you surrender and accept your fate."

The Arch-Lich laughed. It was a horrifying sound to hear. "Your boast is strong, Elven wench. And I see you have gathered some powerful adventurers about you. But I doubt that you have considered the folly of your actions. You have made it this far, so you have defeated many of my strongest warriors, even the mighty Sapphiron. However, you do not have any comprehension of the power you face. I embody the power of the burning Sunwell, Elf. Powers you once held are now my own. In time, your very soul will also serve us."

"We shall see, filth. Anar'alah belore." She turned to Yoxutre. "I believe it is time to attack."

The grim faced paladin nodded. "You heard the Archmage. Let's get to it then!" he said, pulling down the visor on his helm. He charged forward and struck the great Lich with his hammer. He threw his shield at an approaching abomination and slowed its progress towards the heros.

The druid Xelsia turned her magic inward and changed her form into that of an immense Moonkin. She wielded a brutal looking mallet and charged and the slowed abomination striking it with both the blunt weapon and the wrath of nature itself.

A cultist of the Cult of the Damned began weaving a spell upon the gathered warriors, but was struck by a wave of pure agony as the Dwarven priestess Envinyata began to set his mind aflame with the shadowy power of a dark dwarven god.

Sharlot, a master of Nature's healing powers, shifted herself into the form of a great treant. The stone ground around her became covered with grass and wildflowers as she channeled the healing powers into those around her, repairing any wounds they had taken and restoring their strength.

Multiple armed skeletons began charging at them, but they were intercepted by a pair of Night Elven rogues who appeared from the shadows. As they began to tear through their foes, one took a look at the other's dagger and laughed. "You are so ***, Arch," Mankostalker said with a laugh.

A third rogue emerged and struck a Shade that had appeared behind them with the flat of her dagger. "Kitty!" she yelled, as Neldara was wont to do.

A wave of slavering ghouls charged and was caught by the searing power of the light surrounding another paladin. "Not so fast, ************** Tylevic shouted. One of the ghouls knocked the shield from his hand. He blinked. "Well played," he said to the ghoul, pulling the giant axe from his back and promptly slicing that ghoul in half.

Mankostalker took a blow to the skull and fell unconcious. Sharlot awakened him with a spell of rebirth. He looked at her. "What happened?" he asked, still dazed.

She shrugged and pointed at another paladin who was using the power of the light to tend to the wounds of those around him. "I blame Fennchurch," she said.

"I can live with that," Manko said, returning to the fray.

A single ghoul broke away from the battle with Tylevic and charged at Sharlot. Alexandrine, Poldaran's younger sister, threw her hammer at the charging creature, stunning it. "By the Light I love that sound!" she shouted, temporarily lifting her golden visor.

Bullets rained upon the stunned ghoul and a large warpstalker leapt upon its back. "I choose you, Tazo!" the night elven marksman Aomir yelled, brandishing his smoking pistol. He laughed and began peppering the foes surrounding them with gunfire.

The dwarven paladin Boramir was engaged with a crypt fiend. It was almost a comical sight as he was less than a third the creature's size. But then again, his giant hammer was more than large enough for the job. He grimly smashed one of the former Nerubian's front legs. A banshee tried to sneak up on him, but was swiftly dealt with by the rogue, Celendria.

Poldaran found the center of the room and conjured forth a floating crystal nearly twice the size of her head. It looked to be an elvish Blood Crystal like those used by the Sin'dorei in the Netherstorm. She turned to her younger sister, Sindara. "Sin, I need you and the other warlocks to begin drawing the summoning circles. Show them where."

The black hooded woman nodded. "As you wish." She gathered up the other warlocks. Each of them went to the place she showed them on the diagram. There were five in all, Soleris, Pedroinfante, Dharknis and Sharlita. Good friends and powerful warlocks, all.

Poldaran then beckoned Yadier over. "Now I need you to help the other mages begin the runewords." He nodded and showed the others where to begin and what to draw. Pasiran, Jeriix, Bythia and Phreeze began as they were instructed.

"Envi!" Poldaran shouted over her shoulder. "I need you, Icyis and Alex to begin sanctifying the crystal. We begin channeling soon."

The dwarf nodded.

Everything was finally in place. "Now, everyone step into your runes and begin channeling. Warlocks, channel the fires of destruction into the crystal! Mages channel the fiery wrath of the arcane through me! Icyis, Envinyata and Alex, channel the Light's life giving power into the crystal!"

And the ritual had begun.

Tendrils of flame snaked into the crystal from the warlocks. The crystal glowed with the awesome power of the Light. Burning streams of flame writhed along the ground towards the Archmage Poldaran of the Kirin Tor, Hand of A'dal, Champion of the Naaru, heroine of the Shattered Sun and Vanquisher of the Betrayer. She touched her hands to the crystal and completed the circuit.

A giant column of flame struck forth from the crystal and slammed into the chest of the Arch Lich, just missing Yoxutre, who had to jump aside to avoid being engulfed. Kel'thuzad laughed. "Your spell is much too weak! I am merely absorbing its power and will use it against you!"

"We must channel harder, friends!" Poldaran yelled. "Summon forth all of your strength and channel with all of your might!" They began channeling with all of their power.

The Arch Lich laughed again. "Your best is not good enough, Elven dog! I am absorbing everything you throw at me! Soon my power will be beyond your imagining!"

Poldaran's body shifted. She was no longer as tall, nor as waifishly thin as before. She was back to normal. She pulled from her belt a small golden feather and began redirecting the magic from herself into the feather instead. Once the tendrils of flame issuing from the other mages were channeling to the feather, she stuck it to the side of the crystal. She walked around the crystal towards the Arch Lich.

"I had counted upon you absorbing the magic," she said, her voice returned to normal. The Lich looked panicked as he tried to do something. "Don't waste your strength. The conduit is now open and will not close until the ritual is at an end." He struggled, looking for a way to deflect the magic. "You always were unable to see the traps laid before you," she said with a sigh.

Recognition washed over his face. "Wait, you can't be..."

The last bit of flame channeled finally slammed into the Arch Lich. His bones began to groan and creak with the force of the fiery energy within him. Poldaran pulled back her hood. Tears were in her eyes. "I hope, uncle, that this is your end and that you are now free from the Scourge," she said. She hugged him tightly as his body began to writhe. "Goodbye," she said, releasing him and walking away.

She closed her eyes as she walked away, blinking away a tear. The necropolis shook as he exploded. His phylactery shattered as well. Poldaran hoped that its destruction would mean his end but feared that it only delayed his return.

In his place was a mighty burning phoenix. Its shrill cry heralded its arrival into the world. Poldaran turned to it. "Go forth, my child. Wreak destruction upon the Scourge!" she yelled. The great phoenix flew through a wall, sending debris everywhere. She sighed. "Come friends. Let's go home."
#4 Feb 25 2009 at 3:16 AM Rating: Good
29,424 posts
Along the docks of Theramore, two great Quel'dorei warships were moored. Their crews was loading up supplies and all manner of magical artifacts to prepare them for their voyage early the next morning. A journeyman of Dalaran by the name of Sorli was overseeing the loading of the magical artifacts. The young Draenei spotted Sharlot, Envinyata, Yoxutre and Yadier approaching.

"Greetings, friends," she said.

"Hello, Journeyman,"Yadier said. "Have you seen Poldaran around here?"

"The Archmage received an urgent message from Dalaran and said that she had to deal with something on the Isle of Quel'danas before she could leave. She said that she would return before the morning."

"That's strange," Yoxutre said. "Considering the importance of this mission, I can't understand what would cause her to run off like that. Especially to the Isle, which has been free of activity since the Third War."

A great purple bird streaked down from the sky and landed next to them. It shimmered and Xelsia was standing before them. "Have you guys heard?" she asked.

"Heard what, lass?" Envinyata asked.

"As you know, Kael'thas Sunstrider escaped after we defeated him a few weeks ago."

"We know this, we were all there," Yoxutre said.

"Well, anyway, it seems like he's resurfaced. And you'll never believe where."

"The Sunwell Isle?" Sharlot asked.

"Yes! But first, he and a force of his Dawnblade soldiers struck Silvermoon and stole the captive Naaru, M'uru. Legion forces have also been seen on the Isle."

"When did this happen?" Envinyata asked.

"Early this morning. Shattrath has responded by consolidating the fractured Scryer and Aldor factions into a single Shattered Sun Offensive. They have already established a minor foothold upon the Isle and are fighting back the demons as we speak. I wish we could go there and -"

She was cut short as trumpets sounded. Lady Jaina Proudmoore's voice could be heard throughout Theramore, projected by her magic. "As many of you know, the Legion and the forces of Kael'thas Sunstrider have begun some plot upon the Isle of Quel'danas. I am pleased to announce that I have just received reports that Shattrath's Shattered Sun Offensive has struck a massive blow against them. A few hours ago, a lone champion entered the Magister's Terrace and has just returned with the head of Kael'thas Sunstrider!" Cheers erupted throughout the city. The five friends exchanged worried looks. "While we will always mourn the passing of such a great mage, this is a huge blow to the efforts of the Legion and the Dawnblade!" The cheers and celebrating began in earnest. The companions knew that it would last for hours.

A figured shimmered into existence before them, and immediately collapsed. The friends caught her and helped her to her feet. She looked disheveled, exhausted, and battered. But most alarmingly, her violet robes were singed and covered in blood.

Alexandrine, having witnessed her arrival, rushed to her side. "Pol, you alright?" she asked, alarmed.

"I'm fine," she said. "The blood isn't mine, though I may have to deal with a bit of blistering and skin peeling as these burns heal. What I need most right now is rest. Please help me to my quarters on the ship, I may not wake before it's time to set sail." As she spoke, tears streamed down her cheeks.

They helped her to the boat. "What's wrong, lass?" Envinyata asked her.

Poldaran sighed and fought back a sob. "I'm tired of burying my friends," she lamented. "Now please, I need rest." The small phoenix hatchling that had been following her screeched mournfully.

** * **

The companions set up a staging point upon the shores of Northrend. They had erected a quick palisade for protection against the undead that they knew would soon be surrounding them. They had seen a few gargoyles in the distance as they were approaching the shore, and knew that the ground forces would not be long in coming. Nearly twenty paladins manned the remaining entrance to the camp. Other champions moved about the camp making ready.

Inside the large tent in the center of camp, Poldaran of Wintermoon was preparing as well. The time was almost nigh. Today was the culmination of weeks, nay, months of planning and preparation.

It was also the day the prophecy given to her long ago had spoken of.

Upon the height of the Fire Festival, the Bearer of the Wisdom shall take up the Flames of Old and shall raise her hand defiantly against the might of the land of ice and its king of the dead. She will bring to bear the burning blood of the world and strike against the Damned to save her people. Should she fail in her task, the world of life is doomed.

An image appeared in the sky above the camp. The Lich King, astride a great Frost Wyrm, laughed. It was a hollow sound that unnerved even the most hardened warrior. "So, the champions who defeated Kel'thuzad seek to press their initiative and strike against me! Your presence here is laughable. My response comes soon." Within moments, a massive force of the dead had encircled the camp. "Surrender and your deaths will be quick, champions! Continue this folly and I will ensure that your torment is eternal!"

"No dice, friend," Yoxutre said.

"Aye," Envinyata agreed. "We will be victorius this day! For Khaz'modan!"

Other cries followed. Some cheered for the Alliance, some for Dalaran, others for Shattrath, and some still for their homelands. "So be it." The image raised the great sword, Frostmourne. "Attack!" he commanded, swinging the blade forward.

It was quickly clear that they could not hold back the attack forever. They could only hope to buy Poldaran the time she needed. Thankfully, they would not need to hold them off long.

Chanting began within the tent in the center. The image of the Lich King, curious, turned towards the chanting...just in time to see the tent erupt in flames. It was quickly consumed, revealing Poldaran. She was dressed in crimson robes marked with flames all around. She was also wearing gloves and what could only be described as a tiara, both made of red dragonscales. And no ordinary dragonscales, but those of a full grown dragon. Next to her stood Sindara, who held a small silver box.

Poldaran opened the box and retrieved a fiery stone the size of a small quail egg. She placed it in the setting upon her helm. Her hazel eyes began to glow with the flames of the Fire Lord.

"Greetings, Prince," she said to the floating image. "Today I wield the mighty flames of the Fire Lord himself. Perhaps you should reconsider your attack against us. You will only lose these creatures needlessly."

"We shall see, boastful mage."

Poldaran smiled as she directed the flames inward. They surrounded her body and carried her into the air above the camp. The nimbus disappeared, except around her feet. She stood upon the burning air and looked down upon the forces attacking the camp. The mage snapped her fingers and a small flame appeared upon her index finger. She blew upon it gently, sending a stream of flame into the center of the swarm of undead and leaving the remaining numbers looking much more manageable for those on the ground.

She walked over to the figure floating near her and reached out towards it. "You fool," the Lich King said. "This is only a projection. You cannot hurt me here!"

"We shall see, fallen prince." She reached her hand into the image and spoke a word of power. The Lich King gasped in agony.

"This cannot be!" he said, immediately retracting the projection. She grabbed onto it tightly and was dragged along with it. She found herself standing before the Lich King. The Lich King laughed and thrust forth with his blade. Poldaran gasped in pain as the sword slid into her stomach and out through her back, narrowly missing her spine.

"You see, you cannot beat me!" the Lich King laughed in triumph.

Anger flared through Poldaran's body. Her eyes began to burn with renewed intensity. "I do not have to beat you, fallen prince," she said, grasping the sides of the blade with each hand. "I merely have to delay you long enough to complete my goals." With that, she pulled the blade from her stomach and pushed it back at the startled Lich King, knocking him off balance. Her hand ignited and she placed it the wound on her stomach, cauterizing it. She did the same to the one on her back. He swung at her again. This time she dodged it, putting her hand to the wyrm's neck as she did so. She smiled mischeivously. "I win," she said. She looked at the wyrm and spoke. "Emfury scedahris scedahr!"

The great wyrm writhed and shuddered, finally erupting in a ball of flame. The Lich King fell to the barren Dragonblight below. Poldaran flew on towards her goal.

** * **

The members of the small army felt a great shuddering as the earth quaked below them. Having dispatched their previous foes, they awaited Poldaran's return, and this was cause for alarm.

"What is it?" Sharlot asked. "The land is in great pain!"

"I'm not sure," Yadier replied. "I believe it is the work of Poldaran, though! Let me scry for her!" He opened a viewing portal. They could see Poldaran flying above what appeared to be an abandoned Nerubian temple that was half excavated. Members of the Cult of the Damned ran around on the ground, trying to escape Poldaran's fiery wrath.

"What is that?" Tylevic asked.

"It appears to be the remains of a Nerubian temple," Yadier began. His eyes opened wide at the realization. "It's the Guardian's Cache! That's what we're here to destroy!"

"What's the Guardian's Cache?" Alexandrine asked.

"When the Guardian, Aegwynn came here to fight off the avatar of Sargeras, she brought with her an ******* of weapons to aid her. She didn't need them all, so she stored them here for eventual use. They contained a number of extremely powerful weapons and books that we cannot allow to fall into enemy hands."

The land groaned again as Poldaran raised her hand, calling forth small streams of magma to burst from the ground among the Cult members.
"She's wasting a lot of energy," Bythia noted. "Why doesn't she just destroy the temple?"

"That's easy," Yadier responded. "She's doing it for the benefit of those members of the Cult who will survive. She wants them to tell the others what happened. The fear it will inspire will ensure that the Cult is less than eager to strike against us."

"Will that work?" Sharlot asked.

"The cult tells a chilling story of the time that Poldaran assaulted the Scholomance. They say that she lit the Headmaster on fire. He took three days to burn to death. They say that he screamed the entire time, and there was nothing they could do to put out the flame or end his suffering. And that is the least of her deeds that they speak of. When a cultist has nightmares, they are of her."

"So they haven't mustered a large attack on us since the last of the Third War because of her?"

"That's not entirely accurate, but she is a large part of it. They do not wish to test her until they are stronger."

Poldaran waved her hand at the temple, and the earth quaked again. A great flood of molten rock tore through the temple, destroying everything inside and burying it once again. And then the rock hissed and once again became solid.

The jewel upon her head cracked and shattered, and she teleported to them. They caught her as she fell, unconscious again from the force of her exertions.

** * **

"Looks like she's waking up," Alexandrine said.

Poldaran found herself on the bed in her quarters on the ship. Several of her friends were waiting with her. "How long have I been unconscious?" she asked.

"Two days, lass," Envinyata said. "You gave us quite a fright."

Alexandrine's face grew serious. "Pol, you've been seriously wounded. You're lucky to be alive. We've tried healing the wound, but it won't respond to our healing magic or even standard medical care. What happened?"

Poldaran put her hand to her stomach self consciously. Through her nightgown, she could feel bandages. "One of those blasted skeletons managed to get a lucky throw off with a spear. I burned it to ashes and cauterized the wound. I should be ok now, though it'll probably leave a scar."

"We also noticed some scars on your back. Horrible things written..."

Poldaran cut her off, "Those are stories for another time. Now please, I'm feeling tired and kind of hungry. Let me get my rest and then send someone up with some of that fish stew I smell the cook preparing."

The friends agreed and took their leave. When they were gone, Poldaran pulled up her nightgown and removed the bandage. The wound was turning a sickly green color. It was beginning to fester.

The plague was upon her.

Upon the height of the Fire Festival, the Bearer of the Wisdom shall take up the Flames of Old and shall raise her hand defiantly against the might of the land of ice and its king of the dead. She will bring to bear the burning blood of the world and strike against the Damned to save her people. Should she fail in her task, the world of life is doomed.

Should she succeed, she will take upon the doom of the world, and her only hope of escaping it is within the fires of the Lifebinder.
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