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The Lore of Poldaran: Chapter 6: The LichbornFollow

#1 Dec 10 2009 at 3:36 AM Rating: Good
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Necromancy is the study of magic involving the dead. It is highly illegal and should be avoided at all costs. I discuss necromancy here only because it is our obligation to have a basic understanding of the magic employed by our enemies - and make no mistake, any practitioner of necromancy is your enemy. Necromancers and their followers are the enemies of all living things. Their influence must be avoided at all costs.

Necromantic magic has many functions beyond simply raising the dead. Masters of this tainted field of magic can conjure festering diseases, harness the shadows into bolts of incendiary energy, and chill the living with the power of death. Necromancy can also be used to reconstruct the flesh of undead creatures, allowing them to function again even after the foul monsters have been destroyed.

The former archmage Kel'Thuzad is perhaps the most notable example of a modern necromancer. He greatly contributed to the initial spread of the Scourge and the fall of Lordaeron. Now, Kel'Thuzad reigns as a lich from the floating citadel of Naxxramas. His ongoing existence poses an imminent threat to us all.


-Archmage Ansirem Runeweaver
"The Schools of Arcane Magic: Necromancy"



The great blue dragon had lived over a hundred years, yet he had never seen war such as this, nor atrocities like the one that had unfolded today. The Azure Dragonshrine was littered with the bodies of the human converts that had served Malygos. And what was worse was that over a dozen dragons had lost their lives that day, some of them friends he had known for decades. The Kirin Tor had gone too far this day.

He roared in frustration. Lesser drakes wisely cowered from him. Not only had the attack slaughtered so many, but it had disrupted the flow of the magical ley line through the Dragonshrine, weakening those who had been attacking the Wyrmrest Temple. The defenders had rallied and driven back his forces. He had been forced to call a retreat or he would have lost dozens more of his brethren.

A lone human in a white hooded robe had been responsible. She had brazenly flown past the defenders of the Azure Dragonshrine astride the back of a curious white drake. They had tried to stop her, but she had surrounded herself with a shield of immense power, protecting her and the drake from harm. Upon reaching the base of the ley line, she had opened a portal of summoning. What had come through had been the stuff of nightmares.

It was a round, metallic object roughly three times the size of a large melon, or so the survivors reported. It had some type of controls on it that she had activated before flying off, leaving the device surrounded by another temporary shield. A few pursued her, but most tried to destroy the device. Whatever it was, they had known that it wasn't good and needed to be destroyed.

This had proved to be their undoing. The shield quickly faded, but the device responded by detonating. The explosion itself had been small, no more than that of a simple grenade used by engineers in combat. However, the explosion had not been the dangerous part.

A rippling wave of energy had been unleashed. It interacted with magical energy, increasing it and causing it to become unstable. The backlash from the destabilization had killed everyone within its range. With the ley line so close, it had been able to strike across the entire Azure Dragonshrine. Only the high walls and underground cobalt deposits had prevented it from going any further.

The chaotic state of magical energies within the blast radius also left anyone within feeling quite ill. It was going to take weeks of intensive work for the Azure Dragonshrine to once again be stabilized.

Damned be that woman! he thought to himself. He had learned from a former member of the Kirin Tor that Malygos had turned that the device she had likely used was known as a Mana Bomb. By the law of the Kirin Tor, the creation of such devices was highly illegal. And surely the Wyrmrest Accord would not have authorized the use of such a weapon. The only likely governments to authorize its usage were those of Silvermoon and Stormwind.

It fit, as they had fought a human woman recently. During a particularly brutal assault upon the Wyrmrest Temple, victory had been all but assured when a woman in white robes on the back of a white drake and an elven man wearing black, riding a black drake had rallied the defenders by flying through the waves of attackers and leaping from their mounts to the backs of two of the assaults leaders and slaughtering them, him with a wicked looking blade and her with deadly magic. The brazen attack had shaken the blue drakes and the following attack by the red flight had demoralized them completely, causing them to scatter.

No one within the ranks of the blue flight knew who they were, but his black tunic was marked with a red phoenix, the mark of Kael'thas Sunstrider, and the woman's robe had a similar adornment upon the hood. A few of the turned Kirin Tor had suggested that it might be a certain former member of Kael'thas' royal guard and the daughter of the Archlich Kel'thuzad since both had loved the dead prince, but others dismissed such a notion because the latter had recently died. It would, however, certainly explain how she had come into possession of a Mana Bomb, since Kael'thas had been rumored to have several stockpiled in caches around Outland.

The great blue dragon scanned the skies and noticed one of his scouts returning. He took to the sky to meet him. "What news, young one?" he called out.

"Our pursuers have cornered the white rider, great Arcalanos. They have begun attempting to subdue her."

"Where?"

"In the mountains northwest of the Wyrmrest Temple, great one."

"Show me."

They flew for several minutes, but soon arrived to find a great battle being waged. The woman stood upon the ground while seven dragons did swarmed through the air around her, firing blasts of their icy breath. She deflected the attacks deftly. The bodies of four dragons lay around her.

"You are surrounded, human!" Arcalanos called out. "Surrender and we will be merciful!"

She pulled back her hood, revealing a smirk upon her face. "That is not a choice you can make," she called back. "Your mad leader will simply ignore promises you offered in order to gain what he wants." Her red hair fluttered in the breeze.

"You shall learn to show respect to your betters!" he responded. "You are not fit to tread upon the ground Malygos has walked upon." But he hesitated. There was something familiar about this woman. He felt as if he had met her before. He stared at her for a moment.

She smiled at him. "I almost didn't recognize you, Blue Horn," she said. "You've certainly grown."

He was in shock. No one had called him by that name since he was a whelp. Surely she could not know him from that long ago. But he found that he did recognize her from that time. She looked just like the woman who had visited his mother's den nearly a hundred years ago! Surely there was no way she could be the same woman. No, that just could not be. "Take her alive. I'm sure Malygos will wish to speak with her," he commanded.

"So be it," she said. "I gave you a chance to flee with your lives. Now I must slay you."

The great dragon laughed. "You're outnumbered, human. There's no way you'll be able to best us. You wouldn't even survive one attack."

"Watch me," she said with determination as she began casting a spell. She unleashed it quickly, surrounding herself in a giant domed shield.

"Quickly!" Arcalanos called out. "She's going to attempt to teleport from here! Tangle the ley lines around her so she can't escape!" The others responded by using their considerable power to begin weaving a knot in the lines of magic around the dome, creating a kind of net around her.

He watched as the magic within the lines began to shudder and was absorbed. The dome faded. "I must thank you for concentrating the magic around me. It made it much easier to absorb," she said. Her eyes were glowing blue with the arcane energy she had drawn in. She drew her sword, a slender double bladed elven weapon, and thrust it into the ground. With a single word, she unleashed the magic within through it. The ground rumbled and lines of the magic sped towards the four blue dragon corpses around her.

The impact of the magic with the bodies caused the very air to shudder. Arcalanos felt a great sense of dread as the bodies began to change. The scales and flesh began to melt away, leaving only great skeletons. The skeletons began to writhe and then rose to their feet and roared.

The woman had summoned forth not one, but four massive Frost Wyrms to defend her. The great monsters took flight and began attacking the dragons surrounding her. One after one, the dragons fell, slain by the icy talons and teeth of their new foes. Two of them struck Arcalanos, one from either side and dragged him to the ground below. They held him down as she approached.

"I told you to flee," she said to him. "The others would have survived. Their deaths are upon your head, Blue Horn."

"What is to be my fate?"

"You are free to go if you'll give your word to leave this place when I release you."

"I don't understand."

"I did not save your life a century ago just to kill you today." She ordered the frost wyrms to release him. "Flee this place. I must destroy these creations and the corpses of your brethren so that the Lich King can't get ahold of another eleven wyrms to serve him."

"Why did you save me those years ago? And more pressingly, how? I'm very confused."

She smiled. "I saved you because the Infinite Dragonflight ordered your death. I'm not sure why they wanted you dead, but I've never found their meddling with the past to be a good thing, so I came back to save you and your family. I have a feeling you have an important role in the flow of time."

"Who are you?"

"I am known to the men and women of Azeroth as the Lichborn. That is all you need know. Now leave this place. I wish to return home before dark."

** * **

The blonde paladin woman looked down from her flying machine, surveying the city below. Wintergarde was certainly the worse for wear. And what was truly scary was that the floating citadel of Naxxramas had taken residence over the city. She called over to her companions, both riding upon the backs of red drakes. "Envi, Yox, this doesn't look good!" she shouted. The two nodded their agreement. She spotted what appeared to be a fortified section up at the top of the city and motioned over towards it. The three landed within the city.

They were greeted by a military guard. The city had indeed been fortified, but it seemed like all they could do was hold the single part of the city. They were barely managing to keep out the hordes of rampaging undead from the city below. The dwarf, Envinyata, looked at her companions grimly. "Let's split up and see if we can get some information. Find out what's going on here." Her companions nodded.

Alexandrine walked determinedly to a clerk filing battle reports at a nearby covered tent. "Sergeant, report. What's going on here?" she commanded.

The dwarf looked at her. "Now listen here, lass. I am a member of the 7th Legion. I don't have to take orders from some adventurer. Now go bother someone else." With that, he returned to his paperwork. Alexandrine took off her helmet and gave the man a look of command. She waited patiently a moment as he became irritated by her presence and looked back up at her. "Are ye deaf, lass? I said..." Suddenly he stopped talking and stood up abruptly, saluting her. "I'm sorry, Master Sergeant. I didna recognize you."

She smiled and returned the salute. "At ease," she said automatically. "Actually, they promoted me to Lieutenant after the fighting in Silithus was over. But that's of no importance right now. Come, tell me what has happened here."

He relaxed visibly. "Well, lieutenant, the Scourge began attacking in earnest about two weeks ago. The waves became heavier, softening our defenses. We sent out a runner asking for aid, but we aren't sure if he made it. About a week ago, that appeared in the sky," he said, gesturing towards Naxxramas. "A lich by the name of Thel'zan descended from it and led an immense force upon the town. They crushed our defenses and scattered our men." He was shaking visibly. "A lot of good men died that day." He took a drink from a steaming mug. "High Commander Wyrmbane led us in a retreat to the most defensible spot, which is where we are today. But we were forced to leave behind a number of townsfolk. I was sure that they would get eaten. And they would have, if it hadna been for the timely arrival of the Lichborn and the Sunfury."

"Who?"

"You haven't heard of them?" he asked, incredulous.

"I'm sorry, Sergeant, but I've been on a boat for the last ten days. We only just arrived in Northrend this morning. So, who are these people you speak of?"

"A human woman in white robes and a Blood Elf in black leather armor. They both wear the mark of Kael'thas Sunstrider, his upon his tabard and hers upon the back of her hood."

"What did they do when they arrived?" Alexandrine asked, her brow creased with thought.

"She landed that white drake of hers upon the field and placed herself between those of us trying to rescue the remaining citizens and the oncoming swarm of dead. With a single motion of her hand, sheets of ice fell from the sky, cutting off the approaching dead. Meanwhile, he began swooping down on his black drake and carrying trapped citizens to the safety of the upper tier of the city. After their arrival, the death toll dropped significantly."

"What happened then?"

"After the last citizen was brought to safety, she released her spell and the ice stopped falling. She then faced Thel'zan and taunted him."

"Taunted him? That sounds dangerous. What did she say?"

"It probably was," he agreed. "I remember her words clear as day. 'Come, Inigo!' she shouted. 'If you wish this to be the day of our meeting, then let us destroy eachother! Let us see if you can hold onto the control of your dead while testing your will against mine!' Thel'zan looked at her for a moment and retreated to the back of his ranks. Then he released his minions at her. The Sunfury was at her side within seconds, his blades at the ready and the two began destroying the dead by the dozens. Thel'zan was forced to pull back his forces after they had slain several hundred."

"These are some dangerous people," Alexandrine noted. "What did they do after that?"

"Yes, but thankfully they seem to be on our side." He shuffled some papers. "They stayed with us a few days, helping us finish up our fortifications. Before leaving, they managed to recover Thel'zan's phylactery and destroy him, with the aid of Highlord Fordragon."

"Bolvar Fordragon's here?!" she asked.

"Not anymore. After destroying Thel'zan, he left towards Fordragon Hold to the northwest, and they flew off towards Wyrmrest. I hear that Highlord Bolvar is preparing to assault the Wrath Gate, and some of our scouts have reported that there have been increasing numbers of skirmishes in the skies to the south between the Red and Blue Dragonflights."

"How are things here?"

"We still have to contend with large numbers of the dead, but they've been disorganized by the destruction of Thel'zan, so it hasn't been impossible. Just very difficult."

"Thank you, Sergeant. I should probably allow you to return to your reports." He stood and saluted her. She saluted back and left to find her friends.

She found them standing next to the keep's armory. "So," Yoxutre asked. "Find anything?"

Alexandrine nodded. "The city fell about a week ago. A man and woman matching the description of Nihlus and Poldaran arrived and protected the retreat into the keep. With the help of Bolvar Fordragon they slew Thelzan, the Lich leading the undead. Then they left towards Wyrmrest. Bolvar headed to Fordragon Hold, where he's preparing an assault on the Wrath Gate."

"How did you find all that out?"

"I used my rank like a bludgeon."

Envinyata looked at her for a moment. "Rank, lass? We're all retired."

"Once 7th Legion, always 7th Legion," she said. "Surely a couple Majors like yourselves remember that."

** * **

The two druids landed upon the lower steps of the great tower known as the Wyrmrest Temple and changed into their normal, Night Elven forms. "Let's try to find the Alliance Ambassador. He or she may have the information we seek, and if not, might be able to direct us to someone who does," Sharlot said. Xelsia nodded in agreement.

Sharlot asked around and quickly found the woman she sought. She approached her fellow Night Elf cordially. "Greetings, Ambassador Trueblade," she said. "I was wondering if I might have a few moments of your time."

"Greetings," Lauriel Trueblade responded. "How may I help you this morning, druid of the glade?"

"I seek information about a friend who we believe to be here in Northrend. We aren't sure where exactly she is, but with the heavy fighting here in the Dragonblight, we felt that this was as good a place as any to start."

"Describe her to me."

"She's a human mage with red hair, a flair for the dramatic and places an overemphasis on what she's wearing. She's been known to travel in the company of a dark haired Blood Elven man."

"That sounds familiar. Anything else you can tell me?"

"She cares for a small phoenix hatchling and has long been allied with the Bronze flight."

The ambassador looked at her for a few moments, her face filled with suspicion. "It sounds like you're talking about the White Rider. The woman who calls herself 'Lichborn'."

"White rider?"

"Yes. A woman garbed in robes of pure white who rides upon the back of a white drake. She is teamed with a Blood Elf who wears black armor and a black cloak and rides a black drake."

"That certainly sounds like them, though it's likely that he would be wearing a phoenix crest as well."

"He does in fact wear such. How is it that you know them?"

"She's a close friend whom I've joined in combat in numerous battles. We thought that she had died recently, but had heard rumors that she might be alive. I'm aiding her younger sisters in their search for her."

"If she is the one you seek, her sisters should be very proud of her. We're not sure what happened, but she and her drake managed to save the Wyrmrest Temple from falling to the Blue Flight yesterday afternoon. Some have begun to worry, however. Her drake returned without her yesterday evening and none of the Red Flight will comment on her absence."

Sharlot felt a pang of worry for her friend. "I'm sure she'll be alright," she said, not sure if she herself believed it.

"I hope so, for all our sakes," the Ambassador said grimly. "It's only by her efforts that our forces haven't fallen to the Scourge or the Blue Flight in the last week." She paused for a moment. "I really must get back to my work here," she declared.

"Thank you for your time, Ambassador Trueblade. Please tell me if you hear anything." The other woman nodded. Sharlot approached Xelsia, who had just finished speaking to a member of the Green Flight. "What have you heard?" she asked the other druid.

"Poldaran's certainly been busy the last week," Xelsia replied.

"So it would seem. Any idea where she went yesterday?"

"During a particularly brutal assault by the blue dragons yesterday, Poldaran announced to the defenders that she had a way to stop the assault. She took flight on her drake and flew towards the Azure Dragonshrine. Shortly after, there was an explosion of some kind. The aftermath left the attackers unable to unleash any but the simplest of spells. The defenders rallied and drove them off, but was unable to muster a large enough force to mount a retaliatory strike."

"Any word on what caused the explosion?"

"Lord Itharius says that the Black Dragonflight believes that Poldaran set off a Mana Bomb."

"Like the one used on the Cenarion Thicket?" Sharlot asked, shocked.

"Precisely."

"Poldaran must have been desperate to unleash something like that." Xelsia nodded in agreement. The two noticed several of the Drakonid guards running towards the western end of the temple. "I wonder what's going on," Sharlot said. The two followed the guards and saw that they were looking off towards the fields of snow to the west.

A lone figure was riding towards the temple upon the back of a skeletal warhorse. A half dozen blue drakes were chasing her, but the horse seemed to be able to run as fast as they could fly. One of the dragons breathed a blast of arcane energy at the woman. The horse leapt to the side and the woman retaliated by launching a blue fireball over her shoulder, charring the scales of the dragon's right shoulder.

Three of the other dragons unleashed their breath attacks at her, two cutting off her means of escape and the third hitting the horse under her. She tumbled from her mount and was quickly surrounded by the dragons. "We have to help her!" Sharlot said, looking at Xelsia. The younger druid nodded and took the form of a moonkin. "I'll take the one to the right, you take the one just next to it. Perhaps if we open a path, she can escape."

Xelsia concentrated upon her target and began channeling the wrath of nature. One of the stars within the sky answered her call and a great pillar of starlight struck the blue dragon, slamming it to the ground.

Meanwhile, Sharlot began communing with the power of nature as well, but instead sought a different method of attack. She touched her hand to the ground and asked the world for its aid. It responded as enormous roots shot from the ground below one of the dragons and ensnared it, pulling it not just to the ground, but down into the world's surface to be absorbed by the soil and provide nutrients for life to come.

The woman didn't seize the opportunity to escape, however. She stood her ground. "You of the blue flight seek to learn more of the power of arcane magic," she said, not shouting but strangely heard by all despite her great distance from them. "I've been studying Medivh's journals. Let me show you what I've learned!" She calmly raised her palm towards one of the remaining drakes and unleashed the magic she had been gathering around her. It stared at her for a minute as though nothing had happened, but then began flailing in distress as a fire ignited within it. Within moments, it collapsed to the ground and its motion ceased. The other drakes took that as their cue to flee.

The skeletal horse limped to her. Sharlot felt a dark sense of foreboding as the woman used some kind of magic to repair the damage to her steed, but it could not dampen her spirits as the woman approached the part of the temple where Xelsia and she were waiting. She dismounted and approached her friends. "Sharlot, Xelsia, it's so good to see you again!" Poldaran said excitedly. "Though I was hoping to..."

She was cut off as three men wearing the armor of the Violet Guard stepped between them. The leader spoke. "Poldaran, daughter of Kel'thzad, by order of the Kirin Tor, I hereby place you under arrest. You will surrender your weapons and be brought before the Six to be tried." Poldaran didn't look very surprised by this. She gave her sword to the man she had known for years.

"As you wish, captain." She looked at her friends. "Go to the moonglade and tell the leaders of the Cenarion Circle what's happening. They'll know what to do." She allowed herself to be shackled and the guards led her towards the hippogryphs they had flown in on.

"Wait!" Sharlot shouted. "What are the charges?"

One of the guards looked at her with a sneer. "High Treason."

** * **
#2 Dec 10 2009 at 3:37 AM Rating: Good
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Poldaran sat within a prison cell within the Violet Citadel, awaiting the pending trial. She normally would have been held within the Violet Hold, but some kind of trouble was happening within its walls, and the Kirin Tor's upper council felt it was not safe to have her down there.

She had requested the presence of her lawyer, a woman by the name of Tinaomi who had represented the Wintermoon family for almost two decades. But it would be at least another day before the woman would arrive. Which barely gave her time to be present for the opening of the trial.

Poldaran had not been told the exact details of the charges. High treason and Necromancy were just two of the charges being brought against her, but they were bad enough. She wasn't sure what they meant by High Treason, but the Necromancy charges sounded pretty straightforward.

She sat in meditation for a while until she heard someone talking at the door to the hallway where her cell was located. "Captain, I'm sorry, but no one sees the prisoner. The order comes from the Kirin Tor."

"She's an old friend of mine. I just wanted to bring her some food."

"They feed the prisoners." The guard didn't sound convinced.

"You've seen what we feed them. Come on, we can't let a lady try to subsist on that crap. Besides, you know of her. She's a hero. We might all be alive because of her. Will you really deny her a little good food?"

"Okay, captain. But if I get in trouble, I'll come looking for you."

The other man laughed. "We'll just tell them I hit you." The door swung open and Poldaran saw a man wearing black mail armor and a violet tabard enter the hallway. His hair was short and black, definitely different from the time she had met him so many years ago. He approached the shield that locked her into her cell. "So, Poldaran, I trust you won't try to escape if I open this shield?"

She laughed. "Of course not, Derrick. You should know by now that if I wanted to escape that this cell wouldn't hold me."

"Fair enough," he said with a smile. He entered the cell, set some items on the small table where she was seated and sat down across from her. "So, how has the elf been?" he asked.

"Nihlus is doing well. He's currently busy with a mission to go clear the Black Dragonshrine of a cultist infestation. What of the dwarf?"

Derrick Long looked stricken. "Steelbeard fell recently during an incursion by the Blue Flight into the Violet Hold."

Poldaran sighed. "These wars are necessary, but the cost seems too high."

"Truly." He changed the subject. "Eat up," he said, motioning to the food on the table. "It's simple fare, but certainly better than what they normally feed prisoners."

Poldaran looked at the food. He had brought her soup served in a large piece of bread a couple pieces of cheese and three juicy snowplums. "It's just perfect," she said gratefully. They sat in silence as she ate for a few minutes. "I haven't been back to Dalaran in a while, Derrick. What's going on here? Why did the Kirin Tor suddenly decide to arrest me?"

"The people are afraid, Pol." The look on his face alarmed her. "So very afraid. They demand proof that the Kirin Tor is capable of protecting them from the immense threats all around us. They've heard rumors of the fighting going on outside. The attack on Wintergarde brought the worry to a fever pitch. There was a protest that almost sparked a riot. Rhonin himself had to remind the people that the mages of the Kirin Tor would not allow things to turn to chaos with a show of force. The crowds dispersed, but it opened the eyes of the Six to a growing domestic problem. The fear had to be controlled."

"That's why I've been arrested, isn't it?" she asked.

"I overheard a member of the Kirin Tor's lower council state just that. She seemed disgusted that they would play politics with your life. And that's what this is. They mean to find you guilty and have you executed."

"Why me?"

"I spoke with that woman later, and she believes that it's because of who you are. You're the daughter of Kel'thuzad. Since the Kirin Tor failed to deal with him, they feel that convicting you will yield a massive symbolic victory in the eyes of the people. It just might work, too. Less than a third of the general population knows much about you. They know who your father is, and they've been hearing rumors that you recently died and returned, but the Kirin Tor is hiding information about what you've been doing beyond that." He looked at her for a moment. "How did you manage to come back, anyway?"

She smiled. "While gathering what I needed to assault Kel'thuzad, I visited Kael'thas. In addition to the phoenix feathers I needed, he gave me a good luck charm." She took a bite of one of the snowplums, then continued. "It was a simple necklace. A silver chain with a gem on it. But the gem was anything but ordinary. It was the dried tear of a phoenix, crystallized into a small gem."

He looked surprised at this. "You used a phoenix tear to heal yourself and faked your death?"

She laughed. "Not exactly. A couple centuries ago, there was a High Elven scholar who spent nearly fifty years studying the properties of crystallized phoenix tears. Conventional wisdom in Silvermoon stated that dried phoenix tears were worthless. Dozens of scholars had tried extracting magic from them and none had ever succeeded. But this man was convinced there had to be a way."

"I take it he found something?"

"Indeed. He was forty five years into his studies when one day he stumbled upon a brilliant plan." She took another bite of the plum. "He was trying again to use heat to melt them when he accidentally put a different type of crystal into extremely hot forge fire he'd constructed. The crystal melted and he was elated, believing he had succeeded. Unfortunately, he soon realized that it wasn't the right kind of crystal and went to write down his notes of yet another failure when he realized something."

"What was that?"

"He had never seen that type of crystal melt before. He had stoked the fires so hot that he had melted something long thought unmeltable. So he theorized that a stronger flame may be all that was needed. He began seeking out hotter flames. He traveled the world and tried placing the crystals within the hottest fires he could find. Volcanos were his nearest success, with the crystal becoming somewhat softer, but not quite melting. So he was left to search for a different method." She ate some more.

"Did he find something?"

"Yes. He found two possible leads. The first and the one he ultimately tried was Fel Fire. He read about it in a book in Silvermoon's library and set out to test it. Unfortunately, conjuring Fel magic was outlawed in Silvermoon, so he was arrested just after his test. The authorities caught wind of him purchasing materials for the spell and burst in just as he was writing down the notes of his success."

"He succeeded?"

Poldaran nodded. "In a way, he did. The Fel Fire did indeed melt the crystal, but it corrupted the magic as well. He could sense that use of the reformed tears to try to cure wounds would likely mutate the subject into something demonic."

"So it takes on the characteristics of the fire that melts it?"

"Exactly. And that's where his second lead comes in. It's said that the only fire as hot as Fel Fire was the breath of the Red Aspect. Alexstrasza's breath would melt the crystal but not alter it. At least, in theory."

"You were wearing the necklace when Alexstrasza breathed on you!" he exclaimed.

"Precisely. My body had to be burned in the flame to destroy the plague, but her breath also melted the phoenix tear, which infused with my ashes to revive me. The magic wasn't perfect, however, and I came back weak. I likely would have died if Alexstrasza hadn't intervened." She smiled. "I didn't have an immune system and my skin wasn't fully formed when I came back I was highly susceptible to infection. So Alexstrasza opened one of her recently laid eggs and placed me inside with its current occupant. Inside, the egg's magic healed me and sheltered me while my body fully regenerated."

"That's pretty amazing, Pol. So how did you show up at Stormwind? And what of the whelp you shared the egg with?"

"I used the magic I could muster to astrally project myself to Stormwind. Kel'thuzad mistook my projection for a ghost in the service of the Lich King and thought I would aid him." She set the finished first plum on the plate. "The whelp was affected by my presence and by my constant need to use the magic around me in various tasks, including gathering aid for our forces. And the residue from the tear also altered him. But he genuinely enjoyed the company. When we hatched, all the dragons around were amazed that he was born with scales of pure white. And that wasn't all that happened differently. Much like the Netherdrakes, he matured much more rapidly than he should have. He became a full sized drake within a matter of days."

"Wait, you said his scales were white? Then he's the drake you've been riding here in Northrend?"

"Yes. My shell-brother carries me where I need to go. He doesn't like to be away from me, since all he's known his whole life is my presence."

They were interrupted by a voice in the hallway. "Captain! Someone's coming!"

Derrick Long stood up quickly. "I'd better be going, Pol." She nodded. "But I have to know. How do you plan to deal with the trial?"

"I figured it might be political in nature, so I've made arrangements to deal with it politically."

** * **

"A pity," the voice said in the darkness. Poldaran sat up in bed and tapped her lamp, causing it to light. A shadowy figure sat at the table across the room. "You know, we would never treat you like this. A woman with as much power as you, Poldaran, would be treated as you deserve. It sickens me to see them turn on you. You, a woman with the power to bring three frost wyrms to life at once should not be treated as an enemy, but embraced as a friend!"

Poldaran looked at him. "That projection is excellent. You almost look whole, Arthas." She took a drink from the glass of water on her nightstand. "It is true that the Kirin Tor is making a mistake. But I still believe in their cause."

"So you'll willingly submit yourself to their false justice? If you're so willing to die, then should it not be in glorious battle? Surely you could do much good in this Nexus War that the Kirin Tor is so intent upon."

"I must abide by the rules of society. Something you never were very good at."

The Lich King laughed. "Barbarism masquerading as civility. So be it Poldaran. I will not bother you anymore for now. However, should you change your mind, come see me and I will give you an army worthy of you, capable of winning your great Nexus War. That is, of course, if the mighty Kirin Tor doesn't put you to death first." He laughed for a moment, and was gone.

Poldaran had to admit, there was some truth to his words. And that thought chilled her more than anything.

** * **

She dressed herself in robes of crimson that morning. Upon them was the emblem of a phoenix. This was not just an appearance before the court, this was to be her declaration of war.

And Poldaran didn't lose wars.

To further emphasize this, she was also wearing a sash adorned with medals from numerous organizations, awarded for her service in various conflicts across Azeroth and Outland. This morning would be a spectacle the likes of which none had seen before.

As the two guards lead her from the cell to the street path they had been ordered to follow to bring her to the court chamber of the Violet Citadel, a dozen elves surrounded them. "Move from our path or be moved," one of the guards commanded.

"I'm sorry, we cannot do that," one of the six Quel'dorei said. "The Silver Covenant would see Poldaran the Lichborn brought safely to the halls of justice. One cannot underestimate the madness of a mob of commoners."

"We of the Hand of Vengeance agree," a Sin'dorei said with a nod. "Poldaran's life is in danger with such a small escort. Moreover, having members of both factions will show our solidarity in this. No harm will come to this woman this day." One of the Quel'dorei smiled at Poldaran briefly while her escort had looked away, but returned quickly to his expression of stoicism.

"So be it," the guard said with a nod. "Form up around us." They marched through the crowds that had gathered outside. Some of the people cheered at the sight of her, but most booed, calling for the death of "the renegade mage". Poldaran suspected that some of the crowd was more than they seemed.

As they approached the giant door of the citadel, one Quel'dorei and one Sin'dorei rushed forward and opened the door. As she reached it, they drew trumpets and blew them, heralding her arrival.

The effect on the crowd assembled within the audience chamber was evident. Everyone was stunned into silence at first, but chatter burst out quickly as they saw her. One of the five hooded mages sitting on the dais called for silence. Poldaran immediately noted the absence of Krasus.

One of the mages spoke as Poldaran took he place on the stand before them. "Poldaran, known as the Lichborn, you have been brought before us on grave charges. We have received word that you have been involved in foul necromancy. You've violated the laws of Dalaran on many occasions when attempting to wage war, causing our enemies to retaliate with ever more horrifying countermeasures."

"What laws have I violated?" Poldaran asked.

"The first law you are accused of violating is the law against use of a weapon known as a Mana Bomb."

Poldaran smiled. "No such law exists."

"Clerk, read the law to the accused."

The clerk opened a large book and began to read. "It is henceforth decreed that the construction and manufacture of a 'Mana Bomb' shall be considered a crime against the State and is to be punishable by death."

"What say you now?" the hooded mage asked smugly.

Poldaran smiled again. "As I said, what I did was not a crime."

"We have witnesses to your use of such a weapon."

He had failed there. She had him. "But evidence of use is not evidence of construction," Poldaran countered. "The statute says nothing of the use of said weapon, only its construction. I obtained that one from a cache stored on the Isle of Quel'danas. I noted its presence there in my report to the Six."

The mage who had been speaking looked at his fellows. They shook their heads. "So be it. You are cleared of this charge by a technicality. Let's move on to the next." He paused. "You are charged with treason by consorting with the Scourge. What say you?"

"By order of the Six, I infiltrated Scourge leadership. I was wildly successful and struck a large blow against them. Because of this, the Scourge sees my potential and periodically attempts to contact and convert me to their cause. I cannot stop this contact, only rebuff their offers."

"Witnesses also state that you have been seen freely entering and leaving the Citadel of Naxxramas."

"I've been trying to turn one of the occupants back to our side. I feel he could be a great asset to our cause."

"A likely story. But let's move on to the next charge." He shuffled his papers. "Poldaran, you have been charged with the practice of Necromancy. How do you plead?"

"I learned that magic while on a mission for the Six. My specific orders were..."

A female voice cut her off. "Silence. Those orders are classified. We are aware of them and they do not justify your falling into the dark magic that seduced your father."

Poldaran's expression grew cold. "I knew that's what this is about, Modera. You felt that my father's banishment was not harsh enough, and you seek to redeem yourself by punishing me in his stead. This isn't a trial. It's a witch hunt. You're trying to appease your own pride. Did you tell the full assembly of the Kirin Tor about how you ordered the death of Emmy Malin even after I reported that she was working in secret to sabotage the efforts of the Blue Flight from within? Did you tell her father that her death was pointless?"

"You are out of order, Poldaran," another mage within the five said. "You will be silent."

"I don't think so, Runeweaver. Perhaps it's time the general assembly understood just what it is that the Kirin Tor's leadership is. Fools. Cowards. Tyrants."

"You will be silent," Rhonin Red-Hair said, standing and drawing back his hood. "Poldaran, I have no choice but to remove you from the ranks of the Kirin Tor this day. Further, for your use of Necromancy, you are hereby sentenced to dea-"

He was cut off as the door slammed open. "Wait!" a voice called out. Poldaran recognized the voice and turned with a smile. She turned and bowed in greeting to the new arrival.

"I was hoping you would arrive soon, your Majesty," she said in greeting. "Debate was getting heated."

King Varian Wrynn smiled at her. "I'm sorry for the delay, Archmage. My ambassadors were less swift than I had hoped."

"What is the meaning of this?" Rhonin asked. "This is an internal matter and not subject to the whims of any man, not even the King of Stormwind."

"This might be true, Rhonin of the Kirin Tor. However, it is this woman's life that I come here to speak with you about." He produced a stack of papers. "I have here no fewer than thirty formal requests from various nations and factions requesting that the life of Poldaran the Lichborn be spared."

"I must deny your request, Your Majesty. The law is quite clear on the punishment for the crimes she has committed. There can be no commutation of sentence here. I hope that this will not affect relations between our nations."

"A pity." It was all that King Wrynn said. He turned to leave.

The image of an elderly mage wearing the crest of Stormwind appeared. "Your Majesty, I'm glad I was able to reach you!"

Varian Wrynn was worried by the troubled look on the man's face. "What is it?" he demanded.

"Your Majesty, Highlord Fordragon is dead!"

"WHAT?!" Varian Wrynn replied. "What happened?"

"We're not sure. We've gotten reports of a betrayal at the Wrath Gate. Horde and Alliance forces both killed. The messenger who brought the news says that it was the Forsaken."

The king was shaking with rage, his knuckles white from the clenching of his fists. He felt a hand on his shoulder. He turned to see Poldaran standing beside him. "I'm sorry for the loss of so great a man," Poldaran said. "The Alliance, no, the entire world will feel the loss this day." He thanked her for her words. "But now is not the time to lose ourselves in rage. I will send you to Stormwind, your Majesty. Find out what you can. A few of Azeroth's greatest heroes will be along soon to help you bring vengeance down upon those who caused this." She placed her hand upon his forehead and he was gone.

Poldaran turned to the presiding mages. "I'm done with this farce. I was supposed to be there. I might have been able to save Bolvar. Instead I was here, listening to you five pretend to govern. This trial is over. I'm leaving."

"You can't leave! THE LAW WILL BE SERVED!" Archmage Modera shrieked. "Guards! SEIZE HER!"

Poldaran looked at the guards. "That would be illegal, gentlemen, so I would not follow that order."

Rhonin looked at her with raised eyebrows. "How would it be illegal to detain someone who has been brought up on charges?"

Poldaran sighed. "That's an easy question to answer." She pulled out something from beneath her robes, a pendant, and held it up for the Kirin Tor to see. Several gasped.

"That order has been defunct for years now," Rhonin replied. "It was destroyed by Magna Medivh when you were only a child. You cannot hope to use it as a shield."

Poldaran smiled. "So long as a member of the Council remains, so does our duty. We will continue our sacred purpose so long as one of us draws breath. And so long as there is a Council, interfering with our duty is a capital offense. So either you will drop the charges and allow me to continue my duties or I will have no choice but to have you all arrested on charges of Interference with the Council of Tirisfal."

Rhonin wasn't happy with the turn of events. "So be it. You are free to leave," he said through gritted teeth.

Poldaran turned and began walking out of the room. "I will not allow the spawn of Kel'thuzad to live!" she heard shouted behind her. Archmage Modera gathered her will and unleashed a white-hot fireball at Poldaran's back. Poldaran smiled when she heard the sound of a blade being unsheathed followed by a massive roar as someone broke the spell.

"Thank you, Death Knight," Poldaran said without turning.

"Just doing my duty," Raequann replied.

"I have another mission for you," she handed him a piece of paper with a list of names on it. "I need you to bring word to these people that Bolvar Fordragon is dead and that King Wrynn needs their help."

The Draenei Death Knight nodded. "Suffer well," he said as he took his leave.

Poldaran smiled. "Modera," she called as she began to leave. "If you truly wish to pursue this feud, I'll have my seconds call upon you after the current threats to the world have been neutralized. Until then, I want everyone here to know that sending anyone to attempt to detain me is sending them to their death. I will not allow you to further interfere. We have wasted too much time already."

With a word, she was gone.
#3 Dec 10 2009 at 3:37 AM Rating: Good
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The taproom was, as most taprooms tended to be, quite dimly lit. And filled with smoke. Bethany was never able to understand why people would fill their lungs with smoke that was often acrid and bitter. They claimed it relaxed them, but she never felt that effect, despite having to inhale it constantly while serving them their foul smelling swill of a beer.

She shrugged as she deftly slapped away the hand of another overly familiar customer. She hated what had become of the town when they had discovered that mine. It had been a nice farming village before. People were quiet and friendly back then. Sure, there were a few trappers, always were out here in the Tundra, but they were easy to deal with. But when that cobalt vein had been found, the miners came. The town had grown considerably, and Bethany did not agree that it had been good for the townsfolk. Sure, the mine wasn't nearly as big as the one in Farshire, about a day's walk away, but the Alliance needed all the ore it could get.

So Bethany had to deal with those blasted miners. She was sort of hoping that the mine would become overrun with that toxic gas that occasionally hit mines so they would close it down. She never spoke that aloud, because such talk was treason, not to mention that her dad would be really upset to hear her speak such, but she thought it all the same. Who needed the Alliance? They never did anything for her. Just ruined her life twice with their need for war.

They could bloody rot, for all she cared. She ran her fingers through her wavy brown hair to push back the sweat.

The night had been pretty normal. She would have a few bruises on her bottom from failing to dodge the pinches of customers quickly enough, but that was the worst she suffered tonight. Just before midnight, four travelers entered the tavern, two men and two women. They were wearing finery the likes of which Bethany had never seen. The two men were wearing black armor that reflected the firelight, revealing a mirror polish on the metal. One woman was wearing a black dress that Bethany imagined did little to protect her from the cold. The other wore a crimson robe of the finest silk, emblazoned with the emblem of a burning phoenix.

They pulled back their hoods to shake off the snow. The woman in black had hair to match and the most intensely angry eyes Bethany had ever seen. The two men were not men at all, but instead elves! One had black hair and a dignified bearing. The other had white hair, but he looked quite young, not much older than Bethany herself, in fact.

Something about the fourth startled Bethany. She had hair to match her robe, short and crimson. But it wasn't her hair that startled Bethany. It was the look upon her face. This woman somehow managed to have an expression of wistful sorrow as well as one of friendly determination. The way she carried herself, Bethany was certain that this woman was someone important. Not necessarily a noblewoman, but a woman of great nobility and certainly a woman of great presence. Bethany had no idea who she was, but she was almost certain that if that woman asked her to join the war effort, she would do so without a second thought.

The woman in crimson approached the bar. "Excuse me," she said to the bartender, "is the Innkeeper around? I'd like to inquire about renting a few rooms."

The bartender grunted. "We don't have rooms for their kind," he said, indicating the two elves.

"I'm sorry sir, but we'll pay extra."

"Money isn't the concern. Get them from my inn before I call the town watch."

The black haired woman spoke. "Do you know who you're talking to? I should burn this inn to the ground for your insolence!"

The woman in crimson placed her hand upon the other woman's shoulder. "Be still, Malyse. These ignorant fools are not our enemy. Save your power for real foes." The black haired woman sighed and nodded in agreement. "Come, Nihlus, Vael. Let's leave this place. It seems we aren't welcome here," the woman in red said with a sigh.

Bethany watched as they left, unable to believe that the innkeeper had turned away such customers as these, especially with a major blizzard on the way. She scowled at him, grabbed her cloak and ran after them. The snow was falling pretty heavily already, but thankfully the wind hadn't picked up yet. As she approached them, she heard the woman in crimson talking. "It'll be ok. We'll head a few miles out of town and I'll erect a shield to keep out the elements. If you three can maintain a fire, we should be at least reasonably warm in the tents, though it'll be a rough way to wait out this blizzard. I suspect it may last as long as a week."

Bethany wasn't sure how she did it, but the woman in crimson managed to turn to greet her before she had even gotten as close as a hundred feet. The woman's smile was benevolent. "How may we assist you?" she asked.

Bethany closed the distance. "I'm sorry for how they treated you in there," she apologized. "Please do not think poorly of them. They're simple folk."

"We have already put it from our minds," the woman responded.

Bethany thanked her. "I was thinking," she began. "My dad's farm is just a few miles from the village. He used to be a soldier. I'd bet he would allow you to stay in the quarters the farmhands use in the growing season. You should come stay with us."

The woman smiled again. "If your father agrees, then we would be most grateful for a nice warm place to stay."

Bethany beamed. "I have to go help close down the taproom. I should be able to be back in about an hour, then we can travel to my dad's farm."

The woman nodded. "See you in an hour then."
** * **

Bethany's father was a small man. At least, he was short. But the man had presence. As I entered his study that night, I was aware of his eyes looking up from his book at me before I could even see him in the torchlight.

"Please, have a seat," he told me. I sat in the chair opposite him. "So, my daughter says that she has offered you use of our guest quarters until the blizzard passes."

I nodded. "Yes, sir. But as I told her, I will only accept such an offer with your permission. And further, I must inform you that I am traveling with a trio of non-humans. Furthermore, we're all fugitives. While the charges are bogus, I cannot in good conscience not tell you. It would be dishonest to not tell you upfront about it."

He laughed. "You'll find that I'm not as close-minded as the people in town, Archmage." I wondered how he could tell what I was. He took a sip from a glass. From the smell, I could tell it was a type of brandy. "As for the charges against you, let me tell you the story of how I lost my arm," he said. It was only then that I noticed that his left arm had been amputated at the shoulder. My face must have given away my surprise, because he laughed. "You're the first person I've met who didn't notice it right away," he chuckled.

He took another sip and continued. "I was a Sergeant in the force sent down to Silithus to aid the 7th Legion shortly after the opening of the gates of Ahn'Qiraj. I had been a Sergeant for years," he said with pride. "You see, the military's a paternal organization. They need older guys like me to help keep the privates in line and to aid those fancy officers with their duties. Anyway, our company had been assigned to join with a group of 7th Legion boys under the command of Lieutenant General Andorov and his Kaldorei elite.

"We marched for hours through the hot sands of Silithus. My boys were already exhausted, near ready to pass out, but those 7th Legion men and women seemed like it was nothing but a walk in the park. To this day, I've never met such a focused and disciplined bunch. That's probably what saved us.

"Just past midday, the ground began to shake. It collapsed and dozens of men were sucked under as some of those silithid creatures began pouring out of the new hole. We were separated from the main column, which also came under fire from another group of Qiraji that had been hiding out in the sand. We found ourselves with just a hundred or so men with thousands of bugs swarming out at us. I was sure we were done for, especially when our Lieutenant bought it. But these two Captains from one of the 7th Legion units that had been trapped on our side were totally calm and began barking orders.

"Let me tell you something about soldiers, lass. When things turn like that, every man and woman in the military is glad when someone takes charge and tells us what to do. Without leadership, panic sets in and you're lucky if your entire force isn't slaughtered. These two got us organized and mounted a counterattack. But we were still taking heavy casualties. We were outnumbered, and those silithid bastards are extremely difficult to kill. Even if they hadn't had the surprise, we would have been lucky for half our force to have survived that battle.

"As things played out, I hear that less than twenty people survived." He took another drink, a bit shaken. "Those captains were at the spearhead of our counteroffensive, and to this day, I'm still not sure how the one survived that many foes attacking him." He shook his head. "Anyway, we fought for maybe fifteen minutes when one of those bastards got the jump on me. A stinger, that one. Hit me in the bicep with his giant sting. I could already feel the venom creeping through my arm, and I knew that I was done for.

"One of my boys picked me up and carried me to the back, where a couple lasses from the 7th had set up a makeshift surgeon's tent. A blonde girl, couldn't have been much older than my daughter, was directing things back there. She took a look at my wound and began casting some healing spells. She managed to get the poison, but my arm was still throbbing. I'll never forget what she said after that." He took another swig.

"'It's festering,' she said. 'If you want to live, it'll have to come off.' I nodded my understanding and she gave me a drink of some of the foulest stuff I've ever drank. But my head went fuzzy. She took out a knife and began cutting. Thankfully, I couldn't feel it. Surgery couldn't have taken more than a few minutes, and thankfully she was able to use her gift as a paladin to heal the wound from the knife, so I know the cut must have been clean.

"I laid there, resting, for what seemed like a few minutes. Another young woman rushed in, also wearing the armor of a paladin. 'Alex," she said. 'A portal just opened up and a couple dozen Cenarion soldiers rode out. They've joined the battle and the tide seems to be turning, but we need more healers out there. Wounds seem to be too great just a couple of us to heal alone.'

'On my way out there, Fenn,' the blonde girl replied. She turned to one of the surgeons before she left. 'This man' she said, pointing at me, 'has a few more lacerations that need looking after.' She patted my other shoulder and smiled. 'Soldier, you're gonna be just fine. We'll get you evacuated as soon as we can.' And then she put on her helmet and rushed back outside. I waved at her, or at least I think I did. With my mind fuddled from that drink, it's entirely possible I tried to wave the unattached hand."

He sat for a moment, looking serious. "The battle outside fought on for well over two hours. While it was going on, a couple of the more lucid patients talked about what was happening outside. Rumor had it that the reinforcements that saved us had been brought by some young mage watching over us from Cenarion Hold. She had opened a portal to bring in some Cenarion forces as well as a couple Druids of the Glade to help bring Nature's wrath down upon those damned bugs. Eventually, one of the druids had to force the hole to close by sealing it with massive roots from the earth. I saw that hole, those either must have been massive roots or quite a few of them.

"After those two hours had ended, the sound of fighting died down, and those remaining began cheering at their victory. A woman in some kind of robes entered the tent briefly looked at all of us. She assessed the number of us injured enough and disappeared back outside for a moment. I heard the telltale sound of a portal opening, and moments later, dozens of medics began loading us up onto stretchers and started carrying the wounded out of the tent and through the portal. When they picked me up, they must have hurt me, because I cried out. The woman motioned for them to wait and walked over to me.

"She placed her hand on the shoulder where my arm used to be and smiled. 'Perhaps we can do something about this pain," she said. She spoke a few words and my shoulder became cold and numb. 'Alright, let's get this man to the hospital in Stormwind," she said. She walked out the tent and the medics picked me up onto the stretcher. As they carried me to the portal, I saw her talking to the blonde paladin who had saved my life. 'Alex, go with the wounded and see that they're taken care of. Archmage Malin has agreed to teleport all 7th Legion personnel back here to Cenarion Hold when you need it.'

"'What of you, Pol?' the blonde asked.

"'I received word from Yadier. It seems Andorov has taken his forces into the ruined section of Ahn'Qiraj. I'm to assist the remaining soldiers in rejoining with him to bring the fight to the Qiraji.'

"I was taken through the portal before I could hear any more of the conversation, but I will never forget that day. And that, Archmage Poldaran, is why I insist that you stay as long as you need. My home is yours."


*****

Poldaran awoke from a glorious slumber and looked out the window. She couldn't tell what time of day it was thanks to the snow falling outside, but it was light enough that it had to at least be mid-morning. She couldn't remember how long it had been since she had slept until the sun was out. It had certainly been ages.

She got out of bed and saw a small bowl of water sitting on the nightstand with a cloth laid out next to it. She washed her face, luxuriating in the still hot water. She then quickly dressed herself and hurried down the hall to the common room. Her friends were sitting near the fire, eating a small breakfast with Bethany and her father.

Nihlus rose and embraced her. "Good morning, sleepy head," he teased.
"You should come try some of this porridge. Benjamin keeps the most well stocked pantry I've ever seen. They've even added honey, dried frostberries and amazingly enough, blackwood nuts!"

"That sounds delightful," Poldaran agreed. She sat on the small couch with her betrothed and Bethany handed her a small wooden bowl filled with delicious breakfast and tankard filled with sweetened steamed milk. The porridge was indeed as good as it sounded, but Poldaran hadn't tasted those spices used in milk before. The effect was amazing. She was quite sure she had found her new favorite drink.

They all sat in silence for a few minutes enjoying the fire and breakfast. After a while, Bethany's father, Benjamin, spoke. "So, what do you kids have planned today?" he asked.

"I was hoping to ask your permission to use your barn," Nihlus replied.

"Seems kind of silly," Benjamin said with a sly grin. "You kids have your own room."

Poldaran nearly choked on her porridge. Nihlus laughed. "Actually I had other ideas in mind. Since we're unable to continue the actual fight against the Scourge and Blue Flight until this storm passes, I was thinking of using the time to help Poldaran work on her sword fighting. I'm sure she hasn't had any practice in weeks."

"Why would a mage practice swordplay?" Bethany asked. "Can't you just, you know..." she wiggled her fingers.

Poldaran regained her composure and smiled. "Unfortunately, it's not quite that simple. Quite a few foes have developed ways to make themselves immune to magic. And even for those who aren't, magic is noisy. Well, maybe noisy isn't the right word. It leaves traces that are easily detectable to your enemies, if they happen to be looking. This isn't a problem if you're engaged in general combat with an army beside you. But if you're trying to be stealthy, then it's very wise to use something a little more mundane."

Bethany thought about it for a moment. "I guess that makes sense," she said finally. "So, daddy, can I go watch them? It sounds like fun!"

Benjamin shrugged. "I don't see a problem with it, so long as you get your chores done first. Just be careful. I haven't taught you much, so don't go thinking you can beat one of them."

"Actually, Nihlus is one of the premier swordsmen in either the Horde or the Alliance," Poldaran said, putting her arm around her betrothed. "If we did any actual sparring, I'd quite imagine he could beat everyone here with one of his hands tied behind his back." His face beamed with pride. "Well, unless I cheated," she said thoughtfully, "but that would probably cause your barn to burn down mysteriously. I'm not sure how it happens, but somehow there's always a fire when I cheat."

Benjamin's face was pale.

*****

"Again," Nihlus said. "Your technique is getting sloppy. You can't rely on your speed alone." Poldaran repeated the sequence, this time much better. "That's what it should look like," Nihlus said, as he parried the final stroke. "When done properly, that sequence of movements should leave your opponent unbalanced, allowing you to lead into another sequence to score a blow. When done sloppily, as before, it leaves you vulnerable to a counter attack."

"I know. It's just that I use a sword so rarely that I don't get much practice. When I do use one, it's more of a focal point for a spell than an actual weapon. So I often find myself out of practice."

"That's a dangerous habit to get into, beloved. You never know when you'll face a foe that can't be taken down with your magic."

"I know," Poldaran said, embarrassed. She looked at Bethany, who had watched them for the past hour, enthralled. "I think I need a bit of a breather," she said. "Bethany, would you like to give it a try?"

The girl's face lit up. "I'd love to!" she said with enthusiasm. Poldaran handed her a slender longsword. She looked at it for a moment. "Wait, this sword is glowing!" she exclaimed. "Why does it do that?"

Poldaran smiled. "It's enchanted," she said.

"I'd heard that people often enchant their weapons. What does this one do?"

"Put simply, this enchantment makes the blade more effective against the undead."

"How does it do that?"

"What do you know of the siege of Dalaran by the Scourge army?"

"All I know is that the wizards of Dalaran tried a spell to keep out the Scourge and it failed."

"Ah," Poldaran said. "This much is true, but it isn't so much that the spell failed, but that the wizards who created it didn't anticipate the strength of their enemies." The girl looked confused. "You see, the spell they created was actually genius in its simplicity. It was a functional arcane counter to necromantic magic. It worked by nullifying the magic that created the undead and kept them in unlife. But to make it able to blanket the entire city, the wizards had to make it much weaker than a more targeted counterspell would be. But doing it that way was necessary for dealing with the large army they expected."

"What went wrong with it?" the girl asked, filled with curiosity.

"Nothing. The spell worked perfectly. The minor ghouls and zombies that went through it were destroyed in a matter of moments. However, what they didn't know back then was that the Scourge employs not just massive waves of minor foes, but also more powerful creatures like the Abominations. And further, the necromancers themselves were alive, so they could travel with these fiends and keep them patched up long enough to do their job, which was destroying the mages keeping the spell active, which allowed them to push even further into the city behind the defenses."

"So what does this have to do with the sword's enchantment?"

"That's the brilliant part. The enchantment on this blade is exactly like the spell the defenders of Dalaran used all those years ago. When the blade comes close to the flesh of an undead foe, it weakens the magic keeping it together, weakening its body to the point of allowing the weapon to inflict more damage upon it." She sighed. "It's just too bad no one thought of it earlier. We probably could have held back the Scourge forces in the Plaguelands longer with it."

"Why didn't someone think of it earlier?"

"It's the nature of the magic itself. It's a counterspell of sorts, so it usually has to be channeled. As such, it was thought that it would be impossible to do." She sighed again. "It wasn't until someone spent weeks studying the magic and adapting it to such a use that the puzzle was finally solved. It still has its limitations, of course. But it is a step in the right direction."

"What inspired someone to finally try to make it work?"

Nihlus smiled. "She got bored."

Bethany stared at Poldaran. "You created this?"

"She certainly did," Nihlus answered for her. "The Alliance and Horde both paid her an obscene amount for the formula, too. Odds are pretty good that when the time comes for a final assault on Icecrown, every one of thousands of soldiers will be carrying weapons imbued with my Poldaran's own magic. Now, however, I think it's time for me to show you how to use that weapon you've been holding for the last ten minutes."

*****

"I haven't had a workout like this since the last harvest," Bethany said to Poldaran as the two girls sat in front of the fire in the common room. "I think I'm going to be sore for a week."

Poldaran smiled. "He can be a bit of a demanding teacher, but I don't know of anyone in the world who can use a sword like my Nihlus. There are a few who are his equal in combat, but none of them can use a sword like that." She took a sip of her hot cocoa. "Hrm. It seems I've let my chocolate cool. Only one thing to do about that." She began the workings of a spell and unleashed it into her hands, which ignited in flame. Bethany gasped. Poldaran laughed. "Don't worry, kiddo. This is a pretty tame spell and easy to control if you know what you're doing."

"I've never seen anyone work magic before. Is there always that kind of iridescent light when a spell is cast?"

Poldaran was taken aback, and lost concentration, causing her spell to dissipate. "Wait. You can see the light?"

Bethany nodded. "It was almost like a writhing rainbow moving from your head to your hands."

The young mage was concerned. "I've never heard of that particular gift manifesting itself in a family without any wizards in its line. You wouldn't happen to have elven lineage, would you?" The younger girl shook her head. "Most peculiar." Her brow creased in thought. "Perhaps a bit more investigation is in order." Poldaran stood and walked over to the other girl. "Set down your cocoa," she said. Bethany complied. She then put her hand on the girl's forehead. "I need you to relax. Open your mind to me."

The younger woman did so. Poldaran pushed forward with her mind into Bethany's. She looked through he conscious and subconscious minds and gasped at what she found. She quickly retreated. "You have amazing potential!" Poldaran gasped. "With training, you could be one of the most powerful wizards in the world."

"You mean it?"

"Yes. I need to go speak with your father right away. He must be made aware of this."

** * **

Edited, Dec 10th 2009 2:41am by Poldaran
#4 Dec 10 2009 at 3:39 AM Rating: Good
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I spoke with Bethany's father. He was shocked to find out that his daughter had magical aptitude. He had heard, and rightly so, that children with such talent tend to manifest it unconsciously. However, I once did some research on this, and it most often manifests when the child is in danger, or extremely irritated. If a child can stay out of danger and maintain their cool all the time, it's quite possible for the gift to stay hidden.

Apparently Bethany has always had a very calm demeanor, and managed to be away from home during the only time her life would have been in danger, which was a short time after the third war when a small group of undead attacked her home and killed her mother.

Benjamin agreed that his daughter should undergo training, and when I offered to set them up in Dalaran with a tutor and a place to live through my contacts, he agreed. He only needed to take a few days to sell his farm to someone in town that he knew was interested.

So it was that we agreed that after the storm let up, we would set out for a few days to check on Valiance Keep and the activity of the Blue Dragonflight out near Coldarra. When we returned, I'd open a portal for them to Dalaran and they'd deliver my letter to Tinaomi, who would see to the details.

While we waited for the storm to pass, I spent the next few days subjecting Bethany to various magical aptitude tests, to decide just which wizard for her to seek apprenticeship with. She scored well on all of them, though she excelled most in the simple Abjuration and Transmutation tests I gave her.

For the sake of completeness, I gave her tests in both the manipulation of the magic of the Twisting Nether and Necromancy to assess her possible talent for study with a Warlock and to determine whether she would need me to explain the dangers of the study of Necromancy to her. She did somewhat poorly on the first, but on the latter, she exceeded anything I could have expected. It was quite possible, that with proper training, she could become a more powerful Necromancer than even myself.

I decided on a Master to apprentice her to and explained to her the politics of Dalaran and its hatred for Necromancy, promising that if she completed her apprenticeship satisfactorily, I would train her in Necromancy privately afterwards if she was interested.

After that, she continued training with Nihlus and myself, both in swordplay and basic spellforms. When the blizzard ended a few days later, I set off for Valiance Keep and Nihlus went to meet with the small force of Dalaranians who had set up camp outside Coldarra with the promise that we would be back in a few days.


** * **

Poldaran smiled as she began to ascend the stairs. She had learned much this night; had seen the true depth of human spirit, the courage and determination that was the life blood of the mortal races. People refusing to give in, not because they have hope that reinforcements are coming, nor because they have no hope of escape, but because it simply was not in their nature to yield.

These people were simple farmers, armed only with crude farm implements, but they refused to yield their homes to the never ending tide of the undead.

She had been sent here originally to check on the status of the village because the higher ups in Valiance Keep were worried about the lack of ore shipments from the mine. What she found was a town fighting heroically to save itself from the dead. She offered assistance to the town's leader, Gerald Green, but he instead asked that she look into the fate of the small garrison sent to investigate the mine. He had felt, and the small group of villagers with him agreed, that getting Valiance Keep the metal it needed to forge weapons for its own defense was the higher priority.

Poldaran was taken aback by their selflessness. She did as he asked and investigated the mine, finding out that it had been overrun by the dead and most of its men had been killed by plagued grain. She brought the news to the townsfolk, and they sent a couple men with her into the mine again to retrieve the last load of ore from the mine so it could be sent down the track to Valiance Keep.

Hilda Stoneforge, the Dwarven blacksmith in Valiance Keep, was as astonished by their actions as Poldaran had been. Wiping a tear from her eye, she had ordered the two men empty the cart. "We cannot let the civilians lose their lands if they're willing to fight for them. We might not have the troops to spare, but we can send them weapons," she said. She pointed at a couple racks of weapons she and the other smiths had finished. "These were earmarked for new recruits, but I'll be able to cover those with the ore that you've brought me. I'll have these men load up the cart and deliver the weapons to Gerald. You go let him know that they're on the way."

Poldaran wiped a tear from her eye as she remembered the look of gratitude on Gerald's face. "Farshire has a fighting chance now, Poldaran. That's all we could've asked for and you've made it possible." He thought for a moment. "All we need now is a rallying point. I'll have my men deliver the weapons to our town hall. Go and ring the town hall bell so any survivors know to rally there." A fiery determination shone in his eyes. "It's time to show the Scourge what we're made of."

Poldaran's slender fingers gently gripped the coarse rope of the town hall's bell and she pulled with all her might. The bell rang with a roaring echo. Despite the sound inside, she could hear one of Gerald's men, Gamlen, shouting outside. "To the town hall, everyone! We've brought you weapons! Arm yourselves and beat the Scourge back!" She rang the bell again and hurried downstairs.

There was no mistaking the look of gratitude on the faces of everyone rushing inside. Poldaran knew at that moment, that no matter what she had to do in this war, no matter what lines she might have to cross in order to fight her foes, no matter what destruction she had to sew upon the land, that this one night, she had done something good. It was all she could do not to cry.

"Scourge incoming!" someone shouted. Apparently the undead had also been drawn to the sound of the tolling bell.

Gerald Green held a spear high. "Come, friends, let us show them that they will not take our lands lightly!" Poldaran's hands burst into flames. "You mean to fight with us?" he asked her. The mage nodded, unsure whether she could keep her voice steady as she spoke. "Splendid! Let's make this a battle to remember!"

The fight lasted through the night. Thanks to the light mail and shields that the men and women of Farshire now wore, the worst injury sustained that night was little more than a flesh wound, though they held back more than four times their number in ghouls and zombies.

Poldaran sat upon the steps of the Town Hall, exhausted from the night's fighting. Gerald Green approached her. "Thanks once again for aiding us, Poldaran. The people of Farshire will always remember you."

"I wish only that I could do more," the mage replied.

She heard a sharp intake of breath. "Poldaran!" the white dragon called out.

"What is it, Vael?" she asked, rushing to his side.

"Look to the north!"

Poldaran did as he said and saw something in the crimson sky that gave her a shock. Black smoke billowed into the sky. There was a great fire to the north. Looked to be half a day's ride away by horseback.

Right where Benjamin's farm was.

** * **

Poldaran arrived at the farm within two hours of seeing the smoke. She cursed the Blue Dragonflight and its Nexus for tangling up the ley lines so badly that teleportation throughout the Borean Tundra was nigh impossible.

The house had been utterly destroyed. Smoking debris were all that remained. The barn had fared a little better, with only a few large holes in the sides where the dead had broken through to attack whomever had been inside. Vael landed next to it so that Poldaran could determine if anyone was still hiding inside.

Dozens of Scourge had been felled within its walls. Whomever had made their last stand had done so in a very brutal manner, leaving enemies slashed in half all around. The battle had not lasted long, Poldaran determined, but it had certainly been fierce. She looked for signs of person who had stood here, but there was no evidence of them, not even a few drops of fresh blood.

Whomever had made their stand here was not dead, but instead had been taken alive. Poldaran's heart soared. There was a chance that she could save whomever it was!

"Poldaran!" Vael called out. "I've found Benjamin!"

Poldaran rushed over to find the dying man half buried in a pile of fallen timbers. He saw her and hope began to shine in his eyes. "Poldaran," he said, prompting a fit of coughing. Blood oozed from his mouth.

"Save your strength," she said. "I'll go get a healer from the nearby town."

"Wait," he said, coughing again. "I don't have enough time. Besides, they attacked the town as well. If any healers survived, they'll be needed there." He coughed again. "He took Bethany."

"He?" Poldaran asked, confused.

"Arthas."

Poldaran's mind reeled. Why would the Lich King himself be here? This looked like nothing more than another small Scourge raid. The Lich King rarely involved himself in attacks on targets of strategic unimportance. She thought for a moment, and only one possibility presented itself: They had been there to capture her! Somehow, the Lich King must have known that she was in the area and brought a force out to subdue her. After a moment, she spoke, having collected her thoughts. "What direction did they take her?"

Benjamin gasped for air as more blood filled his lungs. He coughed to expel it. "Death gate," was all he could say. He coughed again weakly and expelled his last breath.

Poldaran pulled his eyelids closed and said a short prayer for him. She then stood and looked at her dragon companion. "Let's go, Vael," she said, her voice filled with rage at the thought of the many possible fates the Lich King might have in store for her friend.

"Where are we going?" he asked as she mounted the saddle on his back.

"We're going to track down this army and capture the necromancer leading it."

"What will we do with him if we find him?"

"That depends on him," she said. "If he tells me what I need to know quickly, then I'll simply kill him." Rage burned in her eyes. "However, if he decides to try to hold back that information....


"I'll make him wish that he had never been born."


** * **

He screamed in agony again. He hadn't known that it could hurt this much. Nothing that even the Lich King had shown him could hurt like this. He felt a strange sensation in his shoulder and looked. One of them was crawling just under his skin! If he could have moved his arms, he could have ripped the thing out, but his hands had been pinned to the wall by large shattered pieces of bone.

The woman looked at him. Her eyes terrified him more than even the creatures inside him that were feasting on his flesh. "I can end the pain," she said. "All you have to do is tell me what I wish to know."

"It was nothing more than a standard assault on a town and the outlying farms. We were gathering more corpses for our army," he sobbed.

She looked at him for a moment, her eyes cold. "You're lying," she said simply as she unleashed a small pulse of magic, causing the worms to excrete a substance that heightened the sensation of pain that they were inflicting upon him. He screamed again. She smiled at him. This chilled his blood even more. "Perhaps I'll leave you here with your pain for a few hours while I go have lunch. Maybe you'll be ready to talk when I return."

"No!" he cried out. "Please, end this! Kill me!"

"Just tell me what I wish to know, and I'll let you die," she said. The sweetness in her voice as she said it nearly made him panic.

He couldn't believe that they had been defeated so easily. There had been nearly two hundred dead with him. Almost two dozen Abominations! Yet she and that dragon had landed in the middle of the army. She destroyed a dozen ghouls within ten seconds of landing. But what had truly been terrifying was when she wrested control of the abominations away from him and the other necromancers in the army. The creatures surrendered to her immediately. Her will was truly something to be feared.

And that's why he had decided to give in. "Okay," he said, defeated. "We were specifically told to attack that farm."

"Why?" Her face was expressionless. "What did the Lich King want with that place?"

"There was a girl there that he wanted captured."

"So he was after me?"

"I don't believe so, daughter of Kel'thuzad. He took the girl he wanted."

"Why did he want Bethany?" He hesitated for a moment, so she commanded the worms to release their painful chemical again. After he stopped screaming, she spoke. "When I ask you a question, you will answer it promptly," she commanded, irritation upon her face.

"Yes, mistress." He swallowed some of the blood that was dripping down the back of his throat. "I was never told why he wanted her. My king commanded me, and I obeyed. I never questioned his orders. However, I did overhear him discussing the use of her against her family. If I had to hazard a guess, I'd guess that she was to be used as a hostage."

This revelation brought Poldaran some relief. If she was to be used as a hostage, there was a chance that she would still be alive for some time. If she could find out who the girl's family was, she would be able arrive in time to save her. "One more question, necromancer, and then I shall allow you the sweet release of death."

"Thank you, mistress."

"Where did he take her?"

"I do not know, mistress. I did not see where the death gate went. I was sent only to sack the town afterward because we were in the area. I only know that it seemed like this was very important to him."

"If you're lying to me, you'll know suffering for the rest of existence," she said, her voice filled with rage.

"I swear, mistress! I have told you all I know! Please, let me die!"

She blew a stray strand of hair out of her eye. "I believe you," she said quietly. She unleashed another pulse of magic. The necromancer felt the worms start moving, crawling up his neck. He cried out in agony once more as he felt them begin feasting upon his brain, then the room went silent.

The woman walked over to the corpse. The small worms were burrowing out from his skull. She held out her hand to them. They climbed onto it obediently. "Sleep now," she told them, encasing them in small crystals which she placed into a pouch she was carrying. She looked over at the other woman in the room, whose mouth was hanging open in awe. "You disapprove, Malyse?"

The black haired woman shook her head. "No. I hate to admit it, but I've never been more attracted to an individual as I am to you right now, Pol. If I didn't respect Nihlus so much, I would steal you from him." She laughed. "Would but the Titans have made you a Black Dragon. You would have been the best of us." Poldaran was unsure how she felt about that praise. Nonetheless, she had to admit that it felt good to punish someone for Bethany's kidnapping.

There was a knock at the door. "I hate to distract you from your entertainment, ladies, but a messenger has arrived that requires our immediate attention."

"We've finished in here, beloved," Poldaran said to elf on the other side of the door. "Please, let's hear what this messenger has to say."

They stepped outside into the common room of the ruined inn that was now serving as a makeshift torture chamber and were greeted by a black haired man. Malyse greeted him by bowing formally. "Greetings, Serinar. What brings you here?"

"Your sister, Nalice, sent me. There's trouble at the Wyrmrest Temple."

Poldaran's face grew serious. "What kind of trouble?"
#5 Dec 10 2009 at 3:39 AM Rating: Good
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Poldaran was not amused. This was the last thing that they needed right now. The Black Flight had stored hundreds of twilight eggs under the Wyrmrest temple. They would be hatching any day now. Within less than a week, they would mature into full sized drakes and would come pouring up into the temple to overwhelm the defenders and seize control. Poldaran wanted to scream, but felt it was undignified.

So instead she unleashed the pent up rage upon a tree, causing it to shatter into a million splinters.

"Feeling better?" Nihlus asked as he pulled her into an embrace.

"It just doesn't end, does it?" she asked with a sigh, laying her head on his shoulder.

"It does feel that way sometimes," he agreed, running his fingers through her hair.

She sighed again as she lost herself in thought. The situation wasn't all bad. A few of the black dragons were offering to aid her in defeating the plot. Malyse had explained to her that it was because of a sense of duty and honor that they had any allies among the black. To most, the plot itself was perfectly acceptable and deliciously devious. The target, however, was not. Some held the Black Aspect's oath to peace within Wyrmrest as sacred. To them, the idea of assaulting other dragons within the Temple was unthinkable.

In addition to a few allies, they also had the enemy numbers in their favor. In the interest of not drawing attention to their plot, the Black Flight had only stationed a small force within the Obsidian Sanctum. A few drakes, one dragon and a couple dozen drakonids were all that they had to contend with. Considering that they would have a couple drakes aiding them as well as ten or so of her closest friends, this fight promised to be winnable. The odds that one of her friends might die were smaller here than in most battles.

She took comfort in that. She sighed again and looked up at Nihlus. "Okay. Let's get this over with. I'll start contacting our friends."

Thankfully, her friends were still together after aiding King Wrynn in hunting down Bolvar Fordragon's killer. She explained the problem to them and they agreed to get to the Wyrmrest Temple as quickly as possible. Envinyata asked to speak to her privately afterwards.

"Lass, we have a problem." The dwarf woman looked troubled.

"What is it, Envi?"

"It's about your sister." Poldaran was alarmed. "When we were in the Undercity, Alex saw some things that unsettled her. Experiments the Forsaken were conducting on some prisoners. Afterward, she and King Wrynn got to talking, and I think that he's infected her with his hatred of the Horde."

Poldaran winced. "How bad is it?"

"I wouldna recommend you bring her along on this. Too many Horde are at the Temple. There could be an incident."

Poldaran nodded. "Alright. Tell Alex to head to Wintergarde Keep. The 7th Legion commander there has been asking for assistance that the military can't or won't provide. She's a capable soldier and well suited to fighting the Scourge. She will report to the commander there and render any aid she can until I find something else for her to do. Most importantly, she'll be too busy dealing with the Scourge to worry about the Horde for a while. I'll deal with this after we finish up clearing the Obsidian Sanctum." Envinyata nodded her understanding. "See you guys when you get here," Poldaran said as she ended the communication.

** * **

Poldaran wanted to cry. Despite the fact that the eggs they had just destroyed were those of terrible fiends that would be used in a plot to overthrow the other dragon flights, it still hurt to see them destroyed. While they would have been enemies, at this point they were innocents.

But they would have been enemies. Ones she could not have beaten, at least not in those numbers. They had to be put down. That did not make it hurt any less to do, however.

Poldaran had long ago decided that protection of the world meant that sometimes she had to make choices she didn't like. Those who threatened the world would not allow sentimentality to stop them and she could not either.

The first time she had made the choice is when she and another mage, a good friend of hers, were sent to investigate and, if necessary, capture or kill Archmage Arugal. He had been captured, turned into a worgen by Arugal and sent to kill her.

She had tried to incapacitate him, in hopes that she would be able to cure him, but he was impervious to all attempts. In the end, she had decided that while she could escape, Arugal would use that time to escape and go into hiding. As such, she made the decision that she could not allow him to continue to harm others. With magical precision, she had impaled her friend upon the silver spire of the local church directly through his heart and made her move against Arugal.

She caught him, and when he resisted capture, she had slain him.

It had been the first time she had sacrificed a friend to stop those who would prey upon the innocent or weak, but it certainly would not be the last. Being her friend or just working with her became a known hazard throughout Dalaran's services. That was how she had become known as Death's Herald. Wherever she went, death was sure to follow. Her foes died. Her friends died. Innocents who were used as shields died.

But when Dalaran absolutely had to have someone captured or killed, she was the one they sent. Her talent for shapeshifting and illusion certainly helped, but it was her ruthlessness that they kept her around for. It's what led to her being called upon for that fateful mission to infiltrate the Cult of the Damned.

In all, she had killed over a hundred people she considered friends, or at the least, innocent of nothing other than getting in the way. Despite that, it never got easier.

One of her greatest fears was that one day she would find herself faced with a choice between the safety of the world and something she could not sacrifice. On that day, if she chose to make the sacrifice, it would likely break her. However, if she could not make the sacrifice, that too would likely break her, as every other life she had sacrificed would suddenly mean nothing and she would have to face the fear that she was not the stoic protector that she imagined herself to be, but instead no more than a selfish, heartless *****.

The change in temperature from the sweltering Obsidian Sanctum to the freezing air in the chamber beneath the Wyrmrest Temple sucked the air from Poldaran's lungs. She coughed for a moment, then heard a loud crash above them. Spotting one of the drakonid guards, she called out to him. "What's going on?"

"The Blue Flight is making a massive assault upon the Temple above! We may not be able to hold them back this time!"

She sighed and turned to her companions. "Nihlus, Malyse, I want you two to take the black drakes and go help the defenders. The rest of us will find the biggest blue dragon out there, kill everything between us and him and take him down. After that, we're going to the Borean Tundra to go have a chat with Malygos. I'm tired of this **** war. It ends today."

Yoxutre looked at her. "I assume you have a plan for when we get there?"

Poldaran smiled wickedly. "Something like that," she said.

** * **

The woman in black plate armor smiled as she looked down at the town below. Her master had just repeated the plan again. She knew what was to be done. This was to be the first in a series of attacks meant to end the threat of the living within the Dragonblight.

She had been given what was quite possibly the largest army operating in Northrend for this mission. She knew what she had to do, and how it had to be done. She would not fail. No, she could not fail.

The Lich King's image appeared beside her. "So, Death Knight, do you know your mission?"

She looked once again at the red clothed people bustling about in the town below and then at the massive army behind her. "Yes, master." She drew her sword and her smile grew sinister. "Apocalypse."

** * **
#6 Dec 10 2009 at 3:40 AM Rating: Good
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The plan was a combination of simple elegance and amazing complexity. Malygos had retreated to a pocket dimension, a place where he controlled the flows of magic. They could not beat him there. He was in control. So the plan was to instead bring him out of it.

The simplicity of the plan was that all they had to do was bring him to the ground, where a hole Poldaran was working on opening would lie, ready to take him out of that dimension and into the normal world, with a bit of a fall waiting when he went through the hole.

The complexity of the plan stemmed from how they were to accomplish this. Each person had to play a role. Envinyata, Sharlot and Xelsia would be harassing him by buzzing around him and unleashing their most painful attacks, thus leaving Malygos susceptible to the chains that the others would try to bind him with. Envinyata and Nuna would ride the flying platforms that they had stolen from a storehouse nearby and use the shadow to sear Malygos while Sharlot and Xelsia would assume their Stormcrow forms and fire bolts of lightning at the Blue Aspect. Fennchurch, Nephelim, Raequann and Waste would all be throwing enchanted chains with grappling hooks at the dragon, attempting to tangle him up and bring him down.

Yoxutre had a more difficult job. He was to use the Spear of Hodir to chain himself to Malygos so that he could steer the dragon to the hole as it came down. He was to do this by hitting the beast as hard as he could with his mace in the direction he wanted it to go. When Poldaran had handed him the spear with a wicked smile on her face, he had groaned. Everyone had heard the story of how he had, under some strange influence of the spear, used it to bring down a Wild Wyrm in the Storm Peaks for no other reason than the challenge of it. Not one of his prouder moments. In fact, thinking back, he thought it was rather silly of him.

At first, things went exactly as Poldaran had said they would. Yoxutre was able to chain himself to the dragon, and due to the spear's magic, Malygos couldn't shake himself free. The ground team was able to easily get the chains hooked to Malygos, thanks to the air team's distractions. Unfortunately, Poldaran had forgotten to tell them that they needed to hook the chains to the ground near the hole she was opening so that the chains would direct Malygos into the opening.

So, as often happened when she forgot the details of a strategy for a fight, Poldaran was forced to improvise and shout somewhat panicked commands during battle. "HIT HIM WITH THE HAMMER TIL HE FALLS!" she shouted at Yoxutre. "START TARGETING THE WINGS!" she commanded the air team. "TRY TO GRAB THE CHAINS AND DRAG HIM DOWN!" she ordered the ground team.

Yoxutre laughed. "Alright," he said to himself. "'Hit him with the hammer' it is, then." He began pounding away at the spot between the dragon's wings with his mace. It was as good a spot as any to hit. He noticed that the others had begun concentrating their fire on the wings as instructed. After a while, Malygos began to fall.

Unfortunately, the ground crew had been unable to reach the chains, and the dragon was falling the wrong way... off the platform. "Crap!" Poldaran shouted out, unsure as to how to react. She began gathering her will to attempt to pull the falling dragon the way she wanted, but knew it wouldn't be enough.

"On it!" Envinyata shouted. The dwarf priestess guided her flying platform past the dragon at breakneck speed and performed a near instantaneous stop. She then flew full bore at the falling dragon and slammed into it with the platform's bottom, effectively kicking it upward and in the other direction. There was a slight miscalculation on the force of her kick, however, and the dragon was now on course to fall off the other side of the platform.

One of the Stormcrows screeched, and the other screeched back. They flew above the hole and waited until the flying dragon was in the perfect position. They then shapeshifted into massive Moonkins and sat on the dragon with a prejudice, thus correcting its course one last time in a general hole-ish direction. As they approached the dimensional hole in the platform, Yox wisely unchained himself and dove off.


A few moments later, they heard a dull thud as the dragon slammed into the icy ground below.

** * **

Alexandrine, known as the Merciful, was not in a good mood. After what she had seen in the Undercity, she felt a powerful need to hurt someone. "How dare Poldaran send me here!" she growled. "I should be on the front lines, fighting our enemies!" While she was stuck here dealing with small Scourge raids, she could be out fighting injustice.

To believe that the Forsaken could be capable of such atrocities! She just could not get the images out of her head. Especially the sight of that little girl, mutilated, her limbs harvested to assist in the creation of new Abominations.

Had Poldaran known about what was going on down there? Alexandrine knew that her sister had been to the Undercity on numerous occasions as an ambassador of Highlord Fordragon, but would she have failed to act if she had seen such things occurring?

Alexandrine just could not bring herself to believe such a thing, though part of her knew that Poldaran would have watched a hundred such children tortured to death if she believed that it would be for the greater good. She punched the wall in frustration, chipping the stone with her metal gauntlet.

After a few moments, there was a knock at her door. "Enter," she commanded softly. A young soldier opened the door. "What is it?" she asked.

"Lieutenant," he began, "High Commander Wyrmbane has requested your presence in the command bunker."

"I'll be there momentarily," she replied, dismissing him. It was strange for the High Commander to summon her personally. She was usually just sent orders and did whatever she had to do.

She reached the command bunker quickly, knowing that whatever she had been summoned for was important. She entered the strategy room and saluted. The High Commander bowed. "Lady Alexandrine," he greeted her.

This perplexed her. She had come here as a former member of the 7th, and as such had become used to being addressed as a military officer, not as the daughter of a noble house. For him to greet her thus meant something, but she wasn't sure what. "High Commander," she said with a nod, returning the greeting. She also nodded her greeting to the magus who stood over the map with the High Commander.

The High Commander gestured to a chair at a nearby table. "Please, have a seat," he offered. Alexandrine sat down across from him. "You're probably wondering why I requested your presence." She nodded. "Our scouts have just received word that a massive Scourge force, led by a Death Knight we don't recognize, has destroyed New Hearthglen and is on its way here. We have contacted Stormwind and Dalaran to request aid, but they are unable to assist us at this time."

"How large is this force?" Alexandrine asked, trying to assess how bad the situation would be.

"We're outnumbered, if estimates are correct, by approximately fifty to one." Alexandrine let out a low whistle. "Precisely."

"What of the Wyrmrest Accord?" Alexandrine asked.

"They are currently engaged in a massive battle of their own. The skies above the temple are filled with blue drakes."

"What can I do to help?" she asked.

"We were hoping you might have an idea as to the location of your sister. It is our hope that she might know a few independent factions that can send us aid."

Alexandrine nodded. "Last I heard, she was leading a force against a plot by the Black Dragonflight to overtake the Wyrmrest Temple. It's likely that she's involved in the battle for the Temple right now."

High Commander Wyrmbane looked at the magus. The elf nodded. "I'll contact the Temple immediately to see if she's still there." His eyes glazed over as he cast the spell. He spoke softly for a moment. "I understand," he said, ending the spell. "Lady Poldaran and her friends left the Wyrmrest Temple this morning for the Borean Tundra. Seems they're determined to bring the fight to Malygos."

"So it seems it's all coming to a head," High Commander Wyrmbane responded. "Can you contact them?"

"I tried," he responded. "Due to the effects of the chaotic ley lines of the Nexus, I am unable to establish a connection."

"Are you able to teleport there?"

"Unlikely. It would be dangerous at best, suicide most likely."

Wyrmbane nodded. "Send our fastest scout with a request for aid anyway. Teleport him as close as you safely can," he commanded. He turned to Alexandrine. "It seems we make our stand alone," he said.

Alexandrine nodded her understanding as she stood. "I'll go get my axe," she said turning to leave. "I have one request, High Commander."

"Yes, Lady Alexandrine?"

"The Death Knight is mine."


** * **

They stood around the chained Blue Aspect. He was just beginning to stir. He would awaken and thrash for a bit, that was certain. What was also certain was that it would be to no avail. He was bound with magical chains that not only bound his body, but his power as well.

They looked up to the east. A flight of red dragons could be seen in the distance. They seemed to be moving at reckless speeds. "Something isn't right," Envinyata said.

Poldaran nodded in agreement and began to concentrate. Her awareness shot toward the dragons. Not far behind them, she could see something else. "Mount up, everyone," she said.

"Trouble?" Xelsia asked.

"There's a massive flight of blue dragons behind the reds. They're going to need help." The others ran to their mounts. Vaelastrasz, Poldaran's shell brother, named after an old friend, began the incantation to transform back into his dragon form. Poldaran held up her hand to stop him. "No, this could be a diversion. We'll remain on the ground to watch the blue mealworm here. However, if they get close enough, feel free to hit them with whatever magic you deem fit." He nodded. She watched as the battle was joined in the skies not far from them.

"They're going to die, you know,' said a voice behind her.

"Not before you, Malygos," she replied, turning to look at him. "If the battle looks to be going badly, I'll kill you before risking your escape."

"Big words, human. We'll see if you have the courage to back them up."

Poldaran heard something some ways behind her. "Poldaran," Vael gasped weakly.

She turned to see, to her horror, the dragon in elf form with a blade sticking from his chest. "VAEL!" she called out. She ran towards him, hitting his assailant with a bolt of arcane energy. She caught him as he crumpled to the ground.

"I'm sorry, Pol. I should have been paying more attention,' he said.

A tear ran down her cheek. "Don't talk. Save your strength, little brother."

"I..." he began, then coughed up blood. "Mom told me to protect you," he said weakly. "Yet it always seems that you have to protect me. I'm sorry that I always get in the way."

"No, Vael, you're not in the way." He began slipping away. "Don't you dare die on me!" she shouted, but he was already gone. Her tears melted the snow where they fell.

Laughter shook her out of her grief. She turned towards Malygos. Between them was now over a hundred blue drakonids and turned magi. She recognized more than a few former friends among them. She cursed under her breath. It seemed that the chaotic energies surrounding the Nexus had hidden the telltale signs of magic she saw when invisible foes were nearby. "It seems that the tables have turned, human. But I am in a jovial mood today. Swear fealty to me and you do not have to die."

Poldaran could feel the rage surging within herself. "No," she said softly. "I must control it. I cannot give in to the rage."

Malygos could not hear her. "So you refuse to swear fealty? So be it. Bind her magic and kill her."

She felt her connection to the magic around her diminish. She turned to the blue Aspect and saw the smirk on his face. ********** it," she said as she stopped fighting the rage. It filled her, boiling her blood and steeling her resolve. She tried to conjure a fireball at an approaching enemy. It fizzled less than a foot from her. Malygos laughed. It seemed that all she had left was her sword. "Nihlus trained me," she reminded herself. "I know everything he does. However, due to of training I lack the muscle memory and strength to back it up. Further, I lack the magic necessary to dilate time to allow me to make up for my shortcomings." She remembered that the fireball had almost flown a foot from her before fizzling.

It was perfect. The null magic field was flawed enough to allow her to draw enough magic and push it far enough to allow her to control her body with her mind instead of with her muscles. She laughed as she drew her sword and twisted the hilt, separating the double blade into two swords.

She realized something then. For the first time in her life, the rage filled her, but it did not control her. She controlled it. This was going to be fun. "I will give you one chance to surrender," she said to the hundred enemies surrounding her. They continued coming. "I thought not," she said.

She exploded forward, kicking one of her enemies in the kneecap hard enough to shatter it. She used the force of the kick to send herself backwards, where she slashed two separate foes before plunging one blade into the eye of another. She used her other blade to parry an incoming attack from behind and countered with the blade she pulled from her foe's eye, effortlessly slicing the attacker's head from his shoulders. She then punched the flying head with the hilt of her left sword, slamming it into the skull of another foe, cracking both skulls and breaking the spine of the target.

Malygos, while he saw that she was making quite a stand, was still confident. "What makes you think that you can stand against more than a hundred with nothing more than two swords?"

Poldaran plunged one blade into the chest of a large drakonid with a spear, and then kicked the spear twice in succession, slamming its tip into the stomach of one of the human mages. "Death is in my blood," she said, the rage evident in her voice. She pulled her blade from the drakonid's chest and leaped onto its shoulder, using it as a platform to launch a diving attack. Her shoulder slammed one of the attackers back into another, knocking them down. As she rolled back to her feet, she took the opportunity to hamstring foes on either side of her.

Malygos was beginning to worry. She had taken down far more foes than he had expected. "If you hadn't come here, your friend would not have died. It is all your fault," he said, trying to distract her.

Poldaran kicked a foe in the chest and deftly sliced the throats of another two foes. "Fate has brought me here," she said simply. She spun quickly and blocked the swipe of an axe. She severed the hand holding it with the other blade and flung it into the crowd with the first, embedding it in a foe's skull.

As the bodies began to mount, fear began to grip Malygos. "We shall destroy all your hopes and dreams!" he shouted.

Poldaran parried two simultaneous attacks and dodged another, causing the enemy's blade to impale a fourth. She pulled back her blades, causing her foes to stumble and unleashed a flurry of deft slices that severed tendons in multiple foes. "I hope for nothing," she replied as another slash disemboweled an enemy.

"We shall make your darkest terrors come true!" Malygos shouted.

Poldaran slammed her left sword into the chest of one of her enemies. It stuck in the chest and she was having trouble pulling it free. Another foe charged her. She parried his attack as she surrounded her free hand with flame. She then plunged the burning hand into his chest and pulled out his still beating heart, which she crammed down the throat of another assailant. She then yanked her left blade free from its new sheath with a mighty tug. "I fear nothing."

As Poldaran continued slaughtering those around her, the sky battle was not going as well. They were sorely outnumbered and the Blue Dragons wielded stronger magic within the skies of Coldarra. Still, they were holding their own. Yoxutre heard his name called out. He turned to Raequann. "Poldaran's in trouble!" Raequann shouted. Yoxutre turned. The death knight was correct. Poldaran seemed to be fighting alone against a massive number of foes. Unfortunately, blue dragons blocked their only path to her. She was on her own.

Poldaran continued her fight, becoming more and more brutal as the fight wore on. Sometimes unnecessarily so. She started punching more often before she would slash as she was beginning to enjoy the painful sensation of her fist bashing into someone's face. Soon, only she and one foe remained. The foe saw the wild look in her eyes and bolted. She caught up to him easily and drove her blades into his feet, pinning him to the ground. She then slammed her fist through his stomach and gripped his spine. With a single jerk, the light faded from his eyes and he crumpled to the ground in a lifeless heap.

She retrieved her swords and turned towards Malygos. At last, as she stood nearly motionless glaring at him, he could see her clearly. Her white robes were stained crimson with the blood that soaked her. Her hair was matted with gore that also dripped down her face. She took one look at the battle in the sky and then began charging on the Blue Aspect, howling in rage.

"NO!" Malygos shouted. "If you kill me, then no one will be able to control the use of magic by mortals! No one will be able to prevent your people from foolishly destroying all order to the magic of this world!"

Poldaran reached him and raised both her blades over him like a pair of giant scissors. "Then everything will be chaos," she growled as she brought them down, severing the great dragon's head from its body.

Her fight was over, but the rage was still not quenched. Two battles still raged where her friends were in danger. Once again able to conjure her magic, she projected her image into the skies over the Wyrmrest Temple and Coldarra. "Members of the Blue Dragonflight!" her voice boomed over both Coldarra and the Dragonblight. "Malygos is dead! I have slain him." She allowed a moment for that to sink in. "I grow weary of this fight. Because of this, I will offer you one chance and one chance alone."

Arcalanos, leading the attack on the Wyrmrest Temple, could not believe what he was hearing. Malygos dead, and this woman responsible? It was almost too much to bear.

She wiped some blood from her eye. "Surrender or flee, never to pursue this war again," she said. "If even a single one of you remains, the consequences will be dire." She paused a moment. "I have slain over a hundred of Malygos' defenders with nothing more than my swords and my hands. I make no idle boast. Bathed now in the chaotic magic I shall use my considerable skills at Necromancy to raise each of these fallen. They will be the beginning of my army. I will lead them against you in battle after bloody battle, my army growing with each of yours that falls until I have slain each and every one of your entire misbegotten race. Your whelps will be slain in your lairs. Your mates will die, only to be raised again into the torment of unlife.

"If it takes me a hundred years, every one of you shall be wiped from the face of Azeroth. That is the fate that awaits you if you defy me and continue this war. You have five minutes to decide, and then I will be forced to begin raising the fallen here."

Arcalanos reeled. One of the captains approached him. "We cannot be cowed by a single human. She is not capable of destroying us."

Arcalanos shook his head. "No. I have seen her power before. She raised a number of frost wyrms against us simultaneously once. She is not to be taken lightly. If she says that she will kill us, she means it. We must flee."

The captain was shocked, but Arcalanos was one of the oldest and wisest dragons still living. "I'll shall begin spreading the word. We flee."

As the dragons fled, the others flew down to check on Poldaran. Meanwhile, Poldaran's imaged was projected again, this time over Dalaran, blood and all.

Archmage Modera looked out at the image, which seemed to be staring right at her window in the Violet Citadel. "People of Dalaran!" Poldaran greeted them. "Friends, countrymen, esteemed members of the Kirin Tor, I am Poldaran, daughter of Kel'thuzad, known as The Lichborn. I bring you good news! Malygos is dead, slain by my hand. The Nexus War is over!" An image of the decapitated dragon's head lying in the snow appeared. A cheer erupted in the streets. "Let this forever be a day remembered by all enemies of Dalaran. Our people will be triumphant, no matter what foes we face!" Another cheer rang out in the streets. "Let none seek to impose their will upon us, for we shall not sit quietly and acquiesce, but instead will rise to the challenge and show our resolve! I thank the Kirin Tor for giving me the opportunity to be the sword of Dalaran's wrath this day. May the blessings of the light be upon us all," she said, the image fading.

Modera was taken aback. She was certain that the message was more than just a publicity stunt by Poldaran, that it was somehow a threat directed at her. Poldaran was trying to send her a message, but she was not sure what.

Back in Coldarra, Sharlot landed and ran to her friend. "Poldaran, you didn't just project your image to Dalaran looking like that, did you?" she asked.

Poldaran waved her hand and a large reflective sheet of ice shot out of the ground. She looked at herself for a moment and blushed, though none could see it with all the blood that covered her face. "Oh dear," she said, with a nervous giggle. "By fire be purged," she said softly, unleashing her will. Her body was enveloped by a quick but intensely burning immolation. When it ended, the blood was gone, though it had permanently stained her white robe crimson. She inspected herself in the ice sheet for a moment and sighed. "Good enough, I suppose," she said with a shrug as she dismissed the ice.

She looked around at her handiwork. She had certainly been angry, it seemed. When her eyes caught sight of the fallen white drake turned elf, her heart ached. She bent down and lifted the surprisingly light body and carried it to the edge of the woods, away from the carnage. She spoke a word of power and a blast of concussive force struck the ground in front of her, sending dirt flying everywhere.

She placed the body within the hole and then began drawing runes upon it, words in Draconic telling the story of his life. Afterwards, she stepped back and unleashed another burst of her will, igniting the corpse into a blazing inferno. Within moments, all that lie within the hole was a pile of ashes.

Poldaran reached out and called to the forest. It responded with a single acorn fallen from a tree. She pulled the seed to her and used her fingernail to carve another rune into it and shed a single tear upon the rune, causing it to begin to glow. She then placed the acorn upon the pile of ashes and covered it all with dirt. Finally, being unable to harness the power of nature to accelerate its growth, she sped up time around the grave.

Within moments, a tiny sapling sprouted. Each moment, it doubled in size, until it was a mighty tree, larger than the rest, at which point the time fluctuation ended. During the entire ordeal, tears streamed down Poldaran's face, and the faces of the others present, for none who watched the ceremony could remain untouched by the emotion of it.

A hand rested upon Poldaran's shoulder and a voice spoke. "You do his memory a great honor, child," it said. "He would be thankful to have you attend to him so."

Poldaran turned to see the face of the Dragonqueen, Alexstrasza. She had arrived unnoticed during the event. "Thank you," was all she could reply. They stood there, everything quiet for a few moments.

The silence was interrupted by a shout. "Lady Poldaran!" one of the Dalaranian mages called out. "A rider approaches from the east!"

Poldaran looked where they were pointing. "A white gryphon," she said. "Wintergarde? I wonder why they would send someone out here."

Within a few minutes, the gryphon landed and the rider kneeled before Poldaran. "Lady Wintermoon," he said. "I bring urgent word from Wintergarde."

"Rise and report, Sergeant," she replied.

"New Hearthglen has fallen. A massive undead army marches upon Wintergarde. They are likely already locked in combat with the defenders. The High Commander and Lady Alexandrine request aid."

"How large is this force?"

"Estimates put Wintergarde outnumbered 50 to one."

"What do they command in siege weaponry?"

"Enough to bring down the walls or gate within a day. Two at maximum."

"Which of the Lich King's lackeys leads the enemy?"

"We are uncertain as to the identity of the death knight who leads the forces. No one has seen her before."

"Her? Aside from Lady Blaumeux, I don't know of any female Death Knights in the Lich King's employ. None that would be put in charge of a force this size, at least. I'd also expect the 7th Legion to be able to identify her, so I think it's safe to assume it's another. Describe her."

"Black armor with red trim. Rides one of those generic steeds that Death Knights have taken to riding lately. Brown hair, barely faded. Looks to have been turned only recently. A survivor from New Hearthglen we rescued says that she wields vast necromantic power, but wields it like a bludgeon. Very little finesse to her style. The same goes for her military leadership. Her strategy is rudimentary at best. She just applies as much force as possible to where she decides to attack."

Poldaran played with a strand of her hair and paced, lost in thought. "Wields vast necromantic power like a bludgeon. Seems to be recently turned. Brown hair. Recently turned..." She froze as realization dawned. "To be used against her family...that's why she seemed so familar...that *******..."

"What's wrong, Poldaran?" Yoxutre asked.

"Gather up everyone you can. Anyone who can fly or fight needs to get moving to Wintergarde. Have the mages here teleport you as soon as possible." She began trying to channel a teleportation spell. "Dammit! The ley lines are too tangled! I can't chart a safe course! I'll have to fly past them in order to teleport. Likely an hour's flight from here." She began gathering the magic from the air around her, saturating her body with magic. Her eyes began to glow and the very air around her crackled.

"That's not a safe way to travel, Lady Poldaran!" one of the mages cautioned.

"It's the fastest!" she replied. "I've already lost a brother today. I'm not going to lose a sister!" And with that, she shot into the sky, a glowing nimbus of energy streaking off to the east.

** * **
#7 Dec 10 2009 at 3:40 AM Rating: Good
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"Lady Alexandrine!" the soldier called out. "The southeastern wall is getting pounded by enemy siege. I'm not sure how much longer we can hold out against them!"

The paladin took a swing with her massive axe, splitting the ghoul trying to scale the wall clean in half. She looked over the ramparts and assessed the situation. Fourteen enemy Meat Wagons were focusing their fire upon the southern wall. She checked the skies. The 7th Legion's air units were too busy dealing with enemy fliers to be able to be sent to destroy them. That left only one alternative. "Squire!" she called out to the young man assigned as her aid.

"Yes, milady?"

"Head to the stables and begin prepping horses." The young man nodded and ran off. "Sergeant," she said, addressing the man who had brought her the news of the siege engines."

"What are your orders?"

"Gather up two dozen of the fastest riders we have here. We're going to have to make a sortie outside the gate and destroy those engines. Have each of them procure a couple small explosives for use in this matter."

"Right away," he said with a salute, then ran off.

"Gargoyles!" one of the soldiers called out. The defenders drew their ranged weapons and began firing at the score of enemies coming at them from the sky. Alexandrine sealed herself with the power of the Light and unleashed its judgment at the nearest foe, knocking it from the sky.

A few of the men were obviously injured, so Alexandrine turned her attention to using the Light's grace to heal their wounds and refresh their spirits. One man was upon death's door, so she gathered a massive surge of light around herself and laid her hand upon his chest, transferring it to him, instantly healing all his wounds and returning him to fighting form.

A few more along the way to the stairs off the ramparts had succumbed to their wounds recently, so she gathered her faith and asked the power of the Light to bind their souls back to their bodies. A few more moments saw their wounds healed and they rejoined the battle.

Alexandrine sighed. She wished Sharlot was there. While the Light was more suited to destroying the undead than Nature, Sharlot's expert command of Nature would allow her to more capably keep the defending forces alive and in fighting condition.

She met her squire at the stables. He had her charger ready for her, as well as a sturdy lance. She nodded her approval at him. She was likely to be the one leading the charge, so she would need to clear a path through the undead outside to allow them to reach the siege. A lance was a perfect tool for that job - well, that and the bag of goblin explosives she intended to take along.

Within a few minutes, Alexandrine found herself at the head of a small column of mounted soldiers. "Open the gate!" she called out to the engineer in charge of such matters. The massive gate began to creak as it swung inward. "Seventh Legion! We ride! Let's free these unnatural creatures from the chains of hellish undeath!"

With a thunderous shout, the soldiers lowered their lances and began their charge, surprising the geists that had amassed at the gate and trampling them flat. As they proceeded into the city proper, the column spread into a wedge, tearing a hole through the dead as they passed. Alexandrine had gathered the power the Light about herself, and the very ground where her steed trampled became consecrated, preventing the minor ghouls and geists from attempting to follow behind them.

A few of the riders were taken down, as was expected. Those further out on the line moved inward to close the gaps in the charge as they made their rush on the siege engines to the south. Alexandrine's lance broke just as the engines came into view, so she was forced to use the weight of her armored horse to remove enemies from her path.

Guessing their plans, the Scourge forces had formed up a hasty defense around the siege, using skeletal pikemen to try to counter the charging horses. Alexandrine had prepared for that and unleashed the Light within to bless herself and her allies with Divine Protection. The pikes that struck were knocked away by the force of the Light and the skeletons holding them were trampled.

"Arm explosives!" she called out to the dozen remaining soldiers with her. Those who still had lances rested them in their stirrups and pulled out their various grenades and other bombs. "We only get one shot at this. Make it count!" As they charged past the vile, corpse throwing Meat Wagons, they tossed explosives at machines.

Concussive blasts rocked the battlefield as most of the wagons were destroyed. Two survived, likely due to faulty bombs, but the wall could handle them for a lot longer than it could the combined might of fourteen. What was important now was getting the men back to the keep with as few casualties as possible.

This was complicated by the presence of six Death Knights in their path. They would lose at least half their number trying to ride through that. Alexandrine had to work out a plan quickly. "I'm going to slam into the lead death knight and then hit them all with Holy Wrath!" she called out. "Everyone keep riding for the keep, they'll be stunned for a few seconds, long enough for you to get by and make it to the gate!"

"Lady Alexandrine, that's a suicide mission!" the sergeant called out.

"Like **** it is!" she replied. "As soon as you get to the keep, have a gryphon come pick me up. I'll hold out as long as I can. If things look grim, I've got a hearthstone with me and will use it to escape to Dalaran!" Their fears abated, she tossed aside her shield, imbued herself and her companions with a Crusader's Aura and drew her wicked looking two handed axe. "For the Light!" she shouted as she dove from her mount to tackle the death knight before her. As they hit the ground, Alexandrine unleashed the light's wrath, sending bolts of exorcism at all the dead nearby, stunning them and allowing her companions to ride past.

She rolled to her feet and gripped her axe. She looked towards the gate and smiled, knowing that the riders had enough of a lead to escape.

The Death Knight she had tackled laughed as she rose to her feet and drew her massive black sword. "Bravery and heroism worthy of a paladin," she said with a smile, which Alexandrine could clearly see since the woman's helmet had been knocked off in the fall. "It is unfortunate that it has bought you nothing but your own death."

"Strong words coming from a nameless Death Knight."

"Laugh while you can. The Lich King has recognized my glory and lifted me up to be the one to bring down this keep. After this day, all will know and fear the name of Azmaria!"

"We shall see," Alexandrine said, sealing herself with the power of the Light.

Alexandrine took the initiative and began the charge, opening with a diagonal swing at the death knight. Azmaria quickly parried the blow. As their weapons met, the collision of the Light and necromantic power they had imbued their weapons with caused a massive shockwave, sending anyone within two hundred yards of them flying away.

Their battle raged on for almost half an hour, the sounds of their blows - and the shockwaves that the colliding energies caused - could be heard as far away as Dalaran and Westgarde Keep. Alexandrine parried a blow and countered with a swift kick, knocking her opponent away.

The two stood and studied eachother a moment. "It seems we are even matched," the death knight said, resting the tip of her blade on the ground.

Alexandrine's lips curled into a smirk. "Perhaps not," she said, charging again. She had finally figured out her enemy, understood her foe's weakness. The way the death knight handled her power. The way she handled her blade. She had natural talent, but was mostly untrained. Further, she was handling the sword as one would handle a much lighter blade. Whomever she had trained in her basics with was a master, there was no doubt, but not with this style of sword.

The Lich King had erred in giving this girl such a massive blade. She was better suited to use a longsword, possibly two, not to use a two handed greatsword.

It was the mistake Alexandrine would exploit for victory. She gathered her strength and let loose an impossibly fast series of strokes with her wicked axe. The death knight struggled to counter them, only barely keeping up. But more importantly, her footing was becoming uncertain as she struggled with the weight of the blade at those speeds.

Finally, the attack sequence came to its inevitable conclusion. Alexandrine feinted a strike from the upper left and quickly changed it to an upwards swing from the lower right. As expected, the death knight's attempts to parry the blow caused her to lose her balance. Alexandrine's blow struck true, biting into the death knight's side and sending her flying into the air, then crashing to the ground a few feet back. Her blade flew from her hands.

Alexandrine planted her foot upon the fallen foe's chest. "Any last words before I send you to the afterlife?"

Azmaria coughed, blood coming from her mouth. "Well fought," she said simply. Rain began to fall and the skies crackled with lightning as Alexandrine raised her axe to deliver the final blow.

A bolt of arcane energy from the west slammed into Alexandrine as she began the swing, knocking her to the ground fifteen yards away. "No!" a voice shouted, the sound of it distorted by the intense speed of the one yelling.

Alexandrine jumped to her feet and grabbed her axe. She glared at the figure now standing between her and the death knight lying upon the ground. "Who dares interfere in my sacred duty to battle the Scourge?!" she shouted.

"I do," the woman before her said softly, drawing back her hood. "Alex, I cannot let you kill this woman," Poldaran said.

"What is the meaning of this, sister? Have you turned against us and joined the Scourge?" The rage in Alexandrine's voice was clear.

"Of course not," Poldaran said. "I'm here to protect you from yourself." Azmaria took the moment of distraction to rise to her feet. Poldaran turned to her quickly. "On your knees!" she shouted, blasting the death knight with a bolt of lightning. The other woman fell to her knees, screaming in agony.

"I want to know the meaning of this!" Alexandrine shouted.

"You'll understand shortly," Poldaran said. "Now shut up and be patient." She grabbed the death knight by the front of her armor and lifted her into the air. "Tell me your name, death knight."

"I am the death knight Azmaria!" the woman responded, then screamed in agony as Poldaran struck her with another bolt of electrical energy.

"I don't want the name that the Lich King gave you. Tell me your real name!"

"I am Az -!" she was cut off as she was struck by another bolt. "My name is Bethany," she said, defeated.

"As I thought," Poldaran said. Alexandrine stood, confused. "Tell me, Bethany, what is the name of your father?"

"Benjamin," she said.

"I do not wish to know the name of the man who raised you. I want to know the name of the man who impregnated your mother with you. Now I ask you again: What is the name of your father?"

"I never met him," she said, then cried out in agony as Poldaran shocked her again.

"I don't want to know whether you met him," Poldaran said. "I asked you his name. Do not make me repeat the question again or you'll regret it."

"Silas," she said. "Silas Wintermoon."

Alexandrine couldn't believe what she had heard. Poldaran spoke again. "Then tell me, Bethany, what is your full name?"

"Bethany Azmaria Wintermoon," she said. Upon saying it, Bethany felt something change as Poldaran unleashed the spell she had been working on during the interrogation.

"I have freed you from the Lich King's control," Poldaran said. "Bethany, I want you to meet your older sister, Alexandrine," she said softly, indicating the paladin.

Bethany smiled at Alexandrine. "Older sister," she said as she passed out. Poldaran lowered her to the floor gently.

Alexandrine looked at her older sister. "Pol, I don't understand this."

"I had heard rumors when I was an apprentice that Silas Wintermoon had fathered an illegitimate child. Gossip like that was pretty common, however, so I ignored it. It seems it was true after all. In hindsight, the evidence was there and I should have seen it sooner. Even after seeing Tinaomi's instructions to split the value of the estate four ways, it didn't occur to me what it meant."

"But why would the Lich King use her like this, and even more importantly, how did he find out?"

"Alex," Poldaran said darkly, "think for a moment about what just happened."

The realization hit Alexandrine like a runaway carriage. "By the Light," she whispered. "I almost killed my own sister." Tears started streaming down her cheeks.

"Imagine what would have happened had I not stopped you. Imagine if you found out later that you had in fact killed your sister. At best, you might have broken down and been unable to fight. At worst, your despair might have led you to take your own life, possibly even damning you into undeath." She placed her hand on Alexandrine's shoulder. "Now go heal your sleeping sister. She has a bit of an axe wound in her side and we wouldn't want it to fester."

Not quite trusting herself to speak, Alexandrine nodded and went to her younger sister's side.

"Good, now that we've settled that, time to deal with this army," Poldaran said. Under normal circumstances, the swarm of undead across the field would be too much, even for her, to battle alone. But the lightning storm above them simplified things greatly.

Poldaran gathered all the arcane energy she could and unleashed it across the field, gently giving every undead in the enemy army a slightly positive electrical charge. With the skies negatively charged by the lightning storm, the natural thing occurred and lightning began rapidly striking each of the enemies. Within a matter of a few moments, nothing remained within the lower city of Wintergarde except the three human women.

"That was pretty impressive, Pol," Alexandrine said. "What will you do next?"

"You asked me how the Lich King could know that Silas Wintermoon had another daughter when we didn't. I'm going to go deal with the ******* that told him right now."

"You don't mean..."

"Yes," Poldaran said. "I do." She gathered arcane energy around herself again and shot into the sky, standing before the floating necropolis of Naxxramas. She cast a spell to amplify her voice. "Kel'thuzad!" she shouted. "Father! I know you can hear me in there!"

An image of the Archlich Kel'thuzad appeared before her. "What is it? I'm very busy," he said.

Poldaran's voice seethed with rage. "This was your doing," she accused. "You were his best friend. He confided in you this secret and you used it to try to destroy his children! You're a monster."

"I serve my king, and no others," he said.

"I have held back here, father. Out of some sense of sentimentality or misguided hope that you could be saved, I have overlooked what you are doing here in Northrend. That ends today. Your days are numbered, father. You will count your time left not in years, nor months, but weeks. Tonight is the full moon. Before the coming of the next one, Naxxramas will be purged of the vile dead that infest it and you with them. I will personally deliver your doom upon you, so enjoy what days you have left." Her eyes grew dangerous as her gaze pierced him. "I am coming for you."


** * **
Epilogue:

Poldaran smiled as she sat in the hot spring. "I needed this," she said happily.

Envinyata and Sharlot nodded their agreement. "So," Sharlot asked, "how did you find this place?"

"One of the civilians in Wintergarde told me about it. She said that she and her sisters used to come here before the invasion."

"Speaking of sisters, lass, how are yours holding up?" Envinyata inquired.

"They'll be alright," Poldaran replied with a smile. "Alex has taken to watching over Bethany while she recovers. Older sisterhood suits her. Once she's recovered, I think I'm going to send them to Icecrown to look into this tournament that the Argent folks are planning to host. I'm sure they would enjoy some time together, and Alex can teach Bethany some of the more important skills to being a knight. Additionally, the Ebon Blade is sending a few representatives up there as well, so I'm going to have Bethany look into some training in necromancy with them."

"What are we going to do, then?"

"Right now, we've got Kel'thuzad to deal with. After that, I'm not sure. I'd imagine something will come up to keep us busy." She sighed. "I wish it wouldn't, though. After Vael's death, I could use some time off."

"That hit you pretty hard?" Sharlot asked.

"No harder than most." She sighed again. "I've lost so many friends to wars. Many of them, I was forced to kill with my own hands. Others, I didn't kill them with my own hands, but had to choose to fulfill the mission instead of saving them. My overriding need to save the many has forced me to learn to deal with the loss of the few." She smiled wryly. "It's really all I have left. That and the fear that one day something will happen. The need will arise to sacrifice something for the good of the world that I won't be able to sacrifice. At that moment, when I fail to do what had to be done, every death before that will be meaningless. Every sacrifice I made before won't have been because I needed to save the many, but because, like a coward, I wanted only to protect myself. And in that moment, I may just lose my sanity." The other two looked alarmed at what she was saying. "Then again, it may not come to that. It may happen much sooner."

"What do you mean?" Envinyata asked.

"There are those who praise me for being able to do what has to be done. Those who feel my strength is an inspiration, that I should be admired for being able to continue on despite the tough choices I've had to make. But they're wrong. I'm not strong. Emotionally, I'm actually incredibly fragile. Every time someone I care about dies, I become that same scared little girl who vomited in terror at the sight of her dead parents. But the realities of the battlefield don't allow one to have a crisis like that every time something bad happens.

"So I developed a defense mechanism. When something like that happens and I feel the terror rising, part of my mind shuts down. Goes into shock. Meanwhile, a more primal part takes over. I lose the ability to feel fear. And sadness. And remorse. All that's left is my most basic self preservation instinct and a few remaining emotions. Almost always, it's anger that remains, a predominant burning rage that forces me to complete my mission, often in a brutal fashion with little regard to my own safety. You all have seen me in that state a number of times. I've been told that it's horrifying to witness."

"Been told?"

"Since much of my mind shuts down, I can only vaguely recall what has happened after the fact. And what little I do remember, it's almost like I'm merely a passenger in my own body. But this time, it was different. This time, I felt myself begin to shut down and pulled myself back. I couldn't afford to lose control. We needed to keep Malygos alive if at all possible. But in the end, my grief was too much to bear, so I voluntarily shut down. This time, however, I didn't shut all the way down. I felt my fear and sadness melt away, but I was still in control of myself. I was still me, but without the pain and without any feeling of fear of consequences. It was like my conscience had shut down.

"The feeling was, exhilarating, to put it mildly. More accurately, it was like a combination of pure rage with a euphoria. Almost like the time I went on the rampage against the Cult, those years ago, except this time I didn't feel the cold hatred and, what's the word I'm looking for, almost lust for revenge. No, the anger burned hot and I didn't feel any lust, just the anger. But, by the Goddess, it was amazing! I felt so free! Nothing could stop me. And I remember every detail quite vividly." She looked at the night sky. "I'm not scared that I can become like that.

"What scares me most is just how much I enjoyed it."
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