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The Lore of Poldaran: Chapter 8: Underneath the Guilty SkyFollow

#1 Aug 06 2010 at 2:26 AM Rating: Good
29,421 posts
"Only the sounds of lost hope seem to increase,
I threw away everything to be here now.

Like an eternally-blooming flower’s beauty,
The persistent feelings continued to blossom in my heart.
The dying love, the cruel dream,
I embraced tightly the neverending remorse."

-Kosaka Riyu, Danzai no Hana

Lisa paced around her living room, as she had been doing for hours. "Lass, have a seat. Worrying a hole in the floor isn't going to do any good for your daughter." The speaker was a young Dwarven woman with blond braids. "Guthrum Thunderfist himself has flown out north to the Elven lands to find out what malady affects the elves here. He'll find out what's making your daughter sick more quickly than anyone else possibly could."

Lisa sighed and sat down on one of the large leather chairs. "Thanks, Nioma. Nonetheless, I still worry."

"It's only natural for a mother to worry when her child is ill. At least your human nature has left you untouched by whatever illness struck the Elves, and since your daughter is only half-Elven, she does not seem to be suffering as badly as the others."

"She still will not wake, Nioma. That is cause enough for worry." The two sat silent for a few minutes, but the silence was broken by the sound of a crash outside. "In the name of the Eye, what in Azeroth was that?" They rushed outside to find a large bronze drake dead in the garden. "What is one of the Bronze Flight doing flying over my house?" Lisa asked no one in particular.

"Lass, come quick!" Nioma called out. "Someone's hurt over here!"

Lisa rushed over to find the dwarf kneeling over a young woman covered in blood. At least, Lisa thought she was young. The woman had hair as white as the snow that covered the ground all around the mountains held by the Dwarves of Ironforge. At least, the hair that wasn't caked with blood was white. The girl was covered with what appeared to be wounds from giant claws. With her finger, Lisa checked the girl's pulse. "It's weak. She won't last long like this. We need to get her inside and deal with these wounds. Help me carry her."

Lisa worked for hours to clean and stitch the woman's wound, and even used an intravenous healing potion to help replace some of the lost blood. Afterwards, Lisa changed from her bloodied clothes and went to the kitchen to wash up.

"How is the girl?" Nioma asked.

"It's too early to be certain, but I think she'll live. It was touch and go for a bit there."

"I've seen people in much better condition die," Nioma said. "You never told me you were a surgeon."

"I was, a long time ago. Almost in another life. When 'Isa's father died, I gave up on my medical studies." She smiled wryly. "In truth, I had only taken up studying medicine so I could be near him. He was a soldier in Silvermoon's army, and I figured that if I could be a field surgeon, I could be near him."

"But you're a mage...why not fight at his side?"

"Killing was never in my nature, I guess. And, unfortunately, healing magic wasn't something I had a talent for, so if I wanted to help out, I needed to find another way. Thankfully, I had a gift for medicine."

"I see." A loud rushing sound, like that of a heavy gust of wind, came from the bedroom where the injured girl was resting. "What was that?"

"Whomever was chasing her might have found her. We have to check on her!" The two women rushed to the bedroom and flung open the door. They were not really prepared for what they saw.

The young human woman was sitting up in bed, shaking her head as if just groggy from a nap. All the blood was gone and nothing seemed out of place except for the fact that the woman's eyes were glowing pale blue. "Hi there," the woman said. "I suppose I should thank you for stitching me up. Thought I was a goner there."

The dwarf looked at her in bewilderment. "Are you some kind of healer?"

"Heavens no," the girl said. "I'm more of an anti-healer, as it were. I make wounds worse, not better."

"Then how are you healed?"

"Simple trick, actually. I just saturated my body with magical energy and allowed my body to use it to increase my natural healing."

Lisa's jaw dropped. "You saturated your body with magic?! That's unbelievably dangerous."

"For most people, you'd be right," the girl said. "I, however, am not most people." The woman's stomach growled audibly. She blushed. "There are, however, some side effects."

In spite of her other worries, Lisa laughed. "Come then, let's go fix you something to eat."

The young woman wolfed down the plate of leftover venison and potatoes that Lisa served her, making a horrible mess in the process. Lisa was reminded of her daughter, Nagisa, who always told her that "a lady should be more elegant" whenever Lisa failed to use proper table manners. She would have laughed at the thought, but thinking of her sick daughter just made her worry more.

"So, stranger, what should we call you?" the dwarf asked the young woman who was draining a third glass of cider.

"That's an excellent question, but not one I can answer. At least, I can't answer it truthfully."

"This has something to do with the Keeper outside, doesn't it?" Lisa asked.

"So you know about the Bronze Flight? I take it you're the mage that erected that invisibility barrier surrounding this place, then?"

"Yes," Lisa said with a nod. "I'm a former denizen of Dalaran. Now I live out here with my daughter."

The woman looked at the dwarf skeptically. "I'm sorry, I just don't see the resemblance." She thought about it for a moment. "In fact, now that I think about it, I've met this dwarf's parents, so you obviously can't mean her."

"You've met my parents?"

"Yep. Years, I mean, years from now. Dammit. I don't know why I put myself through this. It gets so confusing when things you've already done haven't happened yet."

"So I take it you're a time traveler, then?" Lisa asked.

"Indeed. Since you're from Dalaran, I take it you know that means I can't tell you a whole lot." The woman sighed. "In fact, I should really get going. If those bastards followed me all the way from Silvermoon, I don't want them to find me here. It would mean trouble for you."

"Wait! You came from Silvermoon?!"

"Yes. Why?"

"My daughter's ill. She collapsed earlier today. The whole Elven village collapsed as well. We sent someone up to Silvermoon to find out if they knew of a malady only affecting elves, but he hasn't returned yet."

"Wait, your daughter is an elf?"

"Half elven, actually."

"And this all happened earlier today?" Lisa nodded. "Take me to her. I think I know what's wrong." Upon reaching the room, the woman looked at Nagisa for a few moments, though her eyes lingered on the girl's red hair. She sighed.

"What is it?"

"My hair is supposed to be that color," the woman said. "It got bleached by some horrible magic I got mixed up in. Time to fix it." Within a moment, the woman's hair matched Nagisa's in color. "Much better."

"I wasn't asking about your hair. I want to know if you know what's wrong with my daughter."

"Oh, that. It's just as I suspected. She's experiencing magic withdrawal. She'll be fine in a day or two, though she'll be incredibly weak without a source of magic to feed on."

"I don't understand. My daughter can't even use magic yet. How can she be addicted?"

The woman sighed. "Well, I guess it can't hurt to tell you. The Sunwell was attacked today and is no longer feeding the Quel'dorei with the magic they've come to rely on. Without it, they're all very ill. Being half elven, your daughter is getting off pretty lucky, actually. Others may not survive this."

"What happened to the Sunwell? Were you injured while protecting it?"

"Not exactly. It's a lot more complicated than that. I can't tell you. In fact, I've probably told you too much already. Sometimes, though, I have to wonder if what I'm doing is actually the right thing to do." She sighed. "Oh well, let's see about helping your daughter." The woman rooted around her backpack. "There it is!" she exclaimed, pulling a red gem from the pack.

"That's a Cardinal Ruby!" Lisa exclaimed. "Those are extremely rare and expensive!"

"I got this one at a discount," the woman said. She pulled a small pack of tools from her bag and went to work cutting the gem. A minute or so later, she had finished. "I've modified a common cut of this gem so that instead of boosting magical power it will take in magic from the air around her and feed it to her in a small but steady stream. It needs to be on her wrist at all times to work. The flow of life energy through her body will carry the magic where it needs to go. You can bandage it on there for now, but eventually you'll want to get it set into a bracelet."

"Thank you so much." A thought occurred to her. "What should I do about the villagers?"

"They're full elves. This won't work for them. They'll need a much stronger source of magic. Kael'thas Sunstrider will work to find one for them in time. I've probably already said too much. I really must get going."

And without a sound, both she and the corpse in the garden were gone.

** * **

"We cannot sit on this any further, Rhonin. The girl must be brought in. Every second we delay leads us that much closer to ruin!"

"Ansirem, we can't just go making accusations of that seriousness," Modera said. "We don't know what the dream means. Even if it is a prophecy, who is to say it's a vision of things that will happen and not of things that may happen?"

"I'm tired of your constant idiotic support of this woman, Modera. What did she do to sway you? You used to be one of the most steadfast supporters of bringing her to justice, and now you defend her? What was the price of your honor?"

"I will not sit here and listen to you call my honor into question. I have stated my reasons for my change of heart before."

"And surely it has nothing to do with the anonymous donation you received to help you start that school of yours..."

Rhonin, leader of the Kirin Tor, could take no more bickering. "That is enough. Both of you will hold your tongues." He turned to their visitor. "What do you have to say on the matter, Jaina? You've known the girl in question for some time, so your input may be valuable."

"I'm not sure, to be honest. We have been able to get no response from the Wyrmrest Temple regarding the matter, nor have we been able to locate the girl to speak with her. Without any input from her or the dragons, we may be forced to act on incomplete information, which is further complicated by Silvermoon's threat to cut ties with Dalaran after they uncovered evidence that she may have not only been involved in the attack on Silvermoon, but may have played a direct role in the defilement of the Sunwell itself."

"That's ludicrous!" Modera interjected. "Records of the time in question clearly place her as a young apprentice here in Dalaran!"

Rhonin thought for a moment. "That is true. But she has displayed an affinity for temporal magics and may have traveled back in time. Unfortunately, requests to the Bronze Flight to look into the matter have fallen on deaf ears. We may be forced to act on the assumption that she may have actually been involved."

"Silvermoon certainly won't make it easy for you to sit on this until you get some answers," Jaina Proudmoore added. "If they sever ties, the Horde will do the same. Dalaran will likely lose its neutrality and be drawn into the apparently inevitable coming war between the Alliance and the Horde. That, of course, assumes that Varian doesn't cut ties as well, since he's not taking reports of Poldaran's apparent betrayal of the living well."

Modera's shoulders drooped, defeated. "Do whatever you want," she said. "I wash my hands of this."

Rhonin considered everything again. He just could not see another way out. "So be it. Contact our allies and tell them that Poldaran the Lichborn has been declared an Enemy of the Living by Dalaran. She is to be apprehended at all costs. Alive if possible, but dead if necessary. May the Light forgive us if we're wrong."

** * **

Colonel Keynes was not happy about his current assignment. An entire regiment to sent to find a single woman? It was ludicrous. And worse, they weren't the only ones searching. Both the Alliance and the Horde were dedicating forces to finding this single mage. But more than that, Dalaran and the Argent Crusade and Ebon Blade folks were sending some of their most highly trained specialists on the hunt. Rumor had it that Alexandrine the Merciful and Azmaria the Shadow Blade were leading a team searching in Kalimdor, Sharlot the Life Warder and Envinyata the Dark Priestess were hunting for the girl in the Eastern Kingdoms, and Yoxutre the Righteous was overseeing the search in Northrend. Formidable people indeed just to hunt down one suspected traitor. Not only that, but his contact in SI: 7 had told him that the king had personally ordered the Warlocks of Stormwind to send their members as well, since hunting mages was their specialty.

All of this lent credence to the rumors that the unnamed mage they were hunting was indeed the Lichborn. This terrified Keynes more than he could say because he had heard of her exploits. If she had indeed turned to the Scourge, it was a crippling blow to the Alliance's efforts in Northrend. He had seen what that girl could do first hand, and if she had turned, it would be a major blow to Keynes' confidence as well.

As he walked through the library, Keynes spotted a girl he did not recognize from his time stationed in this town. She had blond hair, which did not fit the description he had been given, but since he was looking for a mage, he suspected that minor appearance details could be altered, so he figured he should at least give her more than a quick glance.

The girl noticed him looking. "Is there something I can help you with?" she asked sweetly.

"I'm sorry for disturbing you, miss. We're looking for someone and I had to be sure you didn't match her description." Keynes decided that this girl looked no more than seventeen, and thus couldn't be the person he was looking for.

A look of concern crossed her face. "Is the woman you're searching for a dangerous fugitive? A suspected Cultist or the like?"

Keynes decided not to alarm the girl. "No, nothing like that. We just believe that she might have some information regarding a case we're investigating."

"Thank goodness," the girl said with relief. "Mother told me that this place would be dangerous and I was afraid that she might be right."

"Valiance Keep is one of our frontline fortifications against the Scourge," Keynes responded. "What brings you out here, miss?"

"Dearie me," she said. "Where are my manners? I forgot to introduce myself. My name's Amanda. I had heard that any books found out in the ruins in Northrend were being brought here," she said. "I work for the Royal Library in Stormwind and I wanted to come check them out first hand to see what we could use before letting any of those Explorer's League goons get their hands on them."

Keynes laughed. It was good to see that life was continuing despite the war. When he finished chuckling, he noticed something. "Miss, you don't look well. Is everything alright?"

She smiled wanly. "I just haven't been feeling well for a few days. I think the soup on the boat ride over tasted funny and I've been having trouble holding down anything the last few days. Between that and the lack of sleep it has caused, I must look a sight. A few of the others on the boat got sick as well, but it didn't last as long for them. I'll be fine, though I thank you for your concern. I just wish the headaches would go away."

A voice shouted from behind them. "Colonel, get away from that woman! She's the one we're looking for!"

The girl sighed. "You should do as he says." She turned and saw that the man who had spoken was wearing silver Titansteel full plate armor emblazoned with the crest of the Argent Crusade and a pair of red goggles. "Truesight goggles? Really?" She sighed again and released the spell that held her in her younger form, becoming instead a young woman with fiery red hair in a blue satin robe emblazoned with a burning phoenix.

Keynes jumped back. It was her! Poldaran the Lichborn was indeed the fugitive they sought! He looked at the man who had spoken. Now that the goggles had been removed, Lord Yoxutre's gaze was steeled with resolve. "Poldaran, you're under arrest for treason to the living. Do not resist and make this harder on yourself."

"You know these charges are false."

"I don't know anything. There's evidence of your involvement in the attack on Silvermoon City. Dozens of reputable mages report seeing visions of you pledging your fealty to the Scourge. And I myself saw you summon the Val'kyr, which answer only to the Lich King. What am I supposed to think?"

"You of all people should know that things aren't always what they seem. You were there when we protected Medivh as he unleashed the Horde upon us. You were there when we freed Thrall. You were there when we protected Arthas as he cut the life from the citizens of Stratholme!"

"So you claim your presence at Silvermoon was on the behalf of the Bronze Flight? What of the vision, and the Val'kyr?"

"The vision is but one possible future," she said. She looked at the ground, somewhat ashamed. "The Val'kyr...I can't tell you. The truth is worse than what you believe, but you have to trust me, I am not working with the Scourge! I'm trying to find a way to avert a prophecy and keep myself from that exact fate!"

"What reason have we to trust you? You've betrayed us all! How long have you been a pawn of the Scourge? Did Nihlus die just to satisfy your lust for power?!"

Poldaran's gaze snapped towards him. Her eyes were filled with pain and anger. "I didn't deserve that," she said coldly, and then she was gone.

** * **

Of all the places he could be spending his afternoon, this was the last place Yadier expected to be. "Greeting, Modera. Might I ask why you've called me here?" he asked, indicating the large auditorium they were observing from balcony seating on one wall.

"Must my motives be suspect when I invite a colleague to attend the school's Culture Festival?" Archmage Modera, founder and headmistress of the Dalaran Magical Academy asked innocently.

"I don't have time for one of your fundraising attempts. If you don't give me a reason to stay here, I'm leaving."

Modera placed her hand over her mouth and whispered, barely audible to Yadier. "Not yet. Someone is listening in. Make small talk for a few moments while my security deals with it."

That intrigued Yadier. "So, what's this Culture Festival thing about, anyway?"

"This is a chance for our students to show off their artistic talents...painting, sculpture, music, theater, that kind of thing."

"I thought this was a school of magic. Why would you need to have some kind of exhibition like this?"

"In truth, much of the purpose of this event is to help raise funds for the school. However, we feel that just teaching the children about magic would be too spartan. We want our young men and women to learn and thrive with a balanced education. Many of these young people are the sons and daughters of noble houses, and as such these skills, as well as etiquette, math and history classes, may serve them more than their magic training."

"An interesting approach. Are they still getting enough magical training?"

"In most cases, we think so. The academy was founded to solve the issue of too few apprentice masters being available, but that still means each child is not getting quite the one-on-one training the old system offered. However, we've eliminated the busy work that most masters used to give their apprentices and have replaced it with more useful classes, so we feel it balances out that much at least."

"In most cases? You mean there are times it isn't enough?"

"There are some children whom I believe would benefit from a greater amount of training. Most are simply having trouble grasping concepts, though there is one special case where the child is brilliant but somehow just cannot conjure up the simplest spell."

"You're sure to test them for magical aptitude, right?"

"Of course. We're not idiots. No, this girl I'm talking about has been tested and rates as having nearly off the chart magical aptitude, but she just can't seem to cast spells." Modera looked down at the auditorium. "In fact, that's her walking onto the stage right now."

Yadier looked out and saw a girl of approximately fourteen on the stage. She was walking slowly and with a decorum he was not used to seeing on children. Neither the skirt nor collar of her uniform fluttered with the movement. Her red hair was drawn back in a ponytail and he could see her short pointed ears. "A half elf?" he asked.

"Indeed. We think that might be the problem with her gift not manifesting itself. Little is known about half elves. Until recently, even their existence was frowned upon and shunned by the masses, but thanks to Rhonin's marriage to Vereesa Windrunner, such things are much more accepted here in Dalaran. No, Nagisa rarely has problems with other students because of her lineage, but that's not to say the other students are kind to her. She is, after all, the only student here at the Academy that cannot conjure a single spell, despite having the highest marks in her magical theory classes."

"Why would being half-elven affect her ability to conjure magic?"

"Half elves mature more slowly than elves or humans do, so we suspect that her gift just hasn't actually surfaced yet." On the stage, the girl began to sing. It was an enchanting aria. Modera looked at Yadier. "I just got the signal. It's safe for us to talk."

"So, what is this really about?"

"I need to talk to you about Poldaran."

"I might have known. What is it?"

"Do you actually believe that she could be as horrible as they're claiming."

Yadier thought about it for a moment. "No, I think we're misinterpreting something here."

"You might be right, but it's hard to mistake what's happening in that dream a lot of us had."

He nodded. "That's true, but I don't think that's the full dream, unless the reports I'm hearing are missing the ending."

Modera's curiosity was piqued. "Missing the ending?"

"Poldaran told me about this dream. Apparently she's been having it for months. She said that it had always felt unfinished, until she managed to see the entire thing the morning Nihlus died, just a few hours before."

"What was the ending?"

"You're not going to like it." He took a deep breath. "She pledges her loyalty to the Scourge and then strikes, knocking Frostmourne from the Lich King's hand. She then uses it to slay him. But something goes wrong and she becomes infused with the Lich King's spirit, making her into a worse monster than Arthas ever was. Then the world becomes covered in death."

Modera gasped. "That's horrible! Maybe they are right to try to stop her."

"I'm not so sure of that. We've had reports of her being spotted at numerous libraries throughout Azeroth. She seems to be looking up prophecies, perhaps trying to avert this one. If we interfere, we may just doom her, and us, to the fate we're trying to avoid."

"I hadn't thought of that before."

"Most people haven't. So let me ask you a question."

"Go ahead."

"Why have you suddenly decided to support her? You used to be one of the most ardent supporters of the effort to imprison or execute Poldaran."

"In truth, she was never really my target. I was directing my hatred and frustration for letting Kel'thuzad escape towards his daughter, who had not committed any actual crimes. When she brought him down, I realized how foolish I was being and grew up a little."

"I see," Yadier replied. The two sat in silence for a moment, listening to the beautiful song the red haired elven maiden was singing.

"And even though sometimes the clouds hang low and the sun's light grows dim, I will walk with my head held high for I know that behind those dark clouds lays the blue sky," Nagisa sang, finishing the song.

The auditorium filled with applause and Yadier found himself wiping away a single tear. "A beautiful sentiment," he said. He hoped that wherever they were, his friends all walked with their heads held high, despite the coming storm.

Edited, Aug 6th 2010 1:46pm by Poldaran Lock Thread: It's my **** thread, dammit.

Edited, Aug 18th 2010 3:25am by Poldaran
#2 Aug 06 2010 at 2:27 AM Rating: Good
29,421 posts
Poldaran wanted to scream. There wasn't anything in these prophecies that related to her. "Calm down," she said to herself. "You've only gone through three libraries. You just have to figure out where there are most likely to be works you can't find elsewhere. Perhaps Shattrath or the Exodar?" She turned down a side street and found herself greeted by the smell of freshly baked cinnamon rolls. Her stomach growled. "That's right! I haven't eaten much in the last few days. I guess I have time to stop for a bit of breakfast."

In truth, food wasn't the only thing Poldaran had neglected. She had barely slept in the time since Nihlus had died, and it was all she could do to remember to bathe daily. Not that she wanted to sleep. Every time she slept, she would dream of Nihlus' death and then promptly awaken and vomit.

She usually spent the first few hours after waking unable to hold anything down, so that had added to her lack of proper nutrition in the previous days. But today, she was determined to eat something delicious. She found the entrance to the cafe she was smelling and walked in. The owner was a woman with graying hair and a little extra weight around her midsection. "Can I help you, miss?"

"Are those cinnamon rolls I'm smelling?"

"They sure are."

"I'll have two with some butter and a glass of hot tea," Poldaran said, putting a couple coins on the counter. She was so tired that she wasn't sure whether she had grabbed silver or gold coins. At this point, it didn't matter to her.

"Coming right up," the woman said. "Go find yourself a seat and I'll bring em out to you."

Poldaran slumped down in a seat near a window. The morning sun felt good on her skin. The woman brought out her breakfast and she began tearing into it, amazed at how hungry she had been. When was the last time she had eaten? She really couldn't be certain. The last time she remembered taking time to eat had been during the mission with the Bronze Flight. It was possible she had eaten since then, but if she had, she really couldn't remember it.

A bell rang as the cafe's door opened. Poldaran didn't bother turning to see who had entered. She recognized their familiar presence immediately. "Hello, Sharlot, Envi. Come have a seat over here with me. You just have to try these cinnamon rolls. They're the best thing I've ever eaten." The two sat down at her table. "I take it you're here to arrest me?" Poldaran asked before taking a sip of her tea, which was perfectly sweetened.

"Look, Pold," Sharlot began. "It's not that we want to do this, but with how things stand now, we really have no choice. You're a wanted fugitive in every land. There's evidence that you slaughtered elves by the dozens in aid of the Scourge. We even saw those Val'kyr with our own eyes. Please don't make this any harder than it has to be."

Poldaran took another bite of the remaining cinnamon roll. "I can't say that I blame you," she said, talking with her mouth full. "If I were in your situation, I probably couldn't afford to trust me either. It's not like I've given you all much to have faith in." She took another sip of her tea. "However, I can't very well let you take me in. I have things that absolutely must get done, and I'm the only one who can do them."

"Surely you don't mean to fight us," Envinyata said. "You're strong, but there's no way you could possibly hope to beat the both of us."

Poldaran nodded. "You're right, of course. To be honest, I would be hard pressed to defeat either of you solo, much less together. You in particular, Envi, have grown extremely powerful. You don't have the finesse with it that a necromancer would, but I've never seen anyone capable of controlling as much shadow energy as you. I wouldn't be surprised if you could pilot Naxxramas solo if you had to, which is something usually reserved for a team of a half dozen necromancers. And that's ignoring your skill with pure disciplined psychic energy. No, I daresay I could not defeat either of you alone, much less both of you, without some kind of over the top prepared artifact that would likely destroy several city blocks in the process, and sad to say, I don't have anything like that on me right now."

"Yet you still intend to fight us?"

"Oh heavens no," Poldaran said. "But luckily, I don't have to. You see, you are both very powerful. However, sometimes, type of power matters a whole lot more than magnitude." She pulled out a gold coin and set it on the table, thanking the shop's owner once again. "You really should try the cinnamon rolls," she said to the two women once again.

"Don't think you can just walk out of here!" Envinyata exclaimed.

"Of course not," Poldaran said with a smile. "But the truth is that neither of you is a mage, and if I want to leave, there's really nothing either of you can do to stop me."

And with those words, Poldaran was gone, having teleported to some far away location.

** * **

Yadier appraised his companion. It had been a week full of surprises. "Yox, I'm shocked to see you here. I would have thought you would be spending all the time you can searching for Poldaran. You were pretty emphatic that if the visions were correct that she was too dangerous to be left running free."

Yoxutre sighed and took a drink of his beer. "Sometimes I wonder if it's all worth it. What's the point?"

"I take it the search isn't going well?" Yadier asked his brother while motioning to the barmaid to bring him something to drink as well.

"Depends on your definition of well. We found her and she escaped."

Yadier thanked the girl who handed him a mug of beer. "That never would have deterred you before. Why aren't you out searching for her still?"

"I," Yoxutre began, pausing to take a drink, "may have crossed the line when talking to her."

"Oh?" It must have been pretty bad for Yoxutre to be this upset about it, considering how angry he had been when he started the search a couple days prior.

"Yeah. I threw Nihlus' death in her face." Yadier choked on his beer. "Pretty much. There are just things you don't say to someone. Blaming them for the death of a comrade is one. And not just a comrade, but her betrothed. It wasn't her fault. We're at war. Sometimes these things just happen. No matter how hard you try to prevent it, sometimes people die. To have told her in no uncertain terms that she was to blame for Nihlus dying...well, I'm done. I won't be searching for her anymore. If that damns us all, well so be it. I just don't have the will to continue this search."

"So what are you going to do now?"

"After a day or two here in Dalaran, I'm going to be heading up to the Tournament in Icecrown. I'll see if there's anything I can do to help with the preparations for the upcoming assault on the Frozen Throne. Catch up with Alexandrine and Azmaria, see how Az's training is going."

Yadier was about to speak, but he heard a voice behind him. "Excuse me, my lord, but may I have a moment of your time?"

Yadier recognized the voice and turned to face the speaker. "Look, Shen'dralar, I have already told you that the Kirin Tor will not intercede with Darnassus on the behalf of the Highborn. If you wish reconciliation, then I suggest you take matters into your own hands."

Daros Moonlance blinked in surprise. "Wizard Yadier, I'm sorry, I did not even see you there. I was speaking to your companion. I wanted to ask him about his sword."

"What? This useless thing?" Yoxutre asked, indicating the sheathed blade on his belt.

"I have heard that sword called many things, but never useless," the Night Elf said, shocked.

Yadier looked at his brother. "Wait, if it's useless, why do you carry it around?"

Yoxutre shrugged. "Was told to."

Daros looked confused. "You carry around a sword simply because you were told to, despite your belief that it's useless? Is this some kind of quirk of your order?"

Yoxutre laughed. "You almost had to have been there. We had just slain a dragon - Onyxia, if I recall correctly - when my friend pulled it out of the dragon's pile of treasure. She looked at me and told me that I should keep it with me at all times, because it would probably come in handy one day." He saw the look of further confusion on the Night Elf's face and continued. "It's not so much what she said, but how she said it."

Realization dawned on Yadier. "You got this from Poldaran, right?" His brother nodded. "I see." He turned to Daros. "You see, our friend has some prophecy in her gift. Once in a while, she'll get hints of things to come. Premonitions rather than pure prophecy. When she gets them, she acts on them. And when she tells you that you should do something, you get a chill down your spine and you just kinda do it. I know a number of people who have followed such instructions only to find that their lives were narrowly saved by doing what she had told them. But that's kind of beside the point. Why are you so interested in that sword?"

"It looks, and feels, familiar. If I'm not mistaken, it's one of the ancient blades crafted by the dragons and gifted to the Kaldorei millennia ago. Please, allow me to look at it."

Yoxutre drew the blade. "Alright, but don't be too disappointed when it's not what you're expecting." As it cleared the sheath, Yoxutre felt something different about it. It resonated with a power he had never felt before. He looked at it, and rather than the dull, useless blade it had once been, it was now razor sharp and covered with blue glowing runes. He felt as if the blade was also looking back at him, appraising him. A few moments later, the blade began to glow with a pale green light. "Light have mercy!" he exclaimed. "That's not what it used to look like!"

"It is as I thought," Daros Moonlance said with a smile. "It is in fact the Prismatic Blade, Quel'serrar. It was forged in ages past by the Dragon Aspects, their breath giving it power and their blood tempering it. It is the most powerful blade of the line, the only one forged with the aid of the Aspects themselves before the corruption of Neltharion, who you now know as Deathwing."

"Wait, then why did it look like it did before? And how did it come to look like this now?"

"As to the first question, I am unsure. Centuries of neglect may have allowed its power to fade. As to the second, I can only imagine that it has breathed in the flame of a dragon and drank of its blood while still hot. It glows green because it accepts you as its master."

Yadier was confused. "How would it have drank the blood of a dragon if you don't use it?"

Realization dawned on Yoxutre. "It was during the fight with Sartharion within the Obsidian Sanctum. My mace was knocked away from me and fell into the lava. Without thinking, I drew this sword, since it was on my belt at the time. I took a blast of flame on the shield moments after that and then drove the blade into its exposed belly when it reared up to swipe at me. The blade may have taken some of the flames and certainly drank of the dragon's blood."

The Night Elf nodded. "I believe that it is only at a fraction of its strength now. If you could perhaps repeat the process with a dragon of every Flight, it would become mighty indeed. If it were perhaps all five Aspects that imbued it with their power once again, it would become greater than any weapon in all of Azeroth, but even without the Aspects, if you can imbue it with the power of lesser dragons of each flight, it would likely be stronger than almost every weapon in this world, save perhaps Frostmourne and Ashbringer, though it would likely be close. Not even its sister blade, Quel'delar, would be its match."

"Sister blade?" Yadier asked, intrigued.

"Yes, it too was forged by the dragons as a gift, though it did not have the power of the Aspects within it. It was gifted to the Quel'dorei. But alas, it was lost by a misguided soul who used it during Kael'thas Sunstrider's march upon Icecrown at Illidan's side."

The wheels were already turning with Yoxutre's head. "I know just where to go for each of the dragons I need. It should only take a few days if I take teleportation stones with me to return here for portals after each trip. This could be the key to helping end the Scourge. I have to go. Se you in a few days," he said, quickly leaving the bar.

Yadier chuckled as he watched his brother leave. "Well, things are certainly going to get interesting soon," he said as he laid a few coins on the table for his drink. He turned to the Night Elf. "You know, Daros, because of our stated neutrality with both the Alliance and the Horde, the Kirin Tor cannot speak with the leaders of Darnassus on your behalf. However, Tyrande Whisperwind is a friend, and I think it might not hurt for me to go visit my old friend. If you should happen to come up, well, the Kirin Tor couldn't be held responsible."

"You are most kind, Wizard Yadier."

"For what? It's not like I'm doing anything." Yadier winked. "At least, that's what we'll tell anyone who asks."

** * **

Azmaria sighed to herself. Alexandrine had been just as upset as she had guessed she would be when Azmaria had revealed that she had broken yet another sword. It certainly hadn't helped that Alexandrine was already in a bad mood because of Poldaran, but the sword issue had been becoming a problem of its own for some time.

Azmaria had tried everything they could think of, from using weapons of various materials to varying sizes of blades, even trying different styles of blades. No matter what she tried, however, most weapons simply didn't survive more than a day or two in her hands. The shortest lived ones were a pair of scimitars that shattered in the shop as she swung them to test their weight.

Costs were beginning to mount. Each blade had cost a small fortune. If it had not been for that lawyer revealing that her biological father had left her a portion of his sizable fortune, Azmaria was certain she would be unable to afford to continue fighting at this point. She had certainly spent more on swords recently than her adopted father's farm was worth.

To make matters worse, the strength training she had gone through had affected her body more greatly than it should have, though with little change in her appearance. She still looked like the bar maid that had encountered Poldaran some months ago, but she had gained so much strength that she could swing a blade almost as large as her with a single hand as a squire might swing a wooden practice blade. On a bet from her new Orcish friend, she had cut a boulder in half with a single swipe.

And there was more than just strength at work. She had also become fast and precise, capable of cutting single drops of water that fell from the eaves of houses in half while missing the ones that fell just before and just after.

But none of that would help her if she just broke her sword in the first five minutes of fighting the Scourge. Sure, she'd be able to cut down a mounted Death Knight, horse and all, but then the ghoul behind him would have to be taken down with her fists, which was not a fun thought.

Alexandrine had suggested one last alternative, and they had contacted a blacksmith in service to the Argent Crusade with a request. He would make for her a blade too massive to be broken. The instructions said that it had to be at least two feet taller than her, at least half as wide as her shoulders and several inches thick. It would be less a sword than it would be a massive piece of forged saronite with a handle and a somewhat sharp edge, since with a weapon that large, it didn't need to be quite as sharp as a normal sword.

Azmaria couldn't wait to get her hands on it. It would be a weapon made for her and her alone, strong enough to withstand the force she put into her attacks, and it would be heavy enough to carry tons of force into her swings. It was quite possible it would make her unstoppable. She felt a desire to laugh maniacally, but wisely decided to keep it to herself.

"Az, she's been spotted," Alexandrine told her younger sister after talking to one of the soldiers that they had sent out into the Exodar to look for Poldaran. "I've already requested that the Draenei surround the library she's in. It has an anti-magic field on it to prevent theft of books, so she'll be forced to walk out the door. We'll confront her outside of the front entrance and make the capture there."

Azmaria nodded. She was still unsure about this whole affair. Poldaran had always been nice to her, and she seemed to be a good person from Azmaria's personal interactions, but the evidence against her was too great to ignore. In the end, Azmaria decided that she would trust Alexandrine's judgment and aid her in the capture of their older sister.

She was unsure about Alexandrine's judgment lately, however. Alex had become filled with rage lately at the mere mention of Poldaran. Azmaria suspected that the possibility of Poldaran's betrayal had been too much for Alex to bear, and she had lost her usual calm, rational demeanor. Was Alex actually doing what was best for the good of the world as she claimed, or was she just allowing her emotions to get the best of her? Azmaria was afraid of the answer to that question.

It took some time, but eventually Poldaran exited through the library's front door. "Somehow I had a feeling I'd run into you today," the mage said upon seeing her younger sisters. "I really wish I could talk, but I've finally found a lead. I need to go talk to a demon who might know a way for me to get past this prophecy. You two have a good day," she said as she began casting a spell of teleportation.

The spell suddenly fizzled. "I won't let you leave here!" Alexandrine said, drawing her axe. "Surrender or we'll be forced to take you down."

"That was certainly surprising," Poldaran said. "Then again, I guess that even though you're a paladin, you are also the daughter of a noble house of Dalaran. You were bound to pick up a few magical tricks along the way. A simple counter-spell easily could have been in your bag of tricks."

"I didn't ask for your comments," Alexandrine said, rage filling her voice. "I asked whether you'd surrender or not."

"I will not surrender, baby sister."

"I didn't think you would."

"I wish you would trust me. I have to do this to save myself from the very fate you fear."

"What reason have we to trust you? You've betrayed us all!"

Poldaran looked at Azmaria. "And what of you? What do you have to say in this?"

Azmaria looked at the ground. "I don't know what to believe," she said, a tear escaping her eye. "You've always been good to me. You've done so much for me in the past, but there's far too much evidence against you. We have to take you in! Please, I beg of you, reconsider. Surrender! I don't want to have to fight you."

Alexandrine's look was smug. "There you have it. You'll find no allies here. Will you surrender?"

Poldaran sighed. "I cannot. You fools do not know what you do. By trying to prevent a particular future, you are simply damning me to it. I will not allow it to come to pass." Rage began to fill Poldaran's voice as she spoke. "My entire life has been nothing but a series of fate taking things from me. Anything I love is taken from me inevitably yet I'm still expected to serve the greater good. But I'm done. Today I draw the line in the sand. I will do what must be done for me. I will not give up what remains of my soul to this fate and I will not allow anyone to stand in my way. Not even my own dear sisters. If you stand against me, if you dare attempt to hamper me in my efforts to save myself, I swear to you I will show you no mercy. I will be free. Nothing, not even you, my dear Alexandrine, will stop me, no matter how large an army stands at your back."

Alexandrine seemed a bit less sure of herself. "Surely you cannot think you can defeat both Azmaria and myself at the same time."

"Not if I fight fairly and hold back anything that might kill you. However, the gloves are off. I will not be stopped. If it means I have to kill both of you, then I'm sorry that it has come to this."

"To think, my own sister, a monster! How did I miss the signs? How could I have not seen what was happening before me? We shall see who stands victorious," Alexandrine said. Azmaria, realizing the battle was inevitable, drew the steel sword she was using as a temporary replacement for her weapon.

Poldaran flicked her wrists and a pair of blades appeared in her hands. Azmaria recognized them as copies of the ones Nihlus used to wield. "Let's get this over with," Poldaran said.

Poldaran charged, deftly blocking Alexandrine's first attack and countering with one of her own. Azmaria quickly flanked Poldaran and attempted to bring down a crippling blow, but Poldaran dodged it and countered by unleashing a radiating blast of flame, knocking both foes back. She pressed her attack on Alexandrine, adding blasts of cold to the flurry of blows, attempting to slow her foe. Alexandrine used the power of the light to keep away the chill. Azmaria rushed back to the battle. Poldaran again sought to even the fight by releasing a spell that engulfed the street in a nigh impenetrable shadow.

Luckily for Azmaria, she could see in the dark thanks to her ability to see magic, which took away Poldaran's advantage. Azmaria pressed her attack and the two women's fight became more like a dance accented with flurries of attacks. Alexandrine floundered around in the darkness, but was mostly ineffective. It took some time, but she finally managed to gather enough power of the light to blast away the shadow and press her attack as well.

None of the Draenei dared interfere, afraid to upset the delicate balance of the fight. One mistake on either side would be the end.

It was as simple as stepping on a loose pebble, but that's all it took. Within a few moves, Poldaran was on one knee, her blades knocked from her hands. "Surrender!" Azmaria called out.

"It's too late for that," Alexandrine said. "For the safety of the world, your life is forfeit, Poldaran!" She began her swing.

It never landed. With the sound of metal upon metal, another axe blocked the attack. Azmaria was stunned. A large demon, known as a felguard, had appeared between Poldaran and Alexandrine and had protected the mage. The two struggled to push the eachother back.

Another woman walked from the alleyway nearby and extended her hand to Poldaran. "Come, get up. It's time for you to get out of here."

Poldaran looked as shocked as Azmaria felt. "Sin?" It was all Poldaran could manage to say.

"This is the first time I've ever heard you talk like that. I've never heard you talk about what you were going to do for your own future. I'm not sure what it will be, but I'd imagine it's going to shake the very foundations of this world. I want to see this future you'll make. Go. I'll hold these two off long enough for you to escape." A succubus and a void walker appeared between Poldaran and Azmaria, blocking the Death Knight from pursuing Poldaran.

"Thank you, Sindara," Poldaran said. Then she rushed down the alleyway Sindara had emerged from and was gone.

Sindara smiled and spoke softly. "You're not the only one who has been reading demonic prophecy."

Alexandrine struck the demon with a bolt of exorcism, knocking it to the ground. "Why?" she screamed. "You're dooming us all!" Alexandrine charged at Sindara. Azmaria reacted quickly and struck Alexandrine with her armored fist, knocking her to the ground and sending her axe flying. "Azmaria? You too?"

Azmaria shook her head. "Poldaran escaped. I was willing to aid you in fighting her because I have seen evidence that she is a danger to the world. I will not stand by and allow you to murder our other sister just because you're angry. Besides, you haven't even given Sindara a chance to explain herself."

Sindara smiled. "Thank you, Azmaria. I'm glad someone around here hasn't gone so completely blind with rage that they cannot see what's in front of them." She looked at Alexandrine. "You're an idiot," she said. "What I did here was save your life. Poldaran was about to kill you both."

Alexandrine blinked, shocked. "What do you mean?"

"You were too busy dealing with your sharp little toys to see what Poldaran was really doing." Sindara took out a small pouch and sprinkled it up on the ground. Runes began to glow all over the area where the girls had been fighting. Azmaria and Alexandrine gasped. "This is the framework of a death spell. Poldaran drew it with her feet as she fought you. She was a few seconds away from activating it when I intervened. Odds are good that you two might have only been rendered unconscious for a few days had she activated it, but it probably would have killed both of you."

"But why help her?" Azmaria asked. "Why not aid us and stop her?"

"It's complicated," Sindara said. "But the short of it is that I believe in her."

Alexandrine, much calmer now, looked up at her sister. "But wait, Sindara, what about the oath the Warlocks of Stormwind gave to the king of Stormwind? The king ordered that Poldaran be taken down, all the other warlocks are hunting her now. Won't you get in trouble for aiding her?"

"In truth, I've probably signed my own death warrant by my actions just now. At best, I'll be exiled. But I couldn't allow you to kill her. Nor could I allow her to kill you. I had to act to see that all of you survived. If it means my death, then so be it. I'll see you both when they send you after me. Until then, take care, my sisters," she said and then left.
#3 Aug 06 2010 at 2:28 AM Rating: Good
29,421 posts
Poldaran had to admit it. The sky in Netherstorm was beautiful. She felt like she could sit on this cliff for hours and just stare off into the distance, enjoying the flowing lights that played throughout the vast expanse. "It's as good a place as any to stop for lunch," she said to herself, pulling some bread and hard cheese out of her bag.

As she closed her bag, she noticed that she only had two vials of Dreamless Sleep Potion left. Since Nihlus' death, the potions were the only way she could sleep at all. Even then, the dreams still sat at the edge of her mind, trying to find a way into even the deep sleep she had induced. The trip out into the Twisting Nether would take several days, which would mean that she would likely be spending the latter few days without any sleep and would probably return exhausted.

She sighed as she bit into the cheese. "It's not like I haven't gone days without sleep before. Still..." she trailed off. It was going to be a long week.

She ate in silence for another fifteen or so minutes, lost in the sights of the sky around her. She was so lost in thought that she did not even notice the sudden arrival of someone behind her. "Hello, Poldaran," its voice said, echoing melodiously within her mind.

Poldaran groaned. "Not one of the snowflakes," she said under her breath. "Hello, Xi'ri," she replied, recognizing the voice.

"You haven't visited us in a long time," Xi'ri accused. "I have come to fear that you blame us for Kael'thas' death."

Poldaran shook her head. "No, I don't blame you, nor do I blame A'dal. His Highness sealed his own fate. It's just that visits to Shattrath bring back so many bad memories that I don't like to go there, and when I do go, I don't like to stay. You always insist that I stay a few days to visit, so I haven't been stopping by."

"Perhaps I understand. You must know that we ask you to stay because it does such good for the morale of the Shattered Sun to see you present. You're a hero to them. Everyone in Shattrath looks up to you."

Poldaran sighed. "I'm really no hero," she said. "I just happened to be there."

"That's where you're wrong, Poldaran. You may not think of yourself as a hero, but your actions and those of your friends have saved countless lives. Shattrath itself likely only stands because of what you have done. Never forget that to us, you're a true hero, one who stood as a light against the encroaching darkness. It is true you weren't the only light, but at times, when all other lights flickered, yours continued to burn bright. We will never forget it, and neither should you."

"It's possible that when the next darkness comes, I will be its center."

"Velen, leader of the Draenei, has kept us informed of the details of the prophecy at which you are the center. I believe that you will find a way to continue to burn brightly."

A single tear fell from Poldaran's eye. "Thank you, Xi'ri."

"Now, tell me, what brings you to Outland?"

"I have to go into the Twisting Nether," Poldaran said. "I must seek out one of the smiths the Nathrezim employed in the creation of the Lich King's armor and blade. A demonic prophecy I located in the library at the Exodar suggests that he may have knowledge that can aid me in the battle with the Lich King and that knowledge may just be the key to freeing myself from what fate currently has in store for me. So I came to Outland as a jumping off point, a faster way to get into the Nether."

"I see," Xi'ri responded. "Do you know the name of the smith you seek?"

"I'm afraid I do not. All I know is that he was the only Mo'arg on the project."

"Ah, yes, that one," Xi'ri said. "You may be in luck. Our intelligence suggests that he has returned to his old shop." A map of the Nether appeared in Poldaran's mind. "Affix this in your memory. He is there, where the two Nether mana streams intersect."

Poldaran didn't know what to say. "Thank you, Xi'ri. You've likely shaved several days off my trip."

The Naaru's mind beamed. "You're most welcome, Poldaran. You saved my life at the Black Temple, so while it is a little thing, I'm glad to have been able to help you." Poldaran sensed curiosity entering the mind of the Naaru. "Poldaran, I sense something foul within your pack, unlike anything I have sensed before. What is it you carry out into the Nether?"

"I am unsure as to whether I will need to pay anyone for information while I'm out there, so I brought something that, to the best of my knowledge, is only found on Azeroth to use as a trade."


"Saronite bars, a metal warped by the black blood of the old god, Yogg-Saron. I figure an oddity such as this would be quite valuable."

"That is likely true, but please be careful. I cannot believe that handling it is wise."

"It's pretty much not wise at all," Poldaran said. "But I'll be fine. I have managed to resist a direct attack by the mind of Yogg-Saron, so I quite imagine being near the ore for a few days will not be a problem." She stood up and stretched. "I should probably get going, however. Thank you for the information, Xi'ri."

"Stay safe, Poldaran. And remember, if you need strength, the Light never forgets its champions."

She doubted that, but decided to say nothing. With a snap of her fingers she cast a simple summoning spell and a massive onyx nether drake appeared beside Poldaran. She mounted it and waved to Xi'ri. "Goodbye!" she said simply as she flew off into the Twisting Nether.

** * **

Yadier strolled down the path through the private park, the light breeze filling his nose with the fragrance of the flowering trees around him. In the distance he could hear singing coming from one of the nearby apartment buildings. He could barely make out some of the words, but he recognized the song. It was beautiful and tragic, a song about a young woman missing her lost love, a soldier who had died in the war. The voice of the woman singing captured the emotion of the song perfectly. The effect was enough to make his heart ache just a little for all those who had lost family in the war.

He found himself so entranced by the song that he did not notice the arrival of the person he had come here to meet. "It's quite heartbreaking," Archmage Modera said.

Yadier jumped at the sound of her voice. "Oh, hello Modera. You wanted to speak with me?"

"She often sings that song."


"The young woman you were just listening to. I often stroll through this park and listen to her. It really makes me think about the ramifications of all this fighting." She was silent for a moment and then spoke again. "So, I guess we should discuss why I called you here."

"I take it you have word on Poldaran?"

"Yes. However, that's not why I need your assistance, though I'd imagine that the two aren't completely unrelated."

This piqued Yadier's curiosity. "Go on," he said.

"We've received word from one of our agents that the Scourge is likely to do something big within Icecrown in the next week or so. Unfortunately, Rhonin and the others are hesitant to act."

"That is strange. Is this agent unreliable?"

"Far from it. He's one of the best. However, it is the nature of how he received his information that causes concern." She shook her head. "You might not believe this, but he was contacted by one of the Naaru."

This did surprise Yadier. "The Naaru? But why would they have knowledge about impending Scourge actions?" The realization suddenly hit him. "Poldaran," was all he said.

"That's precisely the conclusion the Six has reached. They are currently unwilling to act on intelligence given by Poldaran, so they're refusing to do anything, the stubborn idiots."

"So I take it you need me to do something in their place?"

"Gather your friends and head to the tournament. That wouldn't be too out of the ordinary, and the Kirin Tor could not interfere. Especially if Alexandrine or that Death Knight girl is still competing. It would be the only excuse you'd need, and then you would have put some formidable people in range to react if the Scourge makes a move."

"I see, though I do not get the feeling that this is everything you would ask of me."

Modera laughed. "Astute as always," she said. "You're right. I need you to deliver a letter for me to Tirion Fordring." She gave him a sealed envelope. "It details the intelligence we've received and asks him to aid me in reinforcing Icecrown by giving me an excuse to do so."

"How am I to get an audience with him? I imagine that he is very busy."

"As an old comrade of his, your brother could likely get a few moments of his time. Or perhaps you could ask one of the Poldaran's sisters to seek an audience with him. As contenders in the tourney, they might also be able to get his attention. Whatever you decide, do not involve the Silver Covenant. They'll likely report anything you do to the Kirin Tor, which could cause Rhonin to send someone to call you back here to explain yourself."

"Alright," Yadier said. "I'll do what I can."

"Good. I'll come by after a day or so looking for you. It'll give me an excuse to be there as well, since you've been helping me with issues regarding the academy."

** * **

Poldaran knocked lightly upon the door. "Come in!" a voice called from within. She entered the building. It was a smithy like any other. Aside from the fact that the tools were larger than those used by humans, she could have been in any smithy in Azeroth. But she wasn't in a normal smithy. This was one run by a Mo'arg smith of the Burning Legion. The smith looked at her for a moment. "At last. I was beginning to think that you were too stupid to find me."

Poldaran was surprised. "You were expecting me?"

"Of course. The prophecy told me to wait for a woman from Azeroth who bears two souls. So I have waited, though I did expect you sooner."

Poldaran was becoming even more confused. "Two souls?"

"It's an expression among the Gan'arg," the giant demon responded. "People who are at the center of a major decision point in a prophecy are said to have two souls. When the decision is made and fate continues down one of the paths in the fork, one soul is said to be destroyed. This is how we believe people can choose to live with decisions that go against their character thus far. I had always assumed that it was a figure of speech, but it appears to be more literal than I thought," he said, tapping his glowing monocle.

That would certainly explain how Poldaran was able to shut down part of herself and become so terrifying. It was something she would have to consider later, however. "So then I assume you know why I'm here?"

"You seek knowledge for your fight with the Lich King." He spat after uttering that name. "You know that using his own blade against him is the only way you might kill him, but you have also come to realize that it would only serve to make you become him."

Poldaran nodded. "I'll fail if I don't, unless you have another option," she said.

"The sword is indeed the key, but as you've surmised, you cannot use it to strike at his body. However, you can use its connection to him to allow you to rob him of some of his strength."

Poldaran was intrigued. "Please, continue."

"Kil'jaeden enchanted the weapon and armor to allow it to consume souls. He did not realize that doing so would allow the Lich King's power to grow at an exponential rate. What you must do is find a way to free the souls from the Lich King, using the sword as a conduit. I am no necromancer, so I cannot say how this could be done. Finding a way is your trial."

She thought about it for a moment. "I may have an idea. So I just release the souls and he'll grow weaker? Weaken him enough and he'll become beatable through other methods?"

"That is the gist of it, but there are caveats. If you just release the souls, he'll be attuned to them still and able to draw them back. You'll either have to find a way to entrap them so he cannot reclaim them, or destroy them. I do not think you'll find a foolproof way to do the former, so the latter might be your only choice. Additionally, he will lose control of a member of the Scourge for each soul you destroy. They will become more feral, and quite dangerous, though will be unable to work as an army. You release enough of them, they'll become a dangerous swarm and will likely destroy your world."

"That's alright," she said. "Unless I figure out another way to release the souls, it's gonna take a lot of my own power to do this. I probably won't have the strength to release more than a few thousand souls, and even that many may leave me permanently scarred. Will that be enough?"

"Perhaps. It is hard to say. If your people's heroes are strong enough, then that might do it."

Poldaran thought about her friends. "They'll be strong enough," she said. She suddenly grew suspicious. "Why are you helping me?" she asked. "What do you stand to gain here?"

The Mo'arg laughed. "it's quite simple really. If you fail at this junction in the prophecy, then another prophecy cannot come true. I am interested in the fulfillment of the other prophecy."

"What kind of prophecy?"

"My people live under a yoke of slavery," he said. "While many enjoy the Legion's campaign of slaughter, that does not change the fact that we yearn for our freedom. It is said that your success against the Lich King is crucial in the coming of the one who will free us. What that means is unclear, however. I suspect that either you will inadvertently save one who will become our savior, or the soul that survives the outcome of your choice will one day reincarnate into our savior. Whether this is now or a thousand years down the road, I cannot say. All I know is that I must help you if I wish to be free."

It was a motive Poldaran could understand. "Alright, then. Perhaps there is another way you could help me," she said, producing a large case. She opened it, revealing the contents to the smith.

"Felsteel, cobalt, quicksilver, adamantite, several gems and a metal I do not recognize. I am intrigued, human."

"The metal you don't recognize is called Primordial Saronite, the black blood of Yogg-Saron. Be careful around it, it will whisper madness into your ears."

"I will indeed take heed. What do you wish for me to do?"

"Have you ever heard the story of Disillusion and Aspiration?"

"The story of the two lovers? Yes, it is a common tale here in the Nether."

"Good, then this explanation will be a lot easier," Poldaran said, a wicked smile creeping across her lips.

** * **
The bar in Southshore was a fairly small one, but it was clean and always had the best ale, so Yoxutre always found an excuse to stop there whenever he was in the area. It didn't hurt that the barmaids were easy on the eyes.

He downed his second tankard and motioned for another. Yadier's request that he come to the tourney didn't sound all that urgent, so he figured he could spend a night hanging out in Southshore and continue on in the morning.

Shortly after the girl refilled his drink, he heard a voice behind him. "You're a difficult man to locate. Were you aware of this?" The voice was familiar, but Yoxutre could not remember whose voice it was for the life of him. A hooded woman walked around the table and sat across from him. She pulled back her hood, revealing a woman with fair skin and long black hair. She motioned for the serving girl to bring her a drink.

It took him a moment, but he finally recognized her. "You're Malyse, aren't you?" he asked.

"I'm flattered that you recognize me, Dragon Slayer of the Silver Hand." Her tone was mocking.

Yoxutre had killed a number of Black Dragons on his search for members of the other flights to help him empower his blade. So that was what this was about. "You take offense that I've been killing your kind?"

Malyse the Black laughed. "Not in the slightest. In fact, you've saved me a fair bit of trouble. The several renegades you've killed were foes of mine as well. Besides, I can't really say anything since I've killed more of my own kind than you have in the past few days."

"Some kind of schism amongst the black flight?" Yoxutre asked, intrigued.

"Not at all," Malyse said. "It's just that after the failure of that attempt to take over Wyrmrest, we've all been fighting for position amongst the Flight, wanting to be ready to receive the Aspect's favor when he inevitably returns."

"I take it that you've been doing well?"

Malyse laughed. It was a wicked, slightly terrifying sound. "More than you could know. My time with Poldaran and Nihlus was quite educational. I've been succeeding against dragons who by rights are much stronger than I am by simply asking myself one question before engaging them."

"Oh, and what question is that?"

"'What would Poldaran do?'"

"I'm not sure how that would help."

"That's because you haven't taken time to think about it. Poldaran and, to a lesser degree, Nihlus have been successful because they do things that no one else would even consider. An enemy cannot counter something if he cannot fathom that it would be done."

"There are reasons that no one can foresee what they will do. Poldaran goes straight for the most insane route she can find."

"With great insanity comes great unpredictability." She laughed again. "I slew one of my older brothers by tricking him into attacking a courier from Stormwind because I was hidden among them after angering him. Stormwind's response was swift and brutal. Another I slew by causing a small volcano to erupt while he and I were flying inches from its surface. I had a way to teleport away while he had nothing."

"There isn't much honor in such methods," Yoxutre noted.

"Of course not. But I'm alive and they are not. In the Black Flight, this is all that matters."

Yoxutre decided to change the subject. "You know, Poldaran's in trouble right now and could probably use your help."

Malyse sighed. "I wish I could help. Poldaran knew that I would only be there until Malygos was defeated. I cannot justify to my Aspect aiding her any more than that."

"I see," Yoxutre said, unconvinced.

"That doesn't mean I can't help out covertly. In fact, that's why I'm here tonight. I am to deliver a message to you."

"From whom?"

"That is not important. The message itself is all you need to know."

"Okay then. Go ahead and give me the message."

Malyse's gaze turned serious. "You cannot dally here any longer. The attack Yadier suspects will happen much sooner than any of you realize. If you do not arrive at the tournament grounds before noon tomorrow, Poldaran and everyone else will die."

Yoxutre slapped a few coins on the table and was out the door within moments, his unfinished drink still sitting upon the table.

** * **
"Alright, I'm here," Poldaran said to her companion. "What was so important that you had to contact me as I was traveling through a nether mana stream?"

"A mana stream? That's incredibly dangerous, you know."

Poldaran had begun to get frustrated. "I seem to recall us having this conversation before. Please, get on with it."

Her companion laughed. "Patience, my dear Poldaran. Patience." She poured a glass of honeyed wine for Poldaran and herself. "You have time yet. We must first make sure that you are ready for what you must do."

"I've already worked out the spell to use. I'm ready."

"That wasn't what I was talking about. What I want to know is if you're emotionally ready. When the time comes, with the power of the Scourge at your fingertips, whispers filling your mind with promises of greatness, will you be able to resist the temptation? Will you be able to do what you know to be right?"

Poldaran bowed her head. "I don't know," she whispered. "I'm not sure where I'll find the strength to resist, now that Nihlus is gone."

"The answer is already known to you. You just have yet to realize it."

"What do you mean?" Poldaran asked her companion while wiping a tear from her eye.

"That I cannot tell you. However, when the time comes, when your conviction wavers, if you but think about what the demon told you, I believe you will find your answer."

Poldaran was confused. "How can you know what the demon told me?"

"You are not the only one with the gift of prophecy, Poldaran. I know what he was fated to tell you, and I believe that the most unimportant details are the key to your salvation."

"Salvation?" Poldaran snorted in disgust. "Even if I succeed, I will die shortly afterward.

"Not necessarily."

"I will be unable to defend myself or even flee. Since I have to do this on my own, I will have no one to save me."

"Just because you cannot take anyone with you doesn't mean that someone can't arrive just in time to aid you after you've completed your goal."

"But that would mean I would need friends to be in Icecrown already. I doubt any of them are still there."

Her companion smiled. "You would be incorrect about that. All of them are there at the tournament, waiting to help you."

"What?!" Poldaran was startled by that. "But, how? Why?"

"They went there at Modera's request. Seems the Kirin Tor got some information about some kind of attack looming from a Naaru." The woman's smile grew wicked. "They assumed that since it came through the Naaru, it must have been you who sent it. The Kirin Tor refused to act on intelligence from you, so Modera took steps."

"You arranged for them to be there?"

"Of course. Now there's one last thing we have to discuss."

"What's that?"

"This is likely to be the most terrifying thing you've ever done. It requires a lot of split second timing and any number of things could go wrong. How do you intend to cope?"

Poldaran thought about it for a moment. "I am not sure. I really hadn't given it much thought."

"You should think about it."

"How would you suggest I cope? Should I allow myself to go into a blackout?"

The woman laughed. "You do realize that you aren't actually blacking out and losing control when that happens, right? You just shut out any realization that you were responsible for what you do after the fact. The time has come to put that aside. Own your actions, Poldaran. You are Poldaran of Wintermoon. You're capable of amazing things when you put your mind to it. If you're not happy with how you've done them, then it's time to decide how you want to live your future. Be Poldaran, show the world just what you're capable of."

Thinking about that made Poldaran uncomfortable. "Look, I need to go make some arrangements before everything happens. Thanks again for the information, but I really have to go."

Her companion smiled. "Good luck, Poldaran. For all our sakes."

** * **

Edited, Jan 25th 2011 1:18am by Poldaran
#4 Aug 06 2010 at 2:29 AM Rating: Good
29,421 posts
The attack came at dawn. Hundreds of ghouls, dozens of abominations, giant skeletons and even a few frost wyrms. The Crusade lost hundreds of people in the first twenty minutes of fighting.

More would have been lost, but Azmaria had been unable to sleep, so she had been sitting on a hill staring off into the night when the geists came to kill the watch. The geists had been shrouded in a magical darkness to hide their approach, but Azmaria's eyes, capable of seeing magic, had pierced the veils, allowing her to call out a warning. Everyone on watch duty still died, but at least the people in the camp proper had a few moments to prepare for the coming attack.

The morning had seen the tournament grounds covered in mist, which did not aid the defenders in their efforts. While abominations and ghouls were the primary force, it was the stealthy geists that would leap out from the fog that inflicted the majority of casualties. Tirion Fordring had ordered the few shamans on the grounds to work on a wind to blow away the morning mist, but it was slow going with so few.

Azmaria had gathered a dozen Death Knights to her side and they had managed to hold the western escarpment against the giant skeletons coming from that direction. Yadier and Envinyata had organized a multiple layered defense against the ghouls and abominations coming up from the south. Knights and paladins protected the casters they could spare from fighting off the frost wyrms as they rained death down upon the slopes. Still, some managed to get through the blind defenses and strike at the defenders.

Archmage Modera focused on providing communication and coordination between the forces. Through the use of some crystals found in a storage tent, she had managed to erect a network of communication between the leaders of each force. Unfortunately, it was a rudimentary setup and it took much of her concentration just to maintain the network. If they survived this, she was going to suggest that Highlord Fordring request a few crates of proper communication crystals from Silvermoon.

A voice came over the communications network. "What's the status on that wind?" Highlord Fordring called out. "We're losing too many men fighting blind like this."

Another voice responded. "We'll have it going in just a few minutes. You should be feeling the beginnings of a light breeze now." True to his word, the shaman had indeed conjured a light wind within a few minutes, and it did indeed clear the morning fog.

It did not, however, make anyone feel better. Now they could see the endless swarm surrounding them. Tens of thousands of foes, from ghouls to geists to death knights were all prepared to assault the southern end of camp.

Things were not much better to the west. Hundreds of Cultist necromancers were amassed up the slope behind several hundred massive skeletons, ready to begin a push against the dozen or so death knights holding that side of camp. Azmaria gripped the hilt of her massive sword and held it in the air. "Alright gentlemen, here's where we separate the men from the boys. Let's show these cultists what we're made of!"

Thankfully, the mountains to the east kept that end of camp relatively safe. Only a few geists were coming from that direction. With the fog lifted, they were not longer a real threat and a few crusaders were able to handle them.

The real surprise came from the north. "Highlord Fordring, we have a problem!" someone called out over the network.

"What is it, Lieutenant?"

"Vrykul! Hundreds of them are scaling the northern cliffs. We started cutting their ropes, but a number of them have flown up to keep us from doing so. If we don't get those ropes cut soon, the camp will be overrun in less than ten minutes."

"Xelsia and I can handle this," Sharlot called out. "If you can spare a few knights to keep the Vrykul on top busy, we can take care of the ropes."

Tirion Fordring responded. "You heard the lady, Lieutenant. I'll send you a few knights from the south end. It'll be your job to keep those Vrykul busy until she can deal with the problem.

The knights did their job perfectly. None of the Vrykul saw the two night elf women leap over the cliff, nor did they see the two storm crows swooping in and cutting ropes just below the cliff line. Within a few minutes, over a thousand Vrykul had crashed down into the jagged rocks jutting out of the sea at the base of the cliff.

The battle raged on for another hour before Yadier noticed that communications were getting choppy. Fatigue had begun to become a factor for Archmage Modera. "Modera," he said over the network. "If you can hear me, I'm coming over to relieve you for a bit. I'll be there momentarily." He mounted a spare hippogryph and began his quick flight over to the coliseum, where Modera had set up the communication system's focal nexus. As he looked over the battle from above, he could only think that they were probably all going to die before this was over. He considered suggesting that they set up an evacuation site within the coliseum with some portals for easy escape, but immediately dismissed the idea. Making that suggestion would only irritate Highlord Fordring.

No, all that was left was to hope that someone would be coming to their aid. This would have been a great time for either Yoxutre or Poldaran to show up. Unfortunately, he didn't believe either would be showing up to help today. The Crusade was likely on its own.

** * **

After an hour of rest, Modera was able to resume control of communications. That freed Yadier to answer Highlord Fordring's summons to the command tent to aid in helping coordinate the defense. When he arrived, Sharlot and Envinyata were there, as was Crok Scourgebane, the Ebon Blade's liaison to the Tourney. Another familiar face could also be seen.

"Pasiran?" he asked. "Is that you? It has been so long since we had seen you, I almost didn't recognize you."

The young woman laughed. "At least you didn't think I was Poldaran," she said. "We're not related, but for some reason people always think I'm her. Probably the red hair."

"What are you doing here?"

"I just arrived with a group of mages that volunteered to come help when Dalaran received word of your situation here. A few non-mages came as well. Fennchurch and that Death Knight Raequann have already gone to help support Azmaria on the western end."

Crok Scourgebane interrupted them. "Raequann? I know of no Death Knight by that name."

"That's odd," Pasiran said. "He's been a member of the Ebon Blade since you guys broke away from the Scourge. Draenish Death Knight, does a lot of work for Poldaran, you know, that guy?"

Crok thought about it for a moment. "You mean Althomemnos?"

"Altho who now?"

"Althomemnos is the only Draenish Death Knight I know of who works with Poldaran."

Pasiran shrugged. "Pold always called him Raequann, or just Rae. But it's possible she just decided that his name had too many syllables and just started calling him something else. It's the kind of thing she'd do."

Tirion Fordring cleared his throat. "While I'm sure this conversation is fascinating, we don't have time to waste on idle chit chat. Lady Pasiran, please fill us in on the nature of the forces you've brought with you."

"As you wish, Highlord," she replied. "The group that just teleported here consists of a dozen mages, including myself, six Death Knights, five Paladins, two field surgeons, nine Silver Covenant archers, a score of Violet Guard pikemen and a single Warlock. Fennchurch sent them to where she thought they would be most needed. I came here to inform you of the situation and give you these sacks of potions for distribution. I figure they can help out as well."

Tirion spat. "Warlocks," he said simply. "We've seen the folly of their foul magics. We can do without their kind."

"Beggars can't be choosers, Highlord," Sharlot said. "We need any help we can get at this point."

A voice cried out over the communication network. "Highlord Fordring!" it shouted. "The western end of the southern defensive line is collapsing! We're being overrun!"

"Hold out as long as you can," Tirion Fordring commanded. "We're sending help."

"Highlord," Yadier said. "With the additional mages, we might be able to erect a defensive barrier along the southern front. We won't be able to maintain it against the onslaught forever, but it might buy us enough time to regroup."

"How long will it hold?"

"I'm not sure, no more than seventy five minutes or so if we use all twelve fresh mages, though I would start preparing for it to fail after about an hour. Additionally, the mages will need at least a half hour of rest afterwards, though if we can give them an hour, that would be better."

"That would buy us enough time to rebuild fortifications, heal the wounded, distribute some of these potions Lady Pasiran has provided and give everyone a few minutes of much needed rest. Get it done," he said before leaving to direct efforts to hold the line.

"Yes, Highlord," Yadier responded. "Hey, Pasiran, what do you know about shields?"

"Enough," the girl responded simply.

"Good. Gather up the mages that came with you and get a barrier erected. The rest of us will go aid in helping fight back this current wave."

"Give us fifteen minutes and we'll have it up."

Upon stepping out of the tent, it became apparent why the line was falling. Dozens of abominations had worked their way forward and were chewing up the defenders. But they weren't the real problem. About a hundred ghoul infested yards behind them, a large number of Necromancers were striking at the defenses with powerful spells. If they didn't take care of those Necromancers, the line would fall long before the shield could be erected. It was possible that he would have to delay the barrier long enough to use the mages to take out the Necromancers first.

At the precise moment Yadier thought that, the ground shook and a massive figure stepped through a black portal. "I come from the blackness of the abyss!" it roared.

Yadier recognized it at once. "A pit lord!" he called out over the communication lines. "Some warlock must have panicked and summoned something beyond his control!" This was beyond bad. Any moment, that thing would begin rampaging through the camp, destroying everything in its path. Half again the size of Kel'thuzad's pet, Patchwerk, it would be unstoppable. The Crusade would fall in a matter of moments.

Only, the rampage never came. The great monster stood silent, locked in a battle of wills with a figure Yadier could not see. "You will submit!" a woman's voice commanded. Yadier thought he recognized that voice.

After a moment, the demon's shoulders slumped, defeated. "Yes, Mistress. Command me." Yadier could not believe what he was seeing. Only the greatest of Eredar warlocks would even attempt to control a pit lord, much less one as big as this.

"Good!" the voice shouted. "Then we do this together!"

Yadier watched as a woman in black robes trimmed in blood red jumped on the demon's back, her black hair blowing in the breeze. Spikes on her shoulders were adorned with skulls and in one hand she carried a massive scythe. When he saw her face, he recognized her immediately. "Sindara," he breathed. "By the Light," he said. "That entire family is crazy."

"Crusaders, Knights of the Ebon Blade!" Sindara called out. "My big friend here and I will thin out the coming onslaught. Take this time to shore up your defenses and clean up whatever we miss. I can't hold him forever, so don't waste any time!"

The demon bounded over the defensive line and began cutting a swath of destruction through the abominations and ghouls lying between it and the Necromancers with its massive blade. Every one of its massive roars caused even the dead to tremble in fear. Sindara launched explosive seeds of corruption into the massive swarm from the safety of the demon's back.

After slaughtering the large group of Necromancers, Sindara began to feel her control on the demon wavering. "Begone!" she shouted, banishing the demon back to the abyss. This left her on the ground, surrounded by thousands of angry Scourge. She laughed. "Alright, that's how it's gonna be? Guess it's time for plan B." She took a deep breath. "WE ALL HAVE OUR INNER DEMONS!" she shouted as shadows enveloped her body. She writhed in agony for a moment, but when it was over, she had grown twice her initial size and sprouted wings and horns.

She gathered her shadowy essence and unleashed several massive volleys of shadowbolts at the enemy before using her wings to fly back to the relative safety of the camp. Upon landing, her strength failed her and the shadows enveloping her fled, leaving her normal form lying on the ground. "Now that, you ******** is how you do it." she said. "I'm just gonna lie here for a moment and catch my breath," she told Yadier, who had rushed to aid her.

At precisely that moment, the air before the defensive line shimmered and massive violet shields now protected the camp from enemy assaults from the south, for the time being, at least.

** * **

Yoxutre was in a foul mood. Donning full plate armor was not the easiest of tasks to begin with, but doing so while trying to pilot a flying machine was even more difficult. This had led to errors. Specifically, he had put some of the padding on upside down, and now the armor was rubbing at his shoulder. He would likely have a blister tomorrow.

Assuming, of course, he survived until tomorrow.

No one had told him just how large of a force would be assaulting the tournament, but near the horizon, he could see that the enemy force was massive. It was more of a seething swarm than a proper military force, with tens of thousands fighting their way uphill from the southern end. Worse still, another column of the dead was approaching from the southwest to reinforce the numbers of the attackers.

But that might have been the least of their worries. A force of paladins could hold against the onslaught for days with proper support, but an attack from the sky would likely devastate the defenders. And that's precisely what was coming.

To the west floated a massive necropolis.

Yoxutre could only guess what was inside it, though he was pretty sure that whatever it was, it would be bad for the people defending themselves down at the tournament grounds. He quickly assessed the situation and realized that there was only one hope to taking it down. He quickly turned his spyglass towards the last known location of the Skybreaker.

Yoxutre swore. The Skybreaker was being swarmed by a huge number of gargoyles. He quickly looked to the Orgrim's Hammer, but it too was being swarmed. The defenders on the ground were now his second priority. He had to do something to help both the airships. Without them, there would be no way to take down the necropolis. He reached into the backseat of his flying machine and grabbed his goblin made rocket launcher. He only had two rockets left, but he figured he could do some damage with that.

Within a few minutes, Yoxutre found himself within firing range of the Gargoyles swarming the Skybreaker. He unleashed his first rocket carefully, aiming higher than the main swarm in order to avoid hitting the ship. It was a direct hit on a high flying gargoyle, and the shockwave it unleashed took down several others nearby. He followed up the attack with a barrage from his flying machine's guns. Hot metal tore through the enemy, felling another dozen or so foes.

The gargoyles screeched at him, and almost half of them turned to engage him. Yoxutre had not been prepared for this. "Well, crap," he said to himself. "I guess I can at least lead them away for a while and give the Skybreaker time to deal with the rest." He thought for a moment. "Maybe I can swing by the Orgrim's Hammer and do the same for them. Then I can try to lose the gargoyles in the fog near the mountain."

It was as good a plan as any, so Yoxutre made his way towards the Orgrim's Hammer at full speed, narrowly dodging attacks from the gargoyles pursuing him. When he reached the Orgrim's Hammer, he repeated his actions from the Skybreaker, drawing away a good number of the gargoyles attacking the Horde vessel. He could hear cheers coming from the deck.

Yox pulled a bottle from a pack on the side of his flying machine. Written on the label was 'Cuergo's Gold'. He sighed. "Well, guess I'd better. If I don't make it to the fog, it's not like I'd be able to drink this stuff anyway." He took a large swig and poured the rest into his reserve fuel tank.

Once he hit the switch to use the reserve tank instead of the main one, the flying machine sputtered for a moment, and then kicked into high gear. He left a trail of smoke behind as he sped for the foggy mountains ahead.

Just before he reached the fog, Yox flipped another switch, opening the cargo hold at the back of the flying machine and sending dozens of sticks of dynamite flying into his pursuers. He then took careful aim and unleashed a shot from his wrist mounted rocket launcher.

The blast from the tiny rocket was small, but it struck true, igniting first one stick of dynamite, which in turn ignited the remaining sticks. When the smoke cleared, almost a third of the hundred or so pursuing gargoyles had been destroyed. Satisfied, he plunged into the fog bank.

After a few minutes of flying around randomly, Yoxutre exited the fog on the northern end, nearing the tournament grounds. He looked back behind him and sighed in relief. None of the gargoyles were following him.

Unfortunately, he had relaxed too soon. No sooner than he had turned forward again he once again heard screeches behind him. "Dammit! They must use echo-location like those goddamned bats in the Plaguelands!"

He began to weigh his options. He was low on ammunition, out of explosives and being followed by over sixty gargoyles. On the upside, he was fairly close to the tournament, so he might be able to land there. But that would mean that the defenders would have that much more in the way of problems. No, this was his own fight. He couldn't ask for help. Not without thinning their numbers considerably first, at least.

He laughed at his situation. It seemed nearly hopeless, but he had a feeling that he now knew what it was like to be Poldaran, constantly struggling against hopeless odds with everyone expecting her to overcome them. "Alright," he said, "if the odds are impossible, then it's time to think about impossible solutions." He remembered his earlier conversation with Malyse. "What would Poldaran do?" he asked himself. After moment of thinking, he discounted the notion. "Her solutions either wouldn't work for me or are just too insane. What I need is a more realistic but just as insane plan. Something within my skillset, but they won't see coming." He pondered for a moment. "No, it's not 'What would Poldaran do?', it's 'What would Nihlus do?'!"

At last, he had it. Shouting obscenities at the gargoyles to make sure he had their attention, Yoxutre sped towards the tournament grounds.

** * **
#5 Aug 06 2010 at 2:30 AM Rating: Good
29,421 posts
At Modera's request, Yadier had decided to make a quick trip through camp to assess the state of the remaining fighting forces. Things were not looking good. Despite having some of the strongest healers in the world at the camp, there were too many wounded to be tended to before the shield fell and battle resumed in full.

At least the Death Knights had driven back the forces attacking from the west. Camp smiths and carpenters had gone to work fortifying that position as well, allowing the defenders there to rest until the next wave came. Yadier thought it was likely that the enemy forces on the western front would wait until the shield fell and the defenders were once again spread thin before pressing their attack again.

As he made his way around the coliseum, Yadier heard a familiar voice coming from within one of the short tunnels that passed underneath it. "Listen, Viridiel," Azmaria said, "I'm flattered, I really am. But now is not the time nor the place to even consider talking about such things. When this war against the Lich King is over, we can talk about it, but I'm not sure you'll like the answer even then."

"If that is what you wish, I'll wait," another voice responded. "But I will not give up on you, Azmaria."

Yadier wisely decided to hurry along. As he passed another tunnel, he heard another conversation. This one caused him to pause and listen in. "Foul traitor! Oathbreaker! We don't need you here! You'll get what's coming to you." Yadier identified the voice as that of a male gnome, though he did not recognize the individual.

A woman's voice answered. Yadier recognized it immediately. "Do what you will," Sindara said. "But face it, you're wrong. You need me here. In this dire situation you need all the help you can get. Quit your granstanding. Just stay out of my way. If any of us make it out of here alive, then we can discuss my punishment for breaking my oath to the order...for disobeying the king and putting the rest of you in danger of being expelled from Stormwind. I should warn you, however, that I will not go quietly. I was right in what I did, and history will prove it. I will not be punished for doing what was right, what was just!"

"Fine. We'll declare a truce until this battle is over and then speak to the council as to what we are to do about you. I would not expect that you will escape our justice, however." The gnome growled words in the tongue of the demons. Sindara responded in kind.

He heard footsteps coming his way, so Yadier hid in a nearby hay cart. He would have just used an invisibility spell, but Warlocks had an uncanny knack for seeing through those. From within, he saw several crimson garbed warlocks exit the tunnel, their faces contorted with rage.

Yadier nearly jumped out of his skin when he heard a voice behind him. "Taking a nap, I see," Sindara said.

"Um, yeah. Didn't sleep much yesterday," Yadier lied hastily.

Sindara laughed. "I'd imagine Modera is waiting on your report. Let's head over to the command tent." They walked together silently for several minutes before reaching the command tent. Just before entering, Sindara grabbed Yadier's arm and spoke again softly, almost hesitantly. "Don't worry about what you heard. I'll be okay. When Poldaran comes through for us, everything will be alright." She sounded almost as if she was trying to convince herself of that.

** * **

When Azmaria entered the command tent, an argument was already occurring. "Listen to me, Modera," Tirion Fordring said, almost shouting. "After Wizard Yadier's report, there's no way you can deny our need to cut down on the size of the southern front. If we do not, we'll be overrun in short order."

"I don't disagree with you, Highlord," Archmage Modera responded. "But we cannot maintain a shield of the size you require for very long. We would only exhaust a dozen mages in vain. Mages that could be used to greater effect if we use them offensively, rather than defensively."

"Precisely how large of an area are we talking about?" Yadier asked. "We might be able to scar the land instead, creating a more natural barrier for less effort."

"Sadly, no," Modera responded. "This mountain is situated above the old Nerubian kingdom. If we cause too much seismic activity, we could collapse the entire thing and kill everyone on it."

"What about using the same trick used at the siege of Dalaran?" Envinyata suggested. "If we can weaken their forces as they attack, it might work just as well as cutting off part of the front."

Everyone looked at Modera. "It's not a bad idea, in theory, but it would also force us to take mages out of commission to channel the spell keeping up the undead destroying auras. We would be able to hold the effect longer, but if the mages channeling it are attacked, we'd lose it almost immediately."

"Totems," Sharlot said cryptically.

"What?" Modera asked, confused by the comment.

"What if, instead of channeling the effect, you bound it to totems, much like the shamans do? We could place a great number of them out there, removing the need to channel while also giving us a great deal of coverage. We could even concentrate the effect on one portion of the front, making a nigh impassable barrier to the dead, much like a shield."

Tirion Fordring turned to Modera with an intrigued expression on his face. Modera thought about it for a moment. "It's doable, but the problem is time. We don't have enough time to erect a large enough field with the forces we have. Unfortunately, we may have to think of something else."

Azmaria remembered a conversation she had once had, before she had been taken by the Lich King and made into a Death Knight. "What if someone has already done most of the work?" she asked.

"What are you talking about?" Modera asked.

"What I'm saying is, what if there were already hundreds, or maybe thousands of totems already here, just waiting for us to use them?"

"That sounds like wishful thinking, Azmaria. It's impossible."

"Yes," Tirion Fordring agreed. "I'd know if we had that many anti-undead totems just sitting around up here. You couldn't hide that fact from me."

"What if someone could?" Azmaria asked.

Even Yadier was getting irritated. "Who could possibly have enough foresight to outfit the Crusade with thousands of anti-undead totems while also being paranoid enough to keep it a secret from everyone and capable of actually keeping it hidden..." He trailed off at the end and the blood drained from his face. He spoke one more word, almost a whisper. "Poldaran," he said.

Tirion Fordring was intrigued. "You have my full attention, Azmaria. Please, go on."

"One moment, Highlord," she said. She stuck her head out of the tent and looked around. She saw what she needed pretty quickly. "You there," she said, pointing at a lieutenant walking by. "I need you to come in here for a moment. Highlord Fordring requires your presence. Bewildered, the lieutenant did as he was told. "Draw your sword," Azmaria commanded.

"Excuse me?" the lieutenant asked.

"Do as the girl says," Highlord Fordring commanded.

The lieutenant drew his sword. It glowed white. "So, do you see?" Azmaria asked.

It was clear to Modera that the Death Knight had lost her mind. "That's just a simple weapon enchantment. No different than any of a thousand others. Please don't waste our time."

"I can see you don't quite understand," Azmaria said. "Tell me, what kind of enchantment is that?" she asked the lieutenant.

"That's the Scourgebane enchantment," he responded.

"How does it work?"

"I do not know," the lieutenant answered. "All I know is that it makes my attacks against scourge forces more effective."

"Anyone else know how it works?"

Envinyata spoke up. "I've been studying weapon enchantment, and that particular enchantment works by weakening the necromantic magic holding an undead together, making the enemy's flesh softer and easier to strike.

Modera and Yadier looked at eachother, their jaws had dropped. "Weakens the necromantic power holding an undead together?" they said in unison. "That's just like..."

"Just like the spell used during the siege of Dalaran," Azmaria finished for them. "But on a smaller and more permanent scale. That's how Poldaran described it to me, right after Nihlus told me that she had come up with the formula."

Yadier examined the blade more closely, this time looking at it through a lens. "It wouldn't take but maybe half a minute to alter one of these into what we need. Even if we only dedicate six mages to the task, we could easily have more than two hundred done long before the shield fell. How many of these swords do we have to spare?"

"The Horde and Alliance have left caches of them here in preparation for our assault on Icecrown Citadel," Highlord Fordring responded. "There are probably a good thousand of these ready to go in our supply tents."

"Have your men begin driving these into the ground in three overlapping rows with six feet between each over on the eastern end of the southern front, just behind the shield," Modera told Tirion. "I'll gather as many mages as we can spare and show them what to do. If we hurry, we can have more than a third of the southern front blocked off before the shield falls." She turned to Yadier. "You rest here a while. I will likely need you to hold up the command network once the fighting begins again."

And with that, the work began.

** * **

Yadier still could not believe it. Poldaran had once again proven herself a paragon of paranoid over-preparation. Only fifteen minutes had passed, but already a decent wall of anti-necromancy had been erected, covering more than the expected third of the southern front. It was true that they only had ten minutes or so remaining until the shield fell, but at this pace, they would likely be protected along half of the southern front. That made things quite a bit simpler.

Sharlot, Envinyata, Sindara and Pasiran had decided to rest here with Yadier. They were all spent from their earlier exertions, and things were only going to get more difficult. Azmaria had left to rejoin Fennchurch and Althomemnos in overseeing the fortifications on the western front.

"We might be alright, after all," Yadier said, finally breaking the silence. "With Poldaran's totems in place, this battle should become a fair bit more manageable. I'm still amazed she managed to get this kind of thing past us, at least on this scale. To think she knew we'd need a way to erect a wall like that," he said.

He heard a whisper in his left ear. "Actually," the voice said, "I had intended to use the resonance properties of the enchant to make something of an Anti-Scourge Bomb. But this is good too."

Yadier leapt from his seat in surprise. "What the ****?" A form shimmered into view right beside the chair where he had been seated. Her hair was a mess and her skin pale from exhaustion, but there was no denying it. "Poldaran?!"

She smiled wanly. "Just an illusion, I'm afraid. I needed to talk to you all for a moment, and I've found that disembodied voices tend to be distracting."

"What's going on?" Sindara asked, concerned.

"I'm currently flying near Icecrown Citadel. In fact, I'll be landing there within the hour. But that's not all that important. What is important is that you are all in grave danger."

"Nothing we aren't used to," Envinyata said with a chuckle.

"It's more serious than you realize, this time."

"Just how serious are we talking here?" Sharlot asked.

"There's a Necropolis heading your way." Everyone gasped. "If it reaches you, it will rain death down upon everyone, and you won't be able to last against it."

"How long do we have until it reaches us?" Yadier asked.

"Two hours. Maybe two and a half."

Yadier swore. "Any suggestions?"

"I'm sorry, but I don't really have any," Poldaran said. "Not on that timetable, anyway. If you had more time and twenty or so people to spare, a boarding party would be your best option. Take out the pilot and you end the threat. But that would take too long, so you're going to have to try to shoot it down. The only time I've ever heard of that being done was by the trolls in Zul'Drak, but I'm sad to say I never managed to find out how they did it. At this point, all I can suggest is that you hit it with something big and hope it falls down. That could be the lack of sleep talking, however."

"What about the Skybreaker and Orgrim's Hammer?"

"They seem to be having their own problems right now."

"They aren't in danger of being brought down, are they?" Sharlot asked, concerned.

"I think they'll make it." Poldaran suddenly laughed. "In fact, I think they'll be fine. I watched some crazy paladin in a flying machine draw off quite a few of the gargoyles they had swarming them. When I last saw him, he had flown into the clouds around the mountaintops to your southwest with dozens of gargoyles hot on his tail. Probably trying to lose them. Too bad those things can use echolocation to find their way. He'll probably appear in your sky in a few minutes." She looked at Envinyata, who was deep in thought. "Whatcha thinking, Envi?" she asked the dwarf.

"I might have an idea on how to down the necropolis, but I fear I'm going to need to leave the tourney to get what I'll need to take it down. And I'll probably need a dozen or so mages to make it work, at that. I doubt I'll be able to take that many with me, however."

Pasiran spoke up. "You're probably right on that. I could probably head off with you without anyone noticing my absence, but the people here need all the firepower they can get. If we can stop at Dalaran on the way, I could probably manage to scrounge up a dozen or so competent mages, as long as we can pay them."

"That sounds like a plan. We can have them bill it to the Argent Crusade. Let's get going. We're gonna need all the time we have." The dwarf priestess and the mage then left through a portal Pasiran had created.

Yadier was still concerned. "Even if they succeed, what are the chances the Crusade will weather this storm? We're outnumbered pretty badly here."

"I won't lie to you and say you'll definitely make it. I'm really just not sure. I've already sent you some aid, but it will be a while before they get there. And it's not like its a massive force or anything." She sighed. "Assuming everything goes well on my end, if you can hold out for a few more incredibly hopeless hours, I'll have completed my task and your situation here will improve a bit."

"You'll be able to come help us?"

"No, I don't think so. If everything goes well here, I'll likely be in no shape to help anyone. What I have planned will drain all my strength, and will likely also damage my ability to use magic in the process. I'll have channeled so much energy I won't be able to conjure much more than the tiniest flame. I'll eventually heal from it, but it could take as long as ten, maybe fifteen years before I'm back up to my current strength again. Not that it'll matter. In all likelihood, after what I'll have done, the Lich King will probably be very upset and cut me down then and there, and I won't have the strength to escape. Unless some miracle happens, unless something saves me, I'll likely die today in the Valley of Fallen Heroes." She laughed at the coincidence of the name.

"We'll hold out, Poldaran," Sharlot said, the fire of determination in her voice. "And you will not die today."

"Good to hear," Poldaran said, her voice trembling a bit. "I have to go. Take care, all of you." And then she was gone.

The tent was filled with silence for a minute, and then Yadier looked at Sindara, who was lost in thought. "What are you thinking about?"

"It seems something she said should mean something more. I'm just having trouble putting my finger on it." Her eyes suddenly grew wide as realization dawned on her. "Crazy paladin in a flying machine?" she asked. She looked at Yadier. "You don't suppose it could be..."

Yadier swore and ran from the tent.

** * **

With more than sixty gargoyles still following him, Yoxutre knew he was going to have to time everything just right in order to make this work. That's why the gargoyles that were almost upon him were such a problem. He needed to slow them down, or better yet, eliminate the closest ones.

Thinking quickly, he tore the machine gun from the front of his flying machine. He aimed it at the nearest gargoyle and unleashed a quick three round burst, tearing the creature's wing in half. It collided with another and both fell from the sky.

He continued like that until he was out of ammunition. Unfortunately, there were still several too close to him, and he was almost out of time. Once again, he was forced to think quickly, this time throwing heavy tools from his engineering kit at the pursuers. Most tools just irritated the gargoyles, but some were extremely effective as projectiles, like the gyromatic micro-adjuster, which ended up embedded in the skull of one unlucky creature.

That last barrage had bought him the distance he needed just as he reached the edge of the tournament grounds. Below him, he saw that the enemy had abated their attack, likely because the Crusade was free to concentrate their forces on that side since their south end was protected by a magical shield. That would work out well for Yoxutre, as he could not do this directly over the tourney, so this empty field at the edge would suit his purposes perfectly. With a grin, he pulled down his visor and pulled the flying machine into a spiraling ascent.

The spiral was wide at first, but as he climbed, Yoxutre tightened it. The gargoyles followed him, spiraling upwards until it appeared as though the sky was filled with a giant vortex of black wings. Eventually, he was just flying straight up, but the gargoyles were continuing their tightening spiral. Just as the first of them began flying straight upwards, Yoxutre heard the engine begin to sputter.

The air was getting too thin. His ascent was almost over. The time had finally come. "It's too bad this thing won't make it out of this," he said, talking about his flying machine. "But on the bright side, I'll get to build a new one, with more room for explosives."

Yoxutre drew his sword and said a short prayer. "For the Light!" he shouted before closing his eyes and falling backwards from the ascending craft, diving head first towards the ground.

As he passed the first gargoyle, he slashed at it, severing a wing. The force of his blow also caused him to begin spinning. He reinforced the spin by firing the rockets on his boots while aiming his feet in the proper directions. As he fell, his spinning motion allowed him to simply outstretch his hand and let his sword do all the work.

He tore through the whirling swarm of gargoyles like a saw blade through so many trees. He left nothing but a shredded cloud of limbs, torsos and wings in his wake.

Once he had cleared the swarm, he had to right himself again, as landing head first would not have been wise. To this end, he fired the rockets in his boots again while kicking forward, this time only a short burst. He also used them to stop the spinning.

Only moments before impact, Yoxutre sheathed his body in the power of the Light. He landed with a massive force, sending dirt and snow into the air..

When the debris cleared, Yoxutre was on one knee inside a shallow crater, facing the enemy lines before him. He stood, sheathed his sword and spun on one foot, then strode calmly towards the stunned line of Death Knights standing at the edge of the tourney grounds as chunks of flesh that were once gargoyles rained to the ground behind him.

** * **

Azmaria had to admit, Yoxutre had some style. The way he had strode into camp screamed "badass" at anyone who had watched.

Well, everyone except Yoxutre's own brother. Yadier was livid as he marched up to the paladin. "Have you lost your goddamned mind?!" he screamed. "What in Azeroth possessed you to leap out of an airborne flying machine?!"

Yoxutre pulled off his helmet. "It worked, didn't it?" he replied with a smile. "Though I do feel sorry for that poor squire that took a wing to the head. I'm sure one of the medics will be able to help him, though."

"I have half a mind to beat you within an inch of your life."

"Well I have half a mind to find another flying machine and do that again. That was a **** of a rush." Yox's face was filled with exhilaration. Yadier's hands began shaking. Azmaria couldn't quite hear what he was mumbling. She also wasn't sure she wanted to hear it.

Sharlot strode up. "There's no time to congratulate yourself," she said to Yoxutre. "We need to get you on a mount and on your way out of here quickly. You have somewhere you have to be."

Yoxutre and Yadier exchanged a look of surprise. "Wait, I just got here," Yoxutre said to Sharlot. "Why do I need to leave?"

"Poldaran's going to need your help in the Valley of Fallen Heroes in the near future, maybe an hour or two from now."

Yadier thought about it for a moment and nodded. "She's right. You're the one who has to go. I don't think anyone else can deal with the potential threats out there. It's going to have to be you." He placed his finger to his ear and spoke over the command network. "I need a flying mount readied for my brother. He has to get somewhere nearby quickly if we're to make it through this."

Xelsia's voice came back over the communication network. "That's not going to work," she said. "We have a massive number of flying enemies incoming. He won't be able to get past them. The Crusade's flying forces and I are going to do what we can to deal with them, but I doubt we'll be able to clear the sky in less than two hours."

Yadier swore. "Poldaran may be on her own," he said.

"Like **** she will," Azmaria said. She turned to a squire. "Prepare my horse. And get the fastest charger in the stable ready for Lord Yoxutre. Recruit help from any other squires you find along the way. This is the absolute highest priority right now. Move quickly."

"What is that about?" Yoxutre asked Azmaria. "I mean, I'm good, but there's no way through the wall of enemies between here and the Valley of Fallen Heroes."

Azmaria drew her massive sword. "I intend to make one for you," she said.

Fennchurch, having watched the entire exchange, drew her greatsword and looked at a black armored Draenei standing next to her. "Hey, Altho, sounds like a great opportunity to rack up a massive kill count. You in?"

Althomemnos picked up his polearm and twirled it over his head. "It sounds like fun. Let us cut down some dead."

Fennchurch shouted over to Azmaria. "You hear that, Az? We're with you."

Azmaria smiled. She had expected that those two would aid her. "I'll be glad for the company."

She did not expect what happened next, however. A paladin of the Crusade who had been listening in dropped to one knee before Azmaria. "My blade is yours to command, Lady Azmaria. Poldaran saved my hometown. She protected my wife and kid. If she needs Lord Yoxutre, then I swear that I will do all that is in my power to help him get there."

Others - paladins, mages, knights, indeed warriors of all stripes - began voicing their agreement and commitment to helping cut a path for Yoxutre. Azmaria wiped a single tear from her eye. It seems that some still believed in the woman that had done so much for her. She was grateful for their aid.

Before she could speak to thank them, someone cleared his throat behind her. She turned and was surprised to see Highlord Tirion Fordring standing there.

Highlord Fordring shook his head. "No. I cannot allow this. We cannot afford to leave our fortifications vulnerable and risk so many lives on a mission to aid a single woman." He sighed. "At least, as Commander, that's what I should say." He shook his head again. "But Poldaran, after calling upon the aid of a few friends, helped my son Taelan find redemption, and in so doing, she helped me find redemption as well. It was because of what she did that day that I set out to rebuild the Order of the Silver Hand. It is because of her that the Argent Crusade stands tall this day.

"I cannot ride with you as I have to direct the defenses on the southern front once that shield falls, but I give you my blessing." He drew the Ashbringer and pointed it at the undead lines to the west. "Cut a path through them so wide that Yoxutre can walk down it without the enemy even being able to touch him with a bolt from their strongest crossbow!"

Cheers erupted all around them. Once again Azmaria found herself wiping tears from her eyes.
#6 Aug 06 2010 at 2:31 AM Rating: Good
29,421 posts
Ice crackled under Poldaran's feet as she climbed up the stairs leading to the top of Icecrown Citadel, to the Frozen Throne itself. The very thought of it chilled her to the bone.

Just as the shiver crept up her spine, she heard a voice in her mind. ""To think, my own sister, a monster! How did I miss the signs? How could I have not seen what was happening before me?" Anger and more than a little bit of self doubt began to fill Poldaran as she remembered Alexandrine's words. Just why was she doing this? Why go through all this agony? Why risk everything on a slim hope that things might work out? Why not just take the power in front of her, become the monster they all thought she was?

As she continued climbing the steps, Poldaran heard another voice within the confines of her mind. "You're a wanted fugitive in every land. There's evidence that you slaughtered elves by the dozens in aid of the Scourge. We even saw those Val'kyr with our own eyes." She recognized that voice as well, and it reminded her that despite everything, that even if she managed to do what she had come here for, even if she survived, she would be a fugitive for the remainder of her life. There was nothing to be gained from her plan, only chances to lose everything. But if she instead took the power before her, she would no longer be subject to the laws of petty kings and impotent councils. She would be the maker of the law and all would bow before her.

She reached the top and found herself standing before the Frozen Throne and its occupant, the Lich King, ruler of the Scourge. Or temporary ruler of the Scourge, if she had her way. Soon she would rule. Poldaran realized the dark path her thoughts had taken and quickly fought to right herself. She was not here to usurp the throne of the Scourge, she was here to deliver one last blow against Arthas and his minions. The rage began to subside and she knelt before the throne, the thin fabric of her black robes all that was between her and the chill of the cold ground.

"Master," she said. "I have come to pledge my unending allegiance to the Scourge." She paused a moment then added, "Death to the Living."

Arthas was satisfied by the pledge. He rose and began making a speech. Poldaran was not paying attention to what he was saying. Instead, she focused on regaining her emotional balance while carefully dropping several small gemstones from her sleeve into her cupped right hand. Once she had all of them ready, she prepared to make her move.

But just before she sprang into action, she heard another voice. "What reason have we to trust you? You've betrayed us all! How long have you been a pawn of the Scourge? Did Nihlus die just to satisfy your lust for power?!" The rage that had filled her before returned in full force, burning white hot within her chest. She hesitated, unsure what to do, agonizing over her decision.

A final voice spoke within her mind, one she knew was no memory. "You no longer have to sacrifice for your people." She recognized the voice as that of Ner'zhul, the original Lich King and a part of the being standing before her. She knew that a part of him must have remained separate when he and Arthas fused into what they were now. "I've taken care of everything."

The power would be hers. What had this world ever given her? What did she have left to fight to protect? Nothing mattered anymore, only power.

Fury still burning within her, Poldaran rose to her feet in an instant. Arthas was unable to react as she threw the first gem into his chest while speaking the word of power needed to activate it. With a loud roar, the gem exploded, sending the Lich King flying backward into the Frozen Throne.

Poldaran threw another gem, this time at the hand clutching the vampiric runeblade, Frostmourne. It too exploded at her word of power, knocking the sword from his hand and sending it sliding across the ground. She threw one more gem, different from the others. Instead of exploding, this one encased the Lich King and the entire throne in thick ice, with only his neck and helmeted head remaining free of the ice.

She walked over to the blade lying upon the ground. When her hand touched it, she could feel great malice within, a dark swirling hatred that struck at her very soul. As she walked back toward the Lich King with the blade, he spoke. "What are you doing?" he snarled.

Poldaran lifted the blade and aimed its point at his exposed neck. "Succeeding you," she said, an evil grin on her lips.

Before she could strike, Poldaran heard one more voice. "when the time comes, when your conviction wavers, if you but think about what the demon told you, I believe you will find your answer". She hesitated for a moment. What did that even mean anyway? What great truth did the demon impart to her? What could he have possibly said that would change everything? What would give her a reason to give up the power at her hands?

She fixated for a moment on something he said. "If I look at that another way, if I assume he had interpreted it incorrectly..." Suddenly she began to laugh. It was perfect, and it fit everything. It was her answer. It was why she would give up the power before her and why she would continue to fight on her terms. She looked at Arthas, seated upon the throne, unable to move. "I've changed my mind, big guy," she said. "I no longer desire your throne."

"Then what is this all about?" the Lich King snarled.

Poldaran smiled mysteriously. "You'll just have to come to the Valley of Fallen Heroes if you want to find out." She laughed. "I know it's gonna take you a while to get out of that ice, but don't take too long. If I get bored, I might just mail this sword off to Kil'jaeden for the **** of it, and I'm sure no one wants that."

A portal appeared before her and she stepped through. It closed and Poldaran was gone, taking Frostmourne with her.

** * **
Azmaria could not believe what she had seen. In the midst of all the fighting, a massive image of Poldaran had filled the sky. What was more was that she could hear everything Poldaran heard, each voice that had been spoken, or even remembered. Even Poldaran's thoughts had been laid bare before her and all those watching. Only Poldaran's thoughts after the voice had told her to remember had been silent.

Unfortunately, Azmaria did not have time to think about what she had seen. They had managed to secure a path for Yoxutre, but in so doing, she, Fennchurch, Althomemnos and a dozen crusaders had been cut off from the main tournament grounds by the forces of Icecrown's dark riders. The crusaders had been overwhelmed quickly, leaving the three champions locked in a fight for their lives. They had managed to beat back the lesser enemies, leaving only the Riders themselves willing to engage them.

Fennchurch and Althomemnos were locked in battle with Sapph, the Rider of Frost and Rokir, the Rider of the Unholy. She was separated enough that she could not tell which fought each opponent, but she was sure that they would be fine, since Fennchurch and Althomemnos worked well as a team.

Azmaria was left to contend with Baelok, the Rider of Blood, a massive Vrykul Death Knight by herself, completely unable to reach the other two. She had heard tales of Baelok, the only Vrykul to ever be made a Death Knight. He was a skilled swordsman, so she knew that this would not be an easy battle.

She decided to take up the offensive and unleashed a brutal series of blows with her massive sword. Unfortunately, the sword that was massive to her was only big to her much larger opponent, who was able to parry each of the strikes with his own massive blade.

They were far too evenly matched. Baelok parried each of her blows and she likewise deflected his. It was only the intervention of fate that tipped the scales. Azmaria's blade began to crack from the stress of the blows it weathered. She would have laughed if she wasn't in the middle of a deadly struggle. The great blade, meant to be unbreakable, was about to break. Alexandrine was going to be pretty upset when she heard about this.

She had to end this fight now. Azmaria unleashed another series of blows at her foe. He parried each of them in turn. When Azmaria reached the last blow in the series, she sent a pulse of necromantic magic through the blade, shattering it and sending shards of metal flying everywhere. She had been ready for it and had frozen her skin, making it as hard as ice, but Baelok had not. He howled in rage as shards tore through his face, blinding him.

Azmaria quickly unfroze herself and resumed attacking with her broken blade. Unable to defend himself, Baelok quickly fell. Azmaria was left surrounded by hostile forces, completely unarmed.

She found a solution to her problem, but it was not an idea she relished. She looked and the corpses of the fallen crusaders and sighed. "Brothers and sisters, I pray that you will be able to forgive me." She released a pulse of necromantic power out around herself, causing the fallen crusaders to rise to fight once more, abominations of what they once were. "Fenn, Altho, let's move!" she called out. "This is our only chance to escape!"

The crusaders-turned-ghouls began leaping around, infuriating the other undead around them. Azmaria and the others quickly made their escape. Upon reaching the defenders at the tourney grounds, they were startled by a shrill screech in the air behind them.

Azmaria turned and looked to see a massive frost wyrm flying towards their position. To make matters worse, it had a dozen Val'kyr following right behind it. "This day just keeps getting better and better," the death knight said with a sigh.

As the frost wyrm reached striking range, Azmaria, Althomemnos and every other death knight in the vicinity placed anti-magic bubbles around everyone, bracing for the impact of the beast's frost breath.

The attack, however, never came.

Azmaria looked skyward once again to see that the Val'kyr had begun brutally tearing apart the massive skeletal dragon, pulling its wings off, tearing its limbs from their sockets and snapping its neck. Once they were done, they flew down and stood before the wary defenders. One approached Azmaria and kneeled before her, to the confusion of everyone around.

"Greetings, Death Knight Azmaria. I am Mana, of the Valkyrja. Our Mistress bade us to come and aid you in your fight against the vile Scourge."

Azmaria was confused. "Mistress? You mean Poldaran?"

"Yes, that is what she is known as to you. To us, she is simply the Mistress."

"I am glad of your help, then, Mana. But I am curious, how is it that you came to serve Poldaran?" Azmaria hoped that clearing up this matter might aid Poldaran's credibility in the future.

"We serve as part of our binding agreement with our Mistress. We aid her until the Lich King has been defeated, and she will find a way to release us from our torment."

"Torment? I thought that the Vrykul aspired to become Val'kyr."

"This is true, Death Knight, but only when it is done properly. We became the Valkryja because we swore an oath of vengeance upon the one who betrayed and killed us. We remain as such because he was slain before we rose. Unable to fulfill our oath of vengeance, we are trapped here, honorless and consumed by rage, each day a greater torment than the last."

"And Poldaran says she might be able to free you?"

"That is correct. She believes there is a way for us to fulfill our oaths, so she will aid us in doing so when this is done."

Azmaria thought about it. "Perhaps I had misjudged you, and I have certainly misjudged Poldaran. So be it. Let us stand together against the Scourge."

"I am gladdened by this. We have one more duty before we may begin our fight." The Val'kyr produced a small box and presented it to Azmaria. "These are a gift from the Mistress. She said that you would know what to do with them if you had been keeping up with the reading she suggested."

Azmaria took the box and opened it. Inside was a small pair of beautifully cut onyx earrings, set in mystic silver. She was confused momentarily, but she thought about it for a moment and realized what she was meant to do with them. She began laughing.

Yadier, who had arrived during the conversation with the Val'kyr, was intrigued by Azmaria's reaction. "What's so funny?"

"I'm just amused that Poldaran would have me use these in a manner out of a manga, is all."

"A manga? You mean that weird subgenre of comic books that has been really popular in Dalaran lately?"

"I wouldn't call it weird," Azmaria said defensively. "No weirder than normal comic books, anyway."

"I beg to differ," Yadier replied. "But I doubt this is the time to quibble over this."

Azmaria nodded, focusing again on the task at hand. She put on the earrings and took a deep breath. "Materialize!" she commanded. The earrings began to glow and five points of light began to swirl through the air around the Death Knight. They then clustered in front of her, forming a five pointed star, which began spinning. As it spun, the light of the star began to burn a hole in the very fabric of reality itself, revealing an inky blackness punctuated only by the spinning lights.

Yadier let out a low whistle. "A pocket dimension?! I didn't think Poldaran was licensed to create one of those!"

Instinctively, Azmaria thrust her hand into the blackness. Her fingers grasped something within and she felt a viscous fluid flowing down her arm. It coated every piece of metal on her body, reacting with the cobalt within the alloys in her armor, changing the full suit from a dull black to a shimmering amaranthine. She held tightly onto whatever she was holding and pulled it from the blackness.

Once it was free, Azmaria found herself holding a broad bladed zweihander with the images of a phoenix and an eye etched into the handle. Its blade gave off an eerie, subdued pale green light and six runes carved into it shined in brilliant indigo. She recognized the pattern of the runes as that of a runeforging, but could not identify the particular pattern. Within her mind, she heard a single word spoken. "Defiance."

"Then that shall be your name," she said to the sword. "Defiance," she said aloud. She liked the way it sounded. The blade seemed to agree.

An image of Poldaran appeared before Azmaria. "Hello, Az," she said. "If you're seeing this, it means that you figured out how to activate the earrings and have retrieved the blade. I realized that you would continue to break the weapons you wielded until you were given one capable of withstanding the power you push through it, so I had my new friend craft it for you." Poldaran paused for a moment to take a drink from a small glass before resuming. "As you may suspect, this is a vampiric runeblade, much like Frostmourne. In fact, it was crafted by the same smith who crafted Frostmourne. However their similarities end there. This is not a blade meant for the evil ruler of the Scourge, but instead a blade of righteousness, of vengeance.

"Crafted of many metals, including primordial saronite, and filled with a quicksilver core, this blade was meant for your hand and your hand alone. I am aware that you might be thinking that use of primordial saronite is dangerous, and you are correct. Few can withstand its evil. In order to purge the foul taint upon the metal, a young shivarran priestess gave her life in an ancient ritual to cleanse the blade. Part of her soul remains within the blade and has sworn to protect you.

"She chose to gave her life because she wishes to see her people freed from the Legion. There are those among every race serving the Legion that would see this, though none has quite so large a number as the Draenei. In her honor, I have created the runeforging of Defiance in hopes that it will give you the strength you will need to fight against the Scourge and perhaps one day the Legion.

"Azmaria, I wish I could be there to aid you. To aid all of you. I cannot tell you what it is I intend to do. I can only hope that if I am successful it will aid all of you in your fight, and perhaps that I will survive in order to explain everything to you all. I want you all to know that I forgive you, each and every one of you, for losing your faith in me. I understand completely and cannot say I would have acted differently had the roles been reversed.

"The blade has been forged, but it has not been fully tempered. I am not sure whether your friends from Ebon Hold have explained this to you, or even if they know it themselves, but the blood of certain Death Knights is unique. While some of you died and were resurrected as Death Knights, others never died, so they are not undead. Not completely anyway. You're no longer living, but you're not undead. You've become something else entirely. Because of this, the necromancy used in your creation has reacted differently with your bodies. Your flesh does not rot. Your hair does not fall out. But more importantly, your hearts still beat within your chests, pumping your blood through your bodies.

"That blood is highly toxic to both the living and the dead. If your blood is mixed with the plague of undeath, a new plague emerges, one communicable to both the living and the dead. This 'Blood Plague' will give you a greater edge against the Scourge. Some of the Death Knights of Acherus use this to their advantage already, coating their swords in blood and channeling the plague magic through their swords.

"However, none of them possess what you do, this vampiric blade of primordial saronite. Allow it to drink deep of your blood it will take on the properties of that blood. Further, you will cement a bond with your blade and it will be bound to you, to your soul. None will be able to take it up against you as it will become a part of you, the same as any of your limbs.

"Fight well, my sister. Know that no matter what happens, I love you and am extremely proud of you. Please tell Alex and Sin the same for me."

The image faded and Yadier stroked his chin. "That was interesting," he said.

"What's that?" Azmaria asked.

"She hopes to be able to tell you what she's doing afterward. I don't think she knew that everyone was going to see her confrontation with the Lich King. But if she didn't arrange it, I have to wonder who did."

Azmaria removed her gauntlet and dragged her left hand across the blade of her new sword. It drank the blood greedily. Within moments, the pale green glow had taken on a deep red tinge. "While I would imagine that your line of thought is important, I believe right now I have some Scourge to slay," Azmaria said.

The leader of the Valkryja stopped her. "What would you have us do?"

Azmaria looked at Yadier. "What would you suggest?"

"We're more vulnerable in the skies than I would like," Yadier told the Val'kyr. "If you and your sisters can help our forces up there, we would be most grateful."

"Then it shall be done, Wizard."

** * **
Within little more than an hour, the Necropolis that had been approaching them made significant progress on its journey towards the defenders at the tourney grounds. Even though it was still hidden by the mountain, it was now close enough to begin deploying plague spreaders. They flew in close to the mountain, hiding within the fog until emerging from it close enough to the defenders to give them no time to react before striking.

They struck without mercy. Clouds of plague began filling the air all around the defenders. Yadier knew something had to be done quickly, so he began giving orders over the command network, as he knew that Tirion Fordring was busy dealing with a massive enemy offensive on the southern front. "All spellcasters and anyone with heavy ordnance, focus your fire upon the plague spreaders. Start with any near our defensive fortifications and then clear out the rest. Shamans, we'll need you to converse with the elements and get a wind going as quickly as you can."

Several people acknowledged the orders and work began. Within a few minutes, all of the spreaders had been downed, save one near the coliseum. This one was a bit larger than the others, so it was weathering attacks that would have felled the others. Something more was different about it, but Yadier could not place a finger on it.

"I'll bring it down!" Alexandrine shouted over the command network.

Yadier saw her in the distance charging toward the spreader, axe in hand, the power of the Light infusing her weapon and making it glow. He suddenly realized what was different about this plague spreader. "Alex! Stop! It's a trap!" But it was too late. Alexandrine leaped into the air and struck the device, unleashing a devastating blast of Light upon it.

The saronite which the plague spreader had been crafted of absorbed the power of the Light and after a moment reflected the attack back at Alexandrine. The force of the impact slammed the paladin into the coliseum.

"It's invulnerable! We're all going to die!" someone wailed over the command network.

"No!" Yadier shouted back. "It only reflects the Light. If we strike it with arcane magic, it will fall. I want every mage in the area to begin chilling it. Icy winds, arctic chills, everything you have!" After roughly a minute of aiding the other mages, Yadier spoke again. "Now, everyone, mage and warlock alike, give it the flame!"

The sudden shift from freezing to burning caused the metal to begin to warp and crack. With its structural integrity compromised, it could no longer hold in the intense pressure of the gas within and exploded.

This had an unintended side effect. The gas covered the entire tourney grounds, and more than that, it was a thick cloud, displacing any breathable air in the area. "Shamans, we need that wind yesterday!"

"I'm sorry, wizard Yadier, the elements will not respond. We cannot give you your wind."

Yadier swore, but before he could come up with another solution, the panicked crusader from before cried out again. "We're all going to die! The Crusade is going to fall!"

A giant cyclone appeared near the Sunreaver tent. With its great force, it sucked up all of the plague gas and sent it flying high into the sky where the upper atmospheric winds dispersed it. It was too little too late, however, as everyone within the tourney grounds found themselves infected with a particularly virulent form of the plague.

"It's too late!" the panicked crusader called out. "We have the plague already! We're already dead! The Crusade is going to fall!"

Another voice snarled at him over the communication network. "Shut up," a woman growled. Yadier recognized the voice immediately. It was Sharlot, and she sounded ******* "Now listen to me, you sniveling coward. A young woman who I admire is out there right now, alone, risking her life to help protect us. And not just those of us here, but the whole world. All this after we hunted her down and accused her of heinous crimes. But if we give up, if we fail here, then everything she has done, everything she has suffered, will be for naught.

"I, for one, will not stand for it. I, for one, will not give up. I did not get rid of that gas just to watch us fall apart and die now. So gather your courage, soldier, and fight on. We're not going to fail today. The. Crusade. Will. NOT. Fall. Not today. Not on my watch."

The ground began to tremble as Sharlot's body began to warp. Her skin became covered with bark and she grew immense, as tall as the coliseum, rooted near where Alexandrine had fallen, an immense ancient, a true Tree of Life. She reached her branches skyward and called forth nature's nurturing touch.

The gray clouds overhead parted and warm beams of sunshine fell over the defenders, invigorating them and ridding them of the plague. Then a warm, cleansing rain fell from the remaining clouds. Whenever it touched living flesh, it healed wounds and even brought life back to the recently deceased, making the defenders whole again, body and spirit.

Hopes and bodies renewed, the defenders fought on as the healing rains continued to fall, unending as they were sustained by the power of the great tree channeling them. And they would continue to fall until either Sharlot fell or was unable to sustain them any longer.

** * **
The dwarf had come to one conclusion. This throne was far too large for her. It wasn't dignified that her legs swung in the air, unable to reach the floor. This was the kind of thing that happened to children, not dignified priestesses.

Unfortunately, she had no choice. This was the only place she could do what needed to be done. That didn't mean, however, that she had to like it.

The red haired mage approached her. "Envi, we've almost completed preparations. Within a couple minutes, we'll be ready to do this." Pasiran laughed. "I still can't believe that this is what you came up with. Everyone's certainly going to be surprised when we show up."

"I'm just glad that High Commander Wyrmbane hasn't figured out what we're doing here, lass. This is probably going to be our only shot at this, and I'd hate for it to be stopped before we even get to try."

A young mage approached the two women and conferred with Pasiran for a moment. Pasiran nodded and sent him on his way. "Okay, they're ready. We'll begin the spell when you give the order."

"Let's not tarry any longer."

High above the ruins of the city of Wintergarde, the dread Citadel Naxxramas began to shimmer. Within a few moments it had disappeared from those skies.

It reappeared high above the Argent Tournament Grounds in Icecrown with a massive rush of air. The defenders on the ground were shocked to see not one but two massive citadels flying in their skies. "Pasiran!" Envinyata called out. "Put me in touch with someone on the ground. We should let them know what we're up to."

An image of Yadier appeared before Envinyata. He did not appear happy. "Ye gods, woman! Is that your doing, the citadel that just appeared out of nowhere up there?"

Envinyata nodded. "I'm going to bring down the other citadel. Try to keep your people clear of it as best you can."

"You're going to ram it?! Have you lost your mind?!"

"Poldaran suggested that we throw something big at it. This was the biggest thing I could find. Just keep clear."

The image disappeared as Pasiran called out. "Envi, I think we have a problem."

"What is it?"

An image of the enemy citadel appeared before the dwarf. "It's larger than we had anticipated, but that's not the real problem. Take a closer look. It's made of saronite."

That was indeed a problem. Saronite was much sturdier than the stone Naxxramas was made of. If they rammed it, there was a good chance it would be ineffective. Nonetheless, Envinyata did not see any alternatives. It had to be done. "Tell everyone to prepare for ramming speed. We're gonna give it a shot anyway."

"Wait!" Pasiran responded. "We can't move yet."

"Why not?"

"Teleporting things this large has drawbacks. The spell that brought us here hasn't finished stabilizing. Any movement, especially at speed, could cause us any number of side effects."

"What kind of side effects?"

"If we're lucky, the citadel will just return to its old location, though the feedback of the spell breaking will likely kill everyone on board. If we're less lucky, the entire thing could explode in one giant fireball."

Envinyata thought about it for a moment. This certainly had possibilities. "Tell everyone to teleport off of here the second I start us moving. We're just going to have to hope that our luck holds out long enough." She placed her hands upon the armrests and began channeling her power into the citadel.

Outside, an inky blackness began to creep along the surface of Naxxramas. Within moments, the entire citadel had become engulfed in shadows, reinforcing its armor and enhancing its structural integrity. The movement began with a lurch, but soon the entire citadel was picking up speed in the direction of the enemy.

"Pasiran!" Envinyata shouted. "I want you to get out of here too! Not telling what will happen!"

"Like **** I will," Pasiran responded. "I'm here with you til the end."

"Alright then, we can die together!" For no reason at all, Envinyata, a massive grin upon her face, decided to add something more, something she thought would be fitting. "HAWKMEN!" she shouted as the massive enemy structure loomed before them. "DIVE!"

The sound of the impact was deafening. The ground below shook with the force of it. Light itself seemed to bend and warp as the magic encasing Naxxramas began to interact with the saronite of the enemy citadel. Another explosion filled the air as Naxxramas once again disappeared, the collapsing teleportation field taking a large chunk of the enemy fortress with it.

With the spellform holding it in the air sheared by teleportation, the enemy necropolis began to wobble in the sky. Within a few seconds, it began to fall from the sky. It landed upon the slope of the mountain and began sliding down, crushing into a fine paste any undead in its path.

Yadier knew that the rebound of the teleportation would likely kill everyone still within the citadel. "Your sacrifice will not be forgotten, old friend," he said.

A voice behind him startled him. "What sacrifice?" Envinyata asked.

"Yeah," Pasiran said. "You really don't give me enough credit. I grabbed Envi and teleported us off of there right after impact."

While he was relieved to see that they were alive, Yadier could only come to one conclusion. Only one thing could possibly explain everything that had been happening. Everyone he knew had lost their minds.

** * **
#7 Aug 06 2010 at 2:31 AM Rating: Good
29,421 posts
Sindara could not believe what she was seeing. They were outnumbered, unprepared and exhausted, but it was still beginning to look like they might survive this attack. And they owed it all to Sharlot. It still blew Sindara's mind that the druid had been able to hold the spell for that long. The longest she had ever heard of a Tranquility lasting had been several minutes, and that had been done by the Demigod, Cenarius.

Still, there were some obstacles that needed to be overcome before they could deal with that, such as the number of Cultist necromancers that had begun attacking the defenders on the western front from behind a wall of giant skeletons. "Mirwena," she whispered.

A sultry voice responded from behind her. "Yes?" the unseen succubus asked.

"I want you to assassinate as many of those enemy casters as you can, then return here. If they spot you and you cannot escape conventionally, retreat to the Nether. I will summon you back afterward."

"As you command, mistress."

As Sindara suspected, after the first few necromancers fell to the invisible succubus, a shade appeared and revealed her to the others. She narrowly escaped by retreating to the Nether. Sindara decided to let the wounded succubus rest a bit and instead called forth her felguard. She pointed him in the direction of the nearest skeleton and left him to his own devices.

After a few more minutes fighting, she heard a voice behind her. "Sin, you've got a number of wounds," Pasiran said. "Go see a healer and get patched up. I'll take over here for a bit."

"Probably a good idea. Keep an eye on my demon for me."

As Sindara approached the medical tent, she heard a familiar voice within. "How long is this going to take, doc? I have to get back out there." She recognized the voice as Azmaria's.

"Not much longer, Sir Death Knight. We'll have the arm reattached momentarily and then a healer can work a little magic and you'll be ready to get back out there."

The tent was filled with the injured, mostly people who had lost limbs to the battle. Several rocked back and forth in pain, muttering things that Sindara could not quite make out. The warlock was forced to admit that there seemed to be a limit to the Tranquility. Despite the initial surge of healing, it now seemed to only be working well for minor wounds and fatigue. She had to admit that the fatigue was likely the true enemy here. Unlike the undead, the living defenders here tired. Until Sharlot had stepped in, the people had begun to falter. Exhaustion had been setting in and people had begun to make critical errors.

But things were looking up, at least somewhat. "As long as she can hold out, so can we," Sindara said under her breath. She looked through the tent, finally spotting Azmaria, who had removed her breastplate so the doctor could reattach her severed left arm. The white tunic she was wearing had turned red with blood. Sindara greeted her half sister with a smile. "Hey, Az, what happened to you?"

"Oh, hey Sin. I was battling two of those giant skeletons when one got in a lucky swing. Unfortunately, it hit the joint on the shoulder where the armor is a bit weaker, so it sliced right through."


The doctor, having finished his stitching, called over a healer. The young priestess prayed for healing for Azmaria and the Death Knight's wounds healed. The stitches fell off on their own, leaving a nasty scar in their place. Azmaria thanked the woman and the doctor then tested her arm. Azmaria winced a bit when he had her raise it above her head. "Well, the shoulder's a bit stiff, but I should be able to get back to fighting. Thankfully the armor will repair itself when I put the two pieces back together."

"That's a nifty trick," Sindara remarked.

"The primordial saronite coating works some interesting miracles." To illustrate her point, Azmaria popped the armor's sleeve back into place. The metal seemed to melt and then re-solidify, repairing the armor. "I'll have to thank Poldaran for this later," she said, putting on the suit.

The doctor began working at stitching up Sindara's wounds. Azmaria sat with her for a while, both silent as the doctor worked. After a time, a call sounded out over the command network. "Highlord Fordring! The enemy has massed for a strong push against us. Both fronts are getting slammed, and more enemy air units are entering the field!"

Another voice responded. "Keep your wits about you, soldier." With a crackle, the channel to speak to all units opened. "Attention, everyone. It seems the enemy is pushing harder than ever. All units who are currently on a resting rotation are hereby ordered back to your positions. Anyone who can target the sky, take out as many fliers as possible before focusing on the ground forces. We may have those Val'kyr up there, but we should not leave it to chance."

Sindara looked at Azmaria, concern in her eyes, "Az, something's not right. They've been hitting us with a steady assault all day, with minor variations. Why mass for a big hit now? What has changed?"

The realization hit Azmaria suddenly. "Modera said we're above the old Nerubian Kingdom!" The ground suddenly began to shake as it collapsed near the center of the tournament grounds, close to where Sharlot was channeling the Tranquility. "Sometimes I really hate being right."

"We've encountered an immense force!" Xelsia called out over the command network. "Nerubians everywhere. Request immediate backup."

"I'll lead a team," Sindara volunteered.

"No," Highlord Fordring responded. "We cannot spare the manpower right now. We have to focus on the waves assaulting us. The druids will have to hold out until we can repel this current group of invaders."

"Then I'll go alone," Sindara asserted.

"No. I've seen the force. It would take an army to defeat it. The druids are in a defensible position. I'm confident that they can hold out until we can spare the forces needed to aid them."

"Fine," Sindara responded coldly.

"Look, warlock, you don't have to like the orders, you just have to follow them."

A mighty roar filled the air. "I am come!" the great spider lord, Anub'arak, shouted. "Your fates are sealed. We shall devour this tree and then slaughter all of you. Without her, you will fall. You shall serve the Scourge. ALL WILL BOW TO THE LICH KING!"

Sindara suddenly noticed that Azmaria had become deathly still. The death knight's hands gripped the hilt of her sword so tightly that they had become white. Her face showed almost no emotion, save for a small twitch of the corner of her mouth. She stood for several moments clutching at her blade, working through what appeared to be intense anger. Finally, after a time, she spoke. It was almost a whisper, but it burned with an intensity Sindara had never heard. "No."

With that single word, Azmaria was gone from the tent. "Highlord Fordring," Sindara called out. "I think we have a problem."

"What is it, warlock?"

"Azmaria has gone to fight the Nerubians on her own."

"What?! There looks to be almost two thousand nerubians out there. She cannot think to take them alone." He paused a moment. "Death Knight, I know that you are doing what you think is best, but you cannot hope to defeat them. Return and aid the others in defending the western front."

Azmaria made contact with her first foe, delivering a massive slash to the unprepared nerubian, cutting it cleanly in two. "I'm sorry, Highlord. I didn't hear your orders. Please repeat them. Or better yet, shove them up your ***. I know what it's like to serve the Lich King. I know what it's like to watch helplessly as you're forced to perform horrific acts upon others. To hear their screams and be unable to do anything about it. Well ***** that.

"When Poldaran freed me, I didn't know what to do. My parents were both dead. So I pledged myself to her, swore that I'd use my blade to serve her. You know what she told me? She declined, saying that I needed to live my life, to choose my own battles, to protect those whom I chose to protect. I've done a lot of thinking on the matter, and this is the battle I choose. I will do what I feel is right. Sharlot said that she would not allow the Crusade to fall today. I have faith that she can deliver on that promise, so I am going to keep these Nerubians from interfering.

"I will not allow us to fall. I'm going to squash that bug like a spider beneath my boot. I will never again be made to serve the Lich King." Fire filled Azmaria's voice and it had been rising in volume from the beginning, by the time she reached the end, it had reached a crescendo and she shouted the last line so all could hear. "I'M NO ONE'S SLAVE!"

The Death Knight began her attack in earnest. If it was going to take an army to take out the enemy, then she would just have to be an army of one. She had been trained by many different weapons experts. From Nihlus, she had learned to make every single one of her blows count, so she ensured that each strike connected with a vital point of the enemy. From Poldaran, she had learned to strike as quick as the wind, so she struck enemies in a flurry of blows, each unaware that they had been struck until after they had already been defeated. From Yoxutre she had learned to remember that her sword was not the only weapon available to her, so she struck with her fist and her feet when warranted, crushing enemies with the force of her blows. From Viridiel Suntreader, she had learned that a blow that missed her was one blow less for her to recover from, so she moved erratically, keeping the enemy off balance, unable to predict where she would be, unable to strike her.

From Alexandrine, her sister and dearest friend, she had learned to harness the force of her convictions into her attacks, so her blade was filled to overflowing with shadow magic. Each slash spread disease and miasma in a cone before it, striking down even the hardy Nerubians.

After nearly ten minutes of fighting, Azmaria found no more Nerubians left to fight, at least none in the immediate vicinity. They had all either been slain or had retreated. All that remained was Anub'arak, locked in combat with a druid of the claw. "Xelsia!" she called out. "I'm going to need a boost."

The druid, immediately realizing what the Death Knight had planned, grinned. "Promise me you'll say it."


"You know what I mean. Just promise me!"

"Fine," Azmaria said. "Just have the typhoon ready when I reach the right spot."

"Got it!"

Azmaria held her blade in her right hand, parallel to the ground. She then infused it with necromantic magic while running her hand across the blade, coating it in more of her toxic blood. The blade began to glow as the blood touched it.

Azmaria let loose a war cry as she charged at the giant crypt lord. Almost halfway to it, a cyclone appeared and sucked her into the air, flinging her at Anub'arak at almost blinding speed. She slashed once as she passed just over his back, then landed softly upon the ground a short distance away from him, cushioned by another small cyclone.

"Is that the best you have to offer, Death Knight?" Anub'arak called out. "You didn't even scratch me."

Azmaria twirled her somehow immaculately clean blade in her hand and deftly inserted it into the sheath on her back, then looked over her shoulder at the Nerubian. "You heard it too, didn't you?" she asked softly.

"What?" the Nerubian asked, annoyed.

A smile crept across Azmaria's face. He hadn't noticed. The blade had cut into him so cleanly he hadn't even felt it as it left behind all the gore and blood caked upon it. "The voice of the wind." As she spoke the last word the volatile blood now spreading throughout Anub'arak's body exploded, tearing his body apart violently and sending dust and the liquid that had once been his internal organs spraying all over the battlefield.

When the haze cleared, the only movement in that section of the tournament grounds was that of a moonkin, dancing and grinning. "Woo!" Xelsia called out. "You actually said it!"

Azmaria chuckled in spite of herself.

** * **

The sun had begun to set, bathing the Valley of Fallen Heroes in a red haze. With her attention focused on her work, she heard the boots before she saw him. "About **** time," Poldaran said. "I was beginning to think that I had frozen you too well."

"You will return my sword!" the Lich King growled.

"In due time. You can have it back when I'm done with it, my good man." Poldaran was going out of her way to irritate him. Until the last rune was carved, the entire spellform was vulnerable. Sure, she was protected by the shield she had erected, but part of the spell stuck out beyond the shield. She had to keep him from noticing it until the final rune was traced, at which point the spellform would become locked and unchangeable until she cast it. "Until then, why not have a seat in the snow over there. Take a number and I'll call you when I'm done."

"I will not tolerate your insolence. You have no idea what I can do to you."

"Something tells me that you wouldn't be nearly as creative as I could be," Poldaran said with a laugh. "Trust me. I could teach you so much, but I think that you would make a bad student." Poldaran knew that by his lack of response, he wasn't going to take the bait. She had to try a new approach. "Seems like you're having a bad day, Arthas. They killed Anub'arak. I would have loved to see that."

"How could you know such things?"

"I felt it through the sword. Seems like a ton of his Nerubians went down shortly before him. Seems you underestimated them."

"We still have more than enough forces to defeat them and add all of them to the Scourge." His eyes narrowed. "I find myself curious. Why did you not use the sword to help them? With it and your power combined, you easily could have slain my entire army there, yet you chose not to."

"Some power is too dangerous to use. I could have used the blade, but with each spell it enhanced, I would have lost more of myself. I'm already a monster, I have no business becoming more of one. Besides, I have faith in my friends. They'll pull through."

"You're a fool not to seize the power before you."

"Perhaps," Poldaran said. "But perhaps you are the fool for allowing your power to rule you."

"I rule my power. It does not rule me." Arthas seemed to be getting angry.

Poldaran finished her last rune. She now only had to wait until the sun finished setting to cast the spell a mere few moments away. It was now too late for Arthas to stop her. "Go ahead and tell yourself that all you want. Deep down, you know the truth as well as I. Just as we both know that you'll never conquer this world. The hope of the people will pull them through."

"Hope? Foolish nonsense. I will destroy all hope in this world. None can escape death."

The sun itself set and the runes Poldaran had carved began to glow in the moonlight. "So, have you figured out what I'm planning yet? Or have you suppressed the part of Ner'zhul that remains so deep that he cannot tell you what is about to happen?"

Arthas studied the glowing runes for a time. "It seems you have linked over a thousand Drain Soul glyphs together. You're going to drain souls from the sword in an attempt to kill me? This was your grand plan? You may just be more foolish than I thought, Poldaran. If you drain this many at once, you'll damage yourself. At best, you'll lose your ability to wield arcane magic for at least a decade, while your body recovers, and that's assuming it doesn't outright kill you. But what's funnier is that all you'll do is sap a bit of my strength until the sword can call out and retrieve the souls. No, this is a decoy. You could have instead used the power to kill massive portions of my army. You cannot have me believe that you would instead use it thus."

Poldaran laughed. "It's quite funny how little you know me, Arthas. To think that one would try to make me one of his generals and know so little of me. Perhaps my motivations are simply unfathomable to you and you just cannot see what the point of this is. Let me illuminate it all for you." Now she was simply killing time. "Before I left Dalaran, I dropped several letters in a post box. When this is all over, a number of wizards will know that something went on here. They will scry this place and see what transpired. What they will see is me striking a blow against you. Sure, it may be a small blow, but they'll see that you can be wounded.

"And that's where things will become interesting. You see, I believe that it takes a man to kill a monster. I'm a monster myself, so I cannot kill you, not without becoming worse than you. So another must do it, one who will not simply become worse than you are now. But sometimes despair creeps into the hearts of men. They fear that the darkness cannot be dispelled, that the monster cannot be slain. So it falls to another monster to show them that there is still a way, that hope springs eternal, that the darkness can be purged by the light.

"And this is what I will do today. I may lose my life, and will certainly lose my gift for the next decade. But I will have purchased something grander and you will learn the price of your evil as heroes of this world strike against you, bringing your end."

"A pretty speech, Poldaran. But you fail to grasp the truth of this world. It does not have to be this way. You no longer have to sacrifice for your people. You can still join me."

"After all I've told you, you still try to sway me? Tell me, are all men nothing more than scared little boys, or is it just you?"

"You are a fool to rely on hope, it is gone."

Poldaran looked at the sky. The moon was finally high enough and the sun had set. It was time. She pulled the Skull of Gul'dan from her belt and opened a portal into the Nether, inches from a flowing mana stream. "Perhaps your blade will not be able to recall those souls after all," she said.

"You cannot kill death! Admit that hope is lost!"

Poldaran flung the blade into the air. It flipped through the air and slid into the ground at the center of the network of glyphs. "That is not dead which can eternal lie."

She began invoking the spell. The runes all began to glow and thousands of souls were ripped from the blade and transferred into Poldaran. She walked over to the portal and turned to face Arthas. Her eyes glowed with the power of all the souls she had drained from the blade. Within her body, a thousand voices spoke in unison as she shoved her hand into the portal.

"And with strange aeons even death may die."

** * **
Sindara could not believe her eyes. Is that what Poldaran had planned? No, that just could not be right. Yet, the images had appeared in the sky again. Had she already done it?

She heard a voice in her ear. "Sindara, this is Yadier. I'm speaking to you privately. Tell me, is this as bad as I think it is?"

"Yes," Sindara replied. "What Arthas said was an understatement. Channeling that many souls through her body will damage Poldaran's own soul as they attempt to cling to her. Made worse because she sent them into the nether mana stream. The pieces of her soul that were torn away as they were forced out will not return to her. They were destroyed utterly, just like the other souls."

"She completely destroyed those souls? That's monstrous!"

"You're telling me."

She heard Yadier sigh. "There's no time to discuss the ramifications right now. I have Highlord Fordring breathing down my neck to tell him what happened. What should I say?"

Sindara thought about it for a moment. "Gloss over the details. Just tell him that Poldaran sacrificed a part of herself to weaken the Lich King. Add that it will mean that the forces here will not only become less coordinated, but some will even go feral and start attacking their own people. No need to tell him that the last part is because their souls were utterly destroyed. Just get him focused on how he can use this."

"You're probably right." He swore. "Dammit I hate politics."

Sindara began preparing reagents. She had a feeling there was going to be a rallying push in a few minutes when Yadier and Tirion Fordring were finished with their discussion. This would not be the time to hold back. A show of force would lift the flagging spirits of the defenders and reinvigorate them. It was time to show the world's enemies just what they were made of.

Tirion Fordring did not disappoint. "Crusaders!" he shouted, a mage amplifying his words. "Poldaran the Lichborn has paid a great price today, giving up much of her power to weaken the Lich King's hold on his forces, even if only temporarily. Many will be unable to work together as a unit, and some others will even attack their own. The time for us to strike is now. Hold nothing back. Let's wipe these abominations from Azeroth here and now!"

Azmaria drew her blade and led the charge. "You heard Highlord Fordring! We'll stand together and show them what we can do. We're no one's slaves!"

Sharlot, who had finally collapsed from her efforts, struggled to her feet once more. "Tired? Who said I was tired? No one's going to fall on my watch." She raised her hands to the sky and warm sunlight bathed the crusaders once more.

A pustulent colossus near the front lines was one of the first undead to feel the effects of its souls being destroyed. It began to strike out in anger at anything in reach of its massive club. Envinyata, seeing an opening, motioned to Pasiran. "Get me on that thing's head!" Pasiran couldn't believe what she was being told to do, but didn't argue. She teleported the dwarf where she wanted to go. A few moments later, Envinyata had completed her mind control of the giant. From on top of its head, she shouted, the giant echoing her, "The bigger they are, the harder we'll get to hit them!"

Fennchurch and Raequann charged into the enemy forces and dismounted from their steeds before standing back to back. "Race you to a thousand!" Fennchurch shouted.

"You're on!" the Death Knight responded.

Yadier appeared next to Sindara. "It's like everyone has gone crazy," he commented.

"True enough. But it's pretty effective."

"True." He cast a spell to summon a massive arcane elemental. "You know what they say. When in Orgrimmar and all that."

Sindara laughed. This was going to be fun. She cast the spell she was preparing and a half dozen green lights streaked through the sky. "We'll do this together!" she shouted for the benefit of the crusaders as the hulking Infernals crashed into the middle of the undead swarm.

They battled on for a short time before Sindara noticed that a brilliant white light shone through the clouds to the west. She didn't even want to begin to contemplate just what it meant.

** * **

As the dust settled, Poldaran struggled to rise to her feet. What she had done had taken so much out of her. She doubted she would be able to cast a single spell now, no matter how much her life depended on it. With the Lich King standing just on the other side of her slowly shrinking shield, she realized her life did in fact depend on her being able to cast a spell.

Why had she not planned an escape route? She berated herself for her lack of foresight. It was a mistake so monumentally stupid that she could not believe it.

The Lich King quickly understood the situation. "It seems you've forgotten something. In a scant few moments, your shield will have receded enough for me to be able to reach Frostmourne. When that happens, I think I'm going to enjoy killing you." He laughed. "I must applaud you. I did not think you would truly do it. Such an illogical and senseless act. What did you hope to accomplish?"

Poldaran smiled at him, knowing it would only infuriate him. "If you're so smart, surely you can figure it out."

He surprised her by laughing. "Perhaps it will be an amusing way to pass the time until I can finally kill you." He mused for a moment. "The most obvious answer is that you were trying to save your friends at the tournament, but that argument fails when you consider that you would have helped them more by just fighting alongside them. I would suggest that you were attempting to liberate souls from my grasp, but then you utterly destroyed them, an act more monstrous than I had thought you capable of, so I cannot believe that would be the reason either."

"You're nowhere even close," Poldaran said. In truth she had done it because he would never be able to understand it. He now realized just how much he did not understand her motivations, and thus knew she was too dangerous to try to control. In a few moments, she might die, but she would not become one of the Scourge. She would die free. "Or perhaps not at all," she whispered under her breath suddenly. She began to laugh.

"What is so funny?"

"I wouldn't want to spoil the surprise," she said mysteriously. "Let's just say that you're going to be in a lot of trouble if Frostmourne isn't in your hands soon."

Within a short moment, the sound of hoofbeats she had felt through the soft soles of her shoes grew thunderous. Only a charger ridden by a righteous crusader sounded like that.

The Lich King grasped the hilt of Frostmourne at the same moment a figure appeared over the top of a nearby hill, sword in hand. Poldaran recognized the blade immediately. It was Yoxutre. She could not quite understand how he had managed to get here, nor how even knew where they would be, but she decided not to question this blessing. "ARTHAS!" the paladin shouted as he bore down upon the Lich King. "You'll pay for your betrayal, for all the lives you've stolen!"

"My old comrade Yoxutre?" Arthas laughed as he said it. "This day keeps getting more interesting. Come, paladin. Let me show you the folly of attacking the King of the Scourge!" He swung his blade at the charging horse, intent on releasing a blast of shadow magic at his foe.

The spell never activated and the blast never came. Poldaran looked at the blade in the Lich King's hand as he simply stood there, perplexed. She laughed as she finally understood. The sudden loss of so many souls had scarred the blade's runes. Without them, the Lich King was unable to use it as a focus for his power. It was a condition that would be reversible, but for right now he would be somewhat vulnerable. Yoxutre had a chance to defeat him for good here and now!

This was not lost on Yoxutre either. He dove from his steed and the sound of their blades crossing rang through the air. Arthas returned his strike, but Yoxutre's shield, buoyed by the power of the Light was more than enough to protect him against the runeblade. "This is impossible!" the Lich King shouted.

"You'll save yourself a lot of headaches if you just stop worrying about what's impossible, Arthas," Yoxutre quipped. "Then again, once I separate your head from your shoulders, I don't think headaches are going to matter." He unleashed a flurry of strokes with Quel'serrar.

The Lich king parried each blow. "You'll have to do better than that!" he raged.

Poldaran suddenly found herself exhausted as the damage to her soul took its toll upon her body. She laid down upon the cold ground. "You boys go ahead and continue playing with your toys," she said softly. "I think I'm just going to lie right here, close my eyes and struggle to breathe."

She paid scant attention to the sounds of the fight going on around her. Agony filled her body with each breath. She could feel death closing in on her. Terror gripped her as she realized that she did not want to die. She wasn't ready. Ready or not, she could feel her grip on consciousness fading. It would all be over soon.

Then a peculiar thing happened. Poldaran suddenly felt warm, and even with her eyes closed, she knew she was bathed in a magnificent light. The pain was gone, but the weariness remained. She struggled to open her eyes, but could not. She felt metal clad arms lift her up against a massive chest clad in the same. She heard the voice of man, thick with a Draenic accent. "Do not worry, little one. We are here for you."

"General," she began, ushering in a fit of coughing. "General Tiras'alan," she whispered. "How is it that you are here?"

Another voice answered, its musical tones playing in her mind instead of within her ears. "A human woman appeared within Shattrath and told A'dal that you were in danger and would die if we did not come to your aid. A'dal sensed no deception in her, so he dispatched every nearby paladin. Since we were in the middle of a war council, that ended up being us. It seems we arrived just in time."

Another voice called out to Yoxutre, Poldaran recognized it as well. It was Liadrin, Nihlus' sister! "Time to get out of here, Yoxutre!" she shouted. "He has dozens of frost wyrms less than a minute from here. We don't have time to defeat him now, you'll have to wait for another day."

**********!" Yoxutre shouted, but Poldaran could hear the sound of him running towards them.

Poldaran wanted to ask more, but could not find the strength to speak. Instead she thought her question. Xi'ri responded almost immediately. "Why did we come for you?" it asked. "That's quite simple. I told you before, Poldaran. The Light never forgets its champions." Warmth further enveloped her body. "Now rest, champion."

She did not need further encouragement as she had already drifted off into a deep sleep, one no longer haunted by nightmares. In truth, there was no better place to be.

** * **

Several weeks later, Poldaran found herself on one of the frozen mountains of Dragonblight. She shivered at the chill wind and drew her heavy cloak tight. ********** those bastards in Dalaran!" she shouted to no one in particular.

She was startled by a voice behind her. "Problems?"

Poldaran took a moment to recover from the surprise. She turned to her companion. "What are you doing here?"

The woman smiled at Poldaran. "Come now, Poldaran, that's not a very nice thing to say to the woman you owe your life to. But if you must know, I'm here because I figured you could use more help. So tell me what you're doing and I'll be glad to help out."

Poldaran sighed in response. "I wouldn't need any help if those jackasses in Dalaran hadn't forced me to wear a power limiter. I mean, I can barely conjure as much magic as a drunk apprentice, yet they think I need my powers further limited? And to ten percent? We'll see what they have to say when I use all my non-magic to stab them in the face with a salad fork. And that's before we even consider that they've confiscated my spellbook and locked it in some vault." She sighed again. "Fine. If you must know, I'm trying to scry into the Ruby Sanctum. My friends are beginning their attack on Halion and his invasion force soon and I want to be sure that they'll be alright."

"That should be simple enough. Give me a moment." The woman gestured with her right hand and snow shot from the ground, forming a sheet. A quick snap of her fingers melted the snow, which quickly reformed into a solid wall of ice. Moments later, an image appeared before them.

"Alright," Yoxutre said, "Alpha team will distract Halion while Beta team will eliminate the smaller units nearby and strike him from behind. Azmaria, I'll need you to lead..." He paused for a moment. "Wait, where did Az go?"

A voice roared through the Sanctum. "Your world teeters on the brink of annihilation. You will ALL bear witness to the coming of a new age of DESTRUCTION!"

Another voice shouted in the distance. "Well, your *** teeters on the brink of getting kicked and your FACE will bear witness to the coming of a new age of being skinned and made into a support garment for an ogre!"

Yoxutre turned to Envinyata. "She didn't just go pull a Corporal Jenkins on us, did she?"

"It appears she did, lad," the dwarven woman responded.

"Alright, new plan, everyone," Yoxutre said, unsheathing his sword. "CHARGE!"

The image faded and Poldaran laughed in spite of herself. "Yeah, they'll be fine." The two woman stood in silence for several minutes before Poldaran spoke again. "I wanted to thank you for all you did during that battle."

"All I did was appear before A'dal and let him know what was happening."

"That's a lie and you know it. Envi tells me that I appeared to them and gave them hints for the battle, but I know that I did no such thing, so it must have been you, using some kind of illusion magic."

Her companion smiled. "You caught me. I just couldn't let you die, not yet. I have a feeling that you're going to be even more needed in the coming months."

"Not that I'll do much good without my magic, unless perhaps you know a way to heal me?"

"Afraid not, Pold. You're going to have to spend the next ten or fifteen years at diminished capacity. Not much we can do about that." Her smile turned into a grin. "But we can't let them hang on to your spellbook, too many dangerous spells in there that you copied from Medivh's notes, and you know that they won't be able to keep from reading it for long. I know someone who can teach you how to remove that power limiter. Interested?"

It wasn't what she was hoping for, but it was something, and Poldaran found herself more excited by the prospect than she should have been. "Of course! Just tell me who I need to talk to and I'll go."

"I'll do you one better," the other woman said, tossing something to Poldaran, who caught it without thinking.

Poldaran suddenly found herself indoors. The room she was in seemed incredibly familiar from the stone floor to the numerous books piled neatly upon the shelves lining the walls. Someone behind her cleared his throat and she realized where she was. "That's it. When salad fork stabby time comes, I'm stabbing her first," she said under her breath.

Poldaran turned to see an older gentleman with a short white beard sitting at the massive desk behind her. He smiled warmly as he stood. "My, my, Poldaran, she said you would be visiting me, but she never told me what a beautiful young woman you had become."

Poldaran ran around the desk and embraced the man she had not seen in several years, a few tears streaming down her cheek. "Hello, Grandfather. It seems we have much to discuss."

Edited, Oct 19th 2010 9:50am by Poldaran
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