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The Lore of Poldaran: Chapter X1: One May ChallengeFollow

#1 Oct 19 2010 at 9:53 AM Rating: Good
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Lady Alexandrine of Wintermoon, daughter of Silas Wintermoon of Dalaran could not believe that she was once again in Westfall. It had been almost two years since her last visit, when she and a small band of her friends had taken down the Defias gang and its leader, Edwin Van Cleef. Despite the fact that she was a noble paladin, and in fact known far and wide as The Merciful, Alexandrine could not help but laugh when she remembered how her friend Thanoris, a night elf warrior, had put an abrupt end to Van Cleef’s speech with a well thrown dagger.

“Those had been the days,” Alexandrine mused aloud, to no one in particular. Her charger snorted, almost as if in agreement. They rode on in silence, with nothing but the sound of her charger’s hoof beats and the almost annoying sound of a light rain on her shining silver-plated titansteel armor. This left Alexandrine uncomfortably alone with her thoughts.

Her title, the Merciful, had been given to her during her training days by General Yoxutre, though he had only been a captain back then. He had been in charge of training new recruits to the Order of the Silver Hand, and her older sister, the journeyman mage Poldaran, had put Alexandrine and her twin in the care of the Order while she answered Jaina Proudmoore’s call for an expedition across the sea to the west.

While in the care of the Order, Alexandrine had enlisted, which had been her dream for years, inspired by a young paladin who had once taken shelter at her family’s estate outside of Dalaran. During the early days of her training, she had shown her proficiency with axes, angering several of the older recruits. One of those recruits had taken things far too personally. As an axe expert himself, he had felt threatened by this young upstart.

Things would have proceeded as they usually did in those types of situations, culminating in some simple brawling, had it not been for unfortunate timing on Alexandrine’s twin sister’s part. The girl, Sindara, had shown talent for fel magic at a young age, using a book of incantations she had found to summon an imp, and almost dying in the ensuing barn fire.

One of the other refugees had seen Sindara in the nearby woods, summoning a demon and binding it to her will. With the invasion of the Burning Legion still in full swing, people understandably reacted poorly to the presence of a warlock in their midst and tied her to a stake at the center of the camp, intending to burn her to death.

Normally, despite the unholy nature of fel magic, the paladins would have stepped in immediately to restore order and take the suspected warlock into custody to await trial. But the full members had been out on patrol, looking into rumors of a band of undead in the area. All that remained were the recruits, the most senior of which was the young man with whom Alexandrine was at odds.

The petty young man knew that this was Alexandrine’s twin so, out of spite, he ordered the other recruits to stand by and watch as the refugees exacted their terrible justice. Alexandrine sought frantically for an option that would allow her to help her sister. Unable to come up with anything better, she disobeyed the orders and placed herself, axe in hand, between the villagers and her sister. “This isn’t justice!” She had called out. “We will take the girl into custody and allow the righteous to put her to trial.”

“Stand down, recruit!” the young man had ordered. “We will allow these people to have their vengeance against those who allowed the demons into our world.”

“I will do no such thing. First of all, you and I are the same rank. I do not have to take your orders. Second, if we allow people to act merely out of fear and bloodlust, then we will be no better than the orcs who invaded us not so long ago.”

“If you will not listen to me out of respect for my longer time here, then you will listen to me out of respect for my social rank, peasant. I am the son of a baron, and you will do as I command!”

Alexandrine had laughed in spite of the seriousness of the situation. He had just given her the answer to her problem. “You think I’m a peasant?” she had asked. “I’ll have you know that you are not the only noble here, mighty son of a baron. I am Alexandrine, daughter of Magus Silas, Lord of Wintermoon.” She removed one of the gloves she was wearing and threw it at his feet. “I challenge you to a duel. If I win, you and the other recruits will aid me in taking this girl into custody to prevent these people from making a mistake they will regret.”

The other recruits had formed a ring around the unlit pyre while Alexandrine and the young noble had changed into their training armor and acquired a pair of blunted axes from the armory. They would not allow Sindara to come to harm while these two settled the matter, and the refugees knew better than to tangle with the two dozen young paladin trainees.

Alexandrine could have ended the fight in the first move, as her opponent slipped upon some mud, but she was playing for time, hoping that the older paladins would return while they were fighting, in order to give Sindara the best chance at being rescued. So the fight dragged on for almost half an hour before Alexandrine decided that she was tiring and needed to end it. With a swift blow from the flat side of her axe, she had sent her opponent flying through the air to land on his back with a dull thud as the mud sucked him in several inches.

She held her axe at her opponent’s throat. “Yield!” she commanded.

“Never!” the young man shouted defiantly. Alexandrine knew that meant she would be forced to kill him.

Instead, she did a peculiar thing. She dropped her axe next to him. “It is a draw, then. I will not slay you, but you cannot even stand, caked into the mud as you are. Will you accept that?”

“I will,” he said after some thought. She helped him to his feet. “I will also help you in keeping these people from making a mistake they will regret. Come, let’s retrieve our weapons and take the girl into custody. She can sit in the dungeon until the senior paladins return.”

A voice spoke behind them. “That will not be necessary, recruits,” it boomed.

“Captain!” the young man said in shock. “We were not aware that you had returned!”

“I have been here for a few minutes.” Yoxutre smiled at the two recruits. “Staging a demonstration of prowess to distract the refugees was quick thinking on your parts. I have to commend both of you.” He turned to the men that had ridden into the refugee camp with him. “Take the girl over there into custody. We will see what truth there is to the charges against her before we take any action.” He turned back to the two recruits and pointed at the young man. “Go scrub that armor before it rusts.”
“Yes, captain. I will do so immediately.”

When the young man was out of earshot, Yoxutre spoke quietly to Alexandrine. “I know what really happened. You showed a lot of courage out here today. More than that, however, you showed a lot of mercy. You did not need to let him live. None would have blamed you for killing him. It was well within your right as a noble to take his life during the duel.”
“It did not seem right, captain. Between the Horde, the Legion and the Scourge, we have enough trouble without going out of our way to kill each other.”

“Perhaps you’re right,” he said with a bit of a laugh. “I may have a solution for your sister, by the way.” Alexandrine looked at him intently, almost afraid to hope. “You see, practicing fel magic is something of a crime, but it seems that warlocks have found some acceptance in Stormwind. I will write to their guild there and ask if they will take her in as an apprentice. If they will, then there will be no need to punish her.”

From that day on, the title Alexandrine the Merciful had been hers, spurred in no small part by Yoxutre’s use of it whenever addressing her.
She did not live by that title often, however, much to her shame. A few months ago, she had chosen the path of wrath when dealing with what appeared to be betrayal by her older sister, Poldaran. It had turned out that it was a misunderstanding, that Poldaran’s apparent betrayal was a subterfuge to allow her to get close enough to the Lich King to strike at him, but Alexandrine could never take back what she had said. Thankfully, she had been stopped from killing Poldaran, so at least she did not have to live with that on her conscience.

It was hard to believe how much Westfall had changed since the cataclysm. Sentinel Hill was being fortified. Its walls seemed a little too high for Alexandrine, who had always enjoyed the rustic, peaceful feeling of the area. But with the ever present great rift out near the Molsen farm, she could understand why the Alliance would decide to fortify the area.
The most shocking thing of all was how the Alliance had actually sent out the forces required to retake Moonbrook from the remnants of the Defias Brotherhood. The paladin found herself reeling from that thought. Had slaying Van Cleef really accomplished that much? Had she and her friends truly made that much of a difference in the lives of these people? Her mind boggled at the possibilities.

As strange as it was to be out in Westfall, Alexandrine found a strange familiarity in the reason for being here. She had received a letter almost a week ago from one of the residents, Farmer Saldean. His daughter, Hope, had gone missing, and he presumed that she had been kidnapped by the Defias Brotherhood. Since Marshall Stoutmantle had his hands full with refugees, Saldean had turned to the only other person he thought he could count on, the heroine who had led the party that took down Edwin Van Cleef.

It was unfortunate that the Westfall Brigade was unavailable. They had proven themselves to be true heroes in Northrend, and Alexandrine would have been glad to have a few of them at her side when she entered the Deadmines to search for the missing girl. Since that was a luxury she did not have, Alexandrine simply shrugged her shoulders and told herself not to worry about it. After all, it was only the Defias Brotherhood. Between her efforts and those of the Alliance forces, it was not like they had very many members remaining. Recruitment was difficult when your leader was lying headless at the bottom of a lake.

Despite the lack of Defias presence in Moonbrook, resistance was heavier than Alexandrine had expected within the Deadmines. While nowhere near the level it had been when she first entered the place, there were still enough enemies to provide her with a challenge. At her first chance to rest between fights, she pulled a few iron grenades from her pack and tied them to her belt, just in case things got dicey.

In the next large room, the paladin found herself face to face with several ogres, likely mercenaries hired by the Defias remnants to help shore up their numbers. She knew she would be unable to deal with so many at once with just her axe, so she let fly rockets from the launchers on her gauntlets and took down two immediately. That reduced their numbers significantly, but she was not done yet. She pulled two small devices from their places at her belt and fired them simultaneously, turning an ogre to her left into a chicken and sticking another on her right to the wall with a hooked net.

Three ogres remained, so she decided to use one more device to aid her in bringing them down. She clicked her heels together, activating the gnomish rockets in them and then kicked the air behind her, launching her at the ogres with incredible speed. One slash of her axe dispatched one of the ogres, cleaving the brute in two as she flew past. She kicked her feet in front of her, managing to kick off the wall ahead and reverse her direction. Another swipe of her axe dropped the second ogre as her boots ran out of fuel. Knowing that a landing was imminent, Alexandrine tucked her head forward and rolled, springing back to her feet, axe in hand.

She cocked her head sideways at the remaining ogre and motioned for it to attack her. Like many ogres, it did not lack for stupidity, so it charged her, roaring in anger. Unbalanced like this, it was easy to bring down.

After taking a few moments to finish off those ogres who remained, incapacitated but still breathing, Alexandrine took a moment to reflect on her situation. Even with the resources of the Deadmines, it was unwise to hire this many ogres at once. Without enough men at your disposal to dissuade them from doing anything foolish, a band of ogres this size was likely to turn on its master and take the camp for itself. Either the Defias were desperate or they had much greater numbers than Alexandrine had suspected. It did not bode well. Desperate men would do desperate things, and the other prospect was no more pleasant. She had to hope that everything would work out. It was against her nature to run unless things were intensely desperate, so she would press on.

Alexandrine reached the ship docked within the Deadmines with little further incident, only small pockets of resistance here and there. She was disquieted even further by this. Something was definitely amiss. She just could not figure out what it was. Nonetheless, she had a job to do, so she climbed up to the deck of the ship, where she and her friends had slain Edwin Van Cleef. A lone woman stood upon the ship, staring off into the darkness of the cavern.

Alexandrine recognized her immediately. “Hope!” she said. “I’ve come to rescue you. Your father sent me to bring you home.”

The girl laughed. It was a wicked sort of laugh, lacking in mirth, showing only a strange anger. “My father did no such thing. How could he? He’s dead.”

“Farmer Saldean is dead?!” Alexandrine could not control her shock at the news. The farmer had been a kind man and the world would be a sadder place without him.

“No, Saldean is still alive, but he is not my father. My father was the man you killed last time you were here.”

Alexandrine was having trouble wrapping her head around what the girl was saying. “Hope, I don’t understand,” she started to say.

“Hope? HOPE?!” the woman shouted. “Hope is a cruel joke played upon us by an uncaring world. There is no Hope, there is only Vanessa.” She tied a red handkerchief across the lower part of her face and drew two scimitars from scabbards on her belt. “You’ll die here, paladin, in the same place you killed my father!” She charged at Alexandrine, swinging wildly. The paladin parried one blade with her axe and the other with studs on the back of her gauntlet.

As the two remained face to face, with their weapons caught by the other, Alexandrine heard the sound of wood splintering as the barrels on the ship’s deck split open, revealing the ambushers within. Additional men and women surged out from inside the ship’s cargo hold, and soon she found herself surrounded by over a hundred members of the Defias Brotherhood.

“Prepare to die, paladin,” Vanessa Van Cleef spat at Alexandrine.

Alexandrine assessed the situation and decided on her only course of action. “I’m prepared for something,” she said. “But dying isn’t it.” As she spoke those last words, she let go of her axe, unbalancing the other woman who had been pushing to hold her back, and kicked the woman in the stomach, sending her flying backwards. She then grabbed two of the grenades from her belt and threw them wildly into the crowd, sending them running for cover. With a quick kick of her foot, she tossed her axe back into her hand while grabbing another device from her belt with her other hand. “This isn’t over,” she told Vanessa, who was struggling to get to her feet after being kicked so hard with metal greaves.

A quick push of a button later, Alexandrine found herself in the desert of Tanaris, just outside of Gadgetzan. She pulled her helmet from her head, allowing her blond hair to flutter in the evening breeze. She tossed the helmet on the ground and wiped the blood from her axe. No, this was not over.

It had only just begun.
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