Silent Ice, Raging Fire (Part I)

Afternoon folks…

I’ve got a little series coming up that I’d like to share. It isn’t a blog on a specific subject, but one of my own writings that I thought I’d toss out there. Maybe let you all get a feel for it, and even toss around some editorial comments.

The story is called “Silent Ice, Raging Fire.” It is a compilation of the life of my World of Warcraft Paladin, between the expansions of Wrath of the Lich King and the Cataclysm. It has a couple of twists and turns, and even a little love story attached.

It is a pretty rough draft. I’ve only gone over it a couple times, and made changes here and there, but haven’t really proofread it fully yet. I’m pretty sure that the chronology should be in place, but any comments are welcome.

We’ll start it, after the break…

Silent Ice, Raging Fire
From the point of view of Crusader Khraden Lionbearer, Knight of the Argent Crusade
(D.B. Watts)

Many of the fields of Northrend were quiet. The majestic imperial eagles glided gently over the Grizzly Hills, unhindered by dark hunters from Silverbrook, or the minions of the now fallen Death Knight Lord Drakuru. The mighty Ursoc was again laid to rest, redeemed of his corruption by the Old God Yogg-Saron. Fortunately, Amberpine Lodge has withstood much of the strife in the area. This is where I had set up camp this evening, preparing for my journey to Valiance Keep over the next few days.

I quietly watched the sun rise in the morning, if not by instinct, then by habit. This past year had been very demanding, and the last month since the Lich King’s fall has been one of reflection. Reflection on those lost during what was thought to be an unwinnable war; reflection on the alliances built, and those that were broken. It was also a time to reflect on family, as I would finally be granted leave and return to Stormwind.

An icy breeze blew through the trees, a feeling that I had grown accustomed to. I packed up my wares and poured my unfinished cup of fresh Honeymint Tea, having tasted like the dew off the mountain flora, on the now glowing embers of my campfire. I tightened the straps on my plate shoulders, expecting a long ride ahead of me. Slinging my rucksack over my shoulder I let out a shrill whistle. From the woods behind me trotted a favored companion of mine. Nóttbana, my most trusted steed, now armored in the colors of the Argent Crusade instead of his normal polished gold, marched from behind the inn, nuzzling softly against my shoulder. He had been a faithful partner during my expedition here in Northrend. His name meant “night slayer” in the ancient language of the Vyrkul, ever so appropriate for the task that we had been sent here to complete.

I quickly climbed atop Nóttbana and began my trek to the southwest, veering through fallen pines and long abandoned campsites, crossing into the more frigid wastes of the Dragonblight. Naxxramus still loomed over the Carrion Fields, though now having lost most of its power and presence since the slaughtering of its master Kel’Thuzad. We followed the outskirts of the area in order to not draw much attention from the still roaming ghouls and geists that dotted the landscape. The 7th Legion has done a very good job of cleaning up the outer villages of Winterguarde Keep, so I decided to make my way through there to pick up a few supplies, as well to say a few goodbyes to comrades there. I made my way up to the inn, tying Nóttbana’s reins to the nearby fencing. I hoped to just get a few more skins of water to restock my supply.

Sitting just inside, alone at a table in the corner, sat a young, well by dwarven standards, hunter. At his side slept a drab, black lion, lying ever so comfortably near the hearth, a very rare sight to be held. Focused on the task at hand, I had not noticed him watching me as I removed my helmet and approached the bartender. I made my purchase, thanking the lady, and made my way back to the door.

“Jus’ like a paladin…” the hunter said.

There were no other patrons in the room, let alone other paladins, so I turned.

“What, praytell, do you mean?” I replied.

“Water? Aye, e’en meh lion here drinks a bit more stout than that,” he said.

“I’ve done my share, but there is no need for a flagon on mead when I plan to be fighting seasickness,” I replied a bit more stern than I had planned.

“Seasickness, eh?” he replied.

“Aye, but the details are of no interest of yours,” I retorted.

“No offense ta ye, Crusader. I am onlae ‘ere to provide you with a message… from somebodae’ you may not ‘o seen in a while,” he responded, unhindered by my stern demeanor.

My features turned from that of one who hoped to quietly journey to my destination, to a very inquisitive raise of an eyebrow towards the young dwarf.

“That I may not have seen? What might you be getting at?” I questioned.

“I been tasked to track eh certain member ‘o the Ebon Blade, a Death Knight ta be certain,” he answered. “an be’en noticin’ that he ‘peers to be trackin’ someone hi’self.”

Not being daft, I assumed that he was speaking of me as the aforementioned target. “I assume it is I that is being followed.”

“Aye, I been apparen’ly followin’ both of ya for nearlae a month now,” the dwarf quickly replied. “He had a message for ya, left it in a note ‘ere.” The dwarf fumbled around under his vest, looking for the said note.

“I’ll be glad ta be gettin’ rid ‘o this, ne’er really trusted those, Death Knights, but he paid well.”

I took the note from the dwarf, taking note of the crimson stains upon the lower edge. A foreboding aura seemed to emit from the parchment itself, likely part of the reason that the dwarf was ready to be rid of the note. Neatly printed in black ink, a lurid, tenebrous black, that seemed to pull the reader in, was a very abrupt, concise missive.

“Stormwind, Blue Recluse. Ne me inveniet vos. Finem apropinquat.
– Fratres usque ad finem”

A bit taken aback by the directness of the passage, I blinked, and folded the note along its original crease.

“I appreciate you delivering this to me, dwarf, I apologize if it may have brought you any trouble,” I stated with a sigh.

“Tis not a big deal, lad. I have a feelin’ we’ll be seein’ each o’er ag’in. The names, Ironshot… Hennesay Ironshot, and I prefers mah brew on the heav’eh side, aye?” the dwarf replied. “I’ll nah hold ya up an’eh longer.”

“Thank you again, master dwarf, I’ll be sure to keep an eye out for you in any future encounters. Let’s hope, that they may be in better situations,” I said, gathering my recent purchase, and placing the dark missive within the pages of my Holy Libram. I was not normally superstitious, but something gave me the feeling, that the note would be better kept where the Light could best protect it.

As I left the inn, I noted as Hennesay waved a regular farewell my direction, and peered back at his mug of ale. I had come to notice when things were bothering people, and it seemed to happen more often than not these days. Possibly it was the stress of the battle with the Lich King, or even realization that life here in the frozen north is finally winding down for many. Either way, I felt that something was still on Hennesay’s mind, though I had only met him.

Despite my concerns I had a fairly long journey ahead, and needed to concentrate. I walked away from the inn, towards my ever faithful steed, and tied my newly acquired supplies to the rucksack already strapped to Nóttbana’s back. I gently untied the reins and climbed atop, pulling out a very worn and heavily used map once comfortably in the saddle. After a quick scan of the document to get my bearings, we headed west towards the Dragonspine Tributary and onwards towards the Wyrmrest Temple.

***

After traveling for what seemed like hours through the winding paths to the south of the Grizzly Hills, we had finally arrived upon the snowy hills of the Dragonblight, just crossing the Dragonspine Tributary. Leaving Nóttbana to rest and drink from the brook, I climbed the hills surrounding the south edge. I was able to see the temple looming in the distance, just beyond the mountains surrounding Wintergarde Keep. The temple’s stone columns climbed ever higher into the mostly overcast sky, circling in upon itself and eventually reaching a precipice where Alexstrasza and her fellow aspects held council beneath a glowing orb. It had become unusually quiet around the Wyrmrest Temple since the death of Malygos, the Aspect of Magic. Where once an ongoing battle between red and blue dragons occurred, there was now only a few patrols of Crimson Defenders and red and green drakes. I watched as the sun moved behind another bank of clouds, and decided that I would need to move on and at least reach the area surrounding the massive structure before the shadows began to stretch across the white powdery hills.

Seeming refreshed, I climbed back atop Nóttbana, and scouted for a less steep incline. Finding an appropriate grade, I headed south reaching a worn trail through snow covered trees. I had to be cautious though. Along this path was the Horde encampment known as Venomspite. Despite their willingness to assist in removing the Lich King from Icecrown, the ties between the Alliance and Horde were still tenuous, and a lone Paladin would be an easy target. With this in mind, I tugged at Nóttbana’s reins, leading us further south away from the beaten trail and towards the Forgotten Coast.

It was along this coast that Prince Arthas had first showed signs of the madness that was beginning to seethe within him. It was here that mercenaries were ordered to destroy the very ships that would have guaranteed safe return to Lordaeron. It was here, that young Muradin Bronzebeard noticed what the newly discovered Frostmourne was doing to the once stalwart prince. However, I had been part of a small contingent of Paladins who were ordered to lay the wary spirits to rest. Because of this, the dark murky waters here did not strike fear in me. Rather, it provided me solace that those who were once restless here were now content thanks to the power of the Light, and the peace and completion it brought to those spirits. Despite the rotting ships, slowly sinking ever further into the murky waters, there was a sense of calm here.

Crossing these rocky shores took a little longer than the clear open path to the north, but I did not want to chance an encounter with any of the Forsaken within Venomspite. I had faced enough ordeals over the past year to realize that the seemingly calm atmosphere was little more than a temporary cease fire between the Alliance and Horde. Because of this, I would rather journey in relative peace… to finally go home. After nearly an hour’s travel, I had reached the edge of the Forgotten Shore, and was beyond the gaze of the Forsaken guards of Venomspite. Though I had avoided one conflict, I still had the chance of another. Pushing Nóttbana into a gallop, now that the paths had leveled a bit, I looked to my west, spying the red cathedral of New Hearthglen rising over the treetops. This was once a stronghold of the Scarlet Onslaught. It was the epitome of zealotry in spite of reason. Here, I had accompanied a small band of crusaders to remove High General Brigitte Abbendis from her position of power. She now lay dead on the floor of the cathedral, not only because of our actions, but also the betrayal of her commanding officer Admiral Barean Westwind, later discovered to be Mal’Ganis himself. The lives lost because of the Scarlet Crusade, and the Scarlet Onslaught, were all orchestrated by Mal’Ganis and his dark companions within the Burning Legion. With a small remnant of the overzealous army remaining at New Hearthglen, I felt it would be best that we made haste to the north, and reach the Wyrmrest Temple quickly. Snow and dirt were tossed recklessly into the air, as Nóttbana galloped fiercely through the frosted trail, startling a few unsuspecting elk as we passed.

I continued northwest, onto the more open hills around the Wyrmrest Temple, only then noticing that even the local mammoths had seemed to be more scattered than usual. The normal herds, due of the constant hunting from local magnataur, usually travel in small groupings, attempting to at least protect the young from the violent creatures. However, as I crested another hill, I spotted a few young mammoth alone, nearly 50 yards apart from each, with no adult mammoths to guide them. I found this highly unusual, and left me unsure of why or how they were separated from the ever watchful herd. Even the magnataur seemed to be in smaller numbers.

I was soon to find out as the ground began to shake beneath Nóttbana’s hooves, shifting me on the saddle in the process. The tremor caused the young mammoths to scatter even more, fear clearly visible in their large deep eyes. Nóttbana began to slow from his fierce gallop to nearly a stop, startled by the sudden movement. But as quickly as the tremor had begun, it subsided. I swiftly took this opportunity to finish the trek to the Wyrmrest Temple, only hesitating a moment to clear my mind of the sight of the lost mammoth calfs.

Nóttbana and I reached the Wyrmrest Temple, just before twilight. The shadows of the massive structure stretched deep into the forests surrounding the Dragonblight. I climbed down off of my faithful steed, undoing the straps holding the knapsack to his back, and handed the reins to Risera, a green dragon in her human guise. Patting him on the neck, I whispered, “See you soon, old friend.”

Risera smiled, “do not worry paladin, we will take good care of him.” She then walked toward one of her assistants, handing the reins to him, and instructing him to stable Nóttbana until a transport could bring him to Unu’pe during mid-week. It would be then that I would meet up with him again, and we could finish our journey to Valiance Keep, and then home.

Satisfied that Nóttbana would be in good hands, I made my way into the solemn structure, approaching Demestrasza, a red dragon, and “innkeeper” here on the temple grounds. After a few minutes of her providing me with directions to where I would be staying this evening, I thanked her, and took a spiraling staircase to one of the many levels within the sprawling tower.

Since there was no true “inn” here at the Wyrmrest Temple, the great dragons had created several landings on the mid-levels of the structure to accommodate the travelers, adventurers, and warriors who would assist them in their fight with not only the rogue aspect Malygos, but the Lich King himself. Each of these landings would provide the essentials: food, water, warmth, and a shelter from the elements; however, the rest was up to those who wished to stay.

I reached into the frostweave knapsack that I had brought with me, pulling out a makeshift cot that consisted mostly of burlap, leather, and intensely scrubbed and cleaned yeti fur. Setting it on the floor, I also began to unlatch most of my plate armor, my body relieved when some of the heavier pieces were set aside. I sat down, with a bit of a clank, as I had left my plated cassock on. Though the Lich King was gone, there were still dangers, and I hoped to be ever prepared. I finally had a chance to rest, and gather my thoughts before the arduous trip across the Great Sea. Home, home to finally see my wife Jessilyn and my son Benjamin. I had barely been able to hold my newest son Arthur in my arms but a week, before I was called upon by the Argent Crusade to march on Icecrown. Letters could only relieve an aching heart for so long.

Thinking of home, however, reminded me of another task that I would have to perform upon reaching the shores of the Eastern Kingdoms. I picked up my Holy Libram, turning the pages until I had found that stained parchment handed to me by the young hunter at Winterguarde. A chill raised the hair on my arms and neck as I read over the missive again. Now that I was able to truly examine the document, I began to realize the language being used. It was an ancient script, one used by Darian Morgraine after his sacrifice and subsequent corruption during the events caused by his own brother. It was a dark and forbidden language. Touching the page, with unprotected hands, nearly threw me back, leaving a metallic taste in my mouth. There was something inherently malevolent about this note, but something, a feeling deep inside me, also lead me to believe that it would not do harm.

I could not translate what was said though. Not with my limited linguistic skills. Somebody here could, though. I stood, bringing only my libram and my sword with me; I made my way further up the twisted halls of the temple. I eventually reached a landing facing the outside of the structure, looking out towards the Bronze Dragonshrine and mountains to the east. It was here that I would find Lord Afrasastrasz, commander of the Wyrmrest Temple Defenses, overlooking the landscape in his heavily plated human form. In my recent ventures I had worked with him, and his draconic soldiers, to defend the temple from the azure dragons that had attacked these hallowed grounds. I was far from a close relationship with the dragon, but we knew of each other. Being a dragon, he did not require as much sleep as us mortals, so despite the hour, he was aware of my presence.

Without even turning around he spoke directly, “can I help you, young paladin.”

“Yes, milord,” I replied reverently, slightly bowing my head for a moment, as not to be disrespectful. “It would be of great assistance to me, if you may be able to request a meeting with Master Krasus. I have a question pertaining to an ancient language, and felt he would be the best to ask.”

“You do realize that I am not one to perform such menial administrative tasks, don’t you?” the dragon shot back, still having not turned his head. “Though, with your history in assisting the Accord, I will help you, though not as you are wishing. Please take one of our young drakes, she will bring you to the precipice of the Wyrmrest Temple, where you may be able to request assistance directly.” He turned, finally facing me, with a bit of a smirk on his humanoid face.

((((( End Part I, Part II – V coming soon )))))

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