Silent Ice, Raging Fire (Part III)

Sorry for the delay, but here we pick up with Khraden’s revalation.

((( Continued )))

I brushed my hands through my hair, stopping once my palm had reached my forehead. Memories began to flood my mind, long lost, and yet regretful memories. I could not let the emotions welling up inside be released here though. Calming myself via the very meditation taught to me during my training to become a paladin, I turned to my new friend, and reached an appreciative hand out. He grasped it back, and shook it with a tight grip.

“I do not know how I can thank you for what you have done. I have little with me, but I must repay you in some way, what you have done may very well change my future,” I said, continuing to pull back any emotion. “Please, if you are ever in need of a strong arm, or anything that I may be able to provide, do not hesitate to contact me.”

“Ah, it was nothin’ my friend, if you don’t mind me considering you a friend. It’s what we do. Besides bein’ a gnome, I am a mage, we are keepers of knowledge, it’s our job to use our skills for the good of the Alliance, and you, are part of that Alliance,” he responded, very upbeat.

Releasing my grip from the handshake, I quickly stood up from the table, bowed, and then saluted Midnight Maxsprocket. “It was an honor working with you my friend. Please come to Stormwind when you get a chance, I’d be more than happy to at least buy you a drink, nigh, a whole meal for what you have done. It is with that though, that I must bid you farewell, I have a feeling that there is much to do in my near future.” With that, I turned, and returned to my scant quarters and gathered my things once again, leaving out only what I needed to sleep that night. I had a feeling that I would not be sleeping much though.

That night, my mind raced. Memories of a day, some twenty-five years ago, when Khrados, my twin brother, had gone missing, began to come back to me. It had been so long, yet they felt as if they had only just happened. The sounds of my mother’s crying, and sight my father’s silent anguish echoed in my mind. My brother and I were a mere five or six years of age, and our family still lived in the Hillsbrad Foothills. Warnings of the approach of the now obvious undead plague had not yet reached the area; however, Lordaeron was already gathering battle worthy troops, including my father. It was only a week after he had left to meet up with the garrison outside Stromguarde that my brother had run away late one evening, just after twilight. He left a roughly scribbled note, the best a young child really could do, stating that he was leaving to find our father, and to help him fight. The next morning, my mother and I had searched what had to have been a full day before sending a messenger to Southshore in search of Khrados. Within a week, my father had returned before his official deployment, having been given word of his son’s disappearance. He vowed to continue the search while he was deployed, looking where we could not. He returned, however, the next year with no evidence of Khrados’s whereabouts. We feared the worst.

A little over a decade later, little more than a memory and a sense of loss lingered. My father was again being called upon so serve with the army of Lordaeron. The Undead plague had risen its ugly head and made itself known to the Eastern Kingdoms. The whispers of the Lich King and the Cult of the Damned had begun to spread among the populace. Our lives were soon to change, and not for the better. I had since begun to train as a warrior, following in my father’s footsteps. As the plague began to move further south, reaching the edges of Tarren Mill and creeping ever closer to our very home, the decision was made to move my mother to safety in nearby Dalaran. It was then that I too joined the ranks of Lordaeron’s finest to stave off the encroaching enemy. Within a year, memories were about all we had left.

Since then I had begun my training with the Knights of the Silver Hand, and had found my calling as a paladin, only questioning it once when I last saw my father escaping a horde of undead in Andorhol. My mother and I still wonder what became of him as well. Our once happy family was now splintered and separated. After being reunited with my mother in Northrend, upon discovering her survival of the destruction of the original kingdom of Dalaran, we had made a vow to watch out for each other’s well being from then on.

But now, knowing that my brother had survived, somehow, some way, I had finally let my emotions take over, and wept myself to sleep within the great halls of Wyrmrest Temple.

š***›

The light of dawn had begun to peek over the watery horizon, splashing bright rays onto the powdery white snow below. I woke up this morning emotionally drained, but refreshed. My mood only brightened more after a light breakfast of helboar bacon and plainstrider eggs alongside my new acquaintance and friend Midnight Maxsprocket. I again, deeply thanked him for his assistance.

This evening, the Kraken would be arriving at Valiance Keep, so time was of the essence. I had sent word two days ago, that I would be in need of transportation to Moa’ki Harbor to the southwest. I had made my way to the lower level of the tower, finding Risera tending to the many pets, companions, and mounts of the attending travelers. I was pleasantly surprised to see, standing behind her, one of my most trusted gryphons, Eos. She stood majestically upon her dark muscular feline hind legs, meeting seamlessly with her vibrant, white feathery plumage, leading to sturdy blackish-blue claws, glistening in the morning sunlight. Upon her crest was a deep blue plate of armor, trimmed with gold and held in place with thick leather straps. Her chest protected by a solid plate of mithril, embellished with blue and gold scrollwork.

Smiling, she turned around to face me, handing me the reins. “I was told, you would be in need of a ride, and I hope that this old friend will suffice.”

“It has been a long time since I had seen her; I had gotten so used to traveling by ground. Thank you Risera,” I bowed, and took grasp of the reins. I reached up and patted Eos’s neck, her feathers soft to the touch, but stiff in form. Seeing her watch me as I moved towards the saddle upon her back, blinking every so often, I seemed to be able to tell that she recognized me. Climbing upon the saddle, she shuffled only slightly, possibly not expecting the weight of my recently acquired armor. Once situated, she straightened again, learning the balance of my weight upon her back. With this, I let out two quick whistles, and she began to stretch her majestic wings and begin to flap them, lifting us from the ground. Looking back down towards Risera, I saluted her, and thanked her again for her assistance.

Gaining my bearings from the surrounding landscape, now many yards below us, I pulled on the reins slightly, guiding Eos to the southwest, towards Moa’ki Harbor. We flew for nearly two hours, what would have taken my at least half a day by ground, and reached the harbor by noon. We landed lightly on the dusty ground, only small patches of snow visible due to the high traffic of the village. I reached around, patting Eos on the neck again. She had done very well, and I did not want to overburden her by travelling the entire distance. I dismounted, stroking the long feathers along her wings. I released a long gentle whistle, and whispered to her to continue on to Valiance Keep, where I would join her with Nóttbana to make our trip home. I patted her beak and waved my arm, suddenly she was again aloft, headed further west.

Being only one amongst a crowd of travelers and Tuskarr, I quietly made my way towards Dockmaster Agloolik, standing near the Walker of Waves, already waiting at the docks. The Walker of Waves is a giant sea turtle, nearly the size of several homes, which has been tamed by the Tuskarr, and assists in traveling the frigid waters off of Northrend. Standing in queue, awaiting instruction to board the great turtle, I again felt the strangle rumbling beneath my feet. It did not seem as strong as it was back at Wyrmrest Temple, but noticeable enough. It appeared that I was not the only one who noticed it either. A few Tuskarr, huddled their children into their huts, a worried look upon their faces. The Tuskarr were a superstitious but very spiritual people, and unusual rumblings, be they physical or simply stories, never tided well with them.

I watched as the great Walker of Waves rocked slightly in the water, a slightly panicked look in its massive eyes. The “captain,” however, was able to calm the great beast, allowing more to board. It took nearly half an hour, but I was finally onboard and settled onto one of the supply crates situated near the back of the turtle’s mighty shell. I was never one to travel by water, so the ride was uneasy and slightly uncomfortable. The only thing preventing me from losing my breakfast was the thoughts beginning to flow through my mind again.

I had finally come to believe, wholeheartedly, that Khrados was alive; but what bothered me, was the language in which the missive was written, as well as what it said. Such a language was only known to be used by those of the Cult of the Damned, or those who had succumbed to the Lich King’s will and had become Death Knights. This meeting could either be a trap, or possibly something worse, yet I did not let my mind delve that deep into what being worse could incur. What did he mean by “the end nears?” Why such a secretive meeting, and why now? What could be so dire, and even so, what could I do to stop it? The questions continued to batter my mind, one after another. The clang of a bell, signaling that we had arrived at Unu’pe, was the only thing that could rouse me from my reverie.

I quickly disembarked from the giant turtle, and asked a nearby worker where I may be able to find the village stable. Nagojut, the vendor onboard the Walker of Waves had disembarked with me, and pointed to the east side of town, where I could find Trapper Saghani. Bowing, and thanking him, I headed in that general direction. Reaching the small stable, made mostly of whale bones and stretched pelts, I found Trapper Saghani. Again, as customary with the Tuskarr, I bowed again, rising to speak, “I have come to retrieve Nóttbana, we are to make our way towards Valiance Keep before The Kraken arrives this evening.”

Clearing his throat, his briskly whiskers shuffling slightly, he replied in a deep throaty voice, “Of course, young human, *harrmmpph* he should be calmed by now.”

“Calmed, what do you mean? Was there trouble during his trip here?” I asked, truly worried of the condition of my steed.

“Kind of,” clearing his throat again, as he moved towards the back of the stable where Nóttbana was being kept. “While on his way here, the earth began to shake, startling several of the mounts who were to join him. Of course, ol’ Nóttbana here, seemed to be a bit calmer than the rest, but was still startled by the ground-shake. We have felt them more lately, I do not like it,” he said, getting quieter as the finished the sentence. “Here you go, human, he may still be a little skittish, but looks to be a good, honorable steed, you should have no problem.”

I took the reins from the stout Tuskarr, thanking him, and providing a few gold pieces for his service. I looked into the eyes of Nóttbana, and could see that he was still not completely at ease, but I believe that my presence was helping the situation. Climbing atop, a bit slower than usual, I settled myself into the saddle. We were finally on the final leg of this journey through Northrend and I hoped that it would be uneventful. Pushing Nóttbana into a gallop, we quickly scaled the hill leaving Unu’pe. Just on the outskirts of the small village lay what was called The Flood Plains, and just to their north the Steam Fields. Borean Tundra had a much different feel than the rest of Northrend. It almost seemed like spring was trying to force its way onto this continent of endless winter, only to be trapped by the surrounding mountain ranges. Fortunately, the wildlife was, for the most part, tame along the path to Valiance Keep. Outside of the distant cousins of the dreaded murlocs known as “oracles,” the fauna consisted mostly of elk and mammoths that would normally give you no harm, as long as you provided the same.

We continued west, taking the path on a more southerly direction once we reached the druidic D.E.H.T.A. encampment. After about another hour of travel, we had finally reached the Sands of Nasam, the plagued beach that surrounded Valiance Keep. It was here that our Alliance allies first encountered an army of the Lich King’s cursed Nerubian minions. Surrounding the grey beach were a series of tunnels, guarded by both Nerubians and members of the Cult of the Damned. The Alliance did not stand down, however, and has battled these dark beasts for nearly a year now. I remember upon my first arrival on this side of the continent, providing support in an effort to close these tunnel systems, preventing the undead reinforcements from overrunning the keep. It was a successful endeavor, and lead to a slightly more secure path through the Sands, and into the embattlement itself. I could only hope that it was still the case.

Other than the countless amounts of Nerubian corpses rotting or being burned along the inner coastline, the path seemed mostly clear. A few skirmishes near the entrance to the Sands, between the skittering spider like creatures and a few Valiance Keep guards sent the sounds of the clashing of metal and carapace into the air. Though I was in a rush to complete my journey, the sun was still breaking through the towers of the keep, and I knew that I would have time to assist the guards. There was no need to lose life to minions of the Lich King, now that their master had been vanquished.

I tugged the reins abruptly to steer Nóttbana towards the fight. Holding the straps in one hand, I pulled my shield from my back, gripping it tightly against my left arm. Lifting my foot from the stirrup and balancing it on the saddle, I gave a quick whistle, pushing Nóttbana into a strong gallop, headed directly towards one of the Nerubian casters. Once I was a few yards away, I tapped my other foot, still placed loosely in the stirrup against Nóttbana’s side, and leapt from his back. Nóttbana continued along his path, directly towards the arachnid creature, lowering his head so that the embellished spikes on his armor could easily pierce the target. He slammed head on into the caster, sending it flying a few yards away. Seemingly not fazed by the collision, Nóttbana slowed to a trot, and turned back in my direction. As this all happened, I had pulled my shield around to cover my chest. Calling upon the powers of the Light, I emblazoned the shield with Holy power, letting it slam into the other much larger Nerubian currently in melee combat with the two Valiance Keep guards. Falling into the creature, I used its body to cushion the landing, and rolled off the other side. A mind shattering screech was released from the injured Nerubians, startling the two guards, but only enticing my continued pressure. Turning to face the now “kneeling” beast, I again called upon the Light, releasing Holy wrath in every direction, striking both of the creatures. Nóttbana had since reached my location, and I watched just beyond him as the Light burned into the carapace of the less armored caster Nerubian, and saw little more than a twitch as its body seemingly disintegrated before us. Knowing that one target had been dispatched, I now focused my attention on the other, more heavily armored Nerubian. The beast had been stunned by the Holy power that had struck it; the massive creature did little to avoid my next attack. I plunged my enchanted blade into its exposed underbelly, releasing it from its incapacitated state. Seething with anger, the creature swung madly with its massive fore claws attempting desperately to exact revenge. Dodging each swing, only being struck once by a glancing attack, and quickly sealing the wound with my training in the Light, I continued to strike the creature. Looking back towards the two guards who had finally gotten over the surprise of my sudden arrival, I tilted my head towards the Nerubian, indicating that they should attack, while I had its attention. Recognizing the motion, they both drew their swords and jumped onto its back stabbing deep into any open area they could find. With a final screech, the massive creature crumpled to the ground with an audible thud, a cloud of sand and dust rising from its final resting place.

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