I do not own Warcraft or any of its canon characters.
AN: So this is something that has been stuck in my head for about a week now. While this is more a setup for a longer story than a oneshot, it's not a new project I'm starting. This is the kind of story I want to read more than write.
However, I couldn't help but write a short (quick and poorly optimized) starter chapter, since the Warcraft section of FFnet seems terribly underdeveloped considering the enormous popularity of WoW. That, and Warcraft is my favorite fantasy universe, especially around the Third War era.
I don't plan on continuing and updating this story, but I would love to see someone either adopt it, or pursue a similar scenario. Considering that time travel and alternate universes are kind of canon in Warcraft, I'm really surprised there aren't more stories that delve into the great what if scenarios, especially from Warcraft 3.
Icecrown Citadel, the cold, lifeless heart of the Scourge Empire. Whether or not it could truly be called an empire, or a kingdom even though it had a king, was a topic that could be debated. What could not be debated was the power of the soulless man that sat upon his Frozen Throne at the center of it all.
Arthas Menethil, once a prince, a paladin of the Silver Hand, and a champion of Lordaeron, now a king, a death knight, and the enemy of life itself. He sat, motionless upon his icy seat, his eternal and ever faithful companion Frostmourne resting beside him.
The Lich King did not need to leave his throne to direct the battle that raged around his fortress. With the enormous force of his will, he directed legions of Scourge to defend their home in the frozen north. From lowly ghouls to mighty Frost Wyrms, tens of thousands rose to meet the threat that was upon them.
But Arthas knew, as he watched a thousand separate battles unfold through the eyes of his undead minions, that slowly, his Scourge were losing their grip on the world. The living were coming, human knights and orc warriors, elven rangers and troll skirmishers, dwarven riflemen and tauren shaman, and everyone else alongside them, assaulted his palace of death.
The fronts were closing in. The Scourge, once reaching from the Plaguelands of Lordaeron to Silverpine Forest, and to Kalimdor, with the Barrens in the south and Ashenvale in the north, had been beaten back to Northrend.
Even after the utter disaster at the Wrathgate, the Alliance, the Horde, and many other independent forces, did not relent in their advance to Icecrown. United it purpose, if nothing else, they all gathered in his realm with one goal: to kill the Lich King, and destroy the Scourge.
Among them, many that were once his own, now turning their rebellious blades against their king. The undead Forsaken, lead by the same damn banshee that had hounded him continuously for a decade, since he first reached the borders of Quel'Thalas.
The Knights of the Ebon Blade, too, spread across the invading forces, had once been his hope for a new generation of greater, more powerful death knights. They now cared nothing of their king's generosity, gladly wielding their unholy gifts against the Scourge that bore them.
He would never admit it, but Arthas could feel that the end was approaching. His seemingly numberless undead forces had thus far been unable to drive back the enemy, even under his direct command. Many of his own champions had been brought down by bold raiding parties sent by both the Alliance and Horde. One blow at a time, his Kingdom of the Damned was beginning to unravel.
It took them weeks of endless warfare all across Northrend to reach this point, but one group had finally broken through. Twenty six beings had found their way to the top of the Citadel, to his Frozen Throne. As they approached, it was clear that the Horde had won the race to the top, but would they be enough to claim the prize? Or would the prize claim them?
One, he recognized immediately. Sylvanas Windrunner; Ranger General of Silvermoon, Banshee Queen of the Forsaken, and by far his greatest mistake. In her final moments as a living elf, she demanded a clean death, telling him he wouldn't dare to raise her into undeath. But, like every other warning he he had been given before ascending to the role of Lich King, he ignored it, doing whatever he pleased. How unfortunate, that letting her die in peace would have ultimately benefited him in the long run.
Close behind her stood twenty five of the Horde's strongest, bravest, and most daring, although only eighteen were of the living. They quickly butchered Scourge forces guarding the entrance to the throne room, and assembled before him.
"You are, all of you, fools to have come here." His deep, cold voice reverberated around the room. "To seek an audience with the Lich King is to seek death itself. I welcome you to Icecrown. Your stay shall be...permanent."
Arthas drew Frostmourne from its resting place, cursed runes glowing bright, cold mist falling from the blade. The moment he stood, his Scourge minions flooded into the room. The Horde forces split into groups to engage them. That left Sylvanas, alone, to face the Lich King, as his swarm separated her from her allies. Those Scourge near her, simply ignored her. It was their king's will.
They stared at each other for a few moments. No words were exchanged between them. None were needed, as both had been waiting for this moment for the entirety of their undead lives. Once each had been at the mercy of the other, and both had wasted their opportunities by choosing drawn out suffering over the finality of a lethal blow. That mistake would not be repeated here.
Sylvanas' eyes locked onto Frostmourne, the instrument of her death, and the instrument of her rape. There was a no more fitting description for what Arthas had done to her. To be brutalized and violated so completely, so far beyond any physical act, her sharp memory of that event served as a well of infinite anger and hatred for the man standing only a few meters away.
She struck first, launching unholy Black Arrows toward the Lich King at blinding speed. It only fuelled her anger when they had no effect. The Lich King's saronite armor was far superior to the set he was wearing previously in Lordaeron. Arrows, even her enchanted and expertly aimed shots, that would have outright killed his lesser death knights, simply bounced off the plates. While there were a few weak point to be exploited, Frostmourne always seemed to be in position to protect them. Clearly, Arthas had learned from their last face to face encounter.
Seeing that the bow was pointless, she drew two elven swords, charged with the most powerful enchantments Silvermoon and Undercity could provide. Sylvanas rushed Arthas, her blades singing as they parted the cold northern air.
Arthas, despite appearing as a slow, tanky fighter covered in his heavy gear, was surprisingly agile in his defense. He parried one blade aside, and dodged the other, counterstriking against the Banshee Queen with his runeblade.
Sylvanas also dodged, repulsed by the thought of ever feeling that cursed sword again. She chained together a series of rapid strikes, most of which were swept aside by Frostmourne, while others bounced harmlessly off of the thicker armor plates.
Both being undead, many of their powers would prove ineffective in direct combat against each other. Arthas unleashed blasts of howling ice from his blade, more intent on slowing the undead woman down more than to inflict real damage.
His target, however, proved to have a solid counter in the form of the fire and anti magical enchantments on her swords, which easily dispelled that ice which was not instantly melted on contact. Their weapons flashed on every attack, as the enchantments activated every time they hit Frostmourne.
Sylvanas channeled her full fury into every strike. Pain was ignored, fear melted away, and any concern for those that followed her evaporated. Killing Arthas was all that mattered, the cost of doing so mattered not. She had fought her way to the heart of the nightmare, and had come much too far to be denied her vengeance now.
The battle raged on, a complete stalemate, both in their duel and in the melee behind them. Sylvanas could not land a good hit on Arthas, and Frostmourne had yet to taste her flesh for a second time. While the Lich King and Banshee Queen were evenly matched and equally unharmed, their weapons were faring worse.
The continuous strikes with inhuman speed and strength were wearing down the blades, even as magical as they were. All three swords began to chip under the powerful blows.
Suddenly, as she blocked a forceful downward cleave, the sword in her left hand shattered in a blinding explosion, sending out a spray of white hot metal shards. Frostmourne cracked from the release of energy stored within the sword.
Sylvanas sent forth a mighty two handed swing of her own with her remaining weapon, but Arthas was just barely fast enough to intercept it. This time, however, it proved to be too much. Both swords exploded, the Queen's failing under the physical strain, and the King's from the power of thousands of stolen souls forcing their way out of their prison through the newly formed cracks.
Time seemed to slow down as the glowing shards flew out from the point of impact, moving ever more sluggishly through the air with each fraction of a second. Their perception of the world began to fade as the slowdown continued. Finally, eight full seconds later, it all faded to white.
Sylvanas Windrunner began to awaken, slowly, as the world seemed to fade back in from a field of white nothingness. Time had moved since that fateful moment before the Frozen Throne, but had it been seconds or centuries? She could not tell. But there was something wrong that immediately began setting off alarms in her mind: She was in bed.
She had woken up in a bed, something the Banshee Queen had very little use for. Not only that, it was a warm, soft bed, covered in sheets of beautiful silk. The air was fresh and crisp, the scent of death and decay nowhere to be found. Wherever she was, it was nowhere near Icecrown Citadel.
But even more than the strange messages her senses were delivering, was the magical sensation. Sylvanas could only feel one thing: the gentle, warm, unmistakable glow of the Sunwell. There was no trace of the cocktail of unholy energies that sustained and empowered her undead body and spirit. A quick, instinctive check, revealed that she still held her dark powers, although they felt diminished, and harder to call forth.
As she moved to get out of the bed, Sylvanas froze, utterly paralyzed by a few details so unbelievable that she failed to notice them before. Her skin was...wrong. No longer cold and deathly pale, her hand was warm, living. She stared at it for almost a minute, desperately trying to rationalize what she was experiencing, but failing to come up with any rational explanation.
Slowly, carefully, as if it were an illusion that could shatter at the finest touch, the elf confirmed what her senses were telling her. Her warm skin, complexion, rapid heartbeat, and flowing golden hair all combined to impart a new reality upon her.
Sylvanas Windrunner, somehow, by means she could not even begin to fathom, was once again a living High Elf.
She looked around the room, finding it to be a perfect re creation of her chambers in Windrunner Spire. At least as perfect as her memory could tell. She got out of bed still in a daze, having difficulty believing any of this was real.
As she went over to a nearby rack, to dress in her old ranger leathers and arm herself with the familiar weapons beside them, she was drawn back to how clean everything was. Windrunner Spire was located deep in southern Quel'Thalas, what had become the Ghostlands after the Scourge invasion. So why was there no trace of it? She should have been able to at least sense the lingering spirits and undead in the area.
Her time as Ranger General came back to her as she geared up with practiced efficiency. Everything was going smoothly until she saw her reflection in the mirror to her left. In that moment, she was certain that her beautiful, living body was not an illusion. It was just too real to be hallucinated, and even if it were a magical effect, it would never be so perfect. Tears began to pour from her eyes, and she nearly collapsed as it hit her. The nightmare was finally over, and it had ended in a way she had never believed to be possible. Sylvanas spent what felt like hours, just staring at herself in that mirror, crying until there were no more tears to give.
After wiping the tears from her cheeks, she caught a glimpse of a calendar on the wall, and felt a familiar chill of fear down her spine. It was wrong, it had to be. Otherwise she had woken up just over ten years in the past...eight months before the onslaught of the Scourge. That, as crazy as it sounded, explained everything. It all made perfect sense if she were in Quel'Thalas as it were before the Third War.
Suddenly, Sylvanas felt a surge of new purpose. The why of the situation suddenly felt irrelevant before the prospect of facing such impossible odds yet again. The drive to save her people and her homeland, which had only grown stronger in undeath, now overpowered everything else. The questions could wait.
She went over to the desk, and began writing. It was a hit list, of every name she could remember that had a hand in the Scourge invasion, both here and in Lordaeron. Within a few minutes, she had at least thirty names that needed to folded the paper, stuffing it into a pocket, before grabbing her weapons and making for the door, silently praying to anything that would listen that this was not a dream.
Death was coming to claim the home of the High Elves. But Sylvanas Windrunner knew death, she knew the Scourge, and they were not prepared for this Forsaken Ranger General.
For the Arthas, the experience was not quite as pleasant. Sylvanas's spirit had been corrupted by Frostmourne to produce the Banshee Queen, but even as twisted as it had become, she still retained it in undeath. Arthas, however, had completely lost his soul; taken in by Frostmourne the moment he freed the runeblade from its icy prison in Northrend.
With Frostmourne destroyed, his soul had escaped, no longer bound to the blade or to the Lich King. Arthas Menethil felt himself slowly returning to being. This process was sped up considerably as his semi conscious mind processed the fact that his eyes had a clear view of an orc swinging an axe at his face.
He instinctively brought up his left hand, ready to blast his attacker with a powerful Death Coil. Unfortunately, nothing happened. There was no unholy power to be felt. He reached for Frostmourne, only to discover the hard way his hands were not holding a sword, but a hammer.
Even older muscle memory reactivated under a surge of adrenaline, and Arthas evaded the axe blade before delivering a bone crunching counter smash. A moment after the orc was down, critically wounded by the hit, that he finally recognized his weapon as Light's Vengeance. He almost recoiled at the thought of holding this holy weapon once more. As last he remembered, it was still lying abandoned before Frostmourne's pedestal in Northrend.
He dropped the heavy hammer and picked up the orc's axe, finding it to be nearly a third the weight, just in time for three more orcs to charge him. It wasn't Frostmourne, or even a sword, but it let him fight more like he had gotten used to over the last ten years. Other death knights under his command had shown a preference for axes, and he had seen much from his connection to them. It may not have been able to devour their souls, but it would do just fine for rending living flesh from bone.
Still not yet completely awake or coherent, Arthas fell into the familiarity of combat. He did not even know where he was, who the orcs were, or why his powers refused to answer his will. For the moment, he was just a man with a weapon and a simple objective: Kill the enemy.
Acting as if he were slow and encumbered, he met the enemy head on, only to swiftly evade the first incoming swing of a spiked mace, and remove the attacking orc's right leg with a downward chop, blood pouring from the amputation.
He continued the momentum, almost as if it were still a hammer he were wielding, and disarmed the second orc with an uppercut strike against his own smaller axe before smashing him in the face with the iron capped pommel.
As the second orc fell back bleeding from having the bones in his face broken, and likely fatal brain damage, Arthas was forced to parry the third's attack. He grappled with the orc before he could swing again, knocking their insignificant weapons away and unleashing his pent up rage in the form of plate armored fists.
He knocked the orc to the ground with strength almost inhuman, smashing the green skinned attacker. Arthas was furious. At Sylvanas, at the failings of his Scourge, at the Burning Legion, and even at himself. It was inexcusable that he, the ruler of the damned, could not stop one pissed off banshee and an amalgamation of forces that would otherwise be at each other's' throats. He punched and punched until the orc's head was reduced to a pile of bone, blood, and brain matter.
But that was all in the past.
Arthas finally realized, as he stopped hitting the long dead orc, that he was once again in a living human body; his living human body.
He looked around, and discovered that he had been in the middle of a larger battle. Orcs and humans lay dead around him, many more than the few he had just defeated. His eyes identified the orcs as the Blackrock Clan, and the humans as soldiers of Lordaeron.
Then there was the smell of the battle. All of the blood and death surrounding him was fresh. There was no scent of rotting flesh, no symptoms of the plague on the land, no signs at all of undeath in the area.
Strahnbrad...yes it was all coming back to him now. This was where his descent into damnation had begun. It was after a few battles with the orcs that began here, in which he would find the first evidence of the Plague of Undeath and Kel'Thuzad. He had somehow returned to the beginning, an effect caused by Frostmourne? Or perhaps it was some secret plan of Ner'zhul enchanted into the armor as a means to escape destruction?
Arthas may not have been the Lich King anymore, he had his soul back, but he remembered his time in the blade, and every moment of the Lich King's rise and fall. Much had changed, but so too did much remain the same. He was once again the man that butchered the people of Stratholme, burned the ships, and left Muradin behind in his quest for vengeance.
Regardless of what actually happened in Icecrown, he was no longer the young, eager paladin that had first arrived here over ten years prior. He was Arthas, fallen prince of Lordaeron, that had gladly taken up the cursed blade in his quest for power to do what he believed to be right.
Was it time travel? An alternate timeline entirely? He had heard whispers of a place called the Caverns of Time from members of the Cult of the Damned. And also of the Bronze Dragonflight. As the possibilities began to swirl in his mind, he picked up his discarded hammer, ready to rewrite the fate of Lordaeron, of the Scourge, and of Azeroth itself.