Warcraft (c) Activision Blizzard
No Rest For The Wicked
Bets and Legacies
A bargain was struck atop the summit of Acherus, and preparations were already underway. The Knights of the Ebon Blade were being recalled from every corner of Northrend and beyond as the necropolis made its journey to the frozen north. There, it hung above Icecrown Citadel. Like bees returning to their hive, bone griffons and frostbrood dragons were making steady runs back and forth between the Ebon Hold and its various outposts across the continent, ferrying the last remaining Death Knights under Archerus' banner home.
Lady Alistra and Lord Thorval were the ones assigned the task of coordinating the relocation and recovery efforts while the Highlord was attending to a sensitive matter of his own. Though the true nature of his departure was already known. After the Lich King's audience, Highlord Mograine had retreated to the sanctuary of his chambers, demanding that no one disturb him but eagle-eyed Knights and novitiates spotted the robes of the Ebon Watcher departing Acherus through a Death Gate.
In the Highlord's place, the master of the Unholy arts, Lady Alistra and the Lord of Blood Thorval had assumed the administrative duties and tasks required to handle the current undertaking.
"The Lich King wants to name one of us his Champion and Hand." Lady Alistra mused out loud for the fourth time in as many minutes, attempting to prompt some form of conversation from her Blood trainer contemporary.
This time, Lord Thorval finally decided to grace her with an answer. "Yes, that seems to be the rumour floating about. But I pay no heed to idle gossip. Sign of a bored and unoccupied mind. I believe our talents are better served attending to our task."
"There is such a thing as multitasking. And just because we are dead, that doesn't mean we have to be so grim all the time, Thomas."
Thorval's lips pressed in a thin line, unwilling to be drawn into idle prattle.
"Let's make a wager, Thorval." Lady Alistra prompted, leaning heavily against the command table where they worked.
"A wager, you say?" The Master of Blood mused out loud, an eyebrow cocked.
"Fifty gold coins says the Lich King chooses Ophelia Rutherford for his Champion. Or Ophelia Nightsorrow or whatever bloody fool name she's calling herself these days."
Thorval's pale face twisted in amusement. "One of Amal'Thazad's students? That shocks me, why not one of your own?"
The question made the elf flinch fractionally and he took great pleasure in a deep disdain that danced her features. No doubt, she was swallowing down a rather bitter dose of pride. "Because as much as I loathe to say it, the only candidate that leaps to mind is Calen Gaunt. And while I appreciate that man's… shall we say enthusiasm - the stupid mutt can't even tell his arse from his elbow half the time."
The Master of Blood laughed out loud at her remark. "I imagine that must be hard for you, admitting that your students don't measure up to one of Amal's. That bitter acidic feeling you're no doubt experiencing in the back of your throat - That's what's left of your pride."
"Actually it's a special plague batch I've concocted. Care for a sample?" Alistra let the threat hang in the air and Thorval raised his hand.
"I believe I'll pass. Thorval returned his gaze to his work, mulling over the possibilities in silence. "Although, if it were up to me - I would argue the Highlord would be the obvious choice."
"Mograine? Doesn't he have enough responsibilities on his mind, keeping this… conglomeration in line?" Lady Alistra idly waved her hand off to the side, vaguely meaning to indicate the entirety of Acherus.
Thorval hummed. "He is our leader. After Arthas' downfall, and barring the re-emergence of the Horsemen - he is the strongest Death Knight risen to date. And… he's the one this new Lich King made the pact with. Surely, he'd only be the logical choice."
Alistra waved him off with a scoff. "The Highlord's also too damn busy to fly around at the Lich King's beck and call. Pick someone else."
Irritation spiked in Thorval's tone. "Very well then. Since you refuse to let me have my first choice, Duke Lankral."
"The Shadowvault Commander?" Alistra hadn't anticipated that choice and pondered it for a moment, though she was dead certain that her choice was the correct one. And she was certain she was about to become fifty gold pieces richer.
"Aye. He's proven his courage, ingenuity and dedication to the Ebon Blade many times over. And I'm certain many times again before this war is done." Thorval replied.
"I'll take that wager." They clasped their hands, palm to wrist, in the old warrior's way.
It was done. One of their greatest brothers had been laid to rest and the Paladins within the order were paying their tribute to Tirion Fordring one by one. As much as Higlord Maxwell Tyrosus wished to remain, there was work to be done. And the Legion had made it perfectly clear that they were not willing to abide by the niceties observed by those on Azeroth. It was perilously obvious that they could not lower their guard even for a moment, lest demons and other dark forces find their way into their midst.
"Do you remember the first time you showed me this place, Tyrosus?" The voice was raspy and cold with an unnatural echoing quality, but there was no mistaking the voice of the Highlord of the Ebon Blade.
Lord Maxwell Tyrosus spun on his heel, hand swiftly to the pommel of his sword. In an alcove just inside the training chamber, stood a figure garbed in black and purple robes. A shroud covering his head just enough to disguise the unnatural Lich Fire that burned in his eyes. He was without obvious weapon, even without the typical armour that shielded him from the mortal world. Instead, he was dressed in simple robes.
It suddenly occurred to Tyrosus that he had been present throughout the entire funeral ceremony. For half a second, the thought outraged him but that was quelled swiftly enough by understanding.
"The last time I was here, none of this was constructed. The catacombs of those ancient heroes were little more than a hollowed out pit in the ground. You've certainly busied yourselves over the last decade or so since the Lich King fell." Darion mused out loud.
"You should have made yourself known," Tyrosus said, relaxing his stance though his hand remained on his weapon. "Nothing and no one would have faulted you for wishing to attend the funeral, save perhaps your reputation."
"I heard well enough from here. Besides I highly doubt that the forces of the light would enjoy the idea of a Death Knight in their midst. How long would it have taken for them to accuse me of wishing to raise him?" The Death Knight replied, his glowing blue eyes now focused on the Lord of the Argent Dawn.
"They wouldn't have had the opportunity. Besides, I think we're both intimately aware of what happened the last two times the undead hordes attempting a raid on this chapel."
"Oh I am aware. In fact, I still carry a token of one of those times."
The dark humour was not appreciated, but Maxwell didn't have the heart to chastise the younger warrior for it. He had no words to offer, not consolation or assurances, nothing that could come remotely close to being a comfort. "You have to understand their perspective. While I, and those who fought along side you, in the Argent Crusade and Ashen Verdict know you would never attempt anything untoward-"
"Impulse I understand, but one would think working together to defeat the Lich King would have earned the benefit of the doubt." Mograine declared, he shifted his weight and crossed his arms. His voice low and macabre. "In this instance, they would be thoroughly correct."
"What?" Maxwell Tyrosus spat in contempt, all trace of sympathy vanished in an instant. But any sense of anger or indignation he felt at such a casual admission died when he observed the Ebon Lord.
Though much of his face was still covered by his hood, Maxwell could see the glistening tears trail down the undead flesh of his cheeks. Darion tilted his head back to stare up at the ceiling.
"Its amazing…" He said, somehow keeping his tone neutral. "Tirion Fordring has done more for this world than almost every other hero of the age; if anyone deserves the peace of death it would be him. Yet here I am, wracking my brain for anything or everything that could possibly bring him back. Druids, Shamans, /Priests, other Paladins – hell, even that… Naaru in Shattath City – A'dal, was it?"
"Not raise him yourself?"
"Don't be absurd." Darion scoffed, offended by the very idea. "Whatever else I may be, Maxwell, whatever else I've become since my undeath, there are some lines even I would not cross. Tirion freed the Ebon Blade during the Last Battle of Light's Hope. Repaying that freedom by sentencing him to an eternity of unliving damnation screams of selfish ingratitude."
Darion gave a sweeping gesture of the Hall of Champions. "Even if I wanted to participate in that insanity, there is no doubt in my mind that the light would obliterate any Death Knight moronic enough to try. In fact, I'm surprised that the Light has even allowed me to set foot in this place and not smote me for having the audacity."
"The Light guides us in our own ways, Darion. And if your intentions were anything but pure this day, I have no doubt it would have played its hand." Maxwell Tyrosus said calmly.
"Mmm." Darion made the non-committal sound in his throat before pushing out of his hiding place, making his way towards the stairs in the far end of the hall which would lead him to the chapel's ground level.
"There is one last thing, Darion." Maxwell hesitated to give voice to this topic, but wrestled with himself. It must be addressed. "The Ashbringer. We - we recovered it, however-"
"... Keep it." The words sounded like they were choking the Death Knight on their way out before he returned to his former imposing demeanor. "As much as I wish for the return of my family's legacy, I am indelibly a creature of darkness. And after all of the effort - the quite literal hell - I went through to see it purified, I will not risk tainting Ashbringer again. Grant it to a Paladin of your choosing - One that will befit my father and Tirion's legacies."
With that, the Ebon Blade Highlord departed from the Hall of Champions and Maxwell Tyrosus cast his gaze back down the hall, to the podium where Tirion's body rested. The Ashbringer rested atop the tomb, held in the grip of the statue likeness. The question was; who was worthy in the Paladin order to wield its might?
Yay. Part 2 is up! And Darion is totally not foreshadowing. Like, at all.
I welcome feedback and criticism,