Warcraft (c) Activision Blizzard
One Monarch Falls
They had succeeded.
To slay a god was something out of a tale - the likes of which Tirion Fordring used to tell Taelan whenever he fought off sleep as a young child.
But this was no fiction.
Tirion Fordring had spearheaded the campaign to see their foe vanquished, would've been an astonishing achievement unto itself.
The Argent Crusade, the Knights of the Ebon Blade and the heroes of Azeroth had ventured into the frozen north and slew the Fallen Prince of Lordaeron. The champions of Light had ventured forth into the jaws of death itself, and achieved victory.
A costly one, it had to be said. Won through blood, broken bone and through some champions paying the ultimate price. All of it to achieve this monumental goal.
Left alone at Icecrown's Summit, the old Highlord closed his eyes and offered a silent prayer to the Light. Even through his doubts, he persisted in the effort to bring the errant Prince to Justice, and he kept that solitary goal in mind along side fervent hope that they would succeed. And now, at the critical hour, his faith was rewarded.
Doubtless some of the dwarven adventures were already composing heroic ballad and song, proclaiming this victory worthy of saga. The Highlord would not begrudge them that, and he might even enjoy whatever they came up with. But he had little time to ponder the imaginary lyrics. Other pressing matters occupied his attention now.
Frostmourne lay shattered before the dais of the Frozen Throne, its captive tormented souls released to find their final rest in the Light. And the Helm of Domination had clattered to the side of Arthas where he fell, slipped from his crown and inert. The unholy power it once held seemed somehow diminished upon being parted from its master. His brow creased in a frown as he scowled at the device of a skull and gemstone set upon the Helm.
The grim reality impressed itself upon Tirion. A truth was discovered in the Hall of Reflection, and reaffirmed by the ghost of King Terenas Menethil. There must always be a Lich King.
Without an overriding will to keep the Scourge in check, the living dead would run rampant across the rest of Azeroth. The world would be reduced to a barren lifeless husk, inhabited only by shambling corpses.
Tirion stared down at the crown, deeply troubled. The once vibrate unholy blue gem was reduced to the colour of charcoal. Even now, held in his hand Tirion could feel that the ancient power that once dwelt within curiously and distressingly absent. ... There is nothing? No presence, no malice beyond the intimidating visage the creator had intended.
Before he had a chance to question this any further, his thoughts were interrupted.
"Tirion!" The voice was an echoing rumble distorted by smoldering embers.
"Bolvar…! By all that is holy...!" Tirion upon the burning corpse of a man who slumped on the throne that Arthas had once claimed.
Not out of any preposterous idea to assume the mantle himself. But simply because after being tortured and tormented so, Bolvar lacked the strength to descend the long steps to join his paladin brother.
Bolvar was more charred corpse than living mortal, weaved by the Lifebinder's fire. Glowing veins cracked through his skin like runnels of lava coursing down his arms and legs. The remnants of his former gleaming battle plate was burnt black and twisted. Melted and fused into his flesh like some metallic carapace.
Bolvar had slumped back, the effort of speaking draining what little energy he had. "It would have been a grim destiny you hold in your hand, brother. But the power of the Helm has already invested itself into a new host. The new Jailor of the Damned has been anointed."
"What...?" Tirion ascended the throne with slow measured steps, as though frightened the figure would vanish like ash in a gust of wind.
As Bolvar spoke the words, the Highlord could scarce believe them. All this time, they had been led to believe that the power of the Lich King lay in the crown. With the absence of power and presence in the helm, perhaps this was not as true as they suspected.
A flicker of fear lanced through Tirion's heart, replaced by a furious anger. If this was truly the case, if the Lich King had abandoned Arthas to seek out a new host, the world would once more be imperiled.
"I see your doubts, Tirion... but this is no lie." Bolvar informed him, observing the inert crown resting in the Highlord's hand. "I... can sense it. Sense him. He whispers weaves his way through the collective consciousness of the living dead, and he has found his new vessel."
The words sparked Tirion Fordring into action, lips pressed in a thin line with the understanding that their work was not yet done. This was troubling. Perhaps he could entreaty aid from the Ebon Blade, Horde and Alliance. This campaign may have been long and grueling, but any soul with enough wit to hold a blade would have to do.
A dangerous foe still resided in their midst, and they could not afford to let their guards down so soon.
Tirion bit his lip in frustration. Bastard. That scheming bastard had caught them in a trap. Should they kill the new host - what would prevent the Lich King from jumping to a new creature? Every single undead creature in this Citadel was a viable target.
"Then we must discover who has assumed that mantle, and pray the Light that they do not require the same regard as the Fallen Prince." Tirion declared, clipping the unholy relic to his belt and reaching down to Bolvar.
"Come, old friend. We will unravel this mystery together."
Fordragon did not complain, merely grunted from the effort of standing on his own two feet. Tirion hoisted one of Bolvar's arms over his shoulders and used his other to support the charred Highlord on their slow descent down the Frozen Throne.
"He is here." Bolvar rasped as they descended the dais, "The new Lich King is somewhere within the Citadel. And we must act soon to prevent his escape... lest he threaten the world once more."
"Then that is good news. We have a place to start, at least. It will not take long to scour these halls for wherever the Lich King is hiding, and when we find him, we will end him together. I promise you this, my friend." Tirion answered, his conviction and determination on clear display.
"Words, so easy." Bolvar made another rasping sound, and it took Tirion a second to realize it was a chuckle. "It will be a great honour to fight at your side once more, brother."
"Hold this line!" Highlord Darion Mograine shouted to his Knights as they endured the renewed siege of the mindless dead.
He had led a contingent of Knights into the lower spires personally, clearing out the lingering dead the Adventurer had left in their wake and destroying any that were salvageable enough to rise again. It was there, in the San'lyn's Halls of Blood that his Knights felt the Lich King's demise.
They had all sensed it. Like a might warhammer smashed into their skulls, and then a lightness. As if for a split second, all of their burdens had been lifted from their shoulders. It was... bliss.
Feeling that death - feeling Arthas' demise - was the sweetest tonic in their veins. Though none of them were there personally to witness the final blow, the affect was seen well enough.
But they couldn't afford to lose themselves in that indulgent feeling. With the master slain, the mindless undead surged into their lines like waves crashing on shore. Without an overriding will, there was nothing to prevent these monsters from answering their most base urges.
Darion's voice pierced through the daze and returned his Knights to the reality of the situation. And each of them acted exactly as Darion had come to expect. With calculated precision, cold efficiency and ruthless pragmatism. Knights of every different race and former faction stood shoulder to shoulder, standing against the tide.
Unlike the Alliance and Horde, however, this martial unity would not be broken when the current crisis had abated.
Whatever order Darion was going to give next died in his throat. His body tensed and seized. A thin pressure pushed at the edge of his consciousness before agony beyond imagining exploded throughout his body, like a thousand ravenous ghouls' tearing at the very core of his being. He gasped, feeling spasms ripple through his body.
The longsword he wielded, Glorenzelg, plunged tip first into the ground with Darion leaning heavily against it like a glorified watching stick. Waves upon waves of pain crashed through him, with such ever mounting ferocity that the wedged blade became the only thing keeping him standing.
"Milord!" A Death Knight pressed, but Darion did not hear them. His body continued to seizure and whatever malady had set upon him had robbed him of his senses.
Dawning horror took what wits remained him when he recognized this all too familiar feeling.
The Lich King had always existed on the edge of their senses, a presence that was always felt but could be ignored after he abandoned them at Light's Hope given enough discipline. But this was different, this was as if the entity was standing next to him, screaming in his ear and smothering Darion's will completely.
Darion Mograine. My long lost Champion. Your defiance has proven amusing. Rejoice now, for I am here to offer you your chance to atone.
Back when Mograine was the bastard's thrall, that connection was like an iron grip around his mind. Sealing away every thought that was not remotely related to the Lich King's purpose for him.
But now? Now it was like molten iron was being poured into his mind, down his spine while ice rushed through every nerve.
Atonement in the eyes of a monster? The idea would've sickened Darion if only he had the faculties to give a cutting retort.
Invisible hands clutched around his unbeating heart, squeezing tightly. Those same clutching talons clawed into his throat. Darion struggled to breathe, feeling tendrils of dark power coiling around every facet of his being.
The seizures grew worse in concert with the overriding voice of the Lich King in his mind, he couldn't even control his own limbs which jerked and twisted unnaturally against his will. As if two minds were demanding his body act in contradicting manners. Panic rose in Darion's chest as he realised that was precisely what was happening.
This... presence invading his mind was not some dying echo of the Lich King intent of taking down his errant Knights in his dying moments, but the being himself! Travelled across the conduit that kept the undead bound to him. An alien will had forced its way into Darion's mind, and was trying to wrestle control of his own body away from him.
This is impossible! The Lich King was dead! They had all sensed his passing!
Indeed, my vessel has perished. But I've grown beyond the confines of that tiny helm and useless shell. However, I will require a new one to continue my glorious work.
The Ebon Highlord finally dropped to his knees, helm torn off as a raw harsh scream ripped from his throat. His palms pressed to his temples with such strength that he'd likely crush his own skull before too long. His body thrashed as the unseen intruder pushed deeper into his mind. The miasma pawed at the fractured remnants of his soul, searing itself in the cracks like a virulent plague.
And yours is the perfect fit. Now surrender yourself to me, my chosen champion. Your King commands it.
It was excruciating. Darion could barely not muster a coherent thought. One of his Knights managed to break from the guard line long enough in an attempt to help their Highlord, but a wicked backhand struck out at her with such force her body was flung back and the resounding crack could only mean her neck was broken.
The Highlord curled in on himself, clawed fingers still pressing in on his skull while he writhed on the stone cold floor. His warriors were at his side, mad with confusion and panic at their Lord's sudden affliction. Doubtlessly attempting to determine what spells or curses had passed their anti-magic runes.
He clung to something - anything - to keep his wits. Rage was his answer. Rage and righteous indignation. He would not allow himself to become a puppet again. Not again!
He had to act. He had to give the order to his Knights. They could not allow a new Lich King to emerge... they had to strike him down before the being took over completely. Before its too late!
"Kill...! me...!" Darion tried to gasp out the words, but they were little more than a breathy whisper. Too quiet to hear. One of the Death Knights glanced at her fellows for a split second.
"Forgive us, Milord."
The last thing Darion saw was a gauntleted fist and then total darkness.
Now, I'm not saying I'm mean to poor Darion... buuuut I'm mean to poor Darion. :)
Second crack at Lich King AU. Lets see how this goes.
EDIT 05/12/2020: Okay, so I read this and I realised one very important thing that I never seem to learn: NEVER post anything when its 3am in the morning, despite how proud you are of it. I've gone through and cleaned up the story to make it more coherent and fleshed out details.