Danthor's first glimpse at the monastery. Enjoy!

Disclaimer: I do not own (World of) Warcraft. If I did, I would be busy making the next expansion instead of writing Fanfictions


3: Welcoming Party

The convoy stopped at the fork in the road that led up to the monastery.

"Alright, everyone off," the driver said. "Just follow the path at the right straight up and you'll get there—there's a welcome party waiting for ya. I've got supplies to deliver, so this is where our path ends. Good luck, recruits. You're gonna need it."

The driver chuckled to himself as the convoy took the left path and disappeared. Jonas looked at Danthor and said, "Quite a cheerful fellow, eh?"

"I'm just surprised we got all the way here without any attacks," Danthor said. "Though I suppose you can't blame him for being a little cynical—he's probably delivered thousand of recruits to these gates."

The Scarlet recruits (numbering about thirty in all) began making their way up the path on the right. Jonas jerked his thumb in their direction and asked, "Shall we get going, then?"

Danthor nodded and they proceeded to the back of the pack. When they reached the top of the hill, the first thing Danthor noticed were the corpses hanging in the trees, rotting. The second thing he noticed was the large gathering of troops at the very entrance of the monastery. At the front of the gathering was a black, bald man with a claymore strapped to his back. As the recruits stopped a bit short of the rather large block of troops, he eyed them and began to speak.

"My name's Captain Melrache," he said. "We were told that at least a score of recruits would be coming to the monastery today for training to become proper warriors of the Light. However, before we can send you for evaluation, we need you to line up single-file and tell us your full name so we can write it on the roster at this table. Then, you will be led into the cathedral where you will be greeted by the Scarlet commander himself. Do you understand?"

The recruits responded with a resounding, "Yes, sir!"

Doing as they were told, Jonas and Danthor were near the very back of the line. While they were waiting, Jonas (who was right in front of Danthor), asked, "So what's your story, friend?"

"I was a farmer in Tirisfal," Danthor replied quickly. "My entire family was killed, and so here I am."

"I'm sorry to hear that," he said.

Wanting to change the subject, Danthor replied with, "Thanks. What about you?"

Jonas paused for a second, then finally said, "I was once a paladin of the Church of Holy Light. I was sent to the Plaguelands to help the Argent Dawn with the threat of the Scourge, but was ultimately stripped of my position due to one out-of-hand incident. I was excommunicated, yet I still wanted to continue battling the undead, so I ended up here."

"I see," Danthor said. "I could never understand how one could even become a paladin—I've not talent for channeling the Light myself."

Jonas grinned. "It's not that hard once you get the hang of it! You just have to find your center, and after that a whole new world opens up to you. I'd show ya some, but I lost most of my powers when I was banished, save for the ability to heal.

Danthor raised an eyebrow at this. "So you haven't lost all your powers then?"

"The Light never completely abandons those who are just and pure, even if certain circumstances cast them in an unfavorable position," replied Jonas. "I'm hoping to regain my powers to serve the Light by training here, but for now I'm more of the warrior-type with minor healing capabilities."

"I can relate more to that," Danthor said. "I'm just a farmer now, but my hope is to be trained in the art of battle and fight off the undead with my sword and shield."

"Admirable. I hope you're up to the task."

"And you as well."

The line was moving along smoothly now, and it eventually reached Jonas.

"Next!" Melrache said, prompting Jonas to move to the table.

"What's your name?" Melrache asked.

"Jonas Merrigan."

"What was your previous trade?"

"I was a paladin, sir."

Melrache looked up. "A paladin, huh? We don't get many of those around. What happened to bring you here?"

"I was excommunicated, sir."

The Scarlet captain let out a wolfish grin. "Well you should fit right in here. Follow the line to enter the cathedral. It's the second entrance from the left. Next!"

Danthor moved up as Jonas disappeared into the Scarlet Monastery.

"Name?"

"Danthor Kurock."

"What was your previous trade?"

"A farmer, sir."

Melrache didn't look up. "Follow the line to the cathedral. It's the second entrance from the left in the Grand Vestibule. Next!"

Danthor quickly moved along, catching up to Jonas in the large stone chamber known as the Grand Vestibule (which housed the doorways to all four wings of the monastery). "Well that wasn't too bad, was it?" he asked.

"It wasn't for you," Danthor told his friend. "I'm sure they couldn't care less about the penniless farmer who joined to survive. Now a paladin? That's a treasure being found in a large pile of trash."

Jonas couldn't help but laugh at the analogy. He put his hand on Danthor's shoulder and said, "Don't be too hard on yourself. All this means is that you just need to prove how much value you'll be. It's not too bad being the underdog, right?"

"I suppose not," Danthor said as they made their way through the second door on the left into the cathedral wing.

The two of them walked down a long hall that was line with soldiers—some were mages, some warriors—all wearing the tabard of the Crusade proudly. They stood at full attention, simply looking straight forward as the recruits passed by.

"A pretty disciplined bunch, by the look of it," Jonas whispered as they passed by.

Danthor nodded.

They hung a right to exit the hall and enter the ChapelGardens. The first thing that struck the two was how beautiful it was. The grass was green and the water flowing from the fountain like a waterfall into the pool in front of them was sparkling blue. For Danthor, what struck him was how . . . alive everything was. For someone who'd spent his entire life in the withering forests of Tirisfal, it was certainly a welcome sight.

They made their way up the staircase to the upper-level, where the recruits were filing into the enormous cathedral looming in front of them. Danthor took notice that at both sides of the gardens, Scarlet soldiers were standing in the same disciplined form. At the cathedral door (which was massive), four Scarlet centurions stood on both sides, as if signposts to lead the recruits into the cathedral.

The cathedral itself was truly a masterful feat of architecture. It had high ceilings held up by large circular pillars on both sides—eight in all—which itself acted as a framing device for the long processional (covered in red carpeting) that led all the way up to the altar. On both sides of the altar were two extra wings which housed a few rooms for meditation.

On both sides of the cathedral hall (which was somewhat shadowed as they lay behind the pillars), Scarlet champions, abbots, monks, and chaplains lined the wall in perfect order. The recruits themselves were being led down the main processional, only to be stopped right at the stairway that led up to the altar.

There, standing at the top of the stairs and in front of the altar, was none other than Scarlet Commander Mograine, leader of the Crusade's forces at the monastery. The commander himself was a rather large, imposing figure with shoulder-length, light-orange hair held up by a red headband, a moustache-beard combination not too different from Jonas's, heavy red chainmail (which was covered by his own Scarlet tabard, his bearing a gold trim and red stripe running vertically down the middle through the crimson flame—apparently a sign of rank in the Crusade, as all the leaders wore one) with large red pauldrons, and a fearsome mace strapped onto his back.

Mograine inspected the group of recruits in front of him as if he was appraising the price of cattle or crops. When the entire group was inside the cathedral (actually called the Crusader's Chapel) and crowded into the processional, Mograine spoke to them:

"Hello recruits, my name is Renault Mograine, and I'm the commander of all the Scarlet Crusade's forces here at the monastery," he said in a voice that echoed throughout the cathedral's hall.

"That's not quite true," Jonas whispered to Danthor. "He may be the official leader here, but rumor has it that he's being controlled by someone named High Inquisitor Whitemane."

"First, let me start by congratulating all of you on making it this far," Mograine continued. "If you're standing here before me, that means you were all judged worthy by the higher-ups to join the Scarlet Crusade. I should make it clear that the monastery itself will most likely not be your final destination. You are all here to be trained by me and the other leaders here until you are able to do combat with the undead. After that, some of you will stay behind here to help protect the monastery, but most of you will be shipped off to where the Crusade needs the most help."

The recruits were deathly silent, as if just realizing the real weight of joining the Crusade's ranks.

Mograine motioned to the soldiers on both sides of the recruits. "When your training is complete here, you will be like most of these men and women you see before you—completely disciplined and battle-hardened. Make no mistake, this will not be easy, and some of you won't live to make it through the entire training process, but for those of you that do, you will be able to do battle with anything the Scourge and Forsaken will throw at you."

It was then Danthor noticed the large double-doors just behind the altar. He wondered what was in that room exactly.

"I, for one, am proud of the work we do here for the Crusade, and I think that after you've all met your other teachers—Herod, Doan, Whitemane—you'd find that they agree to that as well. With that being said, we have to start off by determining what your skills will best suit you to. So in order to find that out, you will all be escorted to the armory, where Herod the Scarlet Champion will fill you in on further details. I wish you all good luck, and look forward to seeing you again soon!"

At this, the recruits burst into applause and cheer. That Mograine certainly knows how to stir a crowd, Danthor thought, as they were all being led back out to the gardens.

"Hey, Jonas," he asked as they were walking down the stairs to the lower-level.

"Hmm? What's up?"

"Do you have any idea what was in that room behind Mograine?"

Jonas suddenly burst out laughing, and had to quickly cover his mouth so as not to attract any unnecessary attention to himself. "Sorry, sorry, it's just that everyone knows that that room is where High Inquisitor Whitemane likes to spend most of her time, mostly praying to the Light and whatever it is inquisitors do."

"She's the one thought to be the real leader here?" Danthor asked.

"Yeah," replied Jonas. "What I'd be more concerned with, though, is the rumor of a secret room in the cathedral that supposedly houses High Inquisitor Fairbanks."

"Fairbanks?"

Jonas shook his head and sighed. "You know, for someone about to join the Scarlet Crusade, you certainly don't know a lot about the personal advisor to Highlord Mograine."

"You mean Scarlet Commander Mograine?" asked a slightly-confused Danthor.

Jonas waved his hand in front of him, as if to knock away that question. "No, no, Renault Mograine is Alexandros Mograine's son. Alexandros was a member of the Knights of the Silver Hand—an order of paladins—but was most well known by his feats against the undead with his weapon, the Ashbringer."

"I've heard legends of the Ashbringer," Danthor said. "It was known as the weapon that could obliterate all undead in its path, leaving only ashes to remain. It's been told that even the Lich King himself fears that holy weapon."

"Correct," Jonas said as they were nearing the hallway to leave the cathedral area. "Unfortunately, Highlord Mograine was murdered and the Ashbringer lost forever—killed in the same attack that supposedly killed Fairbanks, but I've been told that he's somewhere in that cathedral back there. Point is, don't worry about stuff like that. Just focus on what's going to happen next in the armory. Besides, it's not like the politics of the Crusade matter to small fry like us anyway."

"I guess . . ."

Danthor took one last glance back at the Crusader's Chapel. It was the first time he noticed the three serrated spires placed at the roof of the cathedral, giving it a rather menacing look. Internally, he wondered how Alexandros Mograine was killed and where the Ashbringer now lay. Then, he and Jonas took a left from the gardens into the hallway, and his view of the cathedral was lost.

— — —

Of the three major wings within the Scarlet Monastery, the armory was probably the only one Danthor had ever heard about. When he was younger, he would sometimes go near the Scarlet outpost—the base in charge of protecting the Solliden Farmstead—to see if he could get a closer look at some of the warriors against the undead.

It was a well-known fact in Tirisfal to keep as much distance from the crusaders as possible, as it was unknown how they would react to anyone who came near then. Danthor usually adhered to this warning, but one day he ventured dangerously close to the outpost. So close, in fact, that he overheard a few soldiers, fresh from the monastery (as the relatively new soldiers were often sent to protect the farmstead), reminisce about their training.

The soldiers he overheard weren't much with the ways of magic or the Light, so they were sent to the armory to be taught under the Scarlet Champion in the ways of close-combat fighting with the undead. He heard from them that Herod was not one to go easy on soldiers when he was teaching them, and that the armory was the toughest place to be assigned to in the whole of the monastery.

And now, several years later, here Danthor Kurock was, entering the Scarlet Armory with the rest of the recruits to discover what they should focus on during their training—be it magic, the Light, or just plain combat.

They exited the rather short hall and entered what was known as the Training Grounds, a square courtyard that was bordered on all sides with a walkway made out of stone. At the sides of the untouched piece of earth were several training dummies and weapons. At the center of the field was Herod himself, the Scarlet Champion and leader of the forces in the armory wing.

Herod was a very tall and imposing figure. He wore red chainmail pants, boots, and gloves, yet wore nothing to protect his chest, showing off his muscular form. He had a rather fearsome-looking axe strapped to his back despite this, however. Planted on top of his head was a red helmet that covered his entire face, save for his eyes, with two horns protruding from the sides. The strangest thing about his appearance, though (and to Danthor, that was saying a lot), was that he had a massive red pauldron planted on his right shoulder with three white horns (matching the ones on his helmet) sticking out of them.

"So you're the new recruits I've been hearing so much about, eh?" he asked with a slight scoff. "Well my name's Herod, and I've been put in charge of the first stage of your training."

His voice was booming and powerful. There was no doubt in everyone's mind that this man was indeed the Scarlet champion.

"Now the first thing you may have noticed about the Crusade is that we're a rather varied bunch," Herod continued. "We have warriors, priests, paladins, hunters, mages, you name it. The problem is that not everyone knows what type of category they fall under. Some may think they're good at one thing, but then realize they're good at something else entirely. Well the first part of your training will be to discover what you're naturally best at, so we can hone and train your skills appropriately. And we're going to find that out right now."

"How?" asked an incredibly brave recruit.

Herod motioned to the square patch of land separating him and the recruits. Danthor thought that if he could see his face underneath his helmet, he would be smiling right now.

"Why, the only way we can really find out. We're going to divide you up and have you fight one-on-one in this arena!"


An unusual testing method . . .

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