By Bricu | January 27, 2010
Welcome to yet another edition of Wrathgate Wednesday. Today we have Three more additions to the list of overall story. First, the introduction of Alcime, a Death Knight connected to Uthas and at least one other Rider. Then we have Mary Norvalleon, another death knight. She also has blood ties to one specific Wildfire Rider. Finally, we have the Italics posts that introduces a complication for the Wildfire Riders and the Horde to the Battle of the Wrathgate.
Form rank, take position, guard the back lines.
She fell into formation, waiting for The Priest’s next order. Vrykul lay dead at her feet, but she knew this was just the start of Arthas’s fury. The true onslaught had yet to begin. Ghouls, abominations, necromancers and gargoyles were the unyielding sentinels at the gates, waiting as patiently as only the dead could wait for their liege lord’s command.
Form rank, take position, guard the back lines.
And so she did. There was no doubt that what she did here was just. Her duty – her function now, in this second life – was as clear to her as her own name. Angrathar meant so many things to so many people: some came for glory, some came for revenge for lands and loves lost. The Eye came because it was their purpose to be here. This fight sustained them and justified their existence. It was as vital to them as air was to a man drawing breath.
When they had nothing, they had The Priest’s vision of Arthas’s fall, and here at long last was their opportunity.
No, not that.
Form rank, take position, guard the back lines.
To the left, a banshee roar sent a talon of Bolvar’s troops staggering, at least two soldiers falling to their knees as the preternatural wail shredded their equilibrium. Uthas’s hand flitted – an almost graceful sweep of fingers, and she thought for a moment he could have composed music like that – and Alcime was moving. Blades raised, she called upon the one thing she could draw strength from: her blood. It burned and broiled inside of her, molten energy coursing through her veins, hardening her muscles and infusing her skin with magic.
The undead thing had just a moment to turn its head before she closed the chasm between them, her gauntlet opening and chains of ice dragging it forward. It tilted its head back, the evil of its voice the best offense, but ironclad fingers strangled the sound out of her. What should have been a scream was a gurgled whimper lost to the northern wind.
As she brought the sword up, burying it into the thing’s middle (why did it feel like cutting taffy? That made no sense) she waited to see the fear in its eyes, but there was nothing. Drained of will, drained of free thought, the scourge just wilted and was no more.
Like I’d have been, could have been . . . No.
Not anymore. No more. No one else’s mother.
Form rank, take position, guard the back lines.
A couple of days back…
They were a stain on the horizon.
Against the eternal white backdrop of the great Dragonblight advanced a host of horrors. Shambling ghouls, creeping gheists, ponderous abominations, stiff skeletal necromancers and soldiers who walked like grotesque puppets on unseen strings. Some of them bore devices clasped to their spines and rising high above their heads; the recognizable symbol of the Scourge represented not by fluttering banners, but crossed iron bars upon which were skewered bones; skulls, ribcages, blackened ribbons of flesh.
Among them were the riders, death knights, each personally raised to power by the Lich King himself; a stoic, commanding presence, black serenity next to the gruesome host that bore them. One rode ahead; empty-eyed shell of a horse at a canter, a forward cavalier who sounded a three-note wail from his wintery horn.
Deathcharger beneath him, Baron Titus Rivendare gazed levelly from the advancing horror, down to his old pocketwatch, clutched in his gauntleted hand. It was still ticking, despite it’s coat of frost.
“Well,” he murmured, “They’re just in time.”
The forward scout reined in before the Lord of Stratholme. The hooves of the beast he rode kicked up small white flames as it halted. The rider raised the visor of his helmet, and the face beneath would have been nearly handsome but for the white pallor that death had permanently cast upon it. He saluted.
“Lord Rivendare!” the man dismounted, and kneeled briefly, before approaching the senior death knight. “Tidings from Enki’lah.”
“What word from the Temple City, sir…?”
“Johansson, lord. Bertrand Johansson. Enki’lah has fallen.” The younger knight’s face was placid. “Alliance and Horde forces converged on it’s walls, and it was overwhelmed.”
“What of Talramas and Naxxanar?”
“Both, grounded, smoldering ruins.”
“And Prince Valanar?”
Johannsson’s face did not change. “His broken body dangles from a spike over Warsong Hold.”
“He was working to undermine Alliance forces. How came the Horde to claim his body?”
“Got to it first, it seems, lord.”
“Good for them,” Rivendare’s tone was dry. “I expect, then, that this company is what remains of the combined Talramas and Naxxanar garrisons?”
A tall, cloaked figure dismounted from the arrived company, walking forward as Johannson continued. “We are, sir. Our orders, from the mouth of the Lich King himself, are to march with you to Angrathar.”
“Where,” said the approaching figure, voice clear as a funeral bell, “we catch them. We are the hammer.” She cast back her hood, ash-blonde hair falling across her armored shoulders. “The Wrath Gate is the anvil.” A smirk drew across her lips. “The Seventh Legion and Kor’kron forces are the slag.”
Rivendare could not keep a slight smile from his face. “Though the King favoring, we may yet find some good steel to use for our ends, among the dead.”
“That’s the Lord Rivendare I remember from the Lordaeron campaign,” As she spoke, Johansson drew back, bowing his head slighty as the superior officer stepped before Baron Rivendare, clasping his hand with a ringing of gauntlets. “Always ready to join in the gratuitous analogies.”
“Lady Maraviglia Norvallen.” He stepped back, and the two senior death knights began walking, Johansson falling into step behind. “Didn’t you die at Tyr’s Hand? Or was it Light’s Hope?”
“Tyr’s Hand, lord. Actually got trapped in the basement as the Chapel of the Crimson Flame burned. As you can see, that didn’t last.”
“You know what happened at Light’s Hope, though, don’t you?”
“I do, lord.” The corners of the woman’s mouth turned down.
“Surprised you escaped that with your skin.”
“Not nearly as surprised as I. I missed Naxxramas’ departure, and there was no point in trying to go back to Acherus. Had to slip on board a cargo ship for Valiance Keep. It took a very long time to convince them that I was a diplomat for the Scarlet Crusade.”
The two continued to walk, Rivendare glancing cursorily over the host Norvallen had brought, occasionally nodding his approval, whether for their numbers or their general hideousness. “You didn’t miss a beat in keeping that look up after your orders in New Avalon were long-since carried out.”
“What can I say, my lord?” As she spoke, Johansson began shouting orders to the assembled ranks, the new arrivals moving to mingle with the old, easily falling into line with marching orders pre-ordained in their dead instincts. “I know where my talents lie.”
“Perhaps. It’s time you had a taste of open warfare again, though.”
“I could not agree more, Lord Rivendare.” Her tone still conversational, and her movements almost relaxed, she punched Baron Rivendare square in the jaw.
Once again, Johansson’s horn sounded, a three-note clarion. And absolute chaos erupted.
The death knights that had come with the arrivals, moving amidst Rivendare’s company, cut down the cultists bolstering the ranks with surgical precision, hot blood and offal falling along with a rain of bone splinters, the abominations flinging about the skeletal foot soldiers with childish abandon.
Rivendare’s own knights were plucked from their steeds by a screaming flock of gargoyles that plummeted from an empty sky, carried high and dropped, breaking like unwanted toys on the frozen ground. Those that survived the drop, or beat off the screeching monsters before they could be lifted off their chargers, were quietly immolated in black fire by ranks of unliving arcanists.
It was a rout. The Scourge forces could not have been caught more off-guard, and what order they were able to bring themselves into quickly broke as they caught sight of new devices being raised: the dead-black Ebon Blade of Acherus.
Amidst it all, Titus Rivendare and Maraviglia Norvallen circled one another, runeblades in hand. The Baron wiped a trickle of blood from the corner of his mouth. His jaw ached, despite the necrotic energy already closing the cut delivered by the blow. “You,” his voice still held it’s even, conversational timbre, “conniving, backstabbing, traitorous she-troll.”
“That one,” Norvallen’s tone was, if anything, lighter, even amused, “was from Varenna Sungale of the Argent Dawn.”
“Someone I’m regretting could not be here right now to laugh at your sorry state.”
The opposed death knights met, their ensorcelled weapons meeting in a shower of icy sparks. There was no opening between the two; what Rivendare had in strength, Norvallen matched with uncanny reflexes, parrying and redirecting the blows almost delicately despite the massive blade that she, too, carried, and not a single one landed.
“You should never have left Stratholme, Titus.”
The Baron kicked out. Caught in the leg, Norvallen fell, but rolled and righted herself as the point of Rivendare’s runeblade plunged into the ground where she had fallen, driven by a powerful, overhanded thrust.
He pulled his sword from the ground to stop a slash that would have taken his head off. He did not reply to her words.
“You should have stayed in that smoldering waste of time. You should have bottled yourself up in the slaughterhouse.” Another exchange of blows, another series of cuts that came within an inch of striking home.
“You should have wasted away, or perhaps immolated yourself. You’re a failure.”
Rivendare’s calm did not break. As he went back to circling, stepping, occasionally thrusting to test her openings, cracks formed in the ice they stood upon, forming runic patterns. Norvallen’s breath turned heavy as his aura of entropy thickened, but despite the sapping effect, she still held her ground, and worse, still would not shut up.
“A cold, dead failure. What, was it pity that Kel’thuzad felt, in his nonexistant heart, letting you cling to his skirts like a frightened toddler as he flew far, far away from Ground Zero for Rivendare’s humiliation?”
The Baron took stock of the situation, trained gaze not flickering from his opponent but taking in still the state of affairs around him. His forces were ground to nearly nothing, and the spectacle of the two death knights was drawing a small crowd of Ebon Blade minions with nothing left to kill.
He dove in again, in another serious of ferocious attacks on Norvallen, who yet stood, if heavily, on the rune-covered ground of his aura.
The woman was not expecting it when he suddenly dove far to the side, stood straight, thrust out a single hand, and a black lance of crackling force shot out from his palm, coiling not around his opponent, but one of the abominations standing slack-jawed opposite him.
With tremendous force, the misbegotten hulk was yanked forward, completely bowling over Norvallen, who’s expression was satisfyingly shocked as she was enveloped beneath a rolling mass of flesh and dangling entrails.
Without pause, Rivendare’s gauntleted fist thrust into the air. The ice beneath him erupted, and he dove into the host of hostile onlookers upon the back of his deathcharger, called to him. An aisle of smoldering death and decay scattered the surprised crowd, and he charged beyond their masses at a speed only achievable by a steed unhampered by the limitations of living muscle.
The crowd of Ebon Knights and their ghastly retinue glanced back as Norvallen stood up, face pale, and gauntlet over her mouth as if to hold back a heave. The abomination lurched aside into a vaguely upright position. It’s giant, hideous face fell into a grotesque but almost comical expression of shame.
“Corpulous is big so-hoh-hoh-rrryyy!” blubbered the rotund horror.
Norvallen looked up at it, opened her mouth, raised a finger, inhaled slowly, and then lowered it. She turned. Bertrand Johansson stood before her, and behind him, the still-retreating figure of Baron Rivendare rapidly dwindling into a speck on the eastern horizon.
“Ma’am?” He inclined his armored head.
“Let him go.” She shrugged, poise regained. “We cannot afford delays, and he would likely decimate any smaller force we send after him.” She looked down at her hand, clenching and unclenching her fingers. “Surprised I stood my ground, myself. Still, always did want to give Baron Rivendare a good punch in the jaw.”
Walking past Bertrand, her voice raised in command, and it echoed in the ears of the Ebon Knights and their host. “Excellent performance, gentlemen.” She drew herself up into the saddle of her vacated deathcharger. “But, we will have a chance to outdo ourselves yet!”
Other knights reined in. Ghouls looked up from their feasts, and gargoyles circled above. “We reach Angrathar before dawn!” Her voice resonated amidst the ranks. “Divide up, and maintain formation! When the Wrath Gate is in sight, the Fallen of the Alliance shall move to the perimeter beyond Fordragon Hold! The Fallen of the Horde, to the Kor’kron Vanguard! We take the Wrath Gate, and beyond, we meet with the forces of our Lord Mograine in the blighted glacier of Icecrown!” A metallic timbre entered her words, “Ride, my brothers, to spit in the eye of the Lich King!”
The cheer of men is one thing. The cheer of dead men riding, unliving voices echoing in that metallic cadence, amidst them the rasping cries of grave-spurned malignancies, is another, and any who walked that reach of the Dragon Wastes that day heard only an affirmation of the region’s cursed, haunted legends.
And so the force from Acherus rode.
The Italics Post
The colossus hit the ground with an ear-pummeling thud, its uncanny bones splintering with the force of impact. Riddled with bolts, cloven through in the spine, it shuddered and fell limp, an inert mass of gristle, the malevolent force that bound it dissipating.
And from the nameless hill, its slayers looked down on what the histories would call the Battle of the Wrath Gate. They watched as the banners of stag and lion and six-pointed star surged closer, saw the glints of armor and spearpoints in the shadow of Angrathar. A keen-eyed few could even see the towering figure of the Highlord, leading his guard into the teeth of the foe, hammering warding arms and shearing away warped faces. Slowly, inexorably, the golden tide pushed forward.
They barely faltered when the horns shivered the air, bellowing brassy malice; they slowed just to the point of caution when the gates cracked to let the ancient guttural curses ring out. But it was enough for the foe, this minute loss of momentum – weakness enough for the Vrykul. “All flesh is meat!” roared their chieftains, in a tongue older than nations. “All life is grass!” the People of War howled back, and with a rush they were upon the Alliance. The lines and formations were lost in an instant, swallowed by the shrieking, snarling chaos of true battle. Banners vanished, blood misted the air, and the shining figure of Fordragon was enveloped in struggling masses.
But the Wildfire Riders had no eyes for such. For as the horns sounded, the earth beneath the hill shuddered, and then turned inward, a frost-fanged some five yards across opening in the crest of the hill. The knot of mercenaries clustered around the ballistae plunged into the snow, scrabbling at the edges; with a creak, one of the war machines tipped over into the tunnel as its author revealed itself. A carapace scarred a thousand times, with bile and venom dripping from the pustulent flesh beneath, and translucent wings clawing hungrily at the air – a Crypt Lord. It laughed like a thousand locusts, clicked like an automaton from nightmare. “Thanks be to He,” it purred and bubbled and shrieked, rearing over the Bittertongues, “For this feast. Thanks be to Arthas, for the music of the fearful prey!”
And then it was on them. Below, the Vrykul came on, a densely packed tribe with black tattoos writhing across their blue skin and shrunken heads swinging by dry hair from their belts. Bellowing for the Lich King, they trampled the ghouls and geists in their path, bounded across shattered corpses, and surged into the thin line, driving the Riders back to their own slopes by sheer force. The fate of the flank, and with the flank, the battle, hung in the balance.
In the far distance, barely audible beneath the cacophony of war, wolves howled.