Episode 15: A Dark Revelation (Part One)
“You be goin’ da wrong way m’on,” the troll guide, Drakuru, said as he glanced at me.
I stopped, lifted my torch in the air, and glanced around the hallway. To me, everything looked the same. The handful of soldiers lined up with me were also looking a little confused, but the troll was standing at least fifteen feet back and he seemed to know which way they were supposed to go.
“We be tryin’ to get to da top o’ the temple,” the troll said as I rejoined him. “You headin’ back down to da dungeon.”
“Right,” I replied. “My mistake. Lead on.”
Drakuru started marching on and I began to follow. Behind me, Surfal was allowing me to lead the way with one hand on the beast’s reigns. I rarely brought Surfal into such dark places, but the Drak’Tharon Keep was so large that without a horse, some of the parts would be impossible to get through.
Surfal wasn’t exactly happy about the experience either, pulling against the reigns every couple of minutes. I was pretty sure that if I tried to ride the horse it would take me right out of the temple whether I liked it or not.
A short ways behind us, Christine was riding atop her charger, named Bitey, and the horse marched forward just the way she wanted it to. Unlike Surfal, her horse was completely obedient to every order she gave, even if it meant the death of the beast.
The team of soldiers were here for one reason alone, to help purge this temple of any evildoers. The news of the Westfall Brigade bringing down Arugal had spread like wildfire across the Grizzly Hills. Settlers were leaving the Howling Fjord in droves for the relative security they would find in the lands now that the worgen were gone. Still, there was one final danger that was looming over the hills and that was Drak’tharon Keep. Rumors had spread through the Grizzly Hills that the Lich King himself had been into the Keep and that thousands of scourge would be pouring into the landscape to strike back for Arugal’s defeat.
I had my doubts that Arthas would risk coming to this Keep, but unfortunately Stoutmantle wasn’t going to risk it. He’d already given up too many men and too much time in his attempt to defend the Grizzly Hills. He wasn’t going to let the scourge, worgen, trolls, or even the horde stop him. So, naturally he came straight to us when he was ready to make a move. By now I was ready to move on. I needed to get to Dalaran.
Still, Christine had agreed to help and I found I was worrying about her safety. So, to be on the safe side, I volunteered to go along too.
A captured troll who was just as eager to see the scourge kicked out of the Grizzly Hills was now leading us through the ancient temple that, as he claimed, belonged to his ancient troll brethren before the frozen throne even existed. He marched us head first through the scourge guarding the keep’s entrance and then fought alongside of us as we cleared out the keep of any strong warriors that stood to fight.
Now though, he seemed to be leading us in circles. Many of the soldiers were getting tired, but they walked on and on until finally, we arrived at a large set of stairs.
“Dis be it,” the troll said with a deep grumble. “Up these stairs and we light the torch. The Horde know what ta do jen.”
A nearby Alliance soldier leaned toward me. “Are you sure giving this place to the Horde is the right move? King Varian would…”
“This temple won’t be manned by the Horde,” I assured the soldier. “It’ll belong to the Trolls. There is a difference.”
“Yeah, but the trolls—”
“We no bein’ friend with da horde any more den we bein’ friends wit joo. This temple is our only concern. Joo help us gettin’ it so we no hate joo, but we no bein’ buddies eit’er.”
“Fair enough,” I replied.
“Okay, now, git up dis stairs and light the flame.”
“You’re not coming?” Sionis asked.
“Oh, I be comin’ too,” he replied.
“Ominous,” I said as I started up the stairs.
The stairs seemed to go on far longer than I had expected, but we reached the top soon enough to see the last bit of sunlight fading off in the distance. The Alliance soldiers behind me were bringing up wood and Surfal had even come up the steps, probably worried about staying away from me for too long.
“Okay,” I said as I aimed my hand at the stocked brazier that sat atop the temple. “Let’s light this thing up and get out of here.”
The soldiers moved away and just when I let loose his fireball, a horrible scream tore through the air. I twisted around and saw an undead dragon land on the side of the temple, its enormous claw swinging up into the air and coming down just feet from where I stood.
Christine threw a shield around me for protection and I charged at the beast, powering up my most devastating attack and slamming it into the dragon’s weak and brittle bones.
The monstrosity screeched and a vengeful swing smashed me and several other soldiers, throwing us backward as the beast finished perching itself on the temple.
“Sionis!” Christine shouted. “Light the fire!”
I threw a fireball back to the brazier and an enormous flame ripped up into the sky. Almost instantly, a battle horn echoed in the distance and the cry of the Horde meant that the signal had reached its target. I turned back to the battle at hand and threw everything I had at the dragon that was now terrorizing our team. With several heavy blows, the dragon was crumbling under its own decay. A few more forceful attacks and the beast’s powers were drained. It fell from the temple, broken and lifeless once again.
I whistled for Surfal and the horse came over so I could mount.
I looked around to make sure the area was secure. “Let’s get out of here people, the job is done and I don’t feel safe here.”
The soldiers didn’t need to be told twice. They too climbed on their horses that had followed and those that were on foot quickly rushed down the stairs. I was bringing up the rear when I noticed that the troll who led us to the top wasn’t following.
“Hey, you coming?” I asked.
“No’sah,” Drakuru replied. “Der is nowhere safer for me to be.”
“You sure about that?” I asked. “I doubt the scourge will just leave this place alone.”
“No, I doubt dat too.”
In that single split second, I realized what was happening.
My brain cried out for me to run, but the moment flashed by so quickly I couldn’t even tell I had felt it before I was being pulled through the air and slammed against a stone wall. The troll had ripped me right off of my horse with a quick whip of dark magic.
“Joo be mah prize for da Lich King,” the troll said, happily. “In exchange for joo, the lich will leave Drak’Tharon Keep to me.”
“You honestly believe that?” I asked, wiping the blood from a fresh gash on my forehead.
“It no be hurtin’ to try. The Lich King seem ta wancha bad. He be commin’ here now.”
“What?” I asked. “He’s leaving Icecrown to come here?”
“Dat be da case.”
“Troll, listen, you’ve got to let me get my friends. Those soldiers I came here with. If the Lich King is coming now, we can ambush him. If we bring down Arthas, you’ll be able to have this Keep because we will give it to you!”
“Sorry mage, I already been chosen me side.”
“Surfal!” I shouted. “Go get the Brigade!”
The horse turned to head down the stairs but was suddenly halted when a chain wrapped around the beast’s neck and pulled it to the ground.
I shouted in rage and hit the troll with a fire blast without even thinking about it, but as I followed the chain from the horse to the one that had attacked, I realized that I was in far more danger than I had ever expected.
Standing before me in the terrifying armor that was now synonymous with Arthas’ name, was the Lich King. He held the end of the chain that had jerked against Surfal and I felt a rage burning within me that seemed to overwhelm any sense of fear or panic I would have normally felt. With a quick blast of fire, the chain was severed and Surfal was free. With a few more flicks of my wrist, I slammed spell after spell against the Lich King, but was shocked to find that Arthas didn’t even flinch.
“So you’re the fire mage,” Arthas said with a deep boom in his voice. “You are the one who killed Arugal once more.”
“That’s right,” I blurted.
“A bold fighter,” Arthas growled. “You will make a fine addition to my army.”
I started to charge another blast and the Lich King retaliated with a swing of his blade that somehow threw me backward though I had not been anywhere near the blade. Arthas stepped over to Surfal and the horse stood its ground. Carefully, the Lich King removed the chains from the beast’s neck and appeared to help it stand again.
My heart had frozen as I watched Arthas close in on my horse and desperation filled my gut with every passing second. The raw power I felt a moment ago was silenced as I watched Arthas touch Surfal’s face.
“The glowing eyes are a remnant,” the Lich King said. “The sign that a small shard of a soul has been bound to the animal.”
“I can sense her power within this beast,” Arthas said now. “She is a true fighter.”
“Shut up!” I shouted angrily.
“If only you could have protected this most valuable gift,” Arthas said as he pulled his sword, the legendary Frostmourne, and without hesitation ran the blade across Surfal’s protected hide. The beast let out a painful whinny and collapsed to the ground. I knew Arthas had not killed the creature, he had done worse.
“First I’ll make it suffer, then I’ll pull the druid’s soul into Frostmourne, and with it I will control her actions from Icecrown. An agent amongst the Night Elves, what a powerful weapon you have brought. All the while you will know that this was your fault. The death of Arugal’s shade and your cleansing of the Grizzly Hills will cost you in ways you can’t imagine!”
I had had enough. I threw all of my anger and hatred into a single fireball and let it fly. It caught the Lich King by surprise and I watched as he took a step backward. I had just pushed the Lich King back.
Then, another good luck charm.
I felt a shield of protection envelope me and I knew that Christine was somewhere nearby. Smart enough not to reveal herself, she was now putting all of her power into my protection. Feeling empowered, I started hurling blast after blast at the Lich King. Arthas fought back, easily at first, but when the attacks didn’t stop, I saw a sign of confusion, weakness, was it possible I even saw fear?
It was a minuscule hint of an opening and I knew I could exploit it. Unfortunately, Arthas still had a few tricks up his sleeve too. My protection suddenly vanished and I heard Christine scream loudly. I saw the troll holding her up high before he threw her out into the open, not far from where I stood.
“Here be the magical one,” the troll said with great joy. “I have brought joo two powerful fighters.”
“A valiant effort paladin,” Arthas said to Christine. “I’m afraid the time of the Light is over.”
The Lich King stepped toward her and as he pulled his sword up for the attack, I knew I couldn’t let this happen. I felt the magical power inside of me well up like a volcano and I didn’t resist the urge to use it against Arthas. My body became like fire incarnate. I let loose volley after volley of attacks, fire and brimstone rained from the sky and magical energy electrified the air around me.
At the same time I threw a slow fall spell over Christine and shouted. “Jump!”
She resisted only for a moment, but then rushed to the edge of the Keep’s wall and hurled herself over.
I pulled all of my power and hurled another wave of attacks at Arthas, pelting him time and time again.
Still, the Lich King managed to stand up against all the attacks I had. Soon, he started moving forward once more. The tip of Frostmourne grew closer to me as he stepped ever closer and I worried he might just stab me and be done with it.
Then, he decided to go for brute force. Instead of a stab, Arthas slammed the hilt of Frostmourne into my chest so hard I was in the air. I slammed against the stone railing at the edge of the temple and I was fairly certain my collarbone had just shattered on impact. I slid to the ground and coughed up some blood, another horrible sign, and then turned to see that Arthas was already towering over me.
“Your suffering is your own doing,” Arthas growled as he stood there. “Your power will now be mind and you will no longer resist me.”
I was at my bitter end. I tried to stand but fell to my knees. Unwilling to collapse entirely, I stood there, a broken man, and faced the Lich King, trying to express my anger as best I could in a twisted and vengeful glare. If looks could kill, I would have murdered Arthas ten times over by now.
“Now,” the Lich King started. “You have provoked my hand and your soul will join Frostmourne.”
I managed to mumble a slew of curses as Arthas hefted his blade into the air. Then, just before the final blow, I felt another shield slip around him. This one was not Christine’s. No, this shield was far too powerful. I felt it filling me up with energy, the tell tale sign of a mana shield. I looked up at Arthas, smiled, and said, “Not today.”
The Lich King lowered his blade for a moment and was suddenly slammed with an ice lance that nearly pinned him to the ground. From the skies came several white gryphon, the flying mounts of the Kirin Tor, and the magi atop the mounts were hurling ice bolts and arcane missiles that all landed directly on Arthas and the troll that had betrayed them.
I felt one of the gryphon talons close around my shoulder so perfectly that he knew it had been trained to do so. With a single swift pull I was off the ground and hanging from the talons with pain shooting through my arms. I tried to glance up, but could not see who my rescuer was. The troll had died in the onslaught and I could see the Lich King retreating through a black doorway that he had probably used to leave Icecrown Citadel. A moment later, the temple fell quiet. The gryphon holding me gently set down on the temple’s peak and when I was released I felt the power of several mages holding me very carefully.
“Hang in there,” an all too familiar voice said. “We’ve got you now.”
“Evanor,” I said with a slight grin. “How did you find me?”
“For a moment there every mage in Dalaran felt your presence… as well as the Lich King’s.”
“Surfal, we have to help my horse.”
Evanor pushed against me and I felt her healing my damaged organs, at least the best a magi could without the assistance of a priest. She pulled me up so that I could scoot over to where Surfal was lying. I saw the horse’s eyes and the purple glow was already fading. Keaira’s soul was slipping away and without it the beast would not survive.
“Isn’t there anything we can do?”
“The wound won’t heal,” the combat medic replied, looking over Surfal. “The Lich King’s blade won’t allow magic to work.”
“I can’t just let my horse die,” I said angrily. “I just can’t!”
“There may be something,” Evanor replied, almost to herself. “It’s risky, but it may be Surfal’s only hope.”
“I don’t care what it is, I’ll do it,” Sionis said.
“Then take my hand, we need to teleport to Dalaran.”
I suddenly thought of two things at the same moment.
“Christine!” I shouted. “Is she safe?”
“She’s fine,” Evanor assured him. “We’re taking her with us too.”
“To Dalaran?” I asked.
“Yes, now take my hand, we haven’t much time.”
I looked to Surfal and then at Lady Evanor and grabbed her arm as tightly as I could.
“Just hang in there, Surfal,” I said. “Please, hang in there.”
When the whirling motions of the teleport spell came to a stop, I collapsed on the ground. I had expected something softer than the cobble street that met me there, but it didn’t matter much. I was barely conscious and I was desperately trying to hold on as my horse, Surfal, was giving out painful grunts not far from where I was lying. I started to move but I felt several hands grab a hold of him.
“Stay still,” shouted an older man. “I can’t heal you if you won’t let me.”
“You can heal me later,” I replied. “She needs me.”
“Who needs you?”
“What? Who is that?”
I couldn’t answer. The world was spinning again, but this time it wasn’t because of teleportation.
“You throw up on me and I’m gonna be mad,” the priest said as he continued to push against Sionis. “You’re dying and I’d like to help.”
“Surfal…” I mumbled.
“Who is Surfal?” the priest asked once more.
“My horse,” I said, feeling very sick.
“Time to sleep now,” the priest said finally. “I’m not fighting you.”
With that, I felt myself slipping into a deep sleep.
My dreams were filled with darkness and death.