Episode 19: The Fight at Wintergarde
Though I didn’t know what to expect when I reached Wintergarde Keep on my new flying horse, the danger that I was flying into became apparent in my final descent. I saw some parts of the Keep were burning as I approached and then I caught sight of something I had not expected to see.
The enormous Necropolis that that had once flown over the eastern plaguelands.
Seeing that the Keep was in immediate danger I pulled on Surfal’s reins and landed beyond the Keep’s outer gate. When I hit the ground, I heard only one thing.
“Thank the light, it’s a mage!”
I jumped from Surfal and rushed toward the keep’s large door, which was being smashed by an even larger monster. I unleashed a volley of fireballs that hammered into the forces and took them completely by surprise. My fire strike gave a bit of relief to the keep’s gate and as the monsters focused their attack on me instead. A battle horn was blown and at least a dozen soldiers came pouring out the doorway, beating back the straggling undead and assaulting the force that had turned to face me. Suddenly caught in a pinch, the entire group of scourge monsters were killed off and the survivors started to fall back.
“Mage!” a soldier shouted. “Get inside the Keep. Now!”
I nodded and turned to Surfal, making a familiar whistle that the horse knew meant to retreat for now. The beast flapped its new wings and flew into the sky while I rushed through the large gate just as the group sealed it behind me.
“Thanks for that,” one of the men waiting on the other side of the gate said to me as I entered. “We couldn’t risk opening the door and letting monsters get in here. There are too many civilians and wounded.”
“What happened here?” I asked.
“It’s Naxxramas,” the man replied. “It showed up out of nowhere. We had just gotten word from Ebon Hold that it was gone and then wham, not more than a day later we were fending of these scourge forces.”
“Why?” I asked. “With Dalaran and Valiance Keep, why is Naxxramas here?”
“To try and divert our forces.”
“Divert them? Here? What’s the point? There is a full scale war going on in Icecrown.”
“If Highlord Bolvar’s plan goes right, we’ll be pushing in on the Lich King from two fronts.”
“Highlord Bolvar? I thought he was heading to Icecrown.”
“He was, until he came to the Wrathgate.”
“Yeah, it’s basically the front door to the Icecrown Citadel. If we can punch through that gate, we’ll bring down Arthas in half the time. The Lich King’s time is running short. That’s why Naxxramas is here and that only strengthens my heart, because that means we’re doing the right thing.”
I had to agree. If Naxxramas was actually assaulting this small fortress, then the Lich King obviously saw some importance here.
“Where is your leader?” I asked.
“I am the leader. My name is Halford Wyrmbane.”
“Then what can I do to help?”
“Actually, I’ve got just the mission for you. We’ve got a Lich to deal with.”
“Wonderful,” I said sarcastically. “Same as usual, right? We want to kill him but can’t without finding his phylactery.”
“Oh, we can do one better,” Halford added with a grin. “We know where the blasted lich keeps his soul. We just need to get it.”
“How do you know where he keeps it?” I asked. “The lich usually keep that secret close guarded.”
“Not long after Nazzramas showed up, we were attacked by a large ice dragon thing and one of our guards noticed it had one of those phylactery jars attached to its skeleton. It was tied to one of the rib bones. Not much a safer place to store something like that. At first we assumed it was Kel’Thuzad’s, but we know now that he’s keeping his locked up in Naxxramas.”
“Wait, Kel’Thuzad is alive? I thought the assault on Naxxramas in the Eastern Plaguelands was a success. Didn’t you guys find Kel’s phylactery then?”
“Yes, they did. However, they gave it to Father Inigo Montoy, one of our best priests. He was supposed to destroy it but bolted off with it never to be seen or heard from again.”
“So, who is this other lich?”
“He calls himself Thel’zan. He’s raising the dead from these ancient burial grounds and attacking us. Naxxramas is floating over an old mausoleum and he’s sending waves of enemies at us.”
“That’s an epic story, but what am I supposed to do?”
“My men have been tracking the ice dragon ever since it attacked but we haven’t had the firepower to bring it down. You’re just the flame-throwing cannon that we needed.”
“Seriously?” I asked. “You want me to kill a frost wyrm?”
“Sure, they’ve come to call it Icestorm. Sounds like a perfect match for you.”
“How can you know that the jar you found is really this Lich’s phylactery?”
“Well, I figure once we destroy the jar and kill him, we’ll know pretty quickly.”
“So, where do I go to find this dragon anyway?” I asked.
Before Halford could respond, the gate that was keeping them safe was suddenly blown open with a blast of icy fire that ripped through the air and splintered the enormous blockade in the process. Sionis quickly scrambled to his feet and helped pull up the leader just as a large skeletal dragon stepped through the stone archway of Wintergarde Keep.
“It’s Icestorm!” a soldier shouted. “RUN!”
“Well, there you go,” Halford replied as he pulled his weapon. “Go get him.”
“Right,” I said as I started to charge up my powers. “No problem.”
The dragon rushed at the nearby soldiers and I threw a fireball to catch the beast’s attention. I heard the sizzling of hot flame hitting the icy protection of the dragon and there was a loud growl of disapproval. I had hit the beast and now it was looking rather angry. I rushed away and whistled for Surfal, who came flying down for me to jump on.
“Up up!” I shouted.
The celestial steed responded by flapping its wings and taking us up into the air. Icestorm, the frost dragon, was directly behind us and it looked mad. As Surfal flew through the air I looked around, desperately trying to figure out how I would get the jar.
Then, I had an idea.
I wasn’t after the dragon, I was after the phylactery. I pulled on Surfal’s reins and swung the beast back around, conjuring a small dagger to throw. With careful aim I waited for Surfal to pass beneath the dragon and then with a quick fire blast and a jab, I had burned through the ice and cut the bindings that kept the phylactery bound to the beast.
The jar began to plummet toward the ground, but the dragon caught Surfal with its back leg, knocking me free from my mount. I slowed myself in the air and checked to make sure Surfal had gotten away. Then, I spotted something else that would be of great use to them. I focused on Halford’s location so that I could teleport myself there, moments before the dragon came at me again.
“Sionis!” the man shouted when I appeared before him. “What are you doing?”
“You’ve got harpoon guns here, load them up! I’ve got the phylactery and I can lure the beast in close but you have to be ready to strike!”
Halford seemed to catch on. “I got it ol’ boy! We’ll bring this beast down once and for all!”
I quickly teleported back out into the snow and grabbed up the phylactery, which was still unbroken. I saw Icestorm was still busy snapping away at Surfal, who in return appeared to be playing with the dragon more than running from it.
The Wintergarde soldiers were already rushing up to their posts along the wall and I knew I would have to bring the dragon down to the ground before they could effectively trap the beast within the keep. I pulled the lid from the phylactery jar and an ear piercing sound ripped through the air. It caused the soldiers, Icestorm, and even Surfal to pause for a moment and locate where the hideous noise was coming from. I got to my knees and set the jar in front of me, looking down inside to see something that resembled a prune, black and withered. When I looked up, I saw that the dragon was closing in fast.
I slammed the lid back on the jar and started running toward the keep and the dragon hit the ground not far from where I stood.
I then turned back, slammed the monster with a few fireballs, and shouted, “NOW!”
The soldiers followed the order and over two dozen heavy chains were shot out, passing through the dragon, around the dragon, and over the dragon before piercing the ground on the other side. At first the dragon jerked away, but the harpoons held and it pulled the beast back to the ground. Every battle capable soldier rushed out and started hacking, slicing, and burning their way through the beast as it howled and slashed back at them. Overpowered by the sheer anger of the soldiers, Icestorm was finally felled. As it collapsed, the blue glowing eyes within its skull vanished. It was lifeless once more.
“We did it!” Halford shouted triumphantly, “We’re victorious!”
The soldiers cheered and shouted the Alliance cry as well as other mangled victory calls.
I waited for things to calm down a bit before I turned to Halford and presented the phylactery that I had been told to retrieve.
“Excellent work Sepher,” Halford said happily. “I never doubted you.”
“His soul is in there,” I replied. “You can destroy him now.”
“Perhaps we won’t have to.”
“Come on mage,” Halford said as he whistled for his mount. “We’ve got a meeting.”
I climbed up on Surfal and followed Halford out into the blasted cold. The general was carrying the jar in his hands and when they reached a point where several undead were guarding some kind of underground doorway, Halford held the phylactery above his head.
“Get out here you demon!” Halford shouted. “Stand here and let’s talk about your future.”
At first nothing happened, but sure enough, the doors to the underground structure finally burst open and I watched as a lich emerged into the daylight.
“Hello Thel’zan,” Halford said with a bitter voice. “Good to see you listen to reason sometimes.”
“You will die where you stand Halford…”
“Will I?” the soldier asked. “Or will you?” He pulled the jar open and I heard the terrible noise rip across the air again. The undead near Thel’zan grew angry and began snarling and attacking one another, but Halford stood his ground and appeared to be enjoying the standoff.
“I’ve got your soul, Lich, and I’ve got no reason to keep you around. Your undead are disorganized and confused without your control and we’ll purge them easily enough without you around.”
“So then, what has stopped you from killing me?” Thel’zan asked.
“I wanted to see if you valued your…life. I’m not an unforgiving man, Thel’zan. If you were willing to separate yourself from your soul just to avoid death, perhaps you will be willing to work with me instead of against me for the sake of maintaining that goal.”
“What is it you demand?”
“You end this conflict and you leave Wintergarde alone.”
“If I did that, Kel would have my head on a platter.”
“Then, don’t do that. Keep the fights going, but only for show from now on.”
I raised an eyebrow. “Seriously?”
Thel’zan growled angrily. “You’ll blackmail me then?”
“You can keep up your fighting,” Halford repeated. “We’ll keep slaying your beasts, but if you make an actual assault on Wintergarde or you kill a single soldier in my keep, I’ll tear your soul in half myself.”
“What is in it for me?” Thel’zan asked. “Live a prisoner?”
“You’re already a prisoner Thel’zan. If you keep up this fake front, when the war ends, and I assure you it will end soon, then I will speak on your behalf and perhaps the magi of Dalaran will allow you to live free in Northrend.”
Thel’zan laughed and then slashed out with a knife that nearly removed Halford’s head from his shoulders. The leader dodged with no more than an inch to spare and the jar fell to the ground, with the soul rolling out onto the ground. When it did, Thel’zan cried out in pain and fell to the ground.
“Put it back!” he cried. “Do as I order!”
“Sorry,” I replied. “No dice.”
I flicked my wrist and the small withered soul burst into flames. As it melted away, Thel’zan screeched out in horror before he finally went limp and collapsed on the ground. As soon as the lich died, the undead all around started going crazy. I picked up Halford and threw him up on my mount. Together, we rode back to Wintergarde Keep as fast as we could, rushed inside, and slammed the door shut behind us.
“You okay?” I asked.
“I guess,” Halford replied, “but I had hoped to avoid any more bloodshed.”
“Thel’zan didn’t have any blood to lose Halford. I’m sorry.”
Halford was about to speak when he heard a nearby squire calling his name.
“What is it boy?” he asked.
“It’s Highlord Bolvar Highdragon, sir!” the boy replied. “He’s gathering the last troops for the assault on the Wrathgate.”
“Already?” Halford asked. “Blast it all.”
“Without a lich to organize them, the undead here will fight amongst themselves. Keep your fort bolstered and you should be fine.”
“I understand that,” Halford replied. “I just wish I could have kept you around longer.”
“Sionis, Bolvar is going to need everyone he can get. You’re a powerful mage; I’ve seen that much in the short time you’ve been here. You need to get to the Wrathgate. When those troops break through, they’re going straight for the Lich King.”
“Arthas,” I said slowly, letting the hatred boil up in my gut.
“That’s right. You need to be there to help.”
“Oh, don’t you worry,” I said as I clenched my fist. “I will be.”