Episode 13: Westfall Brigade
One bad teleportation attempt and now I was really entrenched.
Captain Stoutmantle and I had a history, of course, having met years ago in Westfall. He had been kind to me and I had worked for him. I had done a good job and as a result he knew he wanted my help as soon as he had stumbled across us in the woods.
I agreed, mostly out of necessity. I couldn’t really say no at that point.
So that was how we left the Amberpine lodge. A random worgen attack and here we were fighting for the Northern Encampment.
It wasn’t all that bad.
My first day here Stoutmantle had patted me on the back and asked. “Now where’s that little night elf of yours? She always did make me laugh.”
Awkward silence followed. Thankfully Stoutmantle dropped the subject and moved on.
“What about your paladin friend, the one that was balding… Apple-something-or-another. How is he?”
“He’s actually living in South Shore,” I explained. “Last time I saw him he was heading that way from Valiance Keep in the Borean Tundra.”
“South Shore?” Stoutmantle asked. “Well, I suppose we all have our own preferences. Though, I think it’d have been nice if he had stuck around to help finish off the Lich King.”
We all had a good laugh, then it was right to work.
Days turned into weeks and weeks turned into a month.
I remember I was just about to tell the Captain that I was moving on when he pulled me aside to have a little chat.
“We’ve got a real doozy this time, Sepher,” he said with a furrowed brow.
“What kind of doozy?”
“The kind that won’t stay dead.”
I hated that kind of problem.
Fighting against the scourge wasn’t all that different from fighting against any other wild creature, except they were almost always rotten and decrepit. Their smell could knock a vulture from a garbage pile.
Worse still, these undead carried a plague that could be spread to other living soldiers, killing them and turning them into the very monsters they fought. Only the power of the holy light was strong enough to purge the plague from an individual once he was infected, and even then it was more luck than skill. If someone was infected or killed by the scourge, it wouldn’t take long for them to turn up again as an undead.
“I need you to check out the local mine,” Stoutmantle continued. “The rumors are getting worse and I can’t deal with the worgen and an undead infection.”
“Fine,” I mumbled. “I’ll check it out, but I’m taking Christine with me.”
“It’s probably better you have a paladin with you in case of infection. These scourge are vile creatures, of that I have never been more certain.”
I couldn’t have agreed with the Captain more, but since I couldn’t just ignore the problem it was probably best to address it head on.
Christine and I made our way toward the mine that Stoutmantle had told us about. Sure enough, the rumors were true. I spotted the first of many undead individuals wandering around with pickaxes still clenched in their dry hands.
“What took these people out?” Christine asked.
“Not sure,” I admitted. “Best option is to go ahead and finish them off. I’ll bring the fire if you bring the light magics.”
Christine gave a solemn nod.
I opened myself up my magical energies, preparing to call down a firestorm that would take care of most of the bodies, when I was surprised to see a single man, with a torch in hand, running directly toward us.
“Mage!” he shouted, coming closer. “Help me!”
“What happened here?” I asked the man as he got close.
“My workers,” he said through short breaths. “I watched them die. It was the food, just like in Lordaeron! I tried to warn them. I knew it was poisoned.”
“Okay, just calm down,” I said.
“When they died, I didn’t know what to do. I tried to burn some of their bodies, but I couldn’t make it work. Then they started getting back up. I can’t stop them!”
“You’re not calming down,” I said. “Seriously. Calm down.”
“No!” the miner shouted. “You don’t understand. This is all Arugal’s fault.”
“Arugal?” I asked. “You’re way off base, champ. Arugal died years ago in Shadowfang Keep.”
“Perhaps someone else is using Arugal’s name to get attention,” Christine suggested. “After all, he was the one who brought the worgen into existence. Seeing them here in Northrend can’t be a coincidence.”
“So a poser,” I grumbled. “I hate posers.”
“It was Arugal!” Petrov shouted. “I promise you it was!”
I glanced at the panicked man and then took the his torch and held it up in the air. I concentrated on the flame and watched as it spiraled up and out like a vortex above us. With a flick of my wrist, the flame came down on the undead and quickly burned away their bodies, leaving little more than ash behind.
“So much for another infection,” I added as I handed the torch back to Petrov. “We need this mine up and running if we’re going to keep delivering supplies to Icecrown Citadel. Head back to the camp and gather up some soldiers that’ll help you get this place working again.”
Petrov looked stunned as he glanced at the charred remains of his fellow workers, but after letting my orders sink in, he nodded and shot off toward the Westfall Brigade’s encampment.
I was about to follow but then Christine grabbed his arm and stopped him.
“What?” I asked.
“We’re going to see Ruuna the Blind.”
“She’s this woman,” Christine replied. “She claims she can see things we can’t. Maybe she has some kind of insight into all of this. She’s lived in the Grizzly Hills since before the Amberpine Lodge was even built.”
“You want to go to a soothsayer?” I asked. “I thought you were of the light?”
“She’s lived here a very long time. If these worgen have been around, she’ll know why.”
“Fine,” I said as he reached for Surfal’s reins. “If you think it will help then I’m not going to say no.”
“That’s right,” she said with a grin. “Now come along.”
We rode together in silence for a short time, but Christine was usually eager to start some kind of conversation. Today, she decided to go for the throat.
“What’s your horse’s name again?” she asked.
“Your horse,” she pressed. “You whisper something to it every now and again and I’ve finally come to the conclusion that it’s the name. So, what’s your horse’s name?”
“Surfal,” I replied with a slight hint of agitation.
“Darnassian for beloved,” Christine said. “That’s cute. Why does it have glowing eyes? Is that some kind of magic from the Kirin Tor?”
“No,” I said. “That is a form of druid magic.”
“What does it do?”
Feeling like I should probably explain this to her, I took a deep breath and tried to find the simplest explanation I could without going too far into my personal details.
“It happened in the Third War at the battle of Mount Hyjal.”
Christine’s eyes went wide.
“Yes,” I said. “I was there.”
“What happened?” she asked.
“I was fighting for my life,” I started. “The battle was intense. We weren’t trying to win, you see, but we needed more time to let the Night Elves execute their plan. So we fought with everything we had. As I rode Surfal into battle, I caught sight of a druid that was falling back with the rest of our group. An arrow pierced her leg and she fell to the ground. We were retreating fast, so I knew she would be left behind.”
“What did you do?” Christine asked, looking like a child listening to a marvelous tale.
“I went to her. I rode Surfal and hoped to scoop her up and get moving, but before I could pull her up, another arrow hit Surfal right in his chest. My horse stumbled and I fell from his back.”
I let the emotions of that moment flood my mind.
“Surfal was my horse for years. He was a gift from the last of my family. The realization that my friend would die was crippling in its own way. I stayed with him for a few moments, totally unawares of the danger around me. When the night elf finally pulled me away from my companion, I thought she was trying to push me on, so I finally started to move.”
“What did she do?”
“She used her power as a druid to restore Surfal. I wouldn’t know this for weeks after it happened, but the druid actually bound a part of herself to the horse’s soul to save it from death. When she did that, my horse opened its eyes and they were glowing. They had changed to the same color of the night elf’s eyes. Surfal stood up as though he had never been injured and I was amazed. With that, I threw the elf up on my horse and jumped up as well. We rode away as fast as we could and regrouped with Proudmoore’s troops. The rest, is history.”
“That’s amazing,” Christine said, looking deep into the horse’s eyes.
“The elf’s name was, or is, Keaira,” I said. “Just as I called my horse Surfal, she too became my beloved.”
“You love this elf?” Christine asked.
“I did at one time,” I said with as much of a muted tone as I could muster. The sting of my wounded heart beat hard in my chest, but I swallowed the sadness and gave Christine a lopsided grin.
“Where is she now?” she asked.
“Unfortunately,” I said as he started to move away, “I don’t know. She and I separated nearly a year ago.”
“I’m sorry for your loss,” Christine said. “I know something about this.”
“Oh yes,” she said with her own false smile. “I was going to be married to a man I cared for very much. He wasn’t always the strongest when it came to some things, but he was loyal to me. Then one day he just up and left on some quest. He claimed he was going to help stop the scourge.”
“What happened to him?”
Christine paused for a moment and then shook her head and said. “I haven’t heard from him since.”
“I’m sorry to hear that.”
“Yeah, me too. Now, come on. Let’s get to Ruuna.”
Not wanting to lengthen this sorrowful conversation, I nodded and pulled at Surfal’s reins. Despite the painful memories, Christine seemed able to carry on, but I couldn’t believe that I would ever be able to bear living with this wound. That was why I knew I had to get to Dalaran. The solution to all of this mess waited for me there.
“You coming or not?” Christine asked, pulling my attention back to her.
“Yeah,” I replied. “I’ll be right there.”