Featuring: Jill Valdaar
It was war. And it was glorious.
The Knights of the Blackened Claw stood upon the rise known as Death's Breach, looking down at the town of Havenshire below. Minuscule figures could be seen scurrying in amongst its buildings and fields; some retreating further back towards the walled city of New Avalon in the distance, others, clad in red armour, standing their ground. More figures appeared, riders clad in dark armour, who charged at the defenders.
Then a rain of arrows soared overhead, falling amongst the fields, sowing indiscriminate destruction amongst those in the fields, cutting down any unlucky to be in their path. The dark riders pressed on, as if emboldened by the carnage unleashed. A moment later, a seckoind flight of arrows passed overhead, seemingly blackening the skies.
"Beautiful" Karl Baarfden, the leader of the Blackened Claw commented, observing the scene. "Death and destruction. The slaughter of the living, the triumph of the Lich King. This is indeed a thing of beauty." Clearly one of the undead, he was a hunchbacked figure, clad in dark, runed armour.
He turned back to face his charges, the group of Death Knights assembled before him. "You will be a part of this. You will fan the flames of war, spreading carnage and death in your wake." He grinned, the skinless half of his face twisting it into a toothy leer. "The fools of the Scarlet Crusade believe that they can hold onto these lands, that they can save them from our onslaught. You, my knights, will show them the folly of their ways."
"Go now." He continued. "Travel to Havenshire, and slaughter the Crusade. Leave none living; in life, they are our greatest foes, but in death, they will serve us. Annihilate them utterly; let their blood stain these lands as a sign of our coming and a warning to anyone else who would dare oppose us." He clenched his armored fist, looking down on them. "No mercy."
Jill Valdaar couldn't help but grin at his final statement. For weeks now, she had been awaiting this moment, the chance to be unleashed upon the Scarlet filth that had, for so long, defied her master, the Lich King. The excitement had been building inside her, the hunger - no, craving for blood, the thirst for combat. She wanted nothing else. "Excellent." She finally hissed. "This will be glorious."
Tall and muscular, she sported long red hair that she wore loose, despite the impracticality of it. Unlike so many of the others, however, it was clear that she was alive; rather then coming into the Scourge's service through undeath, she had instead chosen to serve the Lich King. However, she knew that this made no difference - in the end, all that mattered was how you served. She turned, seeing several other of the knights calling for their Deathchargers, then riding off towards the Scarlet lines. She was about to herself, but noticed one other nearby. "Sellek!" She called out to her fellow.
"Yes?" He turned back to her. Like her, he was still clearly amongst the living. Older them her, his lined face was hidden behind a thick, black beard.
"This is a great moment." She replied. "To be here... at the first step of this great war. Savior it." Then, she burst into another toothy grin. "Now, let us go, and destroy them utterly!"
"Jill-" He began, but was cut off by the howl of her Deathcharger emerging form the spirit world, appearing before her.
She quickly mounted the spectral horse, rearing it back. "I bet I slaughter more then you!" She finished as she spurred her horse on. With a cry, the beast broke into a gallop, charging towards the Scarlet lines.
"..of course you will." He finished. "Never mind." He called for his own Deathcharger, ready to launch himself into the fray.
Jill's Deathcharger vaulted over the barricades in front of Havenshire, her Runeblade sweeping through the air in a broad arc as it did. As the horse came down, she lashed out, running a Scarlet soldier through before he could respond. She tore the blade free, leaving a trail of blood behind her as she did. He gasped, collapsing to the ground behind her.
"Clean that mess up." She began, glancing back at a pair of brown-clad Death Knight Initiates. "Or make a ghoul out of it or something." She added, leaping off and dismissing her Deathcharger as she did. The pair of them glanced at each other. "Whatever you do, just stay out of my way!"
With a feral shout, she charged forwards, leaping over a felled tree. Behind it was another Scarlet Soldier; he desperately raised his sword, managing to deflect part of her blow. Instead of cutting his arm off, the blade instead tore down his sdide, leaving a slick trail of blood behind it. Jill turned around, glaring at the soldier as he staggered, trying to maintain his footing.
Then, a moment later, he let out a shout of horror as his arm twitched and began to wither, the flesh blackening and shriveling. He dropped his sword, instead clutching at the limb. Jill stopped to watch as the soldier fell to his knees, staring in mute horror as the infection spread across his body.
"A gift from the Lich King." She sneered. "I could be merciful and end your suffering now... but for your insolence, you deserve a long and painful death!" She broke into a run, leaving the withering soldier behind, instead charging further into the Scarlet-held territory, intent on further mayhem and slaughter.
With a loud crack, a nearby rifleman opened fire, his shot narrowly missing her, and instead embedding into a tree trunk right by her head. "That..." She sneered as she turned to face the rifleman, who was hastily trying to reload. "Was a mistake. You die now." She raised her left arm, stretching out with it just as he raised his rifle, opening her hand. There was a crackle of energy from her open palm, reaching out and seizing the rifleman by the neck.
He jerked and flew through the air like a puppet on strings, not in control of his action but rather being manipulated by another. The Scarlet rifleman stopped, hovering just in front of Jill, clutching at his throat while she slowly closed her hand, clenching it into a fist. Then, she violently struck out with her Runeblade, running the rifleman through before withdrawing the weapon, splattering his blood on the ground before she finally let him drop, lifeless.
"Yes!" She called out, spinning around, unleashing a blast of necrotic energy at another soldier, watching with glee as it washed over him. "Carnage!" She yelled, turning to face another soldier as they aproached. "Slaughter!" She added, dodging their blow, then impaling them on her blade. "Death!" She finished, ripping it free, before turning to the one she wounded before. "This is what I was created for. I am the hand of the Lich King, and you shall fall before me!" She bought her blade down in the weakened soldier, digging it into their spine, then driving it through their body.
Withdrawing the blade, she looked around, surveying the trail of death and destruction she had left in her path. Yet, a lot more remained; Havenshire stood before her, stripped of most of its defenders; its population ripe for the slaughter. She raised her blade, looking over the unsuspecting community. "Perfect. And now, you will all die."
There was a pause for a moment, as she furrowed her brow. This place seems familiar somehow... She thought, looking over it. She could swear she recongised it, but had no idea where from.
"Die, Scourge filth!"
Jill swung around, lashing out with her blade as another Scarlet solider appeared, leaping at her. This one was a woman, blond-haired, carrying a sword in each hand, he features twisted into a feral snarl. She swung forwards with her twin blades, Jill only barely deflecting them with her own Runeblade. The weapons connected with a loud crash, both combatants being forced back by the impact.
This soldier, however, was clearly well-trained and ready. She regained her footing, charging forwards at Jill, lashing out again with her blades. She barely sidestepped the first one, the point passing just by her neck. The second struck her shoulder, deflected off the heavy armour she wore with out injury.
Swinging back at her foe, Jill's blade scythed towards the blonde woman, only to be parried by both her blades. To her, surprise, she found that her heavier weapon was stopped dead. Snarling, she swung again, only to again be blocked by her opponent's crossed blades. Regardless, she continued to push against her, pressing down with the massive runeblade.
To her surprise, the other woman stood her ground, instead grabbing the runeblade bwetween her own blades, twisting around, shoving the sword aside. Using Jill's own momentum against her, she shoved her aside, pushing her blade away from her. As Jill stumbled for a moment, she swiped back with one of her own swords, the blade only narrowly missing Jill's chest.
"I will not yield to you!" The blonde shouted. "For your desecration of these lands, you will be destroyed!" She charged forwards, swinging at Jill again, pushing the Death Knight back. She continued to lash out with her twin swords, striking at Jill, forcing her to remain in the defensive to try and parry her fast-striking blows. Rearing up, she swung forwards in a bold, aggressive move, her swords sweeping together towards Jill's neck.
For the first time in years, Jill actually knew fear. But only for a moment.
She backpedaled quickly, bringing up her own blade, swiping at one of the two coming at her. She hit hard, deflecting it away from her, sending her opponent reeling for a moment. Regaining the momentum, she surged forwards, lunging at the Scarlet Warrior. Her blade punctured through the warrior's side, piercing amour and flesh, the warrior letting out a satisfying scream as she tore the blade free.
Ignoring the massive wound, the soldier feinted at Jill, lashing out again with her blades. Again Jill stepped back, but this time the blow was not aimed to kill; rather to distract. Seeing her chance, the Soldier broke into a run, trying to escape as the Death Knight regained her footing.
"Fool!" Jill called out. "Nobody escapes!" She lashed out with her left hand, gesturing at the warrior. An instant later, the ground around her cracked and erupted as shards of ice leaped up from it, ensnaring the warrior's legs and lower body, freezing her in place.
"You should not have run!" Jill shouted as she charged. "You are merely prolonging the inevitable!" She swung again at the warrior as they tried to bring up their own weapon in defense, instead finding themselves all but paralyzed by the ice. The blade crashed down, tearing trough the armour over their shoulder and biting into the flesh, driving them to their knees. "We will destroy you, and claim this world as our own!" She called out as she swung again, slamming into one of her swords, shattering it. "The Scourge shall rain supreme over all!"
A third blow came down, aimed at cleaving the warrior's skull in half. Just as it was, the ice around her shattered, the blond woman jerking back at the last second. Instead the blade tore down the right side of their face, slicing through skin and shredding her eye, leaving a bloody trail behind it. She screamed in pain, crashing to the ground.
"Yield now." Jill finished. "Join us, serve the Scourge... or die, and serve us anyway."
Clutching her ruined face, the woman looked up at her, a mixture of pain and anger on her face. However, that suddenly gave way to a look of shock and confusion. "Jill Valdaar?"
Jill paused, raising her blade. "J-" She stammered. "Jordie?"
Suddenly a flood of memories surfaced, washing over her. Training in Tyr's hand, sparring with a tough blond woman. Prayers in the cathedral. Evenings spent in the New Avalon tavern, laughing, the fears of the Scourge temporarily forgotten. And going into battle, fighting alongside other red-clad warriors against the unending hordes of the undead.
"Damn you!" Jordie called out, throwing the shattered hilt of one of her blades at Jill. The weapon went past her, but, combined with the fugue of her past resurfacing, was enough to completely occupy her. The wounded soldier stood, breaking into a run. By the time Jill turned, she was making her getaway.
"Nobody Esc... ape...s" Jill shouted back, trailing off as she stretched out her hand. However, she seize the warrior with her Death Grip, instead standing there, empty handed as she fled. "What..." She began, blinking as she stood there. "What happened?"
She turned aorund, surveying the fields of Havenshire. She remembered this place; she had lived here for years before, helping to protect its people from the horrors of the Scourge. The people she had just slaugthered, the horrors she had unleashed. "What have I done?"
"I saw what you did there!" A voice called out, snapping her back to reality. She spun around, blade at the ready, looking for this new foe. Instead she saw one of her fellow Knights, Baxter, astride his Deathcharger. He grinned wickedly as the undead horse wheeled around. "I saw what you did." He repeated. "And you are a dead woman!" He laughed as he spurred the horse into a gallop, heading north towards Death's Breach.
"Baxter!" She shouted out, her voice full of anger and fury; however, it was not just for him. Instead, she realized the consequences of her actions; both the lives she had taken, and the one she had spared.
As soon as she returned to Acherus, Jill knew she was in trouble. A half-dozen of the Knights of the Blackened Claw were waiting for her, Karl Baarfden amongst them. And, while the wounds and decay he had suffered made his expression very hard to read, it was clear to her that he was not pleased to see her. Baxter, on the other hand, was smirking broadly, as if anticipating what was about to come and his role in it - a bad sign at the best of times.
None the less, she maintained her calm demeanor, trying to act as if nothing had happened below. She simply walked silently towards the group of knights, maintaining a neutral, expressionless face, trying not at all to think about what was going on. However, the closer she got, the more she felt like a condemned prisoner approaching the executioner's block.
"My lord." She began, nodding to Sir Karl. Due to his hunched back and decayed body, he was slightly shorter then she was; however, she made sure to show him the proper respect, regardless.
"Baxter told me about what happened." He replied, with a sneer. "Do not play the innocent, Valdaar"
"Silence!" She shouted as he strode over to her. "You let one of the Crusade escape. You could have easily cut them down, or dragged them back in, or any one of a number of things. Instead, you were content to let them run." The blue glow of his eyes seems to burn with rage. "You showed mercy to the enemy, an unforgivable crime"
"No excuses!" He shouted as he lashed out, his armored fist striking her face. She recoiled back, not expecting the blow. "We are Death Knights!" A second blow struck her forehead, drawing blood. "We do not show mercy or compassion." A third drove her down to her knees. "We do not show remorse or pity."
He loomed over her, his undead face contorted into a hideous snarl. "We destroy without pity or remorse." He continued, lashing out with his boot. The blow hit her in the face, sending her reeling back, and crashing to the boot. "We are the champions of death. The living are to be slaughtered and destroyed, their bodies and souls to serve us." He continued to kick her, repeatedly slamming his armoured boot into her body. She could feel - and hear- her ribs crack under the assault, but everything else was lost in a haze of pain.
The other Knights closed in, looking down on her. "I should destroy you for what you have done." He snarled, again striking her. After a few more blows, he stopped, stepping back, stretching one arm out, his hand open.
Jill found herself being lifted off the floor by her neck, seized by an invisible hand. She gasped out as she realised what was happening, watching as his hand tightened into a fist, at the same time increasing the pressure on her throat. "However, I will spare you this once; not because I have mercy or compassion." He paused, letting the words sink in, holding the pressure tight but not increasing, not taking that final step to crush her. "But simply because you are a weapon, one I can still uses against the armies of the living. The only reason you are alive now is because you are more useful as a Death Knight then you would be as a ghoul"
His lifeless eyes narrowed, the unholy power burning brightly. "Your life is in my hands, Valdaar. Make one more mistake, and you will have an eternity of mindless servitude to regret it. Do you understand?"
Jill wanted to reply; instead, the best she could manage was a few strangled gurgles. Instead, she nodded, trying hard not to show the pain and terror she was drowning in on her face.
"Good." He simply released her, letting her fall to the floor. Turning around, he started to walk off, but paused. "If it were up to me, you would all ready be dead. However, the Lich King still has need of your services. However, I have to wonder... maybe what I had in mind may have been more merciful." She let out a brief cough in reply, spitting blood onto the floor. "Clean yourself up, and be ready for battle tomorrow." He finished.
She nodded weakly, the only reply she could offer.
Sellek stepped into their shared quarters, pausing at the door. Jill was standing in the middle of the room, the upper half of her armour removed, her back to him. Her body was a mess of bruises, black and blue welts discouring her tanned skin. Several crude dressings had been applied, and she was slowly wrapping a bandage around herself.
"I-" He began, turning away.
"I'm nearly finished." She casually replied.
He stepped into the room, making careful effort not to look at the injured, yet still attractive half-naked woman standing there. "Will you be all right?"
"I can still fight." Jill answered dismissively, finishing wrapping the bandage. Already blood was discolouring it. "I will be fit to take the field tomorrow and continue our campaign." She shrugged back one of her shoulders, wincing in pain. "Everything is fine" She added, while it was clear that such was not the case.
"I did not mean physically." He stated. "What happened out there?"
"I made a mistake." She snapped. "I hesitated, and showed mercy to an opponent when I should have destroyed them." Anger was colouring her voice. "Karl was right to punish me for what I did." Again, the tone in her voice suggested otherwise.
"But why?" He asked.
She paused, staring into the corner of their room. Eventually, she glanced back at him, one eye swollen shut. "Because..." She shook her head. "Because I thought I recongised that Crusader." She eventually admitted. "As if she was someone I knew before I was a Death Knight."
"-I think I was one of them." She finished. "I was a member of the Crusade."
There was a heavy silence for a a minute, neither of them saying a thing. Finally, Jill spoke again. "I... I think I have known this for some time. But it is only now that It has become clear. For me, coming to this place is not new; I'm returning to a place where I have been before." She clenched her fist. "And Karl knows, I'm sure of it. He probably finds this amusing... sending a former Crusader to destroy her onetime comrades."
"Truth, I know what you mean." He admitted. "For some time now, I too have been convinced that there was something I have forgotten, something I was meant to do."
"It doesn't matter." She snapped. "We are Death Knights. We will serve the Scourge, and destroy our enemies." She sighed. "We have no choice. It is what we are." She slammed her fist into the wall, wincing in pain, but not regretting it.
He glanced at her, noting her sudden change in tone. Sellek had to wonder, however what was behind it. Had the Lich King's control slipped and suddenly reasserted itself, or was it that she was reminding herself as a way of reassurance?