Featuring: Silandra Silverwood
The decks of the Ogrim’s Hammer buzzed with activity as Horde Soldiers prepared for battle. All around, the crews armed the ship’s weapons while others prepared their own arms and armour for the coming conflict. As lookouts warily watched for Scourge and Alliance forces, those onboard assessed the situation and what was to come.
“All right, me lovelies.” Aunty Jack began, looking over a map of the area around Icecrown Citadel itself. “This is it. This is where we drive to the Lich King himself, and rip his bloody arms off.”
There was a murmur of reply form the assembled members of the Aunty Jack show as they looked over the maps before them, listening to their leader’s words.
“Excuse me” a small voice piped up from behind the assembled crowd.
“Their defences have been breached here, here and here.” Aunty Jack continued. “We will make our landing at Light’s Breach, connecting with the Argent Crusade and Ebon Blade forces already in the field. From there, we should be able to advance into the heart of Icecrown itself.” She clenched her armoured fist in anticipation.
“That will be difficult.” Thurg Headcrusher spoke up. “They’ll be expecting us. Their numbers will be heavy.”
“Well, that’s why-“ the voice spoke up again, only to be cut off.
“Oh, I hope there will be.” Aunty Jack replied. “Thing is, me lovelies, I’m expecting them to throw everything they’ve bloody well got at us. The Argent Crusade and the Horde’s army will have opened a path, but, even then, it’s gonna be a bloody mess, but I know we can handle Scourge rabble.” She looked around. “Your Aunty didn’t assemble the meanest force in the history of the Horde for nothing.”
There was a round of laughs form the assembled group, as well as a rather loud “Hoho!”
“Well, thing is, in addition-“ The voice again added.
“We’ll be going in with other Horde forces.” She stated. “They’ll help clear the way and break up their numbers, so that we can bloody well get in there. Once in, we’ll-“
“If I may make a suggestion!” The voice stated, a lot louder then before.
“What is it?” Aunty Jack shouted as she turned around. Behind her was a female Tauren, dressed in mail armour and carrying a rifle over her back. “And who the bloody hell are you?”
“I- I-“ The Tauren stammered, as if she had expected Aunty Jack to know who she was. “Well, I’m Bowen Thropping.”
“The leader of the Redrock Raiders.”
“Oh, that sad sick bunch.” She snorted derisively.
“Well, I couldn’t agree more.” Thropping nodded. “Which is why that I feel that it would best serve the interests of myself, of your guild and the Horde as a whole if-“
“If nothing, sweetheart!” Aunty Jack roared at her, seemingly looming over the far taller Tauren. “Me and me lovelies are trying to plan he most important bloody operation in the history of the Horde here! So just push off and let me do me work, or else I’ll rip your bloody arms off!”
Bowen shrunk back with a small “meep”, cowering before the Orc. “Um, okay. Sure. Thanks. Bye!” She finished before sprinting off.
“Bloody nuisance that was.” Aunty Jack finished. “So where the bloody hell was I?”
“Well, how’d it go?” Skaase asked. He and the rest of the Redrock Raiders were gathered over the other side of the ship, as far from the Aunty Jack Show as possible.
“Um, could have gone better.” She admitted. “Aunty Jack didn’t want to speak to me.”
“So we’re not in?”
Bowen shook her head. “No. Aunty Jack thinks that they don’t need our help.”
“So we’ll be stuck with that miserable lot?” Skaase indicated back to the assembled ranks of the Redrock Raiders. “That’s gonna get us nowhere.”
“It will get us in.” Bowen stated. “From there, I’m sure we can use the inevitable battlefield confusion to hook up with the Aunty Jack Show. Maybe they’ll have taken some casualties by then and will be in need of relief.” There was a hopeful tone in her voice.
“It’d be nice.” Skaase replied. “I mean, it’s only all we’ve been workin’ towards for the last few years.”
“Well, Rupert’s got the money ready if everything goes bad.” She replied dismissively. “And besides, if things go well, we could end up being heroes of the Horde anyway. And then Aunty Jack would have to hire us.”
“I suppose so…” He shook his head. “Ah well, time ta go rally da troops then.”
Teppy nervously glanced at the Orc next to him while looking around the members of the Redrock Raiders. Specifically, he was nervously eyeing a single Blood Knight, the only one in the guild’s ranks. Presently, she was simply staring at Icecrown, her back to the others.
To say that Teppy was wary of her would be an understatement. Several months ago, she had come very close to learning his secret – and nearly tried to kill him for it. He’d been lucky to escape, and she hadn’t pressed the issue since. He suspected that she had a lack of evidence, or maybe a lack of witnesses. However, he knew that she was still a threat.
“Mon-, er… I mean, Orc shaman who is a member of our guild and always hangs around and rarely says anything and never takes off his helmet and come to think of it I don’t remember his name?” He finally spoke up.
“Yes, Teppy?” The Orc asked, his face impassive behind his feature-concealing helmet.
“I’m worried about Silverwood.” He stated. “I this is a very important time and, well…”
“You’re worried that she will betray us.” He replied. “Quite understandable. However, it is rather clear that our erstwhile Blood Knight has other matters on her mind, yes.”
“Oh, definitely.” He finished. “Suffice to say, Teppy, she will likely not be an obstacle to the Rebirth of the Kon School.”
Silandra stared intently at Icecrown citadel, watching it as if she expected the structure to abruptly get up and launch itself at the airship, eyeing it as one would eye an armed opponent. “You’re in there.” She muttered to herself. “I know it. I can feel it.”
Ashblood, her nemesis. The Sin’dorei Death Knight that had been following her for the last few years. Everywhere Silandra went, Ashblood followed. And where Ashblood went, chaos and death travelled with her. The Death Knight seemed to have a fascination with tormenting Silandra, killing her allies in front of her, but never actually harming her directly.
Silandra had tried to defeat her in past, but each time had met with failure. When conventional methods had failed, she’d tried burying her alive, or throwing her into lava, or other such dire actions. And yet, each time, Ashblood came back.
As near as Silandra could tell, Ashblood was trying to drag her to the Lich King’s service, to turn her against everything she stood for. Silandra’s will had held fast; she had not been tempted, instead remaining loyal to her people. And there had been consequences; every time she defied Ashblood, people died.
But they had been worthwhile sacrifices. Their deaths, while regrettable, had been the price of her loyalty. However, it was a sacrifice that she was willing to make; she knew full well that, were she to fall to the Scourge, then the consequences would be far greater – not only for her, but for all her people.
She had remained resolute throughout. And now, as she approached Icecrown, her determination only grew.
This was the moment she had lived for; no this was all she had lived for. Like every other member of her race, she had sworn vengeance against Arthas for his destruction of their homeland and the near-extinction of their race. However, there was more then just that. However, the fact that Ashblood was in her way only made her hunger for that moment even more.
“I will defeat you.” She announced to the citadel, as if trying to intimidate it with her words alone. “This day will see your end.”
“That’s great to hear, Silandra.” Bowen Thropping added as she approached. “Because your leadership in this assault will be vital to me-“
“I do not care for you or your guild. All I care for is vengeance.”
Thropping shuffled her hooves for a moment. “Well, um, vengeance is also good. Just, um, make sure that you do your job.”
She didn’t reply, instead continuing to stare at the ominous citadel. She could hear the voice again, lurking quietly in the back of her mind, whispering horrible things to her.
“No.” She stated. “This is over, finished. It ends now.”
“For the Horde!”
Bowen’s rallying cry echoed across the chambers as the assembled might of the Redrock Raiders surged forwards, similar vicious warcries issuing from their lips. As one, the force of Orcs, Trolls, Tauren. Forsaken and Blood Elves advanced, charging into the cavernous halls of Icecrown citadel. The echoes of their footsteps rang out through the halls, adding to the roar of their bloody cries.
And in response came another sound; not a roar or even a rumble, but rather, an unearthly moan, issuing from thousands of mouths and amplified by those hallways. Ahead, a force emerged, pouring in from corridors, descending from the ceilings or, in some cases, emerging from the floor itself. It was a veritable wall of the undead; an army of the damned that had risen up to meet them.
As one the force advanced; skeletons, horrific ghouls, agile geists, the lumbering forms of the Vargul, all bearing down with a single-minded determination born of their enslavement to the Lich King’s will. They had no option but to fight to the very end; until they or their enemies were utterly destroyed.
“Open fire!” Bowen shouted out. The roar of rifles echoed through the halls as waves of bullets, arrows and all manner of spells crashed into the Undead line. Individuals staggered and fell as the Raiders’ attacks slammed into them; however, for their losses, the undead continued to advance, unconcerned about their losses.
“Stand your ground!” She called out. “Drive them back!” The Scourge force crashed into the Raiders’ front; armour and blades meeting bone, flesh and claw. The Riders, for their combination of skill and determination, held their ground against the undead assault; cutting down the first wave that crashed against them. However, even as they fell, a second wave washed over their fallen counterparts, leaping into battle with the Horde force.
Zafkiel Voidrender, safe in the rear echelon of the Raiders’ lines, unleashed spell after spell, effortlessly controlling the fel energies that he twisted to his will. He didn’t see the attack as an obstacle; rather he saw it as an opportunity. While those poor fools at the front were throwing themselves in harm’s way, he would be secure to unleash spell after spell on his mindless foes. He almost revelled in the display of raw power that he commanded, knowing full well that he, removed from the immediate battle, was safe from harm.
There was one upside to the situation that immediately came to his mind; there was every chance that the Raiders in the front line would falter or fall, despite the best efforts of their healers. And there were a few that he would not mind seeing dead; tragic losses that they would be, it would make his life a lot easier.
A certain red-blonde Blood Knight came to his mind immediately; there in the front lines, cleaving into the advancing Scourge forces, the stolen powers of the Light turning her into an instrument of destruction to rival his own abilities. It would be so much easier if something were to happen to her.
He was shaken from this pleasing thought by a sound, a rumbling, clattering noise coming from behind him. Glancing around, his eyes widened in fear as he saw what was happening. Ghouls, Geists, Skeletons and so many others, pulling themselves out of the floor or descending from the ceiling and forming up in an advancing line behind their own force.
“Bowen!” He called out, trying to maintain as much civility as he could in this situation. “There are more undead coming from behind!”
The Tauren hunter spun around, her rifle at the ready. “By the Horde!” She called out, distress evident in her voice. “It’s an ambush! They have us surrounded!”
“What do we do?” An Orc called out.
There was a pause as Bowen merely stared in horror, seemingly dumbstruck at the situation. “Bowen?” He asked again. “What do we do?”
She shook her head. “Form up a circle!” She called out. “We will hold our ground, and try to find a way out of this trap!”
All of a sudden, Zafkiel wanted to take back all he had just considered. Right now, he wanted Silandra to remain alive for as long as possible.
For her part, Silandra threw herself into the oncoming undead swarm; swinging her blade broadly, she cleaved a path into their oncoming ranks. Slicing through them, her sword shone with brilliant golden energy as it and her spells destroyed the Scourge filth that dared to stand before her.
“Fall!” She shouted out in triumph. “Fall before the might of the Sin’dorei! For your crimes against our people, against our homelands…” her mouth twisted into a hideous grin. “For the slaughter you inflicted on us, for destroying our sacred Sunwell, for forcing us to depend on the filth of the Horde… You will die! I will destroy every last one of you! I will crush your lifeless husks with the power that I command! I will destroy you all!”
Kill them all
She stopped in the middle of a swing, looking up at the unseen speaker. “Ashblood.”
In front of her, the Scourge lines seemed to momentarily part. With a shout, she launched herself into them, charging through the corridor of the undead before it closed up behind her. The rest of the guild – specifically Bowen – shouted out to her, urging her to come back to them.
However, she didn’t hear them; even if she had, it wouldn’t have mattered. There was only one thing on her mind now, the destruction of her greatest enemy, the one that had stalked her for years, bringing her to this point. She knew they would be here. Now it was just a matter of time until they faced each other.
Leaving the rest of the Raiders well behind, she strode further into the depths of the citadel; through a maze of darkened, twisting corridors. “Ashblood!” Silandra shouted as she stalked the halls of Icecrown. Her voice echoed throughout the eerily silent corridors. “Show yourself!”
For a moment there was silence. Then, eventually, a male voice spoke up, one that carried the hollow, echo of the Scourge, while also retaining the crisp, clean tones of a native Thalassian speaker. “I suppose it is time for you to meet your tormentor.” It stated. “After all these years, it is time four our little game to come to a close.”
A figure strode forth from one corridor, its walk showing the clear confidence of one that was assured of their triumph. Slightly taller then Silandra but with a heavier build, they were clad from head to toe in dull blue armour, its design showing the ornate patterns common to many Death Knights. In one hand, they carried a massive greatsword, its body etched with runes, while a long, dark cape trailed behind him.
While their features were hidden, she could tell from his form that he was a Sin’dorei. Only his chin and mouth were barely visible beneath his helm, and they were twisted into a confident grin.
“Ashblood.” She hissed. “What new trick is this? A new disguise to hide yourself from me? Are you still afraid to confront me openly, even after all these years?”
“This is no trick.” He replied. “And no disguise to hide my form. You see me as I truly am for the first time since our last meeting.”
“Your words contradict your presence.” She shook her head. “Of course, I know that this is another trick to confound me. Are you now going to again taunt me and flee? Confront me with the horror of my comrades dying as I watch?”
“Why should I flee?” He asked. “Here in the heart of Icecrown, my power is absolute. And as for your comrades, their deaths are inevitable, as are the deaths of any who dare enter this citadel.”
“That would be a threat – if I cared for them.” She narrowed her eyes, glaring at the Death Knight. “They have served their purpose in delivering me to this place, and this final conflict. I knew you would be here, Ashblood. I knew that if I came, you would be here to stop me. After our last meeting, I knew it was inevitable.”
“Ashblood?” The Death Knight seemed to be taken aback, but regained his composure. “So that’s what you call me. Amusing.”
“It is your name. That is how you have always referred to yourself, ever since our first meeting in the Plaguelands.” She could remember it now. The figure clad in blood red armour with their ice-white skin and dark red hair, features that had been a twisted mirror of her own. “Every time you appeared, you would make sure I knew who you were and what you had done.”
“What I have done?” He laughed. “My dear Silandra, I have never been responsible for the deaths of those around you. Each time, they have fallen by your hand.”
“You lie!” She screamed out. “Yes, I see it now. This is a trick, one final gambit to deceive me. After all these years, Ashblood, you draw me into your world, and yet you are still afraid to confront me. You hide behind lies and illusions, hoping to break my mind and my will? No!” She grinned, a twisted, toothy grin. “Now I see you for the sham you always were! And now, here is where this will end! You will die!”
With a feral scream, she charged forth, swinging her blade at the Death Knight. Golden energy washed off it as her blade met his with a resounding crash that echoed through the halls around them.
“I had hoped that it would come to this” He replied, a confident tone in his voice. “While manipulating you was such fun, I have awaited the moment of my revenge for so long. And now, Silverwood, you will suffer for what you have done to me.” He raised his runeblade and struck out at her. “I am Zaram Darkblade; I am my master’s hand, and the instrument of your demise”
Zafkiel watched in horror as a swarm of Ghouls and Geists crawled over his Felguard, dragging it to the ground and violently dismembering it. “This…” he admitted as he sent a shadowbolt at one of them. “…does not look good.”
“Ya reckon?” Zu’gokk shot back as he slashed apart a Zombie. “Dey be pretty much all over us here.”
Zafkiel backed up. “As loathe as I am to agree, Troll, it would appear that your assessment of our situation is indeed correct.” He sent another bolt into the same ghoul, finishing it off.
Looking around, Zu’gokk knew that the situation had not gone to plan. The raiders were being slowly pushed back from their initial surge, faced with a wall of the undead that threatened to overwhelm them. Already, several of the Raiders had fallen, and there was always the chance that they would be joining the ranks of their enemies.
“Bowen!” He called out. “We be in a bad spot down here!”
“Well that’s no good!” Bowen called back, the roar of her shotgun punctuating her comment. “Don’t we have any way forward?”
“Not here we don’t”
“There’s too many of them!” Teppy added, shouting out between axe blows. “We can’t break through here!” The masked Orc next to him lashed out with his own weapons, cleaving into their ranks to very little effect. “We can’t kill them fast enough.”
“Aye matey.” Edvuard shouted out, only barely able to hold a skeletal warrior at arm’s length. “This be lookin’ pretty bad for us scurvy bunch of barnacles, me hearties.” He paused to stab at the skeleton, then added an unconvincing “arr” for effect.
“But we have to break through!” Bowen exclaimed, sounding all most sulky. “Because if we don’t, then we can’t hook up with the Aunty Jack show and I won’t get my chance to show Aunty Jack how good I am!”
“I hate ta admit it.” Skaase muttered. “But I gotta say dat tings ain’t lookin dat good.” He shook his head. “We sure ain’t gonna be breakin’ through, an I don’ ting we got da numbers to even stand out ground.”
Bowen sighed and shook her head. “Very well then. Redrock Raiders, fall back!”
“Bowen an’ I will lead da retreat!” Skaase added as he turned his back on their front line. “Cover us!”
“Hey Bowen!” Rhandt spoke up, immediately spurring a round of groans from the rest of the Raiders. Things were bad enough without Rhandt talking. “You know the way we came in? And how it’s the way we’re going to go out? Except I don’t think it’s the way we’re gonna go out, ‘cause it’s all full of undead and stuff.”
“What?” Bowen shouted as she turned; true enough, the passage they had entered through, and had been planning to also leave through, was swarming with a fresh wave of undead. “We’re surrounded!” She called out. “Close ranks! Hold your ground!”
Several members of the Raiders swung around, managing to interject themselves as the first wave of Scourge crashed into them. Holding the ground for the moment, they weathered the first assault. However, behind them, even more undead boiled out of the passage, surging forwards.
“Now we’re surrounded!” Somebody shouted.
“Stay your ground!” Bowen yelled back. “We can still get out of this if you all just stay together and help keep Skaase and I alive!”
Zaram shouted out as he swung with his massive runeblade, the weapon glowing with unholy might. His blade was blocked with Silandra’s own, the two ringing off each other with a crash that echoed through the halls.
“You fight well.” He sneered. “But you must realise that your struggle is futile. Here, in the heart of Icecrown, my powers are absolute. Surrender to the inevitable!” Dodging back, he unleashed a blast of frigid cold at her.
To his frustration, the blow seemed to wash over her with minimal effect; Silandra surging forward to strike at him again with her blade. “I will not yield to you, Ashblood!” She snarled. “You stalked me for years across two worlds only to find defeat. Fall before the might of the Sin’dorei!” She swung out again, a storm of radiant golden energy surrounding her body as she did such. While Zaram blocked the blow, the force of her spell was enough to drive him back, the holy energy tearing into his body.
Grunting, he stood his ground. “The Sin’dorei are a sham!” He shouted. “You claim that you stand for vengeance for the fallen, yet you need allies to fight in your place! You are weak, a hollow shell of the race you once were!” He drove forward, striking at her again and again; Silandra only barely holding her ground. “You and your kind shall be cleansed from this world, removing your stain on our glorious people!”
He swung again, the powerful blow sending Silandra reeling back, staggering as she slammed into one of the walls, her armour ringing off the metal with a heavy clang. She raised her blade to strike again, only to be caught dead in her tracks. An invisible force grabbed her around her throat, squeezing the breath from her as it lifted her into the air.
“This has been most enjoyable.” Zaram commented as he raised his outstretched hand, further raising Silandra into the air. “But it soon must end. You cannot fight what is inevitable, Silandra. And death comes to us all.” His face contorted into a smirk. “However, you have earned one thing; you will see the face of your killer, and you will know why I have done all this.”
Holding her in place, he removed his helmet with his free hand, casting it aside before looking up at her again. Long, deathly white hair framed a once-handsome face that had been ravaged by death and rebirth, its pallid features harsh and lined, with sunken cheeks and deep eyes. The eyes themselves were not the magical blue of the Quel’dorei, nor the fel green of the Sin’dorei, but instead the unholy icy white of the undead.
Silandra let out a small gasp of recognition, while Zaram’s features spread into a twisted grin. “I see you recognise me now, Silandra. And you see what this was all about.”
And then she laughed. Despite the fact that the life was being slowly squeezed out of her, she managed something which, while being little more then a cough, still carried a contemptuous, mocking tone.
“You dare mock me?”
“Of course I would, Ashblood.” She managed to gasp out, her voice confident in spite of her situation. “After all these years, this is the best you could manage? You try to deceive me with the image of a long-dead friend? After all your manipulation, all your tricks, this is all you could come up with?”
“This is no trick!” He shouted, his confidence shattered into brutal rage. “Look at me, Silverwood! Look at what you turned me into! Look at what your own hands have done to me!”
She laughed again. “Ashblood, you are pathetic. I see that all you ever were was a sham. I should not have feared you – no, you should have feared me.”
“I am not Ashblood!” He shouted out as he flung his hand out, slamming the Blood Knight into one of the walls. “Whoever, whatever they are, they have no bearing on this! I want you to know who I am, Silandra! I want your last moments to be filled with the knowledge that all of this is entirely your fault!”
Silandra grunted as she picked herself up off the floor, sword in hand. “You are not impressing me, Ashblood.” She glared at the other elf. “Surrender now, and I will make your death quick and merciful.”
“Never!” He called out. “You drove me to this! You made me what I am! And for that, you must die!”
With a scream of pure terror, a massive Tauren was overwhelmed by a squad of ghouls, pulled to the ground and vanishing underneath them. He let out a few brief cries of pain before going silent; while the actions of those Ghouls left no illusions as to what had happened to him.
“This do not be lookin’ good, mon.” Skaase commented as he unleashed a healing spell, its energies washing over several of the Raiders in the front lines. “We can’t last too much longer.”
“Agreed, Skaase.” Bowen assessed, firing off another round from her rifle. “And while we’re holding for the moment, it looks like it’s only a matter of time now.”
“Ya mon.” Skaase agreed. “We can’t go back either; they be all around us now.”
Bowne looked around for a moment, before sighting a skeletal mage in amongst a crowd. Levelling her rifle, she fired, her shot shattering the mage’s ribs. “If only Silverwood hadn’t run off like that, we wouldn’t be here!” Cocking the rifle, she fired again, the shot driving into the mage’s skull. “I hadn’t expected her to run off like that. She’s always been so stable and reliable.”
Skaase shook his head. “Like I always told ya, love. Ya can’t trust an Elf. They’ll play all nice wit ya an’ flatter ya with praise, an’ all the time be takin’ advantage of ya an’ robbin’ ya blind. Then, when ya most need dem, dey be runnin’ off an leavin’ ya in da lurch.”
“Indeed.” She nodded. “So what do you suggest?”
“Well, I be tinkin dat we should dump all dese dead-weights an’ get outa here.” He commented as he unleashed a blast of lighting into the crowd of undead.
“So… time to move to that small island off the coast of Stranglethorn?”
Skaase nodded. “Yup, dat be lookin’ good to me.”
Bowen gave a grunt of approval as she fired off another round. She’d only wanted to use the Stranglethorn island option if all else had failed. She’d really, really wanted to be a part of the Aunty Jack Show, but that seemed to be very, very unlikely now. Certainly she doubted that the fearsome Orc would think much of someone who ran off and left their guild to die.
On the other hand, she did have a good amount of money to fall back on, both in her own account and her secret slush fund that only she, Skaase and their banker knew about.
“Teppy!” She called out. “We need you!”
“What can I do for you?” he eagerly asked as he tried to fend off a pair of ghouls.
“Do you have any grenades left?” She called out.
“I have a couple, yes.” He stated, crushing one with an axe. “Why?”
“Lob them in and clear a path for Skaase and I. We think we have a way out of here!”
“Well okay then!” he called out, smashing the second ghoul to the floor before reaching for his belt. Pulling out a grenade, he flung it into the crowd of oncoming undead. There was an explosion, sending chunks of rotting flesh and bone flying – and opening a gap in their ranks.
“Clear!” he yelled as he threw a second one, clattering to the floor in at the edge of the freshly-made gap. Another explosion scythed through the ranks of the undead, again thinning their numbers, and leaving a gap open to a doorway. “That’s my last grenade, sorry.”
“Don’t worry. You’ve done excellent work, Teppy!” She called back. Signalling to Skaase, the pair of them broke into a run, dashing past the Orc warrior.
“So what do I do now?” He called out.
“Stand your ground!” Bowen answered as she clubbed aside a Zombie that lunged at her. As the two ran, the undead forces closed ranks, trying to seal the gap in their lines, while, at the same time, stop the pair of escapees. “You’re doing great, Teppy!” she added as she ducked through the doorway, Skaase on her heels.
“Well, um, okay.” He finished, watching as the pair of them ducked through the doorway. Moments later, the undead lines closed up, sealing their exit.
There was a pause as he considered what had happened. Then, as a Geist leaped at him he called out. “Hey! Come back here!”
Zaram Darkblade snarled as he unleashed another blow at his opponent, a wave of unholy energy rippling off the blade. Instead of striking her down, it met Silandra’s own blade, dissipating in a brilliant burst of gold. He shouted out in anger and rage as he again tried to drive home to the heart of his enemy, to cut her down where she stood.
Her defiance was maddening, but it was but one symptom of all that had gone wrong. This was supposed to be his triumph; this was supposed to be the moment where all that had been done to him, every wrong he had suffered, was but to right. He had been waiting for this moment for years, ensuring that all would be perfect for his moment of vengeance.
Instead it was all crumbling around him. Silandra was meant to be broken and defeated, with his physically killing her merely the finishing touch to her misery. Instead, she was defiant and angry, filled with rage and hatred to match his own. All his manipulation, all he had done to her seemed to have had no effect; instead, she was calling him by some other name, as if she didn’t recognise him.
No, he grimly realised. All he had done had been for nothing; she hadn’t been shocked at his revelation, no, she had laughed at him. Instead of the moment of triumph he had worked towards, he had instead been insulted. Ashblood, who or whatever they were, had made him into a joke.
If he put her down – and she seemed to be matching him blow for blow, as if to compound his frustration – there would be no victory. She would not be destroyed by the man that she had driven to this extreme; instead, she would be defeated by a figment of her own imagination, one that he had no hand in creating. Whatever this “Ashblood” was, it had managed to undercut all he had worked towards.
The truth loomed over him, sweeping away his expectations. He’d been trying to twist Silandra’s mind, to warp her distortions and perceptions of reality, to undermine her sanity and her unshakable belief in what was right, and instead replace her sense of reality with his own. It hadn’t worked for one reason.
Silandra was already insane. All he had done was further fuel her delusions; rather then creating a new reality for her, he had instead fallen into hers.
But he had no option. He had to destroy her. He had come too far to give up now. Silandra had to die. There was no option.
He pressed forward, unleashing a blast of unholy energy at her. The blast struck home, however, she remained standing and defiant. Continuing his attack, he slashed at her with his blade; the strike hit home, crushing one of her shoulderplates, his blade cutting into her skin. She gave out a cry of pain, a strangely satisfying sound that accompanied the discouraged, green-tinged skin that was left in his wake as his diseases ate into her flesh.
And, just as suddenly, the wound and disease vanished, cleansed by her own powers. Undeterred, she pushed forwards, lashing out with her blade. The blow struck him, crushing his armour and searing with pain as the holy energy tore into him. She drove forward, determined to finish him off; he was barely able to block the blow, preventing her form finishing him off.
He needed to end this now. Drawing on all the reserves of his blade, all the power his king had granted him, he surged forward again, reinvigorated, the runes on his weapon glowing with unholy power. Several quick strikes drove Silandra back, forcing her to remain on the defensive. Letting out a shout of Triumph, he pressed the attack, his blade slashing at her, keeping her off-balance.
Before she could recover, he drove forward with his blade, driving straight at her. There was a sickening snapping of metal and bone as his sword pierced her armour and then her chest, driving straight through her heart.
Silandra let out a weak gasp as he drew his sword back, its blade slick with her blood. As he did, she staggered, then collapsed to her knees, her armour clattering against the cold floor of the citadel. Blood flowed freely from the wound in her chest, one hand clutched to it in a futile gesture to staunch the flow.
“This is how you left me, Silandra.” He sneered, his voice full of contempt. She made no reply, only coughing up blood as she struggled to breathe. “It is only fitting that you should suffer as I did.”
She looked up at him, her solid fel-green eyes wide with shock and pain.
“And I will show you the same indignities that you and your kind showed me, Silandra. I will watch you suffer and die, and revel in every moment of it.”
Bowen’s rifle discharged with a roar that echoed across the hallways, the shot blasting the Zombie’s head apart. Moments later, Skaase’s lightning bolt obliterated the one next to it, reducing it to a charred husk.
“These things seem to never end.” Bowen puffed out as she hurriedly reloaded the rifle. “I can’t think how many of them we’ve destroyed so far.”
“Ya, well…” Skaase shook his head. “Ya’d tink dat dere wouldn’t be so many of ‘em. After all, da door can’t be too much further.” The pair of them had been running for ages since they had abandoned the rest of the raiders, leaving a trail of destroyed undead in their wake. “I mean, we weren’t even dat far in da door when we got jumped ta start with.”
“I know.” She looked around. “Except… I don’t think this is the entrance.” She sniffed at the air as she glanced around. “I’m not sure, Skaase, but I think we’ve been going in the wrong direction.
“You wot?” He snapped back at her. “Wot do ya mean!?”
“Well, the thing is…” She looked a little sheepish. “I wasn’t really paying attention to where we were going. I was just trying to get away from them as fast as possible.”
“But…” He gasped, a mixture of anger and terror filling his voice. “You’re the Hunter! You should know where you’re going!”
“I was busy running!” She called back. “I didn’t have time to check my bearings!”
“Well yah shoulda paid attention!”
“Well why don’t you just ask the spirits to help you out?” She shot back, an almost desperate tone in her voice.
“De won’t work in here.” He shook his head. “Dis place be unnatural, cut off from da spirit world. Da spirits don’ come here.”
“Well then…” She looked around. “Do something!”
“Why don’ you do sometin instead!” He shot back.
“I’m the leader of this guild-“
“Co-leader!” He shot back.
“Well, um, I formed it!”
“An’ ya also abandoned it!”
“Well if you have all the answers, you do something!”
“Quit flappin ya mouth, ya dumb cow!”
“What did you call me, you filthy Troll?” She snapped. “Mother was right about you!”
“What, dat I was a thieving low-life, just like you?”
“Well…” She flapped her arms ineffectually. “I don’t see you doing anything useful! It was my planning that got us this guild and got us to our nest egg!”
“And I got us a place to retire in private to!” He yelled. “Ya always be takin’ all da credit, but I be doin’ all da work!”
“Like you could have the brains to-“ She began, but was cut off by a sudden grinding noise, followed by a loud slam as the room was plunged into darkness, the sole doorway providing any light sealed shut.
There was an uncomfortable silence.
“Bowen?” Skaase finally spoke up.
“Well…” She sounded pretty terrified as well. “At least we’re safe in here.”
“Braaaaaaanee…” A voice hissed, coming from just behind her. Moments later, a dozens of others joined it all around the pair of them, all repeating the same word.
“Um, Mon-, er…” Teppy nervously glanced over his shoulder as he dug his Axe into the head of an oncoming Ghoul. “Orc shaman who is a member of our guild and always hangs around and rarely says any-“
“It’s acceptable, Teppy.” Maskdon replied. “At this point, you may as well call me whatever you like.” He lashed out with his own axes, crushing a Plague Zombie, the massive creature collapsing in a gory collection of parts.
“Thankyou.” He replied, with a note of relief. “What I meant to say is that things aren’t looking very good for us.” He backed up as he kept his shield raised, fending off another Ghoul.
“Nooooo.” Maskdon stated. “I will admit that this is not the end that I had hoped for the Kon School.” He backed up until he was shoulder-to-shoulder with Teppy. It would appear that in my desire to take advantage of Bowen Thropping I underestimated how much she was taking advantage of us.”
“I didn’t think she would run out like this.” Teppy grunted as he knocked down an armoured skeleton.
“No. She managed to completely fool me with regards to her own selfishness and cowardice.” Maskdon agreed. “Rather well played on her part actually. I would appreciate it more if she hadn’t left us hanging like this, however.”
“So what do we do now?” Teppy asked.
“A very good question, Teppy.” Maskdon shook his head as he unleashed a lightning blast at a Necromancer. “For I suspect that our fellows are feeling the pinch as much as much as we are.”
“I ran out of arrows!” Rhandt called out, as if to confirm Maskdon’s statement. “Can someone go down to the shop and by me some new ones?”
“Aye me harties.” Edvard Blackheart added. “It would appear that our decks be completely pooped.”
“Just so you all know.” Zafkiel commented as he backed up. “I despise every last one of you. And it was my fondest hope that my last moments would not be spent in the company of such unwashed primitives.”
“Then it is a good day to die.” Teppy finished with a determined glare.
“No, a good day to die is on your hundred and tird birthday.” Zu’gokk countered. “Surrounded by all ya wives an’ on a pile o’ booty.”
“You have to admit, the Troll does have a point there.” Maskdon finally spoke up.
“Well, yes.” Teppy admitted as he backed up a little further. Glancing behind him, he could see that he was about to stand on Cirillas Lightwalker’s toes, which meant that he was out of backing up space. He also could see that the other members of the Raiders – or at least, the half-dozen or so of them still standing – were all in the same situation. Around them, the ring of the undead pressed in, irrespective of the losses they had suffered so far, determined to finish off the remaining Horde forces that had dared to stand against them.
“Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide.” Teppy concluded. “This looks to be the final stand of the Kon School.” He narrowed his eye. “This will be a glorious battle. They will sing our praises for years to come.”
“Could they sing da praises of how we died on our hundred and tird birthdays instead?”
Maskdon backed up a little more, all but shoving himself into Teppy’s side. “Very well then. As odd as it sounds, Teppy, I have always thought highly of you. You always were my most loyal and faithful follower, regardless of what may have happened.”
Teppy fumbled with his axe for a moment. “Well, um, Monsignor Maskdon?” He managed. “Thing is, I’ve always meant to say that-“
And then the wall exploded, with chunks of stone and Saronite spraying the undead and Horde alike, momentarily clouding the area in a fog of powder and dust.
“What the?” He asked.
“All right me lovelies.” A booming voice on the other side of the fresh doorway began. “Get in their and rip their bloody arms off!”
“For the Horde!” Numerous voices called, with a single “Hoho!” added.
The undead forces around the remaining Redrock Raiders were pelted with an array of spells and projectiles; fireballs, lighting bolts, blizzards, arrows and bullets decimating their numbers. Before they could recover from the initial shock, the force was hit by a surge of bodies, as Orcs, Trolls, Tauren and Forsaken poured through the gap, falling upon the depleted Scourge legions.
A female Orc strode through the gap, perching on top of a pile of rubble, her face covered by a pair of goggles. “All right, you miserable bunch. Your Aunty’s come to save you.”
Silandra desperately clutched at her chest, as if she could somehow hold herself together by sheer force of will, her mind trying to focus in spite of the tearing pain that was running through her. Instead, she felt herself slipping away, both in mind and body as her vision began to darken, the image of the Quel’dorei death knight looming over her becoming blurry and indistinct as conciseness slipped away. Desperately she tried to focus, looking for something – anything – that would bring her back.
She remembered watching proudly as her father and brother went to off to war, defending their homes against the trolls and their alien allies, and how only one returned…
...her stumbling over even the most basic of spells under the disproving gaze of her mentor…
...watching her homeland burn, and the wrenching emptiness as a part of her people’s soul was torn away…
…the feeling of completion as she consumed the fel energies, and then the empowerment as she drained from the crystalline figure that hovered over her…
…her barely concealed disgust as she walked amongst the people of Ogrimmar on her vital mission…
…the skeletal knight being torn asunder, and his mind reaching out to hers in its last, desperate action…
...the wonder at seeing Outland, the promised land where her people would be made whole again...
…the anger and rage at the betrayal of her people by their would-be king as he abandoned them to stand at the side of those that had destroyed them…
…holding the orphaned Sin’dorei girl close, trying not to let anyone see her own tears…
…the bitterness that came at the Sun King’s defeat at the hands of the alliance, rather then facing the justice of her own people, bitterness that almost drowned the glory of the Sunwell’s rebirth …
…the panic and chaos in the streets of Silvermoon as the undead returned to finish what they had started so many years ago…
...landing in Northrend, taking the first steps along the path of revenge for all that had happened...
…Icecrown looming before her, and the final thought of vengeance against the one who had driven her people to this…
It was this last image that seared into her mind.
I am vengeance for my people, for our homelands, for the fallen, for the Sunwell. I will not rest until those who sought to destroy us face the punishment for their crimes.
She clutched the torn skin of her chest harder, her hand shimmering with golden light.
Ashblood is a lie; a sham that has no strength, a desperate measure by an enemy that cannot defeat you.
The intensity of the light grew as her vision cleared, the world around her suddenly returning to focus.
This creature is no phantasm, no dark being of your mind. It has form, it has substance.
The light around her hand grew to a brilliant intensity as it enveloped her, surging through her body, mending her wounds and remaking her anew.
It can be destroyed
“No!” Zaram called out as he realised what was happening. He desperately lunged forward, driving his blade at her heart. Instead, it glanced away, driven by the shield of radiant light that enveloped her. “No, not now… you were meant to be dead! This cannot be happening!”
She stood, her sword in her hands. Her eyes narrowed, a look of fierce determination on her face. “It can. It is.” She began as she stepped forward, her voice stripped of its normal manic edge, instead icy cool. “I see now what you tried to do to me. I see everything that has happened, all you have tried. And I see your failure.”
“All these years, all this time, all this effort to break one single woman, and you could not even manage that.” She stared straight at him, her fel green eyes meeting his unholy blue. “Whoever, whatever you are, you are beneath contempt. You do not deserve to be pitied, only to be destroyed!”
She lunged forward, fighting with a newly enhanced strength and fury; she swung at him, her relentless blows hammering at him as he desperately abandoned any hope of retaliation, instead merely doing his best to defend himself. She continued to push him back, swinging at him, each blow coming stronger then the last.
“You claim that I have betrayed the memory of the fallen?” She called out as she pressed her assault. “I fight the Scourge, I seek their end! You, however, you would side with that which nearly destroyed us!” He stumbled back, holding his blade in front of his face, doing all he could to stave her off. Instead, she pressed forward, light radiating off her in a way that suggested that suggested a pair of massive, brilliant golden wings.
“You said that our use of fel magic corrupted us?” She continued. “Yet you are the one who is empowered by the Scourge! We control our power, yet you are a slave to yours!” She swung again, a mighty blow, her sword scything a brilliant golden arc through the darkened hall. It struck his blade as he desperately bought it up, shattering it with a resounding crash that echoed around them.
He stumbled back, visibly weakened, the ruined hilt of his runeblade in his hand. “Silandra!” He gasped out. “I… I… have…” She staggered, collapsing to his knees.
“Mercy? For you, Scourge dog?” She finished, as she raised her blade. “As you had none for our people, I have none for you.” She swung again, her sword severing his head in a single blow.
Falling back, the Aunty Jack Show, along with the remnants of the Redrock Raiders had established a base camp in the forecourt of Icecrown, having regrouped with the regular Horde forces. While the price so far had been high, they had managed to secure a base of operations in the Scourge’s capitol, one that they could work from to further their campaign.
The arrival of the Aunty Jack Show had completely reversed the situation for the Raiders; the Scourge forces had been unable to hold against the sudden influx of fresh forces, and had collapsed before falling back before their might. The Aunty Jack show, for their part, had secured the chamber that the Redrock Raiders had holed up in, claiming it as a staging ground for the Scourge.
Of course, while they had been rescued, the Redrock Raiders were spent as a fighting force. Only a third of their original force had survived, and they were all tired and injured. All the others had fallen to the Scourge or, in three cases, were missing. Given that two of those who had vanished during the battle were their leaders who hadn’t left anything resembling a clear successor, it was becoming obvious that the Redrock Raiders were no more.
Surprisingly, this was not a problem to everyone present.
“Mons-“ Teppy began, only to be cut off by a raised hand. “Er, Orc shaman who was a member of our guild and always hung around and rarely said anything and never took off his helmet and come to think of it I don’t remember his name…” He gasped. “What now?”
“For now, Teppy, it seems that we have lived to fight another day.” Maskdon looked around at the battered remnants of the Redrock Raiders. “And while the Redrock Raiders are indeed done for, they certainly have served their purpose well enough. So much so, in fact, that we really don’t need them any more.”
Maskdon nodded. “I do. The Kon School will live on, and will grow from this little misadventure. Mark my words, Teppy, this is our time, yesss”
“Hooray for-“ Teppy called out, then paused as he noticed that several others were staring at him, including members of the Aunty Jack Show. “-for us all being alive.” He finished rather hastily. “More or less.”
Maskdon nodded, then looked over the assembled ranks of the remaining Redrock Raiders. He had been lucky in that those loyal to him had survived, leaving the core of the Kon School unharmed and ready to sprout forth from the ashes like a phoenix – a fact that only served to remind him of how much he hated Blood Elves.
At the very least, he figured he could take some solace in the fact that a very particular one of them, Silandra Silverwood, the greatest threat to his future, was amongst the missing. Her death would make things so much easier.
Glancing around, he saw one of the other members of the Raiders that he had been keeping his eyes on, Zu’gokk, a rather skilled Troll rogue. Like Maskdon himself, Zu’gokk presented a very different face to the public then the one that was his true self. Maskdon knew the old troll was a wily yet keen individual, and probably the only member of the Raiders aside from Silverwood who may have known what was going on.
It was a pity that he had survived the battle; his death, like Silverwood’s, would have made things a lot easier. He casually thumbed one of his axes as he considered his options, but then hastily backed off as he noticed one of the Aunty Jack Show approaching him. An Orc, Like Zu’gokk, he was clad in dark leathers; however, they were offset by his colourful hat.
“Zu’gokk.” The Orc began. “Good to see you again.”
“Oh, its you, Thurg.” He replied, looking up at him.
“I just had a little world to Aunty about you.” Thurg continued. “Thing is, we’ve been looking back over your failed applications.”
“Ain’t noting there but bad Juju, mon.” Zu’gokk offered.
“Well, yes.” He coughed loudly. “Thing is, after today’s little performance, I’m willing to overlook a bit of ‘bad juju’. You’re actually pretty good, Zu’gokk, and it’s a shame that some poorly timed accidents were keeping you out of the Show.”
“Yep.” The Orc smiled a toothy smile. “You’re a member of the Aunty Jack Show now. Congratulations, Zu’gokk, and welcome onboard.”
“Thanks mon.” He replied, a little flustered. “But what if my bad juju-“
“Oh don’t worry.” Thurg finished, rather dismissively. “I’m sure there will be no more accidents from now on.” He turned to face a rather colourful Troll in a pirate hat. “Will there, Upchaak?”
The troll gave a brief “eep” before scurrying off.
“I don’ get it, mon.”
“Don’t worry.” The Orc finished, laughing. “For now, suffice to say, your bad Juju problems are well and truly under control.”
“So that’s the lot then.” Aunty Jack finished. “I guess we could use some of the Raiders to cover for our own losses.”
Thurg grunted noncommittally. “They have some talent besides Zu’gokk; there’s an Orc Warrior who, at the very least, could make credible filler.”
“I just don’t like ‘em.” Aunty Jack stated, flatly. “They’re just not as good as us, and not up to our quality.” She paused, then looked around. “At least that damned Blood Knight seems to be amongst the dead.”
Thurg gave a small chuckle. “Always looking for the positive side, Aunty?” He shrugged. “What is it between her and you anyway?”
“Hold on.” She cut him off.
“What is it?” Thurg looked up, noting that Aunty Jack had turned to look back towards the citadel. Squinting, he could see a single figure emerging from it; tall, they were clad in battered armour with an obvious, gaping hole in the chest and the torn tabard over it. They carried a greatsword over their shoulder; their tattered cape flapping in the cold wind.
“Silverwood.” Aunty Jack managed, an obvious mixture of contempt and anger in her voice.
“Speak of the devil.” Thurg muttered. “She survived whatever happened to her in there. Takes skill and resilience, to say the least. You know, we...” He began, then glanced up at her. Despite her face being hidden by her goggles, he could tell that Aunty Jack was very unhappy at this development. And when Aunty Jack was unhappy, people lost arms. “Never mind.”
As she approached, he noted that despite her battered armour, she seemed alive and whole; unharmed, and, more to the point, somehow invigorated for whatever had happened inside.
Aunty Jack strode forward, a clear air of contempt in her attitude. To say that she was disappointed obviously would be an understatement. More to the point, she was clearly very, very unhappy at this development. “Silverwood.” Aunty Jack snorted as she entered the camp. “The Raiders told me you was dead.”
“Presumed dead.” She simply replied. “However, as you can see, I am very much alive.” She looked her in the eye, managing to match her gaze, despite the Orc’s size.
“More’s the pity.” Aunty Jack snorted.
Refusing to rise to the comment, she continued. “I am reporting for duty, ready to do whatever is needed for the Horde. I have already informed Warlord Saurfang of our disposition and our willingness to aid his forces in whatever way we can.”
“Well...” For once, the leader of the Aunty Jack Show seemed to be at a loss for words. “Go and join your guild. We’ll figure out what we’re doing with you lot later.”
“Of course.” She finished. “However, I would hate to think that you would willingly neglect a potentially useful resource. As the remaining ranking officer of the Raiders, I’m sure we can work something out; certainly Saurfang wishes every able-bodied member of the Horde available to do their utmost”
“Don’t worry, we’ll give your lot something to do.” She snarled, clearly angry at being outmanoeuvred like this.
Silandra simply nodded, walking back to the camp where the remaining members of the raiders were waiting. They were tired and beaten, showing clear signs of the harsh battle that they had been through. Zafkiel and Maskdon – she knew what was behind that mask – in particular looked less then thrilled to see her.
But, for the moment, she didn’t care.
She quietly sat down on the edge of the camp, her perch looking back over Icecrown citadel. Resting her sword, she instead chose to look inwards, contemplating the events that had unfolded, and the implications of what had gone on.
It was all a lie
It was the only conclusion that she could reach. Ashblood, whatever she had been, had never existed; it had instead been a trick created by Zaram. Now she had to pick up the pieces, and figure just how much of what had happened in the last few years was real, and how much was Zaram’s manipulation. It would not be easy.
She would have to rebuild her life, again. It was a trend that she was becoming unfortunately used to.
She looked back. Behind her was a large, shaggy Tauren clad in a mismatched suit of armour that looked like it had been collected from scraps. She recognised him instantly; Will DeBeest, someone she had worked with in past during her early days with the Horde, and now a member of the Aunty Jack Show.
“Oh, hello Will.” She managed.
“I heard that you got separated form the rest of the Raiders.” He began. “And everyone thought you were dead. But you’re clearly not dead then, because you’re back here, hoho!”
Silandra nodded. “I suffered a bad wound.”
“How bad?” He looked genuinely concerned.
“Fatal, but not serious.” She summarized. She couldn’t think of how else to describe it.
“Well that’s good then! Fatal wounds can be a pain.”
She nodded, turning back to look over the citadel.
“I mean, I’ve heard that fatal wounds can kill you. And that’d be very hard to get over.” He waited for her reply, but she didn’t seem to be listening.
She cast one last look back over Icecrown, the massive form looming over all around it, an oppressive form that seemed to reach out to consume the land around it. She narrowed her eyes for a moment, listening carefully for the telltale whispers that she had been hearing for years, the ones that had invaded every part of her consciousness.
There were none, only silence.
“Nothing.” She finished, turning back to him. And then, not for an enemy’s misfortune, not for the destruction of her foes or the love of battle, but out of joy and relief and the warmth spreading through her, she smiled.
“I feel fine.”
On a beach on a small island off the coast of Stranglethorn, Rupert Lithgow lay back in his easy chair, sipping an expensive drink. He knew that it wasn’t doing him any good; he couldn’t taste it, and he knew full well he couldn’t get drunk off it. He was simply drinking it because he had the money to waste on expensive drinks, and he was going to enjoy that fact.
It had been child’s play to get his name added to Bowen and Skaase’s personal accounts; since he was managing them and depositing so much money into them, then he’d snuck in the permissions to take all that money out again. Nobody had noticed. Certainly, they would be none the wiser to the fact that he had emptied out Bowen and Skaase’s own accounts, the Redrock Raiders’ main account, as well as the “special account” that he had set up to funnel all the money into.
Even after he deducted the ten percent he’d given up to Levisha Darksun (he assumed that Bowen had a good reason for that last-second change) he’d still come out as a pretty well-off man. That Skaase had also left the deeds to the small island off the coast of Stranglethorn in his vault had just been a bonus.
For Rupert Lithgow, unlife was good.