Pretty much the dead centre of Northrend, Crystalsong Forest served as something of a tranquil sanctum from the violent world surrounding it. Surprisingly empty, its gently rolling hills were home to forests of ancient oaks as well as strange, unearthly crystalline trees. The only thing that served to disrupt the area were the Highborne ruins, ones that had been slowly reclaimed by nature over time, but still stood out from the world around them.
Even then, though, the forest was quiet; there were none of the threats that loomed large in the rest of Northrend. The Blue Dragonflight's presence in the area had been driven back, while there was no sign of the Scourge, the Vrykul or even the Drakkari trolls.
To many, it was a peaceful respite from the rest of the world. However, there were some who felt otherwise.
"Remind me again why we're here." Jill Valdaar spoke up as she looked around at the forest. "Really."
Sellek Lerenze sighed before continuing. "I'm here because I wanted to see the forest." He explained. "Crystalsong is certainly unique amongst the landscapes of Azeroth; certainly it wasn't naturally formed." He glanced back at his companion. "Besides, I never had much of a chance to explore Northrend."
"When I was a mage in Dalaran before the war, we knew nothing about Northrend." He stated. "Our maps were incomplete and our details were sparse. What little we had were often second or third hand reports that were somewhat unreliable at best, and become ever increasingly vague." He paused, then chuckled. "One book we had left the Storm Peaks as a largely blank area with vague mentions of some Titan ruins. Oh, and a whole lot of text was underlined, with a note scrawled in the margin to ask why it was underlined and to ask someone else about it."
"You know, the more you remember, the less respect I have for mages."
"What do you want? Nobody had been there before."
"Yeah, but aren't you meant to know-" She gestured with her hands "-stuff?"
"Only if we know what's there." He finished. "And I can't do that without exploring."
"True..." She conceded.
"Besides, its not like you have to come with me. You could have stayed in Dalaran."
"Yeah, well..." Jill trailed off. Truth was that she felt rather uncomfortable in Dalaran or, for that matter, any reasonably sized settlement. It was pretty hard to disguise what she was and, despite official policies of accepting those Death Knights who were no longer a part of the Scourge, she frequently felt less then fully welcome; even if it wasn't words, it was looks and reactions. Jill knew why, and she couldn't say she blamed people for feeling that way. She knew she would.
"Well I'm here in case something happens." She finally spoke up.
"Of course." He accepted, knowing full well that she was making it up on the spot, but willing to go with it. "Even though you know this is a peaceful area of Northrend."
"You never know. Something could..." Jill trailed off, glancing around.
“Up there.” She hissed back, her voice low. “See that clump of trees? Two figures, dark armour.” She pointed towards a grove on the side of a hill. Squinting, Sellek could see what she was pointing out; a pair of armoured figures moving in amongst the trees. Both of them had their features concealed by hoods, and both carried large blades.
“Any idea who it is?”
“Let's take a look.” Slowly and cautiously they advanced towards the ridge, their runeblades at the ready while wearily eyeing the two intruders. For their part, the pair of them seemed to be unaware of the two Death Knights' presences, continuing their patrol.
“What do you think?” Jill asked, cautiously watching the two figures through a gap in the trees.
“One's an Orc, the other probably a human.” He observed. “Their armour is the standard type that many Death Knights use, however they're not wearing the colours of the Ebon Blade.”
“Something no Ebon Blade knight would do. They make sure their allegiance is clear to prevent confusion amongst their ranks.”
“Correct. That we have an Orc and a human working together suggests one thing.”
“Scourge.” She concluded.
“Except they weren't meant to have any presence in Crystalsong.”
“Well I think we should find out what they are doing here.” Jill replied with a wicked grin. “Come on.”
They moved through the undergrowth as silently as their heavy armour would allow, closing in on the two figures while trying to remain hidden from sight. As they closed, in, Jill silently nodded to Sellek, then gestured to the larger Death Knight with an open hand. He silently replied, his hand mimicking hers while pointing towards the human.
They both reached out, purple energy crackling off their hands and arcing towards their targets. The pair of interlopers were seized and pulled back, as if seized by invisible hands around their throats, dragged back towards Jill and Sellek.
He struck first, slicing at the female Scourge as she landed, his blade slicing across their body. She was struck before she could recover, collapsing with a brief cry. The Orc, however, recovered faster. As Jill swung around she found her blade deflected away by one of his own weapons, a pair of smaller, lighter blades. Snarling, he raised his other weapon, only to be struck by a bolt of unholy energy from her.
“That was quick.” Sellek commented. “Fortunately.”
“You’d think I’d be better at fighting people with two swords by now.” Jill added. “Experience and all.”
Sellek chose not to comment on the casual way she was referring to her turned nemesis, instead looking over the bodies of the two fallen Death Knights. “I recognise them. Irene Lamb and Traag...”
“Slaughter.” Jill finished. “Yeah, I recognise them form Archerus as well. More to the point, I know that not only were they not amongst those who turned but they were a part of a very specific group of Death Knights.”
“The Blackened Claw.” Sellek all but spat out the words. “I did wonder what had happened to our onetime comrades in arms.”
“Clearly they remain in the service of the Lich King. However, it would seem that we have, at the very least, thinned out their numbers a little.” She looked around. “Thing is, I don't care what is going on here any more, simply because they are involved. All I want to do is to slaughter every last one of them.”
“You'd do that anyway.” Sellek commented. “Regardless of what Scourge group this was.”
“Well now I want to do it more.” She took Lamb's fallen runeblade, looking over it. Standing, she slipped it behind her back, threading it through her belt buckles as a makeshift way of carrying it.
“Why are you taking that?” He asked.
She turned back to him, grinning a broad, toothy grin. “Trust me, Sellek, I have an idea.”
Vidruand again looked around the clearing in the midst of the woods, once again surveying the area for any signs that there may be something amiss, something going on that he hadn't taken into account. He knew he had good reason; what he was doing here was something forbidden amongst the ranks of the Scourge; he was acting on his own, without the authority of any superiors.
He'd come to Crystalsong after hearing reports about Dalaran; more specifically, about how its arcane defences had already thwarted the efforts of the Blue Dragonflight to destroy the city. By those reports, a number of blue drakes had been shot down over the city, their ability to fly thwarted by some strange magic, leaving their bodies to plummet to the forest below. Even more of them had been defeated on the ground by the Kirin Tor's forces, their bodies again left abandoned.
These were what had drawn him here. The bodies of these blue dragons were a part of his masterful plan.
Vidurand was a Death Knight, one of the champions of the Lich King. It was a position of power and prestige, one that many had sought and willingly sold their souls and their freedom for, But to Vidurand, it was still not enough, He wanted more out of his unlife; he wanted power, even greater power then he now wielded, and these dragons were going to be the key to that power. From their bodies, he would raise a force of frostwyrms, ones that would be loyal to him alone. With them, he would be able to vanquish his so-called superiors, those small-minded fools who thought themselves to be his leaders. With them gone, and his power truly demonstrated, then he would ascend to the ranks of the Lich King's chosen, sitting at his right hand, lording over the Scourge.
It would truly be glorious.
Everything was in place. Skeletal drudges were busy gathering bodies for him, and a small force of necromancers were on standby to begin the conversions one they had enough materials. He'd bought only a few with him in order to keep the operation low-key; it was somewhat risky. While Crystalsong was uninhabited (If one did not count the ghosts of the Highbourne who lingered in the ruins), they were still operating right under Dalaran where they could easily attract unwanted attention.
He'd taken precautions, of course. He'd bought a quartet of lower-ranked Death Knights with him for protection which should be more then enough to deal with any potential intruders. Two of them were patrolling the woods, while another two were with him now to protect him from any unexpected complications.
Vidurand was, for the most part, a somewhat imposing figure. Tall and powerfully built, his face had harsh, angular features giving him a stern visage. He wore a suit of heavy, rune-etched armour, one that make his status as a Death Knight clear, while his head was covered with an exotic helm that bordered on the ostentatious. This last item was a reminder of his past, a relic left over from his days before he joined the Scourge and, in many ways, served as a reminder as to why he had so willingly made that decision.
His fellows mocked him for wearing this helmet. He would show them.
As tall as he stood, he was, however, dwarfed by the two Death Knights with him. It was understandable; Rethokk the Unlving was a Forest Troll, a race known for the size, strength and brutality. He in turn was towered over by Karnak Plaguehorn, a Tauren who's sheer bulk gave him an intimidating presence.
The two of them would make sure that there was no interference with his work. Even if anyone were to reach him, the pair of them would be able to make short work of any such intruders. All he had to do now was wait.
It didn’t take them long to find what was going on here. The pair of them encountered a teal of skeletal workers carrying the corpse of a blue dragonspawn. Following the workers at a distance, they quickly found what they were looking for. A small camp set up in a clearing, dominated by a growing pile of the bodies of blue dragons and their kin. Around the camp were a number of Skeletal drudges depositing the bodies or going off to fetch more, as well as several necromancers from the Scourge’s cult of the damned.
“Gathering dragon bodies.” Sellek commented. “It makes sense. They probably figured that we wouldn’t notice them coming through here, given how otherwise abandoned the region is.”
“Makes sense…” She looked over the camp. “Knowing the Scourge, there’s probably someone in charge; a lich, a senior necromancer or something to that effect.”
“Makes sense. See anything?”
“Hmm…” She looked around, surveying the camp. Initially, they seemed to be all minions with no sign of their overall leader. However, as she watched, she noticed a single figure pacing around, watching over the pile of draconic bodies. Clad in heavy armour, it was clear that he was a Death Knight. And, while his features were obscured by his helm, she could still recognise him. “Vidurand.”
“You sure?” Sellek looked over to her, then down at the figure. Vidurand had been one of the so-called champions of the Blackened Claw, the order of death knights that he and Jill had once been a part of.
“Positive.” She replied. “I’d recognise that hat anywhere”.
“Vidurand was not the most imaginative of people.” Sellek commented. “I suspect that what we see here is all he has to protect him. I don’t see this being a trap.”
“In that case…” Jill trailed off for a moment as she studied the enemy camp. “Frontal rush on the camp to grab as many as possible and kill them all at once?”
“Makes sense to me, surprisingly.”
“Right then. Ready?” Sellek simply nodded back, drawing his Runeblade.
The pair of them erupted from the foliage they were using for cover, charging at the Scoruge camp. Sellek struck first, unleashing a blast of freezing cold from his blade that shattered one of the skeletal workers before it could respond. Moments later, a ball of necrotic energy from Jill took down another one.
Leaving the bodies of their foes behind, the pair of them leaped into the camp proper, lashing out with their blades. A strike from Jill tore through the body of a necromancer, cutting him down before he could begin casting a spell. Swinging around in a wide arc, she continued, her blade crushing the bones of a second Skeleton that had tried to strike her.
Sellek swung around, his blade striking another necromancer, leaving a bloodied trail of pallid flesh in its wake. Seeing the frost fever go to work, he swing his free hand out in a broad arc, gesturing over the Necromancer and two of his nearby fellows. As if following his motions, the disease visibly leapt across the three of them, numbing and slowing their bodies.
“What is this intrusion?” Vidurand called out as he heard the sound of battle. Looking down, he sighted the two armoured figures in the midst of the camp. “Destroy them!” He called out, gesturing wildly at the two attackers. “Strike them down for interfering with us!”
“Typical Vidurand.” Jill commented. “Hiding behind his minions.”
“Well, at least we know he’s predictable.” Sellek commented as he finished off one of the diseased Necromancers. “Will be helpful to know in future.”
“Why?” She commented as she cut down another skeleton. “He dies here and now.”
“I shall not fall!” Vidurand shouted back, as if to openly defy them. “The armies of the dead are mine to command!” He raised his left hand, purple energy crackling off it and reaching into the ground below his feet. “Arise my soldiers and strike down my foes!” Around him, the ground shifted and cracked as arms clawed their way out of it, dragging their bodies behind them. “Now, my minions, destroy them!” He gestured at the two renegade Death knights, the army of newly risen ghouls charging down at them.
“Didn’t know he could do that.” Sellek commented.
“Don’t worry, I have a plan.” Jill shot back.
“Glad to know.” He replied.
“Just follow my lead. Go!”
With a shout, Jill reached behind her back, grabbing the Runeblade she had taken from the fallen Death Knight. Pulling it out, she threw it at the horde of Oncoming Scourge. At the same time, the runes on her own blade flared a bright red as they activated. The runes on the other blade responded to hers, the weapon taking flight as if it had a life of its own, rather then simply clattering to the ground.
Jill charged forwards, swinging at the oncoming Scourge. At the same time, the animated weapon lashed out, scything across the undead soldiers in a broad arc, slicing through reanimated bones as if an invisible swordsman was mirroring her actions, fighting alongside her. Following her, Sellek leaped into the fray, adding his own blade and abilities to the fray, cleaving into the undead armies. While the ghouls were many, they were also a lot weaker then the two knights facing them. Their charge faltered, then broke as the pair of them pressed into their ranks.
As the last ghoul’s body collapsed, the blade returned to Jill’s hand, the Death Knight grinning as she again stashed it behind her back. “Easy.” She commented. “Which leaves only one opponent.” She turned back to Vidurand, a hungry glare in his eyes.
“Well done.” He replied, staring back at the pair of them. “The Dancing Rune Blade technique is not an easy one to master. There are very few Death Knights who can do what you just did.”
“And I’ll gladly do it again, Vidurand.” She casually commented as she raised her Runeblade.
“Surrender now.” Sellek added. “We have destroyed your minions and stopped whatever it was you were doing here. You’re miles from the nearest Scourge forces, and you know that we can – and will – stop you in you try to escape.”
“I think not.” He replied, doing his best to maintain an air of confidence despite the situation. “However, I do appreciate what it is that both of you have achieved here. Such power, impressive as it may be, is wasted fighting against the might of the Lich King”
“Give up, Vidurand.” Sellek stated. “Begging won’t save you.”
"Join us again, both of you." Vidurand continued, a small hint of desperation in his voice. "Why bother fighting what is inevitable? The Scourge will triumph. You will be destroyed. Your only chance is to rejoin what you left, to be a part of the side that is destined to rule this world." The undertones of fear were obvious, but he was doing his best to hide it. "I can promise you power, both of you. I can make you far more then you were before, more then you could ever hope to be by staying here."
Jill visibly seethed as she glared back at him. "Those are rich words coming from you. I know about your past, Vidurand. I know how you betrayed your own family for an empty promise of power, and gladly slaughtered them in the hope that the Lich King would reward you. We know all about you, worm."
"We?" The fear was evident now.
"We." She finished. "Do not think that we act alone, Vidurand. There are more of us, and we all want the same thing from you and your kind."
Sellek nodded as he stood next to her, his blade at the ready but, for the moment, content to let her speak.
"To be feared." She stated. "We want vengeance. Vengeance for the lives that you have destroyed. Vengeance for what was done to us. But above all else, we want you to know the pain and the suffering that we and so many others have experienced at your hands."
“Very well then.” Vidurand looked over the pair of them, his runeblade at the ready. “You leave me with no choice…” He glanced around. “Now, my soldiers! Destroy them! Protect me!”
With the sudden shout, Vidurand turned and ran into the woods. Before Jill and Sellek could follow, however, two other figures burst forth, interjecting themselves between them and their target. Both loomed over the two humans, being far taller and more heavily muscled; similarly, they both wore heavy armour and carried runed blades. However, both were also clearly members of different races.
“A forest troll and a Tauren.” Sellek observed. “The Scoruge really is equal opportunity”
“Right. I’ll get the Troll.” Jill commented. “I’m from Stromgarde; killing Trolls is a national pastime”
“Your planning is as brilliant as ever.”
“Thanks.” Jill finished, then charged at her larger foe. Ducking under his first swing, she struck back with a blow of her own. However, despite his bulk, the Troll was faster then she expected; managing to dodge the worst of it. Her blade cut through his arm, but seemed to leave only a flesh wound; even then, and even with the infection that her blade had left, she could see it already healing; clearly the Troll still possessed his innate regeneration.
“You be no match for da Scourge!” The Troll called out as he struck back, swinging at her. She only barely was able to block his blow with her blade, managing to hold her ground against his greater size. “I be killin ya for da glory of da Lich King!”
“Destroy!” The Tauren thundered as he charged forwards. “Crush! Kill!” Lunging at Sellek, he swung out with his axe in a broad swing. He barely managed to step back, avoiding the blow before lunging back at his massive foe. The Tauren barely blocked his strike, standing his ground.
Sellek struck again, flinging a blast of frost at the undead warrior; this time it struck him, staggering him and creating an opening. Sellek powered forwards, a strike from his runeblade crushing armour and driving the Tauren back. A second strike nearly finished the job. The Tauren only just recovering and blocking his blade at the last second.
Behind him, Jill managed to duck past another blow, stabbing at her foe again. This time her blow struck true, digging into the Troll’s side before she wrenched it free, leaving behind a trail of blood. Again the wound began to close, but this time it was slower as the Troll’s body fought the diseases her strike had left behind.
“You not be stopping me!” He shouted out as he lunged at her. With a snarl, Jill batted his blade aside.
“I don’t care about you, stupid Troll!” She shot back. “Just get out of the way and die!” With a scream, she again drove at him, her blade passing inches from his face.
“Destroy you!” The Tauren shouted as he again lashed out. This time, rather then a physical blow, however, his body seemed to erupt with unholy power; the ground around him cracked and dried up, the grass and plant life withering and dying around him. Sellek stepped back, his runeblade glowing an icy blue as he did, its own energy empowering him, allowing him to shrug off the effects of the unholy blight.
Grim-faced, he simply struck back, driving forward at the massive Tauren. A swing was effortlessly batted aside as Sellek charged in, empowered by the energies of his blade. Striking out, his sword stabbed into the Tauren’s chest, crushing armour, skin and bone, running the massive enemy through.
Noting the Tauren’s fall, Jill smirked as she again lashed out at the Troll. “Give it up, Scourge. We will destroy you!” She struck out, her blow driving him back. “Your commander has abandoned you to your fate rather then face us. What chance, then, do you have?” Another blow slammed into him, crushing one of his armoured shoulders, driving him to his knees. “It is over, Troll. Finished!” With a snarl, she drove her blade into his skull, crushing it in a bloody mess.
“You okay there?” Sellek asked.
“Yeah.” She spat. “Just angry Vidurand got away, that’s all.”
“Well, we stopped whatever it was that he was doing here. That has to count for something.” He offered.
“Yeah… besides, I think he got the message.”
She looked over the bodies of the two fallen Death Knights, then back at her companion. “We are to be feared.”