This is a collection of excerpts from a long, involved RP thread on the Ani Ayastigi Guild forums. The threads are actually epic and consist of contributions from many talented writers. The excerpts presented here are only those of Sten, and only a sample so the reader can start to see Sten's mental deterioration as the battles of Icecrown begin to take their toll.
Excerpt One ( from 4/6/2009)Edit
Stenriht grunted at the messenger who waited for a reply. "Leave me for a few minutes. I must think upon this." The messenger nodded and left the flimsy tent to go and wait with the small group of orcs huddled around the campfire.
The orcs had found the tent while chasing a group of Arthas's spellcasters near Sindragosa's Fall. The corpses of Alliance soldiers strewn around the area quickly determined the origin of the tent, and Stenriht had made use of it as a command post. It really wasn't much of a shelter. The snow filtered through it readily, and the winds threatened to uproot the tattered covering every few seconds.
"How does one communicate failure?," Stenriht mused. Failing the Ani was more painful than anything yet in life he had encountered. Looking back over the past few weeks, he analyzed what had worked, and what had gone horribly wrong. He and his squad had leveled Ymirheim, only to see it fill again with Vyrkul from Jotunheim. Then they leveled Jotunheim, only to see more of the undead giant creatures flood into that area. The orcs had fought abominations, drakes, skeletons, zombies and others by the hundreds- even thousands, and still the Lich King's servants seemed to multiply rather than diminish. The battles had been glorious, but pointless.
The Lich King did not appear to have a weakness. Oh, Stenriht knew about a certain heart. He had met Matthias Lehner, and thought he had a chance at the thing whispered in the Halls of the Ani, but even that hope evaporated. Elder Heldrath had ordered Stenriht to find a weakness, and Stenriht could find none. And, although rumors of Gnade ran rampant throughout Icecrown, and her heroics sung far and wide, he had been unable to locate her.
The orc smiled wryly. At one time, he had been convinced that all one needed was a good weapon and a stout heart. Now, he was realizing that against the Lich King, such were not enough. Taking out a parchment, he began to write:
I bear no good news at this time. My report is as follows:
The fortifications- Aldur'thar, Corp'rethar, Mord'Rethar, and Ice Crown itself appear to be without obvious weakness. Frontal assault to those locations, in my opinion, would be of little tactical benefit.
The Vyrkul provide no obvious solutions either- although the Saronite Mines seem to be interesting and may show other powers at work. While I am not clear about this, there does seem to be an undercurrent of another faction- something referred to as "The Old Gods." Perhaps we can make use of these "Gods" but I have not found adequate leverage in that direction. Brother Keltan of the Argent Crusade seems to be aware of these creatures, but has not divulged much information. If desired, I could force the issue and extract additional knowledge, but we might lose our alliance with the Crusade.
At this point, my soldiers and I are pursuing the Cult of the Damned. Since these creatures appear to be mortal, my theory is that we should be able to be more successful in gathering intelligence from them. The Vyrkul and other undead have been less forthcoming.
I regret that I have not yet been successful in carrying out your orders, Elder. I shall report again as I find out more information.
The orc folded the parchment and clumsily sealed it with a bit of wax from the flickering candle on the makeshift table. Opening the flap of the tent, he summoned the messenger, "Take this to Heldrath, Elder of the Ani Ayastigi." The messenger nodded and ran to his windrider.
Excerpt Two (4/14/2009)Edit
"A politician," Stenriht thought, "No longer a warrior. What has happened to the Horde?" The object of his dismay walked with Garrosh Hellscream, the Mag'Har warrior, down the street towards Krasus's Landing. Hundreds of Horde bowed or kneeled to the two, lining the street in somber respect.
Stenriht hated his thoughts, hated his thinking ill of the one that once was his hero. He remembered, once with pride, the times that the Warchief had praised him for his heroics. That was countless battles ago. There was no pride in the Warchief now- only concern- and...fear?
Stenriht wished that he had come here another day. Here he was, gathering supplies for his squad for their next offensive in Ice Crown. As luck would have it, Brann Bronzebeard had also come this day. Scuttlebutt around town had it that he had awakened some old god, and that had driven Thrall and Garrosh to come to Dalaran.
The two leaders carried themselves very differently. Garrosh had his two massive axes in his hands, comfortably balanced. Thrall carried... nothing. Where was the warrior? Why was he not leading the Horde to drive all of their enemies out of Northrend? For that matter, why did he tolerate the wizards and their Alliance allies? How many times had the Ani Ayastigi pushed the Alliance raiders away from the capital cities of the Horde? Yet, here was Thrall, being peacemaker. Being a diplomat to those who would like nothing better than to see him dead.
Sten could not help remembering what his uncle had told him just a few months earlier: "This new Horde is soft!" The soldier shook his head to try and keep out such thoughts. Perhaps they were merely the musings of a tired trooper. But then, his eyes met Thrall's. Sten bowed, but saw no recognition from his leader. Only worried eyes met his, and a low growl escaped Sten's throat. The sound was primal. It was that of an animal who knows that something is very wrong.
Garrosh's head snapped up and pinned Stenriht with a stare. But Thrall walked on by, failing to realize what was happening. Sten met Garrosh's stare with one of his own. This was the son of Grom, and was due much honor in his own right, but Sten was not ready to show any obescience. His mind a turmoil, he looked for the only outlet he knew. At that moment, he was willing to attack Hellscream himself to free himself of his poisonous thoughts. Garrosh nodded knowingly and turned away.
As the procession left, Sten quickly went to purchase the final supplies he required. He needed to get back to Ice Crown. He needed battle. He had to purge his thoughts with blood.
For he was beginning to realize that his uncle was right after all. The Horde was soft and beginning to rot.
Excerpt Three (4/16/2009)Edit
The rage slowly faded from Stenriht's eyes as he surveyed the remains of the Cult of the Damned's encampment. The blood of the dead humans mingled with the bright whiteness of the snow, painting a gorgeous background to the orcs' latest victory. One of his squad looked over to Sten and grinned wolfishly, and Sten swelled in pride. By the Gods these were Orcs! They had found this encampment near the gates of Aldur'thar. Before the cultists could form a cohesive defense, the severely outnumbered orcs tore through the encampment.
As the first flames engulfed the head cultist's tent, Stenriht realized that he hadn't taken any prisoners. "Damn," he mused, "We need to do that at some point." Heldrath would want information, and the cultists were probably the best source. But...it seemed like too much trouble to keep these humans alive. It would ruin the symphony of screams and ripping of torn limbs. Not to mention the stunning visuals of wonderous red blood streaming into the air followed by artful decapitations.
Kill them all!
The headache was returning. The slow, dull throbbing in the back of his head signaled another migraine was approaching. This is when the voices became more clear. Only the blessed rage kept the pain at bay, and the voices silent. One of his squad came up to him. "Commander Stenriht. Great victory! Do we have time for another battle before night falls?" Sten laughed with his team at this, "Of course, Grut! We are orcs, are we not? Our enemies shall fall before us!"
All of them! Kill them all!
Grut smiled while rubbing his temple. It seemed all of the squad suffered from these headaches- probably from being in the field too long. Oh well. Soon, this would end. Sten didn't really know why he knew this, but he did. Something was about to happen, and it would bring victory and pride back to the Horde.
Grut started to walk away, but then suddenly turned back. "Oh, Commander, this came for you, and I didn't have a chance to deliver it before our last victory." It was a parchment. Sten grabbed it and quickly read the contents. Evidently the Ani were planning a meeting this evening. It was an emergency meeting about the Horde and the Old Gods and a bunch of other nonsense. Sten shook his head. Didn't they realize there was a war to fight?
Kill them all!
The pain in his head grew larger. He would have to find battle soon, or risk falling in front of his orcs. That would never do. With a growl he called out to his orcs. "Mount up! We have more to kill." His squad cheered and quickly followed orders. Soon more of the Lich King's minions would fall and the blessed cycle of battle and death would continue.
Meanwhile, the parchment slipped from Stenriht's fingers and floated down to the snow-covered ground.
Excerpt Four (4/27/2009)Edit
Stenriht jumped from his windrider and landed lightly on the huge flying ship, Ogrims Hammer. While he did not draw his weapons, his fists clenched when he spied Brother Kelton of the Argent Crusade walking up the ramp.
Shaking his head to clear the voice only made his headache worse. He needed battle. He needed the rage to clear the pain.
Brother Kelton smiled at Sten, "Greetings warrior of the Ani Ayastigi. How goes the battle against Arthas?" Stenriht growled, almost reaching for his mace to club the smile from the elf's face. Instead, remembering what Elder Heldrath had commanded, the orc forced a smile on his face, "It goes well. We are on the verge of the Citidel itself."
Kill him. Kill him. Kill him.
The Crusader laughed, clapping Sten on the shoulder. "Good, my friend. By the way, have you tried your mettle in the tournament?"
There it was, the crux of Sten's argument that he presented at the Ani meeting last evening. The 'Great Distraction' known as the Argent Tournament. Here in Icecrown, where battle should be raging against the Lich King, instead, all of the capital cities were participating in pageantry- riding mounts and jabbing pointed sticks at one another. Like it was a game!
Stenriht could see the underlying deception. While the warriors of all tribes played in the tournament, Arthas grew in strength. When he was ready, he would have all of his enemies in one place- easier to crush all resistance. And the Argent Crusade was his ally!
Yes, warrior. They all must DIE!
Smile slipping from his face, Sten spat through clenched teeth, "I have not yet had... the pleasure, brother."
Kelton laughed. "You would do well, I think. Give it a try." With that, the crusader walked away.
Kill him. Kill them all!
The Ani wouldn't listen. Not even Gorrin. Thrall, himself, sanctioned this travesty, and the Ani had fallen prey to the seductive challenge the tournament afforded. Sten growled again. The headache intensified. Thrall, the diplomat; Thrall, the politician; Thrall of no backbone. But yet, he was Thrall of great influence- the Warchief of the Horde. Briefly, Sten wondered what Garrosh thought of all this, but then shook his head again. It did not matter.
Sten had his orders. Heldrath had commanded him to infiltrate the Crusade and earn their trust. While the Ani believed him wrong, they would give him the opportunity to prove his thesis. He was to investigate the Crusade and reveal them for the traitors they were.
Kill them all!
So he would. But first, he had to kill some scourge. The headache was beginning to affect his vision, and a sickness was starting in his stomach. He needed the rage. He needed to kill.
Yes, my pupil. Yes- Kill. Kill them all! Soon you will be worthy...
Excerpt Five (5/5/2009)Edit
Stenriht picked himself up from the floor of the arena. Spitting dirt from his mouth, he had to take comfort from the fact that he still held the damned stick. "Lance," he muttered, "They call this pitiful excuse for a spear 'a lance'."
The elf that had knocked him off of his wolf rode up with a smile, "Good show, orc. You're starting to get the hang of it." Stenriht growled, his left hand unconciously going to his axe. The elf seemed not to notice, "Come, let's do this again, shall we?"
Do not demean yourself by playing their game. Just kill it, and then kill them all!
The voices in his head were much more subtle... and detailed now. Constantly they whispered to him. The orc shook his head, trying to get the voices to silence themselves- to no avail.
The elf mis-read the gesture. Shrugging, she turned and left. It was just as well. Sten grabbed the reins of his mount and led it to the hitching rail. Once tied, the mount happily started chewing the haunch of meat Sten threw to it.
Everyone was so polite here. So happy. So damn smug. Playing their little game of knights in shining armor. With his constant headaches, and whispering voices, the combination of all of it put the orc in a foul mood. Stomping up to the pavillion where the Horde rested between bouts, Sten found a table and sat down to try and think.
There's nothing to think about, warrior. Live up to your potential. Kill these traitors. Kill them all!
"Shut up!" The patrons turned at the outburst and glanced at the orc curiously. Putting his head in his hands, Sten ignored them until they all turned away and resumed their inanities.
He was not fulfilling his orders. That was the crux of the matter. He was told to infiltrate the Argent Crusade in order to prove to Ciye and Taksi alike in the Ani Ayastigi that the knights were a sham- in league with Arthas. Of course, to infiltrate the Crusade, one had to show that one was a noble knight by knocking other potential noble knights on their collective hind ends. And that required riding a mount and shoving pointed sticks into said knights.
Sten could not figure out how to do this. Holding a shield and a lance on top of a charging wolf was so alien to him, it defied rationality. Give Sten an axe, and he could whirl around his enemies, slicing them down without a thought. But put him in a rigid form with limited control, and everything that made the orc successful in combat was nullified.
Gorrin had recently said that a true warrior learns to use all weapons. Perhaps that was true, but learning to fight like a human was ludicrous. Yet, Sten would persevere. Groaning, he arose from the table. Grabbing his shield and stick, the orc forced himself out of the tent and headed back to the arena.
You are beginning to disappoint me orc. I shall have to "make" you see reason soon. There is not much time left...
Excerpt Six (5/7/2009)Edit
Garrosh looked up at the young warrior from under furrowed brows. "I know you. Silright? Stutrub?..."
"Speak up, orc!"
"Sten of the clan Riht, General." The invocation of the clan name strengthened the warrior's voice, and he stared at Garrosh, daring him to belittle it.
"Whatever," Garrosh grunted, "So, why is it, then, that you are taking my valuable time?"
Strangely, the voices in his head were silent. "I am looking for battle, General. I am here to fight the Alliance."
Garrosh grunted and rose from his chair. Slowly, he circled the younger orc. "Lok'tar Sten of the clan Riht, you are also one of the ... Ani Ayastigi, are you not?"
An uncomfortable silence. "Yes, General, I am Ani Ayastigi."
"Then you are pledged to Cairne and Thrall. I believe they frown on my emphasis of killing the Alliance, do they not?"
"I am a grunt, General. I know little of politics. The Ani Ayastigi have fought with valor in places such as Warsong Gulch, Arathi Basin, Alterac Valley and Wintergrasp. I, for one, do not frown upon the killing of the Alliance."
Garrosh finished his circuit and sat back down on his chair. Resting his head on his hands, his fingers steepled, he eyed the young warrior. "Are you a warrior or fodder?"
Taken aback, Sten, stared at the Mag'Har General. "I am a warrior, General."
"Good. Then forswear your alliegance with the Ani Ayastigi and join my forces."
Sten blinked at Garrosh, trying to comprehend the sacrifice the General was asking. Leave the Ani Ayastigi? Leave his family? "General," Sten chose his words carefully, "I am offering my axe. I am not prepared to leave the Ani Ayastigi. They are always my first priority."
"Bah!" Garrosh stood and loomed over the warrior. "Then you are nothing but a mercenary. You are fodder! Report to Wintergrasp if you wish, we can always throw you in front of a siege vehicle. Might even slow it down."
Starting to bristle, his hands going to his weapons, Sten was suddenly startled by the previously silent voices inside of him.
You fool, join him! He will lead you to an endless sea of your blessed rage. Isn't that what you want?
Yes...rage. His only comfort. Rage silenced the voices. Rage filled him with power. It was wonderful to lose himself in the glory of it.
This one can start you on the path that I will help you complete. Think of it, warrior. You can restore the glory of the Horde and your clan. Think of the burdens you carry. The rage can lift that from you. Dream of a time that the rage never leaves you!
"Rage...never...leaves...me..." Ah the beauty of it. The simplicity. And all Stenriht had to do was to leave his family for this Mag'har.
Sten shook his head and let out a scream of rage. "Never!" Drawing his two maces, he spat at Garrosh, "Lok'tar, Garrosh, son of Grom, Mag'har of Draenor, do not ever challenge my honor or that of my family again, or the Horde shall require a new General!"
Much to his surprise, Garrosh started laughing. The huge bellow resounded through the chamber, scaring almost everyone within it. "Good! Finally, I hear the voice of a warrior! I could use one like you after all- but not in the shape you are in."
Stenriht paused for a moment and then sheathed his weapons. "What do you mean? I am in fighting shape."
"No, warrior, you are broken. There is something amiss with you. Fix it, and then return to me if you still wish battle. You are dismissed."
Saluting, Stenriht whirled and left, his mind in more turmoil than ever before.
You fool! You must kill them all to gain what I promise you. They are nothing. Nothing!
Finding a bench, the orc sat down and put his head in his hands. He rubbed his temples, trying to ease the massive headache that descended upon him. Suddenly he was bone tired. His last good sleep was...what? three weeks ago? a month? The voices would not stop- except in battle. And when he attempted to rest, the voices became louder, more insistent.
"Stenriht of the Ani Ayastigi?"
Blearily, the orc looked up to see a young troll messenger. "Yes, I am he."
The troll nodded and pulled out a sheaf of parchments. Fingers walking througn the pile, he selected one and passed it to the orc. "This is for you. Shall I wait for your reply?"
Sten looked at the seal of an Elder of the Ani Ayastigi and groaned. Already? Damn. He waved the messenger off, "I will be responding in person."