The Master of Shadows Edit
Chapter I Edit
Knight-Captain Ravencourt lay flat-chested before a hill, inconspicously keeping his cover and camaflouge. Behind him, were fifty and seven footmen, all clad in the regelia of Lordaeron. They too, were entrenched in mud and were hidden in the hallowed crater that seemed to be but one of many in the thick forests of Darrowmere. Before him, the sounds of war echoed across the land, albiet different than any war he had seen before. Now, he bore witness to not only the fading clashing of steel, but the sound of shrieks and horrid pleas for mercy; none of which were answered. For this new enemy was unlike any of Lordaeron's former foes. Not men nor Orcs were these fiends, but revenants of the living dead. The army of undead that called themselves the Scourge now infringed to conquer all that had once been the glorious Kingdom of Lordaeron, but Ravencourt had an eerie feeling that the abominations would not stop there. The numbers of the Scourge were un-ending, and for each lawful knight that fell, a festering aberation of the dead took its place. What-ever dark masters had been responsible for this, did not settle for ransacking mere villages. They did not jest nor simply toy with necromancy. This new evil had but one goal: to end all life on Azeroth.
The Captain came to this harsh realization days ago, when Andorhal had been subject to a wretched plague of undeath. Ravencourt could still not fathom the darkness which passed before his eyes -the horror, the evil! - it was all too much for him. Those who did not turn, were eaten alive by ghouls or imprisoned to be tested with later for crude experiments. The memory of that day still haunted him. If Prince Arthas, Lady Proudmoore and the others had not arrived when they had - the operations would have continued in Alterac. Though they had been succeful, madness filled the neighboring kingdoms in the days to follow. The rumor of the plague spread rapidly, and Gilneas had even constructed a wall to seperate itself from the world. "Cowards!" Ravencourt thought to himself. How could the Greymane's be so selfish as to let the rest of the world rot while they enjoyed their splendid and luxurious days behind the Greymane Wall? Nevertheless, the Captain reminded himself of the task at hand, and reality struck once again.
Just over the crater, the horizon of trees came to an end and Knight-Captain Ravencourt peered between the grey figures of decayed trunks and branches until Northdale was in view. The Necromancer's had established this small city, once peacefully governed by Duke Damarius as a domain for their foul practices; and now they had created an army. Scourge-Wagons circled the stronghold as regiments of skeletal soldiers were aligned in rows before the ziggurat that Ravencourt could only remember as having once been the town hall. The land between the constructs were barren, and glew with a hued yellow fog. Ravencourt's eyes shifted with the Scourge Wagon until it was out of view, and the rumbling from the wheels was too distant to be heard. Now was the time to strike,
Ravencourt looked back to his comerads, waving a small blue flag in his hand to inform them that the time had come. Quickly he stood, pointed his warblade and let out a triumphant battle cry.
"Chaaaarge! There is no defeat for the Kingdom of Lordaeron, only victory!"
Immediately, a chorus of war crys bellowed from the crater beneath Ravencourt, as if in answer to his own. The footmen drew their arms and charged over the hill into the direction in which Ravencourt valiantly stood and aimed his blade. Two of the younger footmen, but of the ages of sixteen and seventeen gently joined the position Ravencourt had made for himself, ambiently playing a set of drums that rattled and rolled, but was silenced by the thundering footsteps of the footmen and their indistinguishable shouts of war.
A novice necromancer, walking with both hands clasped near the end of the tree-line was the first to notice. He turned quickly and opened his mouth to shout out in alarm, but his warnings were silenced as an arrow pierced his skull, and drove right through his eye and into the brain. Many of the Thuzadin cultists lurked below within the heart of the stronghold. At once, the regiment began to pour through the gateway, which shattered at once as a balistae fired unrelentlessly at its doors. As soon as the doors came crashing down, many of the acoloyte's trembled and ran or became frozen with fear, but the taskmaster's were not so quick to retreat.
Four of the Cult Leaders stood in front of a ruined statue twenty feet beyond the gateway, and began to utter a dark chant. Their hands came together, as black and purple rifts formed between their hands, siphoning a dark energy. As soon as the first of the crusaders came within sight, the energy that had been contained was released simultaneously.
"Corpus Skorok Torok!" muttered the warlocks, as a wave of shadow blasted vigorously at the first to charge through the gateway,
Those who were caught in such an unfortuanate struggle, suddenly fell limp and became aquainted with death. The necromacer's raised their palms, and the men who had died so gloriously arose from the dead; their flesh quickly melting off in a rotten sinew as they let out beastly roars and began to slash at the charging Knights who had been comrades only moments ago.
"There is no saving them," spoke Captain Ravencourt. "But we shall avenge them!"
The captain spun to face the row of archers that had formed behind him. He held his sword into the air as if it were a batton, and slashed it down. "FIRE!" shouted he, as a volley of arrows sprung forth from the redwood bows of the archers and rained down upon the cultists in the stronghold below. They flew swiftly through the air, and then tore through the eyes, bellies, and arms of the Thuzadin Necromancers below. Ten of them fell dead in an instant, and the four who had blockaded the gateway turned their gaze to the archer's who were in the treeline above the hill that kept the southeast wall in tact.
The wrath of the charging footmen only grew upon watching men revered as brothers turned into the undead. Blasphemy! They swiftly slashed through the risen, bringing the souls of their companions to rest, and showed no quarter to the four sorcerors who had desecrated the codes of war. The first fell to the blade of Arthur Rowan, as it slashed quickly down his neck, The second recieved a shield to the face from William of Garten, dazed was he as teeth were shattered loose, and then a mace smashed his face in. The others began to flee, but they did not get far. A second volley of arrows from the archers above pierced right through them, as if they were rag-dolls. A light victory cheer omited from the footmen of Lordaeron, but the battle was not over. The regiments of skeletal soldiers that filled the stronghold made their own pre-emptive strike at the knights. They came in mass horde, cutting through steel with their blades, and clawing flesh with their hyperextended, bone-like appendages. Razor sharp teeth sank deeply into the flesh of some soldiers, and hell broke loose from bellow.Captain Raveoncourt waved his sword at the ground once more.
"Release another volley!" he shouted, and another wave of steel arrows tore through the soldiers of the damned.
However, these soldiers had been trained to endure such battle. Unlike the warlocks who had only recently been initiated, these skeletal legionarres were much stronger and effective. Many of the arrows were simply stuck into shoulderguards or other pieces of plated armor. Those that did penetrate managed to get stuck between open rib caged and eye sockets. Simple archery would not suffice, and the footmen below were in total dissaray.
Captain Ravencourt rushed to the fields below, and joined what twenty and two footmen were left.
"Quickly, assemble a phalanx!" ordered Ravencourt.
The footmen ran back a few paces, and alligned their shields as to create a thick wall of steel. The blades of the soldiers jutted out inbetween each of the shields, As the skeletal legion advanced, they were met by an organized swipe of swords, and become unable to penetrate the wall. Though it took several minutes, the hero's of Lordaeron only suffered one death. Beneath was a mass of bones, skulls, worn weapons, and weathered armor. Inbetween the mess would occasionaly be a moderately fresh fiend, who though dead, were still fastened into the blue and white plate-mail of a Lordaeron Knight.
"We haven't any time to rest, for there are greater evils beyond the courtyard." He lifted his blade, gently pointing towards the Ziggurat that was constructed towards the end of the cobblestone walls.
"Burn the dead, burn the walls. Burn everything." Ravencourt was handed a torch by the young man who had been a drummer in the beggining of the battle, and dropped it into a bale of hay which soon ignited. The others rolled barrels of oil, alchohal, and gun-powder into the square of the town, and set their own torches to the latter. Only a minute had passed before the fire began to consume the courtyard of Northdale, and the smoke recached its arms up towards the blood-red sky. The cackling of flames and embers echoed throughout the valley, and the Archers rejoined what was left of the footmen.
"How many of us are left?", asked Ravencourt. There was a small silence, and then a grim answer.
"Twenty-and three footmen, seven of the Archers. Twenty of our own men lie among the slaughtered dead.", sprung forth the voice of Arthur Rowan. His armor was horribly dented, and a huge gash consumed the area where an eye had one been. As he finished the count, Arthur wrapped a thick bandage around his eye.
"Lad, are ye goin' ta' be alright?", inquered Adamantius Thorbane, a Dwarf from the Wildhammer Clan who had joined the Lordaeron Army sometime after the Second War.
"It is only a flesh wound," answered Arthur Rowan. He then turned to Vladdek Ravencourt.
"What are our plans now, Captain?"
"I want bows at the ready, pikes in front, swords in back," replied Captain Ravencourt.
"These cretins will be smoked out of their little fort any moment now."
The Captains-words had been correct, for suddenly the heavy iron doors of the necropolis burst open and uot charged the most hideous creatures imaginable! Such abominations! As they groaned with glutten and darted forward, the heavy footsteps of their large weight shook the burning courtyard. Whatever these monstrosoties were, they had been sewn and embalmed from the fiber of many dead men. The guts of the beasts hung out the stomach, while additional arms sprung from the back.
"Prepare your-" That was all William of Garten could mutter before a long chain of one of the Abominations shot forward, trapped the young-man, and reeled him in all in a split second. An agonizing cry was heard as a scythe from one of the monster's arms cut clean the head of William.
"Hold your ground!" barked Ravencourt, spatting as he spoke.
Three more men were sucked in by the vortex of chains and were slayed instantaneously. As the abominations drew nearer through the flames, two of the soldiers trembled in place. They dropped their weapons to their feet and ran. They fell suddenly dead to the ground as two single gun-shots blared from the field.
"May this be a lesson to you that cowards will not be tolerated!" spat Ravencourt once more, as a small pistol was held in his hand.