Friends Remembered: A Tale of the Fallen

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When I lost my Mom to cancer back in 2007, I turned to World of Warcraft, as an escape. It was right around the time of its third expansion, “Wrath of the Lich King”. I crafted my own hero and eventually wrote backstory for his inception. This is the story of Fallinchas; risen death knight.

MOUNTING THE ASSAULT

Heat and warmth remain absent from this place as howling winds wail.  Bitter cold restricts snowfall from blanketing the battle hardened lands.  The smell of ash intermingled with rancid decay overwhelm the senses and numb the mind to all things pleasant and comforting.  This is Ice Crown.  The entire region serves as the gateway to a frozen evil unlike any ever experienced.  Only the very brave venture into these lands and only a few ever return with their souls intact.  Despite the unbearable conditions and the dark overcast skies, the sounds of war ring out among the desolate terrains.  From the borders of Crystal Song forest, to the Saronite forged steps of the Citadel, chaos and mayhem ensue as alliance and horde forces engage not only droves of undead and Scourge converts, but Cult of the Damned members as well.

A small band of the Argent Crusade succeeded in penetrating Scourge opposition and had advanced to the great stairway leading toward the entrance to Ice Crown Citadel.  They were ambushed by a rogue group of Horde bandits who had arrived and slaughtered members of the Cult of the Damned.  Though outnumber three-to-one, the ten-man Argent Crusade contingent pressed hard against the enemy, under the leadership of their death knight commander.  This group had resolved not to fall within mere sight of the citadel entrance.

Fallinchas stood fast atop the first massive step, peering upward.  The enemy battalion, flanking from the left and the right, had the advantage of higher ground over his band of alliance.  But impossible odds had never stopped the death knight before, and today would be no different.  He slowly unsheathed his two-handed sword, and raised the weapon to the skies above.  While sizing up the opposition, he rallied his small troop of crusaders.

“We do not stop here,” he commanded while staring into the eyes of his companions.  His cold blue gaze spoke directly into the hearts of each soldier.

“We will not fall to these vagabonds, standing in our path!  Clearly, they operate outside of the treaty binding the Alliance and the Horde together against the Lich King’s combined forces.  Therefore, we show them no mercy! You are honored knights of the Argent Crusade, and our glorious passing will not happen on these steps, this day!  Our destiny lies behind the walls of the citadel.  Take up your arms once again, and silence these Horde dogs!  Their final thoughts and last sights will center on our band of brothers and sisters bent on their total destruction!  Death awaits all who oppose us!”

Fallinchas’ rally cry emboldened the alliance contingent.  With weapons drawn, the ten Argent Crusaders, led by the death knight, stormed the 30-man Horde battalion up the steps, where they collided with the enemy fearlessly.

CASUALTIES OF WAR

Fallinchas’ enchanted dancing Mourning Malice blade cut through the air with a blinding force.  Each swipe of the hovering sword sliced deep lacerations into the back-side of a large orc warrior’s plate armor.  There was nothing the beast-man could do to stop the rear flanking onslaught.  For the moment, his full attention focused toward defending himself against the frontal attack of Fallinchas.  This human wielded the physical Mourning Malice blade with skill, the likes of which the orcish warrior had never before encountered.  To make matters worse, the death knight’s blood worms nipped at both armor clad ankles.  The orc tried, in vain, to parry the human’s advances, while evading the worms.  Suddenly, gnashing teeth cut through the warrior’s thick plated wrist-guard, subduing his weapon arm.  The orc warrior stole a desperate glance, immediately right, to find a risen ghoul latched onto his arm, incapacitating his axe.  In that split second, the human death knight struck with horribly accurate speed.  The orc felt a sudden sharp stab to his abdomen, followed by extreme cold piercing and spreading throughout his torso, the freezing cold of the blade dulling the pain.  Eyes wide, the warrior slowly gazed down to find the death knight’s sword buried hilt-deep within his chest.  Orcish strength gave way to darkness as the warrior’s limp body slid free of the freezing blade.  The death knight, had just claimed a Horde victim.

Without pause, Fallinchas trained his sights on the next foe, crossing his path up the stairway.  His left arm flew outward, unleashing the Death Grip on an unsuspecting blood elf paladin, binding her around the neck.  The blood elf was hoist through the freezing air and dropped limp at his feet.  Temporarily dazed by the attack, she collapsed to the frozen steps as Fallinchas followed the initial attack, with an Icy Touch spell.

“Lor’Themar Theron forgive you, sister paladin”, Fallinchas whispered to the blood elf lying at his feet, paralyzed with Frost Fever.  He slowly raised his sword over head then brought the weapon crashing down in a Death Strike, silencing the paladin forever.

Surveying his surroundings, Fallinchas saw that his comrades had decimated the remnant of the horde attackers.  A few crusaders appeared to be wounded, but still able to continue on, as the group’s shaman and priestess of the moon performed their respective duties.  Fallinchas yelled in victorious delight and led the Argent Crusaders charging up the steps of Ice Crown Citadel.  The alliance group reached the top plateau and lifted their combined weaponry in celebration, while facing the massive entrance to the Citadel.

As the group reveled in victory, a troll howl pierced the air from behind and down the steps.  Fallinchas spun on his heels, his weapon at the ready, but he was too late to save Dothranis.  A poison tipped arrow blazed through the air, shot from a hunter’s bow.  The troll had feigned death during the melee and had since stealthy climbed the stairs and maneuvered around the Draenei shaman.  Dothranis screamed in agony as the arrow punctured his back, and protruded through his chest, sending the shaman crumpling to the frozen Saronite plateau.  Fallinchas leaped at the assailant before the troll could reload his bow, slashing with an Obliterate-swing of his sword.  The mortally wounded hunter dropped and roll to the bottom of the great staircase, dead before his body fell still on the frozen ground below.

“Cursed Darkspear Troll!” Fallinchas yelled.

He rushed to the side of his fallen friend.  Dothranis lay still on the plateau, Draenei blood already pooling around his body and beginning to freeze in the frigid air of Ice Crown.  Fallinchas placed a hand over Dothranis’ chest; the other behind his friend’s head.  He desperately glanced at Shala, the contingent’s priestess, who met his gaze with a mournful glance of her own.

“My Lord…he’s gone. The poison’s work was instantaneous,” she whispered.

“Is there nothing we may do to bring our brother back, Shala,” he asked.

“No, my Lord.  May Elune guide his spirit to peace,” she said, as the others gathered around.

Fallinchas stared into the dead frozen eyes of his comrade, fighting to maintain some sense of equanimity.  How had he allowed this to happen?  Dothranis was not five feet away from him; standing by his side just as he had done a thousand times before tonight.  How would he go on knowing he had failed his friend?  Had he allowed his emotions to get the best of him…yet again?  Had he inadvertently killed his best friend, in a selfish burst of greed-driven revenge?  Guilt ridden thoughts swirled through his mind, stirring up ghosts of the past.  The death knight exploded in a burst of rage, screaming to the heavens, shaking his fists at the cracking lightning bolts as they crisscrossed the skies above.  Exhausted, Fallinchas collapsed over the body of Dothranis.  “I have failed you, Dot,” he whispered.  The death knight gently fanned a hand over the Draenei’s stone face, lowering his eyelids, then pulled the fallen Shaman’s tabard over his contorted face.

“Go with honor, my friend Dot.  Light be with you,” Fallinchas murmured.

He closed his eyes and slowly stood over the body of his good friend.  A lone teardrop descended his brown cheek, freezing above his strong jaw.  Fallinchas wiped the blood-splayed Mourning Malice blade against his Ebon Blade tabard-tail, sheathed the weapon, then turned to address the remaining members of his contingent.  He motion for Shala to come closer.  Now was not the time for loved ones to hide their true feelings.  Pulling the night elf priestess tight against his body, she fell into his arms, her warmth granting him a small bit of comfort.  She burst into tears, while pounding a weak fist across his broad chest.

“Be strong, my love,” he whispered, “for our fallen friend, and for our remaining companions.”

He realized the death of Dothranis would demoralize the group.  They would need time to recuperate and refocus on the mission.  As Shala’s sobs began to subside, Fallinchas gently lifted her chin and gazed into her elven eyes.  Again she met the cold blue gaze of his glowing pupils and seemed to understand his thoughts.  Courage my love those eyes seems to say.  She composed herself enough to wipe flowing tears from her cheeks, and rejoined the remaining eight Argent Crusaders standing before their leader.  Fallinchas straighten his stance, rolled his shoulders back, inhale deeply, and peered at each member of his small team.

“Dothranis…was a loyal soldier in the continuous fight against all powers of Darkness, throughout Azeroth.  A devoted Resto-shaman, Dot was an exceptional offensive fighter, and a beloved friend as well.  He saved my life on more than one occasion, and I regret my failure in saving his tonight”.

The death knight lowered his eyes toward the blood soaked Argent Crusade tabard draped across the chest of Dothranis.  Shala gently squeezed his arm, bringing him back to focus.  Regrouping, he continued.

“We each knew the dangers associated with this mission.  We understood that the chances of our successful return were, and are, minuscule at best.  The Alliance chose us to storm the entrance first, because we accepted the impossible odds.  Dothranis was no different than any one of you, or I.  Tonight, we’ve lost a champion to our cause.  We will camp here, at the top of the great steps.  We rest, and honor our fallen brother, before carrying on to face the Lich King”.

THE RESPITE

Fallinchas’ squire, Tomas Billbrat, never ceased to amaze him.  Whenever summoned, the chipper young boy would faithfully take stock of his surroundings and then offer a positive outlook on the conditions his Lord had called him into.  Shortly after Fallinchas and his band of crusaders had performed an impromptu mourning service for Dothranis, Shala called on the spirit of Elune and released the Draenei’s soul to the spirits of Azeroth.  The Draenei’s body had slowly transformed into floating specks of white dust, leaving his garb and weapons behind.  Fallinchas had blown the squire’s whistle, summoning Tomas, who materialized out of thin air in a puff of purple smoke.  Without so much as a single word from Fallinchas, the young boy immediately collected the shaman’s remaining belongings into his mystic sack of endless pockets.  The items would be returned to the order of the Argent Crusade, upon Tomas’ return to Dalaran.  Tomas admiringly looked up into the eyes of his weary Lord, and Fallinchas returned his look, with a forced smile.

“My Lord…Dot was an honorable friend to you, yes?  I believe his soul will find peace among his forefathers.  Do not grieve for him any longer, sire.  I feel…his struggle has ended.”

Fallinchas patted the young boy’s golden blond head, and knelt on one knee to meet Tomas’ smiling face.

“Young man, you are wise beyond your years, and you always bring me tidings of peace when I need them.  Thank you, Tomas.  How about we erect the tent for the night?  Where would you choose as a suitable spot, among the wreckage and carnage strewn before us?”

Tomas walked among the huddled group of crusaders, smiling salutations to the dwarven warriors, passing words of encouragement to the human paladins, shaking the hands of the gnomish rogues, snapping off a sharp salute to the night elf hunter while offering a snack to his pet Worg, Fangor, and bowing deeply before the night elf priestess of the moon, Shala.  Finally, the young squire pointed to an enormous ancient petrified-wooden catapult positioned far left and away from the great entrance.  Fallinchas nodded his approval then roused the crusaders to begin erecting the frost-weave tent for the night’s camp.

With the tent erected around the base of the abandoned catapult, Tomas produced a camp fire under the center spire of the shelter.  Soon, the aroma of a fish feast and freshly brewed brown-butter mead filled the confined space and invigorated the tired crusaders, as they slowly filed into the large tent and gathered around the bonfire.

Dimpkin, one of the dwarven warriors, had been posted atop the catapult as lookout while the tent was erected.  The smells of freshly cooked fish, coupled with the sweetness of the warm mead wafted through the tent’s exhaust ports, beckoning the dwarf to leave post, and join the others.

“With your permission, my Lord…” he began, as he entered the tent.

“Permission granted, my friend.  Please join us,” Fallinchas said as he waved the dwarf into the circle.  Fallinchas rested cross-legged before the bonfire, and looked to his squire while eating the meal the boy had prepared.  Tomas lay on the frost-weave carpeted floor toward the back of the tent; his pack resting against one the catapult columns.  The young boy was busying himself rubbing the Worg’s belly as he fed the creature.  Fallinchas smiled at the ridiculous sight.  He slowly glanced around the fire to see his remaining companions all settling in and eating.  Casual discussions began floating through the air.  Once again, Tomas had granted Fallinchas’ group a small respite from the dangers and sorrow that lie ahead.

“Tomas, you’ve done a fine job here, young man.  You are free to return to the High Council to report on our progress…and casualty.  Tell the high lord, we plan to advance on the citadel proper at first light.” The young boy stood and bowed deeply.

“I will, sire.  I look forward to your return, my Lord.  Please watch over lady Shala in my absence,” the young squire bantered, causing the circle of crusaders to erupt in spontaneous laughter.

“Get out of here, before I–” Fallinchas started, but was not surprised to see the young squire enveloped in a purple cloud once again.  A trumpet call blared from the center of the cloud, and the puff vanished leaving purple tendrils of smoke dispersing through the air.  Nnimrod, the group’s night-elf hunter, spoke softly.

“That boy never fails to lighten the mood, does he?”

“Aye, that he does,” Dimpkin affirmed.  The dwarf warrior exchanged glances between Shala and Fallinchas across the bonfire, while stuffing fish between the puffy braided whiskers of his mustache covered lips.  Mead dripped sloppily from his whiskers.  “So when was it that ye picked that boy up, my Lord?”

Shala snickered as she grasped Fallinchas’ right hand.  The death knight seemed to recall a thought, and threw his head back into a boisterous laugh, his voice echoing through the large tent.

“Tomas has been my Argent squire for almost two years now.  Dothranis actually waged a bet with Shala, that I’d kill the boy inside of six months of acquiring him, but his ludicrous sense of humor grew on me”.  The crusaders erupted into laughter again.  Fallinchas, looked to Shala and spoke absently.  “She’s always known me, better than I’ve known myself since my return to Stormwind.”

The laughter throughout the tent slowly died, as the crusaders each looked to their leader.  Silence swept through the tent for what seemed like ages before one of the human paladins, Nerra, broke the proverbial ice.

“My Lord…what was it like, to die a paladin…and to be reborn, as a Death Knight?”  As if realizing the gravity of the question, Nerra quickly recanted.  “Forgive my intrusion, my lord,” she said bowing while fumbling her silver goblet of mead.  The drink spilled into the fire, igniting, and sending a burst of blue flame into the warm air.  “I meant no disrespect.  I fear the mead has relaxed my sensibilities a touch.”

“No apologies are necessary Nerra,” Fallinchas said.  The death knight stood and raised his own goblet toward the fire.  The golden cup, with its scarlet ruby-encrusted gems encircling its rim, twinkled by the light of the bonfire.  As Fallinchas stared at his reflection within the polished surface of the goblet, he remembered the day it was given as a gift, from Dothranis.  ‘To remind you, that you will always be a Champion of the Knights of the Silver Hand, dear friend,’ he had said.

Fallinchas sighed.  It was time for him to share his tale, with these loyal followers who stood by his side.  Most of the crusaders had served under his leadership for quite some time.  Yet none, save for Shala, knew his story.  Tonight might be the last time the tight knit group would find peace together.  He owed them his life’s tale.  Fallinchas looked down to his right, at the night elf woman who had remained by his side for all these years.  Shala smiled back at him, seeming to read his mind.

“It is time, my lord,” she whispered.  The crusaders exchanged puzzled looks before settling all eyes on their leader standing broad-shouldered before the fire.

“My friends…you have each stood by me through the toughest encounters imaginable.  Our successes have proven the level of our abilities to our superiors, time and again.  Over the years, I have hand-picked each one of you, because you were the elite among your former affiliates.  I know each of you personally…” he said, training his cold hearted blue stare from one pair of eyes to the next, until he had circled the group.  “Yes, I know you all down to your very core…even you Fangore.  And I am deeply proud of you all.  I am humbled by the reality that tonight may be our last, as one.  So…allow me to…regale you all, with a tale I’m sure many may not know.  But first.”  Fallinchas hefted the large goblet to his lips and drained the mead in five huge gulps.  “For my friend Dothranis: may your soul rest peacefully, until we meet, again.”

The crusaders rose to their feet and toasted in unison, to Dothranis.  As they all sat again, Fallinchas inhaled deeply, closed his eyes, and began to speak.

“A lifetime ago, my name was Chasiah Stromgarde.  I was slain by my friend, Arthas Menethil.”

HUMBLE BEGINNINGS OF A PALADIN

During my childhood, I was raised in the Elwynn Forest valley of Northshire.  My father supported my mother and I by working in the Fargodeep mines, while we tended the farm.  The work was hard for me, as I recall, but provided the ethic I would someday need in later years.  Oft times, my father would teach me the basic art of swordsmanship to help protect the farm from the ever increasing threat of the Defias Brotherhood. 

The summer of my 11th year, my father was slain defending the Fargodeep mines from an invasion of kobolds.  That same season, my mother was killed during a Defias Brotherhood attack on our farm.  I fled the valley, and found myself under the care of the Stormwind Orphan Matron shortly thereafter.

 I remember being adopted by Thamore and Sarah Thomas, at the age of 12.  The Thomas’ had no children of their own, and welcomed me into their home, despite my troubled past.  Rebellion on my part caused strife between my surrogate parents and I, in the beginning.  I was filled with so much rage and hatred toward others, never putting to rest the anger I harbored over the deaths of my parents.  But the Thomas’ were patient in their rearing of me.  Sarah eventually defeated my inward defenses with love and kindness, while Thamore earned my respect with a constant show of quiet strength.  In time, I discovered Mr. Thomas to be an accomplished Paladin; a member of the Order of the Knights of the Silver Hand, no less.  At some point during my first few years with the Thomas’, Thamore discovered my penchant for swordplay.  To counteract the anger nestled deep within me, I began to study and practice the ways of the Paladin under my surrogate father’s tutelage.

At 15, I was sent to Lordaeron, to continue Paladin training, under Sir Uther the Lightbringer.  It was during that time that I became acquainted with the young Prince of the Menethil lineage, Arthas.  He was older than I, by two years, but our relative size and skills quickly conjoined us as competitive and respectful counterparts, during training sessions.  Arthas’ strength was incredible, even at that young age.  As such, he was always one step ahead of me, but the challenge of defeating the prince motivated me to work that much more diligently at my craft.  Rarely did I see the prince outside of training, but the few and far between moments we did spend together, were pleasant.  He was an imposing figure whose very presence demanded immediate respect and full attention.  But he was also very kind as he studied the ways of the Holy Light.  In retrospect…I idolized Arthas, for a time. 

With my studies nearing completion, Sir Uther sent me home to complete my formal Paladin training in Stormwind.  I was present…the day prince Arthas took the Oath of Light, becoming a member of the Order of the Knights of the Silver Hand.  How I envied and admired him.  I yearned to follow in the footsteps of the prince and my father, Thamore. 

By the time of my return to the White City, emissaries and students from the greens of Darnassus to the cavernous hollows of Ironforge, and even the great halls of the Exodar, had taken up residence behind our gloriously high stone walls.  It was during this time that I became acquainted with a young and brash Draenei, training in the ways of the Shaman Order and studying the hidden knowledge of the Light at the Cathedral.  As I recall on the day I made Dothranis, he quarreled with me over a Giantus Apple. 

THE BOND SEALED

Fallinchas paused for a moment as he opened his eyes and stared into the flames.  He shut his eyes again, and silently reflected.  The memories flooded his mind like a waterfall, and he relayed every bit of nuance, every smell, every sense of touch and feel of that day to his comrades.  It all seemed as fresh as this very moment in time, for the death knight.

The day was hot and humid, and the fountain spray floating through the air, from the Stormwind central square, did little to cool down the patrons gathered around the vendor carts.  Summer fairs always offered the promise of exquisite imports of food and trinkets normally only found outside the walls of the White City.  At a fruit vendor cart parked just below the steps of the city’s bank, trouble brewed between two young alliance recruits.

“Human if you do not release this apple immediately, I shall not be held responsible for the forthcoming thrashing you shall receive.” Dothranis held a tight grip on the human’s wrist.  Who did this tiny man believe himself to be?  Dothranis easily stood a full six inches above this brown-skinned, spike-haired arrogant young paladin.  The man-child was clearly in outstanding physical shape for a human, but that would not intimidate Dothranis in the least.  He had spied the Giantus Apple, the moment the luscious fruit spilled into the vendor’s trough, from the supply sack.

“See here you Draenei devil, you will release me at once, and choose another apple!  This trough is full of fruit.  You should learn the art of speed, along with your Shamanistic training routine,” Chasiah teased.  His left hand palmed the 12 inch golden yellow apple as he raised his right hand preparing to fire off a judgment-spell against his adversary.  The Draenei was huge, and held tight to Chasiah’s wrist.  His blue chin tendrils seemed to rattle as the Shaman scowled at Chasiah, in frustration.  His left hand was raised in a defensive posture, Chasiah was unfamiliar with.  But the paladin refused to relinquish the rare fruit.  These apples were usually seen in Stormwind only once or twice in a season, and one would be lucky just to see one, let alone have the opportunity to taste its intoxicating sweetness.

Just as the Shaman readied to cast a Static Shock attack, the duo were levitated three feet off the ground, and whisked in opposite directions.  Chasiah was thrown into the fountain, quickly lunging to his feet to draw his weapon, but found himself entangle in his own cloak.  The paladin lost his footing and crashed back into the cool water.  Meanwhile, Dothranis had landed face first into a thicket beside the eastern mailbox, his hoofed-feet flailing through the air as he attempted to free himself.  The apple floated toward and landed neatly into the outstretched palms of a tall, slender purple skinned young night elf priestess.

Fallinchas opened his eyes and rolled them toward Shala.  “You’d stolen the one and only Giantus apple I’ve ever come into close contact with, my lady”, he said as he mocked a choking gesture at the priestess.

“I did my love.  It was the first Giantus apple I had ever seen up close, myself!  While you boys continued to bump chests, I decided to relieve you both of the object causing undue strife.  And lo’ the end result was a forged bond of the ages!”  Shala burst into glorious, contagious laughter and was soon joined by the others.

“That stubborn ox of a Draenei grabbed at my cloak and tugged me free of the fountain in one great pull.  I was in awe of his strength…” Fallinchas mused, “but, I was fully prepared to wage war on him.  That insane Shaman clapped me on the back, and erupted into that high pitched laughter of his.”

Fallinchas and Shala both shot their arms into the air, palms stretched to the heavens, mimicking the Draenei. Together, they shouted, “To the victor, goes the spoils!”

Shala wiped tears of joy from her eyes, recalling that faithful day the three future heroes met one another. “Oh how we all had laughed, my love.  It was truly the beginning of a friendship that would eventually cheat death itself.”  Shala stood before the fire, rocking from side to side; her gentle hands clasped over her heart.

Fallinchas pulled her close, and planted a soft kiss on her cheek, before lifting his goblet toward the fire again. “On the day I took the Oath of the Light to become a Knight of the Silver Hand, Dot presented this goblet to me.  He’d handcrafted it himself.  His jewel-crafting skills were extraordinary.  He placed this beautifully forged chalice into my hands and said to me, ‘Never forget this day. This is what you were born to do.  I give you this goblet to carry wherever your adventures may lead.  The battles may harden your heart to the Light; you may lose yourself to dark times.  This chalice shall be your compass, to remind you, that you will always be a Champion of the Knights of the Silver Hand, dear friend.’  My best friend knew…somehow…he just knew…the times would darken.  He knew I’d need something to always bring me back to where I belong.”

“My Lord, did Dot accompany you in many battles,” asked Peak, one of the contingent’s gnome rogues.  Fallinchas smiled at Peak, as he passed the goblet to the other rogue, Gunther, seated to his left.

“Dot stood by my side for countless encounters, my brothers and sisters,” the death knight announced.  “The Battle of Thorns; he saved my life from an orc’s bludgeon attack.  At the Siege of Honor Hold, orcs outnumbered the two of us by four to one.  Because of Dothranis’ defensive skill, I was able to return to Darnassus: to Shala.”

Staring into the bonfire, watching as the tongues of red and orange danced and the kindling popped, Fallinchas grasped at his Shard of Crystal Forest necklace. Shala placed a comforting hand on his shoulder pauldron. She knew her beloved so well.  She’d never heard him speak of the day that changed their three lives forever.  In her mind, she prayed to Elune, to grant strength and courage to her champion.

“Dot fought by my side, the day the defunct Knights of the Silver Hand faced off against Arthas, during the Scourge invasion of Lordaeron.  My friend watched Chasiah Stromgarde die at the hands of a death knight.  He could not save me, from Arthas.”

Watching the flames dance brought back memories of Lordaeron city ablaze.

DEATH OF A PALADIN

Uther’s murder had taken its toll on Chasiah.  Seeing the corpse of his former teacher, lying unceremoniously on the stone pathway, was enough to fill the young paladin with enough hatred to forgo all formal training.  He sought revenge.  Dothranis tried desperately to console Chasiah as the two led a small group of paladin forces through the streets of the city.  Everywhere they turned, the streets of Lordaeron had been overrun by the Scourge as evident by the animated corpses of undead civilians and converted soldiers wreaking havoc among the remnant of survivors.  The whole city was ablaze. Putrid green smoke choked the air, as fire and ash rained from the rooftops.

Chasiah charged fearlessly through the droves of undead, hell-bent on slaying Arthas personally.  If he could just find the death knight, he would avenge Uther’s death.  His small battalion charged up the main throughway, hacking and slashing as they progressed toward the center of the doomed city.  Dothranis supported his commander and friend, but feared the worse.

“Commander Stromgarde, we appear to be deviating from our original objective, sire.  Were we not supposed to search for and rescue any remaining survivors?” Dothranis pleaded.

“I want his head on a spit, Dot!  He’ll pay for killing the King and Uther!  I do not know what foul demon has possessed the prince, but I assure you, I plan to release it,” Chasiah roared.

The battalion had advanced on the city’s square, and prepared to storm the castle, when they were suddenly surrounded by Scourge.  Arthas stood atop the great steps of the castle entrance. The death knight clutched the magical urn containing his father’s ashes in the crook of his left arm.  The Frostmourne blade was raised to the burning skies, in his right hand.

Chasiah broke rank formation and charged through the Scourge-filled square, in a blind rage.  His two-handed blade swiped at anything in his path, as he charged toward Arthas.  The death knight leaped from his perch and bellowed at the paladin.  The Frostmourne blade cut down Scourge in his own path, as he charged the paladin.  Dothranis was caught in crossfire of allied and scourge battle, unable to break free and charge alongside his friend. He screamed out to Chasiah, in anguish.

“Chasiah, NO!  Wait for the battalion! Chas, please…wait for me!”

Chasiah weaved spells, slaughtered undead, and shoved at innocent survivors in his blood raged stampede toward Arthas.  The two combatants collided fiercely; the death knight’s Frostmourne blade shattered Chasiah’s enchanted blade and cut the chained Libram from the paladin’s waist.  It dangled limply from the remaining chain.  The two stood face to face, each taking up familiar defensive stances from their past.  Arthas scowled at the paladin, as he recognized his foe.

“Chasiah Stromgarde!  You dare to face me alone, you pitiful excuse for a paladin!  You were never able to best me in a match, and this encounter is far from practice, my old friend.  I will claim your soul, for your insolent defiance,” Arthas yelled at the paladin.

Chasiah produced a Crest of Lordaeron shield, and an enchanted red-glow short-sword.  The paladin squared his broad shoulders in preparation for a lunging melee attack.  His teeth were clenched, his brow furrowed, muscles tensed, he was prepared to send Arthas Menethill to the afterlife.

“You are a murderous traitor, Arthas!  Damn you for Uther, Lord Terenas, the Alliance, humankind!  I curse the ground you stand on, and I too am aware that this will be no practice, you dog!  Tonight, you die death knight!”

Chasiah lunged at the death knight, with uncanny speed.  For a moment, Arthas was taken by surprise, as the paladin’s blade struck the urn, sending it crashing to the ground beneath his feet.  It rolled a few yards away from the duel, undamaged.

Before Chasiah could strike out a second surprise attack, Arthas gripped the stock of his blade tight with both hands and parried the paladin’s next swing, then lashed out two quick chops, with the Frostmourne.  Both blows found only the surface of the paladin’s shield. He quickly pivoted on his heel, bringing his left leg crashing down into the paladin’s shield with a round-house kick.

Chasiah balanced his weight against the death knight’s brutal kick, but lost grip on the shield.  Before he could regain his grasp, a second kick sent the Crest of Lordaeron skidding along the worn cobblestone pathway. Chasiah immediately cast a Deflection spell, parrying the death knight’s swooping Frostmourne chop.  As Arthas recoiled from the parry, Chasiah swung wildly, cutting the death knight’s plate leg armor.

Arthas hobbled for a split second, and dropped to the injured knee, balancing himself with his right palm on the ground. He tucked his balance-arm, rolling away from the charging paladin.  In two skilled roll-and-bounce moves, the death knight was back on his feet crouching in a defensive position.  The Frostmourne hilt was held low at the waist, projecting the blade across the death knight’s chest, for protection.  The death knight favored his injured right thigh, but dare not take his eyes from the paladin’s.

Chasiah stood poised in an offensive stance; his blade pointed at the death knight; his right hand grasping for the Libram dangling from his hip.  Arthas had been hurt. The paladin spied blood flowing from the cut through the plate.  Chasiah’s demeanor switched from defensive to aggressive; cocky.

“You bleed, Arthas.  Whatever you are now, you are still human.  You will die as one of us, tonight.”

“Nonsense, Stromgarde.  Your weakness has always been your inability to control your emotions.  A fact I remember, all too well.  As I recall, your father Thamore showed the same signs of weakness, the night I killed him in my father’s throne-room!”

From a distance, Dothranis saw the battle ensue, but was still unable to free himself from the never ending onslaught of Scourge.  Dot saw the two fighters standing toe-to-toe.  Arthas appeared to be hurt, while Chasiah positioned himself for another attack. Where was his shield?  Dot couldn’t think straight.  He was concentrating on keeping himself and as many of the remaining battalion alive, as possible.  Then the unthinkable happened.  Dot saw Chasiah burst into a berserk-filled roar and leap toward the death knight.  His trajectory was too high, though.  Had Chasiah aimed to land behind Arthas?

“Oh my word,” the Shaman whispered.

Arthas watched as the paladin screamed a blood curdling curse, then leaped into the air toward him.  A smirk lit the corners of the death knight’s mouth.  This paladin had been a formidable adversary.  Had he not made a fatal mistake, Arthas thought it possible that Chasiah just might have been able to hurt him again.  But he acted emotionally, and given up the dominant defensive position for the chance at ending their battle with a blind leap and rear attack.  As the paladin sailed and flipped over Arthas, the death knight reached out and snatched at the Libram chain dangling in mid air.  And then…the Frostmourne flew.

THE BOND RENEWED              

The small group was stunned.  Nerra sat with her hands covering her tight pressed lips.  Nnimrod’s eyes searched the ground for an unknown object.  Shala stifled sobs deep in her throat.  The rest of the contingent stared unbelievingly at Fallinchas; their mouths agape.  The death knight inhaled deeply and exhaled slowly.  He opened his eyes, and peered into the slowly burning flames.

“My Lord…” Nerra started.  But she could not find the words to complete her thought.

“I fell that night, Nerra. I jumped through the air intent on catching Arthas from behind.  But he was smarter than I.  He used my emotional weakness to manipulate me.  To the victor goes the spoils.”

Fallinchas stepped away from the bonfire, and walked toward the tent entrance.  Though his back was to the group, his strong voice resonated in the open space.

“There is a gap in my memory.  I see flashes of light as if the very sky above were ablaze; then…there is nothing.  A darkness I cannot describe; timeless.  The next conscious memory I had, was of standing in front of the Light’s Hope Chapel, in the Eastern Plaguelands.  The death knight, Highlord Darion Morgraine of the Ebon Blade and Tirion Fordring of the Argent Dawn had just succeeded in thwarting the Lich King’s plan to kill Fordring and slaughter all at the Chapel.  The elite force of death knights had been freed, and we returned to the Archerus.  It was there that I slowly came to reclaim bits and pieces, of my former life.”

Fallinchas stared into the palms of his hands, pondering the words spoken.

“I do say my former life, because Chasiah Stromgarde was no more.  I had changed in every way possible.  However, I longed to use my new and…strange…talents and skills for the Alliance.  And…as time marched forward, I regained enough of my former life’s memories to remember those who were once closest to me.”

“You returned to Stormwind my Lord,” Nerra said.

“I returned home, to Stormwind, Nerra. Though my return was obviously not praised, I did find acceptance as an ally, in time.  I had to hone my new skills, and earn the right to carry the banner of the Alliance, once more.  But each new task, brought me that much closer to my ultimate goal:  finding my friends.”

Fallinchas slowly turned to find the whole group standing before him, this side of the bonfire, captivated by his tale.

Dimpkin raised a hand, like a school boy in class.  “Lord Fallin, how long was it lad, before ye tracked down yer lady-friend here?”

“She found me, Dimpkin.  I had been freed from the Lich King for over a year, but not dared to look for Dot or Shala, until I could fully control the new skills and powers I possessed.  In truth…I didn’t know who I was completely.  There were still gaps in my memory.  Flashes of faces long gone, and unrecognizable.”

Shala stepped beside Fallinchas and laid her head on the death knight’s shoulder.  She gently stroked a hand across his chest, as he continued to speak.

“I lay my head on the stump of a tree, one night in Elwynn Forest, staring up into the beauty of a clear star-lit sky.  In those days, I spent much time contemplating the meaning behind my existence.  I heard their footsteps long before they knew, that I knew, they were there.  But I sensed no danger in the two strangers approaching.  In fact…there was an air of familiarity about them.”

Fallinchas reached to Shala’s chin, and pulled gently, raising her eye sight level with his own.

“My love, you brought me back. You found me, in the darkness; you and Dot. He never once considered that I was gone forever, and so you found me.  I cannot express my gratitude for him. His friendship and love are irreplaceable.  I cannot explain how much I love you, Shalanaraya. You have loved me for two lifetimes; I did not, nor do I deserve you.  If I should fall tomorrow, know that I am proud to have loved you and eternally grateful to Elune for bringing you into my lives, both past…and present.”

Silence dominated the atmosphere of the tent, once again.  Fallinchas embraced Shala, holding on tight; her smaller delicate frame melting into his strong arms.  She weeped openly now, and whispered her love for the human.

Dimpkin raised a hand, again.  The group rumbled in quiet laughter.  Fallinchas chuckled as he addressed the dwarf.

“Permission to speak, Dimpkin,” he said.

Dimpkin cleared his throat, and handed the goblet back to Fallinchas.  The dwarf looked to the others, as if nervous with anticipation.  “Beggin’ yer pardon, My Lord, but what did Dot say ta ye, when he found ye lying in the grass under tha tree?”

Fallinchas looked past the crusaders, into the flames of the bonfire.  “He walked right up to me, Dimpkin.  Walked right up to me, and produced this goblet from a burlap sack in his hands.  And he said to me, ‘Don’t ever leave this behind again.  Keep it always, to remind you, that you will always be a Champion of the Knights of the Silver Hand, dear friend’.  I’ve never gone into battle without this goblet, since.”

THE CALM BEFORE REDEMPTION

Fallinchas sat on the frozen Saronite plateau outside the tent, as his band of crusaders slept quietly inside.  His cold blue eyes, and eerie white pupils glowed bright against the cold darkness of Ice Crown. They scanned the entire area from the plateau, up to the cloudy black skies above, and back down to the ravaged terrain below the citadel steps.  The sounds of war raged heavily, all around.  Peaceful; music to his ears.

Despite the loss of his good friend, it was a good night.  The crusaders now knew all there was to know of their leader, and he was fine with that knowledge.  They were ready to face a danger that would surely claim the lives of some, if not all of them.  With any luck, Fallinchas would be able to add the Lich King to the casualties.

He had told Shala the truth, and so redeemed himself in her eyes.  That was enough for him.  Tomorrow, he could die happily, knowing that he’d given all of himself to the ones who mattered, in the here and now.  It was folly to assume they would both make it back together.  But there was hope.  Hope was always there.  For that was what the bond of love produced. Hope.

Yet, behind the glazing of hope lie a familiar burning sensation: rage.  Arthas was within reach, and nothing behind that entrance would stop Fallinchas from squaring off against the Lich King, once again.

The death knight sipped the last of the brown-butter mead, from his goblet.  By now, the drink was old, but the cold air of Ice Crown replaced the natural sweetness with a bitter tang that the death knight had come to relish.  He sipped and thought of lost lives and close companions.

“Goodbye Dot, my friend.  Until we meet again, may you watch over Shala. Protect and keep her.”

One more sip, and the mead had vanished.

“Goodbye Chasiah.  Please forgive me…for things done…and for things yet to do.  You were an honorable paladin; far removed from where I am today.  May the Light always shine on you.”

 

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