Horde: Chapter 14
He always hated the rain. Slippery tree branches, mud, lack of sight, sodding clothes and overwhelming smell of forest that overruled everything else. That sentiment did not change in death. He had lost his sense of smell and did not feel the cold or the rain drops anymore. But the incessant thuds of rain drops on his skin and armour made him lose patience. And above all, he hated WAITING. His skeletal horse whined as his large Blight Hounds began to growl uneasily. He had half a mind to slap some sense into his hounds…but he kept his composure. For his Queen. ‘Come back to me. Here at our special place…”
They were not the only ones waiting in the rain. Galen Trollbane was there as well, fresh from his failure to kill his uncle a few weeks prior. Of the strike force send with him only he and two dark rangers returned. He threw himself before his Queen’s mercy and she granted him forgiveness…if only so that when Calia and her alliance of miscreants was dealt with, Sylvanas had a puppet to place on the Stromgarde throne, Nathanos thought.
Koltira was there as well, like the obedient dog he was as he held the Dark Lady’s Black Rose banner. The Blightcaller kept an eye on the death knight, he did not know which magicks Sylvanas used to keep him in line but if he would snap out of it Nathanos would be there. He felt his black arrow in his quiver, a special arrow just for him. A arrow capable of killing everything with one shot, even the undead.
The Blood elven ranger Belonis was the only non-Forsaken in the band, riding her Hawkstrider rather than a skeletal horse. She led the forces from Tranquillien, a small town in the Ghostlands that owed it’s very survival to the dark lady. Sylvanas was loathsome to accept aid from their Blood elven allies but when the word came it was Dame Auriferous who offered the men and not the Lord Regent, she accepted.
Nathanos did not know much of politics, human or blood elven, but he heard of a rift forming between the people of Tranquillien and their lords and ladies in Quel’thalas. They felt obliged to aid the Dark Lady for she aided them in reclaiming the Ghostlands from the Scourge, or so Belonis claimed.
“Dame Auriferous had a falling out with Lor’themar’s new Convocation of Silvermoon. As in she was not allowed to be a member.” His Queen said earlier.” Instead he preferred someone of lower birth to represent the regained Ghostlands. This is just a way to spite him.”
Nonetheless Auriferous’ spite bore fruit for the Forsaken their cause. A company of Spellbreakers, Rangers and Arcanists brought some much needed veterancy to the ranks (it also helped the Tranquillien forces were used to fighting alongside rotting allies). The bulk of Lady Sylvanas’ forces consisted mostly of newly “born” Forsaken who up until this point only fought against gnolls or murlocs. Likewise the navy could not bring the much needed reinforcements from Northrend due to the storm and Calia’s fleet of pirates. But she had some Abominations, Banshees, Deathguard, Dark Rangers and living Horde mercenaries as well sure, but she lost her greatest advantage the day prior.
A thunderclap sounded when Nathanos saw riders appear. No-one needed to say anything, they all saw who it was. A group of white knights, one of them held the banner with a white rose, as well as lupine humanoid that ran with them. The clearing was near Ambermill, where both forces stood for what might be the final battle in this so called “War of the Roses”.
Sylvanas’ forces outnumbered her opponent’s three to one and they actually surrounded their enemy. But the army of the White Rose was strong…and cunning.
As the white riders approached, Sylvanas nodded to Nathanos. The Blightcaller nodded and took out a lupine head from his pouch. When the riders arrived, he tossed the severed Worgen head in front of them. His Blight Hounds darted forward and began to fight over the skull as the remaining Worgen had to be held back by one of the white knights. Sergeant Hartmen, he recalled, one of the worgen cursed now. He was a worthy adversary before Hillsbrad was destroyed.
“I found several of your dogs in my camp last night.” Sylvanas spoke to the white armour clad warrior queen, for that was how she looked like. The usurper was covered in white plate armour with insignia’s of House Menethil painted on it. She took her visor off and held it under her arm as she spoke to his queen.
“I know you did and I respect their sacrifice.” The so called Queen Calia said.” It is because of them I know you are now without your precious Blight carts.”
“I do not need the Blight to win.” Sylvanas replied.” My forces outnumber yours and you are cut off from Shadowfang Keep. Surrender and I might make your death less painful.”
Calia smirked.” Hollow threats from a hollow corpse. Your troops consist of men who died from starvation and who never fought a real army. Yes, I know where you got your men, Sylvanas. One more reason why you have to die today. My people need their home back and you outstayed your welcome. The people of Lordearon want their home back and you will not stop me from my destiny!”
Sylvanas threw her head back…and laughed. Nathanos followed with a chuckle as did the others.
“Your Destiny?! Your divine right of kings?! With what you have there you call an army?” Sylvanas pointed behind them, towards Calia’s encampment.” Criminals, Zealots, dogs and hopeless men? I must’ve made you very desperate to seek allies in those creatures.”
“Desperate? No. Motivated, yes.” Calia retorted.” Your puppet tried to kill my friend Danath. Not only did he fail but now the entirety of Stromgarde has rallied to my side. You tried to kill my friends in Alterac in the past and you only succeeded in driving them to my side. Also quite a few of the Kirin Tor remember Ambermill and they to are here to teach you a lesson. I even have several Wildhammer clans on my side who think they will come for them next unless we stop you. You upset the most powerful people in Lordearon, Sylvanas .”
“That was the plan.”
“Not a very good plan. You see…you think you surrounded us but in truth we lured you to where we wanted you to be. Now the whole world will see your downfall. We’re coming for you.”
“Then the whole world will see that the Forsaken are the true rulers of Lordearon and we will smite you back to Stormwind to drown in that maelstrom. ” She drew her sword and aimed it at Calia as several white knights immediately rode in between.” You were not there for your people when your brother slayed them all, Calia. You ran and never looked back. I came here and saved then from this curse by giving them purpose. Remember this sword, pretender. For this will be the final thing you will ever see.”
She put her sword back in her scabbard, turned around and left. While the others followed her, Nathanos stayed for a moment and made sure the cowardly Alliance wouldn’t stab them in the back. One of the younger knights, a brown haired man with a bull on his tabard, met his gaze before he followed his queen in turn. Ser Karland, he recalled from Sharlinda’s reports. He looked similar to he himself looked like before….
Nathanos frowned, he would be trouble. He clicked his tongue which made both hounds stop ripping the now ruined skull of the worgen apart and followed their master.
The Blightcaller caught up with the small party. He silently took his place besides his queen as Galen spoke to her.
“I am surprised you did not kill her on the spot, my lady.” Galen said.
“And make it easy for her? No, I want her to suffer. I want to hear her scream with agony as I peel her skin of her bones, inch by inch.”
“I did notice she spoke like you did, my lady.” Belonis said.
Nathanos gave the blood elven ranger a terrible gaze but the ranger stared back unphased. Sylvanas spoke as if she didn’t notice.
“A puppet can only dance to the tunes it hears, even if the strings are no longer there…”
Belonis frowned.” How do-“
“That is all I’m willing to say.” And that was it.
A few hours later in the Dark Lady’s tent the rain started to die down. After the final briefing before the attack at dawn, her advisors left. Save for Nathanos.
“I need your thoughts, my champion.” She stared at the map of Silverpine.
He kept carving a wooden totem. “About?”
“Anything.” She replied.” You were quiet during the entire meeting.”
“I had nothing to say.” She felt her red eyes resting on him. He blew the dust off his carving before he spoke. ” Galen was this close from kissing your feet and worshipping the ground you walk on, Koltira is a ticking time bomb, Belonis has no reason to be here. My opinion on Aleric Hawkins and Ranger Captain Areiel you know already, they will not let you down.”
“And the plan?” she asked. There it was. He knew she was going to ask him sooner or later.
“The Shards plan…I strongly disagree.”
“You preferred the alternative?” she was turned to him now.
“My lady, with all due respect…that is a stupid question.” He placed the carving, which roughly looked like a horse, and looked up at her.” I know it is a ugly card to hold but we need to hold it….even with the Blight carts gone, I know we can take them. There is no need for the Shards plan.”
“Then you have more faith in our troops then I do.” She picked up the carving and studied it. His mind went back to the special place, to a similar scene. Instead of the darkness that came from her, the sun was shining. She was smiling, that special smile she only had for him, it was a deer she held. Promise me, she said…
“You do not trust your people?” he asked.” I do not trust your other advisors
“I trust them.” She replied.” Do not mistake my faith in their loyalties for their skills. We have the numbers yes but not the skills.”
“They will not break.” Nathanos replied.” They have faith in their Queen, you must have faith in them.“
“Nathanos…” she placed the carving down and placed her hand on his shoulder. When her hands touched his shoulder he felt something he had not in some time. Joy. ” Once I had the chance to kill Arthas. To stop the Scourge there and then. The plan was sound and everyone did their part. I trusted on my sisters and their abilities…and I failed. I had no back-up plan, Nathanos. I only had one chance because back then I believed I only needed one. Now I know better.” She took her hand away, to Nathanos’ sorrow, and walked to the weapon standards where the bows, quivers and such were.” The Shards plan will happen, there is nothing we can do to stop that now. I take no more chances…” she took her bow and quiver.” Except maybe one.“ She tossed the quiver to Nathanos who caught it.” Grab your gear, we’re going hunting.”
Nathanos blinked.” My lady?”
“We have hours before dawn and we both need the exercise.” She took her own quiver and bow.
The former human lord nodded and stood up.” What are we hunting for?”
“A wild horse. Maybe that way you remember how one actually looks like.” She mentioned to his half-finished wood carving and…smiled?
Nathanos bowed his head.” As you wish, my lady…but I remember how during each of our hunts, I always won.”
“Always?” She gave him his bow.
“Mostly.” He replied and took the bow. And for a few hours, those few hours before dawn, it was like it was in life.
At dawn, the Forsaken struck. And they struck hard.
Galen, always eager to please his Queen, led the van against the usurper encampment. Like expected the many newborns were barely a match for Calia’s men. For every four Forsaken they lost only one. Belonis and Aleric led the Tranquillien and Deathguard forces in a second wave after Galen’s was fought to a standstill. Now the combined Stromgarde, Alterac and Gilnean banners clashed with those of the Sindorei and the Black Rose. The Alliance of the White Rose had a harder time dealing with them. And after that not even the skies were safe anymore. The Wildhammer dwarves and their gryphons in turn were hard pressed by the Forsaken batriders, led by the Ranger Captain Areiel.
It was after one more wave from Koltira’s ghouls (who was stationed with the Necromancers a bit further away from the battle) that Sylvanas ordered her Deathguard forward.
“WE ARE FORSAKEN!” She cried out to her troops.” WE SLAUGHTER ANYONE WHO STAND IN OUR WAY!”
“THE DARK LADY WATCHES OVER US!” her children, Nathanos included, shouted back as they joined their Queen in one final assault.
Calia’s core was softened by Galen’s waves, their confidence in winning the day easily was shattered the moment one of her Abominations pulled a Alterac warrior into their ranks and was ripped apart. He spared none. Man, woman, worgen, Lost one, all fell to his arrows. He hated those who ran and especially picked those out and shot them all in the back of the head if they fled. He hated cowards.
Nathanos spend all his arrows, save the black one, so he was back to his axes. He was always close to his Dark Lady’s side. He heard his hounds growling and biting in the distance and knew they were doing their duty to their master.
“MY LADY!” A voice rang across the battlefield.” So lovely to see you! Come to die again, I hope?!”
Nathanos followed the voice and found them belonging to one of the Lost ones. However he quickly recognized this wasn’t one of the normal rebel Forsaken. He remembered the black tophat, the jacket and the twin pistols. Lord Vincent Godfrey, the traitor. He was accompanied by a few ghouls and a Death Knight, but he didn’t see the man’s face under the helmet.
“Godfrey is here, my lady!” Nathanos shouted to his queen.
“Does nobody stay dead anymore?!” she cursed aloud.” Forget him, move to the pretender! Kill Calia Menethil!”
The men moved onward to the banner of the White Rose and it did not take long or Nathanos saw Queen Calia and her knights fighting the remnants of Galen’s previous waves and Koltira’s ghouls. Sylvanas pulled Nathanos closer.” Get to higher ground!” she pointed to the tree line not far away from the melee. “Get a clear shot and kill Calia with a black arrow.” She smiled maliciously.
A long and painful death indeed, Nathanos thought. “As you wish my lady.” He nodded and ran through the battle.
He arrived at the treeline, covered in blood and mud, and tried to climb as quickly as he could. The bark was still slippery but he managed to get as high as he could with a clear shot at the self-proclaimed queen. He pulled the black arrow out of his quiver and aimed at the white queen. She was a good fighter and worked well with her knights, but like all prey they never tended to look up. The neck was the weakest part of the armour. One Steady Shot was all he needed to end Calia’s reign once and for all. He did not feel the cold so he did not shiver, he did not breath so he could aim with no problem, he was no longer human so he had no regret when he let the black arrow fly.
Those who survived the battle would never forget the horror they witnessed that day. Nathanos always hit a target, but this time it was not his target. Ser Karland must’ve seen him or the black arrow and shoved Calia out of the way. He was hit in the chest. The nearby fighting stopped as his screams deafened those nearby. The boy’s skin turned gray as his veins became black. His eyes, nostrils and mouth poured out blood as he fell to his knees. The screaming continued when a skeletal arms punched through his ribcage as his skeleton left his body in a bloody, steaming mess of viscera.
Nathanos cursed his bad shot as he tried to climb down. “THOMAS!!” He heard Calia cry out, and that was the last name he would ever hear on this mortal realm.
He looked up just in time to see the skeleton being struck down by one of Lost One, a priest who wielded holy light, when Calia’s teary eyes and Nathanos’ met.
He remembered the first time he went hunting with his father and when he made his first kill. They cornered a deer as Nathanos aimed a arrow at him. The look in that creature’s eyes was something he would never forget. The look of a being that knew it was caught and it was going to die.
For the second time in his existence, he felt what that deer felt. Calia shouted something in a language he could not understand as she held out her hand to him….and a stream of fire erupted from her palm.
“Sylvanas…” was the last thing he said as it consumed the Blightcaller like paper was consumed by fire.
Before his body was turned to ash, his mind traveled to that special place one last time. He would wait there for her, like he promised.