Battlefront: Misguided Judgement
- --by Gospel Lightfaith
There were posts made within this thread by Setius/Mercaeno that were subsequently deleted as the story progressed. We apologize for any breaks in continuity, but wish to acknowledge Setius' contributions to this storyline and its progress. =)
Originally adapted from a this thread on the Official ER Forums.
The Argent Vanguard, Icecrown
The warhorse snorted his displeasure as he picked his way through the ravaged bodies of their comrades, flattening his ears to his head as he lashed his tail fitfully. The heavily cloaked rider on his back patted his arched neck, "I know, boy... but some promises were made to be broken."
I can't fight knowing you're there. You're safer back at the infirmary helping the wounded...
Part of her knew he was right, but another part of her couldn't bear to stand safely at the back of the battle, when she knew her healing powers would be of use on the front lines. She'd said she understood and agreed to stay out of combat, but what Corran didn't know, wouldn't hurt him. She had informed the Infirmary that she'd gone back to Stormwind to requisition more supplies for the Vanguard, but instead of taking a flight for Dalaran, she had mounted her warsteed and, garbed in a heavy cloak and facewrap against the cold, she followed a battalion out the gates as they took the field.
The torrential barrage of Scourge was nearly overwhelming to her as she watched them surge over the snow-banked hillsides. She listened to their gutteral roars and the sibilant keening of the arachnids. All around her, the field erupted into chaos and it was everything she could do to keep those around her upright and fighting. There was no time for thanks, no time for rest, only the terror-stricken prayers as she struggled to keep her comrades alive. Wave after wave of undeath surged around them, relentless, unfeeling, they eroded away at the edges of their battalion.
An icy thread of real fear trembled down her spine as one of the Cryptwalkers impaled a soldier just to her left, raising up his flailing body on it's wickedly curved pincer. She watched as the creature disemboweled him, her prayers numb against her lips as she realized there was no saving him from his fate. It haphazardly discarded the torn pieces of the soldier, and instead turned its attention to her.
The Cryptwalker loomed over her as it shambled forward, its pincer still dripping the blood of her comrade. Her prayers seemed to freeze in her throat as her pale green eyes stared at the monstrosity in a sort of horrified fascination. Time itself seemed to slow as she watched the creature advance upon her. She could see its wicked mandibles working, slavering as it longed to taste more blood from its victims. She could hear the faint skritch-skritching of the snow as its limbs pierced the tundra. The paladin closed her eyes, gathering the shattered remnants of her courage as she hefted both shield and mace to prepare herself for the coming onslaught, Light, protect me...
Thunder seemed to reverberate around her and she opened her eyes to see the Nerubian thrashing helplessly on the ground as a dark-armored knight pulverized what remained of its life into an ichorous mass in the snow. She stared at him numbly, barely feeling the presence of the magus that came to her side.
"You're half the reason this line is holding, miss. Don't stop now..."
That simple phrase seemed to jolt the paladin from her shock and she nodded once to the knight. She looked about herself, assessing the situation as the knight turned his attention to the man near her, only vaguely hearing his words... "Good men are dying..." Though it was not directed at her, that phrase spurred the paladin into action, her prayers coming like liquid water at her command. The nearest soldiers of her battalion felt themselves renewed by her power, her healing spells radiating through the small cluster of resistance amidst the terrible might of the Scourge.
"Here they come," the Death Knight cautioned, "Don't touch me with those spells, miss. They sting." With that, he smiled through his gruesome helm and prepared for the next wave. Around them, the remaining survivors of the battalion rallied, many of them approaching the paladin to ask for her blessing. She passed her hand over each of them, "May the true Light of the Dawn see us through this darkness, empower us with the Might to slay our enemies, the Wisdom to know our strength, and the courage to be as Kings upon this battlefield..." she murmured. Each soldier, save perhaps the Death Knight at her back, felt himself renewed and inspired by her words. Each man hefted his weapon anew and turned to the advancing line of Scourge.
The undead mass surrounded them, but this time the paladin was not afraid. She stood, encircled protectively by her brothers in arms, her voice like a clarion horn through the stillness, "For the Light of the Dawn, may you feel our Holy Wrath!" An almost palpable surge of Holy energy burst around the paladin, seeming to signal the Argent soldiers into combat. Many an undead was laid to waste by the paladin's spell, but still more came forward to fill the empty ranks.
Her prayers were brief, but heartfelt; her courage unshakable as she thought of nothing else but keeping safe the lives of those around her. Only one remained untouched in their midst. No spell of hers ever graced the Death Knight as he laid to waste a swath of the enemy to her right. Time and again, she dispatched her healing spells to those in the greatest need; all over the battlefield the flaring brilliance like setting sparks in the deepest night.
The Argent Vanguard, Icecrown Battlefront Command Tent
"Lord-Commander!" the breathless page came to a halt at the table surrounded with the battle standards of the various Orders.
Corran looked at the boy, waving an impatient hand, "Let's have it boy, we're in the middle of a skirmish!"
The boy panted for breath momentarily, "The latest battalion dispatched from the Vanguard thanks you for permitting your Lady-wife to attend them. Her skill on the battlefront has been..."
"WHAT?!" Corran roared, advancing on the page as he nearly overturned the table strewn with battlemaps. He grabbed the messenger's shirt, hoisting him off his feet, "She's WHERE?!"
"Th-the b-battlefront, my Lord," the boy supplied quickly, "She's with Advance Battalion Dawnguard..."
Corran dropped the boy without thinking, going to the protective wall that surrounded the hilltop where the Command Tent stood. His eyes surveyed the carnage below, and sure enough, he saw the lone battalion's standard alone amidst a seething tide of undeath. Even at this distance, he could see the golden light of her spells as she fought to keep those around her alive.
"Damn you, Gospel..." he growled, motioning to his personal page, who immediately went to fetch the Lord-Commander's warsteed.
Beads of perspiration dampened the paladin's forehead as she bent the entirety of her will to the lives of the soldier's around her. She watched in grim determination as they intercepted the enemy from reaching her, the Scourge generals pointing toward her. "The healer!" their gestures seemed to say, "Destroy her!" The seething mass focused their efforts, the slavering monstrosities trying to force their way through the line of skirmish to reach the cleric at the battle's heart.
Pierce the heart and this battle would be over. Both sides knew it and both sides fought with a fevered desperation. Yet, the might of the Scourge was endless and the forces of the Argent battalion were dwindling as they were picked off one-by-one; faltering beneath fatigue, mischance, or simply being overwhelmed. Each man lost was a dent in the paladin's spirit, but each death galvanizing her to save the next man in line. It was brutal and frantic; sometimes forcing her to choose between saving one life or another. She felt as if she would weep from making such a choice over and over again. Concern yourself with the living; mourn later for the dead...
"GARGOYLES!" the frantic scream rang out.
Indeed, Gospel turned her head skyward to see the winged fiends of the Scourge circling over them like so many vultures. Again, the gutteral roars of the Scourge generals rang out and almost as one the wing of gargoyles overhead turned toward her. Gospel blanched as she saw their sickly green eyes gaze at her, their terrible maws dripping saliva as they thirsted for her death. The lead gargoyle screeched at her in rage, flapping its wings to gain the altitude it needed to dive at her with its wicked talons. The paladin glanced around her, but there was no escape in the press of soldiers around her. The wall meant to protect her now entrapped her in a halo of doom.
The gargoyle dove. Gospel crouched to the ground, raising her shield above herself in a futile effort to stave off its attack. She could hear it's claws squeal down the face of her shield, its raucous cries as it scrabbled for purchase. Its wing talons hooked over the top of her shield as it pulled itself upward so it could spew its deadly acid upon this meddlesome healer and finish this battle, once and for all.
"Ha!" The one loud grunt meant to capture the creature's attention was followed by a series of words the paladin could not understand. Then there was a resounding crack of metal meeting flesh as she saw the gargoyle go flying over the troops to her left. Releasing the breath she didn't realize she was holding, she gasped for air. Lowering her shield she saw a heavily armored warrior standing over her, his tall lanky form almost tell-tale of his race.
The tabard of the Argent Crusade emblazoned his back as his cloak swirled around him. His long tusks protruded from beneath his helm as he glared malevolently at the Scourge forces around them. He hefted his shield and his blade, readying himself to protect the downed paladin from the next aerial onslaught. Insistently, he motioned for her to get up, nodding toward the line of troops that had begun to fail without the paladin's aid. She nodded once, rising to her feet, a prayer already on her lips.
She looked back at the troll warrior, who winked at her as he grinned in glee beneath his helm, "Ruff," he said simply.
She smiled, her spells leaving her hands easily as she revitalized the troops around her, she sent up a Divine Plea for the Light to give her the strength to continue, before she entrusted her back to the troll.
"Ruff," she thought in amusement, "Common for 'Gori'."
(Original Post by Gori)
It was another day in the frozen waste of Icecrown. He had only meant to stop in and pick up a few supplies when he heard of the battle raging. "Well, can't let them go it alone.." he thought to himself as he whistled for his warstrider and quickly mounted. rushing off to help. The air smelled of blood from the freshly fallen and the ones long dead "I hope I make it in time" he said quietly when he first noticed the scene. Bodies everywhere, scrouge and Dawn locked in what looked like combat even in death. The snow around them trampled, blood soaked and patches of ooze from various undead.
It was then he noticed the gargoyle attacking the paladin. "Not while I can help..." He said to himself as he leaped from his mount and started charging. Three long steps and a jump later his shoulder met with the gargoyles belly, his bladed pad gutting the creature. "You're not going to kill her, or anyone while I'm around." he said as he grabbed it by a wing and tossed it as hard and as far as he could.
"She looks okay, though had I gotten here a second later and she might be just a memory.." he thought to himself as he nodded to her. Turning his gaze to the waves that did not seem to stop he turned back to her once more as she nodded back and he smiled. "Gori" was all he got out of his mouth as an introduction before his attention snapped back to the battle going on. "I'll have time to say hi and check on her condition after we make it out of this.." he thought to himself and steadied his footing.
(Original Post by Confusion)
The proud men and women of the Argent Vanguard make another last stand. Another heroic line of skirmish against a never-ending cloud of dead-eyed monstrosities who no more seek the end of the Vanguard than the wave seeks to annihilate the beach upon which it falls. They don't think; they are driven. Mental lashes propel the ghouls, gargoyles and nerubians just as much as they propel the huge lumbering abominations who smash a hole through the silver formation.
Snorting wild-eyed warhorses in silver armor carry snorting wild-eyed knights in silver armor to force them back and give the infantry time to regroup and regain the ground they had lost to the ferocity of the many-armed monstrosities.
They expect us to help. The warlord turned his head slightly to regard the imp perched on his shoulder. A single bat of his eyebrow was enough to communicate his response. And so?
The imp hops up and down, smoldering gently as its excitement turns itself into emerald flame. Kill kill kill KILL KILL KILL KILLKILLKILLKILLKILLKILLKI-- The imp is cut short by the clawed hand slapping it off its owner's shoulder and into a nearby snowbank. Confusion's cruel laugh echoes through his twisted mask and mixes with the sound of the imp's body evaporating much of the snow into great gouts of steam.
Finally the moment arrives. Witnessing a faltering in the line, Confusion kicks his crimson-clad warhorse into a sudden gallop down the slope and leaps off behind the silver-plate soldiers.
Their leader is a man of great girth and height; a veritable freak of a human being who towers over his subordinates and shouts orders while pointing vaguely with a two-handed war hammer. "By the Light you scurvy-cocked !@#!-packed paper pushers you will HOLD YOUR GROUND or I shall smash your !*%!*#@%* against a rock with this HAMMER!" He roars desperately as his men give ground. Finally, he abandons orders and threats for inspiration and throws himself into the midst of the fray attempting to demonstrate courage and thus keep his men stolid and in the fight.
The fight is epic. Chaotic.
No one can see the grin behind Confusion's mask. Finally one of the soldiers breaks and runs. Then another. Then a third. The line begins to falter until the first deserter runs headlong into the dismounted Warlord waiting quietly for just this moment.
His first move is to gently stroke the face of the first man then immediately start walking toward the faltering line. The three deserters glance at him as they pass... then pause. Ahead of them, the man who was touched doubles over puking blood and black ichor.
Confusion's voice carries back to them. "Let us hope he is not so afraid of what lies beyond."
The Warlord pauses behind the silver-clad line and like a prophet finding the strength to speak, reaches deep within and begins to preach his own sermon of power and violence, uncaring of who or what dies in front of him.
The coppery tang of bloodscent filled the air around her, everywhere she looked she could see the lines failing. She looked around frantically, seeing the slavering horde of undead shambling ever-closer. Her vision blurred as she struggled to pull on her energy reserves to assist the soldiers around her, but the fight had drawn on unbearably and she was grasping desperately at whatever thin tendrils of power she could within herself to try and sustain them. Not enough...
The line broke like the weather-worn dam before a rain-swollen river. Gospel made a strangled sound of dismay in the back of her throat, taking a few instinctive steps backward, but she shook her head, resolutely firming her footing to stand her ground. She repositioned her shield that now felt clumsy and heavy from the length of the battle. She could barely see any of the Battatlion she arrived here with, only brief glimpses of white tabards in the frenetic melee. Only the tall, ichor-covered troll warrior stood nearby, his own shield scarred from the many talons of the undead that had raked across it.
He shook his head worriedly, watching, too, as the line ahead broke. He motioned to her, pointing to a small stand of trees behind them as he grunted insistently. Gospel glanced past him to the advancing frontline of undead, feeling the icy talons of fear grip her heart and freeze its way down her veins. The troll, Gori, reached out putting a hand on the shoulder of her armor, shaking her roughly. Her green eyes snapped back to his tusked face and she nodded. He grunted, letting her go before turning back to the undead who now surged forward, finding themselves unopposed save for this one warrior and the weakened paladin.
Gospel's feet crunched through the frozen tundra as she struggled her way through the broken bodies of her comrades, for once in her life ignoring the moans and pleas of the dead and dying around her. Corran was right... I shouldn't be here... she thought to herself as she made her way through the snow. She kept her eyes locked on the small stand of trees, her one clear goal in the hell that was this battlefield. Just a few more yards, I can make it...
Pain lanced through her side and leg, wrenching her awareness back to her immediate surroundings. She screamed in utter terror as she saw the skeletal undead around her, their bony, scythe-like appendages waving ominously in the air as they closed rank around her. The leader roared its triumph in the air, licking her blood from its blade-shaped appendage, hollow eye sockets regarding her with a malice that was palpable in the air between them.
Gospel, clutched at her side helplessly, feeling her blood, hot and sticky as it seeped between her fingers. The beast's scythe had torn through plate armor and flesh as if it were little more than leather or cloth. The wound isn't mortal... She thought with a strange clarity, but in the next heartbeat, There is no escaping them in this condition. She tried to draw herself as straight and proud as she could. She would face them as a proud defender of the Argent Crusade. She would do Corran proud.
The first blow punctured the armor of her shoulder, driving both armor and the bone soldier's wickedly curved talon through to the other side. Her screams of anguish seemed drowned in the slavering murmurings of the undead around her, the scent of her blood seeming to excite them. The paladin stared heavenward, tears trickling down her cheeks, I'm sorry, Corran...
The world went black.
(Original Post by Confusion)
The specter of a laughing madman was a shadowed silhouette of tattered black cloth against a raging curtain of fire and darkness. Argent armour and white tabards melted into puddles with fused bone and bits of coal-black and still-aflame spider. Angry screams sounded from the other side of the firestorm that was the Warlord's rage but only despairing cries and the imbalanced cackle of the warlock himself sounded from the near side. The silver line broke and the men ran screaming away from their adversaries and their allies as one.
Floods of undead began to advance on Confusion from off the the sides. His laughter paused, and a roar of anger greeted them. As fast as it had developed, the firestorm cut off and the warlock drew his sword; a violently purple flicker winced from its gleaming blade periodically, runes lit in the scarlet of blood flashed up and down its length.
Uncaring of consequence, the warlock pointed it toward the thundering horde of undead and began shouting curses and invocations better suited to the apocalypse. Virulent plagues scattering themselves across the host; diseases so powerful that bone melted and warped. That the undead themselves felt crippling pain and stumbled to their last resting places. But so many there were that the undead legion merely trampled their fellows into the snow without notice.
At last, the thousands of undead cut down the Warlord and left him dead in the snow. His corpse was trampled a hundred thousand times as the host passed his resting place.
... and ignored the whispers and promises of pain and retribution to come as Confusion gazed at them from the purple gem safely ingested, where his restless soul was safe from exile to the embrace of the spirit world.
Northern Battlefield (Rear) The Argent Vanguard, Icecrown
The armored courser stood atop a ridge that overlooked the carnage below; on its back the rider was armored in full Judgment regalia, the luminous eyes of the mask surveying the battlefield dispassionately. As an Argent Templar, it was his duty to annihilate the Scourge that milled below, but even as he nudged his steed forward, a small flurry of activity near the back end of the field caught his eye. A single, armored figure staggered through the snow, seeming to be headed for the safety of a stand of trees. Inwardly, the Templar sneered, Another coward deserting the field... Yet, even as he watched in contempt, he caught sight of the Bonescythe ambusher party headed straight for that lone soldier. He felt no pity; it was a well-deserved death for a deserter. He hefted the greatsword from his back, turning the head of his horse toward the main body of the undead host, intent on charging into the fray.
The scream of anguish and terror that reached him, however, froze his heart and made him bring his horse to an awkward halt. His eyes turned back to the deserter, now lost from sight as they were surrounded by the Bonescythe patrol. No... He thought to himself, She can't be here... Jerking roughly on the reins, he turned his horse toward that small flurry of activity behind him. In desperation, the Templar leaned low over the courser's neck, urging the horse hard through the icy turf toward the surging pack of Scourge. With every thundering hoofbeat that brought him closer, he watched as the skeletal soldiers harried their prey; the snow beneath their feet stained rose with blood.
He needed no warcry, no bellow of gutteral rage. He was silent, efficient and merciless. Holding to his greatsword tightly, he swung it in a deadly arc, the blessed blade shearing through the bones and what little flesh the Scourge possessed. The small band was no match for the fresh, brutal Templar as he cut his way through their numbers. He broke through into the center of the writhing mass, which scattered at his arrival, leaving him only the leader who was crouched over the bloodied, armored body in the snow. So intent was it upon its prey, that it didn't even move as the Templar's blade methodically decapitated it with a single bladestroke. He looked around, ensuring the Scourge patrol was well and truly broken before his aplomb faded.
He fell to his knees beside the broken figure at his feet, a gauntleted hand reaching up to push back the cowl that hid his face from view. He reached out with that self-same hand, touching his fingers to the victim's cheek, "Oh, Gospel..." he murmured, his voice thick with grief and concern, "Why were you out here?" Even in his anguish, he quickly took stock of her wounds: A deep puncture wound in her left shoulder, a deep gash in her side that ran from ribs to thigh, any number of small cuts and abrasions as the undead had harried her. Nothing too serious then, he was relieved to note. He glanced around the battlefield and saw that a new battalion of Vanguard Defenders had taken the field, which was well enough. He couldn't leave her here, lying in the ice.
"Let's get you out of here..." he said, gingerly slipping his arms under her and lifting her as if she were made of glass. Her cloak, torn and blood-stained fell from her shoulders, drifting forlornly onto the tundra.
He whistled for his horse, mounting with her carefully held in his arms. He wrapped his own cloak around her to ward off the chill wind, "I'll take care of you, my love..." he said quietly, his horse cantering gamely away from the battlefield.
Northern Battlefield (Front) The Argent Vanguard, Icecrown
Corran hung back as his regiment smashed into the flanks of the Scourge units, his eyes, however, were not on the battle itself, but searching the rear lines for some sign of the battalion he'd seen her with. Their last known position was devoid of fighting now, though, the ground a trampled mess of slush, blood, and gore. Damn it, where is she?
Behind him, one of his lieutenants cleared his throat, "Lord-Commander, we should issue orders to the cavalry..." Corran merely waved at the man impatiently, returning his attention to the ravaged field. She had to be somewhere, why couldn't he see her now? Was she all right? It nagged at him to not know; he longed to plunge his warhorse down the side of the hill and look for her.
"Sir?" the lieutenant insisted. With an exasperated sigh, Corran turned his attention back to his men, issuing his orders in a harsh, succinct fashion. As the men left to detail the orders to the regiment, the paladin couldn't help but spare another glance over his shoulder to the last place he'd seen her.
"Gospel..." he sighed.
Northern Battlefield (Rear) The Argent Vanguard, Icecrown
The enemy had been routed. Corran's regiment had decimated the Scourge, eliminating their commanders, leaving the force without direction; it had been easy to grind them into the snow. Yet, even in the thick of battle, Corran wanted only one thing: to find his wife. Every swing of his battlemace wasn't merely an attack on the enemy, it was a gesture of impatience; the Scourge just another obstacle for him to overcome so that he might go in search of her. Innumerable foes fell beneath the paladin commander's onslaught, but even as the last of the Scourge troops fell, he was mounting Faran, hastily barking orders to his lieutenants to begin the clean-up work.
As the soldiers of his command set to work, Corran turned Faran toward the rear of the battlefield; the last place he remembered seeing her. Bodies littered the ground everywhere back here, Argent Crusaders numbered just as many as the Scourge. Corran's eyes scoured each body he passed, praying to the Light that each one would not have the tell-tale silver hair that he adored. Thankfully, none did. He breathed a sigh of relief, proceeding through an empty snowfield that was dotted with a lone stand of trees.
The paladin's sharp gaze caught sight of a single figure crouched in the snow and as he neared, he saw it was a lone Troll warrior. The heavily-armored figure crouched in snow stained pink by whatever had occured here, so lost in his thought, the warrior did not take note of Corran's approach. As he stopped a few feet away, Corran's eyes went to the troll's hands; he was holding a tattered length of cloth, torn and stained with blood.
Rage. Unreasonable and white-hot, it surged through Corran's being as the threw himself out of Faran's saddle, unslinging his greatsword as he cut the distance between himself and the Troll. The warrior-troll barely had time to bring his shield up to bear before Corran's sword split the air with an angry whine, screaming its fury against the iron wall. The Troll looked up at the paladin in surprised confusion, clutching Gospel's cloak to his chest almost protectively. Corran's emerald eyes blazed with his fury as he took in the tattered remnants of his wife's cloak, saw the vivid bloodstains on the cloth; in his mind he could see her wounded, crawling through the snow... "Where is she?!" he roared, making another enraged slash as the hapless Troll who scrambled out of the way of the blow.
Gori skidded across the tundra out of range of the paladin's greatsword, at first, he was confused as to why the fiery-haired paladin was attacking him, but then he saw it. Pinning Corran's cloak to his shoulder was an ornate brooch, emblazoned with the Seal of House Ravencrest, a similar brooch was still attached to the cloak draped across his arm. He thinks I hurt her! Gori thought in sudden revelation. He looked up just in time to see Corran come charging at him again, sword upraised.
Again, the Troll warrior evaded the paladin's brutal attack, scrambling through the snow to get out of the huge blade's reach. He took Gospel's cloak in one hand, extending that arm out to Corran in entreaty. The cloak fluttered forlornly in the icy wind, the blood-spattered brooch glittering in the dim sunlight. Corran's blade lowered as he extended his hand, taking the cloak from Gori, "Gospel..." he breathed hoarsely. He clasped the cloak to his breastplate, his heart and soul filled with worry, "Where are you?"
Gori looked up at Corran cautiously, debating whether the paladin was going to try and smite him again if he tried to move. At length, the Troll finally rose to his full height, looking down at the paladin in sympathy. The silver-haired paladin who had been here earlier, healing the soldiers, was important to him, that much was obvious. Gori sighed, looking back over his shoulder to the stand of trees where he'd hidden his Mechano-Hog, if only the lady-paladin had mad it that far, neither of them would be here now, but safe back at the Vanguard.
Corran looked at the cloak in his hand, then back up at the Troll warrior, standing in a blood-stained tabard of the Argent Crusade. It was then he understood; this Troll most likely fought at Gospel's side, protected her from danger. He sighed, looking up at Gori, "Thank you..." he said, patting the cloak as he folded it carefully, "I understand now."
Gori nodded, grunting in response. As Corran mounted Faran, Gori moved off into the trees to wheel out his Mechano-Hog. Dispirited by the days events, both of them made their way back to the Argent Vanguard.