Author Topic: Under the Scarlet Banner  (Read 6002 times)

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Re: Under the Scarlet Banner
« Reply #40 on: September 11, 2018, 11:46:20 AM »
The High Inquisitor’s Tale

A pained grin rose to Eneath’s face as he felt the priest turn him into the best position to begin healing the young knight. The paladin was in a better condition than many others who had been wounded in the battles of the day but Eneath’s injuries were still serious enough to demand healing. His sides were covered in deep wounds and his leg had nearly been snapped in two in Stratholme. And because of that, he was more than stunned to hear the priest speak to him in a voice that sounded almost like a happy one.

“You’ll be fine soon enough, Lowriver. Just wait a moment and it’ll be alright…” He said as he put his hand above Eneath, the young man’s pain soon turning into a holy glow which seemed to engulf both the pain of body and soul. One by one, the knight’s wounds closed under the cleric’s healing even if some of them were too severe to be healed immediately. No power in this world was strong enough to mend the most horrifying injuries but as long as a man wasn’t on death’s door, the power of Light could help him begin his way to full recovery. Eneath’s leg worried the priest somewhat but it was little compared to some of the horribly mutilated bodies of some other knights. After a few minutes, he rose back to his full height and nodded at Eneath.

“I’ve done what I can, honored crusader. In time, you’ll make a full recovery but as long as you can, try to take it easy. There’s a chance that too much fighting or running will cause your leg to take a turn for the worse.” He said rather absentmindedly, thinking of the dozens of paladins he still had to heal before he could call it a day. The night had already fallen but that meant little when there were still lives on the line. Eneath looked at his wounds, smiling with some relief to see that even the most serious ones had stopped bleeding and most of the pain was gone. He turned to face the priest and spoke to him in a relieved voice.

“You have my thanks. I realized only now that I really needed help. May the Light bless you.” He said as he watched the cleric stop near him as he was going to see to the next wounded crusader lying in the chapel’s floor, not far from Eneath. It was a cause of regret for everyone that the injured had to be brought into the chapel itself but only it was safe and large enough to house all those in need of help. The priest quickly looked at Eneath again and muttered absentmindedly.

“Of course. I’m just doing by duty in order for you to be able to see yours through.” He said as he bowed on another one of the knights, leaving Eneath lie alone in the middle of the row of his injured comrades. Even now, he could feel the blessed sanctity of Light’s Hope float all around himself, knowing that right now he was in a place where you could most easily feel all the sacred things in this world look over you. To think that most of the legends he had heard stories of were lying below him, in their graves which would forever be protected by this holy ground. The chambers below Light’s Hope were off limits for most knights but the mere thought of this place made Eneath’s heart beat faster than usually.

However, there was another thing that fought for attention within Eneath’s mind and they were the words of his uncle. He frowned as the thought about Osran’s comments, especially as he remembered the desperate, nearly manic look in his eyes as he had told about the traitors among the Crusade. Of course he respected Osran’s words but back then… he hadn’t seemed like himself. The older paladin had felt like he was fearing that everyone were threatening him or that he even suspected his own nephew of treachery. A deep frown rose to Eneath’s face as he thought about his uncle as this wasn’t the first time he had felt this way about him.

Already before the assault on Stratholme, Osran had seemed to be only going from one failure to other, at least he himself acted like it. Back then, he had felt more distant and desperate than ever but that had been seemingly wiped away by the victories earned by the Crusade but again, his fears had returned after his return to the Crusade after his brief separation from the others in Plaguewood. And things had only gotten worse since then. If earlier Osran had only been fearful and depressed, now it had been replaced by a newfound zeal and distrust of the others. Eneath had seen the aftermath of his encounter with Harthal and Carethas as well as his completely lost antics after the crushing defeat. And his fearful and concerned words to him on this evening… it seemed like his uncle wasn’t the same as he was before.

That in itself wasn’t a surprise after the countless losses all of the crusaders had gone through but it certainly wasn’t something Eneath liked in the least. Osran’s transformation had started shortly after joining the Crimson Legion. Eneath shook his head as the swarm of fears and concerns started to rise into his head. He had no way of telling what had happened to Osran lately but he was more than certain it was nothing he would want to experience himself. Suddenly, a breeze from the Chapel’s door reached him, tying the paladin to its embrace for a short while. Only then he realized that the entire atmosphere of the Chapel had grown oppressive as the brief cries of the wounded reached his ears. Eneath took a brief sigh and shook his head until he decided that he had to get a glimpse of fresh air to sort out his thoughts. So much was on his mind right now and he wanted a short moment of peace.

With slow, careful moves, Eneath rose from the stone floor to his feet, making sure not to let his recovering foot get too much stress. It still hurt clearly to take another step but Eneath could tell that his leg would make it through this short walk without any further damage. A few questioning gazes turned to Eneath as he headed outside but none of them were willing to stop him. The young paladin took a deep breath as he entered the dark night, relieved to be able to leave the Chapel for even a moment. However, it wasn’t long until he was stopped in his tracks by the sight of two men talking to each other. Eneath frowned in surprise as he recognized both of the two.

One was the Lord Paladin himself and the other was a paladin he had met only one in his life but it was someone who had offered written himself into Eneath’s memory. He was a paladin who was widely known within the Crusade as the Savior of Light’s Hope, Lord Raymond George. Apart from the Highlord and Grand Crusader himself, few were as widely respected as Raymond. For a brief moment, Eneath considered joining them but then he realized that both of them were clearly fearful of something. They had most likely something of great importance in mind so Eneath decided to step aside, allowing the paladin of legend to do as they saw best.

“There is nothing we can do, Truesight! If we try to help them, we’ll all be overrun here! Can’t you see that this was Kel’Thuzad’s plan from the very beginning?” Raymond asked as he spoke to the Lord Paladin, making sure nobody else heard what he was saying. The news of the attack on Tyr’s Hand had been a horrifying surprise to both leaders but the noble had been more than stunned by Harthal’s reaction. He might be higher-ranked than he was but Raymond didn’t lose a bit to him when it came to the respect he commanded among the rest of the crusaders. However, Harthal wasn’t going to give up just yet, speaking to his counterpart in an angered voice.

“We cannot stand by as Tyr’s Hand falls, George! As long as we can help them push back the Scourge, we have no choice but to gather our troops and head towards the city. If Tyr’s Hands falls, so will the Enclave and without it, we’ll starve to death if Kel’Thuzad won’t get us first!” He spoke, struggling to hold his temper at bay. He was frustrated to hear about the attack this late even if the courier had decided against giving any guesses about the outcome of the battle. However, without Tyr’s Hand the Crusade would be done for, a thought which hardly made him feel any safer. It wasn’t long before his counterpart spoke to him in an equally angered voice.

“That isn’t up to you to decide, Lord Paladin. You are not the master of Light’s Hope as only Commander Dawnbringer will have the right to ride to war! Besides, there’s no way the High General will allow the walls of Tyr’s Hand fall! The Light will guide him forward and the light of dawn will see him victorious over the Scourge. We simply have to trust in it and not to allow Kel’Thuzad to drive us astray with his plans.” The lieutenant commander said as he saw slight hesitation appear into the Lord Paladin’s eyes.

He turned to look towards the south, wondering whether he could simply do as the other man suggested. He knew just as well that an attack on Light’s Hope was a real possibility but still, that didn’t change the fact the whole future of Lordaeron was on the line. He was the highest-ranking officer in the Chapel right now so he had every right to command the knights into battle and as long as he could take another breath, that was what he’d have to do! Losing Light’s Hope would deal a heavy blow on the Crusade’s morale but losing Tyr’s Hand would reduce the order to a mere group of bandits around Hearthglen. No, he would have to act now if he wanted to fulfill his duty to the Grand Crusader.

“But neither can we simply trust in Abbendis. He’s only one man, no different from us, and he has lost many battles in his life. I have to rally the others to beat back the Scourge. In the absence of commander Dawnbringer, I take control of Light’s Hope and…” He began until he heard a voice behind him which suddenly seemed to freeze him still.

“You won’t take control of anything in my absence, Lord Paladin! What has happened here?” Harthal turned around to face the returning host of Eligor and Osran. He cringed deeply at the unlucky timing of his words but he knew more than well nobody could accuse him of them as that right had been enshrined in the Crusade’s very code. He immediately regained his confidence and saluted the commander.

“I’m glad to see you made it back safe and sound, commander Dawnbringer! We were just discussing about a recent report we received. Less than an hour ago, the Scourge launched an assault upon Tyr’s Hand and we have no knowledge of the possible outcome of that fight. Sir, I beg your authority to lead my men into battle once again!” Harthal said as he tried to seem as respectful as possible. Eligor frowned deeply as he dismounted his steed and walked towards the Lord Paladin. His voice wavered as he spoke.

“Are you certain of this? How is it possible that you don’t know whether our comrades will be able to defend themselves from the attack?” Eligor said as he stopped to face Harthal. However, it was Raymond who answered his question.

“We received a message from a courier not long ago. He was sent here right after the start of the battle but oddly enough, he didn’t specifically ask for our help. I’m sure things aren’t critical out there as in that case, he would have begged for our aid.” He said, looking pleadingly at Eligor. The commander thought for a moment and his voice only darkened the longer he waited.

“So this is why the lands around here were completely empty. Kel’Thuzad knew we’d split up and then we’d be easy pickings… And we fell right into his trap. We have to…” He started but suddenly he heard another voice join the conversation. Osran frowned deeply as turned to Eligor but he kept his voice completely calm as he spoke.

“I’d advise you to give a second thought to this, Dawnbringer. All of this sounds extremely suspicious as we saw no evidence of this attack. We may be manipulated without us even realizing it which is something we must avoid at all costs. Maybe the Scourge is simply trying to lure us out of here to crush us in an ambush. It is far too silent here for my taste.” Osran said as he stared at the Lord Paladin whose eyes widened as he heard the Crimson Legionary talk. The latter struggled to find words to voice his thoughts as he knew just how influential the Legion was among the Crusade. He tried to answer but Eligor opened his mouth first.

“Our couriers have usually been trustworthy enough, crusader Lowriver. Do you have any reason to doubt their words now?” He asked, narrowing his eyes as he looked at the other man. He was completely torn between the two options as he, too, hated how complicated everything had become lately. Yet, Osran bore the Grand Crusader’s trust as a member of his inner circle so maybe he knew something more than he did. Osran looked at Eligor with weary eyes as he spoke.

“Of course I cannot be sure about that but we have to be vigilant and consider all our options. We are not only surrounded by enemies but it also walks among us. I would never forgive myself if we fell victim to the Lich King’s evil simply because of our carelessness. The High General ordered us to defend Light’s Hope and he has my full trust. Besides, we have one mystery to solve ourselves. I’m sure the High Inquisitor has something of worth to tell us, if he is who he claims to be.” Osran said as he looked at the unconscious form of Fairbanks and he quickly ordered him to be taken down from the back of the horse. Osran was already preparing for the coming discussion when Harthal’s words reached his ears.

“We cannot take this risk, Lowriver! Do you not realize what is at stake here?” He asked pleadingly, causing Osran to take a short sigh as he shook his head. The Crimson Legionary quickly turned around, looking from the corner of his eye as Fairbanks was carried into the nearest tent. His voice took a chillier turn as he spoke this time, his patience with Harthal slowly running out.

“I understand it fully well but I wouldn’t be so sure about you, Lord Paladin. If I’ve learned anything of worth during my years of service, it is that you have to have the discipline to follow your orders and have a little faith on those who have proven their worth again and again but most of all, not to act brashly. Yet, this issue can only be decided by commander Dawnbringer. What is your decision, sir?” Osran asked as he looked at Eligor. The golden-haired man looked at the aging, bearded knight with wary eyes while also exchanging a brief look with Harthal too. He seemed to hesitate for a brief while but soon he regained his confidence.

“This is a difficult issue but I tend to agree with Lowriver’s view of this thing. If Kel’Thuzad foresaw our other option, we would be walking into a trap of which there is no escape. Whatever happens, I will take full responsibility about what is going to happen.” Eligor said, forcing himself to stay as calm as possible. A brief silence fell above the knights as each of them thought about the implications of what was said. It was soon broken when Harthal swallowed his defeat and bowed deeply before the higher-ranked officer.

“Very well, commander Dawnbringer. I will trust your word and I truly hope it is the right one.” He said before turning around, preparing to head for his own peace, deeply worried about what Eligor had said. However, he was quickly interrupted when he heard Osran’s voice behind him again.

“You are free to leave, Lord Paladin, but I thought you would want to hear High inquisitor Fairbanks’ story first. We found him wandering the plains with his last strength and he claims to have something of interest to tell us.” Osran said as he crossed his arms, looking as Harthal stopped in his tracks. The Lord Paladin stood still for a short while before he turned back to Osran.

“Wandering the plains? Did you make sure he doesn’t carry the Plague?” He asked with some fear but his question was soon answered by Eligor.

“Of course we investigated him but we could find no trace of the disease in him. We all agreed it was safe to bring him here.” He said as he followed Osran into the tent where Fairbanks had been carried a few minutes earlier. Harthal frowned somewhat but he soon followed Osran, interested about what he’d hear from the closest friend of the late Highlord.

A horrifying terror was the first thing that greeted Fairbanks’ senses as he snapped out of his uneasy dreams. The holy glow of the Light streamed through him but that was nothing compared to the sudden memories that immediately filled him fear. Immediately, he saw another wave of giant spiders running towards him, followed by a mass of ghouls in their wake. Fairbanks would have wanted to run but behind him he could only see Alexandros being torn to pieces by the Scourge. There was only one thing left to do: to defend himself to his dying breath. In despair, Fairbanks concentrated the power of the light into his fists and hit the first of the charging spiders with all his might. It would be the first fallen foe that would pave the way for his survival.

“What in the name of all that is holy are you doing? Everyone, keep him still!” A vague voice called and before Fairbanks could even blink, he felt his hands being pushed to the ground and slowly but surely, his mind started to calm down and he shortly returned into the reality. Slowly he began to see unclear forms of humans around him with three others next to him doing something Fairbanks couldn’t see. His breaths grew slowly more peaceful as the world around him started to make more sense by the minute. With a weak voice, he asked the men around him.

“Wh… where am I? What has happened?” He asked, everything that had happened seeming to be but a distant nightmare but deep inside, he knew that simply wishing the horrors of Naxxramas away would do little to help anyone. He turned to look at the first man who answered to him, startled by his enraged and even fearful voice.

“What do you think? You were found in the forest wandering alone and we brought you here to be healed but apparently it was a mistake! You nearly killed the priest that saved your life!” The words confirmed his situation to Fairbanks without a doubt. So, it was true… Alexandros was dead… killed by his own son! All that sacrifice and struggle undone by one insane brat! All the memories flowed back to Fairbanks’ mind and managed only barely avoid another outburst. The ghosts of the past were clear to anyone who looked the inquisitor in his eyes but even in this situation, he turned to look again at the man lying in the ground. He saw a terribly burned and wounded priest who seemed to only barely hold onto life. He looked in horror as he realized the brutality of his attack, remembering his vision when he regained consciousness. He was just about to speak when he saw the door of the tent being opened and another man spoke to him.

“So you are awake, High Inquisitor. I’m glad your injuries weren’t lethal.” Eligor said, followed by three other men who Fairbanks recognized as Lord Raymond, Lord Paladin Truesight and Crimson Legionary Lowriver. The other priests slowly and carefully released his arms, allowing Fairbanks take a weak sigh of relief. He turned to the commander, beginning to remember everything about his encounter with the other crusaders an hour earlier.

“Apparently they weren’t, Commander Dawnbringer. You have my gratitude for bringing me here. I… I simply want to apologize for my outburst. I… I wasn’t thinking clearly.” He said, looking as the injured priest was taken aside by the other clerics. He looked like he started a recovery, though, which gave Fairbanks a little courage. Eligor stopped besides him and the stretcher he was lying on and spoke to him in a relieving voice.

“He will make it so there’s no reason to discuss that any further. But you have quite a lot to explain to us, Fairbanks. I remember you saying you have something new to tell about the fate of the Highlord.” Elligor asked as Osran walked to his side, immediately continuing from where the commander had ended. His voice wasn’t nearly as kind as the previous speaker’s but after his encounter with Harthal and Carethas, he had come to see everyone as potential threats.

“But first of all, we would like to know whether you truly are High Inquisitor Fairbanks and not some agent of the Cult. We have seen enough of them as it is so choose your words carefully from now on.” Osran said, causing Fairbanks return to his original position, causing his eyes to face the ceiling of the tent. He waited for a moment before asking wearily.

“And how can I prove that?” He simply asked, wondering what kind of answer he would receive. Osran glanced at Eligor briefly and the commander soon asked the cleric with a curious voice.

“Mograine told me about your journey to Ironforge to forge the Ashbringer. All of us know the legend of what happened there but what Alexandros said most don’t know is Magni Bronzebeard’s real motive to help us. We are told that the Light spoke to the dwarf and told him our cause was the right one but in truth, that wasn’t the case.” He said, remembering how Alexandros had spoken to him in his moment of doubt. He had wanted to keep some of the details of what had happened in Ironforge as a secret to try to keep the dwarves out of this conflict. Fairbanks’ eyes rolled briefly as he thought about the question, his mind returning to the three days at the distant dwarven capital. Of course, he remembered all of it but what surprised him was that he wasn’t asked a more difficult question. Well, maybe if he answered truthfully enough, no more questions would be coming his way.

“Is that it? In truth, Bronzebeard’s motive shouldn’t be a surprise even to those who don’t even know it. Initially, I remember how very concerned he was about our presence as he wanted nothing less than to be involved in the horrible conflicts of Lordaeron. It even seemed like we would have to return without his help but as always, Alexandros wouldn’t give up. He was almost exiled by the amount of pressure he put upon the dwarven king, using all the experience in his disposal to tell Bronzebeard what would happen if Lordaeron fell to the Scourge. I remember that he listened to every word but he seemed to trust the defenses of Khaz Modan more than our claims.

Yet, it was I who found Magni’s weak point. It wasn’t only the fear for his people which prevented him from helping us. No, I saw that he had a far more personal connection to the undead and it didn’t take long until we saw that the reason for his hesitancy was the memory of his brother, Muradin. He feared a similar fate would upon his city if he allowed his house to get involved any further within the matters of the dark north.

But in the end, it was the hatred which he held upon the traitor prince who had taken Muradin from him that finally changed his mind. He agreed to forge the Ashbringer but only as a vessel for his revenge for his brother. His unwillingness to get tied to the crisis in Lordaeron is why we told the others the reason for his decision which wasn’t quite true. And because of our agreement, I ask you to refrain from spreading the word any further.” He finished, a deeply mourning look rising into his eyes as the memories of his old friend returned to his mind. Yet, as his comrades, he had seen enough death to prevent him from being devoured by it. Osran frowned briefly, weighing the inquisitor’s words carefully as he heard Eligor speak after a moment of thinking.

“I don’t think we have a reason to doubt him, Lowriver. All he told us makes perfect sense.” The commander said, exchanging glances with Osran. The latter took a brief sigh before starting to speak.

“I’m inclined to agree. At least he would be the best-trained liar I’ve met if all he told us was made up. In that case, I’m sure we all would like to hear the story you wanted to tell us, High Inquisitor.” Osran said in a voice which raised Fairbank’s eyebrows steeply. He didn’t like the arrogant knight’s antics in the least but in the end, he owed it to Alexandros to let others know what had happened within Naxxramas. He waited for a moment watching at the waiting looks of the four paladins before he finally rose to a sitting position on
his stretcher and with great efforts, he rose to his full height and started to speak.

“Very well. I will tell you everything but I hope you will stay calm as there will be some parts I fear you will find hard to believe. Know that whatever I say is true, by my oath as a priest of the Church of the Light!” He said, earning a somewhat disapproving look from Osran. He had no idea what to expect but something within him told he’d have to be wary about what the cleric would tell. For now, he’d let him speak but if anything that would hurt the Crusade were brought up, he would cut it short immediately. Fairbanks took a deep sway as a moment of weakness and pain washed over him but he regained his balance as he spoke.

“As some among you may know, we braved the halls of Naxxramas and vanquished many horrors which we could only have dreamt before. We thought we were on our way towards victory but eventually, I and Alexandros were surrounded by the enemy and then isolated from our comrades. We sent them away even if I think both of us knew what the Scourge was after. But even then… Alexandros never gave up. I saw the determination in his eyes and I know he was ready to go to any lengths to fight his way out of there.” Fairbanks said as he shook his hand, looking into the ground as he cringed at the pain standing caused him. However, he had decided to tell the story of his leader and friend with all the grace and respect he simply could muster. After a brief pause, he continued to speak.

“To my utter shame, I could withstand the onslaught of the Scourge for only a few minutes before I fell under the mass of undead, horribly wounded. Alexandros thought I had died and it pains me that I couldn’t prove him otherwise. I was no use in the battle anymore and only the rapidly growing pile of corpses above me saved me from being finished off the enemy. It was horrible: the otherworldly smell along with the weight of the fallen ghouls and the wounds I had suffered… even now it sickens me. It was only my powers of healing that kept me alive and to make things worse for me… Alexandros fought on!

It felt like hours after hours passed without the Highlord tiring from the never-ending battle. I could see only glimpses of what was happening from where I was lying but I’ve never seen Alexandros like that before. He and the Ashbringer were one and the courage he showed was something I doubt I’ll never see again. Alexandros seemed to become one with the Light, bless his soul. He was a man unlike any I’ve ever met. No ghoul or servant of the Lich King were enough to take him down… instead, he was killed by the hand of his own son!” Fairbanks wailed as he remembered that horrible moment. All the other knights gasped as he heard that, not able to believe their ears. It was Raymond who spoke first after Fairbanks’ comment.

“What? It couldn’t possibly be true! Darion was here all the time and not even Renault could do something like that! Are you out of your mind?” He asked, earning a sad smile from Fairbanks. However, before he could answer, Osran nodded at the other paladin.

“It certainly couldn’t. I’ve met Renault for many times and while he is one of the most arrogant and self-righteous men I’ve met, it is ridiculo…” Osran said but his words were cut short by the cleric. Fairbanks coughed heavily and again nearly fell at the physical toll this conversation was taking on him but he managed to keep his voice decisive.

“By the oath I gave to each of you, I swear it was Renault Mograine who took his father’s sword and impaled my old friend with the Ashbringer, corrupting it with his vile deed forever. I… I saw all of it.” Fairbanks said as he suddenly started to gasp for air more violently than before. Osran was about to rebuke him when Eligor decided to give his thoughts.

“I have no right to dismiss the words of a servant of the Church, especially its High Inquisitor. Yet, I have to ask why would any crusader, especially Renault Mograine, resort to such barbary? Such a thing is hard for me to believe.” Eligor asked to Osran’s severe chagrin but the latter knew he had no way of preventing Fairbanks from giving his answer. For now, he simply crossed his arms and stayed silent. Fairbanks calmed down a bit before answering to the commander.

“I cannot say about how he went that far but… I know you won’t want to hear what I have to tell you but… Renault told that by killing his father, he would become the next Ashbringer and Highlord. And worst of all… he claimed it had all been promised to him by the Grand Crusader himself.” Fairbanks said with a deep voice, knowing what came next. And indeed, it wasn’t even one second before he saw Osran’s blade against his throat. The bearded paladin had a grim look on his face as he spoke.

“I have to ask you to take those words back, High Inquisitor! The Grand Crusader has always led us all with wisdom and the future of Lordaeron in his mind! Even if that’s what Renault said, you would do better than to spread such lies any further.” Osran said as he touched Fairbank’s chin with the sword, earning a look of fear from the cleric. However, it wasn’t long before Eligor spoke to Osran.

“Step back now, Lowriver! He gave his word and even if he didn’t, we have no right to threaten a High Inquisitor of the Church!” Eligor cried as he drew his own sword and directed it towards Osran whose eyes were locked on the cleric. He knew that the Grand Crusader would want him to keep the peace at any cost but he simply couldn’t kill Fairbanks in front of the others or his lies could spread further. Osran had absolutely no idea where the other man had suddenly received his ridiculous claims but the bearded paladin knew that they couldn’t be allowed to spread any further. And the only way to do it was to prevent him from continuing any further without gathering any suspicions on himself. Osran smiled inside as he thought about his only chance of success and with a confident voice, turned to Eligor and cried with a loud voice.

“No true servant of the Light would raise such accusations about Dathrohan at a time like this! To even suspect such a thing is completely…” As he spoke, Osran slowly moved his hand and cast the weakest of judgements, its light faint enough to fuse into those of the small candles on the entrance into the tent. Fairbanks was suddenly hit by the power and he quickly collapsed into the floor, letting out only a brief sigh as his head his the ground. Raymond was the first one to run to his side and cry to the others.

“Help him, for Light’s sake! I knew it was a mistake to allow him to stand for this long!” He cried as he examined Fairbanks, cringing as he saw the new, long wound in his head. It bled heavily and the cleric’s situation seemed to be getting worse again. Osran joined his comrades immediately, lending what power he could to the High Inquisitor. But inside, he was more than happy that his answer to Eligor had drawn all attention away from his own gestures and everyone would simply consider Fairbanks’ collapse a result of his own fatigue and wounds. Soon, the crusaders had returned the cleric to his original position on the stretcher, looking at him in worry. Within a few moments, Eligor whispered to his comrades.

“We have to make sure everyone get the word of his tale. I don’t know what to make of it myself but everyone deserves to know of Renalt’s betrayal and about the rumors about the Grand Crusader.” Eligor said with a voice that sounded unsure and haunted at the same time. He didn’t know what to make of the Inquisitor’s words but he was extremely worried about them. However, it wasn’t long before Harthal answered to him, his voice far more defiant than the previous speaker’s.

“We must not act hastily, Dawnbringer. Fairbanks was still very weak and confused and we must not let these fears spread at least before we know more about Renault’s whereabouts or whether Fairbanks actually believes Renault’s words. Until then, we have absolutely no right to begin doubting Dathrohan.” Harthal said with a clear cringe, just wondering what all of this could possibly mean. Eligor gazed at the other man and after a brief moment, spoke to him with a slight sigh.

“Then we must hear those things soon. The battle of Tyr’s Hand rages on and we have no word about the Grand Crusader himself. Time is off the essence and the prospect that we’ve all been deceived hangs heavily upon us. I just pray to the Light that Fairbanks didn’t think clearly and this has all been a misunderstanding.” Eligor said, wondering what had happened in Stratholme. At the very least, Dathrohan had failed the order with his defeat and if the rumors about his acceptance of Alexandros’ suicidal mission was true… The commander shook his head to clear his thoughts as he heard Osran speak to him.

“As do we all, commander Dawnbringer. However, we have nothing more we can do about this for now. The High Inquisitor doesn’t seem to be able to tell anything more to us in a while and doubting our leaders without further proof will hardly help anyone.” Osran said in a seemingly grave voice, staring at the unconscious form of the fallen cleric. Inside, he was cringing at what he was about to do but duty called him and unlike so many times before, he would not run from it or regret anything he would do. Safeguarding the Grand Crusader and the order were the most noble things he could do in his situation as he had seen that Dathrohan was still the hero of Lordaeron he was known to be. If guarding him meant getting his hands dirty, then so be it. Osran’s steady gaze ended as he heard Eligor speak to him.

“I guess you are right, Lowriver. Let us rest for a short while but we have to hear Fairbanks’ tale to the end as soon as we simply can. If what he says is true, then we have to prepare to contact the Scarlet Bastion and find out what’s going on there. But for today, we are done here.” He said and after a few more seconds, he rose up and headed out of the tent, followed by the other officers of the Crusade. Osran merely glanced after them and spoke to Raymond in a weary voice.

“I’ll follow you soon enough. Have a good night.” He said as he turned his look back into Fairbanks. Raymond frowned slightly at his words but he merely shrugged and walked out of the tent. Osran then turned at the two remaining priests and spoke to them in a calm but demanding voice.

“You may take your leave as well, honored priests. Your presence isn’t required here for a while.” Osran said, knowing that the word of a Crimson Legionary was a powerful tool in the minds of many crusaders. however, one of the priests answered to him immediately.

“But we were told to stay here the whole night and we can see that the High Inquisitor needs help!” The cleric said, earning a slight frown from Osran. The aging paladin knew that it was more than troublesome that the priests would know that he had been left alone with Fairbanks but this was simply something he had to do. Almost instantly, Osran answered to the other man in a slightly sharper voice.

“I’m more than capable of keeping an eye on him as long as you are gone and when I leave, I’ll call you back here. Stay silent about this and I’ll spare a word or two to the Grand Crusader.” Osran said, looking as the two clerics seemed to hesitate for a moment. Both of them knew that even a slight honor in the eyes of Dathrohan was a major boost to one’s position within the Crusade and perhaps, just perhaps, the legendary paladin’s favor would help them reach a higher position within the Church one day. The cleric nodded to Osran briefly before answering.

“Very well, Crimson Legionary Lowriver. We trust your word. Let us know when you’re finished here.” In this moment, neither of the clerics knew about what Osran had in his mind and really, neither of them cared. Osran was much higher-ranked within the order and getting on bad terms with an agent of the Grand Crusader was never a good idea. The two had heard Fairbanks’ words but they didn’t consider them any more than some weird ramblings of a man who had seen too much. Osran narrowed his eyes in relief as he looked at the tent’s doors close behind the two priests. The aging paladin felt his heart starting to beat faster by the second as he prepared for what he was going to do.

First, Osran reached for the pockets of his armor, taking something which he carried these days always with him. There was no telling when he would have to persuade crusaders whose faith in the order’s cause was wavering and a gag was more than needed to ensure that the knowledge of his method wouldn’t spread further than the interrogator would want to. Osran carefully tied the rag around the inquisitor’s mouth and when he decided that he had managed to silence any possible cries from the poor cleric, he decided it was time for him to begin.

With a quick movement, Osran cast a bolt of lightning on the priest which seemed to snap him out of his unconsciousness immediately. Again, Fairbanks seemed to have trouble waking up and when he did, he was shocked to find that he was tied into the ground and his mouth to be covered by the thick rag. He immediately started to wriggle, attempting to fight himself free from this horrifying situation but to no avail. After a while of failed tries, Osran knelt beside him and whispered in a silent voice, taking great caution in making sure no one else would hear his words.

“I would regret this situation were it any less dangerous. Yet, I must assume that a High Inquisitor of the Crusade understands just how serious your accusations against the Grand Crusader were, do you not?” Osran said, earning further struggles from Fairbanks. The inquisitor was completely stunned by the lengths Osran was willing to go over his words but he wasn’t about to give up under pressure. He owed that much to Alexandros and to the Crusade. No overly-zealous Crimson Legionary was going to make him take back the words which were the only hope of ever getting justice for the fallen Highlord. Osran looked at the cleric with empty eyes, not really expecting a different reaction from him. After a few seconds, he continued with a voice that carried neither joy nor regret.

“I’m sorry you had to go through all you did but then again, I absolutely cannot allow your claims about the Grand Crusader spread any further. If you admit that all you said was sickly raving to the others, I will simply let you be for now. Do we agree?” Osran said, his expression revealing he wasn’t bluffing in the least. For a moment, Fairbanks seemed to calm down as he realized he had a way out of this but almost immediately, he noticed the disgust that was building inside him. If he did what Osran demanded, Renault and those he served would escape from this without any ramifications. After a while, he took a deep breath and looked at Osran with apologetic eyes. The bearded man stared at Fairbanks before shaking his head sadly, hoping he could have been able to receive the cleric’s cooperation by now. Yet, that wasn’t the case and Fairbanks left him with little choice.

“Very well, High Inquisitor. But know that I will have your cooperation, one way or another.” Osran said as he frowned at what he was doing. He knew he could never trust the other man with only traditional means of torture but even now, he wanted to avoid doing what Landgren had done to Valdemar. He didn’t even know how the Abbot had managed that spell but if it became absolutely necessary, Osran knew he would have to try replicating that spell to wipe out Fairbanks’ recent memories. Few knew it was even possible and because of it, no one would blame him for the Inquisitor’s state later on.

Fairbanks tried to cry with all his might as the bolt of burning power hit his chest, his inability to produce even the slightest of whimper only making him feel more miserable than before. He looked in horror as Osran drew his sword from his scabbard and looked mournfully at his victim. He glanced at Fairbanks’ arm and decided that it was simply wrong to use the power of the Light for vile purposes like this one. Its grace was over unsavory duties like this. Instead, Osran pointed his sword towards the inquisitor’s arm and with a slow thrust, sank it into the priest’s flesh. Tears appeared into Fairbanks’ eyes as he looked at the ceiling, unable to do anything but feel as Osran drove his blade deeper into his arm ever so slowly. He tried to fight against his torturer but it was all for nothing. All his limbs had been tied firmly into the ground and there was no way for him to escape.

After Osran had pulled his sword through the cleric’s entire hand, he again knelt beside the slightly younger man, his voice still a still mask without a major proof of any compassion. Fairbanks was horrified to see a Crimson Legionary act like this as he still had wanted to believe the Crusade to be completely pure. Yet, if Renault and the Grand Crusader had done what they had, then… then…

“I ask you one last time, High Inquisitor. I offer you one more chance to repent and tell our comrades you were wrong. If you still insist on moving on with your blasphemy, you leave me no other choice but to begin wiping out parts of your mind. Believe me, that’s the last thing I want to do and to be honest, I have no idea how it’s done so things will become ugly if you force me to go that far. So I advise you to think about your answer very carefully. Now, nod to me if you decide to take on the righteous path.” Osran said, not really knowing what to expect and if he wanted to be completely honest with himself, he didn’t even care about it. There was nothing for him to believe in and he had absolutely no reason to believe that Fairbanks was even faithful to the Crusade anymore. Maybe he had seen the same promise of easy power Arthas and Kel’Thuzad had and he was here only
to spread chaos in order to earn it from the Lich King. Inside, Osran fumed at that thought and he even realized that he would have simply preferred to kill Fairbanks here and now.

The cleric glanced at his mutilated arm and took a deep breath. He could always simply agree and try to tell his story to the end in a subtler way to the others but… how could he know this wasn’t some grand test to prove he had lied from the beginning? Could he give a member of the Crimson Legion the satisfaction of breaking him? No, Alexandros hadn’t given up once in his life and neither would he. Anything less would be a mere insult to his old friend’s memory. The inquisitor inhaled slightly but kept his head firmly in the ground.

Osran waited for a short while before shaking his head briefly. Apparently he couldn’t get out of this easily. The paladin locked eyes with Fairbanks before speaking to him again.
“Let us have it your way then. I tried to give you an easy way out but it all fell on deaf ears, apparently. Well, I gave you enough time to decide.” Osran said as he grabbed
Fairbanks’ forehead with his left hand and started to gather holy energy in his right one. Soon, he would see if destroying others’ minds was as easy as Landgren had made it look.

The time passed slowly as Eneath waited for Osran to come out of the tent. He had seen the others leave a good while ago but the young paladin couldn’t see a trace of his uncle anywhere. He had decided to wait and hear from him how the scouting mission had gone but those plans were in doubt as his uncle never seemed to leave the tent. Eneath frowned somewhat as he leaned on a nearby tree in slight pain. What in earth could keep Osran there this long. After many minutes, his gaze turned to the two priests who had left the tent last. Maybe they could offer him some explanation for his uncle’s absence? He walked towards them slowly and asked them in a calm voice.

“Greetings, you two. Do you have any idea why Crimson Legionary Lowriver hasn’t left Fairbanks’ side yet? All other officers left long ago.” He asked, full well knowing it could well be that he wouldn’t receive a satisfactory answer. And indeed, one of the priest shrugged briefly before he gave his answer.

“He didn’t tell us exactly but he made it clear enough that he doesn’t want to be disturbed. So if you have any business with him, leave it for tomorrow and go to sleep.” He asked with a slight yawn, wondering himself what the Crimson Legionary had had in mind. Eneath turned slowly towards the tent, pondering whether he should heed the cleric’s proposition but in the end, he knew what he had to do. He quickly answered to the other man before heading to meet the older knight.

“Thank you for the advice but I have to exchange a few words with my uncle now!” He said as he left the two priests standing behind him in the dark night.

Silent curses escaped from Osran’s mouth as he did his best to try to link the power of the Light with the High Inquisitor’s mind. Again and again, he tried to establish that connection but each time he came close to that goal, he seemed to lose focus of what he was doing suddenly. It had taken him many long minutes to even see the flicker of the other man’s mind but trying to attack it proved more than challenging. The priests needed years of training to accomplish something like this and now, Osran had only his own connection to the Light as well as his experience to find the way forward. Yet, those things didn’t seem to be taking him far enough, at least as quickly as would have been required.

Certain fear started to slowly flow into Osran’s mind as he wondered how long this would take. This had been a terrible gamble from the beginning but this was the only way he could try to maintain full stability within the Crusade. If he backed off now, Fairbanks would certainly tell everything of this to Eligor. And if he accidentally destroyed Fairbanks’ mind, it wouldn’t take long until he could be tied into the crime. The only chance was to succeed in his plan and hope nobody would catch him in the act before he was finished.
Suddenly, Osran felt a slight excitement rise with him. His brief glimpse of Fairbanks’ memories didn’t disappear immediately as they had before, enabling him to begin channeling his holy fire into them. He was just about to begin the final part of his operation when he suddenly heard something that nearly froze him still. Footsteps grew ever closer until they stopped just before the tent’s door. Osran cursed heavily as he suddenly let off Fairbanks’ head and rose to his feet just in time to see someone entering the tent. He didn’t see the newcomer’s face as he spoke to him in a cold voice.

“I must ask you to leave, whoever you are. The situation here is completely under control.” Osran said defiantly, praying that the other crusader would take the hint. However, Osran felt his heart sink further as he heard the younger paladin speak to him.

“What are you doing here, Osran? The others left a long while ago so what business can you probably have here?” Eneath asked, making his uncle frown deeply. Osran hadn’t expected his nephew to leave the Chapel tonight and this certainly was an alarming development. Fairbanks would stay silent but he’d have to prevent his nephew from seeing what he had already done to the High Inquisitor. Osran took a few steps forward to stop Eneath in his tracks and spoke to him calmly.

“The High Inquisitor fell when he was telling about his escape from Naxxramas and I decided to stay here in order to make sure everything would be alright with him.” He said in a voice that sounded completely genuine but inside, Osran was growing livid with fear. There was no believable way for him to stop Eneath from seeing Fairbanks and the cleric’s wriggling managed to cause some minor noise, something which Osran hoped wouldn’t catch the younger man’s attention. Eneath frowned deeply as he answered.

“We both know such things are up to the priests you sent away from here right after the others. What is going on, uncle?” He said in concern, quickly starting to realize something was seriously wrong. Osran nearly gave away his surprise at Eneath’s words but managed to contain his emotions in the last possible moment.

“Those priests needed a short pause from their duties and besides, I wanted to make sure that no further disturbances would come to the High Inquisitor. He deserves that much after all he went through.” Osran said, knowing that his words were slowly getting slightly unsure and Osran felt himself grow more miserable by the moment Eneath rebuked him.

“I doubt that is what is really happening here, uncle. No mere falling would cause you to spend the whole night here.” Eneath said as he bypassed his uncle to walk towards the tied cleric. Osran’s mind raced to find a way to prevent his nephew from seeing his handiwork but there was no way to do that without seriously wounding his nephew. Osran realized in growing horror that explaining himself was the only thing that could still save him here.

Eneath looked at Fairbanks with growing puzzlement as he walked closer to him. He could soon see he was well awake but why hadn’t he spoken for himself earlier… The young man stopped just beside the cleric and only then did he notice the ropes around Fairbanks’ limbs and the rag covering his mouth. He gasped deeply as he started to realize what was going on as Osran walked towards him and whispered to him.

“Whatever you do, nephew, stay silent and don’t do anything unthought. There is far more at stake here than you could probably understand.” Osran said to Eneath who was staring at Fairbanks’ impaled hand and the pool of blood around it, not able to understand that it was his uncle who had done all of this. It took many seconds before Eneath spoke again, not turning to look at Osran.

“What can possibly explain any of this, Osran? How could you do this to anyone… let alone the High Inquisitor?” He asked, knowing that Fairbanks was a highly respected figure within the Crusade, always helping those who needed his guidance whenever they needed it. Eneath had seen him carried here and he could imagine his journey here from Stratholme. Osran tried to put his hand on his nephew’s shoulder put the younger man wiped it away immediately. Osran sighed slightly as he spoke to Eneath.

“He dared to accuse the Grand Crusader of treachery without proof and I could see some others beginning to believe him. I know full well how this must look to you but I had no choice but to make him take back his words. I offered him a chance to repent voluntarily but he wouldn’t take the hint. I’m sorry you had to see this.” Osran offered with an apologetic voice, deepening Eneath’s misery as he looked at Fairbanks’ desperate eyes. After a few seconds, he turned at Osran and asked with a silent voice.

“Is that it? Is that his crime? To tell what he has seen? Have we really gone that low, uncle?” He asked, not even willing to think of the implications of the older paladin’s words. Osran’s face turned into an ever more sorrowful one but his voice still carried the confidence that all who knew him had come to know.

“His crime is spreading lies about the Grand Crusader, not his story. Can you not see it, Eneath? Dathrohan has always lead us with wisdom and honor and we have to trust in his judgement when we all stand on the edge of oblivion. I don’t ask you to understand but know that the Crimson Legion has taught me many things I never knew before. As an agent of the Grand Crusader and as your uncle, I ask you to leave and forget what you saw here. It will be for the greater good. You have my word of it.” Osran said, hoping that Eneath would listen to him in this most important of moments. So very much depended on whether his nephew had the will to serve the Crusade, no matter what.

Eneath stared at his uncle in concern, willing to listen to what his uncle said. Yet, what he had seen here disgusted him without an end. How did Osran know Fairbanks was lying? Or even worse, was the older paladin willing to silence the word of truth for some misguided sense of responsibility to the Legion? Eneath tried to see things through his uncle’s eyes but the things he had heard of Fairbanks as well as the High Inquisitor’s pained gaze haunted him terribly. No, he would not stand for this and neither should Osran. It was the time to say some words to his uncle he had wanted to say for a good while. Eneath turned to look at Osran and started to speak in a slow yet friendly voice.

“Osran… You know how long I have looked up to you and wanted to follow in your footsteps nearly wherever you went. You have me a lot about honor, faith and bravery and you have watched over me ever since the fall of Northdale. And for that I will forever be grateful to you. Through the countless battles we fought in together, you helped and even saved me more than I can even remember. I owe you a greater debt I can ever repay you.

But… you said it yourself. You have clearly learned a lot in the Legion I don’t know. But I can already see none of it has been something any of us should learn as the Osran I knew would never do this to a respected and honored comrade! Just look at him, uncle. I have a hard time believing a priest of his status would be lying to us. I don’t know what he said but Fairbanks deserves much better than this. You have changed and I cannot say it has been for the better! Please, Osran, I ask you: stop this madness before it is too late!”
Eneath said in a pleading voice, his expression taking Osran briefly off-guard. Eneath’s reaction was to be expected and for a while, a small voice began screaming deep within him against what he was doing but then again, he had already made his choice. He didn’t raise his voice but his tone was much more serious and angered than it had been before.

“You have no right to criticize me, boy. I was drawn into the dark secrets of our cause long ago and after those days, I’ve learned no one besides the Legion can be trusted. Believe me when I say I don’t enjoy any of this but for your and all our comrades’ sake, I don’t have a damn choice! Even now, Fairbanks may be just a member of the Cult of the Damned or he may just as well be infected with the Plague! The Crusade is our absolute duty and I will stand to the end protect its purity. And you would do well to do the same, Eneath!”
Osran said, clearly annoyed of being forced into this situation but he would not back off before anyone, not even his nephew.

Eneath, on the other hand, looked more miserable after every word Osran spoke. They only proved just far Osran had gone with his fears. Iren might have been a traitor but the accusations against Carethas and the Lord Paladin had bothered Eneath without an end. The young paladin knew both of them and he knew that neither of them would betray the Crusade. It seemed like his uncle was completely lost and Eneath decided that he couldn’t simply allow the older knight to move forward with his plans. He would be have to made to see the error in his ways and in the command he had received. If Osran was following the orders of the Grand Crusader, there were more things wrong than the young man had ever suspected.

“You may be right about me not knowing the full reach of the Scourge’s corruption. You may have seen more horrors than I ever have. But Osran, you have taught me yourself, along with all the others, that the truest victory against the shadow can only be achieved with good and pure deeds, not by torturing our comrades. Only a few months ago you knew this as well, uncle. And for this very reason, I cannot allow you do this.” Eneath said as he started to walk towards the tent’s door to alert Eligor and the others here. He knew that he would be endangering his uncle’s whole career, even life, but it would be worth it if he could make the older paladin see the error of his ways. However, he was momentarily stopped as he saw Osran’s blade fall before him, shortly followed by the enraged words of his uncle.

“Don’t take another step, nephew. I cannot allow you to reveal what you have seen here. There is too much at stake for me to allow anyone, even my nephew, to ruin things now.” Osran’s voice wavered as he spoke, his mind completely frozen by what was happening. Eneath looked at his uncle for a while before noticing something lying in the ground. It was a small horn, similar to those used by the guards on the walls. The young man couldn’t say how it was brought here but he knew that its voice would alert enough guards here within a few seconds. Osran looked in annoyance as Eneath reached for the horn and hit his nephew in his chest as he picked it up.

“Drop that, now. I will not give you another chance.” The paladin said as Eneath took the horn to his lips. He raised his sword to point right towards Eneath’s chest, meaning every word. However, Eneath could see the slightest of hesitation deep within his uncle’s eyes and knew that this was something he simply had to do. Without a second’s hesitation, Eneath brought the horn to his lips and blew into it with all his might.

Osran prayed until the very last second that his nephew would give up his folly but it simply wasn’t to be. His heart aching terribly, Osran was about to stab his nephew with his sword but only fraction of a second before hitting him, Osran realized the mistake he was about to commit. If he was found over the dead body of his nephew, he knew very well what the others would think about the scene. No, he had to try to speak himself out of this. After all, a Crimson Legionary’s words still meant more than a knight’s who was barely more than a cadet and the still-confused inquisitor’s. Osran quickly pushed Eneath aside and tore the rag from Fairbanks’ mouth and quickly cut the ropes tying him to the ground. Then he kicked piles and piles of earth over the spot where most of the blood had dropped to hide the proof of his handiwork. And none of it happened a moment too soon. Osran turned calmly to look as a dozen guards suddenly stormed into the tent, shattering the brief silence immediately.

“Who blew the horn? What is going on here? Speak, all of you!” The guard cried, causing Osran to cringe big time. This was one of the most serious threats to him inside the Crusade but he knew he had to succeed in getting through this. The very future of the Crusade depended on it and he would go to any lengths to prove his nephew and Fairbanks wrong… or at least contain the effects of their treachery.

After Eneath’s intervention, Osran now faces a situation which most likely is the most serious one of his life. Will he be able to calm things down or will this chain of events which began with Fairbanks’ return escalate into something much more dangerous? I hope you liked this chapter and see with the next one!


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Re: Under the Scarlet Banner
« Reply #41 on: October 08, 2018, 02:48:23 PM »
The Great Schism

”Crusader Lowriver, I hope you realize the seriousness of your own nephew’s claims, not to even mention the words of the honored High Inquisitor! We know all what those two said has happened and none of it makes it seem like you were up to any good. But before you answer, I wish to remind you that your career as a knight of the Crusade and possibly even your life is depending on your answers.” Commander Dawnbringer said as he closed the door to the tent behind him. The man was accompanied by Lord Raymond George and Harthal but they stayed silent for now.

Osran nodded to himself in deep regret, cursing his nephew’s intrusion with all his soul. This was just what he had feared but he would do it all again in the name of the Crusade. The Crimson Legionary tried to pull his hands apart but as before, those efforts were hindered by the rope which tied his hands behind the chair he was sitting on. Osran’s voice was bitter but he still knew he had a chance to escape this situation, if he played his cards properly.

“Of course, commander Dawnbringer. I’ll tell everything about this farce you wish to ask. It is the least I can do to apologize for my nephew’s inexcusable behavior.” He said with a sigh, hoping to get this issue over with. Eneath’s actions hurt him more than anything in the past weeks as he had always been willing trust him with his very life. To see that Eneath had been this ready to betray him the whole time… Only with great efforts did Osran manage to keep his emotions at bay. Eligor frowned somewhat as he heard Osran’s answer but he continued without further hesitation.

“We already located the priests you bribed away with promises of power and glory and their words on your hesitance to inform them of your plans hardly raises any further trust in you, Lowriver. You’ve got quite a task in explaining that as well as the wound within the High Inquisitor’s hand and why you had buried the blood before our guards could stop your and Eneath’s fight.” Eligor bowed forward towards the sitting knight. frowning deeply at him. Osran investigated the expressions of the three men, finding to his great relief a hint of sympathy within Harthal. Maybe, he could get him on his side if he played his cards right. Osran forced his posture to be as noble as possible as he answered.

“It is true that I told the priests to leave me in peace and it is true that I didn’t want any further attention to my deed. You see, I wanted to investigate the exact extent of the High
Inquisitor’s injuries and how they affected his ability to remember what happened in Naxxramas clearly enough. Restoring peace to our beloved order is my sacred charge as a Crimson Legionary and I’ll do all in my power to fulfill my duty. I am just sorry I had to do it in secret from you. My nephew entered at the wrong time and apparently he made hasty decisions based on his false assumptions. My apologies for his mistake.” Osran never broke his eye contact with Eligor as he spoke, his expression unmoved the whole time. Even if Osran hated lying to his superior, his belief in his overall cause hid any hints of lying from the three knights. However, George snorted deeply as Osran finished, turning towards Eligor.

“What complete crap! The priests told us that all of Fairbanks’ injuries were purely physical and none of has any reason to doubt his mental capabilities, especially not a close servant of the Grand Crusader!” Osran’s eyes flashed open as he heard those words, not willing to believe George’s words. Had he actually attacked him because of his ties to Dathrohan? Such a claim was a clear act of treason against the entire Crusade! Osran immediately rebuked the noble’s words.

“I advise you to take those words back, Raymond! None of us has the right to question the Grand Crusader, especially in a situation like this!” Osran cried, expecting George to back down quickly but to his shock, such reaction never came and even worse, Eligor simply stood silent. Harthal looked at him in surprise, clearly as flabbergasted by Raymond as the Crimson Legionary was. The commander, however, continued like nothing of any worth had been said.

“Even if we believed everything you said, who stabbed the High Inquisitor in the hand? And Lord George raised a good point about your overall motive to question Fairbanks.” He said in a surprisingly normal tone. However, his reaction wasn’t too well-received by Harthal who finally joined the discussion.

“But commander Dawnbringer, certainly you have to condemn his words! We are in no pos…” He started but the other knight wouldn’t let him finish. Instead, he raised his hand towards the Lord Paladin and continued to speak to Osran.

“This is only up to crusader Lowriver to explain. Stay out of this, Truesight.” Something in the commander’s voice outraged Osran without an end, it was as if this self-righteous officer thought he was in a position to ignore the Grand Crusader completely. Or… even worse… could he actually be setting him aside knowingly? No, for now he had to trust in his comrades at least enough to give his false explanation to Eligor.

“I certainly hope you’ll take that back soon, commander and Lord George. In any case, believe it or not, it was the High Inquisitor himself who did it to himself in the moment he regained his consciousness, in the exact same way he attacked the priest who was tending to him earlier in the day. I guess the events in Naxxramas upset him even more than we already know. As for why I doubted his memory, I had to make sure he is in a condition to speak tomorrow! Even if the priests didn’t find any problems in his head, that doesn’t mean we should lay down the fate of the Crusade merely upon their judgement!” Osran raised his voice, seeing the smug if worried look on Eligor’s face. The aging crusader could see very easily that he wasn’t being told everything which annoyed him greatly. To his further chagrin, it was Raymond George who spoke next.

“Very interesting tale, Crimson Legionary Lowriver. Most interesting. However, we have to question the validity of your words in the light of some evidence we were presented with.” He said as he pulled something from his pocket, something which puzzled Osran even further. It looked like a tiny disk, rather remarkable in any ways. He knew items like that were sometimes used by the magi in some of their arts but how did it relate to him? He turned to look at Eligor askingly, a deep horror starting to take a hold within his heart. Seeing Osran’s reaction, the commander’s expression hardened and he took the disc from the noble.

“To my regret, this was all a test we set up for you, Lowriver. I know you probably won’t want to hear what I’ve to say. In any case, one of the priests you sent away wasn’t quite as gullible as you thought and even better, he has mastered magics most of us have ever heard of. Far sight, for example.” At this point, Eligor’s face darkened even further. The look of smugness was gone, replaced with a deep and condemning look which seemed to fight its way into Osran’s very soul. The Crimson Legionary, however, managed to keep his composure, no matter how deep his fears actually went.

“Far sight is a shamanic spell which he learned in the weeks as he prepared to stand against the Legion in Mount Hyjal. I must say I’m impressed by his cunning as he cast the spell into the tent when you sent him away, allowing him to see the entire scene unfold. And the worst of it all was that he was able to record it all into this disk. Do you want me to call him to repeat the scene?” Eligor asked in an anger which seemed to get more profound by the second. Osran looked at him with a deep frown, his earlier concern starting to turn into actual fear and disgust towards the other paladin. Did he actually he could beat him with such smears and threats? Osran had never heard much about the abilities of the shamans but he didn’t doubt for a second that the commander wouldn’t have some kind of evidence against him after his words. Still, Osran wasn’t about to give up in the face of this new obstacle, not as long as he’d be able to serve the Crusade.

“Really, commander Dawnbringer? Do you really resort to a two-faced priest’s fabrication to accuse a member of the Crimson Legion of an assault on the High Inquisitor as well as lying? Besides, anyone who has learned about the shamanic ways has acquainted himself with the Light-forsaken brutes of the Horde! Have you already forgotten all the comrades who sacrificed their lives to banish them and their cursed corruption from Lordaeron once and for all?” Osran cried in anger, his mind drifting to the bygone days of the Second War. Not only had Dawnbringer failed to condemn George’s insult to the Grand Crusader but he had also thrown away all his honor with his accusations. Harthal whispered to Eligor briefly, his face getting more worried by the minute.

“What are you thinking, Eligor?! We both know the dangers of shamanism and the Horde! We should never have welcomed him back into our ranks in the first place and you cannot possibly use his claims to attack crusader Lowriver! He may have done wrong but we cannot turn to such heresy in a moment like this! The Lord Paladin said to which Eligor merely snorted. He quickly turned to look directly at Harthal and snapped at him briefly.

“I use whatever evidence I can, Lord Paladin! I have every right to accuse Osran for attempted murder and this disk proves without a doubt that I’d be damned if I let Lowriver escape from this unpunished!” The commander said as he walked towards Osran and spoke to him slowly, each words dipping with threat.

“Admit it now, Lowriver. Admit all of it. Did the Legion order you to attack Fairbanks?” He asked in a softer voice which worried Osran greatly. Still, he would never let the blame of his mistake spread any further than himself.

“I worked on my own for the benefit of the entire Crusade as should you too, Dawnbringer. All my life I have worked to serve our homeland, whether it took the form of our kingdom, Order of the Silver Hand or the Scarlet Crusade! My decisions were my own but my loyalties have been clear to all my comrades for many, long decades! And they won’t change in the future, either.” Osran said, again forcing himself to calm down somewhat. However, that momentary effort to catch his breath ended the moment when Raymond stepped forward and spoke in a low voice which clearly carried a hint of direct threat.

“We have long held our suspicions about the Crimson Legion, Lowriver. They have far too often acted without any thought for the consequences and far too often they have failed to hide their intimidations and murders among our ranks. Yes, we know that the Grand Crusader doesn’t want any threats against his rule within the Crusade. One of your comrades revealed everything about the Legion two weeks ago but back then, we hoped the coming assault on Stratholme was worth supporting your Grand Crusader.” Raymond said as he crossed his arms behind his back, an expectant smile rising to his face as he saw a sword suddenly appearing under his chin, followed by an angered remark from the Lord Paladin.

“What is the meaning of this, commander Dawnbringer and Lord George? Are you completely out of your minds?!The Grand Crusader doesn’t have anything to do with any of this!” He said as he slowly walked to face the two other paladins with a flabbergasted look. He couldn’t believe what he was hearing. The two had shown no signs of treachery until now which made it all the more difficult for him to accept. He could feel his arm shaking as he waited for an answer while looking at Eligor’s emotionless face. It all seemed so very unreal to the Lord Paladin who had prepared for a normal interrogation instead of being forced to defend the Crusade’s honor against those he had deemed his trusted comrades. The impasse seemed to go on for minutes… until Eligor quickly drew his blade from its scabbard and before Harthal could even twitch his sword, the other paladin locked the weapons into a standstill. With an asking look, Eligor finally gave his answer.

“I knew you would be an obstacle the moment you and your army returned from Stratholme, Lord Paladin! You have followed the Grand Crusader without any questions ever since the order’s birth and you clearly never showed the courage to stand up to his leadership even at Stratholme! I’ll make it very clear to you, Truesight: lay down your sword and join us or fall by my hand!” Eligor cried, every last bit of his composure implying him to prepare for a fight. Harthal returned the favor but decided against attacking his opponent just yet. Osran looked at the Lord Paladin, praying he’d make the right choice for all of the crusaders.

“Why are you doing this, Eligor? Simply because some of your friends claim the Grand Crusader is incompetent and leads us with fear and intimidation? Is that it?” Harthal asked with a deep frown, looking as George also revealed his blade and started to walk towards him. His attention, however, returned soon back to the commander as he spoke.

“It is true that I would have hesitated if it weren’t for the fact that I was informed of all of this by Carlin Redpath who would never lie about things like these! But even then, our final decision came only after the news of your defeat and Lowriver’s assault on the High Inquisitor gives us more than enough reason to go through with this. For a long time, we have questioned the cruelty and fear being born within the order and now we and countless other officers across the Crusade have had enough! Today, the Argent Dawn will be born to guide us to the final victory against the Scourge!” Eligor concluded as he saw Harthal’s eyes grow ever more shocked by what was transpiring. He quickly cried to the Lord Paladin cursing the ties that still prevented him from rising from his chair.

“Can’t you see that this is all complete madness, Harthal?! You cannot let these madmen to break the Crusade when it most needs…” Osran started but he was soon cut short by a bolt of lightning that hit his abdomen. George walked towards him and spoke to the other man in apparent anger.

“Stay out of this, murderer. You’ve hurt enough people already!” He said before turning to look at Harthal again, narrowing his eyes greatly.

“We ask you this once, Lord Paladin. Give up your misguided path if you truly wish to serve the Light and our kingdom!” He said as he pointed his sword at Harthal. The latter looked at the two other paladins in fear, full well knowing the stakes here. He could simply do as he was told and join the two in their new order and to spare Light’s Hope from a bloodbath. He could tell himself he was only following other who knew the ways of the Light better than he himself did and keep his position within the Argent Dawn.

However, not once did Harthal actually even consider that option as he stared at Eligor. Who the hell did this man think he was? At no point had the Grand Crusader shown any signs of treachery or crushing dissent and certainly not one, cursed commander could claim he knew better than Dathrohan or Alexandros Mograine! The mere thought made Harthal frown deeply. Ever since its formation, Harthal had fought for the Scarlet Crusade and he would die as a brave defender of righteousness! Harthal sighed briefly before taking a slightly more relaxed but just as grave expression.

“Dawnbringer… George… I’m not sure what do you think gives you the right to question your betters. I can see you think Dathrohan and I led our troops to their defeat in Stratholme at least partly on purpose, don’t you? It’s far easier to just wait here to prepare to stab those in the back who gave their all to defend our Chapel! You may think yourself to be very clever and righteous, Eligor, but it is my duty to put a stop to your insanity!” Harthal cried, making the two other paladin think he was going to attack but with a quick move, he jumped backwards and with one, masterful strike cut the ropes holding Osran at bay. The paladin panted in surprise and shock as he looked at a small scratch that was caused by the other knight’s strike but Osran wasted no time rising to his feet, immediately trying to draw his sword before remembering he had been forced to give it up during his surrender. Seeing his companion’s situation, Harthal suddenly did something that surprised Osran greatly. He revealed another scabbard under his blood-red tabard and threw it at Osran quickly.

“That’s why I always keep additional weapons with me, Lowriver! Now, prove your worth and help me get rid of these traitors!” He cried as George and Eligor seemed to curse their failure and stupid oversight. Osran frowned at his unlikely ally, deeply surprised by Harthal’s move. Ever since their encounter at Stratholme, Osran had decided against trusting the Lord Paladin but… if he truly served the Scourge, it would have been in his interest to sow dissent within the Crusade! But in any case, any questioning about his motives would have to be left for later. Right now, these bastards would face the judgement of the Light they truly deserved!

Eligor, however, was not nearly as concerned as he appeared. He knew that as long as he fought near the Chapel, he could call as many reinforcements as he could and there was simply no way for his coup to fail. If things went in any way badly, he could always even the odds against the two powerful paladins. Yet, even then, he and George were almost evenly-matched with the Lord Paladin and the savior of Scarlet Monastery. This would be his moment to prove that the Argent Dawn was prepared to separate from the Crusade once and for all. Osran, however, had radically different plans as he answered to his ally’s words.

“Let us do this in the name of the Light, Lord Paladin! Let us lay waste to any who would bring ruin to the Crusade!” Osran shouted as he suddenly cast a powerful blessing upon Harthal, infusing him with the might of holiness. Harthal returned the favor and with a savage attack, Osran charged towards Raymond, casting a powerful bolt of exorcism upon his foe. The noble managed to stop the incoming spell but doing so allowed Osran to gain the early initiative in the melee. With urgent and courageous attacks, he swung his sword towards the other paladin’s chest, causing him to take a few steps back in slight shock. He, however, healed most of the damage almost immediately before turning back to Osran. The other knight had tried to capitalize upon his early advantage but he was too late to gain any decisive edge upon his foe. George smirked in expectation as he blocked Osran’s next attack before pushing him back finally.

“A valiant effort, Lowriver, but you need more than that to break my will!” Raymond cried as he suddenly started to glow with a bright Light. Osran looked at him for a moment in puzzlement but he suddenly realized what was coming. He suddenly formed a defensive aura around himself as he was being battered by one wave of the holy power after another. Avenging Wrath was a skill only few of the paladins ever learned and it was usually achieved by those who had devoted their life on defending those weaker than themselves. It was an extremely potent attack but Osran managed to withstand the onslaught completely. He wasted no time in then rushing towards his opponent, attacking with all the fury he could muster. Strike after strike hit Raymond’s sword and armor before Osran finally felt the Light become one with his very soul. He concentrated all of his strength into his blade and with one, massive swing hit the noble’s abdomen, sending him flying on his back into the ground.

This time, however, Osran wasn’t about to let his early advantage go to waste. He immediately ran towards the noble and prepared to end this fight once and for all. Even if Raymond had been a respected and honorable knight, Osran wouldn’t forge a traitor to the Crusade, not after everything that had happened. The aging knight could fell the lord trying to form a divine shield around himself but with a quick spell, Osran managed to stop his opponent’s casting. The fear that radiated from Raymond’s face confirmed to Osran that he had won the fight but before he could penetrate George’s torso with his sword, he suddenly felt a sudden pain in his back. The sacred strength of the Light burned its way into his back, immediately causing Osran to halt his attack. Despite the impact of Osran’s hit, the noble managed to regain his footing before Osran could recover from Eligor’s attack.

Harthal cursed without an end that he had left the commander with enough room to breathe to attack Osran on this crucial moment. He had had the option to let Osran finish George in peace and then help him finish Eligor but it was all over now. The Crimson Legionary had been injured and the course of the battle would very likely tilt on his foes’ advantage. Harthal had tried to avoid letting this fight spread any further but he certainly wouldn’t go down here just because of his pride. He quickly cried to Osran who had managed to stabilize his positions again his opponent.

“Follow me, Lowriver! We can’t win here!” He cried as he suddenly took a few steps backwards and with a quick move, cut a gaping hole into the tent’s wall. He immediately jumped into the nightly courtyard surrounding Light’s Hope, looking around himself in worry. Most of the troops loyal to him were injured and could hardly put up a believable defense but on the other hand, what else could he do? There was no way to prevent a full-fledged battle in this point so he might as well do all he could to prevail in it. With a loud cry, he cried into the night to call his comrades into the battle once again.

“Rise up, knights of the Scarlet Crusade! The sanctity of our order is under a threat by the hands of those who would betray our cause!”

Eneath looked into the ground, not able to do anything but think of the mess he now found himself in. Had he really done it? Had he attacked his uncle headlong and brought them both into this hellish situation? After all they had gone together, after he had practically grown under the supervision of his uncle… was this it?  A cold, slight breeze entered the tent from its door, causing small shivers creep down Eneath’s spine. Ever since the departure of the three knights, he had stayed alone, struggling to hold his fear and his guilt at bay.

The scenes of his childhood in Northdale flew before his eyes but at the same time, the memories of his dear uncle became one with the ruthless, violent monster he had seen attacking Fairbanks. How could Osran have done this? How could he resort to such cruelty? Eneath had never feared his uncle before but he could have sworn he would have killed him if Eligor and the others wouldn’t have interfered. Suddenly, his memories turned darker, more corrupted, more bitter. He didn’t recognize his uncle now but at what point had he become what he was now?

Had it truly happened only after joining the Crimson Legion? Had the greatest triumph of his life really ruined it all? Or… had such ruthlessness dwelled within Osran for far longer? Had the uncle of his memories actually been a lie and was tonight the first time he had actually seen the true Osran? Eneath shook his hand as he thought about the enraged gleam within the older Lowriver’s face when he had attacked him only a few minutes earlier? Eneath turned to look at the direction of the tent it had all happened, trying to calm down after the horrifying encounter. The only thing he knew was that nothing would ever be the same anything for him.

Eneath sat still for a time which seemed like forever until he finally heard something which forced him to snap out of his gloom. They were the Lord Paladin’s words! What could possibly threaten Light’s Hope? Had the Scourge managed to avoid the Crusade’s expedition all this time and were now on the offensive? Without a second of doubt, he rushed outside after grabbing his sword to see what was the cause of the alarm.

However, what met his gaze was something he hadn’t expected in the least. Quickly growing rows of knights were surrounding their comrades as the latter group prepared to stand their ground. The defenders managed to hold their ground but the tension was more than tangible in the air. Both of the armies seemed to know there was no way to escape a severe bloodbath anymore. Piercing the air could be heard Raymond’s voice which suddenly seemed much more confident and certain than before.

“My comrades and the former knights of the Scarlet Crusade! I know my words may come as a surprise to many of you but we have been forced to stay silent of our cause thus far because of fear. My friends, we have suspected it for a long while and I know many of you have had close comrades who have been claimed to have murdered by the Cult or fallen in battle without you knowing about it! Well, I have something to tell you about it! Our honored ally Carlin Redpath managed to send me a list of the knights who have been slaughtered by the Grand Crusader’s Crimson Legion itself!” Many gasps but also snorts of outrage could be heard among the crusaders. None wanted to fight but many of those paladins knew very well where all of the noble’s words were going to. After a few, fleeting seconds, Eligor continued from where George had left off.

“The Crimson Legion has ruled us with terror and intimidation ever since our order was born but even we stayed silent because we wanted to believe the final victory in Stratholme would have been worth this disgrace! However, we only received words of defeat and shame from Stratholme and the Grand Crusader was completely helpless to stop it! Not to even mention all the dishonorable things our leaders have done in the name of the Light!

Look at yourselves now: would Uther even recognize us anymore? We have abandoned our most beautiful principles and cut ourselves off from our old allies! Only our own pureness will keep the shadow at bay and with the help of the high elves and the dwarves, we will prevail in the end! I know many among us ´know this to be true and I have countless allies in all the major cities of the Crusade who will on this day rise against those who would lead us to ruin! Now, I ask you to take another step on the path of righteousness and join the Argent Dawn, a symbol of a new sunrise over Lordaeron!” The commander cried, causing countless cheers among his followers. The horde of wounded and confused knights, however, seemed to hesitate as they thought about what to do in this horrifying situation. However, the peace wasn’t maintained for long as Harthal’s voice soon penetrated the air.

“I warn you, knights of the Scarlet Crusade, do not believe the words of these traitors! The war is still ours despite this setback and everything else that has been said is a pure, sickening lie that only serves the cause of the Lich King! I know the Grand Crusader and he’s still as resolute and honorable as he always has! Now, don’t let these power-hungry fools divide our order as we will be easy prey for Kel’Thuzad in that case! Fight in the name of the Crusade and in the name of Lordaeron and carry the Scarlet Banner with pride!” He cried, knowing that his time to speak was much more limited than his foes’ but that simply couldn’t be helped now. If he took too long, he and Osran would fall under the threatening onslaught. A complete stillness descended upon the army after the next call from Raymond.

“All that wish to join the Dawn, surrender now and you will be spared! The rest of you will fall with your Grand Crusader!” He cried, causing the rest of the mutineers to close their ranks further around the fearful groups of crusaders.

Among that group stood Eneath with his mind working in overdrive. He faced two tall and muscular paladins and he didn’t doubt for a second the duo’s readiness to kill him for a second. However, that wasn’t the foremost thought circling within the young man’s head now. To be completely truthful, he had found Eligor’s words interesting, almost enticing as the recent developments within the Crusade certainly hadn’t inspired him to any degree. To simply be able to begin anew without the weight of the Crimson Legion or the horrifying mistrust all over again… a hopeful feeling rose to Eneath’s mind as he thought of the ability to escape the hell the Crusade had been turning into.

Yet, there were other thoughts that swirled within Eneath’s mind as well. Was he prepared to risk an internal war within the Crusade in the hopes of overthrowing the Grand Crusader for good? And even worse, would he be willing to abandon any hopes of reconciling with his uncle? Eneath knew more than well Osran would never forgive such a move and the uncle and nephew would become enemies for the rest of their lives. Eneath briefly sniffed at the cool wind and gazed at the moon in the sky above. In his heart, Eneath knew he had only one choice. Osran had made his decision and he would have to make his own, regardless of his uncle’s failures. Eneath could only barely contain his emotions as he heard his sword hit the ground, followed by a thud as he fell to his knees.

Osran looked in horror and disgust as he saw groups of the crusaders lay down their arms in front of the overwhelming show of force. Nearly one fifth of the crusaders had surrendered before the enemy and even if most of them were seriously wounded, that sight still infuriated Osran without an end. He could hardly hide his anger but even then, his duty was still unfulfilled. He would serve the Crusade until the very end. A slight smile rose to the aging paladin’s face as he saw a few of the knights stabbing their former comrades before the Dawn led them to safety. It suited them just as well but he calmed his voice somewhat before crying to the remaining members of the Crusade.

“Do not leave this outrage go unpunished, my comrades! Drive these traitors from Light’s Hope!” Osran yelled as he prepared to disengage from his melee with Raymond and Eligor. He would lead the resistance against these turncoats himself and he would make sure they would prevail. In only a few seconds, another cry could be heard among the gathered crowd, one that ended any hopes of reconciliation.

“All who wish to join us have already done so! Finish off the servants of the corrupt Grand Crusader!” One of the men cried as he charged towards one of the knights still loyal to the Crusade and with an overpowering hit, severed his head from his shoulders immediately. Chaos broke down immediately throughout the whole area surrounding the Chapel as a former comrade fought against another, each of them facing moments of despair and rage as they met an old friend on this field of battle.

The Crusade was severely outnumbered and their position was volatile beyond words. They were surrounded from both sides. It was clear to everyone present that the defenders were done for if they couldn’t secure their flanks. If they failed in that goal, they would all be slaughtered without mercy. None of this was lost on Harthal, of course, and he immediately turned to Osran.

“Lowriver, try to lead our left wing away from that trap and I’ll see what I can do around here! But be quick as we are running out of time!” He cried, earning a quick nod from Osran who did as he was told. He fought off two rebel knights as he rushed towards his comrades who were clearly fighting for their very lives. He cast a powerful consecration into the ground below his foes, knowing it would allow his own attack to be even a bit more effective. His assault had gone unnoticed by the rebels and some of them were clearly taken aback as their very feet began to burn with righteous fire. Osran cut down three of them before they could even notice what was happening and the strength of his spells made the insurgent knights think they were threatened by a larger group of attackers. Osran saw this immediately and cried to his comrades.

“Push forward, now! This is your only chance!” He cried and to his relief, he could see that some of the trapped crusaders heard his words and concentrated all their attack in breaking the confused group of paladins, thus shattering their circle of death once and for all. Osran hardly felt the series of wounds he received by the fierce defense as he knew that his frenzied attack was the one thing giving his comrades a chance. He was one of the Grand Crusader’s closest servants and he’d do his all to prove his worth to the paladin of legend.

“Now, crush their ranks! In the name of Lordaeron!” He cried as he saw to his triumph that increasing numbers of crusaders were pouring out of the deathtrap, turning the tables among the turncoats and forcing them back, thus starting the process of stabilization of the frontline between the two armies. Harthal had managed to weaken the other wing of the Dawn just enough to buy a chance for the Crusade their as well. Any hopes the rebels had of an easy, effortless victory had evaporated during the first minute of the battle but that didn’t change the fact that the mutineers still held a clear numerical advantage.

Harthal knew this as well but to his concern, no easy ways of reversing this state of affairs could be seen anywhere nearby. The two leaders of the rebellion were far from the frontlines and the Lord Paladin knew very well that the Dawn’s troops were in any ways weaker as paladins than the Crusade’s. However, it wasn’t long before he noticed something interesting nearby. It was some kind of storehouse but it was what lay inside that really caught his attention. There were rows after rows of some metallic trash but also some weird-looking guns that he knew could only be of Gnomish origin. Maybe… just maybe he could find something of use among them.

The Lord Paladin quickly disengaged from his fight and ran towards the warehouse and after a of seconds of searching, he found something of great interest. It was a small red-colored weapon and he had absolutely zero idea of its purpose but it mattered little now. He quickly grabbed the gun and ran back into the fight and with a slightly fearful look on his face, pulled the trigger. He gasped in shock as he saw a great wall of electricity  shoot out from the weapon, quickly engulfing several of the rebels under its horrifying power.
One by one, the knights seemed to fall under the Gnomish invention and for a moment, he thought he’d be able to turn the tables on his enemies. However, it was only a few seconds until those thoughts were swept away as an arrow hit his wrist, immediately causing him to let loose of the gun, breaking it to pieces. Harthal cursed as he looked at his injured wrist and the ruined weapon but at least he had caused enough harm upon the rebels to stabilize the situation somewhat.

Yet, Osran knew stabilization simply wasn’t enough anymore. More of his comrades were falling by the minute and despite Harthal’s impromptu attack, the Dawn was grinding the battle towards an eventual victory. Osran cursed as he received another hit to his chest, even if he returned the favor immediately to his opponent. Despite the never-ending fighting against the rebels, Osran knew he’d have to bring the fight back to Eligor and Raymond and take them out. Even if the Dawn had spread its tentacles all around the Crusade, it was important to get rid of their commanders immediately. There was still a chance for him to ensure that this Argent Dawn would never become anything more than a name symbolizing treachery and dishonor. The aging paladin could see Raymond not far to his right and Osran knew immediately he’d have to take him out now if he wanted to seriously harm the Dawn’s morale.

It didn’t take long for him to clear his way further towards him and it soon became clear that Raymond wasn’t oblivious to his location. The lord was a mighty paladin on his own right and the righteous fury in his eyes confirmed that he was ready to this challenge that had been left unfinished earlier. He immediately left his position in the battle and started to run towards Osran, determined to take the Crimson Legionary out for good. The Legion was the embodiment of the Crusade’s corruption and Osran was the man he’d have to get rid of to banish his taint from Light’s Hope forever. He waived his sword towards Osran and cried to him in a loud voice.

“This is it, Lowriver! Prove me that you still have enough honor to fall like a man!” He cried as he stopped before Osran as if to investigate his opponent for a moment. Osran returned the gesture and narrowed his eyes for a brief moment. He could still remember the respect he used to have for this paladin but it seemed like he had been the real architect behind this cursed treachery. Despite honor he had displayed earlier, he was going down today. Osran’s voice shook as he spoke to his opponent while keeping an eye on his surroundings.

“I’d advise you to abandon such false hopes immediately, lord George. My duty forces me to succeed but on the other hand, it would be a folly to expect you to know anything about duty or honor, isn’t it my lord?” Osran spoke the two last words with complete disgust, hardly being able to wait until he could put an end to his opponent. He had seldom felt this kind of outrage as he couldn’t even begin to fathom the depth of the Dawn’s treachery. Still, he kept his calm until Raymond answered to him again.

“Duty and blind following of an incompetent madman are two different things, Lowriver, but how can one who has spent his whole life telling himself lies tell that difference? Yet, if you hold any real love for the Light and Lordaeron anymore, know that your death will be a necessary stepping stone to saving our homeland!” Raymond cried as he leaped forward, swinging his sword with a violent force. Osran could hardly contain the strike with his sword but just mere inches before his foe’s weapon would have cut into his flesh, Osran could feel George’s attack stop. He took a brief breath to calm himself down from the threatening situation. Soon, he started to push the other paladin back and regain his standing against the noble.

Osran smirked slightly as he locked Raymond to a standstill and then straightened his hand to point at the knight’s abdomen. With a barely-contained smile, Osran channeled the power of the Light at his opponent, the sparkles illuminating his face as he looked at his opponent’s struggles. A look of horror and growing fear could be read from Raymond’s face as he felt his torso literally burning under Osran’s attack. Not once did the Crimson Legionary question his joy at Raymond’s suffering, his hate towards him hiding all the other emotions away. However, the battle wasn’t quite as over as Osran had thought as Raymond managed to regain the control over his mind just in time to prevent the final blow against him.

With a pained expression on his face, the noble managed to suddenly concentrate all of the powers in his command to stop his enemy’s attack once and for all. Osran gasped in shock as he felt his powers being pushed back towards him, sending him flying into the ground with a violent force. However, as if being driven by some unknown force, Osran forced himself back to his feet before Raymond managed to reach him. Yet, it was at this time when the real shock descended upon the fighting knights. Slowly but surely, the aging crusader became swallowed by an aura of deep, dark hue of Light which stopped Raymond’s advance immediately. Everyone present could only stare in shock as a whirlwind of sacred power surrounded Osran. At first, it seemed like an ordinary Divine Storm but soon, the perfect circle seemed to start ripping apart, sending flickers of the deadly power all around the fighters, regardless of whether they served the Crusade or the Dawn.

The paladin himself had concentrated all of his attention on Raymond who seemed to hesitate for a short while about his attack after seeing Osran’s response to his counterattack. This man was the embodiment of all the things wrong with this world and Osran knew he’d destroy him once and for all. Nothing else mattered at this point and he didn’t even notice what he was doing. Men were being burned to death all around in a show of brutality and strength that few paladin would ever achieve during their times. Osran looked like a paladin of legend as he prepared to strike his foe down but the sight’s majesty was horribly degenerated.

There was nothing graceful about the way Osran used the Light and it was clear to everyone he wielded it only as a vessel for his own hate and the power was being battered everywhere indiscriminately. Osran himself seemed darkened in the middle of his storm, his face a mask of vengeance and mercilessness. The Light itself seemed alarmed by what was happening but Osran’s complete mastery over this power prevented it from resisting his will in any way. Not one of his comrades, Tareth, Veria or Valdemar would have recognized this vessel of rage and twisted sense of duty as the man who had once served all the good in this world with the vigor he had.

This sight of unrestrained rage made Raymond to take four steps backwards, his courage wavering slightly as he saw the paladin before himself. Whether it was the power Osran displayed or his fury that frightened him, even he couldn’t say. But even then, he couldn’t let fear take a hold within his heart now. The noble had, like all of his comrades, devoted his entire life into the service of the Light and how could he ever even hope to regain his right to call himself a paladin if he gave up in the face of one other man? Raymond frowned as the sparkles of Osran’s spell flew to his face but he raised a shield of his own to defend himself against the worst blows. Raymond took a brief sigh of resignation until he finally made his move.

A golden shield of Light left his hand at a great force, not leaving Osran any time to rebuke the fierce attack. The paladin, however, didn’t need such a defense now. One wave of Light destroyed the lord’s attack before it reached Osran, causing the aging paladin to finally call to Raymond with a loud voice.

“Give up now, treacherous cur, and the Light may yet show you some mercy when you leave this world. Even then, I hope it won’t.” Osran said as the memory of Eneath’s betrayal again flowed through his mind, knowing it was the influence of these kinds of knights who had caused his nephew and all these misguided souls to move away from the right path. Everything Abbendis and Dathrohan had been true in the end and it was his earlier blindness and weakness that had led to this tragedy. He suddenly raised his hand and cast another judgement at his opponent, looking contently as he let out another scream of pain.

It was in this moment that the noble knew he had to make his stand or fall before the Crimson Legionary. Despite Osran’s power, George knew that wielding the Light wasn’t only about one’s skill or brute force. If one’s whole heart was out into his deed, a knight could stand against the worst of enemies and even prevail. Raymond couldn’t deny his guilt at being one of the architects of this massacre but right now, he was defending all of his comrades against the vengeful threat and he had earned his name by being able to sacrifice his all to defend those who couldn’t defend themselves. The noble let his jaw drop a little as he looked at the lightening sky, just wondering about the glories of the day the new dawn would bring with it. His followers, his friends deserved a chance to live through it safe from the imminent danger and filled with sacred determination, Raymond could feel his courage return to his body. Just as Osran was about to strike him down, the lord suddenly found his courage and after a few seconds, the rays of the new morning shining around him, he stopped Osran’s attack once and for all. Suddenly, he moved closer to Osran and answered to his massive wave of Light with his own, gaining the upper hand against the Crimson Legionary. He cried to Osran as he dealt his first blow to his foe.

“This ends here, Lowriver! You’ve managed to twist the Light’s sanctity for long enough!” He cried as Osran suddenly felt something which made his blood run cold. Slowly but surely, the Light around him started to dissipate alongside with his power. Whereas his opponent’s power only grew, Osran suddenly felt weaker than he could remember in all his life. He had never seen the Light desert him before… no matter what he did, it seemed like his very lifeblood was sucked away from him by some unknown force. The paladins around him saw this rare display even if the fighting around the two armies didn’t stop for a second.

It wasn’t many seconds before Osran had returned to his normal state but he couldn’t summon the Light to aid he in his fight anymore. The crusader cursed many times as he attempted to even reinforce his weapon with all his power but not even a glimmer of gold was anywhere to be seen. For the briefest of moments, Osran was close to accepting this was it but… he simply couldn’t. Whether he could wield the Light or not mattered little in the wider array of events and no matter what happened, Osran knew he’d take his opponent down. He took a quick breath as he prepared for his final, desperate attack.

Raymond was just about to finish his foe with his newfound strength, believing to have broken Osran’s spirit once and for all. He knew the advantage a paladin held over an ordinary soldier but he couldn’t guess at this moment of triumph that it would be his overconfidence which would be his downfall. His eyes widened as Osran suddenly leaped towards him, dodging each and every attack the lord attempted to cast upon him. In this moment, Raymond was taken aback by Osran’s determination and before he could regain control of his thoughts, he felt a horrifying pain in his stomach. Osran gritted his teeth together as he felt his sword sink into the cursed traitor’s abdomen, causing the glow around him to begin dying almost immediately. The Crimson Legionary spat as he prepared to pull his blade away from Raymond, speaking to him one last time with a wavering voice.

“It truly does end here, lord Raymond. Tell my regards to Arthas and Jaina when they’ll join you in the hell reserved for traitors.” He said as he took his sword away from his opponent’s abdomen, then quickly moving to severing the noble’s head from his shoulders to finalize his task once and for all. Many eyes turned to look at Raymond’s head rolling into the ground and to the form now standing beside the lifeless body who had been one of the most respected knights of the Scarlet Crusade. Osran wiped the fallen lord’s blood away from his face and then called to the fighters around him.

“This will be your prize, you cursed servants of the Scourge. This fate will indeed serve you well…” He said as prepared to join the fight as he stopped in slight shock. Only now did he see just how the battle was progressing and it certainly wasn’t something he had expected or wanted to witness. There lied nearly twice as many crusaders in the ground than soldiers of the Dawn which was more than to be expected considering their dire numbers. Raymond’s fall had returned some hope into the Crusade but it was more than evident to everyone that the battle would eventually end in the defenders’ defeat.

Nobody was more aware of this fact than Harthal. He thanked the Light that Osran had regained control over himself and won his duel with the noble but even then, it bought the Crusade only face-saving tale to tell the High General. The Light’s Hope was lost and Harthal knew there was only one thing left to do. He suddenly cried with a loud voice to a large group of crusaders near him, knowing time was off the essence.

“Go secure the stables! We have to get as many of the horses as we can and flee to Tyr’s Hand!” Harthal remembered very well the Scourge’s alleged attack there but what choice did he have? The city was his only option if he wanted to save at least some of his followers. The fight was lost and the only thing he could anymore was to salvage at least something from the jaws of defeat. Raymond’s death widened his window of opportunity slightly but it would close completely very soon. Eligor stood near him but the commander was apparently too drawn into combat to hear his words.

Osran, however, heard the Lord Paladin’s words clearly and at first, his mind rebelled against them greatly. He wanted nothing less than to flee in the face of enemy again but he couldn’t deny the wisdom in his comrade’s words. Fighting on would mean certain death and rob the Crusade of its last hopes to crush the nascent Dawn in the coming days. After a deep sigh, Osran’s turned towards the tables and called on a group of knights to follow him.

“Help me get us away from this slaughterhouse! Our time to have our revenge will come soon enough!” He cried as he swung his word at a nearby knight, ending his battle once and for all. Many of his comrades seemed to hesitate to follow the man who had seemingly lost the favor of the Light once and for all. Yet, they still couldn’t find a good enough reason to disobey his direct order. Osran frowned in despair as he moved forward to cut down the horde of traitors between him and rescue, his loss of his powers making things seem even grimmer than before. The bearded paladin was even further disturbed by his inability to cure the wounds his opponents were causing him but he was simply forced to fight on while disregarding his injuries for now. At least until he heard a voice which caught his attention completely.

“Is this how it’s going to end, uncle? So you really are going to fight on regardless of the cost? Even at the risk of killing all of those who trusted in you and losing your own connection to the Light?” A young voice asked on Osran’s right, causing him to stand still for a moment. His eyes met the gaze of his nephew who was standing among a row of the fighters of the Dawn. Osran hesitated for a short while before answering to Eneath.

“It’s such a shame, Eneath. All your youth, your father and I tried to teach you to act with honor and duty to your family and to Lordaeron. I’m truly sorry, Eneath… THAT YOU LEARNED NOTHING AT ALL!” Osran said as he attempted to empower his blade with the power of the Light until he again was forced to face the grim reality. His sword retained its dark grey color and the Crimson Legionary was met with looks of contempt and pity, from even amongst his own soldiers. A paladin without the power of one was no good to anyone and Osran knew it better than most. Still, that fact simply couldn’t be helped now. Eneath narrowed his eyes in sorrow as he face Osran who looked completely torn between his options on how to proceed in his current situation.

“No, I’m sorry you never had the courage to fight what you have become. And, well, I think you said everything you have to say the last time we met, didn’t you Osran?” Eneath asked, his voice revealing the depth of the young man’s despair. Every part of Osran’s composure proved he was right as the depth of his twisted thoughts became clear to those around him. The aging knight would have wanted to make his nephew pay for his words dearly but even now, he could hear Harthal cry near the stables, leading his troops forward without any regard for his own misgivings. Osran merely glanced at the younger man and spoke to him under his breath without any hint of regret or sorrow. He no longer saw his beloved nephew in Eneath, only a cursed traitor to the Light.

“We will meet again, Eneath, then I’ll redeem our house’s honor once and for all. You will fall like the rest of your friends on that day. Soldiers of the Crusade, march forward!” He cried when he received a heavy blow to his side which stopped his advance for a while. However, despite the wound, it didn’t take long for Osran to beat his foe. Right now, Osran thanked all the righteous things in this world that he had spent so many hours honing his pure skill with his blade in addition to his efforts to command the Light. Despite his sudden weakness, Osran was relieved to see that the crusaders still fought alongside him as one.

“Slaughter the horses, now! We have to prevent them from escaping at any cost!” Eligor cried as he saw growing groups of crusaders escape into the dark of the night with their new steeds. The commander cursed he had overlooked this possibility as he had never expected this kind of resistance from the remaining crusaders. He had truly expected most of them to surrender immediately and the rest being far too demoralized to put on any meaningful resistance. But here he was, looking at the face of victory but not the total victory he had sought for. Raymond was dead and the bulk of the forces still loyal to the Grand Crusaders were on the brink of fleeing with their lives. The lord’s sacrifice heartened him greatly as he had saved the lives of dozens of his comrades with his own life. He would deserve to be remembered as the first leader of the Dawn for his courage and help in recruiting the first fighters of the Dawn. He had always been Eligor’s equal but he would be known as more than that among the generations to come.

Harthal knew the situation as well and he was more than happy to see that the stables were secured for now and thus the horses were safe from any immediate threat. Even better, Osran’s group was just about to join his, making the Crusade’s defense even stronger. Nearly half of his troops had fled at this point and Harthal smiled as he thought about his situation. He turned towards Osran and cried to him with a loud voice.

“Bring your knights here, Lowriver! It’s time for us to go!” The Lord Paladin cried as he suddenly released a wide barrage of Light to the knights around him before turning around himself once and for all. Osran’s group took his positions for the last few seconds as Harthal jumped on a horse of his own while overseeing the evacuation. After the last of the crusaders had found a mount, he suddenly grabbed a torch from the stables’ wall, throwing it into a pile of hays which were left for the horses. In a matter of minutes, the fires would engulf the entire building and scare the remaining animals away. He then forced his horse into a gallop and cried to his troops.

“Now, head towards Tyr’s hand! Let nothing slow you down!”

Eligor, however, wasn’t ready to give up himself just yet. He could very well see that most of the crusaders were now out of his reach but he could still at least take down the last dozen or so of them and to weaken their forces at least a bit further when he had the chance. He cried to his followers as he raised his sword, hoping to catch as many knight’s attention as he simply could.

“Cut the last traitors’ escape that with your strength! Form a ring of divine land around them!” At least two dozen of paladins did as they were told and they looked with pleasure as five of the paladins fell to the ground, two of them seriously. And what was best for them, one of the five was the cursed monster who had slaughtered lord Raymond George.

Deep gasps escaped Osran’s mouth as he hit the ground, its impact making him fight for air. As he raised his gaze from the ground, he saw the ground around him growing red, the righteous punishment hanging over the ring he and four of his comrades were lying on. A few of the other knights turned to look at their comrades in fear but realized there was nothing they could anymore for them. Osran backed down towards his comrades, looking in fear as he saw the horde of the renegade knights approaching him on a great pace.

As he glanced at his companions, Osran could sense the sense of dread and despair that hung over the small group of knights. He wanted to believe this wasn’t the end but Osran knew that was only wishful thinking without his powers. The paladin prepared to recite his last prayers to the Light when he suddenly felt something happening. It seemed like a distant ray of light warming his hand on a cold winter’s morning, slowly growing in power as the shining grew more powerful.

At first Osran disregarded it as some kind of hallucination caused by his mind but soon he realized that wasn’t the case. In shock, he turned to look at his hand and saw a faint glow of gold shimmering from it. At first, Osran couldn’t believe what he saw happening as he had already accepted the fact that he would be lost for good to the Light. But now… now it seemed like it wouldn’t be the case at all. Osran frowned in deep confusion about what was happening but suddenly, he snapped out of his fears as he remembered his situation. He suddenly turned around and cast his own spell above the circle of holy wrath and cried to his companions.

“We don’t have any more time to waste! Go now if you want to live!” He cried as he saw his comrades listen to his advise. Osran followed them immediately as his power prevented the enemy’s magic from hurting the crusaders. He could hear Eligor giving orders far behind him but at this point, all that mattered was to escape from this hellhole and save the dream called the Scarlet Crusade. Osran smirked slightly as he realized that with any luck, he and his comrades could vanish into the dark night without a trace, paving a way for them to their rescue.

The crusader could feel his heart beating in his chest as he heard the dead grass getting crushed under his very feet, his thoughts slowly beginning to clear up. Yet, there wasn’t any time for giving the past any thought. All of the crusaders concentrated their entire being into running, knowing there was no other way to survive. Bit by bit, the four men lost their chasers and after a few minutes, it became clear for everyone that they had managed to shed their enemies away from their line of sight. Osran cursed that the Crusade had lost their stronghold but at the very least, the tables could be turned in the future and on that day, the traitors, among them Eneath, would regret they ever abandoned the pure path. 

With the birth of the Argent Dawn, the unity of the Crusade has irrevocably been shattered. Will there be any hope left for the latter order to stage a comeback or will Osran be forced to death of his lifelong dream? This story is nearing its final stages and I hope you’ve enjoyed the ride thus far. I appreciate any reviews and see you with the next chapter.


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Re: Under the Scarlet Banner
« Reply #42 on: October 27, 2018, 09:34:41 AM »
The Hour of Defeat

A deep look of disgust appeared on the High General’s face as he pulled his sword away from one traitors’ chest. He panted slightly as he looked at the group of dead paladins around him, cursing them all with his entire mind. The central parts of Tyr’s Hand resembled a large open-air slaughterhouse, the deep scent of blood penetrating the air. The only thing that made Abbendis breath at least a bit more easily was that the infernal noises of death, pain and taunts had finally stopped, replaced by silence and the forced whimpers of the wounded and the dying. The general spat in disgust as he cried around himself.

“All the survivors, report to me! After that, provide me with a full report about the list of traitors!” He raged, kicking the dead knight of the Argent Dawn in never-ending rage. How the hell did these morons dare to betray the Crusade in a time like this? It was bad enough that they had attacked him and many other crusaders in their sleep, attempting to gain the upper hand in the most disgusting and dishonorable way possible but the fact that they had just made Kel’Thuzad’s job that much easier… It was only with great efforts that Abbendis managed to avoid beheading the corpse near him in anger as he saw large groups of paladins starting to gather around him.

That sight made Abbendis frown in disappointment and even in fear. Nearly half of his army had either joined the rebels or slain in the following battle. Abbendis’ breaths grew deeper and more forced as the final survivors saluted him. If this was really all that was left… then the Crusade’s situation had turned from bad to a total catastrophe. He prepared to speak to the gathered troops when he saw a familiar figure walk towards him from the army, clearly having something to say. However, Abbendis was the first one to speak as he brought his fingers to his forehead.

“It’s as if they were more than happy to do the Scourge’s own work for them, Demetria. I always knew that cursed Tyrosus and Zverenhoff were unreliable but to think they’d do something like this… May the Light help us.” He said, not seeing real reason to hide his sentiments from his knights, knowing each of them felt exactly the same way. He could see the many looks of outrage from his followers, many of them being forced to fight their comrades, their friends… and some even their own brothers and sisters. It was clear this was a massive blow to all of them, one that even Abbendis found hard to overcome. The priestess stopped hear the High General, looking at him in worry.

“Even… even I couldn’t sense this coming. They must have trained for a long time for a betrayal like this! My general, we may have beaten them here but Zverenhoff and some others are still on the run! We cannot let these traitors to survive through this!” She cried, astonished that her unusual gift of sensing future events through the Light had failed completely in the face of such a massive rebellion.  Abbendis didn’t even turn to look at her as he counted the survivors in his mind. Four hundred knights and members of the garrison… that was but a tiny portion of the force that had marched for Stratholme only a few days earlier. Even the High General’s spirit was close to failing at that thought but even then, he had faced total annihilation before and this situation wasn’t any different! He wouldn’t let these spineless cowards break his spiri!. He finally glanced at Demetria and snapped at her in utter rage.

“Then go prepare the mounts for seventy of us and stop just standing around there! Time is off the essence!” He cried, leaving zero ground for disagreement for the cleric. He then turned to his followers and cried to them in utter rage.

“Gather a group of seventy volunteers to hunt those bastards down! They caught us by surprise but I promise to you with all my honor, they won’t get away with this! We will hunt them down and make them wish it was the Scourge who found them! Those willing to see this debacle through, follow me!” He cried as he prepared to follow Demetria towards the stables. Many among the survivors seemed hesitate slightly about going after the High General, nearly all of them bearing fresh wounds from the recent battle. However, the chance to bring the traitors to justice after this nightmare was a welcome one for many and one by one, the group of knights following Abbendis started to grow. The highest-ranked officer didn’t pay them any heed, his whole mind focused on his coming showdown with the cursed Tyrosus. He would make him pay for every, death, ever pain that his treachery had brought upon his order and he wouldn’t grant him the peace of death until he had told him absolutely everything about this sickening conspiracy. He’d…

Suddenly, Abbendis’ thoughts were interrupted by the loud squeaking of Tyr’s Hand’s gates behind him, a sound that he certainly hadn’t expected right now. After all that had happened, he could have sworn that none of the gatekeepers would be stupid enough to let anyone in. He frowned deeply as he turned around to face the newcomers, ready to either hear any news about the Scourge or to end their earthly wandering here and now. Even through the darkness, he could see rows of knights entering the city, a sight that didn’t immediately stand well with the High General. If this was some cursed attempts by this Argent Dawn to infiltrate Tyr’s Hand, he’d show them just how badly they were mistaken.

However, as he approached the newcomers, his expression grew only darker. What in earth were the Lord Paladin and Crimson Legionary Lowriver doing here? They were supposed to be guarding Light’s Hope from the Scourge, not follow him to Tyr’s Hand! At the back of the High General’s mind, sickening thoughts started to form that made him want to attack somebody right away but he knew more than well his charge. Despite his brewing rage, he kept his voice relatively normal as he cried to Harthal who was just dismounting his steed.

“Explain immediately your presence here, Lord Paladin! I gave you a direct order so why aren’t you defending Light’s Hope? Speak!” He cried, the beaten look in Harthal’s eyes making him even more uncomfortable. Osran stopped near the two but let the Lord Paladin answer the question. The latter frowned in sorrow as he looked at the corpses lying all around him, knowing immediately what had happened here.

“I did all I could, High General but Light’s Hope is lost. And looking at this slaughter, I think you know what happened there too. I’m sorry but we were simply outnumbered and overpowered.” Harthal said, looking as Abbendis stared at him, his face showing only slight signs of his true emotions but his hands shook with withheld anger. It took a few seconds before he answered and when he did, his voice wavered in disbelief.

“Light’s Hope was yours to guard, Truesight! You know very well its worth to us and a crusader’s charge is to defend his cause with his life. I can’t help but see that you have betrayed your oath, Lord Paladin! What do you have to say in your defense?” He said, bringing his hand to his sword’s hilt, preparing to spread justice if it went to that. All his life, Abbendis had stood his ground and gave his all to defend the Crusade’s honor. He had faced foes while being outnumbered ten-to-one and prevailed and he wasn’t going to accept anything less from the other officers of the Crusade. He was slightly surprised as he heard Osran speak next.

“With all due respect, High General, we had nothing to gain by staying there. We were being slaughtered one by one and if we had fought to the end, only the Lich King would have benefited from it! We did get rid of one of their leaders though. I am more than saddened to tell that the once-honorable Lord Raymond George was one of their main leaders.” Osran said, fighting his own emotions as he spoke. His face was a mask of stillness but inside, the destructive feeling of betrayal and sorrow dwelled.

The memory of his last meeting with Eneath ached within his mind even if that was only buried under compassion and regret. Eneath had proven to be a traitor to the Light and whether it had been due to his decision or being introduced to wrong ideas, it mattered little. Eneath had betrayed his father’s memory and his uncle’s trust as well as shamed their entire family. Osran knew their next meeting would be their last time but he owned it to his brother to put his failed son down. Abbendis, however, knew nothing and cared even less about what was going within Osran’s head, his attention being focused on the implications of this development. A clear curse left his lips as he prepared to give his answer.

“Even lord George? Screw them all… what madness has taken hold of our noble order? Lowriver, you said he was one of their leaders. Who were the other ones?”” Abbendis asked, taking slight joy from the fact that at least one of the architects of this outrage had been dealt with. It wasn’t much but perhaps the loss of somebody as prolific as the fallen noble could break the traitors’ morale. Harthal frowned as his mind drifted back into the moments when he was forced to raise his blade against the knights he had just minutes earlier
deemed as precious and loyal comrades. At least he could now make sure they would be brought to justice by rallying the Crusade to end their madness once and for all.

“We met only one other of their leaders, one who seemed to be their leader. To my greatest regret, I must tell that Eligor Dawnbringer is one of the ones who brought this catastrophe against our beloved order. They also mentioned that Carlin Redpath was an integral part of their plot but of that, we have no proof.” He said with a heavy voice, hating each and every one of the words he said. If only he could wish this night away… so much trust and so many friendships had been broken and all for nothing. Abbendis frown only deepened as he suddenly turned around and hit the nearby tree with all his might, having to have something he could funnel his hate into. He then panted for a few seconds before turning back to Harthal.

“Of course he was. The traitors started their attack by raiding our abbey and recruiting dozens of the wounded to their ranks! Most of them were too badly wounded but not Redpath, no… He fought like in his old days before fleeing along with the others… along with Zverenhoff and Tyrosus!” He cried, making Harthal and Osran all the more miserable. Both of them had thought Tyrosus to be practically at death’s door but apparently those fears had been misplaced. But the news that both the famed Maxwell Tyrosus and the long-wavering noble had left the order… both of them knew very well the depth of this blow. Osran’s hand tightened around his sword’s hilt as he yearned to strike down the cursed traitors with his own hand. He bowed towards Abbendis and said the only thing he could in this situation.

“By my honor, I swear none of them will escape the righteous retribution. Whatever is your order, know that the Crimson Legion stands behind you, High General.” Osran said, hoping to finally get some clarity into everything that was going on. He could see that Abbendis already had something in his mind and he certainly was ready to follow him to battle if that was what he ordered. However, the answer came even faster and in a more urgent fashion than even Osran had expected.

“Then turn your damned horses around and join my troops! Regardless of how many poor fools the Dawn has recruited, I will not allow them to escape my justice any longer!” He cried, resuming his preparations for the coming battle. Harthal, however, saw the fault in his command immediately and he stopped the general from ending this conversation just yet.

“But you cannot launch an offensive with these forces! It would leave Tyr’s Hand open for the Scourge’s attack!” The Lord Paladin cried, happy to see that the earlier rumors of the imminent threat on Tyr’s Hand had been false, most likely fabricated by the Dawn, but that still didn’t change the fact that the Crusade’s forces were running critically low. However, Abbendis wasn’t about to let that fact stand in the way of his plans as no matter how he tried to look at the situation, he saw only one way forward.

“And if we let those parasites occupy the Light’s Hope any further, we will be crushed slowly but surely! Our unity is something we simply have to preserve! We leave a small garrison behind and they’ll alert us with gnomish fireworks if the Scourge attacks! Now, stop wasting any more of my time!” He cried as he joined the rest of the knights in mounting up for the coming battle. Harthal sighed slightly as he looked at the High General, full well knowing the danger of Abbendis’ plan. The Crusade still enjoyed numerical advantage over the renegade Dawn but not by a wide margin. It wouldn’t be much of an effort for the Scourge to crush what remained of the humans’ forces after the coming bloodbath. The Lord Paladin sighed slightly at that thought as he turned at Osran.

“Well, I guess we have no choice, Lowriver. I trust you are ready for what is to come?” He said, obviously referring to Osran’s brief losing of his powers. The Crimson Legionary frowned as he thought of those horrifying minutes. He couldn’t even begin to fathom what had happened back then but at least he was still in full command of his powers. That was all that mattered right now.

“I am Lord Paladin. I’d be cursed if I allowed such incidents prevent me from taking my righteous vengeance!” He said, earning a brief nod from Harthal. Both of them knew that the Dawn was a direct threat to everything the Crusade stood for and neither of them would rest until it was crushed once and for all.

“… and to our highest regret, we were unsuccessful in our efforts, commander Dawnbringer. We were crushed in Tyr’s Hand.” Lord Maxwell Tyrosus said as he looked at Eligor. The commander frowned deeply as he looked at Carlin and Maxwell, highly disappointed by those news. Not only had he failed to utterly annihilate the Crusade on Light’s Hope but his allies’ efforts had also proven to be a disappointment. He shook his head slightly as he quickly glanced behind himself at the piles of fallen fighters of the Dawn and Crusade who were thrown into the large pyres that illuminated the entire Chapel with its dancing flames. He then turned back at Tyrosus, speaking to him silently.

“That is a real disappointment, lord Tyrosus. I and George trusted the city’s capture for you because we truly trusted in your ability to…” He began but he didn’t get a chance to finish his comment before the taller man walked towards him and stopped only when he towered over the other officer. His voice seethed as he looked at Eligor and gave his answer.

“You do not have the right to criticize me, Dawnbringer! You were not there to face the High General and his fanatical followers with half of your back broken only a day earlier! I fought by the Highlord’s in Naxxramas, giving my everything to vanquishing the cursed undead from our lands while you simply sat here, waiting for a chance to strike! If we hadn’t already planned this earlier, I might just as well decided not to join your little plot!” Tyrosus said while hitting Eligor to his chest once, only his honor preventing him from showing this upstart his rightful place. The commander was taken aback by the noble’s reaction but inside, he realized his disappointment with him. He was just completely confused by George’s death and the Dawn’s failure to win a total victory outright. He shook his head slightly but he wasn’t about to simply about to apologize and beg for the other officer’s apology. His pride was still too precious for him.

“I risked my life to clean the Crusade’s filth from this holiest of places and many of our comrades fell by my very side! Among them was lord George who fell by the cursed Lowriver’s hand! The fight in Tyr’s Hand might have been larger than the one here but I will not hear my or my respected comrades’ sacrifice be attacked!” He said in an equally angered tone. Tyrosus was about to answer to the commander he had disliked his whole life but Carlin Redpath, who had stood near the two, interrupted their brewing fight immediately.

“We have far more important matters to tend to, in case you haven’t noticed! We all know Abbendis won’t leave this matter to this and you would all do well to prepare for the inevitable counterattack!” The lower-ranked officer said in a loud voice, slight whimpers accompanying his words as he struggled to ignore the pain radiating from his wounded abdomen. Tyrosus spat into the ground as he turned to look at the former Scarlet Protector.

“I know that more than well, Redpath! Few generals would dare to follow us but Abbendis is one of them! But we are still slightly outnumbered even if we managed to recruit more people than we ever hoped. Dawnbringer, we cannot fight here in the Chapel.” Tyrosus said, his last sentence dipping with the still-lingering disgust at the commander’s last comment. Dawnbringer frowned deeply in the dark night, not able to believe what he heard.

“Surely you must be joking, lord Tyrosus! We barricaded the Chapel in case the Scourge would attack and it offers us our best chance to defend ourselves! Engaging them in the open field would be a suicide!” He cried, not exactly understanding why in earth Tyrosus would say what he just did. It bordered near insanity but his fears were quickly ended as Tyrosus took an expectant smile.

“I never spoke of an open field, commander Dawnbringer. No, we have to take another kind of approach…”

The late night’s winds flushed through the dead woods as the army of knights rode forward. Not a flicker of light could be seen anywhere nearby and it was only thanks to their lanterns that the crusaders avoided the trees still remaining as still-standing memories of the old woodlands of Darrowmere. Osran hadn’t expected to be forced to return into the battlefield this quickly as it had barely been an hour since he had left Light’s Hope. The black shadows of bushes dotted the sight around the crusader but he kept all his attention on the other knights around him. But most of all, his mind was focused on Abbendis who he knew rode not far to his right.

The paladin understood very well the High General’s urge to get to action and eliminate the opposition to the Crusade but… it wasn’t like Abbendis to simply ride to battle headlong without any apparent strategy. He had fought alongside him more times than he cared to remember and not once had he acted brashly or risking his troops’ lives for nothing. Perhaps he counted in the efficiency of a swift counterattack but even then, it was a folly to simply put one’s entire trust on something like that.

After all, if the renegade officers had planned for this insurgency for that long, surely they had had a larger plan on what to do even if everything didn’t go according to plan. They knew Abbendis more than well and they held a major advantage over the Scourge in dealing with the general of the Scarlet armies. Yes, Osran declined to believe Abbendis would overlook all of that. He had achieved many great victories for the order even if others had found his plans lacking or even falling for the enemy’s trap. Even now, Osran couldn’t help but believe that Abbendis would have a trick or two in his sleeve.

After a few minutes had passed, the lanterns carried by the first knights revealed that the forest around the crusaders was beginning to turn into a wide pass near the eastern mountains sheltering the fertile plains of the Scarlet Enclave. This realization didn’t cause any further emotions within Osran, however, as he had ridden through it just an hour earlier. It would only be fifteen minutes’ ride to the Chapel and Osran’s entire mind was focused on this one battle. This fight would decide whether the wound within the Crusade would close and start its long recovery or whether it would begin to fester and rot the entire order along with it.

Abbendis knew all of this as well but his thoughts were far from the Chapel. Even if he hadn’t told of it to many of his followers, he had never expected to face the enemy out there as he, just like Osran had predicted, was sure that the Dawn would decide to fight him in the place which would offer them the strongest advantage possible in dealing with the stronger army. He did a phenomenal job hiding his investigative look from the other paladins but his attention was undivided in regards to his surroundings. And when he finally saw a tiny flicker of flame in the far distance, he knew his doubts had just been proven true. He immediately drew his sword and cried to everybody around him.

“Form a circle against the wall! Quickly, those with shields, defend your comrades!” He cried as the night sky suddenly turned into a fiery inferno. A slight smile appeared to Abbendis’ face as the lines of enemy knights suddenly appeared from the darkness, his plan completely vindicated by the Dawn’s sudden appearance. He looked contently as the crusaders formed a clear line to hold off the enemy’s arrows. Dozens of arrows hit the shields before dropping into the ground. However, Abbendis wasn’t about to just wait for another volley and he immediately cried to his troops.

“Sanctify the ground before them! Then, charge them with all your strength and the night will be ours!”

Countless curses left Tyrosus’ mouth as he looked at the pathetic display. Even if he had thought that simply crushing the Crusade in this pass would have been too much to ask, he hadn’t expected a total rebuttal of the Dawn’s strategy. To his knowledge, not one of the enemies had fallen in the ambush. It was proved once again that Abbendis was indeed worthy of all the honors he had been given during his years of service.

However, neither Tyrosus or Eligor were foolish enough to head into a battle where only one smart move from the enemy would prove to be enough to crush his forces once and for all. A smaller group of the knights of the Dawn were hiding on the other side of the pass who would attack the Crusade the moment when they expected it the least. The casualties would be massive but this was the one chance he had of crushing the Crusade in the Eastern Plaguelands once and for all. He cried to his comrades, happy that he had told them of his plan.

“Let them come to us, heroes of the Argent Dawn! If they want to take us out, let them come for us then!” He cried, baring his teeth as he saw the lanterns of the Crusade penetrate the darkness of the night approaching him and his troops slightly. His ranks blocked any hopes the Crusade had of escaping the pass but the circle wasn’t obvious enough to be immediately clear to the defenders. When the time would come, Tyrosus knew he’d give his opponents the hell they deserved!

However, Tyrosus was again underestimating Abbendis’ natural gift on the battlefield. He didn’t doubt for a second that there was some real reason why the Dawn wanted the Crusade to engage them. It seemed like the traitors were preparing for a defense, something that was highly unorthodox for the army that had initiated the battle. Abbendis turned to Harthal and spoke to him in clear expectation.

“Take a dozen of our troops and make sure there won’t be coming any phony attack from behind us. If Tyrosus and Dawnbringer believe they’ll win us with those kinds of tactics, we’ll show them just how very wrong they are!” Abbendis cried as Harthal saluted to him eagerly. The real battle would begin very soon and save for the greatest of miracles, nothing would save the Dawn from facing its downfall before it had truly even been born.

Osran could see the enemy knights cowering in apparent fear as the charging horses ran towards them. The consecration of the cursed earth was about to expire just in time to allow the charging host of crusaders through to strike at the enemy. The aging knight’s mind raced as he thought about what was to come. It wasn’t a secret to anyone that the enemy wouldn’t just stand still while they were charged down but he was ready to continue the offensive, no matter what would come his way.

It was only a few seconds before the inevitable collision between the two armies when Osran saw the Light flash before him, causing his steed to twitch heavily. Osran, however, wasted no time in tending to the animal’s wounds and he managed to prevent the horse going into a full-blown frenzy. The paladin heard only a brief yelp of horror as the first of the renegade knights fell under his steed. The battle was in full swing and each of those present understood fully the effect today’s events would have in the years to come.

Conflicted thoughts ran through Harthal’s mind as he stood still, looking at the battle unfolding before his eyes. Standing by while his comrades gave their lives for the common good was something he had never done before and the thought sickened him without an end. He would have wanted to join the struggle against the traitors and prove he was still worthy of his title and all the honors he had received as a knight of the Crusade.

Yet, he knew that his duty was to follow his orders and he couldn’t question the wisdom in Abbendis’ words in making sure there wouldn’t be any unsavory surprises in a battle that the Crusade had already practically won. His eyes explored the darkness, making sure to at least fulfill his orders to his best ability. Still, as the seconds passed and nothing happened, Harthal’s misgivings about his situation seemed to only be growing worse by the second… before he heard a heavy whistle next to his ear and a pained cry that alerted the small group immediately. Harthal immediately turned to look at the man next to him and saw that an arrow had penetrated his entire head beginning from his right eyes. It was immediately clear who the real target had been and Harthal wasted no time giving his orders to his comrades.

“We must waste no time in avenging our fallen comrades! My friends, let us take the traitors out once and for all!” He cried as he started to run towards the direction where the arrow had come from, shielding himself against further attacks with his holy power. In only a few seconds, a row of shadows appeared from the night, running right towards him and his comrades and cried to his companions in a loud voice.

“For Lordaeron!”

Tyrosus’ mind started to grow darker by the second as he saw his backup plan failing in its objective too. Even if his other group could break through Harthal’s troops, even the smallest of traces of the element of surprise had been totally and completely lost and with it, the hopes of trying to overpower the enemy’s advantage of superior numbers. He cursed deeply as he dismounted one of the crusaders and cut him into the ground and took him out. It was but a small victory but he needed every flicker of success if he wanted to keep the dream of the Dawn’s victory even remotely alive.

Ever since the first propositions for an armed resistance against the Grand Crusader and his corruption, Tyrosus had been one of the first to advance such an idea in the hopes of salvaging the true heart of the Order of the Silver Hand. It had been him who had first asked Eligor to join the idea if it should ever turn into real action. Even if the idea of breaking the Crimson Legion’s hold over the Crusade was much older, the loss of Alexandros had been the one blow that had caused Tyrosus to call Eligor and ask for the fulfillment of his promise. However, that didn’t change one fact about the Dawn’s birth.

One of the noble’s deepest dreams had been to gather enough evidence of Saidan’s and the Grand Inquisitor’s corruption to bring Dathrohan’s old friend and the embodiment of the light into the Dawn. With Alexandros in its lead, this new order would have eclipsed the Crusade immediately and Isillien and Dathrohan’s crimes would have been made known to all. However, that dream had died with the Highlord but at least his demise had opened the door to the final uprising against the old Crusade and the ideals it embodied.

However, it had all been for nothing thus far. The battle for Tyr’s Hand had been lost and lord George lay dead as stone. He had been the paladin who had first brought the idea of the rebellion to his mind and because of all his work in bringing the Dawn into fruition, Tyrosus had agreed to let him become its first leader if it ever came to being. And now his old friend was gone and their common dream was quickly getting crushed under the enemy’s onslaught. He quickly turned towards Carlin and Eligor and cried to them with all his might.

“Take your troops forward and try to take down Abbendis! That is our only hope if we ever want to win the day!” He cried, earning brief nods from the two. After George’s demise, Tyrosus quickly came to realize that he was now the leader of the Argent Dawn, at least until his probably end on this night.

The noble’s cry didn’t reach Abbendis’ ears but he could soon see that something had changed. Whereas the Dawn had previously attempted to mainly stand their ground because of their failed attempt to encircle the crusaders, now they were clearly heading towards his position near the frontlines of the Crusade’s left wing. He could see Eligor fighting fiercely at the head of his troops, approaching the High General inch by inch. A pitying smirk rose to Abbendis’ face as he looked at that sight, surprised that the Dawn still seemed to hold out the hope of an eventual victory in this desperate struggle. Well, fat chance. If they wanted to meet him in a fight, then Abbendis was more than happy to give them that favor before the end!

He immediately started to head towards the advancing enemy, more than prepared to lead his forces to victory himself. Even if his belief in the Crusade had been shaken by the disasters in Northrend and Stratholme, he had been completely infuriated by this sickening uprising. He would see this debacle through before the night would be over.

Steel hit against steel as Osran locked weapons with another renegade knight of the Dawn. The former was surprised as he saw the fear in his opponent’s eyes, the same look that he had already witnessed so many times tonight. He was aware that he was known quite widely these days due to his deeds in the Scarlet Monastery but that didn’t explain this reaction. He couldn’t help but come to the conclusion that this had to have something to do with his temporary loss of control in Light’s Hope. Osran only remembered his fight with Raymond but the details surrounding it were completely overshadowed by some strange feeling. He’d have to ask Harthal about it later but right now, he had more important things to tend to.

Osran looked calmly as the knight before him fell into the ground screaming horribly until he suddenly noticed something that caught his interest. He could see the form of Carlin Redpath heading towards Abbendis, a sight that made him immediately tighten his hold of his weapon. Redpath was a knight who he had seen as the embodiment of trustworthiness and kindness within the Crusade and to think he was another key player of this conspiracy… Osran didn’t wait for a moment before he headed after his enemy, ready to take him out once and for all.

The nearly-bald paladin panted deeply as he glanced before himself, seeing Abbendis leading troops near him. He could immediately see just how central the High General was in holding his army’s morale high and he could only guess the effect his death would have on the course of the battle. He knew Abbendis and his part in any battle couldn’t be overstated. However, Carlin reversely doubted his own chances in trying to stand against the High General. Abbendis’ abilities in one-to-one fights were rivalled by few and even if he wasn’t too potent in wielding the Light, his mastery of the more traditional ways of fighting were legendary. Even if he could fight his way to Abbendis, it would be a terrifying struggle to try to best him in a fight. His efforts were only made worse as he heard a mocking cry from nearby.

“Already getting winded, are we Redpath? If you didn’t have the guts to see this through in the first place, you were even bigger a fool to start this debacle than I thought!” Abbendis yelled as he and his bodyguard approached the former Scarlet Protector. It was as if Abbendis wanted to face him personally which could only mean one thing: that Abbendis thought that making him an example for the others could be the best way to break the Dawn’s morale once and for all. However, Redpath was no puny paladin himself and he also realized that by putting a good fight against Abbendis, he would buy precious time and thus dividing his attention for long enough for the others to actually take him out or at least turn the tide of the battle. The weaker knight moved to face his opponent once and for all.

“At least I’ll fall with honor if it comes to that, Abbendis! Know that I have no misgivings about any of my choices, something that I really doubt you can say when it is your turn to fall in the fields of battle!” Carlin cried, landing his first hit towards Abbendis, causing the latter to take one step back before mounting his counterattack. The High General’s expression was beyond grim as he prepared to take out the former Scarlet Protector. He would have enjoyed teaching his opponent the depth of his mistake but Abbendis would never have ceded even the smallest of grounds to the enemy because of his personal wishes. Carlin was nothing but one obstacle in his effort to find Eligor and Tyrosus and crush the enemy once and for all. Abbendis took one, deep breath before he began his assault.

In a flicker of a second, the High General stepped forward and threw away all pretense of a defense and instead, pointed his sword towards his opponent’s chest and on his other hand, grabbed Carlin’s sword, his armored gloves keeping his hand safe for just long enough for the High General to execute his quick attack. Carlin’s eyes widened as he saw the maneuver but with a quick shield of the Light, he managed to stop the enemy’s weapon just before it penetrated his viscera. Even then, Carlin knew his situation neared one of desperation. Any hopes he had of counterattacking were effectively stopped the enemy and he couldn’t uphold his defenses forever. Once his mana would be depleted, it would be all over for him. He knew Eligor was behind him but he had absolutely no way of knowing whether he would be able to help him in this struggle.

None of this knowledge was lost to Abbendis as he looked at Carlin’s fearful face. Soon, his defense would break and one of the highest-ranking traitors would fall by his hand. Any sense of comradeship between him and Redpath had disappeared the moment he had raised his sword against the Crusade and Abbendis wouldn’t give even one thought to regret what he was soon going to do. The increasing desperation and horror within Carlin’s eyes told the High General all that he wanted to know: it would only be a few more seconds and it would be all over to the former Scarlet Protector. Only a little more and…

The next few moments seemed to wipe the entire world away as Abbendis was sent into the ground with all the other paladins around him. He immediately rose back to a sitting position, only to see a massive smoke of green rise right before him. He could already see rows of the renegade knights rotting away before his eyes, their lives completely snuffed away by the bomb of Plague that had exploded among them. All thoughts of finishing his fight with Carlin left his thoughts as he scrambled back to his feet but before he even received a chance to give his next order, a monstrous sight caught his attention. A massive abomination carrying dozens of bottles of pure Plague was rushing towards the fighting paladin, crushing each and every human in its way. Abbendis’ eyes widened as he looked at the slaughter, his situation only worsening as he heard another cry behind him from Harthal.

“Take cover, everyone! A massive dog-like abomination is coming your way!”

None of these events escaped Osran’s notice as he scrambled to withstand the massive wave caused by the explosion. He looked in utter horror as the two abominations closed around the rival orders, killing anything in their way without even the least discrimination. Dozens of paladins fell without any chance to defend themselves. Osran cursed deeply as he struggled to disengage from his melee with the renegade knights, each and every one of the living knowing that their priorities had just changed radically.

The aging paladin was completely taken aback by the brutal assault but even then, he couldn’t help but feel deep outrage by Abbendis’ decision. He had been warned that something like this could happen but he had paid those warnings zero heed and here was the outcome! Many eyes turned to look at the High General who seemed completely stunned on these precious seconds.

Tyrosus wasn’t doing much better as he coughed sickeningly among the green smoke. His efforts to encourage his troops towards victory had quickly turned into this unspeakable hell from which there seemed to be no escape. He looked at the charging abominations, their massive forms slowly starting to be lighted by the pale glow just over the eastern mountains. As he looked at them, Tyrosus knew that there was no victory against them here. There was no other choice for him or his troops but to turn around now but to do that, he would have to confirm that Abbendis would also understand the situation. The one-eyed noble raised his blade towards the High General and released a weak but long beam of Light towards him, praying to the Light that the other leader also understood what he meant.

No sentient thoughts flowed with his mind as Abbendis looked at the onslaught around himself. This… this simply couldn’t be the end! He had been so very close to crushing the Dawn forever but his moment of triumph had been irrevocably ruined by this sickening twist of fate. Only death and destruction could be seen around him now and Abbendis knew without second thoughts the full gravity what was happening here. Aside from the one in Hearthglen, this was the only army capable of standing against the Scourge these days and if it fell, it would snuff out the Crusade’s hopes of ever taking a stand in Darrowmere forever. The thought of that fact made Abbendis despair without an end as the sight of Tyr’s Hand falling before the Scourge flowed in front of his eyes. And it would be all…

Suddenly, Abbendis’ focus on those horrors failed completely as a radiant glow of Light suddenly filled his entire vision. He turned to looked at the source immediately and to his surprise, he saw lord Tyrosus stand on a field below the sloped the Crusade had been fighting on. At first, Abbendis was about to completely ignore his gestures but then, something happened that caught his attention immediately.

Slowly, Tyrosus lowered his blade and nodded at the massive Plague abomination before returning his gaze on Abbendis. The High General stared at him for a few seconds, thinking about what his counterpart meant. He seemed to be willing to fight the monstrosities but certainly even he couldn’t be stupid enough to think the Crusade would legitimize the traitors’ efforts by joining forces with them like this… and as Abbendis thought about it a bit longer, he realized that wasn’t the case. Apparently he wanted to end this fight to allow both of the armies to look after themselves. The High General frowned at that idea in deep annoyance, hating even the thought ending his efforts to take out the Dawn here and now. He’d teach that cursed traitor that there wouldn’t be escape from the Crusade’s wr…

“High General, an army of ghouls is approaching us! We’ll be annihilated!” One officer cried to Abbendis who immediately saw the truth in the other knight’s words The woods were quickly getting filled by the enemies and it wouldn’t be long before both of the orders would be slaughtered to the very last knight. Finally, Abbendis snapped awake from his momentary shock and knew what he had to do, no matter how much that infuriated him. He turned back to Tyrosus and nodded to him deeply before he yelled to his followers.

“Gather against the mountains, knights of the Scarlet Crusade! We have to get back to Tyr’s Hand, now!” He cried, knowing that the escape would be a desperate one. All of the steeds had either fallen or ran away and it was a long run back to the city. However, there simply were no alternatives at this point. There was no victory against the Scourge anymore and staying here would be a pure suicide. It didn’t take even a second before the knights did as they were told, knowing that this was a matter of life and death to them all.

A bitter smile rose to Osran’s face as he turned around, reflecting on the implications of this second escape on the same night. If only Abbendis had listened to him and Harthal, all of the lives lost today would have been spared. The aging crusader dodged another blow from the two-footed abomination as he hit the monstrosity with his sword. The following wound was a minor one but it was enough to give a chance for some of his comrades to escape from this slaughterhouse. He used this small relief to hit the abomination’s leg again and casting another judgement at its upper torso. After that, Osran joined his comrades in his escape.

He looked at the soldiers of the Dawn also turning around to head for the Chapel. Osran knew immediately the implications of that fact: the Dawn was here to stay and Abbendis had abandoned each and every hope of ever reuniting the order to what it once was. That thought angered Osran without an end but still, he knew there was nothing he could do about it. It wasn’t like the High General would pay his pleas any heed at this point, especially as he was still most likely blaming Osran and Harthal for losing Light’s Hope. The Crimson Legionary was just about to disappear into the darkened woods when he suddenly saw something that made his blood run cold.

There was a wide front of ghouls trying to cut the escaping knights’ escape route and completely surround them against the mountains surrounding the Scarlet Enclave. That would be a total deathtrap, one from which there would be no escape for any of the crusaders. He could see the first knights starting to cut into the army of monsters but the slowing down of the knights’ advance was inevitable when they would be forced to fight their way forward.

Harthal cringed deeply as his blade cut into another gargoyle that had attacked him from the dark blue sky of the early morning. The beast was no match for the seasoned paladin but still, he knew the situation as well as each of his comrades. The escape would soon be out of reach for him and his comrades and that would mean the end of everything. If there only were something he could do to save the order from this horrifying fate…

Suddenly, his eyes caught the sight of something which caught his attention. Many of the knights were carrying torches to light the way through the night but none of them seemed to pay any heed to what they could also be used for. The grass around the living was dead but it would still burn alongside the massive trees looming over the knights. Without a second thought, the Lord Paladin ran towards one of the knights and quickly took the torch from the other man and threw it into the ground between the Crusade and the advancing undead. The ground immediately caught fire and started to spread through the dry grass, confirming to Harthal his idea had indeed been the correct one. He immediately turned to the others and cried in a loud voice.

“For the Light’s sake, throw your torches to block the enemy! It’s our only hope!” He cried, prompting everybody to do as told. Harthal sighed in relief as he turned to look behind himself to see the sights of the two monstrous abominations being swallowed by the flame as not even they could penetrate the quickly spreading wall of fire.

However, it wasn’t long before the downside of their new protection became known to each of the knights. The smokes spreading from the fire seemed to engulf their entire world as breathing grew increasingly difficult and forced. Many of them felt like they would fall into the ground at any second but with some unknown strength, they managed to keep up their escape. A minute passed after another and the Crusade managed to move forward despite the smoke, knowing that it wasn’t a long way to Tyr’s Hand anymore. Only ten more minutes and surely, its walls would rise from among the mountains…

The moments leading up to that sweet sight were long and filled with dread as the flames started to slowly die out around the remnants of the once-mighty Scarlet army but eventually, the familiar sight of the mighty walls of Tyr’s Hand came to the sight of the crusaders. Osran felt grateful beyond words despite the failure of the order’s efforts to crush the Dawn. If only the Scourge hadn’t come when it did… even if Osran knew quite well just what had happened. Either Maxwell and Eligor had been in total cooperation with the Scourge or at least they had been manipulated by the slaves of Kel’Thuzad into dismembering Scarlet Crusade from the inside with some vile plots. Either way, the Dawn’s split from its parent order played right into the Scourge’s hands and the undead had known just what would happen after the breakup of the Crusade and of course Kel’Thuzad had wanted to safeguard the Dawn’s survival by any means necessary.

The paladin’s glum thoughts were suddenly interrupted by a loud call from Abbendis’ horn. Many sighs of relief could be heard as the massive gates into the city started to open slowly after the High General’s command but immediately afterwards, it became clear to everyone that they weren’t safe just yet. Another group of the abominations and lesser undead appeared from the horizon, approaching the exhausted knights with an astonishing speed. Osran cringed deeply as he saw that sight, knowing there was only one chance:
to hope that the mighty trading center of eastern Lordaeron would withstand this assault as well.

One by one, the fatigued knights started to enter the city, most of them completely broken by today’s massive defeat. Osran panted terribly as he finally let himself stop in the wide courtyard forming the entrance into the city proper, nearly collapsing after his seemingly endless sprint. Similar sights could be seen everywhere around him but to each of their chagrin if not surprise, they weren’t provided any meaningful rest just yet. Instead the High General cried to his troops to give his next order.

“All of the archers and magi, man the walls and make sure to keep those cursed monsters at bay! Paladins, heal them and guard the wall in case the Scourge somehow manages to break through!” Abbendis cried as everyone did as they were told. Abbendis followed his troops, knowing it was his duty as the High General to do his all to safeguard the best outcome for the Crusade. He had already failed in so much and he owed it to the Grand Crusader to at least prevent the Crusade’s largest strongholds from falling.

The swarming undead ran with all their vigor towards the gates which were still open to allow the final crusaders safely into the city, knowing that his was their best chance to
cause real damage for the enemies of the Lich King. Harthal looked in horror as he turned around to see that the gates couldn’t be closed in time to prevent the undead from entering the city anymore so he called to his comrades without second thoughts.

“Help me keep them at bay for a short while longer, my comrades! Don’t let them enter the city!” He cried as the three very last knights stopped by his side, their rescue followed by a loud cranking sound as the enormous gates started to slowly close. The Lord Paladin looked in fear as the first row of undead fell under a volley of arrows but it was but mere seconds until they were replaced by another wave of enemies. Just before a large abomination started to swing the chain it carried as a weapon, Harthal cried to his comrades as he and eight other crusaders prepared to take their stand.

“Strike in the name of king Terenas! Tyr’s Hand won’t fall this day!” He cried as he released a massive exorcism at the charging undead, turning half of its rotting form into pure ash. However, the abomination wasn’t about to be bested by such attacks and to the defenders’ surprise, its assault continued as if nothing had changed. Two of the knights were caught by surprise and Harthal looked in disgust as their blood stained the walls and other defenders around them, their broken bodies completely obliterated by the brutal attack. However, despite their obvious fear, two others took their fallen comrades’ place in the defensive line, looking as the gates had reached their halfway into completely sealing the entrance into the city. Three of the defenders cringed deeply but they knew there was but one way forward. They moved to surround the monstrosity and two of them managed to penetrate the undead’s already-revealed viscera. This allowed Harthal to deal the finishing blow upon it, finally causing it to fall into the ground without a trace of life.

However, that tiny victory was but another chance for the incoming undead to swarm through the closing gate in ever greater numbers. Dozens upon dozens ghouls struggled to get through the nearly-closed gate before the opening became too narrow for even them to fit in. Harthal was prepared to finish them off as the light that shined through the nearly-closed grew ever weaker. However, it wasn’t long before the Lord Paladin knew just how folly his thoughts of final victory really were.

Just before the two doors of the gate clanked together, a tiny flicker of shadow flew through the still-existing gap and before Harthal could even lift a finger, the necromancer’s spell exploded in the middle of the courageous defenders. Limbs were torn apart and heads were separated from shoulders as the explosion shuddered the entire wall around the main gates.

Harthal himself was sent flying away from his former position, his battered form hitting the ground nearly ten meters away from the epicenter of the explosion. The surrounding crusaders looked in horror as they saw Harthal struggling to get another breath, his right hand nearly torn off from his body and his face nearly completely ruined. His screams could be heard around Tyr’s Hand before he gradually lost his consciousness. Many of the priests moved to immediately help him but even then, it was clear the battle itself wasn’t finished yet.

A rare look of fear rose to Abbendis’ face as he looked at Harthal’s injuries, the very brutality of his wounds disturbing even the High General who had seen nearly everything during his years of service. Yet, his charge wasn’t done yet. He remembered what was the best way to keep the enemy at bay from the Crusade’s withdrawal into Tyr’s Hand and he knew it would work again. Now that the gates had been closed, he cried to the archers around him.

“Now, drop the tar into the ground and ignite it! That’ll end their assault once and for all!” He cried, looking in satisfaction as the crusaders did as they were told. It wasn’t long until the back started to turn black and soon, flame engulfed the entire plain around the walls of Lordaeron’s largest remaining city. Countless undead feel under the fire and the rest started to slowly pull back. Abbendis was already preparing to hope that the battle was won but he didn’t notice one necromancer among the horde of ghouls who was preparing to cast another spell towards the High General. It would be only a few more seconds and the Crusade would lose its second highest-ranking officer…

If it weren’t up one of his body guard’s vigilance. He noticed the diverging form among the Scourge and he could see immediately that the necromancer was up to no good. He didn’t hesitate for a moment before he pulled his bow from his back and turned his aim at the lone figure. The arrow found its target almost unbelievably easily but it wasn’t enough to completely deny the villain’s attack. He managed to finish his spell with his last breath but he didn’t have the time to concentrate fully on his aim. The spell headed slightly more upwards than he had intended and the vigilant bodyguard realized he’d have to do more of he wanted to save the High General. He turned towards Abbendis and jumped towards him quickly.

“High General, look out!” He cried as he tackled the taller man, the spell missing its target only by a few pitiful inches. Abbendis prepared to beat some sense into his body guard before he saw the spell explode a few meters from his position. Its impact could be felt from his position but it was far enough to not cause any real damage to the High General. He panted slightly as he looked at the remnants of the explosion, only now realizing the danger he had been in. He slowly turned to look at the archer in shock before he rose up now spoke to his savior thankfully.

“Well done, crusader. I will remember this.” He said before he turned to look at the retreating undead, realizing that the victory was now the Crusade’s. The bodyguard nodded at his leader in approval and spoke to him quickly.

“Of course, Abbendis. I did only my duty. He said before taking a deep sigh before finally allowing himself to relax in the glory of surviving to live another day.

However, not everybody was as hopeful as Abbendis was. Osran stood at the other end of the wall, staring in to the wide fields which were engulfed by the flames. Yes, he may have lived through this night but from this on, things would only get worse and worse. Osran glanced behind himself and saw only 150 crusaders at most, knowing more than well what that meant. The Crusade would lose all the areas it captured previously and the fate of Scarlet Bastion would become only more desperate by the day.

The paladin shook his head sadly a he slowly started to descend from the wall, the morning sun shining on his back as he carefully moved downwards the stairs. Harthal’s situation was a perfect metaphor for that of the Crusade’s: it was still alive but terribly wounded and it would be a long, long time before the order would get another chance to rise to its feet… if it ever would.

With the Scourge’s intervention, any hopes of retaining a united human front against the undead have been ruined. What follows now is a long-term campaign for the Crusade to reach the same strength as it used to possess but that may turn out to be an uphill battle… This story is approaching its last stages and I hope you’ve liked the ride thus far!


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Re: Under the Scarlet Banner
« Reply #43 on: November 17, 2018, 03:16:53 PM »
On the Brink of Downfall

”I’ll take a look at it, courier. Take a small rest, you’ve earned it.” Osran said tiredly as he looked at the sealed letter in the other crusader’s hands. His voice was extremely tired as he spoke and not all of it was due to the fact that it was well past midnight. The messenger frowned deeply as he looked at the Crimson Legionary, not approving at all of his comment. He waited for a few moments before answering to the older man.

“I must beg your pardon, Lowriver, but I was ordered not to present my message to anyone else but the Grand Crusader. I must…” He started again, attempting to make Osran see things his way. He knew his message was of utmost importance but Osran’s face showed no signs of understanding. Instead, he doubled down on his angered look and answered again, this time in a much harsher tone.

“The Grand Crusader is sleeping and he ordered me to take care of incoming messages for tonight. I will deliver it to Dathrohan if I find the message worthy of his time. So, I must ask you again to give it to me, now. I will not ask again.” He said while offering his hand to the courier. The red-haired man looked extremely bothered as he looked at Osran’s harsh expression, easily seeing he wasn’t about to give up on his demand. And indeed, he knew that Lowriver was one of the Grand Crusader’s chosen these days so maybe, just maybe, he wouldn’t betray his oath by agreeing to Osran’s request. He finally nodded to the Crimson Legionary and gave his scroll to Osran.

“Here. But please, I want the Grand Crusader to tell me he’s seen it some time tomorrow. I must get his orders concerning this development back to Hearthglen as soon as possible!” He said in an urgent voice while Osran looked at the letter. His interest picked up immediately as he saw the seal of the house of Fordring in it. However, that fact brought worried thoughts to him, having already an idea what kind of news the letter would contain. He then looked at the other knight and spoke in a hoarse but a slightly more friendlier voice.

“Thank you. You may spend the night in the third room to our left in the Hall of Lights. Good night, crusader.” He said before he turned around, not waiting the courier’s answer. He sighed in growing anxiety as he entered his small room close to the gate to the Scarlet Bastion where the messenger had just entered the massive fortress. He could hear some kind of answer from the other knight but he gave it no heed before he closed the door to his room. Osran nearly yelped in agony as that act brought a sudden bolt of pain through his back. He moved against the wall and put his left hand on his back, taking deep breaths as he waited for the pain to go away.

It was many seconds before he finally calmed down, cursing his back heavily. Those bolts of pain had become more and more common in the two years that had passed since the last time he had set a foot inside this cursed city. Two years since he had last sensed a sense of victory… two years since he had last met his nephew. The months following those events had been long ones indeed and after each one of them, Osran felt like he had aged decades. His brown hair and beard had quickly started to turn grey and the wrinkles in his face seemed to be deepening by the day.

A silent sigh escaped his lips as he sat behind his desk, candle illuminating the room with its weak, fluttering flame. The cold stone walls could hardly be seen in the dark of the night, the massive fortress completely silent in  these early hours. There were dozens of other messages from all over the Crusade on his table that still had to be gone through but right now, only the newest one interested him to any significant degree. Yet, he grew fearful as he prepared to read whatever disastrous news he would find within this letter.

Without further waiting, he then broke the seal of the Fordring, and took the message itself out of its envelope. However, when he looked at the message itself, his frowns deepened greatly.

To the Grand Crusader Saidan Dathrohan and the Crimson Legion.

The disaster we had feared all along has finally come to pass. As you know, the Banshee Queen and her allies have grown more active in the Tirisfal Glades in the past weeks. They have wiped us away from most of its eastern moors, beating many of our respected officers. Now, as I told in my last message, the villains were even in the position to attack the Monastery but none of us ever dared to dread its fall to be possible.

But it seems we were wrong all along. Yesterday, a group of Sylvanas’ pawns attacked those sacred halls, slaughtering all our brave heroes. Doan, Herod, Commander Mograine… all of them have fallen under the might of the Forsaken. Only a handful of our comrades managed to flee that battle and they have claimed that we’ll never be able to withstand their might. I beg to disagree with them but the sad truth is that the Crusade’s campaign in Tirisfal has come to an end.

It pains me to bring these news to you as I regret the fact that we couldn’t retake the capital when we had the chance. But now, Grand Crusader Dathrohan, I must ask you form a strategy in an effort to withstand their advance. There have already been reports of the Horde’s presence spreading into both the Western Plaguelands as well as into the old Darrowmere. Needless to say, our future is looking grimmer by the day but I have full confidence that we will fight our way towards victory as our order always has. But until then,
I will wait for further orders.

Highlord Taelan Fordring, Master of Mardenholde Keep.

Osran was left staring at the letter with slight shudders creeping into his hands. So, the worst had indeed come to pass. There had been earlier warnings of an imminent attack at the Scarlet Monastery in the days past but none of them had been taken too seriously. After all, many of the Crusade’s legends were guarding it and only very few had matched the combined might of High Inquisitor Whitemane and Renault Mograine. To think that the Monastery had fallen and all of those heroes fallen under some outsiders’ attack… It was completely unbelievable. Osran couldn’t bring himself to even attempt to consider how very serious blow this was to the Crusade.

This news was a continuation to so many setbacks and defeats for the Crusade that Osran could hardly bring himself to remember all of them. Light’s Hope, Corin’s Crossing, Menethil road, Andorhal and now Tirisfal… all of them were now lost to the Crusade and the order was now confined to a few cities and strongholds all around Lordaeron. Yet, the Monastery had also been one of them and Osran couldn’t help but wonder just how long it’d take for the others to follow it…

However, there was other thought that made him feel even more somber about these news and that was something that was personal to him and that concerned one statue in the Monastery’s revered Hall of the Champions. Or even more accurately, its revelation. Osran looked into the darkness while feeling a small breath enter the room from under the door as he thought of one accident a few months ago concerning Harthal Truesight.

The Crimson Legionary had never thought of the Lord Paladin as anything else than an honored and trustworthy comrade in the many campaigns against the Scourge. Despite his encounter with him concerning Carethas, Osran had still chosen to trust him during the duo’s struggles against the Dawn. But his injuries in the brief battle on the gates of Tyr’s Hand had changed everything. His mind was unbroken but his body never really recovered from the injuries he suffered on that day. But despite that, he fought on with a vigor only few other knights could dream of. He continued to be worthy of his title until… until the Crusade’s attempts to restore some kind of path to Scarlet Bastion.

Osran had stood with him on that day as the two had done so many times before. They and their comrades fought relentlessly for hours but just as victory was nearly theirs, Harthal had disappeared, most likely grabbed by some monstrous gargoyle or burned by some nefarious necromancer’s spell. But regardless of what had happened, the truth was that Harthal was gone and with him, another of the heroes of Lordaeron had gone to their rest. Osran could still remember when he received the invitation to speak at the unveiling ceremony of Harthal’s statue as the Lord paladin most certainly deserved to be honored alongside all the other brave crusaders who had fallen against the Scourge and the Forsaken.

The cloud of melancholy around Osran seemed to deepen by the second as his mind drifted into the past, willing to escape this joyless nightmare which seemed to darken with every day that passed. Even the candle seemed to be nearing its end and the darkness grew more dominant in the room as Osran remembered another of the many respected comrades… even friends who he had been forced to help to begin their way into the next world. Suddenly, the room’s blackness seemed to begin swindling around him as Osran’s mind returned into that day not that long ago…

Osran looked at the covered statue before himself with morbid eyes, listening to the complete silence of the hall. This room of the Monastery was completely packed as the new entry to the Hall of Champions was about to be revealed. He had never wanted to attend this kind of meeting but inside, he felt like it was his duty to his comrade who had stood on his side when the Argent Dawn was born and the Scourge nearly wiped the entire Crusade in Stratholme.

He looked glumly at the previous statues within the room, taking an extra moment to look at the memorials of Arellas Fireleaf, Barean Westwind as well as Orman of Stromgarde. Those were the only ones of these heroes had personally met and it was times like these that truly reminded Osran just how much the Crusade had lost during this war. The famed knights of glory were dwindling quickly, leaving undeserving weaklings like himself behind. The Crimson Legionary looked sadly at Whitemane who led this ceremony as the mater of the Scarlet Monastery. Osran still recoiled at her sight but to her credit, the High Inquisitor seemed genuinely touched by today’s event.

“Honored knights of the Scarlet Crusade, I am happy to see so many of you decided to attend this humble meeting. I wish I could welcome you in a better time than this but sadly, it is my duty and honor to add today another name into the honorable canonic history of our order. As all of you know, Harthal Truesight, our Lord Paladin, has finally fallen in his fight against the Scourge within the city of Stratholme. That cursed place has again brought another tragedy upon us, as if all the bloodbaths we’ve withstood there weren’t enough.

To my regret, I never knew Truesight half as well as I would have wanted to. We very rarely served within the same areas with him and the few times we got a chance to meet each other were brief indeed. It is because of this that I’d like to ask another one here to speak a few words to our fallen champion. Crimson Legionary Lowriver, would you be so kind?” She asked to Osran’s great shock. He had never thought he’d be asked to say anything today. Of all people, he certainly couldn’t be best qualified to speak about Harthal. The two had fought by each other’s side for a long time but certainly there would be someone other than he?

However, he could see no second thoughts within Whitemane’s eyes. The inquisitor seemed far more genuine than he had ever seen her before which made something change within him. Osran looked one by one at the statues around him, looking into their firm, proud faces, feeling as if they were still somehow with the Crusade, by some grace of the Light. That impression was reinforced as Osran looked at the bright rays shone through the windows of the massive hall, illuminating the statue’s heads, making them seem like the defenders of the Light they had always been in life.

With a deep sigh, he stood forward from the row of knights and headed towards the stairs leading to the upper part of the room overlooking the main part of the room. Osran stopped beside Whitemane and took a brief moment to feel the Light’s touch on this mournful day. He looked at the Monastery’s grace, it’s windows, statues and its winding hallways. Indeed, this was a worthy place for any crusader to be honored in the way they deserve. After a few seconds, Osran lowered his gaze back to the other knights and finally started to speak.

“I never expected to be asked to speak here as neither do I consider myself to be qualified to honor him in the way he deserves. However, it is true that I served besides him many times and I was there to witness his high points as well as his downfall. In any case, I must begin by saying that Harthal truly was a worthy champion of the Crusade and that I’m extremely honored to have known him as well as I did.

I first met him when he returned from the disastrous expedition to Northrend. The failure there wasn’t his fault and judging from the many accounts we’ve heard of the events there, I’m more inclined to believe that he was one of those, alongside the High General, who saved the army from total destruction. To my understanding, it is exactly this operation which earned him the title of our Lord Paladin.” Osran said with a sigh, looking at Demetria, younger Abbendis as well as Renault Mograine who were standing among the attendees. He felt additional wave of melancholy as he realized that there was nobody present who meant anything more to him than a respected comrade… Osran waved those thoughts away as he continued.

“However, it was only his service in retaking Darrowmere that I truly saw his worthiness. We fought many battles, the major ones being in Corin’s Crossing, Plaguewood, Stratholme and Light’s Hope. In each of them, Truesight was one of those who marched forward with the Light’s mark, serving as an example to us all. His deeds were of immeasurable worth to our cause and I know the campaign would have been far more difficult without him. In Stratholme, he even prevented me from letting some my own worst instincts out by saving one cadet from my suspicions… even if he turned traitor to us shortly afterwards.

But in the end, I believe his greatest contribution to the Crusade was his quick decisions that put an end to the Dawn’s hopes for a quick victory over us. I was imprisoned by the traitors back then but Harthal saved me and saved our armies from total defeat. In many ways, it is thanks to him the Dawn wasn’t successful in taking Tyr’s Hand for good.” The paladin took a brief moment to gather his thoughts, thinking how much his older comrades would have deserved this kind of moment as well. Most of all Valdemar who despite still being alive who had never truly recovered from Landgren’s spell. However, even if there were others deserving a moment of remembrance, he wouldn’t rob it from Harthal on this day.

“Even when he was gravely wounded in that battle, he continued to fight on. He led the final defense of Corin’s Crossing until the very end, nearly able to save that town from the onslaught of the Scourge. Even later, he tried to secure the Menethil road once again but again, we had no choice but to bow down before the terrible might of the Lich King. The High General gave him the permission for these efforts even if he knew how very difficult it would have been to prevail. I accompanied Truesight on each of this battles even if I saw that his old injuries made it almost impossible for him to fight properly.

And then finally came that day. We knew the Scarlet Bastion couldn’t be allowed to fall so we tried to establish another supply route there under the western wall of the city. We were successful but we still had to fight our way through one street to reach the Bastion. We quickly gained the upper hand but one abomination them attempted to stop us and after a long battle, we were finally successful. Truesight led us in that fight but in the heat of the battle…. we lost him.

Whether the abomination managed to crush him or the other undead got him, I don’t know. All I do know is that that day was the last time any of us ever saw the Lord Paladin. But in the end, I think that sacrificing his life to achieve one final victory was a fitting end to his life of glory and honor. I wish it would have been otherwise but in the end, I must say I was honored to stand by his side through these dark times.” Osran finished, taking another deep breath as he listened to the applauds of his audience. Immediately afterwards, he heard the curtain hiding the new memorial being lifted, followed by an announcement from the High Inquisitor.

“It is my honor on this day to reveal this fitting monument of remembrance to Harthal Truesight of Azeroth, the Lord Paladin of the Scarlet Crusade!” She cried as Osran turned to look at the statue, astonished by the skill in which it had been made. Looking at the memorial, he felt deep pride of being here to speak those words to the fallen paladin, hoping this day would preserve his name for many generations to come.

It took all of Osran’s willpower to prevent himself from crunching the letter into a ball or tearing it apart as he thought that Harthal and the other heroes’ memory was now being trashed by some cursed Light-Forsaken undead and orcs! One of the highest places of learning in all of Lordaeron was most likely irrevocably destroyed in the hands of barbarians and monsters! Into what had the pride of the Crusade and the people been reduced to? Osran’s face turned into a deep frown as he tried to calm down from this sickening shock. But the truth was that that the loss of the Monastery was an unspeakable tragedy, one that the paladin hoped would never have come to pass.

Yet, remembering Harthal also brought other thoughts into his head, some of them making him feel even more miserable. Indeed, Harthal was but the last of his many comrades to be lost in the fields of battle. Still, Osran yearned to hear the firm commands and encouraging banter of Tareth as he had so often done in the days past. Tareth had been his captain, true, but still, Osran had learned to regard him as more than that… even as a friend. It seemed like everything had changed his death and in many ways, Osran still hoped to share his fears and doubts with the one knight with whom he could share all his hesitations.

But Veria’s memory hit Osran even worse. In many ways, he had tried to regard her as his equal and as a trusted comrade or as a companion in their years together and never once had Osran even dreamt of disregarding her company whenever the two were on a mission together. He hadn’t missed her greatly when she was in Andorhal because of his own many tasks during that time. However, after he had learned of her passing, things had changed…

The paladin cringed slightly as he felt a distinct pain emanate from his chest. The more he thought of it, Osran still hoped she’d be here as the two paladins had had so very much in common. In the back of his mind, Osran wondered how things would have been if this war had come to an end while both of them were still alive… Still, Osran shook his head in order to shake those thoughts away. Whether it was true love he felt or not, it didn’t matter anymore. Veria was dead and there was no reason trying to dwell in dreams that could never be realized in this life. With heavy movements, Osran rose back to his feet and headed towards the door and entered the corridor into the Hall of Lights. The Grand Crusader had to know of these news immediately.

Osran cringed slightly as he heard his own footsteps ring through the empty hallways of the Scarlet Bastion, the only other crusaders awake in this hour being a handful of guards guarding the main gate and the roofs of the massive citadel. The ghastly light of the two moons seemed to make the dark hallways dance in hues grey and black, making the paladin feel even more miserable than before. His steps which echoed through the corners of the halls combined with the dancing shadows made the thought of the ghosts of his past still following him ever the more real. Even after all his years of service, Osran felt his sadness turn into fear and knowingly, sped up his pace in order to shed off his loneliness away for a moment.

The Crimson Throne itself was always a captivating sight, one that always made those entering it stop for a moment to look at the beautiful hall in awe. Even Osran decided to savor this moment before delivering his news to the Grand Crusader, even concerned about how Dathrohan would react. Deep inside, the paladin was starting to realize that there was something odd in the way the Grand Crusader was behaving these days but in the conscious level, Osran knew only that serving him was his duty as long as the Crusade lived on. After a few seconds, Osran entered the Crimson Throne, his eyes searching for the mattress the Grand Crusader had brought to his working post to sleep on. However, Osran barely had time to take three steps forward before he heard a low voice ring through the hall.

“What is it, Lowriver? What has happened this time?” Saidan’s voice could be heard in the darkness, something within it bringing chills to Osran’s spine. He was astonished that he had been heard approaching this quickly but then again, he wondered whether the Grand Crusader ever actually slept at all. However, he let none of his worries away as he gave his heartfelt salute and answered the direct question.

“I beg your pardon for arriving here on this hour but I took the liberty to assume a message I just received would be of interest to you. The Scarlet Monastery has fallen and most of our troops out there were completely annihilated.” Osran said honestly, hating the fact that he was forced to deliver these news but he knew that was his duty. He slowly saw Saidan’s form appear from the darkness, a stoic expression on his face. Despite his calm exterior, Osran knew just how much the Grand Crusader hated these kinds of messages. The Crimson Legionary frowned slightly as he heard his superior’s answer.

“Most of them? Commander Mograine and the High Inquisitor as well?” He spoke, the tension in his voice  more than apparent to the other knight. Osran merely nodded to affirm that fact, looking as Saidan turned his gaze into the dark corridor before him as if he thought there would be something worth seeing out there. But after a moment, Saidan turned back to Osran and snapped at him in apparent rage.

“That suited those weaklings well! And to think I ever deemed those two worth my trust and favors! Our order will be much better off without those two slowing us down! Who were the attackers? The Forsaken?” He spoke in an enraged voice, staring into Osran’s eyes in hate. The lower-ranked knight narrowed his eyes somewhat but his voice stayed as firm as ever.

“We have all the reason to assume her initiatives were behind this attack but to my knowledge, the attackers were a group of adventurers from the races who are now allied to Sylvanas.” Osran said glumly, knowing just how pitiful it was to lose such a stronghold to a group of nobodies who were most likely in Lordaeron for the first time. For a while, it looked like Saidan was going to attack Osran for this outrage but in the last moment, he gave up that plan and threw his hand into the air as a gesture of resignation.

“Very well. Tell Hearthglen to block Tirisfal completely off from the city’s surroundings and to make sure the Forsaken won’t get one step further east!” He said while looking sternly at the Crimson Legionary whose expression made him ever more frustrated. It was clear that there was still something he wasn’t being told, something which made the demon lord’s rage all the harder to control. Osran frowned slightly before answering.

“I’m afraid that’s impossible, Grand Crusader. We already know that the agents of the Banshee Queen have crossed the Thondrodil river and only the Light knows where they are by now.” He said, regretting the mere fact that he had to sound even more morbid than what he would have been required but he simply wanted to make the direness of the situation clear to his superior. The master of the Crusade looked even more dumbstruck by these news as he realized just how much his order’s fortunes had turned from bad to worse. However, he didn’t more than a few moments before he spat his answer.

“Then lock all our cities from all who’d want to enter them and once our own ranks have been purged from this new filth, send expeditions outside, find the servants of the Horde and the Alliance and exterminate them one by one and even more urgently, prevent them from creating any outposts to our lands! We already have our hands full with the Dawn and the Scourge and we don’t need another enemy on our gates!” Saidan yelled in anger, slightly annoyed by Osran’s completely calm posture. But even if something in his antics angered the demon lord, he couldn’t help but appreciate Osran’s abilities and his sense of duty which was much more acute than that of his comrades. Again, Osran saluted to his leader and nodded to him in agreement.

“I understand, Grand Crusader. I will make sure this message will be delivered to Highlord Fordring and Crusader Lord Valdemar. May the Light guide our path through these dark times.” He said briefly, waiting for a permission to end this meeting from Valdemar. The latter nodded to Osran briefly before he gave his simple answer.

“May it indeed. But we need even more determination if we ever want to prevail in this struggle. You may leave, Crimson Legionary Lowriver.” Dathrohan said as he turned his back on the other knight, apparently preparing to return to rest for the rest of the knight. Osran looked at him with a slightly glum look before he turned around to fulfill the rest of his duties… only to feel a slight breeze fly past his head right towards the Grand Crusader! However, that seemed to matter little for the powerful paladin as he suddenly turned around and blocked the incoming arrow with his mace before crying with all his might.

“Infiltrators within the Bastion! Crush them all in the name of the Crusade!” He yelled as he darted after the apparent attackers. Osran didn’t waste any time replicating those moves as he knew just as well what this attack would likely implicate. However, before the two had barely taken another step forward, they suddenly saw a massive bear running towards them, followed by another volley of arrows that the two paladins could hardly even dodge. Osran was completely dumbstruck by this development but he was heartened by the sounds of the other knights who were quickly rushing to their leader’s side.

It wasn’t long before the pitiful assassins realized how badly they had miscalculated. Just as the bear-shaped druid attempted to attack the Grand Crusader, he suddenly gathered all his strength into one, powerful blow which crushed the druid’s entire skull into a dozen pieces, sending the contents of his head flying all around the walls of the citadel. However, just as he thought he had won, Saidan suddenly realized that not all was as they were supposed to be. He suddenly gathered his strength to form a divine shield around himself, just in time to prevent an assassin’s blade from sinking between his ribs. The attacker had apparently lurked in the shadows, waiting for the right moment to attack and he
had almost been successful. Osran wasted no time driving his own sword through the cowardly backstabber’s back.

At this point, the attackers’ failure was clear to everyone. The remaining assassins suddenly turned away in order to use their pre-planned escape route to save their puny lives. He suddenly yelled to Dathrohan who looked in rage at those who had so very dishonorably tried to end his reign over his own order.

“They couldn’t have gotten here through the main gate, Grand Crusader! Everyone, try to block their escape to the roof! That’s their only chance!” Osran cried, looking as the halls of the Bastion were slowly getting illuminated by the candles whose flames were being restored after the dark hours of the night. However, it all seemed to happen so very slowly and each second that the blackness ruled the halls of the Scarlet Bastion, the cover for the villains’ escape prevailed. Yet, Osran wasn’t about to let them get away if there was absolutely he could do to prevent it.

The paladin rushed after the escaping attackers into the side corridors of the Bastion, knowing with near certainty which way the enemy was most likely heading towards. He cast a bright judgement into the air, the light confirming his thoughts. He could briefly see the backs of the escaping assassins in the distance before they entered the room where the ladder to the roof could be found. A look of expectation rose to his face as he prepared to take them down while they were climbing the ladder in two in order to cut the cursed weaklings’ flight once and for all.

But when he finally grabbed the door which his foes had shut behind them, he nearly yelped in shock. The entire door had been frozen still by what was clearly frost magic, killing any hopes the paladin had of entering the room completely. However, it wasn’t long before Osran heard something that made his struggles ease at least a bit. Saidan had followed not far after him and he cried to the other paladin loudly as he reached him.

“If that’s all your capable of, then step aside!” He cried as he suddenly pointed his sword towards the door and with great efforts, the demon hid his use of the fel magic as he hit the wall of frost with his unholy power. Osran’s eyes widened as the door as well as the ice wall surrounding it broken into a thousand pieces, flying all over the small room. Without even looking at the room, Saidan cast a mighty barrage of bright Light into the room, willing to cut his enemies’ flight as quickly as only possible.  What met his ears soon was a loud cry of pain as the last of the escaping attackers fell into the floor, never rising to his feet again. Osran wasted no time giving the dead Forsaken any heed, heading towards the ladders without any pause.

A warm breath of the night wind met the Crimson Legionary’s face as he reached the roof of the Bastion, the familiar sight of the Crusader Square was below him. Osran breathed heavily as he looked around himself, attempting to locate the escaping undead frantically. His ears were soon greeted by a cry from one of the guards who immediately noticed the newcomers.

“They headed that way, Lowriver! We tried to hold them but…” He began as he pointed towards the direction of the eastern districts of the city, making Osran frown deeply. However, he wasn’t about to waste anytime listening to the other man’s cries before he silenced him with a cry of his own.

“Save it for later! Help us get those bastards before it’s too late!” Osran yelled, happy to notice that the assassins still hadn’t managed to get too far. With any luck, he’d be able to reach them before they’d be able to leave the Bastion’s main building. Yet, it were times like these that made Osran curse his age as he could feel the stiffness settling deeper into his legs every year and the strength in his limbs beginning to die out more and more as the days passed. However, he wouldn’t let his personal issues get in the way of righteousness, especially in a time like this one.

A deep cringe rose to his face as he jumped on a lower level of the Bastion’s roof in order to save time, his knees resonating with agony as his weight dropped on top of them. However, he managed to stay on his feet as he heard Saidan and the others keep up with his pace. He looked in approval as a volley of arrows flew towards the group of escaping Forsaken, smiling as four of them fell under their impact. Only brief yelps could be heard from their mouths as the cursed monsters fell into the ground for the last time.

And either did Osran waste time casting a judgement towards one of his enemies, looking as he fell immediately. There were only two more of the attackers still alive and he could tell that they were growing increasingly fearful of their own probably failure to carry out their queen’s will. Yet, what happened next was something Osran hadn’t expected.

The two suddenly stopped still ear one slightly lower spot of the roof, looking carefully under them. Osran was already hoping them to give up until he saw both of them jump over the edge of the roof into the blackness. Osran looked into the darkness with astonished eyes, waiting for his eyes to get used to the completely black alley below him. He heard only a deep wail of one of the undead as his eyes caught the sight of a pile of hay below him, one of the undead apparently having missed the safe spot by the smallest of margins. Osran’s face darkened as he looked at the sight but he didn’t waver for a second before jumping after the two assassins. The drop seemed to last forever before the paladin finally hit the ground, the pain in his legs only intensifying as he stopped to a swift halt.

His eyes scoured the area around himself, the complete darkness of the street overwhelming his senses for a brief moment. He felt the precious seconds slip by as he tried to look
for any signs of the undead. Yet, it wasn’t many seconds before he heard a forced voice whisper to him from the darkness.

“You… you’re too late, paladin. We already got everything we need.” A voice called to the knight after which Osran immediately moved to his direction. He found a short Forsaken on his knees, his empty eye sockets staring towards the Crimson Legionary with their own haunting way. Osran’s expression, however, didn’t twitch any as he gave his answer.

“Where did your companion go? Tell me, now!” The paladin cried, but to his immense annoyance, the heard silent, dry chuckles emanate from the undead’s lips. He was forced to rely on his hands to avoid completely collapsing into the ground as he answered.

“He went to Sylvanas, of course.  Consider yourselves lucky to have escaped our attack but we know how weak your forces are these days. Mark my words, this Bastion will fall in the days to come. We have already spread our forces throughout these cursed lands. The vengeance of the Forsaken is coming for you.” He said, looking at Osran’s merciless eyes. The paladin was preparing to force further details out of the creature when something happened in matter of mere seconds which Osran couldn’t prevent. The undead pulled a weapon out of his pocket and brought it to the left side of his own head and before Osran could do anything about it, the Forsaken pulled the trigger. The paladin was left to look in disgust as the already-rotten brain of the monster flew all across the narrow alley, leaving the undead’s body collapse to the ground lifeless. Osran cursed deeply as the last source of information concerning today’s attacks had managed to escape his grasp and it didn’t help when he heard another, familiar voice speak to him.

“Did you get them, Lowriver? Speak, we don’t have any time to waste!” Saidan cried as he looked at the other knight who spat at the undead’s body before answering.

“One of them got away before I could sent it back to whatever hell it crept away from! And this bastard shot himself before I could begin to properly question him!” He said as he finally turned to look at his superior with vengeful eyes. The Grand Crusader, however, wasted no time giving his next order to the small group of knights who were beginning to gather around the two.

“Secure the nearby streets and don’t leave one stone unturned before you find any trace of that one bastard! We can’t afford even one of them getting away!” He cried as the other paladins spread off, searching for the one attacker who had managed to escape the judgement of the Light. However, Osran wasn’t quite done with the fallen assassin just yet.

“He said his friend already got what they came here for. What in the name of righteousness could he mean?” The knight asked, frowning deeply as he thought of that issue. If they had come to the Bastion in order to steal something, why in earth had they made their presence known by attacking the Grand Crusader himself? Saidan, however, wasn’t nearly willing to spend time thinking about such questions just yet.

“We may discuss that later but we need everyone to cut the escape routes for the Light-forsaken monster! Don’t waste any more time, Lowriver!” He cried while Osran nodded to him briefly. He knew his superior was right of course but today’s attack hardly improved his mood any. He’d do anything in his power to catch the cowardly killer before he’d escape to safety.

Yet, it turned out that such hopes turned out to be a folly. Despite intense searching and many skirmishes with the servants of the Scourge, the Forsaken was never heard of again. Osran’s face turned into a deep frown as he laid his arms on the table before him as he looked at the other knights who had gathered to discuss today’s attack. His comrade’s words only made his mind grow darker as he listened to one rather old paladin’s words.

“There apparently is a tiny crack in the wall not far north from here we hadn’t seen before. It’s just large enough for one bony undead to use but to any living, it would be too narrow. I cannot help but believe the enemy used it to enter the city and infiltrate our Bastion the same way they left it.” She said, crossing her hands as he looked at Saidan who seemed beyond furious at this point. He immediately snapped back at the old woman, not willing to hear such words from one of his own knights, knowing just what it meant if the enemy could attack the Bastion at will. He looked at the other paladin in anger, snapping at her sharply.

“Then why hadn’t we found it earlier? Don’t any of you realize just how dangerous our position has become? We cannot afford to overlook even the smallest of weaknesses in our defenses! We must double the amount of guards safeguarding our sacred headquarters before something like this happens again.” He cried, earning complete silence for a short moment within the room. The next to speak was Galford who was still one of the most trusted servants of the Grand Crusader.

“Pardon me, Grand Crusader, but it wasn’t because of our guards that they got in. I… I hate to say it but the paladins don’t have the answer to everything. These cursed cowards were clearly masters in hiding in the darkness and I’m afraid that no matter how many of our troops are guarding the Bastion, they can still get at least masterful rogue inside our walls. I wish it weren’t so but our knights are trained to fight against the darkness with utmost courage and skill, not to search for some cowardly sneakers who live from theft and deception.” The archivist said with a hapless look on his face, knowing that his words were unlikely to please the Grand Crusader any further. He most often wanted to please his superior in any ways possible but he saw no worth in trying to lie to him. He could see Dathrohan’s displeasure but Osran spoke before he could answer.

“And if there was any truth in the Forsaken’s words, a few rogues infiltrating our halls might be the least of our worries. I think we’ll be fine if we guard only the most important places within the Bastion and look out for each other in case anyone tries to attack us. But even more urgently, the bastard who killed himself before I got my hands on him said that the hand of the Banshee Queen has already spread into our lands and he heavily implied they’ll strike at us again in the coming days. And for some reason, I fear we’ll have to take his words seriously.” The paladin said as he look melancholically at Saidan. The highest-ranked crusader frowned deeply as he looked at his followers, increasingly willing to just blow his cover and simply kill these morons here and now and try some other approach to bring his vengeance to the Lich King but as long as he had some chance to make his original plan work, he’d take it. He took a deep sigh before beginning to talk.

“It is true that our outlook seems worse by the day but we cannot allow our momentary weakness make us look weak or scared. We still have the Bastion and the rest of our heartland and as long as they stand, I am willing to continue the fight. And by the Light, I hope everybody within this room will live and die by the oath each of us gave when we became paladins. We will crush the cursed assassins, we will strike back any potential attackers that will be coming our way and damn right we will destroy Naxxramas one day!
But I have to ask you to retain your courage through these dark days!” Dathrohan said, turning the rest of the knights’ gazes at the table, each of them trying to keep their calm within the presence of the Grand Crusader. To their luck, that tense moment was soon interrupted as another paladin entered the room. Malor the Zealous had returned to the Bastion soon after the demon’s coup as any suspicion towards Isillien had been dropped soon after that momentous day. The paladin’s voice wavered in hate as he started to speak.

“Grand Crusader and my fellow members of the Crimson Legion, we have investigated everything of value that the undead may have stolen from us. We were initially relieved to find that most of the fortress seemed to be untouched but in the end, we found something that are now gone. And they were the countless letters in Galford and Lowriver’s rooms.” He spoke in disgust, causing the two knights’ eyes widen immediately. What in earth was Malor speaking about? Why in earth would they want to attack those places unless… A sickening doubt started to form in Osran’s mind about what he’d soon possibly hear. Saidan wasted no time demanding the answer.

“What? Why in earth would they want to get them?” He said while narrowing his eyes as he looked at the younger man. Galford suddenly cleared his throat as he put an expression which was beyond uncomfortable. He hated to bring these news to his superior but this was something he simply had to know.

“I must beg for your forgiveness already, Grand Crusader, but I believe I know what they were after. After all, it was me and Lowriver who received all the information about our forces’ moves around Lordaeron as well as severe hints about our actual numbers in each of our bastions.” He said with a guilty expression on his face as he looked at Saidan who very slowly brought his hand to his forehead. For a moment it looked like he would completely snap and attack his followers.

The implications were clear to everyone present: if the enemy knew just the strengths and weaknesses of the Crusade, it would be far easier to plan a new strategy against them. And even worse, the surviving Forsaken had seen himself how very weak the crusade had to be in the Bastion if he could simply sneak in and escape with his life. The appearance of strength was the last thing the Crusade had anymore and now that, too, had been lost. This truly spoke volumes about the depth the once-powerful Scarlet Crusade now found itself in. Saidan looked in concern at the gathered knights before speaking in a fearful voice.

“In that case, guard the entrances at all times and let only those couriers you know inside. All we can do now is to prove to the enemy that despite their seemingly powerful armies, the Crusade still stands. As long as even one of us stands firm, our dream will live on. Remember that when the battle finally dawns upon us. May the Light be with you, champions of the Scarlet Crusade.” Dathrohan finished while rising to his feet in order to tell the others that the meeting had ended. Immediately, he moved away from the room, leaving a host of flabbergasted paladins behind him.

Osran didn’t bother looking after his commander as he took a deep sigh and shook his head. He had never seen Saidan that resigned to the obvious before, a fact that bothered Osran without an end. To think that one of the founders of the Silver Hand was beginning to lose hope… A deep look of fear rose to Osran’s face as he thought about the simple fact: he and the rest of the Crusade were surrounded by enemies who were all bent on slaughtering him or worse, he and the rest of the knights gathered in this one room all standing in that place of no escape. In the days to come, the fight would come and most likely, that fight would be his last. Osran felt the fear of his incoming struggle already worry him as he spoke to his last comrades.

“Well, you heard him. Our only option is to stick together and keep all our enemies, the Scourge, the Horde, the Alliance or Sylvanas at bay. I don’t know about you but I will take my stand proudly and only the Light itself knows how this all will end. May Uther watch over us all.” He said as he rose from his chair and headed towards gates to the Scarlet Bastion. He still had the message to pass to the courier to take back to Taelan and delivering it was even more urgent now.

Osran frowned as he moved forward, already dreading what was to come. Even if he couldn’t quite explain it, there seemed to hang some cloud of fear inside the Bastion, mixed with some other… feeling. Osran decided to wave those thoughts off for now, however, and walk his path to the end, no matter what would come his way.

During the time skip, things have gone from bad to worse for the Crusade. Now, all that remains for the order is to put on a valiant defense and hope for a miracle that could save their cause… There will be two more chapters after this one during which I hope I can wrap this story up in a satisfying way. I hope you like these final installments and see you next time.


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Re: Under the Scarlet Banner
« Reply #44 on: December 11, 2018, 11:47:36 AM »
Battle on the Crimson Throne

A slight smile rose to Osran’s face as he opened one of the large crates. It wasn’t often that any supplies were successfully brought into the Bastion, especially anything more than mere food. The paladin was beyond happy with the surprisingly steady supply of bread and water from the couriers but now his eyes fell upon something he had waited for for days. The sight of ten new chestplates met his eyes which were worth more than gold to the knights in this situation. His own plates had only been moderately battered but there were some knights whose entire armor had been practically beaten to pieces. He heard another voice from next to him speak to him in a rather excited voice.

“This is just what I needed! With this, those damned undead won’t stand a chance invading these sacred halls for a long, long time!” The man’s face turned into an expectant grin as he took some mechanical gadgets and a handful of black powder from another crate. Osran nodded at him approvingly, knowing just how very much that meant to Cannon Master Willey.

“It’s good that they managed to sneak those in as well. It has been a chore keeping the peace without your help.” He said rather dryly, the larger situation still forcing his mood down, The attacks from the undead seemed to only be growing more and more frequent and one by one, the elite forces of the Grand Crusader fell upon their onslaught. Willey gave a deep snort as he turned to Osran, looking at him in slight annoyance.

“I can see that full well, Lowriver. It was because of your inability to keep the intruders out that I had to spend hours on end trying to fish further information out of another servant of the Lich King. It was far from fun as those cursed death knights don’t seem to feel any real pain! At least, I can now get back to doing what I do best instead of being forced to clean up yours and the others’ failures!” He said half-jokingly, his tone signaling he wasn’t quite as hostile as his words would have implied. Osran nodded at him somewhat wearily, not in the mood for any half-hearted joking at this point. He had hardly slept for days as either his duties or the incoming attacks took most of his time. He waited for a few moments before answering as he put his new armor on him, more than happy to realize that it fit him perfectly. He then turned to the Cannon Master and spoke to him rather silently.

“Then, I hope you’ll finally be of any use yourself! But in all honesty, try to get your cannons all fixed and ready as soon as possible. We must be as ready as possible at all times for the enemy’s attack and you are an integral part of our defense.” He said, feeling anxious knowing that the Bastion’s defenses were far from ideal. Willey knew the truth in his fellow Crimson Legionary’s words, having grown to respect the no-nonsense and extremely dutiful paladin during their days together here at the Bastion. His help and leadership on Dathrohan’s side had been invaluable in keeping the enemy at bay.

“I know, Lowriver. And don’t worry, I’ll soon be ready to save your hides again if need be. Let us just hope that Tyr’s Hand will survive the latest loss. In any case, get the message going as soon as you can and I’ll do my part. See you sometime later.” He said, more than eager to begin fixing his weapons. Osran nodded to him, the latest news from the other city also forming a grip of fear into his heart. The news of Demetria’s death had hit him hard as he knew just how instrumental the so-called Scarlet Oracle had been in foreseeing and countering each and every attack on that massive citadel of the Crusade. He slowly took his already-written letter from his pocket, taking a look at it as he moved to head towards the gates of the Bastion to relay his message to the courier who had managed to deliver all these supplies with massive risk to himself. He would deserve the highest acknowledgments of his bravery in the coming days.

The knight eyed the completely expressionless faces of his comrades as he passed them, the crushing mood of the fortress more than clear to anyone. In many ways, Osran preferred to work on nights these days as at least then, he could avoid encountering this sickening feeling of despair and fear that had fallen upon most of the other crusaders. All of them seemed to know they were fighting a losing battle in the long run and inside, Osran knew himself there was no conceivable way even he would be alive anymore in a few weeks. Nearly every fourth defender of the Bastion had fallen in the past days and more followed them each day.

Still, for some reason, the paladin simply didn’t allow himself join them in their reaction to the inevitable. He didn’t want see this defense as something out of a bad dream or as the end of it all: rather, it was the final chapter of this journey of legend and a fitting message to all who would come after the Crusade. Osran hardly yearned to fall here but if it were to be his fate, then he’d face it like an old friend instead of the inescapable monster his comrades seemed to deem it as. Osran breathed heavily, trying to ignore his worsening aches when he opened one small door leading to a side office, his eyes falling upon a younger man. Osran nodded heavily as he started to speak.

“Here are the orders you have to deliver to Tyr’s Hand, courier. Your bravery was a major relief to all of us as things started to become difficult out here without any supplies. I’m sorry we cannot reward you now but I promise with my honor, the next time you return here, the Grand Crusader will provide you with honors like which you only dreamt before.” Osran said, knowing how important it was to reward good deeds of your comrades whenever they deserved it. The courier frowned somewhat as he looked at Osran, his voice sounding even confrontational.

“Next time? Crimson Legionary Lowriver, you know as well as I do that there may never be “next time”! It was through pure luck I even managed to get these supplies in and what will I get in return? Mere empty promises of a day that may never come!” He said as he raised to a standing position, causing Osran to shook his head slightly. He then walked further towards the other man and lowered his voice noticeably.

“Then, any hopes of riches and honor are even more foolish, don’t you think? Do you think I am here because I want to achieve anything more in my life? If you took even a moment to look around you, you’d realize that none of us expects to leave this place. No, this will almost certainly be our last stand.” He said in a surprisingly consoling voice, not seeing any real reason to silence the messenger even if it was well within his power. The younger man looked at Osran’s bearded, weary face as he answered to him in a much deeper voice, his face communicating his confusion.

“Then why are you here? There is still much more to defend out there! We cannot afford to lose any more men here just because you and the others are too proud to leave!” He said, his earlier thoughts completely gone from his mind. The Crimson Legionary narrowed his eyes as he took a moment to look at a small, struggling candle on a table near him, preparing to give his answer as clearly as he simply could. Then, he finally turned back at the younger man and sat down near him, speaking in an almost fatherly voice.

“Believe me, I would have asked the same question as you once. I used to once believe we stood a real chance to be able to see our beloved kingdom reborn during our lifetimes but you see, we simply don’t have that privilege anymore. We lost the war in this city two years ago after which our fate dawned upon each of us. However, it still isn’t a defeat. Not completely.

The Light still watches over us and we still fight for its glory. If we fulfill our fate here, we will have a chance to become a part of its glory and in that way, we will guide all those who come after us on their way to fulfill the goal we never could. We will live forever within the Light as the living symbols of its love upon all paladins and by extension, to our kingdom. You might still not see it in this Light but inside, I know our sacrifice will not be for nothing.” He said calmly, once again thinking of the grace the Light had provided him with the day he had become a paladin. That was a glory not even death could take away from him.

The courier looked at the paladin with an unmoving face, not really knowing what to say. He had known that the Crusade’s situation was dire but to hear one of the highest-ranked knights surrender this willingly to his death… what was wrong with him? A distinct anger and confusion arose within him as he answered to the other man.

“Except that you don’t have to give that sacrifice, Lowriver! None of you do! You know as well as I do that the Bastion is not the only place the Crusade still has! Your powers are still needed elsewhere!” He cried, causing Osran’s face to finally take a more resolute expression. He was slowly growing impatient with the younger crusader’s antics but he still deserved a proper answer.

“As I said, I believe we will leave a far more precious legacy to our home by defending its house of holiness as long as we simply can. In fact, I trust our deeds will have a chance to draw all of Lordaeron closer to the Light, thus opening a new way for the eventual defeat of the Scourge. I never expected you to understand but I know we’re doing the best thing we can in our situation. We will fall here in order to live forever within the Light.” The Crimson Legionary said, expecting another rebuke from the messenger and for a few moments, it seemed like another one really was coming.

However, after a few seconds his face suddenly softened and he shook his head in clear disapproval but still, he knew inside that he had no way to speak any of the highest-ranking leaders of the order away from their plans. He merely sighed deeply and offered his hand and nodded at Osran’s letter. The paladin locked eyes with the courier and nodded back, as if to affirm a mutual bond of acceptance and respect with the younger man. He then gave the letter in his hand to him without further words. It was then that the courier put the message into his bag and walked towards the door and spoke to the Crimson Legionary.

“Well, in that case, I think all I can do is to hope for all the best to each of you. I will return to Tyr’s Hand and pray the Bastion still stands when I next find a chance to return here.” He said glumly, glancing at Osran wearily. The bearded paladin followed him as he answered, speaking the only words he could at this point.

“So do I. But if it isn’t, please don’t tell the others what I told you. I want that knowledge to be relayed only through the grace of the Light.” He said as the courier mounted his steed which was hidden in another room of the Bastion which had been turned into a temporary stable. The younger man gave a brief sigh as he rode towards the gates which were slowly being opened by the guards who looked at the approaching rider and his armored horse. He stopped briefly at the corridor before turning back to Osran one last time.

“Very well, Lowriver. I’ll do as you say even if I do it against my better judgement. May the Light watch over every one of you.” The courier said as he commanded his steed into a gallop, knowing full well how important it was to leave Stratholme as fast as he simply could. Osran frowned as he looked at the misty day outside, looking as the courier’s form grew dim even before he entered any of the many streets.

The sun was completely blocked by the thick clouds and the day was even surprisingly cold, even in the standards of these plagued lands. In many ways, it was a perfect metaphor to the struggle of the knights when the coldness tried to flush out the relative warmth of the Bastion. Osran savored even this brief moment to watch at the ruined city as opposed to the never-ending gloom that lingered within his comrades. After a few moments, one of the guards spoke firmly to the paladin.

“Get back inside Lowriver. You know very well that we can’t afford to give the Scourge any chance to surprise us.” He said uncompromisingly but at first, Osran showed no signs that he had listened to the command. However, soon he turned around and answered to the guard.

“Indeed. Close the gates and inform us in case anyone wants inside, as always. You know the orders.” He said absentmindedly as he entered the castle again, turning to look at the courier’s slowly disappearing form once more. He was but a distant shadow and Osran was just about to turn his gaze back to the dark corridor before him until something happened that caught his attention completely. Among the mist flashed a bolt of blue, as if it were a shooting star in a clear night. That flash was followed by a loud scream whose source was all too clear to Osran. Yet, the knight knew better than to let that fact prevent him from concentrating his mind to what was happening. He raised his hand and spoke to his comrades.

“Wait for a moment. Don’t move.” He said as the closing of the gates stopped. For a few moments, everything was silent, the only sound reaching the Crimson Legionary’s ears being his own breathing and the cracking of the flames in the houses around him. He was almost preparing to go get others to help him investigate what had happened when his eyes caught the sight of something that made his blood run cold. A group of forms started to form within the mist, among them humans, dwarves and some cursed elves!  Osran could immediately tell one of them to be a paladin but the others seemed to be a mage, a hunter… and…

The sight of the next enemy made Osran’s mind turn into a rightful rage like few others that he could remember. Among them walked a massive felguard, identical to those who had ravaged Azeroth during the War! Had the outsiders truly fallen low enough to recruit those crazy servants of evil into their ranks? However, none of that mattered now. He suddenly grabbed his horn and before he blew it, he cried to the guards.

“Close the damned gate and reinforce it with anything you can find! Time is off the essence!” He cried as he blew his horn which rang through the halls like a maddened animal. It was a call whose meaning was known every knight within the Bastion: they were under serious attack. Immediately, the corridors started to get swarmed by knights of the Scarlet Crusade, each of them knowing that one of their comrades wouldn’t call them without an urgent reason. Osran lowered a massive stave to lock the gates further himself, nodding in approval as the guards started to pile whatever they could to delay the enemy’s breakthrough. Already, archers were starting to rain death down on the enemy, buying the Crusade some early relief. Osran smiled slightly as he heard an alarmed call behind him.

“What is it, Lowriver? What in the name of sanity is happening?” Malor cried as he and a dozen other heavily-built knights stopped near the aging paladin. Osran was relieved by the speed of his comrades and he immediately started to give his answer.

“A group of enemies, apparently from the Alliance, are marching upon us! I’m not sure how many there are but…” At this moment, Osran nearly fell as the entire floor was shaken by a gigantic bolt of magic against the gates. Immediately, the Crimson Legionary turned around and looked in astonishment as a gaping whole appeared where the center of the gate had been a few seconds ago. And even worse, he could soon see a massive axe appear from the hole which cut the stave and the locks holding the gate shut into pieces. Osran moved to Malor’s side as the two parts of the structure fell into the floor, opening the way for the enemy in. The latter cried quickly to Osran as he prepared for the battle.

“Demons? What in the name of all that is good is going on here?” Malor cried as he did what every paladin in his place would have done. He concentrated everything in his power to cleanse the foe’s unholy essence with purifying Light, hoping to end its destructive existence here and for all. However, it was then that he felt his spell fail, instead knocking him back slightly. Malor cursed as he realized that he had just been hit by some cowardly counterspell which meant that using any kind of magic just became progressively more difficult. Yet, that mattered little to the knight who hadn’t heard his title for nothing.

Two dozen crusaders stopped on his sides, ready to told the line to their last breath. Each of them moved to block the corridor as a small group of heavily-built fighters rushed into the fortress, not wasting any time before engaging the defenders in a fierce battle. Osran felt like his hand would be torn away from his shoulders as the powerful dwarf hit him with all his power, telling the paladin that even with his mastery of the sword, it was still a difficult struggle to beat this foe. There was no question that this foe was from Dun Morogh as Osran had fought alongside them more times than he cared to remember.

The knight attempted to mount a counterattack on the shorter combatant and for a short moment, he was confident he would be successful. However, just as he was about to hit the dwarf’s chest with his blade, he felt as if his body was being torn to pieces, streams of blood suddenly pouring of his body. He looked in horror as he saw a mage mastering her arcane spells, most likely having hit Osran with one of her spells. The paladin felt life returning to his battered torso as a priest restored his health shortly but it was only after that that the paladin’s worst fears were realized.

Suddenly, there started to rain balls of azure power into the corridor that his the crusaders with sickening power. That, coupled with the floor that was quickly turning into fire caused many members of the Crusade fall into the ground screaming terribly. Malor gritted his teeth as he concentrated his own powers in guarding himself from the brute damage, something that his comrades struggled to do as well. Still, the situation was growing highly desperate which everybody understood perfectly. Apparently, this was to be their final battle they had waited for all this time…

“Get out of the way unless you want to fall with these Light-forsaken fiends! Alright, go!” That cry came as a complete surprise to many of the knights but driven by some instinct, nearly all of them did as they were told. Those few who were too slow-witted to comply would soon meet their sickening fates as their backs and intestines would be crushed to oblivion by incoming cannonballs, a similar fate befalling some of the attacks. Osran frowned as he saw entrails from both the enemies and the crusaders paint the entire hall red, noticeable bits of flesh also landing on his chestplate. He glanced at Willey and his team who had brought the cannons into the corridor while the battle raged, able to launch a surprise a surprise attack on the attackers. However, the immediate after math of that surprising turn of events was followed by a desperate attempt by both sides to recover their positions before they’d lose any more ground to the enemy.

Malor cringed his teeth as he recovered his footing, never too fond of any additional weapons in addition to his faithful sword and his own mastery of the Light. However, right now, he welcomed that intervention wholeheartedly and he was more than ready to continue the struggle wholeheartedly. Yet, soon he felt something that took him completely by surprise. He felt a terrifying shiver creep up his body and his legs no longer seemed to work at all. He looked at them in shock, gasping audibly as he saw that they were completely frozen by a mage’s spell. That realization stunned him for a few precious moments, almost long enough for one of the warriors to crush his body with a swing of a massive axe and only barely, he managed to parry the incoming hit with his own weapon. He then heard the dwarf’s voice speak to him as he prepared for another attack.

“This will be the day ye and yer cursed Crusade are going down, lad! For too long have you defame Lordaeron and the Alliance’s name!” He cried but before he could land his next attack, Malor quickly hit him with a quick judgement that interrupted his foe’s attack before answering.

“Never mention Lordaeron to me again, dwarf! Each of us have given our whole lives to defend it against the likes of your so-called Alliance! To think you’re helping the Scourge like this while also inviting warlocks into your ranks… You are no better than Archimonde and I’ll make sure you’ll meet the same fate!” Malor cried as he kicked his opponent before attempting to finish the fight with a counterattack of his own. However, it was at that moment that the dwarf bowed before his opponent… revealing a bolt of frost that hit the paladin less than a second later.

Malor fell into the ground and before he could do anything more, the dwarf’s axe crushed his armor, sinking deep into his chest, ending that painful struggle once and for all. As the paladin stared at the ceiling with his last moments, the dwarf spoke to him briefly before engaging the others in a fight.

“The Alliance will welcome any who wishes tae fight four our common cause, something which the Crusade forgot a long time ago, lad. But know that we will bring tae Lich King down after we’ve purged this city. I just wished you would have helped us in it.” He said, earning an extremely weak look of anger from Malor before the knight returned to his
original position for the last time, letting out a weak whimper before his life was ended once and for all.

“Take cover!” The cry was heard again and this time, the knights of the Crusade did as they were told faster than the first time but so did the fighters of the Alliance. The barrage caught one knight of the Crusade and one of the attackers and Osran knew it wasn’t enough to win the fight like this. The Crimson Legionary glanced around him, noticing Malor’s death immediately. A look of regret appeared on his face as he realized that one of the strongest paladins in the Bastion had met his end and immediately, he realized it couldn’t go on like this. He immediately cried to those still fighting on, hoping to get them away from this hell as soon as possible.

“Fall back towards the Cannon Master! We have to take new defensive positions!” He cried, thinking of the smaller doorways deeper within the Bastion which were likely manned by the trusted elite guards of the Grand Crusader. Inside, Osran knew it was his duty to protect his lord under the very end with his own life but still, he had hoped that the master of the order would have stood with his knights from the very beginning. At least, that was what the Dathrohan of old would have done.

The knight cringed as he countered another blue, star-like bolt from the druid who had taken the form of some kind of massive walking bird, especially her powers worrying him greatly. During all his years, he had never fought against a druid before but he had heard that their powers were extremely potent and deadly to those who didn’t know what they were capable off. Yet, most of the surviving knights managed to fall back in a rather orderly manner even if it was sickeningly clear to the aging paladin that he and his comrades had no way of ever mounting a counterattack against the attackers. Right now, all he could ever hope for was to believe for a miracle and trust in some way that the tide of the battle could still be reversed.

The retreat of his comrades caused Willey to curse deeply inside and greatly regret Osran’s command. He had hoped that he and his team could take out the attackers one by one but inside, he knew that the other Crimson Legionary’s order was also more than understandable. After all, they couldn’t simply rely on his cannons to fight back this most vicious of enemies. Willey could see that there wasn’t more than two dozen attackers but each of them fought with viciousness and courage he had rarely seen. But considering that this “courage” served only the Lich King, it earned nothing more than disgust and loathing from the Cannon Master. His lips turned into a slight smile as he aimed his cannon towards the warlock, doing something that he knew he would never be forgiven but if this was his last battle, then that mattered little.

He stood still without a muscle in his face twitching as his cannon let out another roar as it launched another of its balls into the fighting crowd. Inside, he lamented as he saw two of his comrades being blown to pieces by his weapon but those thoughts were put aside as he saw it also pierce through the warlock, ending his battle as well. Many eyes turned to him in shock as they realized what had happened but no sign of remorse came from Willey. Rather, he let out a deep sigh as the realized he simply had no time to recharge the cannon anymore as the pace with which the enemies advanced seemed to only grow faster. In order to continue his fight, he slowly drew a massive gun from his belt and loaded it carefully before he raised it against the charging druid and spoke to him in a low, hateful voice.

“Tell my greetings to Arthas when he joins you in hell, bastard!” He said as he pulled the trigger, his entire body pushed back as the launch forced him back. However, as he recovered from the impact, he saw something that made him even more enraged than before. One of the enemy paladins had shielded him from the impact, making a mockery of his self-made gun. The Cannon Master cried to his assistants as he started reloading his favorite weapon.

“Destroy the cannons before helping the others to hold the line! If you get overwhelmed, retreat into the Hall of Lights!” He cried as he lighted the pile of explosives under his own cannon, quickly moving away from it. Now, he’d have to teach these bastards a lesson they wouldn’t forget easily…

The escalating situation awakened something within Osran had seldom experienced lately: disgust. If there was one thing he hadn’t partaken yet, it was killing one’s own comrades. To see Willey shooting his own allies this readily was something which made Osran’s mental anguish even worse but even then, there was nothing he could do about it now. He cursed as he felt a storm of snow fall down upon him, making any movement a struggle. He then glanced at the door leading into the Hall of Lights, the main part of the citadel and noticed that another line of defense was being prepared there. The archers had been brought down from the roof of the Bastion to protect it from these invaders.

After Osran saw his blade sink into the elf’s abdomen, he was about to declare himself victorious in his fight against his opponent. However, he was seriously taken aback when he saw that it had caused no real damage to his foe. He immediately pulled his blade back and even quicker than his eye could see, he hit the elf again, this time hoping to cause a long, gaping wound that would bleed him dry. However, yet again, that would didn’t seem to make a dent upon the dark-blue colored male which made Osran even more alarmed than before? What was going on? It was as if the wounds were healed before they were even dealt but such a thing was impossible…

Suddenly, he caught the sight of something that made him twitch noticeable. Behind the first attackers stood a robed figure, who Osran knew could be no other than a priest. But… no priest was strong enough to heal that quickly and effectively! He had witnessed the training and actions of dozens if not hundreds of them and none could cast that effective healing! What in the name of the Grand Crusader were these intruders? The paladin’s eyes widened in ever-growing fear as he called to his comrades in an alarmed voice.

“Fall back into the Hall of Lights, everyone! Only there will we able to beat these bastards back!” He cried, praying in his mind that there was even a flicker of truth in his own words. However, he was soon interrupted by another voice that made him frown deeply.

“Don’t listen to this coward, the chosen ones of the Grand Crusader! Take your stand here proudly and face whatever comes with your honor intact!” Willey cried as he launched his massive gun again, taking another one of the enemies out with his firm aim. The song of battle and of honorable death radiated from him as he prepared for his final melee. The cannon master had already resigned to his fate and he would enjoy every one of these seconds in giving his everything to take as many of these bastards with him as he simply could. Even if his title reflected his true specialty perfectly, it certainly didn’t mean he was a weak paladin either and he knew he’d be more than a match even against those who had finally ended Malor’s war once and for all.

The other officer’s command made Osran hesitate deeply about what he should do in his situation. Not many of the ordinary knights seemed to be willing to follow him but he knew that continuing the fight in this corridor was complete madness. Inside, he knew he absolutely couldn’t abandon his comrades, no matter what happened. Willey was already fighting against four of the invaders at once, his face communicating nothing but determination and will to put every last bit of his skill into play one last time. Even Osran was astonished when he saw the balding man’s mastery of his two tiny axes which left their horrifying marks on the enemy. Even more surprisingly, he seemed to be able to even get close to attacking the two healers of the small but fierce attacking group.

Willey himself was nearly completely consumed by his instincts and his desire cut these bastards down. Soon, they’d take everything from him and he’d make sure to take as much as he simply could from them in return. A hit after hit landed upon the fighters of the Alliance, the Cannon Master’s agility making it nearly impossible for them to mount a counterattack against him. A look of fear rose to the human priest’s face as he saw the crazed look in the Scarlet officer’s face and none of his comrades seemed to be able to stop him… until the druid to his left finally decided to put an end to this charade.

The paladin grinned as he pulled his right axe away from a hunter’s throat, looking as she fell into the ground, lifeless. He then turned towards the priest, immediately trying to swing his small but vicious weapons towards him. Suddenly, he noticed that he was apparently being targeted by some massive bolt of what seemed like fire coming from the moon itself. However, when he attempted to shield himself from the attack, he felt the same feeling fall upon him that had already made Malor’s fight that much more difficult. He suddenly felt that his request for the Light’s protection had failed for some unknown reason and on the same moment, he realized that his slight oversight had cost him everything.
Shivers crept down Osran’s spine as he saw the massive bolt of deep blue engulf Willey, his cries filling the entire corridor as his flesh turned into mere ash, the Cannon Master’s form soon collapsing into the ground under the druid’s magic. That sight left Osran stunned for a few seconds but even then, this wasn’t a time to reflect on that horrible sight.

“Now, follow me! You saw what happened to him! Fall back now if you want to live!” He cried to his comrades and this time, hardly nobody hesitated to follow his command. Osran looked with a content look as he turned around to form the next line of defense deeper within the Bastion. However, it was at this very moment that something happened that he
hadn’t expected at all.

The elven mage among the attackers knew this was the perfect moment to cut the Crusade’s retreat short. He knew more than well that their morale had been depleted by the loss of their commanders and now, all they wanted was to get away from this as soon as they only could and that opened a very interesting opportunity for him to cast a small spell…
A slight look of hope appeared to Osran’s face as he saw another group of knights block the central part of the Hall of Lights. Maybe, they could finish the surviving attackers and save the Bastion even after the loss of Malor and Willey. He was ready to help his comrades escape from that hellish fight… until something happened nobody had expected, even less wanted to expect. It seemed like the entire area around the doorway deeper into the citadel suddenly exploded into a massive field of fire which seemed to swallow dozens of crusaders inside it.

Immediately, unspeakable cries seemed to fill the entire hall as Osran looked in horror at his doomed comrades who still tried to expect for nothing. One man managed to escape the sickening inferno and Osran was left looking at horror as he collapsed into the ground, his struggles ending as the flames destroyed the last vestiges of his body. That scene was one from anyone’s worst nightmare and inside, Osran could only say his brief but heartfelt prayers to those whose lives would be ended in this most sickening of ways. He was just about to turn around and head towards his comrades… until another spell hit him through the flames before he could even twitch his body.

Something seemed to be exploding inside Osran and without further wondering, he knew it could be nothing else but some kind of blast of arcane, the area of magic that was the very antithesis of all life. He hardly noticed as he hit the stone wall of the Hall of Lights, the hit only causing more blood to leave his battered body. He didn’t even want to look at his chest as he could only imagine what kind of sight would then meet his eyes. Instead, the Crimson Legionary closed his eyes and with all his concentration, started to cast a brief spell of healing in his mind, knowing he didn’t have a lot of time before the flames would extinguish and the attackers would end his struggles once and for all.

Nearly all of the paladin’s senses were numb and he saw nothing coherent as he forced his body back to a standing position and started to walk towards his comrades. The paladin had absolutely no idea how long it would be until he’d reach his comrades. All that mattered was to go on and on… trying to do all he could for the Crusade before head finally fall in the name of the Light. After a time which felt like an eternity, he finally heard a friendly voice even if it took herculean efforts for him to make sense of the words.

“Crimson Legionary Lowriver, thank the Light you made it! Take him behind the lines and try to heal the worst of his wounds! Now, he doesn’t have much time!” If the aging paladin had been in any better condition, he would have noticed the awe in the other man’s voice at his ability to even move his finger in his condition. He frowned as he saw Osran’s armor nearly completely painted red and his face covered with deep, horrifying wounds but managed to dismiss them from his mind as it was barely the first time he saw such injuries. He took a sigh as he pulled his sword, looking as the enemy appeared from the opposing door, the flames hardly extinguished at that point. The Crusade’s second line of defense was ready to face the enemy, led by Archivist Galford who knew that this was the time to put all his knowledge and leadership into good use.

None of that, however, was important to Osran who was quickly carried to the last corridor before the heart of the citadel, the famed Crimson Throne. He cried as every part of his body ached with terrible pain, that sensation growing dimmer and dimmer by the second. Through it all, he heard a faint voice that even now registered in his mind surprisingly easily.

“Stay still, Lowriver! I don’t have much time before I’ll have to help the others! Regardless of your position, we will go help the others unless you calm down and give us the chance to help you! The old woman snarled, knowing that there would be dozens more lives on the line in less than a minute. She respected Osran’s efforts in defending the Bastion as much as anyone else but she also had to remember her charge in helping all of those who needed her help and if someone made that impossible, it was their loss, not hers.

Hearing those words, Osran knew just what was actually on the line here. He took the deepest of sighs and he gritted his teeth together so tightly their hurt, deciding he was strong enough to go through these sickening moments. Apart from his forced, pained breaths, he was completely still as he felt the familiar, sweet feeling flow into each one of his limbs. Second after second, his sight returned and the all-encompassing agony started to wear away. It wasn’t long before the priest’s spell started to wear off, causing Osran to quickly rise to a sitting position. He gasped deeply as he glanced at the priest and spoke to her in a revering voice.

“Thank you for your help. I’ll join the others and…” He started before he heard the crying of his comrades who at that same moment engaged the charging enemy. He and the priest exchanged quick glances before the healer headed off into the fields of battle. Osran looked at the escalating scene in concern, dreading the thought of how this all would end. He panted in still-lingering pain as he rose to his feet, his sides aching with each slight movement he took. He put his hand on his chest as he raised his eyes at his friends who, to the paladin’s horror, were already being pushed back. The paladin quickly touched his broken armor and looked at the dried blood that now covered his entire armor, conflicting thoughts rising to his mind.

What in earth was happening? The aging paladin had heard many times of the Banshee Queen’s Alliance with the Horde and of the Alliance’s expeditions into the old lands of Lordaeron. That wasn’t what bothered him but to witness his enemies’ merciless attack… His comrades seemed to be nothing compared to these mysterious members of the Alliance which was something the Crimson Legionary could hardly begin to understand. He had been surprised by the news from the Monastery and Tyr’s Hand but this… this was something he couldn’t even begin to expect. He was starting to pant as he drew his word again, preparing to join his comrades in battle once more before he heard Galford’s voice
from among the fighters.

“Head towards the Throne, Lowriver! The Grand Crusader himself demanded your presence there!” The archivist cried as he received another blow to his left hand. Osran frowned deeply before he cried back to his comrade, not in the least amused by his words.

“I won’t, Galford! My place is here to guard…” He started but before he could even finish his sentence, the balding man cried back to him with all his might.

“You received your answers, now follow them like a knight of your position should! The Grand Crusader’s word is absolute as it has…” He started but before he could continue, his opponent found the perfect opening and the head of the finest archivist and scholar in all of Lordaeron dropped into the floor of the Hall of Lights, leaving Osran to witness the gruesome sight. The man’s lifeless eyes stopped to stare at the paladin, causing rising horror to rise within Osran. Now, all of the leading members of the Legion had fallen under the attackers’ attack and their onslaught didn’t show even signs of slowing down.

Second after second, wider cracks started to form within the defenders’ ranks as their foes pushed their backs against the walls. Even if Osran didn’t want to admit it, he knew already that those men were already as good as dead. The vigor with which the enemy was advancing… It all felt so very unreal to the paladin that there was barely one conscious thought within his mind as he finally turned around, completely shocked by the violence of the onslaught. But right now, he’d do as Galford told him with his last seconds even if the thoughts of surviving through this day had all but died within the paladin’s mind.

A deep sigh left the Grand Crusader’s chest as he looked towards the door into his sanctum, full well knowing what was transpiring. Yet, there was not one thought of understanding and sympathy for any of those pitiful weaklings who had failed him and hastened the destruction of his order, his creation! Dying in this battle suited them perfectly as was as Balnazzar was concerned. He would get another chance to take the fight to the Lich King but to the demon’s regret, he knew it would take many, many years to assume control of another organization as powerful as the Scarlet Crusade had once been.

Not one word was heard from his closest bodyguards either. There was nothing to be said: each of those valiant men knew that all of their comrades were meeting their ends out there and that they’d soon follow them, slain by a pityingly small group of outsiders. That thought made each of the paladins more than morbid but even then, they were ready to serve the Grand Crusader faithfully until their last breaths. That eternity of oppressing silence and preparing for the inevitable was suddenly brought to an end as another voice called from the nearby corridor.

“I am here as you requested, Grand Crusader! Eve… everyone else has fallen out there. We are all that’s left.” Osran said as he quickly joined the Crusade’s master’s bodyguard but his words didn’t earn any immediate reaction from Dathrohan. He waited for a few seconds before answering, his voice heavy as he spoke.

“I’m aware of that, Lowriver. And it is up to us to make a valiant last stand here, in the Crimson Throne itself. That is why I requested your presence. I know the full extent of your powers and I hope that we’ll make a fight that will be spoken of for years! The elite of the Crimson Legion, the most exalted champions of the Crusade! Today, we face an enemy like which we’ve never fought before and it’s very possible we will not make it. However, our order deserves that we will do our all to fight of these bastards from our Bastion. Whether we win or fall today, make sure that you are all worthy of the love the Light has shown towards all of us during these blessed years!” He cried, earning final salutes from those around him, each of them honored by being able to share this moment with their leader.

Even Osran couldn’t be able to completely put aside the pride of this moment. To think he’d fall beside one of the founders of the Silver Hand and the knight who he had followed all these fearful months… yes, there would no greater glory, no greater honor than this to be earned. He took a sigh and drew his sword from its sheath as he saw movement within the corridor leading towards the Throne and on that moment, he knew what would come next. He listened as the Grand Crusader’s thundering voice echoed through the massive hall.

“So you have fought your way here, adventurers. You have fought your way here by slaughtering all those who had fought so hard to prevent the shadow of undeath from ever falling upon this holy place. Who ordered you to commit this atrocity? I know that king Wrynn is a man of honor and he’d never order this kind of abomination.” Saidan said, his voice trembling with hate. It wasn’t apparent whether he even expected an answer as he was always preparing for the coming fight. However, the tension was relieved for a short moment when the night elf raised his hand to order his comrades to stop for a few moments. His voice was surprisingly calm as he answered the paladin’s question.

“The Alliance’s interest in your Crusade has been meager at best, Dathrohan. We have all come here to end your reign of terror over the civilians of Lordaeron and to pave way for the Dawn as they have proven more than capable of one day ending the Scourge. You and your defiled order, on the other hand, have proven yourselves capable of only murdering and torturing innocents in the name of the Light! For this, we decided to put your twisted Crusade to its final rest!” He spoke in a loud voice, causing Osran to tighten his grip of his sword. He knew the night elf’s explanation would hardly be believable but this… this was something he simply couldn’t tolerate.

“Spoken like a true mindless pawn of the Dawn, I see. Come here and I will take full pleasure in showing that the Crusade is still more than capable of defending the truth and the Light against the likes of you!” He said, knowing there was nothing more to say in this situation. To hear that some self-righteous fools would actually claim such outrageous things… these souls were obviously past redemption. However, his moment was soon interrupted as Saidan quickly snapped at him.

“Stay silent, Lowriver! As for you, I give you one final chance to lay down your arms and plead for the Light’s forgiveness in this place of grace and hope. Fail to do this and I promise you, you won’t leave this place ever again.” He said, knowing that his command wouldn’t be followed but that mattered little. The dwarven hunter suddenly spat at the floor in front of himself, raising his bow towards Saidan and crying in a loud voice.

“Tae’s enough jabbering, murderer! I’ll show ye just how we treat traitors like ye in ol’ good, Kharanos!” He cried as he launched his arrow right at the Grand Crusader but that didn’t even seem to make the slightest of impressions on him. He merely parried the arrow with his sword and cried back to the attackers loudly.

“Today you have unmade what took me years to create! For this you shall all die by my hand!” The bellowing outrage was apparent to everyone present as he cast a spell that none of his comrades had seen from him before. A small cover of darkness appeared around him as he locked eyes with the hunter and almost immediately afterwards, the dwarf started to cry terribly and he dropped his bow into the ground as he pulled both of his hand to hold his head as he collapsed into the ground. He continued screaming as if his entire head was about to explode even if there was not one wound to be seen it.

That sight surprised Osran greatly and he frowned deeply at it. He had seen it before but usually it was used by priest’s who had specialized in darker forms of magic, ones that weren’t associated with anything even resembling the Light. Rather those kinds of priests were almost as despised as the demon-summoning warlocks and the fact that the Grand Crusader was adept in such magics disturbed the paladin greatly. He’d have to investigate this later if he got the chance but for now, he couldn’t question the spell’s effectiveness. And even then, there was no time to wonder about such things as Osran saw the attacking warriors begin their charge towards the paladins.

The defenders didn’t waste time gathering their lines and starting their own offensive. All of them fought as one as they engaged the enemy in this decisive melee. Blows were exchanged and spells were cast towards the hated enemies and this time, the Crusade’s highest elite managed to stand their ground unlike their lower-ranked comrades earlier. Osran glanced at his opponent, a strongly-built human who attempted to break his opponent’s defense with brute power. However, Osran managed to infuse his weapon with enough Light to make up for his opponent’s advantage in pure strength.

Second after second, the paladin tried to build on a small advantage against his opponent and with great efforts, he managed to wrest the battle from his opponent and put him on the defensive. Osran panted deeply, knowing that his opponent’s youth made his efforts even more difficult but that was a thing he had been forced to face many times before already. But inside, the paladin felt the song of the battle sing as strong as it had in years past. Quickly, the Crimson Legionary cast a quick bolt of Light against his opponent, catching him off-guard. His eyes widened with triumph as he managed to sink his blade into the other man’s chest, his eyes dimming into the mist of death.

Looks of fear rose to many of the other attackers’ faces as they saw their comrade fall into the ground, their numbers getting extremely concerning. Osran was about to turn around to help his comrades but before he could quite see what was happening around him, the paladin felt a stinging pain in his shoulder. The aging knight cursed as he turned to face the other attacker, knowing he couldn’t take much more injuries after his earlier, near-fatal wounds. The fight was on but Osran knew he’d have to mind his own surroundings better if he wanted to fight on as long as he could.

Even then, one crusader after another started to fall under the adventurers’ brutal onslaught. Each of them stood proudly in the face of defeat but still, the enemy was unbelievably powerful and their powers beyond terrifying. Inside, even Balnazzar knew this and for the first time, even the demon couldn’t bring himself to blame his minions for their failure. Even the Legion would have struggled in the face of these heroes but still, the dreadlord wasn’t anywhere close to being ready to give up. He dominated the entire battlefield, supporting those around him while forcing the enemy back whenever possible. He was the one who held the line together, his determined and powerful leadership forging the last vestiges of trust in his comrades they needed.

The Grand Crusader’s eyes turned into an expectant smile as he gathered all of his strength into one, mighty attack as he faced a fearful dwarf before him. The latter knew full well who he was facing and that bothered him without an end. Even if the rest of the Crusade had fallen before him and his comrades, he could still see that Dathrohan was every bit as powerful as the rumors had told him. Here was a knight who wouldn’t without the most bitter of fights. Still, he knew he didn’t have any choice at this point but fight on and try to beat his opponent. However, it wasn’t long before he’d realize the depth of his folly.

Quickly, Dathrohan released the strength he had gathered in his weapon and before an eye could react, he lowered it towards the dwarf. His eyes widened as he saw the massive sword fall down upon him, trying to block it with his own axe. However, the dwarf’s weapon was cut to pieces as if it had been made of glass and the dwarf’s armor didn’t offer even the least of protection before the Light-infused sword of the Grand Crusader. His head was cut to two and before anyone could react, the lord of the Scarlet Crusade moved towards his next victim. This fight could still be won.

However, the last two remaining warriors understood the danger of their situation as well. Soon, their casters would be exposed and at that moment, their offensive would be over. They had to prevent that at any cost and each of them knew just what they’d have to do to prevent it. The two suddenly leaped further away from the enemy and started to spin around, throwing any of the Crusaders into the ground and forcing the others back. This moment was quickly utilized by the magic-wielders as they started to cast massive snowstorm and lighting that battered the defenders without even a flicker of mercy.

At first, it seemed that the defenders could still retain their ground against this sudden attack but soon, some of them started to fall beneath the constant bombardment, even their strength not enough to withstand the forces that they were now facing. Osran looked around himself in shock, seeing as his most trusted comrades died all around him. The warriors’ endless assault and the casters’ spells seemed to be too much for him even if he didn’t realize it at first. Even if the breeze slowed his limbs tremendously, he still managed to overpower his next opponent but just as he prepared to take him out, he felt another flicker of pain emanate from his back, this was much worse than his previous

A silent curse escaped from the paladin’s mouth as he prepared to turn around to take his next opponent out but it was at this very moment that the aging paladin realized something that made his blood run cold. All of the knights who had only a minute earlier fought by his side lay now dead in the ground, each of them crushed by the enemy’s untold strength. And even worse, he was quickly being surrounded by the enemies, the only crusaders still standing beside him being Dathrohan and two of his closest aides.
That moment seemed to stretch forever within the Crimson Legionary’s mind. So, it was true. The Crusade had fallen and his comrades had already been slain by the enemy.
Whatever hope there had been left earlier was now gone, swallowed by the sickening inevitability of his own death. He stood no chance against these enemies and they knew it as well. However, his earlier sentiments hadn’t left Osran even now. He’d do his everything before the end and if he wanted to get anything done anymore, he’d have to at least begin by slaughtering the enemy’s healers before he could even start planning anything else. Osran quickly cast a judgement against the hunter seemingly guarding the priest and cried to them in loud voice.

“In the name of the Lightbringer and our king, you will see what being a paladin really means!” He cried as he sliced the stunned hunter’s throat open, charging against the now-exposed priest with all his might. The former attempted his very best to stop the attacker’s rush but to his growing horror, nothing he did seemed to have any impact on the enraged paladin. He tried to turn around and flee before his adversary but in a way he hadn’t felt in ages, Osran fought as one with the force he was wielding. Any coherent thoughts were now gone, replaced by the mere hope of doing whatever he still could in this life.

With a quick gesture, he hit his opponent with hammer of righteous fire which fell him to the ground. He gritted his teeth as he sank his sword into the cleric’s back before finishing the job by turning his sinned flesh into pure ash. However, then came what Osran had feared all along. He felt a burning hit on his side which immediately threw him into the ground. The paladin cried before he extinguished his flaming body but he was surrounded before he could regain his footing. The initial hit pained the paladin without an end but he knew the worst was still to come. He attempted to defend himself from the enemies but before he could react, he saw his sword being thrown into the corner of the room by a massive hit from his enemies. Osran didn’t move his gaze when he heard the voice of one of his attackers speak to him.

“Ye put up a great fight, lad. But now it’s all over for ye.” He said, causing Osran to look at the Grand Crusader who was equally being overpowered by mere numbers. Inside, one last idea rose to Osran’s mind. He could still let himself place the Light firmly in his command as he had done in Light’s Hope. He had heard of the terrifying power he had wielded back then even if he couldn’t quite remember it. Maybe that way he could put a new fight against the enemy, just maybe…

Yet, it was immediately afterwards that the paladin remembered the other side of that idea. The only thing he remembered of that day was his horrifying, temporary disconnect with the Light itself. It was more than clear that what he had done that day had infuriated the Light greatly as the paladin knew more than well that some few knights had lost its command forever. He had been blessed with another chance to regain his favor with it and inside, the aging man understood that he had only one choice. He would not shame himself in the name of all the good in this world by letting in to his inner rage. He would fall as the paladin he was, not as some empty husk of a man who had once been one of the leaders of the Scarlet Crusade. As a man of the Light, not as one who had thrown its grace away because of his own hubris. He snorted briefly as he finally spoke to his foes.

“Maybe that’s what you think. But you’ll see, I will leave a far greater legacy to Azeroth than any of you bastards ever will. Do whatever you want but know that even if I have more regrets than I’d ever dare to remember, my stand here today is not one of them. I hope you will all burn in whatever hell you will find yourselves one day.” The paladin said bitterly as he prepared for the warrior before him to finish his struggles but the first hit came from behind him.

“Shut your mouth, monster! We’ll see who’ll find themselves in hell today!” A night elf’s voice called as he kicked Osran before penetrating his back with his sword. The aging paladin twitched greatly at the impact before he collapsed into the ground heavily, staying still. The violence of the hit was terrible and Osran felt his blood flowing from his mouth as he fought to retain his consciousness. Still, the wound itself was sickening enough that the gathered adventurers around the paladin regarded the paladin as already dead.

The Grand Crusader spat before him as he saw his last comrades falling around him. Now, he was completely alone and as far as he wanted to disregard it, he had no choice but to accept that he was losing this struggle. His possessed body was bleeding heavily and he could already feel his fighting grow more forced by the minute. Inside, Balnazzar realized he wouldn’t win the battle like this. Luckily, none of his followers were here anymore to see what he was going to do. At the very least, he’d have his revenge on these cursed cowards… The demon suddenly disengaged from the fight and started to speak as shadowy, black power started to dance around him. His voice changed from the strong, noble tone of Dathrohan into a seething, even rumbling menace as he spoke.

“You fools think you can defeat me so easily? Face the true might of the Nathrezim!”

Even if he was terribly battered, Osran could still hear that shocking change in the Grand Crusader’s voice. In his weakening mind awakened a new horror and fear and even in his current condition, he started to force and tear his body to turn towards the scene of the battle. Every part of his body ached terribly but with herculean efforts he finally felt his injured body turn towards the scene of the battle. The sight that met his eyes would have made him cry in shock had he been able to in his situation.

Dathrohan’s form was being engulfed by thick darkness, which for a moment seemed to swallow the legendary paladin’s body but even then, what happened next was still more than apparent to those around him. The Crimson Legionary’s eyes widened as he saw the Grand Crusader start to grow, his height getting larger by the second. Saidan’s human body started to get twisted terribly, his skin growing paler and sick-looking while his armor turned into a darker, heavier one. Two wings pushed out of his back and at that point, Osran recognized the being before him.

It was a dreadlord, one of the most despicable of creatures in the entire world. The paladin would never forget Mal’Ganis, the creature who had led the Scourge initially, the being who had turned Arthas into his pawn. He still remembered Tichondrius, another of these nathrezim who had guided the fallen prince after his fateful decision. Osran didn’t know there were more but apparently, he had been wrong. However, it were the implications that truly hurt the wounded paladin.

Had he truly followed a demon lord all these years? No, it couldn’t possibly be true… All the noble deeds of Dathrohan simply couldn’t be done by an incarnation of evil itself. But at what point had the real Dathrohan turned into this abomination? Osran cursed as he coughed blood. He had given his all to serve the Lordaeron… and for what? To serve that monstrous creature? The only thing that saved Osran from the worst of mental anguish was his fading sight and thoughts. The sight of the demon engaging the attackers seemed like a scene from another life, from another time… A simple sigh escaped from Osran’s mind as his consciousness failed him.

The massive demon wasted no time unleashing his full power. Immediately, he released a screeching cry into the air, installing growing fear into his enemies’ hearts. A few of the attackers even tried to run away from the dreadlord, a mistake Balnazzar immediately utilized to his own advantage. He cast a bolt of shadow after those poor fools, immediately burning their entire bodies into ash. The rest of the attackers looked in shock at their opponent, none of them expecting such a monstrous turn of events. None of them had a high opinion of the Crusade’s leader but none of them had wanted to expect this… The human priest cried at the demon with a loud voice, even his voice dipping with outrage and despair.

“You will pay for this, monster! It was you who turned the Crusade into that twisted nightmare and for that, you must die!” He cried, casting a purging spell at the winged creature. However, Balnazzar didn’t say a word in response, instead focusing on blocking the bright bolt of Light. He looked at it tiredly before raising his hand and without any noticeable effort, the spell vanished into thin air. Immediately afterwards, Balnazzar pulled his palm into a fist before raising his hand a bit higher. Looks of fear started to rise around Balnazzar as shadow started to appear around the priest.

“Wh… what is happening? Stop whatever you’re… arrgh!” He cried but not a muscle twisted in the demon’s face at those threats. Instead, he merely continued his spell and shortly, the clerics cried died down. Finally, a smile rose to the dreadlord’s face as the human turned at his companions, casting more bolts at all of them while starting to heal the demon’s injuries. The others looked at him in shock when the night elf cried to his comrades in fear.

“Try to keep him incapacitated while we take this unholy creature down! Quickly, don’t waste any time!” He cried while the mage cast a quick freezing spell at the mind controlled cleric. Balnazzar turned at them tiredly, knowing any delay worked to his advantage.

“This battle is as good as over, weaklings. Say your last prayers to our lord Kil’Jaeden!” He cried as he raised shadowy fires from the floor in order to try to block his opponents from striking distance. For a short moment, he was somewhat successful but the enemy mages managed to purge his own spells away. The demon quickly ran closer to his opponents, willing to end this charade. First, it seemed like he might be successful in getting another of the remaining foes away from this battle but the warrior managed to resist the demon’s attacks with his great strength. It was at this point that Balnazzar realized his first mistake. The mage and the druid cast their strongest spells to the reckless dreadlord who yelled in pain at his failed initiative. Even more, the fighter before him was far from unable to continue the fight and as the demon reeled from the hits, the warrior hit him into his abdomen, severing several pieces of his armor.

However, that wasn’t the end of Balnazzar’s setbacks. The priest he had controlled was snapped awake from the villain’s grasp and without further doubts, released a massive wave of Light towards the deadlord which burned horrifying marks into his flesh. Balnazzar cursed deeply as he tried to disengage from the fight which quickly had become so threatening to him but he soon realized it was already too late. A hit after hit added to his wounds and the incoming spells only made his situation worse. The demon was in a deadlock, not able to escape while all attempts at counterattack were futile. He looked in shock and growing fears as the druid in front of him spoke to him in a voice that was beyond threatening and hateful.

“Consider this as a payment for all you’ve done to the Crusade and the rest of Lordaeron. We’ll make sure to purge your corruption from this land forever, fiend.” He said as he raised his hands, releasing a massive ball of deep blue toward Balnazzar, a look of disbelief mirrored in his eyes. A scream escaped the nathrezim’s mouth as his body twitched under the impact of the destructive spell. The demon started to break apart before them, one cry escaping his lips before life escaped his monstrous form.

“Damn you mortals! All my plans of revenge, all my hate... all burned to ash...” Were Balnazzar’s last words before he disappeared in front of the brave adventurers. It was all over. The true master of the Scarlet Crusade, the malicious being that had done so much to twist Dathrohan and Mograine’s dream to the abomination it had become was dead.. After the adventurers’ departure, silence fell upon the Crimson Throne and for nearly an hour, not a voice could be heard in the former stronghold of the great order. The last champions of the Crusade were only waiting until their flesh would start to become one with the earth, their souls already long departed… all but one.

After a long time which felt like an eternity, one of the corpses on the ground started to twitch weakly, his breaths suddenly growing audible again.

Osran was still alive.

And thus fell the greatest stronghold of the Scarlet Crusade, the order’s leadership all but obliterated… all except one. How will Osran use his chance to rise from this abyss or will this ordeal end up being his end as well? Yep, this might have been a rather dark chapter but then again, none of us ever thought about the stories we ended while being too busy defeating bosses and collecting loot, now were we? In any case, the next chapter will be this story’s last. So if you have any comments, now’s one of the last chances to share them! But until that, have a great week everyone!


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Re: Under the Scarlet Banner
« Reply #45 on: December 16, 2018, 02:54:50 PM »
Leaving the Lost Dreams Behind

The silence was deafening. The knight couldn’t hear or see anything through the foggy mist that covered his entire sight, his only sensations being the aching that seemed so very distant even now. That agony seemed to be growing all the worse by the second and each breath Osran took was earned with great efforts even if they slowly seemed to grow easier. Still, the paladin’s condition didn’t get easier as quickly and he was trapped in the borderland between life and death. Minutes passed with the proud knight’s world being nothing but pain.

Inside, Osran’s flickering, returning mind had little idea of where he was now, all sense of time all but devoid of the aging man in this moment. And right now, it didn’t matter any. All that mattered was being able to draw another breath and not allow his life get extinguished like this. Even as he fought to keep his foothold in this world, he suddenly heard a distant, even haunting voice in his head.

“You are stronger than this, Osran. You wouldn’t let these green brutes best you after all you’ve done, now would you?” That voice made the knight unconsciously frown, raising deep memories within him. It was so very familiar but… who did it belong to again? He couldn’t quite remember…

“Remember all that we’ve fought through together, Lowriver. All that we’ve achieved in our campaign against the orcs… I know you’re destined for greatness as well, old friend.”
The voice spoke again, causing the paladin’s hand to twitch weakly. What was happening? Who was the voice and what did it want of him. What in earth…

“I’m not sure if you can hear me but know that there are many that will want to meet you again. I do and of all the comrades I’ve met in my life, you are one of the wisest and most honorable. Tyr’s Hand still needs your guidance.” V… Valdemar? Was it him? It all sounded just like him but… was he truly in the city again? Osran felt growing familiarity rise within him as he prepared to rise for another day in his home, ready to guide his old friend for another day with leading the mighty city of Tyr’s Hand, expecting to see his familiar, wooden ceiling above him, the light of dawn illuminating his small but beloved room with its brightness. However, as the knight expectantly opened his eyes, a very different sight met his eyes.

Light did illuminate the room, yes, but it was the usual sickly hue of the Plaguelands that shone through the decaying windows of the Scarlet Bastion. It hardly even broke the near-complete darkness of the room but it was just enough for him to recognize some forms around him. Yet, even before that, he was met with the slowly strengthening smell of rotting flesh around him which nearly made him vomit immediately. His mind was still more hazy but… he slowly started to return into reality, something which hardly made him feel any better after his brief moment of dreams about his old days in Tyr’s Hand.

Slowly, Osran rose into a sitting position, cringing as he nearly fainted at that struggle. He waited for a few seconds before looking around himself, each of the corpses around him bringing more of his memories back to him. So, it had all happened. Everything he had wanted to shrug off as some bad dream had truly happened. Only his physical pain managed to prevent the knight succumb to that realization immediately. All the sights of these crusaders’ last stand, of Galford, Willey and Malor, it all came back to him. And if that had been true, then… then…

Suddenly, Osran turned quickly towards the spot he had last seen the Grand Crusader fight, praying that at least that had been some trick of his fading mind. But what met his eyes only made him gasp in disbelief and hopelessness. On that very spot lied the massive demonic chesplate which, as was well known, was the only thing a nathrezim left behind upon its death. Yet, as the first shock died down, Osran was left sitting alone and lost, for the first time being forced to face whatever would have to come to pass now.

The knight’s face was devoid of any hope but on the other hand, it was also calm in a way it hadn’t been in ages. So, he had allowed himself to be manipulated by a servant of the Burning Legion and even worse, he had been prepared to give his very last breath for that gaze. To think of it all… a single tear fell from Osran’s glassed eyes as he looked at the mists floating in the sky from the skylights. Had either one of the Abbendises known? Had anyone, really? Even now, that thought was a horrifying one and… no, not even the younger Abbendis would have deserted the Light like that but…

Suddenly, Fairbanks’ story rose to the paladin’s mind. He had claimed it had been the Grand Crusader who had ordered Renault to murder Alexandros. Could… could it actually have been true? Could he have actually told the truth? However, that realization didn’t disturb Osran nearly as much as he would have expected. As he thought about the Argent Dawn, only their betrayal and readiness to rise against their old comrades rose to his mind. They were right in listening to Fairbanks but to cause that level of fighting inside the order? In the back of his mind lingered the paladin’s own part in also rousing the fighting but he had done only as he saw best. The Dawn could still burn in hell, as far as he was concerned.

Silent whimpers escaped from Osran’s mind as he slowly rose to his feet, nearly falling into the ground many times. He slowly moved towards the wall in order to get some help in finding his balance again. The aging paladin panted, slowly starting to mend the worst of his wounds. Slowly, the weight of the reality started to set within him and the pain of his earlier hopes of getting another chance to help his old friend returned to Osran’s mind. That momentary feeling in his unconscious mind only reminded him of how very much he had lost… only to buy himself the chance to reach this very moment. The man’s face turned into a mask of hate as he looked at Balnazzar’s remains.

Tareth, Veria, Harthal… the last three of them had fallen in the same battles as he had, leaving him face the weight of this war all alone. He had even been complicit in Valdemar’s true demise, a memory which would never leave him. He had disowned his own nephew to prove his faithfulness to the dreadlord. He had strayed off from the path of the Light in order to be able to rise into the Crimson Legion… and for what? Let himself be deceived by a demon like a total fool? A pained cry echoed in the Crimson Throne as Osran hit the wall next to him with all his might. He had ruined everything he once had, all because of his pride and blind trust in others.

Further tears fell from the knight’s eyes as he leaned against the wall, his mind demanding him to decide what to do now. And in all honesty, he didn’t know. He wouldn’t in a thousand years join the Dawn and they wouldn’t forgive him either, not after it had been him who had killed their first leader in battle. Without Alexandros and Saidan, the Crusade was also as good as gone: Tyr’s Hand might still stand but without its leadership, the order would lose the city in a matter of days. What a complete fool had he been to out his hopes into a glorious death alongside the Grand Crusader! He had ruined absolutely everything and no matter what, Osran knew he had no place to go nor did he have anyone even hoping for his survival.

In this bleak moment, Osran tried to draw his faithful sword from its sheath, ready to end it all but to his shock, his hand found nothing in the spot where his blade had usually rested. He quickly turned to look at it to see that his weapon was gone, apparently taken by the minions of the hated Alliance. Many curses left the paladin’s mouth again as he turned to look at the dead corpses around him, knowing full well that at least one of them were bound to have their swords left. And it wasn’t long until he found that he had indeed been right.

A silent breath escaped Osran’s mouth as he put the weapon pointing against his chest, closing his eyes in preparation for what he was going to do. His survival had only been a sick mockery of the Light, his fate having been a clean death before he even had the chance to learn the sickening truth about himself and the Crusade. Yet… second after second passed but Osran didn’t feel the sting in his stomach. Instead, his hands felt like they were wood, not moving to any direction even if he thought he tried to tell them to stab him. But it wasn’t soon that new thoughts started to flow to him from the very back of his mind.

Once again, he was breaking against the orders of his betters. It had been Gavinrad’s command so very, very long ago that a paladin, no matter dire his situation, was allowed to end his own life. “A suicide was a coward’s way to escape his troubles” had been one of his favorite quotes and even now, Osran couldn’t bring himself to question his wisdom. Not after all the trust Veria had put on him. The aging knight shuddered terribly as he thought about her, she being one of the losses that made him feel the most miserable. What he wouldn’t give if she only were now here with him… The memories of their times together made Osran weep inconsolably, happy that there was no one here to witness his breakdown. His own sobbing voice reached his ears as he looked at the wet drops that were slowly dropping into the floor.

“What can I do? If only Veria, Valdemar or anyone were here…but… but they’re all dead…” He said, only worsening his own situation. The fact that Valdemar still practically lived didn’t make him any easier but as minutes after minutes passed, the old man’s shudders finally started to die down. He shook his head in utter loss as he turned to look at the gaping corridor that led back towards the Hall of Lights. He still couldn’t name one reason to go on but in the end, simply taking his own life went everything that remained of his honor as a paladin which he had thrown away for so very little. Again, the knight sighed in an attempt to calm down as he rose to his feet in order to face the only way out of this magnificent hall and the only path he had left if he wanted to leave this place alive.

The knight nearly fell at his first step, his wounds still making him extremely weak but Osran could still maintain his balance. He panted as he struggled to retain his footing but after a few steps, he found an easier pace which he realized he could preserve. He still healed himself but the limits of even his powers were quickly approaching. For better or worse, he’d have to accept his condition for now.

In addition to his weakness, the corpses that dotted the floor of the citadel made his advance extremely difficult. Even the last of the torches had died down and the pale light of the day did very little to illuminate the massive halls of the Scarlet Bastion. AS he forced his way forward, a new hope rose to his mind. Regardless of whether the attackers had succeeded in taking out the Scourge, they were bound to at least cut down the number of the undead around the Crusader’s Square and that could open him a chance to reach the same hole in the wall that the former rogues had used to enter the Bastion.

The sight of the still-broken gate of the citadel made Osran frown deeply, realizing that his earlier assumption was likely to be true. In a normal situation, the undead would have swarmed these halls by not but they were nowhere to be seen. The rays of weak light shone into the main corridor, illuminating a sight that made Osran twitch noticeably. The lifeless face of Malor stuck out of the sea of corpses, a look of shock and rage forever freezing on his face. Even in this moment of danger, the paladin wanted so give his final respects to a comrade who had been through this sickening madness.

Osran knelt beside the fallen paladin and slowly closed the other man’s eyes, looking at his expression which would forever carry the fury of his last battle. The Crimson Legionary lowered his head and spoke briefly to Malor, saying the only words he could find at this point.

“Rest well, brother. I regret that you didn’t live to see our madness but at least you died fighting for what you believe in. Farewell.” He said merely, accepting there was nothing more for him here. Knowing full well that he’d never again return to this place, he moved to the gates and to his relief, noticed that there were no undead to be seen anymore. That fact brought no real joy to him but at least made his escape that much easier. He drew out his sword, knowing even now he’d have to mind his surroundings in case he’d meet hostile forces out here.

However, to his relief, none were to be seen anywhere. There were some unmoving remains of ghouls but he could see easily that they posed no threat to him. Inside, the man started to wonder whether the adventurers had truly succeeded in storming the districts held by the Scourge but in the end, that mattered little right now. Minute after minute passed but the knight didn’t meet any undead on his way and even the weather seemed to grow brighter as the afternoon slowly aged. A look of hope rose to the old man’s face as he saw the tiny hole in the city’s walls he had been looking for and he wasted no time leaving this accursed city for good. The wall was surprisingly wide and Osran cringed at his aching as he crawled through the tight tunnel towards the light on the other side of it… only to forget something vital. The simple fact where most of Stratholme’s southern walls ended: in the lake that surrounded the mighty city.

A loud splash could be heard as the Crimson Legionary dropped into the cold waters of the lake, his armor posing an obvious and immediate danger to the knight. The knight nearly swallowed a mouthful of water in his first shock but managed to avoid that with the last possible moment. Yet, a clear panic was starting to rise into his mind as he felt his armor pull him towards the depths. Immediately, the paladin put his blade into one of the gaping holes in his damaged armor and turned the sword in in it with all his might, more than conscious of the growing pressure within lungs. He could already feel his world starting to darken when he finally felt the chestplate break in two completely, sinking into the depths immediately. The knight waste no time forcing his body upward, praying that he’d reach the surface before it were too late…

The paladin took a grateful breath as he felt his head rise out of the lake that he had already thought would be his grave. The man looked in relief at himself, realizing how much easier moving around it was now, especially with his injuries. This way, it would even be less likely he’d be recognized as a member of the Crusade which would only make it easier for him to leave these lands undetected. He forced himself to the shores of the small lake, never expecting to see himself this happy to reach the heart of the Plaguewood. However, as he panted on the shore, trying to catch his breath, he suddenly felt cold steel touch his cheek, a male voice speaking to him in a threatening voice.

“Osran Lowriver. It has been a while, hasn’t it?” The newcomer asked, Osran’s eyes widening as he saw who the other man was. He could recognize his youthful features and his light hair anywhere and seeing him hardly made Osran feel any easier. Still, the older paladin wasn’t one to let himself be humbled or humiliated by others and he rose to his feet before he answered but he didn’t even try to touch his weapon or cast any spell at his counterpart.

“Save me from that, Carethas. Too much has happened already today. But tell me, what is a traitor like you doing here?” He said tiredly, completely at a loss on how to act at this point. He was full aware that he wasn’t strong enough to beat even a paladin as inexperienced as Carethas in his current state and he certainly wouldn’t beg for mercy from any pawn of the Dawn. The younger knight frowned as pointed his sword against Osran’s throat.

“I can see that you haven’t changed to at least a better direction, Lowriver. One could only expect as much from any cursed Scarlet scum. As for why I’m here, I guess you know more than well that the Dawn cannot leave this place unguarded either and even a deaf moron would have heard your pitiful splashing.” He said, disgust apparent in his eyes. Osran sighed at those words, knowing full well everything that the other man had said. It had been long an important aim of the Crusade to attempt to force the Dawn out of these lands but they had been more resilient than the order had ever anticipated. Yet, all that was left for Osran to do was to ask the inevitable.

“Well, now that you have me, what are you going to do to your old master?” The older paladin asked, a joyless smile on his face. Those words hit Carethas more than he would have guessed as he again remembered the first time he had met Osran. Back then, Osran had seemed at least two decades younger, the past years having aged the once-proud paladin into something almost unrecognizable. When Carethas looked at his worn clothes and his exhausted and pained face, a brief thought of pity rose to his face.

This was the man who had given his all to defend his old home village even if the bearded knight had no ties to it whatsoever. This was the man who had so vigorously strived to teach him the basics of the Light and helped him embark on the path to becoming a paladin. The man whom he had looked as the very embodiment of courage and heroism in this age of darkness… but also the one who had attempted to kill him with crazed look in his eyes at Stratholme, the one who had spread the Grand Crusader’s thrall among his comrades and the one who had killed Lord George, the founder of the Dawn. Those last thoughts wiped away the young man’s earlier doubts and he spat into the ground before Osran before speaking to him in hate.

“I will do the only thing you deserve. I will take you to our masters and let them decide what kind of punishment is righteous for you. But considering your crimes, I’m sure you won’t live until the…”

“Where are you Carethas? Did you find something?” A new voice called, one that made Osran’s heart skip a beat. Certainly it couldn’t be… but he’d know that voice anywhere. Eneath’s voice was completely unchanged in these last two years but that mattered little to the Crimson Legionary. Two long years had passed since he had last met his nephew, two years of hate and bitterness. And Osran knew more than well that this reunion wouldn’t be a happy one. Carethas frowned as he heard that voice and suddenly, he tried back at the speaker.

“Stay away, Eneath! There’s nothing for you here!” He shouted, praying that his comrade would listen this one time. However, he could hear his footsteps growing ever closer and the paladin knew his order had fallen on deaf ears. He soon heard another call from his comrade.

“What are you talking about, Carethas? What could possibly…” The younger Lowriver’s sentence was cut in half as he saw the other form near his comrade and his friend. His eyes widened greatly as his eyes fell upon his old uncle, not expecting to meet him here. The sight of his aged face disturbed Eneath greatly as did his many injuries and his completely wet clothes. He immediately attempted to stutter some kind of answer but Osran spoke first.

“Hello there, my nephew. Rest assured, any joy there might be in this meeting is completely yours.” He said, his face a mask of hidden disgust. The mere sight of Eneath made him grit his teeth together in a force that nearly made them break in two. His plain insult didn’t seem to have any effect on the younger man who struggled to form any kinds of coherent words.

“Osran… how? Why are you here?” He asked, his own anger returning only after his wave of surprise had dissipated. He absolutely despised what his uncle had become but at least initially, his older, fonder memories of the Crimson Legionary dominated his mind. Hearing that question, the bearded man let out a bitter if restrained laugh as he thought about his answer, not seeing any reason to lie.

“The Bastion has fallen, all of my comrades slaughtered. And the Grand Crusader… Well, he was a demon.” Osran said while shaking his head in utter regret. His word earned audible gasps from those around him. Immediately, Carethas put his sword more tightly against the Crimson Legionary’s throat, the latter’s seeming disregard for whatever he was doing infuriating him without an end. His voice was beyond sharp as he demanded an answer.

“Don’t take me for a fool, Lowriver! We don’t have to listen to your lies!” He said simply, not willing to accept such an answer from the other knight. He hated Dathrohan with his entire soul but there was simply no way Osran’s claim to be true. The brown-bearded knight, however, only looked at him wearily, realizing how very little will he had left to even defend himself. Whether his former apprentice listened him or not, none of that mattered. Startled by the other young paladin’s aggressive approach, Eneath gave his comrade an annoyed look but Osran answered as if nothing had happened at all.

“Isn’t that what you wanted to believe from the very beginning? If I remember correct, your distrust of him was the only reason all of you rose up to murder your own comrades, your friends like they were nothing more than ghoul scum. I saw it all with my own eyes, boy. Whether or not you believe me or not, I couldn’t care less.” He said coldly, each word dipping with loathing for the man who he had once regarded as a promising, courageous cadet with all his soul. Carethas’ expression darkened again but Eneath again intervened, speaking directly to Osran.

“What happened, uncle? Tell us everything you saw and don’t even try to deceive us. You may be Osran but don’t forget that your choices will have their consequences.” The young Lowriver said, his voice distraught with annoyance and torn loyalties. One part of him wanted to simply forget everything that had happened and invite his uncle into the Dawn and together fight against the Scourge. But the other part of him knew that wasn’t possible and tat part only saw a cold-blooded murderer before him. The higher-ranked knight took a sad smile as he turned away from his nephew, looking at one of the monstrous mushrooms dotting the land. He then spoke absentmindedly to his nephew, his emotions a complete fuss right now.

“That is a lesson we all have to learn in the end, Eneath. As for what happened, I’m afraid I don’t have the time to tell the whole story but our folly deserves to be heard. It all started when we arrived to help the Grand Crusader secure the Bastion two months ago…” There was hardly one moment during his tale when the paladin even glanced at either of his listeners, his mind escaping into its shell in order to let his heart ease at least a tiny bit. He didn’t know if he had wasted this time relaying this story to the traitors of the Dawn as most of all, he spoke to himself, trying to make sense of it all.

As he prepared to finish his story, he finally turned to look at the two with an exhausted look, reliving those painful memories again this soon taking even more of his strength than he had anticipated. He then took a brief sigh as he gathered his thoughts into one, final sentence.

“And that’s everything that happened within the Bastion. I’ll never be able to atone myself for my failures out there but in the end, only Light will judge my actions in this world.” He said absentmindedly, having nearly forgotten the other paladins as his mind wandered those paths of horror and regret again. He couldn’t care less what the Dawn would think of any of this as everything he had cared about was already gone. Carethas frowned at that story, a slight smile even rising to his face as he tried to think of all the ways these news would help the Dawn. This was far better than he could ever have hoped for and the complete hopelessness within Osran’s eyes only confirmed everything that he had told. His voice was almost smug as he spoke again to Osran.

“As you said yourself, our actions have consequences, Lowriver, yours even more than many others’. And because of that, we cannot let you escape. You will come with us and let yourself be judg…” He started but Osran’s sharpening gaze ordered him to silence immediately. The older paladin’s voice turned into a threatening one immediately as he started to speak.

“I will gladly accept death at your hands but know that I will never accept getting involved into your cursed order’s twisted, unholy trials. That would be against everything I have ever fought for. I may not be able to best the two of you in my current condition but I am still more than capable of preventing myself from becoming your prisoner.” He said, his tone confirming that he meant every one of his words. Carethas likewise took a more threatening stance as he prepared for an escalation of this meeting.

“You dare threaten us after everything you and your comrades have done? That won’t succeed, not after all…” He started, preparing for battle but Eneath was beyond torn in this moment, knowing that his duty to the Dawn was ultimate. However, he simply couldn’t help seeing his uncle for what he was in this solemn moment: a tired, beaten old man who had just witnessed everything he loved burn before his eyes. The honesty he had shown in his answers and his entire being in this moment showed that there was no return into the past for him. Something within Eneath told him he simply couldn’t let this happen. He quickly drew his own sword and lowered it in front of Carethas and spoke to him quickly.

“Step back, Carethas. There is nothing for us to be gained from starting a fight here.” He said, seeing as his comrade’s eyes widened while turning to look at the younger Lowriver. His surprise soon turned into disbelief as he struggled to find something to say.

“What is the meaning of this, Eneath? This man killed Lord George and betrayed all of us by listening to the dreadlord’s lies! We have to get him dead or alive and you know it!” He cried, his hands yearning to end or capture the paladin who had caused so very much harm to him and those he cared for. Eneath’s expression darkened as well as he heard those words, knowing everything he had said to be true. However, something deep within him told that he simply couldn’t allow this to happen. He didn’t lower his sword any as he answered.

“As you heard, the Crusade is in many ways no more and when you look at Osran, do you think he will bring us harm ever again? Answer me honestly, Carethas.” He said, seeing well that his uncle’s will to fight had been broken once and for all. Even if he was allowed to leave this place, he wouldn’t even want to seek out the Crusade’s remains. Not anymore. However, his comrade’s expression was unchanged as he gave his answer.

“What he will do from now on is irrelevant and you know it as well! He will never be able to atone for what he has done and for his terrible deeds, he simply has to pay! I’d be damned if I let a mass murderer like him escape when I could have brought him to justice!” The younger man cried as he looked at Eneath. The latter man knew his case was a weak one but still wanted to see Osran facing any other face than to be executed before the eyes of the Dawn. His face turned into a more concerned one as he turned at Osran, asking him carefully.

“Uncle, are you willing to admit that your decision to stay with the Scarlet Crusade was a horrible mistake? That siding with Tyrosus and George would have been the right choice?” He asked, hoping that that question would start to soften Carethas’ views about this issue. Osran smiled internally at that question, having absolutely no will to give nothing but the honest, complete answer to this question. His voice was a distant one as he gave his answer.

“No. I would never have turned my back on any of my comrades even if it had meant my own death. I don’t regret anything I ever did except my inability to see when the real Dathrohan fell. But before you ask any more questions, I have no regrets at all for sticking with the Crusade. Saidan and Alexandros left a legacy that I’d gladly give my life for any day even now. As for the Dawn, you will only leave behind a legacy of dishonor and treachery to anyone who will learn of these days in the future.” He said, knowing that his words would do little to advance his cause but under the eyes of all those who had fallen in the name of the Scarlet Banner, he would do as he conscience told him. Carethas suddenly stepped forward and kicked Osran into his knee with all his strength sending the aging crusader falling to his knees. He then cried to Osran with all his might.

“What in the name of all that is pure in this world is wrong with you? You just told yourself what happened and yet you still defend those who would send all of Azeroth into eternal darkness? I once saw you as the embodiment of Light itself and time and time again, you showed your worth but now, I cannot recognize you anymore. It is far easier for all of us if I simply cut you down and send you where your master…” He began as he prepared to cut Osran’s head from his shoulders but just before that came to pass, Eneath blocked his hit with his own blade, speaking to his comrade urgently.

“Don’t even try that, Carethas! He may be our enemy but even now, I see he has only done what he thought was right and… I still owe him too much to simply want to kill him here. We must let him go.” He said, not truly believing his own words as he spoke. He understood the full implications of his own words but inside, he knew he was ready to back them up. He wouldn’t take the life of his old, confused uncle who had saved him so many times in the past. He deserved this one, last favor. Carethas cursed under his breath as he spoke.

“You cannot be serious, Eneath! You heard him! He would kill us whenever he only gets a chance to do so! Even if I agreed to let this killer escape, we’d only be delivering the Crusade’s remains one of their highest-ranking leaders! Can’t you see that, Eneath?” He yelled but it served only to make the younger Lowriver’s resolve in getting his point through.

“He has already implied that won’t happen! Please, I ask you, see this as a just repayment to my uncle for saving your family in Barrowhome! Surely, that is worth more to you than your hopes for vengeance!” He cried, those words at first appearing only to earn another outburst from Carethas but after a moment, he realized the depth of how much his friend’s words touched him. Even if he hoped it were not true, his wide and three children still lived only because Osran had withheld the line in his village on that day so very, very long ago. As he looked at Eneath in the eyes, he realized that his own sentiments were far more divided than he had realized. He cursed as he realized that but in the end, he had to admit Eneath’s point was valid. Even if Osran had betrayed that legacy, his older deeds still lingered and yes, it was true that he held an endless gratitude to the old knight. He gritted his teeth in anguish before he finally tore his blade away from its lockdown with Eneath’s and snapped at Osran in anger.

“Swear to me in the name of the Light that you will never again serve the Crusade and that none of us will ever again have to see your sorry face as long as we live! Now!” He cried, beyond angered that it was his own weakness that had in the end prevented him from doing what he had to. Osran looked at him with a look that resonated with irony, only admiring the younger man’s vigor in his cause. If only he could still be that way again… In any case, the crusader suddenly sharpened his gaze from his seemingly endless apathy as he answered to Carethas.

“My ties to the Crusade have been broken for good, Highfield, but not for the reasons you want to believe. I would still rejoin them gladly but the sad fact is, I know they’d never accept the truth. They would never accept my tale and they’d never forgive my words if I told them the truth and I won’t serve there while pretending to hold respect for that cursed spawn of darkness! So in a way, Carethas, it matters very little whether I give you my oath or not. The Crusade is lost and I have absolutely no intention of ever rejoining it.” He said, the images of how he would react to such a tale himself if he hadn’t witnessed the dreadlord’s fall himself.

No, he would receive a similar welcome to the one Fairbanks’, a thought that hardly seemed like a feasible one to him. Carethas gritted his teeth, knowing that as long as Eneath kept his uncle’s side, there was very little he could do to advance his case further. He merely cursed deeply as he turned around, signaling Eneath to take control of the discussion. The latter frowned at his comrade’s reaction but he knew full well how much was at stake with this decision. He took a deep breath as he looked at his uncle and started to speak.

“Osran Lowriver, I hope you understand I’m doing this against my orders and my better judgement but because of your past services to Lordaeron and because I know you are an honorable man, I’m willing to let you leave with your life. All this despite the fact that you are one of the most hated and disgraced men in the eyes of my order. If my decision will be revealed to the others, I will have to be happy if I simply will be expelled from the Dawn I hope you know what this all means to me.” The younger man said, taking a softer
look to his face.

At first, Osran wanted to simply attack his disgraced nephew again but deep, deep inside, he was humbled by the amount of caring there still was within Eneath to his old uncle. He had never expected Eneath to take such a risk and when the truth was in the open, the old crusader felt a guilty sting deep within him. Even after these two years of bitterness… he was still touched by this gesture and because of it, he would respect Eneath’s offer. He spoke to his nephew in a respecting, even friendly voice.

“I do, Eneath. No matter what happens, I won’t let anyone know we ever met here. That is one secret I’ll take into my grave with me when it is that time. In any case, I bid you my deepest gratitude for this small sign of grace you’ve shown to your old uncle. I will swear with my life to be worthy of it.” Osran said as he again regained his footing, his wrinkled face on a brink of something resembling a smile. He would never forgive his nephew for what he had done but for now, he couldn’t help but reflect with pride on the younger paladin’s decision. Eneath net out a deep breath he didn’t know he was holding as he raised his gaze back towards Osran. He then put his own sword back to its sheath and whistled towards the infested forest. It wasn’t long before a light-colored steed ran towards the two paladins and Eneath started to speak to the older knight.

“Then I wish you all the best, uncle, wherever you will go. But I warn you, if you will ever again be seen in this lands, there won’t be mercy for you. I hope you will find your redemption, regardless of the path you will now choose to follow.” He said mournfully, overwhelmed by his own decision and by the ramifications of this meeting. He, to, had held deep animosity towards Osran and to be able to part from him on these terms…. This was a moment he had hoped he’d never have to witness in his life. Osran frowned as he rose to the steed, pulling himself on its back. The steed obeyed his commands perfectly and he then spoke to his nephew, attempting to sound somewhere close to thankful. He hated to accept even help from a member of the Dawn but right now, he knew that was his only chance to survive.

“Likewise, I’m sure you’ll find it in yourself to cast away your wicked ways one day, Eneath. I will pray for the Light for that every day of my life. As for me, I guess I have no choice but to bid my farewell to Lordaeron once and for all. I will search for a ship at Southshore so this is the last time we will meet, nephew. May the Light watch over us all.” He said surprisingly coldly, commanding his steed to a full gallop, willing to shake this haunting place behind him once and for all. Eneath suddenly stretched his hand after his departing uncle, trying to thank him of everything he had taught him in years past… but he soon realized his voice could no longer reach him.

The young man suddenly felt a wave of melancholy wash over him as he realized that Osran was gone for good. He had missed him these years, his wisdom and his never-ending vigor in making things around him right again. And the thought that he had let one of the Crusade’s leaders away… Carethas’ enraged look near him told him that if something went wrong, he could suddenly find himself be forced to pay the ultimate price for his choice. But even then, he would forever keep the memory of the old Osran in his mind and carry the name of house Lowriver with pride to a new dawn in the Eastern Plaguelands.

The sun fell and rose three times as Osran rode through the fields and mountains, through the Plaguelands which slowly moved into the green rolling landscapes that had once encompassed all of the fallen kingdom. More than once, the knight couldn’t help but smile at the fact that the Scourge hadn’t yet managed to destroy all of his homeland but that day might still come to pass. None of the people in the mountains of Alterac or in the lands of Hillsbrad seemed to have an inkling about the horrors that still lingered not so far to their north and that might one day start moving south with terrifying speed and on that day, it would be all over for these poor fools. Still, for now, Osran couldn’t help but pray that they could live their lives in peace and that these lands would never face the same fate as Darrowmere forest had.

And all the while, the pain that he had to leave his homeland behind travelled with him. He had given his all for Lordaeron but his comrades and the other forces in the Plaguelands had again and again let him down. This was the moment when he no longer had the will to fight forward, The others could fight on if they so very badly wanted to! Osran cringed in hate as he looked at another hamlet that appeared before him. They had taken everything from him and because of it, they could end up paying a higher price for this war than they ever imagined.

Yet, that didn’t change the inevitable: he had to leave Lordaeron for good. Even if he didn’t have to honor his promise to Eneath, he didn’t want to witness Lordaeron’s final downfall anymore. Sooner or later, Kel’Thuzad would recover Stratholme and then, all would fall, aided by those that should have stood with the Crusade. Many memories flowed through Osran’s mind about the lands he had heard of but one of them seemed to call to him like no other.

Ever since the Second War, Kul Tiras had taken its distance from the Alliance and the naval stronghold of humanity vigorously fought against any forces that would want to compromise its safety and security. Yes, that would be the perfect place to spend the rest of his days in peace and away from those fools who would rather destroy the last hopes of ending the Scourge than to swallow their own pride. Inside, Osran almost hoped the Dawn and the Alliance would all fall but he let a flicker of hope that both of them would find their redemption linger deep within him.

It was late evening when Osran saw a growing group of distant lights appear in the horizon, behind them lingering the dark sea. This could be nothing other than the city of Southshore, the second most important of the old port cities of Lordaeron after Tyr’s Hand. Exhaustion had already started to take its toll on the paladin as he finally dismounted his steed at the central square of the small town. The knight could feel a feeling of ease rise within him as he smelled at the sweet, fresh air blowing from the sea, a heavenly change from the never-ending musty air of the Plaguelands. He tried to push away the thought of this town’s residents spending a peaceful life while he and his comrades had given their all to the horrors of war. But even then, he wouldn’t linger any longer here than he needed to: he had to find out when the next ship would leave for Kul Tiras.

Indeed, there was an office nearby that was designed to help travelers in all of these issues and the paladin wasted no time entering it. He looked at the rather  dirty and decayed room in disappointment but at least there was a man there in this hour. He immediately noticed Osran’s worn clothes and his many wounds but he didn’t have the time to answer before the older man took control of the conversation.

“When will the next ship leave for Boralus? I have to get away from this cursed land as soon as possible.” He said, gritting his teeth. Each second he spent here seemed to only remind him of all his failures and he hated the idea of being forced to leave his homeland like this. The clerk glanced at him with a slight frown but he wasted no time giving his answer.

“You’re in a luck. It is due to leave in another hour but before I let you board it, may I see your permission?” He asked, causing a deep frown appear to Osran’s face. The latter frowned at him slightly, immediately snapping back at him.

“What permission are you talking about? I’ve never heard of such a thing.” Osran asked, not approving in the least of what he was hearing. The clerk sighed slightly as he rose from his chair to answer the question.

“As you may guess, we cannot simply let anyone leave Lordaeron as this place would collapse if all just left. We have to ask Southshore’s masters to have a written permission to embark on one of our ships and that takes at least a week. If you really want to go to Kul Tiras, I’d advise you to go ask them first.” He said cordially but Osran was far from satisfied with his answer. He immediately walked towards the other man and spoke to him silently but firmly.

“Trust me, I have more than earned my right to go. I have fought years without an end and I must ask you to reconsider your words. You have no right to deny me after all that
has happened.” The knight said looking at the black-colored in his eyes. The latter nearly told him to drop his ridiculous demand but as he looked at the paladin’s weary but clear eyes, something told him that there was more to this knight than met the eye. He saw the regret, sadness and courage deep within him and he simply couldn’t do anything else but take a deep breath and turn to his desk and start to write hastily. After a moment, he looked back at Osran and gave him a small piece of paper and spoke to him silently.

“Here you go. I wish you a good journey but please don’t tell them I broke my orders. He said with slight regret but Osran didn’t hesitate any before giving his answer. He nearly smiled as he spoke.

“Don’t worry, good man. I will not.”

It hardly even took the promised hour before Osran found himself looking towards the distant horizon, taking a sip of water from a small cup. The wind blew straight for the west which meant that the voyage wouldn’t be a long one. However, it wasn’t the horizon he was looking at but the shore behind him that drew slowly further from him. The paladin felt a mic of melancholy and relief as he watched those scenes, regretting it wasn’t up to him to witness the rebirth of Lordaeron. It wasn’t up to him to see his lifelong dreams fulfilled but if there was even a chance that his efforts would even earn a small mention of honor within the memory of his people, he would be happy.

His thoughts were briefly interrupted as a high wave hit the ship, causing it to jolt noticeably. Yes, he would forever regret the things he couldn’t see through and for his own people who had been to blame for the Scourge’s triumph. No matter what, he’d never want to hear from that home of madness anymore and to do that, the paladin knew he’d take his place in the reaches of Drustvar, more than happy in his modest lot in life. But even then, he’d never forget his comrades and friends who had fallen in this battle, leaving him behind to carry on their memory.

The paladin took another sip as he looked at the moon above him and the slight mist that was gathering around the ship. Yes, this was a perfect day to put that sickening past behind him and face whatever still waited him in the land of Kul Tiras. The paladin slowly turned around and headed to sleep, smiling internally at his unfulfilled dreams and the honor he had still managed to preserve through this madness.

And with this chapter, we have reached the conclusion of Under the Scarlet Banner. I’m not going to lie, this story has been a major disappointment for me and for several reasons, it didn’t turn out the way I had hoped for and I fear my lack of enthusiasm can be seen in the last few chapters. In fact, there were many points when I seriously considered cancelling the whole fic but I hate leaving stuff unfinished and… well, here you go (in fact, I cut many chapters simply to be able to finish this). Because of these reasons and overall lack of interest in this story and Treachery, I will not be making more WoW fics and at least until I finish Separate Ways, I’m not starting more major stories. Then again, if you enjoyed this story until the end, my thanks to you for sticking around this long and all the best to all of you!