Chapter X: Q&Q, The Culling, and is that…?

The battle had ended in Alliance victory, but with a heavy price; as the undead horde sent all they had and then some to Hearthglen, the exhaustion on the defenders were taking its toll and ending the lives of many footmen and archers, whom were defending the priests that tried to keep everyone alive. However, they too began to tire and were forced to fight, which wasn't as effective but with nonstop healing left and right they didn't have much choice. Regardless, the soldiers were asked to take a very much needed rest back at the barracks as other matters were addressed.

And from there, things went south between the trio of friends and a very pissed off Arthas.

The second he woke up, Eidolon wished he hadn't as he felt a new kind of pain in the form of a mail-encased fist finding its way to his head, leaving him to writhe on the ground as tensions now ran at an all-time high. Luckily no more came to pass as the Crown Prince was dissuaded from further assault via and arrow trained at his skull thanks to the Windrunner. Jaina, ever trying to be the voice of reason for everyone, was nearing the end of her patience for her former lover's spontaneous hostilities. "Arthas! What do you think you're doing?! He's hurt already as it is, can't you see that?" Arthas didn't seem to hear her anymore as he remained solely focused on the downed warlock and was reaching for his hefty hammer-

Only to be stopped by his mentor. "ARTHAS! Stand down. Now!" No one moved for what felt like hours until finally, the human prince stepped back, letting Jaina tend to the new bleeding head wound and Sylvanas to…. Well actually, she had absolutely NO intention of lowering her guard any time soon after the spontaneous attack done on her… friend. Yea, that's the word she was looking for. "Now then," the Lightbringer looked between the two parties with a tired sigh. "What exactly caused this?"

Elsewhere, however, a similar conversation was going on….

"What do you MEAN you FAILED?!" A lone acolyte survivor was pinned up against a stone wall, his head ringing from when his master threw him there in his outrage. Mal'Ganis was one that was hard to please, but VERY easy to enrage when plans fall apart in a way he did not intend. Yes, the Dreadlord did want Arthas to cut a bloody swathe through his army, and the man's own people in the process, all in his rage of having his people manipulated. However, the caravan party falling was NOT a variable he had foreseen, nor desired, which is where we are now.

"Master, please, I can expla-AUGH!" Bone had been broken by now, especially if his mangled left arm had anything to say about it. "EXPLAIN!? How would one explain how a simple operation like the caravan providing support behind YOUR lines getting destroyed?" Another bone bit the dust, as a rib threatened to puncture his left lung. "There was an unknown variable, even to us, amongst the Alliance." His right arm joined the growing list of broken things he'd like fixe- oh, wait, and add his left leg too. "Impossible! You dare to have the GALL to say that I, Mal'Ganis, had FAILED to foresee something?! What could I have possibly-?"

At this point the Acolyte didn't care if he died; whatever would make the pain stop, even death, would suffice right now. "THEY HAD DEMONS!" Those three words stopped everything around them, well, except those already undead, but still it had the effect. He silently waited for the coming death that would take away his pain…. Only for nothing to happen. "….. go on." It seemed that his Master was curious about why those three words and found that his meager life had some value… or at least the information did.

"…I see." Uther had been told everything by the collaboration between Jaina and Sylvanas, as when Eidolon tried he was shot down almost immediately by the Crown Prince, whom hadn't let go of his hefty hammer just yet and was making the Ranger-General more and more tempted to just let her arrow 'slip' out of her grip and have it fly. Of course they didn't exactly say anything about the Voidlord or the warlock's rather… odd transformation. All attention returned to Uther once he had pulled together all he was told.

"While I would say what you did was indeed reckless of you three, I myself would be deemed a hypocrite from when I myself committed to such acts, and as well as the fact that you three had each other's backs with the guidance of a powerful sorceress and Silvermoon's very own Ranger-General. What you did was selfless in all regards and should be proud of what you had accomplished; many more lives were saved than lost, and we shall mourn all those whom fell today. Arthas, you were able to hold out well until I could bring reinforcements. If I hadn't been able to arrive just then-" Arthas, from all of the piling-on rage (for the warlock) and knowing that his people were still suffering from undeath, had snapped. "Look, I did the best that I could Uther! If I had a legion of knights riding behind my back I would have-" The Lightbringer cut him off before setting the boy straight. "Now is not the time to be choking on pride! What we've faced here was only the beginning. The undead ranks are bolstered every time one of our warriors falls in battle." The company of three lowered their heads in silence as they prayed that their souls, at the least, were released from their tormentors for every one they themselves struck down.

Arthas turned away from them in anger as he recalled something else. "Then we should strike at their leader! I'll go to Stratholme and kill Mal'Ganis myself if I have to!" The Silver Hand commander chuckled as he reached and patted his gloved hand on the young man's shoulder pad. "Easy, lad. Brave as you are, you can't hope to defeat a man who commands the dead all by yourself." Sylvanas couldn't help the side comment on 'paying to see the prince get knocked around trying', which was followed up by Eidolon swearing that he would bring popcorn for it then if she did. The paladins ignored them in favor of having the younger one marched ahead before stopping. "Then feel free to tag along, Uther. I'm going. With or without you." Watching the Crown Prince run off on his own, Jaina had to stop herself from chasing after him. True, he was a friend once almost a lover even, but the moment he stepped out of her life those doors were forever closed to him. All that mattered now was her friend at her side.

Sighing heavily, he looked to the three remaining members present aside from the now-recovering forces left behind and approached with light radiating from his glove. "Allow me, young sir." A wave of warmth and light washed over the warlock, basking him in its healing energies and soon even stood under his own power. "Thank you, Sir Lightbringer." He bowed, only to have the same armored hand stop him while a chuckle left the elder's lips. "It's quite alright. Although perhaps next time you should be a little more careful on how to throw this next time?" The Javelin was brought to him by two sorceresses, whom retuned it to its rightful owner. "It got close enough that I almost got a shave for free on the side of my head." What energy he had at the moment was soon lost as he sighed heavily- he would need to tweak the runes next time he got back to Dalaran so as to make sure that his next attempt didn't take anyone out by surprise…. Or perhaps he wouldn't have to as that same function could be used in a number of espionages. However, that kind of distance made the recall rune falter due to the maximum distance on his connection to it not matching the distance it could cover.

"Now, if you three will excuse me I need to gather what able-bodied warrior we have left after this and make our advance towards Stratholme as well as ensuring that the civilians you saved make it behind friendly lines. You've all done well for protecting you, I couldn't ask for anything more than to try at the least…" He gave them a bow of his head, which shocked the two magic-wielders though the Ranger-General managed to return it before the Lightbringer marched over to the gathering knights and foot soldiers. "Huh, and here I thought he was a little stricter as commander of the Silver Hand." Jaina smiled as Sylvanas patted his shoulder. "Well, you may not count him out just yet: I think he knows, or at least suspects something. Remember, he's been a part of the Second and some of the First Wars against the Orc Horde, back when their supply for warlocks and Fel energies were abundant and could be felt in the same room as them. We may have to make a quick getaway if things so south." Both 'agents' of the Kirin Tor nodded in agreement before heading back inside to at least get something to eat, as well as question on what had happened earlier.

The acolyte had informed his master of everything that had happened, and then was sent to the Sacrificial Pit to be converted into a Shade for future reconnaissance. A merciful action compared to what other suffered prior to this discovery. However, he would need to converse with his brothers…. But they had their own places to be at and positions to be ready for what was to come next. The discovery of a warlock in this world, something that only their former slaves the Orcs had possession and was controlled over, was now outside of their influence may force their hand. And his power was growing stronger if his age and current arsenal of spells and his two demons were anything to go by.

It would seem that something else was going on when those Orcs were still under their influence… or perhaps it was nothing. The return of the Burning Legion would not be stopped, and the Prince of Lordaron will assist in its downfall. For now the matter of this human warlock was to be put into the back burner until it became a more pressing issue.

He had to prepare the red carpet for the approaching celebrity of course…

The trio of warlock, mage and ranger recovered enough to continue the march towards Stratholme, though they agreed to only remain ahead of Uther but behind Arthas' advance as they had matters they needed to be settled about their last big fight. "So let me get this straight, the moment I blacked out I was replaced by this never-before-seen woman that ended up destroying the rest of that caravan, and then got switched back before we returned to Hearthglen? Kalcifer and Darbus must know something…" He didn't even hesitate to pull upon the connection between himself and the two demons, conjuring them to this plane from the Twisting Nether and were soon moving again. They couldn't afford to be caught in the range of Uther's scouting parties. "Now, I'm pretty certain you both know why you're here."

Kalcifer cackled like a madman before answering. "Of course, of course! We can feel the presence of our poor, sweet Mistress still tied to this plane of existence now that she had surfaced from within." The three mortals (except for the High Elf) looked confused at the joyful but cryptic statement before the Voidlord decided to clarify for them. "Our former Lady had fallen after a great battle that resulted in one of her most cherished possessions being supposedly destroyed, leaving us lost and wandering for a time. But it would seem that even death is a mere setback. You were dying in her arms after that attack and, with her remaining power along with some of our own, forged a soulstone. Normally it would house the soul of the one who makes it and, unless destroyed, would allow its creator to remain tied to this plane of existence. This one was, and still is, a mystery even to us: at death's doorstep you were kept alive long enough for the Kirin Tor to retrieve you… but it costed the Mistress' life to create it. Or so we had thought." The Fel Imp cackled and danced around a bit as he sang his words. "Mistress is truly the best~ mistress is truly the best! HEEheheheheheee~."

They were shocked to hear that this 'Mistress' was not only supposedly equal in power of Gul'Dan if not superior, but she had willingly sacrificed herself to save Eidolon's life after the battle that destroyed his home. Jaina and Sylvanas, however, were more concerned on the matter of 'why' she saved some random boy's life instead of herself…. Though it was made clear now that she was far from truly dead.

The only question now was… would she try and take over their friend now that she has become an active force to be reckoned with?

Not if they had anything to say about it.

The demons weren't having any more questions as they said it was better to 'gather the others' before anything else was explained, so they decided not to push the matter any longer, especially when Kalcifer kept on speaking in cryptic sentences while singing in slight joy of his "Mistress' return." It was during the next morning that they had arrived to Arthas' base camp just outside of Stratholme, where they were shortly joined by Uther the Lightbringer. "I'm glad you could make it, Uther." The Silver Hand commander wasn't in the mood and frowned at the Prince's attitude. "Watch your tone with me, boy. You may be the prince, but I am still your superior as a Paladin!"

The young man bowed his head for only a moment before looking towards the party of three. "As if I could forget. Jaina, Ranger-General, It's good to have you both here. Look, Uther, there's something about the plague you should know…" One of the riflemen came running up to him and pointed out the pile of imported grain… straight from Andorhal being distributed amongst the surrounding villagers. "Oh no." He turned back to his Paladin mentor and informed him of the situation. "We're too late. These people have already been infected! They may look fine now, but it's only a matter of time before they turn into the undead!" He faced the city before coming to a griming conclusion. "This entire city must be purged."

Now that was a drastic solution if any of them had heard one, especially to the trio. Sylvanas at one point may have considered that being the only option in the past, but things had changed when she met the Warlock: she now saw all possible solutions, most never being an ultimatum like she thought prior to their meeting. Somewhere in the back of the Ranger-General's head, she pictured herself being the one to suggest and/or support this Purge instead of standing against it. Some twisted sense of irony, she figured.

"How can you even consider that? There has got to be another way!" Uther couldn't even see this as logical reasoning, to simply condemn an entire city to death if there was a chance to save them, right? Right?

Arthas looked to the man he respected as a superior before 'pleading' his case once more. "Dammit Uther, as your future king I order you to purge this city!"

That did it for the Lightbringer as his patience had finally caved in, a spark of his younger days defying ultimatum orders from a superior. Though fortunately for him this 'boy' was anything but. "You are not my king yet boy! Nor would I obey that command even if you were!"

Arthas looked angry and, though his voice tone dropped, he was heard clearly amongst those present. "Then I must consider this an act of treason." Eidolon's group, having been mostly silent through this exchange, finally decided to speak his mind, much to Jaina's slight dismay- slight considering the situation.

"That's going too far Arthas! It is one thing to want to save the people from turning into undead, but such drastic measures-"

"SILENCE!" The crown prince's voice echoed through the open air before glaring adamantly towards the paladin. "Lord Uther, by my right of succession and the sovereignty of my crown, I hereby relieve you of your command and suspend your paladins from service. And YOU," he turned and pointed to the disguised warlock as he spoke with such venom in his words that a hydra would be proud, "I've dealt with this little game of pretending to be a commander for too long and hereby sentence you to imprisonment! Guards, take him away." Unfortunately for him, he would later come to realize that he had made the worst decision he'd ever make this day. The moment two of his footmen went to seize Eidolon of his freedom they found daggers barely breaking the skin of their exposed throats as ice encased their legs, freezing them in place thanks to the combined efforts of Sylvanas Windrunner and Jaina Proudmoore.

"Go ahead, give me a reason to." The footmen looked to each other and, to the sorceress' relief, dropped their swords so as to not further agitate the female Ranger-General. "Good boys." She put away her twin daggers, though her other rangers still kept their arrows trained on anyone else lacking Uther's banner as a precaution. Paranoia makes one live longer, as they always say. "Since it is clear that we are no longer welcome here, I and my forces shall take our leave. Unless, of course, the Crown Prince of Lordaeron wishes to declare war upon Quel'Thalas and the Kirin Tor?"

Arthas was infuriated, firstly he lost support by 'rightfully' removing the presence of the Silver Hand due to their lack of doing the right thing, but now that the High Elves were pulling out it would take longer to pull off the purge. Don't get him wrong, it wasn't impossible to succeed, though he knew that it would take more time to finish this and confront Mal'Ganis. But… "Jaina?"

The Sorceress only stopped, but didn't dare look his way as the rest of her group got ready to pull out. "I can't watch you do this. Goodbye." With her mind and heart resolved, and taking the metaphorical leap to forever be done with what was left of her affection for the man, she walked away from Arthas Menethil once and for all and rejoined her friend/crush.

Something broke in him, but the prince pushed it aside as he turned to the rest of those present. "Those of you who have the will to save this land, follow me! The rest of you… get out of my sight!"

"You've just crossed a terrible threshold, Arthas." With that, Uther the Lightbringer and his Silver Hand left the soon-to-be slaughter behind them, leaving the crown prince to further descend into his own insanity.

Though normally this would leave people to watch the gruesome slaughter to come, an anomaly would draw out those who observed history being made. For when the Commander of Paladins made his way to return to Lordaeron to rescind the prince's authority, he was halted by his three traveling companions. "Ladies Windrunner and Proudmoore? What further business do you have with me must wait, for I have to see to King Terenas about his son's recent actions."

The one in purple robes with green overlapping the Kirin Tor's colors stepped forward and slammed his blade to ground, like he was making a point. "This is more important than that, unless you want Arthas to go and kill off innocent lives?!" That immediately caught the Knight Paladin's attention, and allowed him to continue. "Jaina and I have found a way to identify the plague weaved into the grain and, with a little time, can teach this to the other spell-weavers that can identify if one is infected or not. At least that way, we can save those that can be spared, and hopefully even stop the infection process before it claims them. All we ask is for your support, so I implore you!" He dropped his weapon and got on his hands and knees, bowing before the holy warrior. "Please, help us save what lives we can before anymore are lost to either undeath or Arthas' madness…"

Uther for one could say that, over his years, had learned to be an excellent judge of character, and could tell that his plea to him was genuine… though for some odd reason he couldn't help but notice that, due to their close proximity and with no real threat looming over their persons, feel something familiar about the kind of power he was radiating. Surely it was suppressed, but he could never forget the feeling of this kind of magic back from the Second Great War against the Horde. 'No, it can't be. Surely it must be my nostalgia from back in my days…' Shaking off the feeling for now, he lowered to a knee and offered a hand to the young sorcerer. "Perhaps it's either my old age, or feeling like I've seen this kind of thing before, but you have me convinced." He helped the young warlock back to his feet and stood tall before the group. "I, and the Silver Hand, shall join you in your cause, if not to at least preserve any more life before forever lost to the madness going on around here. Though, I do hope that you have a plan to do this, as I am certain that our esteemed prince will not tolerate our presence after our last encounter…"

The trio looked to one another with a knowing smirk before turning back to the Lightbringer. "But of course, Knight commander. We're determined, not suicidal."

Within the western end of Stratholme, The undead forces had received word that prince Arthas had arrived on the outskirts of the city and, as theorized, intended to kill off the citizens to prevent them from 'turning' before the grain ran its course. The foolish boy believes that the entire city has been infected, leaving the Dreadlord to chuckle to himself. "So predictable. True, we only had enough grain for a few homes, but at least this way the desired results shall remain the same. He'll be killing more innocents than undead. Go forth and 'deal' with their outpost, while I ensure that we keep a steady supply…" The people were soon retreating indoors to hide from the monsters coming for them while he personally collected them for… processing. All in all, it was a good day for the Dreadlord Mal'ga-

"My lord, the eastern entrance has been infiltrated and… another force is evacuating the civilians." Wait, what? He was sure that section hadn't been infected yet due to their short supply of grains (due in part to the caravan from a few days ago never making it here), leaving him to personally clear it out later. But was some other force outside of his own and Arthas present to unravel his entire operation here? It was one thing to have the prince enraged enough to chase after him to the northern continent, but this third wheel may actually threaten to derail everything he's been working on. No, that will not do at all, for he would be made a laughing stock from his 'brothers' and then punished by his masters for failing.

"Very well then. Enforce our hold over the East while I entertain our royal guest. Keep a flow of assault teams heading for the prince's outpost as well." "But milord, that will strain our defenses-" The cultist who spoke out was struck down by a green wave, never to rise again as the demon looked to the other workers. "Now."

Three skeletons were shot down by a rain of arrows as another ghoul found itself impaled by ice as the Sorceress and Ranger-General fought side by side with their Warlock as droves of undead came for the lone entrance to the eastern part of the city. "You know, now that they don't have that tainted ground to walk on, they're proving to be a lot easier to manage."

A black mass zipped past her head and struck down another necromancer as Eidolon set another abomination on fire. "I know what you mean, especially now that I can go all out without risk of discovery!" His rune-etched sword cut down another oncoming ghoul as more ice rained from the sky, striking down all that came their way.

"Can you two just focus please?! We're in the middle of a warzone here…" She swung her staff, knocking a zombie's head clean off its shoulders until it went into a nearby barrel. "Also, forty seven!" After a few seconds of taking pleasure from the indignant cries from her companions ("Oh, come on!" "Dammit Jaina!"), they refocused upon another wave of oncoming undead.

The trio's plan consisted of rangers and knights riding around the district and clearing away all of the stragglers while insisting civilians to leave their homes and head for the eastern entryway, where High Elf priests and oncoming sorceresses can search for any signs of infection from the plague. So far no one had to be cut down so that was a good sign that people here weren't all infected. Although they had a few close calls with some undead that were still in hiding so rangers were scouring every possible corner to take them out if need be.

Soon enough though, Bibble and Bobble (whom surprisingly decided to stick with Eidolon's little rag-tag team) were heard half-way across the city laying waste from a safe distance and raining mortar strikes as far as they could target via smoke flares set up by rangers, giving the three defenders some much needed relief after a while. That left one base totaled, but the other was now working with fewer resources and out of mortar range. It was enough so they had to pull out or risk discovery, having done their intended tasks.

This also left Mal'Ganis without escorts on his next run-in with Arthas, whom had him cornered near the heart of the city. "We're going to end this right now, Mal'Ganis. Just you, and me."

The Dreadlord chuckled aloud before staring the prince down with a grin. "Brave words. Unfortunately for you, it won't end here…"

As the trio decided to soon enough split up and look for any survivors near the heart of the major end of the conflict between demon and deranged prince, the warlock found something a little odd, something that looked like a brown ('or was it bronze?') dragon being restrained by a rather odd looking dragon, scales going a dark purple and having a human-like body except for his head looking off as well as his torso having the neck-down dragon's body without wings. He seemed to be the source of purple energy restraining the other, whatever for was beyond his understanding but clearly it wasn't good.

He started off with casting Immolation, alongside the usual curses and even a silencing curse to delay any spells it knew, making quick work of the drake before finally shoving Javelin through its skull, though it took a lot of effort to pull off. Heading over to the trapped dragon, he rose a hand that had rings of rune-etched circles materialize around it and waving it over the magic-enforced prison so it became destroyed, freeing the dragon. The second it was loose, it glowed brightly before its body seemed to shrink down to a much… smaller…

"Phew, that was waaay too close there. Nice to see a friendly face here… or is this the first time we've met?" He could not believe it, that little gnome from all those years ago back in Dalaran… was here? And a dragon no less?! She looked confused as he just stood there shocked still. "What? Is there something on my face? Oh, did I miss something when I shifted?" She looked herself over quickly in a small panick before looked up and recognizing who this human was. "Oh. OH! You're not supposed to know I'm here! Well, no one is really. Not since Nozdormu said that… oh I should really stop talking." She ran into a corner where there was a brief flash of light, making the stunned warlock finally move to follow… only to find her gone. Again.

"Just who is she?" Not intending to find any answers here, plus remembering that he was here on a mission, Eidolon ran back into the slightly burning city of Stratholme to find more innocent people, completely missing the now-scattering pile of sand that would have come from a conjured portal.

Ladies and gents, I deeply apologize for not being able to get this out due to my lack of inspiration for some time… that is until I took a look at my email and saw that people were actually liking and even following this story. Got my rear in gear really quick, so here it is and I hope you people continue to like it.

And as an inventive to keep coming back for more, as well as genuinely liking this story, I've decided on this being the first Omake! A little early, but I hope you enjoy it! Keep in mind that, unless stated, all omakes will more than likely take place in the WoW era.

A Hallow's End (A Halloween Special)

Eidolon was prepared for many a number of things- a horde of demons, undead, dragons, hell even shadows that spawn from negative emotions and time-traveling orcs. But for the absolute life of him, he could never be more unprepared than he was right now…

"I'm telling you, he'd be better off as a Crusader!"

"Oh Please, Proudmoore, you must be deluding yourself. Clearly he'd be better off as Gul'Dan."

"Didn't you get to choose last time?! I believe it's my chance here and I say Crusader!"

"Just because Dalaran's hosting this year-"

Here he was, stuck between a mountain and a free-fall into the abyss, with Arch Mage Jaina Proudmoore and The Banshee Queen Sylvanas Windrunner (another story for another time on that reunion) bickering between each other once again to decide on what their esteemed Warlock would wear this year. Hallow's End was a celebration for the Forsaken finally breaking free from the wretched control of the demented Arthas Menethil turned Lich King… by undergoing a global trick-or-treating contest/tournament/brawlfest between the Horde and Alliance. Seriously, since when did a historical event imply anything about gaining/buying/stealing candy!? It never made sense to him, as he'd then be stuck between these two as they got him in some kind of ridiculous (to him) costume and go out to get roped into killing the Headless Horseman who, mind you, rides around on a flying (and also headless) horse, laughing like a madman and sets homes on fire…. without causing real property damage. It got annoying after repeating that for three years so he was hoping that the thing gave up after the last 42 deaths but he had his doubts.

"- and since WHEN did you become the queen of the bi-"

'Aaaand we're done.' "Alright, that's enough, both of you!" A pair of blue and glowing red eyes looked over to ominous green, whom was acquiring a twitch due to agitation, finally bringing silence over the overly-large shopping district in the floating city of Dalaran. They had been stuck there, picking out from a number of options the 'right' one for this year, however their bickering just had to continue for another year on the matter which one to go with. Even though it wasn't for themselves…

"And what about you two? Have you made any decision on what'd you dress up as… or did you almost forget again?" This was almost a well-scripted routine they had going: They'd pick something for him, bicker with their 'nemesis' about it, then completely forget about choosing one for themselves until the last minute. This time however, he'd save them the week of not finding the right disguises this time, and himself from having to put up with it. The two looked between themselves and smirked before nodding in unison. An action that made the Warlock truly fear for his life now as he tried to make a run for it… only for two different hands to grab an arm each and slowly drag him along. "Oh, don't you worry, though this time we have more options so…" "We were hoping that you'd help up decide on what to wear. We appreciate the assistance on the matter." The young man was now screaming bloody murder as he was dragged away, calling out for anyone to save him only to receive looks of pity or suppressed laughter.

In a nearby darkened alley, a fully robed woman whose hood was still up though black hair still went out from it looked on with slight sorrow, before looking down at the bag with the costume she had picked out. "Oooh, and here I was almost ready to finally give him this…. Well, I still have until the end of the week." Inside the bag was a set up for an adult-sized 'Murky the Murlock' costume, fish and everything…