Warcraft (c) Activision Blizzard
No Rest For The Wicked
The Horsemen and The Deathlord
Amal'Thazad poured over the tomes bewitched to float in the air, his gaze flicking between them as he re-familiarized himself with the incantations and spell craft within. Moving Acherus from its perch to the roof of the world was already a staggering effort that taxed Amal'Thazad and his portal mages significantly. Moving the Ebon Hold to the Broken Isles, however? That was an entire matter.
This space was so completely infested by Fel energies that the very air itself was tainted. Tainted by insidious magical wards, demons and other monstrosities that make the Scourge's foulest creations seem like childrens' playthings. And the corrupting energies spewing forth from that font of power called the Tomb of Sargeras? Well, that challenge left nearly every single one of the Ebon Blade's portal mages either collapsed on the floor, gasping for air or doubled over in exhaustion.
It was a mercy then that the Ebon Blade's disciplines differed greatly from the Scourge in some regards. For one, this weakness was not punished with swift beheading or ghouls devouring them while they were still conscious. Amal'Thazad found his magics similarly drained, but unlike his disciples who were still of flesh and blood, so to speak, he was not taxed by their physical exhaustion.
"Archlich," Disciple Percival inclined his head politely as he approached, "Forgive the interruption, but Highlord Mograine has requested the presence of all his sub-commanders and the ranking officers. He awaits you and the other Masters of the Arts in the Hall of Command above us."
"Our presence, you say? Did the Highlord grant a reason as to why we are summoned?" The Lich would go of course, but some idle curiosities were harmless.
"He says its a matter of strategy and tactics regarding our campaign against the burning legion. And the matter of the... collaboration with the Lich King." Disciple Percival answered.
"Yes, I imagine that a great many of us have been rather curious about the precise details of that arrangement ever since the bargain was struck." Amal'Thazad hummed to himself, pondering. "Very well. I shall make my way there immediately. Return to your duties, Disciple."
"Suffer well, my lord." Percival bowed his head once more and hurried off at a run, no doubt to summon the other ranking officers.
By the time Amal'Thazad had arrived at the Hall of Command, nearly all the other senior ranking knights were waiting. They had milled about privately, sharing in hush conversation with each other. Between them, they would share accounts of the battles at the Broken Shore, or the many invasion points that afflicted the main continents long before the Legion set their sights on the Tomb of Sargeras.
It appeared that Amal'Thazad was the last to arrive, a point that chaffed on his pride, since as soon as he took his place along the other two masters the Highlord began his address. He stood as still as a statue, and sans one important detail. His helmet. His helmet was curiously absent. Perhaps a symbolic gesture to his Knights that he was laying the truth to bare for them. Even without the cold saronite faceplate, his expression was a mask.
Though the Lich had known Darion was young at his death and raising, he had never known quite how young. The Highlord was perfectly preserved as a young man on the cusp of manhood, no older than perhaps nineteen or twenty summers. But his baring and marble-like expression showed the truth of the seasoned commander behind the youthful blond's appearance.
Authority carried in his voice as much as the necromantic echo. "As many of you know, we have entered a tenuous pact with the Lich King. I know that you all question this decision, some of you may even harbour resentment towards the situation, but I believe you should be made aware of the factors involved as a whole."
"So, we're correct in assuming this goes beyond the Lich King offering us arms and armaments?" Lord Thorval inquired, eyebrow raised.
"Indeed. The Lich King has threatened to unleash the full might of Northrend's undead host against the Burning Legion and the Broken Shore. While that's exactly as pleasant as it sounds, unlike us, he will not be so considerate towards our allies. His armies will reap devastation across any and all misfortunate fools crossing his path along the way." The Highlord explained, "The pact I made ensures that the Lich King can fight using us as his proxies."
"'Do our jobs, or I'll do it for you.' - Is it safe to assume that about sums it up?" Thassarian chimed in,
Mograine made a sound of acknowledgement in his throat. "Effectively, yes."
"Then how is this arrangement any different than when we bound to the Lich King's will?" A Tauren Death Knight named Garaddon chimed in.
Garaddon was a member and one of two representatives of the Unbound, the sect of Death Knights who re-pledged their loyalty to their factions over embracing the Ebon Blade's neutrality. At his side was Lyrias Shadowweaver, a Night Elf Death Knight and the Alliance's representative of the Unbound who nodded grimly in agreement.
Darion Mograine spoke, meeting the Tauren's gaze evenly. "It's different in that we have a choice. We can choose to act as the Lich King's agents and bring forth destruction upon the demons with minimal losses to our living allies on both sides of this arbitrary divide. Or we can stand aside and let the Lich King slaughter everything in his path on the way to destroying the Demons that assault our world."
"It isn't much of a choice so much as its a guillotine above our heads." Lord Thorval complained, crossing his arms over his chest. "Admittedly, a great many of us care nothing for our living counterparts, but none of us want to see them destroyed outright."
"Speak for yourself. I for one would think it hilarious." Lady Alistra shrugged dismissively,
"You forget yourselves. Should the Lich King unleash his hordes to quell this invasion, raise the dead of both sides and then turn his attention towards his errant knights, we will face a war on many fronts. There is a word for such a thing: 'Surrounded'." Amal'Thazad counselled sagely and Alistra snorted derisively in response.
"I agree the situation isn't ideal. But we will suffer through. Such is our lot and we will embrace it, as we always have." The Highlord declared. "As we speak, the Lich King's chosen Champion, Ophelia Nightsorrow, is facing the trials laid in Icecrown to procure a weapon that will help bring an end to the Legion. At this time, that is what we must focus our attentions on."
Darion Mograine leaned over the centre platform and pulled two rolls of vellum from the stack, both sealed with wax. "Archivists Illana Dreadmoore and Zubashi have found credible leads on two other artifacts we can employ against the Legion's forces."
He handed off the first roll of parchment to Lady Alistra. "Alistra, I want you to send your finest Unholy Death Knights to scour the catacombs of Karazhan under Deadwind pass. The Wizard, Medivh, has a collection of powerful magical items and tools stashed under his tower. The ancient weapon we seek is of Nathrezim make called 'Apocalypse', but we'll take what we can, and perhaps provide those of little use to the other Order Halls. A sort of gesture of good will."
The master of the Unholy snapped open the seal and devoured the information scribbled on the surface. While she did so, Mograine handed off the second roll to Lord Thorval.
"The second artifact is a demon weapon called the 'Maw of the Damned'. It is located on a Legion world, and I believe it could provide a great asset in our hands. Thorval, I trust you to select an appropriate raiding party to secure the artifact from the Legion's hands, and pave your way home in their blood."
Thorval inclined his head politely before reading his own instructions. "It will be so, Highlord."
"Good. When Nightsorrow returns from her mission, we will move onto the next phase of the Lich King's plan. And that is a matter for some discussion." Mograine seemed to hesitate for the first time during this briefing. "Part of the Lich King's plan against the Legion is to revive and assemble the Four Horsemen."
"The Four Horsemen?" Amal'Thazad echoed. Murmurs rippled throughout the assembled officers and Darion Mograine spoke up, cutting them off with his commanding tones.
"I understand the concerns that you all may carry towards such an undertaking. I too have my own set of reservations, but the Four Horsemen would be a valuable asset against our foe."
"Why do we need the Four Horsemen specifically? Surely these weapons will be enough once we've assembled them?" Thassarian inquired.
"If I may, Highlord?" Amal'Thazad interjected politely, Mograine gestured towards the Lich for him to continue. "The Four Horsemen are the peak of Necromantic arts. And their powers are not to be taken lightly. If one considers the Lich King to be a god, the Four Horsemen could be considered demigods sculpted by his hand. They are the most powerful form of Death Knight ever conceived. In fact, Death Knight may be an insufficient definition for them. Perhaps 'Avatar of Death' may be more appropriate?"
Lady Alistra rejoined the conversation, her orders rolled back up and held tightly in her fist. "If they are so powerful, then why not simply raise one of us as the new Four Horsemen? Surely its easier to enhance the soldiers already available and loyal to the order, rather than allow for the chance that the risen four would be difficult to persuade to our cause?"
"While that option would be preferable, the matter isn't as simple as that. The animation and magics that create a Horsemen differ on a fundamental level than that of regular Death Knights. It's not a matter of simply binding a soul to a corpse with necromancy, its a fundamental altering of that body and soul, imbuing it into an aspect of death itself."
"I am become death, destroyer of worlds." Thorval quoted the ancient saying and an air of grim agreement settled over the Knights.
"We will take care to consider who and what we raise as the Four Horsemen, but ultimately, the power to make that decision falls to the Lich King - and Nightsorrow as his champion." Highlord Mograine answered, "I understand this undertaking will be difficult, but I ask you all to stand with me. We will defeat the Legion, or we will resist to our last breath."
"Pardon the intrusion..." A human woman's voice interrupted, all the commanders present turned their attention to the new visitor.
It was Ophelia Nightsorrow, battle-worn and weary but standing. And at her sides were a pair of rune blades that chilled the very air around them, covering their metal in rime. Each and every Death Knight present could sense the power within the weapons, and more than that, they could sense the charge placed upon her. The Lich King's very own brand that inscribe on her very soul marked her as the enforcer of his will.
"I apologize for interrupting this meeting, but given my position it seems this business has to do with me as well."
"Ah, my treasured student!" Amal'Thazad raised his arms towards her, as though a father greeting a beloved child. "I am pleased you prevailed in your trials."
"Many thanks, master." Nightsorrow bowed her head to her teacher.
"One last matter." Highlord Mograine's voice cut through the commotion, he circled the table behind his commanders and moved to Nightsorrow's side. "The Lich King has named this Champion as his hand. As do I. By the Will of the Lich King, and upon my authority as Highlord, I bestow our highest honour upon Ophelia Nightsorrow. From this day forth, she as Wielder of the Blades of the Fallen Prince, shall henceforth by known as Deathlord of the Ebon Blade!"
An eruption of cheers sprung forth from the senior order members. The sound of them echoing throughout the necropolis. "You will all bow to her as you did to me! And carry out her will against the Legion!"
"You honour me, Highlord." Ophelia said quietly as the Death Knights cheered and howled their congratulations.
"Enjoy the moment, but remember there is much work to be done." Mograine warned her, "I'll be trusting you to act as the spear tip against the demon host."
"I shall not fail." She vowed.
So Darion tells his brethren the scope and breath of his bargain with the Lich King. He has placed a guillotine over their heads to make them obey his commands. Not a great position to be in, but the LK wants to defeat the demons at any costs.
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