The sun rose over a shattered town.
Hearthglen, once a quiet little village in northern Lordaeron, was in shambles. The outer wall, once a seven foot tall wooden structure, was now just a pile of twigs in some places. Outside were the shambles of hastily constructed guard towers, little more than piles of wood and masonry for two or three riflemen to stand on. A fire ravaged the interior buildings, a fire that had started at the Rooster and spread while the soldiers of Arthas and the town militiamen defended themselves against a couple thousand undead.
But the fires were being kept in check. The woman who had accompanied Arthas when he first arrived, absent during the battle because she was summoning Uther's knights from Lordaeron, was directing a fire fighting team and using conjured water elementals to put out the flames. Jensine had pointed her out to Malles and babbled excitedly about the young Lady Proudmore, but Malles barely paid attention to her. His eyes were on a giant, blond-haired man in blue armor gazing down at a fallen Lordaeron soldier.
"Jensine, shut up a minute."
"But it's Jaina freaking – "
"Go get an autograph, then." Malles shoved her away and begin walking towards the man. Jensine followed him.
"Dunno. Go find her."
Jensine scowled at him. Marley had left them upon seeing the Lordaeron army to find Bobby. Malles was supposed to be watching Jensine, but that was the last thing he wanted to do now. Malles wanted answers. Malles wanted to know what had happened to his home, why his village was burning down all around him, why he had seen his neighbors and their children torn apart in the streets by undead monsters. That's what they were. Undead. Ghouls. Zombies. Not orcs. Not the green-skinned marauders from the mountains Malles had been conditioned from birth to know, fear, and hate. But most of all, Malles wanted to know where his father was and why the hell he wasn't here to answer all these questions.
The big man turned to address the young teen glaring at him. Malles was pleased to see that even at seventeen he was eye-level with one of the soldiers of Lordaeron. Malles glared at him. "Tell me what happened here."
To his surprised, the other man shoved him. Hard. Malles stumbled backwards and fell on his butt. He was up in an instant and throwing a punch right for the man's skull before a powerful arm grabbed his wrist and pulled him away. Malles turned around to find himself face to face with one of the most famous people in the kingdom.
"Stand down," Uther muttered.
Malles bowed his head as Uther let him go. Uther turned to address the other man. "You're a lucky man, Prince Arthas. If we hadn't arrived when we did – "
Arthas cut him off. "Damn it Uther, if I'd had an army of knights riding at my back when I first came here - !"
Both men turned to look at Malles. Malles didn't budge an inch this time. "Where is my father?"
Arthas turned away as Uther clapped Malles on the shoulder. "I'm sure he's around, son. What is his name? I can help you look."
His name was spoken softly. But Malles recognized the voice and picked up on the tone. He turned around to find his mother standing behind him, holding Jensine close. Both of them had tears in their eyes.
Malles blinked. "What?"
Jensine buried her face into Marley's shoulder. Malles stood in the street numbly as Lord Uther led Prince Arthas away. Marley moved forward to hug him as Malles watched the sun rise over the hill behind her.
Today, Malles turned eighteen and became a man.
A day his father would never see.