Author's Note: There is not much I can say for this one. Tirion mourns his wife and son on the anniversary of Taelen's death, at Caer Darrow the place now known as Scholomance after being destroyed by the wicked undead. Angsty in the extreme.
Honoring the Fallen
On this day, Tirion Fordring, greatest paladin to have ever lived, the Ashbringer, felt nothing like any of those things. He felt as mortal and human as any. It was the anniversary of his son's death. Taelen's needless, brutal murder.
Isilien had paid for his treachery with his life, but none of it, nothing Tirion had done to this day had brought him solace and closure over his son's demise. Not even single-handedly freeing the heroes of Azeroth from the Lich King's grip over their souls. Not Varian's half-hearted attempts at comfort.
Tirion knelt before a grave marked only with a silver hand and a golden sunburst. No names, because names were not required. The only person who cared, who would ever care, about these graves already knew who was buried beneath them. It wasn't a tomb, or even a covered grave, and yet everything placed near or upon it looked as new as the day it was placed there.
A tear trailed softly down the great paladin's cheek, landing gently on the silver hand marker. The tear gleamed momentarily in the sunlight that never seemed to fade in that one spot on the destroyed isle of Caer Darrow. His wife had loved this place. It was where they'd had their picture painted. He, Taelen, and Karandra. So he had made sure they were buried here. Many thought he'd had them buried in Stormwind, in the royal cemetery, or at his old home in Mardenholde, but here was where his heart was.
As he had told young heroes long ago, the picture of him with Taelen and Karandra was one of his greatest memories. For he had never again in his life felt the bond of love and family that he had felt at that moment. Now, all he had was that memory. This time, he had brought the picture, a last blessing and apology to his beloved family.
Tirion cried softly, not caring if anyone stopped and saw him. No one even came here anymore. Caer Darrow, and the Scholomance were now as empty as the Plaguelands. Only undead lingered here. Undead, and an old man grieving for a life lost.
The paladin placed the painting on the shared grave of his wife and son. Their beloved faces gazing up at him in memory. It was as if it were only yesterday, looking at the picture. He could almost feel his wife's warm shoulder beneath his hand, see and hear Taelen's eager looks and shouts of glee at seeing the city in its prime.
Tirion's hands trembled as he steadied the painting on their grave. He came here each year to mourn them, each year bringing something with him. This year, it was especially significant. His wife and child had not lived to see the greatest tragedy on Azeroth. They had not witnessed the Cataclysm. If he could be grateful for anything related to their deaths, it was that they didn't have to witness so much more death. That they died before more death was brought down upon Azeroth.
A beam of silver-gold light seemed to envelope Tirion and the grave of his wife and son. A familiar light...no...Light. Tirion looked up. A naaru...? What...? Why do you mourn so, greatest of all the champions of the Light? A familiar voice, a familiar Naaru. A'dal. Why was he here? A'dal rarely left Shattrath unless the need was great. I felt your pain, my champion. On this day, it is far greater than any other day. I will tell you something you have heard before, champion. The Light does not abandon its champions. Or...its loved ones. Ashbringer, do not grieve for your wife and child. They do not suffer. They did not live to see the lives lost in the Cataclysm. In death, they are at peace. When will you be able to be at peace with yourself?
"I failed them, A'dal. I...was once told...by someone, someone whose name I cannot even remember, when I was a child...Honor, young hero, no matter how dire the battle, never forsake it. I never gave up my honor, but I let my wife and child die. I stood idly by as the Scarlet Crusade corrupted my son."
A'dal sent a wave a comfort toward the paladin. You failed no one, Tirion. Fate is fate. If you had not lost your family, would you be who you are today? Great paladin, if Karandra and Taelen had not lost their lives, would you have reformed the Silver Hand? Would the Lich King be nothing more than a figurehead keeping the Scourge in check?
Think on all the things that would not have happened had you not lost your family. I am not saying their deaths were not hurtful to you, I am saying they were...necessary for you to become who you are. If you are anything, it is honorable. What are two lives to the lives of thousands? You have saved thousands, Tirion. You couldn't have saved them if you were quietly living with your family in Mardenholde.
"You are saying my family's death was NEEDED? You are saying their deaths...their deaths were necessary? You...go! Get out of here! My family would not have prevented me from saving people, it would not have prevented me from becoming a great paladin. You speak lies to comfort me, Naaru."
A'dal did not leave or fade away. He merely let Tirion cry and sob, no longer attempting to comfort the paladin with his powers.
Tirion stared at the picture of his family, his lost family, tears blurring his eyes, stinging made even worse by the Naaru's callous words. No...the more he thought on it, the more he realized that A'dal was...right. If his son had not died, he would not have reformed the Silver Hand. He would not have created the Argent Crusade, he would not have entered into the alliance known as the Ashen Verdict with Death Knight Darion Mograine.
He would not have...defeated the evil, corrupted paladin-turned-Lich King Arthas. He was not taking those long ago words to heart. He was being selfish. Honor, young hero, no matter how dire the battle, never forsake it. No matter how dire the battle...in all his years, this was the first time he'd ever regretted his actions, wished he could go back in time and prevent his wife and son's deaths. Now, with A'dal's help, he realized that their deaths were the catalysts that saved thousands.
He owed them everything, even in death. They made him who he was today. This day, this anniversary of Taelen's death, he realized who he was for the first time in a long time. Who he was meant to be. Who he would be until the Light no longer needed him. The Ashbringer. Greatest Champion of the Light the world had yet seen.
Tirion straightened the portrait of his family on the grave, gave it one last look and stood up. He faced A'dal, who was still there, unsurprisingly.
You see what I see now, paladin. Because of that vision you possess, that is what makes you worthy of being who and what you are and will always be. The Light will never fade from this memorial, as it has not in many years. The Light has always made sure to protect the loved ones who served it in life, even in their death. I grant you a gift, paladin. I cannot bring them back, but I can give you a small moment with them. It is the least I can do for my greatest champion. The Naaru faded, but the gleaming silver-gold light over the unmarked graves did not.
At first, Tirion did not understand A'dal's words.
"Tirion, what...? What is this? I was..." A familiar voice...a woman's voice. Tears once more threatened the paladin. He closed his eyes, steadying himself, before turning around. Karandra and Taelen. A'dal...it was more than he deserved for yelling at the naaru so. They were incorporeal, but they were real, and there.
"Karandra...I'm so sorry...its my fault that you're...that you died. If I had been there..." Tirion could not finish his sentence.
His wife placed a ghostly hand on his shoulder. It felt as real as it had in life.
"I was angry. I left you out of anger. I should...WE should have followed you into exile. I know who you are, what you have become. I was wrong. Your honor is your life, I understand that and I see how many lives that honor has saved. I am honored to have been your wife. I love you, my husband, even in death." Karandra placed her ghostly lips against his own, yet they were warm and soft as the day they'd sealed their wedding vows.
"I am happy, my Ashbringer. Grieve no more for me. I would have given my life a thousand times over to save all you have, to do all you have done. It was meant to be. Everything was. When, if, the Light is ever done with you, perhaps we'll see each other again. I am with my son, my love. A'dal told me that the Light does not abandon its champions."
"I have never been a champion of the Light, nor have I ever truly believed in its power...until I died. I realized what a fool I had been...and what a truly great man you are. Remember us with happiness, not sadness. Farewell, for now, my love." Another ghostly kiss, and Karandra faded before Tirion even had a chance to say good-bye.
Taelen's spirit placed a comforting hand on his father's shoulder. "I should have realized, father, when they told me all the bad things about you. About how you chose to side with the orcs, about how you abandoned me to fight with those things...about how you chose to die rather than forsake your honor...mother told me that, but I know it was only out of grief, not anger."
Tirion hugged his precious son that he had failed to save. "I'm sorry I couldn't get to you in time to save you from Isilien's attack. I...A'dal may have been right that had I saved you I would not have reformed the Silver Hand, but it still grieves me that I could not save you."
"Father...as mother said, do not grieve. Our deaths saved thousands. Our deaths were not pointless. We...meant something, father. My death led to the defeat of the Lich King. How...how can I wish I had lived when I know if I had thousands more would have been killed? I can't forgive you father, because there is nothing to forgive."
"I love you, and I will tell mother you said good-bye. I know whats in your heart, father. Your destiny is greater by far than ours. When I watch you, I can only think how proud I am that this man is my father." Taelen hugged Tirion again, tightly, then he too faded away.
Tirion stared at the spot where his wife and son had been but seconds before for some time. Tears threatened him again before he pushed them back. They were happy. They had asked him to no longer grieve for them. The paladin turned from the Light-blessed grave and headed back to the boat awaiting him at the docks.
Something he hadn't seen before graced his vision. Ghosts, incorporeal forms, gleaming with golden light, pacing the streets of Caer Darrow, which, to his eyes, appeared as if it weren't the destroyed monstrosity it was today. They were laughing, happy. He looked back toward the graves of his wife and child.
Instead of the unmarked grave that normally lay there, he saw himself, Taelen, and Karandra, as they had been all those years in the past. He was talking to Taelen, Karandra was laughing. They were a family. This vision...was greater by far a monument to the fallen than any portrait. The fallen of Caer Darrow lived on in happiness. Sometimes, even those who were not fallen still lived here in happiness, in one man's vision.
Tirion boarded the boat with one last glance at the beautiful Caer Darrow and the family scene that he would never forget etched in his memory. Memories of a beautiful a day, a different time. The world had changed much since then, and so had Tirion, but this place and its memories would live on forever in his heart.