Hello. I'm Iced Blood. Welcome to my newest project.

In other stories posted on this site, and on my profile, I have mentioned that I play World of Warcraft. Like so many players before me, I have developed a special sort of attachment to my main character.

At some point during the first expansion, when the Blood Elves were introduced as a prominent race, a story began to unfold that explained the history, the personality, and the future of that character as an individual. In the years that followed, the story continued to evolve and incorporated elements from my previous works, as well as my own experiences. This character, and this story, have become a part of me.

If you enjoy the telling of this story half as much as I do, I'll have done my job.

This is the story of a night elf named Sythius, so far from home and fine with it.

"It's like watching a mountain cradle a twig."

Captain Vant Lingham was not, in any sense of the word, a heartless man. Heartless men did not station themselves here, in the landscape of hell's forgotten nightmares. The trees, bloated and bent like gigantic brown snakes strangling the earth, stood sentinel over rotted leaves and dirt so soaked with blood and rotted meat that it put barely more resistance against a man's boots than boiled oats.

Heartless men did not station themselves here, where the corpses of the dead didn't rest long and never rested easy. The living didn't last long here if they let themselves forget what it meant to live. It was too easy to lose hope.

"What use have we for that?" Jonas Holfield continued, sounding bitter and disgusted. "Never damn talks to anyone. Can't read, can't write, can't bloody well follow orders."

The captain didn't know, and he didn't bother to answer. He was not a heartless man, and he knew the value of a strong spirit. But this wasn't strength. He looked at the massive bulk of the druid with a mixture of pity and anger, thinking that the Holy Light had a sick sense of humor to have such a soft heart encased in the body of a giant. To have a soft heart in the Plaguelands was worse than having no heart at all.

The elf sat at the edge of their camp, which amounted to little more than a series of hand-me-down tents and a pathetic little cook-fire. His massive, tree-trunk legs were crossed beneath him, and the bundled form of the elf's new pet sat cradled in arms the size of a human man's waist.

"What's that oaf's name, anyway?"

Captain Lingham grunted. "Sythius," he said. "One of those shapeshifting types, sent to us out of Kalimdor's roof. The Maiden found 'im. Guess she used him for a mission or two, decided he needed more training. Saddled us with him."

Holfield stared, dark eyes incredulous under thin, raised eyebrows. "Them're real?" he asked. "Thought druids changing into animals were just a myth, thrown around to make the tree-humping freaks look important."

"Aye," Captain Lingham muttered, not really paying attention. "But if there was anybody I'd put money on changing into a beast, it'd be that one." Most night elves, and Captain Lingham had seen more than his fair share, were a big lot. Even the slimmest of their women were taller and heavier than a stocky human male; the men were huge.

This Sythius from the frozen wastelands of the North dwarfed the biggest elf Captain Lingham had ever seen by about half a foot. Had anyone else brought a plague victim into camp, starved and dying child or not, the captain would have told them to end it quickly. But the thing about having a recruit two feet taller than he was—and twenty stone heavier than Big Olrec besides—was that if he didn't want to do something, there really wasn't any way to force him.

The subject had been broached, but Sythius would not have it. "This young one," he would say, in a rumbling growl that sounded like the voice of a bear taught to speak, "is a victim. We do not kill victims."

When he was not on patrol, Sythius could be found tending to the boy he'd found. It was a sickly thing, barely more than a starved stack of ribs, sunken eyes, and a puss-filled infected arm. Captain Lingham called the boy "it" more often than not because he knew it wouldn't be long before it turned. The druid would wake one morning to find his prized pet ripping out his throat.

As his boots crunched over the skeletons of lost leaves, and his rusting grieves clanked and jingled, Captain Lingham looked around at his men. Fifteen there were now; each dressed in a loaner's chainmail. These were no military brats with inherited armor, out here in the tattered remains of Lordaeron. They carried iron weapons, cheap and simple, meant to bludgeon and slice open, ceremony be damned. They were the true face of any army. They were the beaten, the battered. They slogged through the work that "proper" soldiers wouldn't touch because they had a damned job to do.

A truly damned job.

Big Olrec took a spoon out of the cauldron set onto the cook-fire, slurped at it like a chef at competition, grimaced, and shook his shaggy head. He tossed the spoon back into the boiling broth and turned away, spying Sythius at his nightly vigil. The old shaman stomped over to the elf. "How's 'e fare, lad?" he offered in his booming, echoing voice. The other men had been mumbling to themselves about tying the bearded bastard to a tree and using him as bait; even his whispers carried halfway across the continent.

Sythius grunted a reply that probably didn't have any words in it. But Big Olrec nodded like he understood perfectly, laying one of his huge hands on the druid's shoulder. "Ye're gonna hafter consider the notion, lad. 'E might not make it. Might'n be, best we kin do is make the death clean." Another growl, this one much more menacing and primal than the first. "I know, lad. I know." Big Olrec patted Sythius's shoulder. "C'mon, then. It's yer watch. Let an old dwarf see what 'e kin do fer the boy."

Sythius gave another incomprehensible rumble, handed his bundle to the dwarf and rose to his feet, bringing up his gargantuan spear. Holfield scoffed derisively, straightening his chainmail as if to differentiate himself from the rumpled disorganization of the druid. "Now he's got he dwarf soft on that thing," he muttered. Indeed, Big Olrec was cradling Sythius's pet like his own newborn heir. "What's he doing, trying to heal it?" Holfield asked this with slathering disdain, and Captain Lingham scowled.

"That's the old dwarf's calling."

"Ngh." Holfield pulled a knife from his belt as Sythius strode past him. "Maybe next time, I should try my healing powers on it."

It happened too quickly to be logical. The druid was too gigantic to move this quickly. But before Captain Lingham blinked, Sythius was standing a number of steps away from Holfield; after Captain Lingham blinked, Holfield had the stone slab of an elven fist clamped around his throat and a hand-sharpened spearhead a bare inch from his left eye.

"You are looking sick," Sythius growled, and they were the clearest words he had ever spoken. "Someone should heal you."

He threw Holfield to the ground like a bag of trash, and stalked away. Holfield, gasping and choking, stumbled to his knees. Captain Lingham's gaze alternated between the fuming elf, the terrified human, and the thoroughly amused dwarf, who wasn't even trying to hide the beaming grin beneath his greying beard.

I will be doing my best to incorporate authentic lore and personalities into this story as it goes on. This introductory section shows a few of the members of Lingham's Company, an offshoot of the Argent Dawn. Each of the characters in this section are of my own creation and, to quote the ever-popular disclaimer, any resemblance to existing characters or personalities is coincidental.