Disclaimer:World of Warcraft and all expansions belongs to Blizzard Entertainment, and I own nothing more than the the retail disks of it. This story is a non-profit fanfiction rendition of their story with added original characters. Do not do anything that resembles purchasing this story.
A tip: It would help if you brushed up on Abbendis' lore beforehand. Perhaps reading through her diary on wowwiki or wowhead.
"Come to me..."
Abbendis awoke feeling light, with joy brimming inside her. The Light had spoken to her in her dreams. Finally! She quickly retrieved her diary and recorded the event, precise yet flowery script detailing every small thing she could remember of it along with her renewed hopes. The Scarlet Crusade's ardor was paying off.
"High General Abbendis," a voice called, low and confident.
Abbendis turned, eyes narrowed at the darkness. "Who goes there? Show yourself!"
She could make out a man-shape walking forward. The steps were lazy, the gait not matching any of the Crusade. She eased a hand onto her sheathed axe, debating whether she should call for soldiers out of hand. An assassin would be surprised against her, however. Her Light-given strength was formidable.
The man was close enough for her to make out details, and he stopped his approach. He wore dark robes, shoulders reflecting light with great crystals. His expression was aloof, from what she could see under his hood. At his side was a woman with wings and hoofs – a demon succubus. In the same voice, floating against her with a touch of inquisition, he said, "You know what I am?"
"A warlock," she nearly spat, loathing the disgusting path. However, they weren't explicitly something against the Light, nor always sympathizers with the Scourge. She knew of many that had perished in the battles against Kel'thuzad. "Explain yourself, scum."
"Ah, the compassionate hand of the Light. I expected such a welcome," he droned mockingly, and Abbendis seethed inside. The Light was just, a strong hand against that which was evil. Any devoted follower knew that compassion wasn't to be given blithely. A warlock deserved none on mere whim. "Well, I bring news for your ears alone. A curiosity struck me in my passing most recently."
Hand now firmly on her weapon, Abbendis asked, "How did you get here? Why were you not stopped by my men?"
"Ah, those. There is a fine trail of blood behind me in my attempts to reach you. The message is worth it, however. And to be fair, with each assailant – for your men struck the first blow each time – I tried explaining my need for you," he said.
"Told you this was a bad idea, master," his demon sing-songed in her vile temptress voice.
Abbendis gritted her teeth, realizing he had killed her men to infiltrate the city. The line of corpses must had been thin, considering his unruffled appearance and the few out on night sentry, but still she was loath to hear of it. For him to brave her men, knowing the strength of even the weak unbelievers that he might have encountered, meant his word must have been worth it.
Instead of sentencing his death, she demanded, "Speak."
He was silent for a moment, studying her with his shadowed eyes. He stood as far in the shadows as was acceptable. Finally, his voice came neutrally: "You surprise me, High General. I had suspected overzealous foolishness permeated all the founders of the Crusade, yea like your father. I did not expect you to listen."
"I will not for much longer, warlock. My patience runs thin."
She saw his smile, and he inclined his head to her. "Indeed. Are you aware that last night a powerful force of fel conjuration, that is to say demonic magic, centered upon your city, yea your very residency?"
Her eyebrows immediately furrowed at his words. She remembered her dream, the Light speaking with her – the town had been abuzz with it the whole day – yet nothing stood out as an evil presence. "What are you speaking of?"
"Something demonic reached for you, High General Abbendis. If you are a fellow practitioner, then I will congratulate and admire your strength before making my leave. Such a secret is safe with me. However, if you are unawares, know this: such strength as what I felt last night I have felt on only the rarest occasion, and never on Azeroth."
"I am no warlock," she snapped, but his words had her mind reeling. That voice had to have been the Light. Not... what he was implying. However, how could this outsider have known of the presence the previous night? His kind couldn't feel the Light, only that of his kind – fel energies. No one else within the town had felt even a whisper of the great hand of the Holy Light the previous night. She forced herself to be steady. "What are you saying by this? A demon visited my dreams?"
"Ah, so you are aware of something amiss. Very good. Dream, you say?" He paused, then shook his head, returning to her question: "Not just any demon, High General. Powerful, matching horrors witnessed only on Outlands. The only such demon I know of that remains on Azeroth is the Nathrezim. The Dreadlords."
The weapon under her fingers was reassuring, yet still Abbendis nearly shivered at his words. To think that she even might have been met by such was unbelievable. "What proof of this can you give, warlock? And speak your name!"
"Dangerous demand," the succubus cooed, sensuous voice sly.
The man ignored her. "I will be candid with you, High General, and hope you above petty reprimand. I have no love for the Scarlet Crusade. However, I believe that while there should be discrimination in your purging of undead bodies, your work against the Scourge has been invaluable. I have respect for this necessary evil, even with the Scarlet blood on my hands of the overzealous."
Before Abbendis could challenge him, rage flashing hot, he pressed on: "I seek your preservation. And just how failure starts by removing those at the top, protection begins at the top. If demons are at work here, manipulating the Scarlet Crusade, it is you, Abbendis, that I seek and pass warning to. That you were targeted betrays much of the intent."
Still angry, she wanted to call him an undead sympathizer for his words, yet those following forced her tongue to stay, which made things frustrating. She didn't release her weapon, still unsure if she would have him slain or not. Even the adventurers that traveled out and undertook great challenges, like this man, would be no match to her Light-granted strength.
She said as much with, "You know that should I wish for your death, you do not have the strength to stop me?"
His demon made an angry sound, stepping before the warlock with a whip in hand. The man, however, stopped her with a hand on her bare shoulder and moved the demon back to the side. He answered, slyly, "Indeed if we fight, you will slay me. But as always, it will be me with the last laugh. Now, what did the demon tell you last night?"
Abbendis leveled him with another challenging look, seeing only his casual impassiveness, and then snarled and released her weapon, turning on a heel. "Follow me."
Once he finished reading her passage, Abbendis snapped it shut, preventing him from reading her other entries. It would be best, she assumed, if he heard of the dream in the most vivid recount – that of her diary. Of course, that also meant him and his demon inside her bedchamber.
The man wasn't as seedy in appearance as she had suspected. His face was set arrogantly, his smirks haughty, but he might have been attractive in a spotless white tabard and polished red armor. His demon was a pretty harlot, as was expected, but her demonic deformities were disgusting.
Sitting in her writing chair, the warlock rubbed his hairless chin pensively. "The demon wouldn't have impressed anything you couldn't understand. What did it want you to do? Why cold?"
"It wanted me to set sail to Northrend, to fight the Lich King on his own doorstep," she said, and the doubt returned. Clearly the Light would approve of such bold tactics, especially with their current strength. What demon would want to help the Light against the Scourge?
"Eliminates the Burning Legion's powerful turncoat and throws away Crusader lives. Clever. I bet the Nathrezim had means to take command as well, if it..." he paused, head tilting, and he said, "No, it hasn't infiltrated your forces yet. However, there is no doubt its hand was behind the vision."
Abbendis hated that he made the possibility so real, so believable. It really couldn't have been the Light, and still her prayers were unanswered by the coveted force she so ardently believed in.
Even more, she hated the degenerated presence of her command as she asked him, "What should be done regarding this entity?" However, she couldn't allow it to continue sending such sweet deceptions into hers or any others dreams. Nothing had the right to emulate the Holy Light!
"What can be done?" he dismissed, shrugging. "It is much too distanced to sense, its power too great to stop. However, with your permission and promise of refuge, High General, I will remain among the Scarlet Crusade, as adviser to you – not in matters of the Crusade, that is your own affairs, but in matters of demonic. The Scourge is your foe; the Burning Legion is mine."
Abbendis didn't want to accept. She wanted to cast off this faithless warlock and not see him again. However, his help proved invaluable. She would follow the Light through any command. Her faith was great. However, she wasn't stupid. The demon could easily take advantage of that through its emulation. Without this warlock's warning, what might that demon have guided her towards under guise of the Holy Light?
"I will not hear a word from you regarding the Crusade and its actions. You are not to even seek my presence unless you bring new word of the demon that did this. Are we understood?"
"Time alone with just my books? I couldn't ask for anything better. Of course, you will provide residence, food, and supplies with my stay, correct?"
She bit her thumb at the thought of him leaching their resources over a side issue from the Scourge, but it was important. "Of course."
"You know, for someone who wished my presence in banishment, you have a tenancy to seek me," the warlock said, snapping his book closed and setting in on his table. He gave her an amused look, steepling his fingers under it and before him. He faced her across the table. "What shall I advise for you today, High General Abbendis?"
Abbendis kept the scowl from her face as she took another few steps into the room. She glanced at the bookshelf to her right, seeing that none of them remained dusted – though the thick musk remained. To the left were various forgotten nicknacks, homely with their dark paints and dyes with the aged wood – all of it bathed in gentle candlelight. It wasn't so dreary a warlock residence as she had suspected of him, rather quite intellectual.
His demon was at his side, leaning from her armless stool into his throne-like high-back. Her back rested against the wood of it, the ease of her stance betraying a familiarity to the position with her master. In her lap was another aged tome, the subject of which Abbendis didn't bother divining.
"I tire of your mystery. Tell me your name, warlock," she said and turned back to him.
It was true that this wasn't her first visit, despite her rather obvious study of the room. The first day, she had returned to discuss hiding the truth of the dream from the town. His words were nearly heresy, criticizing the ardor of the Scarlet Crusade ("-overblown reaction from your fanatical followers-"), yet spoke with a ring of truth to them she knew she must heed ("-would take it wrong, a sign that you have fallen under the sway of the shadow. Your new alliance with myself will be brought to light, and "justice" will be meted-"). The necessary caution the Crusade needed to practice in regards to their own ranks made the secret an unfortunate necessary.
The man's head tilted just so in another arrogant and defiant gesture, then dipped in acquiescence, the smile remaining. "I am Marcarius, High General, of the Alliance. Is that your only reason for visiting?"
"Keep to yourself, Marcarius, if you wish to live out your days," she warned, not with benevolence, and left his study.
She knew why his presence invoked her ire so readily, with his undisciplined mannerism and warlock nature. If it weren't for the need, she would have nothing to do with him. However, the man had a level – if blinded – head on his shoulders, and ability in which would never be found in the Crusade. It was an advantage.
She respected his word, enough that she wouldn't cut out his tongue for when he slandered. She didn't know how long she might keep him around – perhaps even until the demon made its appearance and was felled – and she was of mixed feelings of having him leave. Relief clashed with unease that the protection he granted would dissolve.
For now, however, she was glad that he remained quiet enough that his presence had brought barely a stir among her men. More important to them was the buzz of excitement for the Light's message to her. Keeping that secret brought along the unpleasantries of having it build. Now word spread of the Crimson Dawn – from Bishop Street, the day that would incite great change for the Crusade.
She debated going back to the warlock, Marcarius, for his opinion on them actually marching for Northrend – for she found the plan to be sound, if executed right and under her command. However, the personal loathing outside their professional relationship interfered, and she declined. He didn't decide for the Scarlet Crusade.
"Ah, I knew you would come," Marcarius mentioned upon her entrance, again seated in his chair. His smile was knowing, and the anxiety in her heart was proven well-founded. "I sought to find you when I first felt the fel conjuration fall upon the town, but I respected your wishes and remained here, to stay the waters of the fall out. Indeed it was the demon, High General, yea a Nathrezim upon my closer study of its source."
Abbendis wanted to shout and curse, but she had the self-control to do neither. The vision had been so vivid, so beautiful. The Light spoke clear and strong, like she always imagined, and it moved her heart with joy and satisfaction. Come to Northrend, it wanted, and it was so easy to taste that sweet deception, masked within rightful intentions. The following misted breath had been a miracle of wonders.
To hear it was sham and the work of the shadow gave her goosebumps. Even with her great strength and the blessing of the Holy Light, she wasn't immune to this sickening grasp inside her will. She watched, dismayed, as both Jordan and Street were deeply moved by the demon, falling fast for its trickery. She wanted to speak honestly with them, let the truth be known, yet she had suspicions of the Bishop, fearing the effects of his friendship with LeCraft.
She put it all behind her now, strong and confident. "What else did you find in your study?"
"The caster resides in Northrend. It's personification of "me" is indeed an address to an individual, yea the demon itself. If you remain on course to sacrifice yourselves in Northrend, when the Plaguelands alone have proven too resilient a weed to purge entirely, you will be brought into direct contact with this Dreadlord – and whether or not you can slay him, it will be costly and devastate your Crusade."
"We will not balk at lost lives when such means the end of a great perversion to the Light. An entity such as this living among us, worse still trying to influence us, must find its final justice and face the unrelenting hand of the Light," she retorted hotly.
"For once, I couldn't agree more," he said, amusement evident on his face. "If Northrend is the path you set upon, I will accompany you and assist in confronting this demon. I would enjoy seeing the Scarlet hand of the Light striking against the Legion."
Abbendis felt there was insult in his response, but the excitement over the recent vision left her feeling drained. She asked him, "Is there anything else for you to report?"
He turned thoughtful, turning an eye down to the stack of books on his table, then returned his attention to her. "Fear not that the Nathrezim is observing his failure to coerce you, High General. At most, it may only sense your position, and not very finely at that. It will only know when you have adhered to its whispers and are coming, and once closer, the location of your landing."
The words were relieving. Abbendis nodded, adjusting the hilt of her weapon at her side. "Remain vigilant, warlock. You have value to me, for now."
A slow smile spread on him, and he inclined his head politely. In parting, he addressed, "High General."
She sniffed dismissively at him, turning in place and leaving.
Another demon-sent. Abbendis' fist clenched. Another time that Marcarius proved his worth. Oddly, his presence, no matter how unpleasant, was also reassuring. She could focus on the Light, her faith and prayers, now without fear of influence. She might have even if he had never passed warning of the Nathrezim, but now there was an honest relief for it.
"High General Abbendis!" a masculine voice bellowed.
Abbendis turned to see High Abbot Landgren approaching with brisk steps, his expression angered. It wasn't her he was angry at; she knew the reason and felt much the same. He came to her side and walked with her, keeping pace with her own angry march.
"I know," she growled to him. "I will see to it."
The man huffed and broke from her side. "See that you do. We are lucky those weak in faith cannot detect such heresy!"
Warlock arts weren't heresy, but she was of agreement. Abbendis kicked open Marcarius' door and stormed inside, burning with anger. He wasn't in the study, as she knew he wouldn't be. She moved into the bedroom, the candlelight flickering from the wake of her passing. From the musky study she entered a spartan bedroom, no more than he deserved, but now there was an abominable set up in the center of the room.
Candles were packed heavily, all wicks lit and the wax globbing down the sides. More importantly, however, was the green runes glowing with demonic energy, circling around in a unnerving and alien pattern, themed by several expanding circles. Inside the center was Marcarius, sitting with his legs crossed and a tome opened on one leg. His right hand was held up, glowing with energies of the void, and he muttered softly to himself.
Upon entering with her loud steps, the man's demon phased into existence before her, a scowl on her pretty features. The succubus whispered harshly, "You will not disturb my master presently!"
Immediately Abbendis' hand was on her axe, and she began to draw it for a blow that would sever that disgusting head from her harlot body. Before she could, however, the low drone she had come to recognize said, "Stand aside, Aelina. What can I do for you, High General?"
Abbendis' shoulder-plate knocked the demon to the side as she pressed forward, the succubus making an oddly sexual sound at the blow. She scowled, pointed her axe at the warlock. "You are to cease this travesty at once! There is a void that anyone of the Holy Light can detect, a hole in our holy lands and order."
Marcarius studied her, hood removed presently. He sighed, and a waved hand had every candle in the room extinguish. The plunged into darkness, illuminated only by the far light behind Abbendis and the fel green runes. She saw him stand then and pull his hood up, the dark sentinel that he was.
Another wave canceled the runes, and then it was only her and the darkness. His voice pressed against her, mockingly, "As you command, High General. Forgive my impudence; I cannot allow myself to grow weak as I coddle myself in luxurious study. As you know, those that are weak cannot last. Lose your will as a Crusader and you become that which you so loath. The same is true for a warlock."
That was no excuse. "You will not blight our holy city with the void again," she spat, stepping forward into the darkness and glaring at where she knew him to be lurking. "If the need is dire, you will do so outside. If I find myself in need of reminding you of this, it will be with my axe!"
She turned and left, marching back out. That presumptuous warlock. She nearly hoped he would try again, just so she could finish him. She left the house to the outside and felt sweet sunlight settle on her again, and she soaked it in as if it were the Holy Light itself. Feeling that void within their city had been unsettling. It wasn't undeath, but the void had absorbed any Light within its radius.
Warlocks were not their enemy, but they might as well be!
"I will leave most of the Crusade here to continue mopping-up operations on the undead in our backyard. I imagine that once they have finished what we began, most will disband and go back to their homes to live in peace."
Abbendis paused there, considering her words. She dipped her pin in the inkwell idly. She brought it back to her diary.
"That somehow seems right. At our finest, we have always been the salt of the earth, rising up to take back our homes from the filth of the Scourge corruption, to return our Lordaeron to its former glory. To a time before the Scourge, before Arthas and regicide... before the Lich King."
She ended the entry there, not much feeling like writing more. Only the most faithful were planned to leave for Northrend, her liking the proposition. An elite cadre of the most faithful to do the Light's bidding in Northrend, where the fighting would be most intense. Of course, the warlock would have to come as well. She sighed at that.
Leaving her diary on the desk next to her, she pulled herself under her blankets and blew out her candle. The burdens of a leader assailed her briefly, but she pushed them back with practiced ease and slept.
"The message was urgent this time. If it had truly been the Light, I might have left this very day. The Nathrezim is growing impatient," Abbendis said, sitting across from Marcarius at his table. The books had been cleared away. It felt oddly cozy in here with the scholarly scents and gentle candlelight, and even with him, she felt at ease.
She continued, "It is great coincidence, however, that Captain Shely managed to procure a number of new ships for the voyage. It is as if the Holy Light shines upon our decision."
"Perhaps it has, perhaps it is merely coincidental," Marcarius answered, skeptical and aloof. "The urgency provides concern. Perhaps it merely fears its sham has been discovered. However, more likely is that something is happening on Northrend and it fears that its investment and personal army is at risk. I propose readying those ships with great haste."
Abbendis leaned back in her chair, listening to the aged wood creak. She was thoughtful, absently sipping her tea – the warlock had actually produced a pot for them when she came to check for the authenticity of the dream, though his answer seemed fairly obvious. She had to admit, he surprised her by successfully pulling off a good batch of tea.
"Interesting theory," she said finally. "Perhaps it would be in our advantage to begin defensive measures. Caution has always proved a faithful course. Is there news on your side regarding the demon?"
The warlock shook his head. "The conjuration came in and then dispersed, like a thief at night. If you wish, I believe I devised a method to prevent this Nathrezim from reaching you again."
It was tempting, but ultimately Abbendis rejected his offer. If it couldn't reach her, odds were that it would try the others. One individual involved in the conspiracy was enough, it wasn't certain that whomever was next could handle it with any sense of reasonableness. Over-eagerness was common in some Crusaders, she admitted grudgingly.
Oddly, she felt no qualms about sitting here speaking with Marcarius over tea. Nothing apparent had changed between them, but his casual disregard for things didn't irk her the same way it usually did. She hoped it didn't mean a loosening of the values of the Light that she held so dearly. She vowed to spent a great deal of time in prayer after the meeting.
"Far it be it from me to lecture you on how to handle battles against the Scourge, but I also advise you remind those who aren't soldiers the importance of getting out of the way of battle. Each corpse lost on your side means a new enemy rising. Even an advantaged battle may turn tides quickly from that."
"I am aware, warlock," she scoffed, but her heart wasn't in the scorn. She mentally scheduled a review of orderly evacuation for civilians, especially those in the farmlands outside the city. She stood from the table then, her cup of tea finished. "Be ready to leave within the week. The Scarlet Onslaught will set sail then."
"Of course, High General."
As with Naxxramas only a few years prior, the necropolis appeared with terrible suddenness. It hovered over the Havenshire farms, silent and menacing and by no means a wonder. It's appearance threw the civilians into an immediate panic, rushing away from their farms and towards the protective walls of New Avalon. Abbendis felt satisfaction at the review she had only just recently put them through.
It wasn't despair that settled low inside her chest. It was hunger, the pulse of righteous hatred. After being shown the looming fortress, she shouted her orders, preparing her people not only for invasion but to finalize the ships leaving. Depending on the results of this battle, she would be setting sail within the eve with only the most faithful of the Crusade. Bound for Northrend.
Amazingly, the rapid preparations she had thrown together at Marcarius' warning proved fruitful. An unholy eye had appeared within the city, divined to be spying on their defenses and key buildings like the town hall. The legions of archers and crossbowmen caught sight of it; their readiness had them bring the eye down orderly, finishing it during its frantic retreat back to the necropolis.
Of course, it was not without loses. Just that Scourge construct wrecked great havoc, raising ghouls from the ground that none had known corpses to reside. The citizens of Havonshire were tasked with burning all corpses, ghoul and Crusader alike, to prevent any new rising dead. It gave them a purpose – for which she was relieved.
She was indebted to the warlock further for his warning as they had stocked enough supplies to support the huge exodus of Havenshire. Without those preparations, she felt there might be stirrings of a riot on their hands.
It was during those thoughts, moving towards the council of their defense, when a great horn sounded. The necropolis was miles away, floating just past Havenshire's borders, yet still its trumpeter's blare reverberated with menace through New Avalon. Her hand gripped her axe on instinct, lip curling balefully. That was a horn of war.
AN: I'm normally never the guy that asks after reads and reviews, but for just this story, I'm making an exception. Abbendis is already finished, and I'm actually quite fond of the whole thing. If the premise is to your liking, I encourage you to follow the whole story - you won't be disappointed. I'll be posting the rest periodically, to give it some theatrical unveiling.
Also, reading through Abbendis' diary on wowhead or wowwiki is a nice read-along for this fic, up to a certain point.