Join Date: Jul 2011
Story for Competition
(( Wrote this for the writing competition, but since it uses event that are in game, it wasn't eligible. So, I'm posting it here, unpolished and unedited, just to get it out there. It does take on some big events, a couple of major characters, and came from an idea I had for how things might go in the future. So, without further rambling, here it is. Comment away if you like, and hopefully you'll enjoy it. ))
The smell alone was enough to drive one to madness. Mixed in with the carnage and rot sweat, damp leather, and a mix of cologne and perfumes that had no place on the battlefield. Orc breathed ragged, heavy breaths that smelled of breakfast, dinner, and a rankness normally attributed to an untimely release of bodily gases.
Atai hated this Horde. Yet here he had been asked, as many others of the Alliance, to fight beside them. After what he had seen in his childhood home of Telmor, hidden away by his mother’s magics, he had little desire to do anything but slaughter the green-skinned beasts that stood beside him.
It was duty alone that stayed his hand. Duty to the Alliance which had sheltered his people. Duty to the Light, which had given him guidance in his darkest hours. Yet his faith had been shaken by all he had seen in these cold lands. Hope for victory, or even any future at all, almost seemed out of reach.
He had heard the stories. A close friend had been there, and now stood near the front of this force of soldiers, ready to die. he had seen the Prince of his own people turn against them, and was witness to the fall of his own kingdom.
Atai's own father had been old enough to tell tales of Argus, his home, and it's glory. The two stories were in no way dissimilar. Great kingdoms had fallen due to a great betrayal. Great heroes of their people, loved and respected by so many, had unleashed untold horrors upon their own. The hand of the Burning Legion, and two of its greatest commanders, were present both times.
Now this fighting force stood ready to put an end to a traitor to his own Kingdom. A fallen prince. The human, Gardwin, would say his whole life had been building towards this day, and Atai knew the feeling well. His friend had made his faith a weapon against this Scourge, just as Atai had forged his own in his hatred of the Burning Legion.
Now at least one of them would know the sweet taste of vengeance. Still, between the Argent Crusade and the Light's justice, stood a citadel of the cursed undead. And still, hope seemed just out of reach.
Gardwin, meanwhile, braced himself for the coming conflict. His weapon, a massive ace, rested in his hands. The vicious blade was wrapped in cloth, frost and bits of ice clinging to it, the cold and ominous runes glowing a deep blue beneath. THe task of forging the weapon was a weight to many, their souls shaken by the undertaking. Necessity had lightened his own burden, and so he had been left to wield it. Just a simple paladin, just one simple man, sworn to the Silver Hand.
And in that hand, an Ebon Blade.
Years after the betrayal of Arthas, the traitor Prince, Gardwin at last felt ready. This weapon, this moment, it was his destiny. He had been driven to this point, prepared every step along his path to becoming the Argent Champion, to face Arthas. Now it fell to him to aid in the defeat of an army of the dead, and the monster that was their master.
He could not help but feel that glory awaited him, even if it was not his alone. As Tirion Fordring stood before himself and the masses of soldiers sworn to his cause, the words his Highlord spoke felt as if they were meant solely for him.
"This is our last stand!" Came Tirion's voice, amplified by both the power of his words as well as the silence that suddenly fell. "What happens here will echo through the ages. Regardless of the outcome, they will know that we fought with honor. That we fought for the freedom and safety of our people.
"Remember, heroes, fear is your greatest enemy in these befouled halls. Steel your hearts and your souls will shine brighter than a thousand suns. The enemy will falter at the mere sight of you. They will fall as the light of righteousness envelops them!
A whisper echoed in Gardwins mind. I thought the same, once. The voice that followed echoed through the halls, the same that had spoken to him, booming with a power that belonged to a god rather than a man.
"You all stand now upon the hallowed ground of the Scourge. The Light will not protect you here. Nothing will protect you here."
Again, the voice of the Lich King spoke to him alone. Nothing will protect you here. Today you will fall, just as I did, and rise again.
As others led the charge, their meager force sweeping through the halls of the Citadel, Atai stood back with his men. He knew well that the gates would not stand if left behind, and the threat of a strike from two sides could crush any chance this small army had of victory. The halls remained quiet, save for the distant echoes of the force ahead working their way to the heart of the citadel.
The scraping noise was almost imperceptible, at first. It grew louder as time passed, the chittering and gutteral groans starting to stand out more and more, until even the patter of loose flesh on the stone floor became clear amongst the chaos of the legion coming. Then they came. At once the dead began to pour into the room, any exit blocked by the mass of unholy soldiers that came upon the Crusaders like a wave of rotten flesh. Atai braced himself, and did the only thing he could. He cried out, sounding the attack, and drawing his sword.
The dead crumpled to sweeping strikes of the massive blade, it's edge of ice cleaving through Saronite armor as if it could provide little opposition. Gardwin had never held such power in his hands, smiling to himself as each blow of the mighty runeaxe delivered justice to these monsters unleashed upon him.
Those fighting beside him failed to notice his glee, driven as they were to continue forging a path forward towards the Lich King. This was natural, to him. Years of war had forged him into a soldier fit for one purpose; vengeance. With each fallen foe, he was that much closer to his goal.
The feeling passed. The whispers came again, and refused to let up. I have stood where you are now, paladin. A man determined to fight fate. Determined to change his world, and prove his worth. I stood for all you now stand for. I fought for those I loved, the people I wished to protect. In the end, it was not the blade that defeated me. It was a simple truth. We are the monsters. We are the truest evil. The petty games of races and nations, the conflicts that have torn this world asunder, all fueled by the need that you feel now. The need for purpose. The need desire for greatness. The lust for vengeance over any wrongdoing.
Gardwin stood, the last of his enemies felled, his goal in sight. Tirion stood at the lead of the small band that had survived it all, but his voice was distant. All of their voices were distant. They all seemed so... bright, but still so far away. His fellows looked to him, smiles on their faces. He was their champion. He moved through them, forcing the smile that would not come naturally. He stood beside Tirion, and looked to the figure before them, relaxed in his throne. Unmoving and unspeaking.
I see you, Gardwin of Lordaeron. And I see your blade. You and I are the same. Like me, the truth will be your undoing, and you will stand as my greatest champion. You will know why you have truly been brought here, and this revelation will take you to greater heights that you ever aspired to reach. This world will fall by my hand. That cannot be changed. In its place, a new world will be forged. A better world. A world united in death.
The figure on the throne stood. His armor seemed to drink in the light of the world around him, leaving a void in which this god-like being resided. Nothing positive remained in this moment. It took all of Gardwin’s resolve to stay standing, to not turn and flee, as the Lich King spoke at last.
“So... the Light’s vaunted justice has finally arrived.”
The battle was endless, it seemed. Corpses fell alongside good men, the soldiers seeming to battle atop rust, black metal, shining armor, and rot. Gore covered Atai's blade and shield as he cut through his foes, only to watch as those allies that had fallen rose again to turn on their former comrades.
These were supposed to be our greatest champions, He thought to himself. Champions delivered to bring the LIght's justice to this dark place. Yet here they fall, only to rise and serve the very thing they have come to destroy. The tide of the dead did not cease, as Atai struggled to retain his focus, shouting out orders to his men.
The paladin almost didn't see the blow coming, as lost as his mind had become. A hammer, ominous runes carved through the symbols of one of hte dwarven clans, rang out loudly against a shield raised in a hasty defense. The figure that had struck him landed on a fallen gargoyle, crushing the beasts head beneath his foot. Atai knew better than to think he was looking down on the stocky, bearded figure. He knew too well that the glowing eyes of the dwarf were looking down on him.
As if following some unheard command, the scourge kept the Crusaders at bay, leaving room for the two combatants to move freely. The dwarf began to circle, his eyes narrowing to glowing slits as a grin crossed his face, creasing the ritual tattoos that covered it. He spoke with two voices, that of the man and that of the runehammer sounding as one, chilling Atai just as it had the first time he had encountered one of these Death Knights.
"Ye've come far, alien, if ye're now seein' this place." Atai lashed out at the figure as it spoke, his sword ringing off of the hammer as it was struck just wide of his target. "Aye, far enough, I'm thinkin'. Can't say I expected ye to be strong enough to stand your ground so long. I'll have to correct that, it seems."
The dwarf was unnaturally quick, his weight launched forward as if the armor was no burden to him. His hammer struck high, forcing the paladin back and sending a sharp pain through Atai's shield arm. He lashed out with his sword, catching beneath the edge of the dwarfs helm and sending it off through the air. The death knight stepped back, standing steady, still grinning through his thick beard as he raised his hammer again.
Neither of them moved. They did not twitch, blink, and for a long moment Atai felt as if he did not even draw a breath. Glowing eyes met glowing eyes, a fury hiding behind either pair.
"He wanted this." Atai spoke at last. "He wanted us to come here to our deaths. The greatest champions of this world, all in one place, to be slaughtered and raised among his finest soldiers. Turned on the world they had died to defend. Just like he had been."
The dwarf continued to meet his gaze evenly. "Aye. This is where we come to die, you and I, and to live again. I suppose I just got here a little quicker. Suppose I should speed ye on yer way, then."
The hammer struck quickly, pushing Atai's shield aside, the next blow hitting Atai hard in the chest, driving the wind from him and sending him sprawling back to the ground. The dwarf stood atop his chest, the next swing of his runehammer sending the paladins sword aside, and leaving his arm shattered and limp.
The dwarf grinned, baring his rotten teeth as he raised his hammer high. "Oblivion awaits ye, paladin. Are ye ready?"
Atai closed his eyes, breathing slowly as he looked inward for any sign of hope, his mind racing as it tried to find some escape. A prayer was muttered under his breath, his fear fading and his mind clearing as warmth flooded into him. It came to him as if reflex, his shield swinging up as the Light enveloped it, slamming viciously into the side of the dwarfs head and sending the death knight sprawling. Atai stood, his energy returning as he let the shield fall, taking up a discarded sword in two hands in its place.
"No," came the paladins simple reply. "I do not think I am."
Tirion stood frozen beside his comrades, kept in place by the foul magics of the Lich King. Soldiers beside him battled the scourge, keeping them at bay. Gardwin stood defiant, each blow of Frostmourne ringing off of his own weapon. The equal that so many had worked so hard to forge. He drew his strength from the foul blade, felt it draw on his rage. Shadowmourne was at last awake.
Gardwin pressed his attack, the foul runeblade meeting its predecessor once again. He called the Light to him, praying for the strength to press through. Still, the more time passed, the heavier his weapon became, and his foe knew it. He was tiring, his energy slowly draining, as the Lich King simply laughed at his plight.
“So this is what it comes to? The Light’s greatest champion frozen in place, forced to watch as I wear down his finest soldier. His Crusade brought to a decisive end, and his crusaders twisted to a new purpose. A greater purpose.” The paladin could take no more. He swung again, only to fall to his knees as his weapon was tossed aside, skittering across the ice and into oblivion. “This is how it ends, paladin. This is where you face the truth. That under my rule, this world can at last stand united. Your time has come, Gardwin of Lordaeron. Frostmourne hungers...”
Something felt cold. Gardwin’s breath caught in his chest, his throat closing. He looked down to see the weapon buried in his chest, the cold runes of Frostmourne glowing as the blade’s hunger was fed once more. It all seemed to move slowly, Gardwin’s eyes scanning the room as the Lich King made some silent proclamation, his power bringing all to their knees. Then, they were simply gone. The crusade had failed. He had failed.
His eyes turned to Tirion, frozen in ice. Trapped and forced to watch all he had worked to accomplish turned against him. Then with just a prayer came a bright Light, filling the room. Gardwin’s head fell, and he felt the warmth take him away, with no pain left to feel.
Their battle had no end, it seemed, until this moment. Paladin and death Knight had stood at odds, neither seeming to tire or show any signs of wear. Atai charged the dwarf, the sword in his hands coming down hard against the runehammer that opposed it, leaving the two once again staring eye to eye as neither scored a blow. Atai leapt back, closing in and cutting low, prepared to fight this foe for all eternity.
The the hammer fell. Atai froze, staring at the dwarf in shock. Neither moved for what seemed ages, the dwarfs head hanging now, his grin gone. As the smaller man spoke, one of his voices shook, though Atai could not tell whether it was from regret or rage.
"Ah've done such evils, as ye cannae imagine. Friends have fallen because of me, and the voice that drove me. There was no choice, no mercy, an no will of me own to consider. So what is there now. His voice is gone. Ah no longer hear it. Just the agony, driving me. The hammer's will, calling to me. But Arthas, he at least is gone at last."
Atai looked around, watching the chaos surrounding them. The scourge swarmed wildly, cut down easily now by the crusaders left standing. What remained of the force that had cut their way through the citadel was plainly seen in the distance, returning. The paladin took a step forward, raising his blade to strike, as the dwarf simply stood defenseless and defeated.
The sword fell to his side, and he turned his back on the dwarf. Atai walked away as the voice called out behind him, begging for violent mercy. Atai would not give it. Not this day. No, this one would have to atone for his evils, as alone as any of his kind.
Tirion Fordring stood alone in the twilight, a scene which he believed to be quite fitting. Between the shadow and the light he stood, his eyes trained upon the fallen body of the Lich King, and the dark helm that lay so close beside it.
The Light had guided him here, to this place. To a destiny, it seemed, that he had not desired. The words of the spirit rang in his ears still, the final words of a man who had once been his king, before the betrayal of a son that had now sent to his final rest. There must always be a Lich King.
He approached cautiously, lifting the helm with great care, as if it could lash out at him any second. Turning it over in his hands, he stared into the empty eyes which had so recently glowed with the power of a man become like a god. Now there was only silence, and cold.
"The weight of such a burden," Tirion thought aloud, "It must be mine, for there is no other."
As he raised the helm, a voice sounded from the Frozen Throne. A voice Tirion had never thought to hear again.
"Tirion! You hold a grim destiny in your hands, brother, but it is not your own..."
Atai's return to Dalaran was quick, leaving him time to rest at the edge of the city and stare into the forest below. Atai let himself be captured by the beauty of it, restful and quiet, with just the wind to disturb the stillness. He took in the moment as best he could, despite the horrors he had so recently witnessed. In the days since the Argent Crusade had tended to their wounded, and Atai had helped to heal those who still had hope of it, with many left crippled after the battle. Sacrifices had been made, as he was well aware, having buried Gardwin's body just days earlier.
"I wondered if I would see you here."
The draenei turned, a look of surprise slowly replaced by a smile as he recognized the smaller man. He had known the man would be here, overseeing the construction of a monument to honor the fallen, but he had not thought to encounter him. He stood at attention, saluting more out of respect than reflex, though the latter was certainly a part of it. "Highlord. I did not expect you."
Tiron nodded to the man. "There is no need for such formality. I am, as you are, just a man. It is rare that anyone treats me as such any longer, and I long for the days when I could stand before a man who viewed me as an equal."
"Forgive me." Atai bowed, smiling as he rose. "It is rare that the leaders of this world show such humility."
"There is nothing to forgive. Much has happened in these days. We have all seen and done great things, both noble and monstrous in their own rights. For now, at least in this moment, there is peace. In a world beset by seemingly endless conflict, that is something to savor, fleeting as it is."
Atai turned back toward the skyline, a frown crossing his face. "Is it not enough?" He asked, a hint of sorrow in his voice that spoke for all of his years. "Is it not enough that we have come together, and brought the Light to such a dark place? Have we not earned a lasting peace? More than a moments respite? Are we not worthy of such?"
Tirion stood beside him now, staring beyond anything the draenei could see. "A friend of mine once said that none of us are worthy. That this gift is just that; a gift. It is grace, pure and simple. We are not worthy, though we strive to be. It is in that, our endless struggle to find worth, that we find greatness. That we rise to challenge all odds, and affect a better world."
"I find it hard to see that better world."
The Highlord allowed himself a chuckle. It was the first time Atai had ever heard such, and the smile that accompanied it, however slight, was no less shocking to the Draenei. "I have faith that it will come," the Highlord said at last, "and that it is men and women like those who fought for this day that will bring such a world to us. I have no doubt that there is much conflict ahead, but so long as there is such evil to be faced, we will stand against it."
Atai turned, a full head above the figure beside him. Something swelled within him, and he felt a lightness he had not known in millennia. He looked upon a humbled man, who stood a hero in the eyes of a world saved, and felt as if his search might at last be over. He knew the words true as the human spoke them, and Atai silently pledged himself once more to this mans Army of the Light.
"By Blood and Honor we serve."
All who had come had long since departed. Icecrown was silent again, save for the scraping of bone across ice far below, the minions of a dormant King restlessly waiting for their leader to rise once again. In the shadow of the Frozen Throne, a fallen soldier, seemingly untouched by rot and decay, rose to his feet, brushing away bits of gore from his person.
The figure emerged from the shadows, his breath leaving no trace of steam in the frozen air. His armor, shining and bright despite the blood upon it, melted from him as his shambling steps became a confident stride. His hood rose, covering a face that melted into hawkish figure, pointed by a black beard streaked with gray. His pace forward continued as if every movement were calculated, all a part of a greater scheme, each detail important in its own right.
The figure came to stand before a man burning within his Frozen Throne, a heavy crown weighing upon his head. He leaned down, the black feathers upon his brown cloak shifting ever so slightly. When he spoke, it was with the voice of ages, and a purpose beyond his own.
"I have passed, as many before me, into legend. Such is the same fate you have chosen, but not the fate you will receive." Beneath the shadows lining his face, the figure smirked. "The world will face challenges it cannot yet understand. The fallen prince will pale in comparison to the monsters to come. No... for now you rest, Jailor of the Damned. But there will come a day when you are needed once more. You stand at the head of an army vast and powerful beyond imagining, and there will be use of it. The time will come when the Legion returns again, and an army is needed to oppose it. An army that never tires, never slows, and the Lord of that army must be ready to face the destiny he has chosen."
He turned, walking away from the still figure encased in frost as the eyes beneath it's cursed helm burned with purpose and understanding. At his feet the shadowed man had laid something, a massive blade wrapped in cloth, a soft glow coming from within, and frost still clinging to its cover.
"When the Lord of the Scourge wakes again, he will require a weapon worthy of the Lich King."
The last creature to leave the frozen halls in those days would not be a man of the Light following his army back to the world he had fought to save, nor a fallen Lady given purpose once more, but rather a small creature that went unnoticed by the dead eyes that wandered through the wastes. No more than a simple raven, vanishing back into the legends it was born of.
"Oh a sailin' we will go, o'er tha' seas until tha' snow, rise up to tha' gate, an' smash in 'is face, to Arthas' door we go, oh! A marchin' we will go, o'er tha' cold an' frozen roads, rise up in 'is face, put 'im in place, till tha Lich King be no more!" - Narnathirin Bloodyknuckles, While Drunk
Join Date: Sep 2010
It's always great to see new faces popping up around here! Just in case you don't know, I've developed a passion for helping aspiring writers improve their craft. Since I've developed a reputation as a tough critic, my polcies are as follows:
First things first: formatting from your word processor doesn't transfer to the forum engine. This causes the loss of indents marking paragraph breaks, leading to the dreaded "wall of text" phenomenon. Any story will be much easier to read if you offer clear landmarks to prevent the reader from losing his/her place. It has become standard procedure to insert an extra return so that adjacent paragraphs are clearly differentiated. (See any of Blizzard's posted short stories.)
[QUOTE]His weapon, a massive ace, rested in his hands.[QUOTE]I've never heard of playing cards used a weapons before...
Thoughts are usually italicized rather than quoted, but otherwise treated as dialogue.
I keep seeing unusual word-choices here and there; is English not your first language? If so this is very good!
You capitalized 'Death Knight' before, but not again. consistent = good
That was fast. Remember, details are your friend. Also, you death knight tells us exactly what he's thinking with no prompting or attempt at diversion. Who does that?
This has been bothering me the whole way through. "It's" is a contraction of "it is." "Its" is the third-person neuter posessive.
The very last paragraph was probably the best thing you wrote. For a moment, you played with the reader about which of the characters would be the one to die. However, aside from those flashes of brilliance, the whole thing felt uncomfortably restrained, like there was some metaphysical straitjacket forcing events to be just so. It almost felt like you chose a specific outcome and worked backward when planning the story, with the same approach carried over into every detail. Consequently, Atai and Gardwin are marionetts, doing only what is needed to bring about the predetermined ending.
Back in high school, my own work suffered from this very problem. At the time, I was infatuated with LotR, which could be why I believed a great story needed only an expansive universe and a parade of epic spectecles to qualify as "great."
It was only as my tastes matured that I came to realize just how much this view was in error. "The stories that matter" do so because they have themes--and more importantly, people--that the reader can identifiy with. Give your characters free reign to make decisions, and you will find you've endowed them with something even more important: humanity. Nobody cares about chess pieces, but they do care about people. If you can make them care, they'll forgive whatever other shortcomings the story might have. But you have to care first.
"A government responsive to what the people want? The people want a government they can install and forget about. The people want a government they can complain about without having to accept any responsibility for its actions. The people want a dictatorship. They're just too cowardly to admit it."
Druid of the Claw
Join Date: Jun 2012
Location: East Lansing, MI
I was entertained reading your story. While it's true that the best stories have themes and emotions that the reader can connect with, I at least am also entertained by a simple telling of events, as long as it's well written. Incidentally, I am also writing about the exact same event (fall of the Lich King). I'm following a formula similar to yours, from the point of view of the best soldier of the Ashen Verdict. It's more a stylized retelling of the events in Icecrown Citadel than it is a story with themes and literary devices. In that same sense, I feel you did this "stylized retelling" great justice. It was also an interesting point of view bringing in Medivh at the end, which left me thinking. I always enjoy that.
From the grammar point of view, the thing that got me most was "His weapon, a massive ace,..."
I'm assuming you meant axe, as that's what Shadowmourne is. I sat there for a minute wondering what an "ace" was, since it sounded like it should be something.
Thanks for the read!
Edit: Just realized this was from a while ago, should probably pay attention to dates. Damn spammers...
A wild timeline appears!
Clicking Rend and keyboard turning since 2006.
RIP Rend (2004-2012).
Last edited by Slaman; 07-12-2012 at 08:41 AM..