~~ What follows is the story of my new baby...a high elf death knight. ~~
~~ Feel free to comment, as I love constructive criticism as well as remarks. ~~
~~ They actually help me in future character developments. ~~
"Merissa Starsong, reporting as commanded, sir!" The young high elf woman snapped to attention, doing her level best to control her breathing, though she'd just sprinted up the great staircase in front of the gates of Icecrown Citadel itself. She was of average stature by High elf standards, her hair almost an ethereal white and tied back in a small pony tail ringed by loose, shoulder length locks.
The Argent Commander looked her up and down, scowling at the disarray of the woman's armor. He noted that several pieces of it were clearly missing, or torn with great precision from her body, exposing far more flesh than is customary on the battlefield.
"I'm almost afraid to ask why your gear is in such a state, Crusader," he snapped at her at last, finally pulling his eyes away from her body to look her in the eyes.
"Oh! That!" she began to laugh, forgetting her place momentarily. She stifled her snickering and forced an indifferent look about her face. She brushed her bared stomach and arms, absently flicking away the dust of travel.
"You see...sir," Merissa paused a moment in order to frame the comment properly. "I find that this heavy plate armor is rather restrictive to the way I fight." She tried to discern any reaction in the Commander's countenance, but none was obvious at first.
"Well," he answered at last. "As long as you do the job you have been appointed, I doubt we'll have many problems." He turned and looked back towards the gates where the last components of the battering rams and siege artillery were being put in place. He spun on his heel, facing her abruptly. "Except perhaps our younger soldiers, who've been out here some time...without companionship." He gave her a slight smirk before turning back to the final preparations for the assault.
Merissa snapped a salute at his back, sticking her tongue out at him while shaking her head slightly. She turned to walk away, hesitating for a moment.
"Is there something else, soldier?" the commander asked over his shoulder, not looking back at her.
"Yes, sir. It...well..." She hesitated, knowing that she was asking a lot of the officer on her initial arrival.
"Spit it out! We need to be ready for the assault in less than 2 hours!" He shot at her impatiently, though he still did not turn to look in her direction.
"The reason I was out of breath on arrival, sir, is that I find myself without a steed." She winced slightly at that last, afraid of the coming response.
The commander turned to look at her, an eyebrow raised out of curiosity. "Now how in the world did you end up without a steed?!" His curiosity outweighed his impatience with her.
"Well, during the attacks on Onslaught Harbor, my gryphon was pierced by one of their defense ballistae. One of the good knights from the Ebon Blade fished me out of the ocean and sent me back to the Shadow Vault, and I of course got a ride from there back to Dalaran and headed home to Stormwind for my horse, and..."
"Get to the point!" he shouted, startling her a bit.
"Yes, well, so I went to pick up Nai'ar, my warhorse." She noticed he was tapping his foot impatiently at her as he crossed his arms and steeled his gaze on her. It just struck her how strange it was that a human was actually taller than her, but even so, he made her feel smaller than her father did when she misbehaved as a youth.
"Anyway," she waved a hand and shook her head, gathering her thoughts to get to the heart of it. "So I had to come across from the Vault on my warhorse. The Conflagration isn't exactly the safest place to be on the ground by yourself, as you well know. Especially not by that massive flaming gate." She half-nodded as she pointed over her shoulder to the barely visible flaming gate in the distance behind her, across the fields of Corp'rethar.
"Okay," The commander slightly nodded. "So why did you not pick up one of the steeds from the Argent camp inside the gate?" he asked, truly puzzled.
"Oh! I did, sir!" She smiled, proud that she'd done as she would have been expected for a change.
"Then...? Where is it?" His eyes were wide and brows raised.
"Well, I tried to get past the formations of Scourge on the grounds, but I caught the attention of a commander at the foot of the steps. I did a great amount of damage to him, but he still unhorsed me." She paused a moment in abject shame.
"...and we should have you here, then?!" He was beginning to wonder why she was sent to him for aid in the assault.
"He unseated me by lancing that poor horse, sir! It fell dead between my legs." She snapped her mouth shut, realizing how that last sounded and slightly blushed. "I mean, the poor thing fell to the ground instantly. I did manage to bring an end to the commander by taking the legs out from under his nightmarish mount and bringing my blade down squarely into his skull." She swelled once more with a bit of pride for her actions.
"Indeed," the argent officer chimed in at last. He uncrossed his arms and his face softened to her. "It seems I have judged you a bit too harshly, young lady. Go to the Cavalry officer and hand him this. He will be sure to assign you a worthy steed." He thrust a gold token at her, imprinted with a horse's profile.
Merissa saluted sharply as she stood at full attention and took the token from the Commander. He returned her salute and turned at last back to the preparations. She paused a moment, looking at the token, then raced over to the Cavalry officer and handed him the token without word. He looked at her for a moment, eying her up and down, then smiled and held up a hand. He turned and went to the corral next to the tent, calling the stable boy over. He whispered in the boy's ear, then they both turned to look at her. The boy smiled and nodded, then ran to the back of the corral. He slowly paced to the front of the corral and exited, with the most massive black stallion that Merissa had ever seen. The boy's face was beaming, while the cavalry officer smirked as they approached her.
"This," the officer spoke up at last, "is Cyrus. He's...a bit spirited."
She looked the huge beast up and down. It stood a full foot at the shoulder taller than her and was not barded in any way. It had a light riding saddle with no stirrups, and had the symbol of the Crusade painted on its nose.
"Why is he not armored like the others?" she asked, curious. "Isn't that risky here?"
The officer looked her over and shot back, "I might say the same for the state of your armor." He smirked and motioned for the stable boy to hand her the reins.
She smiled and laughed a bit. "True enough, sir." She understood now why the commander had so readily handed her an item that told the cavalry officer exactly which horse to give her.
"Don't worry, crusader," the officer spoke up as she grabbed the mane of the horse to mount up. "From a quick assessment, I gather that he will serve you as well as you serve us. He is spirited, true. But he is also fierce in battle, almost seeming to enjoy trampling the undead. You should see his eyes widen and nostrils flare as the bones grind under his hooves!" He spoke with a strange pride in the animal.
"He sounds like my kind of guy!" she shot back at the officer over her shoulder as she settled into the light saddle. Lightly, she jabbed her heels into the horse's sides and began riding off towards the gathering forces.
As she rode to the front, she could feel the horse maneuver under the slightest shifting in the saddle and pressure of her knees. She tested him, releasing the reins and drawing her blades. As she swayed and leaned, Cyrus seemed to move almost in anticipation of what she was doing, trimming and turning to make her feigned combat swings more powerful and open. She relaxed her legs and the massive stallion quickly came to a stop. She sheathed her blades, dismounted, and unhooked the bit and bridle, allowing him to move more freely.
"There! Now we're set!" She smiled and patted the horse's jowl and he bobbed his head, stomped a hoof and snorted slightly. She grinned as she climbed back up on his back. "This is going to be glorious!" she shouted as she leaned forward and Cyrus bolted for the front where the rest of the cavalry and footmen were waiting.
She took up a position on the right flank of the cavalry. Along the front stood a full company of halberdiers and behind the mounted soldiers were an array of archers and footmen. The ballistae and siege engines stood at the flanks of the gathered forces.
The Commander sat atop his plate-barded steed with a hand raised. The standard bearers raised their war banners, ready to motion for the charge. The commander looked left and right, ensuring all was ready, then dropped his hand. At once, all the ballistae and onagers began firing on the massive portcullis that guarded the massive Saronite doors of the Citadel. The portcullis came crashing to the ground as the giant doors of the Citadel began to open, groaning on their massive hinges and shaking the stone landing. An eerie dim blue glow emanated from the gap between the doors as they slowly opened. Suddenly, as if like light curtains, the doors were thrown wide and slammed against the walls of the Citadel's entry. The standard bearers barely had time to point their banners forward, signaling the force to charge, when several massive patchwork giants spilled out of the entrance, followed by massive patchwork hounds that dwarfed the siege engines poured out of the dim entrance.
The forces moved forward to engage the monstrosities as a throng of mounted knights in black armor atop huge nightmarish steeds with hooves of white fire issued forth from behind the gigantic horrors, winding around their legs and moving to engage the Argent Cavalry. The Commander issued the order to attack and the remaining forces engaged the stitched abominations. The knights maneuvered to engage the mounted death knights that had begun to set on the halberdiers in the front of the ranks.
Merissa leaned right, drawing her blades, and Cyrus shifted to swing wide to the outside of the ranks to engage more quickly. Shifting left, the massive black stallion turned and bore down on a death knight, bringing his hooves high as they reached the monster and drove them down on the death charger's skull. Cyrus came to a sudden stop as the nightmarish steed's head was ground into the stone floor, the death knight crashing to the ground. Merissa leaped from Cyrus' back, driving her blades into the monster's skull and full into the stone landing. She yanked the blades free, releasing the black ichor that held the undead knight to the world. She scowled at the tarry black blood on her blades, wiped them on the carcass of the dead charger, and jumped back onto Cyrus on one deft move.
Turning in towards the din, Merissa could see that the tide was against the Crusade as the ballistae were crushed under the feet of the stitched horrors and footmen were being flung across the landing and down the massive stairs. Several of their cavalry had already fallen; the battle standards lied crushed under the quickly increasing dead. She leaned forward and left, driving Cyrus towards one of the huge abominations as she grabbed a lance that had fallen from the weapons rack next to the nearby crushed siege engines. She leaned forward until her shoulder rested on Cyrus' neck, bring the lance around and angling towards the ground.
"This is going to hurt, my friend!" she shouted in the beast's ear so he could hear her above the roar of battle. "Are you ready?"
Cyrus lowered his head slightly and with frightening speed, he bore down on the nearest gigantic horrors. He steered himself directly towards the monster's left foot as Merissa leaned in and braced herself. The lance dug into the nightmare of dead flesh and monstrous bone and sinew. Both her and Cyrus crashed to the stone floor in a tumble of armor and black horse, the force of the impact with the massive undead creature dislocating her shoulder. Cyrus and Merissa scramble to their feet and both almost in unison moved sideways, narrowly escaping the crush of the monster as it fell to the stone ground.
Merissa screamed in a torrent of pain and anger as she pulled her blades from their black leather sheathes. The sword in her right hand clanged to the ground as she lost her grip on the hilt, the pain shooting up her arm with such intensity that it blurred her vision. She rushed through the agony and drove her remaining blade into the terror's neck and rocked it back and forth, severing its spine. Brackish ichor spilled from the gaping wounds as the creature slumped to the ground, unmoving.
Merissa leaned for a moment against the still beast's body, wincing as she drew her left hand up to her right shoulder. She closed her eyes a moment, leaning back and slowly breathing as she tried to control the pain. Suddenly, the din of battle ceased, a stray sword or halberd clank the only sound reaching her. She opened her eyes slowly, rolling her head towards the stairs to observe the destruction. She gaped in awe at all of the stitched monstrosities that stood in place, near motionless. Though her vision was hazy, she could make out remaining Crusaders nearly frozen in time, their motions slowed to a near imperceptibly minute speed. She could see the dust, blood, and ichor of both the living and the undead like a gathering mist in the air. She closed her eyes slowly as she felt her heart slow to an almost complete stillness.
"You will serve me well," came the grating and echoed tones that seemed to permeate the very air around her, issuing from nowhere and everywhere all at once.
"My army will be served well with your skill in combat, and your steed will be as one of the most fearsome chargers on the field of battle." The voice seemed to almost crush the air about her as she struggled to open her eyes once more. She painfully, slowly, turned her head to look at Cyrus. The great stallion stood motionless, looking directly at her. His eyes suddenly turned glassy as he fell to the ground, a massive sword of blue-white fire embedded in his side. She could then make out the wielder of the greatsword. An imposing figure in jet black armor moved towards her, surrounded in a wisp of the same blue-white flame that issued from the sword.
"You, my child, will be a joy to set upon the Crusade for daring to invade my Citadel." The voice pierced her very soul, as she raised her sword in defiance, slashing wildly and screaming in abject hatred at the armored visage.
Merissa let out a guttural roar of pain as the massive sword was driven through her breastplate. She could feel the world slip from her grasp as her vision grew black.
Merissa's hands instinctively shot to her chest to take stock of the damage. She felt no wound; felt no pain. She patted herself slowly and realized she also felt no armor. She scowled even before she dared open her eyes. Slowly she inched her eyes open, the violet flames all about her burned them as she tried to focus. She looked about as she attempted to lie otherwise perfectly still. She could barely make out forms moving, the room completely out of focus. She could see the room was filled with bunks, and a table with several chairs about it sat at the center of the room, various sizes of basins and rags littering the table.
Sensing the stiffness in her every muscle, Merissa shifted up onto her elbows and examined herself. She saw that whomever had brought her to this place had stripped her bare and tended to all her wounds. She noted that, amazingly, there was not a single scar on her that she could see. She sat up and swung her legs swiftly from the bunk and quickly thrust her hands up to the sides of her head trying to steady herself as the sudden movement made her dizzy. She closed her eyes tightly for a moment before opening them again in an attempt to focus her vision. As her eyesight cleared up, she could see that there were a few still bodies in some of the other bunks. There were two gowned figures on the far side of the table from her speaking in low whispers. She craned her neck in an attempt to hear what they were saying.
"Most of these...people...will not make the transition, Thanos. They didn't have time to fully convert before his death," one of the cloaked figures whispered to the other.
"I know, but we must try. To leave them as they are when there is a chance would be wrong, especially in light of why they are here," came the reply from the other.
"You and I know this, but Lord Mograine wishes us to do our best to bring them the rest of the way through their turning," the first figure stated flatly before turning to look at Merissa.
"Ah! I see one of you has arisen at last! Good! Good!" The figure slowly moved around the table, almost as if it was gliding on air. She noted the voice seemed almost tinny and vacant. "We need to discuss your...ahh...future, in this world," the voice concluded.
Merissa could see a wisp of vapor issuing forth from the robes and deep hood and she instinctively flinched backwards on the bunk, the cold stone of the walls pressing against her bare flesh.
"Who are you and where am I?!" she demanded, absently fumbling for a blade that was not there.
Slowly, the hood slid back to reveal the icy mist enshrouded skeletal head of a lich.
"I am called Amal'thazad in this form, my young death knight." The Lich's voice seemed to more emanate from its frame rather than issuing from what served as its mouth.
"I will serve neither you nor that blasted King of yours, Lich!" Merissa lunged forward to grasp at Amal'thazad's bony neck. The lich floated backwards rapidly, causing Merissa to fall to the floor just short of the imposing figure. She pulled herself up into a crouch, ready to strike again.
"Good, my child. We would not have you serve that which has passed. Nor, frankly, would we have you serve him even if he had not been brought to his final justice." He paused a moment to consider her as she remained poised to strike, though she settled back a bit.
"Wait...what did you mean by 'death knight', you foul thing? I am a loyal warrior for the Argent Crusade!" Her brow furled in anger at the thought that she could ever be confused with such a thing.
"Stand, child, and you will be shown." He paused for a moment to let her consider. She looked down at herself once more, having forgotten that she was completely bare before the monster's eyes, such as they were.
Slowly, Merissa rose and stood before the massive lich. She stood at attention as if within the ranks of the Crusade, though there was a distinct air of defiance about her. Amal'thazad stretched out a hand to the remaining cloaked figure in the room and bade it approach. The other figure approached the two of them and stood at Amal'thazad's side.
"What do you think, Lady? She is not one for me, though I may be able to help her some, but is she of your realm?" The lich asked the cloaked figure flatly.
The figure threw back its hood then opened its cloak. Before Merissa stood a large, even by their standards, Blood Elf woman in black and green plate. She looked Merissa up and down then moved forward. She leaned towards the naked Elf warrior and sniffed shortly at her neck. Merissa remained unmoving as the Death Knight Master surveyed her without word. At last, Lady Alistra stepped back next to Amal'thazad and turned slightly towards him as she spoke, though she kept her eyes trained on the Elf.
"She is not for me, unfortunately. She still retains a certain scent of purity about her." The Death Knight shuddered slightly as she spoke the words. "Pity... She's quite lovely. We could have made her into such an unholy vessel of death," she finished at last.
"Wait a minute!" Merissa spoke up at last. "I'm not some animal for you to pick and choose to put to slavery!" She was angered to the point she could feel a fire within her rising from deep within.
"Calm yourself, little one," the lich spoke at last to her directly. "If you would indulge me a moment."
"Fine! What is it you wish of me?" she huffed in return, the anger still seething within.
"Take your hand and place it on your breast. Feel your heart. Relate to me what it is telling you," Amal'thazad responded to her, his voice almost hinted at laughter, though he didn't show any outward signs of amusement.
Merissa haltingly raised her right hand to her chest and placed it over her heart. She paused a moment, then dropped her hand quickly. Her eyes wide, she opened her mouth to speak once more and finally took note of the frosty mist that issued from her mouth. In her confusion and anger, she had not noted the changes within herself.
"It now comes to you, does it not?" the lich asked Merissa as he saw the realization creep across her face as it turned to horror. "Calm yourself, young one, and listen to me." He waved Lady Alistra away, not wanting to overwhelm her for fear of losing the young death knight before she was fully in their realm.
Merissa stumbled a moment and grabbed for the edge of the bunk she'd awakened in. She dropped onto the bunk and thrust her hands to her face. "What have I become! I would rather be torn by ravenous vultures as I lived than to serve in such an unholy army!" She screamed into the palms of her hands. She had to force herself to breathe in before she could continue.
"Why would you do this to me? WHY?!" She pleaded and accused the massive lich at the same time.
"Be still and listen!" Amal'thazad shot back at her, hoping to appeal to the warrior within the broken woman in front of him.
The Elf calmed herself a bit, though still in a mass of confusion, rage, and now self-loathing for what she was. She lowered her hands, letting them slapped limply on her thighs. She looked up at the lich, the look of resignation on her face.
"You have not come back to this realm at a better time, child. You will never be forced to serve against your people, though the journey back to them may be rough. You are free to go as you are, but without the skills that we can train you to employ, you could deteriorate into a state that you might loathe beyond what you do now. That would be unfortunate. The Ebon Blade could use your skills in combat. Though Arthas is dead, we survive. As long as we do, we will find direction in association with the Argent Crusade to employ our combined forces." The Lich concluded his speech and looked Merissa over once more.
"What say you? Will you join us and learn to put your new talents to work as you unlock your true power, or do you wish to be forever released from your form? Consider your choices carefully, and weigh in one more thing before you make your decision." He gazed coldly at her, waiting for a response.
"What more is there to consider?" she asked at last, dejected.
"You, unlike most death knights, have never known service to the Lich King." Amal'thazad settled a bit, then seemed to elevate himself even higher than he already stood.
"What does that mean, in the grand scheme of things, lich?" She asked, a hint of her old defiance returning to her voice.
"It means that you have never been used against your own kind in battle. It means that you bear not only no guilt for what you are, but also that you died bravely during the initial assault on the great Citadel and have been given a second chance to serve your people." The lich settled back again, satisfied that his speech may reach her.
"You will train me in the arts of a...a death knight...and I will never have to serve against my people?" She asked, a spark of fire glinting in her blue-white eyes at last.
Amal'thazad chuckled, satisfied with the return of her spirit. He slowly nodded to her and bade her rise once more.
Merissa stood up again and stepped forward. She smiled wryly and threw her head back, finally feeling the sensations that her body now afforded, free of the trappings of life.
"I accept your gracious offer, Lich. However, I would ask one thing of you," she stated almost coldly.
"What is it, Elf," he asked, imitating her tone.
"When my training is complete, and I have spent some time in service to the Ebon Blade, I wish to be free to seek re-entry into the Argent Crusade," she stated flatly, confidently.
"We require no service from you beyond that you stand on the side of the Brotherhood of the Light. It is our goal to bring back those who served the Light with honor before their passing in battle and give them all the opportunity to serve once again. You are one of the few to have survived the conversion since the Lich King's death. We are hoping that more will rise and serve the Light." Amal'thazad finished, then held a bony hand up to her, halting her response before she could utter it.
"Yes, Thorval...you may now enter," the lich called over his shoulder.
A massive human death knight in gleaming black and red armor entered the room. He strode quickly and deliberately to Amal'thazad's side and looked at Merissa a moment before turning to the lich.
"She is not modest, I see," Thorval chuckled slightly, a sidelong grin crossing his face as he turned back to the Elf and looked her up and down slowly, drinking in every inch of her form.
Merissa clenched her fists, the urge to fight rising within her.
"No, and she has great spirit, too. I think she'll make a fine death knight, Lord Thorval." The lich turned as he began to leave. He paused at the doorway and turned back to the Master Death Knight. "She will serve best under your teachings, I take it?"
"She does have the fire for one in the blood arts, at least. We shall see how well she does in her training." Thorval turned to Amal'thazad. "Have you spoken with her yet about her charger?" he asked the lich.
"Not yet. I had thought that you might speak with her about it, as we were able to save the great beast." The lich turned and glided out of the room, disappearing around the corner.
Thorval turned back to Merissa once more and smiled.
"Are you ready to wear the armor of the Ebon Blade, young miss? Are you ready to train to be in service to the Light as only we can?" He asked her flatly, staring into the depths of her eyes.
"My...my charger? Cyrus is here??" She was almost pleading with the death knight.
"Indeed...but there will be time for that later. For now, we must prepare you for life as a true death knight," He seemed no longer interested in her bared flesh as his mind returned to the task set before them. "It is time that you be taught of your true power and the various schools of our power. Your spirit and prowess as one who wrought destruction in your service to the Crusade shall be trained as a Disciple of Blood."
She nodded to him in agreement as her thoughts strayed to the Crusade.
"What shall we call you, young death knight? We cannot continue to call you 'child' or "Elf', can we?" He asked almost chuckling.
"Mer..." She paused a moment and thought better of using her old name. She wished to train in anonymity until the time came to reveal her true self.
"Yes?" He asked, impatiently.
"Call me 'Malicia'," she returned flatly.
"Very well...Malicia. I rather like it. It belies what power resides within you and could help you at some unknown future point." He abruptly turned and strode towards the door. Sensing she had not yet moved, he looked back over his shoulder in her direction.
"Are you going to come with me, or do you wish to continue standing there in the nude?" He snickered and turned his head around again.
"I am coming, Lord Thorval...but I want to see Cyrus!" she snorted as she began to follow him.
"In due time, Malicia...In due time." His words trailed off as they strode down the stone corridor lit in a strange violet glow.
"We are getting me something to wear first, right? Lord Thorval?" she asked at last.
"If you insist," he half choked out, trying his best to hold back his amusement.
"uhhh...Yes, I sort of do," she chimed in at last.
The two disappeared down the shifting corridors to the main chambers of Acherus.