A World of Warcraft Tale
For the first time in months Kleon was tired. He put his axe down, and from his rucksack hungrily tore out the packet containing mutton. He wolfed down the food, while sitting on a log nearby. He was unconcerned about anyone or anything round him knowing his great sword was slung over his shoulders… he knew that to sit down anywhere was extremely hazardous. For years he had been vigilant, alert, unwilling to rest. If for a moment he paused, he looked around warily in all directions, his heightened state of alertness not allowing him to relax even for an instant. Now as the fatigue set in, his fears were displaced by weariness, his concern for survival dispersed by an air of unconcern. For so long his only concerns had been revenge and survival. As he sat in utter fatigue, chewing so quickly into the dried salty meat he could barely breathe, he relinquished all desire other than to rest. It now seemed – once the rage had dispersed so pointless. This ceaseless violence, this perpetual killing and the never-ending search for more armor weakened his soul, which once delighted in simple farm labor, nights listening to the strains of a lute and drinking wine made from homegrown grapes. The ravages of battle were evident on his features. He finished eating and quaffed a flagon of dwarfish wine he had taken from the corpse of a death slayer.
Before long his mood was revived and the emptiness and extreme tiredness dissipated. He jumped back into his feet and the blood once again coursed through his veins, his need to seek more adventures overwhelming him.
The dull dark sullen day was overcast as the grey clouds raged over the sedge. Kleon walked over the battlements towards the castle, his grey locks tied behind him, the gleaming tabard resplendent beneath his shiny plated armor. He walked nobly, his bearing reminiscent of the most ancient warriors, the noblest of their race.
There were desires in his heart that nothing could fill; his search for the ultimate weapon of destruction, led him to range far and wide across the lands of Azeroth from Kalimdor to the barren wastes of the frozen lands.
He had moved from battlefront to battlefront, acting at times a mercenary, at times part of the Alliance wars. At other times he had delved into the bowels of the earth with a group of steely warriors, places such as Black Fathoms caverns where he would immerse his blade into the flesh of scaled amphibious demons.
During each campaign he amassed wealth and his appetite for blood seemed to grow rather than diminish. It had been so long since he had returned to the village of his boyhood, the place he had played in as a boy, where he had met his wife, and where the ravenous Orcs had…
Instead of returning to his homeland, he bought weapons and armor. Whilst at first war had been a means of survival, it had now become a compulsion. The poison of death seeped through his veins. The need to live by destroying became all powerful.
‘It’s too cold’ he thought ‘always cold’. Even the climate in the Eastern Lands had changed since the invasion.
Kleon had grown up near Stormwind in a small village near the Elwynn forest. He had lived with his parents, who were local farmers and, from the time of his youth, had helped out on their modest farm. He had married Maryanne, a buxom, blonde-haired maiden, whose love for him was steadfast like the summer rains. Then the war began. When the Burning Legion stormed the castle at Stormwind, young men from far flung regions of the Eastern Lands were called to battle. Kleon had made his way to Stormwind with the only weapon he possessed, a simple but deadly wooden mallet. As he fought bravely – though with a lack of finesse or skill – alongside the far more advanced Stormwind infantry, he was able to pilfer copper pieces from his victims, the trained wolves and orc spies, money which was used to purchase swords and axes. The more he fought, the more his proficiency improved, as did his weaponry. For several weeks he was in the thick of this raging battle when, unbeknownst to him, his own village was annihilated by the High Priestess Azil and her Horde minions. He returned to his village as promptly as he could, only to discover his parents had been dismembered – hacked to pieces by insidious demons – and his beautiful wife, whose cheeks were still flush with maiden glory was no more…
A few isolated rays of sunlight cast their glow reluctantly over Kleon, startling his once delicate sensibilities. No longer content with the world around him, he seemed to be in a constant state of unease. Displeased with his fate and with the viciousness of all creation, the absence of his once customary tranquility distressed him. ‘As children, we hope we will do so many things,’ he thought, ‘So many things. Then, life is over, and we discover in ourselves frailty, disease disunity and death. The dreams we cherish of a better life disperse as though they were incorporeal as though mere inconsequential shadows.’
But fighting had almost made him forget; an exorcism against the dark spirits of those around him and the negative consequences of their lives towards his.
His muscles were developed so that every sinew and fiber was taut and hard as flint; the strength had developed through constant battle over five years, running in heavy armor, swinging powerful weapons and destroying many foes. It had been years since he has been revived by a healer, such was his prowess, his agility and the determination to slay the members of the Burning Legion, whose attacks on the Alliance had only grown in intensity and ferocity since that fateful day when his wife, the downy-cheeked flowing-locks maiden, was dispatched and lay dying in his arms.
As he reflected on that day, the image of which was indelibly etched in his fevered brain, he moved to the gryphon stall at Stormwind. Paying the quartermaster the fare, he jumped onboard the huge beast, its talons gleaming like golden sickles, its ever sharp eyes like piercing coals, he gripped tight and adapted the forward posture required when riding one of these beasts, which sliced effortlessly through the air and whose grace of movement was so sublime so they had been given the moniker ‘angels of the air’.
He had heard that heroes were required at Strangle Cove near where archaeological and metallurgical discoveries where being made frequently by the Explorers League. Nowadays, like many others since the outbreak of the war, he had no profession other than soldier. Kleon was a paladin, which meant he was not quite as strong as or well-equipped as a warrior, nor was he as adept in the lore of battle, but he knew the dual arts of healing and fighting; the light of retribution and the aura of holy light were both strong upon him. He could use many a powerful spell to heal or inflict damage. Since the 3rd epoch, with the unleashing of the powers of the Horde, the beasts of the native Eastern lands had gone to seed. They were imbued with demonic power that the orcs derived from mineral deposits in the earth, which the goblin Kobold miners extracted for them. Warriors, when not fighting wars were often engaged in killing these beasts.
Thus when Kleon arrived in Strangle Cove, it was a leather merchant who first approached him.
‘Yer a fine strappin’ lad,’ she said, in a quaint though familiar accent. ‘O, people say I’m straight forward,’ she continued, ‘I don’t stand on ceremony at all.’ She was a diminutive lass with fiery red hair, and she burst into a little chuckle after speaking these words of introduction.
Kleon remained silent, still recovering his equilibrium from the flight. His expression conveyed stoic indifference to everything around him, though his eyes revealed his keen intelligence and a sparkling alertness.
‘I see you’re the strong silent type,’ she said, ‘you must be Kleon from Stormwind. We heard you would be here.’
‘I’ve orders to meet Marshall Liongate.’
‘Well before you do that, and I’ll be only too happy to introduce ye to him, let me bend your ear a little. You see, I’m always looking for leather for my fine garments.’
All of a sudden a stocky man with a stern visage and immaculate gold armor walked past. He was deeply in concern and was followed by two attendants who he was talking to intently.
‘There’s your man,’ said the little tanner.
‘Is that Liongate?’
‘Sure is,’ she said. ‘I guess ye’ll not be too interested in what I have to say to ye now’
‘What is it you wish of me?’
‘Well in my line of work, we make fine leather armor which is useful for a hunter or a rogue, and even a paladin like yourself, though I suppose you’ll be wanting plate armor soon given that that is all the rage with you paladins!’
‘Anyway we must get the hides from somewhere and there are no better hides than those on the forest wolves just north of Strangle Cove. I’d be mighty glad if you could lend a hand and kill five to twenty of them and bring me back the hides. What do y’say comrade?’
‘Let me speak to Liongate first and if I return alive from the mission he has in store for me, I promise I will return and slay your wolves for you.’
‘You better keep to your word. I’ll be looking out for you. Go with honor friend, as they say!’
He excused himself from the diminutive tanner, who gazed longingly after him, noting the confident, purposeful manner of his walk and the way his now worn armor hung on his powerful physique.
‘Captain Liongate!’ he yelled.
‘And who may you be?’ said the captain, turning away from his attendants momentarily.
‘Kleon reporting for duty. I was told you required help to fend off the local orc population.’
‘Kleon, ah yes, the paladin. Well met squire. Anyway the orcs…well if that was the only problem, we’d by fine. When I sent out the communiqué the orcs were loitering around here near the temple of Artemis. We have been able to restrain them and even destroy some of the insidious Water Elementals in league with them. Sadly though a much more pressing matter has arisen. We must make haste. Paladin will you go where I send you?’
‘Yes I will sir.’
‘That’s good. Well then, have you heard of the Stonecore?’
‘I’ve heard legends of it. I hear it is inaccessible, it lies deep in the bosom of the earth and it is where High Priestess Azil resides.’ Even in pronouncing her name Kleon’s longing for revenge, long suppressed, rose to the surface of his thoughts.
‘Not quite inaccessible. There are ways and means…anyway, we are gathering force to ender the dungeons of Stonecore. We need five intrepid journeymen to take this cavern, to destroy Corborus, the mysterious gyre-worm, then take down Ozruk the Core’s guardian and yes, to destroy – if at all possible – Azil herself. But there is much to face before any of you will get near her. Have you any skills in healing?’
‘And I see you are trained in the paladin arts of battle?’
‘Good. There is one thing you need…Your armor…its–’
‘–in need of repair?’
‘More than that. You’ll need something more than that to defeat Azil and her minions. Get on the griffin you came in on and return immediately to Stormwind. Take this letter to the quartermaster in Old Town. It is signed by me and will give you credit of 2000 gold pieces. You are to ask for Field Marshal Legrandin’s Aegis, a magical set of gold plate armor, which will dispel powerful magic and protect you from the fiercest blows the enemy can rain down upon you. The full set will almost double your protective capability and it may just be the one thing that stands in between life and death – except for your prowess with the sword, which I hear is almost unparalleled among paladins.’
The great paladin trainer of Stormwind, none other than Lord Grayson Shadowbreaker, who had bestowed magic powers on countless paladins over the past decades, had been impressed by Kleon’s mettle. He had blessed him upon hearing of the mission to enter Stonecore. As he placed the Aegis on Kleon’s shoulders he reminded him of just how difficult this task would be
‘It is a fearful place, Kleon. Populated with the undead, with an insanely crafty gyre-worm, lizard like creatures under the oversight of Slabhide, their bloodthirsty leader, and at the end – if you should make it, you will have the opportunity to exact your revenge upon the high priestess Azil, whose curse of blood and force grip magic are enough to dismember even the most powerful foes.’
It was a desperate and dangerous mission that would require him to work with a group of Alliance soldiers gathered from disparate parts of the ester lands and Kalimdor.
‘May the Almighty bless you and may you fight with honor Kleon’
Lord Shadowbreaker ushered Kleon through the portal that took him to the gates of the Stonecore. Making his way forward in the dark, the first of his companions he found was a bruising warrior, who introduced himself with a grunt and a shrug of the shoulders as Japheth; he was towering over Kleon at seven foot – an immense man, with a permanent scowl affixed to his face. There was a priest journeying with them, Pleides, whose spells would be invaluable in healing them. There was also a Warg, a wolf-like creature that had been trained by the Alliance and could fight sight by side with elves and men yet whose savagery in battle ensured that even the most imposing of foes could be leveled when his claws and fangs and the magic that gave him preternatural power were brought to bear on an opponent. Though Kleon had heard of such creatures , he had never met one in person, so understandably, he was a bit unsure of what to say to this mysterious and imposing being and, hence, kept his distance.
Lastly, slouching insouciantly in the corner, was another paladin, a man by the name of Orestes, who was famous across the lands of Azeroth. He was a fine-featured young man but his eye betrayed a hint of conceit and contempt for those around him. Orestes had come from the Northern part of Kalimdor, and his exploits in slaying orcs was excelled only by his reputation as a rake and a lover of gold. He was renowned for his cache of weapons and frequently undertook the most dangerous missions on behalf of Stormwind for the sake of spoils. His armor was resplendent and was even superior to that which Kleon had just managed to buy at considerable expense. It was plate armor wrought by Twilight’s Hammer and as such was not only exceedingly rare but was proof against many powerful spells.
‘You know paladin,’ said Orestes, exuding confidence to the point of arrogance, ‘if we defeat this monster and if you get out alive, there is almighty sword hidden in this dungeon.’
‘The Elementium Fang,’ replied Kleon matter-of-factly.
‘You know your treasures then,’ he replied with a supercilious smile.
‘I’ve heard of it, but I am not here for that.’
‘All for the cause then, a loyal soldier, ha! Let me tell you, all that matters is the money! Killing for more gold, better weapons.’
‘I fight for Stormwind, and my honor,’ said Kleon defiantly.
‘Sooner or later, all that will matter is the gold you have plundered. You’re a fool to think you still believe in honor. Anyway, Japheth has given the signal. It is time to proceed. Just stay out of my way. If you survive until we meet the High Priestess, which is unlikely, don’t get any ideas about the Elementium Fang!’ With a loud sinister chuckle, he ran forward behind Japheth, with the agility of gymnast.
They moved forward through the darkness making their way further downstairs over uneven, rocky ground. Kleon found it difficult to move in the unfamiliar new armor (the ‘borrowed robes’, so to speak) but had to move swiftly to maintain the pace.
He had heard spoken the prophecy many years ago by Zarathustra, the venerable sage, ‘out of you, who have chosen yourselves, there shall grow a chosen people – and out of them, the overman. Verily the earth shall yet become a site of recovery.’ Kleon considered that the terror that had engulfed the land had destroyed the souls of many good men. Could he too succumb to the lust for gold as this conceited fop Orestes had? Surely there was another way. He recalled another prophecy: ‘Celebrate the way to the evening; it is the way to the new morning’
Yes, all this will be over one day, then we will have a new morning, thought Kleon, and this thought encouraged him, quelling the fear that had arisen in his heart.
They made their way to a steep incline. Below them were raging fires, and creatures moving about working on forges that produced elementium, the evil metal used to apply plates to the dragon aspect Deathwing’s body.
‘This is it!’ yelled Japheth! and he rushed maddeningly in the midst of the bodies, flailing his arms left to right, causing blood to flow, destroying life in all directions. They made their way forward through a swathe of green-bodied creatures, towards a giant door. Between them they killed over 30 of the engineers and made their way into a large ornate room with chrysolite vault ceilings. It was here that Slabhide, a lizard-like man, of over 40 feet in height and Ozruk, a giant skeleton with the features of a demented turtle, the guardian of Stonecore, were to be found, directing the evil, clandestine engineering operations of the subterranean world.
After the priest had poured forth healing magic upon Japheth, whose heaving chest and menacing eye suggested a lust for killing, the warrior once again rushed forward in the midst of Slabhide’s lizard men, plunging his steel into their vile blue blood. Kleon rushed forward and using his holy powers went stroke for stroke, killing these creatures with sword strokes, holy power and Judgment, a magical power that produced a bolt of energy to fall from the sky and smite an opponent.
Then Slabhide came forward himself, an immense specter with seemingly impregnable armor, shouting threats, sweeping his fearsome arms before him and lashing the party with firebrands from his tongue. Orestes was the first to step into the fray and slashed vigorously with his sword, creating huge amounts of damage with each stroke. So strong was the foe, however, that this did little to slow him down and in return he pummeled Orestes, battering this superior warrior as though he were a child. He was flung back against the wall and required the services of the healer. In the meantime, Japheth stepped forward and unleashed his might. Such was his power that he could possibly have taken Slabhide down on his own but with the help of Kleon and the warg, who was scratching and biting the beleaguered Lizard man they were able to fatally wound and then destroy this ageing behemoth.
As they moved forward, the room led into another immense golden chamber where Ozruk was seated on his throne. He charged at them and knocked Japheth to the ground, mauled him, rendering the mighty warrior senseless, whereupon he turned his attention to Kleon, who was flung like a ragdoll to the far reaches of the immense chamber.
Suddenly Orestes charged forward and with a bolt of judgment knocked the massive turtle-like creature backwards. The powerful armor of Orestes was proof not only against the blows of Ozruk but against the spells that were hurled repeatedly against him. Despite being turned into a block of ice and shackled by chains created by elemental forces, he pressed forward, his armor glowing and his blade lashing out skillfully. Kleon, seeing this impressive advance shouted,
‘I will go to the rear!’ and he rushed Ozruk from behind, striking him with his axe while Orestes did immense damage from the font. Meanwhile the priest, Pleides had healed Japheth, who along with the warg jumped back into the fray. As Kleon released his spell, exorcism, one of the most potent spells in a paladin’s arsenal, Orestes lunged forward with the Hammer of the War, a move known to superior paladins, which felled the beast in a blaze of white holy light. The chamber echoed with the creature’s pitiful screams as it fell face down in a pool of its own blood, never to have dominion again over the sons of men.
‘Not a bad effort Kleon,’ said Orestes while sheathing the blade. ‘We might make a paladin of you yet!’
Kleon ignored him and looked to Japheth who had motioned the way forward with a grunt and a curt hand signal.
They moved silently – a silently as knights in clanking, bloodstained armor can move – though two giant wooden doors.
‘No heroics here. This one’s gunna be hard,’ said Japheth coldly.
They entered a cavernous space from which could be seen a winding rocky staircase, leading down to a dark ruinous plateau, in the centre of which was a raised platform constructed of illuminated marble. Lying in the centre was strange looking creature, the like of which Kleon had never seen.
‘That is Carborus, the gyre-worm said Pleides. He was created by mistake from elementium, in a failed experiment for the burning legion. His powers are almost unparalleled and he guards the access to the High Priestess night and day.’
Before they could proceed further, Corborus, who had sensed the presence of the intruders had launched a crystal barrage, flinging particles of crystal which knocked over each of the party members. The priest, Pleides, and the warg had fallen several hundred meters to the platform below.
‘Paladin, you must heal us,’ shouted Japheth to Kleon. There was no time to demur. Orestes, sizing up the situation rushed forward with Japheth, while Kleon knew one of them must resort to using holy powers to heal, lest they all perish. As the warrior and Orestes dashed madly towards Corborus, hurling both holy power and brandishing weapons, Kleon set about casting spells on them to revive them from the damage Corborus was inflicting. The giant gyre-worm sent out a dampening wave causing severe shadow damage to them and as Kleon arrived down below he set about reviving the priest and the warg.
Sadly it was too late for the warg, who had taken the brunt of the crystal damage and whose injuries from the fall and the dampening wave had taken his life force. Kleon was moved to pity by the forlorn shape of the animal, the clump of matted fur and blood, its eyes closed over permanently.
The priest was revived and then they urgently had to turn their attention to the other paladin who was flailing and required healing. Suddenly the massive mechanical worm, a creation intended to extract the precious metal from the earth, which upon Deathwing’s release had become uncontrollable, disappeared from view.
‘He has burrowed!’ shouted Japheth,
‘This is where he is most dangerous,’ said Orestes, ‘watch out for his thrashing charge. Stand your ground!’
Kleon looked around the room nervously, able to hear a faint rumbling and to feel the tremor of the earth beneath his feet. In the distance, behind the paneled doors adjacent to the platform, he could discern a sinister laugh, which was almost like a shriek of delight.
‘That must be her royal highness’ whispered the priest, ‘her time will-’
Before he could finish his sentence the mighty beast had reared up through the ground attacking and casting the priest aside as though he were made of feathers. Again Corborus plunged deep into the body of the earth before rearing up and assaulting Kleon, who was thrown into the air and who would surely have been killed were it not for the armor he had recently acquired.
‘That’s it, he has resurfaced, we must attack!’ yelled Orestes.
With every magic spell at his disposal, Orestes launched at Corborus, striking him cleanly with his elementally charged weapon. Kleon continued to cast healing spells as he was no longer directly in harm’s way. When he saw that the other soldiers were restored, he ran across and lunged at the beast striking blows into its sharp metallic hide. He then released the spell of consecration, a powerful magic that caused Corborus to falter. It was then that Orestes stepped forward with his sword blazing and once again, using Hammer of War, utterly destroyed the monster, causing it to fragment in a whirl of metal pieces.
Breathing heavily, Orestes asked, ‘are we ready to proceed gentlemen? The high priestess awaits.’ His wry grin returned briefly to his face, but his features were now pale and wan and the smile quickly dispersed.
The paneled doors opened and before them was an opulent room, gilded in gold and decorated with pictures mosaics of various colors. The walls were the shade of lapis lazuli and the floor covered by a sumptuous burgundy tapestry that extended towards a raised platform, upon which sat an immense gold throne.
‘You have come far, but shall come no further,’ a voice said to them. Kleon looked closely at the diminutive figure on the throne, whose eyes spoke of death and whose skin, a pale white marble was, the shade of a sepulcher.
Japheth rushed forward immediately attaching the high priestess. She enacted upon him the curse of blood, which wasted his life blood and, were it not for the priest, his health would have diminished rapidly. Orestes also moved forward casting spells, many of which were absorbed or repulsed by the superior magic defense of the high priestess. Kleon moved more gradually into the chamber hoping to ambush Azil from the flank.
All three fighters advanced simultaneously, swinging weapons that caused little damage to Azil due to her magic defence. As Kleon approached her he was mesmerized by her icy stare, which resonated the blackness of an abyss. Suddenly she turned to him, her eyes looking deep within his soul, and she let out a visceral scream. Thrusting her right arm towards him, she used the elemental magic known as the forcegrip to raise him high into the air before hurling him to the ground.
Orestes then sent a holy shard of energy towards her which knocked her back, weakening her defenses. She laughed in a maniacal, demonic way and, rather than attacking Orestes, she sent a seismic shard, her most powerful attack, at Pleides, who had been placing beneficial magic upon the mantle of Orestes and Japheth. She then cackled in her chilling, demonic fashion before returning her attack to Orestes.
Pleides was unconscious and Kleon had only managed to return to his feet when he saw Azil use her energy shield to repulse both of her main assailants. The warrior, Japheth had been striking her constantly with his blade, and finally had made some progress in weakening the priestess, but the shield had weakened him significantly. Kleon sent out a beam of healing before hurling his holy judgment and exorcism at Azil. She hovered over Orestes and continued to attack him directly. He was unable to move and his life was ebbing from him. Kleon leapt forward and moved in between them as she was baying for his blood. Her magic defense having been weakened by the repeated blows of the warrior’s sword, Kleon now lunged violently, his axe landing prevailing upon the now ailing soulless creature.
With a final powerful swing he managed to enact the death blow, causing the priestess to wither, shrivel up and die. He placed his axe down and went over to Orestes, who he grasped by the shoulders.
‘Are you alright? Speak man!’
‘Paladin, you did well,’ he whispered, ‘The sword is yours. Use it to fight for honor.’ The smile returned to his face once more and faded as he lapsed into unconsciousness. Kleon shook him again and, unclasping the lid on the flask of healing potion, forced Orestes to drink. Orestes coughed and spluttered.
‘You must rest,’ said Kleon. He noticed the priest had revived and was being assisted by Japheth. He scanned the majestic chambers of the high priestess.
He made his way across to the eastern wall of the throne room where The Elementium Fang was displayed in a glass chamber. Kleon looked at it wistfully, his hand reaching out to grasp it. For a moment he wavered, then removing his hand he turned away from the gleaming metal and shouted: ‘Let us leave this place!’
Japheth carried Pleides from the chamber and Orestes, who walked with difficulty, laid his arm across Kleon’s shoulder for support, as they stumbled out of the desolate Stonecore.
Kleon knelt before King Alwin of Stormwind, whose noble features and tanned skin looked resplendent, bathed in the light streaming into through the roseate windows of Stormwind palace. Beside him, the legendary paladin trainer, Lord Grayson Shadowbreaker, observed the bestowing on Kleon of the highest honor, the Alliance medallion, allowing Kleon to become a Stormwind praetorian guard. The king’s daughter Rosaline was beside him and smiled glowingly at Kleon, who rose before the king, accepted the medallion that bestowed the highest office a commoner could receive in Kalimdor.
‘You need not take up active duty just now Kleon. Is there anything else you would like to do?’ asked Alwin in his mellifluous and sagacious voice.
‘With your leave sire, I will return to my homeland. And then, there is a task I must perform.’
Later that week, the loquacious and vertically challenged leather merchant of Strangle Cove was pleasantly surprised to see the familiar burly figure of Kleon stroll up to her.
‘Very well met,’ she said smiling.