Soundtrack while writing: Rhapsody - Echoes of Tragedy, ACT III: The Ancient Fires of Har-Kuun, Dargor, Shadowlord of the Black Mountain (extended)
'The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia' in the background.
A pack of medium-sized ghouls ran towards him, thick saliva dripping from the sides of their mouths. He tried to make a run for it, but his legs wouldn't work, his feet seemed glued to the ground. The ghouls got closer and closer, soon reaching him. They ripped his clothes and scratched his skin as he got overwhelmed by the vigorous undead, falling down on his back. One of the ghouls pounced on top of him and stared him right into the eyes, ready to rip his face off. As the ghoul brought its rotten teeth closer to his face, droplets of cold drool landed on his face.
Vladan Jelen boggled awake with a gasp. What stood before him wasn't a ghoul, nor an undead of any sort. It was his wife with a can full of water in her grasp, reaching out for the various daffodils on the shelf above the bed. As she noticed her husband awake, she burst into a wide, warm smile.
- I'm sorry, love, the shelf is just too far.
- Isa! Vladan cried out, still out of breath. He swiftly sat up, placed his feet against the floor and sat on the edge of the bed.
Isa pulled the water can back and stood next to the bed, fumbling Vladan's thick, dark brown hair that had length way past his shoulders. She spoke in a calm tone:
- Now, what did you dream of?
- Scourge, they will come for us... Sooner than we expect.
- Nonsense, honey, we have plenty of time left to prepare, she said confidently. - Oh! Speaking of which, I have already packed some necessary items, they're all ready and set in the closet.
- I thought you didn't want to leave New Avalon, Vlad noted, questioning his wife with a raise of eyebrows.
- I just hadn't thought of all the options, she stated joyfully.
Vladan eyed her, surprised by the sudden change in her opinion; that which had been nearly the opposite just a few days ago.
- Where in the name of Faol would you go then? Back to Strahnbrad?
- No, she replied fast. - Not Strahnbrad. Northrend.
Vladan looked bemused as he stared at Isa, who had begun to wipe dust off the bedside table.
- Don't be fooled, Isa. We'll be long perished before any ship has space for us.
Isa clearly stated her disappointment in her husband's disbelief. Her pout was enough to tell Vladan she wasn't in a state of discussing the matter. He decided to change the subject:
- Where is Milka?
- Birgitta is taking care of her whilst I finish cleaning the house, Isa replied, her good mood washed away.
Vlad gave her a fast nod just before he stood up. He walked up to a heavy wooden cabinet, opened one of the drawers and took out a bunch of clothes.
. . .
The chink of steel could be heard far from the anvil. It was mixed with the chirp of birds. Those midday hours always seemed so long for Vladan. He peered to the distance on his way to the smithy. The dark and sinister Acherus hovered in the sky near Havenshire. It was the base of scourge operations in the area, sending various mindless undead and more intelligent death knights to cause disturbance in the two towns next to it. To rain destruction on their inhabitants.
Vlad knocked lightly on the door frame. A warm welcome awaited him in the workshop as he walked in.
- Oi, what's kept you away for so long? smith Blackmoore said with a smile on his face.
- Aiden, Vladan nodded at the man sitting at a massive anvil. He made his way to the worn wooden counter and leaned against it.
Smith Aiden Blackmoore was an old friend of his. The man was in his 40s, which made him around a decade older than Vlad. The bulky man had a short, greying beard and a hair that could just be tied up on a ponytail. The two blacksmiths met a while after Vladan had relocated his family from Alterac to New Avalon, a very different part of Lordaeron.
- Are you a warrior or a blacksmith, Vladan Jelen? Aiden asked with a mischievous grin. - You can't seem to make up your mind. One day I hear you've been bashing undead with two blades, and the next you visit me and my little shop. What brings you here, old friend?
- You're the one with the best sharpening stones in town. I need you to use those on these.
Vladan pulled a long, thin sword out of its sheath and lay it on the counter. He grabbed another blade from a different sheath hanging on the other side of his hip and placed it next to the other one.
- I take that as... the smith went quiet for a moment, turning his gaze to his anvil with a wide smile. - Warrior, then.
Aiden Blackmoore walked behind the counter and picked up the sharpening stones from a shelf, giving the swords a look. He took them to the anvil and began to sharpen the blades. Vladan followed each motion carefully, as if he was sharpening the weapons with his gaze. After a moment of work on each sword, Aiden handed them over to Vlad, one at a time. He examined them carefully from tip to tip before sliding them back into their sheaths.
- And hey, don't even think about a payment. You've done so much for me that it's about time I did something for you in return.
Aiden's face was serious, but his eyes smiled at his friend. Vladan smiled his thanks at the smith over his shoulder as he stepped out of the workshop.
New Avalon was silent. The birds had stopped singing; they couldn't even be spotted. Very few people were out. The atmosphere was oppressive, like the calm before the storm. A few drops of water came down from the sky, the drizzle getting heavier each passing moment.
A jangling bell tolled. As Vladan walked back home through the town, the feared sound tore the silence apart. By that time, each citizen of New Avalon and Havenshire had learnt what the sound meant. Scourge forces were approaching. This time the bell tolled in particularly short intervals, which meant the forces were great in numbers. Not a second was wasted while gathering the defense. Tons of soldiers ran out of the barracks, gathering in the town square. Soon after another militia dressed in red and white joined the rest. High general Brigitte Abbendis, a major leader of the Scarlet Crusade, stood on a wooden stand before the crowd.
- It is here we make our final stand against the scourge. It is here the Scarlet Crusade will lead the undead to their end. It is here, on this holy ground the Crusade will be victorious!
As Vladan, frozen in place, stared at the cheering crowd, a Scarlet commander rode past him, turning his horse around. The man dressed in shiny red and white armour, accompanied by a tabard of the same colours and a logo, looked at Vlad. He pointed to the warrior's direction with his sword.
- Soldier, fall in! What are you waiting for?
He almost immediately turned his horse around again and rode away, yelling to the militia.
Vladan took swift steps through the crowd. He zigzagged between the men and women that were devoted to defend New Avalon. Behind the militias he spotted a bunch of citizens running down the road to the King's Harbor. No ships were supposed to leave in weeks. Mayor Quimby had told the people a bunch of lies.
As soon as Vlad made it to his home door, he stormed in. The cottage was empty. Curtains danced wildly in the wind at an open window. He quickly checked the closet. The satchel was there, with Isa's items inside. No signs of either his wife or his daughter were present in the house. A sudden clatter of bone and steel in the already heavy rain interrupted his search. He took a couple of fast steps to the door and looked at the rampart between the town and Havenshire. The Scarlet armies ran towards the undead masses, hitting as many of them as they possibly could upon reaching the scourge.
The assault on New Avalon had begun.
Disclaimer: I do not own the World of Warcraft, Azeroth or anything in it, but it was me and not Blizzard that came up with the story of this character, whom I have created to breathe life into their world.