A long line of torches flickered and danced in the breeze that blew from the Hillsbrad Foothills, bringing with it the stench of decay and burning. The men and women who held the Thoradins Wall barely noticed it anymore as it became a as normal to their day as eating or taking a piss. Every one of them could clearly see the green and purple lights that glowed, moved, and flickered in the dark lands beyond. The Scourge offensive may have been blunted but a half dozen hastily repaired breaches and the swathes of destruction around them testified to just how close the armies of the Lich King had come to breaking through into the Arathi Highlands.
One breach, older and more carefully repaired, was almost as vast as the main gatehouse. This was where the Scourge had made their first entrance into the Kingdom of Stromgarde the year before, fighting their way to the very walls of the City before being defeated. It had taken months of hard combat to drive the Scourge back beyond the wall, hold it while the repairs were made, and then to eradicate every trace of the plague within the lands of men. Many had died in the fighting and more would die of their wounds, including the King and his son.
Garald Hammerfist shrugged his shoulders uncomfortably at the thought. He had been there when the King fell, the corpse so badly mangled that even the finest paladins and priests among them could not resurrect him. His son was last seen being torn in two by an Abomination and his torso consumed by the beast. They had been able to burn his legs on a pyre, nothing more could be found.
“I almost prefer it when they’re attacking, then at least we know where they are.” Rycym Rookwood was standing with his hands clasped behind his back, fingers tracing the edges of the massive warhammer he had slung behind him.
“Let us be careful what we wish for,” Garald replied. “To many have died already.”
“Wish what you want, this isn’t over.” Rycyn half turned so that his long blonde hair rippled in the torchlight and shadowed his face. “The rumours of a coalition may prove useful. It is about time some of the other Kingdoms helped bear the burden Stromgarde has suffered.”
Garald could only nod. There was wisdom there even if it was delivered so bluntly. The younger man might not have Garalds years, but he had aged quickly like so many others under the unrelenting onslaught of the Scourge.
“How fare things in the capital?” Rycyn asked, changing the subject.
“Well enough. We continue to recruit well from regions untouched by the Scourge. There is little glory in fighting the Scourge, save for that in serving the Light. It is still enough for some it seems. Equipping them is becoming difficult, what with so much of our equipment getting up and walking away while still on the corpses of the dead. We’ve been reforging any number of Troll or Ogre weapons and armour. It’s not perfect, but it’s better than boiled leather.
Rycyn was immediately conscious of his own spectacular armour that glowed in the flames. It had been a gift from the Paladins of Northshire Abbey and he had worn it proudly ever since. It was patched in some areas and bent in others, but it made him a recognizable figure on the battlefield. As his strength and skill had grown, so too had the ornate items had added to it. A chain with pendant, more intricate carvings, and even a gold bound spell book that he wore about his waist.
Garalds own armour was equally ornate but showed the years of use far worse than Rycyns. On more than one occasion the younger man had been mistaken for a Prince or King of Stromgarde by new arrivals while Garald was dismissed as an advisor. Many apologies flowed when the mislead party was educated on their mistake.
Perhaps sensing the younger paladin’s discomfort Garald spoke quickly. “I have sent to Stormwind and Northshire for more armour and weapons. We shall see what comes of it. I have likewise requested the same from Grand Crusader Mograine of my Order. With luck, and some faith, I believe he will help us with what he can spare.”
Rycyn only nodded. The Scarlet Crusade were a bunch of misguided fanatics in his mind. Hiding behind their Citadel Walls and making grand plans rather than coming out the fight. The Chapter House of the Silver Hand in Stromgarde had few enough left in its ranks after the recent fighting. More and more the fighting, along with the wielding of the Light, was falling to men and women like him; people of a more adventurous nature with no set allegiance other than to humanity.
“I must return to the City at any rate. I’ll be speaking with Alma if she has returned. Any message for her?”
Rycyn perked up slightly at the name. He and Alma had become close, though not in the sense of lovers. Garald had noted that the wayward paladin was drawn to strong women and formed easy friendships with them wherever he went. He and Alma had become quick friends and spent much of their early service fighting Trolls together which only served to cement their friendship. Garald has been convinced that the two would become lovers but, as of that moment, no such thing had happened. Perhaps peace would come and they might yet be able to make a life together somewhere without war. An old man could hope.
“Just give her my best. She won’t need more than that.” Rycyn grinned suddenly, breaking his grim visage. “Oh, and remind her she’s a damn pest, please.”
Garald nodded and the two clasped forearms briefly before he turned to descend from the wall. Rycyn turned back toward the darkness beyond, eyes probing the shadows, a golden sentinel on the walls of Stromgarde.