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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.

@Jeddaven please have a read and let me know what you think!

Sunsail Anchorage

Fathos Swifthammer stood waist deep in the gentle swells rolling in from the North Sea whenever a fair Northwesterly blew. The anchorage, once a small placid place that served to bring in supplies for Eversong Wood, had grown greatly since the Scourge had assaulted the Elfgate. The High Elves had found themselves relying on Human merchants for much of their trade and supplies during that time and the King had sworn that never again would this be so. It was, after all, the humans who were to blame for the plague for the first place, and for its spread inside the lands of Quel'Thalas. The less dependence on them the better. As a result of this need, Sunsail Anchorage had been turned into a shipyard second to none in the Elvish histories.

Three long ship beds, raised five or feet above the ground, each cradling a hull in various stages of production, were set in the north bank where they were protected from the wind and tide. Beyond them the ocean was speckled with the tall white and gold sails of ships undergoing sea trials. The crews had largely been drawn from the families of seafaring folk whose sons and daughters wanted no part of working the nets all day. They were fine sailors, but warriors, well, that was a work in progress.

Swifthammer was working on a ship launched only that morning. She had no name yet, Elvish convention forbade the naming of any vessel until she had survived her sea trials. This one, like so many others before it, no matter how tight you might build them, or how much arcane magic was used to seal them, still leaked, some worse than others. In this case he had found that the Phoenix figurehead hadn't been properly fitted and water was seeping through and quickly wetting the hold. So it fell to him, as the Master Shipbuilder, to inspect it all, and he preferred to fix problems himself.

His hammer, a well used wooden mallet with steel bands about the head to keep it from splitting, slammed into the right side of the figurehead once, twice, and then a third time with the satisfying sound of wood battering wood. The figure head shifted and then with a wheeze, it sank into place. A muted voice cried out from inside the hull.

"That is good!"

He tapped on the hull in response and waded back toward the shore acutely aware of the sudden appeared of four Farstrider Rangers. Their bows were slung, curved swords at their waist, and there was no sign of any mounts. Most creatures that might serve to speed them along came at a cost of time spent caring for them, saddling them, or trying to prevent their smell from warning enemies of their approach. No, the Farstriders ran, aided by the Arcane Magics of the High Elves. They had earned their name, and the adoration of their people, a thousand times over. Each one was superbly fit. You rarely saw a fat Elf, but the Farstriders stood out among their race in fitness and skill.

They nodded to him as he climbed from the water but offered no comment. That was something he loved about his kin, if they didn't have something constructive to say, they kept their opinions to themselves. He wouldn't tell them how to Ranger, and they wouldn't tell him how to build ships. He returned their nods and then made his way toward the building that served as his headquarters and the main stores for a fleet in the making.

The heavy door was already partially open and a pair of sentries stood on either side of it, notably more upright and anxious than they usually were. He approached them with a sense of trepidation and glanced into the darkness beyond the door before speaking quietly with one of them.


The sentry nodded his blonde head, the sunlight flashing from his polished helmet. He flickered his eyes from left to right, toward the Farstriders, and then a small smile briefly showed. "Ranger-General Windrunner is here, along with the new Admiral-General."

Swifthammer felt a small knot form in his stomach. The fleet had not yet been given a commander and he had half expected the first one to arrive with much pomp and ceremony but it seemed he was wrong. Not only that, but the Ranger-General herself had come suggesting that this individual was a friend of hers, rather than flunky of the court. He took a breath and stepped into the gloom.

I could be convinced.
@Willy Verebwho said I gave you Hannover? Disagree.
@Letter BeeThe British aren't fans of anyone who wants to horn in on their state monopoly of monies so don't expect a lukewarm reception from us. Please also assume British hostility to you given your ship building program since the Mediterranean, and indeed all the worlds oceans, are considered ours.
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