After several months in Outland, I felt I had sharpened my skills as much as I could. There was still work to do there – the scattered followers of Illidan, Kael'thas, and Vashj continued to maraud the contryside, along with ogre tribes and other assorted miscreants. However, this would continue for years, until the populations of that world recovered enough from the decades of war to police their own lands. This was not my problem. I had other fights to fight.
I caught a boat to Northrend in Stormwind harbor. The main armies had left weeks earlier, the vanguard even earlier, but the recruiter at the dock assured me there would be work for soldiers-for-hire like myself still. From his eagerness to get me to sign, I assumed either casualties had been much higher than expected, or he badly needed the agent's fee he would collect. Either way, I didn't care. I was going to where Arthas was, the creature who had shaped me into the monster I was, and I would finally get to face him again.
As my boat wound its way between the shear walls of the Howling Fjord, I could see that things had gone badly. I was not surprised to see boats which had been lost early in the invasion, their hulls ground to splinters by repeated rising and falling tides. But some of the wrecks were recent, massive harpoons embedded in their hulls and fresh corpses on their decks. One ship was still burning, having been attacked only hours earlier. As we pulled into the dock, harpoons began to fall around us, fired from forts high above us. The crew was very anxious for us to disembark quickly so they could turn around and get out of there, and most of the soldiers and quartermasters on-board were more than happy to comply. But I would not be rushed. Northrend was my destiny, and I would not enter it like a frightened rabbit.
Over the next few days I found that the strength of the Alliances had pushed on towards the center of Northrend, to rendezvous with the troops landing in Borea and strike at the heart of Arthas' empire. I was eager to join them, but clearly something needed to be done about these Vrykul who had appeared and made such a mess of Valgarde's harbor. I found that the skills I had learned in Outland had more than prepared me for the task at hand. The local commanders quickly learned that if they assigned me to take out a harpoon station, it got taken out. Quickly, and with many flames and barbarians dying screaming, and with much less soldiers captured and tortured. I will admit that the time I returned home surfing on a ship-killing harpoon I had fired myself as the village behind me burned was a little dramatic, but I could hear the voices in my head screaming with excitement as I flew through the air.
In the wasted land of Dragonblight I caught up to the Alliance army, under the command of Bolvar Fordragon. They were preparing to assault the southern entrance to Icecrown, known as Wrathgate. A Horde army was camped nearby, and the leaders of the two armies had made plans for a joint assault. I was assigned to reinforce a company of heavy infantry from Darkshire. These humans were brave and well armed, and eager for the fight. On the morning of the assault, we were on the right flank, at the potential weak joint between the two forces. We were hit hard when Arthas unleashed an elite wave of undead Vyrkul to try to split the Alliance from the Horde, but despite losing nearly a quarter of our strength we pushed them back. By the afternoon, we thought the battle was won. Arthas' troops had been broken, and the ghouls were fleeing back into the citadel. And then, there he was. Arthas himself strode out onto the battlefield, and at first it appeared to be a desperate gambit to rally his troops. I readied myself, eager to join the final charge to wipe him from the face of Azeroth. But then suddenly the young Horde general was down, his soul ripped from his body by the dark magic of Frostmourne, and the corpses of our own troops were beginning to rise and fight us.
“Did you think we had FORGOTTEN? Did you think we had FORGIVEN?”
These words rang out over the battlefield. Looking out over the heads of the soldiers around me, I saw strange vehicles with catapults mounted on them, up on the cliffs above the Horde camp. Leading them was a bent and twisted man, one of Sylvanas' Forsaken, wearing a robe over some strange, exotic armor. There was such rage in his voice, such burning passion. When he cried out “Behold now the terrible vengeance of the Forsaken!” I could not stop myself. I raised my fist and cheered. Yes! The voices screamed with me, for vengeance! Against Arthas, against the Scourge, against even those putative allies who looked on me with scorn and contempt and distrust. I wanted to join him and his apothecaries, to hurl those cannisters of green death down upon them all, the undead and the living.
But as quickly as they had risen up in my head, the voices faded, and I became aware of the horror around me. As the plague clouds spread through our to armies, people were screaming, gasping, falling. I spun, searching for a way to safety, to get the troops I was supposed to be helping out of this trap. I caught a glimpse of Arthas stumbling back into his citadel and the gates slamming shut behind him. Justice would have to wait for another day. Next to me a soldier, still a boy even by the standards of the short-lived humans, fell to his knees, horrid gurgling sounds coming from him. I dropped my mace and hoisted him up onto my shoulders. My eyes burning, my lungs feeling like the were filling with mud, I struggled to the rear, fighting to keep my feet as I was bumped and shoved by those fleeing around me. The ground was by now covered with the bodies of the dead and dying, and I worried I would trip and never get up. The dense green gas was everywhere now, swirling around my feet, wafting up around me, obscuring my view in every direction. My mind went numb, overwhelmed by the pain in my lungs, my legs, my heart. All I could think was that I needed to get this boy I was carrying to safety.
I don't know if it was hours later or only minutes that a patrol found me, stumbling across the frozen plain, still carrying the boy. By now he was quite dead - stiff and cold. They told me later that I was not far behind him. I spent two months in an infirmary while my body healed, my lungs and other organs having to reknit themselves after being nearly devoured by the plague. I found out that the Forsaken apothecary whose words had stirred something in me was a traitor, not only against the Alliance but the Horde as well. Kinnavieve had been part of the small team Varian Wrynn himself had led into the sewers of Undercity to execute him. He was a monster, who hated everyone who was not like him, and had plotted for years for the right moment to slaughter thousands.
So why did the news of his death make me feel so sad?