“Ye’r a Worgen, lad! I thought yer race was fearless!”
Giltharak was standing there. He was quietly whimpering as he looked at the revived animal presented to him by the Dwarven Death Knight. Who in their right mind would want to fly on a gryphon? Let alone a revived one! The flightmaster assured him that no one ever fell from the back of those bone gryphons but Giltharak wasn’t quite ready to put his fate in the hands of someone who already died before. What guarantied the Worgen that the flightmaster standing beside him didn’t die from falling off a gryphon during a flight in the first place? Nevertheless, he had to get to the ground. And it was either by taking a gryphon, flying “safely” down, or jumping off from Acherus. Since the second choice was less appealing than the first one, Giltharak had to put his fear of flight aside and mounted up on the big animal in front of him. Taking one last look at the flightmaster, the Worgen slowly directed his mount to the edge of the platform.
“Suff’r well, lad”, said the gryphon handler with a wicked smile.
“I sure will suffer…” answered Giltharak, a frightened look on his face.
In the mind of the Worgen, as he launched his mount off into the air, one thing was certain. His race was definitively not made for flying. Even though the gryphon was gracefully gliding through the air, the panicked Worgen was paralyzed by fear. How could a wolf willingly put his life in the claws of a bird? It did not make sense. It was not natural. He was supposed to eat birds not fly with them. Giltharak’s eyes were shut and his claws were digging holes in his paws. He tightly held on to the reins, waiting for this dreadful experience to come to an end; good or bad.
It took less than a minute for the gryphon to get from Acherus to the ground level. However, it felt like an eternity for Giltharak. Preparing its approach, the mount rapidly flapped its bony wings and smoothly landed close to the Scourge camp. The still paralyzed Worgen let himself drop onto the grass.
“They will have to kill me yet another time before I mount on one of those things again” thought Giltharak lying on his back, watching the gryphon take flight to get back to Acherus.
The Worgen laid there in the grass for a few minutes, thinking of what could have happened if the gryphon had let him fall to his death. A shiver ran through his fur as he finally decided to get on his feet and search for Prince Valanar.
“Ah!” said the Prince, looking back at Giltharak. “I see the Lich King sent his new champion to be put to the test. Do not think I will go easy on you, Worgen. You shall suffer as much as the other Death Knights, if not a bit more. I will personally make sure of that.”
Kneeled in front of the Prince, Giltharak winced. He almost hoped for a second to be treated like everyone else but it seems like he would not get that privilege. Every Death Knight standing around the Worgen was looking at him with scornful eyes; even the Prince and his fellow officers.
“So be it” thought Giltharak. “I will prove to them that I am worthy of being a Death Knight.”
Raising his head up, the Worgen answered with confidence: “Give me your orders, my Prince, and I will carry them without hesitation.”
“You better not disappoint me, Death Knight. You wouldn’t want the fury of the Lich King unleashed upon you. Come now. I will show you what I have in mind for your first mission.”
Giltharak rose up and followed Prince Valanar to a table on which the map of New Avalon was displayed.
“As you can see”, said the Prince, “we control most of the area around the city. However, the Scarlet Crusade received reinforcements from the sea earlier today. We need to thin their numbers out. That is where you will be able to help us. Find a way to get on-board one of their ships and use their canons against them. Kill as many Scarlet Crusade soldiers as possible. We will provide you with a gryphon to make your escape once your mission is completed. All you have to do is to fire this flare up in the air.”
A shiver ran through Giltharak’s fur as he took the small gun from Valanar’s hand. “Not again” he thought. “The Prince must have seen me land. He really hates me.”
“I will do as you ordered, sir” hesitantly said the Worgen.
“Well then, do not make me wait any longer. I will prepare my troops to crush what will be left of their battalion. Good luck, Death Knight” said Prince Valanar.
“Thank you, sir” answered Giltharak. “However, I do have a question if you would allow me, my Prince.”
“Sure, go ahead Death Knight” replied Valanar, annoyed that the Worgen was still standing in front of him.
“It seems that, as soon as I arrived in this camp, no one could stand my presence. There is much hate in their eyes, as well as yours. Have I done something wrong?” asked Giltharak.
Valanar sighed. “As a Death Knight, you have not done anything wrong. However, before becoming one is a different story. You probably do not remember, as the Lich King wipes the memory of all of his Death Knights, but you were pretty hard to kill. The ghouls you killed that night are irrelevant, as we can revive new ones quickly. Training a new Death Knight however takes time. You killed five of my men during the fight. Out of these soldiers, three were in such a terrible shape that all we could do was raise them back from death as ghouls. Among them was one of my senior officers.”
“I am sorry, sir” replied Giltharak, ashamed of himself.
“Do not feel sorry for them, Death Knight” answered Valanar. “Even though we fought together, they were weak and they deserved their fate. As a servant of the Lich King, we have the gift of immortality. However, the state in which we die will decide how we will be raised back to life. If your body is too damaged, the only option will be as a ghoul.”
“As for our opinion toward you”, continued Prince Valanar, “it will change if you can live to the Lich King’s expectations. We, Death Knights, judge our comrades on their actions. And since the Lich King himself said that your abilities could turn the tide of some battles on our side, you will need to prove your valor more than anyone else.”
“I understand, sir” replied Giltharak.
“Good. Now, let’s get back to business. I am counting on you to distract and kill as many Scarlet Crusaders as you can while I take some of my men to the beach to kill the rest” ordered Valanar.
Giltharak saluted the Prince before taking his leave. As he walked pass the Prince’s officers, cladded in their shiny new armor, the Worgen saw that most of them were laughing at him.
“He will never be able to do it” Giltharak heard a Blood Elf officer say. “The Tauren we sent this morning did not even made it down to the beach. Let’s see if that wolf can at least kill a few of those Scarlet Crusade rats.”
“I was there when the Lich King captured him. I am pretty confident he will make it all the way down” another said.
“You are overestimating him, my friend” replied the first one. “I am sure his third kill will be his last.” replied the first one.
“I will kill at least a hundred” said Giltharak, angry at the officer’s lack of fate in him. “And when I do get back, I want a set of armor like the one you have. Mine is falling apart.”
“Deal!” mockingly answered the officer. “If you succeed, I will ask the blacksmith to forge you the best armor you will ever see. But if you fail, you will be raised as a ghoul and your next mission will be to serve me.”
“Tell the blacksmith to heat up the forge, I won’t be long” said the Worgen, rapidly leaving the camp.
“This is one overconfident fool” said the officer before bursting into laughter.
“Wow! I might have spoken a little too fast” thought Giltharak.
The Worgen was hiding behind a bush, near the entrance of a mine. The road in front of him was well-guarded. Going down to the beach was not going to be an easy task. On each side of the road, groups of soldiers were standing there, waiting to kill any ghoul or Death Knight foolish enough to try his luck. He had to find a way down. If he were to use a gryphon, he would be shot down in seconds by their archers. Giltharak decided to take a look at the cliff. Maybe he could climb down unnoticed.
Slowly crawling to the ground, the Worgen reached the cliff, unseen. As he looked down, his hope vanished. The rock wall was too steep for him to climb down, and it was too high for him to jump. There was no way he could plan any surprise attack on that beach. He will die trying to reach the boat and will continue his service to the Lich King as a ghoul.
“Don’t give up!” said a small voice inside his head. “You’ve managed to live through worst situations than this one!”
Giltharak drove his negative thoughts away. There has to be a way to get to the boats. He thoroughly looked at the beach below, trying to find an opening. Regrouping on the sand were countless soldiers clad in red; some of them were gathered around a few canons, preparing for a battle that soon shall come. Going up and down the ramps leading to the deck of both boats, many workers were getting boxes off to the beach. Some of them however, were pulling mining carts up on the deck, before disappearing inside the ship’s hold. Taking a closer look, the Worgen realized that those mining carts were coming from the road he was supposed to use to get down to the beach.
An idea immediately formed in Giltharak’s mind. That was his way in. He had to hide inside one of the mining carts and let the workers get him on one of the boats. Crawling back to the mine, he began to plan his move. He will have to be quick and make sure no one sees him or he will be killed in an instant. As he reached the entrance of the mine, he saw some mining carts abandoned in front of it. Around the entrance, a few guards were busy defending the mine from a group of ghouls trying to enter. Once in a while, miners were running out of the mine; some were hauling carts, leaving the mine as fast as they could with goods, while others were simply panicking, running for their life, occasionally grabbing a cart and scurrying down the road to the beach without paying attention to its content.
Giltharak acted swiftly. He grabbed one of the abandoned carts and brought it back close to where he was hiding, but still close enough to the road. Taking a few ore chunks and some rugged clothing, he jumped in the cart, crouched at the bottom, put the cloth over him and placed the ore as best as he could to hide his presence.
Luckily, the Worgen did not have to wait for long as a panicked miner, came running out of the mine and crashed into the cart.
“Ouch! That hurt!” said the miner as he got up to his feet. “I better take this one down with me. Else, the commander might not like it. Besides, it is already full.”
The trip down to the beach was pretty quick. Giltharak feared that one of the guards might take a look inside his hiding spot but no one seemed to care. The miner brought the cart all the way down the road and up to one of the boat. Once inside the ship’s hold, he pushed the cart in a corner and ran out.
The Worgen was more than happy of what he saw after taking his head out of the rugged cloth. He was inside one of the cargo areas of the ship. Around him, many carts full of ore and other materials were gathered in an unorganized fashion. No human could be seen across the room. Preparing his sword, Giltharak got out of his cart and slowly walked out the door and up to the deck. Peeking his head out of the doorway, the Worgen saw what he was looking for. Three canons were lined up on each side of the boat.
“Great! These cannons are perfect” thought Giltharak. “Now, let’s kill some humans.”
Sneaking his way to the nearest canon, Giltharak sat on the seat and looked at the controls. He was never good with guns and this one seemed even more complicated than he thought a canon could be. Buttons were laden everywhere on the control panel. The Worgen thought he could identify at least two: one was red with what looked like a cannon ball shooting from the barrel, the other, where a canon was encased in a bubble, was blue.
“Why must engineered weapon be so complicated?” said Giltharak to himself.
Positioning the cannon, the Worgen tried to aim for one of the cannons on the beach and pressed the red button. The cannon ball erupted from the barrel with a loud “Boom”, traveled up into the sky and finally crashed down on its target producing a large explosion. The destructive power unleashed on the cannon pulverized it, sending many Scarlet Crusade soldiers flying high into the air before falling back onto the beach, landing with a loud thump.
“The enemy has taken one of our ships! Stop them!” said one of the Scarlet Crusade commanders.
The chaos caused by the first explosion was rapidly spreading across the beach. Some soldiers were running for their life while others were trying to take cover or assault the boat. Meanwhile, Giltharak was having a blast, raining destruction on the beach. Pieces of armor were flying everywhere. As he looked towards the road, he saw that some Death Knights were slaughtering everyone who tried to escape the carnage. His mission was accomplished; he could now leave that ship.
Giltharak was getting ready to get down from the cannon when he saw a few soldiers going up the ship’s ramp, swords in hand, ready to kill the Death Knight where he stood. Hoping his assumptions on the blue button were right, he quickly pushed it. From the base of the cannon, a blue flash rapidly spread on the ground. Every soldier in a radius of fifty yards collapsed to the ground, struck by the powerful electrical current coming from the cannon.
“Now, the hardest part of the mission” said Giltharak as he got back down on the deck.
Using the flare Prince Valanar gave him, the Worgen watched as a bone gryphon was making its way down from Acherus to meet him.
“This is pure torture” thought Giltharak as the gryphon landed next to him.
“Silly wolf! Fearless in front of an entire army, yet afraid to leave the ground on a flying mount!” said a feminine voice inside the Worgen’s head, laughing at him.
“Shut up!” yelled Giltharak. “You don’t know me!”
“I know you better than you think, my dear brother” whispered the voice.
“Brother? Why are you calling me your brother?” asked Giltharak. However, the only answer he received was the sound of the waves crashing on the boat and the chaotic noises of the battle raging on the beach.
“It must have been my imagination” he told himself. “If I let myself get distracted like that, I’ll end up dead… again.” Looking back at the gryphon, he sighted. “Unless that thing decides to let me fall… Then I won’t have to worry about voices in my head anymore.”
Taking the reins in his hands, Giltharak, looking into the empty orbits of the gryphon’s skull as if its eyes were still there, told the undead beast: “Don’t you let me fall to the ground, bird! If you do and I somehow manage to survive, I’ll gnaw on your bones until nothing’s left of your skeletal corpse.”
The gryphon looked quizzically at the Worgen, not understanding a word of what he had said. But it had a passenger to carry to safety and that is all that mattered to the beast at the moment. It lowered itself enough for Giltharak to climb on its back and launched itself into the sky. Giltharak wasn’t prepared at all for the rapid maneuver of the gryphon and let out a loud yelp while holding on as best as he could to the reins.
“I will kill you, heartless beast!” yelled Giltharak as he disappeared into the clouds.
“The beach has been secured” said Prince Valanar to his officers. “Our new recruit did an amazing job at distracting the Scarlet Crusade’s forces. We killed most of the remaining soldiers and took control of their boats.” He turned his head to his right and asked one of his officers: “Prince Keleseth, how is the assault on the stables and farms around New Avalon?”
“It has been carried according to plan, brother. Most of the soldiers were either killed and raised as ghouls or fled behind the walls of the city. The Scarlet Crusaders are regrouping inside New Avalon’s walls to prepare their defense, as if it could stop us. We are establishing our new base of operation inside the crypt near the city. We shall be ready to launch our first assault soon” answered the Prince.
“Good!” said Valanar. “I will send you my new Worgen recruit as soon as he gets back from –”
“AHHHH!! LET ME DOWN YOU STUPID THING!!” yelled Giltharak as he was passing over the camp, the gryphon apparently refusing to hear the poor Worgen’s command.
“Just in time” laughed Valanar.
Doing one last circle around the camp, the undead gryphon decided to land right in the middle of it, a few feet away from the officers. On its back, a pretty agitated Worgen was hitting the beast with both hands. As soon as the mount touched the ground, Giltharak jumped off its back, took his sword and proceeded to cut the head of the gryphon off. Unfortunately for him, the beast was faster than the Worgen expected and the Death Knight’s sword missed its target.
“COME BACK FOUL BEAST!” cursed Giltharak, as the gryphon was flying back to Acherus.
Around the Worgen, most Death Knights were laughing at the scene, even Prince Valanar.
“I wonder how a weakling like that managed to become a Death Knight” said a Tauren to the Troll standing right beside him.
Baring his teeth, Giltharak slowly turned around to face the Tauren.
“What did you say, cow?” said the angry Worgen.
Still mocking Giltharak, the Tauren replied “I said that I wonder how a weakling—”
His sentence was abruptly interrupted by a purple beam, gripping the laughing Death Knight and letting him fall in front of the Worgen. Giltharak could not control his actions anymore. He will not let anyone laugh at his fear of flight. His sword was ready to cut the Tauren in half. But before it even got near the other Death Knight’s head, a Val’kyr appeared and a massive pain wrecked through the Worgen’s body, who collapsed on the ground, yelping helplessly.
A powerful voice rose inside Giltharak’s head. “Do not disobey my command, minion! I might not be so forgiving next time” said the Lich King as the Val’kyr was releasing her grip.
When the Worgen managed to open his eyes, the Val’kyr was gone. He saw the Tauren Death Knight he tried to kill kneeling in front of him, stunned, while his Troll friend was trying to get him to move away. Slowly, Giltharak tried to get up, using his sword to keep his balance. He looked around and saw that nobody was laughing anymore. Only Prince Valanar had a smile on his face.
“Come, Death Knight” said Valanar, signaling Giltharak to meet him at the officer’s table. “You now know how it feels like when you disobey your master. The Val’kyr you saw is one of the many who could bring a Death Knight back to life. However, they are also among the strongest soldiers of the Lich King, able to travel from the Spirit Plane to this plane of existence and strike. Their attack is particularly painful. I am pretty sure you do not want to go through that again am I right?”
“No sir” weakly answered Giltharak. “I will try to control my anger and direct it against our enemy instead of my fellow Death Knights.”
“That is what I wanted to hear. Keleseth, I want you to take this Worgen with you to the crypt. I know you still need to gather some material to prepare the next phase of our assault on the Scarlet Crusade. I am sure that you could use a soldier like him in your rank” said Valanar.
“As you wish brother, as long as he does not go on a rampage every two minutes” answered Keleseth.
“Do not worry brother, he learned his lesson. Besides, I am sure the Lich King will keep an ‘angel’ on his shoulder” laughed Valanar.
“You are probably right” replied the other Prince. Turning his sight toward Giltharak, he added: “You should go see the blacksmith before joining me at the crypt. I promised that you would get a new armor shall you succeed your first mission and I am a man of my word. You should also ask Salanar the Horseman for a new mount. I am sure he will have something that suits you better than a gryphon.”
“Thank you, my lord” answered Giltharak.
“Do not make me wait, Death Knight. We have a Scarlet Crusade to annihilate” said Keleseth before leaving the table.
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