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The sun was setting, somewhere, but between the mountains on every horizon and the blizzard in the area, you couldn’t see it.

The plate greaves crunched through the snow as the Blood Knight slowly climbed the slope leading to Crusader’s Pinnacle. Two humans stood there, staring out into the emptiness of Icecrown Glacier. One turned and walked toward the newcomer, giving and receiving a salute.

“You must be the Knight-Master. Welcome to Icecrown,” the human said.

“And you must be Crusade Commander Entari. It’s an honor,” the elf replied.

“We may send you north to help the Kor’kron assault Ymirheim,” Entari said, gesturing the elf into the lone tower on the hilltop and following him out of the storm. “The ground commander there expressed a great interest when he heard another Dawnblade was joining the fight.”

The Blood Knight lowered his hood and removed his gauntlets, blowing warm air onto his hands. “I’m afraid that I’m of no relation to Champion and Ranger-Captain Dawnblade,” he said neutrally.

“And yet you know of them. But very well. Suffice it to say that you have a challenge before you if you want to be the most beloved Dawnblade in the Crusade.”

The Knight chuckled. “Rest assured, Commander, that I have not come to Icecrown in search of fame.”

“Oh? What is it you’ve come in search of?” the human asked.

The elf smirked at this. “Justice,” he said.

Aw, dangit. That was corny. I shouldn’t have said that.

The human nodded. “That’s what a lot of people say.” He looked back up at the elf.

Gah. See? Think of something more original next time, you dolt. Yeah, the double meaning of both Arthas and Varendil was great, but.. blech. Uh-oh, he’s staring at you. He’s going to think you’re crazy. Do something, quick!

Icethorn

by Taylor Vincent

He was an elf on a mission. The priest must be brought to justice, he thought. He’s hounded you for years, he’s called you a thief, an attempted murderer. He sabotaged your last relationship. He must be—Hey. Icethorn.

Icecrown Glacier was a horribly dead, barren place, but some icethorn plant had stubbornly clung to one chunk of ground – no less barren than any other chunk, mind you – to eke out its existence. The numerous ghouls and flesh giants that wandered the area simply tried not to step on it.

Because of the, y’know, thorns.

The elf, on the other hand, had no appreciation for the incredible odds it had taken for this lone plant to survive. He simply wanted reagents for elixirs of mighty defense.

Saelar urged his wind rider down a bit to peek at the surroundings. The armies of the Lich King shuffled about the icy terrain a bit aimlessly. The Blood Knight peered down at the ghouls, looked around a bit, and urged the beast still lower.

“I can handle this,” he told the mount and himself, urging it to swoop in low toward the lone plant on the tundra. One hand reached back for his warblade, an orcish affair he’d won in combat in Outland, and when the wyvern neared the ground, the elf kicked himself off, howling and bisecting with a single slash a ghoul that was ambling around the pointy plant.

Almost instantly, all of the surrounding ghouls turned to face the newcomer.

Saelar blinked in confusion, then angrily blasted one of the Scourge in the face with searing Light. Its head toppled from its shoulders and its body fell, covered in golden flame. “Are you kidding me?” the elf asked no one in particular. “Most of the time you shuffling zombies can’t see what’s happening five feet in front of you. Today, you all hate me? Come on.”

The ghouls seemed to take his complaint as a challenge, turning and gnashing their jaws as they collectively charged the Blood Knight, who now nearly bristled with Light energy. The first ghoul to reach him swung at his left arm, paw bouncing harmlessly off of his pauldron, a flash of Light knocking the arm back, and off, the moment it touched him. Saelar swung, slicing the creature’s torso in two, then bringing his blade up into the head of another ghoul. He jumped and spun, a magic hammer slamming into the side of another undead in his path while his swing chopped one more in half. The Blood Knight stabbed the earth beneath him, and it began crackling and flaring up with Light energy at the feet of anything that approached. One Scourge stumbled as it approached, and Saelar took aim and swatted its head off with the flat side of his blade, the skull twirling through the air until it landed at the feet of another group of ghouls, who turned their death grins on the blood elf and immediately scrambled toward their new toy.

Saelar stomped the skull of yet another zombie into the ground, then looked at the oncoming pack. “Oh, I really should have known better than to do that,” he said. He consecrated the ground once more and let several of them approach before howling and torching four of them in a wrathful swirl of Light.

An orc and a goblin on board the Orgrim’s Hammer peered down at the light show beneath them.

“This guy’s no slouch, he’s doing quite the number on those Scourge,” the goblin, Chief Engineer Copperclaw, said.

The orc, Sky-Reaver Korm Blackscar, commanding officer of the ship, snorted. “Too bad he doesn’t have an escape route. I saw gargoyles chasing something off earlier, not sure what. Maybe his mount.”

The goblin reached for his Mechano-Spyglass and trained it on the battle site, where the elf turned away from the airship to parry and reply to an attack from a skeletal warrior. “Looks like he’s in old high-elven armor, but he’s using an old… orcish trophy weapon?” the goblin said.

“Heh. Some orc-killing Alliance paladin. Wait for him to gather a few more Scourge around him, then shell him into the ground with the guns,” the orc said, turning and walking back to his command seat. “Elves are so foolish sometimes,” he muttered.

An elf on deck turned. “Hey, I take offense to that.”

The Sky-Reaver chuckled. “Well, go have Copperclaw show you the Alliance idiot down there.”

Back on the ground, Saelar was starting to get tired. He swung at one ghoul and missed, then felt another leap onto his back. He yelped and shook it off, then extended an arm and with a word in Thalassian, a wave of Light surged forth around him, knocking several Scourge away and giving him time to carve one and blast one more with holy energy before they leapt atop him again. Another torrent of Light energy tore through several of them, and Saelar hacked at two more before the last ghoul fell. He took a moment to breathe before looking down and carefully reaching out for the icethorn plant that had miraculously survived the combat. “Well, at least I have you,” he said, standing back up and noticing the flesh giant standing before him.

The behemoth stared down at Saelar, and Saelar stared back in disbelief at the thing. Geists hung from harpoons stuck in the creature’s legs, and gargoyles perched on its shoulders. Yet more ghouls swarmed around its feet.

“No problem, beastie. Time to go,” he said, shielding himself and reaching for his hearthstone only to remember that he’d left his hearthstone in his other rucksack. The one still attached to the saddle on his wind rider.

Saelar’s audience stared at the glowing Blood Knight, who glanced back up at the leviathan and its entourage, then brought his hands together in front of his and began acting like he was channeling a spell. He then began cooing in a poor imitation of a hearthstone.

“Bwoooouuuuoooouuuuuooo…” he continued until he thought it had been about ten seconds, then extended one arm out. “Bwong!” he said.

Buyitbuyitbuyitbuyitbuyitbuyitbuyit

However, the Scourge were not fooled into thinking their prey was on his way back to Dalaran. When the shield around the Blood Knight faded out from existence before the Blood Knight did, the many undead began to smile again. The flesh giant lifted his arms out in front of him and began loping toward the elf. “SEPULCHUS WANT PLAY!” it said.

Saelar simply whimpered and wondered if he’d wasted his life.

Suddenly, the sky began falling.

An explosion shook the ground between the elf and the giant, and geist and ghoul parts sprayed the general area. Saelar simply stared at the gunship that had proven his savior as shells continued raining around him. However, the elf slowly began to realize that the gunners all the way up there couldn’t, or wouldn’t, distinguish between him and the Scourge around him. He turned to run, but a shell hit directly in front of him, the shockwave knocking him right back toward the flesh giant and the center of the incoming fire. He struggled to his feet and slashed a ghoul immediately in front of him before another explosion knocked him down again. He spied the flesh giant running about, on fire, crying loudly. Another shell hit, and Saelar’s consciousness finally gave up.

Saelar awoke slowly, opening his eyes to be blinded by white light. A fuzzy bluish humanoid figure stood before him, and he started trying to crawl away. “No. No! I don’t wanna be dead, I don’t wanna be dead…”

“You’re not dead,” the blue figure said softly. Saelar started blinking, and things started coming into focus around him. He realized the blue figure was just an elven priest, the glowing light was just snowblind and a nearby campfire, and that—

Blue elven priest. Varendil.

Slowly, Saelar looked up into the eyes of his cousin, then immediately turned and began reaching for his warblade. Varendil saw the movements and jumped back. The elf grabbed the blade and swung, but the blow glanced off a magical shield, and the one-handed grip on the weapon failed, sending it flying. Saelar growled and extended his hand, and a magical hammer slammed into the side of Varendil’s head, making the priest stumble back, dazed, and buying the Blood Knight time to grab his weapon once more.

Saelar grabbed the blade and turned back around to take a bolt of Light to the chest, sending him stumbling backward and unready for the next three blasts in quick succession. He stopped his backward progress and charged forward with a howl, only to be met by a priest with an outstretched hand that suddenly appeared to be growing, growing, into a tall and menacing shape of shadow. Saelar’s mind felt filled with the screams of the damned, and he froze in terror until the priest, who was really still actual size and simply decent at playing mind tricks, grabbed his staff and walloped the Blood Knight in the side of the head.

Saelar stumbled, then turned and swung mightily, only to have his blade strike the priest’s shield once more. He swung again, a typhoon of Light behind his blow, but it too bounced harmlessly off. Varendil grinned. “You don’t get it, do you? You can’t touch me. You’ve never touched me once in all the times we’ve done this. Stop. Trying. To beat me.”

Holy wings sprouted from Saelar’s back, and he howled as with one final powerful swing, he shattered the magic shield around the priest, who suddenly slumped out of his combat stance.

“Hey, that’s new,” the priest said.

Saelar slashed in, and the priest tried to parry, catching the blow with his staff, which promptly snapped in two, the force of the blow carrying the blade and splinters into the side of the priest’s neck, who wailed and fell. His left arm came up, more pulses of Light bursting forth. Two caught Saelar in the chest, knocking him back, and the third hit the blade of his weapon and sent it flying once more.

“That is the LAST time I skimp by not buying weapon chains,” the Blood Knight said, stepping toward his fallen opponent only for that opponent to hook his foot around the back of Saelar’s leg and pull it out from beneath him, toppling the elf. The priest rose, planting one foot firmly on the Blood Knight’s chest. He panted softly, a glowing hand magically pulling splinters from his neck. “So, you’re a bit tougher. Big deal. Do you forget that you’re dealing with a powerful wielder of the Light here, a—”

Saelar nonchalantly slammed his gauntleted fist down on the priest’s foot.

Varendil yelped and jumped back, hopping on one foot and holding the injured one. “Ow! What the crap?!  I saved your life!”

The Blood Knight hopped to his feet. “After all the times you’ve tried to ruin it, I wouldn’t be surprised if you’re the one that told them to fire on me!”

Varendil’s face distorted into a silent ‘gwuh?’ before he continued. “No, that was the trigger-happy orc commander. Thought you were a high elf from the pauldrons and the trophy blade. I came and pulled you out of there before you got eaten.”

Saelar pointed a finger and began to yell, but realized he was out of things to say, and so dropped his hand and threatening countenance. “…oh. Well.” A pause. “Thank you.”

A quick flash of healing light and Varendil winced as he put weight on his foot again. “Sure.”

The two stood, awkwardly, facing each other. Varendil spoke first. “You’re right,” he said. “I have tried to ruin your life a bunch.”

Saelar blinked. “Hunh?”

Varendil nodded. “I apologize. For what it’s worth. I’m done trying to torment you,” he said.

Saelar relaxed a bit, picking up his warblade and slinging it across his back once more. “Me too. I’ve said awful things about you. Talked down of you to your own family. I… I’ll stop.”

Varendil smiled a little bit. “Thanks.”

The two then stood awkwardly for a moment before Saelar made the next move. He reached up, and Varendil tensed momentarily before Saelar started unfastening his pauldrons. The pauldrons that had belonged to Alavan Dawnblade, elven swordsman, Varendil’s father and Saelar’s uncle, the ones that had outlived their owner and survived to be taken by Saelar from the ruins of Silvermoon, a point to which Varendil had strongly objected, to which Saelar had strongly said screw you and kept the shoulder armor, igniting the hatred which burned until this moment, when Saelar handed the mantle to Varendil and Varendil nearly fell with the weight.

“You win,” Saelar said. “You have the wife, you have the daughter, you’re the one who’s rebuilt after the destruction. I just… wander around, looking for icethorn. You deserve the heirlooms,” he said.

Varendil stared.

“Now, I can see the Argent Tournament grounds from here. I’m going to go see about getting a ride back to the Pinnacle and trying to find a new mount.

Varendil stared.

Saelar nodded. “Say hi to Lissa for me,” he said quietly, and began climbing down the hill toward the half-built coliseum.

The sun was rising, somewhere, but between the mountains on every horizon and the blizzard in the area, you couldn’t see it.

The plate greaves crunched through the snow as the Blood Knight slowly climbed the slope leading to Crusader’s Pinnacle. This time, more than two humans stood on the hill. The off-duty guards and paladins gathered around the arriving Blood Knight as Crusade Commander Entari approached Saelar once more.

“Good to see you again, Master Dawnblade,” the human said. “I hope you have a moment.”

“Wha?”

The human smiled. “Have something for you.”

Saelar smiled. “Hey, is it a wind rider?”

Entari blinked. “Um, yes. How’d you know? He came back a bit scratched up, but he’s better now. All yours once more. But that’s not all.”

Saelar  blinked now. “Now I’m the confused one.”

Entari simply smirked, pulling out a scroll as one of the crusaders approached from the tower, carrying a chest. The other crusaders formed a circle, and the Crusade Commander began to read.

“Knight-Master Saelar Dawnblade, of the Blood Knights of Silvermoon.

“For having engaged in single combat with countless  minions of the Scourge and survived;

“For having withstood the oncoming fire of a Horde gunship;

“And for having defeated in honorable single combat one of the strongest spellcasters of Icecrown;

“You have hereby been nominated and approved for a Special Commendation of Bravery from the Argent Crusade. Therefore, I award you this medal.”

The Commander handed Saelar a small medal. The crest of the Crusade hung from a small blue ribbon. Saelar smiled, a bit bewildered. “Um. Thank you,” he said.

“There’s still more,” the human said, and the Blood Knight looked back up. “Your nominator, Champion Varendil Dawnblade, has also furnished an additional gift.”

At this point, the crusader holding the chest approached. Saelar knew it contained armor. He didn’t even have to look. “Thank you,” he said quietly, somewhere between seething and smirking.

“He also leaves a… rather cryptic note,” the human said, beginning to read. “’Knight Dawnblade: These don’t fit in my display case. Yours, Champion Dawnblade.’”

Saelar blinked. Entari saluted, and Saelar snapped out of his thoughts and returned it. He took the reins of his wind rider and patted the wyvern affectionately. The blood elf mounted up, and the rider kicked off and into the air, and Saelar pretended not to notice the priest standing next to his drake on the hills overlooking the pinnacle.

Standing around in the most clichéd way. Sheesh. No, I won’t attend the ceremony, I’ll pretend I’m mysterious and—Hey. Lichbloom.

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