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Tenacity

Lirriel's picture

“Are you certain you wish to do this, child?” Varduun asked as he drew his elekk to a halt, letting Alynore slide off first. Her boots landed in the omnipresent red dust of Hellfire Peninsula, kicking up a cloud that the constant wind dashed away.

The seventeen-year-old girl patted the elekk’s shoulder as she looked up at her mentor. “Much as I love ol’ Duvrefen here, I’m a human, and humans ride horses,” she said. She brushed back a loosened lock of auburn hair. “A horse of my own is probably the earliest thing I can ever remember wanting, actually. Sounds stupid, I guess.”

Varduun chuckled, his giant gauntleted hand briefly squeezing her shoulder. “Not at all.” The draenei vindicator looked past her. “This will be dangerous, child. I can help you to a point, but—“

“I know. This is all me, and nothing the draenei have tried before.” Nore pulled her pack off the elekk. The eternium barding could stay on the elekk. She held the exorcism censer High Priestess Ishanah had given her. Wielding it instead of her shield would be interesting, to say the least. Nore drew her mother’s mageblade, reinforced with her own enchantments, and looked across the ruins.

The Unyielding, the ghosts were called; the tortured spirits of Alliance soldiers, fallen to orc death knights in the Second War. The Expedition Armory’s burned and broken walls were infested with the specters, entirely aware of what they were and hating anyone living that came near their territory.

No one ever liked talking about the Armory; the faces of the Unyielding were recognizable to her elders. It was one of those things Nore had grown up simply knowing, through bits and pieces gleaned over time, and through what was not said more than what was.

Adventurers from beyond the Dark Portal were sometimes sent to the ruins, trying to release the souls. It never seemed to last. Nore’s own research into the Armory’s destruction had yielded a clue she thought could make a difference.

“Let’s get this started,” she said, the censer in her left hand glowing with the Light’s power. Varduun nodded, drawing his own mace and shield as he strode forward, the mark of the Naaru blazing above his blue head. The Unyielding took notice.

A knight wheeled his mount around, the spectral beast screaming as it reared. Footmen responded to the knight’s call, forming into a squad to come at the draenei and the girl. Varduun’s crystal mace flared with energy. The first footman to reach Varduun howled in rage and pain as the Light seared its ectoplasmic form. The mace smashed into its face, dissipating the ghost, only for more to swarm forward in frenzy. Varduun’s massive shield held them back. The knight lowered his lance to charge the vindicator.

Well behind Varduun, Nore held the censer high and focused on the knight. She chanted the draenic words an Auchenai priest had drilled her to memorize. Light poured from the censer, arcing across the short distance to strike the knight. He screamed in agony as he burned, the ashes flaring and vanishing.

The squad of specters stumbled. Their forms flickered and faded, their faces confused. Varduun’s deep voice rolled through the exorcism chant as his own Judgment fell on the footmen, sending them into the Light.

Varduun’s tail whipped as he collected himself, looking over the Armory. “One group down. How many more to go?”

“Til we get to where the courtyard was, I guess,” Nore answered. Another squad of Unyielding rushed forward, howling. “But taking out the leaders does seem to have an effect.”

“You chant, I’ll swing,” he said, raising his shield as he charged toward the spirits, shouting his own battle cry. Nore sprinted after him.

Later she wouldn’t remember how many waves of undead soldiers they fought through, her sword and Varduun’s mace holding them back as she channeled the exorcism spell through the censer, until the device felt hot even through her gauntlet. The mages and the knights seemed to be the focal spirits, leaders who the ghosts clung to and needed for direction. She was panting as they stepped through a fallen pillars into what was once a training yard.

Wind moaned through the ruins, the sounds of other ghosts distant. They went through the motions of life, calling orders and marching songs in a repetitive loop they could no longer recall the meaning of. Nore shuddered as she looked over the empty space.

“You’re sure this is the place?” Varduun asked. His long brown hair had come loose, and he paused for a moment to tie it back behind his horned headcrest. “Even the ghosts seem to avoid this place.” He wiped a trickle of blood from his dark goatee, heedless of more trailing down one of his thick tentacles.

“With good reason,” Nore said. She walked toward an oblong hillock near the center of the field. “The adventurers who came through here said that the ghost of a death knight who assaulted the Armory was here, too. The records, and the adventurers, say he was given the body of a great hero, corrupting even his horse. They say he still tries to cut down the Unielding, make them bend to his will.”

“Sounds like a story.”

“Maybe.” Nore used her boot to brush some of the dirt and debris away. Bone poked out of the ground, dulled and cracked. “But if he’s here, he’s dangerous, and it may be what’s keeping the Unyielding tied to this place. At least some of them.”

She pulled the gold scrying bowl out of her pack, and the canteen of holy water. She fit the exorcism censer into the base of the bowl, pouring the holy water over both as she chanted alien words. The items glowed with holy light, reflecting off the jaggal pearls that lined the edges of the combined device.

She heard a horse’s pained scream. In the water there was an image of a black horse, ridden by a man in black armor, his face blending between human and orc. The hillock shifted, dirt and stone rolling of their own accord.

Alynore jumped up. She redrew her sword and pulled her shield off her back. A murmured prayer, and she felt the power of the offensive Seal that glowed briefly around her body. Varduun’s Blessing bolstered her own; it was the only help he would give at this point.

Alynore stood alone as the ghost of the orc death knight tore his body out of the ground, his spirit coalescing around the bones. He rode the black charger, the creature’s eyes fel-green as it screamed a challenge.

“Well come get me then!” Nore shouted, a sword of Light smacking the monstrosity. It wheeled her way and charged. Energy wings flared from her back as she called for more strength and planted her feet, shield ready.

The impact shoved her backwards and numbed her arm. The charger’s teeth snapped at her face while the death knight swung his axe. Nore pushed back and slammed the edge of her shield against the charger’s jaw while her blade parried the death knight’s swing. She heard him begin a chant, and her own snarled spell cut him off.

Ghostly hooves struck at her legs. She dodged away, consecrating the ground she covered. The ghosts roared, and charged again. Nore waited, and then leapt to the side. She flung a hammer of Light while trying to hook her sword in the axe as it fell toward her. The death knight was torn from his mount, landing on Nore. He felt very solid as they hit the ground together, and his “breath” smelled of rot.

She gasped out a word, a Seal of healing surrounding her as she gathered her limbs and pushed the death knight away. He laughed as he got back to his feet. He had his axe; Nore’s sword was on the ground between them. She swore and dove for it.

His axe whistled past her ear as she rolled up inside his reach and stabbed into his chest. “By the Light’s power, be gone from this world!” she cried, twisting the mageblade as she channeled the exorcism spell, burning his bones. The death knight’s ghost howled as he dissipated, a pool of greasy ectoplasm his only remains.

Varduun’s strong hands caught her, and his laugh boomed in her ears. “Well done! For a moment there, I thought you were in trouble. Good you proved me wrong.”

She nodded, still panting for breath. If she had died in this trial, Varduun would have finished the job of destroying the ghost. That was some comfort. “We’re not…done yet,” she panted. “Call Duvrefen?”

“Already here,” Varduun replied. The elekk waited at the edge of the courtyard, stamping and trumpeting in agitation. His upset was the apparent immediately; the ghost charger still stood, aimless now, pawing over the crumpled remains of its former body.

Nore gave the confused ghost a wide berth as she pulled the last items off the elekk’s back. She moved as close as she dared, arranging the eternium barding on the ground in the proper order. At some point, the ghost stopped to stare at her, uncertain what to do now that the death knight wasn’t giving it orders. Nore placed the package of mana-enriched horse feed on the ground between the spirit and the barding.

“It’s all right,” she told it. “He can’t hurt you anymore.” The feed glowed, imbued by the powers of the Aldor priests and Archmage Khadgar himself. Nore hoped he was right about how this should work, adapting what he knew about the Silver Hand rituals with the Aldor’s.

The ghost snorted and pawed the ground, lowering its head. For a moment Nore thought it would charge, and she tensed. But then the spirit moved forward, spectral lips pursing to gum at the feed. Once it realized it could actually touch and even eat the food, the horse dug in as if starved.

Nore grinned. Varduun handed her the scrying bowl and censer, cool now, the water used up. Nore closed her eyes, held the censer, and prayed as she knelt on the ground, Light surrounding her, the ghost horse, and the barding.

As the prayer ended and the Light faded, she felt a warm breath and a velvet-soft nose touch her cheek. She opened her eyes.

A solid, living horse stood in front of her, wearing the blessed eternium barding. The horse was black, with a pale blond mane and tail. The pile of bones was gone, but the shining gold-white eyes of the charger were the same as the spirit’s.

“Now that,” Varduun said. “Is what I call a victory for the Light.”

The horse nudged Nore insistently, and the girl laughed, wrapping her arms around its neck.  “Glad to meet you, too,” she said. The horse breathed out a content sigh, and then pulled back, whickering. Nore got to her feet. “Looks like…she’s ready to go,” Nore told Varduun, making a quick check of the animal.

“Indeed, and a good idea. The ghosts may be at rest for now, but best not to push our luck. And besides, we must get back to Shattrath.” He smiled down at her. “The others will want to welcome the newest vindicator into our ranks. Well done, Alynore.”

She couldn’t hide her grin as she mounted her charger. She rode alongside Varduun and Duvrefen, away from the ruin of the Armory, toward the thorny path leading back to Terokkar.

“Has she a name yet?” Varduun asked as they crossed the dusty red plains.

“Think Tenacity will suit her? It’s one of the Tenets of Faith from the human religion.”

The mare tossed her head and snorted. Nore patted Tenacity’s neck while Varduun laughed. “I think it will fit her well, little sister. Perhaps more than you realize yet!”

************

((By the time I changed my paladin to Alynore in Wrath, one could learn the mount spells from a paladin trainer; the first incarnation of the paladin explored this in a blog where she simply 'relearned' her lost mount spell, as an amnesiac. I took Nore through the epic lvl 60 Charger quest chain for fun and to see the lore. The quest was removed with many others in Cataclysm, but elements of it remain in game (the Equine Spirit is still in Dire Maul!). For this, I combined the Expedition Armory quests in Hellfire with elements of the paladin charger quest. Hopefully it works all right, along with the idea of Nore's own faith being an amalgamation of the two religions of the Light she was raised and trained in. I've long wanted to explain where/how Tenacity came from, and how I see her more mystical abilities/actions, and this seemed like a good time. Maybe next will be how/why she sprouted wings to fly around with Nore...))