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Beyond The Mists Part 1
It was late in the afternoon when the messenger arrived with news of the new continent, letters from abroad and the reply he'd been waiting for so patiently. It had been by order of Garrosh Hellscream that the horde lay siege to Northwatch Hold and soon after, Theramore fell. Still mourning the loss of his father and countless others who had perished during the bombing, Darion was all too eager to take up his sword against the orcs, but his marriage to Lady Victoriea and the birth of their first child reminded him of what was at stake if he were not to return.
His father's death had made him lord of Wolf's Crossing and now, Darion was responsible for the lives of all twelve families who made the crossing their home, along with all that remained of house Blackmorn's military might. His father's efforts to wage war against the orcs on Kalimdor had nearly bankrupted them all and were it not for his wife's wealth, Darion might well have found himself in a far worse situation than the one he now faced. It fell to he and Tori to bring the people together and inform them of what was to come, a decision he'd given much consideration since Theramore's fall.
Castle Blackmorn would never stand up to a forsaken siege in its current state of disarray and Wolf's Crossing was far too vast a settlement for only thirty men at arms to defend. Victoriea's gold might buy them enough sellswords to last another year, but unless the Argent Crusade was to declare war on the forsaken, the Blackmorns and their allies would have to defend the people sooner or later. Gold was always in short supply in Lordaeron, but in such times as they now faced, Darion knew that if his house was ever to rise again, other opportunities must be explored. Pandaria presented a wonderful opportunity for trade and while it was certainly no less dangerous than Lordaeron, the opportunity was well worth the risk.
The fall of Lordaeron had claimed most of his father's bannermen and the wars that followed took the rest, save for one. House Thorn had endured for over a decade in spite of poverty and constant threats from all sides--and they had done it with less men than Darion now commanded. Lord Edwin's health was failing and the Reach was in dire straits. It had been Darion's decision to aid them immediately, a caravan of supplies and a dozen men at arms dispatched from Wolf's Crossing near a month ago. It had taken near as long for Lord Edwin's reply to reach Darion in Stormwind.
Words cannot express our gratitude for all you and your Lord-Father have done for us in our time of need. Were it not for your soldiers, I fear the forsaken may well have taken the Reach. I am told it was by your command that this caravan braved the treacherous roads between us. It pleases me more than I can say to find that you have become the sort of man your father would be proud of. All of us were deeply saddened to learn of his murder at the hands of the greenskins.
I have sent my son to Stormwind with a letter to the new Queen and perhaps if time permits, a visit to your estate in the Cathedral District. When I received your letter, I sent word with all due haste, informing him that he was to honor your request and return to the Reach at once. As I write this, we are preparing a grand feast for your arrival. I have ordered Sir Jon to select twenty of our finest men to accompany you and Erryk on your journey. Would that we could spare more. I pray this expedition is the beginning of a time of renewed prosperity for both our houses.
Your most loyal friend,
Lord Edwin Thorn
Edited by ßlackmorn on 10/3/2012 2:45 AM PDT
Victoriea (Co-written by Victoriea/Aubrye)
She had barely found the time to set things straight before they would be on the road again. Every time she passed the bassinet she couldn’t help but smile as she looked down at the small bundle that slept there. Each time she passed with supplies, clothing or armor in hand it was a gentle reminder of why she had to ride again--why they had to leave as quickly as possible. She was doing her part to secure his future, and that of her other two children.
Traveling north to the Reach to meet Sir Erryk Thorn meant Aubyre was going to be joining them for the time being and that threw a kink in the entire plan. She had thought with her niece's injuries she would have stayed out of the line of fire, but she was wrong. As always Aubyre threatened to do as she pleased or disappear like she had done many times before--though she couldn’t get angry at the girl for doing such when she had done the same in her early years.
She left her child’s care in the hands Mediea. The young traveler had a natural instinct with caring for the elderly and the young and Victoriea trusted the girl to work beside a hand chosen guard while playing the role of nanny. Her choice of personal bodyguards came to act as simple household guards, while Maeg and Corri two fierce wildhammer women made for excellent cooks and housekeepers.
She had been nervous to leave them alone after hearing of what happened to Theramore, who was to say it couldn’t happen to Stormwind? Not only that, but both she and the family she was now tied to by marriage had their fair share of enemies, so having plans to protect, evacuate, or have the household and children disappear were top on her list before she departed. Between the Landing, Holygrove, her grandfather’s estates and her own friends around the continents they would be safe no matter what.
Even Eira knew of the plan and swore to keep Lorrain safe should such events unfold. Vic wasn’t blind, and it was almost painful to watch Darion mourn the loss of even more family. She would be damned if she didn’t do everything in her power to protect what little family he had left and send her best trackers to find out just what happened to his youngest sister. She had not heard back yet from two of the three she had summoned but she could not wait around for them any longer.
She didn’t turn around when she heard someone enter the room, knowing who it was from the sound of his footsteps. She yanked her sword belt tight, pleased that she was just two notches from being back to her usual size before she turned to face Darion. She tried not to frown as she watched him just looking down at his son while dressed for the road. Two steps and she stood at his side, fingers lacing with his. Picking up the child, he cradled the sleeping boy in his arms, eyes hinting at his reluctance to leave him behind.
“No one said this is going to be easy, leaving them is always the hardest thing you'll have to do.” She whispered so as not to wake the babe while she leaned into her husband. “He’ll understand when he's older.” This time she looked up and was able to meet his gaze and offered him all the smile she could muster, though it showed her heart was breaking and she hadn’t even left the room. They stood there in silence for a moment before she finally gave his hand a squeeze and reached for her saddlebags.
“Time to head north.” She finally muttered and started toward the door, she paused to look for him after his hand slid from hers only to see him bent over the bassinet to kiss his son once more before setting him down and tucking him back in.
"Aye... Merri and Saidan are waiting for us outside." He said softly, closing the door behind them and nodding at the guard.
Meeting the paladin's eyes, the guard returned the nod knowingly. "I'll protect him with my life, m'lord. Have no doubt of it." And with that, the couple departed.
Edited by ßlackmorn on 10/5/2012 4:40 PM PDT
The reach had remained much like it was when Darion had last seen it, a poor settlement where men worked hard and things like magic and technology rarely saw much use. Primitive as it was, the small settlement had stood for hundreds of years and its keep was a true testament to the strength of its people. Built atop the jagged cliffs that overlooked the northern shore, the small fortress was only half the size of Castle Blackmorn. Gray stone walls rose to an imposing height, flanked by twin guard towers. The keep's portcullis was a solid iron gate, a massive kraken carved into the archway above. To either side of the gate stood men in darkened plate, fierce and grim as their undead enemies.
Lord Edwin was unable to greet them himself that morning, age and infirmity preventing him from riding. He'd sent his Nephew Reston, Captain of his guard to greet them in his stead. "This way, Lord Blackmorn." Reston told him, gesturing to the entrance as stable hands came to take their horses. "You've just missed Sir Erryk. He arrived an hour ago with a woman from Stormwind." He told him.
Darion simply nodded, dismounting and glancing at those behind him. They were all as wary is he was, though it had been at his request that they had set such a grueling pace to reach the castle by morning. He'd originally planned to travel with his wife alone, but when Saidan and Merrideth learned of his plans, the two of them had insisted on making the journey with him. With only a handful of guards, their party was small and able to travel quickly by gryphon from Stormwind.
The great hall was exactly as Darion had remembered it in his youth, though Lord Edwin had changed a great deal. He was no longer the formidable man Darion had so often visited, but a pale shadow of himself. He'd lost thirty pounds and looked as frail as a corpse, his hair white as the winter snows. In spite of his illness, Lord Edwin greeted them all with the same smile and pleasant nature he was so well known for. Formalities were discarded the moment Darion approached the old man, Edwin rising from his seat to embrace the young paladin as he would a son.
"Light, it's good to see you. You were barely old enough to hold a sword when you last visited the Reach." Edwin remarked, returning to his seat and studying the young man who was now his Liege-Lord. "You are the image of your father in his youth." The old man muttered. "And this must be your lovely bride?" He questioned him, gesturing to Victoriea with a brightening smile.
Darion grinned, slipping an arm around her waist and presenting her to Lord Edwin. "Lady Victoriea, allow me to introduce you to Lord Edwin Thorn."
Victoriea inclined her head to the aging lord, smiling in spite of her fatigue. "It is a pleasure to meet you, my lord." She said softly, meeting the old man's eyes with a gentle smile.
"She is every bit as beautiful as I was led to believe, Darion. And please... Call me Edwin. We are all of us as family, here." Edwin told her, bringing her hand to his lips and kissing the top of it gently. "My son is around here someplace... He arrived just before you with a lovely southern girl."
Darion chuckled softly at Edwin's comment, never having known Erryk to favor anything but the northern girls. "Seems he's been charmed by the south during his visit. I look forward to seeing him at the feast."
Edwin's attention was drawn to the tall, blonde man who stood just behind Darion, the white stallion on his breastplate catching the old man's eyes. "I see you've brought Lord Madoran's heir with you. He has the look." Edwin remarked, gesturing for Saidan to come forward. "I knew your father well. His was a great loss to the people of Lordaeron." Edwin told him.
Darion nodded grimly in agreement--Saidan's father had been his own namesake. "Lord Edwin, may I present Saidan of house Madoran. Lord of Stone Hearth."
The young man's name brought a smile to the old man. "Lord Dathrohan was your namesake?" He questioned him.
"Yes, my lord. My mother was always fond of paladins. Would that I could have completed my own training and made her proud." Saidan told him.
Edwin waived a hand dismissively. "From what I hear of your recent deeds, your mother would be very proud indeed. Tell me... Who is this with you? She's far too silent." He questiond him, gesturing to Merredith.
Saidan glanced over his shoulder, gesturing for Merri to come forward. When she pulled back her hood, long, crimson hair fell well past her shoulders in curls--green eyes meeting the old man's with a nervous smile. Even tired from the road, she was no less than stunning, capturing the attention of every man in Lord Edwin's hall. "Allow me to introduce Miss Merrideth Flynn." Saidan told him, stepping aside.
"It's a pleasure to meet you, m'lord." She said softly, eyes hinting at how nervous she was just being in his hall.
"The pleasure is all mine, Miss Flynn. I believe I may have known your mother... Mary, was it? She lived in Andorhal if I'm not mistaken." Edwin told her, offering her the same warm reception he would a high born girl.
Merrideth lowered her gaze at the mention of her mother. Every northern lord knew that she had been Lord Henry Cassel's mistress. Merrideth herself had been a courtesan of some renown, though she doubted such reputation had reached lord Edwin so far north. "She was, m'lord. The plague claimed her when Andorhal fell." She told him.
Edwin frowned, offering the girl a sad smile. "She was a good woman, your mother. Lord Henry treated her poorly." Edwin admitted, never having much cared for Lord Henry Cassel. "He was your father, I take it?" He questioned her, referring to her change in demeanor.
She nodded, meeting his eyes once more. "Aye. Though as far as he was concerned, I never existed. I was raised by my mother until she fell ill."
"I'm sorry, my dear... I am old and I speak my mind. I did not wish to offend you or remind you of such things. You are most welcome here at the Reach." He told her, offering a gentle smile in hopes of putting the girl at ease.
They spent all morning in the hall, speaking of the new continent and the possibilities it offered.
To be continued...
Edric and Willem walked beside their father along the shore as the waves lapped at the jagged rocks. The sun hid behind storm clouds while a cold wind blew in off the water, the salt air filling their nostrils as they neared the beach. "I don't know when I'll be back." Erryk admitted, pausing to look out over the water. "The discovery of a new continent is no small thing, boys... If all goes well, there will be commerce between us and the people of the Reach will prosper for it. It means a better future for all of Lordaeron." He told them.
"I want to come with you. I can serve as your squire. I've been practicing every day and I'm ready for it." Edric told him.
Erryk smiled at his son, clapping a hand on his shoulder. "Aye... I'm sure you are. Your Grandfather needs you here. I need you here... If his health fails him, you'll be lord of the Reach while I'm gone. That's why I need you to stay by his side and do as he says."
"What if you don't come back?" Willem questioned him. "What are we to do then?"
Erryk smiled sadly, meeting the boy's eyes. "If something should happen to me, your brother will need your help more than ever."
"But I want to be a Knight of the Queen's Guard." Willem protested. "Why can't I go to Stormwind? I'll be old enough to squire soon."
Erryk chuckled softly, shaking his head. "You've no business in Stormwind, Willem. We don't belong there. You're a Thorn of the Reach and you'll be a Knight some day, but here where you belong... Not down south where you're no use to your people. You'll be my Champion some day and if something should happen to me, you'll fight for your brother to defend the people."
Willem nodded, albeit reluctantly. "Yes Sir..."
"I know this is hard for you and I'm proud of you both. Your mother would be proud, Light rest her soul..." Erryk told them, one hand resting on each of their shoulders. "Once it's safe, I promise you'll see the new land with your own eyes."
Edric nodded. "Is Sir Jon going with you? He'll make sure you come home to us."
Erryk chuckled softly, giving his son a pat on the head. "Aye... That he would, but who's going to protect you while I'm gone?"
"Uncle Reston." Edric answered immediately. "He'll turn into a wolf and tear the rotters to pieces with his bare hands!"
The boy's words had the three of them laughing. "Aye... Reston would never let anything hurt you, but he's only one man. You'll need the Knights of the Reach if the forsaken attack us while I'm away. Sir Jon's brother is coming with us though. He's been all over the world." Erryk told them, doing his best to reassure them both.
"And what about the lady from Stormwind? Is she going with you?" Edric questioned him.
"Joy? Aye... She's coming with me." Erryk replied.
"Are you going to marry her?" His son questioned him.
Erryk lofted a brow, meeting his son's eyes. "I don't know, Edric... We've only known each other a few weeks."
Edric nodded, looking as though he was about to say more, but Willem interrupted him. "You can't marry her. You swore a vow to Mother. That you'd love her till the day you die." He told him.
Erryk smiled sadly, taking a knee to meet the boy's eyes. "I've never stopped loving your mother, Willem... Just because we can't be together doesn't mean I don't still love her." He tried to explain.
"But how can you love her and be with someone else at the same time?" Willem questioned him.
Erryk sighed, eyes never leaving his son's as he considered how best to explain. "I miss your mother very much, but she's gone, Willem... I will always honor her memory. She loved us all very much and she'd want us to be happy. Don't you think?"
"I suppose so..." Willem replied, considering his father's words. "Wouldn't she be angry if you replaced her?" He questioned him.
Erryk shook his head, clapping a hand on the boy's shoulder. "I'm not trying to replace her. I could never replace her... When you're older, I promise you'll understand. Joy and I... We care for each other. She's a good woman, Willem and I promise... She's not trying to replace your mother. Just give her a chance."
Both boys nodded, though only Edric seemed to understand. "You're in love with her, aren't you? You always smile when you talk about her." Willem remarked, his comment eliciting laughter from his elder brother.
"Aye... She makes me happy." Erryk admitted. "Am I not entitled to some happiness?" He teased them.
Edric met his father's eyes with a smirk. "As long as you're not so grim all the time, I'm happy." He teased him.
"Grim? I'll show you grim..." Erryk growled, feigning anger, though he couldn't help but chuckle after just a moment. "Now come on. We should get back to the Keep. Lord Blackmorn will be expecting us."
To be continued...
Return To Stormwind
Erryk rose early that morning after only a few hours of sleep, slipping silently from beneath the covers and smiling as he glanced at her sleeping form. She was a vision of beauty even then--hair messed from sleep, sheets twisted about her nude form. She was as much a reason for what he'd agreed to do as his sons and their future. Loathe as he was to wake her, Erryk sat at the edge of the bed, fingers brushing softly through her hair as he leaned in to kiss the top of her head. "It's time for breakfast." He whispered softly, smiling as her eyes opened to meet his own. "I have to speak with Lord Darion, but I'll meet you in the great hall when I've finished." He told her before heading toward the door.
Darion looked as though he hadn't slept at all the night before, still dressed in his armor and pacing before the hearth in Lord Edwin's study. "We're going to need more men..." He muttered as Erryk approached. "The orcs have a stronger presence than we had first thought and you can bet your life that Hellscream is going to send more in the months to come. We'll be returning to Stormwind immediately. We have a week to recruit more men for the expedition." Darion told him.
Erryk was clearly not pleased to hear it, eyes meeting the paladin's own as his features became a grim mask. "I promised the lads I'd take them hunting before I left..." His words trailed off into a sigh. "Does it have to be so soon?" He questioned him.
"I'm sorry, Erryk. We have to be prepared and that means returning to Stormwind as soon as possible. I've already arranged for gryphons this afternoon. If you like, your sons are welcome to join us at Summer Hall." Darion told him. "Tori's children would be happy if they did." He said with a smile.
Erryk shook his head, the smile not returned. "They have no business in Stormwind. If not for the fact that more men and women of Lordaeron are there than there are here, I'd say we had no business in Stormwind either." He told him. "You're right though... It's best we get on with this and do what has to be done..." He muttered.
"I know what I'm asking of you and I know you'd rather remain here with your family, but what we do is for the sake of those we love. I need you, Erryk... You've led men into battle before and you've seen twice as much combat as Saidan and I combined. We're going to face multiple enemies on this new continent and there is no one I trust more to lead this expedition." Darion told him, his eyes relating his sincerity.
Erryk met his eyes with that same, grim expression. "You know damn well I can't refuse you... I swore an oath and my father taught me that a man should not treat his oaths recklessly. He also taught me that sometimes loyal service means telling hard truths... This expedition could mean a brighter future for us all, but it could also mean the end of us if we're not careful. One misstep could make us enemies of the locals and I doubt very much that they'll take kindly to us bringing our war to their homes." He told him, his tone as grim as the look in his eyes.
Darion nodded, taking a seat in one of the high back chairs beside the hearth. "Indeed..." His words trailed off into silence as he stared into the flames. "I chose you, because you're a man of honor and I respect you. You don't have it in you to tell me what I want to hear and that's something I can't say of a lot of people... Aye... Nothing would please me more than revenge for the deaths of my father and my cousins, but I'm not so blind as not to see where that road leads us."
Erryk took a seat in the chair beside him, hands folded in his lap. "I'd like nothing more than to see every one of those greenskin bastards dead, but if we engage them in open warfare on this new continent..." His words trailed off into silence for a moment. "We only fight when we must. We do what we came to do and if we're forced to defend ourselves, then so be it. We've less than thirty men between us and even if we were to find more in Stormwind, we can't hope to defeat an entire army." He told him.
"You're right... I won't march us to our deaths for the sake of revenge. That much, I swear to you." Darion told him, turning to meet his eyes. "Light knows we've all suffered enough loss to last a lifetime..."
"When Aemon fell, all I could think about was driving a sword through the Prince's heart myself... I killed him in my dreams every night and every night, I brought his rotting head back to my father to show him I'd avenged my brother's death. When I was wounded during the siege on Icecrown, I felt as though I'd failed and it took me a long time to get over that..." Erryk told him. "Even though I couldn't be there to see it myself, Arthas eventually fell. His death didn't bring Aemon back to life and it didn't pay for the thousands of lives lost during the rise of the scourge. I know you want to avenge your father... Believe me... I understand the pain and I understand the rage, perhaps better than anyone."
Darion could only nod as he considered the other man's words. Erryk was ten years his senior and while he might not have lost a father, he'd lost a wife and a brother to the scourge, his people lived in constant fear and of all people, Erryk understood the weight of the burden Darion now bore. "I never wanted to be lord of the Crossing, you know... My father was better suited to leadership." He muttered.
Erryk met his eyes with a sad smile. "Aye... I'd rather fall upon my own sword than be lord of the Reach after my father, but we have no control over the path fate sets us upon... I think you'll be a good leader though. You have the sense to listen to those who have more experience and you're not blinded by the pursuit of glory like so many others. I think you and I want the same thing for the people we care for."
Darion nodded once more, a tired smile touching his lips. "Aye... I want my son to grow up and know the peace I never have. I want to leave this world, knowing I've done everything I can to make that happen." He admitted.
"We'll get there some day, my lord... And just wait till he's at that age where he wants to follow in your footsteps. They want what they don't understand and no matter what you tell them about the true nature of war, they won't understand it until they've seen the grim reality of it with their own eyes... You spend your whole life trying to protect them from what you've seen, but do they listen?" He waived a hand dismissively, shaking his head. "Willem wants to be a Knight of the Queen's Guard and Edric... He wants to follow me to Pandaria and serve as my squire." He muttered.
Darion chuckled softly at the other man's comment, turning to face him. "As if I didn't already have enough to worry about... The last thing I want for my son is to be a paladin. I never want him to have to see the things I've seen, but I suppose my father felt the same way about me."
"Aye... All fathers want their sons to have a better life than they've had. The hardest thing is accepting that you can't force them to walk any path, save for the one fate chooses for them." Erryk told him, rising from his seat. "Well... I suppose we should enjoy a good breakfast while we can. I'll have the men ready for when we depart this afternoon."
To be continued...
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