Home > fiction, kenau > THE DEATH KNIGHT’S TALE

THE DEATH KNIGHT’S TALE

It was a time of Winter, in a place of Winter. Bannog could not imagine what Spring or Summer would look like in these frozen wastes of Dragonblight. Far below him, and as far as he could see in any direction, snow and ice dominated the landscape. Bannog was riding his new snowy white griffin, high in the air. At first, it had worried him to be riding the skies on a creature that was half eagle, half lion, and summoned by the magic in the leather reins he had been given, but the apprehension had worn off. The joy of it hadn’t.

Korenwolf, a Dwarven Paladin of the Light, soared past Bannog. “Oi! Longshanks! Try to keep up, will ye? I’m freezing me nadgers off up here, and there’s a pint in the beer garden in Dalaran with me name on it.”

Bannog grinned. “Never knew your middle name was Thunderbrew,” he shouted.

“Heretic! If ye’ve been drinking that dreg, no wonder you ain’t got the fire in ye!”

Bannog laughed. The rivalry between the two main brands of beer in the Dwarven homeland of Dun Morogh had reached epic proportions. Wolf worshipped the Holy Barleybrew. Bannog, to be honest, could easily drink either. Not that he’d ever admit that to Wolf, since he liked his front teeth to stay where they were.

Despite the bitter cold, he was enjoying himself. They were flying from the Wyrmrest Temple to the city of Dalaran, to meet up with two more Dwarven Paladins, and then start a Quest to defeat one of the minions of the evil Lich King in his lair at Utgarde Keep.

Quest.

It was such a nice word for it. It gave a certain shine to what objective observers might have described as murder and pillage. Not that the bastards didn’t deserve what they got, but still. They were all planning a quiet detour to the Ingvar the Plunderer’s armoury, to see what their unfortunate predecessors had left behind.

There was a shout from Wolf’s wife Kaylad. Her griffin was hovering in mid-air, and she was pointing down.

“Someone down there’s managed to aggro a whole herd of Magnataur. Looks like one of your lot, Bannog!”

Bannog peered down. Far below, a tiny figure was fighting at least a half dozen of the hulking creatures. From his vantage point, Bannog could see more walking towards the fight. Magnataur were among those creatures that would never have made it into Nature without magic. Some potent magical being must have seen the giants and the mammoths that walked Dragonblight, and thought how much better it would be to combine the two, so that now giants walked on four legs. They could wield massive clubs as well as kick and trample. It had not given them a sunny disposition.

Korenwolf was already in a power-dive, down to the fight. Bannog and Kaylad followed as fast as they could. Wolf had a reputation for recklessly rushing into any fight, which was not fair to him. He had a knack for planning fights quickly, and he and his wife could almost read each other’s minds. To the casual observer, though, it looked like Wolf just dived in headlong, and relied on his wife to keep him alive with her Paladin healing magic.

They touched down, some thirty yards from where the Human was fending off the Magnataur using only a sword. Korenwolf rushed out at the creatures, sword and shield out, bristling with the holy fire that the Light bestowed on its soldiers.

They were using the tactics affectionately known as “Tank and Spank”. Wolf was wearing the best armour that they could scrounge up. It was his job to taunt, harrass, threaten and otherwise keep the enemy occupied. This, of course, earned him the loving attention of all, which was where the excellent armour, not to mention a whole spellbook of protective magic, came in. Meanwhile, Bannog did damage from behind or from the flanks. Kaylad lurked in the shadows unnoticed, and used her healing magic whenever this tactic resulted in one of them getting hurt. It worked amazingly well, even on creatures this size.

As soon as they noticed Korenwolf rushing out at them, most of the creatures turned round and galopped towards him. Bannog skirted round, not unnoticed but ignored for now.

The Magnataur laid into Wolf, trampling and swinging their great clubs. With amazing speed and skill, he weaved and dodged between the massive legs and weapons.

Bannog shouted, and his sword bit deep into the legs of the creatures, which was all even he could reach. No matter. Once they fell over, their heads and chests would come down to him.

One by one, the Magnataur fell, until only two remained. One attacked Wolf, the other charged at the woman, who had joined Bannog in attacking the Magnataur from the side. Before she could move or dodge, the Magnataur swung his club, swept her legs from under her and sent her flying.

Bannog winced as he saw the woman try to struggle to her feet, and fall down again. He yelled, and ran at the monster, slashing out at its hind leg. The Magnataur stumbled and fell.

Korenwolf leapt upon its body, turned his sword round in his hand and stabbed down into its head. It gave a shivering cry, then lay still.

A small distance away, Kaylad cast her healing spells. She raised her arms skywards, and her lips moved silently. The glow of the Light streamed from her, towards the Human, who was on one knee, eyes closed, teeth clenched. Slowly, she raised her head, tested her leg, and stood up. She turned to Kaylad.

“Thank you,” she said. Kaylad suddenly shuddered. Grey pale eyes shone at her with a deadly light. Korenwolf took a sharp breath.

“Och ye gods! It’s one of them Death Knights!” He frowned, his deep-set eyes shining with a fierce light, remembering the battle at Light’s Hope Chapel. Death Knights had been the most powerful minions of the Enemy. King Arthas, the Lich King, had created them from the bodies of his fallen enemies. They were not like other Undead, in that they retained their original souls, even though the memories of their former selves were suppressed. It had been frightening beyond all else to see beloved, familiar faces, somehow healed of the wounds that had killed them, invulnerable, malignant, arrayed against them, Dwarf, Gnome, Elf or Human. Korenwolf scowled.

“If I’d only known. I wouldnae have bothered.”

Bannog studied her, wiping his sword clean with a rag. She was about as tall as he was, which was rare. Her hair was cropped short, and dark. Her face was unexpectedly quite beautiful, though the skin was too pale. He’d only heard of Death Knights, never seen them, and had expected rotting flesh hanging from bare bones. The most striking thing about her, though, was the glow in her eyes. Glowing eyes were not uncommon among the magically inclined, but Human spellcasters rarely had them. If it weren’t for those eyes, she might almost pass for a normal Human woman. She was wearing pieces of armour that had obviously been picked up from all over the place. Bannog’s eyes were drawn to her sword. It was a basic straight up-and-down two-handed model, elegant in its simplicity. Runes were engraved on it, and it shone with a pale deadly green light. She looked from the Dwarven paladins to Bannog and back. Bannog sheathed his sword, and held out his gauntleted hand.

“Bannog of Caer Bannog,” he said. “Well met!”

“Kenau,” she said, taking his hand. “Thank you all for your help.”

Bannog stared. Something was wrong with her voice. It sounded almost like five voices were speaking the same words at the same time. She might not pass for a normal woman after all.

“My pleasure,” said Korenwolf. “Oh wait. Never mind. Well, if that’s all, then we’ll be off. Vrykul don’t kill themselves, ye ken?”

Bannog looked at Kenau’s face.

“Will you be alright? Where are you going?” She looked too fragile to dare these frozen wastes, but before she ran into this lot, she’d made it on her own. She was probably tougher than she looked.

“Dalaran,” said Kenau. “And from there on to Zul’drak.”

“Do you have a flying mount? If so, you can travel with us. Safety in numbers.”

Korenwolf choked. “What? Ye want to travel with that, that… woman? She’s one of the Lich King’s sweethearts, remember?”

“Was,” said Kenau. Her luminous eyes bored into Korenwolf’s. “The Lich King and I are no longer on speaking terms. When next we meet, I will kill him.”

“Don’t be daft. If ye’ve got trouble with this lot here, then Arthas will only have to sneeze on you ta kill ye. No skin off my nose, mind, but ye don’t strike me as a fool.”

“I will learn to fight better, until I am able to join the other betrayed ones of the Ebon Blade in Zul’Drak. Together, we will march on Icecrown and destroy Arthas.”

“Well, we can use all the help we can get,” said Kaylad. “Mount up people, this is no place to stay in.”

They all summoned their mounts. Kenau raised her hand, and magic flowed. A few moments later, she was mounted on the skeleton of a griffin. Korenwolf took one look at it, and scowled. For the love of the Light… He raised his hand.

“Move out!”

Night fell over Northrend. The Dwarves and the Humans of various vitality dismissed their griffins and made ready to set up camp for the night. Bannog built a small campfire, on which Kaylad cooked the preserved fish that they used as battle rations. Korenwolf grudgingly accepted Kenau’s assistance in setting up the tents. That done, they sat down round the fire, where Kaylad had set down their fish feast. Some musselback sculpin, a few glacial salmon caught that very morning, lots of small nettlefish for extra kick, and some warming Northern spices, with a few token oranges thrown in “to prevent scurvy,” as Kaylad said. How they were supposed to prevent scurvy if no-one ate them but Kaylad, was a mystery. Probably some specialised cooking magic. She served out bowls of fish to Korenwolf and Bannog, then held up a bowl to Kenau.

“Hey you. Do you still eat?”

Kenau nodded. Kaylad filled the bowl and handed it to her.

“Thank you.” They all stared at her as she ate, her eyes on the fire. She looked up at Bannog, who quickly turned his eyes away. They finished their meal in silence. Kaylad put away her bowls and dishes and Bannog wrapped a few of the rocks from the fire into bits of cloth, to put in their sleeping furs. Korenwolf took him aside.

“Lad, we’ve got two tents and four bodies. There’s no way under sun or moon I’d let Kaylad sleep with that Death Knight, so you’re the lucky one tonight.”

“Yeah. Had a feeling I might be.”

“Och, don’t fash yerself. I’ve seen you sleep with one eye open so you can nab her if she touches you. Besides,” Korenwolf grinned. “Ye like chicks with glowin’ eyes!”

Bannog thought of Ariciel, who was, at this moment, probably stretching out under the weird glowing skies of old Draenor, or Outland, as it was now called. He sighed.

“This Kenau’s eyes are nowhere near as good as Ariciel’s,” he said, and grinned. “Besides, you always say that Humans will get it on with anything with a pulse, and I’m not sure she has one. I wouldn’t want to be with someone if I had to provide all the body heat.”

Korenwolf was not looking at him. He was looking over Bannog’s shoulder. Bannog closed his eyes briefly.

“She’s standing behind me, isn’t she? How much did she hear of that?”

He slowly turned round, starting to apologise. Kenau was indeed standing behind him. She tilted her head slightly, giving Bannog a cold look. Her hand went up to her shirt, and she undid the top few buttons. Then, she reached out, took Bannog’s arm, and placed his hand inside her shirt, just underneath her left breast. Bannog opened his mouth to say something, but forgot what. Her skin was warm, soft, and beneath it, he could feel…

“There,” said Kenau. “Not very different from your girlfriend’s is it? My heart still beats, I still breathe. Warm blood still runs through my veins. Touch me the right way, and my heart still beats faster, my breath still races, and all the things you would expect to happen… still do.” Kenau let go of Bannog’s arm, and he pulled it back, slowly.

“Try it, if you want.” Kenau’s eyes glowed brighter. “I no longer care. The feeling you have when you are with a man, is the Light’s reward for creating more life. I can no longer create life. I can only destroy it.”

Kenau turned away, and stirred the last glowing embers of the camp fire, not even bothering to cover herself up again. She took a deep breath.

“In the Days Before, I was a guard at Tyr’s Hand. I was in front of the chapel, on duty, when some heretic Paladin came running up. I put up my shield, but I needn’t have bothered. He knocked it aside, as if it wasn’t there. Good hard shot to the chest, and that was it. I was dead before my body hit the ground.”

“Yeah, sorry about that,” said Korenwolf. “But you religious nutters should know better than to stand between me and something I want.”

Kenau shrugged. “It wasn’t a very good life anyway.”

Bannog started to laugh, but then, he saw her face. The woman meant what she said! He fell silent.

“We lived our lives by the sacred teachings of the Light, or at least we tried. If we strayed from the path, our elders would cleanse us of sin. Mortification of the flesh, so that it would sin no more, nor draw our attention away from the one true Path.”

Kaylad’s eyes narrowed. “I know that word. Mortification. It means whips.”

“Whips, canes, sticks. There were many instruments. More pain for more serious sins. Pleasuring oneself, twenty-five strokes of the cane. Swearing or cursing, ten lashes of the whip. Pleasuring another outside of Holy Union…” Kenau looked up at Kaylad. “Death by hanging for both.”

“You can tell there’s a lot of love there,” said Kaylad. “When they send you to the gallows or strip the skin off yer back for enjoying yerself.”

“You can’t get pregnant off your own fingers, can you? So you’re stealing the Reward from the Light without giving life in return. Do you think that theft from the Light should go unpunished?” The words came out too smoothly, too easily. Kaylad’s eyes softened. She could hear that those words were not Kenau’s own. How many times would she have had to listen to those words? Light only knew.

“Better not get caught then,” said Bannog.

“Caught?” Kenau looked at him. “When you sin, you report it to your Father Confessor, who will then see to your punishment. After that, you are clean once more. To die with unconfessed sins, is to be extinguished.”

Bannog gaped. “You crazy buggers give yourself up? Even for a hanging?”

“If you give yourself up, a hanging is all you get. If you are found out, without a confession, your sins are cleansed by fire.”

“By the Light,” said Korenwolf. “All we need to do to rid ourselves of ye is leave you crazy eejits alone for a while!”

“We who remain are stronger. At least, that’s what I believed until I died.” Kenau paused. She shivered, noticed that her shirt was still open and buttoned it up.

“I woke up. I was buried. I wrestled myself up out of the ground, and I was in the Necropolis, The Overseer judged me fit to serve. Then I felt it.” Kenau’s pale face lit up, her lips slightly parted, even now recalling the…

“I felt wanted. I felt like I had come home, and was appreciated not simply as a vessel for the next generation, or an expendable asset to put in front of a door, but for what I could do. Oh, the things I could do! I was strong. Stronger than I ever was or might have been. I had power. Power to defeat the enemies of King Arthas, the Lich king, who loved me, and had saved me from death, removed the wounds and weaknesses from my body, and given me… immortality! I had even forgotten who I was in the Days Before, but it didn’t matter. I named myself Kenau, after a famous warrior woman, and set out to become an instrument of the Lich King’s will.” Kenau’s eyes strayed towards Korenwolf.

“I was good at what I did. My first task was to execute a neophyte who had proven unworthy. I carved the runes of blood into my sword, waited for him to put on his armour, then I fought him. Nearly, I died again, but I won, and watched the blood flow out of him, into the sand of the arena. Then, I was healed and brought to the Lich King, who looked on me and was glad. From that moment on, I lived to do the bidding of the Lich King.”

Kenau closed her eyes a moment, hiding the light within. Slowly, she shook her head.

“I would have appalled my former self, but it made such sense. Life is suffering. It is a test, to see who is strong enough to be granted the Life Eternal. The weak ones are consumed. The strong thrive upon them, and I was strong. We ventured out into New Avalon, and razed it to the ground. We boiled the skulls of our fallen enemies to make potions to heal ourselves in battle. I still have a few. I should throw them away, but then, those people would have died for nothing. We killed all the people who lived there, knowing that those who deserved it would be reborn to serve the Lich King. Eventually, only the immortal ones would remain, and there would be peace forever. It was wonderful. When you killed one, you could see. At the very last moment, on the edge between life and death, there was such an expression of joy on their faces, as they, too, saw the Truth. I felt glad that I had helped them achieve that joy.”

Korenwolf snorted. “Ye honestly thought you were doing them a favour by killin’ them? You are one messed-up bitch.”

Kenau scowled, looking at Korenwolf. “That revelation, I have already been granted. It was granted me, when my captain ordered me to execute a prisoner, and that prisoner recognised me, calling me by my old name. I remembered her. Often, we had carried out one another’s mortifications.”

Bannog winced. “That’s nasty, making your friends whip you. But still, that way, you can go a bit easy on each other.”

“What? And risk them losing their very soul? That would be sin beyond sin! She gave me all I was due, and I her. Neither of us would have expected otherwise. And now, I was to carry out one more punishment.”

“Which no doubt you refused to do, and the two of you escaped, yes?”

Kenau shook her head. “Not a chance. If we had tried, we both would have been executed. We both knew it.”

Kaylad’s face was drawn, hard as stone. “So you killed her.”

“Yes. She didn’t resist. I used all my new skills to make it quick and painless. And then she was dead, and within me, there was the first seed of doubt. I pushed it away, as best I could. I fought many battles after that, against the last few defences in the town, and the last survivors. And then, the Lich King and all the Death Knights marched on Light’s Hope Chapel, to destroy the Argent Dawn. From there on, the world.”

Korenwolf gave her a satisfied smile. “And that fight, you bastards lost. That chapel is protected by more than swords. Bet you Arthas had forgotten that!”

“Yes, we lost. I was there when King Arthas tried to take the chapel and couldn’t. I saw him turn his back on us, and leave for Northrend. And then the shells fell from our eyes.”

Kenau’s jaw set, and a grim look was on her face, betraying her anguish. She took a few deep breaths before she could continue her story.

“We weren’t chosen for our strength, or for our faith, or loyalty. We were simply chosen because our bodies were still in good enough shape and did not need much reconstruction. The Lich King’s corpse-takers pulled us in, repaired the damage and bound our souls. Then, they cast the spells and we were breathing again. The ones we killed never had any chance of being reborn. You can’t fight without a head. We had been betrayed more than anyone had ever been betrayed.”

“If yer looking for sympathy from me, don’t hold yer breath,” said Korenwolf. “If you’d have had a lick of sense to begin with, you wouldn’t have fallen for it.”

“We should never have strayed. I should have known that there is no redemption, other than through the Light Everlasting. They would have killed me, and I would have been saved. Now, I continue to exist on the Light stolen from the living. I am damned. I can never be saved. There is no more joy for me, no more life. There is only one more thing now that I will take pleasure in.”

Kenau looked at Bannog, Korenwolf, Kaylad, then back at the fire. Only a few more glowing embers remained.

“I want to see Arthas bleed his last into the snow of Icecrown. I want to see his breath fail, his eyes go empty, and to see his rotten soul cast into the Twisting Nether. And then…”

Kenau grabbed a handful of snow in her hand, and threw it at the last ember of the fire. With a tiny hiss, it went out. She stood up.

“Then, I want to die.”


Bannog lay in his warm sleeping furs, and could not get to sleep. It never used to be that hard. He’d turn off his mind, and drift off. He’d been to Outland, where Ariciel was questing now with her Draenei friend. It was a dangerous place, and he hoped she would be alright there. He sighed, turned over, then turned over again. The woman next to him stirred. Apparently, she couldn’t sleep either. When she whispered, Kenau’s voice almost sounded normal.

“Why aren’t you sleeping? I assure you, I have no intention of harming you.”

“Thinking,” said Bannog. “Bad habit, I know. Why aren’t you asleep?”

“I might dream.”

“Bad conscience?”

“Yes. I see… faces. Faces I thought were smiling.” She stirred. “Never mind. You should sleep, or you will not be rested tomorrow.”

“True. Good night.” He laid down his head, and tried to drift off, with no more success than before. He stirred again.

“What are you thinking, that can’t stop?”

“My girlfriend. She’s in Outland. I worry about her.” Bannog stared at the rough linen of the roof of the tent. “I miss her.” He closed his eyes.

“Is she your wife?”

Bannog smiled. “No. Her kind don’t tend to go in for marriage much, unless they have a good reason.”

“Her kind? Do you mean she is not Human?”

Bannog turned onto his back, smiling as he always did when he thought of Ariciel. “She’s a glorious, beautiful Night-elf Druid, and I wish I was with her now.”

“Night-elf? No wonder. Many tales have been told of the enchantments woven by the Kel’dorei. They have strayed from the True Path of the Light, instead worshipping some false deity called Elune. It would be more fitting for you to choose a Human woman as your companion.”

“Hah. Are you offering?”

“I wouldn’t refuse if you wanted to. It would repay some of my debt to you. But I am no longer a suitable companion for anyone. We both are already tainted beyond hope of redemption. You through your unnatural junction to an Elf, I through my service to the Lich King.”

It took a few seconds for this to sink in. Bannog turned his head towards Kenau. His voice was calm and even.

“Do you mean to say that my falling in love with a beautiful woman like Ariciel, is as bad as you aiding the Lich King, murdering countless people, and boiling their heads for healing potions? Do think before answering that.”

“No. My transgressions far outstretch yours. I could not be cleansed of them in a hundred lifetimes. Still, we both have strayed. Had you been one of us, your life, and hers, would be forfeit. So the Light teaches us.”

“Does it? Who told you that?”

“Our High Priest, of course. He is wise in the ways of the Light, and knows the Path.”

Bannog scowled. “I must meet this High Priest sometime, and ask him to explain that to me. I’ll bet a sword sharpened with consecrated sharpening stones would work a treat on him.”

Kenau sat up. “I have offended you. I apologise. I will leave.”

“Don’t be silly. It’s freezing outside. Go to sleep.” Bannog frowned, looking at Kenau’s bare back in the moonlight. “Hey.”

“What?”

“Your back. You said you took a lot of beatings.”

“Mortification. I did. I was weak.”

“That would leave scars, wouldn’t it?”

“Yes. Why?”

Bannog ran his hand over Kenau’s back. He felt nothing.

“The scars are gone. Your skin is unmarked.”

Kenau looked over her shoulder, her eyes glowing in the dark.

“What do you mean by that?”

“I don’t know what it means, but I think it’s a hopeful sign, don’t you?”

Kenau lay back down, turned over, turning her back to Bannog.

“The signs of my penitence have been erased from me. There is no hope, except the hope for oblivion.”

Bannog rolled his eyes. Clearly, this Kenau woman could turn the sunrise into a bad sign. He turned round once more.

“Good night, Kenau.”

“Sleep well.”


“So, what’s she like? Any good?”

A little way away, Kenau was rolling up the tent and stowing it away. Kaylad was clearing up the debris of breakfast. Wolf and Bannog were covering up the remains of their campfire with snow.

“Start thinking with the head on your shoulders, will ye? I’m not about to trade Ariciel in on some undead bint, She’s strange. She told me that it was unfitting for me to love Ariciel, then offered to take her place since we both were already heading for oblivion anyway.”

Korenwolf took a deep breath, then let it out slowly.

“She said she was at Tyr’s Hand. That means she was with the Scarlet Crusade. May the Light forgive me, but I really hate ’em.”

Wolf bent down, and scraped away the snow, uncovering a patch of rock. He pointed at a small growth of lichen on it.

“See that? It’s buried under six inches of snow. It’s on bare rock, and it never gets warm enough here for water to run properly. And still, the Light flows through it, and it grows, and it turns itself into more of itself. That’s how powerful the Light really is. There isn’t a place in Azeroth or out of it where the Light does not shine, and makes things live, and be glad.” Korenwolf cast a glance at Kenau, and scowled. “And those Scarlet Crusade bastards take it, and turn it into an excuse for torturing the poor souls unfortunate enough to be born into their midst.”

“Yeah. Those beatings are bad.”

“Pah. The beatings aren’t the worst of it. They’ve got things worse than whips. Even worse than those hangings. It’s the way they make their children want to be beaten. Making them feel guilty about everything they do. All in the name of the Light. According to the Holy Scriptures.” Korenwolf spat out those last few words.

“Oh come on. I’ve been in the library in Ironforge. You can’t see the walls for the books.”

“Oh, we’ve got reams and reams of religious texts. Observations of the Priests and Paladins since time began. But no so-called Sacred Texts. We don’t need them. If anyone wants to know what it is that the Light wants them to do, they can see without taking a single step to go and find it. Even here. And I can tell ye one thing. It isn’t to beat the blood out of yer back after havin’ a bit of a cuddle.”

“You’ve got me convinced. Now convince her.”

“Lost cause, lad. Lost cause. She’s determined to be miserable and nothing will convince her otherwise.”

“You’re probably right. Would you believe it? The scars on her back are gone, and she thinks that’s another sign that she’s doomed.”

“Like I said, lost cause.”


Bannog’s griffin was labouring, its wings beating with strong strokes, as it climbed towards the flying city of Dalaran. The city was a true place of wonders. In it lived the people of the Kirin Tor. It was built on a mountain that the high magics of the Kirin Tor had wrenched from the very surface of Azeroth, and carried to this place. Today, the sky was clear and they could see all of Dalaran in its gold and violet splendour. Far in the depth below them lay the glittering trees of Crystalsong Forest. Bannog stared down, his breath quite taken away.

Korenwolf flew some yards ahead of them. He pointed at a green grassy space where many flying mounts were landing and taking off.

“Krasus’ Landing dead ahead, lads and lasses!” shouted Wolf. “Be careful! Don’t fly over the city or they’ll knock you off yer griffin. Those streets are hard and we’d have tae scrape ye off ’em!”

Bannog’s griffin hovered, as he had to wait for some kind of dragon to fly in. On it rode a large horned creature, like a two-legged bull. A tauren. They were with the Horde. Enemies. Kaylad had told him they would be here, but the city of Dalaran was an official sanctuary and no fighting was allowed. The Kirin Tor took this very seriously, and would throw anyone caught picking a fight out of the city. Given that the city floated a mile up in the sky, nobody offended twice. Before dismissing his griffin, he stroked its feathers. He didn’t know why. A few yards behind him, Kenau leapt off her skeletal griffin, and it disappeared. Korenwolf pointed to the north-east.

“Zul’drak is that way Miss. Safe travels.”

Kenau frowned. “I need some supplies. And a bank. Don’t worry, Paladin Korenwolf. I’ll be gone before you know it.”

“Good. Right. Parsley will be waiting in the beer garden.” Wolf grinned. “She knows what a man wants after a long flight.”

“As long as ye keep yer big hands off the brew maidens,” said Kaylad, “unless ye want ta trade me in on one.”

“Pah! Brew maidens cannae do a proper layin’ on of hands to save their lives! Ye’ve spoilt me for all other women!”

Kenau stared, mouth open. Bannog grinned at her.

“It’s alright. They’re married. They’re allowed.”

“They use the most powerful healing spells for pleasure? That’s…” She fell silent.

Bannog rolled his eyes, put a hand on Kenau’s shoulder. “You said you needed some supplies right? Well, so do I. Could you show me where they are? Great. Wolf, see you in the beer garden in an hour or so.”

“A whole hour? I’ll see two of you by then!”

Bannog grinned, and gently nudged Kenau to the stairs down. She had been in Dalaran before, and could show Bannog where to get arrows. With his quiver full, he rounded on Kenau, took off his glove and held out his hand to her. Kenau took it.

“May you find what you seek. A priestess once told me, nobody is beyond redemption. She meant it.”

“She hasn’t met me, or so I hope.” Kenau’s turned her eyes down. “I’m sorry for my words last night. I should not have judged you. I am not one to speak.”

“Hard habit to break. Be safe, Kenau. Until we meet again.”

“Until we meet again.”

Bannog nodded, smiled, turned away and made for the beer garden. In it, he found Korenwolf and Kaylad, wearing unhappy frowns. Bannog sat down on the bench next to Kaylad, and waved at a brew maiden. He looked around for his childhood friend Parsley, and Tanque, Wolf and Kaylad’s son. They weren’t there.

“Where’s the rest of the gang?”

“That’s a good question,” said Wolf. “They should be here. We always meet up either here or at the Landing.”

“They leave a message?”

“Lemme check,” said Wolf. He trotted out to the mailbox, retrieved a piece of parchment and came walking back, a frown on his face. He put the message on the table and pushed it to Kaylad. As she read, an expression like a thundercloud appeared on her face.

“I’m going to kill that boy,” said Kaylad.

Bannog craned his neck to see the message.

Dear Mum and Dad,

I’ve been invited to the Violet Hold, to join in the struggle against the Blue Dragonflight. This is a great honour, and they said I might be rewarded with a particularly good piece of armour. I will hold the name of our family high. Auntie Parsley will be there to heal me if I need it.

Yours, Tanque.

“Auntie Parsley has some explaining to do,” said Korenwolf. Bannog cast a mournful glance at his pint of Barleybrew, then put it down.

“I suppose we’ll have to go and pull him out, won’t we?”

“And they say that warriors have no intellect,” said Wolf. “Move out!”

The Violet Hold was a prison block in the middle of the city. In it were the most dangerous threats to the people of Dalaran. It was reckoned to be impregnable. The trouble was, as soon as you attach a label such as “unsinkable” or “invincible” to something, people will flock to the object in question and see if they cannot sink, overcome, or in this case break into it after all. The Violet Hold had been breached. A huge crack had appeared in its roof one day, and that was only the beginning of its trouble. As soon as the defences were breached, portals from all manner of nasty places had appeared, from which emerged the forces of the Blue Dragonflight. The Blue Dragonflight was a clan of Dragons that held thousand-year grudges against the Kirin Tor, and some of the ones who had started them were still alive. Until the integrity of the prison could be restored, all the Kirin Tor could do, was to send in troops to kill anything that came crawling in through the Twisting Nether. A long stream of wandering heroes had already been fed into its maw. A not-so-long stream of heroes came out again, bloodied and wild-eyed.

Korenwolf crashed into the doors of the Violet Hold. Just outside, a tired group of soldiers were recovering from a battle. Lots of bandages and healing spells were involved. Wolf homed in on the one in charge, a woman named Sinclari. Lieutenant to her soldiers.

“Open that door!”

Lieutenant Sinclari gave Wolf a weary look. “No.”

“I’m asking ye nicely. Open that door.”

“I’m answering you nicely. No.”

“Look ye over-grown bint. My son is in there, and I have to get him out. So open that door and let me in.”

Lieutenant Sinclari bent down to look into Korenwolf’s eyes. “Behind those doors are the most dangerous inmates known to the Kirin Tor. Erekem the Arakkoa. Ichoron the water revenant. Lavanthor the core hound. I want them to stay behind those doors. You want them to stay behind those doors. Everybody…” Sinclari waved her hand. “Wants them to stay behind those doors. Those individuals are probably rampaging around at this very moment. Behind those doors. So why would I want to open them?”

“Because outside those doors, there is Korenwolf, Paladin of the Light, Champion of the Argent Dawn. By the Light, if you don’t let me in then you’ll want to be behind those doors yerself.”

“I live there, and you don’t scare me. The doors stay shut, unless someone with the key comes along. Now do you have the key?”

“I don’t, damn ye,” said Korenwolf.

“I do,” said a deathly voice.

Wolf gaped. Behind him stood Kenau, holding a surprisingly small violet key in her hand.

“This will let you into the prison. It won’t let you out.”

“Don’t care. My son is in there. Get us in.”

Kenau looked at Lieutenant Sinclari, who nodded. Kenau fitted the key to the lock, twisted it and a section of the wall glowed brighter.

“After you,” said Kenau. Korenwolf looked round at Bannog.

“Coming?”

“Are ye mad? It’s certain death in there! Of course I’m coming.”

Kaylad made ready to follow her husband in. Sinclari put her hand on Kaylad’s shoulder.

“Are you sure you want to go in there, Miss? It gets… intense.”

Kaylad smiled. An aura of pure white grew about her. Sinclari quickly pulled her hand away. Kaylad’s smile broadened.

“That’s the way we like it. Nights get dull otherwise.”

Sinclari only gave Kenau a single glance, as she followed Kaylad in. Light only knew why that revenant wanted in, but if she killed a few enemies before they got her, so much the better.

Within seconds, all hell broke loose.


They spotted Tanque immediately, hidden in a corner, standing guard over the prone body of a Dwarf. Every so often, one of the transparent blue creatures that were in the dungeon would attack, only to be fended off by Tanque’s axe. It was clear that he could not stand for much longer. Wolf’s helmed head turned this way and that, spotting enemies, calculating. Then, he ran to one of the switches that were set into the wall, and pulled it. Lightning filled the hall and all the enemies screeched in horror.

“Bannog! Dead chick! Get to him. I’ll try to pull as many away from you as I can.”

Kaylad didn’t need to be told. She fell in behind Wolf and started casting spells. Bannog cried out and rushed at the creatures that were attacking Tanque, followed by Kenau. Together, they managed to beat off the attackers, and relieve Tanque, who stood still, two-handed axe clutched in his fists, shaking.

“Too many. Too bloody many. Couldn’t keep them off. Killed all the others. Parsley…”

Bannog kneeled by the unmoving body of his childhood friend, and turned her over. Putting his fingers on her cheek, he turned her face up to him. Her eyes opened as if by a very slow moving mechanism, then a smile appeared on her face.

“Bannog! Hi! Gimme a hug!”

Her eyes closed again, and she slumped. Bannog felt for a pulse. Faint, but regular.

“She’s out of it,” said Bannog.

“Out of mana,” said Tanque. “Used everything to heal me. Even lay on hands.”

“Let’s worry about that later,” said Kenau. She handed Tanque a bottle filled with a dark liquid. “Drink.”

“And don’t ask what’s in it,” said Bannog. Tanque gave him a look, took a deep breath and gulped down the potion in one long draught. He coughed.

“Tastes like my socks,” he said.

“It gets you back on your feet,” said Kenau.

Tanque raised himself to his full height, which was about Kenau’s chest height, and looked up at her. He gave her a grin.

“Thanks, Miss!”

“Down, boy,” said Bannog. “Let’s see if your father would like some help.”

They could see Wolf in the middle of the hall, in among a group of blue Draconic creatures. Bannog raised his sword, and looked at Kenau.

“Sure you’re up to this? They look nastier than the Magnataur.”

Kenau’s lips parted, showing her teeth. “Those hulks blundered into me as I was resting. Now, I’m prepared.”

Bannog took a deep breath, and shouted. They ran to the fight. Bannog and Tanque crashed into the melee, but Kenau held back. Her breath hissed through her teeth, and holding her two-handed sword in her left hand, she pointed her right arm forward. The sound that came from her lips had never been uttered by Human or Dwarf.

Even Bannog, who was not a target, shuddered as clouds of green gas burst forth. The blue Dragon-creature caught the full blast. It retched, coughed, threw up green bile. It dropped its weapon, fell over and went into convulsions that only stopped when Korenwolf stuck his sword in its chest.

Kenau charged. Her sword left a trail of vicious green light as it slashed into the enemies. Under the combined onslaught of Korenwolf, Bannog, Tanque and Kenau, the Dragonkin were soon defeated. Kenau stood in a pile of her fallen enemies, arms spread out and downward, the tip of her sword resting on the ground, teeth bare. Her eyes shone so brightly that the glow hid most of her face. She was taking deep breaths, chest and shoulders slowly rising and falling. Tanque stared at her, mouth open. Bannog bent down to whisper in his ear.

“I hear she doesn’t have a boyfriend.”

“N-no thank you!”

Korenwolf looked round. “Quit corruptin’ my son, Bannog. Parsley?”

“Knocked out, but alive. Left her in a quiet corner.”

“Good. Blast! There’s another portal! Hop to it!”

Bannog stood still, shield raised in front of him, sword raised. They’d killed all the blue creatures from the portal, but one of them had managed to open the door to another one of the cells. From it, a hulking shape was striding towards them. It looked like a dog, in the same way that a dragon looks vaguely like a bird. It had two massive heads, and both were looking at Korenwolf, large, sharp teeth bared. From it came a low, menacing growl, that spoke not even of death, but of rending, tearing of flesh. Bannog could see in its eyes the desire, not even for its victims’ death, but for the killing, the taste of warm blood. Its hide shone with an inner fire, and its eyes glowed a deadly red.

Korenwolf raised his head. He frowned in concentration, and a protective ward grew round him. It looked to Bannog as if the ground round Korenwolf started to glow with a fierce bright light. The creature set foot in it, yelped and pulled back its paw. A grim smile appeared on Korenwolf’s bearded face.

“Don’t like it, do ye? Come on! I’ll send ye back to the Lightless wastes where ye came from!”

The creature roared, with both its heads, and charged in. Korenwolf held its attention, Bannog ran to the left, Kenau to the right, and Tanque all the way round, to attack it from behind. Bannog found that even his sharp blade could not cut deep into the creature. He could not see Kenau behind the bulk of the corehound, but he could hear her otherworldly cries as she cast her spells of plague, death and ruin. The ground underneath the creature turned from its former reddish brown to an ash-coloured grey. Bannog almost imagined that he could see skeletal arms rising from it, clawing at the creature’s massive legs.

Bannog redoubled his efforts, hacking and slashing at the creature’s side. With incredible speed, one of the heads turned round to him, and the jaws snapped at his sword. Bannog jumped back, just in time. One of the massive front legs swiped out at him, and swept his legs from under him. He landed hard on the floor. He was sure he’d heard something snap, though he could not feel any pain.

He tried to get up. The pain hit him, sudden and intense. His leg refused to support him and he fell to the ground, face drawn in a grimace of agony. Bannog cried out, in pain and frustration. He would not be able to do his part in damaging the creature. It would not be enough, and they would all die.

As he watched, the corehound kicked back at Tanque, who was thrown back, rolled over, then was on his feet again, shouting defiance and charging back in. Bannog looked round at Kaylad, but he could see immediately that there was no help there. With a determined look on her face, she was casting healing spell after healing spell at her husband, and their son. Only one thing Bannog could do. He fumbled for his bow.

With a terrifying crunch, Bannog’s sickeningly-bent leg suddenly straightened. He gasped, but to his surprise, no pain came. A white glow was about his wounded leg, and then the glow faded. He looked behind him. In the middle of despair, he suddenly laughed with relief. Parsley! She was standing behind him, healing him.

“Well met, young Bannog! Now hit it, there’s a good lad!”

Bannog got to his feet, amazed and grateful for the blessed absence of pain. He threw away his shield, drew a dagger and charged in, once more slashing and stabbing at the core-hound’s hide. He got lucky three times in a row. Three times, a vicious stab pierced the creature.

It howled, no longer in rage, but in fear, uncertainty, doubt. In a final frenzy, it raised itself on its hind legs, and blindly lashed out with its claws.

Kenau was hit in the stomach, and fell to the ground. With Parsley healing Bannog and Tanque, Kaylad had some power left. Several flashes of light surrounded Kenau, and she shot Kaylad a quick glance, then got back to her feet and resumed her attack.

With an enormous swing, Korenwolf split one of the skulls of the creature, which slumped to the ground, its other head looking up at Korenwolf, shaking, fangs bare, aware of what awaited it.

“Die, ye bastard!”

With a final crash, Wolf’s sword struck the core-hound’s second skull, and it yelped once, then lay still. They all cried out, wordless shouts. We live!

Kaylad grinned. “Parsley! How nice of you to join us!”

Parsley took off her helm, revealing long red hair, tied in a large single braid.

“Nothing like a nap and a cup of honey-mint tea to get you going again. Did I miss much?”

“Just a bit of slaughter.”

“Right,” said Wolf. “Now we had the little blue buggers coming out of the portals. One of them let that floating eye thing out of its cage. Then, we got another portal and more little blue buggers. They let out this hell mutt. I have a suggestion.” Wolf looked at each of his comrades in turn. “Next time, when you see one of these little scunners ambling towards one of the cells, whistling a little hellish tune…” He took a deep breath. “Could one of ye gits please find it within yerselves to knock the bugger’s block off BEFORE he opens the bloody door? Thank you!”

Kenau was turning her sword over in her hand, peering along its edge, checking for notches. She gave Wolf a cold stare.

“I was hitting the dragonkin that was about to stab you in the back. Next time, I’ll adjust my priorities.”

“Good. Now how do we get out of here?”

“You die, mortals.”

In the middle of the hall, the largest portal yet had opened and out stepped a blue dragon. They could see its breath, small clouds of white as it exhaled.

Wolf rolled his eyes, and once more raised his sword.

“I just had tae ask, didn’t I?”

Bannog crouched down, sword and dagger out. Slowly, he side-stepped to the dragon’s flank. Korenwolf stood in front of it, the tip of his sword resting on the edge of his shield, pointing directly between its eyes. Tanque and Kenau moved to surround the creature. It didn’t seem to take notice. Tanque crept up behind her, but quickly retreated when the beast’s tail swept from one side to the other. The dragon turned its head, and shot Tanque an evil one-eyed look. Then, it settled its gaze on Korenwolf once more.

“It is a testament to your tenacity, still to be standing.” The dragon’s voice was low, rich, and definitely… feminine. “Let me introduce myself. I am Cyanigosa, Lieutenant of Malygos, the spell-weaver. I am the last enemy you will face.”

“Cor,” said Korenwolf. “So after we kill you, the Scourge goes home?”

Cyanigosa laughed, and swept her tail round in a semi-circle. Tanque leapt over it, and retreated again. This bloody newt had eyes in the back of her head.

“So you think you can withstand my power. Good. I do so enjoy crushing the hopes of those who oppose me.”

Wolf scowled. He liked chatty enemies about as much as he liked a nosebleed. “Right. You look ugly, I don’t like yer scales, here’s a drink, now let’s get on with it.”

“As you wish. We finish this now, champions of Kirin Tor!”

Korenwolf’s sword hissed through the air, and struck the dragon in the chest. She reared up, and brought her claws down upon the Dwarf Paladin. There was a clang as steel-hard claws hit Wolf’s shield. Bannog attacked. Kenau’s venomous spells hit and shattered on Cyanigosa’s scaly hide. Tanque’s axe struck, drawing blood. The dragon bellowed, and took a deep breath. Korenwolf ducked behind his shield.

“Guard yerselves!”

Cyanigosa breathed out, and a swirling cone of frozen crystals flew from her, hitting Korenwolf’s shield. Within seconds, his shield, his armour, and his beard were covered in rime, making him look like a figure carved out of snow.

“Ahh. Winter. Yes, Winter.”

Light streamed from Wolf’s sword as he started hacking away at the frost dragon in front of him. Parsley and Kaylad gave each other a look, then rushed round, out of the reach of the breath weapon, leaving Korenwolf in front of the dragon, looking forlorn and abandoned. He knew better. His wife raised her arms and started casting the healing spels for the wounds she knew her husband was about to receive. Cyanigosa charged, swiping at Wolf’s shield. The holy wards of protection on it flared, and the Dragon bellowed in pain and surprise. Making vicious sweeps with her tail, she retreated.

“You mortals have forgotten what true magic is, if you ever knew.”

Suddenly, her scales glowed with a remorseless blue light. Bannog, along with his companions, was picked up as if by a giant hand, and thrown to the ground in front of Cyanigosa. He scrambled to his feet as quickly as he could. Then, he found himself staring straight into the dragon’s eyes. She was breathing in, yet at the same time he heard her voice, promising…

“Shiver and die, Human.”

Bannog had no time to stab or slash. He did the only thing he could: drop flat on his stomach and roll underneath the beast, between the massive front legs. As he rolled onto his back, he saw Kenau lunge.

Crying out louder than any Human should be able to, she slashed at the dragon’s head, stroke after stroke, opening great gashes in the creature’s face.

Cyanigosa screamed, opening her jaws wide, and snapping at this impudent creature. She caught Kenau’s shoulder, shook once, and threw her across the room in a great arc.

Parsley ran towards her, hands glowing. Disregarding the blood, she placed her hands on Kenau’s mangled shoulder. Parsley and Kenau disappeared in a blinding flash, then Kenau was standing again, sword raised.

Bannog leapt to his feet, crouching beneath Cyanigosa’s chest. Dropping his dagger, he grabbed his sword with both hands, and with all his might, stabbed up into the chest of the dragon.

At that moment, a small figure, alight with the Holy Fire of the Light crashed forward. Korenwolf’s sword rose up, glimmering with power, then slashed down again.

Moments later, Kenau’s unholy sword came slashing down upon Cyanigosa’s neck.

Bannog just managed to rip his sword free before Cyanigosa’s front legs gave, and she came crashing to the ground, nearly burying him. Her un-heard voice sounded in their heads.

“Perhaps… I have… underestimated you…”

Kenau’s sword hissed through the air once more, and slashed down one last time. The dragon’s head separated from its body, and fell to the ground. The group of fighters slowly got to their feet, checking that everybody was still there. Kaylad aimed a healing spell at Tanque, who had broken his arm when Cyanigosa hit him with her tail. There wasn’t a sound to be heard in all the hall. All was quiet, for several deep breaths. Then, in one voice, they cried out their wordless cry of victory. There was a grinding sound, and the doors opened. Lieutenant Sinclari and her soldiers entered. Korenwolf growled.

“Oh look. See who’s decided to join the party. Yer too late miss. We’re all out of dragons.” He kicked the head of the dragon, and it landed in front of Sinclari’s feet.

“This’ll make a great trophy for someone’s wall,” he said.


Bannog sat down opposite the dark-haired Death Knight, who was prodding her spoon at a bowl of food in the Hero’s Welcome inn. A large tankard of ale stood next to her. Bannog noted she was wearing a rather nice piece of chest armour. He himself had selected a dull black pair of arm bracers.

“Dining alone?”

“It seems fitting,” said Kenau.

“Nonsense! You should join Wolf and family.”

“They loathe me. I would not wish to intrude on them.”

“Ah, rubbish,” said Bannog. With the ring on his finger he tapped Kenau’s tankard of ale. “He gave you a pint! Do you realise how hard I had to work to get a drink out of him?”

Bannog studied Kenau’s face, and thought how beautiful it would be if she would only smile. “Anyway, there wasn’t time to ask earlier, but how did you come by that key?”

“I went to the Violet Citadel, and offered Rhonin my services. He suggested I aid in the fight against the Blue Dragonflight.”

Bannog laughed. “You went right up to the master of the city and asked him? By the Light, I like your style! I have lived in Redridge all my life and I’ve never even seen King Varian!”

“I have,” said Kenau. “I was sent to him after the battle at Light’s Hope Chapel, to ask for his pardon. I walked the streets of Stormwind.” Her eyes looked far, far away. “Guards threw rotten fruit at me. People called me a murderer. They wanted to string me up.”

“Bastards,” said Bannog.

“They are right. Whatever they would do to me, I deserve it.” She gestured at the mug. “I don’t deserve this drink. I do not deserve to taste this food.” She closed her eyes. “I don’t deserve to breathe.”

Bannog gave her a look.

“There’s a solution to that,” he said. “You go to Krasus’ Landing, climb over the fence, then you stand one step away from the edge. You close your eyes, and you take two steps forward. End of problem.”

Bannog took a drink from his mug, and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. He looked into Kenau’s unworldly eyes.

“But you won’t,” he said. He put down his mug, and put his big hand on her arm. “Because you are the woman who willingly gave herself up to have her back beaten till bleeding, for just a moment of pleasure. You could easily have avoided it, don’t tell me nobody did. But not you. I bet they didn’t even have to tie you up. You just took it.”

“Someone holds your hands,” said Kenau. “To catch you if you faint.” Bannog took a deep breath, and shuddered.

“Also, you followed us into that prison, and fought with us.”

“To die in battle would be a fitting penance.”

Bannog shook his head once.

“I don’t buy that. I’ve seen people who were looking for death in battle. A good captain spots them, sticks them all together in one band, and uses them for bait, ’cause they’re sod all use for anything else. You fought like someone who wanted the other bugger to die.”

Kenau said nothing. Bannog pushed the mug of ale towards her.

“Enjoy your ale. You’ve earned it.” He pointed a few tables away. Kaylad was sitting next to her son, arm round him. As they watched, she fetched him a well-meant rap on the head with her knuckles, pointed a finger at him and spoke to him.

Bannog grinned. He couldn’t hear what Kaylad was saying, but he could guess. “If you ever pull a stunt like that again…” He turned back to Kenau.

“If it wasn’t for you, then they would not be sitting here together. You did well. Drink the beer. Eat the food.”

Kenau looked at Bannog, picked up the mug and drank. She winced.

“You people like this?”

Bannog grinned. “Acquired taste, I admit. Practice makes perfect.”

Kenau drained her mug, put it down. She stood up.

“I must leave,” she said.

Bannog held out his hand to her, and she took it. It felt warm in his coal-shovel of a hand. “Until we meet again,” said Bannog.

Bannog looked at her as she walked out of the tavern, back straight. He sighed and walked over to the others.

“Oh look who’s back! Another pint? I see Dead Chick has left. What were you talking about?”

“You. How’s Tanque?”

“Right as rain. Irrepressible that lad.”

“Has he learnt his lesson about not rushing into fights that he doesn’t know how to run out of?”

Wolf laughed. “Probably not. I think he has that from my side of the family. Well, Speaking of rushing into fights, Ingvar the Plunderer is still making a bother of himself in Utgarde Keep. Ready to go?”

Bannog drained his mug. “Ready.”


She was standing on the edge, one step away from the endless depths below. Her eyes were closed. The wind was in her hair. Nobody watched her. Nobody wondered what she was doing, or cared. Blow, winds blow. Take me away. Slowly, she opened her eyes. That big warrior was right. It was too easy. She had been carried on griffin’s wings, a long, long way from home. She could either admit to herself that she was too far away ever to return, or she could start walking. Standing on the edge of oblivion, she raised her slender hand up to the sun, and summoned her skeletal flying mount. The words echoed in her mind.

“Zul’drak lies to the North-east.”

“Don’t fly over the city, or you’ll be knocked off yer griffin.”

The griffin jumped over the edge. She turned round in a great arc, and flew off to her future.


Copyright: © 2008,2009,2010 Menno Willemse. All rights reserved.

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Categories: fiction, kenau Tags: , , ,
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  1. 14/12/2010 at 3:56 pm
  2. 16/12/2010 at 2:30 am

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