The candle was almost burnt out. Its glimmering light made shadows on the wall. The child stared at them hypnotized, disconnected from the world of this tavern, from the low and monotonous sound of visitors' voices. For a minute, his eyes never blinked. He hugged himself as his body began to shiver. It wasn't because of the cold air. The Alliance was paying the toll every day in these unfriendly lands of Alterac. The Horde were fighting ferociously to take over resources, the undead were restless and immune to this biting cold and the ogres were daring more everyday. This little fragile child was pulled violently from his innocence and thrown in a world of atrocities and now, in this forgotten tavern somewhere in the middle of nowhere, memories were haunting him. The candle finally exhausted and left the human creature in dark. A stifled cry came from his place.
A few tables away, the paladin barely tasted the ale. He smiled ironically; the drink was the opposite of famous Ironforge beer. Images of his faerie childhood in Elvyin Forests came to life: his first pony, Ramsey, white with a brown mark around his right eye, always scared to death by mice. Then, his first visit to Stormwind; the entrance through statues of legendary heroes, his idols. His first flight on the wings of a gryphon and the first drink contest with the dwarfs of Ironforge. But the war came and he enrolled under the command of Uther, the bane of the scourge. The life under Light forges the greatest souls, harder than adamantium, but now Uther is dead and he needs to carry on the command in these forgotten lands. To keep the light of hope burning. His ale tasted more bitter than ever. "Damn goblins, they never sell any original stuff" he thought for himself. Seeking for profit, they were the only only ones adventuring to such dangerous places.
The last Alliance reinforcements arrived four months ago along with a strict order to hold the line with all costs. "Protect the innocent" - the words of Uther sounded so loud in his ears. Guards were outside, in the cold blizzard. The undead gave them no pause to rest and the hordes were so cunning... but he trusted all his men. The weak have left long time ago. He felt his breath steady and his inner self calm and focused. The paladin pushed the chair to stand on his feet, took the candle from his table and walked to the child.
"When I find myself alone in the darkness I eat a cookie. Monsters don't like them anyway." he said while he handed a caramel. He had to bribe the goblin to get some and now it was a chance to put them to use.
"My name is Darius. What is your name?". He remained watching the child who didn't answer. "Look, nobody will hurt you. I am here, OK?"
"Do you promise?". These words struck him like a mighty blow. Nothing was certain in these dark times and especially over these lands. But the child was definitely waiting for a simple clear affirmation, not some complicated explanation of reality.
"You have my word that me and my hammer, Stormherald, will watch over you and nobody will touch you." The mighty weapon was laid down on the table. It must had effect as little hands touched it with hesitation.
"Dorian" said the child.
"What?" asked the paladin, distracted for a moment.
"My name is Dorian. Please, don't let me alone. I'm scared of this night."
"I am Darius". He couldn't find any more words so he raised on his feet and shouted over the room:
"Harpoon, come meet my new friend Dorian." He turned to the child "Here, take this necklace, it contains the blessing of kings and it will protect you until I return. I will go and check the guards are all right. We don't want any monsters to have our cookies, don't we?"
The paladin took his massive hammer and headed to the door letting out a final instruction: "Show Dorian some tricks with your pet." The giant bear roared making the inhabitants of the tavern to cheer in a higher morale. They saw the beast taking down fierce enemies. Darius opened the door and stepped out into the blizzard.
With a small chant, the paladin heightened his resistance to frost. Thousands of ice pins were striking his face making it hard to look ahead. During these cold stormy nights, among humans, only the paladins were truly able to survive outside for a long time. And of course the dwarfs born in the snowy regions of the world.
"It's me, Darius" he shouted with all his force to let his presence known to the other guard.
"Ye took a sweet sleep, aren't ya bastard?" the dwarf asked him laughing. "If this coldy snowy stormy thingy won't kill ya, nightmares will ye."
"Or a hungry ice yeti will have both of us for breakfast."
"Let the bastard come and I'll have him for my pet's dinner. Even the snow rabbits are hard to find these days. And I need ten of them to feed my wolf."
"Put another ten for your own meal. You got it roundabout."
"Haaah! We dwarfs have a sense of humor in everything but don't touch our drink and meal, m'kay?".
"I always appreciated dwarfs for the thing they speak directly."
"Ye, directly you say human? Ye should see me acting, not speaking."
Darius smiled for himself. Dwarfs were of the greatest courage among Alliance ranks. These short men had the strength of a bear, the courage of the lion and an appetite of a... he couldn't find a comparison within the known species. Or maybe the hunger of the undead.
"No sign of undead tonight?" the paladin asked, suddenly serious.
"Should ye come I'll invite'em off to a drink paladin. Make'em taste that bloody ale and the Lichking himself will get ill. I'll hav'a word or two with that goblin. What are ye defending here? Resources? There is no gold in here, I tell ya."
"A brigade should come to replace us anytime soon. Then we'll go home for a while and enjoy tasty ale. Maybe even we will join the force against Naxxramas. I've heard they are assembling a strike force to take down that undead bastion."
"Ye, I'll stop only to pull the Lichking out of his hole. Just to have a tale told around a cheg of ale."
"You are a courageous comrade. Soon, all of these will be over and we'll rest a bit. Until then we should survive this ugly night."
"Survive? What ye think I'm here? A scarecrow? Let them come and I'll have them blown to pieces."
To give more weight to his words, the dwarf put his firelock ahead with a vivid movement and aimed in the dark. The paladin couldn't miss the sudden pause the short man did. Something was certainly wrong when he could hear the hunter speaking for himself a filthy curse about undead. The rifle fired in the dark. The wolf took and aggressive stance and started snarling. A cold unnatural presence gripped paladin's heart. He knew they were here. How they got so close unnoticed? What kind of trick is at work again? Questions should find answers later.
"Fall back into the fort. What have you seen? How many they are? Are they undead? I can't see nothing."
Darius threw the questions very fast as they were running to the relative safety of fortified walls. Something cut through the air and hit the wolf. His long painful growl faded away when an incredible force pulled him into the dark.
"What the..." dwarf exclaimed. Darius grabbed him behind the wall. A harpoon device hit the empty space. The dwarf cursed and prepared his weapons.
"I'll keep'em here. Go get the boys and girls. I'll have my revenge for my wolf. Eat holy steel boneheads!" Furiously he started shooting in dark.
Darius left him behind. Words would have been useless. The dwarf knew what he had to do, and he was even more dangerous now he had lost his companion. The alarm was set from the first shot and soldiers were running around to their posts. He headed for the tavern and found the people executing defensive procedures already. Officers were shouting orders.
"North gate is under attack! Report your status!" Darius asked.
"No movements at other gates. Brainless undead don't know to do a proper attack" a Sergent reported.
"Don't take it easy men. They brought abominations. It's not the regular raid we are used to. Be prepared for anything and report any incoming. Harpoon, take the child and keep him safe. It's your responsibility now. I'll command the north gate. Wait for orders."
The dwarf acknowledged with a head movement. His giant bear raised on his back feet and roared tremendously.
"It's not your time yet boy" the paladin said while he departed to his position. A dark though was dancing through his mind, just like the shadows in the tavern. He felt the Light powers strong within him, but tonight he wasn't able to sense undead's arrival. What kind of foolish magic trick is at work?
The north gate was under full attack. The weapons were clashing and sometimes someone was shouting "pull" to make others pay attention to abominations. Monstrous creations of the Lichking, dissipating a deadly poison cloud, now armed with a chained harpoon to pull targets from far away. Deadly in melee range, but slow and stupid. Unlucky these who couldn't dodge their grips. The fight itself was chaotic and they were overwhelmed by a swarm of animated corpses, former Alliance or Horde members. The paladin started shouting orders: "warriors, chop down the skeletons. I want a mage to kite away that abomination. Send a rogue to thin necromancers ranks. Two paladins keep an eye on him. Paladins, purge the ground! Give them nothing, but take them everything! At my mark, hold! Strike! Hold! Strike!"
Seconds become minutes. Minutes become an eternity. You act! You dodge, you attack. They perish. In the end you face your destiny. That is a moment that cannot be avoided. Never step back, just pick your path and endure it tempest. That makes the excellence. In mediocrity you are undefined, unworthy of anything.
It isn't death what grips his heart, but something more terrible. His blood has changed. His mind has changed. His will has changed. "Death knight, your master calls you. Henceforth, you serve the only ONE TRUE KING!"