Tuesday, 10 November 2009

An Ancient Grudge

"Mom," I said, "do you really think you should go alone?"

"We've been over this, Myrrh," she replied. "Those demons will run if they even have a hint that I have help. No, I must do this alone." I had tried to persuade Mom to at least bring Trim or Pillow but even they, she claimed, would jeopardize all.

"Well, at least bring your best gear, Mom!" I cried. "Why are you going there—alone!—with just that sword and your dragoon gun? Why are you going out wearing that dress?"

"My dear," she replied, "this is not a dress and it is not 'just that sword'... this blessed garb of—" "—of undead slaying, Mom! Undead slaying!" I must've thrown my hands up in exasperation. "Those things were designed to combat the undead, not demons!"

"I know... I know..." she said. "But in doing this, I must represent the Argent Dawn, of which I am an honorary member. Yes, these were not built specifically to combat demons, but they have no weaknesses against them either. Would you rather I went in there clothed with the shells of Cryptlords?"

"No, Mom... but don't you have any of those from the Argent Crusade? Aren't those powerful enough?"

"I had considered that, but no... if they saw me garbed in full battle gear, they would flee and tracking them down would be for naught. No, these will be sufficient... and underneath these I can wear more protection. I bring my dragoon gun as a representative of the Burning Dragoons..."

"And the sword?" I ask.

"My 'ace-in-the-hole', as they say," she replied. "Long have I searched for the smith, and I have endured many terrors to obtain this innocuous blade." I look at the blade again. It looked like a long shard cut out of purple glass, etched with designs near the edge, but as Mom unsheathed the blade, it rang like metal.

"Then," I said. "Before you go, let me please put some insurance on it."

"Alright, dear," she said. "Go ahead."

I reached into my bag and took out a small but radiant shard, some dust, and an elixir that I obtained with much difficulty. I unstoppered the small bottle and put it to my lips, filling my mouth with the precious liquid. Then I picked up the weapon and I blew, spraying the elixir evenly on every part of the blade. I gathered the dust in one of my hands and sprinkled it on the still wet blade, coating it. Then I took the shard, held it agains the blade and cried out:

"Und wenn die Welt voll Dämonen wär

Und wollt uns gar verschlingen,

So fürchten wir uns nicht so sehr,

Es soll uns doch gelingen."

Immediately, the shard was consumed and ignited the coated shard-like blade, bathing it in fire. I grasp the blade with one gloved hand, the hilt with the other, and presented it to Mom. "I have enchanted the blade..." I said. "... enchanted it with my 'ace-in-the-hole'. It will burn those whom you hunt, but no one else."

"Thank you, dear Myrrh," she said, sheathing the blade and slinging it on her back. "Now I must be off."

She had reached the threshold when I cried out "Mom! Please come back! Please come back to me! Promise me that you will come back to me!"

Mom paused at the door, and said "I will come back."

"Light be with you, Ærynn," I said. "And with you," she said. Then she was gone.

Continue reading "An Ancient Grudge"...

Saturday, 31 October 2009

The New Arms Race

"Quantities derive from measurements, figures from quantities, comparisons from figures, and victory from comparison." Sun Tzu, Art of War, IV:18

"There's no end to the arms race, is there?"

"No, I'm afraid not."

It has only been a few months, and most of the gear we won from Ulduar, not to mention Naxxramas, is now considered obsolete. Once again, I consult Shandara on what the best gear is out there.

"So, let's see what you've got..." said Shandara. I've worn all of my raiding kit for this inspection, she thoroughly examines it, her fingers flying over enchanted parchments and beads.

Helm and Cuirass

"I see you still have two pieces of the Scourgestalker set," she says. "The Conqueror's Scourgestalker Headpiece and the Conqueror's Scourgestalker Tunic; the two best pieces to retain from that set, too. Good. Good."

"Are you sure?" I ask. "I have also won the Helm of the Silver Ranger and it seems to be sturdier and has more innate power than my current headgear."

"Yes," she said. "There are plenty of good helms out there that are, on a one-on-one basis, better than your Scourgestalkers, but the collective enchant of at least two pieces in strengthening your Serpent Sting outdoes anything that these have to offer. The only pieces that can possibly be an upgrade to you would be pieces from the Triumphant Windrunner's Battlegear."

"Which version of that battlegear? The normal ones or the enhanced ones?"

"Well," she says, after a short pause and consultation of her enchanted tools. "The enhanced ones would be best, because even if you get one of either the headpiece or the tunic, you can go ahead and immediately replace your old gear. But if you can get two pieces of the normal ones, then their collective enchant will be better than your old Scourgestalker ones. It also affects your Serpent Sting, and you know how important they are to you as a markswoman."

"I see," said I. I suspect she is right. My Chimera Shot depends greatly on my Serpent Sting to be augmented. According to her calculations, I suspect that if I had broken my two-piece enchant, even with the over-all increase in my powers, it may not be able to make up for the loss of 10% of the power from two my most important shots.



"Hmmmm," she says. "I see you managed to obtain a charge from Jaraxxus to protect your throat. This is the best you can until you can earn the right to get an enhanced copy. If you cannot get it, then an enhanced version of Icehowl's collar would prove to be better than what you ar wearing now."


Shoulder guards

"Ah, yes!" she cried. "Well done, you've gotten the Epaulets of the Devourer! For a while, we thought that these were even better than the enhanced Windrunner's Spaulders of Triumph and the enhanced Pauldrons of the Timeless Hunter. Of course, we now know that those latter two are better, but just by a bit. You can leave your shoulder guards to improve last until you can earn the enhanced versions."



"Your cloak from Icehowl," she began, "is probably the best you can normally get. The only ones better than it would be an enhanced copy of it, the Cloak of the Silver Covenant if you have the skill and the daring, or..."

"Or?" I ask.

"You probably would not get it, or even see it draped on anybody else's shoulders but Vereesa's, but if you can hope and if you can earn it and suffer no losses to the Bug King, then Vereesa's cloak is currently the best out there."



I show Shandara my gloves, and she snorts.

"Well, these are normal assasin's leather gloves," she says after turning them over for a while. "Silver Covenant too, I see. Ah, well... I suppose they were better than the ones you had before, but you either have to get an enhanced copy or any of the Windrunner gloves. But don't worry: for the moment those gloves are sufficient and better than anything you do have."


Belt and Boots

"Belt of Dragons... Boots of Living Scale..." she said. "Your handiwork?"

"Yes," I replied.

"Good choices. The ones better than it are only a bit better. Of course, the enhanced belts will beat this any day, but this belt can still last you to the end."

"So, I suppose these are some of the pieces I can replace last, right?"

"Your choice. But if I were you, I wouldn't hesitate to grab other belts or other boots if you can manage it."



"Oh, you simply must replace this!" she cried. She had bent over and was examining my legguards of saronite mesh.

"Why?" I asked. "You told me they were perfectly good leggings some time ago."

"Don't get me wrong: they still are," she says. "But you there are a lot of much, much better gear out there already. This was probably sufficient for your adventures inside Ulduar, but not at the tourney and definitely not when we finally cross into Icecrown."

"What do you suggest? The Windrunner's legguards?"

"Yes... any of them. You can also try to getting your hand on (and your legs into) any of these other ones if you can manage it."

I am loath to replace them. They were comfortable and, more importantly, I won them very late into the offensive into Ulduar.



"Well, well, well," said Shandara. "How were you able to win the pattern to make this from others? I'm sure the competition was fierce. The only thing better would be the enhanced Bracers of the Untold Massacre."

"I didn't win it," I said in a small voice. "I bought it."

"You bought the bracers?" she asked.

"No, I bought the pattern. It's a long story." Shandara raised an eyebrow, so I went on. "When our guild obtained the pattern, I did not win it. According to the rules once one of us can make it, then any other patterns obtained after that are sold to finance the guild—the only way I can learn this pattern is to purchase it from other guilds who are selling their copies."

"These things are rare," she said at length. "It must have impoverished you."

"Yes," I replied. "Yes, it did."



"May I see your rings please," she continued. I had not put my gloves back on and had, instead, tucked them into my belt. Presently, I presented my hands to be inspected.

"Yes... yes... The Ring of Callous Aggression and the Dexterous Brightstone Ring; very good rings. About the only things better are the enchanced copies of these others."

"So I can safely leave this last to upgrade?" I asked. She nodded.



"I suppose your guild is one of those who no longer want to go back to that terrible place up in Ulduar?" she asked. "Yes," I replied. "Only some of the replacements still wish to go there."

"I can't blame your guild," she said. "That place is pure madness... but unfortunate, as some of trinkets better than the ones you have can be had there. Fortunately, the ones better than those are available from the tourney. Your Darkmoon Card: Greatness you can replace last, but only with a Death's Verdict (either one). Your Pyrite Infuser may be a bit difficult to replace, as it gives you both power and accuracy, so replace them only with a Death's Verdict or a Mark of Supremacy."

"But the mark's powers will have to be triggered, won't it?"

"Yes," she said. "But the infusion of power lasts longer and is more predictable. Still, your choice; it is only slightly better than the infuser anyway. What you should aim for are the trinkets dropped by Lightbane."


Ranged Weapons

I proudly handed her my Talonstrike, fully confident that only an enhanced copy would be better than this. I was surprised when she shook her head.

"Ah, the Talonstrike..." she muttered. "What a shame."

"Excuse me, but didn't you say that this was the best ranged weapon out there?"

"Yes, it was." She handed it back to me. "To be sure, the enhanced copy is still the second best out there, but there are quite a few other weapons much better than that one you are holding now. In fact, that weapon now barely makes the list."

I was shocked. This weapon was sought after and caused no small amount of drama for some guilds as to who had the right to use it.

"These weapons," she continued, "currently are much better than your Talonstrike." I looked at the list and was perplexed by some of the items.

"Excuse me," I said, after a moment. "I can understand why some of these weapons are better than mine, but why would arena gear be so much better than everything but two?"

"Because these weapons are wicked powerful," she replied at once. "To be sure, there are some Relentless Gladiator ranged weaponry which will not be more powerful than the one you have now, but these others on the list are so powerful that even your normal non-magical ammunition would hit so much harder."

"Besides," she adds. "As a marksman, you know how dependent you are on powerful weapons to augment your special shots." She speaks truly—my Chimera Shot gets most of its power from the damage the weapon is capable of dealing. A survival hunter's Explosive Shot scales much better with collective enchantments, auras and the like than Chimera. It makes sense to get the most powerful weapon.

But easier said than done. "There is no way I can obtain these weapons, can I?"

"All up to you," she said. "If you cannot fight and win in the arena, better hope you can get that gun from the Dragoness's lair."


Melee Weapon

With very little confidence, I hand my staff over to her for her perusal.

"Ah, the staff carved from the Deconstructor's twisted visage. Still a very good weapon, but..." I knew it, "currently outclassed by a few pieces out there. Very hard to replace, however. I see you've been using it to help make your shots more accurate?"

"Yes, I have."

"Yes... a pity..." she went to her parchments again, then handed a list to me.

"It goes without saying that you'll probably never see the enhanced weaponry," she said, hating her for it. "Not that it matters; you'll be confronted with the same problem of losing a lot of accuracy with these weapons (except for that one at the top of the list)... accuracy that you'll have to compensate for elsewhere. What you can do is use two one-handers as a sufficient bipod for accuracy."

This lifted my spirits up, for I had won two one-handers. "I currently have a couple of Steel Bladebreakers; would those be sufficient?"

"No," she said. "Your only real options would be a pair of Twin Spikes; a crossed pair of those would help your accuracy and be a good replacement for your staff. If you can get a hold of some of the enhanced versions of the other daggers (including the Steel Bladebreakers) they have gem slots and you can use gems to augment your accuracy. But at that level, the two-handers are actually much better so it's better to earn those instead."


I thank Shandara before leaving the hall. Ah, if only obtaining these upgrades were just as simple as pointing them out. While I find that the new system of earning the gear is, in itself, good, those who have been so used to the old system still insist on using the old methods with distributing rewards. Because of this, some can get so many trophies and not know what to do with them, while those who desperately need them (and who know for which gear they work towards) oftentimes do not get any. Dwarrow, for instance, has a trophy she won (fair and square) that she knows not how to spend, whereas I (among a few others) have ammassed great quantities of emblems but cannot purchase the ones we need for lack of a trophy. Most of the trophies end up with hired mercenaries, in fact (something that troubles those of us Dragoons who are left).

That is a story for another time. I am weary and must now retire.

Continue reading "The New Arms Race"...

Friday, 12 June 2009

Ærynn's Companions, part 2 of 2

It is not an understatement to say that without my fine feathered, furred or hirsuite friends, I would not be so effective. They have come to me, or I sought them out; some have stayed, most have moved on.

Here is my current stable of companions.

Trim was the first beast that stayed with me and did not run away. I sought her out amongst the feral nightsabers of Teldrassil. Part of the reason was that I had just learned to fish, and Trim loved fish. She is still with me to this day as one of my most powerful companions. There used to be a time when she accompanied me everywhere, but since I adopted Myrrh, she has been keeping guard at home.

Nevertheless, she has a bitter grudge against the Horde and whenever she knows I am going on an offensive against them, she rushes to join my side.

I met and befriended Chilli in Terrokar Forest, but she actually hails from Northrend in Azeroth. She said that she was born in Naxxramas but ran away while she was still very little. She has since gone back there, accompanying me on her mission of revenge against the Scourge who had enslaved her mother... but also to feast on the bodies of her dead kin (which, in spider culture, is considered the only way to "bury" their dead with honor).

She is a terrific fighter, using the same Wolverine's Bite technique to horrible effect against the most powerful of adversaries. But she is a horrible dancer (having four left feet) and she shudders everytime somebody mentions Heigan the Unclean.

I found Pillow in the area of Hillsbrad. He is a very cheerful bear, and was looking for employment and lodging for him and his young son Cushion. After a bit of discussion and a brief demonstration, he joined our merry band.

He is a skillful professional, strong and powerful, and knows his job well. He is also a model father, and his son would often accompany us during our daily missions (doubtless, taking notes).

Another father and son pair, except that I met the son first during the charity function for the Stormwind orphans. Speedy is the fastest tortoise I have ever met, and he assured me that his father—who was, at the time, working as a bodyguard in Blackfathom Deeps—is not only just as swift, but strong and powerful.

After a trip down to the old temple, Amorsolo became my other tanking companion. While he is not as powerful as Pillow, he is more durable and tenacious. His son claimed that this was because he was once trained as a rogue by a giant rat. Amorsolo has neither confirmed or denied it, but I sometimes think it could be true. He is my companion of choice for when I go on solo missions in old Azeroth.

I had always been tempted to find a wolf someday for a companion but it was only recently that I found the impetus to do so. I found Navarre in Horde territory—there was no other place, as the Horde have the best wolves. It took a while to persuade him to come along; while he bore no grudge against the Nightelves and the Alliance, he would prefer not to war against the Horde, despite their current activities. In fact, I felt that the only reason why I stood a chance at convincing him was because he seemed disappointed with the events at the Wrath Gate.

He quickly proved himself in battle. After a few weeks of training together, we now work together really well. He is the one that accompanies me into the frontlines.

Myrrh, however, insists that I keep Navarre away from her "sheep". I keep telling her that it is just a stereotype; nevertheless, he has been eyeing my Elwynn lamb rather often.
Continue reading "Ærynn's Companions, part 2 of 2"...

Monday, 8 June 2009

Ærynn's Companions, part 1 of 2

It is not an understatement to say that without my fine feathered, furred or hirsuite friends, I would not be so effective. They have come to me, or I sought them out; some have stayed, most have moved on.

Here is the hall of remembrance for those who are no longer with me.

The first beastly companions I attempted to befriend was a Webwood Spider called Peter and Strigid Owl called Swoop. After several awkward days of them looking at me expectantly while I tried to engage them in conversation, they moved on to be the companions of other hunters. Later on, I was told it was because I did not take the time to give them something to eat.

Kit was a cat I found while adventuring in Darkshore. While he accompanied me on several adventures, he finally admitted that he was not really alive and that he was more comfortable haunting the Ruins of Mathystra than going around travelling on ships that float on water.

We parted ways but we still see each other once in a while when I pass by.

I met Glimfeather while I was adventuring in Winterspring. She had a very piercing shriek that echoed in the mountains, but she was so white that I was only inches away from her before I actually saw her.

Second only to Trim in length of companionship, she saw me through numerous adventures and battles, first in the Plaguelands then later in Outland. She eventually went back home to raise a family after a lengthy tour of duty fighting in the dread mage tower of Karazhan. She does not write, but she sends me some owls very regularly.

When I met Lechon Kawali, he had been dead for years. Death was not a handicap for such a jolly pig, but his secret sorrow was seeing his entire family butchered and served on plates by a man named Moroes. For some reason he, after being butchered, was able to become undead and run away.

He accompanied me to Karazhan numerous times, partly for vengeance... but I think mostly because going around adventuring with the living made him forget his grief.

After a stint in Outlands, he left to join a colony of undead pigs in the Eastern Plaguelands. I visit him sometimes whenever I go to Stratholme.

Tinik was an alien beast I met while adventuring in the Hellfire Peninsula. I must admit that our first meeting was not entirely cordial—he thought I was a tasty morsel (actually, he still thinks I am a tasty morsel) but found that friendship with me got him to go places where there were even tastier morsel to partake of.

He and Trim were great friends, frequently subbing for each other on adventures and trips to dangerous dungeons. His secret desire is to learn how to cook—he developed a fondness for cooked meat (some of which I had cooked, but mostly from some animals in Shadowmoon who are "pre-cooked"). He, of course, does not have any hands for this task, so I left him in Shadowmoon, where he can catch his prey and "cook" it by dipping it into the lava pools all around.

I have not seen him and do not know where he is.

I met Kamandag shortly after I left Tinik, but our partnership did not last very long. He was addicted to arena fighting and, for a while, we helped each other win a few matches. Eventually, he felt I was not committed enough to the gladiator lifestyle and he left me for another hunter.

We still talk once in a while.

I encountered Janice during my tour-of-duty in the Bone Wastes. She was a fine specimen of her species, being very durable and robust, able to take blows well and had a screech that weakens foes.

However, her true passion was hunting, not fighting. So while she became a constant companion in my long hunts for talbuk on the plains of Nagrand, she eventually settled down away from the noise of battle.

I can still remember her having long conversations into the night about a good day of hunting... with her other head. The only one who could tolerate her when she became like that was Glimfeather. Trim would skulk out and find some other place to sleep. She is still a good friend, but I am glad she no longer disturbs our sleep.

I met Mórrígan while adventuring in the northern parts of Outland. She became my most treasured companion, powerful in battle, proficient in the hunt, and very intelligent. Trim became a bit jealous of her for a while because I preferred her companionship for the longest time.

Eventually, they became friends, too; she was that likeable. I never once asked further about where she came from: she said that she had always remembered being there in Draenor, but that those memories were short. She could not remember when Draenor had not been fragmented into floating bits of land in the nether.

It was only later that I found out (through an event brought about by my own folly) that she was actually a druid who somehow lost all memories of her being a night elf. I still do not know how she got there... and I will never know. She has been taken from me.

My entire household misses her terribly.

Apoy was introduced to me during the Spirit of Competition military exercises. At the time, her kind was touted as the most powerful raiding companion.

Instead, she introduced me to several different epicure experiences that still makes my mouth water. She went back to her homeland after a while and I have not seen her since.

I met Kodachi in Gundrak, and she came very highly recommended. I had always shied away from raptors because of their association with trolls, but this one... she had the sweetest nature.

She belonged to one of those tribes of raptors that like wearing jewelry. She was totally ga-ga over gems. She was easily one of the most powerful of my companions and she made friends with the other raptor companions of the Dragoon hunters. Just like Glimfeather, she has taken leave to raise a family. The last I saw of her, she was caring for a very large clutch of eggs.

I met Icebearg in Howling Fjord. I had been hearing that bears were going to become some of the best tanks in Northrend, so I entered into negotiations with him to be a companion. However, he was lazy and a coward. Yes, he was strong and powerful, but he kept on going "Oh, my back! My back!" or "You're not sending me in there, are you?" and "It's too early!".

Also kept on eating up the my food stores. He would not even attack any member of the Horde. What's up with that? I fired him after just two weeks. I found out later that Horde hunters trying to give him employment had the same problems. Lazy bum.

I met this troublesome bunch in Sholazar Basin. Moe, Larry and Curly were always bickering and fighting amongst each other. I was always ashamed of bringing them around town or into sorties with the guild.

But were they good at their job. They had a high tolerance for pain, very good at engaging enemies and very good at defending me from attacks. Their growls and taunts, perfected because of constant practice, were very highly effective in fights.

In the end, they had to leave to pursue another career. I still see them around once in a while, but only very rarely. From what I hear they no longer want to work with hunters. Pity... they were good. And they always made me laugh.

Paprika became my companion shortly after the Three Stooges left for another job. Her first job was for the Sunreaver Command Taxi Service—Horde public transport. I talked her out of it and persuaded her to become one of my raiding companions. Cunning beasts like her are generally overlooked for raiding because they supposedly do not have as many attacks as their more ferocious colleagues.

But she, like all her cunning clan, had a special technique that will always hit every time an adversary dodges an initial attack. Always. In the end, she was doing as much damage as Trim and Kodachi... sometimes, even more, especially with more powerful adversaries.

Nevertheless, she was a peaceful creature and eventually went back to her old job at the taxi service.

I was despondent after Mórrígan was taken away from me. But I also needed a tanking companion to replace, so I quickly set up an ad for one. It had to be done.

It was then that this portly ape entered my service. For a while other hunters had been extolling the exploits of apes trained in Paladin tanking tactics, and I had been anxious to find an ape. When he came along, I knew he was a bit different. He asked for salary in money. He would carry his coins in a pouch hidden on his person and would ask for beer and a plate of nuts in an inn. Pay for it too.

And he would read books. Myrrh took one good look at him and declared that he, too, was actually a transformed human. She claimed he was actually a mage or something. He never told me his name, but because he was very good at organising our collection of books, we came to call him The Librarian. But he literally went ape when someone would call him the "m" word. I do not think I can afford another incident. 

He disappeared one day and I have not seen him since... but he left a note saying he was taking a short trip through L-space.
Continue reading "Ærynn's Companions, part 1 of 2"...

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Back to the frontlines

I had been out of action for more than a month, initially due to illness and then later in the ordering of business. After my final talks with Mr. Vault and his leggy apprentice concerning the sales of leather and dragon scales and checking in with Sapsorrow about supplies, I went to do the errand I had been dreading—having my equipment audited.

The troops of the Burning Dragoons had already been transferred from the frontlines of Naxxramas to the halls of Ulduar. Dwarrow has already seen plenty of action, but I haven't. From all reports, the fighting there is even more terrible than the Scourge of Kel'thuzad. No wonder—these are the titans, after all... not merely the reanimated dead.

It is why I have been a bit worried about how effective I would be. So, despite my discomfort, I go once again to the Elitist Jerks for advice.

I did not go to them last year because I would have to talk to a troll hunter (a troll!) about my gear. I felt that I would not be able to bear it if she felt any distaste with dealing with an elf. But a few months ago, I felt that I had to go. It was the initial Naxxramas push, and I needed to be ready. So, it was with relief that I find that a nightelf had replaced the troll.

"Ishnu-alah, sister," I greet her. "What happened to the troll named 'Cheeky' that used to sit here?"

"Oh, she retired a long time ago. I have taken up her duties; are you here to be audited?"

I nodded, and began entering my details on a parchment she produced. She stood up with a measuring tape, and begans to inspect me. "My name is Shandara the huntress... please sign your name here... and your realm... yes... I can call up your qualifications and your battlefield experience with that, thank you... yes, yes, yes... it's kinda like magic... now hold still."

As she made her calculations and measurements, I could hear the buzz of conversation around me—other soldiers and fighters having themselves audited, or arguing the finer points of technique, school selection, and gear choices. Some of the discussions were very technical, with people doing equations on boards with chalk or bits of parchment. I felt a bit self-conscious: I was a frequent visitor of the Elitist Jerks forums, but have yet to muster the courage to speak up.

"Alright," Shandara says, giving me several sheets of parchment. "Here are your scores and potential figures; nevertheless, it is still up to you to test yourself on the training dummies. I see you aren't of the Survival School... they're currently the most powerful, but as a marksman, you bring that useful aura. Hmmmm... not the standard marksman training, eh? Still, don't be afraid to test everything... school loyalty should be secondary to viability, ok?"

I felt weighed... I felt measured... and I had been afraid to have been found wanting. But the information she gave me was very useful. It had helped me, for instance, recognize a bow, sticking out of the dead carcass of Patchwerk when we killed him a few weeks ago. A bow that was slightly better for me than the Valkyrjur crossbow.

Today, I need to be weighed, measured and judged again.

My next meeting with Shandara went well. She did not remember me from last time, but I suppose if you've been measuring so many hunters we are all a blur to her. I got my sheaf of parchment, and took a look. What's this? A gear list. I looked at Shandara quizzically.

"Oh, that's a list of equipment you can get from various sources," she said. "A lot of it is available from Dalaran after you've served a long enough tour of duty in Ulduar, but some of them can be found in Ulduar itself. The Explorers League boys have done a great job of cataloguing the stuff that you can, er, appropriate if you ever find some on enemy."

"When does one find time to go on a tour of duty?" I ask, but she was already crying "Next!" and I went away.

Looking closely at the parchment, I note that she listed several options in order of preferrence for each slot, and where they can be found. A small note near the top advised that the order of preferrence is dependent on gear I already have and my current talent build, and that the ranking can change with each gear change.

I reproduce the list below, noting what gear I already have, and ranked (with the current best-in-slot being at the very top).

  1. Conqueror's Scourgestalker Headpiece — Ulduar-25
  2. Valorous Scourgestalker Headpiece — Ulduar-10
  3. Helm of the Furnace Master — Ulduar-25
  4. Blue Aspect Helm — Eye of Eternity-25
  5. Mimiron's Flight Goggles — Ulduar-10 Hard
  6. Helm of the Grave — Naxxramas-25 (picked it up when I killed Sir Zeliek; stored in bank)
  7. Furious Gladiator's Chain Helm — Season 6
  8. Valorous Cryptstalker Headpiece — Naxxramas-25 (currently equipped)
  9. Guise of the Midgard Serpent — Ulduar-10
  10. Circlet of True Sight — Ulduar-10

Obviously, the first thing I need to do is get that Helm of the Grave out of the bank, and duplicate the magic gems and enchants on it. Strange that before the Ulduar campaign, that helm was actually not as good as the Crypstalker. I did not throw it away because... because...

I'm glad I did not throw it away. I will aim for the Scourgestalker.

  1. Mantle of Fiery Vengeance — Ulduar-10 Hard
  2. Shoulders of Misfortune — Ulduar-25
  3. Ironaya's Discarded Mantle — Ulduar-10
  4. Valorous Cryptstalker Spaulders — Naxxramas-25 (currently equipped)
  5. Shoulderpads of the Monolith — Ulduar-25
  6. Upstanding Spaulders — Obsidian Sanctum-25 Hard
  7. Iron-studded Mantle — Ulduar-25
  8. Pauldrons of the Abandoned — Naxxramas-25
  9. Conqueror's Scourgestalker Spaulders — Ulduar-25
  10. Valorous Scourgestalker Spaulders — Naxxramas-10

I am a bit confused that the Scourgestalkers are not as good as the Crypstalker on this list, but I guess it's because they have to be paired with another Scourgestalker from another slot for it to be more preferred.

I will aim for the Scourgestalkers.

  1. Drape of the Faceless General — Ulduar-10 Hard
  2. Drape of the Deadly Foe — Naxxramas-25
  3. Winter's Frigid Embrace — Ulduar-10
  4. Drape of Icy Intent — Ulduar-25 Hard
  5. Aged Winter Cloak — Naxxramas-25 (currently equipped)
  6. Shawl of the Shattered Giant — Ulduar-10
  7. Hammerhead Sharkskin Cloak — Emblem of Valor
  8. Drape of the Lithe — Ulduar-25
  9. Cloak of Mastery — Naxxramas-10
  10. Cloak of Darkening — Naxxramas-10

I would have liked getting the Drape of the Deadly Foe, but I have not seen it yet. But I like the fabric of the Winter's Frigid Embrace—it's sooooo pretty!

  1. Conqueror's Scourgestalker Tunic — Ulduar-25
  2. Valorous Scourgestalker Tunic — Ulduar-10
  3. Chestguard of Insidious Intent — Ulduar-25
  4. Chestguard of Flagrant Prowess — Obsidian Sanctum-10 Hard
  5. Embrace of the Gladiator — Ulduar-25 Hard
  6. Chestguard of the Lasher — Ulduar-10
  7. Valorous Cryptstalker Tunic — Naxxramas-25 (currently equipped)
  8. Tunic of Indulgence — Naxxramas-25
  9. Tunic of the Limber Stalker — Ulduar-10
  10. Tunic of the Lost Pack — Naxxramas-10

I am going to aim for the Scourgestalkers, but will keep my eyes open for any of the others (they all look nice).

  1. Gloves of the Steady Hand — Ulduar-25 Hard
  2. Gloves of Unerring Aim — Emblem of Conquest
  3. Gloves of the Fiery Behemoth — Ulduar-25
  4. Gloves of Taut Grip — Ulduar-10
  5. Gloves of the Blind Stalker — Emblem of Conquest
  6. Valorous Cryptstalker Handguards — Naxxramas-25 (currently equipped)
  7. Grotesque Handgrips — Naxxramas-25
  8. Conqueror's Scourgestalker Handguards — Ulduar-25
  9. Gloves of Smoldering Touch — Ulduar-10
  10. Furious Gladiator's Chain Gauntlets — Season 6

Hmmmmmm... another instance when the Scourgestalkers are not the best—I wonder how I will be able to make the two-piece set, then? Still, it seems like the most achievable would be to get the emblem gloves... I just need to have a long enough tour of duty, and I am used to waiting.

  1. Frost-bound Chain Bracers — Ulduar-25
  2. Slime Stream Bands — Naxxramas-25 (currently equipped)
  3. Fluxing Energy Coils — Ulduar-10 Hard
  4. Bracers of the Smothering Inferno — Ulduar-10
  5. Mechanist's Bindings — Ulduar-25
  6. Armguard of the Tower Archer — Emblem of Valor
  7. Bands of Anxiety — Naxxramas-10
  8. Arachnoid Gold Band — Naxxramas-25
  9. Sinner's Bindings — Naxxramas-25
  10. Furious Gladiator's Wristguards of Triumph — Season 6

The Slime Stream Bands are second in rank? But I have them already! I'm glad, since I do not want to replace it yet. Still, it might change when my other gear changes, so I'll look out for the others if I come by them.

  1. Belt of the Betrayed — Ulduar-25
  2. Belt of Dragons — Leatherworking
  3. Death-warmed Belt — Leatherworking
  4. Belt of the Ardent Marksman — Emblem of Conquest
  5. Torn Web Wrapping — Naxxramas-25 (currently equipped)
  6. Soul-Devouring Cinch — Ulduar-10 Hard
  7. Relic Hunter's Cord — Ulduar-25
  8. Waistguard of the Creator — Ulduar-25
  9. Belt of the Blood Pit — Ulduar-10
  10. Depraved Linked Belt — Naxxramas-25 (in the bank)

I had been fortunate to have been able to pick up these to gird my loins for battle. Being a leatherworker myself, I hope to learn to make two of the belts on the list, but if the Belt of the Betrayed drops first I'll snap that up.

  1. Legguards of Cunning Deception — Ulduar-25 Hard

  2. Conqueror's Scourgestalker Legguards — Ulduar-25
  3. Saronite Mesh Legguards — Ulduar-25
  4. Leggings of the Tireless Sentry — Emblem of Conquest
  5. Valorous Scourgestalker Legguards — Ulduar-10
  6. Darkcore Leggings — Ulduar-25
  7. Leggings of Failed Escape — Naxxramas-25 (currently equipped)
  8. Leggings of the Insatiable — Ulduar-10
  9. Valorous Cryptstalker Legguards — Naxxramas-25
  10. Leggings of Colossal Strides — Naxxramas-25

Before the Ulduar campaign, the Leggings of Failed Escape were the best pants that could be had. In fact, at the height of our Naxxramas incursions, it was the only piece of clothing I wore that was not a Cryptstalker. They were very comfortable, too.

Now, I have my eye on the Saronite Mesh Legguards—it's clingy but looks comfy also. Still, looks like the Scourgestalker pants may be one of the two-piece set I may eventually end up with.

  1. Greaves of Swift Vengeance — Ulduar-25 Hard
  2. Tempered Mercury Greaves — Ulduar-10 Hard
  3. Footpads of Silence — Leatherworking
  4. Boots of Living Scale — Leatherworking
  5. Boots of the Renewed Flight — Eye of Eternity-25
  6. Brass-lined Boots — Ulduar-25
  7. Pack-Ice Striders — 25-man Token (currently equipped)
  8. Boots of Unsettled Prey — Ulduar-10
  9. Dawnwalkers — Naxxramas-25
  10. Flamestalker Boots — Ulduar-25

I haven't exactly worn leather shoes for a while now. I had experienced that sometimes I'd rather have a well-armored pair of boots than something comfy and agile, but I am not averse to wearing leather again. The Pack-Ice Striders, with the Icewalker enchant, had proved to be very dependable.

But one can't have too many shoes.

I'm currently wearing the Strong-Handed and Invincibility rings... about the only other upgrades I can find that are achievable would be the Cindershard, Surge Needle, Draconic Guile, the Metallic Loop of the Sufferer. For neckpieces, the following:
  1. Pendulum of Infinity — Ulduar-25 Hard
  2. Favor of the Dragon Queen — Eye of Eternity-25
  3. Broach of the Wailing Night — Emblem of Conquest
  4. Pendant of the Dragonsworn — Eye of Eternity-10
  5. Choker of the Abyss — Ulduar-10
  6. Seed of Budding Carnage — Ulduar-10 Hard
  7. Icy Blast Amulet — Naxxramas-25
  8. Gem of Imprisoned Vassals — Naxxramas-10 (currently equipped)
  9. Nymph Heart Charm — Ulduar-25
  10. Fool's Trial — Naxxramas-25

Looks like my best bet would be to aim for the Broach of the Wailing Night. Nobody wants to go back to war with the Blug Dragonflight in the Eye of Eternity so I cannot get the necklace that drops there, while the current "best" pendant has only been hinted at—nobody on our realm has even seen it yet.

Still, one cannot have too many jewelry.

Magic Trinkets
  1. Darkmoon Card: Greatness — Inscription
  2. Mjolnir Runestone — Ulduar-10 Hard
  3. Wrathstone — Ulduar-25
  4. Mirror of Truth — Emblem of Heroism (currently equipped)
  5. Fury of the Five Flights — Obsidian Sanctum-25
  6. Bandit's Insignia — Naxxramas-25
  7. Darkmoon Card: Death — Inscription
  8. Loatheb's Shadow — Naxxramas (currently equipped)
  9. Meteorite Whetstone — WotLK 5-man (somewhere in the bank)
  10. Incisor Fragment — WotLK 5-man (somewhere in the bank)

Magic trinkets have always been good at enhancing and rounding out my powers, and I am fortunate to have two which seems to measure up pretty well. But, ah... the Darkmoon Cards—it looks so good. It's an impossible dream, however. These cards are hideously expensive. We are not wealthy and I am doing all I could to finance my own expedition into Northrend as it is. I also have Myrrh's education to think about. I think the Wrathstone or the Fury of the Five Flights would be the best I can hope for.

Of the heavy melee weapons, these are the best:
  1. Lotrafen, Spear of the Damned — Ulduar-25
  2. Rune Edge — Ulduar-25
  3. Dreambinder — Ulduar-25 Hard
  4. Journey's End — Naxxramas-25 (currently equipped)
  5. Tortured Earth — Ulduar-10 Hard
  6. Betrayer of Humanity — Naxxramas-25
  7. Twisted Visage — Ulduar-25
  8. Dark Edge of Depravity — Ulduar-25 Hard
  9. Spire of Withering Dreams — Ulduar-10
  10. Relentless Edge — Ulduar-10

Not bad... although I think I would like to return to having a nice spear or broadsword—nothing like cutting and slashing compared to blunt force k-thunk! impact with a staff. Still, if that staff can be found, I will pick it up.

The recommended light melee weapons are:
  1. Bladetwister — Ulduar-25 Hard
  2. Combatant's Bootblade — Ulduar-10 Hard
  3. Fang of Oblivion — Ulduar-25 Hard
  4. Malice — Ulduar-25
  5. Calamity's Grasp — Naxxramas-25 (in the bank)
  6. Void Sabre — Ulduar-10 Hard
  7. Daschal's Bite — Ulduar-25
  8. The Masticator — Ulduar-10 Hard
  9. Insanity's Grip — Ulduar-25
  10. Rune-Etched Nightblade — Ulduar-10

I still have that whirlygig contraption somewhere in my vault. It is effective, but I get strange looks when I wear it. The sword Malice looks promising, though. I shall be on the look-out for that one.

Now, for the ranged weaponry:
  1. Skyforge Crossbow — Ulduar-25 Hard
  2. Siren's Cry — Ulduar-25
  3. Giant's Bane — Ulduar-25
  4. Envoy of Mortality — Naxxramas-25
  5. Magnetized Projectile Emitter — Ulduar-10 Hard
  6. Avalanche — Ulduar-10
  7. Golemheart Longbow — Ulduar-10
  8. Arrowsong — Naxxramas-25 (currently equipped)
  9. Rifle of the Platinum Guard — Ulduar-10
  10. Veranus' Bane — Ulduar-25

*Sigh* The Final Voyage is not even on the list anymore. It will stay in my vault, though, along with my memento from that brave Tauren hunter.

Well, that's the list of gear Shandara gave me to keep an eye out on—if any do drop, the motto is "Beggars can't be choosers". She also scribbled notes on recommended ammo rotations, glyphs, and... what's this? Ah, still the old Ferocity beast recommendation. I guess for the Ulduar campaign, I will have to take either Trim, Kodachi or Navarre... Dwarrow did say the place was brutal. Chilli did very well in Naxxramas, but I guess she had the hometown advantage. She could use a break anyway; we've had to kill her mom in Naxxramas, and I want to give her some space.

I went by the trade channel to pick up some food, drink and other consumables, then headed back to our apartment. As soon as I get there, I will ask how Myrrh's enrollment in the School of Fire went; she's been Frost for as long as I remember.

"Hello Mom!" Myrrh called from the doorway. "How did your audit go? All good?"

"Yes, Myrrh," I answered. "I will be joining the guild on their next incursion into Ulduar on Thursday, so we still have some time before I have to embark. Zorbax will be performing a Ritual of Summoning, so I do not have to make the long boat trip, so I can stay with you until that actual time."

Dwarrow also stepped out to meet us. I acknowledged her with a nod, then continued my talk with Myrrh, "Anyway, tell me about the School of Fire. Were you able to pay the bursar the 1000 gold coins?"

Myrrh and Dwarrow both gave me wide grins. "Mom, have a seat and I'll tell you all about what happened to that bag of gold."

What's going on? Nothing seems to be wrong, as both could hardly contain their mirth. I found myself one of the wooden chairs and sat. Trim and Navarre, meanwhile, went straight to the kitchen, presumably to find some scraps to eat.

"Mom," Myrrh began, "don't get mad... but I kinda, like, didn't enroll in Fire School."

I waited patiently, looking at her... then at Dwarrow. Wait a minute... "What did you do to the one thousand gold pieces, Myrrh? Please... not another dress!"

Dwarrow and Myrrh both laughed aloud. "Look, Mom," Myrrh said. "Just because you spend your gold buying dresses doesn't mean we would. I mean, we would, but we didn't do it this time."

"Myrrh, this is no laughing matter. Where is that bag of gold?" I wanted to be mad, but somehow I cannot help grinning too.

"Mom, Auntie Dw, Auntie Sappy and Mr. Vault and I pooled our resources..." said Myrrh, her voice almost sing-song.


"... coming up with 5000 or so gold pieces..."

"Yes..." I said, uneasily.

"... and since it was Mother's Day today, bought you a card with it!"

I stared incredulously at both Dwarrow and Myrrh, certain both have lost not only their minds but several weeks worth of toil. "Light defend us! What happened to the money?! What happened to the gold? I saved all of that for your education, Myrrh! What card could possibly cost five thousand pieces of gold?! Sister, what is this? Stop giggling! This is serious! Where's that gold?"

I was standing and shaking my fists, but their giggling smiles was making all this seem ridiculous somehow. My cheeks were hurting from trying not to smile, but I was so annoyed.

"Sister," Dwarrow said. "Just take the card we got you; it is the Day of Mothers. Be grateful, as it took us some time to get it."

Myrrh stepped forward with a little red card with a carnation on it. *Sigh* Another one of those stupid human festivals that demand you spend all your time and hard-earned gold... "Oh, for the love of—"

I had opened the envelope and was staring at the Mother's Day "card". "Greatness!" I cried. "But, but..."

Dwarrow let out a melodramatic sigh. "I got tired of your pitiful excuses about your supposed lack of powers," she said. "I admit it is a bit self-serving; I feel the guild will need all the firepower it can get when battling the Titans."

"Now, Myrrh," Dwarrow continued, "can you please fetch Sapsorrow, Mr. Vault and his staff so we can eat?"
Continue reading "Back to the frontlines"...

Saturday, 25 April 2009

The Valkyrjur's Arms

A Valkyrja was one who soared over the battlefield, choosing the worthy among the slain. These Valkyrjur would then bring these warriors to the afterlife, where they are trained to fight the final battle against evil in the end.

At least, that was the story that the dwarves of the Explorer's League would tell me when I asked them about the Val'kyr, those undead Vrykul women that have joined the Lich King. This does not make any sense, though. If the Valkyrjur chose slain warriors to someday fight in the final battle against evil, what were these Val'kyr doing helping the Scourge.

"No, lassie... no, no, no...," said the dwarf. "The original Valkyrja was probably what Arthas had in mind when he named these abominations as such. All I'm sayin' is that when he was young, y'know, just a wee lad, he probably heard this story and remembered all about ladies taking the slain to where they should be—that is, he presumed that he can call them like tha'. But no, these undead things are not they."

I was sitting at an inn in Ironforge after a trip to resupply, when Greywhisker of the Explorer's League walks in and we greet each other. Knowing that they were uncovering plenty of lore even older than any known by the Kaldorei, I asked him about the Titans and the Old Gods. It was when I mentioned fighting Val'kyr that he quoted that tidbit about the Valkyrja. So, the Valkyrja was a myth that Arthas knew as a child and now presumes to entitle his undead women troops, and I tell Greywhisker this.

"Just what I've been sayin', lass," he said. "'Cept that, if our data is any accurate and the relics we found authentic, then the Valkyrjur existed. Probably very long ago, and all gone. They were living Vrykul women who did some stuff for the Titans."

"Relics?" I asked. "They left bones or graves?"

"Oh, yeah. Even weaponry, 'cept that whatever weaponry we find are usually broken. Graves disturbed, too, so no complete bodies. Looks like it isn't just dead dragons that the Scourge are trying to resurrect, but Vrykul (that is, instead of converting living Vrykul to undeath) and weapons."

"Yes, weapons," he continued, at my incredulous look. "Their arsenal may be good, but remember, we have them under siege—their production is hampered. It makes sense to merely desecrate these graves, take ready-made, Titan-inspired weaponry and corrupt them for their own use."


Corrupting weapons for the use of the Scourge. I thought long about that as I took the boat back to Northrend. Before I engaged in heavy raiding, my friend Lazaroth crafted a gun for me to use; that weapon design was, at the time, considered one of the best suited for front-line use.

Yet, in my first forays into the citadel of Naxxramas, we found plenty of corrupted weaponry and armor that was clearly superior to anything we can craft. They were so good that it was worth the karma we expended to cleanse the weapons of corruption... or at least, contain them.

With enough karma, I was able to replace the gun and my swords, and outfit myself with an accursed bow and cryptfiend polearm.

These weapons, obviously, have gone through the corruption process. As such, while they were clearly powerful, I had to spend a full night adjusting the enchantments and gems on my armor so that I am not weakened by using these implements.

That being said, we were able to salvage pieces of armor and gear that, somehow, had survived corruption... or at least, had undergone very little. Usually, these gear were those that those in the holy and restoration orders can wear. We also found that the deeper we pushed into the dread citadel, the instances of recovering uncorrupted gear grew. We found, also, that larger raiding groups were better able to accomplish this task.

Our tour of duty was not limited to just assaulting Naxxramas, but also to counter the machinations of our erstwhile ally—Malygos. I was pleased when Alextrasza (in reward for engagements against Malygos) gave me a weapon that was better than the cryptfiend one.

I mean, sure, it was a magus staff (salvaged, perhaps, from the battle magi of Malygos?) and while it did not confer as much power as the cryptfiend's bite, at least it isn't cursed. Because it had sharp, permanently frozen ice shards on the ends, I was able to use the magus staff as a polearm; furthermore, sticking one end into the ground, it helped stabilize my ranged weapons and made it easier to hit adversaries.

But two events transpired that saw me wielding two uncorrupted weapons, one ranged and one staff.

We had been fighting our way through the Death Knight academy in order to take out Kel'thuzad's line of reinforcements. At the very end, we were faced with Baron Rivendare and his three horsemen cohorts. Our losses, as one can expect, were heavy. I, myself, was so heavily injured and despaired of life when I heard the death knight on the white horse cry out to me as I engaged him: "Do not continue! Turn back while there's still time!"

I knew that voice. It belonged to he whom I loved in my youth. "Sir Zeliek?" I asked. "I- I have no choice but to obey!" he cried despairingly.

As a child, I admired him from afar—the only human I thought I had feelings for. I thought him lost... then I find him here. Turned into- into this?! I cried out and with my last ounce of strength, my arrows spent, I charged him.

Later, I was told that the other death knights had also been dispatched at the time... but after I was healed (by whom, I have forgotten... Rohdan? Dwarrow? Kaidwyn?) I walked slowly to where Zeliek lay. No, he was dead already... with no more words for me. But in his harness was an uncorrupted crossbow.

I took it.

Later, after the battle with the frostwyrm, we battled in Kel'thuzad's antechamber. In the midst of the fight, some undead nerubians came to lend assistance. Chilli, however, begged me to tell the others not to kill these—they were her uncles. With comrades and friends falling left and right around me, I was hard-pressed to grant her request. "Please," she hissed. "I assure you, they will stop attacking when Kel'thuzad has been defeated."

And so we concentrated on Kel'thuzad, while one of the paladins took the nerubians on a goose chase around the room. As soon as Kel'thuzad disappeared, Chilli's uncles, true to her word, scampered away. They, too, were undead... forced to obey... forced to kill without wanting to and begging for us to just run away.

Would I also someday plead as Chilli did when I meet Mórrígan again? Or will I just kill her, as I did with Zeliek?

Somewhere in the antechamber, I found a something that I mistook, at first, to be a hobby horse toy but turned out to be what looked like an uncorrupted Druid staff. Staris, the Burning Dragoons' leader, and Juntei of the Free Company also found some. I picked it up...

This, too, I took.


Later, in Wintergarde Keep, I met up with Greywhisker again.

"Hey there, m'lass!" he called. "How're you?"

"Good," I tell him. "Yourself?"

"Ah, you know how it is. I'm too old to go anywhere near the frontlines, but at least all the collated data filters down to us. I found out more about your Valkyrja... primarily, the weapons they used."

I stood up from where I had been sitting on the floor with my meal and walked over to him as he held up a parchment.

"These Valkyrja," he said, "they were empowered by the Titans to help usher worthy souls that have been slain to the afterlife, where dwell the brave and pure. They were also tasked with going after corrupted souls to put them at peace. Well, their mission was so sacred that eventually, they developed special ceremonial weapons—not the source of their power, naturally, but certainly good augments—that reflected their dedication to their mission."

I bent over to look over his shoulder, and stared at the illustrated manuscript I saw in his hand. The dwarf continued speaking.

"Two weapons stand out: the Final Voyage, a crossbow which symbolizes the final boat trip that these worthy warriors undertake to finally arive at their Journey's End, symbolized by this staff, where they will find happiness forever. We've been getting reports of these being found inside Naxxramas... very rare, of course, but they exist. They're nowhere near as potent as some of those Titan-made stuff, but for weapons made by mortals (of which the Vrykul once were), they're pretty much the 'best-in-slot', as they say. Hey! What've you got there?"

Greywhisker's eyes grew wide as he noticed my arms, then took out a pad and started taking notes.

Continue reading "The Valkyrjur's Arms"...

Tuesday, 21 April 2009


This post was originally submitted as an entry to Big Bear Butt Blogger's Contest - Win your own copy of Arthas: Rise of the Lich King! and first appeared in BBBB's blog.

I groan in my troubled sleep and open my eyes. Myrrh is kneeling by my bedside, her head buried in her arms. She is finally asleep, poor child. The plague in those Wintergrasp barrels were potent, making me very ill. Thank Elune... thank the Light that the Argent Dawn can treat this—I shall not turn into undead.

War will always have its casualties. But in times like these, when I am at my weakest, I often bitterly curse my losses. Mórrígan... Oh, my Mórrígan! If only I had not been so foolish!


It was the eve of the invasion of Northrend. The Beta Expeditionary Force, already there, were already engaged in numerous battles. Fresh from my victories in the battles against Magtheridon and Gruul, I had grown arrogant. "Ærynn and her stormcrow Mórrígan have a new grisly trophy!"

I had heard that Naxxramas' hold on the plaguelands was slipping. Of course, with Northrend so threatened, it was natural that Naxxramas would retreat to reinforce their holdings.

But I did not want them to retreat. At least, not yet. I longed to go to Naxxramas and gain even more glory.

A few shared my feelings; all of us found ways to find the hidden entrance deep in the eastern plaguelands. We want to in before they escaped Lordaeron forever! Oh, what did we hope to accomplish? Those more powerful than we have gone in, and have either returned as embittered veterans or returned not at all. Yet here we were, sneaking into the dread citadel itself, hunting for the glory of bringing back Kel'thuzad's head.

We all went through the portal, but on the other end was only Mórrígan and myself. Even then I should have heeded the warning in my heart. The sudden gloom was like a physical presence. The sounds of skittering feet and the distant wails of those who were being tormented drove me almost to terror. Walking around the circular vestibule, I found a madman, claiming to be a wizard and high elf (though he looked neither), wailing bitterly about a staff and how it was taken from him and broken.

Summoning my courage (or was it just hubris?), Mórrígan and I attempted to kill some of the giant spiders in one wing. We were thrashed to an inch of our lives, and only by feigning death were we able to escape.

After mending our wounds, I told Mórrígan that we will spend the night at the entrance near the "elf" and attempt to sneak past the mob. I am quite sure that if I can get close enough to Kel'thuzad, I can kill him, take his head and trigger my hearthstone to escape. Mórrígan, my Mórrígan was not so sure. She was agitated and wanted to fly away—she kept hearing voices all around us.

As we lay down to sleep, I saw a small, living cat looking at us with glowing eyes.


I awoke in pain and nothingness, that is, I felt unbearable pain everywhere, but I felt that I had no body to feel that pain. I could make out two people talking.

"Yes, my lord," said a tremulous voice. "Another one of these 'adventurers'. A nightelf."

"What fools," said a loud whisper. "And they are trapped, lich? They cannot get out?"

"No, my lord," the first answered. "There are... enough of them to fully satisfy the needs of Acherus. It only remains to slay them properly and... transport them."

"Very good, Lich. Not all of them, though. Some are weak; too weak to even use as ghouls. This one, for instance," and here I felt a sharp, painful throb everywhere but nowhere, "can safely be left to rot."

"But, oh..." continued the harsh whisper. "Not this one... Not thisss one."

"Which, my lord?" his servant asked, confused. "The stormcrow? This hunter's bird?"

"No... not a bird... oh, no... not a bird. One who has lost... hurm... forrrrgotten herself. Her... true shape... Yessssss... I sssee ssstrength here! Be sure that this one reaches Razuvious. Be sure to begin... persuading her."

"It shall be done, my lord."


Who had they been talking about?

Moments? Days? Weeks? I lost track of time. But, Mórrígan and I, we escaped. Or, rather, we were rescued. My daughter Myrrh and Mr. Vault petitioned an Avatar of the Great Blizzard to free me and all those trapped within. No... those voices were not talking about Mórrígan. She was right there beside me when we were restored. But Mórrígan, my poor stormcrow... she was never the same.

From being the most powerful of my beast companions, she fell into a deep melancholy and never left the stables. Every night, when I went to her, she would look into my face, showing much more intelligence and awareness, and also much more sadness than I have ever known her to show.

My marching orders came late, and I could not join my guild in Northrend. But I took Mórrígan to the Stormwind harbor, hoping the sea breezes would do her good. Together, we would watch the sun go down behind the tall lighthouse.

A week had passed and I had recovered; Mórrígan hasn't. I finally got my marching orders, and prepared to board a ship to the Borean Tundra. I had left Mórrígan behind.

As I waited for the ship, a druid walked toward me. She was dark and gaunt, and very sad.

"Ærynn," she said. "I am sorry, but I must leave. He calls to me... I hear his voice. I... I must obey."

When I turned toward her, she had already disappeared. Who was she? I thought she mistook me for someone else, but Myrrh told me later that that was the last time Mórrígan was ever seen. Then I understood. So... he took her after all. Gave her back her senses, then took her.

Since then, I had fought in every engagement against the Lich King. I knew what he turned her into.

He will pay.

Continue reading "Persephone"...