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"...

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

The end of an era

I wake with a wet towel on my head. Myrrh was arranging some flowers by the bedside. "Ah, Mom... you're awake! Are you strong enough for some food?"

"I would appreciate it greatly, Myrrh," I tell her. "Although I think I am not ready for any barbecue. Just conjure me some bread and dip it in water."

"You sure, Mom?" she asks wryly. "I will have to, like, to call upon 'the wicked arcane majicks' that 'sensible folk' would dutifully avo-..." "Oh, Myrrh!" I interject. "Are you still holding my poor choice of words from so long ago against me? Now, be a good girl, conjure your mother some food, and give me some news."

I had been ill. And, before that, I had been engaged on several different fronts. Myrrh still thinks that I pushed myself too hard... made me vulnerable to the plague barrels.

She may be right.

"Well," began Myrrh. "There's some good news, some great news and, like, not so great news. Bran Bronzebeard has returned but he, like, brought strange news. Looks like more enemies, Mom. Muster day is tomorrow."

"That's the good news?" I asked. I was biting eagerly into the conjured sourdough.

"Yes and no, Mom," she replied quickly. "That's kinda, like, the good and great news 'coz, like, for the muster we are now all hereby allowed to switch between two schools. Mom, the Hunter Civil War will be over!"

That was great news indeed; if hunters can switch between two schools, then there would be no clannishness. No more prejudice. No more "I'm better than you so you're useless." Everyone will be useful. I close my tired eyes as I listen to Myrrh talk excitedly about her own opportunity to try out either the Fire or Arcane schools.

"Myrrh... what was the bad news?" Myrrh became silent and solemn.

"Mom," Myrrh said. "The Big Red Kitty has retired."

I blinked hard at Myrrh. "Say again, child. Who retired?"

"Big Red Kitty, Mom," said Myrrh. "The dwarf hunter who, like, says if you're a marksman you're a-" I waved her to silence.

BRK calling it quits? He had sounded so excited over this next phase of this war. "Was he injured, Myrrh?" I asked.

"No, Mom. His wife and child... they needed him back home."

"Ah," I said. "So he retired with honor, then?"

"Yes, Mom," she replied.

"That is not so bad... his wife is young... his child is young. The world of warcraft, truly, should not be the mistress for one such as he."

"He did the right thing," I added.

I smiled. We were quiet for a long time, until I sensed that Myrrh still had more to say but, for some reason, would not. "Myrrh, what else should I know?"

"Mom, I'm so sorry," she cried. "His assistant was asking us to, like, write him back or something... but he sent out the invitations on Fool's Day and I kinda, like, thought that it was just another one of, like, the dwarfie's practical jokes and, like, I know that you, like, aren't into that sort of 'thang'... and you were ill and the doctor kinda, like, said you kinda needed your rest... and... and... well, it was BRK's going-away party."

We were quiet again. My mind went back to when BRK taught an inexperienced hunter how to chain trap, how to kite and maintain shot discipline. I remember his explanations on all aspects of hunting. I remember when he bolstered my spirit, telling me and others that we need to hone our skills because someday it will be needed again. I remember when he used to say that being the top damage dealer was not the hunter's priority, but being the best we could and how we can help the team. I remember his hunter school, his menagerie of pets... all his pep talks.

I remembered his debates with that Draenei marksman and that Druid hunter and his very public conversations with his brain. I also remember, with a bit of shame, how he would publicly ridicule marksmen—calling us magi—and how I bitterly rebuked him. That was the last time I ever talked to him.

"And BRK himself," I said suddenly, making Myrrh jump. "Where is he now?"

"Gone home, Mom. Back home."

"I see." I see. He will forever think of me as just another bitter marksman.

"Don't worry, Mom," Myrrh said, touching my arm. "It's just, like, a dwarfie hunter. It's not, like, he was the best out there. And you really weren't into those party thingees, were you Mom? Were you?"

"It is alright, Myrrh. Though I'm not usually in for those sort of things, I would have wanted to be part of that." But as Myrrh's face fell, I added, "But even if you had accepted the invitation, well, I was unconscious, wasn't I? I still couldn't have gone. I'm quite sure he'll be back... and when he does come back it may seem like he never left at all. No, Myrrh... he may not have been one of the most powerful (and he was very powerful) or one with the most achievements (and he had achievements that dwarf so many others) but among all of them, he was the best teacher I ever had. I will forever regret never having gone to this 'going-away party', but... well, one can't have everything."

We were silent again for a long time.

"Well, Mr. Vault's nieces were able to talk to him in Booty Bay," said Myrrh. "They thought he was really nice."

"Yes," I said. "He is, isn't he?"

I began to sing:

Where now the dwarf and frostsaber? Where is his gunfire now echoing?
Where is the helm and the hauberk, and the long beard flowing?
Where is the hand on the bowstring, the big red cat charging?
Where now is his laughter heard, and his gray brain arguing?
He has gone to where his heart dwells, his reason for living.

"Mom?" Myrrh asked. "He was called Big Red Kitty because of his favorite technique... but did you know his real name?"

"Yes. His real name... is Daniel."

I close my eyes and sleep. And I dream, of Old Gods, Titans... and a dwarf with a flowing beard.
Continue reading "The end of an era"...