Scourgelady (melee offence officer)
Joined: 17 Oct 2007
|Posted: Fri Oct 08, 2010 6:34 pm Post subject: The First and the Last
|The First Legion base camp sprawled lazily over the ice and crushed rock which made up the lower part of the glacier. Sprawling with the lazy arrogance of the victor, it crawled with soldiers, horses, camp attendants, all manner of people both great and small. They were all moving with one purpose, to a clear field at the centre of the huge camp. The battle that had been won the previous day had smashed the enemy. Even now, the ruins of the Scourge fortress burned in the distance, sending up dark plumes of evil smoke. Now was a time for celebration, for feasting, for song, and then … for the return home. But not yet, for now it was the time to pay homage to the man who had led them to victory against all odds, and to hearken to his words.
Prince Arthas Menethil climbed onto the raised stage to address the army. He had exchanged his traditional armour for a new set of black plate, chased in silver. Seja thought he looked magnificent, every inch a leader, but her companions were not so easily impressed. Nonetheless, they jostled and shoved amongst each other light-heartedly to be as close to the platform as they could be.
“Seems a bit morbid, wearing all those skulls.” complained one. “I preferred his other armour. What did he want to change it for?”
“It shows that he’s the Lord of the Dead, that’s what!” said another, laughing, and pointing towards the smoking battlefield where the Scourge army had been destroyed. “An enemy is never truly dead until you’re wearing him.”
“Hush! The Prince is speaking!” The soldiers quietened down and listened intently to the man who had led them here to triumph.
The prince held up his hands for silence, before he addressed his army.
“Men, women, friends. Hear me. It has been a long road which brought us to this place, a road paved with sorrow and grief. Yet each and every one of you has proven your loyalty to the Crown. Where others balked, you persevered. Where others gave up, you pressed on. Where others shirked their duty to the Kingdom, you did what had to be done.
Mark me well, for I will rise and you will rise with me, my friends, to rule these lands!
With Frostmourne in hand and you at my side, I never doubted that victory would be ours for the taking. And victory we took! The blight which ravaged our land has been ended. The dead of Stratholme and Andorhal who cried out to us for vengeance have been avenged.
We will lead the world by our example, our resolve, our faith!
I will make you into the finest fighting force the Kingdom has ever seen. When we return to our land, I will bring word of the valour of every one of you to my father the King, personally. You are all heroes in my eyes, and you will be heroes to our people for as long as my reign shall last and beyond.
Azeroth’s golden age will come at our hands!
But we must not forget that victory comes at a cost. Tonight we will remember Muradin, and all the other brave souls who gave up their lives to bring us this triumph. Let their deeds never fade in the memories of our people.”
As he turned to leave the platform, every person in the field leapt to their feet to watch him go, to cheer for him, to shout out one name.
Later that evening.
Seja lay on her bed staring up at her tent’s canopy as it billowed gently. The noise outside had not subsided, and her head was pounding. Too much ale, no doubt. Still, if there had ever been an occasion to get thoroughly drunk, this had been it. The shouting outside continued and she rested her hands over her eyes wearily. If only they would all pass out and be quiet. She rubbed her forehead wearily. It was probably a good idea to get dressed, but that would involve getting up. A cold drink of water, that would be just the thing.
Seja slipped her legs out of her camp bed and sat on the edge. She pulled her boots back on and fastened her jerkin up again. She was not quite sure how it had become undone, the perils of alcohol, no doubt. She had got up and was pouring a drink from the jug on the washstand when the shouting outside turned to screams. Seja slammed the jug down and strode to the door. Enough was enough. She ripped the flap wide open and burst out into the frigid arctic air.
“For the love of the Light, won’t you all just SHUT U-…”
Her last word was choked off as she saw a man stumble past her tent. He turned to her as she watched him, and opened his mouth to say something. Black blood burst from between his lips and sheeted down his tunic, before he fell face forwards into the snow.
An arrow jutted out from his back.
Seja whirled about and darted back into her tent. Armour, greaves, belt, sword … sword. Where the hell is my SWORD? She saw it on her bed, snatched it up and staggered slightly. Water, right. She upended the jug over her head, gasping as the icy water drenched her face. I am never drinking again. She dashed back out into the chaos of the night.
Some of the camp tents were on fire, sending plumes of black smoke into the twilight sky. Everywhere she looked was the same. Torches burning on posts, guttering out in the snow where they had been knocked. People running around in utter disarray, some shouting into each others faces, others lying on the snow - drunk or dead Seja could not tell. One woman ran past her wearing nothing but a swordbelt and a heavy pair of boots. A group of soldiers were milling about uncertainly nearby. Seja strode over to them.
"What the hell is going on here?" she bellowed over the din.
“It’s the undead, Captain, they’ve attacked again. Thousands of them, they’re everywhere. We’re pulling out!”
“Who gave that order?” she screamed into his face.
“No-one, milady, but I ain’t waiting around for an order to save my own skin. I’m out of here!”
She grabbed his shoulder as he turned away and spun him roughly back to face her. “You will stay at your post soldier, or have you forgotten what it is to be a man?” She turned to the other footmen nearby, who had been shamed into standing their ground. She barked a few terse commands at them.
“Someone find the Prince! We’re not falling back anywhere without him! You two, go check the horse lines. We’ll never get out of here on foot. And where the hell are all the officers?”
An ammunition cart blew up in the distance, casting wild, hideous shadows across the icy plain around them. The barren snow-covered glacier beyond the huddled tents crawled with black shapes as far as the eye could see.
The soldiers beside her looked ill with terror. “There’s so many of them, thousands, millions! Where are they all coming from? I thought we’d won!” They turned and made as if to flee between the rows of tents. A lone horseman burst around the corner and reared up in their path, iron shod hooves lashing out at their faces. They backed away from this new threat, utterly broken. The armoured rider yelled down at them, brandishing a huge two handed great-sword.
“Rally to me! Rally! Get back in position, you cowards! I would never have it said that the First Legion fled the field while there were still foes to fight!” He caught sight of Seja and raised his visor. “Victrix, I knew I’d find you armoured and ready for action, eh? I told Arthas you were worth a hundred of these useless peasants.”
He cantered up to her. His horse was lathered with sweat and frothing at the mouth. The mounted man looked almost as weary. “Listen, it’s all over here. The undead are back, in greater numbers than ever before and they’ve surrounded the camp. I will sound the horn for general retreat. We have to make our way back to the coast and get word to the King. Some of us must make it back to warn them of this threat.”
“I will lead what remains of our cavalry in a spearhead to breach the enemy lines. It will be up to you to widen that gap and make good your escape. Stay together. Make for the coast with all haste! The knights and I will fall in behind you as rearguard.” He turned to the soldiers huddled nearby. “Now, you men, gather your manhoods and rally to me!” He turned his horse and headed back the way he had come, followed by the rag-tag footmen.
The other captain wheeled his courser around again and looked back at her.
“Find the Prince! We cannot leave him unaccounted for!”
He nodded brusquely. “I will find him.”
Chapter 5 - The Last March