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Cymdoril was always meant to be a healer. She had known it in her bones the first time she saw a priest’s magic in action, knitting her brother Voridan’s arm bones back together after falling from a tree. As soon as she was old enough to decide her own future, Cymdoril had gone to Silvermoon City and presented herself to the priests as a novice. It had been the first time she’d ever traveled far from home. The day of her initiation into the Light, her entire family had come to watch the ceremony. Even Terea had made the journey from Dalaran to attend. Cymdoril couldn’t remember a time when her parents looked prouder.
Nowadays, only Laenaris was left to watch over the little house in Fairbreeze. Terea was a High Elf, their parents were probably undead, and Voridan was somewhere in hellish Outlands, if he wasn’t dead as well.
Herself? Currently, Cymdoril was one of four paladins with their backs to a massive cliff. Each of them wore black-painted plate, edged with red. Tabards fluttered gaily in the wind, a red phoenix on a black field. With mace, sword, and shield, three of the group stood in an arc as ghouls flung themselves at the paladins. In the center of the circle, Cymdoril’s hands moved nonstop. A shield on one, a healing spell on another. Since becoming a paladin, Cymdoril had not had a moment’s rest, but she was fine with the grueling schedule. To her and so many other Blood Knights, as they were called, their job wasn’t just killing monsters – it was revenge.
“These undead don’t even seem to realize they’re just killing themselves by attacking us,” Vextalan the Claymore remarked, separating another head from its rotting body with a swing of his trademark weapon.
“That’s because their brains don’t do their thinking,” Arata Songbird replied. A swing of her mace smashed the skull of a snarling plaguehound. “Does yours, I wonder?” Cymdoril smiled despite the serious situation.
“Of course I do!” Vextalan replied indignantly. “Do you not know the difference between a joke and levity?”
“You two bicker like children. Save it for later so Cymdoril doesn’t have to focus on you.” That came from Aleyis Starstrider, their commander. He was usually silent during combat, unless barking an order or, as it was in this case, shutting up Vextalan and Arata.
“Oh, don’t stop them because of me, Commander,” Cymdoril spoke up as holy light bathed the group. “I’m enjoying the conversation.”
“We’re stuck with our backs to a cliff – nyah-ah! – getting attacked by Scourge, and you focus on a petty argument,” Vextalan sighed. “Just when I think I know you . . .”
“Why do you think I stayed with this unit?” Cymdoril asked sweetly.
As suddenly as it began, the ghouls and plaguehounds stopped their attack. The paladins were left panting from exertion.
“Mount up, all of you,” Aleyis intoned. “We make a run for Crown Guard tower if they don’t attack again.” This was the most dangerous part of the sortie. If someone fell behind while they were being pursued, it would be the end of the line.
Whinnying and flashes of light dominated for a moment as the paladins summoned their chargers. As Cymdoril mounted, she heard Arata cry out. “Abominations!”
Patchworks of rotting flesh and pustules, Scourge abominations were dim-witted but powerful creatures. Plague followed their every step. Despite their ungainly bodies and low intelligence, accuracy with the hook every abomination carried was second to none. If the Blood Knights stayed, they would die. And a peaceful afterlife was all but impossible in the Plaguelands.
“Run!” Aleyis shouted. Hooves thundered on bare dirt and dying plants as the group wheeled about and started towards Crown Guard. Something hard hit Cymdoril’s head, and stars filled her vision.
When they cleared, she was on the ground, her friend’s chargers quickly carrying them away. No, not now! Cymdoril scrambled to her feet; she glimpsed an undead archer drawing his bow as she stood. Even as the futility of running dawned on her, something hard slammed into her from behind, and pain blossomed in her back. It was stunning, the pain. What metal did the Scourge have that was stronger than steel? This time, no stars blocked her sight as she fell.
Her last thought was of her parents. I’m sorry, she whispered to them, as they asked who would avenge them now. I tried.
• • • • •
Darkness. Cymdoril floated alone in the void. She saw nothing, heard nothing, felt nothing except cold. It seeped into her limbs, her heart, her soul. She didn’t care one way or the other. It was just her and the icy darkness.
Then, a voice, calling to her from beyond. Wake up, it whispered. Arise. She obeyed.
Cymdoril found herself kneeling on hard gray stone, dressed in nothing but the tunic and leggings she normally wore beneath her armor. Her skin was unnaturally pale, her hair icy blue instead of the dark red it should be. A man stood in front of her, clad in dark armor. Beyond him, black-robed sorcerers stood by. Instinctively, Cymdoril knew his name: Razuvious.
“Who do you serve?” Razuvious asked. His voice echoed strangely, as if two were speaking instead of one. There was only one logical answer that Cymdoril could give.
“I serve the Lich King.”