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Thread: [Warcraft Total War AAR] My Dread Lady

  1. #1
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    Default [Warcraft Total War AAR] My Dread Lady

    Summary
    Mere weeks have passed since Arthas Menethil set sail for Northrend, racing towards the Frozen Throne. Sylvanas Windrunner, from being mere moments from claiming her vengeance, finds herself further away from that goal with each passing day. Shunned, distrusted and hated, her Forsaken are without friends in a world that has no place for them. Beset by the Scourge and the rising Scarlet Crusade and with far too few resources, the Dark Lady grows increasingly desperate. She would ally with almost anyone if it would give her people a chance. The sudden arrival of two unlikely visitors inadvertently leads her to consider a small city state across the sea, reputedly ruled by an archmage with a certain history with a certain prince.

    A story mainly revolving around Sylvanas Windrunner, ruler of the Forsaken, and the Dark Rangers, Jaina Proudmoore and two stubborn dwarves who decide that they will stop at nothing to see a banshee smile again.

    The story begins right before the end of Warcraft III The Frozen Throne and the events of World of Warcraft. It would appear that a certain demon hunters meddling with cosmic powers in order to topple the Frozen Throne destabilised more than anyone could imagine. Who knows what terrors that may now risk being summoned to Azeroth as a result of his rash actions?

    Technicalities

    Mod: Warcraft Total War.
    Submods: My own customizations of mainly unit statistics based on Warcraft 3 units, meaning very high hit points and attack for most units. As an example, below are the current disordered notes.
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 




    Attack

    Attack as in warcraft, average damage after levelling but before upgrades.

    Armour piercing for spellcasters and magical arrows. Body piercing or area for area effect spells.

    Attack delay is warcraft cooldown x 10 by default, speed up as bonus for faster units or bigger units to make them unhindered by mobbing.

    Range is warcraft range x 2.

    Ammunition is 1 per 10 mana for magic users. 10 projectiles per level for non-magic units.

    Special abilities
    Dark rangers life drain, ap melee.

    Blademaster whirlwind, 0 attack delay.

    Spellbreaker feedback, + 10 damage (average of damage)

    Armour

    Base Armour
    1 hit point per 100 hit points, rounded, in warcraft, after all upgrades.
    1 armour per armour point in warcraft, before all upgrades.
    1 defense skill per unit level in warcraft, 10 for heroes.

    Soldier upgrade levels are 1,2,3. Creature upgrade levels are 4,5,6.

    Armour bonus from special abilities.
    Lich frost armour + 7.
    Crypt lord carapace + 7.

    Paladin aura and divine shield + (5+15).

    Hit point bonus from special abilities, +3 default.
    Death knight unholy aura (no death pacts used here) + 3.
    Dread lord vampiric aura (no sleep since all mana to carrion swarm) + 3.
    Dark ranger life drain + 3.
    Paladin holy light + 3.

    Defense bonus from special abilities.
    Demon hunter evading.
    Banshee curse.

    Shield

    Common RC values. Based only on area covered, not thickness.
    1 shield value per 10 % frontal area covered.

    Costs

    As warcraft gold and wood added. Upkeep equal of that.

    Build time is 1 turn per 10 seconds.

    Numbers

    100 is base number. Increase numbers and costs for lower level units, decrease numbers and costs for higher level units.

    50 default for heroes.
    100 default for casters.
    100 default for cavalry.
    100 default for elite units.
    200 default for regular soldiers.
    250 default for goblins, murlocs and skeleton minions.
    Morale

    Equal to unit level, 10 for heroes.

    Undead minions have locked morale.

    Mindless demons have locked morale.

    Constructs have locked morale.

    Fanatical heroes have locked morale
    Paladin
    Sylvanas

    Last edited by Maltacus; July 15, 2022 at 02:42 PM.
    The Misadventures of Diabolical Amazons - Completed.
    An Orcs Tale, a Third Age AAR - Completed.
    Reviewed by Alwyn in the Critics Quill
    My Dread Lady, a Warcraft Total War AAR - A few chapters done.
    Home to Midgard, a Third Age AAR about two dwarves, a spy and a diplomat - Completed (pictures remade up to chapter 19).
    Reviewed by Boustrophedon in The Critics Quill

  2. #2
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    Default Re: [Warcraft Total War AAR] My Dread Lady

    Who is who?

    This post will be continously updated with a list of main characters and factions to check with when the story becomes too tangled.

    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    Arthas Menethil: The fallen prince of Lordaeron, turned death knight under the former Lich King and lately Lich King himself after merging with the imprisoned spirit of his predecessor. Wielder of the immensely powerful, as well as immensely cursed, sword Frostmourne with the ability to capture souls and raise the dead. Leader of the vast enslaved undead armies known as the Scourge, responsible for devastating Lordaeron, Dalaran and Quel’Thalas. Currently residing in Northrend.

    The Forsaken: The independent undead who have broken free from the Lich Kings control and banded together in a fledgling nation. Comprised mainly of undead humans of Lordaeron and elves of Quel’Thalas slain and raised by the armies of Arthas Menethil, the Forsaken control the former capitol of Lordaeron, now known as the Undercity, and part of the surrounding countryside.

    Sylvanas Windrunner: Dark Lady and Banshee Queen, ruler of the Forsaken. Driven by lust for vengeance against Arthas Menethil and care for the Forsaken, she bothers with little else and cares nothing for herself. Formerly the revered Ranger-General of Quel’Thalas, she is now despised for her actions under the Lich Kings control or feared for being undead. Constantly haunted by guilt and grief, she remains no less iron-willed and determined. She was the first of the Forsaken to break free from the Lich Kings control and appears to, if such a term is allowed, possess extraordinary banshee powers along with undimished skills as ranger and tactician.

    Runar: A dwarf diplomat with unconventional manners and methods. Known for displaying immaculate politeness as well as corrosive disdain depending on the situation. The inseparable colleague of the notorious rogue of a spy, Halvdan.

    Halvdan: A dwarf spy as fond of complex schemes as he is unimpressed with complex spying equipment. Prefers to let diplomatic party members distract the opposing party while he concocts a magnificent master plan from behind the scenes. The ever-present retainer of the infamous diplomat, Runar.


    Dark rangers: Former elven rangers of Quel’Thalas, these undead are among the most powerful and physically intact of the Forsaken. Some are banshees in possession of their preserved former bodies, some are inherently corporeal undead elves known as darkfallen. Their individual abilities vary but all are expert archers and scouts. Like their living colleagues, most are female.

    Areiel: A seasoned dark ranger captain with a practical mind and pragmatic outlook. Seems less affected by undeath than most, or is just too stubborn to let it stop her from getting on with her duties. One of the darkfallen rangers.

    Amora Eagleye: A dark ranger lieutenant with friendly manners and a reputation for traning newly arrived rangers with good results.


    Alina: A recently acquired dark ranger who does not take her undeath well. The mere mention of the wrong death knight is usually enough to send her into a rage. One of the banshee rangers.

    Kalira: A no-nonsense dark ranger lieutenant. A harsh drillmaster in Cyndias opinion. One of the darkfallen rangers.

    Cyndia Hawkspear: A somewhat sarcastic dark ranger who dislikes confined spaces. She appears to handle undeath reasonably so long as she can have her moments alone outside. One of the banshee rangers.

    Velonara: One of the youngest rangers in life. Deeply devoted to Sylvanas despite or perhaps because of being Raised by her. One of the darkfallen rangers.


    Anya Eversong: A quiet dark ranger lieutenant. Appears to know Sylvanas exceedingly well and is highly trusted by her, despite a reputation for sometimes exceedingly unbecoming conduct. One of the banshee rangers.


    Last edited by Maltacus; July 22, 2022 at 01:12 AM.
    The Misadventures of Diabolical Amazons - Completed.
    An Orcs Tale, a Third Age AAR - Completed.
    Reviewed by Alwyn in the Critics Quill
    My Dread Lady, a Warcraft Total War AAR - A few chapters done.
    Home to Midgard, a Third Age AAR about two dwarves, a spy and a diplomat - Completed (pictures remade up to chapter 19).
    Reviewed by Boustrophedon in The Critics Quill

  3. #3
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    Default Re: [Warcraft Total War AAR] My Dread Lady

    Chapter I-I. Awakening and Arrival
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    The last echoes of the Lich Kings control were fading from Alinas thoughts as her etheral claws tore apart the throat of the last acolyte of the Cult of the Damned. Her misty form floated towards the grotesque wagon-like contraption they had guarded and her etheral arms tore off the lid off the iron coffin she knew contained the right body.

    Her body.

    I had begun a day or so ago with the mindless ghouls that guarded the small patrol. Their primitive and single minded bloodlust broke them free of their masters shaking powers absent thoughts of whether it could be a trick or a test, absent hesitation. The acolytes who were formally in command, by now very formally, ordered her to shoo them off with a Wail to take their fatal bickering tendencies somewhere else. Soon after the slow-witted by incomparably stronger abomination was sent away as well. Somehow the primitive humans seemed to think that her somewhat more intact mind would make her less of a danger. Did they expect her to harbour enough righteous fear of the Lich Kings wrath to keep herself in line? Did they confuse simple-mindedness with rebellious thoughts? Could their fanatical minds no longer distinguish between their own pathologial obedience and their slaves forced servitude to their hated master?

    She would never know and would never care. The acolytes died as they had lived, ugly stains of blight upon the ugly and stained blighted ground.

    The cruel humour of the Lich King and his despicable prince of a death knight manifested itself in the petty idea of assigning the banshees to guard the coffins of their own bodies, forever beyond reach as the unbreakable force of their masters will shackled them, forever near enough to be a constant reminder of what they had been and all that was denied them. Life. Afterlife. Rest. Freedom.

    Still ever distrusted by the prince, Alina and other banshees were mostly dispersed around Lordaeron these days to hunt down whatever renegade remnants of Lordaerons human population that might be lingering in the cursed woods and highlands. To that end they had abominations with them to drag along the crude contraptions known as meat wagons that doubled as catapults and storage for whatever bodies they may collect to bring back to the necromancers in the capital and other strongholds, to be raised as new undead minions or thrown to the ghouls.

    No longer.

    Alina surged down and into her body. It was not like possessing a living creature, there was no soul to battle and destroy, no alien physiology to get used to. This was familiar, this was sliding into a well worn set of armour and coat, moulded to her shape from years of use. This was…her.

    But she was empty.

    The forest did not call to her. The power of the Sunwell did not sing in her blood. Those were the first things she noticed, as whatever fleeting hope she may have maintained of experiencing the opposite crumpled and died inside of her. She could hear the faint calls of what wretched birds still remained in the Lordaeron woods, but it was only sound now. No more, no less. She knew somehow that no bird or beast would ever trust her implicitly again. The trees were just obstacles now, with shade and darkness underneath. Darkness that did almost nothing to impede her vision now, she also noted.

    Her skin was white as snow, still and lifeless like a statue. She raised her arm and flexed her hand. She could move, she could feel her fingers coming together to form a fist. It all felt…dull. Dampened. As if all her senses were muffled like sounds coming from behind a wall or from far away. She ran one of her nails across her arm. She felt it, but still hardly didn’t. She raised her arm to her mouth and bit down, her fangs almost breaking the skin. Yes, there was pain to be felt, but at the same time she did not feel it. She…registered pain but did not feel the fear and discomfort it would have brought earlier. When she had been…alive. Been…herself. Perhaps the most accurate way to describe it was that she simply did not care about the pain she now felt.

    Honestly, what was left to care about? She was dead.

    She was not a withered or rotting corpse though. Her body looked, in shape if not in colour, more or less like before as far as she could tell, and she reckoned she was at least as strong and enduring as in life. Probably more, without the need for breath or food or water to sustain her and with fewer vulnerable body parts she needed to depend on. Although, would she need to drink? A living body needed water, and lots of it, did a dead one need to keep itself from dehydrating? She guessed she would find out sooner or later.

    Alina was aware of a presence of darkness and shadow just out of her vision, always behind her wherever she turned. She knew that it was part of her, like your hair blowing freely in the wind behind you was part of you. She reached back with her mind, something like as if her mind had been her arms, and pulled the shadow forward and around her like a cloak. Darkness boiled and bubbled around her, smoking and writhing like cool flames. She knew without trying that it would hide her in anything but strong sunlight. She could move inside it without being hindered but it took up a part of her concentration to keep herself wrapped in this flowing cloak.

    That would have been interesting. For someone that cared.

    She focused on her shadows again, but instead of pulling at them she let herself sink back into them. It was not a step back, more akin to letting yourself fall backwards into the water of a lake a dark night. Her shadows were cold and fleeting and weightless and so was she. She wanted to move forward and glided forward like a mist. Her eyesight was the same but her hearing had dulled and what little remained of her smell and, she would presume, taste was now gone.

    Her banshee form.

    She did not glide, but flew up, ever higher, into the pale light of the sun above the drying and withered treetops. The sun felt…wrong on her skin. Not burning her, but not warming her either. Not welcoming her like it would have when she was alive and thrived under it like all the high elves did. Belore had turned away from her. Or looked right through her. A banshee was a creature of the dark.

    Alina lowered to the ground. She mentally took a step forward, out of the embrace of shadow and darkness, and took a step forward in her…physical form? Corporeal form? In her own body that she now possessed and inhabited but which hardly felt like herself in anymore. A heart that had not beat for almost a year. Necromantic energy that flowed through her veins instead of blood, or flowed through her body in veins and patterns of its own. Her tattered clothing was still on her, she had unconsciously brought it with her in her banshee form she realised. She willed her right leg to sink back into the shadows. It was hard to keep part of her corporeal and part of her not, it required a great deal of focus and balance. She raised her shadowy, smoking part that was her right leg out of her right boot, and then back inside and let it become corporeal again.

    That…certainly opened up for some unconventional military tactics if nothing else. But Alina couldn’t summon anything but dulled indifference about her realisations.

    There was a step behind her, a step intended to be heard.

    ”Alina.”

    Alina turned around.

    Tall, regal and very obviously dead, her former Ranger-General Sylvanas Windrunner stepped forward fully into her view without a second glance at the gory surroundings. Her eyes shone red like Alina suspected her own perhaps did as well now.

    ”I am pleased to see you too have freed yourself, Alina. Am I correct in assuming it is something that happened only recently?”

    Alina would have raised an eyebrow in life. Now she only cast the slightest glance at the carnage around her which spoke for itself. Sylvanas did not display any surprise at either Alinas answer or her disinterested manner of answering.

    ”There are more of us, former Scourge who have reclaimed our own will. We are not many, but I suspect there are others to be found now as the cursed prince has departed these lands. I and some of our sisters tracked his movements towards the coast after I failed to end him. For that failure I must beg the forgiveness of all of you, for the second time. I had him on the ground with a poisoned arrow but his pet lich intervened when I wasted time gloating and Arthas escaped me and is sailing for Northrend as we speak. It is possible that the Lich Kings control over Lordaeron could have weakened further now with the greater distance to Frostmourne, or perhaps to Arthas himself…”

    Memories flooded into Alina faster than what was left of her conscious self could even hope to keep up with and sort through in a controlled way. She was barely registering what Sylvanas was saying any more.

    Arthas.

    In a blink she was standing in Quel’Thalas with her ranger squad months ago and hearing the first reports of his undead army crossing the border.

    In another she was back hearing the first report of rangers who were not coming back.

    She was running, retreating from outposts that were going up in flames and undead monstrosities descrating her forest.

    She was loosing arrows as fast as she ever had against gargoyles filling up the sky, wounded rangers hobbling ahead to join exhausted refugees fleeing towards the first gate.

    She was crushed under the weight of a fallen gargoyle that dropped out of the sky and broke her leg.

    She stared into the gaping maw and claws of the ghoul that jumped for her throat before all became pain and darkness.

    She saw the welcoming warmth of a sunny forest far away as something cold and sinister held her back and pulled her away from it, back to a wretched existence of only slavery and grief.

    She opened eyes that no longer had eyelids and looked into the leering face of the former prince of Lordaeron wielding the cursed blade that now had chained her to the Lich Kings will.

    She watched powerless as the undead she was now part of tore apart her capitol of Silvermoon.

    She struggled in vain, unable to resist the command to give chase to the fleeing families making for the harbour where no ships were left afloat, or the outer gates that had already fallen to the undead.

    She tried to shout to them to hide and get away from her, but all that came out was a banshees Wail that caused all who heard it to fall to the ground in agony, those closest never to rise again.

    She heard the mocking laughter of Arthas echoing through her mind no matter how loud the cries of terror from her people grew. Her former people.


    Alina fell to the ground and felt herself slippin into her banshee form, shadows flickering and smoking like flames around her, and she let out an ear piercing Wail. She Wailed and Wailed until her drained spirit could manage no more and she fell down into her corporeal form again, absent-mindedly noting that it was apparently the easier one to maintain when her focus or anger ran out.

    Alinas legs gave out but Sylvanas was there and caught her and Alina collapsed into her arms. She spoke in a strange language that Alina knew without thinking was called Gutterspeak and that she understood without even trying.

    ”You are not alone anymore, Dark Ranger.”
    The Misadventures of Diabolical Amazons - Completed.
    An Orcs Tale, a Third Age AAR - Completed.
    Reviewed by Alwyn in the Critics Quill
    My Dread Lady, a Warcraft Total War AAR - A few chapters done.
    Home to Midgard, a Third Age AAR about two dwarves, a spy and a diplomat - Completed (pictures remade up to chapter 19).
    Reviewed by Boustrophedon in The Critics Quill

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    Default Re: [Warcraft Total War AAR] My Dread Lady

    Chapter I-II. Awakening and Arrival
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    The flash of light had been brief. But it was there.

    Dark Ranger Cyndia Hawkspear peeked out across the clearing from her hiding place in a drying pine. There had been movement on the other side, she was sure of it. It was something just out of her eye, in the rustling of the bransches that differed from the way the other trees swayed in the wind. She whistled quietly, only perceptible for someone with matching elven hearing wok new exactly what to listen for. She could spot Kalira looking up at her. Cyndias hands moved in the rangers sign language and pointed towards the trees she had been watching.

    Movement – Trees – Hidden – Advance to investigate.

    Kalira signed back.

    Affirmative. Friend or foe?

    Cyndia shrugged, whereupon Kalira rolled her eyes. Not everything in their sign language had to be needlessly complicated.

    She saw Kalira and two more rangers advance. Cyndia focused on the opposing treeline. If something happened, she and the other two left hidden would have to keep the enemy distracted enough for the three below to fall back.

    This time the scouting party did not have to go far. Out into the clearing, blinking in the light and looking around looking slightly disoriented, marched two…dwarves? There was little that fazed Cyndia nowadays but she had to admit that she did blink. Twice.

    One of them had brown and blonde hair and beard, the other pitch black. They wore practical travelling clothes, with some light armour squeezed in here and there, and absolutely gigantic backpacks. Ridiculous dwarves. Always overly proud of how much ore they could carry on their backs and how long they could work their smithys and whatever. So long as they got to gulp down ludicrous amounts of their abhorrent ale.

    Kalira was stepping into their sight, the others quickly following with theirs bows drawn and ears laid back.

    The reaction was…not quite what they had expected.

    ”Runar, look around…” the blackhaired dwarf begun. His companion looked up at the undead rangers and their three nocked arrows pointing at them, rolled his eyes toward the sky and closed them, and let out the most exasperated sigh Cyndia had heard in years.

    ”Oh, for the love of…” the brownhaired dwarf muttered as he ran his fingers over his forehead in a gesture of utter boredom. ”Yes, us dwarves breathe so loud you could have shot us in the dark and so on! We know!”

    Cyndia could see the small tilting of her squadmates ears as they hesitated, as taken aback as she was by the absurd greeting.

    ”Runar…” the blackhaired dwarf said very pointedly.

    ”Alright, alright…” the other acquieced and looked down for a moment before taking a breath and gathering himself. ”Greetings and well met. We are Runar and Halvdan, emissaries of Erebor, the Lonely Mountain. We seek the realm of Midgard.”

    They spoke Common, Cyndia noted. That much about them made sense at least.

    Kalira was not to be trifled with.

    ”Keep your hands where we can see them and make no sudden move! Who are you? What are you doing here?”

    ”We are Runar and Halvdan, diplomatic envoys and in search of the realm of Midgard as previously stated. What we are doing here is currently rather self-explanatory I would say.” Runar answered and glanced at the arrows of the three rangers. ”Though as far as we can tell we only just arrived wherever ’here’ is, and would be deeply grateful if you could assist us with clarifying that, my lady.” he added with a flourishing bow, a feat that surely few but dwarves would have managed with such a burden.

    Cyndia could practically see Kalira raising an eyebrow in disbelief.

    ”You mean to tell us that you have no idea where you are?”

    ”Completely clueless, my lady. I mean of course my ladies.” the dwarf Runar nodded to all three, falling into a smooth and businesslike demeanour with astonishing ease.

    ”This is Lordaeron, the land of the Dark Lady Sylvanas.”

    ”And…not in Midgard I assume?”

    ”Azeroth.”

    ”I see... Irrespective of our current location, may we inquire of the fair ladies name?”

    ”I am Kalira. Consider yourselves in the custody of the Dark Rangers. We will bring you before the Dark Lady.”

    ”Nice start…” the dwarf Halvdan grumbled under his breath.
    Last edited by Maltacus; July 16, 2022 at 10:14 AM.
    The Misadventures of Diabolical Amazons - Completed.
    An Orcs Tale, a Third Age AAR - Completed.
    Reviewed by Alwyn in the Critics Quill
    My Dread Lady, a Warcraft Total War AAR - A few chapters done.
    Home to Midgard, a Third Age AAR about two dwarves, a spy and a diplomat - Completed (pictures remade up to chapter 19).
    Reviewed by Boustrophedon in The Critics Quill

  5. #5
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    Default Re: [Warcraft Total War AAR] My Dread Lady

    Welcome back to the Study! This is a great idea for an AAR. The 'Who is who' is useful for me, as I'm not familiar with the Warcraft universe.

    Alina's discovery of how the forest reacts differently is particularly good. You've got me interested in what the Dark Rangers who have freed themselves will do next, and what will happen to Runar and Halvdan.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: [Warcraft Total War AAR] My Dread Lady

    Chapter I-III. Awakening and Arrival
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    Their captives were not acting as expected, Cyndia quietly considered as they approached the Undercity, as their capitol was starting to be called more and more. They were not unafraid of the rangers - she could spot the tension in their postures and wary looks - but they were making a damn good effort not to show it. If anything, they acted as if they were clinging to their feeble stories of being envoys from some far away reach of Khaz Modan or wherever that so called Lonely Mountain might lay. Cyndia had never been particularly interested in the geography of distant places.

    Cyndia was content with remaining in the background and observe Kalira handling the barrage of questions thrown at her by the undeterred dwarves. Cyndia had almost expected her to shut them up a long time ago but perhaps Kalira had more patience than she had given her credit for, or perhaps the lieutenant wanted to impress them with her self-control. Kalira was an overbearing drillmaster at times when it came to stealth and patience during scouting missions.

    Maybe Kalira viewed it all as some sort of game, or training exercise? Sooner or later the apparently dense pair of dwarves would have to drop their pretense of not reconizing the rangers for what they were. Maybe Kalira was just playing along until then to pick up as much information as she could for Sylvanas.

    ”Lordaeron, is it an elven kingdom? Or state, or realm if that is the more accurate term?”

    Kalira stiffened slightly.

    ”It is not. Lordaeron was a human kingdom before the Scourge claimed it. The Dark Lady now rules what is left of the realm.”

    ”Ah. Perhaps I spoke in haste.” the dwarf continued undeterred. ”Would I be correct to assume that you are in fact elves? They are a race of pointy-eared people from back home that are quite alike you in appearance and, hrm, demeanour, and I may have jumped to the conclusion that since we share a common language our respective realms may share certain terminology as well.”

    Cyndias ears peeked up as Kalira answered in a hard voice.

    ”No, we are not elves. Not anymore.”

    ”Pardon my apparently quite boundless ignorance, but then what are you now?”

    ”Forsaken.” Kalira replied, and the bitterness that radiated from the simple statement told all who heard her that the inquiry was over.
    The Misadventures of Diabolical Amazons - Completed.
    An Orcs Tale, a Third Age AAR - Completed.
    Reviewed by Alwyn in the Critics Quill
    My Dread Lady, a Warcraft Total War AAR - A few chapters done.
    Home to Midgard, a Third Age AAR about two dwarves, a spy and a diplomat - Completed (pictures remade up to chapter 19).
    Reviewed by Boustrophedon in The Critics Quill

  7. #7
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    Default Re: [Warcraft Total War AAR] My Dread Lady

    Chapter I-IV. Awakening and Arrival.
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    The capitol had seen little care since the infighting and subsequent ravaging in the early days of Arthas rebellion, or rather betrayal. While the main host of the Scourge had rapidly advanced north towards Quel’Thalas and then south to Dalaran the leftovers and later the demons of the Burning Legions had all but completed the destruction of almost all of Lordaerons larger settlements. It did not mean that every single building was ground to stone and dust – neither the mindless undead nor the demons bothered much with ruins so long as their living victims could not find shelter in them – but there was practically nothing whole left. Towers stood hollow and crumbling, walls had more holes and jagged tears in them than there was surface. The very streets had been torn up by clawed and hoofed feet too large and too vicious to be meant for the roadbuilding craft of puny mortals.

    Both the remnants of Lordaerons armies, the dreadlords formerly commanding the Scourge and later Arthas had used the city as a base of operations and nominally capitol, even if they had neither the need or the inclination to restore it to its former state. Realising the utility of at the very least a secure location for storing more personal and important valuables as well as keeping the studies of the Scourges necromancers going, Arthas had ordered the complete opposite and had his minions dig and delve deeper underneath instead. Expanding on the already vast net of sewers and tunnels in existence, they had been constructing a subterranean mirror image of the broken city above. In this rare instance, the Dark Lady had been of the same mind as their hated enemy and continued the expansion and fortification below.

    This was the Undercity, the Forsaken capitol and only remotely safe place for their people.

    Cyndia didn’t particularly like it.

    Ignoring the fact that the canals ran thick with disgusting sludge that even the Forsaken were better of not knowing what it was, turning the atmosphere of the place into at beast unhealthy for the living and repelling to even someone with her own dulled sense of smell, or the absolutely bleak and lifeless look and feeling of the surroundings that they all seemed to wallow in, in their morbid collective embrace of all that was dark and gloomy. Ignoring the impracticality of climbing stairs and, indeed, often mere ladders to get to almost wherever you were going.

    The place felt so insanely cramped.

    Cyndia was a ranger. She belonged in the forest, dark ranger or not, and withered and dried as the forest here may be it was still her place. She could still find the quietude of cloudy nights comforting even if she were dead, and she could float around the treetops as a banshee in the moonlight and not need to be disturbed or reminded of what she had been. Or done. She did not belong in corridors were the walls seemed to edge inwards to smother those who walked them, or among the huffle and chaos of overly crowded walkways and street corners. She wondered sometimes if it had always been like this or if it was just the Undercity. She couldn’t be sure. Silvermoon and all other elven of note cities were all tall spires, gardens and airy bridges and wide, impressive and immaculately kept streets. Elven architecture wasn’t designed to appear shut or closed in any way that could be avoided – it was a small miracle her people had at all incorporated doors in their dwellings! Nothing could be further from this overgrown sewer-turned-catacombs they now resided in.

    To Cyndias secret relief Kalira were not leading them towards any of the new entrances downstairs but along the old surface bouleward towards the Lordaeron Keep. The massive structure still stood tall despite the decrepit state o fits walls and still very visible scorch marks and piles of debris. Not even demons could tear down metres-thick walls without making an effort they were disinclined to. For all their clumsiness in the wilds and their lacking wisdom and artfulness, human and dwarven fortifications were no joke.

    The Keep was one of the few places that had a visible guard force standing out in the open, in a twisted or perhaps pitiful parody of the guards of the murdered King Terenas’ court. They were forsaken in the best armour they could scrounge up, former human footmen and officers that had remained when the main Scourge body marched onward or had been Raised more recently. Death Guards and Dread Guards and whatever, Cyndia had paid little attention to the designations that had been springing up lately. They were loyal and did their part so she would offer them her grudging respect for that at least. They were more heavily equipped than her so she would not count on them to keep up in the forest she would but expect them to hold their line long enough in the open for her to do her work from the sides. That was that, in Cyndias opinion.

    And like the Dark Rangers, they were far too few. No amount of repetitively, well, grave titles would change that.

    The main gates of Lordaeron Keep led quickly to the throne room, a majestic circular hall lined with pointed arches over the adjoining corridors, four on each side apart form the larger one from the gates, witht he throne directly opposite. It stood on a round dais with four wide steps, overlooking the floor where most of a once majestic mosaic depicting Lordaeron heraldry and astronomical symbols still spoke of the grandeur of the fallen kingdom. The sun had once shone through a window in the middle of the roof but now it was mostly gone and dust piled along the walls, even dry leaves that the wind had carried inside. Despite the large openings above, the shadows grew long and the place had an air of emptiness and hollowness.

    But of course, not quite empty.

    ”The Banshee Queen.” Kalira simply said. ”Dark Lady.” she added for her own part, and saluted the woman on the throne. The queen nodded back.

    She did not display a shred of regal poise or stature, instead leaning back at one armrest sprawled across the doubtlessly unfomfortable stone seat with its fading decorations. Her eyes gleamed red like the other rangers, for she was without doubt an elf ranger herself, having the same lean build and arms that had been shaped by the endless pulling of her bowstring. Her armour resembled that of the rangers apart from being a little heavier and dyed dark red rather than black. An intimidating bow, seemingly made mainly of the vertebrae of some huge creature, rested against the throne along with a well-stocked quiver. The shadows in the room seemed to lengthen and the light fade away when she rose and descended the few steps leading up to the throne. While being quite tall by herself, the queen seemed somehow to tower even more over everyone in the room than her height would account for. Her voice had a strange echoing character when she spoke, at once both slightly hoarse as well as deep and melodic.

    ”Greetings. I am Sylvanas Windrunner.”

    The Misadventures of Diabolical Amazons - Completed.
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    Reviewed by Alwyn in the Critics Quill
    My Dread Lady, a Warcraft Total War AAR - A few chapters done.
    Home to Midgard, a Third Age AAR about two dwarves, a spy and a diplomat - Completed (pictures remade up to chapter 19).
    Reviewed by Boustrophedon in The Critics Quill

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    Default Re: [Warcraft Total War AAR] My Dread Lady

    It is well that Runar and Halvdan have some previous experience with dealing with demanding Dark Ladies and warlike craft.

    Not to mention elven courtesy. On more than one occassion.
    Last edited by Maltacus; July 18, 2022 at 05:17 AM.
    The Misadventures of Diabolical Amazons - Completed.
    An Orcs Tale, a Third Age AAR - Completed.
    Reviewed by Alwyn in the Critics Quill
    My Dread Lady, a Warcraft Total War AAR - A few chapters done.
    Home to Midgard, a Third Age AAR about two dwarves, a spy and a diplomat - Completed (pictures remade up to chapter 19).
    Reviewed by Boustrophedon in The Critics Quill

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    Default Re: [Warcraft Total War AAR] My Dread Lady

    Chapter II-I. Diplomacy and Delegates.
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    ”They are spies!” the banshee queen snapped.

    The surrounding four pale faces were impassive, their red eyes fixed on her. They had been seated in this improvised conference room for about an hour, seated on mismatched chairs around a cracked table. None of them felt tiredness in the way that would normally call for being seated but Sylvanas was convinced that acting as similarly as possible to what they would have done in life helped to keep them all steady. Even such a simple thing as sitting down around a table to discuss. Standing up signalled impatience, hurry and possibly confrontation all too easily, and that was certainly not something she had time for between them. Although she was aware that her latest outburst was not helping in that regard.

    Sylvanas took a deep breath she did not need, a stupid thing that still tricked her body into calming down just through the memory of what breathing deeply was like. Or so she reckoned. She had asked these four of her most trusted rangers to speak their minds and she wouldn’t disrespect them by responding with nothing but anger and dismissal. The general who let others lead in her stead was a fool but the general who failed to listen to and ask for others advice was just as big a fool. This was not Sylvanas official council of war, or rather what was growing into being that, but an informal and more familiar gathering among the rangers exclusively for her own advice. Nothing would need to leave the room and no one would be held to what they had put forth as suggestions, that was their constant agreement as it had always been, in life as in death.

    Areiel, Anya, Velonara and Kalira waited with patience for her to gather herself until Areiel continued her reasoning.

    ”Dark Lady, we have gone through this twice now. I stand by my assesment that if these dwarves are enemy spies they are an exceedingly poor choice. Their mere presence has drawn enough attention to hinder any realistic attempt at gathering hidden information about us.” she said with the calm voice of her old self who had instructed the new ranger Sylvanas in a different age.

    Sylvanas stared into the table. Areiel was right, infuriatingly so. They had been over this already. This meeting was going in circles.

    ”But their ludicrous story, Areiel? Emissaries from some vaguely far away dwarven realm? How are we supposed to believe that? No envoys or even messengers have returned from anyone we have tried to contact. Nobody wants anything to do with us.”

    ”From what little we know at the moment our envoys never even reached their intended destinations, but this so called Scarlet Crusade caught them. And they don’t pause to ask questions, any undead is just as bad as the next.” Kalira pointed out.

    ”Dark Lady?” Anya asked and waited patiently to have Sylvanas’ full attention. ”Are you not focusing on the wrong question here?”

    Sylvanas was about to snap again but forced herself to keep quiet. Anya could be – was – the worst of all possible obnoxious subordinates at times but when she spoke up in her serious tone you had best listen very carefully. It was easy to underestimate the publicly reserved, quiet ranger but when she thought hard about something Anya was one of the wisest councillors Sylvanas had ever known. She could also guess Sylvanas’ thoughts and mood eerily well. Sylvanas had never had second thoughts about her decision of making Anya a lieutenant.

    ”Why do we need to be so concerned with what their intentions are? These visitors are under guard, they pose no significant threat to anything and they are not in a position to cause us any noteworthy hindrance. No matter their possible intentions, wherein lies the danger?”

    Anya had a point, Sylvanas admitted. They had argued back and forth over something that was in itself a trivial matter – two passing travellers talking apparent nonsense.
    It was just the trivial little other matter that these two were the first and only living people they had encountered that had not displayed outright hostility towards them.

    And she couldn’t get that thought out of her mind.

    ”They have been quartered and placed under guard. What about supplies - food and clean water, do they have access to that?” Sylvanas asked.

    ”Yes, but not much.” Kalira replied.

    ”They did have a good deal packed, all dried like field rations for a long trek, but we have been scouting for drinking water and sooner or later we’ll have to hunt if we want to keep them alive.” Velonara reported. ”We never expected to have to see to living people in the city after all.”

    ”Well, that is telling, isn’t it?” Anya mused in a low voice. ”We don’t even have food for the living and expect them to be friends?”

    ”I would settle for neutrality.” Sylvanas muttered but Anyas words still left an uncomfortable silence.

    Areiel rolled her shoulders and stretched her arms. ”Well, I see clarly that this issue will haunt us until we have resolved it so let’s get on with it, then. Sylvanas, why would they be spies? What mad scheme would that be?”

    Sylvanas groaned inwards at Areiels terrible puns – those had certainly haunted her ever since she had been Areiels apprentice – but for those very same reasons she could also be sure that Areiel meant no disrespect either by her occasional familiarity or her directness. She spoke her mind as a ranger to another. Belore preserve them if they ever ceased doing that. Not that Belore had been preserving them in any particular way.

    Sylvanas tried to move past her instinctual conclusions and consider Areiels question in honest. Why indeed would someone send a pair of such unlikely and ridiculously apparent spies to operate amongst an undead nation?

    ”I have no good answer. Some form of destabilising scheme?”

    Sylvanas could hear Areiel failing to hide her snicker and shot her a stern glare.

    ”Well, we had best be careful then, Dark Lady, when just the very arrival of those dastardly infiltrators threaten to undermine us and set us bickering against each other.” Areiel seemed to sober up the next moment though. ”In all seriousness, there are many ways, mundane as well as magical, that a willing or unwilling individual could be used as someones living trap, or living projectile for that matter. And if these dwarves backpacks had been filled with goblin land mines when Kaliras squad apprehended them I would have been the last to laugh.”

    There were also quite a few ways to affect or alter a seemingly freed undead that the Scourge could very well start using to give her patrols a nasty surprise. Sylvanas set the thought aside for the moment.

    ”If we try this hypothesis,” Areiel continued briskly ”who would have the interest in undermining our quite modest nation while lacking the means or interest to do so in a more direct and infinitely more effective way? And don’t start about the Alliance, they would have a civil war on their hands if they sent dwarves on that kind of suicide mission. Even I am aware of that.”

    ”Varimathras?” Velonara suggested.

    ”How would he have gotten his rotten claws on a pair of outlandish dwarves of all things?”

    ”What do we even know about what dreadlords are capable of?”

    ”Yes, but portal magics? That is an entire school in itself and the dreadlords were ignorant of the Legions defeat for weeks. Wherever they can go on their own, it’s not all across Azeroth at least.”

    Sylvanas felt her irritation boiling under the surface like a persistent headache threatening to return. This wasn’t helping her anymore and she couldn’t rightfully expect her rangers to come up with answers based on nothing.

    She dismissed her rangers, thanking them for their advice. She needed time to think.

    Sylvanas walked absently through the paths of the Undercity with two of the rangers on guard duty shadowing her discreetly, or as discreetly as they could considering that they tried to stay out of the way of the very one who had trained them. She climbed the stairs and ladders leading to the Lordearon Keep and the ruins of a stair by which one could still scale the tallest and least ruined tower to look down on what had once been the thriving city beneath.

    It was insane, in a way. Somewhere down there in some less ruined building resided the very thing she had spent so much effort trying to find; potential living allies. And here she was, keeping them under lock and key and with a ranger squad on rotating guard duty for fear of the possibility that they were spies or saboteurs with some hidden agenda she and her rangers were unable to anticipate.

    But in truth, what other reasonable explanation was there?

    She couldn’t keep them here. She didn’t dare to.

    But she couldn’t ignore her rangers either. She didn’t have anyone or anything else left that she could trust.
    The Misadventures of Diabolical Amazons - Completed.
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    Reviewed by Alwyn in the Critics Quill
    My Dread Lady, a Warcraft Total War AAR - A few chapters done.
    Home to Midgard, a Third Age AAR about two dwarves, a spy and a diplomat - Completed (pictures remade up to chapter 19).
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    Default Re: [Warcraft Total War AAR] My Dread Lady

    Chapter II-II. Diplomacy and Delegates.
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    Sylvanas managed to distract herself with furious work for two days, or more precisely two days and nights. She did not need to sleep and had no interest in finding out if she could. She could very well imagine what kind of nightmares that would be waiting for her if she found herself able to.

    She had made up her mind and summoned the two dwarves again. Now she leaned back in the uncomfortable throne once more and contemplated how she would proceed with this.

    ”You claimed to be representing one of the dwarven kingdoms of Azeroth, correct?”

    ”Not on Azeroth as such, as far as we know, but we have yet to find out exactly where our homeland is situated in relation to Lordaeron. Our journey here was somewhat irregular.” Runar replied.

    So, they still persisted with this inane tale.

    ”In other words, I would be negotiating with a head of state neither I nor anyone around me has heard of, ruling a kingdom lost even by its envoys and unable to engage in any meaningful trade or other exchange for the very same reason.” Sylvanas remarked condescendingly with a raised eyebrow.

    ”I could hardly have summed it up better myself, my lady.” the dwarf grinned.

    Sylvanas was taken aback by the response. Was he completely insane? Or was this some sort of distraction?

    She signed to Anya to search the surroundings, which in this context meant sweeping the Keep for intruders. The dwarf would of course note her hand signs but not be able to decipher them.

    ”So you are either an idiot wasting my time with jests or your purpose here has little to do with your profession. Which leads us to the presumed other realm you did mention previously. Midgard?” Sylvanas intoned darkly.

    ”Indeed, my lady. We are not quite sure what it is or how to reach it – as have been obvious – but it is described as a place of many wonders and myself and Halvdan are looking for it. We do carry every needed authority to negotiate on our kings behalf but with the current state of affairs such endeavours are at most of secondary importance.”

    ”The name tells me nothing. I do however know about a region of Azeroth with similar sounding names. How much do you know about the frozen continent of Northrend?”

    The blank looks the dwarves exchanged with each other were answer enough.

    ”You have much to learn in that case. I can tell you this much though, Northrend is the most hostile place in Azeroth and you stand no chance of even getting close to it on your own, nor do you stand much chance of getting anywhere else without my help. Lordaeron is beset by its enemies on all sides except the sea and no ships sail to or from it. Our foes will not hesitate to slay you on sight simply for being in the vicinity.”

    Runar sighed. ”Why am I not surprised?” Straightening his posture he eyed Sylvanas curiously. ”Unless my instincts have dulled considerably this is the time where some kind of relatively more appealing offer is made, correct?”

    ”My terms are these.” Sylvanas declamed. ”My rangers will guide you through the enemy lands south to the city of Dalaran, home to the Kirin Tor mages. We will provide you with equipment, arms, provisions and as much gold as you can carry from Lordaerons treasuries. In exchange for this you will deliver my letters to the leaders of Dalaran and after that travel to the dwarven kingdom of Khaz Modan and its capitol of Ironforge to do the same. Travelling from Dalaran to Khaz Modan will be considerably easier so long as you have the gold to procure transport. Once you have completed the tasks you will be in a kingdom that will likely view you as kin and from where you stand a better chance of travelling to Northrend if that is your wish.”

    ”Intriguing.” Runar said in a businesslike voice that betrayed no emotion beyond polite interest. ”And what would the naturally unappealing alternative happen to be?” he asked dryly.

    ”You brave the hostile forces besieging us without my aid.” Sylvanas stated harshly. ”You attempt to cross the sea on your own. You remain in my city, if I allow it, among my people who do not drink or eat and care nothing for growing crops.”

    And with a dreadlord who you may be reporting to or unwittingly be a pawn of, she thought as both dwarves eyed her intensely, their expressions suprisingly hard to read. She met their gaze and to their credit they did not look away from her burning glare.

    She could see the dwarves turn towards each other and exchange…something…between them certainly. After a mutual nod, Runar turned back towards Sylvanas.

    ”Acceptable.”

    Then the dwarf held out his hand.

    Sylvanas was almost amused. You did not shake hands with queens, especially not infamous banshee queens. She rose briskly and descended the four steps to the floor to grasp the dwarfs forearm like the rangers did amongst themselves and the few they considered equals, beacuse why not? This was as much of a farce of royal grandeur that anyone could ask for already and Sylvanas had never been much impressed with the stiff etiquette of elven nobility anyway.

    This whole enterprise would be a waste of time and resources but at least it had offered some momentary distraction. And it would appeal to her rangers to cling to this delusion that it was sincere. And they mattered infinitely more than some gold collecting dust somewhere in the lower vaults.

    Maybe this course of action would also confuse Varimathras, who would surely expect her to either buy into the ruse or behead the dwarves at once. Yes, that would be a small gain.
    Actually, there was the possibility that the intention was to make her to kill the dwarves and then put it forth as some sort of propaganda against the Forsaken diplomatic efforts. Farfetched, but possible.

    Runar was apparently not done.

    ”Now then, if we are going to act as diplomatic envoys we will require some measure of context. What has happened in Lordaeron lately and why are you in this situation?”

    ”My ranger captain Areiel will brief you about what you need to know.” Sylvanas had no wish to go into details herself and she would trust Areiel to decide what to share and what not.

    ”Excellent. May I inquire if you would like to share something of your own past, my lady? And perhaps your ideas for the future Lordaeron, provided these present hostilities could be dealt with? It would of course not necessarily have to be right now.”

    Sylvanas clenched her jaw tightly. Insolent damned dwarf! Her own history was the last thing she wanted share with some nosy stranger and absolutely the last thing that she wanted presented to the Alliance.

    ”I will not insist, my lady -” the insolent dwarf in question said apologetically ”- but from a purely practical point of view I expect that the that other nations will wish to know the queen they deal with and her motivations.”

    It was logical, that couldn’t be denied.

    Curse his logic.

    ”I am the queen of Lordaeron and the Forsaken are my people. That is all they need to know.”

    ”Very well. We will do what we can with the information we have. Is there at least some kind of library or archive left in this city that I and Halvdan could go through to familiarise ourselves with Lordaeron and the surrounding nations? Do you have access to maps of our intended routes?”

    ”Areiel will show you what is left of it. You have one week while my rangers gather supplies and prepare for the journey.”
    The Misadventures of Diabolical Amazons - Completed.
    An Orcs Tale, a Third Age AAR - Completed.
    Reviewed by Alwyn in the Critics Quill
    My Dread Lady, a Warcraft Total War AAR - A few chapters done.
    Home to Midgard, a Third Age AAR about two dwarves, a spy and a diplomat - Completed (pictures remade up to chapter 19).
    Reviewed by Boustrophedon in The Critics Quill

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    Default Re: [Warcraft Total War AAR] My Dread Lady

    Chapter II-III. Diplomacy and Delegates
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    Alina wandered the Keep, off duty.

    It was a weird feeling. What was she supposed to do now? What did you do when you were…dead?

    She had used to do so many things, used to like so many things. The time off and the free weeks had never lasted longer than an eyeblink. But what did it matter now? She didn’t tire any more, at least her body didn’t seem to, and she would be just as agreeable to take on a couple of more shifts as anything else. But her lieutenant Amora was adamant in her own amicable manner that Alina would take time off like everyone else. Alina hadn’t met Amora much in life but she guessed that she would have liked her.

    She knew that many of the Forsaken attempted to recreate whatever they could of their earlier lives. Much of it was practical in nature, such as taking up their former trades to produce whatever their little nation needed, but some things were utterly illogical like the tavern that had sprung up in a rickety shed by the market square. Patrons who did not need to drink shared tankards of hot water before a fire they did not need.

    Far more relevant seemed the apothecaries – former alchemists, surgeons and priests – who had formed something of a guild or order, calling it the Royal Apothecary Society of all things. They were attempting to provide what counted as healing and medicine amongst the Forsaken and find ways to counteract the degradation that most of them seemed to suffer from. But like anything else, they had too little to work with and could only provide the most basic procedures, many times literally stitching together their patients when they were equally literally falling apart. Alina knew she should probably feel more sorry for the plight of her unfortunate new kin, and objectively she would be the first to voice her opinion that the situation was critical and acute. She just couldn’t call forth any particular emotion to accompany that statement. It was all dulled, dampened inside her.

    Many of them would give all they had to trade places with Alina. Her body did not rot and so long as she drank something regularly she couldn’t see any adverse effects whatsoever, not even a wrinkle anywhere. She would trade her body with someone who could get more out of it, she supposed, but would that someone be able to draw a bow as surely as she could or read the ground as well as she did? Would he or she be able to protect the Forsaken as good as she objectively knew that she could with the capabilities she now had? Alina did not think so. And so long as she could do her part by putting her body to the best possible use, she could find it in herself to accept that she possessed what most did not and endure the empty days and nights of her current existence.

    It was just the time off that she didn’t know what to do with.

    She saw a light in the library. It lay in a remote part of the Keep that ad suffered the least damage, being of lesser military importance. It wasn’t too common with lamps lighted among the Forsaken, both due to their sparse resources and many of them having improved night vision compared to when they were alive. Alina wandered in that direction, thinking that she might as well go there as well as anywhere else.

    The library was under watch by a couple of other rangers who nodded to Alina but otherwise minded themselves. A warm light shone out into the outside corridor through the open door. It would have looked rather inviting, Alina reckoned. Inside were almost a dozen lanterns set up, but no candles or open fires apart from in the fireplace where it crackled merrily. The two dwarves were sitting by a table buried under piles of books and papers. They appeared to be sorting through them, scribbling on lists with some charcoal pens someone had managed to dig up.

    They looked up and offered good afternoon, although it was really more like evening by this time. Perhaps they had been there for quite some time. Alina shrugged and answered the same indifferently. She would show some manners at the very least, dead or not. She sat down in a corner watching them work. It was something to do at least, and it wasn’t like she had found anything better to do.

    The dwarves were systematic in their work, she had to givet hem that. They had spread out a couple of large maps across the middle and were apparently cataloguing the books and notes based on regions and subjects covered. They exchanged murmured comments on occasion but otherwise went through their task in silence. Sometimes one would put a pile of books back on their shelves and bring another batch to go through. Alina had the distinct impression that they had done this before.
    The Misadventures of Diabolical Amazons - Completed.
    An Orcs Tale, a Third Age AAR - Completed.
    Reviewed by Alwyn in the Critics Quill
    My Dread Lady, a Warcraft Total War AAR - A few chapters done.
    Home to Midgard, a Third Age AAR about two dwarves, a spy and a diplomat - Completed (pictures remade up to chapter 19).
    Reviewed by Boustrophedon in The Critics Quill

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    Default Re: [Warcraft Total War AAR] My Dread Lady

    Ah, that's very cool, that characters from Home to Midgard are making an appearance in your new AAR! I'm enjoying watching the Dark Lady, Areiel, Anya, Velonara and Kalira trying to work out why these mysterious dwarves have arrived and what their intentions are.

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    Default Re: [Warcraft Total War AAR] My Dread Lady

    Chapter II-IV. Diplomacy and Delegates.
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    Amora kept being immovable and Alina had to find out what to do with her hours off the next day and the next. She returned to the library. At least there nobody would pester her with suggestions of pointless pastimes, she reasoned.

    She supposed she would have found the dwarves project vaguely interesting in life. They had made noticeable progress these last two days. They had finished their cataloguing and were going through specific content as far as Alina could tell.

    They had also begun to ask Alina questions from time to time, generally about Lordaeron. She supposed it made sense but honestly she didn’t know particularly much about the country she now inhabited. Or haunted, or whatever.

    Apparently satisifed with their geographical research for the time the dwarves shifed their focus to Lordaerons recent history. They had been given some background information, Alina could deduce, that they were doing their best to fill in by going through the kingdoms archives from the past year or so. She almost smirked when she heard the fair-haired one, Runar, quote some of Grand Marshal Garithos missives and notes and the dark one, Halvdan, offer his opinions of the quality of the grand marshals leadership. Particularly his xenophobic views of elves and dwarves of the alliance earned some very visible scorn. Alina wondered quietly what the dwarves would think of Orthmar Garithos’ end at the hands of Varimathras by Sylvanas’ order.

    Like most archives, Lordaerons was sorted chronologically and the further you went the older the corresponcence. Alina wondered for a moment why they wouldn’t ask her more about the Third War and the kingdoms fall as they read. Then it dawned on her that the dwarves apparently focused their studies on Lordaerons relations and corresponcence with other kingdoms, which was reasonable enough for supposed envoys. She wondered if the dwarves had fully grasped how complete the kingdoms devastation had been. Then again, the strictly military matters would have been kept inside the kings close council and army unless the situation was exceedingly dire, and the fall of the kingdom after Arthas betrayal had come swiftly. They had not had the time to call for aid. Garithos amount of correspondence might at first glance suggest a more sensible policy in that regard, but their content was more about reminding the world about his new and august status and the ineptitude of the lesser races than laying foundations of cooperation with the rest of the Alliance.

    This was…odd. Alina almost found herself caught up in their studies. She would have found it rather interesting in life to see what the two would find out and what they would make of it.

    They had found something, it seemed. Runar beckoned Halvdan over.

    ”Look at this. It’s a few years old, seems like a draft, but it was still archived. Some sort of marriage contract.”

    ”Marriage contract? What the…” Halvdan mumbled.

    ”The proud kingdoms and so on of Kul Tiras and Lordaeron have this day agreed…to wed until the end of their days and whatever…Runar skimmed through the introductory ceremonial formalities while reading out aloud. ”…princess Jaina Proudmoore of Kul Tiras to prince Arthas Menethil of Lordaeron…”. He glanced through the rest but apparently found nothing noteworty.

    ”There’s that name again. Who are these people?” Halvdan mused.

    ”Lady Alina? May we trouble you for a moment? We are coming across a name that appears to be of importance but a lot of details appear to be left out, or even struck from the records. Would you be able to tell us more about a prince of Lordaeron named Arthas Menethil?”

    Alinas knuckles would have whitened where they grasped the armrests of her chair, were it not for the fact that they were already pale as snow.

    She watched her fellow rangers being overrun one by one as the gargoyles began to descend from the sky.

    Alina faintly registered the sharp crack of her grip crushing the wood to splinters.

    A rush of air to her side was all the warning she had when a gargoyle made a dive for her and she rolled away on the ground reflexively.

    A scream drew her eyes to the sky to see Loralen, who had watched her back, writhing in the gargoyles claws before it dropped her over the Scourge masses on the ground.

    ”Go! Run!” Alina shouted, and didn’t know if it was to her rangers or the dwarfs.

    Her banshee form boiled and fumed behind and inside her. Clenching her fists and curling into herself she caught a last glimpse of the two dwarves hurrying for the door.

    Alina Wailed. The walls shook, and books and scrolls flew across the room.

    She lost track of time. It might have been a minute or it might have been hours when she grasped at the wall, her throat feeling raw somehow. But she was dead so of course she didn’t really feel it, it wasn’t real.

    The library door creaked. What a strange thing, Alina thought fleetingly, that she could still hear the low groaning of an old door at this moment.

    The dwarves entered again, looking wary. Alina couldn’t blame them. Why were they even still there? Although, Alina was the one intruding on their workspace after all, she remembered and turned her face away. She couldn’t think of anything remotely right to say.

    She could hear the dwarves whisper something.

    Halvdan approached her.

    ”What have they done to you?” he asked, sounding shocked.

    Alina looked up, disbelieving. Was he serious? Red eyes? Snow white skin? No heartbeat? Hello?

    He… took everything from us.”. Alinas voice sounded raspy and hoarse to her ears.

    The dwarf stepped over to an old bench by the wall and sat down. Alina sank down beside him. That old chair would probably fall apart now if someone so much as poked it.

    They sat quietly for a long while, or so it felt at least. It was…harder than usual to keep track of time. And why should she, really? She was dead and done, she had all the time in the world and nothing to do with it anyway. Hadn’t she?

    Something brushed against her fingers. Something that wasn’t cold. Halvdan hesitantly and very gently took her hand.

    ”Begging your pardon, Lady Alina, but he didn’t. You still have each other.” he said quietly.

    Each other. Alina pondered at the thought. What did that mean when you were dead?

    ”I used to play for them.” Alina suddenly blurted out. Where had that come from? ”The other rangers. Sylvanas would let me stash my violin in her command tent because our ranger quarters were so cramped that someone might have stepped on it.”

    ”It doesn’t matter anymore.” Alina said quietly.

    Halvdan seemed to be about to say something in reply but the door was flung open in that moment and Sylvanas and half a dozen of dark rangers bursted in followed by Runar. Sylvanas was literally fuming, shadowy banshee mist dancing from her like cold black flames. She cast a quick look at Alinas forlorn appearance and whirled on the spot to lift Runar by his collar and slam him into the wall, while the rangers all but flung themselves at Alina.

    ”What did you do to her!?” Sylvanas growled.

    ”We don’t know…” the dwarf croaked ”…and we would like some bloody answers before we need to have a bloody repeat of something like this!” he growled back angrily while taking hold of the banshee queens arm so he could support himself in the suspended state. Taking a deep breath – which was quite a feat in the situation – he looked pointedly at Alina and then at Sylvanas. ”We would love to tell you every little thing that we have no idea about here, but at the moment someone else needs you more, right?” he said much more calmly.

    Sylvanas dropped him to the floor like a sack of flour and swept down to Alinas side.

    ”I’m so sorry, Alina. I shouldn’t have had you left unattended. I will speak to Amora.” Sylvanas mumbled, with all traces of anger gone from her voice.

    The rest fell in with her, in a small choir of soothing melodic voices. How did her sisters have such beautiful voices?

    Nobody is angry.

    We understand.

    You are not on your own.

    We will help you.

    Their hands were cold as the grave as they stroked her cheeks and arms and fingers carded throuh her hair. But it was the warmest she had felt since…before, Alina thought. They could not warm each other but at least they could calm each other. At least they had something left. At least they…had each other.

    Alina looked up and suddenly realised that Halvdan was still holding her hand. It was warm and felt nice despite being rough. Like theirs, that had hardened from centuries of archery.

    ”Who. The hell. Did this?” Alina heard Runar ask, with a new voice that made her think of stones grinding against each other. It called to mind the stories other rangers had told from the Second War against the orcs, of those dwarves that were clad in iron and hard as stone and whose hammers broke bones instead of bending metal.

    Sylvanas regarded them silently for a moment.

    ”Anya. Tell them. Preferably not here!”

    Anya rolled her eyes and turned to the dwarves.

    ”We’d better take a walk.”

    Halvdan did not move, however, but sat still with his eyes on Alina. Why wasn’t he getting up?

    Oh.

    Alina nodded a small nod at him. But her hand felt awfully empty when he had gone.

    Last edited by Maltacus; July 23, 2022 at 03:23 PM.
    The Misadventures of Diabolical Amazons - Completed.
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  14. #14
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    Default Re: [Warcraft Total War AAR] My Dread Lady

    Chapter III-I. Forsaken and Families
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    Jainas little brother Tandred held onto her arms as hard as his clumsy mittens allowed him and stumbled on the ice as Jaina danced with him around and around on the crystal clear surface. He laughed and screamed and she laughed too, and had not another care in the world. His cheeks were too red and they should really have been going inside at least an hour ago but with the little time she had to see him Jaina wanted to make the very most of every hour she could be home to visit. She had just begun to master portal magics so perhaps she could use it as an excuse to go home more and claim that she needed to train.

    Suddenly Tandred looked up on her in terror. Jaina looked down in alarm and the ice was no longer crystal clear but black underneath. With a deafening crash it broke all around them and she felt them being sucked down into the water with ice floes everywhere and numbing immediately from the stupefying cold. She tried to scream to Tandred but only managed to fill her mouth with water and make her lungs burn.

    Down, further down, she saw someone sinking even faster and she knew it was her father. He looked up and reached with his arm for her but he was too far away.

    Jaina woke with a terrified scream, followed by intense pain when she realised she must have banged her leg against the desk when she startled. Her back ached as well from the unnatural sleeping position bent over a too low desk.

    Jaina sighed and slumped down again with her head in her hands.

    She knew all too well what that had been about of course. She had seen Tandred for the last time in the spring when the snow was melting in Kul Tiras and Tandred was bored of everything being wet and soggy. Jaina had misused her frost magic something terrible and conjured an entire floor of smooth ice for them right on a drenched and muddy meadow. Tandred had been so happy.

    The following summer the plague had struck Lordaeron. The next spring Lord Admiral Daelin Proudmoore had set sail towards Kalimdor to never return again.

    The chair felt too small. Jaina realised there was something behind her. She searched with her hand to find one of her blankets. She distinctly remembered not bringing it with her from her bed last evening. She did however have a pretty clear idea who had draped it over her sleeping form hunched over the desk.

    Jainas elbow touched something on the desk. Sure enough, there was a short note with her Kaldorei bodyguard Paineds distinct handwriting.


    ”My Lady,

    As you will not heed mine or anyones spoken words of council I must try my best with the written.

    I will defend you with my life from any foe or any danger that I can.

    I can not protect you from yourself if you insist on working yourself to death.

    Pained”


    Jaina sighed again. It wasn’t that she didn’t want to sleep. By all means, Jaina would admit that she was an incurable bookworm when something gripped her interest and her education as a mage had been filled with one frantic all-nighter after the other. But when she slept she had used to sleep soundly and snoozed well into the next day.
    It was just that now she dreaded the nights and all her rest could probably be attributed to her absolute exhaustion and Paineds herbal tea. But not even that could keep Jainas nightmares away.

    On their own accord, Jainas eyes were drawn to another letter, the one she would always pick up again and again and again.


    ”Jaina,

    I only write this last letter to you to assure you, for the sake of Kul Tiras, that our nations are not at war and Kul Tiras will not waste its blood seeking retribution against Theramoore for a crime that its ruler herself is guilty of.

    I can only wonder when the daughter that I had died and became replaced by a monster who would side with savage beasts against her own father and her own kin.

    I hope that you live long and never for one day forget what you have done.


    You are no daughter of mine.

    Lord Admiral Katherine Proudmoore”


    Jaina would never see her home again.

    She would never see her father.

    She would never see her mother.

    She would never see Tandred.

    She was clutching her fathers anchor-shaped pendant that hung around her neck. Her tears were already running down along her nose. Jaina hurriedly put the letter away to keep it from being smeared.

    A few minutes later she heard a discreet knock on her door. Grumbling, Jaina dragged herself up to open it, blinking owlishly. There was nobody there, but on the stool beside the doorway stood a hot cup of Kaldorei tea.

    Oh.

    Pained deserved better.

    Last edited by Maltacus; July 28, 2022 at 10:52 AM.
    The Misadventures of Diabolical Amazons - Completed.
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  15. #15
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    Default Re: [Warcraft Total War AAR] My Dread Lady

    Chapter III-II. Forsaken and Families
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    Sylvanas and six of her rangers loosed the first arrows into the backs of the patrol of Scarlet Crusade infantry. Seven footmen in mail and pot helmets cried out and collapsed on the ground. It was not a blind volley, they had each taken their time to aim before Sylvanas whistled to them to loose. The rest of the twenty or so strong unit turned on the spot and raised their shields to charge their ambushers but a second squadron of dark rangers rose from the other side to shot at their now exposed backs. The confusion allowed Sylvanas’ time for a quick volley after which they had to close in or run away. This time close in.

    Sylvanas sidestepped a spear thrust and cut the arm with one of her daggers while whirling inside the soldiers guard to slash at his throat with the other. She was at the flank of the formation and leapt at the back of another footman engaging the opposing ranger squad. She landed with both daggers cutting down into his neck and rolled to the side when he collapsed to the ground. Her next opponent made Sylvanas stagger back to avoid a sweep from her shield but Cyndia crashed into her from the side and thrust her short sword into her armpit where the footmans, or footwomans in this case, breastplate did not protect.

    That was the last of it. Sylvanas cast a quick glance around.

    ”Report!”

    ”All good!” Kalira answered.

    ”Two wounded, not serious.” Anya followed up.

    Sylvanas took a look. Kitala and Lyana in Anyas squadron had taken the brunt of the Scarlet charge and paid with taking a pair of slashes across the legs and a spear into the shoulder. Neither was fatal for the undead but would impede them for some time. On the ground some of the enemies were moving but they would soon be bleeding out. Her rangers were nothing if not accurate.

    ”Drain what you need and then end the dying ones. The rest, take spoils and spread out and keep watch. We’ll leave as soon as possible.”

    The Scarlet Crusade was sweeping the area with patrols that spread out from company strength columns of up to a hundred or so that made up the main body in the center, trailed by supply wagons and the few pack animals they had available. They were aiming to hunt down and catch undead and clearing them out of the forest rather than facing a prepared military force. Sylvanas conceded that the assessment was all too close to the truth.

    Her counter with a ranger force was to let them pass while using the rangers superior stealth to hide between the paths of two patrols, and then strike at the rear and destroy the logistics corps as much as possible before melting back into the woods. The company would be forced to retreat before long to resupply and the wrong direction of the attack from the enemy rear would lead the Scarlets to consequently search in the wrong direction. Sylvanas had scouted their patrols thoroughly earlier and after continuing from the rear in a wide semi-circle her rangers had now destroyed the outmost one on the left flank, after which they would retreat back for the Undercity.

    It would not work forever of course, the enemy would reinforce their rear and adopt closer formations, or hide elite units among them to ambush the ambushers. But for now it would have to do. She could barely spare even this force of herself and two ranger squadrons but this Scarlet column had been necessary to turn away. And it felt good to lead from the front among her dark rangers for a change. Undeath may have dulled their some of their senses but none of their skills, and her rangers were as deadly as ever. How proud she was of them.

    On the way back to the Undercity Sylvanas let her thoughts drift. They were laden with scavenged equipment from the patrol they had destroyed, taking the better of arms and armour. The Undercity was lacking everything. The few battle ready troops Sylvanas could command needed to patrol and stand guard as well as raid like simple pillagers due to their own lack of mining and production. She had to get that going as well. It would be best to start with something simple, like arrows. Arrows were always a sound choice in any scenario.

    By now they knew the Scarlet Crusade more than enough. The filthy humans were relentless zealots who defiend common, and to a certain degree military, sense and reason in their fanatical campaign against all undead. They bled and could be frightened like anyone else, but as a whole they would not be dislodged or discouraged by losing important strategic points or having the supply lines cut off. Come winter the Scarlet Crusade would ponder on how tracking the undead through the snow could best be done, not on how to keep their soldiers clothed and fed.

    In that way they were uncomfortably close to the Scourge. The Scourge remained, and in Sylvanas’ opinion would always remain, the greatest threat to the Forsaken but currently their activity was low. Whether that was a deliberate decision or due to waning influence of the Lich King was impossible to say. Sylvanas had been not a little surprised at how irregular the loss of his control had been. New Forsaken would be coming out of some areas in dozens while other were infested with murderous ghouls. It could not be exclusively linked to the power or distance of the Lich King which she had first believed, but on the other hand maybe it was encouraging if an individuals personal strength and spirit played a part in how easily she could be chained to another will.

    Hours later, they were coming upon the Undercity. A small part of Sylvanas relaxed as always seeing the city still in ruins but not going up in flames at least. There were new Forsaken gathering at the city every day now but they were suffering heavy casualties in people who did not make it through the Scourge and the Scarlets. The rangers tried to be everywhere at once and Sylvanask new that she was running them ragged, undead or not, but they were always too few. Like now, where she had attained a welcome success but at the price of weakening someone elses position.

    She wanted to seek out more rangers who could have freed themselves, and preferably more Forsaken fit to join the Dreadguards and similar regular units. She felt selfish for wanting that though, and angry at herself for that feeling. It was a stupid feeling. The Forsaken, even Sylvanas herself, were just a means to an end, Arthas’ end to be precise, as she always told herself. She would find a way to work the weakness of those feelings of doubt out of her.

    Back into her personal chambers, or office as it was more like in practice, Sylvanas approved the plans for the new barracks submitted by Varimathras and considered summoning him but decided not to.

    Varimathras. The dreadlord was a constant source of irritation. Sylvanas had lost track of how many times she had regretted not taking his head and be done with it. But she still needed his usefulness for as long as possible and he was a capable administrator with still crucial insights into Lordaerons current state. She had no margins for wastefulness, not even when it came to condescending demons that she knew would eventually betray her. Sylvanas lacked the interest and patience for civic issues while Varimathras, like the dreadlord he was, seemed to take a keen interest in how much he could manipulate forth from his workforce. Sylvanas was at heart still a Ranger-General, she led her people at war and out in the field, not in everyday matters.

    But her leadership could be called into question lately. Sylvanas thought of Alina and her own neglect. She had found her herself, damn it! She should’ve known better than to leave her alone to face her past like that. It was not unusual with rangers and death knights raging after recovering their will and they had lost two of the rangers to that previously. They had wandered off to seek death against the Scarlet Crusade and Sylvanas had found their bodies hacked to pieces among droves of bodies of Scarlet soldiers. That, she suspected, was part of the reason why they had been coming closer to sniffing out the Undercity lately. She had buried Somand Wayfinder and Siren Ghostsong herself, burning the bodies so the Scourge would never be able to bring them back into thralldom again. After that Sylvanas had issued a standing order that no assignments outside the Undercity were to be handled by rangers on their own without her express permission. They would need to work in pairs like they had in life, despite their new abilities and strengths as undead.

    And then she had been stupid enough to allow newly acquired rangers to handle their downtime alone. Sylvanas slumped in her chair, feeling weary in her mind rather than her body.

    Although Alina hadn’t actually been alone.

    Sylvanas considered the dwarves. They had left for Alliance territories further south a week ago, escorted by Amoras squadron including Alina who had continued to keep them company whenever she had time off. The dwarves had left permanently she was sure, it was just a most likely futile gesture of good will to send them packing with an escort. But if Alina was happy about it Sylvanas owed it to her to some extent and Amora would use the mission to scout deeply into the practically unknown parts of southern Lordaeron on the way back.

    Her thoughts were interrupted by an urgent knock on the door. It was Areiel.

    ”The far ranging party is back.” she informed, and her omittance of titles told Sylvanas something was urgent. ”You better come and hear this yourself.”

    The Misadventures of Diabolical Amazons - Completed.
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  16. #16
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    Default Re: [Warcraft Total War AAR] My Dread Lady

    Chapter III-III. Forsaken and Families
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    An hour later Sylvanas had summoned her Council of War, meaning her ranger captain and lieutenants, four other Forsaken commanders and Varimathras. Areiel was briefing them all but Sylvanas ignored it for the moment, having heard the report already.

    Amoras escort had not been the only patrol Sylvanas had sent out on a long range mission.

    Anthis Sunbow had led a squadron to the southeast, heading deep into Scourge infested provinces. Their mission was to trace the steps of the Forsaken envoys heading into Alliance territory in that direction. They had believed them ambushed by Scarlet forces or Scourge but Sylvanas was running out of options and wanted to be sure, if possible, about what had happened and why. The rangers had escorted them through the thick of the Scourge lands but then withdrawn. Anthis had continued along the trail, following a combination of very meagre tracks, the agreed upon route and sets of secret signals left by their envoys to show where they had passed.

    ”The trail continues down to the borders of the human nation of Stromgarde which is the northernmost Alliance territory apart from Aerie Peak and Dalaran.” Anthis Sunbow concluded her report. ”We scoured the borderlands for four days and the trace ends there, but we spotted the remains of a pyre of something by the closest border post. It may mean nothing, but…

    Sylvanas silenced her with a gesture.

    The envoys had been good people – hardy, brave and experienced Forsaken human soldiers who knew the woods and the Alliance militaries, and among the best preserved and…presentable of them. They should have had a good chance to push through and find common ground with their living colleagues if anyone could. And pushed through they had apparently managed, but then…

    The council was silent. Even Varimathras held his tongue, his expression unreadable.

    Kalira was the first to speak up.

    ”Since nobody wants to be first to mention this ugly truth I will. The envoys we send are being killed on sight. This latest report just confirms what we have suspected all along.”

    ”Not Quel’Thalas though.” said Anya in a small and sad voice.

    ”No, of course not by our dear kin in Quel’Thalas.” Kalira sneered.

    Sylvanas could understand Anyas sadness as well as Kaliras bitterness. The Blood Elves, as they now called themselves, had been the only nation who had allowed their emissaries to leave unmolested but perhas mostly because the rangers had gone whemselves and in force. They had been met by living rangers, who told them with cold eyes to turn back and that they would receive no second warning. Sylvanas suspected it was no empty threat. Elven rangers did not make those. Sylvanas had not joined that expedition, aware that the animosity against her person after Arthas’ had paraded her and forced her to commit open atrocities as a way to break the remainign elves morale may impact any negotiation negatively. Something inside her had still broken when she had been told the tale of rangers she had had trained herself turning their backs upon their own former comrades, who had stood and died for Quel’Thalas hardly a year before. A few days after the news had spread Somand and Siren had gone to seek their true deaths against the Scarlet Crusade and the first serious infightning had broken out between those Forsken who clung to their old identities and those who wanted to embrace their undeath as a new beginning and turn their back upon the living as a whole. Sylvanas for herself considered both sentiments useless extremes but she keenly recognized the impact this kind of news would have on the Undercity.

    ”There are always the options of using living messengers.” Varimathras suggested.

    There were. The idea was not new and they had discussed it at length. They could either capture prisoners and send them off with letters but that would be as random as leaving letters mysteriously at foreign nations borders with no way of knowing if and how they had been received. The other option was to use the banshees to possess the living instead but while the tactic was sound for gathering information – which was why banshees could excel at spying if they could only control their emotions – mimicking a high ranking representatives mannerisms before a wide audience was something else entirely. The day may come when Sylvanas grew desperate enough to risk it but it still did not adress the actual root of the problem. If the living would not trust the Forsaken as a people, or even see them as people and not monsters, it would in the end matter little who they sent to represent them.

    ”No.” said Sylvanas finally and rose form her seat. ”The risks are not worth it.”

    The rest of the council rose after her and she nodded raptly to them.

    ”We are alone. The world does not want us.” Anya mused quietly to nobody in particular and her resigned, hollow voice echoed in Sylvanas’ ears.

    The Misadventures of Diabolical Amazons - Completed.
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  17. #17
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    Default Re: [Warcraft Total War AAR] My Dread Lady

    The sadness of Anya and the bitterness of Kalira reflects nicely the different attitudes of the Forsaken (if I understand them correctly) - those who want to talk to the living, and those who prefer to turn their backs on the living. I like the way that you're showing us the living people from the point of view of the undead, and the differences among the undead.

  18. #18
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    Default Re: [Warcraft Total War AAR] My Dread Lady

    Chapter III-IV. Forsaken and Families
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    Sylvanas wandered the keep alone, the earlier meeting gnawing at her mind. She needed to think.

    Her mind lingered for a moment on the dwarves who would perhaps be walking to their doom if they declared themselves to be her envoys, or at least never be taken seriously. But they would not have been sincere about helping her anyway so the question was moot.

    This could not go on. They could not sustain this. Arthas had taken the bulk of Raised undead fighters to Northrend and left the others. The dark rangers and the banshees had been left mostly in Lordaeron for their tracking skills and likely in mistrust after her little farewell arrow. There would be no great force of battle-ready Forsaken waiting to be discovered.

    Turning their backs on every living was perhaps a way for oneself to cope with the inevitable but not a viable strategy for someone in charge. The Forsaken needed allies.
    Perhaps her mind was still unconsciously on Alina but for whatever reason Sylvanas found herself walking the corridor towards the keeps library. Not particularly strange for someone intending to think things over quietly, but usually not her way of doing things either.

    The library was still in disarray aftar Alinas outburst. Sylvanas absent-mindedly pick up an old book here or and old document there. She preferred having something to do with her hands when she was thinking.

    What ally would join the Forsaken? It should be simle, everyone should despise or fear the Scourge more than them and wish to unite against the Lich King. The Forsaken did in some ways possess crucial insight into the strengths and weaknesses of the Scourge. Common military logic called for at least putting an alliance with such an enemy of ones enemy into serious consideration.

    But evidently it didn’t. Sylvanas tried to look at herself as a new Ranger-General decades ago. There hadn’t been undead in question then but the humans and their Alliance. And Quel’Thalas had put it off to the last moment, indeed far past the last moment, to join forces against the orcs that ransacked their land and murdered Sylvanas’ parents and little brother Lirath. But they had joined forces at last and there had never been a question of blockading or sabotaging the humans war efforts in any way. No, she would not have turned down a chance to have aid against the orcs, or the Amani trolls for that matter.

    Would she now join sides with a renegade Scourge against Arthas? Sure thing, so long as they stayed out of Lordaeron. She would even had let the dreadlords be if they had stayed out of their way, they could serve as a distraction for the Lich King if nothing else.

    There was also the polar opposite policy to think about. Someone so far away that they did not need to fear the Forsaken as an immediate threat, but still able to serve as a check upon the hostile parts of the Alliance and upon the Scarlet Crusade, provided the latter would let such small concerns get in their way.

    Dalaran was closest but severely weakened from Arthas’ assault and would surely harbour an especially bitter grudge against any undead for that. Still, theoretically worth a try if for some implausible reason her letters would in fact be delivered.

    Stormwind, as the Alliances presumed new head, had not worked and Quel’Thalas rebuffed them. Gilneas was reputedly closed off from the world. Khaz Modan was said to be almost as insular in itself despite sending substantial troops to the Alliance. They were honouring past agreements but showed no inclination of reaching new ones.

    Kalimdor?

    The Horde?

    She should choke on the thought. And part of her still did, but stranger things had been contemplated in war. Would the horde protect them?

    Maybe so, maybe not. She knew next to nothing about the orcs that had left across the sea to settle in Durotar, as they called their new nation. But an alliance with the Horde could very much antagonize the unfriendly yet still neutral eastern kingdoms and spark them into more than isolating the Forsaken. Besides, she detested the orcs for what they had done to Quel’thalas in the Second War. They had taken half her family and indirectly cost her her sister Alleria who went after them beyond the dark portal.
    The night elves, the Kaldorei, remained but by all accounts (sparse as they were) they were only tolerating the outsiders help to deal with the Burning Legion. They were just like…Quel’Thalas had been.

    Sylvanas almost kicked at a random book lying on the floor. This was pointless!

    Wait. There was a thought that had eluded her. She knew from her time in the Scourge that there had been orcs allying temporarily with the night elves, but also humans, dwarves and high elves that had fled the destruction of Lordaeron and Dalaran and Quel’Thalas, and some who had come anyway to follow the rest across the sea to Kalimdor. And they had presumably settled somewhere on that continent instead of returning to their ruined homelands.

    There was a name she had seen that was connected to that gathering. From a couple of the reports scavenged from Grand Marshal Garithos she thought. The presumed leader of the exiles from the eastern kingdoms. Jaina Proudmoore.

    The Misadventures of Diabolical Amazons - Completed.
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    My Dread Lady, a Warcraft Total War AAR - A few chapters done.
    Home to Midgard, a Third Age AAR about two dwarves, a spy and a diplomat - Completed (pictures remade up to chapter 19).
    Reviewed by Boustrophedon in The Critics Quill

  19. #19
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    Default Re: [Warcraft Total War AAR] My Dread Lady

    Chapter IV-I. Baths and Beds
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    The meeting with the carpenters guild would start in half an hour. Jaina was already nodding off.

    She was sitting in their tiny meeting room on the first floor of her tower, which doubled as city hall and office for the mages and whatever else they could cram inside it. Sometimes Jaina really felt for the overworked building.

    Jaina was seeing Master Carpenter Oddricht Mekkatorque-Jansen before the proper guild meeting of the evening to familiarize herself with the items and clear up things she was too inexperienced to know beforehand. It was useful, it was sensible and Jaina felt it was the most respectful she could do as a ruler who knew far too little about woodworking and construction to have much useful input. Except that now she was stifling a yawn ever so often and blinking furiously as she tried to mentally shake herself out of her daze.

    ”…and we need to make a major decision now if we are going to shape up the walls or the docks next. Both projects are sorely needed but they will require a good deal different skills and materials, in short more wood for the docks and more stone for the walls. Leading us of course to the old issue of our chronic shortage of good materials. Right now the guild is rationing but that may not be the best state of things, it would make more sense if the ruler – meaning you – did it and we dealt with allocating what we could use. But you’d also need to be aware of what we can do with a set amount of resources so you don’t waste ’em by giving us just too little to be useful, better then to give it all to something else…

    Jaina struggled to take in the barrage of issues, of important questions that she knew needed answering and important decisions that would have an impact on so many peoples lives.

    It was just so overwhelming today.

    ”…so today I reckoned we’d go over the construction plans in earnest for the new docks and compare them with the ones of the new wall so you know what you’re getting into. My carpenters are sure to have their suggestions too but final decision’s yours of course. But be prepared for a lot of sentiment in favour of new docks, the lads and lasses are itching for not having to go through Ratchet for every barrel of tar…

    Constructions plans of…of…new barrels of tar from Rachel? No, Ratchet of course, Jaina berated herself. She squeezed her eyes, trying to bloody focus!

    So the lads were itching to have a go at the lasses at Ratchets docks…no, that wasn’t right… Ratchet was…barrels…tar…sticky…thoughts…stuck…

    ”Are you still with us, Lady Proudmoore?”

    Jaina opened her eyes in absolute terror. She had been nodding off, hadn’t she? How long had she slept? Had the meeting already started?

    But no, there was only her wizened gnome master carpenter who peered at her with his piercing glare. Jaina shrunk under it, feeling like a new plank being scrutinized for imperfections by a very critical craftsman.

    ”Am I boring you?”

    Jaina blushed, no, practically burned, with embarrassment. She felt so terribly guilty. Here he was, trying to make all this make sense to a complete amateur and she just… Jaina sighed.

    ”No, no, I…I know this is very important for the city and I very much appreciate the heads-up before we meet the rest, I just… I just haven’t managed to sleep very well for some time.” Jaina confessed. It sounded so feeble. Pathetic. But the least she could do was to be honest about it and let him think her a complete idiot without reservation.

    But Master Oddricht just looked at her and then hesitated a little.

    ”You’re driving yourself into the ground aren’t you, Lady Proudmoore, lass.” he said, not unkindly.

    Jaina looked up. Wasn’t he going to be angry? Or at least a bit snide?

    The old gnome looked around conspiratorically and then lowered his voice.

    ”Candied cherries, that’s the trick. They sell ’em by the red-and-yellow striped market stand by the square. It’s my own guilty pleasure. But you have to watch out! Next thing you know you’re practically addicted to it and pot-bellied like a dwarf!”

    Jaina wasn’t sure she had heard correctly. Was he pulling her leg?

    ”Listen, how about you sit this one out and call it a day? We’ll try our best without our lady holding our hands and I’ll scribble a note to you of the main points at stake afterwards?”
    ”That would be…most kind, Master Oddricht.” Jaina smiled sadly and dragged her tired self off to her rooms.

    Jainas rooms at the top floor of her tower were in reality one room and the smallest of them all unless you counted the bathroom or the broom closets. The rest were currently used for storage and laden with piles of books, dozens of half-finished uniforms for the city guard, spare tools for the towers construction, boxes with more books and whatever else could be squeezed in. Her own quarters had one window, that could thankfully be opened, and room for exactly a modest bed, a desk with a chair, a cupboard and a pile of reports and letters that Jaina could swear would secretly grow taller by itself whenever you turned your back on it.

    She fell down on her bed, not even bothering to get under her blankets, and was asleep the next moment.

    ”This entire city must be purged!”

    Arthas’ words resonated in Jainas head. She wanted to speak out, to make him see reason, to make anyone question the brutality in murdering innocent victims of the plague of undeath. But her throat constricted and no sound came out. All around her, she saw Alliance soldiers clutching their weapons and readying themselves, their faces set with grim determination to stop Mal.Ghanis at any cost. But the more Jaina looked, the more did those grimaces twist into bloodthirsty grins and their skin looked ever grayer and less alive each moment. She turned her eyes back to Arthas and his features were drawn into a mocking sneer that froze on his face, all taut lines and deep creases where it had once been beautiful and proud and open. His beloved horse stared at her with hollow eye sockets and a wave of rotten stench washed over Jaina as Arthas reached down with a hand that was all bone and withered remnants of skin.

    Jaina shook herself out of her sleep with a sob. Only it hadn’t been her doing it, she realised and looked up on Paineds dark silhouette and faintly glowing eyes in the darkness of her room.

    ”What time is it?” Jaina asked in a low voice. She wouldn’t get any rest this night either, apparently.

    ”It is an hour to midnight. I heard you cry out in your sleep.” Paineds calm voice answered. So perhaps Jaina had managed to make more sound in the waking world than in her dream at least. Great. Now they were both kept up at night.

    ”I’m so sorry.” Jaina murmured apologetically. ”You can go back to sleep, I’m fine. I…I’ll close the door better.”

    ”Will you humor me and please stop acting like an idiot now, my lady?”. Pained had crossed her arms and was all but tapping her foot in annoyance.
    Jaina stared at her, too tired to retort.

    ”Have I ever asked you to keep it to yourself if you are hurt, or in pain or discomfort? Have I asked to be relieved of my duties? If so, pray remind me of when my lady, for it seems to have mysteriously slipped my mind.”

    Jaina looked down into the floor. Had she offended Pained now too? Tides, couldn’t this miserable night just go away?

    ”Let me help.” Pained said, more softly than Jaina had ever heard her. ”Tell me how to make it better.”

    ”I don’t want to impose on you.” Jaina said quietly. ”You stand watch almost all day - and evening with the hours I keep – and you need time to train and tend to your equipment too. And you need to eat and rest too.”

    And Pained really did all of that and more. And she still managed to find time to brew Jaina tea and make sure that she took time to eat properly, which in all honesty Jaina knew she was terrible at. On top of all that Pained was probably expected by Tyrande to keep an eye on Jaina as well, and Jaina did not envy her that conflicted position. If that really was the case Jaina had promised herself not to be angry at Pained for being caught up in the middle of something she had little say over. And frankly, as far as such things went, asking Pained to write home about how Jaina was doing was more akin to the actions of a nosy aunt rather than an ill-intentioned spymaster.

    Jaina suddenly realised how much she missed Tyrande. Tyrande had made Jaina feel calm and the time she had spent with the night elves directly after the Burning Legions defeat at Mount Hyjal had been so serene, like something out of a fairytale but without the monsters. Tyrande had taken Jaina with her and showed her some of the most breathtaking parts of Ashenvale. Unused as she were to ride on a frostsaber even if it was with someone else, and overwhelmed by the multitude of sights and impressions, Jaina would usually get tired late in the day and Tyrande would let Jaina sleep on her arm with her cloak as bed. Drifting off as the moon priestess told stories about the Kaldoreis past or sang to her in Darnassian secretly became Jainas favourite part of the day.

    Was Pained any less kind and gentle than Tyrande?

    ”Could you, maybe, sit here for a while?” Jaina asked hesitantly in a small voice.

    Pained placed Jainas uncomfortable chair next to the bed and sat down without hesitation. It creaked slightly when she stretched her legs.

    Paineds glowing eyes looked down on her, calm and steady. Jaina tried her best to keep her mind on them and to think of Ashenvale and the sound of Tyrandes voice, and her frostsabers thick fur and coarse tongue that had once tickled Jainas toes when those had apparently been found too dirty for frostsaber standards.

    Jaina wouldn’t keep Pained for long, she told herself, just until she had calmed down a bit. Then she could tell Pained she could leave. Just a little while…a little longer…

    ”Sleep well, child.” Jaina didn’t know if it was Tyrandes or Paineds voice she heard.

    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails 4-1.jpg  
    Last edited by Maltacus; August 27, 2022 at 06:57 AM.
    The Misadventures of Diabolical Amazons - Completed.
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    Reviewed by Alwyn in the Critics Quill
    My Dread Lady, a Warcraft Total War AAR - A few chapters done.
    Home to Midgard, a Third Age AAR about two dwarves, a spy and a diplomat - Completed (pictures remade up to chapter 19).
    Reviewed by Boustrophedon in The Critics Quill

  20. #20
    Alwyn's Avatar Frothy Goodness
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    Default Re: [Warcraft Total War AAR] My Dread Lady

    I like the details you provide about your characters, for example that Sylvana prefers to do something with her hands while she's thinking, and the perceptiveness and humour of Master Oddricht. They make your characters feel real and relatable. Good updates!

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