“All fear Galakrond. All flee or hide...or die.”
The wind picked up.
Arno squeezed the hilt of his weapon as he faced the mountains in the south. “First an earthquake, now the wind.” Corp’rethar shuddered, the burning fists of an infernal pounding on the gate. “I dearly hope you know what you’re doing,” he said quietly before turning towards the enemy.
“Ready the army,” a skeleton clad in iron said.
“Huh?” Snow, dust and small rocks began rolling as the wind grew stronger. Arno couldn’t help but stare at the ground before replying. “Ready the army? How are we supp—”
A sound, a feeling, an intensifying unease, and all of Icecrown gazed at the mountains beyond the citadel.
Bolvar stood alone on the tallest peak, nothing but clouds and snow surrounding him. A mountain slowly rose behind him, increasing in size with every second that passed, dwarfing him and everything around it. Hurricane winds blew the snow off stone and ice, clouds sped away and a great shadow covered the land as two fireballs appeared in the sky.
And a moment later it became clear that it was no mere mountain that they were seeing. Arno’s mouth opened wide, Mal’ganis pursed his lips and took a step back as Galakrond appeared in the sky.
“By the Light.” Arno found his faith.
Bolvar climbed on top of the Father of Dragons and took flight. The massive proto-drake flew over the Lich King’s army and roared, stirring the hearts of his people. All the undead under his control let out a battle cry in unison, and all of their eyes lost their cold glow and became a fiery orange. Arno felt the sudden surge of adrenaline but he held back the urge to scream. Smiling, he strode forward. “I can’t believe I’m saying this.” He raised his weapon. “For the Lich King!”
“For the Lich King!”
Thus they charged, the ground trembling more than ever, the rattle of bone and the clinking of metal filling the air.
Bolvar heard the gate burst asunder. He returned his gaze to the enemy, to the countless corpses advancing on the citadel, and as he saw the barrels containing the Forsaken’s plague rage welled up in him. “Burn,” he said.
Galakrond roared, folded his blazing wings, and hurtled downwards. As the sky appeared to be falling warm light bathed the landscape and warm air washed over it after Galakrond spread his wings to slow the descent. His massive jaws opened and a storm of fire engulfed everything below him, leaving ash and vapour in his wake. Rivers of ice turned into rivers of fire and scalding water, structures of the old nerubian empire that had been hidden by the glacier revealed themselves for the first time and for some their re-emergence spelt their end, the plague barrels exploded and their foul green gas burnt away, the enemy numbers thinned, and all of Icecrown underwent irreversible changes.
Stop meddling with the dreadlord’s pets, Ner’zhul said as Galakrond turned before swooping down again. Find him and end this once and for all!
Bolvar’s eyes darted about the place, fire and ice wherever he looked. It was then that he met Mal’ganis’ spiteful gaze.
Galakrond devoured an enemy frost wyrm and descended. He crushed an infernal as he landed, the ground shaking, and as Bolvar jumped down the great dragon took to the skies and attacked anything that could threaten the Lich King.
When he took a step forward mist swooshed from the enemy army and settled between him and the dreadlord. Hundreds of kvaldir appeared, the same he had seen on the frozen sea north of Icecrown. Ahead of them stood Hrothgar, the ornate spear in his hand.
They rushed forward, the mist following them, concealing their bodies and muffling their footsteps. Firemaw heated up as they came. An axe cut through the mist and shattered into myriads of smouldering pieces after Firemaw rose to meet it. From the corner of his eye he saw a spearhead flying towards him. He stepped back and the weapon pierced the eye of another kvaldir who shrieked and dissolved. Hrothgar then appeared and thrust his spear, missing. Bolvar reached out but Hrothgar vanished and his fingers instead grasped the face of another warrior with a braided beard. He slammed him to the ground and left a charred corpse behind him.
Hrothgar attacked again and turned into mist as Firemaw almost beheaded him. Bolvar’s blazing eyes fixed themselves on the air swirling away and just as he cut down another kvaldir he stamped his foot, burning ten of the rotting sea vrykul all at once. His blade sang again, slicing, burning, destroying whoever challenged him.
Though the mist greatly reduced visibility, the remains of the dead kvaldir were easily spotted. Seaweed and whatever had stuck to their bodies were no common sight this far inland. The air stirred behind his back and Bolvar stamped his foot again. Hrothgar brought down its spear on him and fire and steam enveloped him. Bolvar seized the weapon, pierced the Hrothgar’s chest, pinned him down, turned and threw it, impaling two, three, four other kvaldir.
Mal’ganis waited, his pale ears hearing all sorts of sounds coming from the white cloud. When the shouts, grunts and clanks finished, the mist stirred again and what had been a silhouette just a moment earlier proved to be the Lich King himself, striding out of the cloud, his sword gleaming.
A jormungar burst out of the ice and bellowed, acid dripping from its mouth. Bolvar studied its every movement: the quivering mandibles, the slithering muscular body, the almost imperceptible movements of the tail.
The beast spat a huge glob of acid and Bolvar rolled away. It spat again, melting both rock and ice. Bolvar leapt forward, dodged another glob, and as he got close enough the ice beneath him gave in and he found himself wrestling with the jaws of another jormungar, acid gurgling in its throat.
The jormungar’s jaws snapped shut as he let go before the fluid could be ejected and shrieked as Firemaw lodged itself in its head. Bolvar shifted his weight and the jormungar moved in the same direction, slamming against its kin and sheltering the Lich King from another greenish glob. As the jormungar fell lifeless and the other one attacked Bolvar threw himself and cut the beast from throat to belly, the wound glowing with fire.
He landed on the ice, his knees bent, and as he took a step forward the ice rattled. A gigantic jormungar appeared, much bigger than the ones he had slain.
And as it started moving Galakrond seized it and flew away, roaring after he had devoured it. The unbelievably strong winds died down after the Father of Dragons was gone. Bolvar and Mal’ganis stood opposite each other.
“History repeats itself,” the dreadlord broke the silence, his green eyes full of malice. “But you will fall, king, and you will serve the Burning Legion, just as you serve the shaman.”
“I serve no one.”
The demon laughed. “Ahh, blind, aren’t we? Do you not see that the only reason you’re here is because of him?” He glanced at the Helm of Domination. “Blind, indeed. He deceived the spirits, and so has he deceived you.”
“There must always be...a Lich King.” Bolvar dismissed the memory. “I’ve had enough of this.” He stepped forward, Firemaw shining red light on the ice and snow.
Mal’ganis opened his wings, making him look twice his size. “As have I, false king, as have I.” He flexed his fingers and darkness gathered about him.
A wave of dark and fel magic surged towards the Lich King. Bolvar gripped Firemaw with both of his hand and swung it, its tip cutting the ice and leaving a steaming fissure behind. A wall of fire blocked the dreadlord’s spell and dissipated a moment before Bolvar ran over the fractured ice and reached his foe.
He thrust, but all his weapon did was pass through a swarm of bats. They flew away from him and coalesced into Mal’ganis who cast a spell as he was once again whole. Bolvar went after him, dodging bolts of shadow and other foul incantations, and brought down his sword as his opponent was within range.
Mal’ganis flapped his wings and blew snow in his face. Firemaw followed him but then his body transformed into myriads of bats and returned to normal elsewhere. Bolvar pursued him, demonic magic always in his path, and as Mal’ganis relished the thought of fooling him a third time, he slowed down, sliding, lifted his blade and struck the ice behind him. Fire snaked towards the dreadlord’s new position with lightning speed. Mal’ganis grunted as he almost burnt alive, flicked his fingers and spikes of pure darkness almost impaled Bolvar. Thus the games began anew.
Just as the two moved the sky exploded. They raised their heads, countless green fireballs streaking downwards.
“It begins,” Mal’ganis said.
The meteorites hurtled into mountains, ice, snow, dirt, into Icecrown’s walls, towers, gates and into the very citadel. Bolvar heard a booming sound and saw part of the spire thundering down.
Icecrown is no more.
“My master has come.” The dreadlord smiled. “It is too late to save your people.”
Bolvar gritted his teeth, turned and rushed forward. After a mere step he came to a stop, a black blade embedded in his thigh.
Firemaw fell from his grasp, a blackness spreading from the wound. His fingers clawed the ice as he screamed in pain, the glow in his eyes dimmed by the second while everything around him became distorted and unclear, the crystal in the Helm of Domination flickered wildly, his ears heard much and nothing and whether the sounds came from within or without his head he couldn’t tell.
Mal’ganis conjured another black blade and approached him, speaking in demonic. Every time he muttered the same sentence the pain grew and the blackness spread faster.
FIGHT, Ner’zhul boomed. FIGHT IT, FORDRAGON. DO NOT...LET...
The shaman’s voice became ever more distant, his words unintelligible. His mind felt light-headed, numb, and he lost track of all the undead under his control. Black veins ran across his leg, sending jolts of pain whenever they advanced and quenching the fire within him.
“Bolvar, Bolvar, Bolvar, Bolvar.”
He hit the ice, every part of himself fuming.
“Bolvar, Bolvar, Bolvar, Bolvar.”
The voice echoed as he lifted his head.
“Bolvar, Bolvar, Bolvar, Bolvar.”
Bolvar Fordragon roared and everything around him ignited. Molten lines criss-crossed the frozen landscape and flames rose high into the sky. Mal’ganis, caught by surprise, flapped his wings and backed off. He peered into the fiery chaos inches from him, furious.
In the blink of an eye Bolvar burst out of the flames, his muscles tense, his veins thicker, his arm steaming. His fist struck the dreadlord’s jaw, the demon’s skin rippling, fracturing his canine, cracking bone, and sending him flying away from him. As Mal’ganis drew himself up Bolvar appeared again and the dreadlord spun around on the brink of shifting forms. Firemaw cut from wing to wing and soon after Mal’ganis cursed and grimaced as dark blood poured down his back.
Bolvar dashed forward. Mal’ganis scrambled to his feet and entered a portal, leaving a bloody trail in his wake.
A raven cawed as he followed the dreadlord into another world. He found himself running across a grey wasteland, the sound of his footsteps muffled by soft dust, grey as well. Mal’ganis glanced back as he opened another portal. The chase continued on a land of fire and ash, rivers of lava everywhere Bolvar looked. He spun to avoid a jet of vapour, leapt over a chasm, and waved his hand. Mal’ganis shifted forms as rock split apart and flames poured out.
The next portal took him to a place far more unfamiliar, floating islands moving in random directions. He bounded off floating boulders, landed on an island, flung himself forward and dashed across a spinning flat surface and pursued the dreadlord through a swamp, queer creatures fleeing at the sight of them, their skin matching the environment. The murky water sizzled whenever Bolvar splashed into it, puffs of steam escaping skywards. Then he was in a white valley, thousands of frozen puddles and lakes around him. Then above his head was a black sky, rain pattering against decrepit structures. Then the sky became red and orange, a distant sun hovering near the horizon, huge stones and reddish grass as far as the eye could see.
Mal’ganis turned and grinned before disappearing in another portal that closed itself as Bolvar reached it and soon after the one that had been behind him also closed.
You fool! You’ve got us stranded who knows where!
Bolvar heard rumbling. Warily, he made his way down a slope, a stone wall to his left, and stepped into a vast plain.
Far into the distance a horned figure sat on a throne enclosed by cliffs, a broken sword beside him. The light of the sun didn’t reach him, but it mattered not, for the being bore a fiery mane that shone as bright as a bonfire and a black armour with molten runes that glowed softly. He shifted his burning eyes towards Bolvar and uttered words in a language that neither he nor Ner’zhul had ever heard. As he didn’t reply the being seized his weapon and rose, speaking in a different language that reminded Bolvar of the demons’ tongue.
“Hmm.” The hellish figure smiled. “Come to take revenge on me?”
Bolvar backed off as the demon-like being drew his head back, confused, and studied him, bobbing his head left and right and then looking in other directions.
Millions of blades of grass were whirled aloft as he beat his wings. “Hmm.” He faced the Lich King. “Azeroth, I take it?”
Both Bolvar and Ner’zhul sensed unimaginable power radiating from him.
“Did he take you here?” He sniffed the air. “No...no. A Nathrezim brought you here.” The land shuddered whenever he moved. “Why, I wonder? Hmm.”
Bolvar’s heartbeat quickened as he came closer.
“There is darkness in you.” Those burning eyes of his peered deep into his soul. “But there is also good.” He stroked his chin. “You are the eredar’s failed creation, aren’t you?”
“Do you know who I am, king of the dead?”
“Your silence is vexing. Speak at once!” he boomed, rocks tumbling down the nearby cliffs.
Run. Bolvar gripped Firemaw tightly.
The mountain-sized being slammed his foot and released a monstrous wave of fire, burning everything in its path. Bolvar stood his ground and the fire washed over him.
The broken sword burst into flames. “You dare defy me?”
As the being charged, Ner’zhul voice became deafening. Run, Fordragon! Run like you’ve never run before!
Bolvar broke into a sprint, the earth heaving and shaking. He vaulted over a boulder, the heat and rumbling increasing after every earthquake. Far away the broken sword sliced the land with explosive force. A fissure and a firestorm sped towards him, filling the sky with rocks and cinders. The destruction propelled him away, yet after he rolled across the ground and rose he realised that the titanic being was much closer than he expected.
A portal hovered above the ground, dust swirling around it, the energy distorting the cold plains of Icecrown.
Fast, Fordragon, fast!
Bolvar almost lost his balance and the rock beneath his feet jerked upwards. He jumped, slid under an arch and as the rock plummeted he jumped again. The wind shifted as the broken sword rose into the air and arced back down. Bolvar rushed forward and leapt towards the portal. He spun around, held Firemaw before him, and the massive broken sword only scratched its blade as it swept past him. As the wind howled and blew snow against his body, the portal shrank, and Bolvar saw a burning eye fixed on him just before it closed.
You blithering idiot.
Mal’ganis staggered across the ice, black blood dripping from his wounds. He attempted to control Bolvar’s forces but something prevented him from doing so, something or someone had sealed off their minds. Galakrond roared above the citadel, wreaking havoc on everything that moved, enemy and friend alike. Then the dreadlord gaped as he looked backwards and Firemaw pierced his chest.
Mal’ganis fell on his back, Bolvar above him. He spat out blood and cursed. “I...will...return.”
“Not this time.”
Bolvar twisted Firemaw and a torrent of fire erupted from beneath them. The flames did nothing to him, though the same could not be said about the dreadlord. He screamed as his skin peeled off and turned into ash, as his whole body was burning away.
The Lich King’s lips curled into a smile. Mal’ganis was no more.
But he had no time to feel relieved. All of the undead had fallen under his control, all but one.
The great dragon roared as he fought against Bolvar’s will. He slammed into the citadel, damaging it even further, and took off, breathing fire in random directions. He turned and flew towards the Dragonblight, then turned again, shaking his head. Growling, he came hurtling towards Bolvar, and crashed into the ice, thrashing wildly. Bolvar approached him and Galakrond roared, a gust of warm air flowing out of his mouth. He roared again and shook his head repeatedly until Bolvar placed his palm on his skull and silence fell. The battle had come to an end.
But the war had not.
He inhaled deeply and exhaled a long white stream. Then he marched towards the citadel, fire, ice, steam and bodies anywhere he looked. His army, bolstered by Mal’ganis’ forces, did not budge as he strode through the ranks.
“Highlord Fordragon,” Arno joined him, his face covered in soot. “I’m glad to see you again. That dragon almost burnt my arse.”
Anarak came soon after, one of his limbs dangling in the wind. “Victory, sire.” The three gazed at the rest of Icecrown from atop the steps in front of the door to the citadel. “What are your orders?”
You defeated the dreadlord, assimilated his forces, survived the Lord of the Burning Legion himself and raised the infamous Galakrond, but our work is not finished yet. Rally the Scourge, and set sail for the Eastern Kingdoms.
The undead began gathering in the courtyard, Arno and Anarak overseeing the whole operation, but Bolvar’s mind was somewhere else.
“Is it true then?”
“You deceived the spirits.”
Come on now, Fordragon. Did you honestly believe that Terenas spoke the truth?
The world melted away and suddenly Bolvar and Ner’zhul stood opposite each other on the platform around the Frozen Throne. The shaman looked like the orc he used to be.
Bolvar ran towards him. “You deceiving bastard,” he said in his old voice.
The orc tumbled backwards.
“You fooled them!” Bolvar punched him. “You fooled me!” He punched him again.
“Ahh, mortals.” Ner’zhul smiled. “Always blaming others for their mistakes.”
Bolvar struck him. “I will kill you!”
“Forgetting something? I am forever bound to the Helm of Domination.” His laughter echoed loudly.
“You damned us all!”
Ner’zhul grunted and flung him away. “You, Fordragon, damned yourself when you laid siege to the Wrathgate, do not forget that. It is not I that should be the focus of your anger. The dragon woman did this to you, but perhaps,” Ner’zhul continued after rising from the icy floor, “you should be grateful. Arthas would have turned you into his puppet.”
Bolvar leered at him.
“Look.” Ner’zhul waved his hand and before the Frozen Throne a vision manifested. Black magic swirled around Arthas’ hand as he raised Bolvar into a death knight.
Then what really happened coalesced before them. The battle at the Wrathgate, the flames of Alexstrasza, the first time Bolvar opened his eyes after he had died.
“It was you who chose to don the Helm of Domination.” Bolvar saw Frostmourne shattering and the Helm fall. “It was you who spared the paladin from this fate.” The moment Tirion lifted the helm replayed itself. “Tirion!” “The only one who deserves blame, my dear Fordragon, is you.”
Bolvar charged and raised his fist. He thrust but a chain forced him to stay put. He was held high above the Frozen Throne where Arthas sat, awaiting the armies of the Alliance and the Horde. “I will break you.” A second later he found himself back on the platform.
“You are choosing to oppose me. I could take your place. You could be the old Bolvar Fordragon that you always dream of.”
A wave of his hand and Bolvar had flesh again. He had the same clothes he usually had worn in Stormwind’s court. “Come, Lord Fordragon,” Lady Prestor said as she extended her hand, “the king awaits.”
“Why?” Bolvar asked and the images disappeared. “Why are you doing this?”
“Fordragon, Fordragon, Fordragon. Do I have to repeat myself every time?” He closed his hand.
The sky burst into flames. Dozens of green boulders rained down. Armies of demons marched past Bolvar, the land around them scorched and lifeless. Cities crumbled to pieces at the hands of the Eredar, forests withered and burnt, skies darkened and seas blackened. Then the scene changed. An orc stood before a red eredar, but before Bolvar could get a clear view he was ushered back to the Frozen Throne.
Ner’zhul no longer smiled as he began walking in a circle. “Everything I have done,” he said and Frostmourne hovered before Arthas, “everything I have ever done,” he carried on and Bolvar saw Arthas slaying his father, the rise of the undead, the moment the Prince of Lordaeron donned the Helm of Domination, “was to thwart the Burning Legion’s plans.” Bolvar took a step back as he witnessed the chaos and fear that Arthas as the Lich King had unleashed. “The prince was promising.” Arthas appeared grinning. “But he was stubborn, proud, arrogant...and doubtful. I was forced to lie low and wait for his inevitable fall.” The siege of Icecrown, the final fight, the spirits rebelling against Arthas, the last moment he shared with his father. “No king rules forever, my son.”
“The living quarrel too much.” Ner’zhul stared at Bolvar, still walking in a circle. “They wage war against each other for futile reasons, they see evil where there is none, they proclaim themselves pure and good when they are far from that.”
Bolvar, strangely, found himself agreeing.
“That is why I tricked the spirits,” he said and first Uther appeared in what looked like a hall somewhere in the citadel, then Terenas, his voice loud and earnest. “There must always be...a Lich King.”
“You will never surrender, and neither will I. We are in this together, Fordragon, and we have to make do with what we have and what we are, though we may not like it.”
Bolvar’s body was once again warped by the dragons’ flames. “You’ve slaughtered countless lives.”
Ner'zhul came to a stop. “The sacrifices that were made and, yes, the mistakes that I made, Fordragon, were for naught but the safety of my people.” As the words sank in the dream-like reality began falling apart. “We’ve been here long enough,” he said and vanished in a puff of smoke. “Choose wisely.”
Bolvar stood silent, the army gathered before him.