Winds of Change
The birds fled, the winds howled, the living and the dead stirred as the presence of the Lich King was felt once again.
"Death to the Scourge! And death to the living!”
Bolvar shook his head to dismiss the memories. He stood close to the edge of the icy platform, looking, sensing, feeling the undead. He knew he hadn’t fully recovered yet. Unlike his predecessor, he only held sway over the cold lands of Northrend and even here not all the dead were under his control. Some wandered with minds of their own.
Beneath the citadel, scattered around Icecrown and beyond its borders he could almost see them: nerubians, ghouls, skeletons, dragons, vrykul, shades, liches.
He sought out the lich. He had served Ner’zhul and Arthas well and his wisdom could prove being useful even to Bolvar. Alas, there was no sign of him.
Then he thought of the shades, of how they had aided the last Menethil in the Eastern Kingdoms and later in this bitter land, of how the Lich King could see through their eyes. He looked for them and soon found a few. He could not leave his throne yet, the world was not ready for him. Bolvar strode to his throne and sat. There his mind focused on the shades that were closest to the living and then, once he had made his choice, he closed his eyes.
When he reopened them he saw women, men, children, all going about their daily lives, unaware of the shade’s presence. Bolvar prompted it to move.
I go unseen, the shade replied telepathically.
Valgarde’s towering walls fell behind and the settlement came into view in all of its glory. Smoke rose from chimneys, fishermen dawdled by the water, blacksmiths hammered metal and a stable boy struggled to keep the horses calm.
“What on Azeroth is going on with these beasts?” the stable owner asked and before he knew it a chicken dashed between his legs, followed by two children. “This is madness!”
“I-I don’t know, sir. They’ve been acting strange since this morn.”
The shade moved on. It went past several other buildings and several other animals on the loose. At the Lich King’s command it stopped by an inn, listening. Two women outside the inn were engaged in gossip but as soon as the shade caught glimpse of a man being escorted by soldiers it took off in pursuit. “Draw me like one of your night elves,” the shade heard as it drifted past a house. It followed the soldiers into a tall building with guards stationed at its entrance. The shade went past them without making a sound and proceeded through corridors and rooms richly decorated until it arrived into a large hall.
“Vice Admiral Keller,” the man the soldiers had escorted said, “it is an honour.”
Keller nodded. “The honour is mine, paladin.”
“And greetings to you too, Lord Irulon Trueblade.” The paladin bowed.
“A brother of the Argent Crusade.” Trueblade smiled. “Welcome to Valgarde.”
Keller waved a hand towards a chair at the table beside them. “What brings you here?”
“Lord Tirion Fordring, admiral. He—“
The paladin’s weapon glowed, a faint light to mortals but to the shade it was dazzling. He drew his weapon and looked around without uttering a word. Irulon sensed something too and drew his weapon as well. The soldiers that had escorted Tirion’s messenger stood there dumbfounded, not really sure what to make of their behaviour. Even the vice admiral stared at both of them completely confused. He raised an eyebrow as they took careful steps towards the soldiers at the door.
“Light grant me sight!” Tirion’s messenger raised his weapon in the air.
Run, Bolvar said just as an explosion of light startled the shade, revealing its form to the living.
“What the hell—“
As Keller spoke the shade darted as fast as it could through a window and away from Valgarde, never to be seen again.
Bolvar had not learnt much, yet he still had a few more shades at his disposal. He spared the shade in Valgarde from investigating any further and switched with another one. This time he was in the Storm Peaks where the wind howled continuously and with it snowflakes streamed all across the white landscape.
I shall be your eyes.
The shade travelled to Bolvar’s next target, K3, a goblin camp.
It was hard to find such a small place in this weather, especially considering that the buildings were constantly covered in snow, but for the shade’s eyes this was nothing. Bolvar knew that it would’ve found what he was looking for.
And as a matter of fact the short yet sturdy walls of the camp appeared before the shade and with them the goblins’ peculiar machines: turrets, shredders and other strange devices. The shade hovered past a few buildings, their doors all closed, and overheard a conversation two goblins were having, possibly a married couple, the husband louder than the shrieking wind.
“I told you, I ain’t going to the Eastern Kingdoms or Kalimdor! Between the naga, the Iron Horde and whatever the heck is going on now there, it’s safe to say that it’s better we stay here!”
The shade heard something break. “If I stay here one more day I swear I will poison you,” the wife yelled.
“Yeah, yeah. Keep on talking, Nilika. Without me you’d be poor.” The husband walked outside and closed the door slightly. “We’re already poor! We haven’t had visitors in ages! This place has been abandoned by everyone.”
The husband sighed and walked back inside, locking the door. The two spoke for an eternity but words were unintelligible outside. The shade moved on but the place was mostly silent. Bolvar dismissed the shade and then he found himself in the Borean Tundra, outside the mighty Warsong Hold.
The fortress was huge but it was mostly empty. The orcs had no need for many soldiers here, just a few to keep an eye on the last pockets of undead in the land. The shade ventured inside through the bars of the massive portcullis. Orcs wandered here and there, some warming themselves with drinks, others sneezing and cursing.
To the Barracks, Bolvar commanded and the shade obeyed. Within the barracks there were orcs, trolls, a few tauren and some tuskarr but only a couple were in the dining hall. There an orc, a warrior with huge arms who had covered his back with a thick coat of fur, spoke with a tuskarr beside a brazier, both sitting comfortably on wooden stools.
“…he died, somehow, that’s all I know.”
The tuskarr rubbed a sigil on one of his tusks. “There are some strange rumours surrounding his death, but all say the same thing. Garrosh is no more. He will not return with another host.”
The orc gulped down his drink. “Indeed. What about you instead? I heard there was some unrest in your village.”
“The elder,” the tuskarr said after sipping some tea, brewed by the orcs just for him. “He said he felt…Karkut.”
The orc had no idea what he was talking about. “Who?”
“He Who Watches Over The Dead. The God of Death, in short.”
A troll danced in the same room in a very unusual way. He had drunk too much of whatever the orcs had given him. “And,” the orc continued although the troll was starting to bother him, “how can he be so sure it was this…god of yours?”
“Animals have been behaving strangely today. As for the elder, he told us that at dawn a chill ran up his spine, a chill he had felt—“
The warrior flung his mug at the dancing troll who fell head first onto the floor. “But…mon.” The troll dozed off and stayed there for the rest of the day.
“You’re saying he felt…the Lich King?”
The tuskarr nodded. “Apparently.”
“He was slain years ago. Tell your elder and your people that there is nothing to worry about.”
“Perhaps you’re right.”
The shade left the fortress and for a moment Bolvar gazed at the harsh environment, the land still bearing the signs of the war against the Scourge.
He opened his eyes. Just like in the Storm Peaks the wind here on the frozen throne was fierce and would’ve cut through any mortal who dared venture this high. Yet a mortal had come.
“You’re awake,” a human said, his armour bearing the symbol of the Ashen Verdict, his weapon a black steel. “That I did not expect.”
Look alive, Fordragon, that is no mere human.
Ner’zhul wasn’t lying. Bolvar could sense something different within the human. “Who are you?” he said, his voice no longer the one he had grown accustomed to.
The soldier laughed. “An old…acquaintance of yours, or well, of the Lich King’s. Tell me, where is the Crown Prince of Lordaeron? I would like to have his bones dance for me.” His hair swayed wildly in the wind.
Bolvar saw the man’s hand rest on the hilt of his weapon and as he grinned his teeth as white as snow became visible. He’s come here to slay you, Fordragon. “Reveal yourself. I will not be fooled by this charade.”
“As you wish,” the man bowed. “It seems I won’t be needing this then.” He drew his weapon and held its steel in his hands. It disintegrated soon after. Then he fainted and his body landed with a thud onto the icy platform. Dark magic seeped out of his flesh, wisping upwards slowly and then quickly until it coalesced into a being the Lich King had faced in the past.
“Mal’ganis.” Bolvar said, although it seemed like Ner’zhul had spoken.
The dreadlord grinned. His canines were spear-like and his eyes were two bright green orbs. “You have their memories, I presume.”
Bolvar’s mouth was a fiery chasm. “State your business, dreadlord.”
“My business is simple,” Mal’ganis replied, waving his claws. “I've come here to undo you, my little king. Kil’jaeden considers you a terrible mistake, a mistake that he thought disappeared from this planet when those mortals laid siege to this blasted citadel. He did not expect them to be so naïve as to replace the old Lich King with a new one. Nevertheless, I relished the moment when his beloved weapon shattered to pieces.” The dreadlord wings flapped twice. “What? Did you think that only the Light had freed the paladin from his icy prison?” He cackled. The sound would’ve been unsettling to any living creature.
“The Lich King defeated you once, he shall do so again.”
Mal’ganis narrowed his eyes and tightened his grey lips. “Yes, I remember. Alas, you no longer have the cursed blade and your powers have been significantly reduced.”
“Try me,” the Lich King said. The old Bolvar Fordragon would’ve probably spoken differently.
“Arrogant as the prince, I see. The Nathrezim created the helm you hold and the Nathrezim know how to turn it back into a useless piece of metal.” As Bolvar remained silent Mal’ganis continued. “Tell me, what does the treacherous shaman whisper to you? Oh, yes, I know he's there. How are you faring, Ner'zhul?”
The desire to break the dreadlord’s horns arose within Bolvar. That would’ve taught him a lesson. “Let us settle this now.”
“All in good time.” Mal’ganis smiled and his body began turning into a swarm of bats. “All in good time.” His eyes were the last thing Bolvar saw before he completely vanished.
Silence fell over Icecrown Citadel.
Now you see, Fordragon, that you are but one of the many players in this game.
Bolvar knew what he meant. The spirit’s thoughts were in his head, mixing and mingling with his own. “No,” he said out loud.
Ner’zhul didn’t have to ask why Bolvar was being so insistent. The answer came immediately as Bolvar recalled the moment he donned the Helm of Domination. “Tell them only that the Lich King is dead…and that Bolvar Fordragon died with him.”
“The world must never know the Lich King is still alive.” Bolvar spoke again.
There won’t be a world if you do not take action, Fordragon. You heard the dreadlord, you’ve felt it, the Burning Legion is coming to claim this world and it won’t repeat the same mistakes. Do not be a fool.
Bolvar drummed his fingers on frozen throne. A flurry of snowflakes blew against the back of his throne and continued forward. He thought he had seen the sun shining far into the distance, right where the snow had gone. Then he stared at the sky above him, at the innumerable clouds that constantly changed shape and at the queer raven that flew in a circle, cawing every once in a while.
When he lowered his eyes he made his choice. Thus, Bolvar Fordragon left the frozen throne and began descending the same stairs that Arthas had once ascended to fulfil his destiny. He would have to owe Tirion an apology, he reckoned, and as he thought of his friend he remembered an old conversation, the memory so vivid that it seemed like it was happening at that very moment, as if the paladin was walking with him.
“My friend, the first day we met I knew you were a man with a noble spirit.” Bolvar remembered and as he reached the bottom of the spire he strode through the frozen citadel. “I watched you grow into the man you are today. I know the sacrifices you’d be willing to make to protect our land.” He saw his reflection in the ice just before he stepped outside. “And I’m sure that when the time comes,” Bolvar recalled as he stopped at the foot of the citadel, the undead gathered around him, “you will lead our people.”