Senior Knight Imoen looked through her mail. One letter caught her attention immediately, a crisp white parchment, sealed with Scarlet Wax. She broke the seal and read:
“To Emissary Imoen, Stormwind Mission Division
From Brother Wroxten, Second Undersecretary to General Abbendis, Tyr’s Hand.
I regret to inform you that Sister Louise, Missionary, has been reported Missing in Action.
As per your instructions, Sister Louise was duly flogged in preparation for return transfer to the authority of Abbot Habeus, High Emissary, Scarlet Crusade Mission to Stormwind. A Scourge uprising was reported in Andorhal, and Sister Louise and two brethren were charged with investigating prior to her release. She was last reported as fighting in Andorhal by these brethren, who returned in the small hours, severely injured.
I send my condolences on your loss. Unfortunately we cannot spare men to search for her body. I look forward to hearing reports of new recruits replacing her at work in the Stormwind Mission.
For the Crusade, sister!
Imoen read the letter again, trembling from anger and distress. How could this have come to pass when she had last seen Louise the previous night, smiling, full of life and looking forward to returning home. Imoen raised a fist to her brow and sobbed aloud.
Louise lay crying, face down on her bunk, her bare back glistening with freshly drawn blood. She bit the thin red blanket in an effort to stop herself from crying aloud. Imoen had promised her she would not be flogged, but the Tyrs Hand Superiors had done it anyway. Louise lacked any energy to rise and collect her few belongings for the return journey to Stormwind. Better to let her back heal before she tried to even dress. Her mind swam with exhaustion. She was on the beach in Stranglethorn, laughing with Hejin, the sun on her face, waves lapping at the shore, but the sun was too hot on her back, and now Hejin was shouting at her, ordering her to get up! Louise woke up in a start, her back burning from the pain. Brother Wroxten was shouting at her:
“Get up get up get up” he screamed “You, Louise, Saul, Valmar, get to Andorhal and investigate the Scourge’s activities. Move it!”
Saul and Valmar, sullen brothers with thin frames and northern accents, scrambled into their armor. Louise sat up, blanket covering her front, and tried to dress. She put on two shirts as extra padding, then painfully buckled on her armour. She nearly fainted but pinched her arm hard to keep herself from crying. The three marched out past other sleeping Brethren to the courtyard, where horses had been saddled.
Valmar helped Louise mount and they set off through the drizzle for Andorhal.
Wroxten had been right, there was unusual activity at Andorhal. The undead Scourge were gathering, preparing for something. But what he hadn’t told them was how many were in the army. The stench of rotting flesh made the trio gag, as they crouched behind a bush, watching.
“We should go back and report” said Saul in his strange accent.
“No brother. Discipline without Question” said Valmar. “If today is our turn to die, then glory to the Crusade!” He drew his sword.
Louise said nothing, her eyes full of tears, her back a pulsing mass of pain. Saul staggered to his feet with Valmar, pulling Louise up with him. They crept around the back of the inn, swords drawn, the moonlight shining on their Scarlet mail. Saul stood on tiptoe and looked through the inn window. Louise looked too. Inside, two bodies of civilians were spread on the floor, being canabalized by undead. Valmar turned his head and threw up over his boots.
A blood curdling groan filled the fetid air. Louise and Saul turned to see a jawless rotting undead lumbering towards them. Worse, the yell had alerted more Scourge who had drawn their weapons. Their Scarlet training kicked the three to life, they formed a line of shields and rushed the Scourge. Valmar, his tabard dripping with vomit, was injured first, his shield arm hung uselessly by his side. As Louise fought, the adrenaline and endorphins surged through her body. She felt light headed and easily despatched three undead, their spirits gratefully floating free to peace. She began hallucinating: The Scourge were attacking Stormwind, Saul and Valmar changed to Thepol and Harsufeld, Louise was wearing a high ranking Scarlet uniform, and was clutching the hand of a girl child which she had to protect... Louise could no longer feel the blood soaking the back of both her shirts, nor the slashes she had taken to her arms, stomach and neck. She laughed as one Undead raised a club and smashed it down on her head. She smiled as she lost consciousness.
Louise woke to hear screaming, and then realised it was herself screaming. A wicked knife was pressed into her bare leg, carving the flesh from her thigh. She tried to struggle and found she was tied up securely. She realised she was in the inn’s kitchen, she could see ashes glowing in the hearth through the darkness. She smelled the rotting breath of the scourge torturing her, and smelled meat cooking. On the glowing embers lay a human arm, sizzling. Horribly, she saw the scarlet gauntlet was still on the hand, and knew it must be Saul’s who was nowhere to be seen. Louise screamed again as the knife took off another flap of flesh from her thigh bone.
Valmar lay slumped in a corner, the front of his tabard bathed in blood, all his teeth missing, and his leg at a broken angle. He was panting in agony. As Louise watched, he started dragging himself to the door, out of view of the Undead torturing Louise. She screamed again, bursting a fresh wound on her jaw, and lost consciousness again.
Ormsby snuck his way into The Refectory, thinking that this would prove a great hiding place for him as he hid from The Embrace, he then came across a tear soaked letter on the floor under one of the tables, he lifted it.
Ormsby read over the letter quickly, his eyes widening the more he read, his scarred arm glowing with holy light. A tear ran down his eye for a moment, he remained silent.
Ormsby turns to the exit, even if going to Andorhal brought him closer to his former masters, he had to save Louise, for Hejins sake!
Ormsby ran out the cathedral, quickly mounting his horse.
"To Andorhal!" He screamed raising his scarred arm in the air.
Imoen rides off into the Tyr’s hand her thoughts filled with anger of the disregard of her order. As she approached Tyr’s hand the Scarlet Crusaders there looked scared at Imoen presence. She said in a cold tone “Wroxten” one of the Crusaders went to say something but was nudged suggesting not to say anything. Imoen jumps off her horse and grabs the Crusader who nudged “You will show me where he is Crusader or perhaps I’ll beat it out of you how does that sound?!?” she said in a cold tone The crusader froze up in fear and a few other crusaders quickly ran up to see what was going on, “let him go Senior Knight…he’s in the cathedral in his quarters…” one of the Scarlets say trying to sound brave.
Imoen lets go of the crusader pushing him back slightly “Next time you disregard my order, I’ll have your tabard understood!?!” all the scarlet quickly salute Imoen and quickly get back to their posts, as Imoen reaches the cathedral doors all the knights in the area look at her worried and ashamed.
Wroxten is in his quarters shuffling threw some papers a knight quickly runs into his room “Brother! She’s here!” he says in a panic tone “Wait outside brother, these southerners are nothing let her in” Wroxten said in a cocky upperclass voice “Brother I really don’t think that’s such a good idea…” As soon as he mentioned that they could hear the sound of Imoen’s chain mail boots going down the corridor.
The knight quickly moves in front of Imoen he says in a quiet tone “Imoen. If you do anything I will have to-” before he could finish his sentence Imoen had already head butted the man knocking him out cold. Wroxten all of a sudden looked afraid but tried to not let it show “What do you want southerner? Why did you do that?” Imoen looked down letting her hair cover a part of her face to intimidate Wroxten she grinned menacing “What do you mean what did I do? He has no mark on his head I haven’t done anything…now let’s talk about this letter.” Wroxten looked around his surronding to see if any more knights would turn up just in case this would be his last day, no one was around he could see that Imoen meant business and that his views on the southerners had been proven wrong, “What is there to talk about?” Imoen put her hand on her swords hilt, Wroxten notices this and his voice changed tone dramatically “No wait! I didn’t want to…” “What were my orders!?!” Imoen shouted at Wroxten in a rage “She doesn’t act like one of us she’s to childish…I had to-” before he could finish his sentence Imoen pulled out her broadsword “And now she’s dead! Treachery!…” Imoen’s voice was in such a rage that she was sobbing at the same time “You were ordered NOT to hurt her…your punishment…” Wroxten was snivelling in fear he always believed that these Southerners were weak minded and now he thought he was about to be killed by one.
Imoen started by punching him square on in the face breaking his nose as the blood splatted on her face she took another punch and another and another, she never felt this much rage before not even Hejin had got her this angry. Wroxten’s face was bloody as Imoen let him go he slumped to the ground “I’m sorry! Please no more! I won’t disrgard your orders again please forgive me!” Wroxten said screaming in fear at Imoen, “No.” Imoen said her face blank she lifted her fist once again and punched hard into his stomach. All of a sudden the knights ran into Wroxten’s quarters Imoen could hear the click of guns reloading “Stand up Senior knight…don’t make me shoot you.” Imoen took a sigh and punched Wroxten again but stood up soon after lifting her up her hands.
“By the light Senior knight! What are you trying to do kill him?” Imoen’s voice was cold “He’ll live, unlike Missionary Louise.” A woman wearing full judgement appeared “By the light…clean him up, I will talk to the Senior knight” “Yes Scarlet Commander Marjhan.”
The knights dragged the bloody body of Wroxten Marjhan watching his body her expression blank. “You can put your hands down now. Please take a seat.” Imoen turns towards Marjhan her face covered in Wroxten’s blood “Senior knight…I’m so so sorry about Louise…it wasn’t my order, I just want you to know that Wroxten was behind all this, if you want my opioion im glad you did that to him.” She smirked at Imoen and gave her a cloth. “Have I gone mad?” Marjhan looked at Imoen sympathicaly and puts her hand one Imoen’s shoulder “You just bottle to much anger Imoen…you must learn to speak your mind…I have heard reports about this Hejin character and your attack on him, this isn’t like you…what’s going on?” Imoen looks up at Marjhan “I found out about my father…he is one of them…I came back to his grave only to find it empty…he’s most likely one of them now.” Marjhan looks at Imoen with a sharp stare “We’ve all had our families turn into them sister, your not the only one” Imoen lets out a long sigh “You are right…I just don’t want to sister Louise to suffer that fate.” “then look for her. We had two knights turn up from andorhal…louise wasn't with them..” Imoen quickly stands up but Marjhan grabs hold of Imoens arm stopping her from moving, “Sister, your not ready…you need to go see her again…The Oracle.” Imoen lets out anouther long sigh “The last time we met…it wasn’t good. I dout she would want to see me again.” Marjhan quickly stands up and faces Imoen face on “Sister this is important you listen to these words carefully…look into yourself, deeply. Look at the light for guidance…you have to controll this rage let it all out otherwise it will controll you and I feel that you will do something stupid…” Imoen looks towards the ground her eyes filling with tears “I…I don’t want to be alone…this anger, this hate…it’s stronger than before…I’m mad Marjhan…I used to think Arthas was my father…I really belived that-” Marjhan quickly embraces Imoen letting her cry in her arms.
“Imoen, let’s go see Demetria.” Marjhan says to Imoen in a kind tone, she lets go of Imoen rubbing her eyes dry of tears with her thumb, “I’ll go get her” Marjhan says letting Imoen go and walking out of the room, Imoen looks at the pool of blood on the floor thinking about what just happened contemplating on her rage her madness. Then this old woman appeared wearing a long robe with a hood covering her wrinkly face, her voice is old and faint “Senior knight…commander of the southern troups…I can read your thoughts, what a mess.” Marjhan nods at Imoen and closes the door giving Imoen some privacy.
“So. You want to know about your rage, you want to know why you did what you just did don’t you?” Imoen was shocked by her words it was as if she could read her mind “Y-Yes…please” Demetria nods and she walks over to the pool of blood wiping her hands in it, Imoen looks confused and horrified at the spectacle “What are doing?!?” Imoen says starlted by Demetia’s actions. “You hit him ten times in the face…Yes, he has done a terrible deed…he is responsible for almost killing the Missionary Louise.” Imoen looked at Demetria shocked “Wait…almost?” Demetria said sharply “Don’t but in I havn’t finnished.” Imoen looked embrassed and started to concentrate again, “Senior knight, the next few days will be tough, the light has given you a very rough journey…It has brought you here to me…You must go to Andorhal…alone or with your knights is up to you…that is the lights test, which is the right choice you will find out in time…Imoen, you are not ready to be a mage just yet…you must learn to master your rage first…do not forget those powers the light has given you…you are not mad Senior knight, all Humans or Half-humans go threw a stage in their lives where they let their emotions get the better of them…Humans call it deppression…this can be caused by high amounts of stress…in this case you are afraid of being leader…yes, brother Kallides doesn’t respect you as you would like…don’t let it bother you…the high Emissary and the other Emissary’s are there for a reason, senior knight….you must face the human you call Elizabetha…live without regret…that is all I can do for now.” Imoen’s face is boggle eyed at all she’s been told but for some reason it made perfect sense to her, it was as if she had gave her a to-do list.
“You will be alright Senior knight…I have forseen it.” “thank you Scarlet Oracle, I’m sorry for the trouble I caused…I should be punished.” Imoen looked down ashamed by her actions. “No Senior knight. He meddled in Scarlet affairs…he won’t do it again. He will live.”
Imoen stands up realising that she now has a choice. Does she save Louise alone or bring her knights along with her?
Louise came round briefly. Her hair was plastered to her face with blood. She could no longer see the kitchen hearth. In the darkness, the sound of a rat nibbling. Louise pulled her sticky cloak around her tighter and slumped back on the cellar floor.
Ulgarf stood there, looking at the destroyed city in front of him. It was Andorhal, burned and ravaged a few years ago by the Scourge.
-[in the communicator] Angst, what now? We reached Andorhal, and we need reinforcements. [communicator] - Can't spare any at the momen', we're fighting som' orcs 'ere that took us bah' surprise, 'n we- *explosion sound* Darn, we're in need o' all spare troops!
-[in the communicator] Understood. Ulgarf looked around at the scarlet knights, wondering if they'll ever find Louise.
-Colonel said that he can't spare any troops. We're on our own, said Ulgarf to the knights.
-Fine, we'll manage on our own, said a knight nearby.
Ulgarf glarred at him for a while, then checked all his guns.
-Alright brothers, let's move out! Said Imoen.
The group went forward, entering Andorhal. The town gate was rused and had burn signs over it. A horrid stench was filling the air around them, as they advanced trough. Suddenly, seven rotted undead jumped from behind a cart, blindly charging at them. Ulgarf quickly took out his two deadly automatic flintlocks and shot one of them in the head with silver bullets, the undead's head instantly burning to ashes. After about five minutes, all the scourge around them were lying dead on the cold soil, with arrows in them or with their heads shattered.
[communicator] - Reinforcements are en route!
-Hold the line, 9th Assault Corps will be here in a few minutes! yelled Ulgarf while taking out his gun, then fired two Fel Iron shells at a crazed Ghoul.
-Bah, we don't have the time, said a scarlet knight.
-[in the communicator] How much till they be 'ere? yelled Ulgarf in the communicator.
[communicator] - Don' know, 'bout five minutes!
-[in the communicator] To 9th Assault Corps, what's yer position?
[communicator] - Lt. Colonel, we're over Tarren Mill, and we're encoutering problems! Undead warlocks are throwing shadowbolts at us from below! Not sure all the gyro flights will make it, especially with all the troub -.. Arrgh! I'm losing contr-.. *static* ..-left engines are down! I'm crashing! We won't mak-... *static* Ulgarf hesitated a little before putting the communicator in it's special satchel.
-9th Nova Corps didn't survive the flight here. We're on our own.. we must find where Louise is, before it's too late.
-Thanks for the update! Said a scarlet knight
-Move out, brothers! Yelled Imoen while giving a cold look to the knight that talked before. She walked over to Ulgarf.
-I'm sorry about 8th Assault Corps, it wasn't your fault. May the Light guide their souls.
-Thanks, Imoen, but it's 9th Assault Corps. Said Ulgarf while trying to smile.
The road ahead looked dangerous and had an unfriendly aura about it, like all Andorhal, that is. The group kept walking, and walking, but nothing happened. In front of them there was an inn, and something told them that was the place.. They could swear Louise was there.