((This story is focused on a vision Lombard had during his 6 months of hiding. Whether it turn out to be true remains to be seen. Anyone seeking to flame this story will have to take this forenote into account too. Enjoy! - Lombard))
The Embrace was dead. Lombard couldn't believe his misfortune. THe Faith's cult had been the ticket to his rise to power. And it was destroyed.
How could this happen? What could tear apart such a powerful, influential and ancient cult in such a short amount of time?
The answer - Sloth.
Lombard blinked out of his meditative state, and looked slowly around the soot-covered cave. The stench of ash and industrial smoke from the Cauldron in the valley below was thick in the air. Warpmind stood up, and strode out of the cave.
'Sloth... it will bother me no longer...' the Death Knight said, as he left the cave, and looked out over the valley. He could see the Dark Iron Dwarves working on their machinations of war, looking like ants scuttling busily around their nest in the distance.
'Time to get back up to scratch.' Lombard drew his runeblade, Doombringer, and strode down the hill into the Searing Gorge.
Several hours later, the Duke stood panting, the corpses of Dark Iron Dwarves and their great War Golems littering the plane around him. He sunk the bloodied runeblade into the ground, and sat down to recuperate. Unknowingly, he returned to a state of meditation.
Fire. Death. Desolation. They were all around him. Lombard stared around at the burning city, the smell of rotting flesh filling his nostrils. This place felt so familiar, yet so alien. He walked down the burning street, and saw something that he truly recognized; the Command Centre, it's roof engulfed in flames, it's loyal guards pinned to the wall with great rusted nails. Their helmets had been kept on, concealing their faces, which gave Lombard a feeling that they concealed something he didn't want to see. However, their body armour had been removed to reveal their bare chests, and across each guardsman's pecs (six pairs, in total), were carved the words 'HERETIC'. Lombard grimaced, and continued past the Centre.
When he'd crossed the bridge to the Dwarven District, passing the ruined Keep, he heard shouting coming from down one street to his left. He tensed, and ducked down a side-alley, moments before the shounting came into plain earshot. He frowned with disgust as he heard what the survivors said;
'Reveal yourselves, heretics, and face the wrath of the Divine Light!' came the clearest shout.'
Lombard peered out of the alley, to see a gathering of a dozen red flames on white fields walking down the street in formation. The Duke stepped out of the alley, and even though the Scarlets 'Missionaries' stared right at him, their gaze seemed to pass right through him. He glared with disgust, as two of them kicked down a door to a nearby house, and they charged inside. Within minutes of disappearing, they returned from the house, dragging several crying common girls behind them. Behind them, a huge Scarlet, bare-chested, helmed Scarlet hauled out an ancient-looking dwarf, who Lombard immediately recognized as Master Deepforge, who had trained him in the way of the hammer and anvil as a young man. Lombard stared on in horror, wanting to move, but unable, as one Scarlet burst from the cover of the group; Imoenn. Older and sterner, but Lombard was certain it was Imoenn. She strode up to the ancient dwarf, and yanked him up to her level, so their faces were inches apart. She then shoved him away, and shouted to her men;
'Heretics! Purge the beasts!' The Scarlets cheered as she strode away, heading for the Cathedral District as the Scarlets ran through the helpless commoners, whooping with laughter. Lombard found himself able to move again, and, realizing that the peasants were doomed, followed Imoenn to the Cathedral.
The enterance to the Cathedral District was heavily barricaded, with boxes and crates covering the enterance but for a small hole to act as a doorway. Imoen strode through the gap, closely followed by the Lombard. She walked through the square, which was heavily militarised, with training dummys and armories everywhere. The Senior Kinght Imoen ignored the business of the main square and strode up to the Cathedral doors, under the dripping corpses of 'heretics' nailed to the great white walls, as two scarlets posted either side of the doors opened them for her. Lombard slid through the door, moments before the Scarlets closed them again.
Inside the Cathedral, it was exactly as it had been the last time Lombard had seen it, all those months ago. The only difference was the substitution of the blue carpets and banners for red, and a huge banner, bearing the face of Saiden Dathrohan, covered the back wall. At the altar, his back turned to Imoen, stood a man draped in red and golden robes, the insignia of the Crimson Guard on his tabard.
'How many have been redeemeed on your patrol, Sister?' he said, not turning to her. His voice was disturbingly familiar, but for a hissing tone underneath it.
'Just three, my Lord. But I feel that our mission here is almost complete. We can soon return this city to it's former glory.' imoenn replied.
'Excellent. Dathrohan will be pleased with your progress, Sister.' the man turned, and as he did, Lombards eyes widened with horror, as the ancient and grinning face of Abbot Habeus DeMonfort turned to them. What frightened Lombard more, were that his eyes glowed a deep red. Imoenn seemed to be afraid, as well.
'Do you like my new powers, Sister? Dathrhoan pays those who serve him well with rewards far beyond monetary value. Influence, control... immortality.'
'They... make you look like a true... servant of the light... my Lord.' Imoenn said, wincing with every word as if being prodded with a quill.
'Hmm, it seems we have a visitor, Sister. Please show him the... error of his ways.' Habeus stared directly at Lombard, who froze with horror. Imoen turned, and smirked at him too. She drew her sword. Lombard was unable to move.
'Prepare to meet the Twisting nether, treacherous dog!' Imoenn shouted, and the blade carved horribly through his immaterial flesh.
Lombard awoke from his meditation with a gasp of shock. He slumped forward, gasping for breath. He had seen what could happen. It was up to him, else everyone would die, which was a risk he wasn't willing to take. He had to stop the Crusade. Or else his meditative vision, could become very, VERY real...