[OOC: And now I finally bridge the gap between "present time" and Fenris.]
The ordeal had certainly been taxing for the young wizard. His eyes were sunken and bloodshot, a clear mark of his dedication to fulfilling the harsh task his king had set in front of him.
Thomassy: It's good to be back, milord. I hope the palace's wizards haven't gotten sloppy in my absense, have they?!
Alford: *chuckling* I see the battle didn't rob you of your humor. So, I believe it is now time you introduced my new guest to me.
Thomassy: Certainly. Your Highness, I present you Grigori Dosantos, archmage extraordinaire, leader of the Kirin Mora, TRUE member of the Council of Six and all, most importantly, a friend of mine from my days back in Dalaran.
Dosantos: *bowing* On behalf of the Kirin Mora, I thank you for helping and harboring the Kirin Mora in our current situation. *rising* We are in your debt.
Alford: Indeed. While it is always refreshing to find new allies for Lordaeron in these times, I would not hide that the services of the Kirin Mora would be of great help to me. I believe Thomassy has already briefed you on his latest findings?
Dosantos: The mysterious golems you unearthed, yes. We will gladly repay your hospitality by working with your wizards on this and whatever venture you may wish to pursue, as long as you promise to help me retake the Violet Citadel, oh great king.
Alford: *smiling* You have my word, Archmage. You both should now rest, for I need you both replenished and ready to work as soon as possible.
After the two wizards bowed and left, Alford had some wizards prepare a communication channel with Silvermoon, the elven capital. After waiting impatiently for fifteen minutes, the wizards finally finished their incantations and a small magical window quickly materialised in front of him.
On the other side, Alford could only see a fairly non-descript room without any special features. He sighed. As he had expected, the elves and their bureaucracies wouldn't so easily have allowed him to contact their king and, fittingly, their magisters had redirected the communication spell to some room where he would now be "received".
And, almost immediately, Anasterian Sunstrider's figurative receptionist came into view. Clad in a scarlet robe and a matching mask that covered the lower half of his face, the magister's short black hair was neatly combed back, greatly framing his disquieting blue eyes. He carried a greatstaff on his hand, whose headpiece resembled a golden eagle wing, certainly as some show of personal status.
The figure quietly examined the spell and every inch of Alford he could see. And then, apparently unmoving behind his mask, the magister finally addressed him.
Magister: I am Grand Magister Rommath, member of the Convocation of Silvermoon and King Anasterian Sunstrider's court wizard. Why have you tried to contact His Highness in such a manner?
Alford: I am King Alford Menethil of Lordaeron. I have matters to discuss with King Sunstrider, so I would appreciate it if you directed this spell back to its original recipient.
Rommath: *impassively* Yes, that I can see. Since you apparently didn't understand, I asked why you tried to contact King Sunstrider. His Highness has more pressing matters to attend than petty human problems.
Alford: More pressing matters, heh... like a civil war? I heard those Benefactors can be quite vicious...
Rommath's eyes flew wide, the first display of emotion Alford had seen in the man. Reclining on his throne, Alford triumphantly smiled as he crossed his hands, relishing in the confusion he had caused in the elf.
Rommath: But but... how did you...
Alford: Those are not matters for you ears, Grand Magister. Now, let me talk to King Sunstrider. I believe he'd like to hear the news I bring about a fine gentleman by the name of Kariel Winthalus...
[Now's as good a time as any to play Alford's Theme ]
The city square was once again filled to the brim with thousands of people awaiting Alford's every word. It was funny how things turned out, Alford thought. The last time such a gathering had happened, the People's Front and the Maroon Cult had invaded the city and attacked his people. And now, here he was, celebrating his men's victory over them. To his right stood Marshal James Sherman, proudly gazing at the citizens, along with a much quieter Adaen Melrache. To his left, stood a much revitalized Thomassy, waving and bowing to the cheering crowd, and Grigori Dosantos, garbed in what Alford assumed to be some ceremonial Dalarani robes.
Sensing the time was right, Alford approached the border of the balcony and calmly raised his hands, drawing an immediate silence from the crowd.
Alford: My people, the Maroon Rebellions endangered our pride, our lands, our loved ones. For weeks, the People's Front and the Maroon Cult ravaged our great kingdom, destroying the land that once birthed them and spilling the blood of the men, women and children they once viewed as family. But they are no more. Thanks to our brave soldiers who did everything in their power to defend all we hold dear, the People's Front was utterly defeated and the Maroon Cult all but eradicated. The traitorous Canbrad who not long ago dared attack these streets is now dead and the High Council of Brux that so much helped him is now nothing more than a handful of rotting carcasses. And for that, we thank these men to my right.
Giving Thomassy a nod, Alford stood regally as the wizard brought him three elegantly carved wooden lockboxes, all open and displaying their contents: the Silver Hammer, Lordaeron's most distinguished medal of honor, shaped and colored exactly as its name indicated.
Alford: Witch Hunter Commander Adaen Melrache *the man approached and knelt*. For bravely rescuing the township of Andorhal, protecting the grain that feeds our people and slaying Canbrad, I award you the Silver Hammer.
Alford placed the medal around the witch hunter's neck and, amidst thunderous applause from the crowd, he rose and returned to his place.
Alford: Marshal James Sherman *Sherman knelt*. For defending Stratholme, rescuing Corin's Crossing and Tyr's Hand and slaying the Maroon High Council, I award you the Silver Hammer.
The same situation as before repeated itself. And now, Alford picked the final lockbox.
Alford: Sadly, not all men worthy of recognition live to receive it. For defending Stratholme, rescuing Corin's Crossing, fighting the Maroon High Council and bravely facing Andol in battle, I posthumously award Lieutenant Colonel Borett Pureblood the Silver Hammer.
Closing the lockbox, Alford handed it over to Sherman, who now looked much more serious and determined than before. The crowd once again cheered, yet Alford could see how Sherman mourned the loss of the young witch hunter.
It was Thomassy who broke the silence, rallying the crowd into a chant of acclamation, his fist punching the air.
Thomassy: All hail Lordaeron! All hail Menethil!
Thomassy and Dosantos walked through the palace gardens, still enveloped by Thomassy's illusion. The enormous digsite in the middle slowly revealed the figures of thirteen enormous black golems as they drew closer, bit by bit. Dosantos marveled at their sight, his hands examining the metal, the shape, the runes.
Dosantos: What a marvelous sight to behold! If activated, these golems could tear up entire armies!
Thomassy: Yeah, the problem is getting them to tear up the enemy armies instead of just any poor bloke that crosses their path.
Dosantos Any idea where they came from?
Thomassy: None at all. We also found a system of catacombs below the city which some of my subordinates are now calling "the Undercity" for fun, but we have absolutely no idea who built it or even when.
Dosantos: Intriguing. Still, I'm eager to plumb the secrets of these contraptions. The sooner we do that, the sooner I can retake Dalaran from that madman and reclaim my position.
Thomassy: And avenge Saadhal and the rest.
Dosantos: Yes, vengeance.
And there they stood, silently, under the empty gaze of the golems as Dosantos slowly examined them.
The sun was setting, its light projecting long shadows of the myriad gravestones dotted through the cemetery. Sherman had known some of those men and served alongside plenty more. He now regretted not knowing so many of the men he had lead to their deaths. Without their sacrifices, he might have never accomplished anything. He might not even be alive today.
Shaking those grim thoughts from his mind, he made his way to the one grave he had come to visit. A man and a woman stood there, embracing, crying at the loss of their only son.
Sherman approached them with uncertainty. This was not a situation he was used to.
Sherman: Excuse me, Mr. and Mrs. Pureblood? I am...
Mr. Pureblood: We know who you are, Marshal. It's an honor to meet you.
Sherman: *uneasy* I do not know what I can say to ease your suffering, nor do I think anything actually would. But I want you to know that your son was a good soldier, an excelent fighter and, above all, an irreplaceable companion.
Certain no moment would be better than this one, Sherman produced a small lockbox from his pocket: Pureblood's Silver Hammer.
Sherman: I came here to personally deliver this to you and to make you a promise. Your son may have died an honorable death, like any true soldier would want to, but that doesn't diminish the atrocity of what those Maroons did. And so I will bring them the retribution they deserve. I swear by the Light that I will personally bring you the head of that Andol bastard even if it's the last thing I do.
The day had finally come. The summit at Fenris Isle was just a few days away, and so Alford finished his preparations for his brief absense. Escorted by Sherman and a retinue of guards, Alford left the palace on horseback and headed for the docks. The citizens gathered in the streets, watching their king pass through, waving their hands and shouting encouragements at the monarch.
As the docks approached, Alford started noticing a large group of people gathered around the entrance, held back by the guards. Alford quickly understood what the commotion was all about.
For the first time since its building, Lordaeron's unequaled flagship, the Garamonde, was docked in the capital. The great ship had been built in the shipyards to the north and spent most of its life patrolling the Great Sea, eliminating pirate threats and keeping tabs on Kul Tiras' movements. But now, at Alford's special request, the ship had travelled upstream into Lordamere Lake, ready to ferry the king to his diplomatic meeting. Alford would not have done the trip any other way: bringing such a splendid battleship to Fenris would guarantee his safety and put some fear into the other kings, reminding them of Lordaeron's power. And if things turned sour, it would be there to sink the opposition.
After dismounting their horses, Alford and Sherman headed towards the Garamonde and a stern looking woman quickly came to greet them. It was Katherine Adai, Lordaeron's most feared admiral.
Adai: *saluting* Your Highness, Marshal Sherman. Always a pleasure to have such important people on my ship. Everything is ready for our trip.
Alford: Splendid. Let's embark and depart right away.
Adai: This way then, gentlemen. And worry not, I'm sure no pagan would be stupid enough to try to cause a ruckus in such a well defended place as Fenris Keep, much less with me, my men and my ship standing by.
Alford: I hope you're right, Admiral. I'd rather have this meeting end peacefully than with a bloodbath.
Escorted by the soldiers who had come to their rescue, Alford and Sherman reached the Garamonde safely. Skirmishes were still going on at the keep, mostly between the Witch Hunters and the remains of the Hesperian and Tirasian retinues.
Shouting orders at her men, Adai quickly readied the ship to leave, intent on taking the king to safety. When they finally put some distance between them and the isle, she hastily came to check on Alford and Sherman.
Adai: By the Light, what happened in there?!
Adai: *surprised* And did they succeed?
Sherman: No. Even though I tried to help. I knew diplomacy was out of the window when that wizard popped in.
Alford: True. Trying to get the other kingdoms to comply to our rules was no longer an option. All we could do was try to stay alive amidst the onslaught and hope some of the pagan kings didn't.
Adai: I see. What are we to do now? Should we return to the capital?
Alford: I still have an ally on that isle, but from what I know of him he'll get out alive and come to meet us sooner or later. Hmm... Did you per chance see whether Javali or Thaumas Proudmoore escaped the island?
Adai: Some of my lookouts reported a man matching Proudmoore's description fleeing on the back of some kind of huge airborne serpent. On the other hand, we clearly saw Javali and his guards enter a ship that departed a few minutes ago.
Sherman: Then we can still get the bastard! Milord, can we give chase?
Alford: Do you think we can still catch the ship, Admiral?
Adai: They have a head start, but there's no faster nor stronger ship in these waters than the Garamonde. There are good chances we can still engage them.
Alford: Very well. Give chase and proceed as you see fit.
Adai: *saluting* Right away, my king.