The winter air blew, unrelenting, against the side of the ice covered ship as it moved into the docks. Heavy lines were thrown from the dockhands as eager soldiers, farmers, blacksmiths, and cooks all started to gather at the edge of the vessel. The Kraken had finally arrived at her destination in Northrend.
The crew had been waiting for this day for months now, some of them even over a year. The war against the Lich King had been going on for some time, and the rumor was we were nearing the end. The time to assault Icecrown citadel was almost here here, and plenty of young soldiers wanted to make their mark before the corrupted prince of Lordaeron was defeated.
While the crew ran chaotically around the deck, fetching this or that, I decided to stay out of the way, leaning against a wooden frame so as to blend in with my surroundings as much as possible. I no doubt looked a mess to most of the passengers. I hadn’t cut my hair in nearly a year, and I had done little to care for it, so it was a tangled and matted mess that fell over my eyes. I watched the young men and women as they eagerly prepared for an adventure that could easily end with their death. I wished that was still naïve enough to think that this was just another adventure, not a list of ways to die.
“Sionis, oye, where’d you get off to?” I heard a voice asking from the storage area.
“I’m up here,” I answered.
I turned to see a dwarf pop his head up from below. His name was Methick Ironfist, a stout little tank. He struggled with the steps, which I found humorous.
“You still haven’t cleaned up,” the dwarf stated, though he tried to make it a question there at the end. “I figured you’d have changed into your regalia by now.”
“There’s plenty of time for that,” I said casually. “Where’s the Commander?”
“Somewhere around here,” Methick answered. “Listen, Sionis, I wanted to talk to you about what you said to me the other night. You and I had too much to drink, you know, and I think… well, to be frank, I’m not sure—”
I grunted. Drinking was in no way one of my pastimes. I generally avoided it, not for any real reason other that I found no enjoyment in it. I enjoyed the camaraderie of a bustling inn, the same as anyone else, but the brew was rarely part of my life… except one night… about a week before we arrived.
Methick had listened to me drunkenly explain my entire reason for coming to Northrend. I don’t know how much of it he understood, or if he cared, but he clearly understood the danger I was putting myself in once we set foot off our ship.
“I’m not really in the mood to discuss this further,” I said, attempting to steer the dwarf away from the topic altogether. “I’m sure I wasn’t thinking straight, and I’d be happy if you would not share the information I gave you with anyone else.”
“Sure,” the dwar said. “The thing is… you talked about a lot of Kirin Tor stuff, and those mages aren’t to be trifled with, Sionis. I mean, they’ve got people everywhere up here, and trying to get into whatever citadel it was you mentioned could be really dangerous.”
“It could,” I agreed. “Surely, knowing that, you understand I would never attempt it. Methick, all you heard that night was the drunken ramblings of a man who who had wild ideas about how to fix old mistakes.”
Methick didn’t look convinced, and I wasn’t sure how to go about convincing him, but thankfully the Commander of the vessel arrived. He looked grumpy, tired, and ready to disembark, so Methick quickly retreated.
“Looking over the manifest,” the Commander said, his voice official. “Sionis Sepher? Is that you?”
“The one and the same.”
“Perfect,” the Commander said. “I wish you looked a little better kept… but I suppose the Alliance is taking anyone and everyone that can help, no matter their hair care routine.”
The Commander then spun around and blew an incredibly loud whistle that made all of the workers and crew stop in place and look over at him. I realized too late that the Alliance propaganda machine was about to kick in.
“Soldiers of the Alliance,” the Commander announced. “Today, we reach Northrend.”
Cheers went up around me. I waited for it to quiet down again.
“For many,” the Commander continued. “The goal of coming here has been long sought. Still, for others, the fear of losing what they love has driven them here. I do not pretend to know the true danger that lies ahead, but I assure you that I understand why we are all taking the monumental task of facing it, together.”
It was almost too easy. A chorus of praise and applause broke out and the crew was practically jumping from the ship.
“Today, we’re joined by a powerful mage of Stormwind,” the Commander added. “His name is Sionis Sepher, and he’s faced the dangers of our world before. As you step foot on dry land today, heroes, do not fear, for even the storied veterans of our time march with you into the frozen north.”
I waved for my adoring fans, and when the Commander had his fill, he shouted for the gangplank to be lowered so that they could officially enter Valiance Keep. The sorry souls were practically lining up for their first military assignment.
I said nothing, waiting for the Commander to go, but he turned back to look at me for a few seconds instead.
“Why are you here, Sepher?”
“You bowed out after the Outland Campaign. I read your file before you ever got aboard my ship. You teach kids how to light candles with their minds now. So, I ask again, why are you here?”
I stiffened at the question. “My business is my own, Commander.”
“You souldn’t keep secrets from your superiors,” the Commander replied.
“If you want to take me back home you can,” I said. “I’m sure the Officers here would be interested to know you sent an able-bodied magic user home because he wouldn’t tell you his weekend plans.”
“Look, I’m not trying to start a rivalry,” the Commander said, gesturing with slightly raised hands in mock surrender. “I just want to know you’re here for the right reasons. If you’re looking for a noble death, you can find it somewhere else. Up here, if you die… you don’t stay dead long.”
I understood what he meant. He was worried about my mental health. I couldn’t blame him, of course, I looked a right mess and had been living alone in a manor for far too long since the Outland campaign. Still, my resolve was as strong as ever. I wasn’t here to die. I was here to prevent death.
“That won’t be a problem,” I assured him. “I plan to leave Northrend alive and well.”
The Commander looked intently at me, then nodded a bit. “Alright, so you’re not planning to solve your woes on the end of our enemy’s blade. Fair enough. So, then what are you here for?”
I decided between telling Methick my plan, and now dodging the Commander, I should probably give some kind of reason that made sense. I thought for only a moment since I didn’t want to outright look like I was making it up.
“I want to be here when it happens,” I said.
“When what happens?”
“The corrupted prince will fall soon,” I said. “Not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon.”
This answer seemed to appease the Commander. He smiled at Sionis and then offered up one more firm nod. “You’re a good man, Sionis, all of us from Stormwind know the deeds of the Sepher family over the years. Keep that head on your shoulders as long as you can.”
I smiled. “I’ll certainly try.”
I was off the ship and making my way through the bustling crowds of the keep within the hour. I had lost track of Methick somewhere in the chaos, and I realized that I would probably never see the dwarf again. We had been on the boat here for weeks, so it felt strange to know someone you had just spent so much time with was little more than a ghost of a memory.
Thinking about ghosts brought Keaira back to my mind.
I was reminded of my true goal.
My real plans in Northrend had nothing to do with the fallen prince of Lordaeron. Instead, I had my eyes set on the magical city of Dalaran. For years I thought the city had been leveled in the Third War. Now, I knew the truth. The city had survived, and with it, the libraries. I had visited those halls many times when I was younger, and I had long ago seen the infamous spell books with their ancient wonders.
The Kirin Tor had banished the use of certain spells without proper authorization. There were few magi out there that knew some of these dark secrets, but most were locked away in the Violet Citadel where no one could learn them.
If I could get my hands on some of that forbidden magic… well, perhaps I could fix something that I had broken a long, long, time ago.
I wasn’t here for Arthas. I was here to fix something I had broken.