When I originally thought of Northrend, I thought of an icy snowcap and some white snowy plains. I don’t think I ever gave it the credit it deserved when it came to the sheer size of the landmass. I had not expected Northrend to be so… large.
Most of the folks I talked with in Valiance Keep told me that the city of Dalaran was located in a place known only as the “Crystal Forest”. I felt, from looking at the map of the continent, that my best bet of reaching this forest was by heading to the Howling Fjord on the eastern coast. I had to catch a ride on several different vessels to get there, but it was worth the trip. The fjord was beautiful, and despite the chaos and death in Northrend, it was worth seeing at least once.
On the ground, traveling proved to be difficult. I traveled with groups when I could, picking up the odd ends here or there to stay in good favor with folks. Everyone liked the idea of having a mage around that could start a fire with his bare hands.
I remember the day so well, the smell of pine trees and fresh life all around me… it was almost a comfortable day. I had decided to travel on my own, which was rare, but Surfal was in a spirited mood and I was ready to cover some distance.
That was when I heard a scream deep within the woods.
Without hesitation, I pulled on Surfal’s reins and rushed toward it. We darted between the trees, dodging the various twigs and sticks as we darted to the rescue. I rounded a corner too fast, realizing too late it was a significant drop, and Surfal stopped hard, instinctively preparing for the tumble. I went over the front of the horse and landed hard on my back, tumbling down the hill until I crashed at the bottom against a rotten log.
“Well, hello there, hero,” a voice said, not far from me. I rolled onto my side, struggling to breathe, and saw a young woman not more than ten feet from where I stopped. She was dressed in ornate golden and silver armor that was custom fit to her body. She wore no helmet, and her long golden hair was braided so that it fell down her back, nearly to her waist. For a moment, I thought she had come to see if I was okay, but then I looked at her legs and saw a yellow ooze that was wrapped around her feet and slowly reached up toward her knees.
“Hi,” I struggled to reply. “Wind… knocked… out.”
“Yeah, that was a big tumble,” she said cooly. “You going to be okay?”
“Sure,” I said, forcing myself to sit up. “I’ll be fine.”
“Great,” she said. “Now, since you’re here… maybe you could help me out?”
I nodded, still struggling to inhale. I didn’t know what the ooze was, but I was confident it didn’t care for fire. I hit it with a light blast of flame and it squirmed a bit, but showed no sign of retreating.
“That didn’t work,” she said.
I was about to try another spell, when I felt something like ice pierce my foot. I gave a loud yelp of surprise, and then looked down to see that the same yellow ooze now had a grip on my foot.
“That’s not good,” I grumbled.
“It was worth a try,” she said, looking at my feet. “Maybe someone heard you scream and we can get them down here too.”
“Okay, calm down,” I said with a wave of my hand. “This is just a slight setback. It’s not the end of the world. I just need to figure this out. Not many things are resistant to fire.”
“Hmm, I wonder,” the woman said lowering her mace so that it touched the ooze. The creature grabbed hold almost instantly. She waited for a second and then whispered an enchantment. The mace burst with blinding light and the ooze monster was suddenly evaporated into thin air.
“Ha!” she said proudly. “I did it.”
“Seriously?” I asked. “You could free yourself the whole time?”
“Looks like it,” she said, stepping over and doing the same spell so that the ooze was melted off my feet as well. “I didn’t really have a chance to try. I screamed when it grabbed me, more out of shock than anything, and then you came barreling down the mountain a few moments later. Anyway, my name is Christine. I’m a paladin. It’s nice to meet you.”
“Same to you,” I replied. “My name is Sionis.”
“You’re not from around here?” she asked.
“No,” I said, looking up the way I’d fallen. I gave a whistle and Surfal’s head appeared near the top of the incline. He’d managed to get his footing, unlike me. I smiled and looked to Christine now, no longer distracted.
“You should come with me,” she said. “There’s a place called Amberpine Lodge a short ways away. They’re good people, and you should probably get checked out after your fall.”
I thought about declining, but then I felt a pinch in my shoulder and I realized I couldn’t quite put my weight on my right foot. The last thing I needed was some kind of injury that would slow my progress. I would have to stop for the night anyway, so the idea of a warm bed sounded promising.
“Okay,” I said. “Lead on.”
The ride back to Amberpine was taking longer than I anticipated. At first we rode in silence, her up front and me behind. My body had started to ache after an hour or so, and I wondered if I had torn a muscle or something.
“You okay back there?” she asked, pulling my attention. “I don’t bite if you want to ride beside me. We can chat.”
I nudged Surfal and the beast rode up to match the pace of Christine’s horse. It was at this point that I got my first good look at the paladin’s face. She was young, maybe thirty, and she was, without a doubt, beautiful. She was, also, not interested in my long stare.
“Got something to say?” she asked.
“Ah, right, yes. I actually wanted to say thanks for saving me back there.”
“Well, you only ended up there because your hero complex kicked in,” she said. “I can appreciate someone who comes running when they hear danger.”
I chuckled. I hadn’t thought of it that way. I saw my actions as a weakness, more than a positive trait.
“Anyway,” she added, pointing ahead. “There’s the lodge.”
I looked to see a large building in the distance. In fact, it was much larger than most structures that I had seen in Northrend. There were several armed guards with Stormwind insignia coming our way, and I slid off Surfal so that I could speak to them without looking like a jerk. They ignored me, looking to Christine instead.
“Everything alright here?” one of them asked.
“Very much so,” Christine replied. “He might be here to help.”
The soldier looked me over for a second and then shrugged. “Light knows we could use it out here.”
I didn’t realize I had volunteered to help anyone by coming here, but I was smart enough not to bring that up right here and now. I just nodded and introduced myself to the guards.
“Come along Sionis,” Christine said as the guards went back to their patrol. “You’re going to like this place, and there’s someone here I bet you’ll like to meet.”
“Really?” I asked.
“Really. Come on!”
Amberpine really was amazing. The building had been crafted out of large wood, and despite the temperature outside, it was warm inside, even without a fire in the hearth. Christine went around saying hello to some of the people in the building while I stared at its beauty. Then, the paladin returned with an older man by her side. I said hello, and then I realized who I was looking at.
The old mage smiled widely and suddenly wrapped me in a hug.
“You two know each other?” Christine asked.
“More than you can know,” Angus replied. “Sionis, my boy, it’s been years.”
I hadn’t seen Magister Angus since I had left Theramore years ago. Despite his advanced age, Angus looked quite healthy now, perhaps even more so than he had the last time I had spent any time with him.
“What are you doing in Northrend?” I asked.
“Working,” Angus said with a laugh. “The Kirin Tor called any and all of us back to the front lines out here. Isn’t that why you’re here too?”
I hesitated, and Angus seemingly understood. “I heard about your loss in in the Outlands. I’m sorry for it. I didn’t know Keaira very well, but what I did know I enjoyed immensely.”
“It’s okay,” I said. “I’m not dwelling on the past now.”
“Good to hear. So, you’ve come to help me out here?”
“I’m just on my way to Dalaran, actually,” I said. “It’s a long trek, unless you might have a faster way?”
Angus laughed. “The Kirin Tor don’t let people like me have the keys to the city anymore. No, I’m afraid I can’t get you there, my boy. I’m sorry for that.”
“It’s okay,” I assured him. “I’m just happy to see an old friend again.”
“Me more than you,” Angus said. “We’re dealing with a real problem here in the hills, Sepher. I don’t get many brave adventurers out here, and I would be lying if I said I didn’t desperately need all the help I can get.”
“That sounds serious. What’s happening out here?”
“What do you know about the curse of the Worgen?” Angus asked.
“Enough to know how dangerous the Worgen are,” I replied.
“Well, get ready,” Angus added. “Because there’s Worgen here in Northrend, and a problem we thought we’d put to bed years ago seems to have risen once more.”