The Kul Tiran battleship Iron Shrike waited in the waters between Kul Tiras and Zandalar, a route it had regularly patrolled for some time. But it was not patrolling now. It was simply waiting. So was Admiral Eliphas Aximand, who flew his flag on this vessel. The flag was his own design - a double-headed eagle carrying a pair of icy blades, with the ornate “L” sigil of Lordaeron on its chest, all done in white on a deep blue field.
“I don’t like this,” Captain Mersadie Kittridge, the ship’s master, said in the morning gloom. She had expressed that thought, or more profane versions thereof, since they had left Boralus.
“I know you don’t, Mersadie. But given what has happened… I think we have better things to do than kill each other. And I think the Horde has come to that conclusion too. Some of them, anyway.”
“Will it matter?” Sir Eran Heskin, a veteran knight wearing the colors and armor of the 7th, asked from behind him. “They all still follow her, no matter how much they grumble. It wasn’t until they came crawling to us that they rid themselves of Garrosh, and that took time-travel and wrecked lands to carry out.”
“The old man may have a point,” agreed Lord Eldred Valmy, who stood slightly behind the admiral. The worgen warlock’s eyes glowed purple from the energies he had absorbed from the late unlamented Lady Nightswan when he had been restored to life, although his magical talents were more oriented towards felfire than void magic. “Sylvanas is not a pig-headed orc with the heart of a dead Old God in his back pocket; she is a battle-hardened general with long centuries of experience under her belt. What’s coming may make Pandaria look like a barroom brawl.”
“Enough.” Aximand raised a hand to silence the chatter. “We don’t need reminding of what the future holds for us. I think we’re all intelligent enough to get the idea. I would hope we are also intelligent enough to realize that we have to live on this planet with these people, and it’s better if that planet is not on the brink of death first.” Captain Kittridge clearly did not agree with the idea of living with these people, but kept her tongue.
“Ship ahoy!” came the cry from the crow’s nest.
Ian Blanky, Kittridge’s first mate, looked up. “Where away, lass?”
“T’starboard, Mr. Blanky! Looks like a goblin clunker!”
“Hands away from weapons unless I give the word,” Aximand ordered sharply. “Anyone who so much as twitches their fingers towards a weapon without my command will answer to me.” The Kul Tiran crew looked incredibly unhappy at this, but they obeyed.
The goblin vessel came alongside, flying a flag of truce. A voice from the other deck, goblin-accented, shouted through the gloom. “Permission to come aboard for parley?”
Aximand glanced pointedly at Kittridge, who scowled at him. “Permission granted,” she shouted back.
“Clear the deck, we’re portin’ over!” The Kul Tiran crew made a space on the deck, as five figures teleported across from the goblin ship. One was the goblin captain, wearing well-cut leather armor with the tabard of the Horde’s chief school of medicine. The others were a Nightborne in magical robes, a runed staff strapped to his back; a blood elf wearing the tabard of the Blood Knight order, carrying a spear, and acting as the Nightborne’s bodyguard of sorts; a Zandalari in traditional garb, wearing an orcish skull mask and carrying a bone-carved staff… and then the last was seen.
“Forsaken!” Despite Aximand’s stern admonition, Kittridge reached for her axe-pike. Half of her crew also reached for blades, while Heskin gripped his spear and battleaxe, standing at combat ready, and even Valmy looked about to incinerate them all with felfire.
“HOLD, DAMN YOU!” Aximand shouted. He glared now at the goblin. “Explain this, Kitrik! You said nothing of bringing one of her ilk here!”
“I’m not one of hers, Admiral. You would remember that if you took a better look at me.” The Forsaken stepped forward; he wore ornate elementium armor with dragons etched onto his belt and spaulders, complimented by the dark tabard of the Ebon Blade. He carried a seemingly ethereal scythe… and despite the fact he was speaking clearly and coherently, his lower jaw was noticably absent. But Aximand had recognized the voice.
So had Heskin, whose grip on his weapons tightened. “Galen?”
Sir Galen Tavener looked at the Stormwind knight and gave a solemn nod. “It has been a long time, Eran. Ever since the Second War… when we were denied the honor of going with Turalyon beyond the Dark Portal - you by wounds, and me by duty. My father went with them instead… and I have not heard from him since. I assume he is dead.”
“He is,” Heskin replied. “Buried in the cemetery at Honor Hold in Outland… and now you serve the Ebon Blade?”
“I do. I was reluctant to tie my fate to the Lich King again, just like Eliphas here - he avoided us when the call came out, because of it.” He gave a shrug. “But in all honesty… it seems a better choice than the alternative.”
“So you do not serve her?” Aximand asked.
“No, Admiral. Not anymore.” Tavener sighed, another odd noise for him. “The Dark Lady I remember is gone. I wonder if she truly existed at all. That thing who wears her face and speaks with her voice is not my Queen.”
“This is insanity!” Kittridge seethed. “Eliphas, you’re not seriously asking me to keep listening to this murderer spin his little --”
“Murderer?!” Tavener’s voice now showed anger, as did what was left of his face. “You know nothing about me, Captain. Anyone whose life I have taken has always held a blade in their hand, seeking to take mine. Even when I fought against the Scarlet Crusade with the other knights of Acherus. I do not butcher innocents. I was a knight of Lordaeron in life and, such as it is, I choose to remain one in death as well. I serve the people who call the place home… not the one who has blighted it far more than anything Arthas ever did.”
Aximand peered up at the Nightborne and his two companions. “And you, Lord Vendross? What do you and yours say about this?”
“We have all had reasons for grievance.” Randarel Vendross glanced at Valmy, who bared his fangs in an amused grin to see that the Nightborne recognized him. “But I am willing to set them aside to fight the greater threat. Before, it was the Legion. Then Azshara. Now Sylvanas. We must remove her from power now… and then if we so choose later, we can go back to killing each other until the world dies. Which may happen sooner than we expect.”
Valmy nodded, his expression now sobered. “I have my reasons for not trusting you, arcanist… I remember well how the Nightborne chose to thank people like me for helping liberate their city.” He grinned again when Randarel scowled at him. “And the Forsaken… well, we’ve said our share about them. But I agree with you. Focus on the now, and worry about later… well, later.”
Heskin had lowered his weapons, and gave a cautious nod. “Aye. King Anduin will likely have us doing something along those lines anyway.”
Aximand nodded, and looked over at Kittridge. “Mersadie?”
The captain’s glare would have drilled through Icecrown’s walls, but finally, grudgingly, she nodded. “Alright, I’ll follow your lead. But you won’t make me like it.”
“None of us be likin’ it, mam,” the skull-faced Zandalari replied with humor in his tone. “But dat be da hand dat fate be dealin’ us. We don’t got a choice but ta play it out.” The Blood Knight also nodded, her expression equally as displeased as Kittridge’s.
“Alright, then, if we’re all willin’ to deal with this, perhaps we’d best be headin’ out?” Kitrik the Assassin, who up to that point had been silent, spoke up. “Word’s come down from the folks workin’ for Saurfang about a rendezvous. A grand get-together of the armies.”
Aximand nodded. “Where?”
“Durotar,” Randarel replied. “A place called Razor Hill.”